‘So this night had finally come,’ said Andy standing in front of the Hershey crypt.
‘Yes,’ said Jess, ‘this is the night we end it all...’
’Or it will end us, ’replied Danny.
‘We have to do it, guys,’ said Nate and looked at each of them, ‘whatever it takes.’
‘I agree,’ replied Chris, whatever it takes. Let’s do it. I’m ready!′
’Me too!’ said the others almost at the same time.
They stood in a small circle under the pale light of the moon and put their hands together in the middle. All of them knew and also felt that they belong together and the only way they can prevail is by standing together. Only the dead witnessed their ritual before the final showdown. Here among the tombstones, they stood, a place where none of them should have been, yet they formed the strongest of bonds in the city of the dead.
‘Do we have to carry that sack of shit all the way down there?’ asked Chris and pointed to Frank’s corpse.
It was wrapped in old pieces of rags, everything they could find in the Shed and around it. The plan was to drag the body to the pit and throw it in. They supposed that nobody will ever find it in there. Andy cut the chain with a bolt cutter which was a last minute addition to their arsenal.
He opened the door, and they all stared into the darkness. The kids knew that entering this dark place can mean that some of them might not return. But they still entered, Andy and Nate led the way with their flashlights.
‘Are you sure that we can enter through here?’ asked Chris.
‘Yeah,’ his brother responded, ‘the journal said that it has to be some opening mechanism in the coffin.’
‘Look,’ said Nate who was inspecting the place, ‘a crowbar.’
‘Great, we can use it to open the coffin,’ said Danny and moved to take it from the corner where Old Jimmy had left it before the darkness swallowed him.
With a collective effort, they moved the stone lid and the lever. Andy pulled it and the hatch opened on the floor. Frank's body was heavy but they managed to move it with a collective effort. It made a loud thump when the kids threw him through the hatch. They then all descended into the underground passage. The smell of earth and death was awful but the kids didn’t pay much attention, the task ahead was more important.
‘Nathaaaannnn,’ a voice came from somewhere nearby.
‘What was that?’ asked Jess.
‘Did you hear that?’ asked Chris almost at the same time.
‘It was the ghost,’ replied Nate.
‘Shit, we really didn’t need one more pain in our ass,’ said Andy.
They waited and listened but no more sounds could be heard and their flashlights couldn’t see anything. It will come back, thought Nate, it will be back soon. They had to carry the gas canister and also Frank's dead weight. Progress was slow, they watched their every step carefully. The Gang almost reached the iron door when Nate jumped and yelped then turned around pointing his flashlight in all directions.
‘What,’ asked Danny, ‘the ghost again?’
‘Yeah, it touched me.’
‘It is taunting you,’ said Jess.
‘Jess, stay behind and keep your light on him.’
‘All right,’ Jess replied and moved to the back.
‘Are you guys sure that it was a good idea that Nate came with us?’ asked Chris.
‘I know I should’ve remained at home but this is my fight too,’ replied Nate, ‘I can’t leave you guys alone.’
‘Chris is right but it’s too late now, I guess,’ said Andy.
‘Guys,’ said Nate, ‘I won’t run away. If the ghost takes me, then that’s it. I did nothing wrong, so I’m not afraid of hell.’
‘Fair enough,’ said Andy.
‘Come on guys,’ Nate continued, ‘I can’t stay at home with the lights on while you are fighting zombies in a dark cave.’
‘All right,’ said Jess, ‘but be careful. Let’s always keep a light on him.’
That being said, they moved on all the way to the pit. The crooked altar stood before them. It was where it all began, this is where it all has to end.
‘Hey, Nate! Your dad isn’t going to help us?’
‘I don’t know, Andy. He was unsure when I talked to him. He said that he’s gonna help but...’ he shrugged.
‘I bet he’s going to chicken out just like before.’
‘I don’t know. He wasn’t home almost all day. I wanted to talk to him but he vanished.’
‘What about the sheriff?’ asked Jess.
‘We’ll see,’ Andy replied, ‘if he wants this hell to end then he’ll come.’
’Let’s hope for the best and get to work,’ said Chris.
‘All right,’ said Andy, ‘Danny, can you spread the gas around the pit?’
‘Yeah, will do. What about the shitsack?’
'Oh, just throw him into the pit. Here, let me help you.'
They rolled Frank's corpse to the pit's side. One more push and the body would have disappeared.
'All right,' said Andy, 'let's get rid of him!'
'Bye bye, dickface!' said Danny and pushed the body with his foot.
'Rot in pieces!' added Jess in a hateful manner.
Frank's body rolled then fell into the darkness. Danny grabbed the canister and began spilling the liquid around the hole. Andy took the black book, which he also took with him and placed it on the altar. The others checked the weapons they had brought.
The great oak door’s hinges creaked and Chris pointed his flashlight towards it to see who or what was coming. A tall and broad figure entered the great hall. The kids immediately recognized chief Kerrigan, who was still sporting his white, bushy mustache.
‘What the ugly hell?’ he said when he saw the small group of children.
‘Good evening, sheriff!’ Andy greeted him than the others as well.
‘Good evening, kids. Which one of you wrote that letter to me?’
‘It was me, chief,’ said Andy and stepped forward.
‘You’re that Perkins boy, aren’t you?’ asked the chief trying to remember where had he seen him before.
‘I’m a Perkins boy too,’ said Chris raising his hand.
‘Yes, I remember,’ said the chief, ‘you’ve been troubled by those bullies at the library, right?’
‘Yeah, that was us,’ replied Chris, ‘but we gave a mighty ass-whooping to Frank, he was all...’
‘Shut up, moron,’ Jess interrupted him, ‘we have more important things to do right now.’
‘I agree,’ continued the chief, ‘you could begin by explaining to me how the hell do you know about all this...stuff.’
‘We met the demon when we broke into Father Jonathan’s office,’ said Chris again ignoring Jess’s previous scolding.
‘What? Why did you break in?’
‘He was a pervert,’ said Chris again.
‘Yes,’ his brother continued and pointed towards Nate, ‘he lured Nate into his office and when he was called outside, Nate had found some pictures...’
‘Horrible pictures,’ Jess interrupted.
‘Oh, my God,’ said Kerrigan, ‘you mean those pictures with the dead children?’
‘Yes, he found them, and then we broke in one night to steal them, we wanted to take them to the police, but he caught us. He wanted to kill us in the church basement, but when he brought us there, the demon was waiting for him,’ continued Andy.
‘Wow, that’s crazy. That’s why the case didn’t make any sense at all.’
‘The demon dug up the dead children, and they killed him. They ripped him apart and pulled him underground. Then he came back...’
‘Yeah, he attacked me at my house,’ said Danny, ‘we lured him to the abandoned barn in the fields and set him on fire. He didn’t die, so we had to hit him in the head with an ax.’
‘All right, I understand now. I can’t believe you could do that. Why are you here? Why do you want to help me stop this?’
‘Because I was cursed,’ said Nate and came closer, ‘when we were in the church basement, I looked into the demon’s eyes, and he set an evil spirit to haunt me.’
‘If we don’t stop it, Nate will die. The spirit said that it can kill Nate at any time, so we have to do something.’
‘I guess that you’ve found the book, right?’
‘Yeah, it was right here,’ said Andy and pointed to the altar.
He then proceeded to tell the chief about his first encounter with the demon’s spirit in the Hershey house and his nightmares. Andy and Chris also told him about the body in the library’s basement. After a brief talk, the kids told the sheriff everything he needed to know. He was amazed by everything the Gang had done so far. What he really doubted, was that they could help him tonight. So young and fragile, yet they survived, he thought, these poor little souls don’t deserve to be caught up in this hell. Kerrigan was thinking about the situation. He wanted to find a way to spare them but there was no way he could do this alone. In the end, he accepted to face the demon side by side with them but also do everything in his power to protect them. Even if it will cost his life, he has to make sure they are safe.
‘So what’s the plan?’ he asked.
‘I will begin the ritual,’ Andy explained, 'then the demon will come out of the pit just as it is written in the book. Then we’re going to cut the spade’s handle. Its power lies in the spade if we destroy that, maybe we can kill it.′
‘It’s a long shot, but this is almost the same plan we’ve had many years ago,’ said Kerrigan and nodded, ‘I can think of no other option. Let’s do it. Go help us all.’
Keith inspected the arsenal which the Gang had collected and thought for a few minutes. His plan was to try to shoot the handle in order to break it. A few shots from the shotgun should be enough. He also had to guard Andy and the pit’s mouth. If anything comes out of it, he had to make sure that it can’t reach the children. Jess took the nail gun and Danny the repeating rifle. The sheriff showed him how to use it and told him to only shoot if he has a clear shot.
Nate was responsible for the lights. They placed a few flashlights around the place and also gave two more to Nate. In the journal, they have read before how the demon could extinguish all torches with one wave of its hand. If this happens with the flashlights too, Nate was responsible with switching them on again or using the ones he had. Kerrigan also told him to always stay in the light in order to avoid the tormentor.
‘Are you sure that you want to begin the ritual?’ asked Keith and looked at the boy.
‘Yes, I’m sure,’ he responded.
The kids moved into position, and Andy took out the knife from the book. It was sharp and clean, not a speck of blood or rust was present on the blade. Surprising, Andy thought, considering that it had been used many times before. He sliced at his wrist with it, at first he was hesitating, but he manned up. Andy hissed when the blade cut his flesh but the pain wasn’t that bad after all. Blood began to flow from the wound, so he held out his hand over the second symbol on the altar.
Kerrigan readied his shotgun and stood beside the boy. The others were waiting in position behind the columns. For half a minute or so, nothing happened when they began hearing sounds from the depths of the pit. The sound’s intensity was increasing. Their hearts were beating in their throats, and they began sweating. Only the sheriff was a bit calmer. He had been in a similar situation before, so he knew what to expect.
‘So, what went wrong the last time?’ asked Andy in order to make the situation less stressful.
‘It was a resurrection night, I and some friends were waiting for it to come back. We caught it off-guard but it quickly stopped our flashlights from working. We had only two flashlights. In the dark, I couldn’t shoot the spade and when the boys got the lights going again, the dead were already spilling out of the hole.’
‘And what happened next?’
’We were shooting at them but there were more and more of the dead. I couldn’t get a clean shot. One of us got too scared and took off leaving us there, so one of us, Buddy was his name, slashed his wrist to begin the ritual. He saw that there was no other way.'
'He completed the ritual, right?' asked Andy again as he listened to the rumbling increase.
'Right, but he had to cut his jugular artery in order to do it. Old Jim and I held back the dead until he finished the ritual. He got dragged down the hole, then the dead came for the demon and dragged him down too.'
'So this was how you ended it back then.'
'Sort of, yes. Kids, brace yourselves, here we go,' said Kerrigan and raised his gun.
The sounds have reached the mouth of the pit. A foul, sulfurous smell came out of it and filled the air. A black figure jumped out of the pit and landed on its feet at the mouth of the pit. With a snap of its fingers, it extinguished all the flashlights and darkness filled the chamber. Nate was ready and switched on one of the spare lights and pointed it towards the pit. The demon was not there anymore, they were searching the place with their eyes but weren't able to see it.
A slicing sound hit their ears as the demon slammed the spade into the ground. Kerrigan left the pit's side to search for it. He saw the demon on the other side of the chamber. It was holding the spade, the runes on its handle were glowing red. The ground shook just like in case of an earthquake. The sheriff began shooting, but he was off target due to the shaking. He managed to hit the demon but it was impervious to the bullets. The spade remained intact, so he continued to shoot but the distance was too large in order to hit the spade.
Nate switched on the other flashlight and tried to illuminate the demon's position. The demon retreated into the shadows and it was nowhere to be found again. Kerrigan was shooting in its direction while closing the distance but without any results. He emptied the shotgun and had to reload.
'Sheriff,' shouted Andy who was still holding his arm above the altar, 'something is coming up from the pit!'
'I'm coming,' said the sheriff and ran back with his weapon ready.
Sounds of rumbling and moaning came from the pit. Whatever was coming up, it was coming fast. The demon had summoned the dead from the depths and was waiting in the chamber's corner for them to finish the job. He was not allowed to harm anybody. A spell cast many ages ago was staying his hands. The fact that somebody had started the ritual of banishing him from this world again, made him stay. He could have just left this place leaving the dead finish the job but he had to stay.
Nate ran to the first flashlight which they had placed around the place and tried to switch it on. It was broken. An unsettling thought occurred to him. If the demon can turn off their lights with just a wave of its hand, then it is only a matter of time until the remaining two lights will go off. He switched one off in order to preserve it, if they remain without lights, they will all die. Nate was keeping the light on Kerrigan and Andy. The ghost, he thought, where is the ghost? If the lights go out, I'm toast.
The first rotten head appeared at the pit's mouth. It was grinning at Andy who made a step back. Before it could make a move on the boy, the sheriff blasted it with the shotgun. Bits of bone and dead skin scattered all around. Some of it fell on Andy but he didn't move. The body of the corpse fell back into the bottomless pit. Three more heads appeared, the sheriff had shot all of them. Andy was beginning to feel dizzy, tired. He stood his ground due to the adrenaline rush which was trying to keep him alive.
The blood kept flowing onto the symbol on the altar but it was a long way until it could be filled up. Andy was a big boy but was smaller than an adult so he had less blood. Kerrigan looked at him and saw that soon they will have some problems. His attention had been averted again when many more corpses began to appear. The sheriff began shooting. His aim was exceptional but he had only four shells left in his weapon so he had to throw it on the ground. There was no time to reload.
Danny rushed from behind one of the columns but then the flashlight went out. It was the demon playing with them from the shadows. Complete darkness filled the chamber or, better to say, all light left it leaving the group in the dark. Danny fumbled in his pocket and found the matches. With a quick move, he lit one. At the same time, Nate's throat was grabbed by invisible hands but when they began squeezing, the gasoline on the side of the pit caught fire. The ghost disappeared in an instant and Nate fell on his ass gasping for air.
The dead which were trying to climb out of the pit were caught off-guard by the roaring blaze. Some of them fell back into the pit but some of them went berserk and began moving much faster. The sheriff was using his revolver now, Danny was there too with the rifle. His aim was bad, he managed to shoot two of the crawlers in the head. His other shots were pretty much off-target. Jess a Chris joined in, they stood beside Andy to protect him. Jess emptied the nail gun into three approaching corpses two of which fell to the ground and then back into the pit. The third one was finished by Chris's ax, he planted it straight into the dead man's face. The corpse collapsed and slid into the hole taking the ax with it.
Jess saw that their battle is futile and took up the blade with the intent of slashing her wrist too. Andy looked at her in horror. The fire's yellow lights danced on his pale and tired face.
'What are you doing?' he asked.
'I want to help you. They are too many.'
'No,' he replied, 'go for the demon. Destroy the spade. If you don't do it, all of us will die!'
'Hey, girl,' said the sheriff as he was taking out his other pistol then he threw a small bag onto the ground, 'take these shells and load the shotgun, it's over there on the ground. Cock it then go for the demon. Shoot the spade!'
He turned and continued shooting. One of the corpses grabbed his leg. The sheriff hit its head with the gun's handle then kicked it back into the pit. Andy sat down onto the altar, he was weak from the blood loss. He was prepared to die, if everything else fails then he will do it. In his delusion, he thought now that the dreams he had every third night, were prophetic and this is how it all has to end. He accepted this as his fate.
Jess found the gun and tried to load it. Nate rushed to her and helped. He didn't switch on the flashlight because it was their last light source. Jess introduced three shells into the gun then cocked it just as she had seen the sheriff do it.
'Come with me,' she said to Nate and stood up.
The boy now switched on the light and quickly searched the surroundings. They spotted the demon close to the oak door. It was watching the events around the pit with the spade in front of its body.
'Switch it off,' Jess said and Nate obeyed, 'switch it on when I'll tell you.'
'All right,' he replied and went after the girl.
She was heading straight towards the place where the dark figure was standing.
'Switch it on!' she shouted and raised the weapon to her shoulder.
Nate switched on the light and the demon's figure appeared to them a few yards away. When the girl wanted to fire, the demon's eyes began blazing with yellow fire. She couldn't help it but look. They were too intense to be ignored and she froze in position as they were locking stares. The weapon fell out of her hand and Nate suddenly got an idea. He picked up the gun and ran straight in front of the creature.
'Try cursing me!' he shouted as the demon shifted its gaze towards him.
The boy wasn't affected by the demon's stare because had already been cursed. Jess fell on the ground the same time as Nate pulled the trigger. The recoil threw the weapon upward, hitting him in the head. He fell down onto the ground stunned. The weapon fell a few yards away. Nate raised his head and looked. The chamber was whirling around him but at least he was conscious. The spade's handle was shattered. Its pieces fell on the ground in all directions.
The demon bellowed an echoing, guttural roar and its eyes turned red. Red veins began to appear on its face and body which were glowing like molten steel. It was a terrible sight.
'You fool, 'it spoke for the first time ever in many millennia, 'do you really think you can kill me? You are just wretches, coffin fodders. I am eternal, I am beyond death.
The others were also hearing this but they were busy fighting the dead. One of the corpses caught Andy by the foot and pulled. He fell and it started dragging him into the pit. Danny and Chris got a hold of him and tried to pull him back. The fires at the pit's mouth were almost extinguished so there was not much between them and the pit. Kerrigan was still fighting, he took up a rock and bashed in the head of a crawler.
'We are lost, dammit! We are lost!' he shouted.
'Yes, you are,' replied the demon in its guttural voice, 'I will send you all to hell. I am the lord of the dead, the king of hell, the devil's gravedigger and I shall torture all of you until I please.'
It walked to Nate, grabbed him and lifted him up. The boy yelled as loud as he could. The great oak door creaked and a light appeared in the doorway.
'I'm here, son,' the wielder of the light spoke, 'I'm here to help!'
It was Victor, wielding a large knife and seeking redemption. He jumped to the bottom of the stairs, made a few more steps and slashed at the demon's hand which was holding up his son. The knife sliced the demonic flesh and hot blood squirted from the wound. The demon roared in pain. Blood hit Victor's face and clothes burning his skin instantly. Nate fell on the ground, Victor picked him up then ran to a safe distance to put him down.
'Keith, I need help,' he shouted as he ran towards the pit.
The sheriff was barely standing. Four corpses were encircling him and the three kids. Chris and Danny managed to free Andy from the grip of the dead hands and were now trying to help Kerrigan. Victor cracked the heads of all four corpses with well-placed cuts. The knife was heavy, it almost resembled a machete. The sheriff took some bullets from his pockets and began loading his gun.
'Hold him just a little more,' said Victor, 'and I will finish it. I owe you this at least.'
'All right,' replied the sheriff, 'goodbye.'
Keith went to hold back the demon just as Victor was holding the knife to his throat. The dead were scrambling out of the pit to stop him but he managed to slash his throat completely. Blood began gushing from the wound so with his remaining strength he lay down with his neck above the symbol. It began filling at a quick pace.
Kerrigan went straight towards the demon, Nate was holding the flashlight on their direction so the kids could see everything. The sheriff emptied the revolver into the demon who staggered back. It seemed that the bullets had melted as soon as they hit the creature. Glowing, fiery blood was splattered in all directions. The demon recovered and jumped at Keith who couldn't avoid it.
The sheriff was grabbed by the foul creature in a bear hug. He screamed when his spine cracked in many places. Moments later he burst into flames and was incinerated in seconds but it was too late. The earth began to shake and when Nate shone his light towards the pit, they all saw that some of the dead are falling back into it.
Nate noticed his father's body laying on the altar. It wasn't moving so the boy wanted to run to see if his father is alive or not. The others held him back. The demon roared and fell onto its knees. The ritual was completed and for now, it has been defeated.
Frantic, flaming corpses came rushing out of the pit and headed straight towards the demon. They grabbed it by every extremity possible and began dragging it to the hole. It didn't resist much and they pulled it over the edge. With its last strength, the creature held onto the pit's mouth and looked at the kids. The fire in its eyes was faint, but it smiled.
'Sooner or later, I will return,' it said to them, 'it is inevitable.'
In the next moment, it disappeared into the depths. The kids sighed in relief and hugged each other. Andy was weak but he was surviving. All of them were more or less all right. Nate was crying but in his heart, he knew that he had made the right decision.
The grey ghost which kept tormenting Nate, uttered a long shriek from one of the dark corners of the chamber then was sucked into the pit by an invisible force. One of the dead which came out of the depths, crawled up on the altar and grabbed Victor's body. The children just watched as it pulled the body down. It disappeared in the cursed hole. Nate didn't say a word, he knew that this had to happen. Jess was alright, she woke up after locking eyes with the demon. She'll never know what curse the monster had put on her because it was dispelled as soon as the ritual was completed.
The nauseating smell off rotten and burnt flesh were filling the chamber so they decided that it is time to get out. Andy was walking slowly but the others helped him. Danny took the book and they all moved out through the oak door. When they reached the basement of the Hershey house, the light was already beginning to show outside.
Danny turned the locking mechanism which was inside the floor and the door in the wall slid down again. For now, the chamber of the dead was locked on this side. They still had to go and lock the other side which was in the crypt. The kids got out of the basement and went outside.
'What should we do with the book?' asked Chris.
'Get rid of it!' said Jess in a harsh voice.
'No, we c-can't,' said Andy in a weakened voice, 'it will...it will get back onto the altar again and...and somebody will find it.'
'So,' Danny asked, 'is there any way for us to hide it?'
'No, not hide, we must bury it.'
'You mean underground?' asked Nate.
'Not exactly,' he replied, 'there is a construction going on in town. We will throw it into the concrete.'
'Yeah,' Chris exclaimed, 'let's see those dead fuckers get it back from there.'
'All right, good idea,' the others agreed.
They were walking out the front gate when Andy looked up at the great ash tree on his right. There he saw a little green twig on one of the branches. The little twig had three little leaves. It was barely visible in the faint morning light but it was there and Andy saw it. So life had finally returned to this cursed place, he thought, but at what price?
They went back to the cemetery and closed the hatch and the crypt door. The chain ended up being fixed with a piece of rusty wire they found nearby. All of them returned to their respective homes. Later they snuck into the construction site and got rid of the book. How long it would last, they didn't know but at least they tried.
Late in the afternoon, the Gang assembled in the shed. They promised each other that they will never talk about what had happened to them. The other thing they promised was that if the evil is resurrected somehow again, they will do everything they can to stop it.
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