The moment I set foot into the church, my head started to explode with pain. I cringed back a step, yet Ethan and Anderson didn’t notice it.
The interior of the church was dark, only a few lonely candles were lit, filling it with long, dark shadows. They seemed to be dancing alongside the walls and the church windows.
Anderson and Ethan had already stepped into the main hall.
“Damnit Ethan, I told you to stay behind,” Anderson called after him.
Ethan hurried forward and looked up towards the organ to see who was playing it. Right at that moment, he froze, mumbling to himself. I couldn’t understand what he’d said under the music.
As I staggered forward, I saw Anderson approach Ethan.
“What’s the matter with you?!” the sheriff snapped at him.
Yet as Ethan pointed upwards, the sheriff’s eyes grew wide.
“Ethan! Sheriff Anderson! What’s going on?” I called out to them.
“What the hell is that?” Anderson pressed out the moment I reached them. The crowbar dropped from his hands as his face was riddled by surprise.
I’d been afraid what I’d see up there. The memory of the dream came back, and I was worried that I’d find a corpse strung to the instrument. Yet when I looked up, I saw that the seat in front of it was empty.
The organ was playing… itself? How’s that possible?
When my eyes focused on the instrument, I saw that the gold and silver tubes seemed to extend endlessly. They were sprawling from it like roots, vanishing upwards into the unlit upper parts of the church.
Had it always been that big, that convoluted? No, wasn’t it impossible for it to be that big? The more I looked, the more my head started to hurt. For a moment, my vision grew blurry, and it was almost as if the tubes were moving, shifting, and pulsating. Yet as I stared at the inexplicable sight, I found it beautiful and awe-inspiring.
Then I was ripped away from it and came face to face with Anderson. For a moment, I was utterly confused, almost angry at him.
He was yelling at me, but I didn’t seem to understand him. I couldn’t. My ears were filled with nothing but the most beautiful tones originating from the organ above.
“… that music isn’t…”
That music was beautiful, I thought. It was the only thing on my mind. A thought whispered to me in an evil, trembling voice below the music. It was twisting my mind, tearing apart my sanity, making me comply with it.
Then, as Anderson slapped me across the face, it was gone.
“Get a grip, David! We’re getting out of here, now! You too, Ethan! Whatever this is, it’s-”
“Magnificent!” Pastor Owens finished the sheriff’s sentence.
Anderson’s eyes rolled back, and I saw blood streaming from his head as he went down. Owens was holding something. No, not something, the crowbar Anderson had dropped moments ago.
“This is the holiest of places,” the pastor said in a booming voice. “The vestibule of heaven itself!”
With that a blinding light erupted all around us, filling out the entire church. How in the hell was this possible?
“Every night, I marvel at its impossible beauty. This organ, it’s a divine work! An extension of heaven!”
He took one step towards Ethan and me screaming at us.
“It’s the instrument of god, and I am its harbinger!”
He extended his arms, raising them high into the air and with this, the music turned to a thundering crescendo.
I cringed back as pain radiated through my whole body. The moment Owens saw this, his face grew dark, angry, and furious.
“You. Are you denouncing the music of God the Lord himself?”
And then his eyes focused right on me. “Are you denouncing God?”
Under his burning eyes, under this music, I couldn’t do a damn thing.
“Fuck you and fuck your god!” Ethan spat at the man.
He was standing next to me, trembling under the pressure of the music like I did.
The pastor’s face changed into a sadistic grin.
“You might have been saved by the pious actions of that whore mother of yours. But now, Miller, now you’ll receive the righteous judgment our Lord has imposed on you for your sins!”
With that, the man took a first deliberate step towards him.
I turned towards Ethan. “Ethan we-”
I broke up as I saw something from the corner of my eye. Anderson, it had to be the sheriff! Yet, my hopes were shattered, and I was pushed into a world of absurdity.
This time it was no dream, no illusion or hallucination. As I stared back upwards at the organ, I saw that the wood paneling around it was heaving up and down as if it was alive. Not just the paneling, I realized in the light that now filled the church. The whole damned instrument was heaving. Not heaving, I thought, it was breathing. That damned organ was breathing out its terrifyingly beautiful music.
Its tubes were shifting, moving, pushing against one another as the instrument played on all by itself. I wasn’t able to tear my eyes off it. The longer I looked, the more I saw. The tubes, they extended further and further along the upper walls and the roof of the church. There were hundreds or even thousands of them.
I was frozen. It wasn’t fear, nor the sheer absurdity of the situation. It was the loud music entrancing me, rendering me impossible to move.
Then the music stopped.
That’s when I saw her. Standing at the altar was mom.
“David, my boy. You look so tired,” she said in her usual, sweet voice.
“Mom? You’re alright? But, but how?”
“It’s not important anymore. It was all a bad dream. Let’s go home together, shall we?”
“Why are you… what’s going on?”
At this moment, a scream pierced through the air. It was my name, but it wasn’t coming from her. It was coming from… Ethan! I remembered I was here with Ethan, so why was…
“… not real!” Ethan’s voice reached me once more.
With that, the illusion vanished. The music was back, the pain was back, and as I turned towards Ethan again, I saw that he was on the ground. Pastor Owens was on top of him, his hands around Ethan’s neck.
Ethan struggled, but he was as trapped by the music’s spell as I was. I wanted to scream, to rush forward to help him, but my body didn’t seem to listen to me anymore.
“You… her… to that thing. That’s why she,” but Ethan couldn’t speak anymore as the pastor’s hands pressed down on his throat.
“She didn’t accept the honor of playing god’s holy instrument!” he screamed at Ethan below him.
I struggled to help him and concentrated as I saw him gasp for air.
The pain in my head.
I focused on nothing but the stabbing, bursting pain exploding inside of my mind. I screamed up, and finally, I was able to take a step forward, then another. This wasn’t walking. I was tumbling forward and then threw myself against Pastor Owens’ body with as much force as I could muster.
It wasn’t much, but it was enough to push the man off Ethan.
“Ethan, we’ve got to get out!” I screamed at him over the loud music.
Instead of reacting to me, Ethan got a hold of the crowbar. After struggling to move like I did, he rushed forward against Owens.
He crashed into the pastor’s body, and the two tumbled backward against the small door that led down towards the crypt.
There was a loud bang, I saw wood splintering before both of them vanished down the stairs, a tumbling mess of limbs.
“Ethan,” I called out, but my voice was too low to reach him. With shaking legs, I fought myself forward. I reached the stairs and called out again, but under the noise of the music, I couldn’t even hear my own voice. As fast as I could, I descended the stairs.
At the bottom, a terrible sight awaited me. Ethan was hunched over the limp body of Pastor Owens. In a senseless rage, he was beating down on the man’s head with the crowbar. Over and over again, I saw blood and bone splintering.
“Ethan, we’ve,” I started, but wasn’t able to continue anymore.
Behind him, down in the crypt, I saw an innumerable amount of shining gold and silver tubes. They were leading down from the organ above, covering the walls, the ceiling and even the ground of the crypt.
In the center, all these innumerable tubes came together, into a dark, reddish growth.
It was an abominable, tumorous growth that seemed to extend from the ground below.
And that’s when I understood. It wasn’t that the tubes led down here, no they all originated from the thing in the middle. It was nothing but a giant, fleshy organ, pulsating like a living, beating heart.
Each of the innumerable tubes emitted a ghastly cacophony of noises that I couldn’t hope to describe. I tumbled back in sheer terror at the sight. The moment I’d looked at the thing, my vision blurred, and my eyes started to tear up. I felt blood running from my nose, as well as my ears, and my hands trembled uncontrollably. I stumbled to the ground, retching, shaking. I almost couldn’t breathe. Laying there, I closed my eyes and put my hands over my ears. Blind and shaking, I crawled back into the direction I’d come from.
“Ethan,” I tried to scream, but my voice didn’t work. Seconds later, I bumped into him and what was left of Pastor Owens. My hands felt stick, wet with what I assumed was the pastor’s blood.
“We’ve got to,” I started, but couldn’t continue. Each breath was hard, stinging inside my chest.
“We’ve got to get out of here!”
I opened my eyes, staring at Ethan, putting my face right in front of his to see him. Only now did he even realize I was there.
His face and hands were covered in blood, but it wasn’t just Owens’. I saw the blood streaming from his nose, ears, and eyes.
“Go!” I screamed and pushed against him. “We’re going to die here!”
Trembling, he got up and started to take the first of the many steps. I followed him, but it was futile. We’d never make it up there. Not like this. Once more, I almost threw up.
“…damnit boys,” was all I could make out and I knew it was Anderson.
He staggered down towards us and dragged a bloodied Ethan upstairs. Moments later, he returned. For only a second, he stared at the bloody pulp below before he helped me upstairs as well.
“Out!” the man screamed at me over the music.
As my vision slowly returned to normal, I could finally see the state the sheriff was in. It was much worse than I’d thought. Exhausted, pale and half his face covered in blood. He drove me on, but then he stopped.
“Ethan!” he screamed.
Ethan had been ahead of us but had stopped in front of the altar, staring at one of the angel statues.
I saw his mouth move, but I didn’t hear the words. He was smiling at it, as the blood kept running from his face. I took one staggering step forward but had to stop to catch my breath. I wanted to call out to him, to scream at him, but I had no energy left.
The only thing I was able to make out was one single thing, the name Claire.
Moments later, Ethan fell to his knees. His hands wandered upwards towards the statue. He was still talking, pleading with it before a smile showed on his face.
Anderson was about to go forward to get him, but then both of us saw the statue in front of Ethan move.
First, it was only the head that looked down at Ethan. Then its arms and legs moved as if to get rid of centuries of stiffness. Finally, with tremendous force, the thing tore itself from the wood paneling it had been part of. It stepped towards Ethan, and I saw the long metal tubes dangling from the back of the statue and vanishing in the ground below.
“Ethan!” I screamed, but he didn’t move.
The angel put his hands against Ethan’s head. It leaned forward and gave him a kiss on the forehead. After that, the face contorted into a mask of anger and twisted Ethan’s head sideways.
There was no sound. Not the sound of Ethan’s breaking neck, not the sound of my screams and not the sound of Anderson calling out to me. It was all drowned by the music of that damned abomination.
The sheriff pulled at me, but I couldn’t move.
“Ethan!” I screamed again as his limp body slumped to the floor.
Anderson was next to me right away and pulled at me. We’d barely taken a few steps when another voice reached us.
“Blessed be the lord,” I heard a thundering, guttural voice, “for he has bestowed new life upon me!”
In horror, I turned towards the door of the crypt and saw how a bloodied, mangled thing made its way towards us.
Anderson was breathing heavily, pushing me onward relentlessly. Not towards the side entrance we’d come from, but towards the massive front door. I wanted to call out to him, to say something, but I missed the energy to do anything else but to move forward.
How’d we get away from here? Was that door even open?
I didn’t want to move anymore, but my body was screaming at me, functioning by pure survival instinct. I had to get out of here. The walls around us were shifting and pulsating. The windows of the church were distorted into colors impossible to describe or comprehend. That whole damned building was alive! That entire damned building was nothing but an extension of that thing below us!
I’d taken a few steps before I crashed to the ground again. By now, the thing that had once been Pastor Owens was closer to Anderson and me. I let out at toneless scream and fought myself back up. I was barely able to stay on my shaking legs.
I looked back towards Anderson. The sheriff had taken out his gun, and with shaking hands, he aimed at the thing behind us. He fired one shot, then another, before the staggering monstrosity was upon him. The gun fell from the sheriff’s hands as he struggled against the thing. By now, though, he was too weak to put up a fight.
With a last burst of energy, I picked up the gun. I wanted to help Anderson, but I wasn’t in control of my body. I could do nothing but to turn back and run towards the front entrance. In sheer desperation, I threw myself against the heavy wood. Again and again, I did it, but the door wouldn’t budge.
I screamed once more before insanity took over my body, and I started to claw at the wood like a trapped animal. Then my hand hit something, something cold and metallic. The key!
With a shaking hand, I turned it, and suddenly, the heavy wood moved. With my remaining strength, I pushed on.
Outside I fell to the ground, a bleeding mess. I crawled forward, fought myself back to my feet, and stumbled another couple of steps.
When I fell to the ground again, I could hear the heavy beat of my own heart and the blood rushing through my veins. The music, it had stopped, was almost gone! Only a faint memory of it remained inside my head.
I turned around and saw that the front entrance of the church was closed off again. Nothing was to see anymore. The church windows were dark and empty. The church itself still.
There was no Pastor Owens, no angel statues, no tubes and metal, nothing at all.
I couldn’t help but laugh. I lay there in utter pain, blood running from every orifice in my face and yet I laughed, I didn’t understand. What the hell had just happened? Had I gone insane?
Yet I was still holding the sheriff’s gun in my hand. I was still covered in blood, still shaking and panting.
After another few minutes on the ground, I was finally able to get up. With weak legs, I moved away from the church and into the direction of Anderson’s parked car. Each step was agony, but I had to get away. I had to get out of this town.
I’d barely made it down half a block when a car approached. I didn’t know who it was, but the moment it stopped, I recognized it as Mr. Shaw’s car.
The moment he saw me, he stepped out of his car. His face was furious.
“David, how dare you do that to your own mother!” he cursed at me and started towards me.
He hadn’t taken more than a few steps before I raised the gun. I’d seen that he was holding something in his hands.
“Drop it!” I screamed at him. My voice was hoarse, low, and almost broken.
When Mr. Shaw saw the gun, he stopped right in his tracks.
“Are you sure, son? First, your mother and now me?”
I was sure. After a few seconds, he must’ve realized it as well.
Quietly he let go of the long kitchen knife he’d been holding.
“Keys! Wallet!” I screamed. Each word was a tremendous effort.
When he didn’t move, I took a step forward and aimed straight at his face.
“Leave,” I barely brought out another word.
The man still didn’t move. “You won’t get far son,” he said with a grin on his face.
“Leave,” I said once more.
Slowly I saw the man back off. At this moment, I rushed forward to get the keys and the wallet.
That’s what he’d been waiting for. Right, when I’d turned my attention away from him, he charged at me. I could barely get the gun up and pull the trigger.
The bullet connected in the blink of an eye. Mr. Shaw screamed up in pain and fell to the ground.
I didn’t look where I’d hit him. I didn’t care. I jumped into the car, closed the door, and fumbled with the keys in my wet hands. After a few seconds, I was able to start it.
I sped down Main Street towards the exit of town. I saw groups of people out in the street, rushing here and there, most likely on the hunt for Ethan and me. They all saw me as I drove off. Their faces were contorted by insanity. Some of them rushed forward throwing things against the car or condemning me for what I’d done. Yet, somehow, I avoided any severe damage to the car and made it out of town.
As I drove off, I slowly started to process all that had happened. Tears streamed from my face as I drove on. Ethan was dead. Anderson was most likely dead as well.
The rest of this town, everyone I knew, for all I cared, they might as well be dead too!
Ethan and I had thought Owens was behind everything, him and the bible circle. Now I realize that Ethan couldn’t have been more right when he said this damned town was rotten. It was rotten to the core.
It’s that thing inside the church, no that’s growing below the church. That damned organ is controlling the whole town with its terribly beautiful music. Everyone that went to the mass and heard it play was eventually caught in its clutches.
That’s why no one remembered any of the people who died. That’s why I never remembered how nightmarish the mass was. All because that thing is manipulating each and every one of us and changing our memories and our mind.
Those who oppose it will suffer. That’s why all those people had to die. That’s why Claire had to die, why Ethan had to die.
And that’s why I’m now suffering too because I dared to oppose it.
I drove on till I couldn’t anymore. When I grew tired and started to doze off, I forced myself to keep driving on for as far as possible.
Eventually, I stopped. I parked the car and got the blood off my body as best as I could. Then I made my way to a motel at the side of the road.
Thankfully Mr. Shaw had quite a bit of money in his wallet. The owner didn’t ask any questions. You can pay, you get a room, that’s all he said.
I’m in this room right now. I’ve been here for two days now. My phone kept ringing nonstop, and I was flooded with text messages. I just turned it off.
I never read any of the messages.
Instead, I went and asked the owner for a pen and something to write on. I had to write this story down. All of it. Each little detail. I’ve got to let people know that this thing controls my town and that it will most likely try to spread its influence further.
I can still hear its damned music in my head. Ever since that very first day when Ethan and I tried to break into the church, it’s been playing in the back of my head.
I remembered something that Ethan had told me about Pastor Owens.
“The worst thing one can do is doubt,” the man had said to his daughter.
That day Ethan and I went there, my mind had been set. That was the day when I truly started doubting everything about the town. I guess that was the day I was already condemned.
For the past two days, the music inside my head has gotten louder. It’s playing and playing and playing. Pounding inside of my head. With each hour, the pain grows in intensity as it scratches away at my sanity.
I wonder if this is what Claire went through. Is this what Mrs. Rose’s daughter and Laura’s mother had to endure? Did Nugget and all the others suffer like this?
By now, I’m done with this story. I’m happy that I stayed sane at least long enough to finish this one last thing.
The noise is getting worse with every passing minute. Worse and worse, louder and louder.
I tried to fight it. I pulled at my hair, scratched my scalp until it was nothing but a tattered bleeding mess. Yet the melody keeps playing. There’s nothing I can do anymore. At least nothing to fight it.
There’s one way, however, to make it stop for good.
I’ve handed the notebook back to the man at the reception. I told him to transcribe all of this and post it online at a place where as many people as possible can read it.
As for me. I’m going to go out now. I’m going to take Sheriff Anderson’s gun with me. There are still three bullets left inside of it.
Two more than I’ll need to stop this music for good.