As a church the place had stood abandoned for decades. A creepy reminder of a time long since passed. Daniel Irvin had lived in the area all of his 37 years and he’d never known it open. There was little call for a house of God around here these days the locals weren’t God fearing people. Until recently the only time anyone had paid the place any attention was last year. A fire had taken hold. When the fire crew burst in and put out the blaze they found three junkies dead from burns and smoke inhalation. The fire had confused investigators. Yes, the junkies had set a fire for warmth, but it had been on a cold stone floor. The blaze had engulfed the old church and yet there was no trace of accelerant.
The church was condemned and Daniel saw his chance. He bought the place, renovated it and tomorrow he’d be opening the doors to the public no longer a church, no one would come to that. He knew the local market – they liked pubs. That there wasn’t even one objection to his planning application underlined exactly how little the locals cared for church.
As the summer sun rose outside the old beams creaked and cracked above Daniel’s head. The building felt alive. Light penetrated the stained glass windows and created shadows that loomed tall on century old walls. He’d taken delivery of stock this morning. Things were starting to become real. Optics had been fixed to the wall behind the bar. Daniel fixed spirit bottles in place. As he did he saw a man approach the bar reflected in the mirror on the back wall.
“I’m sorry fella, we don’t open until tomorrow,” Daniel said without turning.
The man ignored him. His face had a gaunt haunted look to it that chilled Daniel. The face felt familiar and yet he knew he’d never seen this man before. Daniel turned to face his unwanted guest. There was no one there. He switched his focus back to the mirror. Gone.
A shiver ran down his spine. The bottle he’d been fixing to the optic fell to the floor and smashed at his feet. He jumped, hadn’t he secured the bottle properly? Had he really seen someone? He’d barely slept in the past few weeks, maybe a couple of hours a night if he was lucky, getting this place up and running was taking a lot out of him. He put the vision down to sleep deprivation, cleaned up the spilt alcohol and broken glass and carried on stocking. Always with half an eye on the mirror.
The plumbers had left the toilets in a right state. Yes, they”d done the job expected of them but cleaning up after themselves hadn’t been high on their agenda. With the bar stocked Daniel took a mop and bucket to the tiled floors. The bucket’s wheels squeaked as he moved it across the floor. He stopped and started mopping, the squeaking continued somewhere off in the distance. At first he thought it was an echo, but it had a different rhythm and continued for far too long. It was as if someone was mimicking his work elsewhere in the building. He looked up and back through to the bar, there was nothing there. He felt his eyes getting heavy and knew now that it was fatigue affecting his senses. When the toilets were clean he could finally rest ahead of the big opening the following day.
“Out.” A voice whispered from the walls.
Daniel froze to the spot and the shiver returned to his back. He was alert now, fatigue giving way to adrenalin. He told himself how stupid he was being, he was just tired and in that place when you’re still awake but starting to dream. He ran the tap and splashed cold water on his face.
He looked in the mirror and threw himself backwards, terrified. His face was running wet with blood. He scrambled across the room backwards on hands and feet and pushed himself hard against the wall as if trying to get through it.
He touched his face and looked at his fingertips, there was no blood, only water. He stood slowly to look in the mirror. When he did the blood was gone, his face damp with water and sweat. Enough was enough – the toilets could wait until the morning. He needed sleep.
Daniel’s dreams were troubling. The three junkies who had died in the fire appeared. He recognised their faces from pictures in the papers at the time of the incident he’d never met them. They were warning him. “Get out, he doesn’t want you here,” “Leave, run, you’ll be next,” ‘You’ve woken him, get away.”
He woke drenched in sweat. His eyes stung as they struggled against the light in his bedroom above the pub downstairs. The light was all wrong, it flickered orange and the sound of burning wooden beams filled his ears. Intense heat closed in on him. He couldn’t catch his breath, smoke filled his lungs, he coughed against it but it caught in his throat and he felt choked.
From the flames that filled the edges of the room a man appeared. The same man that had appeared in the mirror at the bar. His face still familiar and yet Daniel still knew that they’d never met. This time he wore the robes of a priest.
“This was a house of God.”
The words roared from the priest’s mouth.
He pointed angrily at Daniel who cowered in his bed, still choking against the smoke. Controlled by the priest’s actions the flames that filled the room engulfed Daniel’s bed. The priest disappeared into the flames and the last words Daniel heard, as he burned alive, boomed in ghostly tones over the cracking and whipping of the flames.
“Get out, get out, get out!”