Clara set down near Edith, close enough to lend support but far enough to react if there was any lingering resentment. She loved these types of situations, yearning to fight against all odds while laughing in the face of the unknown.
“Finally decided to make your entrance, I see,” Edith said flatly.
Clara smirked before responding, “Figured I’d be the finale hopper and arrive just in time to claim all the glory.”
While Edith chuckled, Clara sensed there was still tension between them. One did not stab her best friend through the chest without a reason. Since they needed to cooperate, Clara tossed her a loaded pistol. While Edith appreciated the gesture of trust, she nonetheless checked the chamber and magazine.
“I’ll never forget what they taught us back at the Tower,” Edith said.
“Not even in death,” Clara said while pulling out the police issued shotgun.
“Quick recovery?” Edith said, although it was more of an observation than a question.
“Ambrosia does wonders for the body,” Clara replied.
“Ambrosia?” Edith asked. “That stuff only works on the old gods.”
“I know,” Clara said. “Kinda makes you think—”
“What is that?” Edith asked to get back on track.
Clara did not need to look at it because this was not the first time they had crossed paths. She last set eyes on one of these things inside an abandoned temple they had built under a ziggurat. Memories of the desert and that infernal heat returned to her. She had sworn to never return, and yet, a piece of that cursed place found its way here.
“We’ve met,” Clara said flatly. “Although that’s a new twist.”
Clara was referring to the corpse the creature had used as a vessel. The victim’s skin was ashen grey and blue based solely on what was not covered in blood. Her clothes were torn, and what remained left little to the imagination. That poor woman’s fingers were literally worn to the bone.
The face had lost all signs of humanity since the eyes, nose and ears were missing. Tentacles protruded from these orifices, and bone had been shattered to accommodate their size. This mutilation further distorted the face, an act of indignity that really bothered Clara.
Some of the tentacles were probing the area, gliding over every surface in search of threats, just like the last time. However, there was another group of appendages that controlled the corpse, manipulating the victim like a marionette.
It used the woman’s arms to caress a whimpering little girl. Clara sympathised with this child; she too had been exposed to such horrors early in life. She prayed that this one be spared the life of a hunter.
“Where did you come across that thing?” Edith asked.
Clara focused on the words, steeled her resolve, and said, “The assignment that got Father Allen killed.”
Edith did not turn to face Clara, but it was clear from the shiver that ran down Edith’s spine that she was familiar with the details of that mission. One important question remained: what could they do to counter this threat?
“A Mills Bomb only managed to annoy it,” Clara said. “Small arms fire had no effect.”
A tactical squad came thundering out from the woods, and Clara hoped that Elizabeth simply missed their approach. The creature’s reaction was fast and brutal. The first wave of tentacles flew out like javelins and pierced their armoured vests. The lead men never fired a shot, instead, the tentacles lifted them up in the air while their torsos bulged.
Clara heard fabric and Kevlar strain. She knew what was about to happen, so she pushed her wings forward just in time to block erupting blood and viscera. Fortunately, Edith had done the same and, since hers were invisible, the effect was far more gruesome.
As bits of men rained all around them, one from the group must have gotten a shot off. The bang thundered through the area and left a gaping hole in the corpse’s back.
“Bad idea,” Clara said.
Her instincts had been bang on. The damage to the body provided this creature with a new orifice, and a whole slew of tentacles poured out. The attack from these quickly decimated what was left of the team.
As that creature unleashed a wave of chaos, the child progressed from soft whimpers to wailing and tears. The victim’s arms continued to rock the child, but the carnage wrought was enough to upset even a veteran hunter. What chance did this child have?
“There, there, child,” Victoria said.
“Did you hear that?” Edith asked.
Clara closed her eyes and concentrated. There was nothing else other than the panicked child.
“What are you talking about?” Clara asked.
“Please calm down. You’re safe here,” Victoria added.
“She is trying to comfort the child,” Edith said.
Clara furrowed her brow, a rare lapse in composure. In this case, Edith needed to see that her confusion was genuine.
“She? That thing hasn’t made a sound yet,” Clara said bluntly.
“Your parents will be back shortly,” Victoria said. “Then you can be in your mother’s arms.”
“Someone left the child behind,” Edith said.
Clara’s eyes went blank and, for a split second, there was nobody home. For as long as they knew each other, it had been Clara who trusted her instincts. Edith was in contrast the diligent follower of rules. For her partner to take this leap of faith, it meant this was really happening.
“You can sense its thoughts? Can’t you?” Clara asked.
Edith closed her eyes before she let down her wings and sent all of that viscera flying off into the distance. She sensed that pull, that feeling that every action taken before now had been to prepare her for this moment. Seeing that Clara was right, she simply nodded.
Clara also brushed off her wings before heading towards Edith. She walked slowly, the sway of her hips moving like a pendulum, her face glowing with a suggestive smile.
“Please stop crying, child,” Victoria said, the words resonating within Edith’s mind.
“You’re lucky that I love you,” Clara said, while ensuring that her movements remained slow and deliberate, just in case.
Edith did not move back or try to stop Clara. She simply focused on that smile, and found it infectious. Her friend had always been mischievous but, for the first time in a long time, she was seeing Clara without her mask, nor any of that bravado.
“You probably won’t survive,” Clara said. She stopped once they were close enough to feel one another’s body heat and stretched her neck out enough to whisper into Edith’s ear, “We may never see each other again.”
Edith had no words to offer. Instead, she closed her eyes as the soft tremble of those lips sent a shiver right down to her soul. She bit her lower lip in anticipation of something that would never be.
“But,” Clara said as she pulled away just enough to lick Edith’s lips on her way. “This time, God has blessed us with the opportunity to say goodbye.”
Clara smiled, winked and pressed forward until their lips made contact. The effect on them was immediate. Clara’s inhibitions melted away, while Edith struggled to keep her knees from buckling. Their tongues met, and their breathing quickened in excitement.
“Please dear,” Victoria said.
That voice dragged Edith back into reality. Clara understood what had happened and would not beg or plead for Edith to stay. They were hunters. This was part of the job and, sometimes, friends did not come home from a mission.
“Go,” Clara urged. “If God is willing, we will meet again.”
Edith was once more faced with this constant in her life: ever the faithful follower of rules, despite God taking her Angela away from her but, would she have opened her heart to Clara otherwise?
Edith handed the pistol back, smiled, closed her eyes, and focused. She thought about all of the good things in her life, and how faith had carried her this far. Faith was her weapon, one she wielded in battle against Evil.
Clara watched from a distance as Edith marched forward. There was no sensuality in the motions, instead, there was that same dogged determination from earlier. Just like those men who climbed over the trench walls during the Great War, Edith was a soldier of God and willingly served as his instrument.
When Edith approached, the tentacles did not react. The absolute calm she exuded prevented her from being seen as a threat. Still, Clara kept the shotgun at the ready just in case.
Once a set of tentacles came into contact with Edith, every limb backed away. Clearly, this thing had not been aware of her presence and reacted like any startled animal would.
Eventually, curiosity drove it to resume probing the area and found that Edith was still there. The contact did not cause this creature to burn like Clara had hoped. While these things were integral to the creation of the vampires, it did not share their weaknesses.
The tentacles became emboldened and began to wind around Edith’s body. They slid over every inch of exposed skin, looking for something. Ultimately, their goal remained unclear.
Edith gasped as one tentacle slithered beneath her knee duster. It sensed that warm crevice between her legs. Without any notice, it rammed itself home and did so with shocking speed. Edith did not fight back. Her faith remained unbroken. In her mind, and she was fulfilling God’s will.
Soon, other tentacles joined the first under the skirt, but this time, and they found an alternate path. Clara watched from where she was, aghast, but would not interfere.
Even when a tentacle exited Edith’s mouth, Clara did not move. She remained stoic, unmoved, a pillar of strength for her friend. Despite the outward appearance, she prayed for God to intervene.
Like falling into a pit of pythons, the tentacles writhed, coiled, and tightened around her friend’s chest. Again, nothing happened, and Edith was entirely under its control. The only thing that gave Clara strength was the defiance shining through Edith’s eyes.
When two of the tentacles slithered up to Edith’s head, Clara knew it was now or never. If God chose to sit this one out, Clara would take action, even if it meant scorching the Earth.
Ultimately, Clara’s involvement was not needed. Before the tentacles’ tips transformed into flechettes, a bright light surrounded Edith. Despite her friend being no longer able to speak, she imagined the word amen had been uttered.
It was one thing to be inside that circle of light and wake up as a soul on the other side of the veil. It was another matter entirely to witness the ascendance first hand.
Clara shifted her wings to block most of the direct light. She backed away slowly while ensuring she had solid footing. In the background, she heard the wind pick up, one so potent that it became her world.
What caught her off guard was the shockwave that followed. Powerful enough to whisk her off feet, it sent her flying into a tree.
“Horsefeathers!” Clara exclaimed.
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!