Devil Digger

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The ritual

The police and the firemen arrived at the barn soon after the fog dissipated. Somebody from the town noticed the flames and called the fire department. After extinguishing the fire, they found the charred remains of the priest. Nobody could recognize him but Kerrigan had a feeling that it was Jonathan. Considering the visible mutilation, it had to be him. The sheriff felt a wave of relief after discovering the body. Every sign pointed to a ritualistic murder, revenge for all the children who had died by his hands.

The body was taken away for an autopsy and the police swept the area but found nothing else of importance. Keith knew that his men were at the barn before. They searched this area a few days back. So in his mind, that meant that somebody brought the corpse here, mutilated it and then set it on fire. He just has to find out who that was. Keith was hoping that the autopsy will shed some light on it.

He remembered the deaths of ’58 and they were brutal. Every third night was a foggy night, the night when the demon dug up the dead. The same night somebody disappeared or died. All of those who disappeared are still declared missing. Others have been found dead and mutilated but not like this. The way they were killed was more primal. There were also some strange deaths in town which nobody could explain. Most of them had been clear suicides, others had been committed by people who went insane seemingly for no reason at all. Kerrigan knew very well why those killings and suicides had happened.

This murder had a clear motive. It was the reason why Keith felt relieved. Maybe it was just his imagination and all the recent events have a rational explanation. He just has to find the other missing people. Let’s hope for the best, he thought, and keep on working on finding the others.

In the afternoon Nate made up his mind and headed for the church. After watching Jonathan burn, he wasn’t afraid to go there anymore. He knew that Father Matt was a nice fellow so he went to ask him a few questions. The recent events upset him a great deal and wanted answers. The only person he thought capable of giving him those answers was Father Matt. Nate could have asked his mother but he already knew her point of view about most things. He somehow felt that he needed to talk to the priest.

Father Matt was sitting on a bench in the churchyard reading a book. A perfect opportunity thought the little boy, I will go and talk to him. Nate hurried through the old willow trees which were scattered around the yard and greeted the priest. Father Matt greeted him back and invited Nate to sit beside him. His voice was warm, his manners unquestionable and his gestures calm. The boy felt comfortable in his presence. He felt reassured that whatever he’s going to ask the priest, Father Matt will honest with him.

‘So,’ said the priest, ‘what is bothering you?’

‘But how do you...?’

‘I see it in your eyes,’ he responded and smiled.

‘I was wondering...’ Nate began but his voice faltered.

‘Well?’ said the priest and smiled again at the boy.

‘Two nights ago,’ Nate began again, ‘I saw a monster in my room.’

‘Oh, is that so? And what happened?’

‘I thought about Jesus and how he might destroy it, but Jesus isn’t here anymore so I prayed to God.’

‘And did the monster go away?’

‘No, Father. It was standing in the corner looking at me and grinning. It disappeared when I switched on the light.’

‘So you are asking me why didn’t God listen to your prayer?’

‘Yes, Father,’ said Nate and looked into the priest’s shining eyes.

‘Do you believe in God?’

‘Yes, I believe.’

‘But do you believe in yourself?’

This question shocked Nate because he didn’t expect it. Never even thought about it. How can a priest ask such a thing? Aren’t we supposed to believe only in God and put ourselves in second place?

‘What do you mean, Father?’ he asked and threw a dumbfounded look at the priest.

‘I meant what I said,’ the priest responded, ‘so, do you believe in yourself?’

‘I guess...’ Nate began, ‘I guess, no.’

‘Well then, there is your problem.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Believing in God requires strength. If you don’t believe in yourself, your own strength, then you can’t believe in God.’

The priest saw that the boy was clueless about the matter so he continued. Nate was listening carefully, squinting and concentrating in order to understand what the priest had to say.

‘Believe in yourself and the God within you will help. Doubt yourself and the devil will have his way.’

‘The God within me?’ Nate asked because he was still puzzled.

‘Well, you see, I don’t think about God as all-powerful being that had existed since the beginning of time. I think about Him as the fundamental goodness in all of us. The power to make a difference and help others, the power to make sacrifices. In the Bible, Jesus sacrificed himself for humanity, he died for us. However, this is not how I see it. It is only a metaphor. Every time we make a sacrifice we leave something behind. In other words, we die inside but this is how we grow.’

‘I didn’t think of it like this before.’

‘Of course, nobody thinks of it like this. Maybe a few people. Everybody takes the teachings literally. Like they are written, do you understand?’

‘Yes, I understand.’

‘They don’t read between the lines.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘It means that you have to understand the meaning behind the texts, behind the teachings. Take the story of Jesus again as an example. What does it teach you?’

‘That God had sent His only son to save us from our sins.’

‘Yes, that’s what it says,’ said Father Matt and smiled, ‘but what does it teach us?’

‘I...I don’t know, Father.’

‘You see, we are defined by the sacrifices we have made. Life is suffering but you have to stand up straight and face it. Life won’t get any easier if you curl up in a corner and cry. The story of Jesus is a story about facing suffering. You have to carry your own cross. The first step towards believing in God is to believe in yourself. If you have the strength to face yourself then you’ll have the strength of God in your hands.’

‘Yes,’ Nate said and raise his head, yes, I understand now, I have to face my fears and be strong.′

‘Yes, that’s right,’ said the priest and ruffled Nate’s hair.

‘But,’ Nate continued, ‘won’t it be difficult? I mean, there are so many strange things happening. It feels like there is only darkness everywhere. I’m afraid.’

'Than be the light!'

'But how, Father?'

'You have to find that out yourself but remember, the light that comes from within shines the brightest.'

'I don’t understand!'

'You will,' said the priest and stood up, 'don't worry. Faith is the guide, will is the drive, never forget this. I have to leave now, duty calls.'

'All right, thank you Father,' said the boy as Father Matt was leaving.

Nate left the priest and was wondering what he had meant. He couldn't yet understand but was sure that one day he will.

When night came, the Gang except Nate went to the Hershey house. They were afraid, just like the first time they came here. But now all of them knew, even Nate who was laying in his bed with the lit lamp beside him, that this time they didn't come to play. Many lives were at stake, most of all Nate's.
For Nate, this night was uneventful. It might have been that he had locked the closet door or maybe God was helping him. The lamp wasn't disturbed but he felt watched by unseen eyes. While the others were searching the Hershey house, Nate was struggling to fall asleep.
Andy was sure that something waited in the house to be discovered. The others were more reluctant but they had no other choice anyway. The kids climbed inside the yard again and made their way inside through the window. Andy was leading them, he was afraid but Jess's presence gave him courage.
The basement door was open so they headed down. On the stairs, they stopped for a while and looked around with their flashlights. Nothing moved, there were only darkness and a lot of furniture and garbage.

'Look there,' said Chris, 'what's that?'

'It's some kind of door,' said Jess.

'Yes,' said Andy and sighed, 'it's right where the portal was in my dream.'

'Let's check it out,' said Chris.

They descended the stairs and then entered the doorway. The kids followed the path which was some days ago walked by Kevin Cook. A path that was leading only into darkness and devastation.

'Wow,' whispered Danny, 'what is this place?'

'I don't know,' replied Jess, 'but I feel like running away right now.'

'Hang on,' said Andy, 'there is a door at the end of the corridor.'

When they reached the door, they noticed the moldy skeleton on the floor. It looked like it had been resting there for hundreds of years. After entering the main chamber they looked around carefully. The sight of bones and skulls terrified them. The smell was also unpleasant, rank and moldy.

Close to where they were standing, just at the bottom of the few stairs, Danny noticed something on the floor. On closer inspection, he recognized it as a weapon. It was Jimmy's rifle which he had dropped to the ground after he fainted.

'Look at that!' said Danny and picked it up.

'That's a gun,' said Andy, 'be careful with it!'

Danny carefully held the gun in his left hand with the barrel pointing to the ground. Even as young as he was, Danny knew that a gun can be very dangerous so he chose to be cautious. The kids continued onward into the darkness. When they went to the altar, Chris noticed the book and the symbols.

'What's that?' he asked and pointed his flashlight toward it.

'Looks like a book,' said Andy, 'I told you that there will be something here.

'Let's take it and get out of this place,' said Danny and moved towards the altar.

'Wait,' said Andy and his light fell on the darkness which was the pit's mouth, 'be careful where you step.'

'Oh, what the hell?' he exclaimed and halted at the pit's edge.

'Just take the damn book and let's go,' said Jess in a hurried voice.

Andy pointed his flashlight towards the other end of the chamber and noticed the iron door.

'Look,' he said, 'there's a door over there.'

'I think it leads to the cemetery,' said Chris.

'Come on guys, let's take the book and go!' Jess urged the boys.

Chris took the book in his hands and they ran out. Andy took the book from Danny and took it home to read it. Danny took the gun and carried it home because he had a feeling that they will need it soon. He knew very well where to hide it. After going home, he took a wooden box and put the gun inside it then dug a hole in the most remote part of their garden. He covered the spot with dead grass and fallen leaves so nobody would notice then went to sleep.

The next day, which was a Thursday, the Gang met in the early afternoon in the Shed. Andy and Chris had a sleepy look on their faces. Chris was yawning all the time and Andy was sighing like the world is going to end. They sat down in a circle like they always did. Andy took the book in his hands and looked each of them in the eyes. The book didn't have any title or name so Andy called it simply the black book.

'So,' Jess began, 'what is in the book?'

'Everything,' Andy replied, 'the creature with the yellow eyes is a demon, a cemetery demon.'

'Cemetery demon?' asked Danny.

'Yes, as I understood. The text is old and difficult. There are parts in other languages too so there are still lots of things I couldn't understand.'

'So what does it say about it, about the demon?' asked Jess with wide eyes.

'It digs up the dead to give them one last chance to do something they couldn't do before they died, or something like this. It is called The Devil Digger but has many other names too.'

'Wow, that's crazy,' said Nate, 'so this is how the dead came back to life.'

'Yes, but wait,' Andy continued, 'there's more...'

'Where did it come from?' asked Jess interrupting Andy.

'It came from the pit. The one Chris almost fell into last night. The demon comes only if a ritual is completed.'

'Ritual? What ritual? asked Danny.

'Self-sacrifice,' said Chris.

'Yes, if you want to call the demon you have to cut yourself and let the blood flow onto one of the symbols on the altar and let it flow into the earth. When you are close to death, the dead come out from the hole and drag you in.'

'What was the ghost you've seen in the basement then? Was it the demon?' asked Jess.

'No, it was the demon's spirit which was haunting the house. After we've been there, somebody else went there also. The book says that if somebody is in great pain and sorrow, the evil from the house will call on the person and then shows the way to the pit. If the person completes the ritual, then the spirit descends into the pit and reclaims its body. Then it comes out to do what it was supposed to do.'

'So, somebody clearly completed the ritual,' said Nate.

'Yes, and I think I know who...'

'Kevin,' said Chris, 'after his disappearance, the shit began hitting the fan.'

'That's right,' Andy continued, 'and Karen was the first victim.'

'Yes,' Danny exclaimed, 'I was there when the police were at her house. The chief looked very concerned, almost afraid. Like he knew something really bad was going on.'

'But what about the ghost I'm seeing?' asked Nate hoping for an explanation.

'It's a curse,' replied Andy, 'if you look in its eyes, the demon will curse you with some illness or it can set loose an evil spirit to haunt you. The book calls the evil spirits tormentors. They play with you for some time and then...then they kill you.'

Andy looked at Nate whose face became sad after hearing the terrible news. Soon the sadness overwhelmed him and he began to cry. Jess went closer to the boy and tried to comfort him but without success.

Andy remembered one passage from the book. It was about looking into the eyes of the spirit before it repossesses its body. It said that after someone looks into the eyes of the spirit, that person will be plagued by bad dreams and suicidal thoughts. The demon is weaker in spirit form so it tries to play with the victim's mind.

'Andy, how do we stop it?' she said and looked at Andy with pleading eyes.

'With another sacrifice.'

'Oh, my God,' Jess replied, 'isn't there some other way?'

'I don't know. The book doesn't say that this is the only way. It just says that this is the way to send it back into the pit and I don't think that it goes down without a fight. Look at this drawing.'

He turned the pages and pointed at a drawing. It represented a man with his arm held out above the second symbol with the demon at the other side of the pit with the spade in its hand. From the pit, many animated corpses were emerging. They were crawling out with their rotten bodies and distorted faces like maggots.

'Oh, my God! There has to be some other way,' said Jess, 'how powerful is it? I mean the demon.'

'Very powerful but there's one thing it can't do.'

'What's that? asked Jess anxiously.

'It can't kill people directly. It can kill only with the use of curses. The book says that if it could kill, it would have been much too powerful.'

'This is why it didn't kill us in the church,' said Danny.

'Yes, I think so. The demon is not interested in just killing randomly. The book speaks about some kind of balance. It says there that the demon is also called The Restorer of Unholy Balance but I don't know what that means.'

'I think I know,' said Jess, 'it's the balance between the living and the dead. If you are alive, you can still do what you planned to do. But if you are dead, you can't. This is why it gives one last chance to the dead.'

'Makes sense,' replied Danny, 'but what if you die and have nothing that you wanted to do?'

'Then, I guess, it can't dig you up.'

'Yeah,' said Chris, 'there's one more thing. The demon can only revive bodies buried in hallowed ground.'

'Hollowed ground?' asked Jess.

'Yes,' replied Andy, 'like cemeteries and churches. I think that is what it means.'

'Ahaa,' she said, 'I get it now.'

'The book also states that it can't get out of the hallowed ground,' said Andy.

'That's good news,' she replied, 'but why?'

'Because...' said Chris then paused, 'I can't believe I'm saying this, but the book says that the demon was born to desecrate God's work. Where can you do that best if not on holy ground? The demon goes against God's will and raises those whom God decided that should be dead.'

'Wow,' said Danny, 'this is some craaazy shit.'

'All right,' said Andy, 'what do we do?'

'Research,' said Chris, 'we have to find out more about this thing before we do something stupid.'

'I agree,' said Andy, 'but where do we start?'

'At the library,' his brother replied, 'the book we found looks old, the house is also old...'

'So, what's your point?' asked Jess.

'I think it had happened before.'

'And? I still don't see the connection?'

'He's right,' interrupted Danny, 'if an event like this had happened before, there should be some mention about it.'

'Maybe, or maybe not,' said Chris, 'but I have to try. Last time we've found nothing at the history section.'

'Where do you want to search then?' asked Andy with genuine curiosity.

'On the third floor, where the director's office is. I've been there a few times and I've seen all kinds of books which weren't ordered.'

'All right, I understand now!' said Jess.

'Are we going to the library then?'

'Yes, big brother but not today. Let's read the book again, all of us. Ten eyes are better than four. Who knows what we'll find? Besides, I think that all of you are curious what's in it, right?'

'Ok, good idea,' said Andy, 'but be careful, there's some spooky stuff in this book.'

'Don't worry,' Jess replied, 'it can't get any spookier than it already is.'

That being said, they went through the book again but couldn't get out more information than Andy and Chris could. As Andy was reading it again, he kept wondering. He tried to find a connection between his dreams and the situation they were in. What if the demon wanted to show him something through his dreams?

So far, his dreams helped him find the book. Is the demon helping them? Are the dreams some kind of foreshadowing? A foreshadowing of his own death maybe. He saw his gravestone in the dreams after all. Perhaps he will be the one who will have to sacrifice himself in order to save his friends...and the girl he loved.

Yes, he loved her. He didn't know it for sure until now. The idea of failure made him realize this. If they fail to do something to get rid of the demon then she will die. The thought of her death almost made him cry. An overwhelming sadness came upon him and he thought he'd better die himself than see her dead.

The other thing which deepened his sadness was the sight of his friend, Nate. He wasn't sobbing anymore but the signs of despair were painted on his cheeks, Andy could see it in his eyes. If Nate dies because he failed, it would be unbearable for him. He felt a lot of weight resting on his shoulders. A month ago, he was just a usual kid with insignificant problems. His biggest problem was the two retards, Frank and Jim. Now it was radically different. Much bigger players have entered the game and Andy felt that he was losing.

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