The priest waited in the darkness of his room with his eyes closed. He had waited for hours, but the church remained quiet. The only sound was his own heart, the beats filling his ears like drums.
Nathan was exhausted, but sleep didn’t come. Not in the past days. In the past, when his night was sleepless, he would read the bible. The words of the Lord calmed him and quenched his mind. But I don’t deserve His merciful words now, he thought; the sight of the Holy Book paralyzed him now.
He stood up and walked towards his desk. Even in the darkness, he knew where the drawer was. Nate laid his hand on the Book. Even if he couldn’t see it anymore, it was the closest he could be to His words.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go, he thought with a sad smile on his lips. One of Nate’s favorite passage; the one he liked to end his Mass. But after everything, it was he who lacked the courage.
My Lord, he prayed for the first time in days. I do not know if what I did was right. I am but a man, who knows nothing of the path you have for me. But if I have committed a sin, please forgive the boy. He is not at fault. Please, my Lord… this humble servant begs to forgive the boy.
The priest cried as he prayed to silence.
Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you, as he repeated the Words in his heart, Nate heard something. It was faint, barely louder than his own tears, but the priest knew what it was and went to the secret room after he grabbed the plastic bag on the desk.
The moment Nate pushed the hidden door, the young man’s killing intent involved him. It sent a chill over his body. He had to grab his arm to stop the trembling.
“It’s you,” Samuel said in a hollow voice, his murderous intent disappearing the next instant.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, Nate repeated until his heart calmed. He became like this because of me. He saw only when Samuel reached out for the food with his hands covered with blood and dirt. The priest said nothing, but the young man noticed.
Samuel looked at his hand, closing and opening his fingers. “I buried Mirela,” he said, his voice indifferent, his eyes dead.
The priest knew not to ask any further. He waited as the young man barely ate the food.
“This’s what you wanna ask, right?” Samuel took something from the pocket jacket and tossed to the priest.
Even in the dark room, Nate caught it. He felt the numbness filling him as he realized the cold heart somehow still pulsed. He swallowed down the sudden urge to vomit. And I thought I was already dead as well. Nate turned the organ around, the dark blood on his hands. “With this all we need is—”
“The head.” Even his whispers were full of rage.
Nate stared the young man before his eyes. In the past, he would have said to let go of the anger. It hurt him more than anyone else. He would have told to believe in the Lord and his path will appear, even if in mysterious ways. Now the words felt empty. Even to him. His faith in the Lord could not make him say anything to Samuel.
The priest placed the heart on the old trunk, next to the dark red stone. Flesh and blood, he thought, as he closed the lid. “You should rest. I’ll bring more food later,” he said before leaving the room. He pushed the bookcase back where it was, hiding the door.
Back to his room, he sat on the bed again and covered his face with both hands. My Lord… is there nothing I can do for him? Your words cannot reach his heart and would not make any difference. Please, my Lord, tell me why his destiny to suffer and die full of rage… please… He prayed in his heart, but there was only silence, again. Before, he liked to pray into silence. To him, it was as if the Lord himself allowed the peace and quiet fill him. This way he could find the answer himself. Now the priest felt alone.
Nate unbuttoned his shirt. With the faint light coming from the sun rising, he saw the grey skin over where his heart was. It’s spreading, he realized, and the lack of fear surprised him. He buttoned the shirt as remembered how the world he knew was destroyed. The memories haunt his mind again. No wonder I cannot feel the Lord anymore. This place isn’t the house of God … no longer… not after everything I did…
That day had begun like any other. After Nate had his meal, in the middle of his morning prayers, he heard a clunk, so faint the priest doubted his ears and believed it was his only his imagination. He resumed his prayers, but after he heard a heavy breathing, he knew it wasn’t just his imagination and followed the sound with the Bible in hands.
The church was deserted at first, but soon other members of the church arrived. So they heard it too, Nate thought, listening for the source of the breathing. After a few minutes looking around, they could not find the source, and they dismissed as if it were nothing.
Only Nate remained. I’m sure I heard… Without giving up, he searched inside the church again. The only thing out of place was a bench. Did someone move it while searching? The priest placed the Holy Book on the bench and aligned it with the others. As he cleaned the little sweat from his brow, he noticed a red stain on the floor.
Nate knelt and touched it with a finger. It’s sticky, he realized. With a bad feeling, he smelled it. Blood. The priest looked around, suddenly realizing blood spots everywhere. His sight became blurry and his breathing hard and shallow.
How could I not see it? No one else saw it? He prayed to calm his heart. When his breathing was back to normal, Nate followed the blood.
The red trail stopped before the altar. The priest looked around, but found nothing indicating the source. Nate closed his eyes and breathed in and out slowly, trying to understand. The blood wasn’t here before… I saw it a few minutes ago. And neither near the bench… Could it be a prank? The smell of blood filled his nostrils. No one would do this in the house of God. Not even that funny altar boy… The smell became stronger as he breathed faster. Then what could it be? Where did this blood come from? From what… from whom?
The smell became so strong Nate felt sick. He held down the urge to vomit and opened his eyes. It was a mistake. Where there was a blood trail, now it was a puddle. And it was growing.
The priest dropped the Bible and placed both hands on the floor, on the blood, and vomited. As he cleaned his mouth with the back of the hand, the church spun before his eyes. He felt another urge to vomit and closed his eyes. Nate prayed.
As he recited the Words in his heart, something grabbed him by the elbow. He opened his eyes, but saw nothing. The grip became stronger, so strong Nate thought it would crush his bones at any second.
He tried pulling his arm, but it did not budge. He tried grabbing the invisible force. Nate’s fingers closed around something, but no matter what he did, the unseen hand still crushed him. The Priest couldn’t take anymore.
As the tears fell, he closed his free hand and swung it, trying to hit anything. He hit nothing. But something grabbed the wrist.
In the middle of the air, where nothing but the blood should be, white light appeared. It was thin at first, but little by little, it gain form and then Nate saw a familiar face through the tears. Samuel…?
It was the face of the son of a member of his congregation. But it couldn’t be the boy. This face was much older and white, and got paler by the second. The face widened his eyes and the man coughed and blood spilled from his mouth. Only now the Priest noticed the wound on the man’s chest.
Nate’s mind stopped working. He could not think. He forgot to breathe. He forgot he knelt in blood. He forgot the pain he felt. There was only the familiar face before his eyes. “Who are you?” he heard his own voice, but didn’t remember speaking.
“…” The face’s mouth moved and spoke, but Nate understood no word.
As he stood still, the man brought his blood-covered hand to the Priest’s face, touching the temple with two fingers. Even if Nate wanted to get away, the force on his elbow was still there. And even if it wasn’t, his frozen body refused to obey.
The man showed pain in his eyes and pulled the hand back, leaving a trail of blood on Nate’s cheek. The man took a deep breath. “Can you… understand me… now?”
The Priest forgot words to speak, but managed a weak nod.
“Find the one… who can see… them…”
The grip on the elbow got stronger and the pain brought Nate’s voice back.
“Who are you?”
“I’m… Alexandre… and this place… will be… destroyed,” he said, coughing more blood. “Make the one… who can… see them…drink my blood…”
His eyes looked around the church. As his breathing got fainter, Alexander pointed to the altar. The Holy Chalice flew towards his hand. He raised the arm and placed it over the opening.
Nate felt the horror filling him, but he could not do anything other than watch the blood dripping until the Chalice was filled with blood. Alexander shoved the Chalice in the Priest’s hand.
“Whoever… drink this… will die… but it’s… the only way… to save… this place…”
Alexander’s hand fell on the floor and before Nate could say anything, the man disappeared.
Along with him, the blood disappeared, leaving no trace, as if it never was there.
Nate felt the tears coming down his cheeks again. He prayed in his heart, hoping it was just a dream. But the smell of blood, of death, was still there, lingering in the Priest’s nose. When he looked down, he saw the blood in the Chalice. Nate felt another urge to vomit, and couldn’t stop.
He tried standing, but his trembling legs had no strength. With the free hand, he dragged himself to the closest bench, but as he pulled himself, he felt something.
The Holy Book, Nate thought faintly. He picked it up and turned it around, breathing out in relief when he realized there was no blood. But when he stared at the cover, his body shivered. Where there was one a golden Cross at the cover, it had nothing now. The edge of pages had lost its golden spark and now it was only plain white pages.
With his mind blank, he rested the Chalice on the floor and opened the Bible where his page marker was. Instead of his favorite passage, he found a white page. As he felt his body growing cold, red spots appeared on the page.
The red grew until it filled everything and then shrunk back until it was gone. And now the page wasn’t empty anymore.
Nate tried reading it, but the words made no sense. He flipped through the pages; the Bible was written once again, but he could read none of it.
He looked between the Bible and the Chalice. The red liquid didn’t look like blood anymore. It was thick, dark and when he brought it close to his nose, it had no smell.
Before he could cry again, the world shook.
The colored glass broke, the Virgin Mary statue fell and broke into pieces. The material for the Mass dropped on the altar.
It lasted for just an instant, but to Nate felt like an eternity. A few seconds later, the sound of an explosion reached him and he felt his shaking.
The trembling stopped, but the padre couldn’t move. All he could do was to sit on the floor. What’s going on, he thought and Alexander’s voice echoed in his mind.
Nate forced himself up as the screams reached his ears. Breathing hard, he shoved the profaned book inside his clothes and dragged himself outside the church, looking for the direction of the explosion.