16 Apr The Black Rock Chapel Horror
“The Black Rock Chapel Horror”Written by Corpse Child Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 33 minutes
“Have you come to relieve your burden unto the Lord?” asked the elder priest from behind the blind of the confession booth. Silence hung to answer the offer. Rather than immediately persist, the elder priest decided to let him take his time. For in the last seventeen-and-a-half years he’d been an elder priest of Black Rock Chapel, he’d learned that they would feel the compulsion of conscience to confess their unrighteous deeds in the Lord’s due time. The youth was shaking. His hands were firmly clasped around his upper arms, leading to his shoulders as shivering. The youth was hunching over, rocking back and forth in the wooden chair within the confession booth. His left eye twitched as his face remained chiseled in a state of petrified terror.
“There’s no need to fear, my son,” whispered the elder priest, hearing the distress on the adolescent’s side of the booth. “Christ bids forgiveness to all who trespass against him, all he asks is for repentance of your sins and seek reform from him.” The creaking of the youth’s wooden chair began to die down as yet his breathing began to quiver in place of his body. “Forgiveness….” the boy whimpered softly, his voice continuing to tremble in a traumatized manner. “No… No forgiveness…”
Hearing the youth’s remark, the elder priest repeated his assurance of the Lord’s mercy to the boy. “No salvation… No savior… I’ve made their bid, Father… I made their bid, and I am debased.” Though unnerved by the youth’s pessimism, the elder priest remained composed. “Come now, my son, God has promised salvation to all who walk astray; all you must do is confess and repent of your sins. Worry not of the judgment of others, for the confidence of a priest is sacred.”
The youth offered a dry laugh in response before retorting, “I care nothing for the judgment of others; for they too areas devoid of any hope of salvation as I.” The voice of the adolescent began to deepen to the pitch of a man twice his age and began to take on an air of malign satisfaction at the statement’s insinuation. Confused, the elder priest wanted to question the youth as to the meaning of his statement. More than anything, however, the elder priest was perplexed about the boy’s purpose for attending the confessional as a whole.
“Do you not, young man, accept the Lord into your heart? Are you not one of his children?” the elder priest queried, unsure about the state of the youth’s soul. “No. No Father, I no longer succumb to the church’s lies, for I have seen otherwise.” The youth’s voice shook again, the tone growing even deeper and angrier in timbre. “My eyes were opened to the truth long ago. They showed me the truth!”
“They?” The elder priest questioned, curious as to exactly to whom the implication belonged. “Yes, They; the true harbingers of the truth, you see, Father; through them; you may see the truth, their prophecy!” The elder priest became truly disturbed at hearing such blatantly sacrilegious claims. Remaining calm, he told the blaspheming young man that there existed no truth outside the Lord. The young man let out a defiant and condescending laugh, “Then you are a blind old fool! Despite the offer of being shown the truth, you would choose to hold on to the lies of the so-called “Holy Gospel”?”
Realizing that the youth had no intention of repentance, the elder priest felt compelled to end the confessional. A light rapping on the outside of the booth found this silent request granted. Just before departing, the youth turned toward the elder priest one more time and, with an abysmally baritone voice, said: “You’ll see the truth, Father. I will show you their prophecy; that there is no salvation!” Another short succession of knocks prompted the youth to finally leave the confession booth, allowing for the patron outside: an older maiden of forty-five years, to enter.
“Have you come to relieve your burden unto the Lord?” the elder priest asked the maiden, still feeling rattled. “Aye, I have come to confess, Father. You see…” the maiden began her confession, but the elder priest’s mind had become far too entwined in the young man’s morbid diatribe to lend her his attention. “Oh, how can I be forgiven, Father?” the maiden beckoned, arousing the elder priest from his anxious pondering to find her in tears at having concluded her confession.
Though he had not heard her sins, he decided against attempting to ask her to repeat herself. Instead, he merely assured her that she was forgiven in the eyes of the Lord and requested no less than five “Hail Marys’” before the day’s end. Upon concluding the maiden’s confessional, the elder priest retired to his bed-chamber to attempt letting peaceful rest cleanse away anxiety. Slumber would be an uphill conflict for him that night. However, no matter his efforts, the elder priest’s mind continued to be ravaged by the youth’s words: “you will see the truth: there is no salvation,”
When the sun rose the next morning, the elder priest felt weak. His head throbbed horribly, and he felt trifle knots in his stomach. The elder priest winced in pain as he attempted to open his eyes, massaging his temples in a feeble attempt to ease the migraine’s hold on him. “Father Carroway,” the elder priest broke from his stupor at calling his name. “Father Carroway, is everything alright?” asked another of the Chapel’s elders; a balding man with only stubble for facial hair stood a good two feet shorter than Father Carroway, despite being five years his elder.
“Yes…”, distantly answered the bed-ridden elder priest as if his response was voiced before his mind could comprehend his train of thought. Despite the persistence of his current ailments, Regaining his proper composure offered the most welcoming smile on his face he could manage before elaborating, “Father Edwards, I didn’t hear you come in. Yes, everything is fine. I just feel a tad ill this morning. I trust it’s nothing serious.” Father Carroway attempted to offer a chuckle of ease to the fellow priest that devolved into a painful cough, prompting him to use the sleeve of his bed robe to cover his mouth.
For a moment, his eyes widened in shock at the sight of a small black stain on the sleeve of his snow-white bed robe. “Father?” queried Father Edwards, noting the momentary state of anxious apprehension on the face of his peer. “Yes?” replied Father Carroway, seeing the skepticism on his visitor’s face. “I told you, it’s nothing serious; a minor ailment that I’m sure will pass by morning. Now, what brings you to my Bedchamber, Father?” “I and others heard you last night. You kept screaming “no salvation,” and we heard thrashing sounds from down the chamber halls,” replied Father Edwards, his voice composed of concern for the well-being of fellow priests.
“No salvation…” the words slowly infested his mind, causing a sharp chill to crawl down his spine. Ignorant of the fellow elder priest’s claim, Father Carroway reassured his visitor that, save for his current ailments, he was perfectly sound. His thoughts, however, began struggling once again to void themselves of the memories of the previous night’s haunting confessional.
Skeptical but overall satisfied with the elder priest’s condition, Father Edwards bade his farewell and exited the bed-chamber. Father Carroway laid in his bed all through the morning and into the afternoon; the aches and pains worsened. A shrill scream finally roused the ailing Father Carroway from his bed. Though physically ill, the elder priest found himself able to bound out of his bed and sprint up the spiral stone stairs to the bell tower of Black Rock Chapel with the speed and agility of a man much younger than he. When he reached the top of the stone stairs, he found a young maiden; one of the Chapel’s fledgling nuns who had not yet sworn her oath of purity, doubled over, wailing into her palms.
“What is it, dear sister?” Father Carroway gently but firmly grasped the young maiden’s shoulders. “She…She…She…” she stammered, utterly unable to voice a coherent reply. “Who child? What happened?” But the young nun-to-be could only shake her head and continue wailing in response. Unable to voice a coherent response from the young sister, Father Carroway resolved to open the door behind her and enter the bell tower of the Chapel and investigate the malignance himself.
“No! You mustn’t go in there!” the young sister shrieked, causing the elder priest’s heart to skip a beat in his chest. “Unclean… Unclean…” she said as she buried her face into her palms again. “Calm down, sister. I will see what is going on. I want you to stay here.” The young sister just sat quivering, burying her petrified face into her palms. Father Carroway’s hand trembled as he grasped the knob. “Unclean?” he wondered as he willed himself to open the door.
The foul odor of death assaulted his senses immediately upon the door’s opening. The elder priest turned his face into the crook of his arm and began to cough, gagged by the offensive scent. With an alarming dread mounting within him as to what lies inside the bell tower, Father Carroway instructed the budding nun to summon help. She bowed her head to him and immediately sprinted down the stone stairs to the monastery to alert the other elders of Black Rock Chapel.
The inside of the bell tower was dark, only illuminated by a single torch mounted to each of the four stone brick walls respectively. Paltry though the light was; the faint glow of the torches still revealed the unholy display within its claustrophobic confines. Adjusting his eyesight to the faint glow of the inside of the bell tower, he saw the corpse of one of the maidens of the village. It was an Irish maiden of forty-five whom the Father recognized as the tender of the nearby tavern who had attended many confessions for her sins of lust. She was stripped bare and hanging from the tower’s rafters by her neck using the long, thick hemp to sound the sermon bell. A single word in her native tongue was carved on her breasts, “fráochun.”
The elder priest retched in disgust and horror at the abyssal display before him. With haste, he escaped the confines of the bell tower and slammed the door behind himself. “Our Father,” Father Carroway began with a shuddering breath, crossing himself as he spoke. “Hallowed be thy name. Our kingdom comes, thy will be done, on earth as in heaven…” “Father Carroway!” The sound of his name broke him out of his petrified stupor. It was Father Edwards. “Father Carroway, are you alright?” Father Carroway had no words for his fellow priest, merely offering his current mortified stare as a response.
“Father Carroway?! What in God’s name happened?” The urgency in Father Edwards’ voice was accentuated. “She…she confessed to me…” tears began to streak Father Carroway’s face as he pointed to the door that led into the peak of the bell tower. Determined to spy on the source of the hysteria, Father Edwards moved past the scarred Father Carroway and opened the door. “Christ above! Sister Merideth, alert the authorities at once!” The fledgling nun stood frozen with her jaw agape. “Do as I say, Sister! Make haste!” barked Father Edwards. This snapped young Sister Merideth from her terrified trance, and she ran down the stone steps, bolting through the chamber halls and exiting through the sanctuary.
“We must alert Archbishop Marcus of this atrocity,” Father Carroway beckoned. Father Edwards disagreed with the conclusion, thinking it wiser to handle the situation themselves. “Are you mad, man?! This is an attack against the church!” Father Carroway’s heart pounded in his chest with startling intensity, prompting him to clutch the left of his chest to slow the quakes of his heart.
“Easy now, Father, there’s no need to make a larger problem of this than what is absolutely necessary to warrant.” Confused and shocked by his fellow priest’s hesitation at consulting the head of Black Rock Chapel, Father Carroway decided to press further for an explanation. “Please trust me, old friend. If we are to become bishops ourselves, we must prove that we can handle situations like this ourselves. There’s no use in disturbing Archbishop Marcus when in all likelihood, this is nothing more than the act of a disturbed-minded individual who found convenience in the concealment of her body in the peak of the Chapel’s bell tower. A simple crime of passion, grotesque, but simple, nonetheless.”
Father Carroway nearly saw red. “How can you say such things with such lax conviction?! You, a priest, a servant of Christ! You expect me just to sit here while a credible threat to God’s kingdom is swept idly under the rug?!” Before his tirade could escalate further, the elder priest felt something move across his feet. Perplexion overtaking his former frustration, he looked down to see a mass of inky black serpents surrounding his feet. Terror flooded through his entire body as he saw the serpents converge on him from all directions. “Father Carroway, are you alright,” asked Father Edwards. The elder priest only offered a weak gasp of horror in response as he saw the multitude of serpents spawning from the doorway leading into the bell tower peak.
“Father Carroway, what is it?” Father Carroway stuttered, unable to fully comprehend the events unfolding before him; “S-S-Ser… Serpents!” “Serpents?” Father Edwards questioned, eyeing the mortified priest with confusion. “Can you not see them? They’re everywhere-” he stopped abruptly when he felt one of the serpents sink its fangs into his legs.
The hallway within Black Rock Chapel’s peak began to spin, dizzying the Father. No sooner than his eyes could widen in shock that the serpent’s supernaturally potent venom began to cripple the elder priest’s senses. Father Carroway clutched his forehead with his left hand; as if doing so might in some fashion stabilize the dizziness, his right hand desperately grasping the crucifix pendant that hung from his neck. His eyelids began to feel heavy as vertigo began to transform into exhaustion. Father Carroway could see all too clearly before darkness would overtake him, despite the venom’s assault on his senses. Father Edwards extended his hand as the black serpents then began to slither to him, appearing to answer some malign summons. The elder priest stumbled back in chilled fright as he witnessed them slither and seemingly begin to fuse into Father Edwards’ body as if the supposed fellow priest himself were composed of the Daemoniac serpents.
The wriggling mass then appeared to revert back into the form of the priest as Father Carroway’s legs began to lose the strength necessary for proper balance. His heart quaked in his fragile chest as with the meager composure he could manage in his damning plight, he staggered backward whilst the knuckles began to whiten on the hand that grasped the crucifix pendant. “Our Father, thou art in heaven; Hallowed be thy na-” his labored breathless words were abruptly silenced as his feet had misstepped, sending him crashing down the stone steps. Unconsciousness finally met the elder priest when his head struck the wall midway down the spiral.
* * * * * *
Father Carroway wandered about in the ever-extended void of the subconscious. Unable to feel anymore, he wondered if he had indeed perished through either the means of the serpent’s venom or a crash down the spiraling stone stairs. “Am I dead?” Father Carroway pondered as he surveyed the void. “Is this the entry to the kingdom of heaven?” “Nay,” a monotone voice called to him, answering the Father’s internal query.
Caught by surprise, he spun around to face the speaker. The priest stood face to face with the ginger-haired Irish bar maiden he had seen hanging by the neck in the bell tower, to his horror. She stood before him in the dark subconscious plane, completely bare, her milky-white skin and grassy-green-hued irises projecting the visage of life. “The entrance to heaven is closed to us, as it always was.” Father Carroway closed his eyes, trying vainly to assure himself that this wasn’t real. “This is real, Father, unlike the horseshit you spouted about “God’s forgiveness.”
Father Carroway struggled to attempt rebuttal to the specter’s abrasive claim as utter dread clouded his abilities of reason. “If that were true, Father, why not repent yourself for your continued heresies?” “G-God forgives all who repent.” The phantom let out a scoffing laugh that echoed throughout the void. The Father felt compelled to cover his ears as the chuckling devolved into what he could only perceive as a cacophony of tortured wails emanating from all directions in the encroaching purgatory.
The elder priest found himself, amidst his immediate sense of shock and dread in the ghoulish ethereal plane he found himself within, confused at the ghost’s insinuation. “What are you talking about? What falsehood have I spoken?” As soon as the defiant query left Father Carroway’s lips, his blood chilled as two serpents began to form in the dark void. His jaw went helplessly slack as the serpents; one whose scales were as dark as the nightmare plane it birthed from, the other whose scales were the hue of burning embers reminiscent of the depths of Tartarus; slithered their way to the maiden’s feet. The phantom spoke again as the malign creatures coiled themselves to her legs; her vocals took on a tormented, ethereal echo: “If God’s forgiveness is divine, how are we so many condemned?”
Father Carroway’s tongue froze before any rebuttal could be offered, and his lips trembled as the depraved vipers journeyed up and around the maiden’s nude form. His eyes widened at the unholy display enacted before him in petrified disbelief as he witnessed the serpents start to violate her. The phantom maiden began to moan with unrighteous pleasure as the dark-scaled serpent inserted itself head-first between her legs; the crimson serpent coiled around her torso and caressed her. The moans of sinful pleasure began to devolve into screams of damning agony as if emanating from many throats as the apparition appeared near her climactic release.
Revolted as the elder priest was at the abhorrent nightmare, he felt as though the clutches of some malign manner would force him to witness the events to their completion. “Come now, Father, why deprive yourself? I see the way you are watching. You’d like to fuck me, wouldn’t ye?” Father Carroway, now bearing the strength of will over his body, clamped his eyelids tight and clutched his ears as the wraithlike voice echoed through his head. When he opened his eyes, now full of tears induced by the abysmal madness, he saw that the phantom maiden’s appearance had decayed into the same necrotic image he’d spied in the bell chamber at the peak of Black Rock Chapel; complete with the word “fráochun” carved into her bosom.
The burning red serpent began to work its way from her mouth as the abomination’s vocals became entirely inhuman altogether. “GOD, GIVE ME STRENGTH!” Father Carroway cried aloud, futilely attempting to free himself from the dread that crippled him. The wraith let out a devious cackle that echoed through the black void before. In the same voice she formerly bore in life, she lashed out, “Listen to ye, still thinking Christ cares for ye. Poor little lamb, for ye truly have lost yer way.” Another ghastly wail of pleasure rang from the phantom maiden’s lips as rivulets of dark warm blood ran down from her complexion-less legs before crying out in the echoing and apparitional voice of agony; “There is no relief in heaven, no damnation in Hell! No forgiveness, no damnation!”
His blood now frozen in mortal terror at his seemingly inescapable fate at the hands of the malign entity before him, Father Carroway lifted a trembling hand to clutch the crucifix around his neck as he again attempted to choke out the Lord’s Prayer. The elder priest was cut off before he could even finish the utterance of “Hallowed be thy name.” Legions of painful screams of perpetual sorrow reached a deafening pitch that echoed from around him and within him, forcing his eyes closed from strain and his hands to reflexively cover his ears. Through his fright-induced tears, the elder priest opened his eyes to witness the torso of the unholy phantom begin wriggling as the protrusions of other human faces began to form themselves into her pale, decayed flesh. When the writhing mass of face took form within the phantom maiden’s body, they cried out in unison in deafening wails; Father Carroway was forced to his knees, eyes clamped tight and his palms covering his ears. “No salvation!” the tortured ethereal voices screamed out as one, “only condemnation awaits us all, for all are debased!”
The words echoed through the elder priest’s shattered mind. “No salvation,” he tried to hide away the thought, as to attempt to keep his psyche from complete collapse. With great strain, Father Carroway opened his eyes to a small squint, merely enough to perceive from a rudimentary level the mortifying sight of a multitude of serpents advancing upon him from all directions, just as they had in the bell chamber in the Chapel’s peak. Stripped of any will to mentally or physically resist, Father Carroway watched helplessly as long, writhing black and red serpents exited the mouths of the tormented screaming faces conjoined to the abomination’s body. “Though I walk through the valley in the shadow of death; Thy rod and thy staff…” he faintly whispered as he finally resigned himself to whatever damning fate that awaited him at the whims of the abhorrent phantom.
Just before the darkness could overtake him, however, the elder priest found himself lying in cold sweat within his bed-chamber. His eyes were stitched wide open; the first image he perceived was that of a young maiden. Still, in a perpetual shock, Father Carroway stared at the maiden before him, attempting to distinguish his presence from the wraith that menaced him in his slumber. When his eyes studied the olive complexion of her skin, coupled with the long brunette hair beneath her head robe, he realized that the maiden standing before him now was none other than the budding Sister Merideth. His vision slowly strained itself into the clear composition; he could see the young fledgling’s eyes glistening with tears and her face red. “Oh, Father, thank God you’re awake. I thought you were lost forever!” exclaimed Sister Merideth through tear-filled relief.
In an exhausted voice, Father Carroway questioned the young fledgling nun as to where he was and what had happened, for in the current moment, he could not immediately recollect any of the previous phenomena outside of the demented nightmare he’d only narrowly escaped from. “It was awful; after I came back with the authorities for the woman we found in the bell tower…” she shuddered before continuing, her voice cracking again with frightful tears, “we found you sprawled unconscious on the stairs. You kept muttering the Lord’s Prayer and something about serpents and poison. I looked everywhere, but I couldn’t find Father Edwards. The body was missing, too. A few of the other sisters and I moved you into your bed. You were out for most of the night and into this morning. I only awoke you when you began thrashing about.”
A tumultuous wave of dread washed over the elder priest’s face as, all at once, the horrors of the previous afternoon came crashing back into his memory like a devastating avalanche. “Oh Father, I’m afraid,” cried the young Sister Merideth, “ something unholy is happening in the Chapel! What are we going to do?” Father Carroway winced and drew a deep breath, once again grasping the right of his forehead, attempting to both ease the throbbing pulses inside and regain some semblance of composure to his abilities of reason. His head was drowning in a black whirlpool of insanity and cold, crippling, unforgiving dread.
“What AM I going to do?” the bitter question crossed Father Carroway’s mind,, followed by another disheartening query: “What COULD I do?” Father Carroway began hopelessly attempting to connect the ghoulish events to possibly identify the source of the abominable phenomena and combat it with the aid of the divine. “Archbishop Marcus,” Father Carroway whispered, unconsciously vocalizing his thoughts as his mind traveled back to the encounter at the Chapel’s peak. “What was that, Father?” questioned the fledgling nun, unsure yet hopeful that his response to her might be the foundation of a plan to either drive away or flee the evil that presently menaced them.
Awakened from his thought-induced trance by Sister Merideth’s voice, Father Carroway began to rouse himself from his bed. “Listen, child,” he gestured to the young Sister in an exhausted voice that bore the nature of a man far elder than he, “fetch my priest’s garb and my overcoat.” “Where are you going, Father?” pressed the young fledgling nun, unsure of the elder priest’s intentions. “There may be one that could provide us with aid, for he’s dealt with many an evil in his day; he’ll know what to do. Now, do as I say, Child; make haste!”
Father Carroway struggled as he slowly moved his aching body, still weak from the serpent’s potent venom. When his legs finally found the strength to stand, he slowly trudged over to the vanity mirror that hung to the right of the entrance of the bed-chamber. It was an average size mirror joined on either side by vanilla-scented candles that would provide small tastes of added luminescence to the entirety of the bed-chamber. Above the vanity mirror hung a shining silver crucifix bearing a molded image of Christ’s executed body fixed upon it. The young fledgling Sister Merideth was slightly puzzled but simply offered a small bow of her head before making her way to the wardrobe.
Gazing at his image in the aged mirror, Father Carroway felt a sense of nausea creep upon him. In reality, he had lived only forty-five years; the face that returned his gaze from the mirror had the appearance of one who had lived closer to thirty years longer. The reflection in the mirror bore thin, silver strands of hair, unlike the thick, vibrant brunette hair he bore outside of the mirror. The skin on the döppelganger’s face also appeared haunted and concaved, as though the flesh it bore was too excessive for its bones. The weary elder priest became unnerved at the sight, tugging at the skin on his face to reassure himself through tactile perception that the image in the mirror was indeed some visual hallucination. It was then that the reflection began to shift within the mirror’s confines.
The face that posed itself as the elder priest began to offer a most sinister grin while the rest of the room surrounding the being began to take on a scarlet-red filter. For a moment, his blood chilled at the sight of his reflection acting outside of his own will. Placing his palms over his eyes, he softly whispered, “No… it’s not real… God be with me…” “Old fool,” Father Carroway looked again at the döppelganger from his palms and saw the sinister reflection begin to decay; the loose skin hanging onto his skull now falling away to expose the skeleton underneath. “God cannot save us…”, lashed the vision in the mirror.
His jaw fell as he watched the mirror image slowly evolve into a more grotesque appearance. More of the false reflection’s flesh slowly decayed and peeled away as if it were but mere paper to reveal the skull, bearing jagged teeth that could rip and crush flesh and bone alike with ease without worry of dulling. The sockets of the demon were dark and cavernous voids that swallowed all semblance of light, save only for a tiny crimson speck in the middle of either socket respectively that appeared to serve as its retinas. “Let me ask you something, Father,” chided the beast in the mirror, voicing the elder priest’s title in a tone of mocking reverence. Father Carroway covered his ears to attempt to resist the abomination’s lying tongue. “Why did your so-called “loving father in heaven’’ execute his own son?” Father Carroway screamed in his head at the abhorrent creature to silence its blasphemies, to no avail. “Christ himself was no more than a holy bastard!’’ The words crashed as boulders in an avalanche in Father Carroway’s head. They motivated him to press his palms tighter to his ears and tightly close his eyes. “His execution achieved nothing more than penance for his birth as such!”
The last exclamation rang out in his mind with such ferocity that he could feel his knees attempting to buckle beneath him as if an unseen force was weighing him down. “You know it’s true, Father. Just look at me; I AM HUMANKIND in its purest state! WE ARE THE CONDEMNED! Humankind itself, Father, are the very beasts that were sentenced to damnation. Salvation is only the lie you spread!”
Nearing his wit’s end, Father Carroway slammed his fists upon the vanity’s surface and shouted defiantly at the apparition, “ENOUGH!” The mounted crucifix shook before falling from its place above the mirror and landing in front of him. Hearing the faint clatter of the crucifix’s descent, the elder priest found himself awakened from another trance. Instead of the detestable specter that occupied its confines only moments before, he saw that his reflection revealed the middle-aged man that existed in reality. Father Carroway again closed his eyes and began drawing in deep breaths to relax.
Upon opening his eyes, he decided to refix the fallen symbol back to its original perchance above the vanity mirror. As he held it, however, a searing pain shot through the palm of his hand that caused him to drop it again, letting out a cry of pain. Tightly grasping his right hand with his left reflex, he gazed once again down at the image of Christ’s sacrifice as it began to glow a hot, burning orange. “Are you alright, Father?” the oppressive odor of brimstone permeated the air within the bed-chamber as the elder priest saw, in revitalized terror, small streams of blood begin to ooze from the wrists, feet, and head of the mold of Christ.
Father Carroway spun around and was met with the slightly relieving sight of the young fledgling nun, priest garb and overcoat in hand. “I heard shouting… did something happen?” “No, child,” replied the elder priest, unsure how to explain the unholy phenomena in her absence. “Everything is fine, but there’s no more time to be lost. Come now. You will accompany me to the Archbishop’s home. He may be the only one who could help us.”
* * * * * *
The pair quietly exited the sanctuary with haste and walked through the town that saw its citizens begin making their way to Black Rock Chapel. “Wednesday mass…” Father Carroway muttered, silently chastising himself for the lapse in memory. “What is it, Father?” queried the budding nun, sighting the expression of anxiety on the elder priest’s face. Father Carroway, still bearing a worried face, shook his head and blankly reassured her that all that was important was that they sought the Archbishop as swiftly as possible. Within another five minutes of walking, they arrived upon a small cottage built from stone and mortar. Fixed upon the front of the wooden door was a silver crucifix hung by a string of rosary beads dangling from an outwardly protruding nail. Above the decoration were inscribed three words in Latin: “In Nomine Patris” in bright red.
“Is this the Archbishop’s home?” asked Sister Merideth. “Indeed,” replied Father Carroway. He spotted an air of curious skepticism mold itself on the young fledgling nun’s face. “Archbishop Marcus always preferred modesty,” Father Carroway told her as he had already anticipated her question. As he reached to ring the worn down yet functional bell fashioned to the right of the door, the elder priest briefly recollected a few of his memories of his years under Archbishop Marcus’ apprenticeship.
He gave the small, frail string that hung the bell two light tugs, hearing the six high-pitched rings of its frail clapper impacting against its interior. In the mere span of a minute after the bell rang its last, the wooden door began to jolt ajar. “Who seeks my home?” a voice called out from the inside of the cottage. The voice was that of a man far older than Father Carroway. “We have sought counsel and aid against a grave and unknown evil that has plagued God’s kingdom of Black Rock Chapel.” Father Carroway couldn’t help but emphasize the urgency of his request for an audience.
The cottage entrance was revealed as the wooden door was opened fully. An older man clad in a soft velvet robe is standing in the doorway with a white cross-stitched to the left. Despite his aged appearance, the man stood a solid six feet in height, even dwarfing Father Carroway’s mere five feet six inches. The man’s head bore a clean shave, bearing only an albino mustache and beard that reached down to his collarbone. For a solid moment that felt stretched, the man in the doorway examined them, evaluating the sincerity in the spoken urgency. “Well then, you’d best come inside.”, said the man in the doorway, finally breaking the ever-straining silence and gesturing for them to enter.
The pair entered, the older gentleman promptly closing the door behind them. Inside the cottage, the young Sister Merideth felt a sense of warm comfort. The walls held different varieties of oils and myrrh. Large, thick leather-bound volumes were neatly lined atop a shelf perched above the fireplace, which housed a ferocious blaze. Father Carroway became once again lost in his memories of days past.
“So tell me; what is this vile menace you beseech my aid for?” The question broke the elder priest from his memories. Wasting not an instant, Father Carroway began regaling the Archbishop of the hauntings of the prior two days. As he continued his dreadful of the horrors that occurred in Black Rock Chapel, the elder priest saw the face of the Archbishop become grim, somber; as if he bore some grave piece of the macabre enigma the other didn’t. When Father Carroway was finished describing their peril, a long and unsettling silence hung in the air of the cottage.
“The ground upon which Black Rock Chapel stands wasn’t always holy.” Archbishop Marcus’s voice evoked the same foreboding feeling of sorrow and regret that remained reflected on his aged face. The elder priest himself was hesitant to press the Archbishop for a further explanation as if the hidden revelation could scar him further than what his psyche could recover. “You made mention of one Father Edwards, the priest bearing the serpents, yes?” Father Carroway nodded in response and offered a “Y-yes, excellency,” nervously stumbling over his own words. “I might have known this day would come again. You no doubt have realized that this “Father Edwards” is no priest, nor is he a man. At least, not any longer.”
Fear’s chilling grasp began to take hold of him once more slowly; the burning question suppressed by hesitation now embedded itself into the forefront of Father Carroway’s mind and erupted from his lips: “What do you mean, your excellency?” His heart hung a heavy pendulum of rueful regret and worry. Archbishop Marcus began to enlighten the pair of the unfortunate tragedy that molded the infancy era of Black Rock Chapel. “Before the land that the Chapel’s foundation rests upon was first consecrated as hallowed soil, it had served as a sanctuary for a coven of gypsy folk. When I first came upon the land, I was as you were when I tutored you; I was a pupil under the tutelage of my predecessor: Archbishop Duncan. It was my first journey abroad for the spread of the gospel.” For a brief moment, Father Carroway’s mind, with cursory accuracy, recollected small fragments of his initial journey abroad before he was commissioned to the status of priest. His recollection of prior ages halted when the Archbishop’s voice began again.
“When we arrived, it was a mere darkened patch of earth that appeared to bear sparse, if any, vegetation, and in its center, a massive dark, stone boulder sat in perchance. I remember that, engraved on its outward-most surface, was the image of some manner of talisman with two words in the dialect of the gypsies: “Tara Condemnatilor.” “Only long after the grave events that occurred there did I ever learn what those two words meant; for, in our tongue, these words translate as: “Land of the Condemned.” The Archbishop’s face darkened, the aged features of his face beginning to pronounce themselves by shadow. The dread incubating within Father Carroway tightened its firm grasp on his mind.
“We wished at first to establish commerce with them. We thought that, through fellowship, we may convert some of them to the Lord’s gospel.” Archbishop Marcus’ eyes fell to the ground in a frightened, stoic gaze as a chilled shudder escaped him. “We were wrong.” His voice was devoid of any emotion, save for petrified trauma. Stare still fixed to the ground beneath. The Archbishop continued in a gravelly voice, “two years passed in harmony until strange occurrences began.”
Morbid curiosity bested Father Carroway, and he queried Archbishop Marcus as to the implications of the occurrences he referred to. “At first, we simply brushed them off as minute phenomena, events that we wouldn’t try to bear real significance to as they occurred few and far between. However, with the progression of time, the phenomenon became more recurrent and amplified in its malignancy. The other priests in our congregation awoke every night in terror and foretelling of unrighteous envisionings plaguing their sleep, and storms began to grow fierce and unwavering night and day. However, it was one dusk when our paranoia reached an apex, and our goal of peaceful fellowship was abandoned.”
The cracks of the flames dancing upon the oak kindling inside the hearth arrested the mournful stare of the Archbishop. “Voices; it began with the voices that came to me, whispering unrighteous blasphemies to me. Night upon night, the ghastly voices beckoned to me, tempting me to partake of the ungodly acts they would describe to me. Though the grace and strength of the Lord willed me to resist them, I began to grow worried. I recounted my experiences to another apprentice under the former Archbishop’s study. The Archbishop met gaze once again with the elder priest, “the man you named as “Father Edwards.”
Father Carroway stared in confusion at what he was told. Just before he could question to himself the plausibility of what Archbishop Marcus’s implication was, a morbid realization sent a thunderbolt that shook his mind to its inner-most foundation. “Not a man, not any longer…” the words pierced him like a finely-sharpened dagger as he began to slowly piece together the connection between the malign hauntings that menaced him in the previous days within the Chapel’s walls and those recounted from the Archbishop’s macabre anecdote. Noting the clarity molding itself to the elder priest’s face, Archbishop Marcus continued, “He suspected immediately the machinations of the gypsies were at fault. He was certain that their foreign customs had, in some form, wrought evil forces against us. Over time, paranoia became disdain and mistrust until one grave twilight, the night that blind fear drove us to violence”.
“I’ll never forget their faces as we came upon them, wielding the instruments that razed their livelihood to ash. Their homes, their shops, everything was set ablaze by the hands of our convent.” The Archbishop’s mouth split into a morbid, dead smile, wholly devoid of any authentic joy. “Edwards told me what we were doing was an “exorcism of the land”; that our actions were in righteous merit of the Lord’s service.” A small tear escaped his lifeless eyes and ran down his cheeks. Father Carroway’s blood began losing its warmth as he witnessed the collapse of his former mentor’s psyche.
“They fled the land that night, but not before letting slip an omen: “May you all be spared of Degasii.” As if the mention of the word carried a supernatural force of its own, the hearth exploded outward, and the flames danced upon the oak kindling shifted erratically. “If I could have known of the unholy evils we wrought upon ourselves…” Archbishop Marcus’ lips quivered as he continued, “We thought that by ridding the land of the gypsy heretics from the soil, the evil would flee with them. We were too blinded by arrogance to see at the time that the ones we were swift to drive away were the same whose practices acted not as a weapon against us but to spare us from something far worse.”
“Degasii?” Father Carroway queried, more from instinct than genuine curiosity. A sullen nod of the Archbishop’s head, coupled with his chiseled expression of recriminatory despair, served to reply to the query. “Like with what was inscribed upon the stone; I learned only long after what “Degasii” was.” “What is it, excellency? Is it the name of a demon?” Father Carroway asked, attempting to recollect the multitude of malign spirits dwelling from the lake of fire that was cataloged in “Le dictionaire infernal” (a volume he was required to devote hours of study to in his apprenticeship under Archbishop Marcus).
Archbishop Marcus arose from his seated position, went to his bookshelf, and pulled out a volume dressed in dirt and dust, adorned by cobwebs. “Father, you misunderstand; “Degasii” is no demon.” Blowing away the concealment provided by the dust on the cover, the volume’s cover was revealed to be a faded yet polished brown hue, leather-bound, and bearing no title on the front. The Archbishop fixed himself with his reading lenses and opened the worn volume halfway, and began turning further pages until he found the specific page bearing the heading of “Blestemùl Lui Degasii.” Father Carroway gazed intently at the faded page before him, unsure exactly of what to make of the foreign runes scrawled upon the page. Archbishop Marcus placed his index finger upon the passage in question, directing Father Carroway’s gaze. “When they fled, the coven of gypsies left behind this tome.”
Archbishop Marcus read the passage that detailed the Blestemùl Lui Degasii”, “the curse of the debased,” in their tongue. Father Carroway’s blood chilled, draining his skin pale as he listened to the Archbishop tell of “Degasii” as the physical manifestation of humanity’s condemnation. The memories of the Chapel’s phenomena abrasively invaded his mind once again, pronouncing emphatically the gratuitous blasphemies the wraiths assaulted him with. The Archbishop further explained that those that fall victim to “Degasii” do so when they call out to them; seducing them to either embrace whatever sins they’d committed that drew their attention of them or stripping them of all hope of salvation until their demise, wherein they’re to join the ranks of the condemned. As Archbishop Marcus continued reading, the elder priest glanced at the page when he felt his skin begin to crawl at the sight of the illustration on the page’s bottom right corner.
The illustration depicted the scene of a man brought to his knees and clutching his forehead as long. Black serpents appeared to swarm over his body. The face of the man was craned back to face the sky above. It was twisted into an expression of perpetual agony. The detail of the image that disturbed Father Carroway was a large, dark monolithic stone that stood erect. Protruding from the black stone looked like a cyclonic whirlwind formed from many faces that appeared conjoined; all of them twisted in the same expression of abject horror and sorrow. Spotting this, Father Carroway felt a dreg of nausea grasp firmly to him as the recollection of his nightmare forced itself abrasively into the forefront of his thoughts.
“How has it been taking the form of Father Edwards?” Father Carroway queried, using the question to void the malignant event from his mind. The Archbishop fell silent once again, his aged face giving away to its earlier state of mournful despair. “As writ in the tome here,” Archbishop Marcus began as he placed his index finger upon the excerpting passage he meant to reference; his vocals low and forlorn, “Degasii” can assume the avatar of any that are of them to walk the earth above.” The chilling words returned to Father Carroway: “Not a man, not any longer.”
Tears began to run freely down Archbishop Marcus’ cheeks. Utter despair consuming him, Father Carroway gave in to the compulsion to query Archbishop Marcus about how Father Edwards, a servant of the Lord, could have been met with such a fate. “We were all lost to righteous arrogance,” replied Archbishop Marcus. “But Excellency,” the elder priest cried out, interrupting the Archbishop’s reply, “how could that alone condemn a servant of Christ?” “His pride attracted their attention to him, but what he did next allowed them to consume him.”
With a heavy, shuddering breath, the somber Archbishop recollected the event that wrought damnation upon the arrogant priest that Father Carroway once thought of as a brother in faith. “The night of the raid, I found him wielding one of the gypsy’s own blades against one of the maidens of the coven. She begged for her life in her people’s tongue, but his murderous judgment was unbound. I called him, told him to hold his hand.” The Archbishop froze. His stare became distant as a frightening recollection of the gypsy maiden’s screams and the sickening squelch of flesh being penetrated molded vividly in his mind.
A deadly silence hung within the cottage, contested only by the cracks of the kindling beneath the flames that only ever-slightly increased in volume. Father Carroway felt himself in a state of fruitless denial at what he was just told; that a fellow servant of the cross was a murderer and had committed himself to the whims of an unspeakable evil that, even now, wears his face. It was then that a horrific realization revealed itself to him that almost caused him to faint: “who else but Father Edwards could have called the mass for sermon tonight?” “Can it be stopped?” Sister Merideth queried with a shaking tone of panic seeping into her voice. The young fledgling nun’s voice caused the two men to glance at her with mild surprise as, until that instant, her silence had caused them to forget her presence entirely.
Before a reply could be offered, a mass of shrill screams in the distance arrested their attention. The three listened to the sound of many clamoring, stampeding footsteps accompanied by a collective cacophony of frightened screams. Father Carroway opened the cottage’s front door to reveal that the source of the sounds was the townsfolk who had gathered for mass before, now fleeing Black Rock Chapel for their very lives. The full magnitude of the mortifying display caused the elder priest to fall to his knees in a trance of terror-induced shock. “Father Carroway!” exclaimed Sister Merideth as she rushed to him urgently.
Archbishop Marcus exited the cottage into the midst of the chaos. “What’s going on?!” the Archbishop demanded to a fleeing youth farmhand. “M-monster, I-in the sanctuary!” cried the farmhand before pushing past the Archbishop. Once his stance was regained, Father Carroway waded through the horde of fleeing congregation until he found Archbishop Marcus once again. “It’s “Degasii,” it must be! Tonight was Wednesday mass; it was a trap!” the elder priest exclaimed with staggered breath.
With a cold, icy, and stoic glare carved into his aged face, he turned to Father Carroway and said, “We must destroy the evil of Black Rock.” “How?” Father Carroway queried, remembering his encounters with the frightening entity and the lack of effect of his holy objects with warding them away. In a grave tone, Archbishop Marcus answered, “By fire, this evil was born; through the fire, so too shall it die.” The two continued pushing through the terrified churchgoers, climbing up the steps and thrusting the Chapel’s entrance open.
* * * * * *
Inside the hallway to the sanctuary, the clutter of overturned mahogany and discarded crucifix trinkets littered the long crimson-hued carpet that lined the main hall. However, the sight that disturbed the two clergymen most about the chaos displayed before them were the empty garments that lay discarded, as if those that formerly bore them had simply vanished. The elder priest froze, the blood flowing through his veins chilled as he witnessed the forms of long, thin serpents extrude their scaly forms from the empty garments.
“Come now, there’s no time to lose!” the Archbishop shouted as he retrieved the frankincense from the drawer that kept the oils and wine regularly used for the occasion of communion. Father Carroway remained in place as he retrieved the oil and dismounted two of the candlesticks, the malign phenomena burrowing back into his recollections, feeling incapable of acknowledging his partner’s voice. The elder priest felt the taunts uttered by the wraiths sink slowly and painfully into his heart: “If God’s forgiveness is divine, how are we so many that are condemned? No relief in heaven, no damnation in Hell, no forgiveness! Salvation is only the lie you spread! They have shown me the truth, Father; there is No Salvation!”
Those last two words, which have haunted him for three days and nights, began to repeat as though they were some manner of a demented mantra, screaming inside his mind like a chorus of shrieking maidens in great pain. Father Carroway’s trance was broken when he felt an object pushed into his chest. “Father, are you ready to begin?” Archbishop Marcus queried, pushing one of the candlesticks into the center of Father Carroway’s chest. Clarity resuming control of his thoughts; the elder priest replied with a slightly hesitant breath, “Y-yes, I’m ready.”
“Then may we exorcise the evil from Christ’s temple!” Archbishop Marcus declared with the blaze of determination raging in his eyes. As they set about dousing the main hall in the frankincense, crossing each stream they cast upon the surroundings; they each began to recite: “In Nomine Patris, et Fili, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen” until Archbishop Marcus let out a sharp cry of pain that abruptly ended his chanting. Startled, Father Carroway snapped his head in the Archbishop’s direction. His jaw slacked numbly as he spotted five of the abhorrent serpents with their fangs fixed firmly within his former mentor’s thighs. Archbishop Marcus’ eyes were fastened tight, his jaw agape as his face portrayed the sheer unutterable pain that coursed within him at that moment.
Father Carroway began to rush to the Archbishop’s aid, shock and panic molding into one as he saw his ally forced to his knees in agony. “NO!” Archbishop Marcus screamed out with a strained cry, “STAY AWAY!” The elder priest halted, despite the fright-induced adrenaline urging him further. His strength waning, the Archbishop summoned the last of his will to let out a strained cry to Father Carroway: “It’s too late; I’m theirs now! I allowed this evil to birth. Now you must destroy it!”
Another tortured wail escaped Archbishop Marcus’ mouth as the serpents swarmed him, biting and coiling themselves up and around his body and into his gaping mouth. As they burrowed into his throat, he let out a series of choking gasps. However, before the serpents could overtake him, Archbishop Marcus sputtered one last command to the petrified elder priest: “Y-YOU… YOU MUST BURN BL-BLACK ROCK CHAP-EL!” His eyes rolled back as the breath of life left him, falling fully on his back. Father Carroway’s legs felt weak as he watched helplessly as the body of Archbishop Marcus became but a mere squirming mass of dark and crimson. The serpents then dispersed from where the Archbishop’s body lay; only the empty velvet robe remained and scurried away collectively as though they were answering some summons.
His gaze followed their flight; Father Carroway saw them slithering back into the sanctuary. Giving pursuit, Father Carroway’s eyes met with the embodiment of the horror that tormented the once-hallowed ground he stood upon. The abomination stood at the pulpit, arms outstretched as if exerting the very force that beckoned the serpents to it.
The head of the abysmal creature was the likeness of the man Father Carroway formerly known as Father Edwards. However, the rest of the beast’s form comprised little more than a writhing mass of faces that appeared twisted in the same expression of unbridled suffering. Father Carroway stood at the sanctuary entrance, pale, struggling to comprehend the full extent of the unholy terror displayed before him as the multitude of serpents burrowed themselves in the many dark cavernous mouths of the agonized faces that comprised the abomination’s form. The tortured faces began to undulate more rapidly as if attempting to breach through the flesh, confining them until a new addition began to mold itself into the center of the abomination’s chest region.
In anguish, Father Carroway cried out “NO!” when he witnessed the agonized face of his former mentor take form in the monstrosity’s flesh. As he fell to his knees, stripped of his will, he felt as though he were once again in the nightmare, now with no relief of waking from it. “Now you see the truth, brother? Even the pious cannot be forgiven!” Haunting familiarity struck the elder priest’s ears when the voice of a young man, though still inhuman in nature, chided him, “The truth stands before you: No Salvation!” Though uttered singly by the false likeness of Father Edwards, the voice bore an ethereal quality to it that wholly devoid its resemblance to that of a human. He realized this to be the distorted vocals of the young adolescent from the confessional.
The eyes of the false priest’s likeness rolled back unnaturally into the skull. It distended its jaws, regurgitating a large, squirming legion of black serpents. They slithered in haste to claim the elder priest. Father Carroway, witnessing this physical incarnation of horror, almost resigned to his fate when he remembered the candlestick he still wielded. “The frankincense!” he nearly shouted aloud, holding his tongue to not reveal his plan to the monster. With renewed hope, Father Carroway found himself at his feet.
More dark serpents came forth out of the dark orifices of the mass of twisted faces. Running to the empty velvet robe, Father Carroway retrieved the half-empty jar of the holy oil and doused the sanctuary. Triumphantly, he raised the candle aloft, ready to set the room ablaze, when a succession of sharp pains shot through his left leg. He looked down to see that a serpent had fixed its fangs on him. Father Carroway once again felt the venom’s crippling effects begin to claim him within less than seconds. His head throbbed, and his vision began to fail him.
Nausea finally stripped his legs of his ability to stand, forcing him to collapse. As the serpents began to overtake him, Father Carroway, with the last of his strength, raised the jar of frankincense and doused himself. In a weakened breath, the elder priest uttered, “Though I walk in the shadow of the valley of death, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. I will fear no -” his defiant speech was cut short as two of the serpents forced themselves into his throat. Father Carroway thrust the candle’s flame upon himself, setting himself and the serpents ablaze. The scorched serpents hissed as they fled hastily from the elder priest’s burning body.
Within mere minutes, the entirety of the sanctuary was an inferno. The burning serpents slithered to the spaces dredged in the frankincense in their panic. The agonized faces fixed within the abomination’s flesh began to shriek in a uniformed cacophony of pain as the searing grasp of the flames came upon them. As the abomination’s flesh charred, the mass of faces began to protrude further from the form until breaking free of the flesh that held them bound, sending forth a cyclone of wailing apparitions that swarmed the burning sanctuary.
All through the night, the flames gutted Black Rock Chapel. When the sun rose, naught was left but hot, smoldering rubble. Seven sunsets passed, with many folks attempting to speculate and ponder what had happened that night. “I heard some bloody priest went mad! Set the whole damn Chapel on fire, himself included!” exclaimed a young man to the bartender. “Oi, you’re spouting fouler-smelling shit than what my farmhands use to grow my crops with!” the bartender retorted with a hearty laugh. “Scoff all you want. I know what I heard. I know the truth!”
“Do you now?” the patron seated upon the neighboring barstool uttered. The young lad was taken back by his mute neighbor’s somewhat abrupt and unexpected query. “Well, sure…” the young man finally replied with an uneasy chuckle. Then the stranger looked at the lad, locking the nervous eyes with his cold gaze. He had full dark brunette hair and a young, youthful face despite appearing twice his age. The stranger also appeared clad in a dark robe, similar to what the young lad had seen worn by preachers.
“Say, you wouldn’t happen to be a priest, would ya?” The stranger’s mouth parted upward on the left corner in dry amusement. “I was, once…”, he said in the same dry tone, nearly devoid of emotion. “But then I learned the truth.” The young lad, suspecting some manner of a bluff, challenged him. “That right? Now, what would that be, holy man?” Still bearing the same devious grin, the supposed former priest told the young man to follow him behind the tavern if he wished to be bestowed with the truth he offered. The young man obliged and followed as a pig to slaughter.
Within seconds, the lad’s confident arrogance was replaced with sheer terror as the stranger opened his robe to reveal a writhing mass of tortured faces of pain branded into his flesh. “Like you,” the stranger began, “I was too arrogant to accept the truth, but I know now. It’s as they told me: Salvation is only the lie we spread, for all are condemned in the end.” The former priest displayed a menacingly joyous smile as a horde of black and crimson-scaled serpents silenced the young lad’s screams.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableCraig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
🔔 More stories from author: Corpse ChildPublisher's Notes: N/A Author's Notes: N/A
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