Self Published Sunday: Excerpt from The Caretakers
December 16, 2012
Following on from last weeks interview( read it here), Adrian Chamberlin returns with an excerpt from his book,The Caretakers. As a Cambridge College celebrates a midwinter feast, four uninvited strangers uncover a devastating secret. A secret that must never be revealed…for the love of humanity.
Andy Hughes – a man with a dark past and an even darker future. His search for a missing student will lead him to a confrontation with an evil beyond human imagining…
Rob Benson – a van driver who discovers a dead wild boar in the back of his Transit. A boar that just won’t stay dead…
Jennifer Callaby – Andy’s estranged girlfriend, who discovers the shocking truth of The Caretakers – and the sacred task that they perform…
Jason Franklin – a prisoner who holds the key to the fates of them all, and may well be their only salvation – if he doesn’t destroy them first…
A disturbing thriller that questions the nature of evil and the price to be paid for the continued survival of the human race – a price that for some is too great to pay…
THE CARETAKERS – a Master’s Degree in terror. Extract from Chapter Three of The Caretakers.
She blinked. She’d seen something out of the corner of her eye, a brief movement outside the tiny chapel. Something red…and green.
The doors opened. A woman’s head peered out…and then sharply withdrew as her eyes met Emma’s.
She let out a strangled cry. There was no mistake. The red hair – as wild and unkempt as her own – was a sodden mass that flicked droplets of sea water on the dark oak doors before disappearing into the stone confines of the chapel.
Emma could smell the salt tang of the ocean waves that had killed her sister. The aroma of putrefying flesh and intestinal gases as the body was dragged from the harbour two years ago now filled the cold silent court.
Her head swam with the memory and she felt the frozen ground beneath her feet tilt violently. She sank to her knees and vomited.
She stared at the vomit steaming on the fresh snow for a long time. Anything rather than look to the chapel entrance.
I have to know.
She climbed to her feet and looked around her. The court was still devoid of human life.
But what about the chapel? Human life in there? It couldn’t be. Stacey Robertson was dead. Whatever had disappeared into the chapel, it was not her sister. Someone was playing a sick joke.
Just like the voices I heard earlier? The voice of Stacey on my mobile? That’s no joke, Em.
She had to know. She had to find out. Stepping over the rapidly cooling vomit and onto the grass of the lawns, she made her way to the chapel.
The doors weren’t closed, but they had been pulled to. She put a shaking hand on the knob and pulled it towards her. The droplets of sea water had run down the timber, forming small shining crystals of salt.
The doors swung open on rusty hinges. She stepped in and her glasses steamed up. She took them off and wiped the lenses on her jeans. The musty smell of old, damp stone filled her nostrils. She couldn’t detect any aroma of seawater now.
Sunlight coming through the open door provided the only illumination, not enough to completely banish the darkness. She replaced her glasses but could only just make out the pews and the altar. The carved image of Christ loomed over the silver eagle on the lectern, His agonised expression hidden by the shadows. She shivered. That sculpture gave her the creeps.
The building was tiny, an apology for a chapel. It had none of the grandeur or ornate decoration that other Cambridge College chapels boasted – the Fellowship didn’t even have a chaplain amongst its numbers – but it had something unique. A wooden carved representation of the Passion that was unlike any other she had seen.
Christ’s legs were folded at the waist, the knees pointed to the left. A wickedly blunt nail entered the right ankle and came out of the left behind it, pinning both to the wood. Two more nails shattered the wrists, not the palms, the fingers clenched inwards like claws, the fingernails penetrating the palms and drawing fresh blood. His head was slumped on His right shoulder, the crown of thorns penetrating the skin.
She walked slowly towards the altar, her mouth dry. The snow on her trainers melted, soaking into the faded, threadbare carpet that led between the cracked and chipped pews. The winter sun rose higher, and Christ’s face was reclaimed from the darkness.
The expression wasn’t one of beatific sacrifice – it was an all too human representation of physical agony. The flesh coloured paint was unnervingly close to the real hue of tortured human skin, right down to the mottled blue and purple patches of the bruising meted out during the buffeting. His piercing blue eyes were wide and staring, the shining pupils dilated. The mouth was open in a silent scream, the thin lips curled and the yellowed teeth broken. The fresh blood trickling from the nail and flagellation wounds were a vivid scarlet in the glare of the December sun.
She heard the sound of dripping water. She frowned, and cocked her head.
There it was again. A steady drip-drip-drip, of liquid falling on stone. She thought of the seawater falling from Stacey’s red hair and put her hand to her mouth.
This wasn’t seawater. The coppery aroma was unmistakeably that of blood. Blood dripping from physical wounds and falling to the stone flags.
Emma let out a strangled cry as she saw the source. Around the nails pinning Christ’s wrists to the cross something glistened and squirmed. Fresh blood, running from the gaping wounds to the ends of the trembling fingers before falling to the floor.
The head of Christ then raised itself from the shoulder. Thorns from His crown were pulled free from the taut muscles in the arm with a wet sucking sound. The emaciated chest rose and fell, shuddering breaths taken and exhaled. Breath that misted in the cold air of the chapel.
The head turned to face the intruder. Emma was frozen solid, immobile, under the gaze of the figure that was no longer made of painted, carved wood. The terrifying expression fixed her to the floor as surely as the nails held the flesh of Christ to the cross.
His eyes had changed. The piercing blue irises were now scarlet: blood-red irises that encircled the rapidly shrinking pupils, constricting them, as though squeezing them out of existence. The lips moved slightly. More mist rose into the air to accompany the barely audible words.
“Confess your faith…”
There was no trace of agony or fear in Christ’s expression now. The lips were twisted into a mocking smile as Emma opened her mouth to scream.
“Confess your faith unto him who said All Souls are mine…”
The words were louder now, clearly audible. Calm, confident and commanding, accompanied with mocking laughter.
“All Souls are mine…and ALL SOULS IS MINE!”
The laughter at the thing’s own joke increased in volume, echoing around the stone walls of the small chapel and drowning the scream that tore from Emma Robertson’s lips.
It wasn’t just the blasphemous words, nor the animated carving of a leader sent to free mankind from death and evil. It was because the words were delivered in a woman’s voice. A young woman’s voice that was painfully familiar.
Emma’s scream finally drowned the laughter of the abomination on the cross. Blotted out everything. She was oblivious to the closing of the chapel doors behind her.
She was oblivious to the slow, measured footsteps of the man who walked towards her with outstretched arms. Adrian Chamberlin is a horror writer from the United Kingdom. He has had a catalogue of short stories published in anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic, and his first novel The Caretakers was launched at the World Horror Convention in Austin, Texas, in 2011 to considerable critical acclaim.
He is a founding member of Dark Continents Publishing, a co-operative formed by six dark fiction writers who decided to take control of their writing destinies and self-publish their works through a co-operative model for mutual gain and benefit. Since its launch, Dark Continents Publishing has now become a respected small press publisher with writers from all over the world – including South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as the United Kingdom and North America – releasing critically acclaimed novels, novellas, and anthologies.
The Caretakers is avaliable to buy from Amazon.uk, Amazon.com and Barns and Noble.