At first glance the cavernous hall looks empty. But if you keep looking, you’ll see souls emanating from the stone walls, dancing with the sunbeams streaming down from holes in the cathedral-like roof.Ancient ghosts linger in the shadows silently weeping about their cruel deaths.
If you look closely at the rafters, you’ll see sleeping bats storing up their energy to hunt in the night. Their droppings foul the granite floor, creating a stench that wafts through the hall with every breeze that filters through the shattered front door and the gaping holes in the wall.If you have the time and the will, I will tell you a story about this accursed building.
Historians date this ruin back to the 13th century. But the building’s history is still a mystery. You probably noticed that this building is almost entirely overgrown with blackberry vines and dense foliage that disguises its outward profile. Local families have been passing down dark stories about the decrepit ruins for centuries. I’m going to share with you the most enduring tale among them.
DANCING WITH DEMONS
Once upon a time the building was the home of a pagan cult that practiced black magic. The priests, as they styled themselves, lived in the nearby villages and congregated there to perform dark rituals and human sacrifices. I suspect they were Druids, but I have no way to prove that despite the whispers we heard at the Inn.
The priests always gathered on full moons. There were exceptions, but I’ll get back to them later.On those nights people were tortured and killed during a mass celebration that lasted until the early morning hours. Screams of pain and horror mingled with raucous laughter and heathen drums throughout the little valley on those terrible nights.
What made this cult so special was its initiation ceremoniesfor new converts.The applicant had to dance with demons throughout the night. If they survived, they became members proudly describing the demons as their gods.Most of the time the supplicants didn’t make it through the test with the hell spawn and their bodies were rent into little pieces that the members quickly ate in a gruesome feast before the sun rose.
I hope I wasn’t boring you. You look tired. Was it the walk over here from the Inn? No. You’re sure you’re, okay?Did the well-trod trail here give you pause? I only say this because I see a glimmer of fear in your eyes.You seem uncomfortable.
For good reason.
To resume the story… the cult never died out. I’m brother Judas and it’s my pleasure to invite you to dance with demons this very night. We’ve had a hard time attracting converts in these modern times, so we had to adjust. Now we take whoever visits our valley to dance with the demons (who must be satisfied after all) and if they survive, we increase our ranks. If they don’t our secret lives on. By the way your tiredness isn’t from walking. Remember the beers we had at the Inn? I gave you something to relax. You have a big night ahead.
I watched him walk along the shoreline as luminescent waves rolled under the blue moon. The surf broke the silence of the night as it lazily lapped the gleaming beach. He was moving with the brisk wind towards an unknown horizon and seemed to pay me no heed as his cloak and long hair majestically streamed behind him.
I took a long hit off my pipe packed with a ball of opium. When I finally opened my eyes, he was walking towards me and for a moment I thought he was an ancient god with his flowing beard and long shaggy hair catching the moon beams and glowing eerily. But as I watched in wide eyed wonder he stopped, shook his mighty mane from side-to-side and reversed his course. I felt a sense of remorse. Loss. Did I offend him somehow by not standing up?
I had the feeling that I missed an opportunity. That the Beach Walker was going to befriend me and share answers to mysteries that have long befuddled humanity.
I watched his shadow chase himas he moved like a wraith beneath the moonlight. His hair was flowing and glowing. The waves were receding, and sand dollars and other shells were exposed and gleaming under the strange lights emanating from the sky. A stray clap of thunder growled in the distance. My thoughts turned to the pipe in my hand. I lit it. Inhaled. Waited. Time had no meaning. I sought revelations. Visions.The meaning of life. I was lost.
Pulling out the pistol from my jacket pocket I held it up to my head and held it there for what seemed an eternity. My arm gave out and I dropped the .38 Special onto the shifting sand. I cursed my cowardice. I cursed my demons. As I ranted a fog slowly crept along the shoreline then shifted towards me. From its depth the Beach Walker emerged, his wild long hair hanging in tight curls and straddling his broad shoulders. The cloak was gone and all he wore was a dirty white tunic. Somehow his face glowed under the light of the blue moon, and he was wearing a frown. A look of concern. His dark brown eyes bored into my soul, warning me not to take my own life. A voice inside my head said it’s God’s choice when and how you leave this earthly plane.
Startled I jumped up in my narcotic haze and called out to him, who are you? It was too late, however. It seemed like he was floating as he turned around and disappeared in the thick gray mist that now enveloped the whole beach.
When I saw the headlights, I didn’t move despite the fact that they were pointed right at me. It appeared God chose this moment to take my life and I gladly opened my arms wide prepared to be propelled into eternity. The Land Rover roared right by me, spitting up sand and broken shells as it hurtled into the night on some mad mission. I stood there listening to my heartbeat for minutes. Then I could hear the waves again. I suddenly understood that life was a gift and I’d been granted a reprieve for my past misdeeds.
I watched the sunrise with a sense of awe. Picking up the pistol and the pipe I threw them as far as I could into the turbulent surf. As corny as it sounds, it was a new day full of promise.