The Resurrectionist, a short story by Zach Ellenberger at Spillwords.com
Sacre Bleu R

The Resurrectionist

The Resurrectionist

written by: Zach Ellenberger

@zak4prez911

 

The tale for which I am about to tell is often merited as nothing more than petty urban legends. Most local townsfolk accustomed to the story of poor Edmund Raye are quick to discredit such tall tales of what they would consider delusional grandeur. It exists today as nothing more than a mere ghost story to frighten children. But for those contemporaries of Mr. Raye in the small town of Barrington, Pennsylvania, the tale of his horrific fate was far too real. Despite what speculation may arise in direct conflict with one’s resolve to the truth of such matters, the circumstances surrounding the peculiar Edmund Raye remain a mystery. Those who do well to exercise common sense know there was indeed something unconscionable at the heart of Barrington.
Dark were the days of yore for the small town nestled deep in the ancient mountains of Appalachia where superstitions ran rampant. Rumors abound that the town of Barrington had been casted in darkness since the early days of the country’s founding contributed to a curse brought upon by natives who had been driven from their homes. Shadowed by the outbreak of cholera in the 1850’s, the town had become isolated and cut off from the rest of society. The few travelers who occasionally passed through the grim town kept their visits brief and often whispered of evil creatures lurking in the deepest corners of the surrounding forests. The locals grew intimate with the cold grip of death through disease and the alleged hauntings of forest spirits like the Wendigo, a flesh-eating monster of native myth. Though many believed the disappearance of several children to be the work of evil forces, Edmund did not partake in such rumors and hysteria.
Edmund was a graveyard watchman at the Lord’s Haven Parish. An old hermit, Edmund grew up in Barrington spending much of his childhood in the silent cemetery where he claimed he could commune with the dead. Edmund’s farcical assertions drew much scrutiny from the townsfolk as well as resentment from his own family. The cause of his parents’ deaths was a mystery in and of itself to which the town speculated young Edmund as the cause, suspecting the boy to have brought a curse upon his parents from his frequent visits to the graveyard. With no other family willing to care for him, the church took the boy under its wing and raised him, giving him access to the graveyard at any time of the day. Seeing the boy’s affinity to spend his time with the dead, the parishioner offered him a job as the cemetery watchman once Edmund came of age to which he gladly accepted. Edmund remained in that role ever since.
Edmund kept to himself as he grew older into adulthood, eventually reaching a ripe old age when cholera reared its ugly face in Barrington killing half the town’s population. Edmund’s tale began shortly after the outbreak. It was during the harvest of 1855 with the death of Mayor George Caulfield’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Annie Mae Caulfield. The cause of death, as declared by Dr. Newton Penn of the local medical institute, was another case of cholera. Her death had struck the town heavily as it was the first case of cholera in six months since the outbreak struck. In the early morning of a grey autumn day, a collective of townsfolk gathered in the Lord’s Haven cemetery to pay their respects and lay the young and beautiful Annie Mae to eternal rest. Edmund was present as part of his duties as cemetery watchman to lower the casket and fill the burial plot. The Caulfield’s were reluctant to accept their daughter’s death, the fairest maiden throughout the town. Although Dr. Penn had declared the young girl dead, Mayor Caulfield and his wife, Cynthia, clung to every thread of hope that it wasn’t true. At the behest of his distraught wife, George arranged for Annie Mae to be buried in a safety coffin fitted with a bell. That way, if there was any chance that Annie Mae still lived, she could signal them. George, wanting nothing more than to console his wife, obliged her despite the doctor’s best efforts to convince them otherwise.
“I cannot imagine the pain you are enduring in these difficult times,” Dr. Penn empathized at her burial. “I understand that it takes time to accept such hard truths and let go, but you must take solace in knowing that she is in the hands of God. If there’s anything you need, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
Dr. Penn was a cordial man indeed in the face of sorrow. He was tall and handsome, a desirable bachelor to the available women of Barrington. He was well respected around town as well as in the medical field for his work in the prognosis of diseases. Yet, the man paraded around town as if the threat of death had no consequence for him. Before he left the cemetery, he approached Edmund speaking to him quietly out of earshot of the Caulfield’s.
“Tonight, at the stroke of midnight.”
Edmund nodded silently and returned to his duties. The Parishioner, Father Campbell, gave a final blessing over the body then offered his condolences to Mr. And Mrs. Caulfield before returning to the confines of the parish. George and Cynthia remained at the side of Annie Mae’s grave until Edmund finished lowering the coffin. They spoke their final farewells and departed the cemetery to begin their life without their beloved daughter.
The midnight hour was fast approaching and a heavy fog fell over the cemetery grounds that night. The silence was palpable. As Edmund waited for the stroke of midnight per Dr. Penn’s instructions, he decided to patrol the yard to ensure everything was in order. Edmund walked amongst the tombstones as he did time and time before. With his nightly perusal of the grounds, he came to memorize the names of all that lay within the confines of the cemetery. Though dead they may have been, they were still very much alive in Edmund’s mind. He would carry on conversations with nothing but the tombstones to help pass the time. It was a most remarkable thing, he thought to himself – this fascination with the finality of death. One’s greatest folly was the refusal to accept death as part of life. For Edmund, there was no greater companionship than humans’ dance with death, for the dead did not trouble themselves with the concerns of the living.
As he wandered deeper into the dark of night, his senses had been awoken by a strange noise carrying upon the air. He stopped and perked his ears. What he heard in that moment was undeniably the sound of voices echoing in the distance.
“Have I been so pensive to have lost track of the time?” he thought aloud, assuming Dr. Penn had arrived and found his way into the cemetery. But, it occurred to Edmund that he could not pinpoint the source of the voices as they seemed to have encircled about him like the wind. He turned and started for the gate of the cemetery when the voices began to grow louder. As they grew louder, Edmund could feel his heart begin to pulse heavily, filling him with anxiety. It became clear that the voices were not of this world, for they chanted in unison speaking a language unbeknownst to Edmund that instilled such fear in him he refused to press on. He stopped dead in his tracks. With his lantern in hand, he turned about in place searching for the voices which now seemed so near to him. In his frenzied state, his eye caught a glimpse of a silhouette lurking on the edge of the darkness. The figure glided in and out of eyesight draped in a pale white dress. Edmund felt a chill reach up his spine. He began to shake uncontrollably as the still of the midnight air crept over him like a shroud.
Suddenly, the strike of a bell rang out startling Edmund right out of his skin. It was not the bell to which Edmund was expecting – having been waiting for the church bell to toll for the midnight hour – but the echo of a grave’s bell! Someone had been buried alive! Edmund hurried off in the direction of the bell’s ring. With his lantern outstretched, he searched desperately among the tombstones for the source of the ring. For a moment, the ringing paused. Edmund listened intently.
“I hear you! I hear you! Where are you?”
After a brief moment of silence, the ringing continued. Edmund took off once more. He was almost upon the source when the ringing stopped once again. Before him stood the very grave that he dug earlier that day. It was the grave of young Annie Mae Caulfield. Holding up his lantern to the tombstone, he could see the bell swaying softly back and forth, as if it had just been ringing!
It was then that he felt a hand grab his shoulder out of nowhere. Edmund shrieked and, wrenching his shoulder free, fell to the ground losing grasp of his lantern. He crawled away in terror. Working up the courage, he looked back and there stood Dr. Penn with two of his handlers, known only as Vincent and Malcolm. Dr. Penn bore a look of confusion while Edmund squirmed on the ground steeped in his own bewilderment.
“By God, what has gotten into you, Edmund? What is going on?”
“She is alive!”
“Who?”
“Annie Mae! She is alive! Her bell was ringing.” The doctor tried to calm Edmund down, but he was far too hysterical.
“There’s no bell ringing, Edmund. Surely, you must be imagining things.”
“By God, I tell you that it was ringing. I was waiting for you when I heard it. Did you not hear it? She lives!”
The three men stared at Edmund suspiciously. The two handlers with Dr. Penn, who had already been equipped with shovels, began digging. They tore through the dirt with all haste as Edmund and Dr. Penn watched anxiously when they finally had struck the wood of the coffin’s lid. Edmund feared it was too late for the poor girl and that she had suffocated while waiting for her rescue. The two men pried open the coffin lid.
Alas, to everyone’s surprise and confusion, the coffin was empty! No trace of young Annie Mae’s remains. Edmund let out a haunting shrill as he stumbled back. Could the figure he potentially saw earlier have been that of Annie Mae?
Dr. Penn did not seem convinced by Edmund’s claim. His confusion turned to anger which he directed at Edmund.
“Do you take me for a fool, Raye? I’ve been paying you good money for a year now to exhume the bodies here for my medical research. I told you earlier today that I am in need of this body for further studies and now, by some miraculous act of God, she turns up missing. Did you really think I would not find this suspicious? I will not be undermined by the likes of you, Raye!”
“The same soil lay at your feet as mine. You saw yourself, that ground remained unbroken since I last filled it earlier this day. How could I have possibly removed the body beforehand? And whom do you reckon would I have sold it to other than you?” Edmund pleaded with the doctor, insisting that Dr. Penn believe his story.
“Well Raye, it couldn’t have just stood up and walked out of the graveyard. You have until tomorrow night to produce the body, or you can be certain our deal is off! Then I’ll have a mind to claim you for my research.”
Dr. Penn stormed off with his two handlers leaving Edmund to refill the grave by himself. Edmund remained on the ground watching Dr. Penn disappear into the heavy fog. For the first time in his life, Edmund felt fear in being left alone in the graveyard.
Edmund sat inside the watchman’s shack within the cemetery grounds trying to calm himself with a flask full of potato brandy. There was to be no sleep for Edmund Raye that fateful night. A few hours had passed since his alleged witnessing of ghostly apparitions. Edmund replayed the moment over and over again in his head – the coffin lid opening to reveal no body inside. What could have possibly happened to Annie Mae’s body? Edmund was the only soul in the cemetery since Annie Mae’s burial, so it could not have been possible for someone to have removed it without Edmund’s knowledge. He had hoped the brandy would wake him up from this dreadful nightmare. Much to his dismay, it only made the ordeal more real. Edmund contemplated the circumstances: If word had gotten out among the town that Annie Mae’s body had gone missing, they would have rightfully blamed Edmund and it would surely have led to Edmund’s hanging. Edmund did not have much reason to suspect Dr. Penn would say anything, for it would only lead to his own demise as well. However, Edmund could not speak to the legitimacy and motives of Dr. Penn’s two handlers, Victor and Malcolm. What if they had plans to extort both Edmund and Dr. Penn for their own gain? What if they were the ones who stole Annie Mae’s body? But how? Edmund’s mind continued to race with consequence. Growing even more anxious, he swigged more brandy.
Edmund sat in silence waiting restlessly for the break of dawn while the wind howled in the distance. The night had grown uncomfortably calm for Edmund. He spoke softly to himself to help shake his own discomfort.
“A despicable night, indeed. I must resolve myself of this absurdity and make amends with my sanity. What nonsense have I let myself succumb to? The dead do not trouble themselves with the concerns of the living. Come the dawn, I shall be vindicated.”
It was no sooner he finished his thought when he began to hear the voices upon the air slowly begin to chant. Edmund tensed up and perked his ears toward the night. This time, the chanting was accompanied by the faint laughter of a child. Peering out of the shack, Edmund held up his lantern and gazed out into the dark of night dimly lit by the light of the moon. Suddenly, on the edge of his periphery through the thick fog appeared the whitened silhouette Edmund saw earlier that night. His heart began to race at the sight, but tempered himself with invigorating words.
“There it appears again, the elusive wretch; a prank, I would conclude, and nothing more. And yet why does it choose to torment me on this night of all nights? What kind of hell has embraced this place? I must embolden myself and prove that my sanity still reigns supreme. The dead do not trouble themselves with the concerns of the living. Come the dawn, I shall be vindicated!”
Edmund stepped out once more into the night in pursuit of the silhouette, determined to prove once and for all that his imagination had no authority over his reality. He moved quickly in the direction of the apparition, convinced of his own misguided sanity. But, for as much ground as he covered, the figure managed to stay the same distance from Edmund, just upon the edge of his sight. Edmund felt his frustration begin to get the better of him as he picked up speed. The quicker he moved, the louder the chanting voices grew. Eventually, the chanting gradually drowned out the child’s laughter, distorting it to the point of resembling blood-curdling screams. Edmund’s frustration turned to fear as he felt the voices growing closer as if they were creeping up on him. He stopped dead in his path to catch his breath when he looked down and took notice of one of the tombstones near his feet. The tombstone was completely blank. This perturbed Edmund for he knew with great certainty that there was not a single tombstone in the cemetery without a name and date of departure. He looked closely at the tombstone rubbing his fingers along it. Sure enough, no etchings had ever grazed the surface of this tombstone. He looked at the tombstones to the right and to the left; both of them were blank as well. It was at this moment Edmund realized that the apparition faded out of sight. But, what was more concerning to him was that all the tombstones were now blank. In realizing this, he felt the ground begin to shudder at his feet and a loud crash filled the night like the sound of thunder. It was an unnatural roar as if it came from the very depths of Hell. Then, after a moment of silence, the jingle of a bell began ringing out once more in the dead of night. There was no mistaking it; it was the very same bell he heard only hours earlier!
He hurried after the bell once more. Rushing through the dark with nothing but his lantern, the chanting turned to hisses like snakes closing in from all around. He arrived at the tomb of young Annie Mae Caulfield. A single beam of moonlight broke through the foggy dark illuminating the ground around her grave. The earth had been churned up and the coffin protruded from beneath. It had not been the work of a shovel, but rather seemed as if the coffin was forced out of the ground by the Earth itself. Edmund could see that the lid of the coffin was once again removed and no body lingered within.
That was all that Edmund could tolerate. He had been pushed far beyond his wits and chose to rid himself of such delusions. He turned to make his way toward the gate when – to his horror – was confronted face to face with the hideous silhouette he had been chasing all night. He cried out in frightful horror. In his shock, he realized the silhouette was that of Annie Mae Caulfield, withered and decrepit. Her hair resembled cobwebs, her skin broken and cold to the touch. Her sunken pitch-black eyes – empty and soulless – were a source of tremendous and overwhelming fear unbeknownst to Edmund; instilling within him an unforgiving sense of dread and trepidation. The entire length of Edmund’s back seized up, gripped by the cold embrace of fear as he fell helplessly to the ground. He struggled to look away but could not break his gaze which had been fixated upon her hideous face. She then pounced upon him like a spider, pinning him against the very grave in which she once resided. He pleaded desperately for his life.
“Spirit, I beseech thee! Have mercy. I’m but a simple watchman and I’ve no desire to perturb you. I am merely tasked with tending to the deceased.”
Then, the spirit spoke like that of a hundred voices in one.
“Dweller, cursed be you still! For you do not stand free of consequence and must answer for your sins against innocent flesh.”
“Great spirit, you mistaken me. I’ve done no ill will against those living or dead. What is it that compels you to torment me? The dead do not trouble themselves with the concerns of the living!”
“But the living troubles themselves with concern for the dead. They fear fate, and yet, fate is inevitable no matter what they do. Lest they forget, death is the final form for all.”
“Then, why has thou come for me?”
“You have desecrated the remains of those who reside within this sacred ground. You have laid your hands upon blessed souls since passed on and sold their remains to hollow men for your own gain. Now, their souls may never rest.”
Edmund began to weep uncontrollably, begging for his life.
“Please, it is not as you say. I only did so for the good of the town. Death has run rampant here in Barrington. These deaths have been attributed to nothing more than disease. It was only my intention to assist Dr. Penn who has worked to develop a cure for the sick. You see, I was trying to save them!”
“The less you know, Resurrector. You fail to recognize the doctor’s true intentions. The doctor is the reason disease has returned to Barrington. He has been going about town infecting innocent lives with formulated doses of the cholera disease. Once he collects their bodies, they become his puppets to do with as he pleases.”
Edmund could not begin to comprehend the apparition’s claim.
“That can’t be possible,” Edmund protested. “Dr. Penn has been well favored among the townsfolk for years.”
“Then perhaps you are the fool the doctor claims you to be. Either way, I will have my due.”
“But I am not ready to die.”
“Your death will come in time. But, not this night. For now, you serve a more important purpose.”
“What purpose is that, pray tell?” Edmund insisted.
“Every corpse you’ve resurrected represents a soul that has been unaccounted for, a body desecrated by the blasphemous hands of Dr. Penn. Therefore, an imbalance exists in nature. I demand what I’m owed and I will have it. I require seven souls. If you wish for this torment to end, deliver these seven souls before the stroke of midnight tomorrow. Only then will your torment cease.”
“I shall do as I am bid. Of whom do you seek?”
Without answering, the ghost of Annie Mae curled back her lips, revealing razor-sharp fangs like that of a wild animal and, lurching onto Edmund, sunk them into Edmund’s neck. Startled, Edmund struggled to free himself from her grip to no avail. His sight faded to white as he felt the pain shoot from his neck throughout his body. The same cold embrace seized his entire body this time, causing him to twitch and squirm uncontrollably. Thinking himself dead, he stopped resisting and let himself succumb to the pain. Suddenly, the white light faded and the pain vanished as Edmund regained consciousness. He found himself in the center of town far from the cemetery. How he got there, or what time of the night it was, he could not be sure. The ghost of Annie Mae was nowhere in sight nor was any living soul. Edmund climbed to his feet when he noticed something troubling. His vision remained hazy and his body went numb. And yet, he was still moving, walking in the direction of Dr. Penn’s lab. Edmund was distressed for it was as if he had no control over his body and was being led by someone or something else. He fought his movements at every turn, ultimately unable to change his course.
By God, I must be possessed! he thought to himself as he hobbled down the street towards Dr. Penn’s medical institute resembling that of a cripple. Suddenly, the disembodied voice of the apparition – that of a hundred voices in one – spoke to Edmund, as if it were Edmund himself speaking.
“The balance between worlds must be maintained. A debt is owed, to be paid only in blood. The first souls are those of Dr. Penn and his handlers, Vincent and Malcolm. For years, the doctor and his handlers have preyed upon the townsfolk for their own gain. He is a defiler of flesh and life and his henchmen remain blind by greed, paid to hold their tongues; monsters of inherent chaos, abominations to the sanctity of human life. They must be eradicated.”
Edmund approached Dr. Penn’s lab, a puppet under the control of the vile apparition. He was led to a door at the rear of the building, isolated from view of the streets. Edmund yanked at the door handle to find that it was locked. He then heard the sound of a light click and the door silently swung open. The door led into a storage room packed to the brim with experimental medical equipment and devices that had been previously rendered obsolete. The shelves within the storage room were stacked with tools and notebooks full of medical notations as well as the discarded bones of humans and beasts alike. They created a maze-like labyrinth which led to a pair of double doors. Edmund stepped through the double doors and found himself in the medical auditorium. Here, Dr. Penn’s peers would gather and bear witness to his latest atrocity, claiming it to be the work of a medical genius.
Edmund came upon one of Dr. Penn’s handlers, Vincent, who was fast asleep in one of the pews. Edmund felt his heartbeat race as he approached the sleeping man. Vincent was a scraggly man with an unkempt beard and wiry frame. Standing over the man, Edmund fell short of breath and began to panic. He tried to remain standing so as not to awake Vincent, but his entire body went limp as a cloud of fog began to fill the room. Vincent was awakened by Edmund’s body falling to the ground, startled and confused as to how Edmund got inside. Edmund remained weak and helpless. Thinking he had failed his task, he forfeited himself to Vincent. But as Vincent reached for Edmund, the ghostly apparition of Annie Mae appeared from the cloud of fog behind Vincent. Stunned and shocked, Edmund watched the apparition seize Vincent by the throat and proceeded to tear out Vincent’s eyes, ears and tongue. Vincent cried out in unimaginable pain and agony, but eventually died on the spot.
His screams alerted the second handler, Malcolm, to Edmund’s presence. Malcolm rushed into the auditorium only to find Edmund lying next to Vincent’s dead body. Malcolm was twice the size of Edmund and much taller, drenched in sweat from exerting even the simplest amount of energy. His clean-shaven face bore a look of disgust as his gaze wandered back and forth between Edmund and Vincent. The look transfigured into anger as he marched toward Edmund. But, the apparition appeared before him, snatching his tongue from his mouth and ripping out his eyes and ears as well. Before Malcolm could realize what had been done to him, fell to the ground, asphyxiated by his own blood. Both men were dead in a matter of minutes. The apparition looked toward Edmund with her blackened eyes before disappearing once more. As soon as she did, Edmund regained his strength and continued on. In the back of the auditorium was the door to Dr. Penn’s personal chambers where he resided.
The room was dimly lit by candles as Edmund snuck through the door. What he witnessed on the other side of the door was a dungeon of horrors far surpassing anyone’s imagination. Along the walls, there hung what looked like sheets of flayed human skin, boiled and treated. There were anatomical sketchings of humans and beasts alike, both skeletal as well as muscular structures. Between the sketchings were aged stains of blood coated all over the place. But, at the center of the room lay the butchered bodies of Dr. Penn’s lab experimentations. The bodies were surgically opened and drained of their blood. Though difficult to recognize, Edmund knew they were the deceased townsfolk that he had sold to the doctor, now nothing more than playthings for Dr. Penn’s twisted machinations.
A man stood before the far wall of the room which displayed what could best be described as a shrine comprised of human and animal body parts. The beastly shrine had taken the form of the monstrous Wendigo. Edmund recalled the legend of the Wendigo which still circulated amongst the town with those still close in trade with the local natives. Some say Barrington was cursed at its founding by the tribal chief in response to the atrocities committed by the colonists against the natives which only caused further tensions between the two cultures. Legend has it that that chief’s curse summoned dark, vengeful spirits such as the wendigo among others to prey upon the land and its new inhabitants. Now it seemed as though the legend had come to life.
The hybrid body had been fastened to the wall with wood and nails. The arms and torso carried signs of human origin while the legs were hooves and the head adorned with a large animal skull fitted with antlers. The flesh that clung to the bones was pale and discolored. The discoloration had been brought about by syringes filled with a peculiar discolored serum. The man standing before the shrine was hunkered over the table examining the liquid within the syringes. His once white apron had been heavily stained with blood.
The man turned to Edmund, who had been standing directly behind him now. It was none other than Dr. Penn. He had a sinister, twisted look in his eyes; his face pale, gaunt and coated in blood.
“Edmund? You dare enter my lab without permission? You are not welcome in this place!”
Edmund was incensed with uncontrollable ire. The doctor had been the source of all his suffering at the hands of the apparition. Edmund would not dare to let this opportunity pass.
“She was never sick, was she? None of them were before you put your cursed hands upon them.”
“You know nothing of the darkness that curses these lands,” Dr. Penn hissed. “The great spirit has lurked among the town’s periphery for years plaguing it with disease and famine. The only way to survive is to appease it. It has chosen me to herald its arrival. Yes, I am the bridge between worlds; the conduit between spiritual and physical. I am its harbinger and it demands sacrifices in flesh and blood in order to be fulfilled.”
Edmund could no longer contain his anger. Never had Edmund desired to take the life of another, but Edmund could not stop himself from killing Dr. Penn. He seized a stray syringe of the serum from the table and stabbed Dr. Penn in the neck, dispatching the green liquid into him. His anger was such that he repeatedly stabbed the doctor. As Edmund regained his senses, he could see the doctor’s skin turn jaundice and blotchy as the veins in his head bulged. The whites of his eyes turned red and the doctor began foaming at the mouth, choking violently. Whatever Edmund had injected the doctor with had accelerated the decay of his insides as his body shriveled and turned ill. By the time the doctor was actually dead, his body resembled those of his tortured victims. Upon the doctor’s death, another crash of what seemed like thunder filled the air shaking the entire building violently. It was a piercing sound that caused the shrine’s skull to fall from the structure, shattering the syringes below.
Edmund could feel his heart still racing as he once again faded out of consciousness. It felt as if he had begun floating upon a sea of calm, bathed in the white light, weightless and horizontal. It did not last long, for once again he regained his consciousness only to find himself back outside the Lord’s Haven Parish standing in the entrance to the cemetery. The ghost appeared once more before Edmund, startling him yet again.
“I stand before you pleading mercy,” Edmund begged. “I am not a man of violence. I beg you, make swift work of me so that I may peacefully continue on with this dreadful life.”
“Your trial is but only halfway complete. The next souls I require are that of the parishioner, Father Campbell as well as George and Cynthia Caulfield.”
This time, Edmund protested the apparition’s instructions.
“Why? Why, tainted spirit, do you find it necessary to take these good people and condemn further innocence?”
“The less you know, Resurrector. The souls you deem to be innocent are far from such. What they do behind closed doors does not escape my sight. Father Campbell disguises himself as a godly man while concealing his true identity as a violator of young children. For years, the priest has preyed upon the children of this town to satiate his perversion of lust. Annie Mae Caulfield was one of the priest’s victims, the latest in a sequence of debauchery to which the town remains incognizant.”
Edmund could not believe what he had heard; he didn’t want to.
“That can’t be. A man of God, he is. And what reasons do her parents have to suffer?”
“George and Cynthia Caulfield’s sin is one of ignorance toward their daughter. Annie Mae’s beauty was incomparable, apt to catch the attention of any man. This was cause for concern among George and Cynthia. Fearing the attraction of undesirable suitors and wanting to protect her from any harm or danger, George and Cynthia left her under the supervision of Father Campbell and the parish to better learn the ways of God. After Father Campbell defiled her, Annie Mae approached her parents about it. But, they would not believe her. They refused to believe that a man of the cloth would commit such cruelty against a child. So, she was sent back to the parish day after day under the priest’s care. Eventually, Annie Mae refused to go back. Once a sweet, kind girl, her behavior grew erratic and prone to sudden outbursts of aggression. George and Cynthia took her refusal to return to church as a sign of her denouncing God. Suspecting a decline in her mental health, they sent her to Dr. Penn. But, Dr. Penn had his own plans for the young Annie Mae. Betraying the Caulfield’s trust, Dr. Penn tended to young Annie Mae, using the opportunity to inject her with a syringe of the formulated Cholera leading to her death.”
The story had at last been fully revealed to Edmund. Its veil had finally been lifted to reveal the quaint little town he had come to know as the scourge and abomination that it truly was. The revelation had conjured a sickening taste in his mouth, one of disgust and repulsion for the human condition. He no longer harbored fear and apprehension for his well-being, but only interminable anger and contempt for the town and its people for enabling such vile acts to transpire. A murderous rage had taken hold of Edmund, inflicting upon him an irreconcilable conscience retaliative to the loss of innocence.
“And what of the seventh soul? Who, pray tell, shall be the last to retribute the soul of Annie Mae?”
“The honor shall be yours, Resurrector; he who profits from the dead shall live among them.”
“…So sayest thou, Spirit. Thy will shall be done…”
“Spare no moment, necromancer. The midnight hour fast approaches and I await my prize.”
For the last time, the apparition vanished, never to be seen again. With nothing else to lose, Edmund took off toward the chapel to fulfil the devil’s work and bring an end to his ill-spent life. It was the last that anyone would ever see of poor Edmund Raye.

***

The next day, a quiet morning dawned as the town awoke to a grizzly scene of murder and mutilation across Barrington. In the home of Mayor Caulfield, a house maid discovered George and Cynthia in their bedroom asphyxiated, hanging from the chandelier. Despite every rationalization, no one could determine how they manage to reach the lighting fixture to hang themselves.
Near the center of town, the fetor of decay emanated from Dr. Penn’s medical institute, leading the town to uncover many dark secrets remaining within. The bodies of Dr. Penn’s handlers, Malcolm and Vincent, were found sitting upright in the pews of the auditorium, each missing their eyes, ears and tongue. Inside Dr. Penn’s personal chambers, Dr. Penn’s remains were found among a scene of ritualistic sacrifice. His corpse, drenched in an unknown substance and displaying advanced stages of decayed flesh, lay under the guise of his fallen idol of the demon Wendigo. Infected and highly contagious, Dr. Penn’s remains became the source of a renewed outbreak of cholera throughout the land and had to be burned.
Not far from Dr. Penn’s medical institute, Father Campbell turned up dead inside Lord Haven’s Parish. His body had been impaled onto the altar by a sharpened crucifix. Whoever had committed such a heinous act must have been a person of great strength, for no one could determine how the killer was capable of forcing such a large crucifix into the chest of Father Campbell. It was a horrific sight many found to be unwarranted, until they had discovered the remnants of Father Campbell’s personal effects. In the parishioner’s office, there existed a secret room behind a cabinet. The cabinet had been moved and the door to the secret room left ajar. Inside the room, the townsfolk uncovered a dungeon filled with torture devices and skeletons of dead children chained to the wall. Most of them were still in the process of decomposition. Every one of them, boy and girl, met a painful end at the hands of the priest.
But, what remained a mystery at the time to the townsfolk that day was the whereabouts of Edmund Raye. His absence led many to believe that he was the murderer, but without any evidence, no one could be certain. It wasn’t until a few days later that the townsfolk discovered the tombstone of Annie Mae Caulfield had been torn from the ground. The remaining members of the town dug up the coffin to ensure no one had tampered with Annie Mae’s body. What they found in the coffin left everyone that was present speechless and horrified. Annie Mae was nowhere to be found! Instead, they discovered the body of Edmund Raye, buried alive as it were. On the lid of the coffin was a message that looked to have been carved by Edmund with nothing but his fingernails. The message read, “I shall be vindicated!”
Not long after the discovery of Edmund Raye and the gruesome Barrington murders, the townspeople had finally succumbed to disease, leaving the town dangerously few in number. After the Civil War, the town was completely abandoned. To this day, all that remains of Barrington are the overgrown ruins within the ancient Appalachian forest. Rumors abound that few travelers who have passed close by the lands that were once Barrington can still hear the voices of the damned – chanting, cursing one another in eternal torment – and a woman clad in white seen wandering through the woods. The body of Annie Mae Caulfield was never found.

Zach Ellenberger

Zach Ellenberger

Zach Ellenberger is a writer based in Chicago where he lives with his wife, daughter and two dogs. Zach has previously published a handful of short stories with Spillwords including "Misanthrope" and "House of the Hag." He recently released his debut novel "Potato Kingdom" and is currently hard at work finishing his next novel. As a lover of history, Zach writes a weekly blog called "History Never Forgets" which provides highlights into historical figures as well as events and the impacts that they had on their time periods.
Zach Ellenberger

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