A/N: This is, obviously, fiction! Not much gore here, but it does make allusions to paedophilia, necrophilia (both very, very briefly) and hauntings. If any of those truly disturb you, please don't read it! Also, not recommended to anyone who has children or is easily impressed. I use mostly British English, if you see a mistake, please let me know. Now on to the story!

Warning Crosses

I am about to die.

Perhaps not today, but surely by the end of the year I shall be on my grave. But before that happens, I shall burden you, my reader, with my most guarded secret. It has been over 50 years already and it's past the time I tell someone how my wife and children disappeared. I remember that day as if it has just happened. We were arguing, my wife and I, she wanted us to to go camping with our children, to travel, go to another town, breath another air.

I had to work.

"Come on, just to see my parents then!"

"Seeing your parents isn't exactly a change of airs."

"It is! They moved to a smaller town, come on! I'm sure you can research their library or something."

"Oh fine!" I sighed, smiling a bit at her enthusiasm. "We'll go tomorrow, spend the day okay?"

"The day?" she muttered, deflating somewhat. "Okay." She pouted, before determination took over her features. "I'll compromise, okay, we'll spend the day! I'll call mum and dad!"

I remember the way she walked, practically skipping to tell the kids. Moments later I could hear our twin girls cheering and the high voice or our youngest son asking what toy could be brought over to our little trip. I called my editor, saying I wouldn't be able to work the next day.

The next day, bright and early we were loading three sleeping children in the car, their clothes and some toys. We drove in the direction of the shadows, where the rising sun had yet to shine trough. We drove through a multitude of curves before arriving in a tiny city in the middle of the mountains. My wife's parents live in the outskirts of the town, and so we had to pass through the 4x4 square that made the centre of the small town; by that time our children were awake and there was no time to see the things I wanted to see. I pulled by my in-laws, letting the three children run to their grandparents arms as I looked at them with a fondness almost foreign to me, my wife took their picture while I took in the homey scene, my mother-in-law hugging her daughter, her husband surrounded by my children. I recall him calling me over when the kids went with their grandmother again.

"I heard about your new project from the editor, if you don't mind my help, I reckon the locals have a true story around here that you might like."

"Sure, if they don't mind having me over..."

"They?" the older man asked, clearly puzzled. His expression cleared with a knowing glint moments later. "Oh no! The family died a long ago sadly, this story comes from the local church, about a priest that was killed over 200 years ago. But this is not the place to discuss it, we'll go over it when the children are taking their afternoon nap."

And with that the conversation was over, at least until 2 o'clock.

By the time 2 o'clock came around, my wife's mother was also tired and decided to also stay with our young ones, while my father in law and I went to check the local church. The building was about 2 stores high, made in that classic Gothic style; high towers with huge ornate windows, dark brick and iron, lots and lots of iron.

"What happened here?" I asked, touching the heavy dark wooden door.

"About 200 years ago some murders happened here, but that's the basic. Come, we'll find the rest with the local Friar."

Fifteen minutes later we were sitting on the first bench, staring at the altar.

"Why do you want to know? It's a cursed story sir, if you have children I strongly recommend that you do not listen to it."

Unfortunately I waved his concerns away. I wish, with all my heart, that I had listened, that I had left that church and that town without listening to that cursed story. I wish I had gotten my family out of there as soon as I listened to the warning.

But I didn't.

I waved his concerns away, said that despite being a writer of spooky stories, I didn't believe in the stuff. My pride was enormous, my conviction that nothing could – or would – get me was overwhelming. And thus, he began the tale...

"As your father-in-law told you, it happened about 200 years ago. This village used to be the middle point between two other farming towns, the church was built to unite the three towns and a priest was sent from the capital. The story goes that he was tall. Tall, bald, with dark eyes and an expressionless face. Unfortunately we don't have any portraits here, after what happened we thought it best.

Anyway, in one of those towns there was a farmer, widowed recently and the father of twin girls. Since he lost his wife he always came to our city, some say he was courting the apothecary's daughter but really, that's neither here nor there, what is relevant is that, since he didn't trust his slaves in the farm, he always brought his daughters along, leaving them with the local priest whenever he had business to attend to. It is said that, that day he left his daughters in the church and went to hunt. Deer hunting season or some nonsense like that.

When he came back he opened the from door, just like you did sir, and stepped inside. Usually the girls would be sitting on the first bench, reading the bible and waiting for him. That they were nowhere to be seen was enough for the farmer to release the safety lock of his weapon. He found the younger twin on the stone ground, in the middle of the female section. Right over there." he stopped, turning around and pointing to an area between the wooden benches on the left side of the church. It was the length of two of those wooden benches.

"That's why there's nothing there?" I asked, even as a chill ran up my spine. My father-in-law was silent.

"Pretty much." He nodded. I noticed his hands fiddling with a rosary with the image of Jesus. He glanced at it every so often during the tale.

"Anyway," he restarted, after taking a deep breath. "He found her over there, blue lips, staring ahead. There were finger marks on her neck, as if someone had squeezed it. Her dress was lifted up, around her waist, torn and there were no undergarments. There was... blood on her thighs and well... you know..." he trailed off uncomfortably. "You know... semen." he whispered.

"Ah well. You can understand why he went crazy. Started to look for the other one and the priest, record says he kept saying 'I'm gonna kill 'im! I'm gonna kill 'im!'" he stopped, looking around, then getting up. The Friar got a set of black iron keys from his pocket and opened a hidden door on the left side of the altar.

"The farmer searched the whole first floor before taking the stairs below. At that time they weren't hidden you know, they hid it later, to keep people from remembering." We went down a set of circular stone steps until we arrived at a small room with stone walls, ceiling, floor and some ancient crypts. The floor was stained with dark marks.

"They're wine marks. Before that happened, this used to be a wine cellar and dubbed as a private room for some ritualistic mass. It often leaked." The Friar said by way of explanation.

"The grieving father found them here, by the far wall. There used to be an altar there, for the private mass you know. He found them on the other side of the altar, the girl laying on the ground, blue in the face and the priest above her, doing you know what as he asphyxiated her. Some locals say they heard the farmer howl in grieve moments before the sound of a gun going off was heard."

"You mean the priest was... fucking them? How old were they?" I asked, appealed.

"Around 6 or 7, I reckon."

"Huh..." I paused, looking around. I could almost see the scene in my head. "I know that's scary in and of itself but... why is it a local legend? What happened after?"

The Friar sighed, while my father-in-law kept quiet but looked at him with rapid attention. The Friar looked at me in exasperation I guess, before his shoulders loosened some hidden tension. He crossed his arms over his chest, looking up. Looking more like a sulking teenager than was probably necessary, which had my father-in-law staring at him with fondness. I had to wonder about their relationship.

"How did I know you would ask me that?"

"Because he," I said, pointing at my father-in-law. "warned you?"

He didn't answer.

"Five weeks later, some foreigner visited the town, wanted to go to church as a proper catholic but the church was closed. The locals told him and his family the story of the church and why, exactly, it was closed. That night the sheriff and the mayor, who lived on the house besides this church, woke up to a loud howl coming from the church. They found nothing of course, but the next day, they found the foreigner in the woods, lost, and he kept saying how a priest took his children and wife away. On the way back, he asked where were the warning crosses he had seen, but there has never been any warning crosses on the road. There! I said it!"

I stood there, frozen for about a minute, in pure shock.

"Wow... just... wow! This one's going to the new book for sure!"

And with that, we left the church. I remember telling the story to my wife. Did I ever tell you she used to be a big baby when it came to horror stories? Well, she was. And she freaked out when I told her the story in full detail. She kept saying how we should wait, go some other route and to please please please wait. To stop thinking about me and my job and think of the children.

I wished I had listened, but I guess it wouldn't have made any difference. I didn't listen. I decided to go back that night.

With understandable reluctance, she put all 3 sleeping children in the back seat, carefully fastening their seatbelts. I took the driver's seat, she, the passengers'. With a somewhat teary good bye to her parents we set off.

About 10 minutes into the road we came by a sharp turn to the left. As soon as the car was on a straight road again we saw it, by the roadside, made of black wood. An inverted cross. I remember my wife started to weep, begging me to turn back.

I didn't. My pride as a writer of urban legends refused to wield in the face of evidence, refused to accept anything of that sort could possibly be real.

The second cross came not long after, with a sharp turn to the right. It was when my wife started to scream at me, waking up our daughters and son. I remember exactly what she screamed at me.

"You stupid, stupid, stupid bastard! You're gonna get us all killed!"

"Turn around! Turn this fucking car around and go back! For heaven's sake turn this fucking car!"

"You're gonna kill your children!"

She whispered my name, pleading, begging. Even now, over 50 years later, I can still remember her screams, her pleads and her tears. I still remember my children crying in the back seat while I tried to ignore them all.

On the next sharp turn, my wife took the wheels from my hands, trying to go in the other direction. In the first months after it happened I blamed her for the accident, but I think it wouldn't have mattered. If not for her, then something else equally horrible would have happened. As it was, the car turned, rolling on the ground about 6 times before stopping on the side road and then all was silent. We had all blacked out from the accident.

I woke up by pure chance moments later, my back hurting like nothing I had ever felt, all around me was silent. And dark. It was what made me concentrate on someone's footsteps coming closer to the stricken car. I remember I heard five steps...

STEP

STEP

STEP

STEP

STEP

Heavy dark boots came into my line of vision, a priest's vest covering the ankles and up. I heard rustling of clothes before his hand showed up by the window, and then his upside down face.

Bald, dark eyes, expressionless face.

"Do you require any help?" I remember his voice, filled with smug satisfaction. I felt my blood go cold, and then I black out.

I woke up to paramedics shouting in my ear, trying to wake me up.

"SIR!!!!"

"My... children... wife." I muttered, trying to look around, search for them.

After a pause, I heard him speaking slowly, as if I was somewhat disabled. "There's no one else sir."

I closed my eyes, tears running freely down my face. Regret, shame and anger making themselves known in a mix of emotions I was not used to felling. Why didn't I listen? Why couldn't I listen?! I wanted to scream and rave and shout how unfair the world was. But I didn't. I could only cry.

I don't remember much after that, only when they put me in the ambulance.

In the far distance there stood the priest, on one hand he held the hand of my 8 year old twin girls, their dresses as immaculate as ever, but specks of dirt on their shoes and socks. On his left hand my 5 year old son, sucking on his thumb and the tried to held in his cry.

That whole scene still gives me nightmares.

And that, my dear readers, is the truth. My truth as much as I could possibly write it. And this, this is finally my end. I hope you are all well, and please, listen to a personal request from me. If you see an inverted cross, turn around and go back.

Watch out on the road.