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.