The Calling

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Warning – Adult Themed – Over 18s Only

 

The Calling

Innocence once lost, can never be regained. Darkness once gazed upon, can never be lost.

John Milton, 1667.

Chapter 1

He could feel the cold starting to penetrate his fragile bones. A clear indication that winter was just around the corner. Another bleak year, another constant struggle, not only with the harshness of the landscape but also with his own inner demons, questioning his beliefs and trying to justify sins of the past.

He felt it earlier this year. In truth, the old priest did not care. Hopefully, this would be his last year on earth. He had aged rapidly over the previous twelve months, and the phlegmy cough from deep down in his chest did not look like leaving him anytime soon. He had observed the occasional speckle of blood in his handkerchief but had chosen to ignore it.

With his back stooped, he locked the door to the old rectory, even turning the cold steel key was becoming difficult for him. He placed the key in his cassock which hung from his frail body as if it had been handed down to him from someone much bigger. His shoes crunched on the gravel as he made his way slowly to his cottage at the end of the path.

The old priest had resided in the village of Catton for close to forty years, devoting nearly all of his adult life to St Cuthbert’s church.  During which time he had witnessed many changes. Many for the good, but now they seemed to be more frequently for the bad. Over the years his congregation has dwindled.  Now there were very few houses within the small village that were owned by local families, passed down from family to family. Instead the younger generation had been quick to line their pockets with the cash from the city dreamers, looking for second homes, to escape the hustle and bustle of their hectic lifestyles, but in reality, giving up on the dream within months and leaving their properties deserted for most of the year. The priest was grateful if he got more than five parishioners attending his regular services.

The light was fading fast; out in this remote area of Northumberland, the transition from daylight to total darkness could take mere minutes. The old priest quickened his pace, he wanted to be safe at home with a cup of tea and a good book in his hand before the cold got into his body, which he knew,  that once embedded, would cause him yet another sleepiness night.

He reached the end of the stone path and went to open the rotten wooden gate, his heartbeat slowing, sensing that he was nearly home. In the distance, thunder cracked overhead. Shocked, the old priest spun around, just as a flash of lightning struck the church spire, which sparked and lit up the blackening skyline like a Catherine Wheel on bonfire night.

The air froze, and the old priest could feel the oxygen being sucked from his lungs. He reached out, gripping the top of the gate for support. He jumped back as his hand started to sizzle from the hot wood. Falling into the small stone wall that ran the perimeter of St Cuthbert’s, he glanced down, feeling faint as he watched the skin redden and blister on his palm.

Suddenly there was nothing but darkness, total darkness as if a blackened hood had been pulled over the old priests head. His body shook and trembled, not from the cold, no that had been replaced by unreserved fear. He was afraid, more afraid than he had ever been in his entire life. He thrust his hands out in front of him, waving them blindly. Warning off whatever was out there. He sank further down into the floor and brought his hands up close to his chest, wishing to say one last prayer and to beg for forgiveness.

After only minutes, but what felt like a lifetime to the terrified old priest, the thunder erupted from above for a second time, and everything returned to normal, but only for a split second.

The manifestation when it appeared, shocked even the old priest who thought he had witnessed everything imaginable in his lifetime. The once hallowed small graveyard, dotted with ageing headstones dating back centuries, momentarily erupted into flames and the air filled with black smoke that the old priest could taste.  The flames disappeared, leaving patches of scorched earth. Horned gods, draped in cattle skins appeared, dancing around, eagerly singing  ‘Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.’

From the rear of the group, the leader appeared. He was naked except for a silver horned hat perched on the top of his wizened head. From nowhere, a dagger appeared in his hand; fresh blood dripped from its blade.  The leader lifted the blade to his lips and sensually licked the blood. Turning to the old priest, he threw his head back and laughed madly, pointing the blade in his direction.

The old priest did not witness this. It was too late for him. He lay rigid on the church ground, his face twisted in terror with his hands tucked up tight under his chin, clasped together praying for his God to save him.

Chapter 2

1 Year Later

Friday, June the 20th

The Eve of the Summer Solstice

Ethan Appleby stood naked in front of his long bedroom mirror holding his mascara brush in one hand, water dripped from his slim frame and gathered on the oak floor beneath his feet. He was undecided as to whether to apply it; maybe a dab of eyeliner would suffice his need. He really wanted to, but he also knew deep down that his mother would go crazy again, accusing him of jeopardising his chance of fitting in and being accepted during this critical weekend. He hesitated, unsure of what to do. He was ok with his hair, dyed jet black and tufted out into small spikes. The mascara would have to wait he conceded, things had been tough enough for them all lately, and he didn’t want to make things worse.

Things had been tough. He had been transferred to a new 6th form college halfway through his first term. His mother had lost yet another job, and they had been forced to relocate to Newbiggin by the Sea, an old mining village about thirty minutes North of Newcastle. They had only been here a few weeks, and they were both finding it hard to adjust.

Being a Goth hadn’t help Ethan in the slightest, he was very intelligent and polite and had made a small number of friends, but they had soon distanced himself once they heard his thoughts on the second coming and the end of the world. Sniggering behind his back, tales had travelled quickly about Ethan, and he was treated with scorn by the other pupils, a weirdo, best to be avoided at all costs unless you wanted to run this risk of having your precious reputation tarnished. His peers walked around coolly listening to Rap and R&B music, whereas Ethan preferred to have obscure bands like The Sister of Mercy and Rammstein blaring out at deafening decibels from his headphones.

Every Goth could recount the moment when their life changed and fed up with the world and its negative beliefs, they embraced the one true culture where they felt secure. For some, it was a classic movie such as Donnie Darco, for others their first Punk concert and for some, the first time they heard the lyrics to a song where they felt the instant connection.

For Ethan Appleby, it was much more straightforward, the day was etched into his brain, it would be there for an eternity and would haunt him in dreams to come.

It was nearly two years ago, after countless years of fighting off unwanted advances from his creepy uncle.  A stray hand onto his thigh, the tight and uncomfortable passing’s in hallways, and drunken dips of the head to catch a cheeky kiss at family parties.

It had been Boxing Day, and Ethan had been sick with the flu for the whole of the Christmas festivities. Alone in bed, half drugged on Night Nurse, he had woken shocked to find his uncle inches away from his face. Before he could react, his face had pressed down and their lips locked together, Ethan gagged on the stale booze and cigarette smell that engulfed his mouth. The weight of his uncle pinned Ethan to his bed, leaving him unable to move when his hand roughly sought out his genitals through the thick duvet. Retching further as he felt his uncle trying to force his tongue into his mouth, Ethan swept out his arms in panic, trying to locate anything that could help or that could be used to raise the alarm. His left arm thrashed into his bedside cabinet. On top was his opened pencil case and number of pens and pencils. Grabbing the first thing that came to hand, a biro, Ethan jabbed his attacker in the neck, spurned on further when he felt it penetrate. Once, twice, three times, he repeated the action. Blood spattered onto his prized Marilyn Manson poster that was blue tacked to his bedroom wall and clung to the gloss. He felt his attacker tire and stabbed him a further two times, before his uncle eventually rolled off him onto the floor, screaming in agony from his wounds.

His uncle had been ushered out of the room, and an ambulance had been called. At the hospital, his injuries were diagnosed as non-life threatening, and he had been discharged the following day. His uncle never visited again, and the incident was never discussed as if it had never happened. Two weeks later, his father left the family home, and Ethan had not seen or heard from him since.

No one had believed his sordid truths, and he was left alone to process his thoughts, staying in his bedroom for weeks on end, with the curtains closed and only the internet for company. He came across the German rock group Rammstein on YouTube and soon found himself thrashing around, trashing his room while the eerie music played out at full blast. That had been his calling, and he embraced it with a passion.

Shaking his head, trying to drive the memory away, Ethan quickly towel-dried his pale, skinny body and made a promise to himself that he would work and integrate himself as best as he could over the coming weekend.

He dressed quickly in dark combat trousers and a worn grey Sons of Anarchy t-shirt. Picking up his rucksack, he left his room.  Unsure of what the next few days would hold.

Chapter 3

His house was no more than a ten-minute brisk walk away from the college, but Ethan left early, giving himself plenty of time. He wanted to be there well before everyone else, so he could pick his own spot to stand and wait, without fear of walking past the other pupils who would blatantly ignore him or make snide comments behind his back.

It was only eight-thirty in the morning, and the streets were practically deserted. It was the end of the first week of the half-term holiday, and the sun had already risen into the clear blue sky, basking the old council houses in full technicolour, making them appear more beautiful than what they actually were, given to the fact that they were close to one-hundred years old.  Looking out into the North Sea Ethan noticed dark clouds forming on the horizon. He hoped they would retreat away to another faraway land. He did not want the weather to spoil this trip.  Since his surprise phone call the previous night, he had been more excited than he had been for a long, long time.

He had been at home; tucked away in his bedroom reading Bram Stockers Dracula when the phone had rang. He had let it ring, knowing it wouldn’t be for him and that his mother would answer it. He had been surprised when moments later his mother timidly knocked on his door and told him that Mrs Mae, his history teacher, wanted to speak to him. He had discarded his book, uncaring that he had not saved his place with his worn bookmark and paced the room anxiously; his heart was beating like a bass drum.  Mrs Mae? His history teacher, the only teacher he had a crush on in his entire college, the woman whom he had masturbated over numerous times, what on earth was she doing calling him at home?

Still fluttery, Ethan had opened the door and accepted the offered phone from his mother, before shutting the door in her face and sitting on his bed.

In a hushed but excited voice, Mrs Mae had explained how a new possible burial site had only just been uncovered by the National Trust, located about four miles from Allendale in Northumberland. It was yet to be disclosed to the media, and Mrs Mae explained that a close friend working on the Hadrian’s Wall site had told her about the discovery the day before. Ethan had listened, mesmerised by Mrs Mae’s voice, as she went onto explain how her friend had spoken to her superiors and had arranged permission for Mrs Mae’s history class to be granted authorisation first to view the site. They had agreed that it would be good publicity for the trust if they involved local pupils in significant findings, a way of attracting younger people to the typically typecast ‘boring’ history genre, whose followers were predominately much older.  A National Trust photographer was going to be present to capture everything. Mrs Mae finished up by saying that Mr Charles, the head of 6th Form, had agreed to the trip instantly and granted permission for her pupils to visit the site over the weekend. The bus and all of the camping equipment had all been kindly provided by the school.

Ethan could not shout out the word ‘yes,’ quick enough when Mrs Mae had asked him if he wished to go along. Of course he did! Did she not know he was a Goth for god’s sake, death fascinated him. After agreeing to go, she had told him to be at the school for nine am and hung up.  Ethan had lain back on his bed and before he knew it, was wanking himself into a frenzy over the thought of a weekend with Mrs Mae.

In a joyous mood, despite the early hour, Ethan turned right into the street that would lead him to the college gates. He idly walked up the path and was surprised to find the college gates firmly locked. Sat on a wall just opposite, casually smoking a cigarette, was Alex Earle. Ethan had already guessed that Alex was the college stud. He was touching six foot and had a slender build. His fair hair was shaved short and matched the stubble on his face. Rumour had it that Alex had started shaving even before high school.  Alex was very popular with the girls and was the college rugby captain. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the brightest and Ethan had noticed how he struggled in their history class together.  Alex looked up at Ethan and flicked his cigarette onto the path.

‘Alright Ethan, Fuck knows what’s going on here.’

Ethan was about to reply when Alex turned sharply away and picked up his phone, ultimately ending the conversation. Ethan was pleased that for a change someone had spoken to him without an insult being directed his way. Ethan sat on the kerb next to the college gates and retrieved his Dracula book from within his rucksack. He hoped he wouldn’t have to sit around for long.

Ethan had only been reading for a few minutes when he was distracted by a commotion at the bottom of the street. He looked up and smiled as he witnessed Zoe Ashton, another member of his history class struggle up the path with a huge, bright pink suitcase whose castors she was struggling to keep in a straight line. ‘Where the fuck does she think she’s going?’ Ethan thought to himself ‘St Tropez.’

Zoe Ashton was probably the most beautiful girl in college and boy did she know it. She was tall and slender, and her breasts were firm and much bigger than any of the female teachers. She had long wavy blonde hair and a year-round suntan, paid for by her rich daddy. Ethan guessed Zoe was still a virgin after listening in on a few of the older pupils chatting next to the lockers and hearing one of them say that it took about six months of hard work for any boyfriend to even get a hand inside her panties. In all honesty, Ethan had no problems with Zoe, she hadn’t spoken to him of course, but she had smiled at him a couple of times during class.

He was just debating whether to offer Zoe some gentlemanly assistance when a rusted cream camper van zoomed around the corner of the street, travelling well over the speed limit and nearly mounted the curb.

Chapter 4

The driver of the camper van gained control at the last minute and narrowly missed the Kerb, sending a startled Zoe further into the pavement, where she lost grip of her suitcase which fell to the floor. Without stopping the camper van slowed down and continued up the street. Zoe composed herself and continued, cursing under her breath.

Ethan and Alex were now both stood up, standing close together surveying the scene. The camper van pulled up slowly and stopped at the locked college gates.

Both boys were equally surprised when Mrs Mae climbed out of the passenger seat, smiling she made her way over to join them. Ethan momentarily held his breath, Mrs Mae looked stunning. She was about five foot ten and big built, not fat, she had the athletic build of someone who seriously worked out. She was wearing a flowing red silk summer dress that showed off all of her womanly curves and bright red high heels, which emphasised her muscular calves to perfection. Her red hair was straight and came just down below her shoulders and Ethan also heard Alex take in a deep breath.

Reaching them both, Mrs Mae greeted them with a perfect smile showing off her pearly white teeth.

‘Hi boys, so sorry we are late. Some last-minute change of plan. Don’t worry though everything is sorted.’

The boys nodded mesmerised, unable to speak. Mrs Mae turned around just as Zoe joined them, her face bright red from a mixture of effort and anger.

‘Zoe sweetheart,’ she said in a soft tone ‘ Are you ok, I’m sorry about that, Dominic can be an idiot at times.’

Zoe seemed to calm down and replied ‘I’m fine Mrs, just got a bit of a shock.’

Mrs May walked over to Zoe and put a caring arm around her. Looking back to Ethan and Alex, she continued.

‘Well we are here now, and I promise we are all going to have the most wonderful time together this weekend.’

Alex looked at the camper van and asked, ‘Where is everyone else and I thought we were going in the school bus?’

Mrs Mae looked to the sky with doe-like eyes and explained ‘Dominic my fiancée isn’t insured to drive the school van, We had to borrow this from a friend, and we could only pick three pupils from the class to join us. Looks like you were the lucky ones.’

Ethan was just about to ask if the trip was still approved by the head when the driver’s door to the camper van opened, and Dominic stepped out. Dominic was tall and thin, not healthy thin but sickly thin with gaunt greying skin, his eyes were dark and rodent-like, he was dressed in faded denim jeans and a matching denim shirt. The look was completed with dark greasy hair that was swept back and tied up in a ponytail that resembled rat’s tails.

Dominic ambled over to the join Mrs Mae and placed a hand around her waist. Ethan decided that they were like chalk and cheese and could not for the life of him, fathom out why someone of such beauty could be with someone like Dominic, who looked at total letch.

Dominic caught sight of Zoe, and his attention was immediately drawn to her. He went over to check she was ok and to apologise for nearly crashing into her.

Alone with the two boys, Mrs Mae said ‘Please call me Sophie this weekend, I don’t want any of this Mrs Mae nonsense.’ She left a deliberate pause before adding ‘We are all adults after all.’

Both boys nodded dumbly, and Mrs Mae bent down to pick up Ethan’s rucksack eager to get going. As she bent over, Ethan got a birds-eye view of her voluptuous, fleshy breasts jutting out of her dress. He felt himself stiffen. Glancing closer, he saw a vial of blood hanging from a silver necklace on her neck, sitting perfectly in her cleavage. Preoccupied with his perfect view, he did not think too much about it.

Mrs Mae called Dominic over, who did not seem best pleased to be dragged away from Zoe. He walked over and shook Ethan and Alex’s hand. His grip was weak, and his palms were clammy.

‘Hi boys,’ he said ‘I’ve heard a lot about you two from Sophie, I think this weekend is going to be full of surprises for everyone.’

Ethan recoiled, Dominic’s breath was earthy, sage smelling and wasn’t very pleasant. Before he could step back to get fresh air, he hoisted Alex’s rucksack and went to load up the camper van. His denim shirt was unbuttoned from the top as if just to top of the sleaze bag look, and Ethan saw that he also had a vile of blood hanging around his neck. That was creepy, a shiver went up Ethan’s spine, and he was just about to speak out, maybe even pull out of the trip, when Mrs Mae came over with Zoe and ushered them all into the camper van.

The camper van was surprisingly roomy with four seats and a small table in the rear. In the boot compartment, Ethan could see all of the camping equipment and provisions packed and gradually began to relax.

Zoe sat on a chair opposite to the boys, looking forward and Ethan and Alex sat opposite, behind Mrs Mae and Dominic facing the rear. Zoe opened up her expensive phone and began messaging away and taking selfies as soon as she had fitted her seat belt, and Alex popped his headphones in ears and started listening to some rap crap. Understanding there was going to be zero conversation on the journey, Ethan placed his head against the window and gazed out.

In front of him, Dominic winked at Mrs Mae and leant forward to turn on the ignition. From where he was seating, Ethan failed to notice the crude 666 tattooed onto Dominic’s neck.

Chapter 5

After slowly ambling through streets of Newbiggin they made their way across the county until they picked up the scenic and quiet Military road that eventually took them close to the world-famous heritage site that was Hadrian’s Wall.

Hadrian’s Wall was built in AD 122 and stretched over seventy-three miles, starting off at Wallsend on the banks of the River Tyne and ending at Bowness on Solway close to the Irish Sea. Peppered with Mill Castles and turrets along the way, it had initially been designed as a defensive fortification and had been home to many bloody battles between waring English and Scottish armies. Ethan sat transfix along the entire route, trying to relive the battles, imagining the horror and pain that death could only bring in those barbaric times.

Beside him, Alex slept, though Ethan questioned how that was possible as the inaudible rap music still blared out from his headphones. Zoe had begun to irritate Ethan from the minute they had left, continuing with her selfies and her constant giggling to every message or tweet she received.

It was good that the dark history of Northumberland had kept his mind occupied or Ethan was sure that he would have had to wile the time away by planning very gruesome deaths for his two fellow passengers.

Picking up the A69 dual carriageway, they started to make good time, until they turned a corner on the single-lane road and nearly ran into the back of a slow-moving combine harvester. In second gear, Dominic cursed non-stop until they were allowed to overtake ten minutes later.

Just before the turnoff to Allendale, Dominic pulled the camper van into a verge before crudely announcing that he needed a slash, much to the disgust of Zoe, who drew a sneering face from where she was sat. Alex decided he wanted a cigarette, so he climbed out also, and ambled over to the grass verge. Dominic finished urinating into the deep bushes by the roadside and joined him, pulling out a bag of rolling tobacco from his pocket and making his own, licking his rizzler paper with a lizard-like tongue. Watching from inside the van Ethan smirked as Zoe physically shuddered opposite him at the ghastly sight; he decided it was just what Dominic had needed to complete his look.

Toilet break over, everyone stretched then assumed their positions back inside the camper van. After a silent ten minutes travel the signpost for Allendale appeared and Dominic turned off the A69 and entered a single lane road that twisted and turned around the countryside and farmer’s fields. Knowing they were nearing their destination, Ethan’s bladder started to play up, and he secretly wished he had taken the opportunity to relieve himself moments before with the others. It was going to slow painful last few miles for him.

Entering the main street of Allendale, the pupils were disappointed at what they saw. There was a smattering of shops, mainly tourist and charity shops, a fish and chip shop and one pub only. All plans of a wild Friday night out were squashed, no getting drunk in a park or trying their hand and getting served in bars.

Silently, the camper van trundled through the main street, which soon petered out to a quiet country lane with the occasional bungalow built on the side.

‘Fucking coffin dodgers,’ were Alex’s only words and his full input into the entire journey.

The road started climbing, and everyone started to become alert, looking

forward to stretching their legs and breathe in some fresh countryside air. Dominic had to drop down into a lower gear as the road became narrow with tricky turns lurking every minute. They cleared the incline and came across another much smaller village. Setback, away from the old farmhouses, an old church took prime position over the village and caught everyone’s attention. They passed a wooden display that desperately needed re-varnishing, with dusty glass frames that were partially covered by an overhanging willow tree. It read.

The Parish Church of St Cuthbert, Allendale.

Mrs Mae and Dominic exchanged an excited, almost sexual glance at each other. The air in the camper van became charged, and the three passengers in the back were also drawn towards the church. Ethan felt strange, his stomach knotted at the site of the church, he couldn’t explain why, but he was certain it would not bode well.

Ethan looked at the others, they were both ashen, neither of them spoke, but Ethan was positive they had experienced the same unexplainable feeling.

Without any warning, Dominic suddenly spun the camper van into a farmers field, narrowly missing the steel gate that had only casually been pulled open and not secured. Bouncing around in the back, Ethan looked ahead and saw that they were travelling on a worn farmers track that the led to the start of woodland about one hundred meters away.

Mrs Mae turned around, face beaming, ‘where here campers, this is us.’

Reaching the start of the trees, Dominic slowed down to a crawl looking for a safe spot to stop. A large opening into the woods appeared, and Dominic nosed the front of the camper van inside before coming to a halt, half-hidden by the trees.

Zoe was the first to exit. She jumped down from the door opposite Ethan that was further into the wood and screamed the moment she straightened herself upright.

Zoe’s scream tore through the silent air and made everyone inside the camper van jump, looking out they could see Zoe stood, rigid, white as a ghost as a dead rabbit hung with barbed wire from the branch of a tree swayed inches from her face.

Both of the rabbit’s eyes had been pecked out and were a mass of blood.

Chapter 6

They all exited the camper van as one and ran around to where Zoe was standing, rooted to the spot, visibly shaking in distress. Alex pulled the hung rabbit from the branch and unceremoniously flung it deep into the woods.

Mrs Mae was the first to reach Zoe; she placed her hands gently on her shoulders and asked if she was ok. Zoe was unable to respond and stared out blankly beyond them. Mrs Mae carefully led her back to the camper van and gave her a bottle of water.

Ethan checked in on Zoe, who seemed to be coming round. Pleased that she was not in too much shock and merely suffering from fright, a bad one at that,  he turned back to where Alex and Dominic were stood. Alex was open-mouthed, and Dominic looked spellbound.

Following their gaze, Ethan exclaimed ‘Oh my god!’

More animals were hanging from trees. They were hung in a line, separated by only a few meters.  All attached with the same razor-sharp barb wire, which bit in tight around their throats. From where he was standing, Ethan could view more rabbits, something that resembled a stoat, a fox and what looked like a new-born lamb all strung up at head height. They were all at varying stages of decay and flies buzzed around wildly in mini swarms, and maggots crawled freely around their fur. The stench in the air could only be described as the smell of death, and Ethan felt his stomach knot as he saw that every animal hung was missing their eyes.

Turning away from the vile sight, Ethan vomited, it erupted from his mouth unexpectedly, and there was nothing he could do to prevent it happening. It burnt and left a tangy taste in his mouth. Wiping his face, he turned to face the others.

‘Can somebody please explain what the hell is going on here?’

Nervously Dominic looked at Mrs Mae who seemed very relaxed with the whole situation and said ‘don’t worry, it’s probably the local gamekeepers trying to scare off poachers, I’ve seen it before.’

Alex stepped forward and went to his rucksack, after rummaging round in the back of the camper van he reappeared with a Swiss army knife in his hand, the tiny two-inch blade already opened up.

‘I don’t care what you think. It sick’s. Nobody in their right mind would do that.’

Without waiting for any confirmation, he began to cut the animals free. The small animals he flung into the woods like he had done with Zoe’s offending rabbit, but for the fox and the lamb, he just let them fall to the floor of the wood with a thump, there was no way he was touching them. In less than two minutes, all of the animals had been disposed of, and the wood once again resembled normality.

Grabbing their rucksacks and a few of the lighter items from the camper van, they continued through the woods with a sense of urgency. Zoe was still in mild shock and had not spoken since the incident, so Mrs Mae held her hand softly and like two school friends, she gently urged her onward.

Positioned in the middle of the group, where she felt safest, Zoe cast tentative looks into the dim tree line, secretly praying that she would never encounter such a gruesome vision again.

After a few minutes, they stepped out from the woods into an opening, the boys were sweating and panting slightly as they had carried the heaviest of the kit. They all stopped at the same spot and let their belongings drop to the floor.

A natural firebreak in the woods was to be their campsite, and it ran the whole length of the woodland and measured about fifty meters wide.  It was relatively flat with isolated trees and bushes scattered around. From where they were stood, they could see a stone-built fireplace in the middle of the opening that looked like it had been used many times previously over the years. A large single oak tree was stood five meters away from the fireplace and offered the only available protection against the elements.

Dominic arched his back, which cracked slightly before placing his hands proudly on his hips.

‘This is it, our home for the next day or so. It doesn’t look much, but me and Sophie have spent many a wonderful night here under the stars.  Once we get our tents set up and the camp shipshape, it will look a lot better, I promise.’

Nobody acknowledged him. Ethan, Alex and Zoe were all regretting having signed up to the trip. This was not their idea of fun.

Receiving no response, Dominic and Mrs Mae turned around and made their way back to where the camper van was parked to retrieve the rest of the equipment.

Alex lit a cigarette and said nothing, Zoe checked her phone for a signal, to no avail, and Ethan simply wandered about the clearing, sniffing the air and kicking at the floor, struggling to get a good feeling for the place, he remained silent.

When the tents arrived they were quickly assembled, they were well used, and of the old fashioned type that required poles. After taking a while to work out the best way to erect them, they finally clicked and worked well together as a team. Soon two tents, one for the males and one for the females were erected, the material of the tents looked wafer-thin, but very sturdy, with the poles hammered at least six inches into the ground. Inside was basic with no induvial compartments to offer any privacy, just a single space with a threadbare groundsheet protecting them from the cold ground below.

Ethan’s mood darkened. He did not relish the idea of sleeping in such close proximity to others, if anything the thought of two people who he barely knew sleeping inches from his face, belching and farting all night repulsed him. He entered the tent first, sleeping bag under his arm and triumphantly selected the rear of the tent. This was a slight improvement, at least now he would not be disturbed throughout the night when someone wanted to take a leak and had to clamber round in the darkness.

Outside, Zoe seemed herself, and she and Mrs Mae chatted together. Dominic addressed the group and Ethan noted that he had unofficially taken over the role as camp leader, which strictly speaking should have been the responsibility of Mrs Mae.

‘Right me and Sophie are going to finish off getting the camp organised and get some food on the go. Why don’t you lot explore the woods? Tomorrow we will be looking at the burial site so we will be making an early start.’

The three students headed off into the wood and Zoe warned them ‘Don’t you two mess around in there. I’ve had enough shocks already today to last a lifetime.’

Alex walked over to her and put his arm playfully around her shoulder.

‘Don’t worry, if you’re scared, I can always protect you.’

‘In your dreams dickhead,’ Zoe replied, laughing at Alex’s bravado.

Ethan was pleased that Zoe was ok, but noted with sadness that he did not share the same bond as Alex and Zoe. To them and in all probability for the remainder of the weekend, he was still going to be judged as the outsider.

Inside the wood, light struggled to penetrate through the treetops and the air was stagnant. The minimal light that had succeeded to filter through cast unnatural shadows into the undergrowth. This only intensified as they stepped deeper inside. Soon they were encased in semi-darkness.  They paused as a group and listened out. No birds chirped away, and no insects made any distinctive buzzing sounds, it was if they were alone in the wood with only dead and decaying trees for company.

Zoe was the first to speak. Saying exactly what they were all thinking.

‘I’ve had enough of this. This is spooky and not my idea of fun. I’m heading back to camp.’

‘Too right,’ replied Ethan, surprised that he had spoken out so confidently ‘I can see this weekend being a total write off, to be honest.’

Much to his surprise Zoe smiled at him and said ‘We are going to have to make our own fun, I think.’

On form Alex butted in, ‘oh aye, and what do you mean by that then Zoe?’

Zoe jokingly winked at the boys, and they all laughed together, pleased to be forming a bond with each other but unafraid to admit to the group the fears they all shared.

Returning to the camp following their exploration, they were all pleasantly surprised to find that Mrs Mae had assembled a BBQ and already had it lit. The flames were glowing as they attacked the charcoal, and the smoke rose rapidly into the sky. In front of the BBQ was a small picnic table with delicious looking steaks laid out on a plate all set for cooking.

‘How do you lot want your steaks cooked?’

Ethan not trusting the BBQ or Mrs Mae’s cooking skills requested well done, while Alex and Zoe both opted for medium.

Dominic appeared from the inside of his tent and was asked the same question.

‘Rare please darling. You know me. The bloodier, the better.’ He responded.

Chapter 7

Soon the air was filled with the smell of fresh steaks sizzling away on the BBQ. Everyone was hungry, and the mood lifted in camp as they looked forward to their steak and freshly prepared salad. Mrs Mae had done ok under the circumstances, and Ethan thought perhaps things might not be so bad after all.

She fed the students first, who had pulled out folding seats and made themselves comfortable around the yet unlit fireplace. A variety of soft drinks were on offer, and they were just finishing up their drinks after their meal when Mrs Mae and Dominic joined them.

The group opened up to allow them a place, and Mrs Mae sat next to Zoe while Dominic placed himself in between Ethan and Alex.  From where he was sat he could not see Mrs Mae’s plate, but his stomach turned when he saw the condition of Dominic’s steak. It would have been lucky if both sides touched the BBQ for more than a minute or two. Apart from faint grill marks, the steak was barely cooked. The moment Dominic cut into it; blood oozed freely from it and formed a puddle on his plate. He caught Alex’s eyes, and they both raised their eyebrows in disgust. Oblivious to this, Dominic attacked his steak with vigour, even using his hands to tear at the almost raw meat. The juices flowed down his chin, and he resembled a cannibal. When the plate was finished, he lifted it to his mouth and greedily drank the juices.

In unison, Ethan and Alex got up and left Dominic alone. They had seen enough and needed to move out of his way, making the lame excuse of needing to stretch their legs.

Returning, Ethan noticed Mrs Mae had removed her high heels and was sat on her chair barefoot with her legs stretched out in front of her. His eyes traced the contour of the view, and he felt himself becoming aroused. Her toenails were painted black and to all intents and purposes was very Goth, just the way he liked it.

‘So Mrs Mae, what’s the plan for tomorrow?’

She looked a little off guard and glanced at Dominic, who simply shrugged before replying. ‘The site is a one-hour easy hike from here. We are meeting our friend there who will provide us with all the necessary tools and equipment we need. You only need to take your note pads and cameras if you wish. ‘

Zoe chirped up ‘Is there any more news on the site? Do you really think it could be a burial ground?’

‘No not yet but I’m really hoping it is a pagan burial ground. It will be fun?’

‘Fun?’ Alex queried ‘and what about tonight? It’s not exactly going to be a party here, is it?’

‘Alex Earle. How old and boring do you think I am? Of course there will be fun. We have a campfire, we will play music, and we have brought a few drinks, as long as you promise not to tell your parents or Mr Charles.’

As one, the students responded ‘Of course not. What drink have you got?’

‘Plenty for us all to have a good time,’ replied Mrs Mae and went off into her tent.

She returned moments later with a wireless speaker.

‘Let’s make a fire while Dominic gets our drinks sorted.’

Dominic made off to where the camper van was parked up, and the rest of the group gathered wood and kindling from around the opening and edge of the wood. They each placed their offering at the side of the fireplace and stood back, unsure of what to do next.

‘You are joking?’ asked Ethan ‘Surely one of you can make a fire.’

Alex looked away embarrassed, Mrs Mae said nothing and Zoe replied ‘It’s not something I’ve ever had to Ethan. Ok bush tucker man, you show us how to do it then if you think you know any better.’

Ethan rose to the challenge and smiled. Bending down, he arranged the kindling loosely in the centre.

He stretched out his arm backwards towards Alex.

‘Lighter.’

He cupped Alex’s lighter in his hand and lit the edges of the kindling with care. Dry, it ignited immediately and spread rapidly. Once small flames appeared, Ethan selected thin, dry twigs from the stockpile and slowly added them to fire. This did the trick and fire grew. Soon the flames were large enough for bigger sticks and branches and by the time Dominic returned carrying an icebox and a supermarket carrier bag, the fire was truly ablaze.

Pleased with himself, Ethan sat back down in his chair, encouraged by the look of respect he had finally seen from the others.

Dominic opened up the cool box and handed around cans of larger from the packed container. Everyone opened their cans and drank thirstily at the chilled larger, savouring the first taste. It was Mrs Mae, who broke the silence.

‘Why don’t we each play a song from our phones for us all to listen to? I bet we have lots of different tastes in this group.’

It was agreed to let Dominic select and play his song first as he had done the majority of hard work so far. Grinning like a child, he picked a dreadful folk song that was backed up by Northumbrian pipes in the background. It sounded like an animal was being slaughtered, and after protests from the group was quickly turned off.

Zoe selected next and played a recent song from Little Mix. Ethan and Alex were not impressed, but Mrs Mae seemed to like it and sang along to the words with Zoe. Alex chose an American rap song that appeared to abuse every ethnicity on the planet and was also halted prematurely.

More drinks were passed around and then it was Mrs Mae’s turn. She chose a song from the Irish singer Enya. The music was enticing ad sensual, and none of the students had heard it before. Zoe sat, looking uncomfortable, and the boys looked bemused. The song played out erotically, and Mrs Mae caught up in the mood, stood up, closed her eyes and slowly moved her body to the rhythm. It was mystical to watch, and Ethan could not tear his eyes away from her as she danced seductively in front of them all. Free from inhibition.

The song ended, and Ethan grinned as he noticed Alex readjust the front of his jeans. He must have enjoyed the solo show also.

It was Ethan’s turn, and after much deliberation, he selected Rammstein, the German Goth Metal Band. He saw everyone exchange curious looks as the hard metal began to play out but was happy moments later when he noticed that the entire group had taken to it, Zoe and Mrs Mae were shaking their heads to the beat and Dominic was pretending to the play the drums.

The drinks and the good humour continued for another hour or so and the light was just beginning to fade, when Mrs Mae opened up the carrier bag and pulled out two bottles of Lindisfarne Mead, an extremely potent drink made from fermented honey and grapes with links dating back to the Holy Island Monks who believed it promoted impurity. Ethan had never tasted this before and accepted the bottle for him and the other students to share with some hesitation.

Mrs Mae sat closer to Dominic and opened up the bottle they were going to share. She drank straight from the bottle, taking large gulps before handing it over to Dominic.

Following suit, Ethan unscrewed his bottle and pressed it to his lips. He only managed two gulps before the burning fluid attacked the back of his throat, causing him to madly cough and splutter. He quickly passed the bottle on to Zoe who managed one mouthful, nearly gagging; she passed the remainder of the bottle to Alex who bravely managed three gulps before almost falling off his chair.

Everyone was laughing and giggling away at silly jokes. Ethan felt light-headed and slightly drunk. He corrected himself and tried to regain his composure. He felt a tingling under his skin, and everything started to become hazy as his vision started spinning out of control. Faster and faster. Everything around him a blur. The energy zapped from his body, and he sank deep into his chair and placed his hands protectively around his eyes.

He had no idea how long he had remained in this position, but when he removed his hands from his eyes, darkness had set in. The light from the still-burning fire was the only thing to offer any illumination.  His hearing was muffled as if he had cotton wool rammed into his ears.

Looking around, he first saw Zoe, two meters away from him sitting on her hunches, blindly rocking back and forward as tears ran down her beautiful face. Behind her, close to the woods, he could see Alex laughing away hysterically at a tree, his arms gesticulating as if he were in deep conversation.

Ethan felt his spirt sink even further into despair as he realised they had been drugged. Before he could even ask why he fell backwards on his chair which toppled over causing him to land awkwardly on his back. Lying, looking up at the dark sky, he watched as clouds floated by under the moonlight. As he lay, unable to move or think rationally, the clouds formed together into the shape of a horned devil.

Ethan finally passed out unconscious.

Chapter 8

Ethan opened his eyes momentarily, perhaps for three to four seconds, then his eyelids became heavy, and they crashed shut again. He drifted back into darkness and cherished the escape from reality.

He was unaware of how long he had been unconscious for, but the second time he wakened it was slightly easier to keep his eyes open. It took a while for them to focus and everything swayed for a moment or two, as wave upon wave of nausea swept over him. A vice-like grip crushed his skull, and his dry mouth tasted like a sewer. He opened his mouth and drank in mouthfuls of the fresh night air. His rapid breaths slowly subsiding as he started to recover.

The fear came back to him when with sudden realisation, he remembered what had happened and where he was. He went to sit forward, but thick bound ropes bit into his chest and ankles and prevented him from moving any further. Deflated, he sat back in his chair; the simple act had wiped him out instantly. God knows what he had been drugged with he thought.

He was still in the clearing, but now he had been repositioned away from the vicinity of the fire. He was only meters away from the single oak tree, sat close to the protection of the branches above. He was seated ninety degrees from his original position and facing back towards the break in the woods that they had initially entered earlier that day, full of excitement and camaraderie, which now seemed like a distant memory.

In front of Ethan, dead centre under the oak tree stood what looked like a table, which had been prepared as an altar. A pure white table cloth had been carefully laid down upon the flat surface, and two giant silver candleholders were stood at each end.  The light flickered from both candles and danced in the night air, which was remarkably still.  A Silver bowl and two shiny goblets stood like a masterpiece in the centre of the altar and a thin sheave with a highly decorated handle was laid next to it. From his position, Ethan did could not make out what it was but guessed that whatever it was, it wasn’t going to be pleasant.

Looking up from his seat, Ethan feared he was going to have a heart attack. He was unsure if what he was witnessing now from the edge of the woods was the real deal or him hallucinating.

A mist had appeared next to the trees and what looked to be Dominic in the distance, stepped out from nowhere and began to saunter towards Ethan, hands tucked behind his back as if he was preparing to deliver a sermon. The mist curled up around his feet, making it appear that he was walking on air. Dominic was dressed in a dark black robe similar to that of what a monk would wear, it was tied loosely around his waist with a rope, and the hood was flung back. His ponytail was still tied back in place, but his face had been painted white, which illuminated in the darkness and enhanced his crazy eyes.

He kept on ambling towards Ethan with his gaze firmly locked onto him. Ethan felt hypnotised and could not pull his eyes away. Not even when Dominic, grinned like a madman and brought his hands into view, where Ethan could see a white rabbit clutched in his fist, gripped firmly by the fur around the back of its neck.

Before reaching the oak tree, Dominic raised the rabbit aloft and plunged his teeth into its exposed neck, biting deep into the soft flesh. The rabbit squirmed and squealed out aloud, the noise caused Ethan to recoil with dread, blood spurted from its wound. Dominic kept his jaws clamped tight as hot blood trickled down his chin and dropped down onto his robe. The rabbit became tired and reduced its struggle. A moment later, Dominic pulled his jaws free from the rabbit’s neck and spat a mouthful of meat out onto the darkened floor.

Dominic smiled crazily and continued on his journey to the oak tree with the rabbit hanging limply in his hand.

Chapter 9

Frozen to the spot even unable to move his head or shoulders, Ethan watched as Dominic stood before the makeshift altar. With madness in his eyes, he picked up the silver goblet closet to him. Placing it under the rabbit’s open wound, he tilted the dead animal until a small stem of blood flowed into the cup.  Shaking the last few drops free, he placed the goblet back onto the altar and marched straight past Ethan without even glancing in his direction.

Dominic stopped close to the campfire that was still burning fiercely; he paused for a few moments, silent, and then carefully lowered the dead animal into the flames as if he was placing a fine cut of steak onto a grill. The fur of the rabbit ignited immediately, and Dominic watched with a cruel smile etched on his lips as the fire engulfed the offering, greedily swallowing it up and dispatching it onwards, thick smoke wisping into the darkness of the night.

Ethan could hear his return to the altar. As Dominic approached, he quietly hummed a mantra under his breath.

‘The goddess is alive. Magic is afoot.’

Dominic came to a halt again at the altar. He inhaled a deep breath, closed his eyes and raised his hands into the skies. He opened his eyes suddenly and looked at Ethan, his eyes were alive, and excitement danced around his face. He lifted his gaze and looked beyond Ethan into the distance.

Ethan could hear further footsteps and struggled to turn his head around. Trying to squint out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Alex come into view.

Naked and unaware of his surroundings, a drugged Alex was being prodded towards the Alter by Mrs Mae who was dressed in a white see-through cotton dress that clung to her hips, her hard nipples were clearly visible pushing up against the thin material, and her shaved vagina was there for all to see.  She was barefoot and swaying her head magically in total happiness. Alex clumsily staggered past Ethan, who noticed that his ankles were crudely manacled together, obstructing his freedom of movement. He stumbled to a halt just short of the altar and stood head bowed, saliva drooling from his lips, oblivious to everything.

Ethan watched on, unsure and afraid of what was going to unfold. He slowly felt his senses returning to normal but still sat numbly in his chair, a silent observer to the macabre proceedings.

Dominic nodded masterly to Mrs Mae who was still in her trance; She brought herself up close to the naked body of Alex and pressed her breasts and thighs into his back, seductively grinding her body against his. At the same time, her hand reached around and gingerly cupped his youthful testicles. She teased them with the palm of her hand and Alex could do nothing to prevent himself from groaning in pleasure. His flaccid penis started to twitch from the arousal, and Mrs Mae sensed him beginning to stiffen. She placed her mouth onto the side of his neck and started to place delicate, sensual kisses onto his erogenous zone sending him even wilder.

Dominic stood fascinated, watching as his princess performed flawlessly.  They had planned this moment for years, and she was performing her job with perfection. Mrs Mae lifted her hand and grasped Alex’s stiffening penis. With a professional touch, she started to stimulate his penis, gripping it stronger and pumping it faster and faster until it was fully erect and solid in her hand. Alex’s body trembled, and his moans became louder.

Sensing Alex was close; Dominic picked up the goblet with the fresh rabbit’s blood inside and placed it only inches away from his throbbing member. With a loud groan, Alex drove his hips forward and ejaculated. The hot fluid flew from his tip, the majority of it landed in the goblet where it lay on top of the thickening blood while the remainder came to rest on Mrs Mae’s hand.

Overwhelmed by the euphoria released from his orgasm, Alex was oblivious, as Dominic reached forward and picked up the sheath from the altar, in a deft movement he pulled the razor-sharp blade free, eyes closed Alex failed to see the glint of steel in the air, as Dominic with a calculated slice, neatly slit his throat.

Alex simply went limp as a fine jet of blood jetted out from the thin incision. He sank to his knees, and Ethan watched as the life drained from him in seconds. Mrs Mae and Dominic were totally unconcerned by this, they both eagerly leant over his body and collected yet more blood in the nearly full goblet.

The stood together, next to the rigid corpse of Alex and looked at each other in awe.  Ethan could see the madness in their eyes and knew there was no turning back.

Selecting the second silver goblet from the Alter Dominic poured half of the vile fluid into it and handed it loving to Mrs Mae. In unison, they lifted their drinks and gulped greedily at the liquid. Blood and semen ran down their mouths and onto their clothing as they embraced the madness together.

Chapter 10

Clive Charles ended the call and slammed his mobile phone down onto the hard surface of his expensive granite kitchen worktop. He stared blankly for a few moments before picking up his cup of lukewarm coffee. He angrily pushed himself up off the kitchen stool and walked to the kitchen window with eyes blazing; his breath came deeply as the rage welled up inside of him.

He did not know what angered him the most, the patronising phone call from the college’s biggest donator Mr Ashton or the knowledge that his deceitful bitch of a history teacher had taken his history class away for the weekend on a field trip without even asking his permission. It was even worse that the parents would probably think the college had endorsed such a trip. Heaven forbid if something were to happen to them, there would be hell to pay and if word got out about this misdemeanour he would be summoned before the college governors, parasites, every one of them.

Clive Charles had been in charge of the sixth form college for the past six years and was well respected by peers and parents alike. He had worked hard to turn the reputation of the college around, and he was dammed if this incident was going to bring him down. He sipped at his coffee and winced as the cold fluid passed his lips. He spat the coffee out into the sink and launched the coffee cup through the air into the sink where it disintegrated into hundreds of tiny shards.

Luckily it was a Friday night, and his wife was at the bingo. She was not due back for another hour at least, and Clive Charles knew he had to get cracking if he wanted to sort this problem out. He was thankful in a way that Zoe’s father had called him personally, or he may never have come to hear about it until it was too late.  Mr Ashton had been concerned that his daughter, the precious Zoe had not been answering her mobile and was just checking in to ensure everything was ok on the field trip. Thinking on his feet, Clive Charles had lied and told the relieved father that Mrs Mae had just rung him less than an hour ago to let him know that everything was going to plan but to also let him know that the mobile phone coverage was sporadic at best. This seemed to do the trick, and Mr Ashton had gone away appeased.

After ten minutes of frantic phone calls, all was clear. It surmised that Mrs Mae had only taken three pupils, which was not as bad as the entire class. She had taken only Zoe Ashton, Alex Earle and Ethan Appleby, the class bimbo, the class cool boy and the new weird kid. They were supposedly on a field trip looking at a new burial site that had been uncovered.

The penny dropped for Clive Charles the moment he absorbed the new information. He knew exactly where they were and what Mrs Mae’s plans were.

He had seen Mrs Mae and her sickly looking partner enough times, dancing naked around the bonfire at a midnight ritual performed at many of the remote beaches in Northumberland. Of course, they had never recognised him or understood his power within the circle. How could they be expected to, the grandmaster always kept his identity hidden, covered by an ancient horned mask, handed down from leader to leader. He checked the date and time and understood the significance of the day, he knew he had to act quick.

He hastily scribbled a note for his wife, explaining that he had been called away on urgent business and that he would call her in the morning and picked up his car keys from the bench. Before he left the house, he climbed into his loft to collect his hidden bag, packed for such emergencies

It was time for him to bring his own plan forward.

Chapter 11

‘Alex, No! Please, God, no.’

Zoe’s voice shattered the surreal silence; her high pitch tore through the woods, kick-starting everyone back into reality.  Ethan desperately tried to turn his head, but the rope he had been bound with, pulled tight and burnt against his skin. He ignored the searing pain. He had to see for himself that Zoe was ok and unharmed.

Through gritted teeth, Ethan felt some slack come free, applying more pressure he managed to swivel his head a few degrees before the rope pulled taught for the final time. The few degrees were enough and allowed Ethan to look upon the girl’s tent where Zoe was stood at the entrance, sobbing silently as her whole body physically trembled. Her eyes rolled about her head, and it was clear that the drugged mead had affected her more than the others and was still present in her waif-like body. She was struggling to take in what she was witnessing, and her body began to shake more violently.

‘ZOE!’ Ethan screamed in desperation ‘Don’t look at Alex, look at me, look at me, Zoe.’

Ethan may as well have been on a different planet as Zoe ignored him and continued to stare at the sickening sight.

Ethan tried again ‘ZOE!’ he shouted, finding an inner strength that made him louder ‘Fucking look at me. Look at me now!’

This worked, and a startled Zoe turned around to where Ethan was strapped in his chair. She shook her head, then some sort of recollection dawned on her face. Scared, she looked young and extremely vulnerable.  She was dressed in a similar see-through white dress as Mrs Mae, and her blonde hair had been straightened.

Now was not the time for Ethan to lust after Zoe, their eyes met, and Ethan could clearly see the questioning and desperation in her face.

‘Run Zoe, Get the hell out of here and don’t stop.’ Ethan encouraged.

Zoe hesitated, turned her look away from Ethan and directed it upon the dead body of Alex and the haunting figures of Dominic and Mrs Mae who for some strange reason looked as if they were glued to the spot. Taking everyone by surprise, Zoe turned and sprinted away. She had covered perhaps twenty meters before anyone had realised what she had done. She was close to entering the woods when Mrs Mae snarled at Dominic.

‘Well go and get her you prick. She can’t be allowed to escape.’

Dominic looked at his partner and Ethan could see he was livid.

‘Don’t worry, the bitch won’t get far.’

With that, he took off and bounded towards the woods in pursuit.

Ethan sat in his chair, he knew that at some point tonight, he was going to be killed, and there was nothing that could be done to prevent it. It was inevitable, and the thought saddened him. Sure he had a fascination with death, which Goth didn’t, but there was no way he had a fascination about pain, who in their right mind would?

Mrs Mae approached Ethan; she laid a hand gently on his shoulders.

‘Don’t be afraid Ethan,’ she cooed ‘You are the chosen one, the one we have all been waiting for. You are a tortured soul destined for greater things, immorality and domination, after tonight, you will be revered for an eternity.’

Before he could comprehend what she had said, a loud scream erupted from within the woods. A few moments later, Dominic and Zoe appeared at the opening. Dominic was dragging her firmly by the hair. Zoe’s face was etched with pain; exhausted and defeated, she remained silent. As they got closer, Ethan observed that Zoe’s lips were bleeding and that her lips were swollen. Two vicious-looking scratches were visible on Dominic’s cheek. At least Zoe hadn’t given up without a struggle he thought. Good on her.

Breathing heavily, Dominic unceremoniously flung Zoe to the floor where she landed in clump inches from the corpse of Alex. She lifted her face up from the ground and scurried further back with her eyes closed tight, awaiting the inevitable.

‘She is one angry little bitch this one,’ barked Dominic rubbing his injured cheek gingerly.

‘Give her some more Mead. That will sort her out.’

Mrs Mae scurried away into her tent and brought out the half-empty bottle that she had used to drug them all earlier. She unscrewed the top and forced the neck of the bottle into Zoe’s mouth, after a few moments of resisting Zoe coughed and spluttered allowing some of the Mead to slip down her throat. Satisfied, Mrs Mae let Zoe’s head fall heavily back to the ground, where she lay unresponsive.

Looking at Dominic, Mrs Mae commanded ‘You know what we need to do. Let’s get this over with, its already taking too long.’

Mrs Mae went and lifted one of the camper chairs and positioned it under the oak tree as Dominic momentarily disappeared before reappearing with a long heavy rope with a noose already prepared. He flung it over the thickest branch and tied it off securely to the base of the tree. The loop hung loosely about three feet above the camper chair.

Ethan desperately wanted to close his eyes or turn his head away to block out the scene but strangely found himself drawn into the whole macabre proceedings.

Together Mrs Mae and Dominic lifted the prone body of Zoe up off the floor. She was gone, her eyes had rolled to the back of her head, and she was mumbling incoherently. Her white dress was creased and littered with grass stains and mud. Her tears had washed away her once immaculate makeup, leaving her face streaked with dark mascara.

They lifted Zoe upright and manipulated her legs so that she was soon stood on the camper chair. Dominic stood on his tiptoes and positioned the opened noose over her head, pulling he knot tightly into her neck. Satisfied that Zoe was in position, he stood back and looked at Mrs Mae encouragingly.

Mrs Mae selected the opened blade from the makeshift altar, it was still sticky, fresh with blood from Alex, She stared first into the skies and then looked at Zoe who still had no understanding of the deadly situation she was in.

Unexpectedly and loudly, Mrs Mae began to chant.

‘Kiss me and I shall make you

As an eagle to its prey

Touch me and I shall make you

As a strong sword that severs and stains my earth with blood

Taste me and I shall make you

As a seed of corn that grows

Toward the sun and never dies

Plough me and plant me with your seed and I shall make you

As a gate that opens to our gods.’

With a powerful kick, Mrs Mae launched Zoe from off the camper chair, she stalled momentarily in the still air before crashing down only a few inches, before the knot of the noose contracted tightly into her thin neck. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head, and her feet kicked out as she swayed in space.

As her face began to take on a tinge of blue, Mrs Mae stepped forward with the bloody blade in her hand. She did not falter as the first slash tore open the thin material of her dress fully exposing her youthful body. She followed up quickly with a second slash. This dug in just below her collar bone, Mrs Mae slowly dragged the knife down to just above her belly button tearing away at the soft flesh.

Mrs Mae stepped back to look at her handiwork and was joined by Dominic, who had a look of sheer fascination on his face. They both stood looking at the butchered Zoe in silence. The incision immediately opened up in full length, and fresh blood seeped through the cut, after only a few seconds the tear parted, and Zoe’s organs erupted free. They fell out as one in a sloppy mass and crashed onto the floor with the sausage-like bowel of Zoe connecting everything together.

By this time, Zoe had stopped twitching, she had stopped swinging in the air, and her eyes were still open,  staring out blankly, free at last.

Ethan could not move, his body was rigid. He did the only thing he could think of, he prayed to God and cried like a baby.

Chapter 12

Ethan awoke with a thumping headache and dry mouth, he looked around, trying to gather his bearings. He could vaguely remember having more Mead poured down his throat and then nothing, just total darkness.

His heart tightened as he recalled the fate of both Alex and Zoe and tears began to well in his eyes. He fought hard to prevent himself from crying, he knew he had to find courage if he wanted to survive this nightmare ordeal and he was determined to see that the two deranged killers were brought to justice for what they had done.

He tried to move but found himself bound against the old oak tree. Looking down, his heart sank as he saw he was again tied up,  a brand new thick rope was lashed around his ankles and waist. Straining further against the ropes his energy soon began to fade as the tight knots failed to relax even an inch; instead, they just bit into his skin.

Ethan guessed it was early morning as the sun was just lifting above the treetops and the birds were at last chirping away excitedly from deep within the woods, heralding the start of a new day. Bizarrely Ethan found himself enjoying the scene, He could not remember witnessing such natural beauty before,  it was going to be a beautiful day that was for sure, but sadly he also had a sickening feeling that it was also going to be his last day alive.

Ethan glanced up just as Mrs Mae emerged from the tree line. The ache in the pit of his stomach intensified. Her once ice white dress was awash with blood, streaks and splashes adorned the front. She did not possess the same sex appeal as earlier, her red hair looked wild, dancing freely in the morning breeze. In her arms, she carried branches, collected from the wood floor. She cradled them in front of her body and absentmindedly made her way to where Ethan was secured.

Reaching Ethan, she bent down and laid the wood around his feet. She continued to do this for the next twenty minutes and during that time, she never once glanced up in Ethan’s direction. Soon there was a  plentiful stock of wood and kindling that covered the full circle of the tree and was prepared right up to his ankles.

It was only then, completely satisfied, that Mrs Mae looked into Ethan’s eyes, with a twisted smile she said ‘to be reborn, you must first return to the earth in a state of absolute purity’.

Sermon delivered she turned and retreated, leaving Ethan with no last chance to plead for his life. She walked to the halfway spot between Ethan and the still smouldering campfire, stopped, turned to face him, crossed her arms against the chest and closed her eyes.

This is it, thought Ethan, as a single tear ran down his cheek.

Dominic emerged, dressed in the same dark black robe and barefoot, the thick hood was pulled over his head, and his eyes were hidden. Around his neck was a six-inch silver crucifix, this was held out in front of him as he slowly advanced, mumbling under his breath.

As he neared, Ethan made out the words, chanted drunkenly.

‘Deliver me o mighty Satan from all past error and delusion, fill me with truth, wisdom and understanding. Keep me strong in my faith and service, that I may abide always in thee with praise and honour and that glory be given to thee forever and ever’.

As if her spell had been broken, Mrs Mae opened her eyes and walked again towards Ethan. From nowhere, a small lethal-looking knife no bigger than three inches appeared in her hand. The unused blade glinted in the morning sunlight.

Ethan went rigid.

Mrs Mae held the knife in front of Ethan’s face,  at close up, it looked more lethal than it had initially appeared. Mrs Mae lent in close, and Ethan snapped his eyes firmly shut, prepared for the inevitable.

He felt a sharp nick against his neck, which immediately began to sting. His eyes automatically fluttered open, looking down he could see a small stream of fresh blood trickle down onto his chest.

Mrs Mae produced a clear vile and caught the blood inside, unconcerned with the sticky mess that covered her fingers as it seeped free.

Dominic looked at Mrs Mae with total awe, nodded his head and took a few steps towards the campfire. He bent down and picked up a large branch with a wet bundled rag taped securely to the top. He placed the cloths on the fire.

Whoof! The rags instantly ignited. Mesmerised Dominic stared at the dancing flame for a few seconds.

Ethan could feel his body shutting down with shock, he could take no more of this barbaric torture. He wanted it to end, and he wanted it to end now. Exhausted, his head flopped down onto his chest.

Through teary eyes, Ethan glanced up for one last time. Everything was spinning and becoming foggy. He shook his head slightly and corrected himself. Someone was coming. Someone was finally coming to rescue him.

Unsure of why or how, Ethan recognised Clive Charles, the Head of 6th Form, silently sprinting towards them, with soft footfalls, neither Dominic or Mrs Mae was aware of his existence. He covered the short distance in less than thirty seconds and had a look of pure anger and determination etched on his face.

Closing in on them he withdrew a foot long ancient-looking hatchet from inside his jacket. He held it confidently in one hand and continued forward.

Suddenly the birds ceased their concert in the trees, and the air fell strangely silent.

At the last moment, Dominic turned around. Clive Charles swung upwards with the hatchet and it instantly engaged with his neck, easily penetrating through the soft fleshy skin. No sounds omitted from Dominic’s mouth, he was spun around three hundred and sixty degrees and came to rest on the floor as blood bubbled from his exposed windpipe. The lit branch fell from his grasp, and the fire petered out in seconds.

Hearing the thud, a shocked Mrs Mae also turned around, with his momentum, there was no stopping Clive Charles, he continued forward driving the hatched upwards, It embedded into her flat stomach.

Clive Charles released his grip from the hatchet and stood back, Mrs Mae, with a look of utter confusion, stared blankly at her wound. She looked up and was just about to speak when a faint trickle of blood emerged from the side of her mouth. She crumpled to the floor in an instant.

Clive Charles reached Ethan, his hands were shaking uncontrollably, he clumsily untied the ropes from him and allowed him to step free. Ethan fell forward into the protecting body of Clive Sands.

Sure that Ethan was safe and not seriously hurt, he gently prodded him forward and shouted.

‘Run Ethan, as fast as you can, run for your life’.

Chapter 13

Ethan needed no encouragement, he sprinted off in the direction of the woods, head bent low he did not look back.

By the time he reached the tree line, his heart was pounding. He paused for a second to catch his breath, then looked forward. There was no trail to follow.

Undeterred, he headed off into the trees and bushes, unconcerned with the sharp thorns that dug into his face, tearing into his flesh.

A few scratches were the least of his problems. He would worry about those later. Right now, he just needed to keep on running.

Soon the light began to improve in the woods, and he exited onto the same field as they had originally arrived on.

Sure enough, the hideous camper van was fifty meters to his left and what could only be Clive Charles car, an ageing grey Volvo was parked right behind it.

Jumping into the front seat of Clive Charles‘s Car, Ethan let out a massive sigh of relief. He knew he had come close to being killed, and the thought terrified him. Alone, strapped to the tree watching the ordeal play out he had sat and recollected over his choice of lifestyle. Perhaps being a Goth wasn’t for him after all. Life was short, and life was for the living. Maybe, if he made more of an effort he would be able to fit in easier, it had become tiresome being the odd one out and he was now ready to make some real friends, something he had never had in his life for so long. If Alex and Zoe had still been alive today, he was sure that they would welcome him with open arms after what they had shared together.

Thinking of poor Alex and Zoe brought the dark memories flooding back. Right now, he was cold and scared, still a child and desperate to be back home in his mother’s loving arms. Ethan smiled knowing how happy she would be when he revealed his change in lifestyle, and he was sure she would drag him to the Metro Centre like she had always dreamed of doing, to kit him out with some trendy clothes.

Clive Charles entered the car and strapped his seat belt on. Out of breath, he asked.

‘You ok Ethan?’

Ethan merely nodded, and Clive Charles turned on the ignition which coughed and spluttered to life, bringing Ethan back to his senses.

He turned around in his seat to check through the rear window to ensure that they weren’t being followed even though he was sure after witnessing Mrs Mae and Dominic’s violent slaying that it was highly unlikely. They were both dead, they had to be, no one could survive such a brutal assault.

Telling himself that he was being paranoid and that he needed to calm himself down, his eyes fell upon an opened black holdall that was placed on the backseat. Sticking through the top was an obscure headpiece that looked to be made from animal skin and horn, that startled him, but what made his heart sink to his stomach, was the gleaming blade of a sword that was also poking out through the top of the bag menacingly.

He heard the electronic locks of the cars doors click shut and felt the tiny reserve of energy he had left disperse from his body in a split second. He turned back to face forwards and noticed that instead of heading back towards Alston and eventually to the road that would ultimately take them home, they were heading deeper and deeper into the countryside.

Clive Charles turned to face Ethan; with excitement in his eyes, he said the words that filled Ethan with dread.

‘I have a new site, Ethan, somewhere that is more suited for my offering’.

Ethan heard a metallic noise, looking down he saw that Clive Charles was holding a small handgun. He held it with one hand, the menacing-looking barrel directed towards Ethan and with his second hand gripping onto the steering wheel, he led them through the narrow country roads.

Ethan slumped back in his chair and looked out morosely, he had tried his best, he honestly thought that he had done enough, but for the love of God, he could not see himself getting out of this situation unscathed.

The End

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Craig Wrightson 2019

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