Writing this sort of creeped me out, I hope the chills translate to others, as well:
Like a wisp of smoke that turned solid, the bluish presence within the circle slowly took form. Two eyes seemed to exude sadness and knowledge as they stared towards Russell. The figure was tall and thin, his narrow jaw and long nose blossoming into a prominent forehead. Wild waves of hair gathered around the sides of a receding hairline. The figure in the center radiated its blue light so that each of the members holding hands were bathed in the light.
“What secrets are you hoping to discover?” asked the blue apparition, peering down at them. He appeared unnaturally tall, as if he levitated in order to show his rank.
“We are looking for our missing friends,” said Russell. “Have you seen them?”
“You want answers, but answers are worth nothing until they are earned. If you wish to see what we see, then you must walk the path that we have walked.”
“We only wish to find our friends. Will you not help us?”
“Our secrets are our own. If you want answers, you must join us. Trust for trust.”
“We don’t want to join you,” said Doug, “we just want what’s ours. You have no right to keep our friends from us.”
“They came here of their own volition. Like you, they came seeking answers, which we provided them. But answers come with a price, which they have paid. Will you?”
Mindy was tempted to ask what price they would have to pay, what price Dave and Johnny had paid, but Doug spoke again.
“We have not come to bargain with you,” said Doug. His voice projected authority, but Mindy had no idea where it came from, what he could back it up with.
The figure inside the circle did not seem to recognize any authority other than his own. Mindy again became aware of the hands she clung to, felt the security they provided. Maintain the circle and contain the spirit. Although everyone in the circle reflected the blue glow from the presence in the middle. The blue glow seemed to lie now even beyond their circle. She felt the beads that Russell’s grasp pushed into the flesh of her hands, realized they belonged to the man in front of them, that he must be Gregor Soeldner. She feared that he might recognize them as his own, demand them back.
“I do not bargain, I speak truth. The Association has endured because we have not betrayed our secrets. If we let you in, we will not let you out.”
“We have summoned you to tell us what we need to know,” Mindy was pretty sure Doug was bluffing that he had nothing to back up his bluster. “You are contained within the circle we have created. You have no power, you cannot set conditions.”
“Yes, I am contained within your circle,” said Gregor. “But your circle is a small thing. And I am the only one within it.”
Mindy had been staring at Gregor, at the bluish glow of his presence. Now she shifted her gaze to beyond the circle the four members of The Beyond Show formed with their hands. Looking to her right, then left, she noticed beyond the circle the same glow existed outside of the four members. There were many figures outside of the circle, surrounding them, each of them holding hands in the same manner that Mindy and the others were. Each of them shared a gaze of intent that lacked any human element.
She looked at Doug and found him lacking any response. In that moment she knew she’d better gather her courage, that she was the one who had the most to lose. Whatever strength and experience the others had, she was among them and therefore had a part to play. She gazed at Gregor, who as yet had not looked at her, and said, “Perhaps they have us, but we have you. You have been summoned by us, and you will answer to us. You no longer speak from the authority that you did as a man of God, you are but a remnant of a man, a memory that has lingered. You exist to share your message. Speak!”
He looked at her as one who had been discovered, and said, “The answers and the people you seek are below us. If you dare to follow, it is there that you will find your answers.”
The figure of Gregor flickered, as if to say that it was not the thing they should be looking at. The group, still holding hands, turned their gaze outside of the circle, looked at the figures beyond. There were enough to form a full circle around them, even at a distance. But the circle soon dissipated as the figures began to walk single file towards a building to their west. Mindy looked to Doug and the others. Without the need for discussion, the decision was made. It was Russell who spoke for the group, “You are released, Gregor Soeldner.” The light that reflected from each of their faces vanished into blackness as the figure in front of them disappeared.
“Let’s follow them,” said Mindy, her words braver than the feeling in her heart. They trailed after the figures who moved slowly, like a chain gang returning from work. They disappeared through a door that Russell was forced to open for the others. Izzy would have been more than happy to be the last one through the door, but Doug stood behind, as if to guard against a reappearance from Gregor.
They walked upon tiled floors littered with glass, their way well-lit by the glow of the apparitions. There were perhaps fifty of them, most but not all of them dressed similar to Gregor. Some appeared to have been from newer eras, as if even in death The Association was adding to its ranks. There was one who seemed to be a teenager, perhaps one who had come to this place not many years back to drink a few beers and give a scare to his girlfriend. The whole of them shuffled along like zombies, as if their will had abandoned them, or as if they had surrendered themselves to the judgment of The Association, of Gregor Soeldner.
They led them down a flight of stairs, led them through hallways that shone blue in their presence. Great pipes hugged cement walls, vanishing into the darkness where the blue glow did not extend. Mindy walked behind Russell, content to have someone at her back in the darkness.
As Mindy walked she became aware of the terrible silence around her. The glowing apparitions were noiseless as they plodded along cement floors like zombies called by their master. Before she knew it, the smooth cement gave way to a hasher stone flooring, causing her to become more aware of her footsteps that padded softly like ripples on a still pond. The darkness gave opportunity for her mind to imagine hidden dangers, but she found herself preferring it to the blue glow.
There was a tunnel that led off to their right, cloaked in darkness. But at the edge of light emitted by the group, Mindy couldn’t help thinking that for an instant she caught a glimpse of a skeleton.
They were well lost by this point, having taken a large amounts of twists and turns, too many choices of which tunnel to take. As they passed by on offshoot, Mindy heard the sound of movement which she knew was not caused by any of them.
“Did you hear that?” Mindy asked, turning back towards Izzy and Doug.
“Yes,” said Doug. “Try not to think about it. Hopefully, The Association will keep us safe for their own purposes, whatever they may be.”
“It might be Dave!” said Mindy. Russell said he was somewhere in the dark, alone. We’ve got to find out if it’s him.”
“If we get lost in here, we’ll never find our way out. We have to stick with them.”
“I’ll go with her,” said Izzy. “I’ve got a flashlight. We’ll investigate and see what we can find.”
“You’ll get lost,” said Doug.
“We’ll only get lost if they allow us to get lost. I don’t think that will happen. You and Russell go ahead, we’ll catch up.”
Izzy appeared truly brave at that moment, making Mindy wonder if the times he appeared less so to be merely a guise. How could somebody so unknowable become so trustworthy, she thought.
Izzy turned on his flashlight and they headed down the dark tunnel, Russell and Doug still following the blue procession. Mindy found herself relieved when they had distanced themselves enough that she could no longer detect the blue that had so consumed her sight.
The tunnel they entered was rough, crudely dug, and Izzy gazed about with the aid of his flashlight to determine if it was even safe to enter. It looked to be dug into earth or clay rather than rock. They did not have to travel far before reaching the end. The noise was louder now, like the scratching of a rat. Izzy seemed reluctant to lower the beam of his flashlight, preferring ignorance to knowledge. When at last he found the courage to lower it, Mindy saw a figure hunched in the darkness, clawing at the wall in front of him as if he were looking to expand the tunnel he was lost in. It wasn’t Dave, thought Mindy, it couldn’t be him. He had been wearing the blue jacket she had bought for him when he left. This man wore a flannel shirt. And boots, Dave didn’t own boots. This couldn’t be Dave.
Mindy would have been content to let it go at that, allow whoever it was to go about his business. But Izzy realized him for what he was, a fellow human being in need of aid. He called to him, and when that did not work, grabbed him by the shoulder. The man twisted around with speed caused by fear. He stared into the light that Izzy shown at him, and Mindy couldn’t help thinking he flashed them a huge smile. But the edges of that smile were ragged, and in a flash of realization, Mindy realized that his lips were for the better part missing. Even as she looked at him in terror, the man in front of them was busily moving his jaw, attempting to bite at whatever flesh remained in chewing distance. His eyes were wide open despite the pain unexpected light must have caused him. He was alert in the way only great fear can achieve. Unable to look at the massacred mouth, she focused on his eyes, which radiated terror. She could see the pupils shrinking in reaction to the light, at the jaw nervously looking for something to chew.
Mindy screamed. She felt her body shrink towards Izzy, trying instinctually to find shelter in another’s strength. Together, they retreated slowly from the tunnel, Izzy’s flashlight still shining in the face of the man whose fear had caused him to chew his own lips off. Mindy could still the jaw working as the vision faded from her sight.
They had not been separated for long. When they returned to the tunnel they had come from, the glow had disappeared, but they knew which direction they were going. They ran quickly, as much to distance themselves from what they witnessed as to find the others.