It was a quiet and eerie night. The sun slithered away from a graveyard behind a dilapidated church. The tombstones were set on soft uneven earth. There were no markings, no lavish headstones, no statues of nobles, only unremarkable slabs of stone.
Not a soul lingered in this place where even insects kept their distance. There were dark whispers carried by the wind. Ancient incantations or the ravings of madness filled the empty cemetery with its presence. The sky became black like the eyes of demons with a ribbon of purple descending upon the graveyard. There was a rumble of thunder. A flash of lightning. And then nothing.
A thick grey fog crept across the earth. An iron gate squealed as it opened even though no one had entered. The fog enveloped the crooked crucifix’s. It traveled beyond the decaying statues of angels in robes and journeyed to the heart of the cemetery. There was one gravestone which was bigger than the rest. A block of cracked slate which vaguely resembled the shape of the holy cross. Sunrays were etched into the façade and pointed to an inset of a naked man slitting the throat of another man lying on his back.
The inscription read: [i]Here lies Esdeline Sheval may her soul walk for—[/i] the text had been clawed from the stone. The fog rolled across the grave and touched the face of a statue of a woman wearing a headscarf. From her pupil-less eyes a tear did roll down her cheek, a drop of blood. The face split open and through forces unseen the sculpture crumbled into a miserable pile of rubble.
At the base of Esdeline’s gravestone which was semi-submerged in dirt, a hand burst forth from the grave. The hand was slender, feminine and filthy. It fell atop the cursed ground it erupted from and soon after, an arm followed, then a shoulder. Chunks of soil fell from the woman’s blonde locks, her skin paler than the moonlight, her body thin yet strangely fresh for one who was buried. She clawed out of her grave, the bones in her back popping from her skin with every effort of exertion.
A ragged chemise clung to her narrow frame; its white fabric now stained the color from whence it came. The woman known as Esdeline crawled on all fours away from her grave then collapsed. She clutched her stomach and curled into a fetal position as the pangs of hunger ravaged her freshly born body. She struggled to her feet and looked around the graveyard. She did not think of how or when she was placed there. The only thought recirculating through her mind was to satisfy her hunger. She spat mud at her feet and staggered towards the crypt where she detected the distinct odor of sweat.
The gate to the crypt moaned as it opened. Her skin slapped the cold rock with each unstable step. A house centipede scurried up a wall composed of misshapen rocks and snatched a spider from between the gaps. It killed the spider with its sting then consumed the creature.
She continued down the dank, musty stairwell where light was afraid to go. Esdeline sniffed the air. The sweat carried a scent of body odor and layers of iron, wood, bits of hay, and ox flesh. It was if the water droplets were still hanging in the air, allowing Esdeline to follow each drop into the chamber at the bottom of the crypt.
There was a room of significant size. Carved holes along the walls were filled with the caskets of the dead. On the stone floor were hundreds of melted candles alight with their dances flames. There was a statue of a man being embraced by a skeleton with wings. The man was on his knees, crying onto the bones with an inscription that read: [i]The blood in his veins grows cold. And all strength is gone. Faith has been extolled by his fall into the arms of death. Amen.[/i]
At the base of the statue was a man in chains. He was sat atop a chalk outline of a circle filled with strange symbols. The man himself, was of an older sort, with a thick bushy beard and peasant’s attire. He had mud caked work boots and grimy hands that smelled of iron, wood, hay, and ox. His eyes brightened with excitement when he saw Esdeline standing before him in nothing but a stained chemise.
“Oh sweet, beautiful lass. Have you come to rescue me? Please help me kind lady. I beg you.”
The chains were firmly attached to the statue. There was no weakness in the rock and no rust on the metal.
“A group of men took me while I was ploughing the fields with me ox, Lucy. Didn’t even see them comin’. I just remember they was wearing holy men’s robes. They bludgeoned me head and next thing I know I’m bound in these chains. Please, I beg you, help me return to me farm.”
Chalk powdered the soles of her feet as she trekked across the circle. She held the manacle on his wrist and gave it a gentle tug. The chains jingled as they snapped taut.
“Maybe there’s a key somewhere,” the peasant said.
Unfortunately for the farmer, Esdeline was not checking the chains to see if they were fragile enough to be broken. The pumping of his heart beat like a hypnotic drum. She could sense the blood flowing through his veins. Could even detect where the blood struggled through due to cholesterol. Her mouth salivated with frenzied anticipation. The torturous hunger which plagued her stomach became unbearable.