Father Shaw locked up the Church door for the night. The day had been highly tiresome due to the funeral service of Hugh Patterson, the village farm owner. He took off his robes and walked up the spiral staircase and slowly creaked into bed for the night. After a few moments of trying to read his book in the confines of his cozy covers distant wailing was coming from outside.
Oh no! Sam must be drunk.
He tried to ignore it, hoping it would go away, but the howling persisted. Huffing and moaning, the priest got up, put on his sleeping gown and made his way across the cold stone floor to the spiral staircase. He unlocked the great door and was instantly hit with the moonlight that lit the grounds gracefully from the night sky.
Looking around him he couldn’t see anyone, despite the continuing cry in the distance.
“Sam”! The priest let out a loud whisper but with no response.
He sighed and went out into the graveyard to hunt for the drunkard that was roaming the grounds. As Father Shaw wandered into the Graveyard he was never to be seen again.
The last bus to Little Galeton was near empty coming into its final destination. The driver, a very plump man, smiled as he spun the wheel, swerving in and out of the bendy country roads which were making the now solitary passenger Richard Hook rather queasy.
“It’s marvelous I tell ye, nout much cars about round ‘er, good t’know what the ol’ gal can do,” the driver spoke with pride as he controlled the bus at last into the isolated village of Little Galeton as Richard tried to keep his breakfast from making a rude resurface.
“Thank you driver”, muttered Richard out of politeness as he got off the bus.
He looked around him and took in the scenery as the erratic bus driver took off leaving him in thevillageofLittle Galeton. The flowers and shrubbery that littered the place with their natural beauty was the first thing to strike the village’s new arrival. He looked around Little Galeton, soon realising that he could examine the entire village from this one spot. Down the street were white stone cottages with beautiful thatched roofs on both sides of the road with a farm house at the end of the street. Up the road were more cottages that continued to be dotted along the road with an old curious looking church sitting on a mound at the end of the path, looming over the village protectively.
Richard picked up his suitcase and set off down the right hand side of the village toward the church. He soon noticed that some of the cottages were marked slightly different to each other. Passing what looked to be the grocers and the village Inn, Richard decided it wise to check in first before starting to work.
The reception of the inn was very unspectacular; the inn keeper was sitting behind a desk in what looked to be a pleasant sleep. She sported a very snug looking lavender cardigan as she sat with her crooked face bent down as her grayish hair blew gracefully with the breeze that came in when Richard opened the door; she looked to be situated in complete contentment, until Richard let out a deliberate cough.
She sat up and fixed her glasses, the inn keeper looked around and noticed a tall lean built man with deepened eyes in front of her, he wore a brown suit with a hat to match, his suitcase was already on top of the reception table and looked big enough to be carrying at least a few days worth of outfits. Her eyes drew back to the face of the man who was smiling slightly, his brown eyes blending in with the suit which he was taking out a wallet and began to speak.
“I believe you have a reservation under the name of the name of Hook”, he continued to smile as the old lady looked up the book.
“Yes I have you here Mr Hook, suite number three for three nights”.
“Excellent, may I have the key? I would like to get started right away”. He lifted up his case from the table and took an old silver key from the withered hands of the inn keeper and proceeded to go upstairs.
His room wasn’t hard to find since there was only three doors upstairs. Once he reached the room at the end of the short corridor he immediately set down his case and took out a notebook and a pencil from his inside jacket pocket. He folded the jacket on top of the bed and made way to the desk at the foot of the bed. He began to write.
On first impressions of Little Galeton you will be encapsulated by the quaintness of the dear old place. This typically English village seems tucked away here in the country, tucked away to keep its secrets to itself. However first impressions of this lovely idyllic setting may yet prove disconcerting as Little Galeton holds one of the nations most undiscussed mysteries Britain has to offer … Why do the priests of Little Galeton’s Holy Cross Church go missing?
Last month the first to go missing in over sixty years, Father Andrew Shaw, vanished one night never to be seen again. This makes the 5thpriest of the village church to disappear without trace since Father William James in 1818 …
END OF PASSAGE.
A sudden knock on the door caused Richard to cease writing. He placed his pencil down he reached for the door. The old inn keeper stood in the hallway.
“Would you care for some lunch, I was just about to make myself soup”, said the old lady.
“No no I’m fine, thank you very much”, responded Richard still thinking of his stomach after his perilous bus journey.
“Oh okay, remember we serve dinner from five o’clock to seven if your hungry then, also Derek’s grocers is open till ten if you want to get some things”, said the old woman in a very caring tone.
“Thank you very much for your help Mrs …?”
“Greenway ... Mary Greenway, just call me Mary dear,” she said with a proud smile.
“Oh okay, Mary I wonder if you can tell me if there is anywhere around here I can have a drink?”
“We have a bar downstairs, through the double doors to your left when you came in, it’s the only pub in the village”.
“Excellent, then I shall take you up on your offer of soup, only if you can pour me a large whisky to match”, he stood up picking up his notebook, grabbed his hat and walked out the door following Mary Greenway down into the bar.
The room had a very welcoming tone, a rip roaring fire blasted the scene with its soothing warmth as Richard sat down at one of the few tables in the pub.
“I’ll go and get the soup on”, said Mary putting on an apron she picked up from behind the bar.
“Thank you, can I ask, would you mind joining me for lunch Mary?” he asked inquisitively.
She looked surprised for a moment then eased up slightly and smiled.
“Sure, I’ll be back with your broth and your whisky.” She pottered off through into the kitchen and left Richard to study his notes. He studied them for around twenty minutes before Mary came back. She carried with her two bowls of broth and a large glass of whisky on a tray and conspicuously placed it down, she took her seat and observed Richard scribbling in a brown leather notebook.
“Can I ask you something”, said Richard briefly looking above his notebook, taking in the aroma of his glass awaiting the answer.
“Why not?” replied the old lady suspiciously.
“What do you know of Father Shaw’s disappearance”, once he asked the question his eyes stayed onto the befuddled innkeeper.
“Are you a policeman?” She sighed.
“No no”, he chuckled. “I’m merely a reporter; you see this village has a rather peculiar reputation … I’m talking about the history your Holy Cross Church has regarding its priests”, he finished by taking a spoonful of broth.
She looked at him and smiled slightly.
“I see, all we’ve had since Father Shaw went missing is rude policemen thinking us lot are covering something up! I’ve never been so offended in my life.
ButI'mafraid I don’t know much, I wasIllthe day he went missing and spent most of that week in bed”, she slumped slightly in her seat, noticing her unworthiness.
“That’s fine”, smiled the reporter. “Why don’t you just tell me about the man instead and we’ll finished this delightful lunch”.
She drew a rosy smile and started to speak while Richard prepared to write.
PART III – The account of Mrs Greenway.
Father Shaw always struck me as a very curious chap. Now don’t get me wrong he was always lovely and very pleasant to talk to after a service but he was rather reclusive. He confined himself within the ground of the church most of the time. Sure he would venture into town now and then for supplies and such, but no more than he had to. We would ask him to come down and we would cook for him at theInn, entirely our treat of course, he was a man of the cloth after all. It was the least we could do. However he always refused, it got to the point we didn’t bother asking him anymore.
It was really odd to me that he kept so much to himself; he came to this parish from the city. He used be involved in dozens of inner city programmes so you could hardly say he was unsociable. Idon'tknow it was all so very odd. I knew he served in World War II, showed me the medals before, I think this village saw some action back in those days with the blitz, all those coal mines nearby being the target I can only imagine what it must have been like. Perhaps that’s why he kept to himself, war changes people I suppose. His services were always lovely however, it was a shame hedidn'tvisit the village more.
Other than that he seemed nice. The church is a beautiful place with a marvelous view over the village and the countryside, on a sunny clear day I wouldn’t want to move from there. I’d say he first started work here about fifty years ago, I’m not too sure. I’ve only lived here for just under ten years. I moved here to retire you see, I’m originally fromEdinburgh. It’s my sons business so I just help out here and there. Most of the people in this town are here to retire in fact. You’ll want to talk to Mr Patterson. He took over the Farm here since after his father died. His father Hugh was the only one here who knew Father Murphy, the priest that was here before Shaw. He too vanished one night. I only heard the late Mr Patterson’s view of it, your better talking to his son I forget most of it.
Nevertheless it’s a great shame Father Shaw was gone. Fifty years of service, all to disappear into the night. I don’t know what could have happened to him. He was very fond of his drink, I hope he didn’t take it too far one night did something stupid. I’m not entirely sure if your going to get the haunted story that you seemed to be hoping to get though, it would be absolute nonsense to think that anything like that took our Father Shaw away from Little Galeton. Although it would be nice to get some ghost hunters into the village, anything to spark a bit of tourism I suppose. This town is very quiet at times but I can assure you it harbours no secrets, well, nothing exciting anyway. I’m afraid that’s all I can tell you.
Richard was finishing up his soup and his whisky glass had been empty for some time. He stood up and shook Mary’s hand.
“Thank you very much for speaking to me and the soup it was lovely”, she smiled and took his hand and nodded.
Richard left for his room and changed his clothes to a more outdoor attire, his suit had come off and a heavier coat replaced it, followed by wellington boots. Before leaving again he sat at his desk and wrote more notes to go alongside Mrs Greenways account.
I have to say I found MrsGreenwaystelling of the story very brief. She didn’t really have a lot to say other than ‘it’s a great shame’. Five priests going missing in a village the size of LittleGaletonand shedoesn'tseem too concerned. I suppose she has only moved here to retire and by the sounds of things so as most people. It is going to be difficult on getting an accurate history of this place. I best now leave and pay this farmer a visit, see if he can remember anything on Father Shaw or the stories his father told him about his predecessor. Once I get a full witness account then I will leave for the church itself.
Note to self, make sure phone is fully charged at all times, awaiting phone call from editor.
END OF PASSAGE.
He picked up his notebook and left the room behind him.
Richard stepped out into the street again, the warmth of the sun was stolen by the biting breeze that suddenly overcame the village. He walked against the wind to the farm house at the far end of the street, leaving the church to grow smaller in the distance behind him.
Once he approached the farm he noticed a slender man with his sleeves rolled up, whistling wildly guiding his dog who was collecting the sheep into the pen.
Richard stood and observed the man, waiting for him to finish working before approaching him while taking in the skillful sight in the process. Only once all the sheep were in the pen did Richard start to walk up to him, but didn’t get the chance to get walk far as the farmer started to walk down to him.
“Why are you on my land? I don’t know you”. The farmer seemed displeased.
“I’m incredibly sorry, I only need to speak to a Mr Patterson is he here”? Richard politely asked.
“Yeah I’m Mr Patterson, Samuel Patterson … just call me Sam,” he apprehensively shook Richards’s hand.
“Can we talk inside?” asked Richard.
“What’s this about, I’ve got work to do”, Samuel was beginning grow tired of Richards presence.
“I’m just writer undertaking some research for an article on what’s been going at the church up the road, I only want to know if you knew much about it, I was speaking to Mary Greenway the Innkeeper and she suggested I speak to you”. Richard finished is plea with an optimistic grin.
“Oh did she”, he huffed. “Well might as well take my break now then … in you come; I can’t say I’ll be able to tell you much … suppose I better give you a tea”.
They went into the farm house and Richard took a seat at the dining table. The kitchen was very shabby. It held none of the charm that encapsulated theInn. Dirty pots and pans hung from the ceiling, the sink was overflowing with dishes, accompanied with the smells of several meals. Samuel took two mugs out the disused sink and placed them on the table before taking a seat opposite his visitor. Also placing a pot of tea down in front of him in which Richard poured but daren’t drink from.
“What do need to know? Like I said, I don’t know how much help I can be”.
“Just with what you know and whatever you can remember of what your father said of Father Murphy”.
Richard took out his notebook as Samuel Patterson started to talk.
Part V – The Account of Farmer Patterson.
Were to start? Well I don’t know what Mrs Greenway told you about me or Father Shaw. I’ve only lived here for a few years. My pap worked on this farm his entire life, I used to live abroad. Wasn’t until his poor health saw me take over his business, but yeah he spoke of Father Murphy frequently in fact, they were the best of friends until he disappeared. Its weird you know, Father Shaw going the same way and there’s these stories of other priest from years and years ago going the same way … yeah I’ve heard those stories, didn’t take me long to get up to speed once our Shaw split into thin air.
Father Murphy sounded like a right character whenever my pap spoke of him; they would get up to all sorts together. He might have been a priest and my pap a farmer, but they were both men as well, and men who knew to have fun if you know what I mean. If the church had ever found out what Father Murphy was like they would have thrown him out the priest hood … hell he might still be alive today.
My pap was with him the night he disappeared, he only spoke to me once about it but his voice was so chilling in a way that I’ve never heard it before, I can’t forget it.
He was at the pub, there used to be a tavern on the street some years ago and they must have been in their early 20’s at least at the time. Murphy was a priest for a just a few years and my pap helped my granddad out in the farm. They were full of energy with not a lot around here to waste it on I suppose. It must have been at least the early 60’s when he’d gone … 1963, I remember that because that was the year the village had it’s first and only firework display … look over here, this is a picture my mother took of my pap with Father Murphy at the event. In fact it was shortly after this photo he went missing. He told my pap he was going back to the church to get the good rum, never came back into the village.
They said they went looking for him the next morning but they never found him, they had to wait a couple of years before Father Shaw took up the post.
I was there you know. In the cemetery when Father Shaw disappeared … you look surprised I take it Mrs Greenway didn’t tell you that! Yeah they found me in the graveyard the next morning out cold, I was drinking the night before with Greenways boy. My pap had just been buried that day sure … I had far too much to drink at his funeral and split from theInnthat night to have one last drink with my pap.
They thought I had something to do with it, ‘cause I was there and he went missing, spent a night in the cells in the town down the road from here as well for my troubles. Didn’t take them long for them to realise that I’m an honest farmer, a drunken farmer but an honest one none the less!
But I don’t remember much that night, it was all very hazy. I told the police I heard Shaw call out for me, he must have heard me falling about. Now Richard … not only did I hear Shaw call out for me but something wasn’t right in that graveyard. There was someone else I tell you, making a hell of a racket! You should have heard it, ear splitting it was, wailing and crying. I was lying on the floor, I could barely move my legs not out of fear, I was pissed remember. Wasn’t long till passed out … I came to when one of the village kids was prodding me with a stick the next morning.
Wasn’t long after the police were around the village, it wasn’t a pretty sight since this village is a restful, peaceful place you know. This was over a month ago, I don’t know if there is still an investigation. I think that’s all I can really tell you, heard some crazy noises while I was lying on the ground drunk … sorry.
Finally back at my room at theInnafter a very long day. I got more than I bargained for with my visit to Farmer Patterson. I didn’t think to get as much information from the disappearance of Father Murphy. He knew more about that one than Father Shaw going missing a month ago … and he was last one to see him alive!
I really don’t know what to make of this. Tomorrow I’ll finally get to the church and see what it’s really like there. I’ve wanted to get as much information as possible before leaving for there. So far Mrs Greenway, Farmer Patterson and a few others have been willing to talk to me; they only knew what I’d heard from my initial research before coming here, children’s ghost stories by the sound of things.
After I’ve had a walk around the cemetery will I be able to write the finished article. I feel I have plenty of notes already to write a convincing editorial but I need to familiarise myself with the scene of the crime to give it the authenticity it deserves … that’s even if there was a crime committed.
In nearly two hundred years five priests have just disappeared without a trace … why?
Father Shaw was a basically a recluse while Father Murphy liked a party by the sounds of things. Did Shaw know something that kept him in doors as much as possible?
What was this howling noise that the farmer was talking about? It sounds of madness. The Imaginings of a drunkard but I suppose I can’t really rule anything out.
It’s now night time and the village is so quiet. There has to be at least thirty people living on this one street and no one is making a noise. Maybe it’s just been so used to the city but I’m finding it rather disturbing.
END OF PASSAGE.
I can’t sleep so I’ve decided to visit the Church tonight.
END OF PASSAGE.
The village seemed dead at this time at night, it took one long gaze at a tree Richard had zoned in on to make sure that it was actually moving in the wind. He felt like the only person around for miles.
It wasn’t a long walk to the Church from theInn. Once he stepped into the grounds he was struck as to how overwhelming it was.The Church itself was an alluringly attractive building; it dawned strikingly colourful stain glassed windows that were dotted along the church which had a graceful granite bell tower, piercing itself into the heavens, clinging onto the side.
Tombstones were placed in perfect formation to the right of the church.There could have been two dozen of them by Richards rough counting in the dark. Only moon light was guiding him through the maze of stones as he tried to read the names. After a woeful glance he walked towards the mighty doors of the church. Police tape was still wrapped around the entrance; ducking under them the door was painfully locked.
Pondering on what to do next Richard took a walk around the circumference of the grounds, trying to imagine how people could go missing, he placed himself on a bench just behind the church. It was a gorgeous night, the wind had wisped away leaving a rather muggy night that allowed Richard to take a seat and write so casually away on his notebook.
Its never any random person … it’s only been priests, why? Plus it’s always at night I know that from the stories of the others … only at night? Yeah because from all the records it’s only until the next morning when they noticed they had disappeared. But why at night?
Its funny, a bird has just started to chirp over my shoulder and I think it might have been the first sound I’ve heard since leaving my room in theInnto walk over … here? Sound!
Father Shaw disappeared the night Farmer Patterson was causing a racket in his graveyard … Murphy disappeared the night of the fireworks! I know one priest, Father Cushing disappeared in the early forties I don’t have the exact dates but the blitz must have had made this place sound horrendous! That makes three out of five! I need to know if anything else happened in 1818 here and again in 1878 when Father Tait went missing at once, something about loud noises here does … something, but what?
And why priests!
It then thunderously struck Richard as he sat a lot less comfortably on the bench.
It’s only a Holy Cross priest that would be in these grounds at this time of night … I have to get out of here.
Richard stood up and slowly meandered himself through the gravestones to exit the church grounds by making as little to no noise as possible. Suddenly fear overcame him, perspiration started to uncharacteristically drip from his pale forehead, as he just didn’t know what to expect. He moved slowly with great caution, slithering past the names long forgotten like a snake. He was halfway into the grounds when from his pocket, loud violent ringing erupted.
He let out a sharp shattering screech and in full terror he lunged for his pocket; he bumbled it out of his trouser leg and immediately dropped it in his panicky state. He noticed that his editor was calling him at this painful hour and moment.
He desperately dived to the ground to retrieve it but the phone would just not cease its abrupt with a persistent deafening tone, boorishly interjecting its pulsating cry for attention. He finally composed himself and managed to turn it off to bring the graveyard back to its deafening silence.
He tried to control his breathing and gave a sigh of relief that he managed to finally turn it off.
Richard turned around to leave the graveyard until two great arms burst from the ground below him and tore him down into the soil leaving the graveyard alone to the solitary chirping bird.
Richard felt himself being squeezed and compressed has he was brashfully pulled through the soil. It wasn’t until he felt his entire body collapse on some cold solid ground that he knew his horrific journey through the earth had come to a sudden halt. He stood up and brushed himself down in vain before slowly looking up to the point he could hear his own neck screeching like a corroded attic door.
When he finally looked up he saw people staring back at him, only they weren’t people. Corpses, standing upright, all of them about thirty of them, all dressed in their Sunday’s best and with their faces looking utterly broken.
“Wh … who are you?” Richard’s voice started to break.
Looking around him he noticed he was in some form of tightly spaced cavern, looking up he saw coffins sticking out of the earth on top with there bottoms tore off to reveal the empty spaces from within.
One of the bodies made his way over to Richard, with a look of sheer displeasure on his decaying face. They stood apart with there noses barely touching, the corpse stood deathly still while Richard was trembling violently.
The cadaver crept down and picked up Richards notebook and started to flick through it. After glancing at it for a few moments he started to read out loud with a voice that sounded horrendously hollow.
“NOTE #1 – Initial Brief: Little Galeton article … Research the mystery of the vanishing priests and create an article for our tourism section in our newspaper for part of our British History Month and to propel our effort to boom our tourism industry….”
He stopped and stared coldly at Richard before throwing the notebook back to Richard hitting his feet.
“Some of us have been here a very long time, some nearly three hundred years … some for just over a month”, he pointed over to Hugh Patterson who was among the dead, despite his condition his eyes contained the same glint that were in the photo with him and Murphy.
“And we all worked tirelessly in our time and only want for one thing! … Peace and quiet … was so much to ask for eternal rest”.
His voice was breaking up; it was as if his voice box was decomposing as he spoke.
“Until we realised that death is merely an illusion to us and eternal life a vindictive taunt”. His voice would have saddened if he was capable of showing any emotion.
All of them looked like stone, shells of people who had been shattered by death and decay long ago.
They may have been sentient but there was no life in this room. Richard looked around him for a way out but other than the way he came in he was trapped.
“We can only sleep now and we can for a veryverylong time, it’s all that gives us peace from this torment, a way out of this continuous torment. Only we don’t sleep, we simply die again. We die again until people, people like you, people like those priests wake us up to remind us of our eternal suffering our plague of constant death. We had been in a deep sleep for nearly fifty years before that idiot farmer woke us all up again. It was a shame we grabbed the wrong person. Father Shaw was a good man considering. He knew something was off here and did his best to maintain respect for these grounds. After several disappearances he got the hint. He might not have known the full picture but he knew not to act foolishly.”
“What you done with Father Shaw”? Richard asked.
He got no answer.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH FATHER SHAW”, he shouted raising his hand.
The loudness in his voice grew wretched winces from his anemic audience.
In unison, the motioning bodies all raised their corroding arms and pointed strictly to the wall behind.
Richard turned around and there stood Father Shaw with Father Murphy, Father Tait, James and Cushing all side by side, sitting on the ground. The missing priests of the Holy Cross Church of Little Galeton, all wearing their clerical robes made a startling sight for Richard to comprehend.
They all looked drained of existence. There purpose had gone and there life stolen. They looked straight throw Richard with glassy eyes and stayed silent.
“I have to get out of here”! Richard stated with sheer determination.
He walked around the underground chamber trying to find a way out, he could feel the frosty glares of his morbid spectators follow him.
“You can’t succeed and soon you’ll understand our suffering”, the deceased man said shiveringly.
“And why’s that”, replied Richard trying with all his might not to show his full state of panic in not finding a way out.
“Well … you’re dead and have been for the past few moments.”
The words crushed Richards’s process of thinking for several moments. He stood soiled on the floor not knowing how to respond to such a remark.
All the bodies in the hollow finally parted and split up, they all shuffled apart from one another and crept down to the ground and lay in a fetal position on the ground and stayed there, leaving Richard alone one solitary shell of a being.
“You suffocated in here Richard, not long after we took you here can’t you feel yourself changing.”
Richard looked at his hands with incredible unease. it started to happen. First he felt his brain become depleted of all emotional feelings. Dryness overcame him, his blood stopped to flow and became stagnated within him ceasing his movements just above a grinding halt. Everything seemed to be shutting down, everything other than a faint sense of conciseness that flickered cruelly within him. After everything he suddenly felt incrediblely tired and restless.
“Whhhaa … wha .. what’s ha..ppening t . to me”, he stuttered trying to keep himself on his feet, of which he had no feel of.
“Your one of us now Richard, nine tenth dead we call it, you can’t leave here anymore for your curbed to stay within this airless lock forever, one step on top and the fresh air would rip your depressed lungs to shreds and still you would persist to be … you tired to attract the world here, to disturb us forever, make our misery needless entertainment and for that you shall reap what you sow.”
Pain was starting to kick in; his body was covered in decaying cells, each one felt like a pin prick each time one closed down for good.
Realising his fate Richard obediently followed and gave into his sudden hungerous desire for sleep, trying to get rid of this feeling of complete trepidation. He looked up and saw who he now considered to be the leader of this band of the undead follow everyone else in laying on the ground. The rotting journalist looked over to the priests who sat together but daren’t speak, simply contained themselves in silence, joined together in the feeling that they have been lied to. For the first of endless time, Richard lay himself to rest.
The last bus to Little Galeton was near empty coming into its final destination. It stopped and an array of people got on and off. One of them walked onto the lonely main road and scanned the area. He looked hopelessly lost and completely out of place.
He saw a young woman about to pass him on the street, he stopped her.
“Excuse me which way is it to theInn,” he asked.
“Just down there by the postbox, that’s it there,” smiled the helpful stranger.
“You don’t look like your from around here,” she continued.
“No no I’m just moving here, do you live here”, he laughed.
“Yes, I’m Mrs Humphrey, I live at number 21”, she said proudly.
“I’m Father McMahon, I’ll be your new priest of your Holy Cross Church”.
© Copyright 2016 Jonathan McQuillan. All rights reserved.