Rest Here, by J.S. Watts


The ancient church was large and gloomy, abnormally so in both cases. Working here was going to require additional lighting. The rich stained-glass light from the few high level windows only added to the density of the air squatting thickly between the church’s monolithic pillars.

Thomas turned his attention back to the elderly, bald curate still droning on beside him.

“Buried him right there, they did, right where he fell. The church had been his life: the making of him and the ending of him. It seemed fitting somehow.”

The curate would have said more, but Thomas pointedly walked away from the church brass they had been standing over and headed towards the gaping hole on the other side of the nearest pillar.

“This, I assume, is the reason I’m here?”

“Yes, yes, quite right. That’s the reason. Digging a small test pit he was, when the floor caved in beneath him. Sucked him right down. If it hadn’t been for the quick thinking of his colleague, the hole would have got him.”

“Has anybody been down there since?”

“Oh no. The vicar wouldn’t allow it in case of accidents.”

“But he’s ok with me going down?”

“That’s what we’re paying you for.”

“So, if I’m the first since the cave-in, how do you know there are bones down there?”

The curate turned on the antiquated looking torch he had been carrying and pointed the surprisingly bright beam down into the depths of the pit. The throat of the hole was relatively narrow, but, below a jutting ledge of stone, a large cavern bellied out into blackness. On the ledge Thomas could see a human skull and other human sized bones, together with the end of what looked like a large thigh bone, obviously too big to be human.

“So what do you think it is?” the curate asked.

“That’s what I’m here to find out.”


The curate seemed to be waiting for a further response from Thomas, but he was in for a long wait.

“I guess you’ll be wanting to get started, then?”


The silence matched the gloom in intensity. Thomas wasn’t giving anything away. The curate had irritated him with his unasked for and totally unnecessary history tour, incorporating its interminable lecture on the internment of some Seventeenth Century mason who had plummeted to his death within the confines of the church. Plus, Thomas had been irritated to begin with by the fact the vicar hadn’t deigned to meet with him in person. He’d left him to the doddery curate and his unwanted history lesson. It was alright for Thomas to go down a hole the vicar wouldn’t risk anyone else going down, but the vicar couldn’t be arsed to meet him first. Okay, the job he was generously being paid to do wasn’t strictly legal, but it wasn’t totally illegal either. The vicar just wanted things checked out and any archaeology verified discreetly, before deciding whether or not to disclose the recent discovery. Of course, if there was nothing worth disclosing, so much the better. It seemed the vicar liked a quiet life, but surely getting off his arse long enough to say hello to him wouldn’t have been that loud an activity?

Thomas glanced up. The curate was still standing there, expectantly.


The cleric finally took the hint and left. Thomas turned his attention to the ragged opening at his feet. It looked as if the ground had just come apart, rather than the floor caving in. Still, it all seemed stable enough, despite the vicar’s apparent concerns.

Thomas crouched by the opening and thrust his arm into it. The sides were solid. If he needed to climb down they should support his weight. First things first, though. It would be easier to extract the bones from the pit, than insert himself down into its narrow throat. Not archaeologically sound, maybe, but a swift and practical solution to the matter. Except it wasn’t.

Thomas set up his kit and began the task of extracting the bones. Whatever he tried, however, the bones stayed put. They were stuck solid to the rock shelf they were resting on. Hardly surprising if the bones had been down there a very long time, but judging from their depth they can’t have been that old. Then again, the large animal bone looked fairly ancient. Still, there was no point guessing. He’d just have to get himself down there and do the archaeology properly, or as properly as limited time allowed.

Thomas was preparing the ropes and harness when the curate turned up again.

“You’re not going down there tonight?”

“That is my intention, yes.”

“It’s getting dark outside.”

“It’s been as dark as the insides of Jonah’s whale in here the whole time I’ve been working.”

“It’s gone sunset.”

“And that’ll effect my already electrically illuminated working area, how?”

“The vicar will be wanting to take the evening service.”

“Look, I might as well go down now. The kit’s already set up.”

“Soon. He’ll want to be starting the service soon.”

Thomas admitted defeat and started packing his equipment away, the curate hovering around him the whole time. As soon as he had got the kit stowed, the curate was ushering him out the side door.

“You know the way to the hotel?”

“Yes. This is hardly a large village and I checked in before I came here.”

“Right you are, then. You might like to take this with you. Tells you a bit more about the history of the church. I didn’t cover the half of it this afternoon. Thought you’d be interested, being an archaeologist and all.”

Was there a taste of sarcasm in the delivery of the word “archaeologist”? The curate proffered a chunky, amateurishly printed pamphlet.

“Wrote it myself.”

Thomas thanked him less than profusely and made his way to the local pub-come-inn where he was staying.

A couple of pints and a remarkably unsatisfying meal later and it was still too early to go to bed, but the village boasted nothing to keep Thomas entertained. The pub was empty. There was no one to talk to except the barman and he wasn’t the conversational sort. Thomas reluctantly went up to his room only to discover that the elderly TV had given up the ghost.

Staring out of his bedroom window he admired the brilliance of the evening’s full moon. The whole village was better illuminated than the insides of the church had been. He glanced over at the large building which dominated the village of Bloodwell with its dark, looming bulk, except it wasn’t so dark after all. Thomas could see flickering lights through the stained-glass windows, giving the impression of a dull red glow behind the narrow openings, like heavily lidded eyes, but even as he was looking the lights went out. He checked his watch. Someone was working late. He hoped the church was going to be unlocked early the next morning as promised. He needed a prompt start if he was going to get everything done before the rituals of the church got in his way again.

Perhaps he should have an early night, but he wasn’t tired. He searched for something to do. It looked like a choice between the room’s provided bible or the curate’s pamphlet. He wasn’t naturally a God botherer. Reluctantly he opened the curate’s poorly printed efforts. They turned out to be as badly written as he had expected.

“A devotional edifice has stood on this most sacred site for more than a thousand years….prehistoric evidence of ritual worship, ….Anglo Saxon chapel….monastic community established early in the Twelfth Century… yadda, yadda ,yadda ….church built to support a congregation twice the size of the current village of Bloodwell.”

Well, at least that explained why the church was so bloody ginormous.

“The village itself was once a lot bigger than it is now, with a population of… death….centuries of attrition…. a catalogue of misfortunes……”

Thomas could feel his eyes growing heavier. He struggled through the pamphlet’s blow by blow description of the construction of the current church, including the untimely death of the Seventeenth Century mason and a number of other unfortunates who, at various times, had given their lives that the church might grow. Catalogue of misfortunes, right enough.

He was getting more and more tired and the list of building phases and individual craftsman started to merge together, segueing somehow into a layer-cake of architectural foundations and people and sub-structures which led to a sacred site which was actually a large beast with glowing red eyes and it was getting hungry.

Thomas woke up with a start. He was cold and starving and it was too early for breakfast. He glanced at his watch. It wasn’t, however, too early to get up and shower if he was going to make it to the church for his planned early start.

He was at the church by 6:30. There was no one there, but the side door was unlocked. He went in and got himself set up.
Good God, he was hungry. He could hear his stomach rumbling. The sooner he got the bones up out of the pit, the sooner he could be putting food into the grumbling pit of his own stomach. The cavernous insides of the church made the rumbling seem loud and when he started to lower himself into the mouth of the pit, the narrow sides served to amplify the sound still further.

Crouching on the tongue of stone that cradled the exposed bones, he began to dust and chip away at the soil that held them in place. Except the soil soon became solid rock. The bones must be very old. Sorry Vicar, it was going to take forever to get them out. Thomas decided to cut yet a few more corners and age test them in-situ. Lucky there was no one around to witness his less than orthodox practices. He carried out the tests as best he could, in a space that seemed to be getting more and more constricted with every passing minute. Small sounds echoed distractingly in the shaft-like confines and Thomas was growing increasingly irritable.

Eventually he got some readings: early Sixteen Hundreds for the human bones and off the scale old for the large one. That didn’t make sense. They were all embedded in the same stratum of rock. It looked like he’d have to dig the bones out after all.

Thomas pulled his focus away from the bones and looked up at the roof of the church. It seemed ever so far away. He heard movement and thought he saw the curate’s egg-shaped head peering over the rim of the pit, but when he called out there was no response.

He was starting to feel light-headed from lack of food. Time to get himself back up into the main body of the church. The floor level now seemed as far away as the roof. The pit seemed deeper, somehow and the opening he needed to get to, that much smaller. He blinked. The opening had visibly constricted. That wasn’t right. He looked again. The walls of the pit were starting to press in on him. He called out and then he screamed and, in the echo of the empty cavern beneath him, his scream came back at him like the groaning of an empty stomach.


Twelve months later and the elderly curate of St. Blaise in the tiny village of Bloodwell was boring yet another unfortunate with one of his historical tours of the body of the church.

“Buried him right there, they did, right where he fell. The church had been his life: the making of him and the ending of him. It seemed fitting somehow.”

He moved on from the old church brass, dragging his unwilling audience to the other side of the adjacent pillar. Behind its monolithic bulk and between it and the next column, two in a double row of pillars which lined the gloomy insides of the church like a set of ribs, a modern church brass lay on the floor, engraved on its surface the simple words, “Rest Here”.

“Yet another of our unfortunate servants. Died here only last year. We have been amazingly blessed and amazingly unlucky, in equal measure. Now when did you say you were planning on starting work?”


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Posted in 2013, Fiction, Horror
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