“Oh come on, this can’t be right!” I tried to sound merely pissed off, instead of really pissed off and desperate to abandon this ridiculous escapade. I’d never been into dares and trying to prove anything by doing something stupid, so how I came to be creeping round like a thief in the night…
“Yes, it is right, look!” Jez pointed to his feet and there was the arrow in red paint.
Splashing red paint about in a churchyard was seriously not a thing we should be doing. I’d thought it would be pointers in chalk, but no, that idiot had to be ridiculous and use paint, and of all colours to splash around this graveyard, onto crumbling tombs and now down the broken stone steps into the crypt was just – well, vandalism.
“You getting shabby?” Jez whispered. I never knew if the things he said were made up by him. “You getting shabby about creeping into a crypt and -“
I told him to shut up, but restrained myself from mentioning how he’d nearly had an embarrassing accident when we’d unexpectedly bumped into one of the sheep I’d forgotten grazed there – all part of the new vicar’s plans. Sheep don’t graze, cattle graze, he’d snapped, clearly spooked by this whole caper. As was I, to be fair.
We’d all started as friends, but these stupid dares – The Edicts of Fear as Paddy had dubbed them, were getting stupid, and soon, maybe sooner than we hoped, we would get in big trouble, especially if caught literally red handed. This particular challenge Paddy and Smurf had given me and Jez was to creep into this bloody crypt belong to local deceased bigwigs from a couple of hundred years ago, the Arbor family, and pick up whatever Paddy had left somewhere in this tomb.
We didn’t know what Paddy had left us to find but it would be bloody obvious, according to him, so I hope it was nothing which would be too sacrilegious. His sense of humour was weird to say the least, and Smurf’s was worse. To be honest I was getting a bit fed up with them, the whole thing was getting a bit kiddish and silly.
I stopped just inside the gate which had been wedged open with a big rock, I just hoped it wasn’t part of a gravestone. Jez’s torch light bobbed away and I stopped to read a wooden notice by the light of my phone. My family get fed up with me stopping al the time to read old signs and notices, and I guess it was habit, but also I didn’t particularly want to wander into this catacomb.
It was a few lines about the achievements of the Arbors. In the epoch of exploration and adventure – for that read imperialism, colonisation and slavery – Eliathan Arbor set sail on his sloop The Biddy –
I got no further with old Eliathan’s adventures as a pirate and privateer, because there was a bloodcurdling shriek, and Jez shot past me as if pursued by the hounds of hell, or old Eliathan’s bloodhounds at the least.
I would have followed him, except he’d barged into me, winding me completely as I tumbled backwards into the darkness. I lay on a pile of goodness knows what, old bones for all I knew, trying to breath and then heard a familiar chuckle.
“Bloody magic! Bloody magic, Smurf! He was bloody -“
Paddy broke off his hilarity as a groan escaped me. Honestly. I didn’t do it on purpose, I was hurting now, things digging into my back and neck. My next groan and a rattly cough, were however, very deliberate.
I couldn’t properly see them, but I heard Paddy and Smurf’s frightened shrieks and them haring it up the broken steps, tripping and falling and swearing, then absolutely legging it.
I managed to get up, onto my front, onto my knees, then upright. This was my farewell tour with Jez, Paddy and Smurf. This was the last stupid thing I would do with them. Stepping carefully over the bits of stuff on the floor, I went a couple of metres into the crypt, took a photo to prove it to the lads, and then left the creepy crypt.
When I did show them the pic, to prove I’d been there, they asked who the other person was, lurking behind me. I told them it was another mate, unknown to them, who I’d set up to give them a fright.
To be honest, I don’t know who the figure was, some Arbor, I guess. I never went back to see if i could find him again.
I wrote this story after having a particularly unusual selection of answers on a practice Octordle I did earlier.
CRYPT – ARBOR
EDICT – EPOCH
GRAZE – THIEF
SLOOP – BIDDY