Run to Ground

Run to Ground

By:  Jasper Bark  Completed
Language: English
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…from his responsibilities as a father, hiding out from his pregnant girlfriend, and working as a groundskeeper in a rural graveyard. He’s running from a lifetime of guilt and bad decisions, but principally he’s running from the murderous entities that have possessed the very ground at his feet. Jim has no idea what these entities are, but they’ve done unspeakable things to everyone in the graveyard and now they’re hunting him down. There is nowhere Jim can hide, nowhere he can walk and nowhere he can run that isn’t under the lethal power of the things in the ground. If he stands any chance of survival he must uncover the link between his murderous tormentors, three mysterious graves and an ancient heresy that stretches back to the beginning of time. ©️ Crystal Lake Publishing

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10 Chapters
1:
1:There was something wrong with the shed. Jim knew the moment he saw it.It was an innocuous little building that sat against the far cemetery wall. Jim kept his tools there, along with his work clothes, the ride-on mower and anything else he needed for groundskeeping.Yesterday, Cundle had requisitioned it for all his fancy equipment. Jim had moved most of the tools into the bungalow where he lived, on the outskirts of the cemetery. There were a few things he still needed to pick up, and he was curious to see what sort of mess Cundle had made of the place, with all his seismological apparatus.The first thing Jim noticed, as he drew nearer, was the amount of flies buzzing around the shed. They hovered in a cloud and the noise they made was like a distant engine.The door was open, creaking on its rusty hinges. There was a thick smell in the air that grew stronger the closer Jim got. It reminded Jim of his father’s overalls when he worked at the abattoir.Jim had no idea what C
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2:
2:He had to get to Sloman’s office. Sloman could call the police, or the fire brigade, or whomever it took to fix this. The cemetery was large, covering many acres, but Jim had worked there nearly six months now, so he knew the quickest route.As he ran down the asphalt path Jim felt the ground beside it rumble. Whatever had been underneath the shed was now chasing him. It was in the earth right beneath him. Something was terribly wrong, things like this shouldn’t happen. What had Cundle been doing in the shed to cause this to happen?Jim’s heart pumped and the blood sang in his ears, colours seemed brighter and his vision was sharper. Jim could pick out individual blades of grass and petals on a daisy.His cousin, a head-case who’d done two tours in Iraq, once told him this happened under fire. In fight or flight situations, all your senses went into overdrive and you knew things without realising how.Jim was experiencing that now. He couldn’t tell how, but he knew whatever was
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3:
3:A Week Earlier . . .Cundle rubbed his bald patch, and sighed. He was a short bloke with a neatly trimmed beard and glasses. His belly hung over the front of his jeans, stretching the trendy T-shirt he wore.“Any idea what’s causing it?” said Sloman, who was tall and thin with a long face and a liking for tweed jackets, which made him look older than he was.“I do have a theory,” said Cundle. “But it’s still hypothetical and not very conventional I’m afraid.”Sloman and Jim exchanged a look, Cundle had a habit of talking like he was giving a lecture. Cundle stepped forward and patted the hillock that had sprung up on the grave. The ground all around it was perfectly level, but the grave itself had developed a mini hill that was at least five feet high. Its shape was unusually bulbous and reminded Jim of the distended belly of a famine victim.The hill had been growing slowly, like a bulge in the earth, for the past three months, getting noticeably larger by the week. The grave
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4:
4:The grave had fallen in that morning, before Cundle arrived with his fancy equipment. He looked crestfallen when Jim showed him. He had no explanation for the dramatic collapse of the hillock, and didn’t understand why it had sunk in on itself in a matter of hours.Cundle acted as though his precious theory had collapsed along with the grave. He seemed to take comfort in the fact that there had been localised tremors in the area just before the collapse.As Jim tore past the grave now, he noticed something new. At its foot was a long vertical slit in the earth, almost a gash, where the turf had been pulled apart. In the waning light of the early evening, he could just make out that the gash opened onto a small tunnel.It took ten minutes to get to Sloman’s office from the grave. Jim’s legs shook, he knew he couldn’t keep up the pace. He wondered for a minute if he shouldn’t just lie down on the grave and get it over with. Then he thought of Cundle and what had been done to him a
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5:
5:Six months earlier . . .Jim added kindling to the newspaper and reached for the logs he’d found round the side of the bungalow. It was his first night staying at the cemetery, and he wanted to take the late February chill off the place.Once he’d built the fire and put a match to it he took the letter from Fiona out of his backpack. He scanned the handwritten pages, working himself up to the task at hand, picking out the key phrases, the ones that enraged him the most:“This is your baby I’m carrying . . . ”“ . . . I want you to stop acting like a child for once and be a man. You can’t keep running away from me forever . . . ”“You can’t expect me to do this by myself. I need your support and so does your unborn child. I will get the CSA involved if I have to.”Even the bright red ink she’d chosen seemed to shake with rage and accusation. She always knew how to push Jim’s buttons.Jim’s feelings were hot embers beneath ash. Fiona wouldn’t let them just smoulder. She’d blow
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6:
6:Halfway to the bungalow Jim’s lungs were burning and his legs shook. He stopped and bent forward with his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. He was more out of shape than he realised. Coming up behind him he heard the familiar rumble on either side of the path. There seemed to be two of them now. There was twice as much noise and the ground on either side of the path shook.They rumbled ominously at his heels and he stumbled into a brisk trot. “Alright, alright,” Jim said. “I’m going.” Despite his fatigue and his mock bravado Jim was very, very afraid. He’d seen what those things could do and he knew they were playing with him.He came to a crossroads in the path and his pursuers cut in front of him blocking two of the paths, including the most direct route to his bungalow. He knew where they were taking him. He gasped for breath and his head throbbed as he jogged past the second of the three affected graves. Like the first, the huge hillock had caved in and was now
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7:
7:Two Months Earlier . . .Jim was just putting the weed puller back in his tool shed when he saw the snow-white hair of Father Powers moving between the gravestones. Jim wiped the sweat from his brow as the elderly vicar stepped into view. He was a short man with a ruddy complexion and wild grey eyebrows that sat atop bright brown eyes. He was thickset, with powerful broad shoulders and big rough hands that suited a builder or a boxer better than a man of God.“Now then, Jim,” he said with a smile. “Why such gloomy features on a beautiful day like this?”“Was I gloomy, Father Powers? I didn’t realise.”“‘Was I gloomy?’ he says, with a face like thunder. And I’ve told you before, lad, it’s Kit. I’m not with my parishioners now, there’s no need to stand on ceremony.”“Sorry, Father Pow . . . I mean Kit, I’ve never been on first name terms with a vicar before. I keep forgetting.”“I’ll wager you’ve not been on any kind of terms with a vicar before, eh, lad?”“No,” said Jim, and
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8:
8:God save us, Jim, you look a state,” said Father Powers as Jim burst into the vestry.Jim was just glad to see him alive. Father Powers took a step back and wrinkled his nose. Jim glanced down at his T-shirt and jeans. They were stained with blood, soil, and urine. For the first time he noticed that his boxers were sticking to his butt cheeks and there was a hardening lump back there. No wonder he reeked.“Father . . . Father Pow . . . I mean Kit,” he said panting, as much from panic as from the run. “There are things out there . . . in the cemetery. They’re under the ground, they come from the graves, the ones Sloman was worried about. They’re killing people, Sloman and Cundle and . . . and . . . It’s horrible, they’ve been chasing me.”“I know all about them, lad.”Jim was incredulous. “You do?”“I heard them coming.”“You did?”“I can feel them in the ground. They’re outside now. They won’t come in the church though.”Jim began to cry with relief, like a little child. He
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9:
9:Four months ago . . .The moon was at its lowest ebb and this was a secluded corner of the cemetery. The night sky was cloudless but it was still very dark. Jim stood for a moment, letting his eyes get used to the gloom. All the better to see the grave, to admire its beauty.It was the third one he’d chosen and he knew it was going to be the last. He was a loyal person, after all, and he didn’t want to spread himself too thinly. It was the headstone that attracted him, it always was. He liked a well kept and perfectly shaped plot, but it was the headstone that really did it for him.The headstone had to be ornate and quite unique, without too much ageing or wear. He wasn’t interested in anything too weathered, or utterly dull. If there was another like it, anywhere in the cemetery, then you could forget it. And it had to have a carved angel on it. Some men liked blonde hair, big butts or long legs, Jim liked angels.He’d been flirting with the grave for a while, taking any oppo
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10:
10:For a longtime, Jim tried to deny the enormity of what the Byrgen had done to him. He felt certain they were going to kill him when they fell on him in the tunnel. After they were done, Jim almost wished they had.As they’d advanced on him, Jim saw they were carrying trophies from their other kills. They had the skins of all three victims, at least one of which they must have collected after Jim found the remains. He also saw Fiona’s umbilical cord and some of Cundle’s organs.Jim looked to Father Powers in silent appeal but the old man’s face was grim and implacable. “It’s no use trying to get out of it now, lad,” he’d said. “The Bible tells us, ‘As ye sow, so shall ye reap.’ Your children have brought you what they reaped from their labours of love. I know you may not think it, but they killed those poor souls out of love for you. You don’t have to worry about looking after these children, they’re going to look after you. It was a shame those innocent people had to die, but th
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