The September Ritual

Lightning never strikes the same place twice. Except for the St. Sebastian Monastery. A solitary monk boarded up the windows to protect from the rain. The other monks had long since left the monastery, leaving him all alone. The Monk wandered the quiet halls, he hated being so desperately alone. The wind rattled through the cold stone halls. A loud thump at the large wooden front door alerted the Monk to the scene.

He prized the heavy door open to find a small wicker basket had been placed at his feet. Inside, was the most beautiful baby girl he had ever seen. He stepped outside into the pouring rain to inspect who had left this child. There was no soul to be seen. The thick marshland was shrouded in mist, but they could not have got far enough to have disappeared. The Monk carried the basket out of the rain and sealed the door tight.

Many years passed quickly by with the Monk and the Child. She was now eighteen, at a rough estimate. The Monk chose not to go by a name. He had erased his identity when he joined the brotherhood. He raised the Child in the same way. She had no name, no identity. She did not know life outside the monastery. All she knew were the teachings of the Monk.

The morning broke on the horizon and it was time to rise for prayers. As she did every morning, the Child rushed up the narrow spiral staircase to the bell tower. Even though there were no other monks to hear the bell, it was common practice to ring them every morning. It was the Child’s favourite part of the day. She reached the top of the bell tower and navigated the rickety wooden bridge over to the platform. She urged herself not to look down, but every morning she couldn’t help herself. The bell tower stretched high above the church, at least one hundred feet. The cold marble floor looked miniscule below, the pattern all blurred into one distant blob. She took a deep breath and proceeded to ring the bell for the morning.

The cold September wind blew throughout the old stone buildings. The Child wrapped herself up in a shawl and headed into the chapel for service. The Monk knelt in front of the altar and began his morning prayers. The rain splattered aggressively against the stained glass windows of the chapel. The wind howled like an injured wolf wandering the moorlands. The dark sky cast the magnificent chapel into utter darkness, even the candles around the room did not provide sufficient light.

The doors to the chapel swung open. The Monk and the Child were broken from their connection to the Lord and jolted to see what the commotion was. A tall woman with long brown hair and a hooded robe stood in the doorway with at least ten almost identical men. They all dressed in black robes with shaven heads. They marched to the front of the alter and proceeded to put out each candle.

‘What is the meaning of this,’ the Monk screamed as he frantically tried to relight the candles. ‘This is a place of worship! How dare you invade our sanctuary and cut us from our prayers. Who are you people?’

‘You can call me Sister,’ the woman replied coldly. ‘We are here to prepare what is ours. Our beliefs are slightly different from yours, but we all believe in the same figures. Though the ones we worship are slightly different. We have come to enact our sacred ritual. We will be on our way as soon as the ritual has been completed’.

The Sister ignored all the Monk’s complaints and disregarded him entirely. She and her hooded companions lay a fabric sheet on the floor in front of the altar. They lined the fabric with long black candles and proceeded to light them. The Sister unwrapped a canvas of Wolfsbane and gently scattered it around the candles. The hooded men placed ears of corn around in a delicate circle. They then lit all the candles around the canvas and took a step back.

‘When the candles have burned down, on the night of the full moon, our ritual will be complete. Do not disturb the site, it will bring about great misfortune if tampered with. We will make ourselves at home here. Once the ritual is complete, we will be on our way,’ the Sister announced in a dry monotone. The hooded figures then swept from the chapel, followed by the Sister. The Monk called at them to explain themselves, but he was met with no response.

*

The Child awoke from a disturbed night of sleep to the cold howling of the wind. She dressed in a robe and quietly patted to the hall. The howling sounded like it was coming from inside the monastery. She carefully crept along the cold stone floors and headed towards the chapel. She climbed the stairway to the belltower so that she could look down at the chapel without being detected. Bravely, she leaned over the wooden bridge and looked below.

The howling was not in fact the wind, but instead, the howling of an injured wolf. The Sister and her hooded followers stood around the wolf. It tried to stand but its back leg was too weak. The blood poured from the leg and onto the canvas. The Child watched as the Sister raised a sharp dagger high above the wolf’s head. She whispered something that the Child did not understand before bringing the dagger down into the heart of the wolf. It yelped an innocent cry before slumping to the ground. The poor creature’s blood trickled from his wound and onto the canvas.

The Child silently cried on the bridge in the bell tower. She had never witnessed such cruelty to animals in her lifetime. In that moment, each of the candles began to flicker, and a low rumbling caused the Child to topple over the edge of the bridge. She clung tightly for dear life, but she could not quite pull herself back up. Foolishly, she looked down at the large drop from the tower. The Sister heard the commotion and noticed the Child dangling from the bridge. She shouted at her followers to retrieve the girl and bring her down for punishment.

The Child wiggled her legs to try and pull herself up from the bridge, She could hear the heavy footsteps coming from the stairway and knew she did not have much time. Her heart was beating like a marching drum. She forced every ounce of her strength into her arms and tried to pull harder. It was no use, she was trapped. Even if she could pull herself up, there was nowhere for her to run. There was only one stairway down from the bell tower.

With all the might she could muster, the Child hauled herself onto the bridge and quicky darted towards the bell. The footsteps were growing louder. She knew she did not have much time. She scanned the small room and searched for an escape. She headed to one of the large square windows of the bell tower and climbed out onto the roof of the chapel. She could hear the hooded men searching the bell tower for her. She ducked behind a spire as they looked out to search for her. When the coast was clear, the Child carefully climbed across the roof, and gently climbed down to the ground.

*

The Monk was readying himself for afternoon prayers when the Child burst into his room. She told him of the horrors she had witnessed in the chapel and how the Sister had tried to capture her.

‘We must leave this place at once,’ the Monk commanded. ‘This is no longer a house of our Lord. They have tainted these walls with their ritual. We must leave before they can enact their ritual and drag us both down a path of sin. Pack your things’.

The Child obediently fled the Monk’s quarters and headed to pack. She burst into the room to find one of the hooded followers standing over her bed. The Child turn to run out of the room to find two more hooded followers standing in her path. They grabbed her and began dragging her to the chapel. She looked around to find the figures had knocked the Monk unconscious and were dragging him behind her. The hooded followers knocked the Child unconscious as they dragged her.

When the Child woke, the bright full moon was shining through the chapel windows. She tried to stand up but realised she was tied to a chair on the canvas that had been set up by the Sister.

‘It is almost time,’ the Sister began. ‘Did you not think it peculiar when a child was dropped off at your door Monk? Dropped off eighteen years to this very night? With nobody around for you to chase after?’

‘This had all been orchestrated?’ the Monk stirred from the pews. His hands too had been bound.

‘Of course,’ she continued. ‘This is all part of the ritual. It has been a long time coming. Our God will soon rise’.

‘There is only one God,’ the Monk protested. The Child began to wriggle the rope that bound her hands.

‘Not to us. We worship another kind of God. One that your God deemed unfit to remain in Heaven’s gates. He cast aside Lucifer and sent him to be punished for all eternity. Now we will avenge him. We will raise him from the fiery depths to become our overlord until the end of time. All we needed was the child. She needed to be close to God, that is why we sent her here. You see when she opens herself up to God, she opens herself up to the forces of evil as well. She becomes a vessel for the Dark Lord. All we need is for her blood to be spilled on the night of a full moon when she comes of age, and the Dark Lord will rise again’.

The Child had an epiphany. ‘Father,’ she spoke. ‘Thank you for the time we have shared. I will love you always’. The monk was confused by her sudden confession. The Child had now realised what she must do. The Sister and her followers would not stop until they raised Lucifer. She was the key to the ritual. The Child slipped her hands from the rope and darted for the stairway to the bell tower. She ascended the spiral stairway and reached the bridge. Her knees were shaking. Her lip trembled. She took a deep breath and climbed over the railing of the wooden bridge.

The fall was short but for the Child, it felt like a lifetime. The cool rush of air was the last thing she ever felt. The Monk wept as he watched her delicate body reach the ground. The Sister let out a defeated cry and slammed her fists against the alter. The harrowing cries of the Monk and the Sister rang through the halls of the monastery until the calm sun rose the next morning.

The Sister and her followers swiftly left the next morning. Too heartbroken to face the world, the Monk lived the rest of his life in solitude. He devoted himself to the Lord and the Lord alone, for he was too broken to allow anyone to come close.

Henry Black

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