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.
SDIV El Juego Chapter Thirty Part Three
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