The first story from my horror collection.
I wrote this book four years ago. I tried to treat each short story as a novel in its own right; to make sure that the characters were believable, and not just two dimensional caricatures.
Not long after writing it I had an email asking if I could read out some of the stories. I didn't have time sadly, but it started the nugget of an idea.
Thanks to YouTube, a basic camera set up and green screen, I have found a new audience for my stories. Please feel free to watch my video and see how I read it; if you prefer, the original story is below. Either way, I hope you enjoy it.
The Priest Stalker
The rain came down in a torrent. It was falling so fast that Father Martin Ashton's skin was stinging with every impact. He ignored it and hurried on. He kept glancing behind. He was sure that it wasn't his imagination, someone was following him, and he felt an aura emanating from it, an aura of hate. The rain was making it hard to see, it ran into his eyes, and was making his tweed jacket heavy. He glanced back again, but could only see a blurred outline through the water in his eyes. He got an impression of a big man, wearing some kind of hoody. He was sure it wasn't the locals.
Not far now. The church was so close. The gate was only a few meters away. The hooded man was speeding up, he could feel it. A few more steps. Martin was almost running now, the panic rising. He pushed the gate open and ran down the path to the church. Then it lifted.
The air felt cold, the rain wet, it was just another night. His hand was touching the door ready to open it. Looking down. he realised that he was holding his crucifix with his other hand. Turning, he looked at the gate, there was nothing there. Whoever, whatever, had gone. Martin walked to the gate, and looked to see if there was anyone lurking in the shadows, but saw only two dry footprints on the wet path. Steam was curling up from the two footprints as the rain fell on them.
St Mary's Church was old, built in 1871, although there had been a church on that site since 1190. It was set against the lovely backdrop of Stannington, a picturesque little village set in rolling hills. Inside the dimly lit church, Martin was sitting in one of the wooden pews, his head resting in his hands.
"Hello, Father, terrible night," George said. George was the church warden, he had been doing his rounds, making sure the doors were locked and the windows closed. "Are you all right?”
"I was followed again, it's really starting to spook me," Martin said, looking up at George. "Do you think I'm overreacting? That’s what the police think. They reckon it's just a local kid messing about. But... it doesn't feel normal."
"You've got to trust your feelings, Father. Look, I wasn't sure if I should show you this, but I've been doing some digging. Look." George got three old battered diaries out of his pocket. "This is a diary from Father Ernest, he disappeared in 1974. In his final few entries, he talks about being followed. This one is from Father Joseph, he disappeared in 1944. He also talked about an evil presence following him. This one is Father Albert, same story. It can't be coincidence. It can't be a man, either, not with that timespan, unless it's some sick family tradition."
"But what can I do? I can't tell the police I'm being stalked by a bloody ghost?"
"No, they're not going to be able to help. I think we need to do some more digging. The last diary talks about the history of the church, something in its creation back in 1190. I'm going to call a friend tomorrow. He's into occult folklore. Maybe he can find something, but I don't want you being out late by yourself. He only stalks you at night, so take care, Father."
The next day, Martin visited some of his parishioners. It was a duty he enjoyed. It meant lots of talking, lots of tea, and lots of walking. He didn't have a car; he would miss the local beauty if he drove through it. But his mind was elsewhere. He couldn't stop thinking about the stalker. It didn't seem as scary in the daylight. But he knew that as soon as the sun went down, he would feel the panic.
He nearly jumped out of his skin as his phone rang. It was George. He wanted to meet in the church.
The sun was going down as Martin arrived at the church. He hurried inside, checking behind.
George was sat in a pew.
"Father, I'm glad you've come. I saw my friend today, and we found out something."
Martin sat in the pew beside him, his friend seemed excited and clearly wanted to get it off his chest. "Go on, George."
"It's all to do with Ley Lines. Ley Lines are sort of energy lines that radiate around the planet. Occultists have known about them for years, and believe they increase their powers. They also believe that Demons can use them as a gateway into our world. The original church was built here because of a large occult following on this site, hoping to convert people to Christianity, but they didn't know." George paused, trying to formulate his thoughts into words. "This church is built on the end of a Ley Line. That’s a powerful place. But the Ley Lines pulse, a bit like a heartbeat. This one builds its power up through a 30-year cycle, then it drops again. Its maximum power is tonight, Martin."
Martin sat looking at George. George was serious, as if he had just solved everything. Martin laughed. He hadn't meant to at his friend, but it all sounded so ridiculous. "You don't really believe all that nonsense, do you, George? Come on, I appreciate your help, but I can't believe all that mumbo jumbo. It goes against everything I believe."
"Really? You believe in God. You've never seen him. Why’s this different?"
"I've seen God through his influence, and I feel him in my heart. This is totally different." Martin didn't appreciate his faith being brought into the conversation.
"Well, you don't have to believe. Just leave here for tonight. Stay in another church. Then, if you don't have a stalker after this, that’s good enough."
"Why should I leave here? I'm in the house of God, I'm safe." Martin stood as he spoke. He was going to make himself a drink and settle in for the night.
"You don't get it, Father. The reason he stopped at the gate last night was nothing to do with religion. It was as far as the Ley Lines went, but tonight it will be active under the church, so he will come in regardless." George had stood and walked over to Martin as he spoke.
"Well, it's too late to go anywhere now. I'm not going out while it's dark. What in heaven’s name is that smell?" Martin looked at George. "George, what's up?" The blood drained from Martin’s face.
George was frozen in place, just staring at him. He felt cold, and started to slowly look over his shoulder, afraid of what would be standing there. There was nothing.
"You scared the daylights out of me, George."
Martin laughed with relief, and turned back to his friend. Smoke was curling up from George, and his hands were twitching. Martin approached and grabbed him. He was red hot, and Martin let go with a gasp.
"What's up, George? Are you having a fit?"
Martin reached for his phone. He was going to need an ambulance. He felt something hit his arm, and his phone hit the floor, skidding across into a pew.
"Where's your God now, Priest?" a deep growling voice asked.
Martin collapsed to his knees. George was no longer there. A creature, six foot high and rippling with muscles under a scaly skin, stood in his place. It was this creature who had spoken.
"What are you?" Martin stammered. He felt his crucifix and unconsciously held it with his hand.
"I live here. I lived here before men came, and I'll live here when your kind is no more. You built your filthy hovel on my home." The creature strode across to Martin with one mighty step. He put his hand on Martin’s head and gripped it so hard Martin feared he was being crushed.
"I've come for my payment, Priest." The creature twisted Martin’s head so fast that his neck snapped, and then pulled until the head came away. He held his grisly trophy high and laughed.
George sat in a pew, waiting for the new vicar. He had reported Martin missing, but everyone just thought he had left, lost his faith, and ran away. No one would listen to him. He had blacked out on Martin’s final night, and not woken up until the morning, when Martin was nowhere to be seen. He knew he had thirty years to solve the riddle.