The church was abandoned before the war began. The priests and their flock fled to safer pastures in the hopes of avoiding the war altogether. However, an ulterior motive fuelled the priests. A deep-seated fear of the church kept them from finding peace, despite the holy iconography, the church felt anything but holy. In times so dark, it’s hidden evil would soon inadvertently be released.
German forces marched throughout Europe, occupying major cities and towns. It was only a matter of time before a convoy spotted a church in the forests surrounding a large town. Its peak stood taller than any of the dying trees as if it were the tip of a spear, blackened by fresh blood. It called to the occupying forces, pushing their captain (captain) to send two cars of soldiers.
The captain heard the cars start and leave, but he could not tear his eyes away from the top of the church. It’s darkened roof appeared most sinister in the moonlight that spilt over it.
“Sir?” a voice pleaded for the fifth time, finally giving up and following their captain’s gaze. “Strange… it’s a church, but it’s not marked on any of our maps. You would think people would show pride for such an extraordinary building. I don’t recognise the-”
“It’s a Metlokah church,” the captain interrupted. “An old church, made by...strange, twisted people. Churches like that have a power within their walls...”
“A good power?”
“Perhaps. It’s...beautiful, is it not?”
The officer turned to look at the church, examining it further. He could see how it could be confused for an average church, but there were subtle differences that made him think otherwise. The peak was tall like many others but spiked haphazardly. Details such as this, from the windows to the pillars to the pattern of the shingles, were placed without thought for design. Yet, it was not unprofessionally made.
The soldiers in the cars that stopped outside the church noticed as much when they arrived. Such care was put into the building and its maintenance. Despite the town being abandoned a week prior to the soldier’s arrival, the church’s windows were clean, the plants trimmed or cutaway as to not spoil the image of the building.
“Dieter, Klaus, you go around back,” the officer ordered. “Weapons ready at all times.”
“Yes, sir,” Klaus and Dieter saluted before jogging around the building.
Dieter watched the windows, transfixed by the strange symbols that the iron frame created. It was an entirely different language to him, but perhaps they were nothing but imagery. Klaus showed no such care for the building, fearing that resistance might take up in the forest around them. He studied the silhouette of every bush and tree in the time he had.
“See anything?” Dieter asked, relaxing as they arrived behind the church.
Klaus, whose anxiety was building with every dark thought, turned to respond but noticed a collection of human figures in the dark. Dieter watched as Klaus fumbled with his rifle, quickly raising it, taking aim and firing at one figure. The gunshot caught their officer’s attention, as well as the other soldiers.
Klaus didn’t calm but was immediately perplexed by the figure. It did not flinch, although he was sure the bullet hit its mark. Dieter raised his rifle and marched towards the figure, relaxing as the closer he got the easier it was to see...
“A statue,” Dieter whispered, then snapped to Klaus. “Idiot! You should not have fired, you need to make sure it’s hostile, not to mention human!”
“I-it appeared human when I saw it and hostile!” Klaus reasoned.
The statue was that of a gargoyle, with a spear in hand, pointed towards Klaus. It was in a charge as if it were to skewer the soldier in one thrust. It was not the only statue, as many stood amongst the trees and bushes, in combat amongst each other, with spears and claws raised. Both Dieter and Klaus could see that unlike the fearsome grimace that most demons wore, these wore expressions of fear.
The officer and other soldiers arrived seconds later, Dieter explaining what happened to Klaus’s embarrassment. The officer didn’t issue any punishment, feeling nothing but a relief at that moment. Rubbing his face, he turned on the spot.
Dieter and Klaus didn’t say anything, but waited for his next order, their minds racing. The two studied their fellow soldiers and saw them shifting from one foot to another, fidgeting with their rifles and pistols. Even going as far as to not so subtly watch the church.
“We’re done here, back to the town,” the officer ordered. “There’s nobody here.”
“The church was searched already?” Dieter questioned.
“We didn’t search the church. It is obvious that nobody is here.”
Dieter could have kept his mouth shut and joined the others as they marched towards the cars. Dieter could have, but he didn’t want to.
“Can I look?” he asked.
The officer paused while the other soldiers kept walking. Unblinking, the officer stared at the soldier with shock. Dieter’s heart sank, thinking he had offended the officer in some way.
“There’s no need,” the officer replied through clenched teeth.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Dieter apologised, but the damage was done.
The officer noticed the eyes of his fellow soldiers on him and although they didn’t mind leaving back to the town, to sleep in relative comfort, they began to question his orders. As if reading their thoughts, the officer collected himself and scowled at the other soldiers. His deep voice held strong as he firmly gave orders.
“If you feel the need, so be it,” the officer announced. “Dieter, you can stay here and search the building for any resistance. Klaus, Wilhelm, you two join him.”
The soldiers steadied themselves, emboldened by their officer’s commands. Dieter, Klaus and Wilhelm watched as they drove away, leaving one car for them. Wilhelm stared daggers at Dieter, while Klaus only seemed saddened that he had such a foolish friend.
“Let’s get this over with,” Wilhelm muttered angrily, hefting his rifle from his shoulder into his hands. “You two have the honour of going inside, I will watch the outside.”
Dieter didn’t argue, gesturing for Klaus to follow him. Dieter pushed the old doors open, which swung noisily on their old hinges. The grim sight of the old pews, tall windows and an iron chandelier greeted them. The architecture seemed so hostile in the dark, the jagged engravings and decorations threatening them always. Dieter wondered if any churchgoer could find peace in such a place.
The two made their way slowly up the aisle, checking each line of pews.
“Keep your eyes peeled, Klaus,” Dieter warned. “There are those who will use even a church to ambush their enemy.”
Yet, the shadows contained nothing. The two soldiers reached the end of the church, stopping at two sets of stairs leading up to the second floor. Both decided with a look that one would take the left and the other the right. Even their softest steps were made loud by the deathly silence, making their hearts beat faster, stronger, till Dieter could feel his blood rush in his fingers as they gripped the rifle tighter.
Upon reaching the top of the stairs, Dieter saw an altar. A cross, bright and new in the darkness, gleamed with a calming light as the moonlight bounced off its metal surface. Breathing slowed as Dieter relaxed, he failed to react when in time when he heard the rapid footsteps to his left.
A shadow crashed into him, a voice whispered inside his mind to fight or die. The figure had him on the ground, shifting its form as it raised a weapon to bear down on Dieter. He saw the jagged gleam of fangs, the sinewy muscles grasping the black spear. The growl, the fearsome guttural sound of exertion as the monster made to attack.
“Dieter!?” Klaus shook Dieter by his shoulders, but Dieter wasn’t listening.
Klaus watched as Dieter stared up at him in great fear, fumbling at his sides. He saw Dieter clutch at the dagger and try to wrench it from its sheath. Klaus knocked his hand away and struck Dieter across the cheek and once more.
“Come to your senses, stop screaming!” Klaus begged.
Dieter’s cheek burned and vision blurred after each blow, seeing the demon less and less. Until at last, his mind cleared and he saw Klaus atop him, with an expression of great concern.
“K-Klaus? Oh, God...” Dieter stammered, relaxing. “I didn’t know, I thought...I saw…”
Klaus helped Dieter to his feet. Dieter tried to collect his thoughts, studying Klaus closely. His fellow soldier, a friend, not an enemy, nor a monster. Yet, with all his heart, he thought he saw a terrible demon, a mighty envoy of hell. Before a wave of calm could wash over the two, before a conversation to make sense of what happened could transpire, the peace was disturbed by terrible screech and blood.
Klaus fell to the ground, with a bayonet through his neck. Wilhelm twisted the rifle, a fearful expression painted across his face. Drawing the rifle with its knife, Wilhelm swung the blade towards the other demon. The demon charged forward, taking the blade through its chest, not caring that its black blood poured from the wound. With claws and teeth, it tried to tear at Wilhelm, but Wilhelm struck again with the bayonet.
The demon fell to the ground, twitching. Wilhelm stabbed it again and again, blood washing over the floor in a gory tide until the demon shook no longer. Exhausted and filled with fear, Wilhelm left the rifle in the demon, it’s weight causing it to slice through the body as it fell to the ground. He stared at the grotesque form for only a moment, before he too was thrown into the void.
The dying Klaus dropped the pistol, it hit the ground the same time as the monster. As his vision began to fade, all he could see was the red form that once was his friend Dieter.
The three soldiers would be found that morning, but would not be buried. The captain examined the bodies for only a moment, horrified. He could see that three fought amongst each other, a bloody display painting the scene perfectly. In the morning light, he decided it best to leave and never return. The captain would not mention the church and he could see the rest of his soldiers would follow suit.
In times so dark, its true power would be revealed. A legend of a church, where if a wicked man were to set foot in such a church at night, their true form would be revealed. Where those of strong faith or good heart see only each other and are spared. Yet those with evil in themselves, see only demons, who they will die fighting and will struggle with for eternity after. It is a place that would be better forgotten like those who lost themselves to its power.