The Bible Runner: Chapter 4

Chapter Four

 

“This isn’t a GPF flash drive it’s one of mine.”

One of Lindell’s acquaintances dabs some rubbing alcohol one of my small collection of scrapes, and a jag of pain rushes across nerve endings. Naturally I flinch back from the damp touch, and naturally the soaked cotton ball follows.

“What?”

“This flash drive is one of mine, I know the encryption key and everything it’s hiding.”

“The what’s with Jordan saying she got it from a GPF runner?”

Lindell shrugged, and then ran a quick program, and the files made sense. What I saw was a lot of very dangerous data; this was even more impressive than my own collection.

“I’m glad to have it back though that’s for sure, I’ve got to update it and prepare a few more things. Then I’ll need you to deliver it for me.”

Finally I’d got the first aid friend to knock it off, I glanced up then catching his eye.

“If you hadn’t noticed things are a little bit hot.”

“Relax man, it won’t be for a few days.” Pausing for a moment he took out a smart phone and touched the screen a couple of times. “Looks like our girl Jordan is in a holding pattern.”

“Figures. Look I’m feeling pretty good, and I don’t feel like sitting round on my arse, do you have any local deliveries?”

“I thought you were planning on keeping a low profile.”

“Trust me.”

Lindell shook his head but went over to a desk covered in clutter on which were a number of actual packages, after a few moments he came back over and handed me one.

“This is for the group over at the Congregational Cathedral, last we heard they’re still meeting there but if not I’m sure you’ll be able to find them.”

“Yeah I’ll find them. Is it fragile?”

“Try and take it easy on the merchandise.”

Grabbing my pack I unzip the main compartment and slide in the package making sure it’s securely stowed. Without giving it much thought I take one of those tiny energy drinks, open it, and down the sucker in two gulps. Doing up the zipper again I shucked the pack on fastening all the buckles, gingerly I pulled back on my pair of gloves.

“Alright chum, drop me a line when you need me to deliver.”

“Stay out of the headlines.”

***

The cathedral is monolithic; it’s spires and crenulations fading in and out of the inky blackness. Massive and foreboding the structure looks very out of place in this City of Fallen Angels. For a moment it almost seems as if the building is leering at me, it’s broken stained glass eyes and crushed masonry teeth ready to chomp me if I look at it funny. Flames like an inferno pour out of it in a cleansing fire, picking the skin off my body until I’m nothing more then a pile of assorted bones. The vision is so powerful and unexpected that I freeze waiting for the inevitable. It doesn’t come but a breeze begins calming the vision away, bringing me back to the now.

Out of the darkness someone approaches and for a moment I can’t make out who it is, that energy drink has me all amped. Part of me is screaming run, the other part is going relax you know who this is, it turns out part number two is correct.

“Jordan! Why didn’t you check in at Lindell’s?”

“Because I needed time to think, the last time I saw you it looked like you were throwing yourself off a cliff.”

“I was. Why did you lie about that flash drive?”

“I didn’t.”

“It was Lindell’s, you said you got if from some GPF runner.”

“And I did-“

“There is no way that he wanted the information to get out.”

Jordan turned away and the wind builds tossing her hair all over the place causing her to have to hold it away from her eyes. With practically no warning the wind intensifies into a maelstrom, a simoom, all kinds of detritus is picked up and tossed around threatening to bury us as we take cover behind a family Mausoleum. Over the wall swoops a T.R.O.S.S., its down blast forcing us almost prostrate, its bright lights spilling around and through the headstones. The shadow of the cross falls onto the wall of the Cathedral. The drone’s thrusters whine as it begins to hover on the diagonal and we inch around slowly keeping out of sight. All the while we continue to look for an entrance, our former tension for the moment forgotten, we now have a more important goal. We’d prefer something on ground level. Overgrown would be all the more perfect not to mention tempting especially if this bloody drone didn’t get a move on.

An amplified and entirely non-human voice pounds from hidden speakers on the Drone and can be heard even over the screaming engines. CURFEW IS IN EFFECT RETURN TO YOUR HOMES. CURFEW IS IN EFFECT RETURN TO YOUR HOMES. CURFEW IS IN EFFECT RETURN TO YOUR HOMES.

 

Moments later the Drone apparently receiving new programming departs as quickly and mysteriously as it had appeared.

“Keep looking we can’t afford to be in the open much longer not after what happened earlier”.

Jordan nodded in agreement as we continued to walk through the overgrown weeds of the adjoining cemetery we couldn’t help but notice the graves from Rapture Day. These were graves that had either been filled in with backhoes, or placed to cover up the largest non-event in the history of man. It is doubly eerie to visit the small graveyard near my own church and see all the graves for those that I know are now in a better place.

How I wish I were with them.

“Damian, look over there, low at the base of the wall.”

Jordan pointed and within the tall grass and weeds I saw a welcoming gash, a dark blemish ready and willing to swallow us whole. We made our way over quickly and discovered upon closer inspection that four legged creatures used this entrance.

Getting down on all fours I slithered head first into the gap, and right then and there found I was dragging myself through rat droppings. Pulling on exposed two by fours I dragged myself through as fast as I could, it was disgusting but I had a delivery to make inside and this entrance would have to do.

How I’d missed this entrance on my prior recons I couldn’t quite fathom but I wouldn’t forget it again that’s for certain. I couldn’t wait to get through this crapulence, I just wanted to get inside, and I’d never actually been within this cathedral before. Only jumped the fence alongside, and glanced in on the fly. Reaching up I touched on my headlamp, it’s red glow preserving my night vision, and I nearly screamed at the Demon in front of me.

In the middle of the bloody wall I panicked, I forced myself to bite my lip. Closing my eyes I shook my head, I took in what should have been calming breaths but the dust of this dead place caused a fit of coughing instead. I felt a tug on my jeans, and then another on my belt and when I opened my eyes somehow Jordan had slithered in with me. She ran her hands down my face, and said things that soothed me, and my heart rate slowly returned too normal. I don’t know how long we were lying sandwiched in that hole, that passage from a live world to a dead one. It must have been moments but it felt like hours.

“It’s just a Gargoyle,” said Jordan in a whisper.

Looking back at the thing I could see at once she was right. Mouth open in a snarl, carved out of a block of heavy stone, it must have fallen in through the ceiling. Christians, I knew bloody well, had a fantastic sense of humor, and having Demons as Gargoyles on the roof of a cathedral was right up there. The carving itself was immaculate I’d have to take some low light pictures, as a whole this cathedral was likely to be a treasure trove. Grasping the Gargoyle I drag myself the rest of the way through the wall and rest on my haunches, taking in deep lung fulls of air until Jordan is beside me.

The first thing that I notice is how sinister everything looks in the cones of red light given off by our headlamps. The massive cross and effigy of Christ dangling from the ceiling almost looks like it’s suspended in the glow of Hell. The lights cast a swirl of interconnected shadows that dance through the chains, which seem to bind us to Him in a dreadful embrace. I look away unable to look upon Him anymore, in the position of suffering, the red lights like his spilled blood.

Blood that I spilled for You Damian; I’m waiting here for you. Always.

 

His voice echoes through me, and part of me reaches out, a part of me that I want to throttle. He stole them from me, my wife, my daughter, and left me here. How am I supposed to feel? Of course I am happy for them; they are with Him, in person forever. I am not angry with them, I am angry at Him.

Pretty silly if one stops to think about it, being angry at God doesn’t usually lead to happy endings, but right now I’m not ready. I can’t let it go. Wasn’t I ready? Hadn’t I been the one to lead them to Him? Shouldn’t I be there right now, enjoying life immortal instead of crawling round in shit and dust?

And yet I sustain you, I give you breath, and you still help spread My Word.

 

Passion wells up inside me and I can feel my carefully re calibrated world begin to crumble. All this stuff the earthquake, Jordan being back and hunted, the flash drive, my nightmares, can I really give it all to Him? I know I should let Him have it all, but I like control and giving it up trusting Him; sometimes that frightens me more than anything else.

Closing my eyes, I pinch the bridge of my nose, the wetness building up behind my eyes searching for a way out. And suddenly I’m crying silently like some poor wanker who can’t control his emotions, my body shakes, almost like I’m having small convulsions. Jordan touches me then, just a light placement of her right hand on my shoulder. And I reach up with my left and it’s like grasping a life preserver, she grounds me, helps bring my emotions under control. This time though I don’t shut Him out, I don’t close that door that just opened up to my soul.

“…I’m sorry Lord. So sorry.”

There is a silence, as deep as the profound darkness that swallowed us. Jordan held me in our little pocket of red light in the black, lost and found, found and loved. Slowly I stand Jordan at my side and God back inside and I look up at him and remember that it’s not about me. It’s all about Him. Undeserved, unimaginable, and for most unacceptable grace, I feel His Holy Spirit washing into me. Once again it fills my heart, and the healing begins.

There is a rustle of paper and wood.

We both look to the left our red beams picking out what looks like a flurry of snow, but it’s bulletins, a small number freshly fallen to the side. Our lights move again darting towards the pews, and a shadow barely moving, not a play of the lights.

There’s a clatter to the right, and our lights move quickly picking out a fallen lectern, the whole thing slowly rocking to a standstill. I motion quickly for Jordan to remain silent, fingers zipping the air in the red light. We continue looking to the right and there’s a hymn board with numbers still in place. And once again I’m reminded that the Rapture happened on a Sunday, how many of those sitting in the pews had been taken? And how many were still here hanging on for dear life, fighting the oppression, the overwhelming saturation of hate.

Without hesitation I started forward moving past the broken organ, it’s pipes scattered like lawn darts. Keyboards covered with a mixture of feathers, bird crap and a few years of dust and grime. As we moved past the pews it became clear that the Bibles were gone, hymnals were tossed all over the place as if by some hyperactive Poltergeist.

We heard the shuffling sounds again, and we opened a pair of doors and moved into a foyer. There were chairs here, overturned and in some places missing their fabric, tunneled through by mice. Moving quickly we continue down a hall and it splits before us both passages disappear beyond the reach of our headlamps.

“We should split up, we’ll cover more ground that way,” Jordan whispered.

“What we should be doing is finding these folks and finishing up this delivery”.

Jordan smiled as she replied, “We have to look for them Damian, besides it’ll go faster if we divide and conquer.”

“Fine. We split up. I’ll go to the right, stay on channel 4”.

***

Windows were broken everywhere and their pieces were hard to miss, they crackled and crunched underfoot. There was an open door up ahead and I slowed as I approached sensing that something was very not right.

My nostrils were assailed by a putrid smell, a mixture of rancid meat and rotting eggs. It caused my eyes to water. Before I could give it much thought I entered the room and found that the walls of the room were practically covered by the pinwheels of Swastika after Swastika. Underneath the out of place symbols were cartoon sheep made out of white cotton balls, clear plastic eyes with little black pupils and pipe cleaner legs. Below each sheep was a name, the name of a child who had once sat in these broken little chairs in their happy primary colors. The sheep were being watched over by the Good Shepherd, who was wearing a Nazi uniform, and had been turned into Adolph Hitler himself. Slumping to the floor I felt sickened, how anyone could deface such a place as this completely buggered the mind.

Trying to put the smell out of my mind I began to look around the room, giving it a much more thorough examination. There are other symbols scrawled across the walls almost as if with burned charcoal, they are dark symbols, Satanic. Goosebumps rise into life along my arms and a shiver runs through me as I realize I am standing right in the middle of a very large Pentagram. Wax lumps reveal where candles once lit the area at specific locations, and then it hits me, sacrifice.

Stumbling backwards I trip over a red chair in my haste to get out of the room. My hands grasp the doorframe and I’m able to drag myself up, and half on my feet I throw myself back out into the hallway. My overactive imagination begins to splice together a whole chorus line of atrocities that took place in the center of that horrific symbol. With clarity I can see the faces of screaming little children, hear the strangled mewling of cats, and the laughter of those possessed enough to do such things. Looking around in growing horror I told myself to wake up, snap out of it you barmy little git, but I was lost in the horror. The darkness and the flickering of burning candles, I was lost to my vivid imagination.

***

“Damian. Damian!”

Grabbing coat I brought my fist up to fight, fully cocked, ready to knock a poor sap out. The adrenaline ebbed, and slowly my supercharged pulse begins to ease back towards normal. Slowly awareness comes, had I struck, Jordan would’ve been dripping blood out her cute upturned nose. Instead she helped me up glancing into the room I had vacated moments ago.

“I was worried you wouldn’t respond.”

From her tone I could tell she was correct, I must’ve been off the air for a while.

“I was…affected but I imagine you haven’t been dilly-dallying around all this time though Jor.”

She smiled at me, a little Tinkerbell like grin. What had she found?

“I’ve been around. There’s more of this in all the rooms upstairs, downstairs though is another story entirely.”

“Did you find them?”

Grabbing my hand she practically dragged me down a number of halls, in some places the carpet was worn down to the floorboards. As she led me along I could hear a faint sound that I couldn’t place.

“What’s that?”

“Singing.”

“Thank God they’re still here.”

We had stopped by a stairwell down, covered in detritus, cleverly trashed now it seemed to keep folks from looking. There were more chairs, some carefully leaning on others, a slight bump would set things off like some kind of chair reaction. Jordan went first and I followed, we went carefully so as not to disturb the camouflage. Within only a few moments it was clear to me that Jordan had already come down this way. Soon we were down at the bottom, for a moment we froze there and then a new voice spoke. The voice of a child, a young girl, for a moment I thought of my daughter.

“Cyclops! You’re back and you brought your friend!”

“Told you not to worry kidlet.”

The girl giggled a fresh crescendo of joy and then she step forwards into the red cones of light. She extended her hand with a smile. Smiling back I took the offered appendage and shook it.

“My name’s Clarissa.”

“My name’s Damian, and you already met Cyclops.”

Jordan slugged me on the left shoulder but I couldn’t take my eyes off Clarissa, she was about Estrellas age. The girls would have been fast friends that’s for sure, my little one had always loved making new friends.

Clarissa moved in with her other hand and handed me a piece of paper, before I realized what it was I already had the answer.

“Welcome to Church,” Clarissa said with another smile. “First door on the right after the fallen rafters, its still praise time so feel free to join in”.

***

Opening the door we slid silently into the back of the room, they were in the middle of a song and I was pleased to note that it was one I was quite familiar with. Though it was alien at first I soon found my singing voice, which was just this shade of all right and joined in the praise.

“I heard you knocking at my hearts door.

Since I let you in I’m not homeless anymore.

Lord you deconstructed me tore all my lies apart.

And you reconstructed me around a brand new heart.

“I turned my back on you, you were always by my side.

And when I returned to you, you’re arms were opened wide.

When I had doubt in You, You had no doubt in me.

I just wish I knew, how you could bear my sins for me.”

“I heard you knocking at my hearts door.

For you are mine and I am yours.

Lord you deconstructed me tore all my lies apart.

And you reconstructed me around a brand new heart.”

***

To be entirely honest I’d not realized how bad it had become, now that I was reconnected to the source though while I felt an intense closeness with everyone I could also see that the times were tough. We had just finished having a church service in the basement and I’d just handed off the package to one of the people in charge, and now we were sharing hot chocolate and cookies.

“Just when you think you’ve given all you have over to the Lord you realize that you’ll always hold onto a little bit for yourself.”

There were murmured agreements from those nearest, and I took another sip of the best hot drink on earth other than British Breakfast tea. Everyone was so welcoming and it was strange and exhilarating, how I went from what felt alive to what was truly alive was freeing. Feeling someone tap me on the shoulder I turned to face them, the gentleman was middle aged and wore a pair of spectacles.

“Are you from Artemis Messenger Services?”

“I was, we got flattened the other night in the quake.”

“Oh, well I won’t bother you then.”

“If you have a package I can deliver it.”

The man was about to hand me something when a door was flung open, “The watchtower is reporting troops!”

Everyone scattered, people were running all over the place, the urn with the hot chocolate in it toppled to the floor. The middle-aged man grabbed my hand and my hand latched onto Jordan’s jacket he dragged us out of the door the way we came. For a moment it wasn’t entirely clear what his game plan was, we seemed to be running down a maze of hallways that would’ve confused even the architect. Then we suddenly came to a door with a push bar, the man flung his weight upon it, and for just a moment I saw a thin red beam. Whirling quickly as much to protect my eyes as anything else I tackled Jordan and started moving her back, the explosion moments later certainly helped me.

There was an absurd ringing in my ears, everything sounded as if my head was in a metal trashcan and someone had banged it with a hammer. Grabbing Jordan I rolled with her into the nearest open room attempting to find cover certain that those GPF gits wouldn’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Jordan tapped me on the shoulder and I spun to face her, her lips were moving but I couldn’t understand a word. Instead I made the international sign for zip your lips and motioned for her to move further back into the darkness and I quickly followed.

Sitting back in the darkness of the room I had to fight every instinct to get up and run, my inner body was absurdly calm my mind on the other hand was still hyped up on energy drink. While Jordan and I waited in the shadows GPF soldiers swarmed the place at least five went right past our room, some were carrying canisters of what I was certain were flammable liquids. It soon dawned me that we were in a loose loose situation. My ears were back to normal now, and it took me a moment to realize that two GPF soldiers were about to walk right into our hiding place.

“This is the last room in our sector right,” one of them said.

“A-firmative. We don’t even need to try this place is sopping with accelerants.”

“So just toss the can in there then and pop the emergency flare.”

After a few endless moments I watched as the can came cartwheeling through the door casting out splashes of kerosene. Flinching back I placed myself between the castoff fluid and Jordan and I felt it soaking my arm and pack, her eyes widened and I could tell by the changing light that the flare had followed it.

“Come on!”

Picking her up by the collar of her coat I spun us both towards the door my mind running through all the possibilities. Behind me I heard the flare hit off a metal folding chair it was only a matter of seconds now and as we cleared the door I saw the nearest GPF soldier with his back to us. Pushing Jordan to the left I grabbed him by his tactical vest and spun around, half dragging and half carrying him I tripped him into the room as the flare lit the kerosene. Undoing the clasps on my bag I tossed it to him as he went up like stuntman in a Hollywood blockbuster.

“Take that back to the office!”

The heat caused his goggles to crack and he toppled over to the floor within moments the flames had engulfed the room. On instinct I flinched down and to the side, I felt something whistle past my ear and embed into the doorjamb. My eyes began to water as I saw Jordan flatten the other soldiers’ nose, he dropped his Taser Gun and it clattered to the floor. Running forward I grabbed it and tossed it out the door that had blown open what seemed like hours earlier, it jumped around under incoming fire.

Helping Jordan along we both moved through the saturated halls knowing that within moments the whole place would go up like a hellish inferno. The flames grew fast forcing us to keep on the run, behind us we could hear the receding curses of the soldier with the broken nose. We were running so fast we almost missed the stairs to the upper level, we didn’t have much of a choice, so we ran as fast as we could up the stairs. My heart seemed to drop into my right foot as the carpet practically sloshed it was so saturated with fuel; in fact the smell itself was making me light headed.

Columns of fire shot up through the floor as we darted back into the sanctuary, to our right and left windows were shattered by heat or the crackle of gunfire it didn’t really matter. Through my irritated eyes I could barely make out the two dark clad forms, GPF soldiers, as they grabbed Jordan and knocked me back into the pews. Half of the floor gave way just then, it was as if the church were swallowing me whole, and the fires of hell were reaching up to consume me. My top was on fire so I tugged it off, along with sections of my skin, it probably would hurt like crazy later but at this moment I said great praises to God for adrenaline just now.

If I didn’t come up with something fast this cathedral would become my crematorium. There had to be a way to save myself, a million possibilities worked their way through my mind in quick succession, none of them seemed particularly brill. Looking up I picked a trace through the new contours of the main chapel and then I was off. My parents always told me no running in church; jumping from slanted pew to slanted pew I wondered what they’d be thinking now. Shirtless, doing Parkour to escape from a flaming cathedral that was being consumed by the flames of Dante’s Inferno, I’m quite certain it would’ve made their day.

There was no time to think as I burst into the flaming worship space, I knew where I had to get to but I had no idea if it would save me. Running full speed I didn’t even note if there was any gunfire or not, I had no choice but to head for the one place that there might be water and I’d have to hope that it wasn’t either boiling or evaporated. There it was and not a moment too soon, I could hear the effigy of Christ attempting to throw off its chains, I hoped it wouldn’t fall in my direction. I slid and dropped down into the baptismal tank and I submerged below the surface of the water. Yes there was blessed water; they were probably using it to fill up water bottles but not anymore. There was an unearthly screech of protesting metal, and as I looked up all that filled my vision was the massive effigy of Christ, his crown of thorns coming to smack me in the forehead.

To Be Continued…

Comments
  1. Jordan says:

    Awesome as always! I can’t wait for Chapter 5…6…7…however long it takes to tell this story!

    Jor…

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