Chapter 1: The Missionary
David Goldman walked backwards slowly along the side of the all but abandoned highway. He was quite short, though he did not see himself that way. He had short brown hair and thick glasses. He was dressed in a hikers outfit. His thumb stuck out, awaiting the next ignorant schmoe to pass him by, leaving him with nothing but exhaust fumes and a cloud of dust that nearly blinded him. He was used to it though, as he had been hiking for the better part of four days. He was taking part in an office "Team Building" exercise. Their goal was to survive the wide outdoors. He had been left behind as everyone had gotten fed up with his whining. He was a man who enjoyed his comfort and was busy wishing that he had got picked for the executive team building exercise, which involved spending the weekend at a health spa and water sport centre. Instead he had been left to trudge along with the supervisor group. Even the admin had it better with their sci-fi drink-a-thon, aptly named "Bar Trek," which basically required participants to dress up as a semi-recognisable alien and go on a pub-crawl.
David had to travel through the darkest forest the company could find, with a bunch of the most unpopular people in the office. Everyone was depressed at the start but kept going thinking that surviving would prove something to themselves and nothing could bring them down. After fifteen minutes of his company they were ready to slit their wrists. He gave out as many insulting compliments as a beach had grains of sand. He was also gifted with as much tact as a rather large brick being thrown through a very thin pane of glass. He didn't even have good looks or brains to compensate.
After half an hour the whole group was ready to kill him. Then one of the brighter sparks spoke up.
"Listen I have the only phone here. He hasn't got what it takes to make it out here and if he stays with us someone here will end up making him choke to death on that stupid looking hat. Let's just ditch the asshole. If the police ever find his body we'll just say that we thought he was right behind us and no one will ever know otherwise." The rest of the group agreed.
He did initially wonder why the whole group decided to forage for various things all at the same time. However he was left to guard the campsite. He even felt slightly important that they deemed him capable of such a monumentally important task. That was until he realised they had left him. Then he went back to feeling like a miserable idiot. He kicked up dust and leaved in frustration. None of them thought he could make it, but David would soon show them.
After a day's hiking north he had stumbled along a God forsaken road and started walking along, hoping for someone to stop and give him a lift. He had seen a sign for an "Observation Deck" not so long ago. He was heading there now. 'The sign indicated this place was a viewpoint. There are bound to be tourists there. Maybe there's a chance that one of them will give me a lift back to West Fairbank. Man I hope those bastards get torn to pieces. They're all going to lose their jobs when I speak to the boss about this.' He contented himself to think of revenge in its many forms as he walked towards said "Observation Deck." The forest was golden around the edges with signs of fall coming into view. A few leaves fell onto David's woolly hat, making a sort of crown. The inner forest was comprised of evergreens while the outer was mostly deciduous. David noticed a lake in the distance and wondered if there were any nearby towns. He couldn't see anything at the other side of the lake due to a dense fog covering the shore, embracing it like a lover, gently and silently. The fog swirled as if in a dance with the wind. The patterns were starting to make David dizzy. He sat down on a nearby log and rummaged around in his oversized camper pack for a Choccy Chew. For some reason he was starving, even though he had eaten one of his many tins of baked beans just minutes ago.
He looked around, studying his surroundings while he ate, his cheeks bulging like a deranged and bespectacled hamster. He seemed to have walked into a beautiful valley, full of the promise of hope. Little did he know of the dangers that it held. Green forest was nearly everywhere. Large clearings were outlined with yellows, reds, browns and oranges. The road wound like a brown serpent through the green forest of the valley. Mountain peaks lay in the west, the sun now travelling, a great ball of fire in the sky, to rest in between the peaks. David wished he had brought a camera to capture it all. He got up and started walking again with the thought that pretty pictures were not going to get him out of this situation.
An irresistible urge to sleep overtook him when he saw another sign in the road. It read "Observation Deck: 5 Kilometres." David groaned his muscles and bones were aching from exhaustion. He knew it was unwise to keep walking at the side of a highway in the dark so he walked a short distance into the forest and started to set up his sleeping bag. He stayed at a distance that he could still see the road. The sky, now turning to shades of pink and dark blue, was dotted about with tiny pinpoints of light as the brightest stars made an effort to shine early. David looked at the sky and cursed 'Damn, its going to be a cold night. Better start a fire.' He secured his sleeping bag and kit and then spent the next ten minutes gathering firewood. Once the fire was lit he started bedding down for the night. The silence and the dancing flames created a spell that soon had him falling into a deep sleep full of peaceful dreams. As he went to sleep David smiled contented that this was a safe place as even his soul was at ease. He didn't even notice the caravan pulling up on the road.
David awoke to the sound of a car engine starting. Without thinking he jumped up and sprinted towards the road, leaving all his equipment and the smouldering ashes of the campfire behind.
"WAIT. WAIT. I need HELP. Can you help me?" He ran out into the road almost getting knocked over by a truck.
It honked its horn in warning and disapproval. David was relieved to find that the car had not left without him. In fact when the dust cleared he saw that it was not just a car but an old caravan was being towed behind it as well. The car's owner, still seemingly oblivious to David's presence, had the hood of the car up and was looking for a problem with it. David ran to help, overjoyed to see another human face that wasn't on the wrong side of a windshield, honking their horn at him. The man finally noticed David and stood up to talk to him.
"Hello there, stranger. May I help you?"
David smiled with glee "The name is David Goldman, friend and I just may be able to help you. I work on cars like this in my spare time."
David looked closer at the man. He was taller than him and had short white hair. He was dressed in a black short-sleeved shirt and black trousers. He removed a thin white strip from his pocket and fixed it to his collar with oily fingers, making the white strip seem tainted as if the darkness were swallowing it up.
"The name is Father Abe Jones and you are indeed a friend if you can help me. My car has just broken down and I have a service to lead."
David shook hands with the gaunt looking church man, his pale complexion contrasted to that of David's rosy cheeks.
"What seems to be the problem Father?"
Abe rubbed the back of his neck making it all oily, "Well she just clapped out on me. No explanation, no warning, nothing."
David patted the side of the car.
"Ahh they don't make them like that any more. She's a classic," David laughed. Just then he heard a muffled scream come from inside the caravan. He looked at Father Abe slowly with a suspicious eye.
"Did you hear that?"
The pastor's face remained a picture of innocence
"Hear what? I think you've spent a bit too much time in the woods Mr Goldman. If it was anything it was probably this old piece of junk giving up the ghost."
David shrugged and nodded
"Yeah you're probably right."
'C'mon David. This guy's a man of the church for chrissake. What are you thinking? You've been reading far too many horror stories that's your problem. It's just your imagination. Look you've just been talking to yourself for the last five minutes, you think you need any more proof?' David shook himself and yawned, trying to wake himself up.
Abe looked concerned
"Listen David. You look tired. Why don't you go in back and take a shower, waken yourself up a bit, then come and help me with the car when you're more alert."
David nodded, he was still feeling tired, he was even starting to see double. He adjusted his glasses but it didn't help.
"I think I'll take you up on that offer. Thank you Father."
Father Jones smiled pleasantly,
"Don't mention it my child. After all you're going to help me get to where I need to go. It's the least that I can do."
David smiled, he liked Father Jones, and he was without doubt the most hospitable man that David had ever met. He slowly trudged round to the left side of the caravan, past the small bathroom window.
"The door is around the other side."
David slapped his head and walked with his head down. He was nearly sleepwalking with drowsiness.
He didn't see the terrified face of the young woman peeping through the curtains. Her long black hair hid most of her face except for the middle. Her eyes could only partially be seen they were wide open with fear. Her pale blue lips were torn in several places so that the flesh hung over her chin. Her mouth was open in a silent scream, her voice too scared to make a sound. Her face disappeared from the window when a thick, meaty hand attached to a brutish hairy arm covered her mouth and grabbed her face, dragging her back into the darkness.
The caravan shook a bit just as David reached for the handle. David turned around to Father Jones.
"You sure there's nothing in there?" Father Jones didn't hear him as his head was down under the car hood again.
'It's all in your imagination. Just get your stupid shower so you can help this man. Then you can get back to civilisation and get those bastards back for leaving you.' The caravan was completely still once more. David tried shaking it but found that the garden shed on wheels was immovable. 'Strange' he thought. He opened the rusty door with a creak. The inside of the caravan was, as Father Jones said completely empty. He didn't know what he was expecting to see. He opened the thin, brown and white chequered curtains to let a little more light in. He could see the lake from here. The fog seemed to be sliding its way across the lake towards his side of the shore. 'Better get this shower. The quicker we get going the better or we won't make it out of here before that fog sets in.
The temperature of the caravan suddenly dropped. David's breath made a mist on the window. He drew a smiley face with glasses and walked a few steps towards the soft wooden bathroom door. He noticed the small sink near the front door of the caravan. 'Those dishes need done. Father Jones should know all about cleanliness being next to Godliness,' he chuckled to himself. David opened the bathroom door and was blasted by a rush of cold air. He peeked his head in and saw nothing. He heard footsteps approach the caravan. 'Or are they in the caravan? I can't tell. So tired.'
Father Jones' voice came from outside the front door. "Everything OK in there?"
David locked himself in the bathroom and started running the hot water.
"Yes Father. Everything's great thanks."
Steam filled the small compartment. He started getting undressed, making sure there was a towel ready for him when he got out. He looked in the mirror and screamed when he saw the reflection of a young girl naked, butchered and screaming. A large, hairy arm grew out of her back and was repeatedly cutting and stabbing her with a large kitchen knife. He blinked and she was gone, he was left staring at his ugly reflection. 'All your imagination.' He blinked again and saw a message scrawled urgently on the mirror, but it was backwards as if scrawled from the other side. It read, "Run. Leave this place. Abe father of many monsters." David blinked again and it disappeared. 'Imagination.' He got into the shower and started rinsing the sleepiness off, hoping to God that the day-mares would stop. He started to massage the shampoo into his head, not noticing the thin wire noose descending from the showerhead.
The more he ignored the visions the lower the noose got. Suddenly it dropped around his neck and quickly tightened, violently pulling his body by the neck, up to the showerhead. He started spinning, gasping for air as the hot liquid ran down his skin. He caught a glimpse in the mirror and was not surprised to see blood flowing down. As he span round again he noticed that the tiles were swirling to form the top half of the girl he had seen. The grotesque arm, now perfectly white and made of porcelain was holding and pulling the wire noose around his neck. The girl, now holding the knife proceeded to cut out David's tongue and placed it in her own mouth. With a few tugs and settings in place the tongue looked like it was a natural part of her body. She spoke and it sounded like glass splinters sprinkling on the ground.
"I warned you to leave yet you ignored. Your ignorance has blinded you. I am here to make you atone for your sin. Your colleagues and everyone around you despise you. All because of your ignorance to their feelings."
She stabbed his left eye, plucking it out and throwing it down the toilet. "You only need one eye to witness this. Maybe the pain will waken you into the reality of this world." Excruciating pain and darkness claimed him.
David woke up in a cage. The noose was still throttling him but for some reason he just wasn't dying. He tried to move his arms but found that he was paralysed. He could barely move his head, but it was enough to see that he was wrapped in a cocoon of rotten flesh that looked like a straight jacket. His feet were joined and tied to a large blade. The pressure building in his head made him aware that he was upside down. The cage seemed to be under a lake enshrouded in fog.
'So that's what was in the fog on the lake. Hell.'
An icy laugh sounded from somewhere near him. "Very close, Mr Goldman this is Samael's domain. A prison for tortured souls just like you."
David thought for a moment a ray of hope shining though his misery. "Wait a moment. Can't you escape at all?"
The laugh became crueller in manner. "Indeed Mr Goldman but don't forget, you have a lot to atone for. Every time you have sinned in your life according to the scripture's blessed text then the blade of righteousness will cut you and the sinful soul that resides in you. This will happen until we are happy that you are free from sin then you may go. Although it depends on you as to how much of you will leave. Shall we begin?"
David saw no way out of this so he reluctantly agreed. The water underneath him rippled and became still again to reveal his childhood. Before he could think the blade started piercing him in the belly and kept repeatedly stabbing him in a steady rhythm letting the wound heal a bit before a fresh wound was created.
"Nooooooo aaaarrrgh." David's voice faded away as the missionary withdrew her spirit from the lake and travelled back to the caravan. The front door of the caravan closed violently whenever she was in. Father Abe smiled and closed the hood of the car down again.
"Time to move on child. There's a world of sinners out there to cleanse." He got in and started the car first time. He pulled out and started driving, clouds of dust left in his wake. The sun set between the mountains as he drove off into the distance.