“You know goblins live in the churchyard, right?” Liam teased his little sister, Sarah.
“Nu-uh, you’re making that up.” She kicked a bunch of leaves at him and he froze.
“Oh, you are dead.”
He stooped, scraped together a handful of crisp brown leaves and chased after her. She bolted along the path through the church garden, shrieking.
A dark, hooded figure appeared in front of her and she skidded to a halt. Liam’s handful of leaves hit her square in the back and exploded into a fluttering cloud. The figure in front of them grunted and raised a withered hand towards Sarah.
Liam snagged her arm. “Run!”
Everyone said monsters lived in the churchyard, but Liam never expected to see a real live one! The sun hovered just above the horizon, casting its last golden light over everything. At this time of day all the ghosts and goblins could be creeping from their hiding places.
“Come on Sarah, run! We have to get to hallowed ground. The graveyard, quick!”
They rounded the back corner of the church, but Sarah tripped on one of the spreading roots of the churchyard yew tree. Liam stopped, pulled her up into his arms and dragged her to the wall of the church. With their backs pressed to the sun warmed stone, they listened for any sound that the creature was following them.
Instead of shuffling footsteps or guttural moans, they heard the mellifluous notes of a woman singing. Her high, sweet voice carried from the graveyard at the far end of the church.
Liam turned to Sarah and put his finger across his lips. She nodded and they crept silently along the wall. When they reached the corner, they peered round; Sarah poked her head out below his.
A young woman sat beside a grave, her pure white dress draped across the floor like a shimmering puddle. Even though only a slight breeze stirred the air, her hair flowed out beside her.
“Look,” Sarah whispered.
The beautiful sound of the woman’s voice abruptly ceased and Liam froze. She lifted her head and slowly turned to face them.
“Come closer, children,” she called, in a voice like ringing silver bells. She rose to her feet and held her hands out for them.
Liam and Sarah stepped cautiously out from behind the wall. The low sun, setting now behind the woman, cast its rays through the hazy Autumn air and made it look like she was glowing.
They slowly moved towards her and she smiled. Liam had never seen such a radiant smile.
Sarah hurried towards the angelic woman, but Liam was content to bask in her light as he took small steps across the grass.
The sound of heavy footsteps and panting breaths behind them briefly broke through the wonderful moment. Liam glanced over his shoulder to see the dark, shambling figure from before. It leaned on the wall, gasping for breath, its shrivelled hand clutched to its chest.
“Get, away, from them,” it wheezed.
Sarah screamed and Liam’s head snapped back round. The enchanting vision vanished and in her place floated a mass of black rags and twisted thorns, with one taloned hand clasped around his sister’s wrist. The air turned chilly and raised goosebumps all up his arms.
“Come with me, children,” the twisted creature cackled. “You have such shiny, pretty souls.”
Liam darted forward and tried to claw the creature’s hand from Sarah’s arm. “No, leave her alone!”
But her grip was as hard as iron. Sarah’s skin turned white from the pressure and she whimpered, tears gathering in her eyes.
Then something sailed through the air and hit the creature square in the face. Her grip loosened and Liam prised her fingers away. Sarah dropped to the ground, free. The mystery object that saved them lay on the grass and revealed itself to be a garden trowel.
They scrambled back and the beast with the crippled hand moved in front of them, holding something up towards the creature.
“Begone, leave this place!”
Liam stared at its feet. Under the ragged overcoat it wore jeans and workman’s boots.
The black rag woman hissed and screeched. Liam and Sarah clamped their hands over their ears.
“This is a sacred place, you have no power here, begone she-devil. I banish you. Begone!”
With an earsplitting wail that Liam could feel in his stomach, the devil woman spun into a blur. She seemed to contract into a point before vanishing with a flash of green light.
“You kids shouldn’t be here, don’t you know it’s dangerous at night?” The man tucked his Bible back into his overcoat, turned to them and lowered his hood.
“I know you,” Liam said, getting to his feet. “You’re Mr Hawthorne, the gardener.”
Mr Hawthorne tutted and reached out his good hand to help a trembling Sarah to her feet.
“Thank you, for saving us.” Liam said. “How did you know what to do?” He picked up the fallen trowel and handed it back to its owner.
“I was a preacher once, before the devil took an interest in me.” Mr Hawthorne held up his withered hand in evidence. “I never stopped believing, but I couldn’t preach about evil being this invisible force in our lives when I knew different. People don’t want to hear sermons about goblins and ghouls.”
He shepherded them to the church gate.
“Now, you kids run along home.”
Sarah scurried down to the pavement but Liam paused. “Wait, Mr Hawthorne, sir. Can you teach me how to fight monsters?”
The old man smiled. “We’ll see lad.”
This story was inspired by Easily Mused's Six for Sunday, six word story prompt No. 2. The story had to include the words leaves, chill, mellifluous, wither, golden and hallow.