The story so far:
Another shattering and then the echoes of movement resounded throughout the walls of the vast old church. It was hard for Deputy Sharpe to tell from where exactly the noises were coming. The echoes in the church made it sound like they were surrounded.
“We need to move,” he said. “We are sitting ducks here in the open.”
Leda was starting to go into hysterics with each additional sound and the old priest seemed not to here Sharpe.
“Leda,” he grabbed her arm, “let’s go.” He turned to the priest, “Father, we need to move, we can’t stay out here in the open. Those things are inside the church.”
The priest raised his head toward the crucifix suspended above the altar. “If the demons of hell can enter the house of God then there is no safe place for us.”
“Father,” Sharpe yelled, “there isn’t time for this.”
He reached for the priest’s shoulder but Father Terrance shrugged him off and fell prostrate in front of the altar.
“My place is here with God,” the priest called out, “My fate is in His hands.”
“Father, I can’t leave you here.”
A noise came too close to comfort. Leda let out a squeal and Sharpe turned to see her pointing at a dark figure looming ironically in the moon shadows cast by the huge stained glass image of St. Michael defeating the dragon. He turned again to the prostrate priest. Then, grabbing Leda by the arm, pulled her half running toward the opposite side of the church and down the aisle toward the back.
“Wait, we can’t just leave Father Terrance like that,” she cried.
“Father Terrance is lost in his own world, there’s nothing else we can do for him.” Sharpe didn’t like leaving the priest behind anymore than Leda, but he couldn’t compete with God right now. Father Terrance made his choice and Sharpe hoped for the old man’s sake that God really did exist.
As they ran to the back of the church they could here the priest’s voice rise in prayer.
“Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…Give us this day….”
Sharpe turned to look and out of the shadows he could now see at least a dozen of the creatures moving slowly toward the priest. He wanted to call out but could not risk it. He snatched the door open and pushed Leda through, quickly following behind into the vestibule.
The priest’s voice rose even louder. “..and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…” and then a deafening silence fell over the church.
Sharpe turned and peered through the glass panes of the door toward the front of the church where he saw Father Terrance smothered by so many of those things, their bodies intertwined so that they looked like one distorted mass, that he could not make an individual count. He watched in horror as the old priest struggled under their weight and with an outstretched arm he reached for and pulled over one of the large stands of burning votives. Within seconds flames spread along the carpeted floor and shot up tapestries hanging along the walls. The priest himself soon became engulfed in flames as his robes caught fire and pieces of cloth fell away. The mass of creatures scattered back into the shadows as the man rose to his feet, a burning pillar of flesh, and in what Sharpe could only describe as eerie, walked, seemingly without touching the ground, toward the marble altar and proceeded to lay his flame engulfed body atop it as in a sacrificial rite.
“What’s happening?” Leda asked, her voice shaking.
Then something moved past the glass. Sharpe fell back nearly knocking Leda to the ground.
He grabbed her arm and pulled, placing a finger to his lips instructing her to stay quiet. He looked through the glass of the doors facing the front of Our Lady of the Shrine church and saw nothing moving in the darkness.
He whispered to Leda. “When I pull this deadbolt, we run. Run as fast as you can and don’t stop until I tell you to. Do you understand?”
Leda nodded her head.
“Get ready.” Sharpe slowly pulled back the deadbolt and opened the door. He looked to Leda. “Go.”
She took off running down the cement steps and he followed quickly behind soon catching up to her. They ran across the street and down the alley way on the other side. He turned to look back to see what might be following them. There was nothing but the orange flames and black smoke of the church illuminating the night sky. The absence of fire alarms and sirens was a disturbing silence.
As they ran it seemed as if they were engulfed in a deafening silence. They seemed to be the only people left in the town.
Leda fell back. Exhausted she leaned against a brick wall.
It took Sharpe a second to realize she was no longer at his side. He turned and ran back toward her.
“Leda, we have to keep moving. We’re not safe if we stay here,” he explained.
“I can’t.” She shook her head, breathing heavily.
“Yes you can,” he insisted, “now come on.”
“What’s the point, Sharpe?” She dead eyed him. “I mean, where exactly are we running to anyway? Where are we supposed to be going where these things, whatever the hell they are, can’t find us? Do you even know?”
“No,” he cupped her face in his hands, “but I’m not ready to give up either. Look I don’t know what these things are or where they came from but I know they did not just appear out of thin air. They had to have come from somewhere and I’m not going to stop until I find a way to stop them.”
“You sound as crazy as Father Terrance and he had God on his side. Look what happened to him. What makes you think you have a better chance?”
“Because, I told you, I’m not ready to give up,” he repeated.
“But there is no one out there. Look around,” Leda made a grand gesture with her arms and looked up and down the alleys, “we’re alone. How do you think the two of us stand a chance against an army of those…those things?”
“If we are still alive then it stands to reason that there are others out there too. Besides,” he wrapped his arms around her, “we’re not alone, we have each other.”