Heathens

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 50 (v.1) - Chapter 50

Submitted: December 06, 2017

Reads: 46

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Submitted: December 06, 2017

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Jeremiah

August 5th, 2017

7:52 PM

Jeremiah didn’t know if Bartholomew believed him. If what he said of monsters and of the night his father was wounded into a coma — a coma into a death — was any true. But ever since he had been told, the son, Bartholomew, for the last few days had spent most of his time with Jeremiah, scrutinizing him with a gaze that felt like a dissection. Jeremiah had taken him to school, had taken him out, had sent him to his mother’s house, had helped him with homework and so on as surrogate father. Because at the bottom of Jeremiah’s heart, he felt this was most justified, this, like the rest of his life, would be reparations for a cowardice he had committed on that windy night in that peculiar construction site. 

So it went like this. On this day and no other day it was requested by Bartholomew, specifically, that he would go to the church and that he would pray for who Bartholomew called “Daddy”. Who, Jeremiah called, Officer Heinz. 

“I don’t need to go to church, kid.” Jeremiah said. The car rumbled in front of the thin apartments and the small skeletal metal stairs that rattled with the footsteps of the other renters. There was a woman on the second floor cleaning her rug, dropping dust and grime a top of Jeremiah’s car. He could hear the small specks like the nimble tap of rain. 

“Yes, you do.” Bartholomew said. He was sitting in the car with his backpack to his feet, both hands crossed on his chest to hold himself. 

“And why is that?” Jeremiah asked.

“Because it’ll make you feel better.” 

Jeremiah rolled his eyes and blew his nose outside the car window. 

“A priest won’t do shit for me. If you don’t believe me, I don’t expect him to. And if he doesn’t believe me, how the fuck will his talk help anything?”

“I never said I didn’t believe you.” Bartholomew rocked back and forth.

“Bullshit. I know you don’t, no one does. Who believes in monsters?” Jeremiah held his head with his hand.

“Kids believe in monsters and I believe in you.” Bartholomew stared at his small boots. “That’s why we need to go and see Daddy. You’ve got things to say to him, you know.” 

“He’s dead. Fucking dead. There’s no telling him anything because there’s no one to hear anything.” 

“That’s not true.” Bartholomew’s nostrils widened as he took a deep breath. “He can hear us. The church people said so.”

“Fuck the church!” Jeremiah slapped his steering wheel. The car honked. “Those patronizing pricks. All of them. Those fuckers don’t know pain, they don’t understand. They just pretend to.”

“They’ll help us.” Bartholomew whispered. He repeated it like a mantra. Help us, help us. Jeremiah looked to his rear at all the people looking his way. He didn’t think there were so many eyes so clustered together on those steps and rails. He began to feel that needle-prick in his stomach again, the pop of his gut and that burning sensation as if his inner acid was spilling, disintegrating him.

“Alright kid.” He conceded. “I’ll go right now. So get out of the car.” 

“I’m going with you. I want to talk to daddy.” 

“I don’t get it, is this for me or for you? I told you I’d go. But myself.”

“I’m not leaving the car.” Bartholomew stomped on the floor of the car. He rubbed the mud in his shoes inside the carpet.

“I’m going to drag you out if you don’t leave.” Jeremiah opened the door on the passenger seat. The winds blew it open, almost tearing it off. 

“If you drag me, I’ll scream. And that’ll get you in trouble, won’t it?” He closed the door, muting the sound of the banshee wind. Jeremiah just stared, almost impressed at the small child, some odd twelve years old, and his capacity for stubbornness. 

“You really are like him.” Jeremiah said. He nodded his head and drove into the frenzy of cars. It looked like a foray and he couldn’t tell whether it was mass immigration or mass emigration. He only knew that people were moving, fast. 

 


It was a few minutes after seven-twenty that they finally made it to the church and to the heavy doors that looked down at Jeremiah. There were angels, the Virgin Mary, kings, all carved into the varnished wood. To his side were the white steps and a handrail stained and rusted, past that, in the yard, was the plastic grass and the plastic plants and the avians dancing in their ceramic bird baths. All white. Fake white, like a papier-mâché Hollywood set, so fragile as to shatter at the touch. But that was a deceit. 

Jeremiah put his hands on the handle and could barely push. It truly was heavier than it looked. It took his tackle, his shoulder, to nudge the doors and to scare the nun behind them. She glared at him, he didn’t care as much as the boy who looked down and tugged at Jeremiah’s pants.

“You’re the one who wanted to come here.” Jeremiah said. The boy tried to look up. He took a meek step forward before he put his hand in the holy water font. He (Bartholomew) looked like a bird, Jeremiah noted. Jeremiah did the same. Put his hands inside and dressed his forehead with the wet cross.

They went up towards the rotunda and the pillars and the people already praying on benches. Jeremiah stood, watched the cross and looked at Jesus high upon the wall. It became unbearable, the weight, the look. So he looked down at the tile and tapped his foot against the pillar. His eyes wandered before they were dragged back. Bartholomew tugged on him and pointed to the bench.

“Let me do it my own way.” Jeremiah said. The boy tugged (it actually looked more like a pull). Jeremiah sat and feel dragged the knee guard down with a slam and knelt before the cross.

And he closed his eyes and thought for a moment. And it was pleasant, almost. The scent of burning candle, the wet feeling of his forehead, the silence. And the memories. They came like rounds in a slide show, a snapshot in a catalog or a gallery. He felt his chest swell, he felt his nose swell. And he opened his eyes to find himself with with his back a bit bent and curved. He was oddly light, though he hadn’t asked or spoken as much as remembered. He opened his eyes, facing Bartholomew. Bartholomew who had both his hands together in front of him. 

He confirmed it, yes, he was lighter. And perhaps, if forgiveness was a thousand mile long trek deep in the trenches, then at the very least, Jeremiah could confidently say, he had taken a step forward. Maybe two.

“What’re telling him?” Bartholomew whispered. 

“Nothing. I’m not saying anything.” 

“Well, you better. Don’t waste his time, he’s probably busy up there in heaven.”

“What would he be busy doing up there?”

“Police stuffs with God. Like catching bad angels and stuff.” 

Jeremiah nodded his head. He smiled. The boy had taken the death better than Jeremiah or maybe he just didn’t understand it as terrible as it was. Whether ignorance or youth (if they were any different), Jeremiah admired the boy.

He looked around, the smile still on him. There were some odd fifty people here, some in black, others with pictures of the dead, some just here to be here. And it felt good to be united, even if just in suffering. It felt warm, all of it and suddenly he felt the urge to speak to someone. Not to Heinz, someone else. Jeremiah set his eyes on Jesus on the cross, so he rose from his bruised shins. His heart pounded. He hadn’t felt religious for fifteen years, but now, like no other time, he felt that deep need to speak. He took a step forward but stopped. 

Someone had beaten him to the front.

What seemed like dozens of hooded figures. What seemed like the plague manifest in all black and yellow and white. The odd, ugly folks with the veils and the suits and the yellow flowers, and the jeers and the rage and the horror. 

They came through two doors on the side of the main room of the church, past the choir stands, past the organ left of center from the cross. Past flowers, past candles, past nuns who looked at themselves in confusion hoping the other had the answer to this accost. 

No one knew. All the guests looked curiously as the cultists reared their heads around the pillars and wrapped around the room in what seemed like a long chain of black. It was a mockery. One of them had the thurible and flung it in circles and threw it at a picture of Saint Michael the Archangel that hung next to the confessional that was to the right. The thurible began to smoke as it lay broken on the floor. 

The boy stood now. He tugged on Jeremiah, Jeremiah looked behind him at the closed doors and started for them. He felt two pairs of hands grab him and drag him to the side of the room near a pillar.

“Get the fuck off me.” Jeremiah threw his head back. He hit someone and himself. Then he felt another hand grab his neck and hold it still. They faced him forward, towards the cross, the stand, the center of the room.

His eyes opened. He nearly gagged on his tongue as he gasped at what he saw. There was a body upon a small rectangular plane, and he saw that plane carried by four people. They had on them purple gloves. And behind the body, behind the people was someone he did not know but to you, reader, I will say whom. 

He saw Alestor coming up, masked and garbed. He saw his bloodied rags drag upon the floor and the false vestment he wore in gold and black and the mask upon his face, glued almost. The body was set at the top of the stage. Everyone now stared, wide-eyed, they all looked at Alestor’s hands. On one, a book, on the other, a knife. He opened the book and with that bold, booming voice said in cheer: 

“I’m glad for you to join us.” His faced dragged from one corner of the room to the other. “Let’s begin then? With what though? With what I wonder?” 

He turned the pages. Ripped them, threw them like feathers into the air. The other churchgoers took offense. They stood, some. They were beaten, hit on the temple with canes or the candle sticks or the busts of statues. It didn’t seem to bother Alestor though, that helpless screaming and rioting. He kept turning. Turning, turning until he stopped with flair. He slammed two hands on the podium. He leaned in and let them all; Jeremiah, the boy, the fifty odd people, absorb silence. When there was nothing but mumbling groans, he spoke.

“Yes. Here we are.” The drool was coming off his mouth, it dribbled onto the podium. “Of Man’s disobedience, his original sin.”

And they fell into it, a fever-dream. A nightmare, though the didn’t know it just yet.


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