Amanda was standing at the wall, waiting for Michael. “I heard a dog barking,” she said with a raise in her vocal pitch.
“Someone set up a warning system to protect their cinema.”
“I’ll tell you later, but I found what we need.” Michael showed her the shovel and said, “This should work.”
“Fantastic. Here is the hollow space,” Amanda tapped her delicate hand against the wall.
Michael banged the shovel several times against the wall.
“I think you need to hit it harder,” Amanda encouraged him.
Bang, Bang, Bang.
Michael laid his jacket on the ground. His head was red and sweaty.
Finally, the wall started to crumble.
“We are getting there,” Amanda’s voice was loud.
Michael’s arms were getting heavy.
Bang, Bang, Bang.
A big chunk crumbled off the wall, creating a small opening.
“Let me look,” Amanda said, rushing her words.
She shone the light through the hole.
“There’s an open space behind this wall. Keep on hitting against it,” she said in a loud tone.
After several minutes, Michael was able to create an opening big enough for them to slip through.
The phone’s light only let them see a glimpse of the room they were now standing in. The room was dusty and filled with cobwebs.
The light wandered along old wooden shelves filled with candles and paper rolls.
Amanda suddenly felt cold to her core. The light illuminated a skeleton hanging from the ceiling.
Michael took slow and easy breaths. He walked over to the skeleton. Torn pieces of cloth were covering parts of the bones.
Michael stood still, his facial muscles were relaxed. He looked up at the skull caught in a heavy rope.
“Is that who I think it is?
Amanda gave him an understanding nod.
“He hanged himself?” Michael mumbled.
“Mr. Adams, I understand that you must be overwhelmed right now, but we must find what we came here for,” She said using an even, serious tone.
“How come no one ever found him?” Michael said, turning inward.
“Perhaps this room was only known to him, and with all of the reconstruction happening over the centuries, the room got isolated,” she said casually and walked to a small, wooden table.
A large book covered in dust was lying on it. She blew the dust of the open book and could now identify letters on the page. It was old French.
Amanda read it intensively and then turned to Michael.
“I believe this means something like: I have found a way to defeat him. Because of what I am about to do, I will never know if it really worked. I can just hope and trust in God that it will work. If the evil will ever find a way to start again what I am about to stop, read the following and you will know how to stop it. Follow my exact instructions or it might not work. Go to Houska Castle. That’s where you will find the roulette wheel to stop everything,” Amanda said slowly, taking many pauses to think of the right translation.
The words Michael heard caught his attention. He turned away from the skeleton and looked over to Amanda.
“Houska Castle?” Michael said, his voice raised.
“I came across that name many times during my work fighting Devil worshipers,” Amanda said.
“So you know about this place? What can you tell me about it?”
“If my memory serves me right, Houska Castle is a medieval castle, thirteenth century or so, I think, in the Czech Republic. It’s famous among Devil worshipers because they believe it’s a gate to Hell.”
“Gate to Hell?” His head flinched back slightly.
“Yes, many believe that specific areas on this planet house gateways to Hell. Areas where mankind can enter the underworld or where the underworld can enter our realm.”
“Okay, so the castle has such a gateway?” Michael’s eyebrows were squished together.
“Apparently there’s this big hole in the ground, and the chapel of the castle was built on top of that,” she explained.
“But what’s so special about that hole? You can find caves and holes everywhere,” he said bewildered.
“True, but there are some unique traits about this hole. For instance, it’s claimed that it’s so deep no one can see the bottom of it. Also, old folklore says that half-animal-half-man creatures were seen crawling out of it, and dark, winged creatures flew over it. Others have heard screams and bone chilling moans coming from it.”
“In other words, the chapel is blocking the entrance to Hell,” Michael said with a hesitant nod.
“Anything else I need to know?” Michael asked.
Her eyes turned to the right upper corner. “Legend has it that when the castle was being built, inmates sentenced to death were offered a pardon if they’d agree to be lowered by rope into the hole and report back on what they saw. When the first person was lowered, the prisoner began to scream uncontrollably and begged to be pulled back up. Once up again, he looked as if he had aged thirty years in just a few seconds. He was wrinkly and gray. He was so disturbed by what he had experienced that he went insane. Those few moments in the hole seemed to have claimed his mind. He was sent to a mental institution and died of unknown causes two days later. Then, of course, the Nazis occupied the castle during World War II and did some ludicrous experiments in it.”
“No good creepy story without some crazy Nazi scientists,” Michael said, smiled, and continued, “All of that sounds to me like superstitious ghost stories.”
“You think?” she said and added, “If it’s only a ghost story, then why was it built with no fortifications, no water, no kitchen, near no trade routes, and with no occupants at its time of completion?” She paused and then added before Michael could answer, “The myth explains that this was because the castle was meant not for human habitation, but to capture demons. The castle was not built as a residence or as a protective sanctuary, but was instead built because, as you said yourself already, to conceal the hole that was a gateway to Hell. By constructing the castle, they were able to keep the demons trapped in the lower level thickest walls closest to the hole of the castle.”
Michael tore the piece of paper out of the book, folded it, and put it into his pocket. “Do you really believe this?” Michael asked, shaking his head..
“It doesn’t matter what I believe, but your gift is proof enough that the Devil does exist and has a stranglehold on us humans. We should go there straight away,” Amanda voice was rushed.
“I don’t think so,” Baal said with his deep voice, standing at the broken-up entrance to the room.
“How did you find us?” Michael said, startled.
“Give me the page,” Baal demanded, looking grimly at Amanda and Michael.
“Page?” Michael asked taking a step back.
“The page from the Codex Gigas,” Baal said without blinking.
“Why? The map on the page led us here. So now it’s useless,” Michael said, glancing over to Amanda.
“You have the page, don’t you?” Baal now turned his gaze toward Amanda, giving her all of his attention.
“Stop right there,” Amanda said, pulling a small pistol out of her jacket pocket. Her hands shivered. “Now back away from the door, and let us pass.” She waved the gun to the side, signaling Baal to move away.
“I don’t think so,” Baal said with a smirk.
“Don’t test me, you demon.” Her eyes were fixed on Baal.
“Give me the page, and I might kill you fast and without too much suffering.” Baal’s voice was steady. He walked toward Amanda.
“I will shoot,” Amanda shouted, raising her weapon to the level of her eyes to take better aim.
“I am not alive. I am the slave of the Lord and the true God Lucifer. You cannot harm me,” Baal said and leaped forward, grabbing Amanda by the arm and pulling her toward him.
Amanda’s eyes opened wide, looking at Michael as Baal held her forcefully close to his chest.
The gun was lying on the floor between Baal and Michael. A bullet shot was triggered as it hit the ground.
Michael looked with wide open eyes at the gun, his body leaning slightly toward it.
“Don’t move or I’ll snap her neck,” Baal said, squeezing Amanda’s throat with his massive hand.
Baal slowly stepped out of the room, dragging Amanda with him. Once outside, he took one of the candles from the floor and threw it into the brittle books next to the entrance hole.
The blaze immediately covered the entrance in a sea of fire.
Michael staggered backward toward the wall.
He went down to the ground.
A blanket of smoke covered most of the small room and the flames engulfed now most of the space.
He was gasping for air. He took his shirt off and pressed it firmly to his noise. His eyes stung and teared. He went down to the ground and laid flat, the heat burning on his skin. His limbs became paralyzed.
Michael looked up and could see the skeleton catch fire.
His breaths were shuddering. His vision became blurry.
Relax, Michael, relax.
He leveled his breath again and it became steady.
He closed his eyes.
You need to save Amanda.
He gained control of his limbs again.
He raised his head and could make out the wooden table in front of him. He shook his head and tried to focus. With his last bit of strength, he crawled toward the table. He held onto it and tried to pull himself up. His legs shivered. Barely standing, he managed to flip the table on to its side. He hunched behind it and started to push the table toward the entrance. The flames pitched over the table. Blisters covered his hands. He kept pushing and pushing.
Just a little bit more.
The fire surrounded him. Suddenly the table stopped moving. He looked up and could see the opening to the room. He wrapped his shirt around his upper body and lunged over the table, through the flames, and into the cavern of the catacombs.
Coughing, he rolled over to the other side of the cavern, seeing the flames consume the room.