Monday, 20 August 2012

The Monk

So, I was reading a Writers magazine, and they had these excellent creative writing competitions for poetry and stories. I thought to myself: "I can write stories as well as journalism. I'll give it a go!" Now, I looked on the website and was devastated to find out that it wasn't free. Instead of thinking I'd written it for nothing, I thought maybe you lovely people could read it and give me your opinion.

CAUTION: This is a scary, scary ghost story. Read it if you dare.


Vicki looked forlornly out of the window to the dreary countryside beyond. The storm had set in soon after her parents had gone; she had to fend for herself. The new house still looked abandoned. Wallpaper peeled off the damp walls and there were great cracks in the ceiling. Vicki didn’t see why they’d had to move there so quickly. The phone-lines hadn’t even been put in, for God’s sake.

Not that she minded being left alone; she was 14, and perfectly capable of looking after herself. But this place was plain creepy. She didn’t worry too much; they weren’t the only ones to live at the bottom of the hill. Next-door was a middle-aged couple who has only moved in a few months ago. Apparently they had lost their son not long afterwards, and were intent on moving again.

Turning away from the dismal rain, she flicked on the TV. At least her parents had set that up before they’d left. It seemed that going to the theatre was more important than unpacking though, and most boxes were still full. For a while, she sat quietly. The sky was turning dark when the picture started flickering.

“Damn,” thought Vicki. The rain was torrential now, and the satellite must have been getting buffeted. She looked out of the window again, just to make sure it wasn’t damaged. A fork of lightning lit up the road, and Vicki could have sworn she saw a figure in the cover of the trees, looking straight at her.

Startled, she peered closer, but when the lightning flashed again, it was gone. Vicki was a reasonable person, and she decided it must have been someone walking their dog, or maybe Mr White putting the bins out, or her mind playing tricks on her. The house was a bit daunting, with its spider-webs and creaky floorboards.

The TV was next to useless now, and soon Vicki found herself ambling through the house. She hadn’t even had a look at it before they’d moved, and it looked pretty old. In a cupboard, she found three old books: a history of the village, a journal and a book of ghost stories. ‘Why not?’ she thought, and began to read.

The only thing she found in the journal was a list, written in red pen: Axe, grave, tree, silver bullet, stake, exorcist… these had all been crossed out. There was one left; kindness. It was question-marked and written tentatively. Perplexed, she moved on.

The history book was boring; it had pictures of people she didn’t know, and a lot of descriptions of churches being built and ponds being dug. Then something caught her eye – a dark silhouette in the background of an image of her home; a strangely familiar one. And there it was again, this time 70 years later. It was always in shadow, almost invisible unless you were looking for it. She flicked through the rest of the book, but didn’t see it again.

Then she noticed that someone had marked her pages – a red cross next to the page numbers. As she looked through again, she found another marked page. It was about when the plague had come to the village:

“Although many had worked against the Black Death to try and save its victims, they had no success. The few survivors buried their dead in the field known as the Burydene. One man, a monk who had done everything he could, felt so much guilt at his failure that he had promptly hung himself at the top of the hill nearby, on Friday the 13th.”

Vicki shivered, and moved on to the ghost stories with interest. Soon, she found it; another page marked with red. It told a very similar story to the history book, but added:

“When the monk died, his soul was refused at the gates of heaven. In his final act, he had sinned. But hell didn’t have room for a soul with only one sin to their name, so he was deposited back to earth and his punishment was to guard the bodies of those he had tried to save. The monk now seeks vengeance for the wrongs done to him by heaven and hell, and walks the hill and the field, looking for wandering souls to put to rest. Every Friday he appears, and every Friday after someone dies.”

By this point, Vicki was almost certain that the figure she had seen was the same one in the pictures. If this book was to be believed, it was also a very angry ghost. But no, she didn’t believe in ghosts, or zombies, or vampires; they were just stories designed to make small children be good. She had long since learnt that Father Christmas wasn’t real. Not to mention the infamous child-eating dinner-witch of her childhood, whose coming indicated that she hadn’t finished what was on her plate. Vicki decided that her imagination really was running away with her. She didn’t have much to do now, so she decided to check on the neighbours. After all, they had given them such a warm welcome that she was sure they wouldn’t mind her coming over.

Soon, she was knocking in their door, a lot wetter than she expected to be. She looked around as she waited, but no shadowy figures watched her from the bushes. Soon, the smiling face of Mrs White appeared at the door. A bolt unlocked, then another.

As the door opened, Mrs White’s head snapped up. Her smile turned to utter terror as she grabbed Vicki by the arm and screamed: “Get in!”

Together they slammed the door and locked it in place. As Vicki turned the last dead-lock, she could have sworn she glimpsed a deep blackness, too dense to be a shadow, just inches from the door. Mrs White drew a shaky breath as the door rattled fiercely.

“That was cutting it a little too close, Victoria,” said Mrs White, as she ushered Vicki into her spotless kitchen. “But don’t worry; he can’t get at you in here. You aren’t wandering any more. We half expected you to come, dear. I take it you found the books we planted?”

Vicki could only nod in amazement, trying to make sense of it all. So the ghost was real. She wasn’t one to stay silent for long. As soon as they were all comfortable in the living room, each with mugs of hot chocolate, the questions came.

When Mr and Mrs White moved in, they did indeed have a son. His name was Matthew. The first few nights they spent in the house went perfectly fine, but on the Friday night, they saw a figure out alone. They were a kind family, and thought the man might be lost. But it was dark outside, and they could see no-one. As turned back, they saw him: the monk. His hood was off and he surged towards them at a startling speed. They ran as fast as they could back to the house, and as they shut the door, he disintegrated against the door frame. In the morning, they found nothing.

Matthew wasn’t fazed, and quickly investigated what had happened. He was sure it was a ghost; he had seen one before. But this one was malignant; you could feel it in the air. By the next week, he had pieced together the information from some books he had bought and made a plan. Each Friday they would try to banish the ghost. He kept record of every way they had tried, but each one was unsuccessful. Finally, he tried kindness, and that was his downfall; as he ran back to the house, the ghost caught him. Mr and Mrs White watched as the ghosts hand plunged into their son’s chest. And then it was gone. Matthew came down with a fever the next day that could not be cured. He died on the following Friday.

Vicki’s heart hammered as she listened to their story, but as it went on, her resolve strengthened. Matthew was a hero, and his actions spurred her on to do something. The Whites said not to go out again that night, but she didn’t care. She was going to fight it, but how? The monk was killing innocent people, so it mustn’t want to go to heaven any more. She had two options, it seemed. She could see if there was another kindness she could perform, or she could send it to hell.

When the Whites had gone to sleep, she crept outside; making sure the door was firmly bolted. The ghost was waiting. She stooped down and picked a bunch of flowers; a gift. When she looked up again, he was suddenly much closer. She gave a start and hurried over to the Burydene, always keeping one eye on the silent, menacing spirit. Just as she laid down the flowers on the grave-pit, there was a shrill cry. It was the sound of rage and death; the sound of a thousand people crying for help or a man’s final yell as his neck snaps. The flowers were not a kindness; they were a mockery.

The rain plummeted, and in the next flash of lightening she saw the ghost again. His hood was down and he rushed at her. She ran towards her front door and clattered into the kitchen. There was no escape; her door was open. She could feel his presence now. He was almost touching her, but she kept her back turned and riffled through the box containing kitchen utensils.

An icy cold flooded her senses, and she knew the monk was upon her. She grasped the handle of the carving knife she had found. She turned, and saw expressionless eyes looking down on her. Her heart jittered and suddenly she felt excruciatingly hot. He let go. Vicki knew she would die now; there was only one thing to do. She took a deep breath and thrust the knife into her neck, severing an artery. In the same moment, she grabbed the monk and held on tight.

As she died she dragged him straight to hell.


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