by Jim Thomas
A quiet town, that Iíve lived in all my life is often known for unusual events, people, and places. One among us that is probably the strangest of them is up on the hill. On that hill no one who has breath lives nor do they go until they breathe their last. That house on the hill I have seen only once from the inside and I wish never to return there other than on my dying day to meet the love that I can never have in this lifetime.
The house of death as I call it can be seen at the end of main street shrouded in darkness, a blanket wrapping it tight so those within can not escape and wreak hell on the world below. That place with itís high shadowed turrets, and itís sorrowed song that can be heard every day upon the thirteenth hour. A song chimed for those souls within whose hearts wish for the chance to haunt the living souls that harmed them in life. There are some in that house that wish not to scare but hope maybe for the chance to visit the ones they love from time to time, rules are rules though.
As I said I went up there on one occasion never to go back whilst I have intake of breath. On that hill that house of the dead sits. It is actually a church; a church that was built back in the eighteenth or maybe it was the seventeenth century - which ever it was Iím not sure. Iím not an architect but I know there are very distinct features about this church that are both awe inspiring and chilling at the same time. The church on the hill has been a part of Macherton for centuries it was built here by the first settlers of the town. The church if not for the dank corridors might be a charming place. The halls are covered with many brilliant tapestries that in spite of the somber surroundings seem to keep the rooms alight. I believe that is because many of the ghouls that haunt these halls have created those and enjoy them so much they keep them lit with some ethereal glow.
I knew that once I walked through that arched door at the front gate that I was walking into a realm where I was not welcome but my artistic curiosity and a need for facts guided me up the stone steps. Upon crossing that threshold I heard rustling in nearby bushes. As I neared the hard cobblestone steps that lay in the shadow of this behemoth I heard, "Turn back youíve been warned about what lies within!" I pushed hard against the heavy oak door with all my weight and thought, "they really knew how to build things to last."
Once beyond that doorway I felt a blast of cold iciness slam me in the face. I took a couple long steps inside. I jumped and turned on my flashlight. I looked at the door that had only a moment earlier been slightly opened. My mind had been addled and I moved on exploring with slightly more trepidation. Numerous corridors I wandered crossing no one. I was met only by the rustling of my own feet and the breeze through many battered broken windows whistling softly. I had worn cross trainers that day. I knew they were quiet shoes and I knew that if need be I could run in an instant. I walked in further taking notice of the high vaulted ceiling, covered in art that was amazingly chilling; the faces I saw were pale and I could see fangs on several of these. A couple times I thought I saw as I walked a stare follow me with fangs beared and blood oozing from the corner of the mouth of that face.
In an hourís time I had wound my way around and through a number of corridors. Through each I heard the rustling of more than my feet but I pressed on because I knew that these specters were here on their doing and would only do harm if provoked or so I thought. I was walking down a long narrow hall that was lit only by a few torches but with the help of my flashlight I could see everything here. These torches I surmised had been bewitched to remain eternally burning. From my left, or was it my right?, down one of the nearby passages I heard the shrill high pitched shriek of a young girl. I took several slow steps backward looking in every direction. I donít usually scare easily but I think I shit my pants right on the spot that was a sound unlike I had ever heard. Only seconds later I heard a voice that sounded rough, ragged, and drunk growling, "Come on, Emmie Daddy wantís to play a little game."
No sooner had I stopped I was on the move again. Twisting and turning and trying follow the route I had taken to get here with little success. After two long minutes of running I slowed and found a hallway that looked familiar but I knew I had never seen it before. A very narrow hall this was. I was surprised I wasnít grazed by torch handles as I walked along. This hall was also quite a bit brighter than many of the others I had traveled today. I walked a few yards along this dusk brightened corridor. I noticed a door way to my right. I peered into the room through the glass to the right of the door. I saw only tattered rag dolls and a few things that might have been musical instruments. I began to walk away in instant the chilly hall went icy. Goose-pimples popped up all over my arms. I was unsure of what to expect. I took a few more quick steps forward. Tap, tap, tap a cold finger was poking into my shoulder blade. I whirled on my feet afraid of what I might see, and reeled backward not in fright but in pure shock of seeing someone I knew.
"Donít be afraid man, Iím not here to hurt you. I just...wanted to say hi,"
For a long moment I was dumbfounded. "Hi," I squawked the surprise evident in my rough voice.
"So," Robbie said soft smile hearing his voice reminded me of our father, "Howís mom?
"She...sheís alright, she cries a lot. With nobody but the two of us itís hard sometimes."
"Iíll bet, but cheer up bro. Dad and I are alright and weíre always thinking about you two," After a long awkward silence Robbie piped up again a sad smile lighting his face, "Give mom a hug and a kiss for me."
As my older brother turned to walk a way a tear slid down my cheek. I donít usually cry, but I did. "Donít go," I said my voice deep and shaky.
Robbie turned back and in barely I whisper he said, "I have to, and so do you but Iíll see you again, I promise."
At that I knew I heard his voice crack as he pulled me into a bear hug that chilled me to the bone but warmed my heart. I turned and walked toward the stairs with a smile soaked with tears.I approached the steps with caution this was a steel staircase that spiraled upward but I was unsure of what I might find at the top of this hulking structure. I began a slow and steady climb as I got half way up when I began to hear another sound new and brilliantly amazing. I reached the landing finding myself in an open area with little seating. I turned toward the sound that I had initially heard, and was still listening to. The song was still somewhat muffled in this new room but when I turned I faced a great stained glass door that was arched. This arched door had a beauty beyond words to this day I still canít describe it. The arched doors I faced were oaken but not heavy like the ones I entered in part because of the stained glass that made up a good portion of these. I opened the door and as I did the sound of that sweet organ song grew in volume. It drew me in, brought me closer tugging at my heart. I walked into the sanctuary softly and slowly.
As I approached the front of the church towering pipes came into view. I knew that this organ was a thing of my dreams. I had dreamed of seeing a sight like this. I had seen several organs such as this in other churches that Iíve visited but this was something completely amazingly different. Standing on this spot I thought I was looking at a structure so perfect it had been created by God Himself. I was almost to the front of the sanctuary when I took one step. Crack, the floor began to give way under my weight. "This is it," I thought. I knew I wouldnít survive that fall.
My leg sank into nothingness and saw no way out. Out of nowhere a silky smooth slender hand gripped my arm firmly. Only then did I realize that the music had stopped. I didnít see who grabbed my arm at first. When I looked up though I saw a face pale, white as a ghost. I thought when I saw her she was. I took a closer look into her cold eyes and saw life that wouldnít be present in a poltergeist. I grabbed her arm with my free hand to get better leverage. She threw her weight back toward the organ. With that added effort my leg was freed with a crack.
"Hi, Iím Aria," she said breathlessly. Aria pushed a wisp of jet black hair from her face and flashed me the sweetest smile I had ever seen.
I got to my feet. I was still trying to come to grips with what I was seeing, what I was hearing; I was nervous, I was amazed, there were so many emotions running through my head at that moment I was left dumbstruck.
"How...I mean...what are you...?" I stuttered.
"I, sir, am the keeper of the house of death," Aria said in a sweet high angelic voice, a voice that was high, shrill and it sent chills down my spine; yet there was something that I will never forget.
Aria took my hand and shook it tenderly, "Your hands are amazingly soft do you know that?"
A light pink shade rose in Ariaís pale features as her hand slipped from mine. "Why are you here Mr Jerry?"
"Itís not Mr. Jerry itís just Jerry. Well...I came to do some research about this place."
Aria smiled another of her broad sweet smiles. She looked at me, and when I looked back at her I was stunned to see that she seemed to be reading me like a book.
"You and all the other fools that come up here, your all the same. All thrill seekers thinking by going up tot the haunted church youíll have some story to tell." Aria said with a cold chuckle.
"Not true," I smiled with a slight indignant tone in my voice, "for many maybe but not me. I actually dreamed of this place, and..." my voice trailed off. I looked around.
"And what?" Aria whispered sweetly moving closer to me.
"I just knew I had to come, I had to write the story of this place. Itís intriguing, more amazing than any other church Iíve visited."
Aria laughed out loud a high chilling laugh. I looked into her eyes those bright icy emerald eyes that were emphasized by her jet black hair. I couldnít look away I was in love tangled in it and I knew it. I wonder if she knew. I wonder if she felt the same? Trying to keep the conversation going I said as I laced my fingers in hers, "Why are you here and not living in town?í
"I was the first person in Macheron to move into death. As long as I am here no trouble shall befall Macherton," she paused looking toward the ceiling and walls which began to growl, "which is why you must leave now! I will show you the way."
Aria gripped my fingers tightly and wrapped her arm in mine so firmly it hurt. She lead me through long shadowed passageways to where I didnít know. Only minutes later did I realize we were at the front gate. She opened the door lightly I looked at her and smiled. She looked back at me with icy emerald grey eyes and returned my smile, in that instant I saw her hair color fade to a shade of grey. "Donít forget me" she whispered in my ear. Before pushing me toward the gate she kissed me full on the lips with a passion that I hadnít known in a while. I was again not in my body because of the shock only for a second.
"GO!" She squealed shrilly. At that I bolted head long across the long courtyard that was filled as I hadnít noticed before with many overgrown statuesĖinstantaneously I realized many of these are not statues but grave markers.
"I wonít forget!" I yelled over my shoulder as I wrenched open iron gate and forced my way through. On the other side I didnít know if she would see but I didnít care. I blew a kiss in the direction of the church.
Every afternoon about one oíclock I hear the gong of those church bells thatís the way it goes the song played for those souls at the thirteenth hour. Each time I hear that chime I cry thinking of my angel, the angel that is always around to keep watch over that church on the hill known as "the house of death".
Kat Hamilton, Double Roads Publishing, Jim Thomas, Copyright 2006