The Hallowed


Photo by Bim Peacock

Foolish children. You never should’ve interfered with The Hallowed.

Midnight was at the height of its reign.  Darkness enveloped the world with a shadowy shroud.  The night went far beyond the inky blackness of the norm.  This was All Hallows Eve.  The night when the shadows could not only move, but they could kill…

A faint silhouette darted through the streets.  In and out it weaved, ducking between jack-o-lanterns, dodging fake spider webs, and avoiding the tasteless plastic creations that labeled this night.  The joy and merriment that finally ended hours before only masked the evil that lurked.

Finally the shadow came to a stop before a black iron gate.  It hesitated a brief moment, head twisting back and forth to watch for followers, then shoved the gates inward and slipped inside.

White headstones formed uneven rows, stretching across the expanse of thick dead grass.  Here and there, the odd mausoleum or statue rose from the cold, dead ground.  Leafless trees climb to the sky, their black branches spreading like skeleton fingers.  The figure continued on his way, his skin crawling as he felt unseen eyes peer at his back.

He slowed, yet again, to a stop before a large dark mass.  The square shape sprouted from the ground, ten feet high, its features indiscernible in the darkness

“Duskhunter John present.  None have followed,” he whispered to the night.  A flashlight blazed to life, blinding him momentarily.

“Welcome, John.  You are the last to arrive.”

He finally registered the group that had surrounded him in the darkness.  The man holding the light moved past him and inspected the marble building.  A Celtic cross was intricately carved in the dead center, obviously done with expert precision.  It lay over a fine crease, marking the edge of two giant marble doors.  Encircling the cross were demonic images that chilled the soul: pictures of wolf- headed men tearing through villages, dead men rising from coffins, horned beings with bat wings wrecking havoc, and conjurers burning at the stake.

The man turned away from the scene and gazed back at the others.  His flashlight illuminated his stern and determined face, already grave from the task that lay ahead.  “Duskhunters, what do we know?”

A woman stepped forward and replied, “At the beginning of the month, people began turning up in the streets dead.  Always the same story.  Their bodies laid all alone in the street; no cuts, no bullet wounds.  It was just as if they fell over dead, their faces contorted in horror.  People began witnessing a shadow passing through the streets after the deaths.  We have traced the sightings back to the catacombs here.”

“Very good,” the leader replied, “Alright team, it’s time we put a stop to these killings.  Ten have died already, and not another will.”  He turned back to the marble door. “Bring the breachers.”  Two others moved to the door and stuck explosives to the marble.  They all retreated quickly.

“Blow the gates!”

A harsh bang! Shattered the silent night as the cross was laid to waste.  As the dust cleared, they saw the gaping wound in the marble face.  A dark corridor lay before them with steps leading deep underground.  Chalky, white bones hung from enclaves in the walls, their ligaments still barely clinging together.  Silence filled the world again as they felt fear creep over them.  Finally, the shepherd of the small group stepped forward into the dusty damp corridor.  The rest followed.

“Bring the light!” he demanded.  They cast the beam where he pointed.  On the wall was a plaque written in fine cursive.  He began to read, “May all ye’ who enter here be blessed with the Lord’s grace, for the demons who be laid to rest can stay dead for only so long.  Leave now, while ye’ souls be intact and the world ‘tis still at peace. This be the realm of The Hallowed. Ye’ have been warned…”

                A mad cackling erupted from deep within the catacombs.  The group turned to escape, but the marble doors slammed shut.  A quick investigation found the breach in the wall suddenly sealed.

“What the hell?!” shouted their leader. “We’re trapped!”

You fools never should’ve come here,” cackled the voice from the deep. From the darkness below, a fiery face leapt to life; the demented expression of a jack-o-lantern. “This town holds secrets beyond your reckoning, and you’ll never live to tell them!”

                The face disappeared, and a moaning filled the catacombs.  A clump of bones fell from one of the enclaves, and before their eyes, they slid together into the form they once bore.  But to their horror, the skull that slid forward was canine…

Hair grew from nothing and flesh enveloped the skeleton.  The wolfman stood, alive once more, and howled long and mournfully.  The group, in panic, drew their pistols quick, but the beast leaped and dragged the nearest person to the ground, tearing him limb from limb.  Their weapons did nothing to save their friend.  Before it could take another, they sprinted down the corridor.

They began to think they’d escaped when they hit an open room filled with soft soil.  The fear stricken group didn’t think twice about how odd it was and kept running, until one of them screamed.  They whipped the flashlight to the sound and saw a skeletal hand wrapped around one woman’s ankle.  A companion kicked the bony fingers off her, only to be grabbed by five more himself.  Countless hands began rising from the dirt, eager to find purchase on their victims.  The two were helplessly shrieking as they were slowly pulled underground.  The rest made a break for it.

Back through the corridors they ran, when a thousand screeching bats dropped down to assault them.  They waved their hands to fight off the attack, to no avail.  Two people by the back of the group fell to the ground wailing as they were overwhelmed by teeth.

They thought they’d passed the worst, when suddenly the floor dropped out from underneath them and they fell into another chamber.  Torches lined the walls, casting an eerie glow around the room.  Stone gargoyles sat menacingly against the walls, their dead eyes watching intently.  A stone coffin rested in the center, raised upon a pedestal.

The group gazed around at each other.  Out of ten only five of them remained.  Beaten and battered they were, with mud and blood caked all over their bodies.  Tears stained everyone’s faces as they stared painfully at one another.

A cackling echoed around the room yet again, and they all whipped around, raising their pistols in defense.  Suddenly, a wall burst open, gaping into a dark void.  Fear began to creep through their bones, when a long hairy leg reached from the breach, stepping slowly into the room.  Another followed, and then another, and soon eight legs and an enormous body of a tarantula resided within the room, its piercing black eyes glaring at them.  From the shadows, a dark cloak materialized.  The figure glided out from underneath the beast and stood ahead of it, face concealed behind a cowl.  He cackled maniacally.

Foolish children.  You never should’ve interfered with The Hallowed.  Half of you have died already, and now for the—”

“Why are you doing this!?  What good does killing mercilessly do?!” interrupted the leader of the Duskhunters, among the survivors.

The figure laughed again, but softer, colder.  “Your people killed us!  This town lies on a breach between the worlds, the Connecting Point.  When the humans arrived, they wiped us out!  We possessed sorcerers, monsters and beasts, with power beyond the imagination.  But their iron tore apart our link to the ethers.  It was all we conjurers could do to keep our people from dying out…”

                He paused briefly, an odd sadness within his insanity.  “…But it wasn’t enough! They dragged us to the Blood Fields to execute us.  They thought removing my head could end it.” He finally pulled back his hood.  Resting on his shoulders was a fearsome jack-o-lantern, its fiery face drawn into a malicious sneer.  Flames sprouted from the holes in its face, spawning from some otherworldly fire.

It wasn’t until they burned me at the stake that I succumbed to death!  They bound my remains with iron so my soul could never move on. It wasn’t until a month ago that my ghost finally escaped this prison to seek revenge.  But you,” he said, pointing with a translucent bony finger, “you’ll never escape!”

                From the break in the wall came a mad mix of horrifying sounds.  Moaning, wailing, rattling chains, flapping of wings.  Creatures began emerging from the void.  Horned demons with wings; men and women, long dead shambling forward; fiends part man, part bat; floating human like figures; wrapped in translucent shrouds; and every horror that ever stalked the nightmares of children.

“Duskhunters,” whispered their leader.  “I’m sorry for leading you all to your doom.  Please forgive me.”  And with that, he drew his pistol and began firing wildly at the rushing horde.  The rest of them followed his action as well, knowing there was little they could do.

At first they managed to hold off the attackers.  But then the first of the remaining team fell as a demon dragged her to her death, shredding apart its first meal in centuries.  The group panicked and split different directions, trying to avoid the assaulters.

A white-shrouded spirit dropped from the ceiling, passing straight through another of the horror stricken survivors.  The man’s eyes widened and turned completely black, and he slumped lifelessly to the ground.

The youngest of the group, only seventeen, stood a few feet from the stone coffin.  He was frightened beyond comprehension, desperately searching for a way out.  Then he remembered The Hallowed’s words.  “They bound my remains in iron so I could never move on…”  He gazed back to the coffin, wheels turning.  Quickly, barely thinking he shoved the heavy lid clean off the box.

“What is he doing?!  Get away from there!” bellowed the shrouded figure.  He dashed towards the boy, reaching outwards.

The young man observed the body.  A charred headless skeleton lay within, wrapped in heavy padlocked chains. It was The Hallowed’s body.

Without thinking, he fired his pistol at the iron lock, shattering the ancient metal.  The Hallowed, mere feet from him, howled with pain and reared back.  A thin, white light radiated from his chest.

“What…did you do…?” he whispered.

The boy, still in shock, stuttered, “I—I think I released you.”

The sneering jack-o-lantern gazed down at his chest.  The light kept growing, enveloping him.  “Thank…you…”

                And the light, with him, faded from existence.  The skin of the demonic creatures melted away, and their limp bones fell to the floor with a clatter.  No one remained in the room but the boy.  He was all alone, with no sound but the crackle of the torches and the echoes of the tormented put to rest at last.