Read Parts 001- 004 HERE
“Hello Mrs. Crawford,” Billy smiled awkwardly at the woman, who was looking between the two of them.
“It’s been quite a while since you were here, and who is this with you?” the woman looked back to Shona, her eyes scanning her face. Shona was sure a look of anger flashed over the old woman’s expression for the briefest of moments before her grandma smile returned.
“Shona, Shona Davies,” she said, putting her hand out.
“Davies…” the woman looked down at the counter desk, ignoring the extended hand. “Hmm, that’s not good. You shouldn’t be here…” the old woman muttered as she read from an open book.
“Excuse me?” Shona asked, caught between confusion and anger.
“No matter, no matter,” she looked back up again, the smile reappearing once more. “What can I help you with?”
“I was atta-”
“We’re here for some research, I received a letter about my relative’s passing and we decided to look into our history here, have a look at the archives, see what we can see,” Billy interrupted quickly.
“Oh, oh I see,” Mrs. Crawford fretted for a moment.
“Is everything ok here?” An elderly man walked over to the counter, his clothes gave the impression of a minister, but not in the traditional sense. His dark tunic had subtle patterns embedded on it, and his dog-collar was a deep ruby red.
“Oh, Father Jerimiah, these children want to view the archives!” Mrs. Crawford blurted out, her hands shaking.
“Now, now Maria, no need to get worked up. I’m sure we can sort something out,” Jeremiah smiled at Shona and Billy.
“But these are the Smythe and Davies grandchildren,” Mrs. Crawford whispered even though she was close enough for them both to hear her.
“I see,” Jeremiah replied, his smile never fading, “I’ll deal with this, Maria,” he said as he turned to Shona. “Do forgive Mrs. Crawford, she has such fragile nerves. Please follow me, I’ll take you to the archives.”
He turned before they had time to reply, automatically following his lead.
“So, what brings you to our sleepy village? Whilst we always welcome the children of our flock, they rarely return once heading to the big cities.”
“I received a letter, about my cousin Jackson Smythe,” Billy replied, once more stopping Shona from speaking. She decided that listening to any information about Billy’s family might help her understand what was going on.
“Ah, my condolence, poor Jack, he was a good man, a valuable member of the community,” Jeremiah walked through the church. The stained glass windows offering little illumination but Shona could make out the pews that lined the main aisles. It looked as though there was something metallic on them, glinting in the half-light, but she couldn’t quite make it out.
“And you young lady? Mrs. Crawford said you were a Davies, a relative of Joshua perhaps?”
“That’s right, Joshua is my grandfather, but I’m here for work. I’m a reporter for the Old Malum Herald,” she replied.
“I see, how exciting, though I fear you won’t have much to report on here. We are a quiet village, I believe our last headline was about Old Greta and her new pie recipe,” Jeremiah chuckled to himself as he opened a wooden door they had reached.
“We’ll see,” Shona replied, ignoring a glare from Billy “I just came back from Juniper High where I had a rather interesting encounter.”
“The school is a dark mark in this village’s past there’s no denying that,” Jeremiah said as he stepped through the doorway, lifting a lit candle from the wall inside. “I’m sure those walls have the spirits of the past still within them, but I assure you they have no power here.”
The room ahead flickered with life as the candlelight danced across the walls. A few feet ahead the stairs dropped, creating a dark void before them.
“The archives are in the crypt below, there is more light down there, it’s just the stairs that are a little dim,” Jeremiah explained, beginning his descent.
“Crypt? I thought you said it was a basement,” Shona whispered to Billy.
“I’ve not actually been to the archives, I just knew they were underground,” Billy put his hands up in defense.
Shona rolled her eyes before pushing Billy to go first. The stairwell was slim, Billy’s shoulders almost brushing the walls on either side as he moved forwards. Shona pulled her camera up briefly and took a quick photograph of the entranceway before following Billy.
Inside, the darkness felt oppressive as they rushed to catch up with Jerimiah, who seemed to have descended several feet ahead. The air had the thick musky smell of a cellar, and the candlelight danced off the damp walls. There was no indication of the bottom of the stairwell from the glow that surrounded Jerimiah and glancing back, the light from the entrance was faded from Shona’s view.
“How far down do these stairs go?” Billy called out, trying to catch up with the elderly man.
“The end is near,” the voice rang back.
Billy’s foot slipped on the smooth stone of a step, trying to catch himself, his hands scraped the walls.
“Damnit!” He cursed, the sound echoing around them. He regained his composure just in time for the stairwell to be plunged into darkness as the light of Father Jerimiah’s candle was extinguished.
Shona felt a rush of cold air embrace her as her eyes widened to try and see, but the darkness was complete. She could feel her heart beating fast in her chest, a feeling of panic washing over her.
She took a breath, trying to calm her nerves. Putting her hands out she could feel the walls on either side of her, and began to carefully feel the edge of the step she was standing on with her foot.
What Happens Next? You Decide!
a) I guess I’ve come this far, I should head to the bottom.
b) This is crazy, I need to get out of here!
The winner of the vote was: b) This is crazy, I need to get out of here!
For more by Nik Whittaker click the image below!