Guest Blog : Ungodly Undoing by Essel Pratt Review by Michele Roger

Review of Essel Pratts, UnGodly Undoing

by Michele Roger

It is rare to find a book with a fresh, creative delivery. UnGodly Undoing by Essel Pratts does not disappoint. In essence, a collection of stories but brilliantly presented via alternating chapters. The first chapter sets the stage for an ongoing conversation between a bookish, teenage boy and the local, elderly bookstore owner. The next chapter has the old man as narrator, telling a ‘real life’ story of the small town of Mishawaka. The old man in the bookstore explains that not all great stories are found in books and the stories of Mishawaka are of a town deeply cursed. The chapters continue in kind, in an anthology of a cursed town.

Love Transcends Death,” is a simple story about angst and grief of a local doctor who is mourning the death of his wife. One day, kissing her urn goodbye becomes his undoing. Pratts build up in this particular tale is well timed; revealing an unexpected plot twist.

In the chapter entitled “Damned to Life”, we hear the story of an unlikely step-father and his vampire daughter. Elizabeth is a thirteen-year-old vampire held captive in the basement of her family home. After a vampire raped her mother, Elizabeth was born violently, killing her mother in the process. She lives a life of her father feeding her tainted blood from the local blood bank. Her escape from her prison and the reconciliation between father and daughter keeps the reader guessing until the last moment.

One of my favorite stories is Canopic Servitude. This chapter tells the tale of how the town warehouse contains the preserved remains of cursed, Egyptian royal cats who come back to life. I admit I was reading that chapter with my cat in my lap. By the time I had finished, I obediently went to the kitchen, opened the fridge and made him an offering of vanilla yogurt to my familiar feline. Just in case. 

If UnGodly Undoing has one set back, it’s that the stories are told in present tense. All of them. While, as a reader, I like that the conversations between the bibliophile boy and the old bookstore owner are set in present day, it feels strange to read the town’s chilling past in the same tense. For the narration to feel more authentic, I would have liked the actual stories of the strange incidents in Mishawaka to be told in past tense.

All in all, the book is a page-turner with alternating chapters bringing both closure to the previous chapter and baiting the reader to read just one more story in the chapter to follow. Pratts final story in the book, Silence, My Love is chilling and complex. I think that his ability to write psychological horror shines in this closing story. I would hope that he would consider a whole novel in this particular sub-genre. Fighting the demons of the mind, attempting to decipher between fantasy and reality and the complete undoing of a man due to madness makes for excellent horror reading.

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Guest Blog: Excerpt from Soul Scent by Reyna Favis

 

Excerpt from Soul Scent:

“Can you tell me about the baby?”

Cam lifted a shoulder and then stared at the bottle in his hands. “Not much to tell, really. It was 1975 and I was working a job in Kings Worthy.” Glancing at me, he elaborated. “That’s in England. It’s a very old place. It was listed in the Domesday Book – you know, the survey taken in 1066?”

I bristled a little. “By William the Conqueror after the Norman Conquest. I know. I was a history major, remember?”

Nodding, Cam took up the story again. “Anyway, I was busy trying to lay the ghost of a Victorian clergyman who had taken up residence in the old church. At the same time, there was an archaeological dig taking place in the churchyard. They were interested in the old Anglo-Saxon burials and they eventually unearthed the skeletal remains of a young woman.” He took another drink and affected nonchalance as he continued the story. “Lying between the long bones of her legs, they found the skull of a full-term infant, but the fetal leg bones were still clearly within her pelvic cavity.”

“A coffin birth?” My eyes went wide at this thought.

Cam nodded again. “It happens. A pregnant woman dies and is buried and because of pressure from the gases that build up during decomposition, the dead fetus is expelled from the equally dead mother.” Looking down at his hands again, Cam picked at the label on the bottle. “Anyway, shortly after this find, the cries of a baby could be heard coming from the graveyard. It so disturbed the archaeological team that no one wanted to dig anymore and the work came to a grinding halt.”

 

“And did it also disturb you? Cam, I can tell this is difficult to talk about.”

Cam rolled his eyes and exhaled deeply, his words were clipped. “Yes, right. It bothered me a great deal. The baby was an innocent and completely blameless, yet she was left to suffer horribly for centuries.”

“But wasn’t the mother with the baby? How did you finally help her to move on?”

“I went into the churchyard with Zackie late one night to find the baby. The mother was nowhere to be found, so I assume she crossed over shortly after her death.”

“She left the baby?” My mouth hung open, aghast at the thought of just taking off and leaving an infant.

“She probably didn’t know the baby remained. In her time, the belief was that unbaptized infants went to Limbo, so in all likelihood, she died assuming that the baby would find its way and be taken care of.” Cam shrugged again. “Who knows? All I know is that earthbound souls of infants are a rarity, so most of the time, they move on with no difficulties. Something went wrong for this one.” Cam frowned as he stared into the middle distance for a beat. “But, you know, as soon as she saw Zackie, she quieted and stopped crying. Getting her to go through the portal was a breeze compared to the clergyman. I had to work another two weeks before the clergyman moved on.”

********
Bio:
Reyna Favis is the author of SOUL SEARCH and SOUL SCENT, modern tales of the psychopomp set in the search and rescue world. Reyna holds a Ph.D. in biology and brings a scientist’s critical eye to the unseen world, imposing logical consistency and mechanistic detail to the unexplained. A proud and militant introvert, Reyna exerts her power as mistress of the dark arts of introversion through her blog, Introvert Broadcasting Network. When not writing, she responds to callouts as a canine handler for search and rescue.

Guest Blog: ARTICLE: A MEIKLE MYTHOS?

 

ARTICLE: A MEIKLE MYTHOS?

__________________________

Several of the stories in my new collection THE GHOST CLUB fit into my ongoing Sigils and Totems mythos.

It’s a simple enough concept.

There are houses like this all over the world. Most people only know of them from whispered stories over campfires;
tall tales told to scare the unwary. But some, those who suffer… some know better. They are drawn to the places where
what ails them can be eased.

If you have the will, the fortitude, you can peer into another life, where the dead are not gone, where you can see
that they thrive and go on, in the dreams that stuff is made of.

There it is in a nutshell. There are houses where people can go to get in touch with their dead loved ones.

But this gives me lots of things to play with. To even get inside a room, you need a sigil; a tattoo or carving on your
skin, and a totem, a memento of your loved one. Then there’s the fact that your loved one might be a parallel
universe version rather than the one you actually know.

And where do these houses come from? What’s behind the walls? How do they work? Why do they work? And who chooses the concierges who run them? Or fixes them when they don’t work?

So I’ve got all that to play with, plus the fact that the houses can exist anywhere, at any time. They’re like lots
of boxy, multi-faceted Tardis, spread across space time,  places and situations into which I can hook in characters
and stories.

I think I’ve stumbled into something that could keep me busy for a few years.

When it came to writing THE GHOST CLUB stories, I thought it would be fun to have some of the famous writers stumble into this mythos, as if it’s something that has always been out there, on the fringes of storytelling since stories were first told.

So I have Bram Stoker telling of strange doings in a house in Whitechapel, a tale that is the most directly linked in
the mythos of them all, I have Rudyard Kipling’s army officer stumbling into a cellar in the mountains of India
where a house is in the process of being ‘born’, and I have Henry James telling of a chess set that may, or may
not, have come from another such house, and which will turn up soon in a later story of mine that’s going into the
whole mythos in more depth.

These stories add to the novel, three novellas, and another handful of tales that are already published, and there is
more to come.

I’m Willie Meikle, and this is my mythos.

********

 William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with over twenty novels published in the genre press and more than 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. He has books available from a variety of publishers and his work has appeared in a large number of professional anthologies and magazines. He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company. When he’s not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory. Willie Meikle on Amazon

To purchase The Ghost Club Amazonon

Guest Blog: Bishop’s Curse Part II by J. C. Eickelberg

Bishop’s Curse Part II

By: J. C. Eickelberg

 

All the soldiers looked at the killer. He looked to his comrade-in-arms, calling out some who shared comments about the music. Agitated sounds from outside went unnoticed. Heavy doors slammed open and boomed when they hit the wall. A shadow filled the doorway. It passed through the group to fall across the musician. Screams of astonishment spread around the Bishop’s men. The figure stopped by the fallen musician. It stood head and shoulders above the assembly. Space appeared around the Monsignor, musician and massive figure. Murmurs of astonishment went around the group.

Who stopped the music?” The voice reverberated in the vast building. He looked at each man in turn.

I did, Gargoyle,” came the voice of the soldier.

It’s not proper music for a house of worship. Neither are you, Abomination!” Bishop Cornelius spoke up as the musician’s killer advanced. Monsignor was shocked to hear the senior cleric speak up so severely. He hadn’t mentioned his disfavor of the music until it was too late to make a change.

Stop,” Monsignor interjected. His voice boomed over his guests. Eyes locked on the younger cleric. “There will be no more violence in my church. You will answer for your actions.”

Bishop Cornelius was uncertain of the massive figure. He stood among his entourage. Now he came forward. “Monsignor, you will answer for allowing this creature in a house of God.”

Monsignor wasn’t moved. “Bishop. As far as this town is concerned, myself included, this creature is a protecting angel. One of many. They defend us from invasion and pestilence. In return, we give them music, whether in voice or by an instrument. The organ is their most loved form of music.”

Nonsense,” Bishop intoned. “They are animals. No house of worship should be defiled by their presence.” He pointed at the gargoyle and looked to the captain of the guard. “Remove that thing from this church.”

Soldiers moved in. Dozens of voices came alive. Everyone reacted to the cacophony. All looked to the choir loft. Standing, sitting and occupying every available space was a gargoyle. Each sounding a warning to the visitors. The guards faced the gargoyles, surrounding the Bishop. The massive gargoyle stood his ground, unperturbed.

Bishop, your visit here is over,” Monsignor announced. “My flock has spoken. One of yours killed one of mine. You may not welcome gargoyles, but I do. So does this town. I will not stand for more violence in this church, or town. I cannot guarantee your safety any longer. No one in your traveling party is welcome here anymore.” His voice held authority Cornelius flinched at.

Sounds of mayhem from outside brought attention to the doors. Bishop Cornelius looked back to Monsignor Marcus. Fear convulsed Cornelius’s countenance when he saw the gargoyles had descended to their level. There were twenty gargoyles for every person present. Only the aisle to the door remained clear.

Monsignor,” Bishop Cornelius said. He locked his gaze on the younger cleric. “If this is your flock, I curse you and your flock to forever live as one. Women will give birth to the offspring of the animals they care for.” He locked a scornful gaze on Marcus.

May you have safe travels home,” Marcus replied in good faith. Marcus wasn’t fazed by the bishop’s words. All humans were as welcome in his church as the animals they brought in with them.

As Bishop Cornelius exited the church, Marcus pondered the significance of a curse from a religious figure. Curses were spoken and believed by practitioners of the dark arts. Witches cursed people, not a church leader. Marcus wasn’t concerned about a curse from a cleric. His concern was for the well-being of his community and parishioners.

Marcus turned to see his organist being taken away. Shadows sailed across the windows. Horses and soldiers clamored to get ready for travel. Gargoyles walled off the Bishop’s group from returning inside. Noises from the organist’s pit brought Marcus’s attention to the vacated keyboard. An alternate organist was getting ready to play. Signals went to his assistants to start working the organ’s bellows. Notes and tones murmured as the organist warmed up. Six bars into his warm up the organ wound up to full volume. Notes of ‘Toccata and Fugue’ rattled any loose items in the cathedral. Windows vibrated in their frames. Marcus had to take refuge in the courtyard. Ringing ears and physical discomfort followed him out.

Groups of gargoyles had taken wing from all directions, blocking the sun like storm clouds. Every clan within earshot responded to the call of danger. No living gargoyle remained still as Bishop Cornelius’s group left town as fast as their tired mounts could go. Every animal nearby voiced their displeasure with the organ’s volume. Birds able to take flight did. A falconer had his birds hooded, but still had to sooth his charges. Marcus noted all flying masses routed themselves along the road leading away from town.

Monsignor,” a page said, running to him. He was out of breath. Marcus calmed him. “A mounted unit is running out of the forest to meet the Bishop. There’s going to be trouble for Bishop Cornelius.”

Yes, there is,” Marcus agreed. “Is everyone back from hunting?”

Yes, Monsignor. They told me about the soldiers coming towards town.”

Unfortunately, the Bishop hasn’t been agreeable to us.”

Why? I heard him speak so highly of our town.”

He doesn’t like our dealings with the gargoyles and animals. Our friendship with them wasn’t acceptable to him.” The page was crestfallen to hear this. He looked up, realizing something. “Why is Master Garrett playing the organ?”

How do you know he’s playing?”

This is his call-to-arms piece. I recognize his playing. Master Gregor should be playing.”

I have some bad news.” Monsignor’s face saddened. “Master Gregor was killed by one of the soldiers waiting for the Bishop.”

Despair crossed the page’s face. Gregor was Garrett’s twin brother. They were equals in everything they did. Music was now deafening inside. Outside the volume was tolerable when the page arrived. Now both could feel the music’s intensity in their bones. Marcus, in all his years leading this church, had never heard the organ played so loudly, so intensely.

Marcus led the page to a lookout tower at the far corner of the building. They witnessed the gargoyles dive toward the horsemen. Gargoyles dove with the grace of a hawk. They gained altitude with a rider before dropping them. Some soldiers flailed, trying to swim to safety. Some fell like stones. Bishop Cornelius’s outbound contingent was unceremoniously dispatched. Few members of his inbound contingent fell victim to the onslaught. Experienced leaders retreated back to the forested hills to wait out the attack.

Bishop Cornelius and his group were properly laid to rest. Monsignor Marcus made sure everyone was calmed and repairs were made. Master Gregor was interred in regal fashion. His brother played solemn pieces at the service. Every member of the church turned out to pay their respects. During the service, all parishioners passed by, saying their goodbyes, and commenting on the music. Garrett was present at the graveside service. Monsignor presided over all ceremonies. Every townsperson, organist, and cleric were present. As people dispersed Marcus pulled Garrett aside.

Master Garrett. Who’s playing the organ?” Marcus asked.

No one,” Garrett replied. “You don’t suppose Gregor is making his presence known?”

Perhaps,” Marcus said. Gregor was a dedicated organist in life. In death, he seemed unable to part with the best instrument in existence.

Life went on adjusting to the loss of a much-loved musician. Weeks passed, life returned to normal. Bishop Cornelius’s visit faded from memory. Marriages and births brought light back to the community. Organ music kept the townspeople in good spirits. Gargoyles flew and performed their acrobatics like any other day. Good memories dimmed for Monsignor Marcus when parents brought their newborns to him. Parents of one youth he remembered brought their newborn for a visit.

How is you litter doing, Marie?” he asked the young girl.

Very well, Monsignor,” she said. “They’re very playful.”

That’s nice to hear.” He smiled at her, turned to her parents and asked, “What brings you here?”

Our son,” Marie’s mother said. “He wasn’t born right.” She controlled sobs, but tears leaked down her cheeks.

He’s different from other children,” Marie’s father stated.

Let’s see him,” Marcus said, calmly. He hadn’t seen this level of fear since Bishop Cornelius’s departure.

Marcus looked at the bundled form. His heart chilled at the sight of the newborn. A small hand reached out for his finger. Hairiness had been seen before. In front of him, swaddled by his loving mother was the face heavily influenced by a lynx. Roundness in shape of an infant was covered in soft fuzz. Ears, slender like his mother’s, had the distinct tufts of a lynx, and the mouth and nose stuck out like a kitten’s. Father, mother, and sister had no traits of a lynx.

He’s as beautiful as his family,” Marcus said.

No one in our family has any resemblance to him, or near as much hair,” mother said. The baby cooed, almost purred. “Other mothers have similar concerns.” She pointed out other parents approaching Marcus and her family.

Similarly, swaddled infants paraded forward to be shown their altered appearances. An assortment of irregularities presented themselves. Canine and feline traits morphed with human traits were most common. Faces and limbs displayed all sorts of combinations. Fingers and toes were lengthened to various degrees, ending in equal varieties of nails and claws. Spread through the congregation were gargoyle broods. Their youth showed equal influences of humans.

Monsignor Marcus looked around. All newborns were unique in their appearance and loved by the parents. He stepped into an impromptu sermon about God’s love of man, beast and the willingness of all present to live next to each other. He preached love of all God’s creatures. Background ambiance of the organ kept people calm. Everyone left the sermon even more enamored by their recent additions. The shock of the unusualness of each infant disappeared.

Monsignor, you gave a wonderful sermon,” came a firm voice.

Thank you, Turok. Everyone was more accepting than I believed possible,” Marcus said. He turned to leave.

Turok followed Marcus. “You seem worried.”

Turok, during Bishop Cornelius’s visit, he voiced a curse referencing our cohabitation. I took it as heated words and passed it off. He cursed our children to be mixed with animals their families cared for.” He turned to look at the taller being. “What are your thoughts?”

Being a senior member of your church, he may have knowledge of dark arts to keep tabs on its practitioners. Perhaps he was tempted to experience the power of those dark arts. Unfortunately, I’ve seen its use, just not to this extent,” Turok said.

You’re more insightful than any bishop I’ve ever met.”

Bishop Cornelius…” Turok searched for the right phrasing.

Was corrupt and power hungry,” Marcus finished. “I recognized his desire to claim this cathedral as his.” They walked in silence for a minute.

Now we live with the changelings,” Turok said.

Yes, we do,” Marcus agreed. “We’ve cohabitated all these years and are as neighborly as can be.”

Now we learn to live with a new progeny and teach them a new way of life,” Turok said.

Our ancestors adapted to each other,” Marcus reminisced.

And we will continue to live just fine together,” Turok stated.

Care for lunch, old friend?” Marcus asked.

I’d be happy to join you. Audrey does wonders in the kitchen.”

They sat down to eat. Lynx cubs playfully greeted them when they entered the dining room. Marie hurried after them. Her parents settled down on one side of the table. Turok looked at their newborn. A hand swiped at him.

As playful and beautiful as his sister,” Turok admired.

Thank you,” Marie’s mother said. She accepted her new child as easily as the gargoyle next to her. “I hope he won’t shed too bad as he grows.”

That may be the least of your worries,” Turok said. He looked over to see one cub balancing on the mantle while a littermate leapt for a butterfly flying through the room.

 

********

J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.

Guest Blog: Bishop’s Curse Part I By: J. C. Eickelberg

Bishop’s Curse Part I 

By: J. C. Eickelberg

Emerald Valley was a fertile valley valued by many groups. Three roadways lead into the mountains to major cities. Skirmishes had been fought over the fertile land for decades. No single power was ever able to lay claim to any portion of the valley.

As the Great Pestilence swept through cities and towns, armies stopped fighting in the vicinity of the valley. People fled cities to settle away from diseased and decaying neighborhoods. Farmers took advantage of the lush landscape and settled there, ignoring rumors from soldiers about winged creatures. These creatures were ready to bother any and all travelers moving through the valley. As groups settled, small towns grew. Populations sang praises of their good fortunes in finding fertile farmlands and plentiful wildlife.

Rumors of flying creatures became widespread as these communities merged and supplies from cities arrived. Travelers new to the area reported most of the sightings of the winged creatures following them. Residents had grown accustomed to the flying creatures. Groups not from the area were stopped by cloaked figures and searched. Wagons of goods were stopped and any vermin found were dispatched and wagons sent back empty. Drivers reported these imposing men wearing dark cloaks as harsh and persistent in keeping pests out. Fear of them drove the wagon drivers away from their scattered loads.

Shopkeepers sent hunters and scouts to search the roads for overdue shipments. When supplies were found, figures emerged from the landscape to confront the scouts. Questions were raised when they found the abandoned supplies. These ‘cloaked’ people became known and trusted to the scouts after persistent questioning. With trust came knowledge of the ‘Cloaked Ones’ true identity. Scouts found their identity at first disturbing, but were quickly soothed by their purpose; protecting all living things in the valley from plague and invasion. They were a local clan of gargoyles. Appearances varied greatly with the gargoyles, each chosen for a specific job. More animal appearing gargoyles scared away unwanted groups. The more human appearing gargoyles interacted with residents of the valley. The humans showed appreciation for what the gargoyles did by singing.

Songs related their thanks for keeping sickness and war away. All armies and bandits avoided entering the valley fearing for their wellbeing. Gargoyles were the saving angels of the valley, keeping danger out. The human population held their faith and pursued their lives in peace. Songs to keep the human spirit in check and uplifted were appreciated by the gargoyles. They, in turn, helped hunting parties and shepherding duties. Outsiders and invaders never learned about the cohabitation and coordination of the gargoyles and humans. News from outside the valley came readily, but news of the gargoyles true identity never left the valley. Residents and their trusted allies made sure of this.

When the population grew large enough a vast cathedral was built. Artisans worked on the interior with images equal in grandeur to the exterior architecture. Appreciation of music was shown by countless aerial sorties and acrobatics by the gargoyles. People enjoyed their protection and awed at their aerial feats. Musicians joined in with the wandering singers. In quick succession, the cathedral soon added its own voice. The largest pipe organ ever built was installed. With doors and windows open, the cathedral exuded the sound of organ music across the landscape.

As the organ played, it drew more gargoyles from farther out. The more organ music, the more they flew around town like bees around flowers. Their displayed love of music was highest when the churches and cathedral were full and everyone sang. In markets, wandering minstrels performed for market-goers, keeping minds off the wrath of the Great Pestilence in distant cities and wars. Watching from rooftops and balconies, gargoyles were equally entertained. Organ music regularly brought more clans in enjoy the organ’s voice. Visitors were rare any time in the best of weather. Royalty and church elders almost never ventured so far from home.

Bishop Cornelius was the rare church cleric to make the trip. He had heard about the prosperity of the Emerald Valley population and wanted to experience the music first hand. His arrival was announced first by the gargoyles, then by two squads of lightly armored soldiers traveling with him. Most of the mounted soldiers were kept at the edge of the valley. Their leaders did not want to endanger any more soldiers than necessary.

As the Bishop’s entourage entered town musicians stopped performing. Gargoyles disappeared from view as the music faded. The most curious gargoyles remained statue still to watch the procession. Moving through town, Bishop Cornelius witnessed more peace than seen anywhere else. At the cathedral, he was amazed by its size and grandeur. Elaborate stained-glass windows and ornate statues decorated the facade. Hearing the Bishop was making his way through town, the local clergy gathered at the doors of the church. Bishop Cornelius dismounted and approached Monsignor Marcus.

Bishop Cornelius. What a surprise! Welcome to Castile Rosa.”

Thank you, Monsignor Marcus. I’ve heard so much about your church and town I couldn’t resist seeing it for myself,” Bishop Cornelius replied.

You’re most welcome. You’ve had a long journey. Please join me for a meal.”

Your hospitality is most welcome.”

There are stables nearby for your escort,” Monsignor said, pointing toward the armed contingent. “These soldiers aren’t needed here. You won’t find a safer town anywhere.”

The soldiers will follow me wherever I go. They will protect us and find the stable later,” Bishop Cornelius said. A few groans came from the escort.

Cornelius followed him to the doors of the cathedral. They stopped at the top to look around the vicinity. Birds circled around the buildings, singing along with the organ inside. Larger birds could be seen farther out, circling fields, looking for food. These went unnoticed by the Bishop. He watched a dog meander down the street looking for scraps. Another dog walked near his entourage, not caring how close it was to horses, or surly soldiers. Some soldiers shooed it away with a hand. A lancer swung his weapon at it. A growl drifted toward the Bishop and Monsignor as the dog gave the group a wide berth.

You have a very well-kept town. Much cleaner than everywhere else I’ve been to.”

When our forefathers built this town, cleanliness, and order were paramount. Evils of the body and lifestyles aren’t allowed here. We protect ourselves against the Pestilence as best we as can.”

They went inside. Coolness welcomed them as the two clerics walked through the sanctuary. Organ music played as people cleaned and moved throughout the building. Cornelius admired the decor inside as much as he had the exterior adornments. Light filtered through the windows in a kaleidoscope of color; the craftsmanship of the church rivaled that of any found in a larger city. A small contingent of his entourage followed the Bishop. Wherever they went, music from the organ could be heard. Every person they passed hummed or sang, happy to hear the organ. Every opening let the music escape to all parts of Castile Rosa. Grumbling from the weary soldiers faded as they moved deeper into the building. Smells of cooking food intensified.

Monsignor, how many are we expecting for lunch?”

Audrey, we’ll be needing places for six more,” Monsignor announced.

Very well, Monsignor. I’ll see his men outside will get something, as well.” She walked to an assistant and rattled off a list of goods for man and horse.

You’re too kind, Monsignor,” Bishop Cornelius stated. “My men will find accommodations later.”

You’re our guests. We take care of all of our visitors.”

They walked out to a well-maintained courtyard. In the center was a stable, holding an assortment of animals. Horse, mules, goats, and chickens moved in penned areas. At the far side of the courtyard, a sturdy staircase went up to the mezzanine level. At the top, a door opened to a large room with a table laid out for a meal. Windows stood ajar to allow a refreshing breeze to pass through. Music echoed everywhere mixing with birdsong.

Bishop Cornelius stopped to look over the courtyard. Animals were tended to as affectionately as the garden. Cleanliness and health glowed everywhere he looked. Frescoes and murals on the walls were minimal but no less impressive. A hawk rested on the railing twenty feet from the Bishop. A young man approached him holding the end of a taut cord. A medium sized mountain lion led the young man. It favored a leg, obviously recovering from an injury. Monsignor Marcus signaled the start of lunch. Bishop Cornelius turned to find food laid out on the table. He glanced over his shoulder at the predatory animal on its leash, uneasily reflecting on the relationship of the animal and the man tending to it. Sitting at the head of the table he calmed himself with the meal. Hunger overrode his desire to ask about the assortment of animals. Platters of wonderful smelling food were set out. The travelers dug in with ravenous focus. Marcus took the opportunity to check on attendants as they passed. His guests remained quiet as they ate.

With his appetite satiated, Bishop Cornelius focused on the room. At the hearth was a wicker basket tended to by a youth of about ten years. Soft noises emitted from it sounded feline like to him. The intensity of her ministrations touched his heart. He rose from the table and approached the hearth. Inside the basket was a litter of lynx cubs. A mother cat investigated the girl and her charges as it passed through the room. The cat sniffed at the furry charges, checking for herself on the welfare of the cubs before embarking on a distant mission. He followed the cat to the balcony. Outside he looked over the railing to watch the activity of the courtyard. Cornelius noticed a variety of noises in the courtyard. Dogs barking inside the main building, other animal sounds drifted to his position at the railing. The stable loft door opened to reveal an assortment of animals. Inside he focused on another mountain lion with a bandaged leg and wrapped midsection attempting to move around.

Monsignor, I’ve seen many unusual things in my travels, but your church is unique,” Cornelius said. “All around me is beauty and peace. It seems those who’ve taken refuge here are animals.” He pointed to the lynx cubs on the hearth and a young man waiting at the door with an injured bird.

Bishop, we are all God’s creatures. Man, and beast alike,” Monsignor said. “Our town founders have obliged future generations to share with the animals we’ve run off to build our town,” Monsignor replied firmly. “I will not turn away the injured animals brought here.”

In the silence, he heard only the sounds of the courtyard. The organ was no longer being played. Members of his staff stopped to listen. Murmurs arose at the lack of sound. There were times no music played. This was not a time of rest for man or instrument.

In seeing all the animals you care for here, I’d like to know where the human flock is tended to,” Cornelius said. “I’ve seen doors to many rooms, but very few townsfolk.”

Our town takes care of anyone in need. Neighbors help neighbors. When man can’t get help, they come here.” He saw an elderly man approach, an urgent expression on his face. Marcus watched him approach. He signaled the man to come closer. “Yes, Walter.”

Monsignor, there’s an incident in the sanctuary.” He looked to the Bishop. “One of the soldiers is involved.” Walter led the way.

Everyone made room for Marcus and Cornelius as they went back to the church proper. Birdsong and women whispering were the only sounds along the way back to the sanctuary. All present watched a soldier hover over a prone figure. Marcus went to the organist laying across the aisle.

This man is dead. Why?” Monsignor stared at the soldier. In the choir loft, and on every available ledge, Marcus saw a mass of fidgeting figures watching the scene. Shadows fluttered across the windows.

I asked him to stop playing. The music hurt my ears.” The soldier’s expression was grave. “He wouldn’t stop.”

It’s not your place to ask him to stop playing,” Bishop Cornelius stated. “Your actions are inexcusable.”

 

 

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J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.

Guest Blog: Gland by Hormones

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Artist: Hormones

Track title: Gland

“Conventional music laws” absolutely doesn’t describe my music… It’s more like musical impressionism, instrumental, not based on melody at all, but rhythms are the interesting thing about those tracks. Rhythm, in my creation, is an ALGOrithm, which a listener need to think about and figure out. Combination of math and music. So when the listener figures out the “abstract” beats and bars, it gives him more than a satisfaction from the sound, melody, atmosphere, etc. but also a feeling like solving a mystery. Obviously, the listener would have to play the track more times so he could think about that… Algorithm instead of normal, 4/4, boring, for ages overused rhythm gives a new dimension to the music.

So I explained all the weirdness about my music and now I should be more specific about the “genre”. Instrumental, an atmospheric/abstract, dark/horror, cacophonic, low tuned sharp guitar sound (the main guitar sound is played on bass guitar with hard distortion) combined with a sweet soft guitar that makes a contrast. Dirty bass, regular drums, piano, some sythns.Sounds good when home alone, or walking in a city at night…

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Bio: Karel Fošumpaur, CZE, 17 y.o. “Hormones” (one-man-band). Track “Gland” from the first self-titled album “Hormones”.

Guest Blog: The Most Haunted Cemetery in the World by Loren Rhoads

 

The Most Haunted Cemetery in the World

by Loren Rhoads

In 1447, Franciscan monks (the so-called Gray Friars) built their friary at the north end of the Grassmarket on a slope with a lovely view of Edinburgh Castle. The Franciscans, a medical order, served the poor there until they were chased out of Scotland in 1558 by the Reformation.

Their friary yard was claimed by Queen Mary in 1562 for a public burial ground. Just in time, too. The graveyard was used “extensively” during the Black Plague of 1568.

At the foot of the cemetery’s east walk stands the Covenanters’ Monument, which remembers Scottish Presbyterians who died for their faith rather than convert to the Anglican Church founded by Henry VIII in England.

The scourge of the Covenanters was Sir George Mackenzie. He was a highly educated member of the Scottish Parliament, a lawyer, and a member of the Privy Council of Scotland. In 1677, he became Lord Advocate in the service of King Charles II of England, in charge of punishing anyone who refused to swear loyalty to King Charles or rejected the Church of England.

Four hundred Covenanters were imprisoned in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard in 1679. The guards abused them. They suffered from the weather, lack of shelter, and starvation. Many ended up buried anonymously in a mass grave in the Kirkyard. In all, Mackenzie is blamed for the deaths of nearly 18,000 people during the eight years dubbed “the Killing Time.”

Mackenzie himself died and was buried in the Kirkyard in 1691. His tomb stood quietly until 1998 when a homeless man broke into it. When the thief ransacked the coffins, the floor collapsed beneath him, spilling him into a plague pit full of bones beneath the mausoleum. The man managed to haul himself out, then ran screaming into the night.

Something had been unleashed.

For the past twenty years, Greyfriars Kirkyard has been considered one of the most haunted graveyards in the world. Visitors have been scratched, bruised, and bitten near Mackenzie’s mausoleum. Blasts of cold air chase some visitors away. Others become nauseous and disoriented or are struck with splitting headaches. One woman was found unconscious near the mausoleum with bruises like finger-marks around her neck.

In 2000, spiritualist minister Colin Grant attempted to exorcise the mausoleum. He felt the presence of hundreds of souls in torment and a presence of overwhelming evil. He fled the Kirkyard, but it was too late. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack several weeks later.

YouTube is full of videos of people showing off bite marks and bruises received while touring Greyfriars Kirkyard. Enter at your own risk.

Greyfriars Kirkyard is one of the 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die by Loren Rhoads. She is also the author of Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel and writes about graveyards for the Horror Writers Association. She blogs about cemeteries as vacation destinations at cemeterytravel.com.

 

199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2xFsas3

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/199-cemeteries-to-see-before-you-die-loren-rhoads/1125684248?ean=9780316438438#/

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316438438

 

 

 

 

Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2wVzjG6