miércoles, 7 de julio de 2010

Chapter Eight

El 26 de Septiembre, 2008. 12:00 am

Energy poured into him. It filled his wicked soul, strengthened his anger and solidified his grasp on reality. Arms raised high, melted skin stretched taut, he howled. The walls of the building shuddered in the process, plaster fell and he twisted and turned, anxious to leave.

Brilliant light shone through the doorway, outlining his elemental struggle and one arm reached towards his prey. A woman’s scream reverberated through both actual and imagined existence. As he grew in power, the broken and burnt shape of the schoolhouse transposed itself. It fit like a badly cut cloth over the walls and foundations of the Surgery. His feral grin recognised the moment the hunted ran. Their fear was like a rich wine to his burgeoning senses and with one heave he was free.

Juan soared upwards, enfolding himself in the fog which thickened in tandem with his thoughts. Then he saw him and dived down.


Padre Francisco had forgotten all his training. What was faith when terror overcame all? There was nothing he remembered which prepared a simple country priest for this. Evil as a concept he understood. Bad men did bad things. The Universe raged against the righteous. He was there to counsel, to guide and to ensure that his parishioners did not stray from their path to God. This was so different.

At a basic level his body had reacted. Adrenalin pumped through him and he ran. There was no clear goal in his mind, just escape. Wave after wave of triumphal laughter washed over him. It was a sickening parody of baptism and each step became harder. When he could run no more, when his legs failed to obey his body and his chest struggled to contain the erratic beat of his heart, he stopped.

From his hideout, Rodrigo watched. His main camera was forgotten. It lay where it had fallen. He still had his video-camera though and enough space on its disk. With its screen turned towards him, he raised it high and filmed.


Juan swooped above the cowering priest. He saw the mumbling lips but no words could hurt him now. There was another close behind him, but he could wait. The fog became wispy, translucent as his form took shape. There was no hidden beauty in his ravaged visage, only spite and hatred. Tears fell from the priest’s tightly shut eyes and Juan was content.

“Where is your God now?”

His voice hissed and bubbled from the warped face. Padre Francisco caught a whiff of burnt meat and putrefaction, twined together in an unholy mixture.

“He cannot save you. No-one can.”

The priest crumpled. A vice-like grip dragged him upward.

“Not yet.” Juan said close to his ear. “First, I get to play.”


Rodrigo saw Padre Francisco jerk upwards. He zoomed in. There was nothing substantial there! The priest shivered in terror, head cocked to one side. Who was he listening to? He saw one arm drawn backwards and heard the sharp crack of breaking bone. This was repeated on the other side. Now he focussed on Padre Francisco’s face. His lips moved, but no sound uttered forth.

The left side of the priest’s chest began to move. A strange writhing movement which pushed against the cloth of his shirt. Blood sprayed as something tore its way free. There clear to Rodrigo’s eyes was a pale and tortured fist. Within it lay the still beating heart of the priest. The fist tightened, squeezing blood and flesh in a slow drip to the floor. Then the priest’s body was flung roughly aside and Rodrigo saw what was there. Another camera hit the floor, vomit spattering over it.

When he raised his head again, the fear controlled only to the most minimal extent, he saw Padre Francisco’s body. It was sprawled in grotesque abandonment. The thing was nowhere to be seen.


Rosa cowered inside a small shed. The wooden door was pulled tightly closed. Someone had tried to join her there, but her curses and tight grip refused them entry. They had gone now and she was safe. At least for the moment.Her mobile pone buzzed in her pocket and she flipped it open.


“Rosa, it’s Emilio. What the hell is going on. We can’t stall the public much longer.”

“Emilio, thank God. You’ve got to get us out of here. It’s all true.”

A short silence followed, then Emilio’s voice returned, cold and vindictive.

“You knew that it was true. We planned this. Get your lazy arse back to wherever the camera is. We need a live feed and now. The ratings are through the roof and I’m not going to lose this once in a lifetime chance. Not for you. Not for anyone.”

“Emilio, you don’t understand. It’ll kill me. There’s no way…”

He interrupted her. His voice calm now almost soothing.

“Just get me one more clear picture. That’s all I ask. When we stop talking I promise I’ll ring the Guardia Civil... and Rosa. Make sure you get that film or one stupid ghost will be nothing compared to what I’ll do to you.”

The connection died and she sat for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip. He had no intention of calling the police. No, her only possible way out was the old man. Hiding here though, she would have no chance. Decision made, she cracked open the door and peered into the dark and fog-filled street.


“Where are we going?”

The old man didn’t answer. He was saving all of his energy for their flight. They stumbled and slithered down a glass-lined slope, finally coming to an abrupt stop against a rough stone wall. Inching his way round, the Professor found and unhitched a small gate.

“In here,” he gasped, falling to his knees and peering at the small upright stones within the walled area.

Then Toni realised where they were. The cemetery. Was this old fool crazy?

“Are you stupid?”

His normal respect for his elders had been lost in their mad flight. Good manners were far from his mind and it was only the Professor’s ironic laugh which grounded him.

“That has never been up for much debate,” said the old man, “coming to this village was indeed the height of stupidity. The cemetery is a different matter altogether.”


“We are here for information. There is something about this plan of Sanchez which, apart from being half-baked, smacks of a certain confidence. We need to find the link and perhaps here we can start.”

He pulled out his torch and snapped it on, peering at the headstones.

“Look at the names. Try to find some common factor between them and our party. You, yourself are involved somehow, of that I am sure.”

Toni’s guilt was overpowering and he reached inside his jacket, pulling free the battered book.

“Maybe this will help, Professor.”

The old man took it from him and opened it to the first page. He flicked pages rapidly, the colour draining from his face. At last he looked up.

“Where did you get this?” he demanded anger clouding his voice.

“From my Abuela...Irene...”

“Holy Mary, Mother of God ...” gasped the Professor, as he slumped against a headstone, “You are the reason we are here. Those others are just the warm-up routine...”

domingo, 27 de junio de 2010

Chapter Seven

El 25 de Septiembre, 2008. 10:30 pm

“What are they doing?”

Toni looked across at the array of cables and lights. He would soon have to join the rest of the crew.

“They’re setting up. You know, getting ready for the rehearsal. We’ll prove the link to the station in Madrid. See that dish on the top of the van? It’s fully extended now and they’ll be running a series of checks, just to make sure nothing will go wrong.”

“That, I’m afraid, is out of your control now.”

“What exactly do you mean by that?”

The Professor glanced up at him and seemed to take a decision.

“Who are you?”

“I told you, Antonio Esposito.”

“Yes, but what’s your real name? Your connection with the village.”

He almost told him about the journal then. Later, he would wish that he had. Instead, he feigned anger.

“I told you my name already. What more do you want from me?”

“I’m sorry,” said the Professor. He rubbed his eyes and stared towards Rosa.

“She’s up to something. Her and her boss. They’ve planned this from the beginning.”

“You implied that before. What do you think will happen?”

The old man fixed Toni with his unflinching gaze.

“Juan will happen.” he said. “Can you pass me my bag?”

Toni watched him lay out an assortment of items. They looked like props from a horror movie, and a bad one at that.


“One hour to go until the broadcast, Emilio. Are you sure you’re ready?”

Sanchez smiled. The station was really worried at the loss of ratings. Today though, there would be a change. No other show had ever shown a real paranormal event. Spectacular visitations were limited to the movies. Blood, gore and the unearthly cry of a real-life ghost belonged only to his show. Not once did he think of the lives which would be lost. His only worry was whether the broadcast would last long enough to get the message across. Afterwards they could accuse him of a hoax. One visit to the village would prove his point.

“We’re more than ready. The link is proven and Rosa is running the rehearsal as we speak. Five minutes of ambient lighting and discussion, our anonymous video and then live to Pueblecito. Nothing can go wrong.”

His boss clapped him on the back, waved at the rest of the crew and went upstairs to watch the show.


“So,” Rosa began, “Fathers, you will start with a prayer. Let’s not call it an exorcism, shall we?”

She saw the older priest flush with anger and smiled.

“No, a blessing. You will ask for protection, for strength and guidance. Then the lovely Toni will lead in with the story of the strange disappearance of the villagers. The public will eat up their lemming-like behaviour. Then, if our friendly ghost won’t help, we’ll add a little atmosphere, a few noises and finish with the inexplicable mystery that is Pueblecito. Emilio can lead the panel discussion and it will become just another job well done.”

“You know that’s not all that will happen, don’t you?”

“Fantastic, Professor. Great for the ambient setting, but just a little early. If you’re a good boy, we’ll give you a walk-on part.”

The Professor looked at his watch, took his bag from his back, zipped open the top and grasped Toni’s wrist.

“Stay close.” He hissed, as the second hand swept round.


“We’re on in three, two, one ...”

Rosa pushed Toni to one side and smiled straight into the camera. He wanted to protest but the flashing red light on the equipment told him he would only make a fool of himself. All he could do was watch as Rosa stole his chance.

“This is Rosa Benitez, reporting from Pueblecito. It has been called the village of the damned. A cursed place in which once a year, death stalks its narrow streets. Here at El Ocho, we have decided to put this to the test. Myself and my crew will stay here and film all that occurs. We have with us spiritual help from the Holy Catholic Church and are well prepared for whatever may occur.

“You will see in the top left hand side of your screen a clock. This will count down to the so-called Witching Hour. Please stay tuned, as we will now pass you back to the studio where our experts will give you further background.”

The light blinked out. An angry Toni pushed past the cameraman.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?”

“There’s been a change in plans, Toni. Emilio called me and said he wanted someone with a little more experience anchoring this show.”

Toni felt the urge to wipe the cheesy smile off her face and struggled with himself. He spoke through gritted teeth.

“Why then did you bring me here?”

“Toni, Toni. Don’t worry. You are an integral part of this show.”

She laughed as a whistle drew her back to the camera. The Professor looked up as the second hand crossed the hour mark. His hand gripped his crucifix tight, sweat breaking out on his palms. Up above he could see the Surgery and a strangled cry burst from his throat.

“Look! Run!”


“We’ll now take you back to Rosa....”

Viewers saw the clock touch midnight, heard the woman start to speak. She was interrupted by a male voice and they saw figures as they scrambled away. The picture shuddered and they heard rasping breath. Someone was running.

“There, point it there ...”

The picture steadied on the quaint-looking Doctor’s Surgery. It focussed in on a partially-opened doorway and the small hall behind. A shadowy figure moved, strengthened and was outlined in wavering blue flames. There was a scream, the thump of the camera falling and an unearthly howling. That was the last thing they saw.


Emilio stared open-mouthed at the feed. His arm waved in a circular motion and in the studio they explained they had temporarily lost the signal and the panel of experts began to fill in the shocked silence. It was a disaster.

“Boss, look.”

One of the technicians called his attention to their web page and to the estimated ratings chart. Hits on their simulcast had suddenly leaped and their bar chart was rising rapidly.

Emilio muttered to himself, “It’s working, it’s working.”


martes, 22 de junio de 2010

Chapter Six

El 25 de Septiembre, 2008. 9:00 pm

Shelley ran. She had stopped behind the surgery for a cigarette. The flame from her lighter framed her face. A quick, sharp light which had illuminated the area for an instant. There had been something in the window; a man, whose twisted and contorted body dripped away as she watched. Like hot wax his flesh had melted from his body. All the time, those eyes had watched her. Condemned her. So, she ran.

When Toni arrived, he saw Shelley surrounded by the others. Rosa hugged her and spoke in soft, quieting tones. The older priest patted her shoulder. Manolo grinned as though he had heard the best joke ever. It would have been almost comical, except for the wet stain on Shelley’s jeans. This woman was terrified. Enough to lose control of her body.


She turned, unable to mask her surprise and anger at seeing the old man.

“Professor Blasquez. Always a pleasure. What are you doing here?”

“I warned you,” said the Professor, “you and Sanchez. Still you knew best. That aside, we need to get out of here now.”

Her laugh was forced. Vindictive.

“Listen, old man. We told you then and I’m telling you now. This show will be broadcast.”

“Have you told them?”

“Told them what?” asked Toni. “What exactly is going on here?”

“This village is haunted.” said the old man.

“Ooh, a ghost story,” sneered Rosa, “isn’t that why we’re here?”

“No, my dear, you’re here for the ratings.” said Manolo.

“No, she’s not. At least not entirely. She’s here to watch you all die.”

Stunned, they all stared at the Professor.

“It would be best you listen to me. There’s no pretty tale. Rather, it’s petty and violent. Typical of the times in which it is set. The problem is, that this story is still ongoing and has no happy ending.”


They sat round the door of the campervan on fold out seats. A glass of whiskey for each and they listened.

“Juan Antonio Rodriguez was unfortunate. He came to Pueblecito to help educate the people, but instead caused untold damage. As the Schoolteacher he was respected, and attractive to the local women. An educated man, he stood out here. There is perhaps nothing he could, or would have done differently, but his actions led to the death of many.

“Juan fell in love with one of the young women, Isabella. She was married, yet that presented no barrier. In time she fell pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, who they named Irene. Without the Guerra Civil they would no doubt have run away together, but it was not to be.

“This area was Republican and Juan joined the uprising. He fought in many battles and no doubt took part in atrocities. In nineteen thirty-seven, there were many, but particularly against the Church. This village was strictly religious and secretly supported the Nationalist Cause. When the War in the North was waged, they were quick to turn against the Republicans.

“The Nationalists pushed the Republicans back towards Santander and in the September of 1937, a terrified Juan made his way back here. By then, the whole village knew of Isabella’s shame and were waiting for him. They used the excuse of his political affiliations against him. He was captured in the Schoolhouse. There, where the surgery stands now. Boards were nailed across the doors and the building was set alight. Juan was burnt alive.

“Isabella was forced to watch. The villagers heard his vow of vengeance. From that day onwards, he has waited. Every year he exacts his own revenge on those who murdered him. Tomorrow is the anniversary of his death and once again he will walk.”

There was silence for a moment. Then Rodrigo turned off his camera.

“Did you get that?”

He gave Rosa the thumbs-up.

“Thanks, Professor,” she said, “that will give us a great intro, along with the video.”

“Fool! Why won’t you listen?”

“This is a show about the paranormal Professor. We did listen and we’re here to film it.”

“What are you and Sanchez playing at? Juan’s vengeance is against the original families. Without them, you will see little.”

She smiled.

“Oh, my sweet Jesus. You sent the crew last year. Who are these people?”

“Night-night, Professor,” said Rosa, as she finished her drink, “sleep well.”


Juan watched them all. They huddled together, voices buzzed like gnats against his consciousness. Any pain felt from the clergymen’s words was long past. Now, he focussed on the individuals, savouring their fear. The woman had seen him because he wanted her to. Her fear delicious. It had heightened his own burgeoning pleasure.

Who was the old man though? There was a dangerous undertone to his presence. What was left of a reasoning being disliked the closeness of this stranger to the young man. Shudders wracked his body accompanied by a howl of triumph.

He could feel the spiritual bonds weakening as each minute passed. The flames which burnt inside him were growing stronger. His devious and warped mind planned over and over what he would do. It would begin with the priests.


“W-what was that?”

“The wind, Shelley. Calm down.”

She nodded and downed another shot of whiskey. Manolo shook his head. Definitely losing it. He watched Toni and the Professor, heads bent in earnest discussion. Rosa had moved and was talking to the priests. Giving them their lines no doubt.

“Are you cold?”

His attention returned to Shelley.

“No. Want to come over here and I’ll warm you up.”

He was surprised when she agreed. Not like her at all. A strong smell of urine came with her. Christ. She could have at least changed. As he raised his head in avoidance, he saw the fog. It clung to the mountain slopes and dropped lower as he watched. The wan moonlight accentuated its unearthliness. Excellent. What a great opening shot.

jueves, 17 de junio de 2010

Chapter Five

El 25 de Septiembre, 2008. 4:00 pm

It was hot and crowded in the campervan. Toni strolled away. He walked a little way down the main street to where the road down from the mountain began. A pair of stones sat as improvised seats and looked out over the valley below. This was a quiet spot. Peaceful.

There was time before Rosa called him for their rehearsal. The book would give him some background, provide local atmosphere. He opened it near the front and thumbed through.

September 1937

I am nearly home, My Love. From this side of the valley I can see our dear Pueblecito, sitting high on the mountainside. I know you are there with our beloved daughter, Irene. Your husband and your father will not be happy to see me. That won’t stop me though. I have a plan.

Tomorrow night I will make my way to my schoolroom. The one place which holds happy memories for me. If I can rest for a while, I know that I can win the villagers over again.

Schoolteachers, I know, are not the most popular people right now. We did get some information from newssheets and it is as I had feared. Reprisals have begun. The Church and the Fascistas are killing teachers. They want to suppress education as they see that well-informed people are a threat. This will pass, once the hatred goes away. Even if it is a risk, it is one I must take.

My plan is to spirit you and Irene away. To where, I cannot say, but together we can at least be happy.

Until tomorrow, My Darling.

He looked up from the book. If this was about his Grandmother, he had just unearthed one of those shameful secrets. It did not fit though. She had told him of her time in the Church school. That was where she and Grandfather had first met. That was why his father’s surname was Esposito Esposito. They had been orphans, cared for by the nuns.

Then it hit him. Orphans. A shame too hard to bear. This was where Abuela was born. He bent his head once more to the book. There were a couple more entries before the handwriting changed.

October 1938

They have taken her away, My Love. Oh, how I miss you. I have tried to find out where they took her, but no-one will tell me. The priest is dead. He died a horrific death and I am glad. Your vow is working and they fear you. Now if only you could free me from this hell, I could look for our daughter.

No more prayers to God. I only pray that you can hear me. I need vengeance, as do you, My Darling.

Footsteps sounded behind him. Toni pushed the book into his coat pocket. No wonder his Grandmother was so strong.

“What are you doing?”

It was Rosa. He shrugged.

“Enjoying the view and preparing myself.”

“Good. We are ready for you now. The first shoot is of a little religious ceremony. Padre Francisco wants to say a few words. No exorcism, but it’ll make a good intro for the show.”

Toni followed her back towards the vehicles. Something moved in the corner of his vision. When he looked, there was nothing.


The words burned him. His anger raged helplessly. There was nothing he could do, today. This was not the first time. Priests of all shapes and sizes had come. Spoken their words. Died. Why should this be any different?

As a group, they joined in and his pain was increased. Mumbled words. Half meant, yet still powerful. He strained against his prison. Felt the bonds that held him weaken. Soon. Soon.


A small car pulled to a stop at the bottom of the old road into the village. An elderly man exited, wrapped his coat around himself and opened the boot. Next he heaved a non-descript bag out, followed by a small rucksack. With deft movements, he transferred selected objects into the smaller bag. Crucifix, Bible, torch, flask, other books and finally a small sack of powder. Next, he opened the car door and dragged out a plastic bag, which followed the rest into his rucksack. He zipped it up, placed his arms through the straps and swung it onto his back.

The last thing he took from the car was a long wooden staff. It was topped with a shiny spherical object. He locked the car, took a deep breath and began his climb up to the village.

Professor Andrés Blasquez was frightened. That idiot in Madrid had refused to listen and people were going to die. He had sent the video. His attempts to convince Sánchez had failed and the light was fading. The Professor was deeply committed to the study of the paranormal. Here in Spain there were many unexplained occurrences. Blind faith and receptive belief influenced many people. Now and again though, something truly evil did exist. Pueblecito was just such an example.

This country had an unresolved and bloody past. Governments had tried to reconcile local hatreds. They had failed. Emotions influenced spirits and in this small village, rage, spite and vengeance combined powerfully. He just hoped he wasn’t too late.


The inside of his car was a refuge. He switched on the passenger light, lit a cigarette and made himself comfortable. Notebook open before him, he began to read.

September 1940

I laughed today. The first time since they murdered you. My father died.

You were there. I know it. That kiss will stay in my memory for as long as I live. Irene is almost as far away as you are, My Love. It seems as though I must wait a whole twelve months for your help. If that is so, then I will. My husband needs to be next. Each and every day I spend as much time as I can by your unmarked grave. I hope you can hear me…

Toni winced. The bitterness was palpable. Whatever had been done here had made his Great Grandmother a vicious monster. She wished her husband dead.

A noise startled him. He looked up as Manolo carried some of his props out of the van. Rosa argued with the priests and again Toni saw movement. This time though he was sure. The head which quickly ducked behind the wall of the nearby how was familiar. It took little time to lock and leave the car. Torch in hand he stealthily approached his prey.


The old man shrank away. He scuttled backwards like some frightened animal. Toni held out his hand.

“I’m Toni. We met briefly in Emilio’s office.”

Blasquez stared at him and Toni dropped the proffered hand. There was a clink as a crucifix rolled down towards him.

“Expecting vampires?”

“No,” said the Professor, “something much worse.”

“Excuse me?”

“You are in mortal danger. I am here to convince you all to leave. We have little time.”

Toni wanted to laugh. Blasquez’s expression stopped him. There was concern, but it was masked by an all-consuming fear.

“Come with me,” said Toni, “maybe Rosa can help.”

The last rays of the sun flickered and died. Torches were now their only source of light and they gave an eerie feel to the occasion.

“She won’t listen, but you must. With you, we at least have a chance.”

“Yeah, right. Mr. Superhero,” muttered Toni, as he helped the old man to his feet. That was when he heard the scream.

lunes, 14 de junio de 2010

Chapter Four

El 25 de Septiembre, 2008. 9:00 am

The mass migration had begun. Cars, motos and even a tractor joined the procession out of the village. They passed down the steep road. Signs of the cross were made just before the final curve, where the flower-covered marker stood. Soon, only the sound of birds and insects were heard.

Chintz curtains stirred in the doctor’s surgery. It stood on the ground where once had been a schoolhouse. Moisture grew on the darkened windows. Frost rimed. A roar of anger howled within a sudden cold wind which struck the outside of the building. Inside a pair of blazing eyes peered out and waited.


Toni turned on his portable computer. He inserted the pen drive into the waiting socket and clicked on the video file. The file uploaded and he pressed play.

Javi had left him some quickly scrawled notes and he pushed them next to the brief prepared by the station. Almost exactly one year ago, a local station tried to unravel the mystery of Pueblecito. There were print-outs from the Internet of the tale. Once a year, the entire population left the village deserted. Not one of them would remain. There was a long history of disappearances, of accidents. All occurred on the same day: the twenty-sixth of September. Little recorded information remained from before the installation of the new Parliament in Spain. Folklore spoke of a dread spirit. Of visions and visitations.

“Typical.” Toni muttered, reaching for a cigarette.

The local team had stayed all night and the video was the only thing found of them. He laughed. Spain was full of such tales. The picture coalesced into a face. A reporter speaking in a stage-whisper.

“We are here in Pueblecito. A true village of the damned. This is the night when the spirit is due to walk and we will be here to see it.”

Fog rolled in. Toni was sure there was an ice-making machine somewhere. This was amateur stuff. The picture wavered as the camera-man rubbed moisture off his lens. A blue tinge coloured the background and the reporter spoke.

“Can you see this? There’s a light in the doctor’s surgery. I thought you said they’d all gone. What’s that?”

The camera panned around, showing a small building. Blue flames flickered in front of it, growing as he watched. It became obscured as the fog covered it and crept towards the reporter.

“Are you getting this? Who’s that? There. Right there. No-o-o….”

The picture wobbled. A body fell to the ground. There was a sick thump. Blood spattered the lens and a pair of ghostly feet could be seen. Someone picked up the camera and turned it round. Toni jumped at the face before him. Blood-red eyes blazed forth from a burnt and charred visage. The video feed died.

“Jesus,” Toni muttered, “they’re good.”


Rosa picked him up from his hotel and he followed in his car. The journey was straight forward. A Highway had been finished a couple of year ago and the drive was easy. They stopped in Puentenansa for lunch at a small Café. A modern campervan was to be their home for the next couple of days and all the equipment was carried in another van blazoned with her company’s logo. There was a dish retracted on the roof which would give a direct video link to Sánchez in Madrid.

“Hey.” Rosa greeted him. Four others were with her. The technical crew were a cheerful group, obviously used to working together. She introduced them quickly and ordered a round of drinks.

“Are you ready for our ghost fest?”

“Sure. Ready as I’ll ever be.”

One of the others laughed, winked and then thanked the waitress as their beers appeared.

“This is Rodrigo, our intrepid Cameraman. That’s Shelley, make-up. Over there is Manolo our resident techie and last but not least, Juan, our sound guy. Toni nodded at them in turn and sipped at his own drink.

“We should be there in about an hour. Have you gone through your notes?”

“Yeah. I’ve watched Javi’s video as well.”

“Hmm. Very well done, don’t you think?”


He watched her closely. She grinned. Not with her eyes though. There was a disquieting look of fear in them, quickly masked.

“Definitely. It’s up to us to top that. Manolo has one or two tricks up his sleeve, just in case there’s no local atmosphere.

Manolo winked. Obviously Sánchez was determined to pull off a coup and was taking no chances.

“Drink up,” said Rosa, “we’ve got a fair bit of work to do today.”


He saw them arrive. Tasted them. There was something strange about one of them. The others though, were tainted. As they passed him, he smiled. This year would be different.

They stopped in the small square. Their voices grated on his sensitive hearing. This mindless chatter would soon change. Rich screams would replace it. His vow remained as strong as ever and he felt the pull begin. Each hour that passed, his strength would grow. Tomorrow these too, would pay.

Again he felt the strangeness. That one called to him.

His reverie was interrupted by the arrival of another car. He hissed in anger as he recognised the newcomers. Priests! A smile suffused him. Things had just got a whole lot better.

domingo, 23 de mayo de 2010

Chapter Three

El 24 de Septiembre, 2008

Emilio Sánchez was taking a risk and he knew it. If this idea bombed, not only would the station terminate his show, but he would be out of a job himself. It had been a godsend receiving the strange video. Expert examination had shown it to be genuine and he had the prefect person to send. No doubt the boy was wondering at his good fortune. That was the biggest joke. Antonio Esposito had no idea why he had been chosen and thought Sanchez had picked him on merit.

Every employee was given a background check and with Esposito they had hit the jackpot. If the video and stories of the village were even half-true, they would have a show which would be unforgettable.

He laughed again. The audience wanted paranormal? He would give them a real-life experience.


It had been a strange night. The paramedics had checked his grandmother over and pronounced her perfectly fine. She had insisted on calling Tia Maria and they had stayed huddled in her bedroom for about an hour. When his aunt came out, she held a cloth-covered book in her hand.

“Read it.” Was all that she had said. Then she had hugged him tightly and left. His grandmother had smiled when he entered, held his hand and stared at him.

“Read the diary,” she had said, “and God be with you.”

She had fallen asleep, his hand clutched tightly. This morning his aunt had returned, hugged him again and pressed a set of rosary in his hands before he left.

He saw the sign for a service station ahead of him and pulled off the Highway. Two and a half hours was enough. Time for a coffee, a snack and a cigarette.


Like all such places it was functional. The central bar had stools next to it and there was an array of small wooden tables. To one side was a glass-walled areas for the smokers. Toni grinned and placed his order. When the waitress had left, he pulled the book out of his holdall and lit a cigarette. He liked surprises and this proved to be such. Whatever was in here was at least important to his grandmother and judging by the looks he had seen on her and his auntie’s face, a secret. By experience he knew that family secrets were a let down. His grandmother often spoke of village life and the shame people suffered for their transgressions. He had yet to be shocked by any of it.

Browned pages faced him, their sides covered in a shaky hand. He gulped his coffee, drew on his cigarette and read.

My Dearest Isabella

I am writing this journal with the knowledge that no letter of mine will ever reach you. At least this way, it feels as though I can talk to you and perhaps some day we can read this and laugh. Although, right now, there is little to laugh at.

It is cold here in the mountains. We have been hard-pressed by Franco’s forces and are in retreat. The weather though is not responsible for cold I have deep in my bones and my heart .I have seen and done things, my Darling, which I find hard to live with. Human nature can be base and this forced withdrawal has brought out the worst in us. Stories reach us of atrocities carried out by the Italians fighting with Franco. These tales only seem to fuel the fires buried within each and every one of us.

You know of the Church and their lies. Perhaps though, you do not know of what we do. Village by village we send a message. The priests and sisters are the physical manifestation of that message.

Yesterday our Sargeant, Emilio, made sure that all were aware of the price of our defeat. The old priest was made to climb the main street on his bent, arthritic knees. As a penance. His faith was strong. He made it to the top. We all laughed to see the mighty Church humbled. Then the shooting began. One in five of the villagers were killed in front of the priest, including a nun. The rest had to dig a shallow grave. I stopped laughing.

Emilio would here no pleas and the priest was buried with the rest. I only wish this War will be over soon, before I become someone else. With you and Irene waiting for me, I have hope…

Toni looked up from the journal. Irene? His grandmother? The signature was unknown. Who was Juan Antonio Rodriguez? August nineteen thirty-seven. That fit.

He turned more pages and saw the handwriting change. There were at least three styles. At random, he flipped the journal. Here, this one. Nineteen eighty-six?

We need to find her. Tomorrow He will be here again and this time it will be me. The village has agreed. Everyone will leave before the evening is over. I am too tired and too old….

He checked the date, the twenty-fourth of September. Their show would be on the twenty-sixth. Two more pages and he found the entry.

They have all gone. The village is deserted. I know He will come. Every year is the same. There is nothing that we or the Church can do. They have tried. Our only option is to find Irene. How though can we found one lost in the Guerra Civil? It is impossible.

It is cold. Freezing. The Fog is here. As they said. I can see the light. Hear laughter. He is here…

It was the last entry. Who was his Grandmother and what did this have to do with Pueblecito?

His cigarette had burnt down to the butt. He stubbed it out and closed the journal. The clock on the wall told him he was late. Toni gathered up his cigarettes and placed the journal back in his holdall. This would have to wait until later. The next stop would give him just enough time to read the preparatory notes from Sanchez. Rosa Benitez was waiting for him Santander. This was important, right now.




“It’s Emilio. Emilio Sánchez.”

“Hi. What can I do for you?”

Sánchez looked at the open file in front of him. He needed to be careful.

“Our man will be arriving soon. He knows just enough.”

“Don’t worry. You can rely on me. This broadcast is as important for me, as it is for you.”

“You know what to do?”

“Yes. The priest is organised, as is the film crew. By tomorrow evening the village will be empty, so Esposito will have little chance of finding out what we’ve planned.”

“Good. Make sure it stays that way.”

He hung up the phone. Everything was going strictly according to plan.

jueves, 22 de abril de 2010

Chapter Two

El 23 de Septiembre, 2008


The door swung back, smashed into his knuckles and spilt hot coffee over his hand.

“You’re a complete disaster, chaval.”

“Yeah, right. That’s me.”

Antonio, Toni, Esposito, placed the tray carefully on the table top. He was careful not to slop any of the still warm liquid onto his friend’s desk. Javi was editing some video material and would not be happy if his expensive equipment was affected.

“Sanchez is looking for you.”

Toni grunted and passed a hastily wiped cup across.

“What does he want. The guy doesn’t even know I exist.”

“Right, Mr. Invisible. That’s why he has everyone chasing your tail. You’d better get your arse up there.”

Pearls of sweat broke out on Toni’s forehead. This won’t be good.

“You got any idea what he wants? Forget that, how would you know.”

He saw Javi shake his head in disgust and stare at the screen. There was a strange indistinct shape on display there, typical of their usual fare. They worked for the hottest paranormal show on Spanish television. Well at least it had been until recently. Sanchez had been sucked in by three college students and panned by critics. This room had been installed with an excessive expenditure of company funds. The computer imaging software used, checked for frauds. It also enhanced poor shots and gave them a better idea of what they were looking for. Only last week they had uncovered yet another attempt to scam them, this time from a rival TV station.

“What you got there?”

“This, should you wish to accept it, is your next assignment. It came in anonymously three nights ago and Sanchez is pinning all of his hopes on it. He believes it’s genuine and you, my lucky friend, will be heading up the live broadcast.”


Javi stood up and pushed Toni towards the door.

“Don’t keep him waiting any longer. I’m sure he’ll explain everything.”

The lift rattled its way upwards. For a high-tech company, El Ocho always amazed him. Ever since Sanchez’s arrival, cost-cutting had become a strange mantra. Top floor offices were expensively decorated, yet the rest of the building looked as though it came straight out of an eighties film set. He took the stairs for the last two floors, only the express lift went that far.

As he emerged from the exit, he heard raised voices. The door was open to the Main Office and Toni could see three bodies. There was the unmistakable shape of Sanchez, accompanied by two others. One, an unknown woman and the other a small, elderly man. It was the latter who was shouting, his words clear and distinct.

“You are a fool! This is not something you can take lightly.”

Whatever Sanchez was about to reply, was interrupted by Toni’s timid knock.

“Esposito! Get your butt in here. Where the hell have you been?”

Before Toni could answer, Sanchez turned away.

“Thank you, professor. We’ll give your opinion due consideration.”

It was a clear dismissal and the disgruntled academic pushed past Toni, leaving only Sanchez and the unknown woman in the office.

“Come in and shut the door.”

Toni did as he was told. Silence greeted his entrance. He shuffled his feet and waited for the bomb to be dropped. It was common knowledge that there were cut-backs being discussed and he thought it more likely he would be fired, than offered a prime job.

“What do you know about Pueblecito?”


“Well you’ve got three days to become an expert. We’ve got a live show to do from there and you’re in charge.”

The woman smiled and then held out her hand.

“I’m Rosa Benitez. I run an independent film company in Cantabria. My local team will be supporting you.”

It had been a strange meeting. Sanchez had quickly outlined the assignment and handed Toni a slim file of background material. Javi had given him a copy of his video work and Rosa Benitez had agreed to meet him in Santander the next day. He had been given the rest of the day off to pack a suitcase, as well as cash and the keys to a rental car. That only left him with one more thing to do.

As he entered his flat, he could smell cooking. He lived with his Grandmother in the centre of Madrid and he needed to make sure that she was taken care of. Not that he would explain it that way. She was an extremely proud and independent woman. At seventy-six years young she insisted on running the household. The flat was spotless, even though it was cluttered with a lifetime of memories. Sepia-coloured photographs adorned the entrance hall, a shrine to lost family members. As he entered the kitchen, he dipped his fingers in the small cup of holy water which nestled beneath an icon of La Virgen. Irene Esposito was a practising catholic and she took it seriously. Toni had grown up with her little rituals and at twenty-six years old, often felt he was still a small child in her presence.

She was a striking woman, small and fine-boned. Her hair was swept back severely from her head and caught in a tight bun. He had never seen her wear anything else but the one piece black dress. Still mourning his grandfather after all these years.

“Toni.” She cried, holding her arms wide. He kissed her once on each cheek and hugged her tightly. His grandmother had been the one constant in his life after the death of his parents in a car crash. She had taken him in over ten years ago and made sure that he had grown up properly.

“I need to go away for a couple of days with work.”

“Ooh. Somewhere nice?”

“Don’t know if it will be nice. I will be on the television though.”

She laughed in excitement and hugged him again.

“I told you,” she said, “it was only a matter of time.”

Her confidence had helped him pursue his goal of being a television reporter. She had never doubted him.

Toni broke off a small piece of bread and dipped it into the sauce she was making. His grandmother swiped at his hand playfully.

“I called Tia Maria, she says you can stay with her whilst I’m away.”

“Rubbish,” she replied. “She’s older than I am. I have no intention of looking after her. I’ll be fine right where I am. Where are you going?”

“A small village in Cantabria, called Pueblecito. We’re doing a …”

He stopped at her cry. With one hand clutched against her chest she had sunk to the floor and her mouth moved soundlessly.


sábado, 30 de enero de 2010

First Chapter

El 26 de Septiembre, 1937

It was dark. Cloying and cold where he lay, shielded from his pursuers. Since the early morning hours he had huddled, curled into a ball beneath the oaken desk. They were out there, although the hammering against the door had stopped just before nightfall.

Juan Antonio Rodriguez was scared. Not for himself, no, he had survived the march across the mountains. The reprisals had passed him by and he had reached the pueblo safe and sound. He was frightened for Isabella and the child. So, at last, he rose and made his way cautiously to the door. A small push at first, then a harder one. Nothing. Pain lanced through his fist as he pounded the door, blood sweating his hands. One finger found the problem. Nails.

Low grumbling, reminiscent of thunder on one of the far away peaks began outside. Light sparked and then flared as torches were lit and he saw them. All the village were there and at the rear Isabella, her father forcing her to watch. The child clung to her skirts, shoulders heaving.


Glass shattered in answer, Juan covering his face from the flying shards.

“Hijo de puta!”

A leering face closed, it was Isabella’s husband. He thrust the pitch smeared torch through the shattered window. Juan followed its skittering path and ran to intercept it. He turned to see a sullen procession as one by one the men passed. No-one was immune, all had been given flame and they used it. Last of all came Padre Manuel, his young face contorted in hate.

“For the Bishop, the Sisters and your priest, demonio.”

The pile of criss-crossed brands formed Juan’s pyre. There was no way out. Now the ranked villagers stared in silent anger, as first the walls caught, then the roughly beamed roof.


The priest spoke.

“Was there mercy when Sor Francesca choked on the rosary forced down her throat? Pity when the Bishop was re-baptised at the bottom of the well? When your own village priest was stoned to death by your soldiers?

“Then there will be none for you. No prayers welcoming you to Our Lord’s bosom. Last Rites are lost to you. Burn in the eternal fires of Hell. Suffer as did they.”

Flames reflected in the hate-filled visage of the priest, in the majority of the villagers. Only one smiled and Isabella shed her last tears.

Juan’s voice eclipsed the roaring flames as his face melted beneath the crackling heat. It was soft, cold and vindictive.

“You deny me God? Only spite do you throw in my face? Very well, hear me. There will be pain in equal measure, for each and everyone of you. I will never rest and neither will you. My curse will go on. Hasta la muerte…y mas allá.”

His scream ended their torture, but Juan watched. Vicious eyes peered from amongst the flames as skin boiled away. A tenacious vengeance held him there …through death and beyond.


El 26 de Septiembre, 1938

Padre Manuel turned the heavy key in the lock and shivered. The temperature dropped as fog rolled down the mountainside. He tended to this blighted parish, his penance for past sins. Dying flowers curled in the vases by the doorway. The women would change them tomorrow.

Troops no longer were stationed in this village, the regiment from Navarra now marched on Asturias. Life had returned to a semblance of normality. Tomorrow the child would leave and the last memory of hatred would be expunged. One more night. As he climbed the cobbled road towards his lodgings, he passed the burnt out shell of the schoolhouse. There was something else that needed to be removed and he would mention it before he left.

Wind whipped his cassock around his feet. He stumbled, then righted himself. It was quiet, the workers in their houses, doors shut tightly against the cold. His breath frosted the air as a gelid hand slammed into him. The priest struggled uphill, his feet slipping on suddenly slick stones. Fear coursed through his body as ice formed about him. Not fifty feet in front of him dew sparkled on green and verdant grass. By his side, plants withered brown and dead.


A voice rasped in his ear. He turned quickly. There was nothing.


More insistent now and smoke began to rise from the hem of his robe. Blue flame sputtered and held, his frantic attempts to beat it away only causing it to spread to his hands and then his sleeves. Intense heat reddened his face, whilst ice frosted the ground around him. A mist puffed towards him, enveloping and hiding him from sight. Until all that was left was a vague form, eerily etched in blue light, which wavered from the depths of the now deep fog.

Inside his prison, he burned. Two red eyes came into being high above him. As he prayed for deliverance, a maniacal laugh rang out, soon to be eclipsed by a tortured scream.

In the houses, people heard. They pulled their blankets tight up to their necks. Lips moved in mechanical pleas, yet none were answered. Then there was silence.


El 26 de Septiembre, 1940

Isabella watched her father work. He and the others had rebuilt the schoolhouse and the new priest would consecrate it tomorrow. She did not care. They had taken her daughter from her. The shame they said was unbearable. Now she hated too.

Her lover’s bones were ash and buried in the foundations of the new building. The curse would be lifted in a simple ceremony, but she wanted none of it. Juan had always kept his promises and this would be no different. There would be vengeance.

She saw her father stumble, slide one foot along the roof to reach a more stable grip and she wished him dead. As if in answer, a strong gust of wind unbalanced him. He crashed awkwardly against her husband and fell. It was not a great height and normally he would have survived. Not today though.

The brush of a cold kiss caused her to turn. A word whispered in her ear made her smile and in slow motion she watched the tragedy unfold. Tools had been discarded and a pickaxe was struck by the now unsteady ladder. It rolled point upwards just in time to catch her father in the small of the back. He lay gasping for breath as his son-in-law fell too. One studded boot landed heavily on a reddened throat and Isabella laughed.


El 26 de Septiembre, 1985

The car raced down the narrow track, spraying dirt and gravel as it took the first corner. They had all been drinking. Their Aunt had thrown them out and told them to go home. It was too early though and they had borrowed Old Pepe’s car. A pair of wooden stools in the back served as seats and they laughed uproariously as they were flung from side to side.

Three more curves and they would reach the main road. The last one was the sharpest and it had long been a challenge to see how close they could come to the edge. Cigarette clenched between gritted teeth, José Cossío pressed hard down on the accelerator. His cousins cheered him on and he swerved to one side in preparation of his victorious manoeuvre.

Darkness crashed down on him. Rain bouncing off his windscreen and blinding him. Forever after, he would tell of the pair of flaming orbs which swooped suddenly into view. The sound of roaring flames and the curses flung in an unknown language.

Engine whining in protest, the car continued on, out over the open gap. It bounced three times, slamming with bone-jarring force into the earth. When it came to a stop, it was a mangled mess and José lay to one side, thrown through the shattered windscreen. His body was broken, as was his mind. When they found him, he mumbled manically of the flames and cruel voice.

Sliding further down the hill they found the remains of the twisted and buckled vehicle. Inside were the crushed bodies of three of their young men. This was not what caused them to fall to their knees in prayer, to kiss the crucifixes hung round their necks. It was the heat-blistered paint on the bonnet and the smell of charred meat.

jueves, 21 de enero de 2010

The Birth Of An Idea

I have been asked a number of times, where the idea of 26-S came from. It has been suggested that a warped mind had a lot to do with it, but the truth (apart from that fact) is that it sprang into being because of real life experience. Not that of an all-powerful and vengeful ghost, but rather the cultural environment here in Spain.

There exists a television show dedicated to the paranormal, strange events and potential alien visitations which is aired on a major channel every Sunday, very early in the morning. Panels of invitees are famous for their debates on numerous shows, paid to be conflictive, and full of shouting and accusations.

Villages like Pueblecito do exist, each with their own hidden and terrible story of the Spanish Civil War, which although politicised, had much more to do with personal grudges than political ideology. Many bodies remain buried by the roadside or in unmarked graves, and although public opinion is changing, very few of them have been uncovered. Many would like to forget, although others use the process as a highly dangerous and charged political weapon.

From all of this, and my specific research into the era, 26-S was born. Neither the people nor the village, per se, exist,yet parallels there are.

Te book link has been added at the side of this page, where the first fifteen extracts in short chapter format are available. Please feel free to read and comment.