So here is a new story, a very RAW story in the literal sense. It was just completed today and I haven’t cleaned it up so it’s raw.
This story is a follow up to a story in RED DREAMS but should play well if you haven’t read that one.
What it is, is dark.
And I hope you dig it.
The great tent creaked beneath the weight of the wind as it threw itself against the canvas walls. While it still wasn’t snowing yet the Winter winds clawed at the earth and the small houses and barns in the distance and howled away down the hills. The preacher kneels in the center of the tent muttering to himself and shaking his head back and forth.
“Where are you, where are you, where are you?”
Nothing answers his pleas save for the wind but even that begins to die down, leaving the chill to settle in on the lonely tent. The preacher looks up from the ground and around him where lay the bodies of five children, none moving and each covered in blood. The preacher looks down at his hands and balls them into fists.
“What more do you want? What more do you want from me? Isn’t this enough? ISN’T THIS ENOUGH?” Screaming and the wind picks up again as if mocking him and the tent pulls against its stakes. The preacher stands and looks at the wreckage that surrounds him, the bodies, the blood, the symbols, and in the corner a chair and all around him darkness. So much darkness. So many questions.
Where was he?
Where was he?
They had had a bargain, a deal, and now, now he breaks it?
The night before his big sermon?
The night before everything would change?
He looked at the children and frowned. Perhaps he had done the ritual wrong. Had done something in the wrong order. He had never tried to summon him before but he had never needed to. He had always come when called, serving his master without question but it was three months since he had appeared, three months where the man had had to lie, and fake the rituals to cleanse other children, resorting to the way he had cleansed his young cousin when they were children. He had done what he thought he had to to call the thing to him, to lure it here and into his service again but it didn’t even come for its own rituals. Something was wrong and the preacher knew it in the pit of his stomach. It was getting cold in the tent, too cold to be without a coat and hat but just as he was thinking of how he would fix things, how he could cure the three afflicted children of this town in the morning without any help and still collect the donations he thought he saw movement in the corner of the tent, by the chair. He squinted his eyes and saw nothing, though the light of the lanterns didn’t do much to illuminate that corner. As he was looking he thought he caught sight of something and leaned closer and when he did he saw his cousin, thin and drawn and covered in blood as she chewed on her hands greedily and as he watched she erupted in flames and from those flames she looked up at him and smiled.
The man moaned and clutched at himself as he rocked back on his heels. The blood on his hands was still warm and it was that warmth that shook him from his stupor. He let out a startled cry and stumbled backward away from the bodies on the floor, gasping for air as he did. He looked at the scene with new eyes, new horror and was still for a moment and his breath escaped from his mouth in small plumes. He took a step forward, then another, then another and was taken back twenty years to his childhood when he was still a child of the Lord, still raw but full of so much fire for His work. He was taken back to a similar time and a similar place – a barn in the winter and a young woman stricken by the work of Lucifer. He paused and remembered the screams, the blood, the fire and threw his hands against his face to push it all away.
That had been when he had truly met the enemy.
Had met it and, and, and…
He let out a moan and stumbled forward, pulling his hands from his face but as soon as he did he saw horror which he couldn’t have imagined and let out a howl. Standing mere feet before him were three of the children, all of them still, none of them with any signs of breath coming from them, and each revealing the terrible wounds made upon them as if revealing their sex to a lover. The scent of the blood hung in the cold air and steam rose from the gaping wounds on the young bodies, forcing the man back several steps. His mind was spinning and without knowing it he began speaking a prayer. One of the children leaned towards another and licked blood from her shoulder and smiled. The third of them reach inside the hole in its stomach and began pulling its innards out, fishing them out slowly until there was nothing left, then it licked its fingers clean.
“No, no, no, no, no, no…”
The man began shaking and sweating at once, the sweat running icy fingers down his sides and along the curves of his stomach.
”You have grown fat off of the blood of lambs, no? For a man of God it was far to easy to bring you low. And now that you’re here with me, in this cold, dead place, a hundred miles of anything but cows and shit, tell me, don’t you yearn for the flames I bring you? Don’t you crave them just a little?”
The voice from behind him, the low whisper he had come to know well over the years but it seemed different than it had in the past. The preacher stood wavering, head throbbing with his heartbeat and he surveyed what was before him – three children, two girls and one boy standing before him. Three children, which meant the other two, the twins… He felt heat from behind him and the shadow of bodies close by.
“Figuring it out now, eh? Finally? You bore me, preacher. You were fun when you were young and full of your own fire. You were fun when you actually gave a fuck but now, now you’re too old, too fat, and have less life in you than these lambs you slaughtered for me. And what would your God say to this mess you’ve made? What would It say to this blasphemy, eh, preacher?”
The man felt his face flush, though from anger or shame he would never dare to ask, but with that heat his old fire rose.
“Question me not, demon. I do the Lord’s work and his work alone. I saved these children from your sin. From your evil. I cleansed them, foul thing, as I shall now cleanse you…”
The preacher spun to face the demon, no longer afraid but that fear flooded back as he realized the horror he had made a pact with. Before him stood the twins, the Kernwyck’s, Francis and Nathan, the oldest of the children here at nineteen. They had become lazy and had grown tongues too long for their mouths, tongues that carried curse words and deception and their parents had felt it was the devil that had gotten into their heads and had been the ones to request the preacher come here. And oh, he had come, he had come almost at a run once he learned that this was a town near a gold deposit and that this town was so desperate to have the evil amongst them gone that they would donate whatever it took to have him cleanse them. He had come and what he had found was a town with too much money, and too little to do. They were located in a valley near a lake and nothing else. No towns. No travel routes. Nothing. They were going to build the town up, in time, but now, now it was a wasteland for the youth and so naturally the youth did what they do when bored and that was to get up to deviltry. So, seeing what was needed, the preacher did what he had been doing for these long years and that was to call upon someone else with expertise in deviltry to aid him in his cleansing. It had worked before, he would call the thing, it would come, it would take one, two children to the flames and the preacher would save the rest and leave town with its gratitude and its money. Clearly the thing had tired of the arrangement though and this, this was like nothing the preacher had ever seen, not even in the worst of his nightmares.
Before him stood the twins, eyes gone, clearly gouged out, though Nathan still had the remnants of one blue eye smeared along his cheek. Their cheeks had been torn open to reveal their teeth. Both were naked and clean of blood until you got to their groins, which had been torn free and from there down was thick, black blood. The preacher looked up and both boys were smiling, Francis chewing something loudly. The preacher felt his gorge rise and stepped back but as he did he felt a body behind him and turned to see the other three children had surrounded him.
“No. NO! Jesus no! We had a deal. We had a deal! What more do you want? What more do you want of me?”
“Oh but yes, preacher, yes, yes, yes. You have drank to well and too long in these crimson rivers and now it’s come time for a reckoning. Now is time to pay. And a day will come when you shall answer to us, oh yes, but now, now it’s time you answered to them!” All of the children raise their arms and pointed toward the door to the tent. The preacher turned and standing in the entrance were scores of people from the town.
“Oh God no…” Whispered the preacher.
A scream rang out from the night and Mrs. Kerwyck fainted. The preacher came out of his stupor and realized the children were lying at his feet, in a circle, and he was at the center of them, covered in their blood, the knife he’d used earlier sticking from his pocket. And there was silence in that tent and the wind died as if to listen to what would happen next. The silence lasted a minute before Mr. Kerwyck pushed himself to the front of the people and raised his lantern.
“Burn him. Burn it all. Burn it all down!” Saying this the man threw his lantern at the preacher and struck him in the legs. The lantern shattered and fire erupted along the preacher’s legs and along the straw on the ground.
The preacher looked at the people, his people, his flock, and was silent as more lanterns were thrown in around him and the tent and its contents caught fire. The man was gone, lost, surrounded in the flames by all the children he had saved, whose souls were in Heaven as he had sent their bodies to Hell, surrounded by them as they came closer with the flames.
And this was Hell.
This was Hell, alone and surrounded by your failures, alone and surrounded by yourself.
This was Hell.
This was Hell and the preacher bent his head and prayed.