The telephone of writing continues. This time I picked a story that stuck with me. It was something I’d normally read being a horror with a religious bent. But, it compelled none the less. Here’s my attempt.
200 Words at time, Part 3
The soldiers carried the man across the narthex and through the nave. They lumbered along like some giant, wounded insect, three pairs of cold, stiff legs shuffling clumsily beneath a motley carapace of steel and leather. Close upon their heels, the master-of-arms was careful to avoid the hissing droplets of blood that the insect left in its wake. His sword was drawn.
At the end of the nave and standing at the foot of the chancel, the bishop held a gilded crosiers at arm’s length as if to thwart to advance of the shambling mass making its way toward the altar. In his other hand he grasped a large silver crucifix. Despite his advanced age and diminutive stature, the crimson-robed bishop made for an imposing figure. “No further,” he whispered. The soldiers stopped , unsure of themselves. One of the men looked down nervously into the pale face of the man he carried while the other two turned their heads in askance to the master-at-arms. For several moments the only sound was the steady hiss of the blood as fell from the lifeless man and met the cold marble floor.
“It must be done here,” said the master-at-arms. “Take him to the altar.”
The bishop moved aside, letting the soldiers scramble up the few steps to the altar. His crimson robes did nothing to shield him from the cold radiating from their frozen armor. The slick marble stairs proved difficult for the exhausted soldiers as they stumbled and fell under their heavy load. Grim-faced, the master–at-arms followed their procession, only sheathing his sword to offer aid in heaving the unconscious man atop the bare altar.
The soldiers scurried away, stealing a glance at the stone table before fixing their gaze on their snow-crusted boots. The master-at-arms moved to the side of the altar where the man’s head rested. His shallow breaths produced a faint mist in the cold air. Steady drops of blood from his mouth had already created a small pool that hissed quietly on the stone. The master-at-arms looked down at the man’s face, searching for any hint of the soldier he once knew, but finding only the thing he had become. A sharp intake of air through the pale, bloodied lips tore the master-at-arms away from his thoughts.
The bishop joined the master-at-arms. Two terrified altar boys carrying trays covered with vials, books, crucifixes, and various cutting tools followed closely behind.
“It is time.”
The bishop took the vial from the boys with a slow deliberation he pulled the cork free. The once dead soldier began to stir as he shook it, lightly, over him. The liquid splashed against the body glowing for a moment as an acrid scent wafted upward.
The soldier’s lips pulled back bloodied teeth bared. A low, animal like growl erupted from his mouth.
The bishop glanced at the master-at-arms. “Hold him.” And, he turned even as the man moved to obey. He lifted up the cross with great reverence. He muttered quiet words over the struggling thing.
The skin darkened, as more feral growls overwhelmed every other sound. The soldier fought as the master-at-arms’ muscles strained to keep him still.
The bishop handed the cross back to the altar boys. He took up a knife, and several empty vials. He motioned to the book, “Read.”
One of the boys opened the book. His eyes stretched wide and hands unsteady began to read. The archaic words weaved in between the snaps and snarls.
Bishop made a careful slash across the flesh of the soldier. The blood was a dark violet against its skin. He held the vial against the trickle allowing it to fill with blood. “Soon, we can finish this.”