In a church tagged for demolition three months prior, Father Driscoll prepared to unveil the darkest secret he had ever known. Media from all over New England--called in by the renegade Cardinal Priest--lined the cathedral like giant cockroaches seeking a filthy feast. They'd been told to expect the story of the millennium, and they were ready for it, or so they believed.
The sun's rays beamed through the many rows of stained
glass--scenes of the Lord's birth, ministry, and death--casting a
warm, yet haunting array of color over the congregation. The
aroma of incense filled the hall. Father Driscoll, in full robe,
held a chalice to the heavens, mumbling, his heart in profound
prayer. The congregation bowed as he lowered the cup and drank
* * *
Lurking in the bowels of the ancient church, unseen by its most faithful, an unspeakable terror crept from the earth, shifting through rank darkness, toward the bustling chapel.
* * *
The congregation rose in song, dressed in their Sunday best, hymnals tight against their bosoms. To the media they were like spirits; their voices like angels singing to their God. The hall ran thick with the spirit of the Lord.
Father Driscoll watched his faithful sing while the media set up their equipment. The events that would soon transpire played in his mind like a late night horror show. It was not a secret he could just sweep under the rug like his brother had demanded. This was no joke; it was real; not just some rumor floating about cyberspace, his brother had unwittingly confirmed that.
He had no choice; he had to stop it.
Something struck the back of his neck. It stung for a moment,
then went numb. His hands instinctively rose to feel what it was.
A warm liquid spilled across his fingers. His knees grew weak.
Dizziness. The room spun. Then darkness.
* * *
No one noticed Father Driscoll fall, but when the singing ceased and the congregation lowered back into their pews it became clear, something was wrong.
"My God," a voice fired from the altar.
The media hustled toward the fallen priest, cameras in hand, tapes running, microphones listening, flashbulbs sparking.
Members of the congregation were shoved aside. Some got close enough to see, most simply fell to their knees and cried.
The Cardinal Priest lay face down on the altar floor, a pool of blood haloing his head, a black dart protruding from his swollen neck.
"He's dead," a man shouted.
As the congregation grew hysterical, a woman dressed in black pulled a piece of paper from the Cardinal Priest's robe. Brittle, yellow, it crumpled slightly in her fingers. "What is this?"
Every camera focused on the parchment; most of it had been blacked out with what appeared to be black magic-marker; the handwriting that remained was hardly legible--very old.
It wasn't the story of the millennium, but it would surely make the front page.