Archive | June 2016

Damned Echoes 2

Damnlings, welcome yet again to our lair of insanity where our depraved souls leak their nectar for your consumption…

In the collection of prose set forth before you, you will find each of the authors has been constrained to a measure between one hundred and one hundred fifty words; two of which must be borrowed from the nether’s uttering. But fear not, for the Damned wear our shackles well and true – we shrink from no challenge. Sit, read, perhaps ponder… which two of the five words on offer would you chose for a story worthy of the ink that drips from the Pen of the Damned?

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Not His Own
Jon Olson

The Dark One will be happy with this offering. It lies at my feet, struggling for breath – this man of valor. Sadly for him, no one will remember his name; only his actions. His hands, which under my power killed so many, now claw uselessly at the blood soaked earth. Staring into the sky, his eyes begin to glaze over. It is always closest to death that I can be seen. There is a hint of fear in his dulling orbs as he spots me, then a dawning realization that his actions were not wholly his own. In one quick swoop, I reach into his chest, tear out his soul. This will do nicely. Moving on, I look around the battlefield for the next of His children to inhabit.


Amshu and Nerezza
Lee A. Forman

“Why don’t you leave?”

“Why should I?”

“To inhabit a body for too long is dangerous.”

“Don’t you think I’m aware of that?”

“So why do you stay?”

“Why do you?”

Silence grew, both between life and something that wasn’t quite death—an eternal state of non-corporeal existence.

Nerezza grunted and folded both arms across a bare chest. “I came here first.”

“So shouldn’t you be the first to leave?” Amshu raised an eyebrow.

A smile split the coal expression on Nerezza’s face. “No.”

“Why is that?”

“Darkness is absolute. Light fades.”

“So stay here forever.”

“Maybe I will.”

“Quiet! The child awakens!”

With a groan it rubbed its eyes and sat up. It turned its head left and right, looking for the things born in its nightmares.

“Shall we flip a coin?”

“Don’t we always?” Amshu lowered both eyelids with boredom.

“Heads he lives, tails he dies.”


Allies
Joseph A. Pinto

They dug in, their bones, their charred, brittle bones, hacking the dirt with their spades.

Private McDermott watched as the cadaver platoon fortified their position within the trench.  His Sergeant had notified him help would be arriving, but this…?  A shell exploded nearby, and his sense of valor nearly fled.  He buckled his helmet beneath his chin and dropped into the ditch.

The cadavers worked without sound, just earth and burnt stone grinding within their joints.  Flesh, like tattered curtains, hung from their frames.  Foul, heinous things, McDermott had to remind himself these devil-spawns fought on their side now.

A cadaver leered, each socket a hellish foxhole in its own right.  McDermott recognized its prominent jaw line—Jimmy James.  Together they had seen basic training through.

Now McDermott wondered what was worse—the screaming Nazi mortars or the chattering of hungry teeth inside those damned Allied skulls?


Tomb
Veronica Magenta Nero

The air that seeps in from outside is foul, it is tainted with hope, with sentiments of love. Outside there is a world of false promises and pretty lies. The truth is here, in this dark tomb we inhabit. We were sealed in here long ago. The passing of time has become meaningless, I don’t know how old I am anymore. I remember my mothers’ screams as she punched and clawed at the heavy doors. Those sobs and screams, they still echo within these walls. Perhaps my mother is dead but yet she moves. She passes through the walls at night and she returns to feed me in the morning. Warm blood pours from her mouth into mine. Her eyes glitter, they are the only light I ever see. Soon, her eyes seem to say, soon it will be time to leave.


RMS Valor
Thomas Brown

A ripe smell washed over the docks; the sickly aroma of decay. For two hours Mark patrolled the boards, the scattered stores, the shipyard and the steel skeleton of RMS Bravery, chained to the ceilings and the walls. The smell was stronger here; he ducked beneath vast iron ribs, inspected rows of sheet metal, kicked at the crabs who had come to inhabit the dank spaces between these things: nothing.

It was almost midnight when the ship parted the mists. She moved silently, her savage plow cutting clean through the waves. She brought with her the smell. Sitting at his desk, Mark gagged, dropped his pen, did a double-take when her name slid into view: RMS Valor, one year lost to the ocean bed, still wreathed in slime, deck crawling with the lobster-limbs of her new monster crew.


Too late
Zack Kullis

Dust motes floated through the stale air like pallid balloons on a lifeless breeze. Everything had been undisturbed for far too long. How could one such as he, born of noble blood and ancient valor, stoop to inhabit such a foul and loathsome place? Dmitri bowed his head and pressed forward. His father should have reposed in the Vvedenskoye crypt in Moscow with the rest of his kin.

Dmitri passed through the room without disturbing the dust-covered floors. The cement lid to the tomb lie broken on the floor. He was too late. He smelled the wood of the steak before he saw it. The undead wither and become undone rather than die, and what had been his father lie within the tomb. Dmitri picked up the steak, smelled it, and knew where to take his revenge.


Those That Make The Rules
Tyr Kieran

Surrounded by blood and spoiled dreams, I surveyed the land. The ground squirmed with the dying youth—drafted teenagers ripped apart by merciless gears of the war machine. I watched as they clutched at their gore and twitched in agony. The world’s future facing a painful lack thereof simply because they were told to by those that make the rules. What a fucking joke! Foul logic cooked up and served in heaping mouthfuls to kids too blinded by their own testosterone and sense of rebellion to see the truth of it all. Their blood dripped from my fingers. Their last cries echoed in my ears. I survived. I killed under orders in what they deemed efforts of valor. Slaughter, something that would be utterly horrific at home on the suburban cul-de-sacs, was called valiant. Now, I see the cogs in the machine and I will kill for them no more.


Dying Breath
Christopher A. Liccardi

“Valor above all else,” he repeated to himself. The knife plunged deep into his gut was unnoticed. Those who inhabit the dark places often find comfort in such noble monikers but this one was different. He perverted the valorous, the brave, with his hate. The last hero lay at his feet, panting as much from fear as exhaustion. He wore the triumphant grin of those who think that killing a single person can thwart evil.

“That blade was dipped in poison, you bastard,” the hero panted. Blood and spittle flew from the corners of his mouth. “Tonight, you die with us.”

Named after his father for more than his looks, Samael’s grin widened as he collapsed to the ground knowing two more would take his place. Two more would pick up where he left off and valor would die along with the last hero.


A Few Steps
Nina D’Arcangela

The ripe stench sickens; the fetid odor enough to raise the bile of the staunchest bastard, yet here is the place I was born – brought into this world of evils and misdeeds. This cracked, filthy slab of concrete served as both my crib and cradle. Did I ask for this life? No. But granted to me, or shall I say more accurately, thrust upon me, it certainly was. I’ve not shied from the mantle presented; I’ve embraced it and its repugnance with the whole of my being. The squalor within which I exist, the distance from this darkened stoop to the brilliance just beyond has never been a burden for my soul to bear. Though when the gates swing wide, and the light blinds these most dim of eyes, I cannot but wonder if another destiny may have awaited me had she held her birthing fluids a few steps farther…


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2016
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

It Drives Me Mad

It drives me mad.

That wet smack.

It is all I ever hear.

I watch them in my shower. Wispy bodies through beaded glass.

He is a strong man. Muscle fibers twitch, bounce within his thighs. The fog does not hide everything; not yet.

I see his face, his head thrown back, eyes clenched as if he is in pain. But I know he is not in pain.

Not yet.

That wet smack drives me mad.

It used to be me in the shower. My wife clings to him now. Legs wrapped around his hips, her perfect feet locked together. Locking her; locking them. He holds her, supports her effortlessly the way I once did; the way I want to.

That wet smack intensifies. His urgent groans fill the stall; my wife remains silent. Fog steals them from me. I am allowed the occasional glimpse of her breast pressed against his chest, the way she used to press against mine.

I am not jealous. I cannot be. This is our lifestyle. We share then come back to one another. But I can no longer come back. I cannot have my wife anymore. Not that way, no longer.

I watch them. Wispy bodies within the billowy fog; within the concealing vapor.

That wet smack.

That wet smack.

Then a thud.

The shower stall erupts in a geyser of red. The glass trickles red; all is red. Now that wet smack turns into a moist suckling.

Moist suckling.

I turn away.

***

The doorbell rings.

I am prepared; I am always prepared.

I greet him, make eye contact as always. It excites them. The eye contact. Knowing you offer your wife so willingly; knowing you offer your wife with such confidence. I lead him upstairs. I lead him to the shower. I watch him undress; he knows the rules. They all know the rules. I watch—I must always watch.

She waits for him in the shower. Perfect body glistening, hair dripping along her back; expectant Goddess. How I once loved to pull that hair; how I once loved to ball it within my fist.

She cracks the stall door open for him, beckoning. Her knowing smile arouses him; her knowing smile cuts me at the knees. He steps inside. The fog claims him; claims them. Water splattering the door as I watch. Beaded bodies through beaded glass. That smack.

That wet smack.

The man is anxious, too anxious. My wife is not pleased.

She ends him.

***

Months.

It has been months since my wife has been mine.

I have lost much sleep wondering how; I have lost much sleep wondering why.

I hear her, the same way I hear her every night; night after night. Her voice echoing down the hall; her voice echoing down my spine. Sweet as ever; suggestive as ever. She does not come out of the shower anymore.

Not anymore.

Tonight as she turns the water on, I imagine her perfect body moving through it. I imagine the water sluicing over her skin. She likes the water hot; she always did. Hot water; hot flesh. It disguises the cold, clammy death she has become.

I hear her calling.

Calling.

But she is not my wife. Not anymore.

I pull the covers over my head; she croons to me.

please

pleeeeeease

I no longer trust who she is; I no longer trust what she has become. I know that if I enter the shower, I am lost.

I will get through this night, somehow. I will get through.

When the doorbell rings tomorrow, I will feed her again.

Even as that wet smack drives me mad.

~ Joseph A. Pinto

© Copyright 2016 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

wolf_rule_full_sat

Urges

“I’ve heard it said that the first time is always the best, but that’s bullshit.  It gets better with every experience.  Pain, loathing, hatred and excitement, all rolled up into one moment of indulgence and release.  These urges are altogether unique and exquisite.

“I was about ten years old when I first tasted this fruit.  Mom babysat a noisy pack of snot-nosed shit factories that invaded my space daily.  I couldn’t help but make a few cry at least once a day.  At first I told myself it was for the attention, but I knew better.  The real answer was far more sinister – I enjoyed their pain.

“It was never quite enough, though.  I could feel the thrill build each time, but it didn’t increase, it always remained the same, until things changed. One day mom was asked to tend an infant. Go ahead, look at me with those horrified eyes, it only adds to the pleasure.

“At first I didn’t mean for anything to happen.  Babies are innocent, right?  I went into the house and saw mom holding a little girl.  I guess you would say she was cute.  I didn’t feel an urge to hurt her at first, and it filled me with hope that maybe I had some good inside me.

“I walked up to her sweet as can be and held out my hand.  She looked at me and her cherubic smile was instantly sucked up by her fat little cheeks, and the ugliest scream I’ve ever heard tumbled from her quivering lips.  Did you know that hope getting dashed to pieces has a sound?  It’s abrasive, piercing, and throttles everything.

“I didn’t have any good in me.  Rage seethed from my core and swelled like it never had before.  Nothing was exempt from my hate.

“‘Oh, cute little Erica,’ I cooed as sweetly as I could while I positioned myself behind my mother where she couldn’t see what I was doing.   I patted the babe softly on the back where my mom could see while my other hand pinched and squeezed as hard as I dared without leaving a mark.  I looked into her wide eyes, locked in terror with mine own, and brought every ounce of hate to the surface.  I pushed that torrent of violent emotions through my eyes and willed her to feel it.

“It was intoxicating, although you would never understand.  But that’s enough about my past. Unfortunately for you, I’ve found over the years that an adult’s torment and screams are infinitely more satisfying than those of a child.”

The man stood up and stretched before speaking again.

“If you don’t mind, I’m going to go use the bathroom.  Don’t go anywhere.”

Eric listened as Mark’s feet padded across the cement floor.  The stairs creaked as he left the basement.  When he was sure Mark was gone, he relaxed the stranglehold he had on his emotions and sobbed.

Eric had been in the basement for a few days now, secured to a metal chair with leather straps.  He had screamed, begged, yelled and cried on his first day here, but quickly learned that any show of emotion sent his captor into a crazed fit of violence.

His heart raced wildly as the casual whistling upstairs approached the basement door again.  Anxiety fogged Eric’s mind with its chaos and kept him from thinking straight.  He hated himself for not being able to control his fear.  He did his best to quiet himself as the door opened.  By the time Eric could see Mark’s bare feet step around the corner, he had almost calmed himself completely.

Mark placed two boxes on a table and stood in front of Eric.  “Have you been crying?”

“No…”

Mark hit Eric in the face and looked down at him with a grin.  “You say you weren’t crying, but I call bullshit.  If you can make it through the next twenty minutes without crying hysterically, I’ll let you go.”

Eric knew better than to let hope sprout its worthless seeds in his heart, but desperation took over.  “Yes,” he pleaded.

Mark pulled forceps out of his back pocket and gripped the sides of Eric’s face.  “Open up buttercup,” he said.  Eric’s eyes widened with horror when he noticed the forceps ended in sharp hooks.

Mark shoved the forceps into Eric’s mouth.  Sharp pain shot through his tongue as the forceps bit into the soft tissue.  Mark yanked on his tongue and pulled it halfway out of his mouth.

“I don’t want to do anything that will stop your screaming,” Mark said as he pulled something else out of his back pocket, “but I hate all of the pleading and whining.  Besides, I have a surprise for you.”

Mark grabbed a large, sharpened tube and flashed it in front of Eric’s face.

“This needle is a 0000 gauge, which means the hole in your tongue is going to be nearly half an inch wide.  It’s going to hurt like a bitch.”

Eric bucked against the chair and cried out as Mark pressed the tip of the needle against his tender flesh and pushed.  He could feel the needle as it sliced through the meat, cleaving a hole the size of the tube into his tongue.  Mark shoved a thick metal rod into the end of the needle, and retracted the tube leaving the rod in its place. Before he released the forceps, Mark screwed a nostril sized ball onto the end of the metal shaft.  The rod was long enough that he couldn’t pull his tongue back into his mouth.

“There,” Mark said.  “Now let’s get down to the fun stuff.”

Mark walked over to the boxes on the table.  He picked up the first box and brought it closer to Eric. He shook the box fiercely and caused whatever was inside to react violently.  Mark laughed as he put the box on the floor and brought the second box over and showed it to Eric.

“This box has only one opening.  The inside is lined with mirrors, and there is an LED light in there.  I’m going to put this box on your head because I want you to be able to see what’s going on.”

He placed the box in Eric’s lap and turned on the light.  Mark walked back to the other box and carried it, with its living contents, back to him.  He shook the box one more time and chuckled wickedly.

“It’s been a few days since these guys have eaten,” Mark stated as he opened the top of the second box.  “If you ask nicely, I won’t introduce you to them.”

Mark flipped the second box over so its contents fell into the mirrored box.  Eric tried to beg, but the metal rod through his tongue kept him from speaking.

“No?  Okay, here we go!”

Mark flipped the mirrored box over and placed it over Eric’s head before the things inside could jump out.  The light inside the box made everything horribly clear.  Eric was looking into the beady black eyes of several rats.

The large rodents sat in corners and looked at him with a mix of curiosity and hunger.  Eric tried to calm himself, but wasn’t able to as he watched them inch forward bit by bit, their noses sniffing madly at the air.   They smelled his blood.

One of them darted forward and bit Eric’s bloody tongue.  He screamed and tried to move, but he was secured too tightly to the chair.  When he didn’t defend himself, the other rats dove into the fray.  Raging pain tore through Eric as the rats began to take bites out of his tongue.

They quickly ate his tongue down to the rod that had forced Eric to keep his mouth open.  He pulled what was left of his ravaged organ back inside of his mouth.  One of the rats tried to follow it and stuck its head inside of Eric’s mouth to get the rest of its meal.  Eric bit down on the rat’s head until he felt a crunch and spit the dead rat out as the remaining rodents started tearing at the soft flesh of his cheeks.

Eric knew Mark wanted to hear his screams and cries.  The only thing he could think of was to rob his captor of that joy.  He steeled himself against what was going to be an awful death and opened his mouth.  One of the rats scurried around the other two and darted into his mouth.  He fought against his instincts and let the rat climb inside.  The rodent quickly cut off his breathing as it started to eat.  Eric’s body demanded air, but his mind and heart demanded a quick death.

Eric’s vision started to grow dark around the edges, a welcome thing as he continued to struggle between wanting air and wanting to end the torment.  He bit down on the tail and trapped the rat inside his mouth.  The rodent squirmed for a few seconds before finally finding the only exit; downward.  Eric’s throat bulged as the rat stuck halfway down his esophagus and started clawing to find a way out.

He couldn’t scream, even if he wanted to.  He would die quietly, and that thought filled him with comfort.  Death came slowly, but the last noise that came from Eric was muffled and haunting.  It wasn’t a death rattle, or a cry, but the laughter of the dead.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

The Abbey

1

It was a dark night, full of clouds and shadows. Whispers carried on the wind, racing through the forest and brushing the trees. The monotonous chanting of a hundred voices lingered on the air.

A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. . .

A figure hurried along the winding forest path. Overhead, the clouds shifted so that the moon emerged just as the figure did from the tree line. The forest was illuminated, a picture of viridian mist and boughs. Even the lake glittered under its glare.

A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief. . .

The figure ran on, its hands slipping from beneath its sleeves and revealed for a moment in the moonlight. They were slick with wetness and black as the figure’s habit, which fluttered furiously as it ran.

A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. . .

A long shadow stretched across the lake. Offset by the moon, an abbey rose into the night, its bell-tower cutting into the sky.

“I must not tell lies,” muttered the figure. Reaching the lakeside, he started across a walkway.

“I must not tell lies.” The raps of the knocker, when he reached the doors, rang leaden into the night. It was several minutes before they opened a crack, the wind rushing instantly inside.

“Yes?”

“Please, let me in.”

“We do not take to strangers in these parts.”

“Please, some charity.” The words seemed to have a strange effect on the doorman, the sliver of his face illuminated in a flash of lightning. “I am a man of God, like you.”

“There are no men of God. Not here, not anywhere.”

The door widened nevertheless and the tiny figure slipped inside.

 

2

 

The dining hall was empty. An air of reverence hung about the room, thick like incense or a guilty conscience. Dust coated the armaments and windows, visible as tiny motes in the flashes of lightning. Sin burst into unholy life with every jagged crack, their monstrous forms depicted in the stained glass of the windows

“I was caught unawares, travelling from Glastonbury. The weather fell foul, but we thought we could endure it. We took shelter, set up camp. . . We were wrong.”

“You were caught abroad?”

“By more than God’s rain. It was no ordinary storm but a Sin, come to claim us. Wrath, in all her vitriolic glory. We died. I ran. And now I am here.”

A startled gasp. “They chase your heels? You brought them here?”

“I lost them. I fled into the woods while they stayed to tear at the corpses. . .” The monk began to shake again, his hands rattling against the sturdy wooden table top. Cutlery clattered, the quiet sound reverberating within the heights of the dining hall. “My God, I still have their blood under my nails. . .”

“Your name?”

“Robin,” said the newcomer. “Brother Robin.”

“You will be safe here, Brother. I am Brother William and, for tonight, all that we have is yours.”

The room might have been magnificent, once. Figures decorated the ceiling with beautiful intricacy; depictions from The Book of Sin brought to life in vivid brush-stroke. Above the flickering candlelight, the painting seemed almost to move, a trick of light and Robin’s own heightened imagination, as if the Sins were in the very act of being banished from the world by God and His children. Except, of course, no such thing had ever happened, nor ever would, not so long as men were men.

Both men tucked into their food. Robin ate voraciously, as though afraid his plate might be taken unfinished from before him. The chanting continued; a hallowed, reverential hymn hanging like the dust in the air, and something else. The patter of claws, or tiny feet, skittering through the walls.

“Rats,” muttered William.

“You said earlier that there are no men of God? These do not sound like the words of a man in His service.” Robin peered across at the monk, who twitched but made no move to reply, raising instead a skewered sliver of meat to his mouth. It glistened, pink and bloody, reminding Robin of his own hands. He lowered them self-consciously beneath the table.

“Come,” said William suddenly. Spittle and ham flew from his lips.

“Where are we going?”

“You may be alone, but here we’re many. You must meet the others, before you retire. The Abbot is leading them in prayer.”

 

3

 

The two figures slipped noiselessly through the passages of the abbey. All about them, the hymn hung heavy on the air. They passed through great halls, their footsteps echoing on the cracked flagstone floors. Archways towered over them, engraved with signs of the cross, and every corridor was dimly lit with tiny candles. They wavered and danced, like the dying light in a man’s eyes, as the two monks ghosted past.

“I’ve never seen such architecture. I must admit, I’m somewhat in awe.” The two passed a statue, the edifice staring down at them righteously from its pedestal. An engraving beneath said St. George, who Robin remembered well as being the military saint responsible for casting back one of the Seven.

Outside, black clouds amassed in the night sky. Robin could see them as William and he strode through the cloisters towards the church, the monastic heart of the abbey. The church reared up before them. Windows watched them, more Sins staring monstrously at their approach. Then they were passing through the church’s doors and into the building proper.

Reverent song prickled at the back of Robin’s neck. It was holy, sanctimonious, resonating within his bones as if he’d been struck by one of the very bolts that danced through the night sky. Goosebumps ran the length of his robed arms.

“The hymn. . .”

From beside him, William nodded. “I know. I know.”

The church was humbler than the rest of the abbey but no less beautiful. Rows of benches led up to a dais at the front, atop which three small altars could be found. The place was old, as old as anything of the abbey Robin had already seen, but lacked the dust and decay that he had so far grown accustomed to. The church looked attended to. Cared for. Perfect, in every way.

At each row of benches stood a dozen monks, their backs turned, hoods covering their heads so that only their voices could be heard. More stood at the front on the raised platform, and at the pulpit a lonely figure: the Abbot himself, leading his congregation in solemn song.

“I recognise the hymn,” whispered Robin.

“They sing for God and to ward off evil. To ward off the Sins, in all their guises.”

“Such a thing is not possible, you realise.”

“We do our best, given the times.”

Robin’s eyes flashed with the lightning. ‘There are no men of God. Not here, not anywhere.”

William hung his head. He looked tired, suddenly. A hundred years old. “Perhaps I spoke rashly, before. Certainly I regret those sentiments. There are many on God’s earth who would. . . well, who would kill to be so close to Him, if you will excuse the expression.”

“You’d say they envy you?”

“I would.”

“And in doing so, they would sin.”

William glanced back at Robin, a stranger, at the heart of their abbey. His hair was still drenched, although it had been well over an hour since he’d been admitted past their walls. The blood of his comrades was no less slick about his hands. Surely it should have dried by now? Surely he should have wanted to wash?

“Forgive me, Brother, I forget; to which order did you say you belonged?”

“I did not, merely that I was travelling from Glastonbury.”

“Ah, I assumed. . .”

“Indeed. You know, it really is an abbey above all others that you have here. Beautiful. God would be proud.”

“Pride, Brother, is a sin like all others.”

“Envious of you, then, to live in such luxury.”

Something was happening to Robin. His waterlogged hair was lengthening before William’s eyes. A pallor overcame his flesh, such that he looked more like a statue or – God forbid – a corpse, than a living, breathing man. The blood began running like dirty water from his hands, two puddles growing around the monk’s habit .

“What’s happening? What trickery is this?”

“I have enjoyed your company, Brother, so much so in fact that I’ve decided I would quite like to be you.”

Time slowed, everything illuminated in a single flash of lightning. Robin span on his heel, habit fluttering like the wings of a bat as he descended on William. Hands closed around the monk’s neck, even as William plunged a knife into Robin’s shoulder. The iron blade slid smoothly and without resistance into skin and bone alike, and Robin shrieked obscenely. Bladeless, his weapon buried to the hilt, William dropped to the floor. Bloody handprints circled his bruised throat.

“Sin!” he screamed. “Brothers, Sin! See how the iron burns its flesh!”

The assembled monks did not rise to his aid. They did not fly in defence of their abbey. They did not move but continued to sing, their monotonous moans carrying far into the night.

“It is always dark, where I come from. There is no light. No warmth. We have no birdsong, save the screams of the crows. The screaming. They do not stop screaming.”

Scrabbling away, William backed against a statue. He felt alone. Trapped. But the statue brought him comfort. It was another of St. George; tall, defiant, clutching an ancient sword in its hands.

“You will always find screaming. This abbey is no different. Can you not hear the wind, Beast, as it races through the woods? It screams to feel, to touch. The dying, they scream as their lives are extinguished. The living scream when theirs are not. God’s earth is a chorus of cries.”

“Poetic,” hissed Robin, haggard, the knife still steaming in his shoulder. “I like you even more.”

William wrenched the sword from the statue. It came free with a lurch, sent him spinning, the blade careering towards Robin’s twisted face. He swung it with all his might, a prayer to the Lord on his lips.

A stony hand grabbed his chest from behind. It held him still even as another punched into his back. His vision failing, William had just enough time to look down, to see his bloody heart in its fingers, before he slumped to the church floor.

Giggling obscenely, St. George sprang into the air. Two glassy wings burst from its back as it took flight, twitching and euphoric into the rafters. Its skin rippled like liquid shadow.

Robin watched his child as it flew. “Silly monk,” he shrieked, casting off his own glamour. Slick hair cascaded from her head, clinging to the infantile body beneath. Pale flesh glinted wetly in the candlelight and two shards of broken emerald shone where there should have been eyes.

Envy plucked the steaming dagger from her shoulder. Black blood spat from the wound, not unlike that of the congregation’s, murdered earlier by her hands. Not that it had stopped them singing, of course. She did so enjoy their singing.

“Silly, silly monk.”

Movement, in the shadows. Shapes ghosted in and out of the darkness, flitting between this world and another. Faint shrieks and triumphant barks joined the unending hymn. Envy watched the unholy procession with a wicked grin; the flutter of crow wings, the clicking of bones, screams of malediction and joy alike filling the despoiled church. Scuttling down the aisle like a spidery spinster, she sprang atop the central altar.

“And now, Lesson One,” she crooned, her voice cracked, sing-song. “Lesson One. Lesson One. . . We must not tell lies.”

~ Thomas Brown

© Copyright 2016 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.

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