This short story was inspired by Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. It has never been published and never seen by the eyes of the public…until now.
Chapter 1: Genaise
Rain was on its way. Genaise could feel the change from deep within. The rain would bring a swarm of homeless into The Church of the Moon. The dregs and outcasts of society and capitalism; those poor in pocket, but rich in story and soul.
Everyone had a story; a theme woven into the warp and weft of the tapestry of the church. That tapestry was the essence of Genaise’s work and life. With each passing week, a new story was weaved within. But with every rain, newer members brought their life’s losses into the congregation. The Church of the Moon overflowed with the needy. No one would be refused. And so, when Genaise spoke at the pulpit, the sanctuary was stuffed to crushing. The heat of the bodies brought a healthy sheen to the faces in the crowd.
No one cared. What mattered was the sharing of love and ideas. The Church of the Moon was the purest example of function over form. Love was the conquering hero in the Book of Genaise and none who’d ever come in contact with the man would ever doubt that simple truth.
“My children.” Genaise lifted his delicate arms to the cracked and leaking ceiling of the make-shift church. “You are all a gift to the world. Your colors and beauty bring life and hope to man.”
The voice paused. Every ear was alive with anticipation of the gentle wisdom that would certainly pour from the divine lips of the angel of mercy. The hesitation from Genaise wasn’t planned, nor was it for drama’s sake. It just was.
Each member of the motley congregation stared on, waiting for another glimmer of the divine hope that poured from the mouth of the Profit of the Street.
Trapped within every beautiful eye was a glimmer of hope.
“I want to tell you a story.” Genaise pulled up a stool and took a seat very near the first row of the congregation. “I once had a home. That home was nestled within a loving community of similar souls. We lived together, spirit and flesh, for decades. We danced, we sang, we celebrated the life fantastic. It wasn’t until the corrupted blood of mankind seeped into the community that our home and our kind crumbled and was spread to the four corners of the wind and world.”
It wasn’t often that Genaise allowed the floodgates of memory to open and pour forth the torrent of the last days of Midian. When he did there was much to be learned. The children of The Church of the Moon would hold onto every word as if each syllable held within the power to give life.
“If there is anything I can impart onto you, I would hope it to be that life is a sweet blessing to be consumed. If you truly open your eyes to what the world has to offer, you will see the gifts everywhere. In the trees, the soil, the smiles, the song, and even the rain.”
Scarlet tears dripped and dropped from Genaise’s eyes. At first, there was no reaction from the front row of the congregation. When the rivulets of blood were finally spotted by the crowd, cries of agony blossomed upward.
The blood poured down to soak the priest’s collared shirt and vest.
“I feel your pain, my brothers and sisters of the moon.” Genaise dropped to his knees as his cry issued to the rafters of the run-down mission. “Come forth, and reclaim your right as the Nightbreed.”
When Genaise collapsed to the floor, he did so into a pool of blood. Light flickered and flashed into and out of sight.
“Brother,” one of the parish whispered gently in his ear as his breath grew shallow, “you’re going to be okay. We have an ambulance on its way.”
Chapter 2: Ashberry
Ashberry crossed the land in search of them. Beasts; grand bastardizations of God’s greatest creation. One by one they had fallen. But they are many and he is one. Deep within the wells of the priest of despair was the righteousness of Decker’s holy spirit. Decker – the original hunter of the tribe of the moon. As Decker hung on the make-shift cross, Midian burning behind him, Ashberry consumed his light in order to stop the ‘breed that escaped Midian.
He had a secret – one that not even God could know. As Decker’s flesh turned to ash and dust, Ashberry was touched by Baphomet and blessed with the sight of the moon. With that unholy vision, the Nightbreed couldn’t hide. And though he suffered the sin of murder, he did so knowing his acts cleansed the world of a sin it should never have known.
“Father,” the young boy stepped insufferably close to Ashberry, “sister Mary Elizabeth is asking for you.”
As Ashberry looked down at the young boy, the urge to cup the tender face in his hand and give him God’s grace was overwhelming.
“Thank you, dear child. Let the sister know I will be with her momentarily.”
The lad bowed his head and looked back up to Ashberry. His brilliant blue eyes filled with equal parts tragedy and innocence. Deep within the corrupted priest’s bowels, the desire to end the child’s life before corruption danced on his heart and mind begged him come play.
He always resisted.
As the young boy gently walked out of the office, Ashberry’s lungs filled with the air of relief. The door closed and echoed to silence.
The cracked and faded leather-bound ledger slid from out of the secreted top desk drawer. When the heft of the book hit the top of the desk, the sound carried itself into Ashberry’s heart. His one and only pleasure – the record of the damned. A book of the blood he’d drawn from the unclean souls that befouled the land. Scrawled within the velum pages was every name of every child of the moon that had met its demise at his hand. His collection, his trophy, his bible.
Flesh hovered over the aged tome. The warmth of electricity danced upward to tickle his palm. The book beckoned, demanded. When fingers made connection with the leather, a shock of delicious pain flashed up Ashberry’s arm and locked the muscles of his jaw.
Even before his body hit the floor, the visions came. They always came in fits and ragged vignettes.
An inner city mission.
A child of the moon.
A savior to many.
A homeless messiah.
When he finally awoke, his body was racked with tremors, but the image of his next target was burned into the retina of his mind’s eye. A much-needed peace washed through Ashberry’s system. The God of Midian had spoken; he had his orders.
From the other side of the office door, a timid knock ticked and tapped.
“Father Ashberry?” the voice of Mary Elizabeth chimed.
“Please, come in,” Ashberry called out as he stood from the floor and straightened his vestments.
The door creaked open and the fragile nun peeked her head through; her traditional habit nearly caught in the door frame has her delicate face broke the plane of the threshold.
“We have received a call from the South Street Mission. Their father was taken to the hospital and they are in need of a substitute. Do you have any suggestions?”
Fate, it seemed, did sometimes show itself at opportune moments.
“Sister, I will tend to their needs myself. Thank you so kindly for bringing this to my attention. I will prepare and depart within the next fifteen minutes.”
“God’s will be done, Father,” spoke Mary Elizabeth as she bowed her head and took her leave.
There was very little time. The Sacraments of Baphomet were a crucial element of his holy task, but the call to arms offered him little chance to prepare.
“God of Midian,” Ashberry spoke as he pulled the blessed flesh from the safe, “bestow upon me the power to suffer your will and wrath upon my foes.”
From the blood-encrusted muslin cloth came the right arm of Baphomet. Before the Nightbreed dismantled their god, Ashberry stole away with the one bit of flesh that held the righteous might that would be the undoing of the bastard clan of creatures.
His tongue traveled the length of the rotted and festering flesh from end to end. The taste of bitter copper stung his taste buds. Caught beneath the wretched tang, a wash of power poured down his gullet. The arm grew weaker with the ritual and would soon fall empty.
“Baphomet, guide me to your remaining flesh. The chalice of your mercy runs dry. You called upon me, as Midian crumbled, to be your armor and sword. I alone cannot follow through without your strength.”
A deep thrum filled the room. The sound rattled the walls and entered his gut to unleash the gate of his bowels. The smell of shit filled the room.
“My God, why?” Ashberry shouted above the din. “Why do you mock me? Have I not been your faithful servant?”
The sound dropped another octave. The very muscles covering Ashberry’s bones threatened to sluice from their framework.
Before he could call out again, the sound faded to a desperate and weary silence. The arm of his God lay before him, turned to dust. Tears mixed with the piles of disintegrated flesh. Desperate not to lose the connection, Ashberry scooped up a handful of his ruined deity and shoved it into his waiting mouth. Bile mixed with the powder before his gag reflex forced the substance out. It was done … the arm of his God was drained of desire. The hole in Ashberry’s heart forced him to his knees. Tears peppered the aged hardwood floor.
“I am lost without you, Baphomet. How can I serve without your flesh?”
The hum returned; only this time, from within.
“Ashberry,” the voice rattled the plates of his skull. “Make me whole again.”
“My Lord, I knew you would return to me. Have I not been the most faithful of servants?”
“Yes.” The deep-throated, disembodied voice vibrated his teeth and threatened to force his eyes from their sockets.
“Please, Baphomet, demand of me; my body and mind are yours to rape and command.”
“As they have always been.”Baphomet’s reply faded into silence.
“What boon would you ask of me God?”
“Make me whole.”
The voice repeated the original demand.
“Locate the pieces of my body and return me to Midian.”
“Midian was destroyed, my Lord.”
The office shuttered as a howl of rage rushed from Ashberry’s every pore.
“You dare question me?”
Red-hot pain shot from shoulder to fingertip. From underneath his vestments, the sound of tearing usurped the crown of Ashberry’s cries.
“Your flesh is my flesh.”
Ashberry struggled out of his coat. The pristine white oxford was soaked through with blood … his blood.
“What have you done?” the wailing priest cried.
The room went silent, save for the dripping of blood to the floor. From within his skull, Ashberry could hear Baphomet’s breath, slow and deep. “Taken what is rightfully mine.”
Ashberry’s blood continued to pool on the floor.
“No. Please, no.”
“Ashberry,” the whisper was as much demand as it was summons. “You have sworn fealty to me. Your flesh is but the first sacrifice you must commit. Your suffering is my blessing; let it give you the strength and courage you need to make me whole again.”
He tore at the ruined sleeves until the exposed meat and bones of his arms peered through. Baphomet had taken his flesh. Ashberry was undone, unmade. But who was he to deny a God?
Chapter 3: Lana
Genaise awoke in the sterile environment of a CDC tent; his entire body encased in a strange, plastic suit, his head covered in a heavy mask. Claustrophobia kicked in as he scrambled to breathe and make sense of what was going on.
“Where am I? Help me … please!”
The voice of the minister was muted from under the foreign mask.
“Doctor,” Lana Grace called out. The woman had been by Genaise’s side from the beginning of the Church of the Moon. Though she had no idea the secrets the minister kept close to his chest, she knew he was a darling, good man – a man that would do anything for those in need.
“Doctor, we need help in here! Please, hurry.” Lana stared through the impermeable, temporary walls as Genaise flailed about in panic. Eventually, their eyes met. Lana could feel, to the depths of her core, something beyond medicine was afoul. Some wheel in the machine had slipped a thread and lost its tracking. The fear in the minister’s eyes was unholy.
“Lana,” the pained voice of Genaise crossed the barrier between worlds. “You have to get me out of here. We’re all in danger.”
“Who’s in danger?”
“All of us,” was the simple reply.
Genaise paused to draw on effect. With an unfamiliar voice, deep and raspy, he spoke words familiar to anyone who had known the man … “The Children of the Moon.”
Lana Grace placed the palm of her hand against the flexible plastic barrier. “The church and its followers are fine, Genaise. We’ve fought through tough times before. Besides, the church is secondary to your health. We need you. I need you.”
Without realizing she’d slipped, Lana released the deepest truth she owned. From the beginning, her heart belonged to Genaise. She dared not voice the passion, else she scare the leader of her faith off into the night.
“Without you, my faith would falter.” Six words salvaged a possible train wreck of emotion.
Genaise stood and placed his hand on the plastic wall to meet Lana’s. “Your faith is stronger than you think my dear.”
An infectious smile was passed between friends.
“Now, if you don’t mind, could you tell me why I am in here?”
The smile on Lana’s face slowly melted. “The CDC cannot place the cause of your condition. They want to rule out unknown infections before they release you.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Genaise, you bled from your eyes. That means you are either a blessed saint or the carrier of some exotic virus. My money is on saint; but the CDC has other ideas. I promise, we’ll get you out of here as soon as they give you the all clear.”
“Lana,” the voice that issued from Genaise’ mouth was pointed, “I need you to go back to the church and make sure everything is okay. If … ” A dark cloud seemed to pass over the minister. “If a stranger tries to enter the church, do not allow him in.”
Lana Grace drew in a quick breath to protest. Genaise continued on before she had a chance.
“Do not ask questions of this. I need you to trust me, completely. There are those that would go to any means to bring down the Church and Children of the Moon.”
Tears welled in Lana’s eyes, her right hand rose up to meet her mouth.
“Genaise, are you in some kind of danger?”
A discomforting silence wafted down over the room. Genaise stepped in close to the protective barrier; the pupils of his eyes swallowed the perfect blue irises until all that remained was black.
“Lana Grace,” Genaise began softly, “there is so much I must tell you. Should I survive the oncoming nightmare, I promise you the curtain will be drawn from your confusion. Please … trust in me.”
“What nightmare? Genaise, you’re scaring me. And who is this stranger? In the eyes of the Church of the Moon, there are no strangers.”
From beyond the protection, the minister went silent and stiff, his blackened eyes locking onto some unseen point that hung in the air between them. The air in the room came alive with the slightest of hums – the sound of a fluorescent light about to give up its ghost. The volume of the hum rose and fell. As the sound reached each peak, a chorus of indecipherable whispers rose and died away … rose and died away … rose and died away.
Lana Grace stumbled backward as she saw shapes coalesce around that of Genaise. Faces, hands, a floating halo of hair; all the while, Genaise remained in torpor. It wasn’t until, all at once, every voice in the room (real and imagined) joined in to say:
When she turned to bolt from the room, she slammed into the male nurse who carried a tray of surgical tools. Scalpels, needles, saws, hammers – a butcher shop and morgue’s worth of instruments.
Lana continued on. When the door hissed shut, muffled cries for help spilled from the room. Her faith begged her to return and help those in need. Her heart, however, insisted she do as Genaise had begged her. She’d return to the church to make sure all was right in the world of the Children of the Moon.
Lana’s heart raced as her feet carried her through the meandering and milling crowds. More than once she became physical with a passerby who refused to give quarter to her trajectory. When the church finally came into view, the sight before was chaos. A gathering of parishioners stood before the entrance, confusion and concern lined their faces.
“Lana Grace,” a woman stepped out of the crowed to confront the unofficial ‘second in command’, “he just showed up and demanded we evacuate the building.”
“I thought you knew? He’s the replacement for Genaise.”
Lana Grace tilted her head in concern. “On whose authority?”
Before an answer could be given, Lana brushed the woman aside and marched toward the entrance. The crowd parted as if some invisible force insisted they had no say in the matter.
Lana’s hand reached for the door and hesitated. Just before she could pull her fingers from the dulled brass of the handle, the image of Genaise filled her with a strength she didn’t know she had.
The door was nearly ripped of its hinges as she jerked it open.
“Hello? My name is Lana Grace. In the absence of Father Genaise, I am in charge of the Church of the Moon.”
Nothing and no one responded.
“Hello? Who sent you here?”
Again … nothing.
Lana stopped. Though the intruder offered up no reply, certainly he would eventually give himself away.
And before Lana took her next breath, a crashing sound sent particles and waves dancing through the air.
“Genaise’s office,” Lana whispered as she took off running down the hallway toward the door to the father’s primary study. As she approached the door she heard the same odd humming from earlier – only this time, the accompanying sounds had a malevolent undertone.
Lana’s hand hesitantly found its way to the door knob and turned. When the door swung open, the site nearly dropped her to her knees.
In the center of the room stood a tall, lanky bald man with an oddly shaped head, over-large eyes, and the familiar vestments of the church. It wasn’t the look of the stranger that startled Lana – it was that every book in the room floated about the man, slowing circling him as they opened and closed to offer up glimpses of the secrets within.
“Words. They offer such mystery to the reader. We explore worlds within worlds and travel through time and dimension. We are even taught to believe the unbelievable – in ghosts and resurrection; from flesh to dust and back again. These same words also obfuscate treasures of untold value.” The stranger turned his head, his dark eyes a maddening rage. A low growl of a voice seeped from between lips that hardly moved. “Where is it?”
Lana Grace made no attempt at an answer.
“I said, where is it? Answer me or the suffering you will endure will be legendary.”
“I have no idea – ”
Before Lana could complete the sentence, the stranger was upon her, his cold fingers wrapped tightly around her neck. Her lungs struggled against the closed airway.
“There is nothing to keep me from taking your life. Once you no longer serve a purpose for me, that is precisely what I will do. Make your worth known, and you may survive; otherwise you will find out that God is but an astronaut. I ask you again. Where is it?”
Lana’s eyes bulged; her mouth opened and closed in desperation. The stranger released his grip and the woman dropped to the floor, gasping at precious air.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Baphomet,” the stranger roared. “I am talking about Baphomet – the piece of God your precious priest has hidden from me. I must have it. Now!” The final roar sent chills of abject fear through Lana’s system. The stranger knelt on the floor next to the shivering woman. “You will locate the object and escort me to Midian, or I will so profoundly end the life of your dear Genaise, you will weep for his loss until the gates of Heaven and Hell close. Is that clear?”
Tears and snot pooled at the floor beneath the woman. Her body convulsed until her arms gave out and she collapsed. The voice that escaped her lips was just below a whisper. “I’ve never heard of Baphomet or Midian. Please, I can’t help you.”
One by one the books dropped angrily to the floor. As each book collided with the uneven and twisted hardwood, Lana’s body jerked in fear of what the stranger might do. When the rain of novels finally ceased, the silence brought with it a dread the Church of the Moon had never before known. Finally, the stranger spoke – his voice a deceptively soothing balm.
“He never told you his secret.” The stranger caressed the exposed skin of Lana’s arm. When she jerked away, he offered up a gentle laugh. “This is wondrous beyond belief. How long have you stood by Genaise’s side and not known of what he is?”
Lana’s head snapped toward the stranger and she unleashed a load of spit into his face. The man didn’t blink an eye or raise a hand to clean the dripping mess from his lips and cheek.
“Your priest isn’t human; he’s Nightbreed. Do you know what that is? Of course you don’t. Your soul hasn’t ventured far enough away from the unwashed masses to understand what’s really out there. The Nightbreed. Abominations. It is my sworn duty to cleanse man of this puss-filled plague. God has spoken to me and placed the heavy burden upon my shoulders alone. But to do that, I need to make Baphomet whole again; for he is the one true way to the Children of the Moon so scattered across the winds. Your priest holds one of the pieces of the God of Midian. You’re going to help me get it from him.”
The palm of Lana’s hand sped across the space between the two and cracked the stranger on the cheek.
“Go to hell.”
The stranger laughed before he grabbed the woman under the arm and lifted her to standing. Without warning, he pulled her to him and forced her lips to his. From between their mouths a mist danced and twirled into the air around their heads. The mist hovered for a moment and disappeared back into the void between their lips. When the stranger slowly pulled away, Lana’s eyes were glazed over; her face slack.
“My name is Ashberry; the bringer of justice, the prophet of loss. You will go to your lover, Genaise, and find out where he has hidden his piece of God. When you return to me you will take me to my prize. If I do not have the relic in my hands, you will take your own life in the manner of your choosing.”
“Yes.” The response hissed from between Lana’s lips.
Ashberry placed his fingers over the eyes of his servant and chanted in a language unknown for centuries. The voice was harsh and guttural, almost painful to pronounce. He finally released his hand and spoke with a rage barely under control.
As soon as the command was given, Lana Grace turned and drifted out of the room. Ashberry lifted his arms to once again raise the books from the floor.
“Where are your secrets and your people, Genaise? They hide in the dark, waiting for me to uncover and consume them. You cannot hide them forever.”
Chapter 4: Grace
Lana Grace arrived back at the ICU ward of the hospital. Visitation hours were long over, this mattered not to the mind and eyes trapped behind the fog of trance. Even as the nurses spoke out to stop her, Lana continued on as if nothing and no one existed.
The door to Genaise’s room stood open. She glided through and pulled it shut behind her. Within the well of darkness, interrupted only by blips of red and green LEDs, Lana stood at the side of the bed, staring down at the sleeping priest. The CDC-approved, biohazzard suit was gone. Genaise rested comfortably in a standard-issue, paper-thin dressing gown.
“Where is Baphomet?” Lana’s voice was distant and received no response from the bed.
“Baphomet, where have you hidden him?” She spoke louder, this time getting a muffled reply.
Lana’s hands reached down and shook Genaise hard. “Answer me!”
Genaise snapped out of his dreamscape, his eyes wide with surprise.
“Lana?” The voice of the priest was shaky, fragile. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Baphomet,” was all Lana said.
“Where did you hear that name?” Genaise demanded weakly.
“Where is he?”
Without saying another word, Lana shot her hand up to wrap her fingers around the forehead of Genaise. As soon as her flesh made contact, the priest’s body spasmed and locked in an awkward twist. The crack and snap of bone punctuated the moment.
Lana loved Genaise. From deep within the well of her heart she could feel the pain and suffering she forced upon the gentle man. Wrapped delicately within the pain rested a treasured core of memory. Like a multi-layered puzzle, the memories poured through the connection. A first kiss; sweltering summer evenings spent dancing around a pyre; strange and wondrous creatures in a lover’s embrace; an underground city filled with laughter and kindred spirits; a button-eyed killer.
The memories danced just out of reach – begging Lana to draw deeper within. Something, however, insisted itself upon her will and forced her to draw out the knowledge – at whatever cost. As she peeled back the layers of memory, she saw a different set of images – images of her and Genaise; moments of time frozen and locked away for safe keeping. Each moment was tender and meaningful, cradled in a comforting blanket of trust and devotion.
Through one of the moments it became clear the priest was in love with Lana Grace. The moment threatened to snap her sanity and her will. The spell cast upon her drove her beyond the frozen moment and refused to allow her to taste the joy any longer. Lana dove deeper into the mind and memory until she finally found what she had come for.
“Baphomet.” The whisper pulled away and broke the connection. Genaise remained frozen in the possession-pretzel posture; a still from a horror-framed nightmare that promised eternal damnation.
Without a word, without a nod or a kiss goodbye, Lana Grace turned to leave the room. Deep within the core of her soul, she knew she’d never see her love again. Through her trance-filled fog, Lana wanted to cry out and lay down under the wheel of an oncoming bus. Her life was now meaningless and hopeless. Genaise was all there ever was.
Before she crossed the threshold of the room, something stopped her. She turned to see a brilliant, glowing light hovering over the wrecked body on the bed. In the center of the light was a writhing black mass.
“Lana Grace.” The voice was thunderous. “You have stood beside our brother in pleasure and in pain. He is no more. As one departs, another is given life. Though your soul is temporarily soiled, you have been judged worthy. Be one of us. Cast out the corruption that has engulfed your spirit. Embrace the night.”
The writhing mass shot out from the light, entered Lana Grace, and lifted her from the floor.
“You are now one of the Nightbreed.”
The black mass disappeared within Lana. When she opened her eyes, the steel gray of her irises had turned to solid black. As she parted her lips, a midnight mist swirled into being and surrounded her. The mist took on a life of its own as it continued to dance about her flesh and limbs.
Not a word was spoken as she stepped from the room. No nurse, doctor, patient, or guard dared approach the lunatic sight as Lana glided down the hall to the elevators.
The chilled night air tickled Lana’s skin; the sight of the moon infused her spirit with a life she never knew could possibly exist. Like an unbridled spirit, her hands shot upward to reach for the blessed sphere.
And then she heard the whispers. A chorus of voices danced around her and offered only glimpses of recognition.
It wasn’t until she heard the familiar name, Midian, that Lana Grace acted. She turned and moved onward toward the Church of the Moon. Glimpses of a past she didn’t know bounced off her conscience. The final image was Ashberry kneeling before a crucifixion, begging of some newfound salvation. Around the sacrilege, an entire community burned to ashes. Along with the vision came an overwhelming desire for revenge; a revenge fueled by hatred and righteousness.
Innocent creatures were burned alive. The tainted touch of man infested the true Children of the Moon. Lana Grace would right the grievous wrong and help to bring back together the Nightbreed.
The door to the church had been twisted from its hinges. There was no sign of life within or without. For the first time since she joined the Church of the Moon, the sight of the hand-painted sign above the door brought her no sweet peace.
Her right foot stepped through the door to the building. From her soft, red lips, a voice she’d never before known hissed.
“Ashberry, I have come for you.”
A deep, throaty laughter bounced off the walls. The laugh was quickly followed by the familiar voice of the fallen priest.
“And just what will you do? Pray for me? Pull together your congregation and have a moonlit vigil? I am beyond prayer; my mission is above your righteousness and your God. I am the hand of the slain prophet – his mask and his blade lives on with me.”
Ashberry stepped out of a pool of shadow, his head covered with a button-eyed, burlap mask.
“I can see it in your eyes – smell it wafting from your sex and flesh. Wait—” Ashberry took in a great sniff, “—you smell differently. You smell like … How? How did it happen? Who gave you the gift?” Ashberry took in another deep sniff. “It was him. Genaise gave you his grace. You are Nightbreed; another evolutionary mistake, a freak unleashed upon a naïve world.”
Ashberry reached a hand up as if to remove the mask, but stopped short. “You understand I must kill you now. But before I do … where is the piece of God. You will show me, or you will die.”
The mist around Lana swelled and grew thick with red and black swirls of color. When she spoke, her voice was a chorus that rose and fell with the drift of the colors in her diaphanous skirts.
“You speak of false gods as if one would serve such a vile thing as you. Baphomet is not an object to be commanded or owned; he is the very spirit of the Nightbreed. It is through his will and his creation that we exist. When one dies, another is born. Even if you managed to piece together Baphomet, you could not kill us. Yes, you could end a Child of the Moon’s life, but the spirit would find another, worthy host. We may bend, but we will never break – even under the might of one as self-righteous as you.”
Tears of blood dropped from behind the burlap mask and peppered the floor at his feet. “Tell me your name before I kill you.” Ashberry slipped an oil-black pistol from the small of his back. Before the pistol could come to bear, the red and black mist poured from Lana’s torso and engulfed Ashberry. Muffled screams spilled from the muted form.
“You may call me … Grace.”
The mist briefly solidified, crushed the body within, and returned to undulate and swirl around the legs of Grace. She knelt at the side of Ashberry’s body and yanked the priest collar from around his neck.
“Even in death, you don’t deserve to be seen as man of God. Every word from your mouth was blasphemy.”
Grace stood and walked out of the room. The death of Ashberry would go unreported; the body dumped in some forgotten alley where rats and the homeless would rape and pillage the lifeless man. A cold and heartless act? Maybe. But, above all else, the Nightbreed must be protected. The relic of Baphomet would be removed from the Church of the Moon and secreted away in a location known only to one.
The body lay cold on the cracked and rotting wood of the floor. As the flesh cooled and the blood thickened into a useless soup, a gray fog slowly rose from the exposed flesh. The fog writhed and pulsed around an ink-black orb and carried it upward. The unholy device hovered four feet above the rigored body of Ashberry.
A slow, measured footstep could be heard against the aged and creaky floor.
“Father Genaise?” The delicate sound of sister Tabitha’s voice brightened the hall. As she turned the corner into the room, before she could even draw in a breath to scream for help, the black shape shot out and slammed against the sister’s chest. The impact threw the young woman backward, into the wall. As sister Tabitha slid down to the floor, her eyes opened to reveal solid black orbs. A smile sliced across her lips and drifted into a sneer. Her hand lifted from the floor. Clutched within a white-knuckle fist was a burlap mask. From everywhere, a whisper assaulted the ears of the young woman.
Say it. Say it. Say it.
Sister Tabitha pulled in a slow, steady breath and spoke a singular word with a dark intent.