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The Apprentice

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On one frosty night in winter, I remember I was still training as a priest's apprentice. The moon was full and the room was filled with heat from the furnace below the church. I was just cleaning the altar after some dope the preceding Sunday spilt communion wine all across its sheets. It was a long and arduous task and in the end exhausting.

I decided to sit down in one of the pews and read one of the many books the church was known for keeping over the centuries. I stumbled across one book. It was old, dusty. At first I thought it bore no title, but after close inspection I saw the words “Elohim, Adonai, Tetragrammaton” very faintly on its aged cover. The lack of information about its cover intrigued me, so I cracked it open very gently, only to see the first page blanked out with blood. I quickly shut the book in disbelief.

After calming myself down for a few moments I decided to look at the book again, this time skipping ahead of the first page. On the second page I found some weird illustrations, very hard to make out the book was so old, but from what I could tell it displayed a man with horns being torn in half by a group of hooded people. Shocked yet intrigued, I naively read on. Pages 3 and 4 were written in Hebrew but featured a very graphic picture of a burning crucifix. The crucified figure was the same as on the last page, staring right into my eyes. I decided one last time before I shut the book and went home that I would look at that first page again. However, when I changed the page back to the first, the blood was no longer dried, instead running, seemingly profusely onto the floor and making a little pool. The exact second it reached the floor all the candles and the furnace died simultaneously. I felt the bitter chill of that very special winter’s night.

As I stammered around helplessly looking for a candle I heard footsteps coming from up in the balcony. I swiped a match out from my pocket and struck it against a pew to set it alight. Within seconds I found a candle and lit it in my hand. Of course any sensible person would storm right out of the church, but recently we had been having problems with wild animals getting in, so I decided against leaving since we'd been having problems with wild animals; I didn't want the priest to be angry with me.

I took the candle and headed into the nearest stairwell. As I entered I heard a choir, just for a second, but then it was gone. I ignored it and wrote it off as my imagination playing up due to fatigue. As I made my way up the stairs I saw faces in the brick wall, this was when I realised something was awry. I made my way very slowly up the stairs, two feet to a step, looking around intently at every last detail. Suddenly I heard footsteps that weren’t mine coming up the stairs. I bolted into a sprint up the rest of the stairwell, my heart pounding like there was no tomorrow. When I got up to the balcony, there was nothing, no animal, just a dead end for me.

I could hear 50 footsteps at once clambering up the stairs in a hurry. I slowly turned around to face a group of children, all little boys, staring up at me, each one looking horribly injured, but somehow still alive. I turned to my left and saw the book.

I thought to myself, “Wait, didn’t I leave that down there. How did it get here?”

The book was opened to a page which showed an illustration of the young boys, all being slaughtered in cruel and horrific ways. I quickly remembered a story about my hometown, the tale of the dead boys' choir. I had always assumed it was just urban legend, but what legend could manifest itself in front of you? The distance between the balcony and the floor was too great to jump. How could I escape? Coated in sweat I decided my only option was to approach the boys and ask them to let me through, so I begged “Please let me through." That went without a reply. I remember I tried to push past him, but that only made things worse.

Next thing I know I’m in the dark surrounded by broken wood. I saw my candle up in the balcony. I figured the kid must have thrown me through the balcony, and I must have passed out from a shock to the head. The church was ice cold and the pews were covered in frost, yet I was sweating profusely; beads of sweat ran down my neck and crystallized in the cold. The choir seemed to have left. They probably thought I was dead, or maybe something more terrifying chased them away. I’ll never know.

I tried to stand, but my knee was shattered. I can only imagine how horrific it must have looked in the light. Flesh, blood and bone—all broken. I felt everything. I couldn’t move. I was stuck in the dark, alone, or at least I hoped.

In the frosty darkness I heard something scuttle around the church, and all I could do was lie there, helpless. The noises got louder. I could feel whatever it was approaching, feet with sharp claws scraping against the wooden floor with every step. Finally it was there, standing above me. Hundreds of bible verses flooded through my head all at once, the only thing numbing the pain. A sharp scaly hand launched itself onto my neck. The other grabbed hold of my wounded leg. Within seconds the beast tore my leg clean off. The wound shot blood out in every direction, covering the pews and tapestry that ran down from the balcony. It was the most indescribable pain I had ever felt, growing worse as the beast dug its claws into my neck. The dead boys' choir had returned. I could hear their song bouncing off the acoustics of the church, a song of pure evil, echoing in my ears, the soundtrack to my last breath. I felt a still tranquility and just before everything went black, the last thing I noticed, this was no beast, this was a man, an old man, with wiry old grey hair and long sharp fingernails. I noticed a cut on his palm, wide open, but not bloody, like all his blood had been drained. In a pain filled spasm I laid my bloody palm onto the book, so close to death I didn’t question why it was down here. Then it all went black.

Within seconds I was on the balcony again, staring down at my bloody body, and the man who stood beside it staring back up at me, it was no longer night, but clear daylight. The man disappeared, and in entered the priest, horrified at the gruesome sight. In my hand I could feel the books leathery cover on my fingers and the pages on my thumb. When I brought the book up to my face I read the page:

“The one-legged ghost of the old church”

And there on that page it showed me, being throttled by the man, the dead boys' choir staring down from the balcony, and the bloody pews. I walked down the stairwell and over to the bookshelf. I saw the slot where I had taken the book, and put it back. My world went black. The book was never to be opened again, that is, until you got your little hands on it.

Have you met the boys yet? Oh here they come now. Looks like it’s the end of the road for you then, eh? Now let me just put out the light.

The End



Credited to Owen Murphy 

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