Sister Johanna sat inside of the small bedroom, having long since given up on trying to open the door. The zeal that had overcome her now long since let loose and dissipated, as if a foggy cloud that had obscured her mind had been lifted; blown away by a gentle breeze. With crossed legs, the woman sat on the bed nearest the door, the one the girl had hollowed out from bottom and hid inside of. Johanna didn’t know if the girl had known to hide herself, or if the child was just paranoid and lucky. But she was relieved that her hands were clean of blood, even if not for lack of trying. The old woman shook her head in the dark room, deep shame and confusion still coursing through her soul for her betrayal of her own core principles.
Had her god really spoken to her? The loving entity that she held in such regard would never ask her to do something so cruel. She was sure. Had her mind deceived her in her old age? Or was there some other devilry afoot? Some demon that had whispered dark thoughts to her in the midnight hour? She didn’t know and leaned her head back against the cold wall, allowing her thoughts to run in circles for a time. She wondered where the girl had run off to. She wondered where her useless, cowardly brother was? He still hadn’t returned.
It had been some time now. Visitors didn’t come to her as often they once did. Ever since the windmills were put into place over the chasm along with the many mechanisms and rope systems used for the mining work, there had been a large reduction of injuries from manual labor. Light touched were seldom and far in between and she was the only one down here, as far as she knew. It could be days more before anyone came and found her locked in here. That was okay. This would be her penance. She closed her eyes and let darkness take hold of her thoughts for a time.
The scream shot through her like lightning. Her body exploding up to its feet instinctively the moment it rang out through the air. A screeching wail, like too much air being pressed along a thin rocky crevice, it stung with a high whistle that was impossible to ignore. The hairs on her neck and arms stood up electrified. Without hesitation the tall woman ran to the door and rammed her shoulder against it, throwing the weight of her body towards it. It rattled, but stayed in place. She knew this sound. She would never forget it.
Again she repeated the motion. There was another scream, this time human. A fire burned in her heart and she screamed herself now, smashing her body against the door once more. She knew that sound all too well. It was undeniable. It was something you don’t forget. Like when a child touches a red hot stove-top or the pain of losing a dearly held person. It was something that might sink away over time, recessing into some deep forgotten crevice of the human mind. But it never truly slumbered, it only waited dormant for a chance to spring up and make itself known once more.
There were more screams now, but they were theirs, the Risen with their banshee cries overpowering those of the people, who responded in turn with their own hellish shouts. They had surely all heard by now, the men and women of the town. They all remembered as well, there was no way they couldn’t, except for the few children who now likely felt greater fear than their parents at the sight of the pale horrified faces of their mothers and fathers. She slammed herself against the door again, sending every prayer she could muster to whatever entity would listen to her now.
Silhouettes of people ran by the lantern light, outside the barred window. For a moment she wanted to run towards it, to smash it and to cry for their help. But she knew no one would stop for the old woman behind a barred window, not with this resurrected fear in their hearts. Sister Johanna turned back to the door and continued her battery. Her shoulder and neck ached painfully, she was an old woman after all. The door wouldn’t budge, she tore at her gray hair for an answer.
Full blown anarchy had taken reign outside now. She could hear their cries as they came closer, she heard the screams of the people from the streets in the large square just next to the chapel. As well as those more muffled, from those who were foolish enough to try and hide inside their homes from the creatures. Sister Johanna knew it was only a matter of time. They would hear her, smell her. They would come.
Again she smashed her body against the door, it rattled but gave no quarter. ‘Thunk’ something touched the window behind her with a heavy thud. Glass and stone weren’t enough to stop the smell, it seared through them both like smoke through a birds nest. ‘Thunk’ again, the hand struck the window. An explosion of sound came from behind the door. Screams. Sister Johanna turned her head and smashed her fist against it again, hearing the panicked voices on the other side.
“Who’s there? Let me out! The doors locked!” She wasn’t sure if she was heard. Her words just seemed to fade into the anarchy taking place outside. Again she smashed her fist against the door and repeated her cry to no avail. Running back to the bed she picked up the old cleaver and started hacking away at the door. With every thwack chipped off a smashed fragment of wood, splintering away down to the ground, but the old door was thick and sturdy. As much as herself even. Even if her strength didn’t give out before, it would take too long to break through.
‘Thunk’ “Open the door!” cried sister Johanna, turning her gaze back around to the window. There were three silhouettes now. The glass was cracking as they pressed against it. “Open the door!” She struck it once more with the cleaver.
Johanna stopped and pressed her ear to the door. “Delmy?! Is that you?! Open the door!” The sound of something heavy being moved came from the other side. A loud shatter came from behind, as the glass had given way. She saw them now, their milky eyes having found her. Their arms reaching through the bars towards her.
The door began to open and she pushed herself out, slamming it tightly shut behind herself.
Johanna looked to the frightened looking old woman before her, staring around the room. Several people from the town that she recognized stood in the small round main room. Two men stood at the front door holding it shut, their backs against it. She looked back to the woman “Thank you Delmy! What’s going on outside?” she asked, knowing the answer.
“They’ve come back Johanna. They’ve come back! What will we do?!”
Johanna looked down to the woman, she was clutching a bleeding wound on her arm. “Delmy,” she said looking at it.
The woman returned her frightened gaze. “I know.”
‘Thud’ Screams came from behind the large door that the men held shut from inside. Screams of people still living on the other side of it.
“Open the door!”
“Open the door!”
“Let us in!” Several voices of men and women rung out. Sister Johanna ran forward to the two men holding the door shut. “Let them in! Hurry!”
Aerger looked back to her. “Are you crazy?! I’m not letting anybody in here!”
More screams and shouts as they struck the large door from the other side.
“Let them in!” Johanna grabbed the man's arm and tore at it with all her weight. All she felt was a deep nauseating crack run through her face, as her world spun. She flew to the ground, the man having punched her square on the nose. “I said the door stays closed, you old cultist hag!”
The screams from the outside grew louder now as they came, drawn to the helpless cries of the people and the smell of their fear. Sweat, blood, urine, tears. Everything drew them closer like a flaming beacon in the night.
“HELP US!” The screams grew more frenzied with every second and so did the strikes against the door. With wobbly legs Johanna rose to her feet, something hot running down her face. The cleaver had fallen out of her hand and been thrown to the other side of the room.
“OPEN THE DOOR!” she shouted to the man with the shaved head, her vision still blurred.
The screams began to change. The words left them. They became like that of animals being slaughtered, they morphed into guttural, deep cries of terror.
The slamming against the door stopped. All they could hear now was the wet squealing cry of the Risen. Their throats, now moist, allowed a new layer of audible depth to their wails, making their hollow shrieks interrupt with wet gargles, as the blood and viscera went from their mouths into their seemingly always inhaling lungs. Sister Johanna wanted to scream at the man, but she knew letting loose a scream now would be a fatal mistake. She looked at the other man. She knew him as well.
“How could you?!” she whispered with a hiss to the family man who had come to her for counsel so often before. He looked her in the eyes but didn’t respond. Looking to his side to his boss, the man whispered “The right door is a kitchen. There’s a side door out there too.” Aerger nodded at his man. Slowly, they lifted their backs up from the door which was no longer shaking and hustled away. All that could be heard was a wet mushing and squelching from the other side. Like the tearing of something damp.
The two men quietly opened the kitchen door and crept through, shutting it just as silently behind them. Johanna crept back to Delmy, who looked up towards her fearfully with her old eyes. Johanna placed her arms around the old woman and held her close. She felt the old bones shivering in fear beneath her arms. The woman's skin was deathly cold, yet the layered rags she wore were drenched in sweat. Another scream came from the side, this time from through the kitchen door. Followed then by one more final mortal cry in short succession. This one was longer and wet, not stopping until the source's throat had been torn away.
Johanna looked around the room. There was only one way left to go and there was no escape from there. Silently she pulled the old woman behind her and opened the door to the bath. Immediately, a wave of hot steam that constantly filled the room struck against her, obscuring her vision and sticking to her skin. As quietly as she could, she shut the door behind them. The bath door had a bar on the inside and she gently lowered it down, sealing the door shut. It wouldn’t be long before they were found though.
Delmy sat down at the edge of the bath, looking up to the priestess in search of guidance. Johanna ran over to her with light steps and lifted her sleeve up, looking at the gash on her arm. A deep, bloody, round wound adorned her flesh, still freshly leaking. A bright, blue streak that shone out in the semi-dark room began to rise up her veins. Making itself seen even through the woman's rough, weathered skin. Johanna raised her hands to the injury and whispered the word “Heilig,” as gently as she could.
A dim light escaped her hands. The old woman grimaced. Johanna lifted them up and looked. The wound was sealed, leaving only a dark bruise in its place. However the blue streak still rose up the woman's arm. Their gazes met for a moment. The woman had a weak smile and tired eyes that no longer pleaded, they both had known what it meant from the beginning. It was too late for the woman, it had been the entire time. The old woman's gaze rose fearfully to the door and then back to the priestess asking a final pleading question.
Johanna knew there was no way out of this. As soon as the Risen had finished consuming the dead who hadn’t awoken yet they would come for them, together with even greater numbers. They had probably already smelt them. Heard them. But there was no rush. There was nowhere to go and there was so much to eat. There was only one mercy she could offer the woman, and she had already asked to be given it. She returned her gaze with solemn eyes and nodded. The woman nodded back.
“Get in the water,” says Johanna quietly, her eyes wet as she lowers her gaze. The woman pursed her lips tightly in response, her eyes also wet and wide and took a deep breath. Turning around she placed a leg into the warm flowing water of the bath and then the other. Her dress clinging to her skin as it soaked up the wet. Looking back with tearful eyes she mouthed the words “Bless you, sister,” and lowered herself into the basin, her hands still on the sides of the rim. Johanna walked over to the bath and placed her right hand on the woman's left, taking it loose from the edge of the basin and holding it tightly in her own, their fingers locking.
She lowered herself into the water before the woman. They met eyes one last time before Delmy let out a deep, final breath, exhaling everything she had and slid downward, submerging her head beneath the hot water. Her gray wispy hair rose up as she lowered herself deeper, sliding onto her back down on the floor of the bath. Johanna took hold of the woman's other hand in her own and held both of them tightly, before lowering her body weight onto the woman's torso. It would only take about half a minute. After ten seconds the woman below her began to clutch her hands tighter and tighter.
Not five seconds after that, came the fidgeting of her body. Her lungs and throat would be on fire at this point and her torso convulsed as she began to resist against Johanna’s weight on her. Her mind screaming for air, despite knowing what lies on the other side of survival. Delmy’s nails dug into Johanna's skin as she clawed at the top of her hands. Another five seconds and she began to kick violently, her body convulsing left and right and splashing water everywhere. Johanna held down tight, pressing all her weight against the flailing woman, clasping her hands shut tighter and tighter. Resilient to not let loose. This wasn’t the first time she had had to bestow this mercy on someone.
Soon Delmy stopped flailing. She stopped kicking and scratching. Her hands, held tightly by the priestesses, loosened their grasp and Johanna knew it was done. Her mind raced and her eyes stung with tears. She had chastised herself not half an hour ago about her attempted murder of the girl and now she had killed a woman. She looked at the now peaceful face of her friend lying below her and watched as the small blue streak, visible even through the water, began to rise up towards it. Creeping ever so slightly further towards her eyes.
Support "Oratoria: Bury the Dead"
- Floor 69 of the metaphorical-dungeon
- Novice Writer
Socially awkward witches, sad hugs, dramatic adventures, spooky stuff, and comfy dungeons: My name is D.M. Rhodes, but I love to write about those things under the moniker 'Razzmatazz'. (Hopefully full-time, one day soon!) I’m a hobby occultist and, more boringly, I’m an XR expert, as well as a government-trained media and information specialist.
The main genres that I write in are litRPG-fantasy, action, adventure, romance, tragedy, horror, and slice-of-life. I seriously vibe with religious and occult overtones mixed in with super obscure story concepts. °( ~ )°
Thanks for taking an interest! Because of supportive readers like yourself, I can keep following my socially unacceptable dream! (I'm going to become the wizard-king.)
– Always open for feedback!