Isn't Church a terrifying place?
I bet you've never thought that before. You might have found it creepy, or weird, but not terrifying. But it is a scary place. Think about how many funerals have taken place there. How many people have mourned at the altar for their lost ones. How many missing children all those people pray for with such assurance that they'll find 'peace.'
Peace is not in a Church.
I know that, and now you'll know it too. Why? Because I'm going to tell you. I'm going to show you why it's perfectly rational to be afraid of Church.
No? Too bad.
It's already begun.
"Ellie, you're such a chicken!" snapped Lilith.
Those words stung. Ellie bit her lower lip and looked at the carpet, unable to bear the weight of her Sister's glare.
"But I don't want to go to the boiler room," she said. Even to Ellie, her voice sounded small and weak.
"Oh, for the love of-," said Lilith with apparent exasperation. She threw her hands up in the air and looked at the ceiling as though searching for answers. "Ellie, we're in CHURCH. No big bad monsters from your little fairy tales are gonna come and get you here. All you have to do is change the air freshener and then you can come back to the sanctuary."
"Why do I have to do it?" asked Ellie. She clenched her hands into fists at her side, hoping Lilith wouldn't be able to see how white she was.
"Because Dad's in charge of keeping this place clean," said Lilith. "And we have to help him. Now, I'm cleaning the mirrors in the bathroom. I need you to go make sure the boiler room doesn't smell bad, or else the smell will spread through the pipes and the entire place will smell like dead cat again."
"But why me?" Ellie was getting desperate now. She didn't want to go down to the basement! The lights never worked quite right, and there were dark patches everywhere that you had to walk through to get to the boiler room, where the heater and the air conditioning unit were located. The entire place was always so... Quiet. It gave Ellie the creeps.
"Just do it," said Lilith. She sent Ellie a look of distaste before she whirled around and stormed off, leaving Ellie alone in the reception hall.
"I can do it," Ellie muttered to herself. "It's not such a big deal."
But it was. All the teenagers in Church agreed that the basement was haunted. They were always scaring fifth-graders like Ellie with stories of how the haunting came to pass. The spirit was supposedly guarding something valuable in the basement, and if you wandered too close to this thing, then the ghost would kill you.
'If Lilith were here, she'd say that that's just stupid little kid talk,' Ellie thought to herself bravely. Straightening her back, she turned to her left to face exactly what she'd been trying to ignore.
The door to the basement stood out in the cheerful reception hall, with it's brown-tiled floors and rickety old table with pamphlets and schedules all organized in a bright, colorful way. There were fake flower arrangements set up in ever corner in pots painted bright colors. It was a medium-sized room, big enough to hold about fifteen people decently comfortably.
But the door to the basement was a different story. The wood was actually black, making quite a contrast with the white wall surrounding it. The doorknob was tarnished and rusty, and hung at a jaunty angle. Lilith once claimed that it shook and rattled sometimes, like someone was trying to open the door from the other side.
Ellie gulped and began to walk towards the entrance to the basement. The closer she got, the more her eyes strayed towards the doorknob. Would it start to shake? Ellie half-hoped it would, so that she'd have an excuse for not wanting to go though it.
But to her relief and disappointment, by the time she was only a few precious inches from the door, the doorknob hadn't shook once. Letting out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding, Ellie reached out and swung the door open in one quick motion, cringing and taking a step back as she did so like she expected someone (or something) to lunge out at her and try to drag her down the steep stairs.
When all that came out was a gust of cold stale air, Ellie allowed herself to relax some. But when she opened her previously closed eyes, she was reminded of why she hated the basement.
The stairs in front of her were steep and slippery. Quite a few people had hurt themselves trying to descend them. The handrail was holding onto the wall by a thread, and the right side of the stairway didn't even have a handrail. The stairs moved downwards, into total pitch black darkness. You couldn't see their end unless the light was turned on. And of course, the light switch was conveniently located over the third stair to the bottom. Ellie would have to make her way down the stairs in the dark, all alone, and hope she didn't fall and hurt herself seriously.
Gulping, She reached out and grabbed onto the handrail before taking her first step. The moment her weight was balanced solely on the stair, Ellie was engulfed with the smell of mildew and something else vaguely unpleasant.
Ellie didn't bother shutting the door. She knew that if she did, she'd be left in total darkness. So instead, she forged on, using the weak light from the church reception hall. Every stair groaned loudly in protest, causing Ellie to jump. Finally, about half-way down, the light from the open door stopped doing her any good. Clinging as hard as she could to the handrail, Ellie continued on, hoping desperately that she wouldn't trip in the dark and bring the rail down with her.
She hardly would have known that she'd reached the third step, had she not felt something soft and slimy brush against her face. Ellie gasped and jumped back, tripping over the stairs behind her and almost sliding down to the invisible floor below until she gripped onto the stair she'd fallen onto.
It was just the pull-string light switch, Ellie realized. Standing up, she began to grope around in the air until she found it again. When at last her hands closed around the damp string, she pulled down hard.
The light that flooded the basement was weak. The hum of the fluorescent light bulbs filled the air. The light above Ellie's head flickered ominously and cast the shadow of all of the insects that ever died in it everywhere. However, at last Ellie could see where she was going. She had three more weak steps to go before she was standing on the tacky brown carpet that covered the floor, onto which she slipped gracefully a second later.
A quick glance around revealed that the storage room door to Ellie's left was ajar. She contemplated closing it, but then remembered why she was there.
'I'll close it on the way out,' she thought to herself. 'Right now, I've got work to do.'
In front of Ellie was a long stretch of hallway. In this long stretch, only one light was working, and that was the light at the very end. Once again, Ellie would have to travel through total darkness. She could feel herself begin to tremble already.
'No!' she thought to herself angrily. 'I don't know why I'm doing this! I'm ten years old, almost a teenager! I'm not scared of ANYTHING.'
With that thought in mind, Ellie trudged resolutely forwards.
And so did someone behind her.
When Ellie heard the soft sound of footfalls, coming from right behind her, she whirled around.
Nobody was there. Nothing at all moved, and nothing had changed since Ellie had started walking. She frowned to herself, puzzled. She had definitely heard someone walking behind her. But there was no one else there with her to follow her.
Shaking of her momentary wave of fear, Ellie turned and started to walk into the hallway again. And just like before, someone followed her.
Whirling around as fast as she possible could have, Ellie's eyes darted around the room and the hallway now surrounding her. Everything was still exactly the same as she had left it. Nothing betrayed the presence of another human being.
'I'm acting like a little kid!' Ellie chided herself. 'Of course there's no one there! I came down here alone, didn't I?'
Turning around, she started to walk again. The further into the hallway she walked, the more quiet it got, until her ears were ringing from the painfully loud silence. At very least, Ellie wasn't hearing footsteps anymore, a fact for which she was grateful.
Suddenly, however, a loud laugh pierced the air. Ellie stopped dead, eyes widening. It seemed to be coming from somewhere further along.
As abruptly as it had started, the laughing stopped, leaving Ellie alone with her panic.
"Wh-who's there?" she called.
'It's just someone from the church it's just someone from the church,' Ellie repeated to herself as she stood, frozen stalk-still in fear. 'I bet it's Lilith, playing a prank on me. She was probably the one making the footsteps, too!'
"Lilith?" Ellie demanded. Her fear was replaced by anger now. "Lilith! I know it's you! Would you go get started on your work! We're gonna be here all day if you just sit around here and try to scare me!"
"Lilith!" shouted Ellie loudly. She waited a bit before finally she allowed herself to storm off, towards the boiler room. "I'm just going to ignore you now, then."
Ellie was fuming silently to herself. Why did Lilith have to be so awful to her? She knew Lilith hadn't been happy when she was born, although she didn't know why. Everyone always said that when Ellie's Mother had announced that she was pregnant, Lilith had seemed to grow distant from her Mother. She'd started spending more and more time alone, and she hadn't talked to anyone much.
Then, when Ellie was born, she'd disappeared for two full days.
They'd found Lilith in the church, wrapped up in one of the coats someone had left and never come back for. Luckily, the Church had been preparing to take communion. Lilith had eaten the bread and drank the grape juice (or 'wine', as people liked to call it.) to keep from starving. She'd been half-frozen, with her skin all white and chilly. She'd been glad to see her parents, and cried and promised never to run away again.
Lilith was fine after that, the old ladies at Church said.
When Ellie had first heard that story, she'd been hurt and baffled. Why didn't her sister want her to be born? Why hadn't she wanted to come and visit her at the hospital? When she'd confronted her Father about the whole thing, he'd simply told Ellie that Lilith was 'sensitive.' Ellie didn't know what that meant, but she had a feeling it meant that her Sister had problems.
"Lilith, you're always so horrible to me," said Ellie out loud. "What did I do to you? I can't help being born!"
"Fine," snapped Ellie. "Be that way."
Ellie was so wrapped up in thinking mean things about Lilith that she hadn't even noticed she was standing in front of the door to the boiler room. Her feet seemed to have acted of their own accord and carried her there. With a sigh, Ellie reached out and opened the door.
For some reason, there was a candle lit on an old rotted card-playing table. It cast eerie light about the room, bathing everything in a half-darkness that made every feature of the room look scarier.
It was a tiny room, with a large hot-water heater in one corner taking up most of the room, with a squished heater next to it. The air conditioning unit was to Ellie's left.
Sighing, Ellie headed inside and turned towards the gap between the water heater and the AC unit, expecting to see the box of air freshener refills. Instead she saw something much worse.
It was a body.
It was all covered up in black tarpaulin and tied shut with what appeared to be baling twine. The head seemed to be slumped oddly forwards in the plastic, although it might not have been. It was impossible to identify it's gender. One of the heating pipes was propping the body up, so that it looked like it was standing of it's own accord. And to top if all off, a sickening smell wafted from the bag the body was in, and Ellie could have vomited from the scent alone.
She backed away from the horrible sight, with both hands covering her mouth. She wanted to scream, but she didn't think she'd be able to stop if she started. Ellie's breathing was coming in rapid bursts. She couldn't focus her eyes on anything.
'It's not real!' she told herself. 'It can't be real! There's nothing there!'
But one quick glance confirmed the presence of the body. Ellie gagged into her hands and fell forwards as the trembling in her legs grew to be too much to support her weight.
"No," she muttered to herself, over and over again. "No, no no."
'Crying shame, isn't it?' Said someone from behind Ellie. She started, and her head shot around to search for the intruder. However, instead of seeing someone standing there, all she could see was what looked like a man's shadow, standing propped up against the heater. 'So young, she was.'
Now a scream tore from Ellie's throat. It was raw and primal, a terrible sound. She couldn't believe she was capable of producing such a guttural noise, but she could feel her throat burn from the force of exerting such a thing.
Ellie screamed and screamed as she lay on the damp carpet. The weak light from outside the door began to flicker even worse than before, causing Ellie's eyes to add orange patches to everything from the strain of having her eyes constantly adjusting.
Suddenly, the door creaked open. Ellie turned, terrified.
"Oh Ellie," came the exasperated voice. "You're such a crybaby."
From behind the door, Lilith appeared. Her face was the perfect picture of boredom and partial annoyance. She looked at Ellie like she was something that someone had chewed up and spit onto the curb.
"L-L," was all Ellie could manage.
"It's hard to believe we're related, isn't it?" asked Lilith off-handedly. "I've always been the braver one, haven't I? You were always begging me to check your closet for monsters. Even when I had better things to do, I had to go into your room and look for your imaginary little monsters you thought were crouched in your closet. It always drove me crazy. Remember how I yelled at you when you woke me up at three AM because you thought there was something underneath your bed?"
Ellie couldn't answer. The shock of what she had just seen seemed to have set in. She couldn't have moved even if she'd wanted to.
"God, you cried all the time," snorted Lilith. "All-the-freaking-time. Mom would leave you for half an hour to go take a bath, and you'd be in hysterics when she got back. I was supposed to watch you, but we both know I never did. Mom said it would be like a having a baby doll, one of the fancy ones that cried and had to have it's diapers changed. But there was a huge difference. You didn't have an off switch. At least, not that I could find. And trust me, I looked."
Ellie's mouth opened, but no sound came out.
"You know what?" asked Lilith. "I figured it out. People always say that there's no way to give God something back, but you know what their problem was?" here she paused, as though expecting Ellie to answer. When she didn't, Lilith continued on. "They just didn't try hard enough. But I tried really hard. I asked God, over and over again, what I was going to have to do. I spent those two days in this Church at the altar, praying. I knew that if you were born, you'd cause us nothing but trouble. I repented for every sin, made atonement for every flaw. And on that morning of that second day, God gave me an answer."
"He said to me, 'If you want to give back what came from God, bring it to the place it came from,'" continued Lilith. "At first I didn't get it. But then, after I mulled it over for a while, it made sense! I couldn't bring you back to Heaven, so I had to take you to the next best place. Someplace where God would find you no matter what. If I did, then he'd take you back when he saw that we really didn't want you."
"But I felt bad for you. You were just a little screaming bundle, punching and kicking the air. I thought at first that I didn't have to take you back. But then Mom got sick. She hadn't been well when she was pregnant with you, and giving birth pushed her over the edge. For three weeks she was in the hospital. And you stayed there and cried for attention and got in everyone's way."
"But the sickness didn't last," said Lilith. "Mom got better. She was still really weak, but she was able to go home and take you with us. I thought maybe things would get better. But I was wrong. Three weeks after brining you home, the landlord told us that unless we could be quite, we'd be evicted from our nice apartment. Your crying all the time was bothering the neighbors, the Landlord told us. A month after that we had to move in with Aunt Phyllis. I doubt you remember her. She smelled like beer and cigarettes all the time. She though you were just the cutest thing. For whatever reason, Auntie didn't like me. I once dropped a plate on the floor and she smacked me across the head. Mom and Dad turned the other way and started fussing over you."
"You know, don't you," Lilith continued coldly. "That if you hadn't gotten bronchitis when you were four, then we wouldn't be this poor? But Mom and Dad had to pay to keep you in the hospital and get you nice Doctors. I got three gifts that Christmas you were sick. Then Mom and Dad left me with Aunt Phyllis and went to visit you at the hospital. I didn't get it. What did this pink squalling menace have that I didn't? Why did they love you and not me? I was better than you at everything. You couldn't even pick your nose by yourself!"
"And that's when I remembered what God had told me. That if I didn't want you, I could give you back. So," Lilith concluded. "This is good-bye. We're not going to see each other again. You're going to stay down here with her" -She gestured towards the body- "and wait for God to take you back. Who knows? Maybe he'll find a better place for you."
With that, Lilith turned around and slipped back through the door. She closed it behind herself with a resounding thud. Ellie's heart dropped as she heard the 'click' of the lock being turned. She wanted to cry out, but she still couldn't manage it.
"You know that girl over there?" said the voice from before. Slowly Ellie turned in horror, only to see the same shadow leaning against the heater. "She's stuck right in front of the old church vault."
Ellie was screaming again. This time she couldn't stop. She felt like her throat was being torn to shreds, but she couldn't calm down.
"Hmm...," said the voice thoughtfully. "Hey, kid. How would you like a job guarding a vault?"
"Oh, Carrie," said Mark. "You're such a crybaby."
"I am not!" snapped Carrie. "And I don't care what dare you use! I'm not going down to the old boiler room."
"Come on, Care," said Marshal, using his special nickname for her. "There's nothing down there."
"That's not true," said Carrie importantly. "They say a girl went missing in this Church a long time ago. Daddy says she's probably in the basement."
"That's just a little kid's tale," Said Mark. "You're just embarrassed because you're too scared to go down there by yourself."
"Not true!" snapped Carrie. Hesitating for only a moment, she shouted, "All right, I'll do it!"
But you better be careful, little girl. You better be careful, because you never know what you're going to find alone in the dark.
Author's note: What do you think?
When someone told me that I hadn't quite tapped into my horror writing talent, I took it as a challenge. I thought about it for months. What could I do to improve my writing? What would really scare people?
The answer that came to me one day was something that scared me. I find Churches to be scary, macabre places. (Long list of reasons why.) So I thought that if I wanted to write horror, maybe I shouldn't use something that's ALREADY scary, maybe I should see if I can creep people out with Something I was afraid of.
Did it work? Did it not work? If not, why didn't it seem scary to you? Tell me how I can improve, please.
THIS IS NOT A ONESHOT. I know it seems like it, but this is a collection of scary stories that take place in Churches. Keyword: collection.
I already have the second story written up, but I'm gonna wait a while before I post it. I want to see if anybody has a helpful suggestion or something to offer me before I do that.
Well, you'll be hearing from me again so, Ciao.