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The Governor Dies

If Walls Could Talk Challenge

By Robbie CheadlePublished 3 months ago 16 min read
Kat Balcony, Castle of Good Hope. Picture credit:

If walls could talk and tell the world what they saw, humans would behave with more transparency, and crime and corruption would disappear.

We, the walls of the Castle of Good Hope, surveyed him day and night while he lived here. We knew he was a diabolical man. The cruelest and most inhuman despot to have ever governed the beautiful Cape Colony.

His physical body was the canvas that depicted his life of deceit and debauchery. We watched him committing some of the sins and dark deeds that etched heavy lines across his forehead and distorted his once sensuously thick-lipped mouth. Under our all-seeing gaze, he indulged in excessive alcohol, adding to the fine, spider webs of red that crisscrossed his bulbous nose and sagging cheeks. He indulged in the best foods, rich and decadent, and we observed how they thickened and bloated his once lithe body.

He died unexpectedly, his transgressions unrepented. To this day, the late Governor's hideous reflection acts as a reminder of his previous wrongdoings. Fortunately for him, there are no mirrors in his dark, tomb-like residence, only puddles of black water that occasionally catch the light.

We see him every day, wandering in mindless circles in the thick darkness of the prison known as the ‘Donker Gat’ or ‘Dark Hole’, wringing his hands, and moaning about his lost ledger. Our numerous eyes recoil at his grotesqueness, and we wonder how we do not crack.

There are several other ghosts who wander the passages and rooms of this castle, known as the Castle of Good Hope. They are mostly fools who turned their backs on Heaven’s white light for misguided reasons and are now trapped in the Netherworld. He is different though. He is the devil’s plaything.

We know his private record of ill-gotten gains is nowhere in the 'Donker Gat'. It’s stowed in the small alcove he had installed behind the painting of Governor van der Stel in his old office in this very castle. We watched him putting it there. It’s still there, we can feel it pulsing like an evil heart from within our stonework.

That secret died when old Janie Abrahams, the installer, met his unfortunate end. No-one knows about the Governor’s hidey hole except us, the all-seeing, all-knowing walls of the Castle of Good Hope. We know everything.

Despite Lucifer’s cajoling the Governor into spend eternity pursuing an impossible challenge while entrapped in the damp, windowless black of the ‘Donker Gat’, we have no pity for him. We know too much about his previous thieving and devious ways. During his short two-year reign as governor, numerous soldiers were incarcerated in this same prison on trumped up charges, to await bogus trails and unfair sentencing. In the extremity of their suffering and anguish, these soldiers talked to each other, or even themselves, about how he embezzled their wages and arrested them if they attempted to confront him.

In his office, we witnessed the heartless refusal of licenses to trade, withholding of renewals of leases, and prevention of trading and elephant-hunting expeditions. These activities and decisions kept the soldiers and general population of the Cape impoverished, while enabling Governor van Noodt to expand his already overflowing coffers.

It was the group hanging that made the Governor famous and signed his death warrant.

There were fourteen soldiers involved in the attempted desertion. Thirteen of them spent time awaiting trial in the ‘Donker Gat’. The pathetic Judas who betrayed them to the authorities was spared. He had to live with his conscious – just like the original Judas.

We remember these men well.


“How could he?” The soldier ran his hand through his long, greasy hair. The man’s fingers were skeletal and his face hollow cheeked and drawn. For months he and his large family had been living on a pittance due to the Governor’s theft of the soldiers’ wages. They were gradually starving. “How could Adriaan betray us?”

“Fear, Gert,” said another man, his pale face a white blur in the inky blackness. “He’s just as hungry and desperate as we are. It could only have been fear for his miserable family that guided his decision.”

“I hope he rots in hell,” Gert muttered hoarsely.

“You mustn’t think like that, Gert,” said another soldier. “Jesus wants us to forgive those who trespass against us.” His large hand clutched the cross hanging from a chain around his neck, seeking reassurance from the moulded metal.

“The Governor wants to hang us all, Hendrik.” The speaker, a pale, slender man called Sebastiaan, coughed and hawked.

We felt wet mucus splatter across us.

“Death be upon them. I will take it on me! That’s what the Governor said when he heard our plans,” Sebastiaan continued, his voice thick and phlegmy. He was sick. Very sick.

“It is in God’s hands.” The man called Hendrik had a pleasant voice, calm and soothing. “You must believe he knows what’s best for you.”


A key grated in the stiff lock. The heavy wooden door swung open, spilling light into the damp stone cell. Its occupants were temporarily blinded and squinted like new-born rats.

“Food and water,” the guard said, setting a plate of course brown bread and a large pitcher of water down.

He turned away, not looking at any of his previous colleagues. The key turned, the lock’s tumblers squealing.

Hendrik shared out the miserable rations and they ate. The pitcher was passed from hand to hand, and each man took a few sips.

Soft scuttling sounds filled the darkness. Several pairs of eyes shone brightly in the miniscule light that crept under the door. Rats!

A soldier kicked out at a pair of eyes. His worn boot connected with the soft furry body, sending is rolling across the floor. It thumped against us in a boneless heap.

The sliver of light under the door turned from white, to grey, to black. The men attempted to find a sufficiently tolerable position on the hardpacked dirt floor for sleep to overtake them. Two leaned heavily against us, their stringy hair absorbing our cold dampness.

Snorts and snores rumbled around the confined space, punctuated by muted plops as drips of water expanded the puddles on the floor. Rats scampered over the prostrate bodies, bold and unchecked, foraging for anything edible.

Sebastiaan coughed. Propped up against us, we felt the warmth of the fever consuming him and heard the chattering of his teeth.

It was midnight when he struck a match and laboriously wrote a message across us. His own blood served as ink which we considered ill-advised in his weakened state. Thirty minutes later, he settled against us and went to sleep. Towards morning, he heaved a sigh. His teeth stopped chattering and his back, resting against us, grew cold. Colder and colder, he became until he was like ice.

Bright morning light eventually crept beneath the stout door. It moved stealthily across the floor and inched up our length, until it finally bathed Sebastiaan’s dead face in a golden glow. This was the sight that met the freshly opened eyes of the remaining twelve soldiers.

The sliver of light continued its rotation across the wall and the men saw the message: Do not bargain with the Devil.

“Holy God,” Gert exclaimed in horror. “What sort of message is that? What does it mean?”


The great door swung open.

“Get up, you worthless vagabonds,” the Captain of the Guards shouted in a deep, guttural voice. “It’s time for your trial.”


The prisoners marched the short distance to the Governor's Residence and lined up in front of the Kat Balcony. The balcony that served the dual purpose of being the entrance to the building and a convenient platform from which announcements and judicial sentences were read to the inhabitants of the Castle. It was beautiful with its fluted pillars, wrought-iron railings, and curved staircases, but the sentences that were handed down to the twelve prisoners from behind its decorative railing, were harsh and unyielding.

Having witnessed the proceedings inside the Governor's Residence, we already knew the outcome. Eight men were sentence to corporal punishment and imprisonment, but the four ringleaders were sentenced to hang by the neck until they died.

Morosely, we observed the condemned men and a contingent of guards quick marching across the open courtyard and out of the main gates. They soon disappeared from our sight down the dusty road.

Shortly afterwards, the Governor also left the Castle, heading for his Summer House in the vast gardens established in 1652 by the the first governor of the Cape Colony, Jan van Riebeeck.

It was only much later that day, after the guards had returned, mute with shock and horror, that we learned what happened.


The guards sat on the hard wooden benches; their flagons of ale untouched in front of them. Silence reigned, intensified by the flickering light of the lamps that created patterns of golden light and dark shadows upon us, the rocky walls. We had never witnessed a scene like it since we were laid in 1679.

Finally, a voice disrupted the stillness.

“I’ve never heard of anything like it,” said Wilhelm, the Captain of the Guards. Grasping the handle of his flagon, he downed a great gulp of beer. “The Governor found dead from a massive heart attack on the same day four executions are carried out under his orders.”

A faint murmur of agreement ran around the room.

“I heard he was already stiff and cold when they found him,” said Renier, his fingers trembled slightly as he lifted the cup to his lips, drinking deeply. “Sarel, the undertaker’s assistant, said his arms were stretched out across the table, the hands stiff-fingered and curled into grotesque cups, as if he was begging for supplication.” A shudder wrenched its way up his spine.

“I heard his face was grey like clay, and twisted into an expression of utter terror,” added Johannes.

These few words acted like a floodgate and the stoicism of the guards deserted them. They all started to speak together, sharing what they’d seen and heard.

“It serves him right,” said Wilhelm. “I hope he’s burning in the fires of hell.”

“He will be,” said Dawie. “He specifically took responsibility for the deaths of our friends. Twice he said “Death be upon them. I will take it on me”. I heard him say it. His death is divine justice.”

“I was also in the room when the Governor passed judgement and uttered those words. He wanted to hang them all. It was only the protests and requests for leniency by the Members of the Council that spared the lives of eight of the men.”

“He didn’t give in easily, Wilhelm,” said Dawie. The debate was long and heated before the Governor capitulated. He agreed to lessor sentences for eight of the men, but insisted on the death sentence by hanging for the four ringleaders.”

“It is incredible that the Governor died on the same day as the hangings,” Jacob said, “Especially since he took personal responsibility for the men’s death. I don’t believe in divine justice; life doesn’t work like that. It’s just a lucky coincidence; lucky for us as we are now free of the Governor’s tyranny.”

“Oh, but it wasn’t just a lucky coincidence, Jacob,” said Wilhelm, a smile of smug satisfaction on his face. He liked being one up on his colleagues.

Wilhelm was slow to share what he knew about the Governor’s death. If we’d had feet, we would have kicked him. Instead, we waited impatiently while Wilhelm called for more ale and the serving girl, Nina, topped everyone up.

We knew that the Governor was dead, that much was clear, but we didn’t understand how it connected with the hanging of the four soldiers. The guards’ fearful reaction to the news of his death seemed excessive. After all, this was not the first time they’d witnessed colleagues hanging by the neck on the orders of the dead tyrant.

“Come on, Wilhelm,” said Dawid, after Nina left the room. “Why do you say the death of the Governor wasn’t just a coincidence?”

Wilhelm was a good storyteller with a flair for the dramatic.

“I marched with the four condemned men to the gallows at Justitie Plaats. The Governor elected not to accompany us and watch the sentences being carried out. He preferred to stay at his Summer House and continue working.”

“It just shows you how insignificance the deaths of our friends were to him,” muttered Renier darkly. It was the first time the heavy-set man had spoken since the death of his good friend, Gert, earlier that day.

“At Justitie Plaats citizens had gathered to watch the executions. They were not happy. Undercurrents of anger at this injustice rippled through the crowd.

“Our friends were hung, one by one. Hendrick was last, stepping up to the rope after watching his three dead friends being cut down. As you know, Hendrick was a theology student and many people believed he walked in the presence of God.

““Governor Van Noodt,” he shouted, before stepping off the platform, the rope about his neck, “I challenge you at this very moment, before the judgement of the Almighty God, to answer for my soul and those of my friends!

“Hendrick’s neck did not break when he fell, and he dangled from the end of the rope like a rat on a string.”

Wilhelm stopped speaking and took a swig of his ale.

“Come on, Wilhelm,” Dawid said. “What happened next?”

“As I watched, the shadow of the gallows on the flagstones trembled and changed, forming into a wicked face topped by horns. The mouth of the Shadow Devil moved. It was speaking but I heard no sound but the whispering of the leaves on the tree.

“The dangling man at the end of the rope reacted. He gathered the last of his strength and the words “I agree” seeped from between his dark blue lips. He shuddered, spittle oozing from the corners of his mouth, and he died.

“God answered Hendrick’s final request,” Dawie said, his voice filled with reverence. “The Governor’s death must have happened just after. It is divine retribution!”


Several of the men visibly jumped.

The heavy wooden door opened, admitting a gust of wind that swirled around the room, making the flames dance inside the glass bowls of the lamps. The shadowy patterns decorating us contorted into a twisted, horned devil, jumping and cavorting. We could feel malevolence leeching into our stonework.

The Shadow Devil held out its elongated arms and slowly unfurled its long, claw-tipped hands. Diminutive shadows burst out of the blackness of its palms. They grew, rippling and swirling until they took on familiar forms.

A sign of fear rippled through the room.

Wilhelm and Jacob crossed themselves as they recognised the silhouettes of their dead friends: Sebastiaan, willowy and tall, Hendrik and Tobie, their clerical collars stiff around their necks, Gert, large and roughly hewn like a log, and Pieter, older and slightly bent.

The Shadow Devil danced, twisting, and turning in bizarre celebration, the hand adorned with the silhouettes held out before him. The tiny shapes huddled together, shaking and shuddering, their mouths opening and closing in silent screams of anguish.

The Shadow Devil stopped its wild gyrations. Pulling its dark length up, it stood straight and over seven feet tall.

“Divine justice you say.” Its shadowy mouth opened and the words burst forth from within its black contours. “There is no divine justice in this world or the next. The need for justice is self-serving and not an act of forgiveness. All justice is thus my justice. Your friend, Hendrik, sought justice. Wanted it enough to make a bargain with me, not only for himself, but for his deceased friends. His desire penetrated the Waiting Room, the place inhabited by the souls of sinners who are making reparations for their sins before going to Heaven, and sucked their spirits back from beyond the veil. Now, their souls are beyond redemption and they will reside in one of my nine circles of hell.”


The wind roared through the room. It gusted fiercely over the outstretched hand of Lucifer, sweeping the shadowy figures away and swirling them across the room. They hovered above the oil lantern on the table in front of Wilhelm.

Its flame split, the two sides opening like the parting of the Red Sea. The wind, hopped, depositing the shadowy remnants of the five men into the gap. The flame closed over them. The guards watched, mesmerized, as the dark shapes writhed in agony as the flame consumed them.

“Hahaha!” shrieked the Shadow Devil. “What tremendous fun. And that’s not all, dear friends. I have another treat in store for you.”

Opening his great maw, he exhaled, blowing out a plume of white steam. The steam ran like wax, forming itself into the bloated figure of Governor van Noodt.

“Hello, Governor,” said the devil, his mouth forming into the outline of a toothy grin. “I have a wonderful deal for you, Governor,” he continued. “Would you like to hear it?”

The steamy Governor nodded its head.

“I’m offering you a challenge, Governor. I’ve hidden your ledger, the one that reveals all your secrets. If you can find the ledger and ensure its contents are revealed to the world, I will grant you passage to the Waiting Room, where you can work your way towards eternal salvation. Does that sound good, Governor?”

Again, the nod.

“There’s one small catch, Governor. You will not be able to move further than five metres from the place called the ‘Donker Gat’ until you find the ledger. Do you agree to this condition?”

Unhesitatingly, the head bobbed up and down.


Again, the wind blasted around the room. It swept up the steam and the Shadow Devil. Within moments both were gone.


Pieter van Noodt was succeeded by Jan de la Fontaine as governor of the Cape Colony. The soldiers’ lives improved under the leadership of this fairer man who paid them their wages. They never saw their friends, the Shadow Devil, or the late Governor again.

We see the soul of Governor van Noodt. He has lingered in the ‘Donker Gat, for decades. We do not know if the Governor’s spirit knows it was tricked. The devil, darkly humorous, tied his soul to the ‘Donker Gat’, leaving the ledger hidden in the unknown safe in the governor's office, far from his ghostly reach. We agree that Governor Van Noodt never gave much thought to serious decisions so this outcome was inevitable.

The Shadow Devil occasionally visits. Appearing as a dark silhouette upon us, the walls. He finds it hugely amusing that the only man who knew about the secret alcove, the man who installed it, died at the hand of the Governor who wanted his secret kept at all costs. If the contents of the ledger are ever exposed to the world, Governor Van Noodt will be able to atone.

To this day, it’s whereabouts has not been discovered and the Governor’s soul remains the property of Lucifer.

We see, we know; if the humans could only hear us talk, so could they.

HorrorShort StoryHistorical

About the Creator

Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle loves to create in a variety of mediums including words, cake, fondant, charcoal, and oil pastels. She enjoys writing fantasy stories for children, poetry, and paranormal stories for adults in historical settings.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (8)

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  • Gobi Munusamy3 months ago

    Good story

  • Winner grace!!3 months ago


  • JBaz3 months ago

    What a. Great tale you told. Wonderful. Congratulations.

  • This was an incredible read, Roberta, and a piece of South African history that I am glad it was brought into the spotlight. Your writing is spectacular and I am glad I read your tale during daylight :) as it gave me goosebumps. Best of luck wit the contest!

  • Harmony Kent3 months ago

    Nicely done, Robbie! I enjoyed the many dark turns 💕🙂

  • Jacquie Biggar3 months ago

    The governor got what he deserved. It is well written and descriptively eerie!

  • Mae Clair3 months ago

    Disturbing and creepy Robbie. Your descriptions are so vivid. The historical aspects are also excellent.

  • Dan Antion3 months ago

    Wonderful story, Robbie. Steeped in history and horror. Well done.

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