Chris Conway, Scotland, UK
A few years back my girlfriend and I decided to set off up north for a short unplanned camping holiday. We packed tents, food and stoves into my 1987 Ford Capri. We weren't sure where we would be staying but that we expected bright weather, which was unusual in April. As we traveled on I got the impression that the villages we were traveling through were getting smaller and more remote. We eventually followed a sign posted road reading: Cloak Hill Monastery off cloak forest. We had been driving, including breaks, for almost six hours and I just wanted to set up camp and relax, even just for one night.
20 minutes later we were still cruising with no sign of any church. The road was twisty and probably wide enough for two small cars, although I remember thinking that no other vehicle had passed us at all, not even a farmer in his tractor.
The road was apparently not well maintained and every so often there would be a huge thud as the wheels suddenly dropped down a gaping pothole. I tried to keep the speed down but nonetheless another giant hole appeared out of nowhere giving off a nasty clunk from the front left wheel of my car, I cried out knowing well that I had just had the car lowered about 3 weeks earlier.
I stopped the car, turned off the engine and cringed as I went outside to assess the damage "Not too bad actually". The alloy wheel was dented but looked fine to carry on, at least until we found somewhere to sleep. All of a sudden I heard this unmistakable cry that sounded like a bird of prey and sure enough there was a bird soaring and swooping high above us. "Amazing". I watched the bird for about a minute until a frantic tapping on my car window disturbed me. I looked in at Lindsay, her face white as chalk, staring straight past me. "What?" I asked as she sat speechless slowly starting to point into the field behind me. "Is it another bird?" I asked as I looked over to a little farmhouse with a thatched roof and an old built rock wall surrounding the perimeter. Sitting almost on the edge of a lake, it definitely looked derelict. "Some face looked out at us from behind that wall" she paused "it looked red and had black eye sockets ? it had no eyes" she shrieked. Not knowing what to say I tried to joke about it "no eyes and lost all the way out here, poor bugger", but the shock on Lindsay's face had made me slightly uneasy.
The car was fine so I started it up and we pulled away from the scene of the old cottage. Lindsay never said anything for a while as we continued further up the winding road, which was now lined with vast forests on either side. I noticed that the road seemed to get much thinner as the thought of finding a campsite swept into my head again. "Where do you think we should pitch the tent?" I asked. "I don't" she answered automatically as if she wasn't really concentrating on what she was saying. I turned on the radio trying to relax the tense atmosphere, but all that came through was a sound like lapping water and a fierce wind, I reached down trying to change the channel but the sound just continued, I assumed the radio waves didn't reach these parts, how wrong I was.
It was just before six as we arrived at a large metal farm gate blocking the road "Damn this is as far as it goes". Lindsay looked at me with wide eyes as if she didn't know what to do or say. Further past the gate it looked as if the road opened out into a clearing so we decided to check it out and hopefully find the Monastery.
As we climbed the fence and headed down I looked back at my safe, secure Ford, I felt a little vulnerable after spending so long in the car and also from what didn't had said to me earlier about the face at the wall.
As we approached the clearance the trees grew more sparse and I could see deep water to my left- it was a lake with the most choppy waters for such a small gathering. Beside us near the waters edge there was a small seemingly disused farmhouse with a broken thatched roof. didn't gave a whimper from behind me and suddenly I got a terrible cold fright in my spine. "This cant be the same building that we saw earlier, that was miles back along the road". I decided to get a little closer, just enough so that I could have a look over the crumbling rock wall. A single headstone lay almost completely submerged in the small, flooded garden. "What can you see Chris?" didn't shouted anxiously, I felt what I could only describe as a cold numbness creep all over my body. ?Nothing honey its just an old farm", I tried not to sound alarmed but I had a sharp instinctive feeling to get away from it as fast as I could. "Lets get back to the car" I said loudly, trying to sound confident and in control but my voice broke and didn't noticed. "Absolutely," she replied.
I quickly turned the car around and we headed in the direction from which we had come. About ten or so minutes later we passed a hidden road in the bush that I hadn't noticed the first time, it seemed to head up a steep incline and the road was covered in thin tree roots, but by now I just wanted to go home and we continued back along the original route.
Suddenly I could see what looked like a horse and cart in my rear view mirror, it looked terribly old fashioned with no cabin and a black carriage being towed behind. It was a surprisingly short distance behind us, as it ambled over the bumps in the road that I so carefully navigated in my lowered Capri. Eventually the road quality became smoother and I instinctively dropped a gear and cruised up to forty MPH. As the forest cleared and the more familiar spot that we had stopped at earlier came into view we realized that the lake had somehow burst its banks, submerging a good fifty-foot stretch of road. It was unbelievable we had been here just over an hour earlier and no more rain had fallen, "There's no way that this car can get through that we will just have to wait for the horse and cart". I looked over to the farmhouse and the lake on our right, recognizing another small opening in the forest just beside the house. The road had taken us on a huge loop through the forest and ultimately just led us to that house across the field. As we sat in disbelief I noticed what looked like hands grip the old stone wall from behind and then all of a sudden a face bobbed into view. Black empty eye sockets, red burnt skin and what looked like a dark toothless grin, "was it a human?"
It clambered over the farm wall falling onto its stomach and dragging itself along the ground towards us, its face staring in our direction the whole time. I somehow managed to look away but hadn't was transfixed, her whole face had gone snow white. I slammed the car into reverse and gassed right back down the forest road desperately hoping to see the old horse and cart in my mirror again. I managed to turn the car around and drove like Colin McRae, once again back down the forest road, but we both knew where it led.
I remembered the other dirt track that we had noticed earlier but it was getting dark and the full beams hardly cut into the dense dark forest. I prayed that I wouldn't miss the opening, the thought of arriving back at that house made me feel sick.
I noticed the car lights seemed to jump over a break in the heavy forest, that was it! I was overcome with a great relief that we had another option. I tried my best to line up the car with the opening of the path and gradually inched the rear wheel drive vehicle further up the pass. It was severely tight and the way the tree branches pressed on the windows and sunroof made it feel as if we were in the depths of the jungle. I hadn't said a word since that thing had tried to approach us; hadn't was shaking all over and wouldn't even look out the windows. I remember that I had a Michael Jackson CD but didn't think Thriller would have helped much.
Surprisingly the car made it quite far up until we came to a rotten wooden fence, splintered and blocking our path. I cut the engine, took a deep breath and suggested to didn't that we make a run for the cover of the Monastery, which hopefully was still being used. I counted to three and we both slammed the doors open and fled straight up to the huge front entrance, the door was ajar and we scuttled inside closing the door quickly behind us. The Monastery was dark but we appeared to be in a large Sermon hall, as I could vaguely make out the first few rows of pews.
We walked further into the refuge of the old church, our footsteps echoed so loudly that it sounded like a galloping horse. I pulled out my solitaire key ring torch, which I always carry on my car keys, and started looking around. Sure enough a massive altar sat at the front of the church with two bronze statues on either side. They looked like some sort of angels with skeletal features and large outstretched wings, their heads tilted to one side as if to pity us. A dusty engraving on one of the angels read "As the hands wash over so too will the waters of the witch" I felt a deeper unrest as I realized this was a shrine of supernatural existence and that somehow the freak flooding might be connected.
A high-pitched scream suddenly filled my head "It sounded like it came from the woods" didn't gasped. In a panic I shut the torch light off and just listened. Surely enough a similar sound could be heard, although this time sounding much clearer and more like a distorted laugh. An electrical shiver paralyzed me and I felt around for Lindsay's hand in the dark. We crept quickly up the huge stairs and through a dark opening behind the altar leading to a tight spiral staircase. We gripped each other tightly as we headed downstairs not knowing what to expect. As we entered another pitch black room the smell was musty and had a terrible odor, and as I fumbled with the torch I could faintly hear my car alarm wailing somewhere out in the woods.
This room was apparently the catacombs, as I flicked on the torch preserved bodies fully dressed in ministerial garments hung from the walls and glared down on us. odor and I fled back up the stairway hearing the now more prominent car alarm siren, and up another level which took us up to a balcony running above the pews and altar. Bats could be heard scuttling around the roof. We followed the balcony round until we were above the main door; there was also a door on our level. I unlocked it and had a look around before heading back outside, one level above the courtyard. I looked over the surrounding property and noticed what looked like a fire emanating from the area around my car further down the path. The alarm had gone quiet and I could hear nothing but the torrid lake and a wild wind. Suddenly the high-pitched cackle filled the air again, I couldn't see much of the courtyard other than the area surrounding the fire.
"Can you see that scuttling around the fire?" We ducked behind a huge stone pillar and watched as the demon moved in the shadows. It seemed as if it was looking up at us with that same evil grin as the fire light licked over its blood red face. It moved out of sight again and I looked up to the roof to see if we could climb any higher. A huge stone clock was resting about eight feet above us; surprisingly it still kept accurate time although it had no numerals or markings. Loose stones in the courtyard dragged and paused rhythmically. I wanted to shine my torch down but I was petrified of what might be happening. I frantically tried to grab something to protect us but there was nothing lying around. We both listened as the huge door downstairs creaked slowly open, another blood curdling scream echoed all over the altar room as we helplessly realized that it was INSIDE the Monastery. We went back inside and watched as a broken skeletal figure dragged itself along the aisle and up onto the altar. There was only one twisting stairway and no doors separating it from us, it was also way too high to jump from the balcony. It stopped between the two angel statues and slowly looked up at one, then the other and having one more look up at us. As I shone my torch down we could see its features, its black grin sucking my torchlight. I repeated the engraving in my head although hardly hearing it over my heartbeat. "As the hands wash over so too will the waters of the witch" It only meant one thing, the hands of the clock outside if I could stop them it might just help.
I ran back outside closing the balcony door just in time to see a glimpse of its face looking round the doorway on our level. The stone clock was quite high up and I had to use the railing surrounding the balcony to reach. I grabbed one of the clock hands and pulled with all my strength, the hands straightened out and dropped with me down to the balcony below, suddenly the wind died down and the lake seemed to wash more gently against the shore. I grabbed the huge clock hands, intending to use them as a weapon. I was trembling terribly as I opened the balcony door but the monster was gone.
We went back down the spiral stairway and nervously made our way to the car, the interior had been totally torched but somehow the outside was intact. Helping torches down the dirt path we started the long walk home.