Congratulations to KittyLouise for
becoming 2nd in the big MadPea
Halloween hunt writing contest!!!
The winner will know now who they are, as we only have one story left. The winner's story will not be published here - as you will be experiencing that as an interactive adventure. Stay tuned!
But here, read the amazing story from KittyLouise.
I arrived at the dock the morning after I received my sister’s frantic call. Her terrified voice telling me of our brother’s disappearance was the only thing that would bring me back to this god-forsaken island. I hopped off the boat and onto the rotting, splintered wood of the dock, thankful I had decided to wear my thick soled hiking boats. I thanked the boat’s captain and begged him once again to stay, as I would only be on the island for two days and there was a spare room at my sister’s house. He quickly refused. It’s rare to find anyone brave enough, or stupid enough, to even step foot on this cursed dot of land. Murders have that effect on people.
I watched the boat slip away from the dock and make the short journey back to the mainland. I wrapped my jacket tighter about me against the cold and fog and began walking towards what had once been my parents’ house. The village was nothing like I remembered. Growing up here, it had been a bright, happy place, now it was a dark parody of itself. The statue of an angel in the village square had been chiseled into a visage of death and darkened with soot. The top of the clock tower almost disappeared into the thick fog. It’s slow, ominous tick-tock tick-tock piercing the foggy silence. An atmosphere of doom and foreboding had settled heavily on the entire island.
I lifted my gaze to the prison that dominated the island. Things had gone so well for so many years, I could almost understand some people wanting to reopen the prison and trying to continue the good work started by Father Jack and Father Brian. They had met on a pilgrimage and soon discovered they shared many interests. They also had a strong sense of social justice and believed that even the most wicked and hardened criminal could be rehabilitated through kindness, religious studies, and most importantly, living and working amongst ordinary, law abiding citizens. The island, already possessing an ancient abbey and completely devoid of tourists, seemed the perfect place for their experiment.
As I approached the house, my sister flung open the door, her eyes wide and red, her face ashen. She grabbed my hand and pulled me inside before I had a chance to speak.
‘It’s back,’ she said.
‘What on earth are you talking about?’
‘It’s back,’ she repeated. ‘The beast. The monster. It’s back!’
‘Charlotte, slow down. Tell me what happened to Michael first.’ I needed to get the facts while she was still lucid. If she kept bringing up The Beast we’d never get anywhere. Sometimes I think she never matured past the age of 8 when our parents were murdered, the trauma permanently stunting her mental growth. The Beast was what her mind created when she was unable to cope with the fact that the human heart could contain more evil than any demon.
‘Two weeks ago, Father Jack went missing. Just like Father Brian. But then he turned up again just like Father Brian. At the abbey.’
I didn’t need to be told any more. I remembered well what happened to Father Brian. After disappearing for two weeks, his mutilated body was found in the ruins of the abbey on the eve of All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows. We should have all fled the island then, but it was argued that it was only one death. Surely, Father Brian wouldn’t want his good works abandoned because of his death. But then came the next year, when there were more murders including my parents. Bloody, mangled corpses littered the village streets. There was no more denying that one or more of the inmates had gone mad and was slaughtering innocent villagers. The prison was closed and we left the island. I, along with my brother and sister, went to live with grandparents and tried our best to move on. My God, I thought, it will be 10 years tomorrow.
Charlotte continued, ‘Then, yesterday morning, I was making breakfast. I went in to wake up Michael but he was gone. Why did we ever come back to this stupid place?’
‘I’ve been meaning to ask, why did you come back? Was it Michael’s idea?’
‘Actually, it was Father Jack. He asked us to come back. He wanted to open the prison again, but there was more. He said he had something important to tell us, something that would explain everything. But then he was killed. We never did find out what he wanted to tell us. And now with Michael gone…’ She trailed off and began sobbing.
‘Don’t worry. We’ll find him.’ I tried to assure her, but my false confidence did little to assuage my own fear. ‘Did you check his room? Maybe he left a note. There could be a simple explanation.’
‘I didn’t go in there. I saw that he was gone so I slammed the door shut. It was The Beast. I know it was!’
I told her to stay put while I went to investigate Michael’s room. At first glance, the room seemed to be in perfect order. I checked the windows to see if anyone could get in or out, but found they had all been nailed shut. The only way he could have left was through the door, and judging from the tidiness of the room, I would guess it was of his own accord. Just as I was leaving the room, I noticed a slip of paper peeking out of a bedside table drawer. Perhaps this was a note telling us where he had gone.
I know I promised to tell you everything. And I will in due time.
But I must meet with Charlie Quinn at his research post first.
Apparently he has stumbled upon something quite interesting.
I’ll come as soon as I can.
The note posed more questions than it answered, but at least it gave me a place to start looking. Charlie Quinn was always something of an odd fellow, always doing who knows what sort of research on that tiny spit of land. I tucked Charlotte into bed with a belly full of tea and a couple of sleeping pills and made my way to Charlie’s. The steep cliffs and marshy terrain once again made me thankful for my boots. I looked around at what was left of Charlie’s research equipment. He seemed to have picked up and left quickly, even leaving his old television on. My imagination must have been getting the better of me, because in the static there appeared to be a humanoid shape. Smiling and shaking my head at my own skittishness, I began picking through his things, looking for something that might tell me what he had found. Lying beside his telescope I found one of his research logs. I gingerly opened the soggy log book and read the last entry, dated two weeks prior, the same day Father Jack went missing.
I’ve confirmed what I have long suspected. It’s coming. I don’t know if we can stop it, but we must try. The lighthouse! I know it’s absurd, but I must put out that light! It’s a long shot but anything to help.
What sort of research had Charlie been doing? This didn’t sound like the silly weather experiments my parents told me he did. Regardless, I must get to the lighthouse and find Charlie. He might still be there.
I entered the lighthouse keeper’s shack and noticed the strong, distinct odor of a decomposing body. I looked to the corner and saw what was left of Charlie. I wrapped my jacket’s collar tightly around my nose and mouth, choking back vomit. I would never get used to seeing dead bodies. A second log book lay next to him, along with a hastily written note for help that gave me the shivers. I tentatively reached out to take the book. I shook off the maggots and it fell open to one much read page.
It’s the stars! Of course! I often wondered at the unusual angle of the abbey. It should be oriented to the east, but it isn’t, not quite. But why should even the holy places on this God forsaken island follow the same rules as the rest of the world? This abbey wasn’t built to face the Christian holy land. It was built to honor something far more ancient, and something far more menacing. Oh, if only I had brought a stronger telescope, but I never imagined it would be the stars!
The rest of the page was filled with sketches of constellations, numbers, and arcane symbols. I tucked the book into my jacket pocket. It’s possible Michael was searching for the answers Father Jack had promised him. If so, he would have gone to the abbey, which was where I also needed to go.
The abbey seemed to be a dead end. There was no sign of Michael anywhere, only the blood stained floor where Father Jack’s body had lain. I wandered through the rubble trying to think of where to search next when I spotted a pile of stones that didn’t match the stone of the abbey. As I drew closer, I could see they were gravestones from the cemetery by the new church. They were all people who had been murdered that Halloween ten years ago. My parents’ stones were here, too. It saddened me to think of someone desecrating their graves. Who would do such a thing? Only a few people had come back to the island, the prison had yet to open, and all the prisoners had been removed from the island after the murders. Hadn’t they? We never learned who committed the murders. It was just assumed it was one of the prisoners, though imagining one of them carrying out such a crime was as impossible as imagining one of the villagers as the murderer. The inmates were handpicked by the priests, who believed these men had truly changed their ways and wanted to walk the path of righteousness for the rest of their internment. We all believed it too, as these men carried themselves more like Buddhist monks than former death row inmates. However, we soon learned that even the kindest of faces can hide the foulest of hearts.
I decided the cemetery was the best place to continue my search. I pushed open the gates and gazed around at the remaining stones. It’s funny how you don’t notice certain things when you’re young, things that become blatantly obvious when you get older. The cemetery held only the remains of the villagers. I began to wonder where the prisoners were buried, or if maybe they were cremated. Although I saw the inmates on a daily basis and even considered some a friend, I realized I didn’t know much about any of them. Their whole lives were a mystery to me. I walked to the church to find the burial records. At least this was one mystery I’d be able to solve.
I ran my finger down the page of burials, scanning the names. It was just as I thought; no prisoners were buried in the cemetery. Perhaps the priest thought with their heinous past they shouldn’t be buried on holy ground. But no, they trusted them enough to have them live and work amongst us; they would have thought them worthy to be interred in our graveyard as well. I turned the page and was surprised to find a second page of burials, but these were inside the church itself. I glanced over the list and was astonished to see that each interment beneath the sacred floors of the church was that of a prisoner. This had to be what Father Jack wanted to tell Michael.
I had to find the prison records, but that would mean entering the prison. No one from the village had ever been in there. It was the only place that was off limits. Gathering my courage, I set off toward the prison and, if the legends were true, the dungeons beneath it.
A draft of hot, dank air arose to greet me as I cautiously made my way down the steps and into the prison. The desk and files were in disarray, but I soon found something that stunned me: a pile of passports. I flipped through each of them, recognizing the faces of prisoners I had befriended years ago. Why would convicted felons on death row need passports?
The stale air of the prison was making it difficult to breathe so I decided to pay a visit to Wendell Elliot. Wendell was one of the original residents of the island, having come here as part of the construction team responsible for building the village and prison.
Wendell’s house was outside the village, the perfect allegory for the man himself. He was a friendly sort, but never quite fit in with the rest of us. I was delighted when I drew near his house and saw him sitting on his porch just as he did when I was young.
‘You have certainly grown up! Have a seat. I’m sorry to hear about your brother. I’m sure he’ll turn up though.’
‘I’m looking for him now, but I’ve exhausted almost all my options.’
‘Well, don’t ever give up hope. It’s the only thing that keeps us sane.’
‘What do you know of the prisoners that were brought here? Why would they need passports?’
‘Passports? They were from various countries, I do know that. They were an odd group of people, unlike any criminals I had ever met before. Even their first day here they were well mannered and meek.’
I pulled Charlie’s log book from my jacket and passed it to Wendell. ‘What do you make of that?’
He slipped his reading glasses on his nose and stared down at the book. ‘This star stuff and numbers, I don’t understand a bit of it. But I’ve seen these symbols before.’
‘You have? Can you remember where you saw them?’
‘Before the prison was built, there was just a big hole up there. Like a crater or something. It had been filled in with all these rocks. Some of them with symbols on them, just like these. You should go see Peter Finley about that other stuff. He would know all about it.’
‘Mr. Finley came back, too?’
‘He never left.’
‘What do you mean he never left? Everyone was made to leave the island.’
‘Well he didn’t go now, did he? Why would he want to go back there? He came here to get away from all those hateful people. This is the only place he felt he belonged.’
I set off to the carnival to see Mr. Finley. I always found it strange that a man, who struggled to free himself from a past that brought him such sorrow, ended up doing the very thing he despised. Perhaps it was because we never thought of him as a freak.
I found him sitting and staring out at the ocean, lost in his own thoughts.
‘They’ll never reopen,’ he said.
‘Too much has happened. The ground is too saturated with blood. Perhaps it always has been.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Ours wasn’t the first, you know. Our murders. The ones who built that abbey, they were driven out or killed, just as they did those before them. This island is a never ending cycle of peace and brutality.’
I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I pulled out Charlie’s book. ‘I found this by Charlie’s body. It must have been important for him to keep it with him.’
‘So, old Charlie is dead, too.’ He gave a sigh of resignation.
‘Do you know what any of this means?’
‘The stars? Yes, that’s easy enough. They are the major constellations as seen from this area.’ He held the book closer to his face and squinted. ‘But this is odd. This star is out of place.’
‘How can a star be out of place?’
‘Simple. It can’t.’ He handed the book to me and turned back toward the ocean, his mind focused inward, no longer aware of my presence.
I was quickly running out of options. My only choice seemed to go back to the prison and maybe find some evidence of these symbols. The day was fading fast. I didn’t want to be down in that dungeon after dark and if it were not for the fact my brother was still out there somewhere, I would have put it off until morning.
The air in the prison seemed even hotter than before, almost as if it were blowing in from the very depths of hell. I went farther into the bunker-like dungeon than I had before and the sight turned my blood to ice. Bodies were strewn about the halls. Blood painted every wall. Hunks of human flesh lay about like shanks of ham in a butcher shop window. I forced myself forward. As I passed by one cell, I could hear a faint moan. I eased the door open and peered in.How odd, I thought, no locks. A man lay on a cot, battered and beaten, but still alive. My movements caught his attention and he lifted his head. I was taken aback to see the face of one of the island’s prisoners and one of my dearest friends.
‘Ben!’ I shouted. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘Shh. Please, just whisper.’ His normally jolly face was distorted with dread.
‘Of course. Sorry,’ I whispered. ‘What happened to you?’
‘It’s back. Just as we feared,’ he said weakly.
I stared at him in stunned silence.
‘Your brother is still alive. He has been helping us. I just pray that the gods give us strength to win this battle.’
‘Michael’s still alive? Where is he? And did you say gods?’
‘Beneath here.’ He gasped and winced in pain. ‘But stay away. There are things down there that will infect you. They possess you and make you do horrible things.’
‘You mean like demons? Is that what happened to all those people? Was someone possessed by a demon and killed all those people?’
‘No, the people who were possessed, they killed themselves. They tore themselves to pieces.’ As if demonstrating his words, he sunk his fingers into his abdomen and let out a most terrifying shriek. I dashed out of the cell, not wanting to see more. I crouched in the main area, trying to catch my breath and regain my wits. As I sat there, I could feel the earth beneath me tremble. The floor seemed to reverberate with screams. There had to be a door here somewhere.
After what seemed like hours of crawling on the floor through dirt and blood, I finally found a small entranceway. The heat and smoke and stench of sulfur reminded me of every description of hell I’d read. I caught sight of Michael kneeling with a group of men through the fumes. I crawled towards him, the low rocky ceiling affording very little headway.
‘What are you doing here?’ he shouted when he saw me.
‘You’re not going to ask me to be quiet?’
‘It doesn’t matter now. It knows we’re here. It always knows. It always knows.’
‘The Beast. Charlotte’s Beast. I don’t know how she knew about it, but she did.’
I noticed the stones in his hands, and the symbols engraved upon them. I shook my finger at them and grabbed for Charlie’s book. ‘Those are the same symbols!’
‘Where did you get this?’ Michael asked.
‘It was Charlie’s.’
Michael snatched the book from my hands. ‘This changes everything,’ he laughed.
Using the book as a map, Michael and the other men carefully laid out the stones according to Charlie’s sketches. I recognized a few of the men as prisoners from years ago, though constant stress and horror had aged them far beyond a mere ten years. Once they had made certain the stones were in their correct places, they crouched against the walls of the cavern and watched as the steam and heat slowly subsided.
Michael, Charlotte, and I sat on the newly rebuilt dock watching the sun set in a swirl of reds and oranges. People were starting to come back to the island again, but the prison would not be rebuilt. There was no need; the priests no longer had to hide their identity. We didn’t know how long the stones would protect against the ‘Beast’, a creature older than man and almost as old as the earth itself, but the priests, or guardians as they preferred to be called, would always be here to protect us.
‘I still don’t see where the stars fit in,’ said Michael. ‘We thought the stars would signal some sort of deadline, when we’d be unable to restrain the Beast. Oh well, I guess it doesn’t matter now.’
We lay on the dock long after the sun had gone down, staring at the stars and learning Charlie’s constellations. Ten years ago to that very second, a star went supernova. The light from that explosion traveled through trillions of miles of space to illuminate a tiny abbey on a tiny island on a tiny planet.
‘Oh look,’ said Charlotte. ‘There’s the star!’