Becoming the Darkness by Patrick G Moloney.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Instalment twelve of the Jack Burke mysteries.

Submitted: March 07, 2017

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Submitted: March 07, 2017



It was still winter and a fine silver coat of frost covered the soil like a silk shroud; the pretty blonde girl worked diligently preparing the ground for the spring planting. The look of concentration on her face was intense; she turned the soil and removed any roots remaining from last season’s crop. She appeared totally oblivious to the two people who stood yards away watching her labour, a tall man who leaned heavily on an ornate walking cane his features masked by the brim of his Fedora hat. The man towered above the above the petite woman in the nuns habit, they watched the young woman in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. It was late afternoon and the light began to fade and the cold intensified, the nun left the man’s side and approached the young woman. She gently prised the spade from the blonde girls grip and led her inside by the hand, just before they disappeared inside the building the young woman looked in his direction. The man conjured up a smile and tipped his hat in her direction, for one split second he thought he saw recognition in her eyes. But then that haze settled in her brown eyes again, he watched them walk inside and his heart felt like a stone in his chest. Long after they had entered the building, the man stood in the frigid air and smoked, his gaze towards the distant hills. But in truth his gaze had turned inwards, it looked deep into the darkness inside and wondered was he responsible for her condition.

The mother superior lapsed into silence as the young nun placed the coffee cups on the desk in front of them, when the girl left the office she began to speak again. The kindly old nun told him that she felt Mabel was making progress; she seemed to find direction and solace in her labour in the vegetable garden. Inside the man’s mind screamed only one question. “Does she ever ask about me”? These monthly visits weighed heavy on his soul, it was torture to see her as she was and to remember the way she had been. The elderly nun paused in the process of lifting her coffee cup and stared deep into his eyes, he could tell that she saw the darkness inside him; he just hoped she could see some goodness there also. It appeared as if the nun was struggling with some thought, in the end she spoke and it was as if she had read his thoughts. “She sometimes cries at night pitifully, when she does Jack she calls your name in whispers”. They finished their coffee in silence; before he left he pushed an envelope bulging with dollars across the desk. The woman smiled kindly and pushed it back in his direction, she told him they were already generously rewarded for looking after Mabel. It appears once again that the collector was not shy about spreading his money about; Jack left the isolated convent struggling to find at least a ray of hope in the gathering darkness inside his soul. It was closing in on midnight when he pulled into the small town; he had intended to drive through the night to get back. But the tiredness had begun to wash over him like so many waves; he needed badly to get his head down for a few hours. The reception area of the small country hotel looked deserted when he entered, he hit the small silver bell on the counter top and the sound echoed in the stillness.

Jack was about to ring the bell again when the woman appeared from somewhere in the back of the building, she was still a young woman but she looked as if life had treated her harshly. If she was surprised or upset by his late arrival she gave no hint of it, she led him to a room on the ground floor and handed him a key. The woman even managed to give him a seemingly genuine smile as she wished him goodnight, the room was just about serviceably but clean. Jacks back ached and a burning pain had begun to track down his leg, too many hours seated in the car tended to aggravate his condition. He did not even bother to get undressed; he lay on the bed fully clothed and was almost instantly in a deep sleep. The sound of a woman crying woke him in the early hours, he had been dreaming of something disturbing but he could not remember what it was. Jack lay on his back in the darkness and listened to the pitiful wailing of the woman, at some stage the sleep again crept up on him. When he woke again the room was freezing, a grey light through the window struggled to illuminate the room. It took him a while to manoeuvre his aching body into a standing position; he hobbled to the window and looked outside. The blinding blanket of snow was only inches from the window sill, while he slept almost two feet of snow had fallen. He was shocked but in this high altitude these things were not uncommon, Jack new instinctively that he would not be driving out of here today. He cursed silently to himself; he should have fought the tiredness last night and kept driving. Down stairs the woman who booked him in the previous night was clearing the snow from outside the front door, she may have been thin but she worked effortlessly and within minutes had cleared the walkway to the street.

Jack sat alone in the dining room waiting for breakfast, either the other guest were late risers or he was the only person staying at the small hotel. The woman’s eyes were puffy with deep dark circles surrounding them; she looked as if she had slept very little the night before. He watched her trying to control the tremble in her hand as she poured the coffee, his mind wondered back to the crying that had woken him in the night. Jack asked for bacon and eggs and her hand appeared to tremble even more, in the absence of a morning paper he had to content himself with studying his surroundings while he waited. Jack had finished the coffee pot before the woman appeared with the food. She placed the plate in front of him then grabbed the empty coffee pot and hurried away, his mouth watered with the smell of the bacon Jack had not realised just how hungry he had been. The crashing sound of the coffee pot against the wooden dining room floor almost made him jump out of his skin; the thin woman launched herself at him like a big cat. Her thin hand moved like blur and swept the fork full of food from his hand, she wailed like a banshee on the floor where she had landed. Jack watched her in stunned silence as she stared at him with a horrified expression, “Don’t eat it, don’t ever eat it” she pleaded with him. Even with his disabilities Jack picked her effortlessly from the floor, she leaned her head on his chest and he felt her tears soak through to his skin. Jack retrieved a fresh pot of coffee from the kitchen and a bottle of brandy from the wine rack; he laced her coffee with a stiff shot of the fiery amber liquid. Twice he filled her cup with the concoction, by the time she had finished the second cup she had calmed down. Evelyn Casey was the name she gave him and she told him she had inherited the small hotel from her late parents, she had a faraway look in her eyes when she mentioned them.

Jack followed the timid woman from room to room with a growing sense of horror; he had at first taken her story as a delusional episode. But the stark reality of what he saw in the upstairs rooms caused him to rethink his first impressions, each room they entered contained personal belongings of guests who would never check out. By the style of clothes in some of the rooms this had been going on for many years, a sudden thought entered his mind. In all his visits to the remote convent, this was his first time he had ever passed through this one horse town. They sat in the small area designated as a bar, and he listened to a tale straight out of a horror book. According to what she had been told, it had all begun many years ago during a historical winter storm. The town had been cut off from the outside world for weeks on end; a shortage of food had driven the residents to extra ordinary lengths to survive. A small group of people passing through had been trapped at this very hotel; the travellers had been trying to make their way north to a new religious settlement. When things got really desperate a local pastor persuaded the town’s people that the travellers were heathens who had brought this misfortune on the town. The upshot of the whole thing was the travellers were slaughtered, their bodies treated like so many animal carcases, as a source of food until the inclement weather passed. Thing is, eating human flesh had changed the people, what was born out of desperation grew into a sort of religion. A terrible form of worship had evolved out of this desperate situation; the people of this town were no longer even human she told him.

Another man would have instantly dismissed the thin woman’s narrative as the result of a very ill mind, but Jack Burke had stared into the abyss and knew without doubt what stirred in the darkness below. If he was finding it hard to digest what he had already been told, then what followed made his head spin. She led him to the room adjacent to his, inside was a woman’s clothes and a bunch of small pretty child’s dresses, she told him that they belonged to a recently bereaved young widow and her twin daughters aged six. They had been taken just two days before he arrived; he listened in silence as deep inside his mind the darkness stirred. The woman sat before him teetering on the edge of insanity, large tears poured unchecked down her pale cheeks. Now that she had finally unburdened the horrors to someone she was staring into the deep dark truthful mirror, Jack worried that she might topple into complete insanity before he could extract the information he needed from her. He medicated her heavily with brandy laced coffee until she had given the information he required, perhaps he could save the woman and her girls. In doing so he might find some redemption for failing Mabel, he had already made up his mind he would save them or die here in the snow trying. The woman slept on the couch where he had laid her, her breathing deep and regular from the effects of the brandy. Jack sat opposite watching her as he cleaned the nine millimetre pistol and loaded it; it was amazing how her features had changed now that she was beyond the torment in her mind. She looked even pretty in a way; with a few more pounds on she would be a fine looking woman. Turning towards her before he went outside in the snow, he decided when or if he left here he would take her with him.

The old church stood on a slight incline overlooking the town; it appeared to be the only building in town that had been regularly maintained. A sign above the door read. “Behold the body of our saviour”. Jack read it and a shiver went down his spine as he wondered just what body it referred to, the woman had told him that the people who were abducted were kept in the old vaults beneath the church. There was a strange atmosphere inside the old building; it was unlike any place of worship he had ever found himself in. Instead of holy statutes and paintings the walls were adorned with paintings of the former pastors, each painting had been dated to coincide with their tenure as head of the congregation. The paintings of the men began to look different after a certain period; he knew immediately these were the men who headed up the church after it had become a cannibalistic cult. The changes in the men’s features were subtle at first, but by the time the present pastor had been immortalised in oil paint the difference was disturbing. Their features and expressions had taken on an almost animalistic appearance, their upper and lower jaws appeared elongated and he could swear that their teeth were longer and pointed. But the most striking thing about the paintings was their eyes; they burned with a malevolence that seemed to bore into his soul. Jack found the entrance to the vaults below the church; it was a large wooden trap door behind the altar. When he lifted it wide steps hewn from the bedrock led steeply downwards, the sound of a generator and smell of exhaust fumes reached him immediately. The area underneath was vast and divided into various rooms by stone walls; dim fluorescent lights struggled to illuminate the vaults. He slipped the gun from its shoulder holster and made his way towards the direction of the generator sound, a make shift vent pipe rose upwards from the alcove that held the machine but the stench of fumes was still over powering.

Leads from the generator led to a huge metal cube with a door, when he opened it a blast of cold air hit him. Jack had seen more than his share of gory things over his years on the city streets, but nothing could have prepared him for the sight of the human carcases hanging from the meat hooks. He staggered backwards and vomited on the stone floor outside, his body was wracked with retching until nothing but bitter bile came up. It seemed like an eternity until he could compose himself enough to walk back inside that chamber of horrors, it was impossible to tell just how many unfortunate souls were represented by these meat portions. But at the back of the freezer he found the body of a young woman next to a little girl, they were still more or less intact, a terrifying dark anger and hatred welled up inside Jack and it threatened to consume him. An unearthly cry of anger and anguish emitted from somewhere deep inside him, for quite a while he allowed himself to be lost in these dark emotions. How much time had passed he could not say but when his mind cleared it came to him, Evelyn had told him there was twin girls. Jack frantically searched through the carnage of the freezer but no other child’s remains could be seen. He found the little blonde girl in another room; they had confined her in a cage like an animal. By the time he got her back to the hotel a strange calmness had settled over him, he woke Evelyn and got her and the child to the car. He explained to Evelyn that she was to remain with the little girl until he returned, then he headed back to the church.

Less than fifteen minutes after the smoke began to billow from the church they arrived, four town elders accompanied the rat faced pastor. Jack watched them cover their faces with scarf's and enter the smoking building; he moved around the building and entered by the side door. The group of men were too busy with fire extinguishers to even notice his presence, the pastor left them at their work and hurried down to the vaults. The nine millimetre pistol bucked in his hand again and again until he was sure they were all dead. Then Jack followed the pastor to the vaults below, he caught the half human clergy man completely by surprise. The pain in his back and leg was excruciating but he stuck doggedly to his task, the weight of the man was surprising. But in the end he managed to lift him high enough, the sound of tearing flesh as the meat hook went through his lower jaw was pleasing to Jack. He waited patiently for the bound man to regain consciousness, when he did he began to scream in agony. Jack watched him suffer for quite a while but he eventually passed out again, Jack took the blade from his cane and made an incision in the artery of the pastor’s leg then he closed the freezer door and left him to bleed out. When he got back to the car the child and Evelyn were in the back seat, they were both asleep and wrapped in each other’s arms. Just as well Jack thought the journey through the snow covered hills would be treacherous.

It was dark by the time he got back from the city, he had left this morning in the dark and now he was returning in the dark. He was exhausted by these trips, but at least this one had brought some semblance of good news. It was just over three weeks since he had brought the child and woman from that snow covered town in the hills, the collector had been good to his word. He had had financed both the woman and child to go into temporary care, it would be a long time before they were mentally okay again, but at least there were being well cared for. Jack parked the car outside the small cottage, the breeze was getting up but it was a far cry from the usual stormy sea wind. He was at the door with key in hand when he changed his mind, he was tired but it was too early to sleep. The vivid dreams had plagued him since he got back, night after night they would lead him through endless meat lockers over flowing with human remains. Sometimes if he had consumed enough whisky he would not remember the dreams, but still his mind would remind him that he had been there while he slept. High on the cliff top the wind was much stronger, it buffeted against him threatening to sweep him to the ground. Jack stood with both legs planted wide apart as he lent heavily on the cane, he tried to filter out the sound of the waves far below. The moon played silver beams along the white topped rolling waves; it was a haunting vista that stretched before him. The lone figure on the cliff top strained his ears until his head hurt, at one stage he thought the wind carried the sound of her crying to his straining ears. But then nothing except the sound of the waves against the cliff face and the howling of the wind. It was when he turned to leave that the voice carried to him. It was not her voice but the voice of his late friend Michael Murphy. It sounded loud and clear. It told him, “Beware Jack! Lest you become the darkness”.


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© Copyright 2019 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.

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