“Would you both care to benefit from a guided tour of our beautiful cathedral ladies,?” a kind voice welcomed them at the high oak mediaeval church door entrance.
Standing there was a cheerful, elderly middle-aged guide wearing the usual traditional black clerical cassock as he smiled openly at them. But he was in fact the verger and apparently with some pride, was entitled to wear this priestly garment by permission of the archbishop no less. Now he regarded them both with interest and some scrutiny.
They surprisingly and politely declined his unexpected offer and walked together into the darkened building. Previously Karen had asked him with just a mock tone of concern in her voice: “Is it cold inside?” screwing up her nose and looking at him with a raised eyebrow.
“No …. of course not,” he replied with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He had often been asked this particular question so many times in the past.
“Oh, I expect it is … because all the churches I have ever visited in the past have always been very cold,!” Karen answered him now rather formally. And with her fixed patronising smile, usually reserved for people like him born to a certain lower position in life.
On their way earlier walking down the then busy Oberesandstr they had noticed that familiar sinister outline of the cathedral’s dark silhouette that sat upon the town’s skyline like a four-headed crouching angry bat waiting to fly down and attack all in its path. It also seemed to dominate all the clustered pantile rooftops surrounding its presence.
Once inside the listed building and according to the purchased guidebook, it boasted of being over one thousand years old. Having survived numerous wars, floods and fires, some claim many murders and it seemed many black masses were being performed in the dank, deep bowels of the cathedral crypts.
The warmth of the day seemed to have deserted them both now as those tall oak arched doors now were silently closed behind them. Then they both tentatively walked into a welcomed cooler atmosphere. As the historical solemnity of this structure silently closed around them rather akin to a long heavy velvet cloak placed on their shoulders. They looked around with interest at its antique features but certainly never awe.
Heidi Hoffman then recalled a lingering memory long ago that she had never been able to forget. When she was just ten years old and growing up then in Stuttgart she and all her little friends lived and played together near the local Catholic church.
They had all nervously heard and often talked about a so-called ghost that none had ever seen that according to local legend resided in this old church. And as always it seemed referred to as simply as a ‘good ghost’ whatever that was! Naturally, they were all very frightened and especially the young and always impressionable Heidi. She was the youngest in that cluster of naughty and always curious children that ran up and down that residential area.
And she always when possible avoided that fearsome church and its supposed sinister reputation of the ghost that somehow resided inside its doors.
Sadly for her, she had to carefully walk past its exposed doors at least twice a day on school days. And for some strange reason that she never understood those forbidding dark doors were always wide open!
Then one momentous day as she and her friends passed the church to play together in the nearby local popular park, one of the older boys that she didn’t like very much suddenly pulled her roughly towards that ever-open church door. Then before she knew what was happening, she was quickly pushed by him into the dark unwelcoming empty darkened void. And then to her fear that heavy door was slammed shut behind her and she was now trapped and alone.
For a minute her immature brain could and would not process just what was happening to her at this moment. But what would happen to her next she now feared. And no one that she could think of could help. Lost in this awful nightmare settling all around her.
Some ghastly images then began to quickly materialise in her confused mind. Weird headless ghosts staring at her with loathing as well as the usual assorted werewolves and blood-lipped vampires that she had seen pictured so often in coloured picture books as a child.
And any minute she feared a ghastly apparition draped in a long grey shroud usually seen with coal black vacant eyes and with just a gaping toothless hole for a mouth would somehow appear and enfold her tightly into its heavy blood-stained shroud. Then taking her kicking and screaming to its hideous lair. Somewhere in a cold cave to torture and devour her flesh slowly. Being set amongst the many piled bones of lost previous helpless victims. Never to be discovered.
She turned and desperately tried to somehow pull open the closed door but it would not yield to her feeble efforts. Someone outside, probably one of the stronger boys was pulling it tightly closed, thereby preventing her from ever escaping from this awful situation she was now trapped in. She began to silently to cry.
She then looked into the empty darkened building. With now only a few flickering dying wax candles it seemed on show discharging a naked, eerie light sputtering before her, now she could see several scratched stone statues of men dressed as in olden times placed on eye-level stone plinths.
Some even holding heavy shepherd’s staffs and they seemed to look down at her with sadness. Some with pity and maybe suspicion she thought.
To her horror one high stained glass window that had caught her eye depicted a knight seated on a white horse. Thrusting a sharpened spear to hopefully destroy a scally dragon and from the animal’s hideous face searing red flames seemed to be sprouting from the beast’s mouth. And its bloodshot eyes seemed to be staring directly at her for some reason.
She later learned that this popular image depicted the traditional painted setting of a young George slaying with delight it seemed that famed dragon of old.
She had also half expected and waited in trepidation for this so-called good ghost to still silently arrive and claim her as its own. And then tightly wrap his empty sleeves around her struggling body. And later enfold her into his tattered cloak and pull her into its folds, taking her struggling to who knows where or when to do what it pleased with her.
To be continued…..
(C) G. Patrick Battell
All Rights Reserved