Grave Result Two-Blood Rites, the second novel in the Grave Results trilogy, is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. ISBN 1-4137-6900-4
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Grave Result Two-Blood Rites
By Dana Reed
A torrent of blood from the first incision obliterated the passages of the Bible, making them impossible to read. He tried separating the thin parchment pages of still another missal to read the Last Rites of the Church and faced an additional lesson in futility. A coagulation of dark crimson fluid—blood mixed with oxygen—held them fast.
He was doomed to die unblessed and without absolution; doomed to an eternity in Purgatory wandering amidst defilers of the flesh: rapists, murderers, war mongers. However, he’d committed a cardinal sin, therefore the sentence was fitting. He’d rendered his flesh as one renders the flesh of a beast—an abominable contradiction to the laws of the church where the celebration of life took precedence, where the body was held as a temple constructed in honor of God. Therefore, his actions warranted the severest of punishment because the temple was not his to abuse. It belonged to God. He belonged to God.
Being a teacher of biblical principle worsened the situation.
He rubbed his temples to stimulate his mind; his thoughts had grown muddled. He barely recalled prostrating himself naked in front of the altar as his first Act of Contrition in atonement for his transgressions. But that was months ago when the need for repentance overwhelmed him, taking his conscience hostage while he supped at a table with members of the holy church.
He recalled lying in front of the altar much later, naked and shivering on a cold tile floor, thinking at the time that the sacred figure of Christ—hanging mid-center not ten feet from his humbled form—frowned on such a pitiful and oft imitated show of remorse.
It wasn’t enough. His sin surpassed all boundaries.
Willingly he’d violated the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
For someone with grand moralistic views and a solid reputation, he wondered when the downward slide began. At twenty-seven, his staunch observance of the rules governing the priesthood made him a role model. At twenty-eight his sins were overwhelming. God, where had he erred? When did it start?
Pushing outward from a wooden table laden with instruments of torture and self-mutilation, he tried to stand. But the effort failed. Weakness from loss of blood rendered him ill able to maneuver his way through the pool of blood gathered at his feet, the ever widening mass fed by the heavy flow of the tributary streaming from his groin. After slashing his wrists, he’d castrated himself, and not just the scrotum, hell—he’d taken it all off because his so-called manhood was the instrument of evil that had led to the dissolution of his morality. A thing, a piece of flesh with a mind of its own that had responded in a way he never dreamt possible. A thing that had participated in one of the gravest acts of depravity despite his attempts to maintain control, eclipsing anything heard in the confessional to date. Therefore, the evil had to be eliminated.
He deserved to bleed heavily, to die.
Tomorrow morning his corpse would be discovered lying on the floor wallowing in body fluids. Members of the congregation would pray for him while cursing the demons of self-annihilation that invaded his soul, causing this reprehensible act of suicide. But the members of his flock were ignorant of his sins, save for one—Sister Judith Ann. She knew it all...
Emily Mitchell-Smythe remembered Joshua’s son Tony and his hideous deformities. The hump on his back, for instance, that moved when he moved, that nearly took on life as a separate entity like a twin that never developed.
She remembered Tony’s inability to walk at times, and the geriatric gait when he did that was disturbing. Tony’s paranoia disturbed her too until he produced evidence of his claims about Joshua—that Joshua’s seed had produced scores of malformed children.
Letting her attention drop to the protruding abdomen resting on her upper thighs, she questioned the fate of her baby. Joshua was the father. The possibility that her child was destined to inherit Tony’s disabilities was strong.
When the words freak and monster rose in her mind, she inhaled deeply and performed a few silent mantras to overcome the sickness coiling her stomach into knots. However, the mantras were aborted when a whirlwind of gray smoke drifted from the kitchen and stopped several feet away. It was the maid, and while Emily had once found the comings and goings of Helga unnerving, over time she’d adapted. It was only when Helga materialized that Emily had a problem.
Helga’s upper torso was human enough. She had arms and a head. From the waist down, her body was beast-like in composition. Emily studied the heavily gnarled legs, the three toes attached to oversized paws that rested on massive pads. For Helga, walking in anything but an awkward ballerina stance was impossible. Clumps of black, stringy hair ran from her navel on down.
“Madam, lunch is served.”
“I’m not hungry. But thank you anyway, Helga.”
Eyes deep set in a skull beneath a jutting forehead blinked nervously. Fleshless lips ticked at the corners. “But Master Joshua insists you’re in need of nourishment because of the baby. He said if you refuse to eat, I should go fetch him.”
“Where is Joshua?” Emily hadn’t seen him in hours, yet felt surrounded by his presence.
“In the chapel, Madam.”
“I see.” Getting awkwardly to her feet to tower over the much shorter Helga, Emily bent backwards to alleviate the ache in her spine. At five foot seven, she’d done an excellent job of keeping her weight down, gaining a mere five pounds by her third month. But the effort had exacted a toll. Her legs and arms were thinner than normal, and she tired easily.
Actually, she had lost eight or nine pounds in terms of body fat according to her obstetrician. Gaining it back, plus the addition of five more, could be attributed to the baby’s growth. It promised to be a bruiser. But then Joshua was a tall, muscular man.
“I’ll go speak to him,” Emily insisted, waving Helga off.
Opening a door to her right, Emily entered a cavernous area that separated the penthouse from the small condominium unit she once owned, and wondered about Joshua’s reaction to her failing appetite. But then Joshua was omnipotent; he was everywhere at once, inside of her, breathing as she breathed, her blood pumping at a rate he demanded. He read her thoughts, controlled most of her bodily function, all but her appetite.
In his normal state, as Abaddon, he was a creature that both frightened and reviled her. However, he’d long ago adopted the human form of a handsome, virile man who went by the name of Joshua Smythe. Emily never knew which one to expect whenever he made an appearance.
She heard his voice almost immediately emanating from the chapel beyond the cavern. And yet, it was as though he was in the same room, standing near her, behind her, his words surrounding her with the force of his wrath.
“You do much harm to my child, Emily. By not consuming proper nourishment, the fetus—my son—grows frail and weak. His bones are soft; his heart barely beats. If you kill this child—”
“Joshua, I’m not—”
“Silence. You speak not to Joshua now, but to Abaddon, prince of the bottomless pit. To Apollyon, if you will, ruler of Acheron. You will not be disobedient in my presence.”
His voice was hoarse, raspy, and carried with it a chorus of voices: the legions of demons at his command who spoke in unison with their master.
His words bounced off the walls of the cavern and resounded back at her with the force of a blow. She should have known he’d do this. He knew that she feared Abaddon more than she feared his counterpart Joshua.
“Look at the wall, Emily. The one where the cross hung.”
“Please don’t do this.”
“Your pleading means nothing. Nor does your status as Guardian of The Tablet. I rule. Look-at-the-wall. Now!”
She turned in a half circle and nearly lost her footing on the wet, muck-coated surface beneath her. Many times she guessed it was a combination of stagnant water mixed with grease and raw sewage. But since the interior of the cavern was in part a duplication of Acheron, guessing the exact contents of the sludge was impossible; her stomach would not tolerate the answer.
After turning, she stared at the wall as Abaddon had commanded, at bare rock with jagged ridges, also coated with muck and a frothy, bubbly foam that emitted a stench so foul it sickened her, and wanted to scream when the image she dreaded most materialized.
It was like watching an old movie unfold before her, one she had seen many times, and lived through as well.
There was a cross overhead, high on the wall...a large inverted cross. Inverted in defiance of her God... When she’d first witnessed the scene, Emily wasn’t certain the body bolted to its surface was human, or even real. She stared at large bolts that had been screwed in tightly, holding both wrists and feet in place, most likely while the victim was still alive, causing the body to go into trauma. That explained the odd angles of the arms and legs.
Being upside down had caused blood to pool in the head, leading to severe bloating of the facial flesh, which in turn distorted the victim’s features.
To make matters worse, the agony suffered by this brutal act had produced further facial distortion.
And yet, there was no mistaking the blonde hair, the manicured nails. The crucified victim hung upside in defiance of her Lord Jesus was Donna, her sister. Emily remembered falling in a heap when she first saw Donna there and the shock of revelation became an overwhelming force. And as Emily continued to lie on the floor in a near catatonic state with saliva drooling from one side of her mouth, she heard pleading in her head. She heard Donna crying and whimpering that she was still alive and she kept begging Emily to kill her to end the pain.
“Remember your pledge, Emily,” Abaddon roared, his tone carrying enough force to throw her off balance. “Tracie lives because you are the bearer of my child. When next you look at this cross, it won’t be an image conjured from my anger. It will be real, and Tracie will be the victim.”
“All right, you win,” she murmured, her heart lumping in her chest like a thickly congealed substance. “I’ll go have lunch. And I promise to take better care of myself. Better care of the baby.”
“Not yet,” he spat. “Because of past deceitfulness, I believe that a more severe lesson is called for other than the sight of your sister—that useless piece of baggage—nailed to a cross.”
“Joshua,” she murmured.
“Madam. How many times must I remind you that Joshua is an illusion created by me, that he does not exist unless I give him free reign? You speak to Abaddon now.”
A chill laced her spine, only it wasn’t the sound of his voice or his words that caused the sensation. Emily sensed his presence close by. And although he had the power to imprison her with his wrath, she knew it was more than that. Turning, she saw him standing not five feet away, the demon prince Abaddon, a huge, ungodly beast.
He was extremely tall, broad in the chest, and might have been considered magnificent where it not for the festering boils grown over with clumps of animal fur that laced his body. And his face… a caricature of a human she imagined had mated with a wolf. When he smiled, he revealed canine teeth embedded with green and amber gunk. He smelled of raw sewage. But the worst thing was the elongated penis hanging below his knees that was forked at the tip. Sometimes it moved as a separate entity.
She shuddered, but swallowed her feelings of revulsion, and made her mind go blank lest he read into her thoughts. “Abaddon please—”
“Silence,” he hissed, a stream of smoke carrying the odor of long dead carrion issuing forth to assault her senses. “I’ve warned you about Acheron. But as with a child Emily, you do not believe in what you have not seen up close.”
Her legs threatened to buckle. He had tried to kill her once, here, in this cavern by loosing his pets on her—the flesh eaters with the piranha-like teeth.
She had been close to death when he made them stop. What could be worse than that, she wondered? Then quickly forced away the thought, but it was too late. He’d read her mind.
“I will show you what’s worse, Emily. And then you will fully comprehend my threat of banishment to Acheron.” Stepping aside, he motioned towards the chapel and commanded her to walk straight ahead.
She was halfway to the chapel when darkness such as she’d never experienced closed around her like a blanket of dread. Her breath grew heavy and labored, her lungs were scorched. Sweat mixed with the odor of fear rimmed her forehead, and she trembled, setting off a chain reaction in her body. The baby growing inside of her began flipping in hideous circles as if it too sensed danger. She covered her abdomen with both hands and experienced the violence of its movements.
She’d been in many situations over a lifetime where she’d been subjected to darkness, but never a void like this. Her feet were trapped to the ankles in dark sludge, and memories of the creatures who’d attacked her before in this same dank substance made her want to turn and run back to the penthouse.
But Abaddon told her to keep walking, and one never disobeyed Abaddon.
Emily had tried too often and lost.
The door to the chapel was no more than a few meters ahead. Whatever punishment he intended had to involve the chapel. She shuddered, and nearly fell to her knees when a clawed hand reached from the darkness and gripped hers, and a voice riding on breath that caused bile to rise in her throat hissed, “I will lead you inside, Madam.”
It was one of Abaddon’s bodyguards. A gargoyle with dust-laden wings running the length of its body, a naked beast that walked with a stooped gait, his legs heavily bent at the knees. She followed him dully in pitch darkness, his clawed hand clutching hers tightly, the sensations of his scaled flesh touching hers making her stomach roil.
When at last they’d reached the door, he opened it, nudged her inside and slammed it shut, leaving her alone and frightened. She’d come into the chapel many times over the past few months and each time the sight of moving figures painted on stained glass made her cringe. Mostly it was demons cavorting with human females and writhing in passion, crying out when they’d reached their peak, all captured in vibrant color. She’d wondered many times if it were possible for these beasts to step beyond the glass and cause her harm.
Standing with her back against the door, she realized there was no need to worry about the beasts cavorting on the glass, nor did she have to worry about the power of the tablet holding the DNA of the dark master of hell. Emily wasn’t in the chapel. She’d come through the same entryway as before, but somehow had walked into a different place in time. She covered her mouth with both hands and stared in bewilderment at the sight before her.
Gone was the total darkness. In its place was a scant amount of light from an overhead moon overcast with storm clouds, its muted glow adding to the eeriness of the setting. Next she surveyed a dark mountainous terrain spread before her like a great scaly beast at rest, with trees jutting through blackened soil, their limbs and branches dark and brittle, reaching for the sky like fingers of death.
A murky winding river overlaid with a substance like crude oil cut a path through the mountains. That river seemed the perfect place for Abaddon’s flesh eating pets. And a dock, she saw a dock with a boatman stationed at the end wearing a black robe with a cowl, a long pole gripped tightly in both hands. A small gondola sat atop the oily surface of the water. There were no passengers inside.
When he loosened his grip on the pole and motioned for Emily to come forward with bony appendages devoid of flesh, she had an urge to run back to the cavern and prostrate herself before Abaddon to plead for forgiveness.
That was a long step down the ladder for someone as stubborn as she, but anything was better than a trip down the River Styx with a boatman who’d been dead for a long time, his body reduced to a skeletal frame. Anything was better than a trip to Acheron.
“Come, Madam,” he said, speaking for the first time. “The Witches of Gehanna await your presence.”
Tracie Mitchell was sitting in the front yard of their modest two-bedroom log home studying mountains in the distance. Months ago when she and Keisha Simmons had moved into the cabin, she hadn’t liked the rugged exterior effect of stacked wood, nor did she think that wooden ceiling beams hung every few feet indoors was safe. She frankly worried that the beams would one-day let loose and Keisha and she would be buried alive in their own home.
Lastly, she hated living in the woods. Tracie had been born and bred in New York City. Concrete and steel were more to her liking than trees that linked to form an overhead canopy for local wildlife. She also favored real sidewalks over paths through the woods lined with pine needles leading to Wodin knows where. And she missed the action of the streets, the noise, the shifting crowds of people rushing to dead end jobs with corporations run by faceless entities.
Now however, she’d grown to accept the rustic atmosphere forced on them by Joshua Smythe, better known as Abaddon, angel of the bottomless pit. At least in the wilderness there, in an area close to Asheville, North Carolina, the risk of crossing the path of the man who had impregnated her aunt in human guise and who led a legion of demons was nil.
Autumn was making its way across the mountains near her home. Maples, oaks, sourwood and poplars—the sight of which was nearly obliterated by the woods in the forefront of her view—were decorated in shades of orange, scarlet, yellow. She gazed higher up at mountains in the distance and noted that the darker reds and purples of blueberry bushes and other shrubbery were more evident now than a month ago.
“Hey girl friend,” Keisha said, relaxing down in a nearby seat. Keisha Simmons was absolutely beautiful in Tracie’s opinion. With her slightly curly shoulder length hair, her finely chiseled features and her cinnamon brown complexion, she was mesmerizing to most who gazed upon her and found themselves unable to look away. Were it not for the colorless globes that served as Keisha’s eyes, she would’ve been perfect.
Tracie stared at the totally white orbs and felt a twinge of guilt, then swallowed the emotion lest Keisha sense it. She’d never told Keisha that she was partly responsible for this disfigurement and now didn’t seem a good time.
“What’cha doing out here, out front? I’ve been watching a few coons playing what appeared to be hide and seek out back. They’re too cute for words. You’re missing it.” Watching. Yes, Keisha had been watching. Thanks to Emily’s powers, Keisha’s sight had been restored, although not the original color of her eyes.
But this didn’t lessen Tracie’s guilt. Nor did it stop some of the locals from gawking in shock when Keisha removed her sunglasses for a closer look at the labels on food items in the general store in town. What a bunch of buffoons, she thought, her words spilling out into the open when she spoke next. “You know, I wonder what them people who stare at you’d think if I went back to being a Gothick? Did my hair black again and started wearing the makeup, the chains. Damn, those zekes look like the Hatfields and the McCoy’s and they stare at us. I should do my hair black again. I should.” Unconsciously she smoothed back her light blonde hair and started a backward trip to old times when Keisha interrupted.
“Sure. I’d like to see you in that white pancake makeup with the black lipstick and the pin through your eyebrow. Oh, and let’s not forget about the chain you wore in your left nostril. The one connected to your breast nipple. Tongues would cluck all over town.”
“So what? Being a Gothick is more than how you dress. It’s a way of life, and a religion too that dates back to—”
“The year 370 A.D. This is about the earliest recorded accounts of the people now known as Gothicks. Goths were originally ancient Teutonic people whose history was first recorded in the 3rd century AD. A powerful force in the formation of modern history, their armies and fleets raped and pillaged cities in Asia Minor and along the Aegean coast. They also fought the Romans, and those wars caused mass devastation in the Balkans and in the northeastern Mediterranean region.”
She sucked in heavy and continued on, a faraway look in her marble white eyes. “In 370 AD, they divided into two separate groups: the Visigoths in the east and the Ostrogoths in the west. Alaric I was the ruler of the Visigoths, and eventually led his armies in battle against Greece and Italy, and in 410, he captured Rome. Then came the conquest of Spain and so on. I’m well aware that being a Goth is more than a phase. It’s a religion, a culture that spans centuries. And Gothicks are ruled by the Gothick God of Darkness.”
Tracie stared at Keisha in awe. Not too many were aware of the background of the strange group of ‘housers’ she’d spent her nights running with, those she sat in cemeteries with calling up the undead spoken of by Poe in his writings. She was dumbfounded. “How come you know so much about them?”
“Because,” Keisha said pointedly, narrowing her gaze, “I’ve been there, done that.”
“You were a Gothick?” Somehow Tracie couldn’t imagine the sophisticated and lovely Keisha wearing the pancake makeup, the chains.
“Yes. As a kid I lived in a mostly lily-white upper class neighborhood where a gang of Gothicks ruled. You were either in or you had no one. So they decided, which was damned democratic of them, to invite this little Afro-American into their group. Then the nightmare began.” She sank back into her chair and stared into the woods ahead. Facing Tracie while recounting this part of her past was impossible.
“Did Aunt Emily know?” Tracie asked, her tone full of wonderment.
“Yes. I told her. I also told her about the nights I spent running with a gang of crazies who fancied themselves vampires, same as your group. They slit their wrists and invited the others to drink their blood. You know, like the night they took too much of your blood and nearly killed you. We also had a lunatic fringe who practiced lycanthropy. During full moons they imagined they were werewolves. Had their teeth filed into the shape of canine teeth. They hunted down victims, consumed flesh.”
“How come Aunt Emily never told me? Or was this one of those grown up things I was too young to know about? And why are you tellin’ me this now?” Tracie asked, puzzled.
Keisha faced her head on. “You just mentioned becoming a Goth again. There’s no way in hell I’d ever let you. Besides, when those people in town stare at my eyes it doesn’t really bother me.”
“Live and learn,” Tracie said, then changed the subject because she’d long ago turned her back on being a Gothick, so there was no sense in arguing the point. Breaking into a whisper because she feared being overheard, she said, “Yeah well, that goon in that church on the hill behind us is drivin’ me nuts with his starin’.” She glanced over her shoulder to make sure he hadn’t tired of the distance between them and was maybe standing close by.
“So this is why you’re not out back. He’s getting to you, too.”
“That zeke got to me long time ago. Day and night he’s at the window watchin’ us. I’m ready to run up and kick his ass.”
“Now, now child. We can’t afford to anger the locals by getting violent.”
Narrowing her eyes suspiciously, Tracie whispered, “What if he’s not a local. What if Abaddon sent him? He could be one of them shape shifting bastards chasin’ us down.”
Keisha focused on the woods again. She feared that Tracie was right, but dared not add to her worries. “Abaddon promised Emily that he wouldn’t harm us—”
“And you trust him?” Tracie spat.
“We haven’t much of a choice, have we?” Keisha stated. When she turned back to Tracie again, the seriousness of her expression coupled with the white globular eyes made for a nearly hideous sight. “Now. Let’s put our minds on something else. It’s time for lunch and it has to be fast. Old Rufus will be here soon.”
“Is it Tuesday already?”
Keisha nodded, got to her feet and headed for the cabin. Tracie followed like an obedient child. If they weren’t ready when Rufus got there, he might not come again. Then where would they be?
Rufus Williams had owned the town’s only taxi for the past thirty years, a beat up old Chrysler that looked as though it had been second hand back in the sixties. But she had to give Rufus credit for keeping it running because as he often said, “Folks depend on me.”
In the few months they’d been there, Tracie and Keisha had talked Rufus into adding them to their list of regulars. Not that it was easy. More than a paid ride to town to shop once a week, Rufus drove the locals to the clinic several dozen miles away when a doctor was needed, along with carpooling kids that lived on the outskirts of Judd Creek to school. He also chauffeured the ladies of the garden club to whatever home they were meeting in every two weeks, along with other miscellaneous trips here and there. Rufus was a busy man, but as Keisha often said, he’d taken pity on the two for some reason.
Tracie, however, felt the pity was another word for snooping. She and Keisha were new in town and the subject of much curiosity. Rufus might have been hoping to transmit their life story back to the locals from whatever he learned of their past during their trips to town. Keeping this in mind, Tracie kept her answers to his questions short and abrupt, and never mentioned their past, or the name Abaddon lest they be taken for devil worshipers and their cabin burned down around them.
It was, after all, their home and felt safe and comfortable now thanks to Keisha. Emily had given them quite a bit of money before Abaddon banished them to oblivion. So they paid cash for the cabin and the land, then Keisha bought cabin-style furniture with lots of heavy, thick wood for the frames and plush padding for the bed mattresses and cushions. Tracie plopped on a sofa in the living room with extra padding in the seats and backing and imagined floating in mid-air. However, when she glanced at the windows, she became aware of the thin wiring embedded in the frame that was connected to an alarm system.
Tracie had argued this part of it. They lived in the woods, so the only intruders she viewed as a threat were bears and an occasional rabid coon.
Nothing that couldn’t be handled with a BB shot in the butt to scare them off. But Keisha was adamant. First she pointed out their number one threat—Abaddon, and Tracie argued that there wasn’t an alarm system made that would keep out a demon with his powers. Then Keisha pointed out the voyeur on the hill who watched them nearly non-stop, and Tracie relented.
Now she saw the wisdom in the alarm system. At least they were able to sleep nights without fear of a sudden break in. They were, after all, two females living alone out there.
The only thing bothering her at this point was the gun Keisha had purchased with little or no effort. Things were different there in the South where a gun was part of your normal dress code and easy to buy. What the hell she needed a gun for was beyond Tracie. Guns didn’t stop demons. Therefore, if the voyeur up on the hill was less than human, the gun was useless.
“You coming out here, girl friend? Or do you expect maid service?”
Tracie got to her feet and walked across the room to a varnished dining room set made of heavy oak, and began laying plates and silverware onto placemats purchased to protect the surface. Then she walked back to the kitchen area and carried two bowls of food to the table. One contained wild rice with mixed vegetables, and the other baked chicken. Keisha always fed them good in Tracie’s opinion. She was a good cook who lived to cook while being mindfully aware of such mundane things as cholesterol, absorbent fat, sugars and so on. Tracie hated to admit it, but she’d begun to feel physically fit since moving in with Keisha, and she didn’t tire easily.
When Keisha and she were seated, Tracie filled a plate but didn’t eat right away. “Know what?” she said. “The only way to see what’s going on with that zeke up there on the hill is to ask Rufus.”
Keisha frowned in response. “As closed mouth as these people are, I wouldn’t start asking questions.”
“Because they’re leery of us as it is. We’re new here and not accepted yet. They might not like it if we start poking around.”
“Well, it ain’t like we’re askin’ anything personal,” Tracie said, taking a bite of the vegetables, the chicken.
Keisha sighed heavily, knowing that once Tracie’s mind was set she generally did as she pleased. “Let’s just be careful about how we ask. OK?”