Monday, 31 October 2016
The time of evil approaches and as the clock ticks slowly, so slowly, towards midnight and the pendulum creaks ever lower, the body on the cold stone below groans in torment as he recalls the words of the ancient prophecy: “Darkness falls across the land. The midnight hour is close at hand. Creatures crawl in search of blood, to terrorise your neighbourhood. And whosoever shall be found without the soul for getting down, must stand and face the hounds of hell and rot inside a corpse's shell.” A thrill rushes through his body. He shivers and closes his eyes...
How had he got here, to the place of his transition to the other, ungodly world? And who would take his place on Earth; who would exchange the Jones boy’s unsullied spirit for an evil, old soul to stalk the night with malicious intent? From midnight until dawn he would suffer the twilight world of purgatory, undergoing the tortures of purification while the undead malevolence re-entered the corporeal world in his body to enact revenge on those who had condemned him to an eternity in hell.
Many years ago a bargain had been struck, a promise made, never believing he would have to pay the price. It had all happened in nineteen-sixties Oxford. A night of student high jinks and much drink had brought them all together to the séance. He recalled it as if a dream; the warped and condensed essence of a hidden memory, tantalising sequences juxtaposed with random irrelevances. But one thing was real; everybody around that board had gone on to reap great rewards from life; glittering children growing to equally scintillating adulthood.
The incantations had begun in a fit of giggles as a young female host tried to gather them around the Ouija board in the tiny bedsitting room. Another boy, Peter, a few years her junior was trying to intone the sacred words of the Necronomicon but he lost his way several times as he stifled jags of spasmic laughter. Owen himself was biting his fist in an effort to control his own sniggers. But, suddenly, the temperature dropped ten degrees and the lights went out. In the centre of the table a stub of a candle nobody remembered lighting sputtered and gave off a feeble yellow glow. Silence stood heavy over the assembly and the three, as if on command, took their seats.
The evening seemed to pass in seconds and afterwards none would ever speak again of what had happened there. But deals had been made, Owen remembered that much. Without any obvious talents they each went on to the success they had bought that night. Polly, craving recognition, became a famous Guardian columnist. Peter, who had always seen himself as better than the common herd was ennobled and entered the House of Lords as Baron Mandelson. And now Owen Jones, who had coveted and been granted eternal youth, was paying the toll.
Owen lay there, held immobile by an unseen force. The same stubby candle put out a feeble light but its smoke intensified and for a moment took the form of the foul creature from below and he was suddenly vouchsafed a glimpse of the demon he had pledged to trade places with, over half a century before. The eyes! Those dreadful windows into the twisted soul of one consigned to burn in the fires of hell; a tortured soul who would not accept death. Owen screamed as he beheld the face of evil itself...