John hated Churches, and if he had believed in any of the spiritual mumbo-jumbo, he would have thought himself a creature of Hell. Not that he was evil, Heaven must be a place of preaching and boredom. Give him the sex, rock and roll and alcohol. He could live without the drugs. Churches repelled him, and he could feel his spirit dragging itself away, wanting to stay free of it all. This was all psychological. He was not demonic. John was not a creature of the underworld. He just did not like going to Church. Holy water did not boil when he went through the doorways. Crosses did not fall upside down. Had they served alcohol or let him watch the match, then he would have had a different view.
John always went to Church because Mary went to Church, and for all the repulsions he felt for the place, and they were many, he would walk Heaven and Hell for his Mary. They had met at school and been together ever since, never once regretting the decision they had made. It was the truest of true love. Like anybody, they’d had ups and downs, but they were happy, eternally happy. Except for John, when it came to going to Church.
John rolled his eyes as they walked into the Church, “oh God”, why does it have to be a busy one, he thought. There were usually ten, fifteen people maximum here on a Sunday, today there was at least thirty. John groaned inwardly. He suppressed the noise as best he could. Mary stood beside him. He looked over; he could see a glow in her eyes. She loved the busy ones. John loved that glow, it was a shine that radiated from her, and it would usually always makes him feel better about himself, just not on a Church day. They had no children. God worked in mysterious ways, apparently, had meant that John was infertile. Still, they were happy, and that is what really mattered. They made their way to a pew and sat down, waiting for the service to begin. John looked down at Mary’s feet, ah! If only the bible thumpers knew. She was wearing her Church heels. If nothing else, at least he had that. He loved it when she heels up. Dressing up and not down for Church, they all had no idea that she was naked under that dress, save for the stockings.
Stockings and Heels, it makes Church worth it, almost.
John leant back, looking up toward the ceiling. It was a ceiling, nothing fancy, nothing special, just triangular and dreary. Churches all over the world are built, sometimes with the most spectacular murals. John got a boring one to visit weekly, still, heels. The woodworking was excellent. He looked at the joins and the large wooden beams that were built to last. He may not have faith in God and the Church, but whoever had built this knew how to make it last. He could appreciate good workmanship. John then noticed the haze, a slight blur of what looked like a mist. He thought it is his eyes at first, playing tricks, but it thickened slightly. John was reminded of the old days when you could smoke in a cinema, drifting whiteness in the centre of the ceiling. John thought it was smoke at first, and he was about to raise the alarm, but then he looked at it; it was hypnotic. The way it seemed to move but didn’t move. A heat haze seemed to be covering it. It made it shimmer and appear to be alive. There was something about its swirling. He looked back down; The service was starting, urgh. Preaching and lecturing, sod it, if it was smoke, at least it would liven things up. He kept looking up as the service continued, watching as the cloud thickened.
Crystal departed the bus and waited outside the Institute. She used public transport to go everywhere, she enjoyed the rides. Crystal would watch as passengers arrived and departed. They would wonder what their lives were going to bring. In most cases, she could have told them, or at the very least, she had got an inkling of what things would be like. You make your own luck, positive outlook, positive life, was what she had always believed. There was some truth in it, she supposed, maybe a little.
Crystal was optimistic in her own life, forever trying to see the good in things even if everything else seemed to be spiralling downhill. Crystal smiled, a bittersweet smile, as she stood looking at the plaque of the Institute. She had avoided people like this for her whole life, people who would judge, test, and be cynical of her. Always asking questions and looking for a trick where there was none. Now here Crystal found herself looking at the door and plaque. Forcing herself do to what she had for so long avoided. Crystal pushed the door open, took a long deep breath and stepped inside.
David sat at his desk and took a sip from the coffee cup; it was lukewarm now but still drinkable. The timeline is wrong. David knew it is wrong; he just could not piece it together correctly in his head. Just looking at the facts as he lays them out on the table. Mother and Father killed each other, but the son, the son, was wrong. David sat back in his chair and closed his eyes, trying to block out all the noise, locking himself in his own thoughts.
Let’s start with the facts.
Distasteful as it may have been, pardon the pun. Fact number one is that the parents fucked and fed on each other until they had died. Finishing off with ripping off each other’s throats, similar to the son, but not the same.
The second fact, the boy was killed using the china doll. The doll must have been modified. Somehow, the mouth opened, and… this was where David started to get lost. No doubt, the doctor had said, the doll was the weapon used. “Bites on the ankle, ripping and bites on the neck. You find me another set of porcelain teeth that match or something made with them and then we’ll talk. Until then, I am telling you the doll was the murder weapon”.
Fact number three, the doll had been found downstairs by the kitchen door. Facts number two, three and one cannot add up; they do not go together. The boy had been killed upstairs, the dolls head did not move, it can’t bite, and the parents had never left the bedroom. There was not enough blood in the rest of the house. Something was missing, a part of the equation that was unknown to him. There were no signs of anyone else being in the home; there were no signs of a break-in. Something though, a final part of the puzzle eluded him.
John watched as the cloud thickened. He seemed to be the only person who had spotted it. The rest of the Church continued with the service. Amen, praise the Lord, Kumba – fucking – ya. John knows it is not smoke; he or somebody else would have smelt it. No, this was a cloud forming inside the Church. That can’t be right. John looked over the beams and could see no moisture, a dry cloud of nothing. The type you may find in a disco or nightclub. It was definitely growing, getting larger and less translucent. John continued to watch, glancing and watching with fascination.
Lisa did not have time for this; she grumbled to herself. Cranks, crackpots and con artists, why did they always gravitate to her? Was it her gender? Quite probably, they thought it would be easier to pull the wool over her eyes, maybe? Well, they were wrong. If they wanted an easy mark, then they would get neither here. If they had liked to at least be heard by someone sympathetic, then by basing a choice on gender? Ha, wrong move, sucker. Martin was who they should have picked, but they always were pulled to Lisa.
Psychics, hah, don’t make me laugh.
There had been something in this one, just something she had said. Lisa had loaded up the file on her PC, checking what they knew about this Crystal. Crystal, nee Grace, Pickforn, aged thirty-six and had been on the system for most of her adult life. Was Crystal gifted? Maybe, maybe not. She was known to the Institute, but she was of little interest, she did not make money, and there had been no complaints made against her. Crystal kept herself to herself, bothering nobody. As far as Lisa could see, she had no criminal or civil complaints. There was certainly nothing in the public domain. They would have kept out of each other’s way. Crystal not doing anything to draw attention, and because she did that. There was no real need for the Institute to have made any contact. Live and let live; they could not investigate everything. Here she now was, contacting them about something that she should not have known about. So why had she approached them now?
“I know all about the man and the house”, Crystal had said in the telephone call. “I think you care, or cared, for him. I want you to know he is in danger”. It was always possible that Crystal has read the newspapers and added things together, coming to this conclusion. A little guesswork here and there, she would not have been the first. Lisa and Daniel’s past was not hidden, something tucked away for them to be ashamed of. The house getting burnt down was in the local press. Looking back and knowing that they had a history with each other, it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch. A leap for sure, but you could see a logic. A model of sorts forming. These people were not stupid; they could see patterns and put things together. Lisa and Martin had their reservations – understatement – about how Daniel had dealt with the house, which led to Lisa agreeing to this meeting. “It was not the house that was evil”, Crystal had said, “the house hid a doorway, then he went and opened it”.
The cloud was denser now, so thick that John could not see the ceiling of the Church. It had crept, slowly at first but then speeding along. A freight train of mist gathering speed. He had been watching it during the service for the past half an hour. It had seemed to advance and solidify quicker in the last five minutes. It was as if the cloud knew that the service was peaking, the congregation all seated and the doors closed, now was its time.
Its time to do what?
The cloud split in two; one half floated towards the altar, the other toward the doors. John watched the one gliding toward the Church’s front; it was easier than turning around to face the doors. Less likely to cause unwanted attention. Did that matter? Probably not. He looked at Mary’s legs, eyes on the prize, eyes on the prize. More people had noticed it now; a few of them pointed and gawked as it gathered above the priests head. It just floated for a moment, hovering above him, waiting, the Priest in a world of his own, reading aloud from memory.
For one show only, a modern retelling, the gospel of the damned, just you wait, it’s a killer.
The Priest was suddenly aware that his flock was not looking at him but instead looked above him. Something drawing their eyes away from him. He looked up and saw the cloud that had formed. The cloud darted into his open mouth, it had moved slowly, but now it moved at speed, forcibly being consumed by its unwilling host. He didn’t even have time for an Amen. The cloud was absorbed completely, and the priests head dropped. He was looking at the floor. He lifted his head, his flock… his sheep, a thin grin formed on his lips as he looked them over.
Daniel sat alone in the bar, drinking alone and drinking hard. It had started with a single vodka, then a double and now it was going to head for triples. This was his problem, the relief of the nightmares stopping, the release from the endless terrors now needed to be filled with something else. He was an empty vessel that needed to be filled. For now, alcohol would have to suffice. In the past, it had been Lisa or his Job that had helped, now he had nothing. Nothing except for the vodka and coke in the glass. The vodka’s measures had risen, and the amount of coke had lowered. Daniel took a sip, brown vodka with a hint of cola. It’d do for now. Sip? Bollocks, he necked it in one and ordered another.
Daniel threw the money on to the bar, just grabbing a handful from his pocket. He used his finger, counting out the pounds and change for the drink. Once done, he took the rest and pushed it back into his pocket. He needed a piss, and now that the thought had entered his head, he needed it quickly. Standing, or alternatively wobbling, he waddled from the stool towards the toilets.
John suddenly felt on edge. It was not the cloud vanishing into the Priest as you may have expected; it was the smile that had followed. Pencil thin and straight, it was hard to describe it as a smile, but that was what John saw. He had visions of guards at Aushwitz, standing with similar smiles as victims were marched towards gas chambers, never to be heard from again. This was the smile of those who enjoyed it. This was the smile of death and evil, a smile of absolute human horror.
The glazed eyes looked everywhere but saw nothing. They seemed to focus on things that were not there. It was like they were seeing the world for the first time. John placed his arm to his side and held Mary’s hand; her palm was moist from sweat. He did not have to ask; he just knew that she felt it too. The emptiness that had engulfed the Church and its congregation. John got to his feet, trying to be both quick about it and to remain unnoticed. He pulled Mary up, “What if it’s from God?” she asked.
“Do you feel any goodness from him?” John replied, knowing the answer. Mary did not respond, and they shuffled along the pew and headed for the aisle in the centre. Excusing themselves as they passed others in the congregation, others who had yet to work out that something was wrong or were confused and unsure of what to do.
They both made their way towards the door, and John could see the two ladies standing there. He realised now why the cloud had split; he understands that they will not be leaving. Mrs Cartright and Miss Andrews stood at the door; the same flimsy smile decorated their lips. Mary had drawn ahead as John had slowed. It was not a lot, maybe one step, but it meant that they focused their attention on her.
Miss Andrews sprang forward and took Mary by the head, one hand on either side. She pulled Mary toward her and smacked lips with her. John stops, startled; this was not what he had expected. This was a kiss full of passion, a full-throated teenage snog, last night of the prom, and then we will kiss. Just as suddenly as it had started, the kissing stopped. A tangoing of tounges in the dark, moist nightclub of the mouth. Mary stood with her back to him, hands slumped to her side. She turned, and John realised what had happened. Mary stood dead-eyed and looked at him, a slip of a smile starting to forming on her lips. A white scar of lips pointing slightly upwards at either end.
“Shove your head up your arse” was not, it had to be said, the best of insults. It was, however, the best that Daniel could manage in his intoxicated state. Did the guy who he had shouted it at deserve to be insulted? No. Had Daniel earned the bloody nose and fat lip? Undoubtedly, yes. The punch came quick and fast; it would have been unavoidable even had Daniel had been sober, as he was drunk, he stood no chance. He felt his nose explode, blood spraying over the door and fruit machine. Daniel turned, not through choice. That is just the way his body moved from the punch, and because of the drink. The second punch landed with a crunch on the side of his face depositing blood on the jukebox this time.
Lip smashed against teeth, teeth buckling but staying put, just. The barman was already on the phone; he had seen this play out too many times in the past. Nine-nine-nine dialled, and he was now speaking to the local coppers. Yes, they will send someone quickly. They have someone in the area. He’d heard that before. Government crackdowns, pub violence, get priority. He’d believe it when he saw it. Daniel felt the bile rising before it finally escaped, decorating the man, fruit machine and toilet doors in a slimy acidic goop. This smell would linger for longer than his fluids. Daniel slumped to the floor sitting in his own blood and vomit. The warmth of the liquids soaking through his trousers. He still had not made it to the toilet, his bladder holding on for now.
The barman walked over to Daniel, his attacker having departed the scene quickly. What had caused it? Daniel had thought he had heard the guy say something; the guy, in his defence, the guy had only thought it.
The barman grabbed Daniel and pulled him to his feet, not saying a word as he did so. The ritual may have been new to Daniel, but it was well known to the barman. With a little bit of pulling, a lot of leading, and a dash of pushing, the barman got Daniel outside and sat him down on a bench. “What the fuck has gotten into you?” he asked, “you are usually so placid”. Daniel tried to reply, but he only managed to gurgle and mumble. Is it because of the lip, nose and nausea? Or because of the drink? Maybe a little of both. A lot of it was down to the embarrassment. A car pulled up, and a man gets out. He headed to the barman. “Is this him?” he asked.
“Yeah, this is him”, the barman replied, shocked that the police had arrived quickly! Now he had seen it, he was still not sure he believed it. “Pressing charges?” the Policeman asked.
Daniel had worked out that it was a policeman, his mind working at the speed of a slow snail. “No, not this time. This one, well, he is usually okay”, the barman replied. Daniel let out a sigh. He thought he was going to be deep in the shit. “I’ll let him sleep it off”, the Policeman says as he lifted Daniel from the bench and headed towards his car. “He’ll probably need a piss”, the barman said as they walk away. The policeman grabbed the newspaper from the car’s seat and spread it out on the rear seat. “You piss in my car, and we’ll be having words”, the Policeman said to Daniel. ‘”Name?” Daniel spluttered. It was all he could manage.
“That’s usually my line”, the Policeman said as he bundled Daniel into the car. “Daniel”, he says finally, “Daniel James”.
“Well Daniel, I’m David, David Rogers and I’ll be your ride tonight so I suppose you should tell me where you live”. Daniel let out a sigh, things were looking up, and he answered the question.
John looked around the Church. He could see others kissing at random. Sometimes he could see the smoke drifting from one person to another. Floating between mouths. Some people were getting physical, others watching and stimulating themselves. There was an infection running rampant through the crowd, a madness spread from one to the next. The worlds worse STD running wild. John looked to the Priest. He hoped to see a moment of sanity, something to give him hope from this supposed man of God. His faith would protect him. The Priest stood with his trousers around his ankles, penis in hand. The cilice around his leg throbbing and blood dripped downwards towards his feet. He was jerking himself as he watched the group, never taking his eyes from them; his flock was in full swing. Say hallelujah as we fuck for the lord. Praise Jesus and cum together.
John looked away from the Priest; he had seen enough. Seen too much. He looked for Mary among the crowd. He spotted her; she was still near the door along with the other woman. They were working their way through people, kissing some, contaminating them with the cloud that expelled itself from their mouths. The seed of the darkness that lurked within them all, being passed to the next and then the next. Soon they would all be infected. Poisoned by the evil, corrupted by the sin, did he have any chance to escape? Could he save Mary? His question was answered almost as quickly as it had been thought. He felt it at first, a punch into the small of his back. It was like being jabbed by a mighty toddler… a strong toddler who had the strength of an adult. John tried to look at what had hit him and realised that he cant bend quite far enough. Whatever it was had been stuck in that place on his back that you just can’t see. He ran his hands to where he had felt the blow. He could feel the warmth at first and then the dampness. John pulled his hand forward and looked at the blood that had gathered. He was bleeding and bleeding badly. John reached back around, feeling for what was still stuck in him, long and thin, but not a knife. It felt wooden. He could feel the grooving on the wood. John grasped at it, paused for a moment, thinking if it is wise to remove it; he decided to pull, and as he did so, he felt the pain rocket from the spot. Pain thundered through him. Starting at the small of his back, and reverberated upwards and downwards through his body. John fell to his knees, forgetting the object he had pulled for a moment; he dropped it to the floor.
John knelt. He looked like a man at prayer as he glanced around. Looking for the thing that had been in his back. It was a crucifix. He had been felled by the symbol of this religion. The son of God, hanging from the crucifix, leading him away from this life. John looked up, one last chance, one final hope. He saw Mary coming towards him, she was going to save him, he was sure of that.
Mary got to him, and she kicked her heels off, those heels that both she and he adored. She picked them up and held them in her hand. Her Church shoes. Mary stood and looked at him, John on his knees and her standing before him. She whipped one of her shoes at his face; the heel punctured his cheek, penetrating him. She ripped it back from his face, his mouth filled with blood and air. Mary bought the other shoe up, slamming it into the other side of his face. His other cheek was torn open. A massive gash along the side of his face. There was an unnatural strength about her, driven by insanity. The blood in his mouth sprayed outwards, covering the floor beside him. A human sprinkler of blood. John fell to the side, and she jumped upon him, pinning his arms on either side with her stockinged feet. John looked at her, pleading with his eyes; no, don’t, he begged. She was the more dominant one, nobody would have ever guessed that, and this time she would take what she wanted.
Mary looked forward. John couldn’t help himself; John had to know what she was looking at. He arched his head back so that he could see. The Priest was heading toward them. He watched the Priest, who was still jerking and working. Mary lowered herself, bringing herself to her knees, she lowered herself onto his face. She was careful, methodical even, trying to make sure his arms did not get free. She had him pinned by the knees as she lowered. He tried to scream, but the screams were muffled, muffled by his Mary. He felt the Priest climax over him, darkness suffocating him as his lover sat on his face, wetness from the Priest over his shirt. John thought it was all over, then he felt Mary thrusting, and as she pushed, the heel was bought down once more as she smashed them into his groin. Thrusting and smashing is the last thought, the feeling that John died with, pounding and thrusting from the woman he loves.
Mrs Cartright had left the party. She had wanted to stay, wanted to play with the others, but she had other plans. She headed for the kitchen. She knew what she wanted was back there; she just had to find it. The Church had an old generator as a backup for power outages. It was from the days when people would gather at a church in times of need. If it had a generator, it had to also have fuel. She pulled boxes from the shelves throwing them behind, disregarding anything that was not inflammable or a liquid. Boxes and paperwork were flung across the room, she finally found what she was looking for. Five litres, it may not be enough, but it would have to do. Cartright tapped the edge of the drum; it gave a satisfying knock, no echo here, it was full or near as damn it. She dragged the drum into the nave. It would become lighter the more she poured. She started with the altar, just enough here and made her way into the crowd of people. Pouring petrol over each and everyone as she goes. They did not stop what they are doing. They continued the acts, some carnal, some vicious, many both. She covered every person that she could see and then stood in the centre of them all. The can was light enough for her now. She held it above her head and poured what remained over her body. The fuel dripping down her head and covering her completely. She reached into one of her pockets and pulled out a packet of cigarettes and a box of matches. She placed a cigarette in her mouth and threw the rest of the packet to the floor. She lit the matchstick, held it to the cigarette and puffed away at it, taking a drag as she dropped the lit match.
The flames danced in all directions as the lit matchstick hit the ground. A jaunted dance of flames and bodies, not one person made a run for it, not one stopped even if the person they were with had died. Necrophilia Sunday running rampant and wild in this Church. The fire crawled the walls, and smoke filled the Church. Mrs Cartright just stood in the centre of it all, not making a noise, not moving, just watching. When the flames snaked up to her eyes, they popped from the heat. The clear fluids from inside them flowed down her cheeks. She dropped to her knees, in the fire, and then lay in it. She blindly welcomed its warm embrace.
The cloud drifted from a window that has shattered in the heat. It mixed with the smoke from the fire. Nobody noticed it as it sailed ever higher. As it wafted away from the Church.