Category: Saturday Scenes

  • Hall of Higher Learning – Part I

    Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

    For the second time in her life Clara was travelling with Sister Maria. That meant more time waiting on a train platform and she presumed the next connection would be made together. Their first trip together had been a stroll through Versailles’ palatial gardens in comparison.

    For one, it was longer and involved a dizzying rate of train transfers. To make way over the open ocean had been a new experience for Clara and at first she was unsure of herself while the ship heaved and hawed with the waves. If her travelling partner had any inkling at all for amusement, Clara might have enjoyed the experience.

    Instead they spent the bulk of the trip below decks, kept busy with prayers and lessons. Clara even missed the sights as they approached red mud shores; iconic for the region although one would ever know by looking at Sister Maria.

    They left the station and grabbed the first available handsome. The ride was pleasant enough, and this was her first taste of a larger settlement. There were people and horses moving every which way, it was quite chaotic but infinitely enjoyable to watch since Sister Maria could do little to hurry on.

    Whereas her hometown had a few buildings along the main stretch of road, this city had neighbourhoods and streets crammed with houses, storefronts and warehouses. It was something to behold especially after two years of being cooped up in that school.

    This time around Sister Maria seemed to be enjoying the trip. Had this been her hometown? More likely she was elated that her charge would soon be released.

    “Here we are,” the cabby said once they arrived.

    It was the site of a massive construction site, visible on the foreground where the beginnings of church spires. This structure of wood, masonry and stone would stand tall above the neighbours; a point of pride for any city. So why here?
    Clara and Sister Maria stepped off silently once the cabby had been paid. Without hesitation the nun pushed past the protective fencing and walked onto the construction site. Although there was showed no hesitation, Sister Maria seemed slower and more deliberate somehow.

    They walked through the chaos as workers were busy with their trades. They continued on until they reached a cemetery located by the stone wall. At a point separating the two sites Clara saw a simple wooden door.

    Sister Maria paused, stood aside and said, “I am afraid this is where we part ways child.”

    Clara looked at the facial features of her escort as usual not a so for emotion had been betrayed. At least until a naughty little thought passed through her mind. Would be a shame to miss this opportunity to speak with impunity.

    “I was the one who re-arranged all of the furniture in your room,” Clara said with a smirk.

    Sister Maria maintained her stoic disposition for a moment then began to laugh.
    “Was it now,” she asked in a light-hearted tone. “The sisters and I spent a great deal of time trying to work out how someone managed to get all my things onto the ceiling,” she added.

    “You are not angry sister,” Clara asked, somehow slightly disappointed at this particular reaction.

    “Of course not Clara,” Sister Maria said in her serious tone. “Sister Theresa nearly wet herself laughing and anything that knocks her down a peg is worth its weight in gold,” she added with a smile.

    So Clara had gotten her wish after all. Not only did Sister Maria smile, but she had also learned that nuns were human. A good lesson for any child to learn.

    “Now child, you must be the one to go through that door,” the nun said. “You never know, we might end up seeing one another again. Although not as travelling partners. You are far too talkative for my tastes,” she exclaimed.

    Clara smiled, took her worn out suitcase and opened the door. It was dark inside, but she was not fearful, sometimes things you should be feared were hidden in plain sight. Without hesitation she crossed the threshold curious as to what she would find.

  • First Blood – Part IV

    Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

    Clara had been whisked away the moment men dressed identically to Father Michael entered the room. They did not seem to hesitate nor asked questions, instead the eldest simply glanced at one of the younger members and she was carried away.

    Why was it that Clara had never seen these men before? Normally in a cloistered environment there was near perfect segregation, a new face was a rare occurrence. Any workmen, tradesmen or drivers were kept under a close watch.

    To see a dozen such men certainly got Clara wondering if she had missed something in these past two years. Was there some sort of tunnel or access to the outside world that she never knew about?

    A bit further down the hall Sisters Agnes and Maria were waiting. Clara was then placed under Sister Maria’s charge who in turn escorted back to her room. From the corner of her eyes she saw the man and Sister Agnes exchange words. When the nun collapsed, Clara had a good idea what had been said.

    “What were you doing in the rectory child,” Sister Maria asked.

    Clara looked down at her blood covered hands remembered she was still holding the thin blade. Of all the things to ask? Clara palmed the crucifix under her sleeve to avoid it making a topic of discussion.

    “Sister Maria, I was following Father Michael,” Clara said in reply.

    “Now why would go and do such a thing.” Sister Maria asked while sounding exasperated.

    Now that was a good question. However, that tone in her voice hinted that this nun had been aware of what took place. So she likely already knew that Father Michael was dead. The question was how?

    Clara thought over her words before she said, “Father Michael told me earlier today that he wanted to discuss his plans for me sister.”

    Sister Maria was white as a sheet, despite this being a blatant lie it certainly got her out of the hot seat. Now if only she managed to coax more information out of her before she was caught.

    “What exactly did he tell you child,” Sister Maria asked.

    Now Clara had to think on her feet. If she feigned ignorance, there would be no further gains. If Clara guessed his involvement the she might gain more insight. The latter came with more risk but Clara enjoyed a challenge.

    “Father Michael had just begun explaining the particularities of his order,” Clara said.

    Now that was vague enough to avoid getting caught in an outright lie. She was basing this line of questioning on the fact that men of the cloth were rarely, if ever armed. Father Michael had been armed for a reason and she guessed the fallen angel was a big reason as to why.

    Sister Maria gave Clara a good long look before she said, “No matter child.” She paused a moment before she opened the door to the dormitory and added, “Now get cleaned up and ready for bed.”

    A shame that bedtime was not for another two hours yet…

    * * * *

    News of Father Michael’s death had been hushed up. Clara continued on for a few days, curious as to why they would not share his fate with the rest of the school. Even as a new priest settled into the rectory, the nuns maintained a wall of silence.

    Despite being the only witness to what had happened, no one questioned her about the event nor questioned her presence that night. It left her feeling a bit uneasy as though she were in trouble and was just waiting for the punishment to follow.

    For once Clara kept her nose clean and continued on with her studies. An easy matter when other children avoided her, likely due to a secret directive. Like all directives, tenants or commandments, there tended to be severe repercussions for those who failed to uphold them.

    After the events of Father Michael’s passing went by unobserved for a fortnight, Clara was pulled out of class by Sister Maria. Without notice she was hurried to the courtyard where horse and cart waiting for them. Surprisingly her things were already packed into that tattered old suitcase she had arrived with two years ago.

    “It seems that Father Michael’s got his wish,” Sister Maria said while getting into the cart. She then reached down to help Clara up before adding, “It’s time to start your training child.”

    Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

  • First Blood – Part III

    Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

    Her arrival to this cloistered environment marked her first exposure to both schooling and religion. These had been luxuries her family could not afford. After all it was difficult to justify higher learning if one had to give up eating a meal or keeping a roof over their heads.

    Clara readily embraced her new way of life, giving in to her newfound thirst for knowledge. Clara employed what she learned to make life difficult for the sisters; especially Sister Maria since she had sworn see this nun smile before she finished school.

    There were other children who enjoyed pushing the boundaries as much as she, but Clara quickly learned how to avoid the nuns’ wrath. She noted that judgement was rendered only to those who were unlucky enough to get caught.

    Not only did this push Clara to conceal her movements, but it made her escapades much more challenging. What better reward could there be to have Sister Agnes darting her eyes from child in another failed attempt to find out who was responsible.

    On occasion Clara would get caught although it was normally for crimes of her own choosing. She would take her lashings, pray or fast as required. All the while she would plot her next bout of defiance while the staff continued to underestimate her capability for mischief.

    In her second year at the orphanage, Clara noticed that Father Michael would often be called away. The man would disappear for days or even weeks at a time without raising suspicion. For a mischievous little girl, the concept of being able to avoid her responsibilities along with their consequences had some allure.

    Motivated to discover his secrets, Clara shadowed the man. This proved to be easy enough since he probably never considered the possibility. After all, this was a foreign concept for those who lived under the watchful eye of their God, especially one who had given their vow of poverty.

    In anticipation of his destination, Clara went ahead and hid in his quarters. She was reminded on how the devout were notorious for remaining covered at all times. Clara once caught a sister flaying herself as she bathed; all in an effort to keep impure thoughts from her mind. She later learned that was the reason they adopted the habit. They did it to keep their body and hair concealed even from members of their own order.

    Clara caught no more than a glimpse of his scar-riddled back. These scars had not been left by a whip, paddle or another form of corporeal punishment. There was an animalistic quality to the scarring, but what kind of animal was capable of inflicting those?

    While sisters of the order tended to assume they were alone with God when in their quarters; this priest surprised her when he spoke. So much so that it blew her earlier theory out of the water.

    “It is not wise to enter the house of God with impure thoughts,” he said calmly using the voice he reserved for his sleep-inducing sermons.

    Clara did not say a word and even held her breath in an effort to remain undetected. He never turned to look at her before speaking again. Since there were no mirrors or reflective surfaces in the room, her presence should have remained a mystery.

    “You have been following me all morning child,” Father Michael added.

    Even with the priest keeping his back to her, she knew better than to continue this game. It was obvious that she had been discovered, so the question was, how?

    “Curious,” Clara replied then mulled over her initial response. She then thought it best to add for good measure, “Father.”

    “Curious child,” he asked while continuing to change.

    Clara noted how these were not a priest’s garbs. The more Clara questioned this situation, the more curiosity swelled within.

    “Why a man of the cloth disappears for days on end,” she replied. “The origin of your scars and more recent wounds,” she added despite that being a wild guess.

    So why not turn the tables and evade his attempts at an inquisition? At least that was easier than constant evasion.

    Once again she threw in, “Father”, as a belated mark of respect.

    “The sisters often mention how bright you are,” he said.

    Clara wondered why he dropped the formality of calling her child. Father Michael turned around then kneeled to get a better view of her. It was the first time she had looked into his eyes, steel grey like hers and full of life.

    “Clever enough to stay out of sight,” the priest said which was quickly followed by a warm smile. “Quick enough to ask questions that could provide you with valuable insight,” he added.

    Before she could reply, he raised his hand to interrupt. This confused Clara since she heard no other sounds. Was a veiled attempt at making fun of her? An attempt at teaching her a lesson?

    The answer came when the door was torn from its hinges and revealed a woman of intense beauty. Clara had no words to describe her, only that she was as beautiful as Clara imagined angels to be.

    Such beauty might adhere a sense of trust in a little girl or even admiration, but it did nothing to arouse desire. There was no primal aspect of her soul which yearned for that woman, especially a child whose hormones had yet to wreak havoc on her mind.

    Not the case for Father Michael, he seemed bewitched, unable to think or focus. At first, she wanted to say something, to snap him out of it. Yet she sensed there were forces at play that went beyond her comprehension.

    Clara remained concealed and even held her breath while she watched. If that woman was aware of Clara’s presence, she showed no obvious signs.

    The creature continued her slow deliberate movements towards the priest. Once she was a foot away from Father Michael, he broke out of his trance and pulled out a rosary from his pocket. This particular rosary had been fitted with a thin metallic blade at the base of the cross.

    With one quick motion, he attacked but missed. This woman moved like a blur, reappearing just behind Father Michael and with one vicious strike, gouged out a chunk of his neck.

    Clara watched as blood shot out in spurts. The initial spurt covered the wall to his left and the second narrowly missed Clara. The third spurt never materialised since this creature had latched onto his neck to feed.

    Terror should have taken a hold of this girl, culminating in a blood-curdling scream. Such a response would have made her the second victim of the night. Somehow she was able to remain even-keeled, her mind clear and focused.

    Clara snuck out of her hiding place then crept quietly towards the rosary. She picked it up prior to focusing on the horror. Given the nasty wound, it would take no more than a moment for that creature to finish her feast. Even now he was white as a sheet, a sign that he was far too gone.

    Regardless Clara realised this was her one and only chance, she closed her eyes and recited a prayer. Relying on faith alone, she plunged the rosary into the woman’s back and was greeted by silence. This entire situation evoked a sense of déjà vu although she did not understand why that was.

    In the time it took for her to blink the other had turned around to glare. Pure hatred was painted on the creature’s face, clearly indicating what she planned to do. Meanwhile, Father Michael’s body slumped to the ground with nothing more than a few drops of blood trickling from his wound.

    “How dare you,” the woman shrieked.

    Again this confrontation should have left her shaking like a leaf. Instead, Clara stood tall, with blade in hand. Blood from that creature covered the blade and Clara wondered why it appeared to be both thicker and richer than her own.

    The girl then looked out to the doorway, noticing how it splintered when torn from the frame. Were these titans? Who could be capable of such strength and speed?

    Shadows appeared in the hallway followed by the sound of footsteps a smile came upon Clara’s lips. The creature’s face flickered for a moment followed by a hint of worry, it seemed that she had arrived at the same conclusion. In a blink of an eye, that creature was gone, her escape left nothing more than a breeze from an open window.

  • First Blood – Part II

    Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

    Whoever said that getting there was half the fun, did not travel with a nun hellbent on completing her mission. For Clara the entire journey was a confused blur further exasperated by fatigue.

    They would race from one train to the next at a breakneck pace. Clara felt as though her arm would be pulled out of its socket if she too a moment to catch her breath.

    To what end? All for the privilege of waiting for the train or attempt a nap rest on uncomfortable wooden benches.

    Clara spent the last leg of the journey in a comatose state. The two days of solid travel and transfers had driven her to exhaustion. In that moment she could have slept soundly just as easily in a dungeon as a bed made from twenty mattresses.

    “Wake up child,” Sister Maria said loud enough to wake the dead.

    Clara woke up in a start while her heart raced at a gallop. Her head hurt and she could barely focus, but once she did she set eyes on what was to be her home.

    Somehow she had been transferred onto a horse and cart without her knowing. They were in the middle of a large gravel courtyard surrounded by several buildings. Based on this being a school, she assumed made up the dormitories and classrooms of the school.

    Before Clara realised where she was, her escort had already disembarked. Sister Maria had hurriedly met with another nun from the school and seemed to be in deep conversation. Given she was unobserved Clara took in the scene in greater detail.

    The horse and cart she noted were old and well used. The one at the reins looked looked like to be a farmer. He had white hair, shaggy beard, sunburnt skin and vivid blue eyes. His clothes were covered in dirt, his hands calloused and clearly fit in with what she expected of someone who worked the land.

    The nearest and most prominent structure was a three story building. There were evenly spaced Windows throughout and an ornate metal roof and gables that would provide for a spacious attic. Clara had a feeling that she would be spending the bulk of her time there.

    Another structure nearby was made of wood and stone. Clara could see through the windows and saw more nuns inside. She later found out that this was their primary dormitory.

    “Miss Grey,” Sister Agnes said. “Since you are awake you may as well grab your things and join us,” she added.

    “Of course sister,” Clara said while she complied.

    Clara could see that while Sister Agnes wore a smile there was authority in her words. Given how she was directing Clara directly that woman was likely also the senior. Things were certainly going to get interesting.

    “Now child. There are a few rules you need to know before we take you in,” Sister Agnes said.

    Before any more words were exchanged both of the nuns looked behind Clara. Clara tuned to find a young man walking towards them, his black clothes and white collar a clue to his vocation. The man appeared to be overjoyed to see her, although she could not fathom as to why.

    “Sisters,” he said while holding his gaze onto the new arrival. “Clara Grey is it,” he asked.

    Clara looked flummoxed, she had not expected to be noticed or at least this soon. One quick glance from Sister Agnes and Maria told her this went against normal procedure.

    “Yes Father,” Clara replied.

    Sister Agnes attempted to bring some decorum by saying, “Father Michael I was just—

    “Thank you Sister,” Father Michael said. “Just wanted the opportunity to see miss Grey before she got settled,” he added.

    The priest winked at Clara then walked away. Clara could tell that the nuns were irritated, although it was amusing to see Sister Maria be on the verge of losing her composure. Perhaps this place would be more entertaining than she had initially been led to believe.

  • First Blood – Part I

    Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

    Clara was waiting on the platform with Sister Maria, while she may have had the same name as her sister the similarities ended there. This was a stern woman who had lived through hard times and Clara could guess where the conversation would lead once they left.

    Clara was anxious, a maelstrom of emotions lay just beneath her calm exterior. A lot had taken place since her mother had been laid to rest; the chaos that invariably followed when a family’s anchor is lost.

    A glowing light approached in the distance. At first it was as bright as a star and slowly it grew in intensity until Clara had to avert her gaze. The ground began to tremble and yet no one was worried, for them this was routine, mundane, certainly nothing out of the ordinary to have a mechanical mammoth barrelling towards them.

    Clara was startled when Sister Maria pulled her back from the edge of the platform just as the whistle screamed out into the night. This particular train was been an express and had no intention of making a stop at this nondescript outpost.

    Clara sighed, disappointed that her great journey was still on hold. In the distance she saw a small group headed their way over the boardwalk. Until that moment they had been the only ones waiting for their train.

    Once their faces were illuminated by the light, Clara’s eyes brightened and she ran towards them. She jumped into Maria’s arms embracing her sister with all her might. It felt good to feel wanted and loved.

    When Clara turned to Ada she noticed the family elder was holding onto a young man’s hand. She had seen him before, the son of a miner who had likely reached the age where he too would be going deep beneath the surface.

    It took a brave (or desperate) man to go deep under the ocean floor to collect coal. To breath in that dust and not see the light of day for twelve hours a day, all the while surrounded by other men and dwarvish horses. Clara hoped he would at least be spared her father’s fate.

    “Couldn’t let you leave without saying goodbye,” Ada said a moment before she kissed Clara on the forehead.

    “My train won’t be here until the morning,” Maria said as her voice trailed off.

    Clara nodded, trying to keep from crying, although she found the stern gaze from Sister Maria did much to help. Originally Eva and Maria were supposed to head out together.

    The Church had lined up work in a laundry for the elder sisters, while Clara would attend a school somewhere else. Now it was clear that they would each walk their own path.

    “Congratulations,” Clara said while looking at both Ada and her beau.

    It seemed a sensible thing to say, even though she could not bring herself to smile. She wanted to stay with her sisters, but they were too old to attend this school. Now it seemed that Ada would soon be wed, which effectively douse any flames of hope in Clara’s heart.

    Ada keeled down to look Clara in the eye. It was hard to keep this moment from devolving into a shower of tears. They all knew what this moment meant for the rest of them.

    “Thank you Clara,” Ada said. She then hugged Clara before adding, “Don’t forget to write.”

    Another train came in from the distance, mimicking the actions of its predecessor except that this one slowed with a long deliberate squeal.
    Clara even felt the rush of steam as the locomotive stopped by the cistern. There the engine would fill her boilers with enough water as continue on with their journey.

    “Miss Grey,” Sister Maria said from a distance.

    It seemed that this fond farewell would have to be cut short. The nun had no intention of boarding late so the girls could have some closure. A shame really, but Clara knew that this moment would be cherished for years to come.

    “I have to go,” Clara said.

    Her eyes welled up and a single tear streamed across her left cheek. This was going to be far harder than she had hoped.

    “We will miss you,” her sisters said in unison.

    “You’ll come and visit some day,” Clara asked.

    Both her sisters nodded before they individually gave her a big hug. All three sensed it, but none would ever say it; this was the last time they would be together. For Clara this also became the last time she would see her sisters.

    “Come now,” Sister Maria said with a hint of inevitability oozing from every word.

    Her sisters gave the nun a dirty look and Clara concealed a giggle. She then ran down to the platform, grabbed her tattered suitcase filled with worn clothes and boarded the train.

    By the time they were seated and Clara had noticed her sisters were already gone. That’s when the tears began to stream, not that she would gain any sympathy from Sister Maria.

  • Bring out the Dead – Part VI

    Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

    Clara woke up with warm glow of the sun warming her face. As her eyes fluttered open she saw the familiar settings of her room. She looked to her side and noticed that Ada and Maria we already up and about.

    They were bound to be cross with her sleeping through part of the day. After all, every waking moment counted when it came to getting their chores done.

    Clara sprung out from the bed and noticed that she had a new nightgown. It was one of Maria’s and hung loosely from her frame. She furrowed her brow trying to remember if she had worn it last night.

    Sounds below got her attention, so Clara quickly got dressed then ran down the stairs and leapt over the second step. Clara expected to find her sister’s hard at work making breakfast or busy with this morning’s laundry; instead what she found surprised her.

    Her sisters were sitting around the table filled with food. Clara could not help but salivate at the thought of all that scrumptious food being ripe for the picking. So what was the occasion?

    Ada looked up when Clara landed on the first step. Her eyes and cheeks were red from crying and Maria was avoiding making eye contact. Clara thought it over for a moment and realised she had seen this once before.

    “Where is mum,” Clara asked although she could guess the answer.

    Maria began to sob uncontrollably at the mention of their mother which confirmed Clara’s worst fears. She must have passed in the night and sought to spare her feelings.

    Ada swallowed hard, trying to steel her resolve before she could reply, “Mum passed away last night.”

    Knowing the truth and having it confirmed were two separate matters. Those words hit her much harder than Clara had expected and reacted the same way her mother had when papa died.

    Ada swooped in to console her, taking the weeping Clara into her arms. Her sister held her tight even as Clara shook violently from the sobs.

    “There, there,” Ada said in a soothing voice. “It will be alright,” she added.
    Alas for Clara no one was home. How could God see fit to take both her parents away?

    * * * *

    “What do you have to report Father,” said the man wearing a red cap with red accents on his frock.

    There was an aura of authority surrounding the man, even if the bulk of his life had been spent serving the will of God. Opposing him sat a man in priestly garbs who had no distinctive features; a desirable feature for those of his particular calling.

    “Your eminence,” Father Michael said to collect his thoughts.

    When one a story this fantastical it proved difficult to convey without appearing insane. Even Father Michael found it difficult to believe and he had been at the scene.

    Father Michael said, “I arrived on scene a fortnight ago; called in by the local parish. The local priest led me to a home where I found three found girls and their mother recently passed away.”

    Father Michael hesitated for a moment before adding, “The youngest of the three had been found hours before asleep on the floor with a knife. The blade had caked in a green liquid that was also found covering the walls, floor and bed.”

    “Green you say,” the Cardinal asked.

    “Correct your Eminence,” Father Michael said in reply. “I will get back to this in a moment,” he added.

    “Very good. Carry on,” the Cardinal said.

    Father Michael added, “There was a path leading out of the room through the opened window. Some of the locals had gone out to find whatever had escaped the scene. Their bloodhounds found Father Andrews a couple of miles into the forest.”

    Father Michael had no interest in mentioning the particularly gory details. How the eyes had been gouged out, nor mention the multiple stab wounds on the face and neck. It was a altogether disturbing scene to witness.

    “Father Andrews has been dead for close to a decade now,” the Cardinal stayed in a neutral tone.

    “Correct Your Eminence,” Father Michael said. “Closer inspection showed that the face was nothing more than a mask fashioned from the skin of the parishes former priest,” he added.

    Before the Cardinal could comment further Father Michael delved into the situation in greater detail. He wanted to get this out in the open so they could move onto the concerns of the living.

    “It was a ghoul,” Father Michael said. “They feed on the narcotic flesh of the dead. People have a natural aversion to them and make excuses for the havoc they cause.”

    “So this child attacked this creature,” His Eminence asked.

    “Somehow she saw through its deceptions and was able to defend herself before she passed out,” Father Michael said.

    “Passed out,” the Cardinal asked.

    Father Michael nodded, happy that the subject was slowly going where he wanted. A dead ghoul meant the matter was closed, now there were three young girls who needed to be looked after.

    “Yes, your Eminence,” Father Michael said. “Their eyes have a certain hypnotic quality which lead to memory loss. When the child awoke she was unaware of anything that took place. She could not recall having dreamed.”

    The Cardinal seemed to be deep in thought. The myriad of Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals he encountered on these missions rarely accepted a world which differed from scripture. This one seemed more accommodating to this truth as though this had not been his first time.

    “What about the girls,” the Cardinal asked.

    Father Michael sighed before replying, “They have no known living relatives. I was hoping that Your Eminence would see fit to make them wards of the church.”

    Specifically he was interested in the youngest child. Anyone who could see past the veil and do so without panic had potential. The fact she had also destroyed one of these abominations further peaked his interest.

    “I will see to it that they are appropriately placed,” His Eminence said.

    “If Your Eminence would indulge me, I would be more than willing to arrange for their placements,” Father Michael said.

    The Cardinal stared at Father Michael for a good long time. The man was not stupid and knew there was an ulterior motive to his eagerness.

    “See to it,” the Cardinal said.

    “Right away,” Father Michael said before letting himself out.

  • Bring out the Dead – Part III

    Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

    Clara often felt a rush when proven right. Tonight two of her fears were proven correct, but this time all it did was make her worry.

    It seemed that the fruit of victory could be just as bitter as it was sweet. Unfortunately that bitter taste in her mouth would not settle until it travelled the pit of her stomach.

    Now was not the time to worry or cower. Action was called for and Clara had it in her mind that hiding under the bed would prove to be advantageous.

    Before the moon rose over the tree line Clara had stashed away a kitchen knife under her mother’s bed. Over the last few days her mother’s mental state had severely deteriorated; so Clara could have hidden a suit of armour, horse and squire under the bed without arousing suspicion.

    Her sisters would have normally been a concern and would have said something if she had walked by with an axe. However, that type of weapon would need space for a swing and anything that thin had to move with finesse.

    Since that man had left without putting much opposition she assumed it would not put up with any real opposition. Tonight she would be putting her theory to practice and wondered how it would play out.

    Under the bed she hid in a dark room with nothing more than the silvery moonlight to illuminate the room. Just above, her mother breathed laborious, oblivious to the threat lurking outside.

    Once the moon had travelled to the top of the window she heard a sound downstairs. At first, she thought her mind was playing tricks on her. Ada’s ghost stories late at night certainly did little to help.

    However, through her jumbled thoughts she visualized the bolt catch being slid back. A moment later the door opened slowly causing a long creaking sound to echo throughout the home.

    Clara waited and sure enough a soft thump was heard going up the stairs. One thump, two thumps, a squeak followed by a pause then a third thump. Their visitor had no trouble at all finding their way through this house.

    As the steps approached mother’s bedroom they paused just out the door. Like earlier Clara heard the creature smell the air followed by a series of smacking lips. She swore she could hear it drool but doubt remained about this being real.

    Clara opened her eyes and noticed two shadows under the door. The other side of the door seemed to be aglow in a vastly light. So powerful was the light, that it spilled into the room. This worsened once the door was cracked open.

    Being basked in a hellish light, filled Clara with an intense desire desire to run out of the room. She fought the urge knowing that would be foolhardy. Instead she chose to hold her breath as the silhouette pushed deeper into the room.
    Once at the foot of her bed she could smell it. The creature reeked of dirt and rotten meat. Why had she not sensed this before?

    Clara gripped the wooden handle of the knife while she shifting her weight to prepare for an attack. Clara knew what this creature sought, it sensed how close her mother was to death and desired to feast on her decaying flesh.

    Unfortunately the shift caused the floorboard beneath to creak. For a moment there was silence, it was as though time had stopped even as her mind raced. Was it aware of her presence? What should she do?

    Quick as a flash Clara was greeted by long sharp teeth, a long thin nose and those glowing red eyes. In that moment she realised that those eyes had been the source of the hellish hue painting the room.

    Clara could not help but stare into those glowing balls of fiery inferno. That was when the world faded to black.

  • Bring out the Dead – Part II

    Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

    Two years after the incident Clara’s life had gained a bit of normalcy. At least, as much as could be realistically expected when living in a company town when the family’s breadwinner and company employee had died.

    Clara remembered how the company men had come to evict them shortly after the funeral. The townspeople had steeled their support and forced the company to relent. She never learned that those who had led this coup had been beaten to within an inch of their lives the week after.

    Without their father the entire family had to work. Clara and her sisters spent the bulk of their days doing laundry for the neighbours. On occasion they would take random jobs from anyone in the town who could still afford to eat themselves after the work was done.

    Her mother helped as best she could, seeing that her children were fed and clothed even if it meant more hand-me-downs. Come shift change, men would show to the door with their faces covered in coal dust asking if her mother was free.

    Ada and Maria were clearly distressed by the processions of men coming in and out of the home. Clara was not certain as to why. Nor did she understand how the bed rattled upstairs.

    Despite her inability to attend school with the repetitive and monotonous work Clara was quite happy. She rarely lingered on that night nor did she remember what had been seen or heard.

    Children had an incredible ability to recover from trauma. The events of that day were dream like, distant, and none remained of the most traumatic events from that night.

    Now if only her mother would get better. It seemed innocent at first. It began innocently enough as a sore throat, then came fever and headaches followed by a vile rash.

    Times were lean that month for the kids. They had to work twice as hard doing laundry while Anna cleaned houses to get some food on the table. Nonetheless their mother got better and things returned to normal for a year or so.

    Then her mind began to go, starting with her balance. It was one thing to see one’s father slowly succumbing to whatever was eating away at his lungs. At least his wit remained sharp until the day he died.

    It was another matter entirely to see someone lose not only their ability to take care of themselves but also shed their core identity. This had been hardest on the children and haunted Clara well into her adult life.

    Eventually the deformities came as a series of bumps which changed her appearance until she was unrecognizable. Eventually these deformities formed near the surface of her skin creating a purifying ulcer. Clara could not help but turn away when she was called up by their mother.

    No matter how bad it got, some of the miners would still find their way to her door. Helmet in hand, they would ask to see their mother and showed disappointment once they found out the news.

    In the back of her mind, Clara hoped that whatever afflicted her mother turned out to be catching. That would have been the only way to stem the tide of eternal visitors, especially this last one.

    The last vestiges of sunlight could be seen from the side window when there came a knock at the door. Since her sisters were busy making supper, Clara was the one to answer.

    She took a quick glance through the window and found a tall slender man whose proportions seemed off since he had the figure of a ferret or even a slithering snake. Clara could have sworn that his eyes were glowing like dark embers in the fire.

    If it were not for the dark clothes, hat and distinctive white collar she would have refused to open the door. Her parents had always been clear that one of the clergy should always be trusted. So what could possibly go wrong?

    “Hello Clara,” the priest asked as soon as the door swung open.

    “Good evening,” Clara said in reply. She then thought it best to add, “Father.”

    All the while Clara wondered how this man knew her name. At least his eyes were no longer glowing, although they were black as coal.

    “Is your mother at home,” he asked.

    Now that question came as a bit of a shock for Clara. This was a man of the cloth, not a tired miner. Still there was something peculiar about him and the whole affair felt off.

    “No,” she said without elaborating.

    “Really,” he asked while sniffing the air.

    Clara merely nodded, in the distance she could hear her two sisters working in the kitchen. Why was he smelling the air? For whatever reason that seemed sufficient to confirm she was fibbing.

    “Are you sure,” he asked.

    Clara looked him right in the eyes and said, “Of course.” There was a momentary pause before she added, “She left a few moments ago to attend evening mass.”

    Normally such a flagrant lie should have been discovered. A priest would have known that evening mass was not for another couple of hours. That being said, priests typically referred to her a child and so far this one had failed to do.

    Once more the man smelled the air, raising his long thin nose while doing so. Although it was the reaction afterwards that got her attention; the man smacked his lips which sounded suspiciously like the chewing sound heard years back.

    “You would not happen to be lying to me would you,” he asked.

    Clara should have lost all composure by this time, but the fact that she had been right invigorated her. She looked right and the man with her steady steel grey eyes.

    “Of course not Father,” Clara said. She then looked down towards the kitchen before adding, “We are about to have supper if you’d care to join us.”

    This was a gamble, a bet that this man would refuse the offer. Honestly, there would be little enough to eat without the additional mouth to feed, but she assumed his palate was geared for another delicacy.

    The man looked towards the kitchen and spotted the shadows of her two sisters. Clear there were others in the house was enough to change his mind.

    “Mass you say,” the man said. “I’ll will meet her there,” he added.

    “Good night Father,” Clara said in an unflinching tone.

    “Good night,” he replied.

    The man looked longingly towards her mother’s bedroom and then melted into the darkness. All except for those eyes which had that disturbing glow.

    “Who was that,” Maria asked.

    Startled by her sister’s question Clara stuttered, “Just a travelling bible salesman.”

    Fortunately, she was not questioned further. As Clara closed the door she felt certain that this would not be the last time she would come across this man.

  • Bring out the Dead – Part I

    Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

    Clara could feel it, caught in a state between dream world and reality. The dream was still her focus, but that world began to fade away as her senses bled through. She could hear her sisters slow deliberate breaths, an indication that were still asleep. In the background, she heard the grandfather clock’s counterweight swing back and forth, alas it was the urge to pee growing from within that chased her dreams away.

    She rather enjoyed this existence between realms. Clara could look upon the world, mould it the way she saw fit while characters would obey her every wish. That is until she turned hoping to delay the inevitable journey to the outhouse and collided face first in with Dot’s elbow.

    Her eyes opened wide and forced the waking world to come into focus. Right before her was her sister’s elbow, no more than an inch away from her face, and still saw streaks of purple from the impact. When she turned to look above, she was faced with the familiar yellowed ceiling and the fog from her breath.

    Clara dreaded these moments, the early morning before her mother would get up to light the stove. That moment in time where hot stones warmed by the fire were now cold and the remnants of the fire were a distant memory. The ground outside was sure to be frosted over this morning and judging by the view the sun had yet to make an appearance.

    The urge was slowly migrating from the back of her mind to the forefront. She looked at her two sisters, sleeping peacefully and for a moment felt deeply envious of their situation. Alas, what was a girl to do?

    Clara lifted the warm layers of linen from her body, instantly feeling the chilled morning air come into contact with her skin. While gooseflesh appeared on her bare legs, her muscles tensed before she threw herself out of bed and onto the cold floor.

    “Cold,” she said when her bare feet touched the cold floor.

    Clara felt around for a moment to find a pair of woollen slippers. They were too big, but that was the burden borne by the youngest child, condemned to wear worn hand-me-downs of her sisters. Nonetheless, the need to pee would not be cast aside, cold or not, so down the stairs she went.

    Despite being the only one awake, Clara crept down the stairs deliberately, careful to skip the second last step since that one creaked. The last thing she wanted to do was wake up her father a couple of hours before he had to head for the mine. That tended to make him cranky, which had a tendency to trickle down to her via her mother.

    Once at the door, Clara noticed the sky was turning purple and red. She also noticed the door was not latched, something that was profoundly peculiar.

    “Odd,” Clara murmured. “Had someone gone out and had not returned,” she wondered.

    The last thing Clara needed was to wait for her turn. Just thinking about her freezing outside while waiting for the outhouse made her teeth chatter!

    Clara slowly opened the door and attached screen door to avoid making a racket. Then with all due haste she ran along the frosted patch of weeds, hearing them crinkle with every step, a shame she needed to pee, this could have been a fun experience if she was appropriately dressed!

    The outhouse was in view, the familiar half-moon opening was dark, a good sign that her parents were still in bed. Clara smiled as she approached, reached for the thick wooden handled and pulled open the door. While the door gave way easily, she found herself unprepared for what she would find.

    At first she was confused, seeing her father there in his long johns, butt flap open and seated over the opening. He seemed to be there going about his business and yet his eyes were closed. Frost had built up on the the exposed skin and his lips had blued.

    “Papa,” she said said softly. “I have to pee,” she exclaimed hoping this would resolve the matter.

    There was no response, no hint that her father heard a thing despite the urgency oozing from Clara’s every word. Odd how he seemed to be out of place, as though he had been pushed against the wall out of the way.

    Clara continued to examined the scene, waiting as patiently as any child could under the circumstances. Only after a few moments did she notice a few more details.

    First and likely the most important detail noticed was related to his breathing or rather the lack of. While Clara could see her breath, she did not see his nor hear the rattle in his lungs that seemed more acute in the mornings, especially after a double-shift at the mine.

    “Papa,” she said with more urgency even as her mind began to realise that her prompting would get her nowhere.

    On the wooden planks covering the outhouse floor she saw blood. Some of it was black like tar, thick and frothy a sign that her father had a coughing fit recently. However there was more blood, seemingly fresher and a bright crimson, her eyes followed the trail until she spotted a gaping wound where his calf should have been.

    Her perceptive mind could see every detail of the wound. How the bone had bite marks and was reminded her of the neighbour’s dog chewing a thick juicy bone. She saw how the flesh had been cut and torn off simultaneously, again reminding her of what a pack of wild dogs did to a carcass. Clara should have been quivering at the moment and yet her mind keep running over the details, busy committing every detail to memory.

    That it until she heard it something. It was faint at first, almost unintelligible but the sound was persistent. It took a moment for her mind to register what she heard, but sure enough a distinct chewing sound originated from within the depths of the outhouse. It was not until she heard a loud and guttural belch which made the walls of the structure shake that her need pee took care of itself.

    In a small company town, where everyone works and lived together, a screaming child will certainly get some attention. The first on the scene was the neighbour who came down in his camisole, wild eyed and alert. It took him no more than a minute to size up the situation and close the door to the outhouse.

    As the rest of the community awoke from their deep slumber Clara’s mother ran out of the side door. She had the same bewildered look in her eyes that her neighbour had worn earlier, however she never got the opportunity to approach the scene. Their neighbour cut her off and before there were any protests they exchange some words.

    Clara was not sure what had been said, but the effect it had on her mother was immediate and brutal. At first concern remained, she seemed restless as her eyes darted about. Then came the long dramatic pause followed by the look of shock washing over her face. It was the tears and her slow collapse to the ground which confirmed Clara’s suspicions. Her father would not walk away from that outhouse.

    “Martha, get Clara out of here,” the neighbour said to his wife.
    Clara turned around to find the wife, still in her nightgown, approaching from behind. The child had no intention of complying just yet.

    “No,” Clara exclaimed. “There is something in there with him,” she added.

    “What do you mean,” Martha asked while shooting a glance at her husband.

    Clara saw the hidden exchange between the couple and wondered why neither seemed concerned by what had been said. What did they know?

    Martha got on a knee to be at eye level with Clara before asking, “What did you see love?”

    “There,” Clara paused unable to properly formulate her thoughts. “Something,” she blurted out. “Ate papa,” she managed to add although the words were a faint whisper.

    Martha’s face lighten up and hugged Clara. It was bizarre how the woman seemed so relieved to hear those words.

    “Oh love,” Martha exclaimed. “You let the imagination get the better of you,” she added.

    Martha took Clara by the hand and took her home. From corner of Clara’s eye her two sisters were staring down at the scene from their bedroom. She saw how their faces were ashen grey; appearing as though they had seen a ghost.

    “Now let’s get you cleaned up,” Martha said while they left behind a town full of gawkers and her grief stricken mother.

    It seemed odd how no one had bothered to look inside the outhouse. Did they assume she was just another child afraid of what lurked beneath her bed? Or did they already know what would be found?