Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
The memories from which I write and record in the diary are strained, at best. Frequent attempts of the doctors to convince me that what I experienced was surrealistic. The vivid appearances only limited to the realm of dream and fantasy. As they have attempted to convince me of this repeatedly, it strengthens my acceptance and understanding of what really happened. They contemplate, the doctors, outside, of what the best course of action is to proceed with, after months of “inconclusive” results. The results are very conclusive, though. I did experience what I claim. In case my memories are repressed and claimed away from my mind, I shall record them.
I will start with what I remember: when only but six months ago, I had been employed as a photographer and editor for three years. The wages were sufficient, if not satisfactory. I had lived in a quiet apartment on one of the higher floors, with rather large windows overlooking the city. Not quite a Penthouse suite, but indeed of high establishment. The copies of our paper sold comparably to that of World War II propaganda only fifty years earlier. The people no longer want to hear the positive, exuberant expression of conservative ideals and the patriotism of the nation. They wish to hear the alternative ideals, those of Generation X and the coming Millennials.
My engagement this time around involved taking photographs of the recently restored chapel. The chapel, previously having burned to the ground and left as a landmark in 1927, which had remained previously since the founding and creation of the city, was recently rebuilt and restored for use as a religious chapel. I myself was not religious but this would be very significant in the sight of the public. So I traveled to this chapel with my camera, ready to take photographs of the newly restored altar. The priests inside welcomed me. Inside, it was crowded and I asked if I could come at a time when few people remained. They informed me that twilight would be the appropriate time to come for such photography, so I exited the premises and waited for nightfall.
When I returned, the building was void of souls, save for a few of the clergy wandering the halls. It gave me the opportunity to photograph the rose window. The large halls of the building were lit well, but something, some kind of feeling was off inside the building. I felt… uncomfortable. The presence of an esoteric being, a strange, indescribable feeling. I did not want to remain here. I took photographs of the halls, and something called in my mind.
I felt the need to, before leaving, photograph the beautiful altar. taking a sight at it, I was amazed at the wonder of the altar. Flowers in vases decorated each side of the magnificent golden podium, with its pure white gold cross centered atop it.
“The cross was left. It survived the fire,” a voice called from behind me. I turned to face the clergyman speaking to me. He spoke, softly again: “The chapel was not spiritual. It was a time where the church was focused on control and political power. They had incredible influence. A few members of the clergy died in the fire, but what truly died beforehand was the grace of Christ and God.”
“Well, you did quite a remarkable craft restoring this religious architecture…” I trailed off.
“Yes, I suppose we did.” He looked both ways before leaning toward me and whispering, “If you know what is good, you will leave soon as you can. You will not return. There are things off with…” A moment later, he trailed off, looking behind me, widening his eyes. He looked back, smiled at me, and turned his body, walking in the opposite direction. I didn’t quite comprehend what he meant. It rang a bell in my head, though. I shouldn’t spend any more time than I required at this place. I didn’t want to remain. Thousands of voices both whispered and screamed in my head to leave, but I took the picture, the perfect picture of this altar.
I regret doing so.
I didn’t bother reviewing the photographs I had taken, I didn’t want to stay there any longer. I didn’t see I hit a car in the middle of the road and the photos, developing, hit the floor. One struck me in particular. In the photo of the altar, on the right, stood the faded image of a robed being, his face melted and eyes fallen out. The horror… more than the approaching driver who opened my door and dragged me out of my car.
His face immediately looked like what I had seen in the picture, and I screamed, bringing up my arms in defense as he bludgeoned me with his fists. Nearby pedestrians had come to my aid, dragging this man off of me. As I turned to face him, blood dripping from my nostrils, his face was normal, of a middle-aged man. His stubble trimmed but visible, hair slicked, and suited. I looked back at his car, a sporty black mustang, virtually crushed in the front on impact with my SUV. He screamed obscenities, that I paid no heed to. I was more concerned with reviewing the photographs.
I returned home with the camera and pictures in hand. I reviewed all the following photographs, in them all, nothing, but this image of the altar. Why did I feel a need to photograph it? Why was it calling me? Was this what I had felt? What on earth was this? I studied it, looking at its haunting visage for hours in my house. Midnight had passed by the time I attributed it to mere film error. Cameras often create film errors and distort photographs. This was all explainable. I walked into the kitchen to fix some wine. Chardonnay. I poured my glass and drank. I turned back to the photos, which had disappeared off the table.
Panic arose. Someone is in my house. I quietly stepped to the dining room, looking for the photos. I needed to dismiss the panic. I’m just overthinking. Nobody could move that quickly to get rid of the photographs. I was right here. I should call the police. Instead, I took the wine and camera to my room, and prepared the shower. Walking into the bathroom, I looked in the mirror for the moment before washing my hands and face in the sink. Before finishing, and wiping my eyes, I looked back into the mirror and I saw the visage of the hollow-eyed spook staring behind me. His hands encircling mine. His mouth bleeding and dripping, melting slowly like candle wax as it moved closer to my head and shoulders. I shook with violence and ran into my bedroom, and there on the bed, were the photos, spread out in a pile. I turned my head to cover the room at a 360-degree angle, making sure nobody was there. I was dreaming. I was hallucinating. The chardonnay. It was aged too old. It was only a 1979. Only eleven years old. I ran out of the room, and stepped on my couch, laying down and spending the whole night there, wide awake.
I must’ve fallen asleep at some point, because I awoke with the photographs sitting on my coffee table, along with the camera. I was drunk. It was all a dream. I fixed the wine, and set the photographs down, I watched television and fell asleep. The rest was a dream. I knew it was.
I went to my bedroom to groom myself and get dressed. I showered with my shower gels and shampoo. I slicked back my black hair, combing it, I shaved and applied deodorant. I dressed in a shirt and sport coat, but no tie. I put on my Klein, silken pants, and stepped into my black shoes. I was out the door, photos and camera in tow.
Driving down the road, I saw a homeless man, bearded, grey-haired, in a dusty jacket. His card read, “The Godhead spilled his guts to birth humanity… His holy ghost haunts us…” before reading the rest, it was cut off by a bus driving past. I paid no attention to this. Rantings of a mad man, they were.
I parked outside the building and walked into the office, presenting my photography to my fellow journalists and editors. The general consensus was that nobody wanted to write the boring story on how the church was rebuilt, and nobody wanted to read that. Perhaps elaborating on the tragedies… Hesitation came with the feeling of presenting the photo of the spook to my editor. The latter, unknown feeling possessed and took me over, presenting the photo to him.
“What is this?” he asked. When I reclaimed my senses, I had no idea what was going on. “The altar? Michael, I get it. But we need something solid. Something haunting.”
“What?” I asked him, puzzled.
“Go back and get me a story. Look up the history of the place.”
“What about the ghost?” I asked him, not even thinking for a moment at what I had just said. In fact, what on Earth did I just say?
“What ghost? No ghost stories. Tragedy, maybe, but nothing tabloid. No aliens, either, Mike.” He handed me the photograph of the altar, clear, no film error, no hollow-eyed spook.
What the… What…
“Go, Michael. Get!”
I trudged off. The photograph was clear. Nothing. I shuddered. There went a perfectly good… What am I thinking?
I drove off to the library, browsing for history on the chapel. The librarian, a quiet, elderly woman, guided me over to a record on the church. “Some strange things are done there. Evils. They played with sorcery, and when one man had enough, he lit the place. It was always ruled as an accident, but our fathers and grandfathers know… they had awakened and invoked something terrible. Not a demon, but worse. They had altered their own souls… they had turned themselves into demons… ghosts, and so after the church burned… after they committed suicide, too frightened by the images they had seen…” I paused, frightened by her expressions… she whispered:
the visions of their faces haunted the dreams of my mother until she could not tell the difference between dream and reality…
When I turned in horror at what she had just said, she had disappeared. I read up into the history of the building. A proud religious institution it was. A place of worship. Something I wasn’t quite so enamored with. I need to know more, though. The full story. I wasn’t going to get it from reading city records… I needed to ask families, like the woman’s. Information had to have been passed on… I knew that had to be the case. I needed to know more. I placed the book on the shelf, turned, and walked down the hall. Yet another book fell. One on necromancy, and “permanent astral projections”. A voice inside my head told me to take the books. As I picked them up, the rest began to topple off the shelves. Hundreds of books fell off the metal shelves, pages ripping, ancient, historical books falling apart. They piled on the floors and ink began to drip in puddles below them. As if the floor was tilted, the ink followed back, straight down the hall into a dark, black corridor, red “<exit>“ sign above. Out of the darkness stepped a black-robed and skeletal, wax-like feet. They dripped. The sleeves of the cloak dripped wax and the hood draped over the face. It was pulled back, like magic, at an instant, revealing the melting face of the being. The ghoul turned directly towards me, looking straight into my eyes while I stared, at twelve meters away, into its black, empty sockets. As I looked into them, I saw indescribably atrocious things. Tortures, pain, suffering… I thought mother… I dropped the books…
I ran down the hall, and realized the only exit was the way the ghoul came. I turned back to look, and he was three meters away from me, slowly moving towards me. His feet were not stepping. Instead, he hovered, or phased through the floor, as he would only be millimeters hovered off the ground. The face draped down and its mouth began to widen, dripping blood. Its black robe exposed revealing a white gown, bloodstained by evisceration and lacerations. He moved, his eye sockets meeting my eyes. I froze in horror, closing my eyes several times, him only closer each time. It occurred to me to run. I ran past him, and he made no effort to stop me. I picked up the books, and I looked back, watching him only turn to look at me run down the exit.
I reached the library lobby and ran out the door, getting into my car. I grabbed my camera and headed straight for the chapel. Pulling into the parking lot, I approached the door, and was greeted by the same priest I met earlier. His eyes widened and he spoke rashly: “I told you to leave… you don’t listen.”
“What happened here, seventy years ago? What really happened here?” I asked him.
“Why?” he responded.
“Because I took a picture of that altar and since then I’ve been plagued by the ghost that you know very well.”
“You are quick to assume things,” he told me.
“Tell me,” I demanded.
He opened the door for me and guided me inside. We walked down the halls, avoiding visitors and clergy, and walked into a private room. He sat down at the other end, and I take a seat in the luxury room. I sit in a leather chair.
“They practiced unholy things,” he told me. “My grandfather was convinced he could project his soul into the living world. Those books you found. Those were his. Where did you get them?” he nodded to the books in my bag.
“They fell off a shelf in the library,” I tell him.
“They haunt you. He practiced the spells right on the altar. He projected his soul, but it appeared it his human form. He could interact with his surroundings in this form, but he was immortal. He could do anything. He could…-” he hesitates for a moment. “He couldn’t drink, sleep, or eat in this form. He couldn’t bleed, or do anything. He couldn’t urinate, but what he could do, was prepare women for himself in his human form. My father was born at the height of my grandfather’s practice. Eventually, he decided to take on his form permanently by dying on the altar. He would privilege the remaining clergy with this gift as well, and he locked them all inside. He set fire to the church, and in retaliation, they eviscerated him, right on the altar. He did die on the altar, and my father told me that it was that moment where he whispered his spells. They tossed him right into the fire, and they cursed his soul to this place. When it burned down, there was no place for him to materialize. Until they rebuilt the church. My father fought against it for years, and when he recently passed away, they chose to rebuild it. You weren’t the only one haunted. Several of my staff…”
“Saw it?” I asked.
“Wound up dead,” he finished. “They all died. Under the strangest circumstances.”
“What do we do?” I asked.
“We burn the books, your photos, and we set the place alight,” he told me.
“What?” I respond, with panic.
“It’s the only way. You know it, and I know it. We go to the halls and lock the doors. There is one exit in the catacombs. I’ll leave that to you. Let’s go.”
My gut tells me to trust him and do this. The voice in my head tells me not to. I listen to my gut this time. He guides me to the catacombs. “The door at the end leads into the sewers and the spillway. Lock it, and return here. We will wait until nightfall for everyone to leave before I lock the entrances. Go.”
He guides me down the tunnel, opening the door. He lights a lantern for me, and I step into the darkness of the corridors. The voices inside my head…
He lies. They lie. You will die this way…
step into the dark… come this way…
I come across some writing on the wall. Shining my light on it, it reads: In death I am reborn. In the purge I am free. The words terrify me. I trudge down the tunnel corridors, surround by stones and supports that survived the fire.
A voice…. calls out… “we were here for longer… than you believe.” the disembodied voice calls. It echoes. It nauseates me. I lived for centuries.
I run down the tunnels, not paying attention and hitting myself against the door at the end. I recover, standing at it. I could leave this behind. What if it follows… I could leave it behind… leave it all behind…
I lock the door and turn, my lantern revealing a silhouette, too far away to make the features of but close enough to see the shadow.
It limps towards me, closing in. I have nowhere to run. It falls to the ground, crawling towards me, breaking bones as it falls and gets back up. I take my camera and flash a picture.
The visage of it terrifies me, the image of the ghoul flashed with the camera forever embedded in my mind. The gaping eye sockets, spiderweb-like hair, blood rushing from the mouth, the face melting, white clothing bloodied and covered by black robes, maggots falling from its face, and its skeletal-like rotting, gray feet. I try to run past it yet again and it grabs my throat. Its eyes stare dead into mine. I see the colonist, practicing on himself, shooting himself with a rifle, his blood and guts spraying out his head, against the wall, and his spirit, bleeding in form, missing its jaw, leaving his body. I see the man in industrial New York doing the same thing, except this time, he disembowels himself, his intestines spilling out onto the floor, his guts falling out and splashing on the ground. I see all these men, restored in human forms, being executed, along with their families. Accused of witchcraft, sorcery, evil. Executed. Lynched. Murdered. I see a man being stabbed by his friends in his eyes and face, screaming that his soul will be locked in the burning church forever, as he softly whispers the spells projecting his spirit. The fire comes down on top of him, lighting his face on fire, and then killing him slowly. As he died, he cursed the clergy, and the city and the world, who so sinned like him but judged him even more rashly so.
His spirit form, disemboweled and starting to burn, proceeds to chase them into fire, some of them stabbing themselves in fear or horror, committing suicide rather than face the punishment of a wrathful spirit. It follows them, the ghastly, horrific burned visage, blackened flesh peeling off the white skeleton, the skin and flesh melting off the face. They go insane at the mere sight.
When I reclaim my senses, I get back upstairs. The clergyman is impatiently waiting. “It’s already twilight! Where were you?!?!?”
“Let’s get this done,” I tell him.
He hands me a lighter. “Do the honors?” he asked.
I light it. The fire gathers. Then he takes me aside, and shoves me down, stabbing me in the abdomen, and running to the final exit. “What are you doing?!” I scream.
“Ensuring that the haunt doesn’t follow you out,” he yelled, running to the large door and locking it.
I get back up, trying to reclaim balance. The pain was excruciating. My legs are useless. They won’t stand. Trying to crawl towards the door, my sights turn to the altar. From it comes the ghoul. The Hollow Eyes. He walks down the pews, ignoring the fire. As minutes pass, he slowly comes towards me, his visage all but horrifying. His flesh finally peels and melts off, revealing the missing mouth. his robes and tunics fall off, revealing the disemboweled body, guts trailing across the floor. His eye sockets hollowed out, him heading towards me but not looking at me. Instead, he slowly phases through the door, as the roof collapses around us.
The fire didn’t purge. It didn’t lock him in. It released him.
They cursed him. We didn’t.
They found me in the wreckage, paralyzed, screaming, warning them about the ghost. It was from there that I found myself here, in this facility. I only heard recently, that Clergyman Mattox, in most unusual circumstances, cupped out his eyes and disemboweled himself. I write this to warn anyone, that he is free. He is free, and vengeful.
His visage still haunts me. I know that one day he will come for me. My door room opens, and out of the darkness… The eyes! Oh god, the eyes!
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