The story so far:
Stuart had been so busy, so involved with his search on the internet that he’d completely forgotten about the pain in his arms. They’d looked bad at the cemetery and they hurt like hell. Hurt like hell, that’s a good description, he thought. He suddenly realized that his arms were not hurting at all. He raised them and looked. No burns. No marks of any kind.
He fell back against his chair and stared at the ceiling. How the **** did that happen? I know - I **** know that my arms were burned – badly burned when I grabbed a hold of that bastard. I could see the burns. Everyone could see the burns. And the pain! The pain was so bad that I almost passed out. ****, I did pass out for a few seconds. What the ****, over! Stuart raised his arms and looked again. No burns. No marks. No pain.
Stuart slammed his feet to the floor and jumped up. He grabbed a coat as he ran out the door, headed for the cemetery. He had a wild hunch, a wild assed guess, actually and he was not going to waste any time turning that WAG into reality. He hoped. He would have prayed but, he was an atheist, after all.
He ran through the open gates of the cemetery and with the moon at its zenith, lighting up the entire area he could already tell that his WAG was more than just a wild assed guess. His heart was beating much faster than the short run would have dictated. He stopped in the center of the graves, panting slightly arms akimbo and slowly turned in a circle checking out each individual grave.
These graves were wide open not much more than an hour ago. He and the group being terrorized by this demon that called himself, Anamelech had seen them. They’d witnessed their loved ones corpses’, rotting, stinking corpses’ walking around. They had all heard the moaning and crying. His mind a blank, Stuart soaked in the sights around him.
All of the graves were closed. They looked no different than they had yesterday and the day before that and the day before the preacher made his stinking appearance. Hallucination? No. Mass hypnotism? Hmmm, that’s a possibility, he thought. Everyone had seen, heard and felt all that occurred in this cemetery not two hours ago. Everyone had seen Melanie Sim... Where the **** is Melanie?
Stuart ran to the grave where Melanie had shot herself in the head. Although the moon was bright it was hard to see details. He didn’t see her body. He thought he was standing right where she’d fallen but, he couldn’t see anything.
Stuart backed away a few feet and got down on his knees. He leaned forward on his hands and moved his head down and sideways. Stuart was a long time golfer and if you wanted to see the lay of the grass, this was how it was done. He kept the moon on the opposite site of the grave site so that he had maximum light and he saw – the grass bent. He saw small indentured grooves in the grass where something, (Melanie’s body?) was dragged. On hands and knees he followed the grooves.
He hadn’t gone far, though, before his hands met with something wet and sticky. Stuart raised his hands to his face and saw the black substance. He sniffed and got a nose full of the smell of blood. No doubt about it, this is Melanie’s blood, he thought. He looked forward and could see that indentures in the grass seemed to cross an open area for about 20 yards leading directly to a groundskeepers’ hut. He jumped up and ran to the hut.
The door was unlocked and Stuart yanked the door open. He didn’t have to search long. Melanie’s body had been unceremoniously dumped in the far corner of the hut. A tarp had been haphazardly thrown over it, but you could clearly see her feet and arms sticking out the sides of it. Wanting to be perfectly certain, Stuart pulled off the tarp. He could not help his sharp intake of breath when her body came to view. She was naked. Her breasts had been amputated and now covered her eyes. Her genitals had been cut out and stuffed inside her mouth. Stuart managed to mumble, “Jesus **** Christ,” before turning away, falling to his knees and vomiting. He felt dizzy and overwhelmingly sickened by the abomination before him. I’m gonna find that son of a bitch and... That thought remained unfinished as tears overcame him and he slumped to ground and cried.
He didn’t know how long he’d been in the hut but he knew he had to leave. He needed to get to the others and tell them what he’d learned. But, what he learned? It was obvious to him, now, that the entire evening had been an illusion. The Doc had been right. There was a plausible explanation, he thought. But, what is that explanation…really? Although Stuart recognized that the terror in the cemetery had been some kind of an illusion, he was at a complete loss to explain it. How was it possible? Why was it being done on these people? He realized that before he could approach the group he would need to do more research. They’re safe for the moment at the church. I’ll go to them after I know more, Stuart decided.
The tarp was crumpled at his feet and he pulled it up, laying it gently over Melanie’s body. “I’ll be back for you. Rest easy, I’ll be back and we’ll take care of you.”
Stuart had, again, lost track of the time. He looked at the clock and realized he’d been at the computer for almost two hours. He’d found some interesting information about hypnotism, about illusions, he’d even done some extensive reading about telepathy, but he was no closer to a solution than when he’d started.
Leaning back in his chair and rocking it backward until he was balanced on two legs, Stuart crossed his fingers behind his head and stared at the ceiling.What do we know about this preacher? Nothing. No, that’s not entirely true, Stu. Not entirely true. He’s assumed the name – or pretends to be a demon. He’s been hypnotizing us, one by one and then, tonight in mass to see things, to hear things, **** even to feel pain. A guy with that kind of power could not be a stranger in the world. I’ve been using the wrong search words.
He tried everything from “famous hypnotists” to “illusionists”, “serial killers” to “unsolved murders”. He couldn’t find anything. Not a hint, not a glimmer, nothing. Exasperated and exhausted, the entire evening and the hours on the computer were taking a toll on him he got up and went into the kitchen. He grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator and sat down at the table to think.
Stuart didn’t think he could go to the group at the church without some kind of tangible proof. His arms? Well, there was some definite proof. He could take them to cemetery, again proof. He had learned enough about hypnotism over the last couple of hours that he could make a good argument as to how the preacher did – was doing what he was. He didn’t think it would be enough.
On the other hand, he thought, time’s a wasting and we’ve got to have a plan for when that bastard shows up again. He drained his beer, grabbed his jacket and headed for the church.