The girl paused, chest heaving as she collapsed in the shade of the shattered belfry. Asides from the mechanical thundering of her blood gushing through her ears, no sounds could be heard in her personal, secluded sanctuary. The church had been built some time in the eighteenth century, and abandoned late in the nineteenth, left to degrade. Running along the spine of the hill, her only companions were the stray cats of the city and the bones six feet beneath her feet.
She loved to jog through the wild olives around the foot of the hill, and had always done, but the church was a recent discovery. She’d heard the stories, of course, but when she’d finally overcome her fears and vaulted the low stone wall into the cemetery, she’d found a kind of eerie beauty in the way that nature had reclaimed the building. In the sparse fibers of the once rich carpet, now grew grasses and daisies. A few timbers from the collapsed roof could still be seen, and below the moss and lichen, she thought that in the right light they looked a little scorched. The whole place smelt a little of fox.
She sat with her back against a moody pew. Light spilled orange and drowsy through the remains of the elaborate windows. She arched her back and stretched her legs, feeling sleepy in the warm evening air. Knowing that the drug addicts and denizens of the city abhorred the ruins, superstitious even in their modern sin, she started to nod off. Her eyes closed as her body was bathed in the encroaching shadows of the night.
When she finally awoke, she barely recognised her surroundings. The sun had set and the east was completely dark. The lights of the city, sodium suns which gleamed usually with the promise of salvation, now seemed distant and terrifying. High above the bitter winds that coursed through church, the moon hung menacingly, like a curved shard of ice frozen in mid air. Worst was the cold- a penetrating, bone-numbing cold that left her feeling naked and vulnerable, the gale that hissed and howled dissecting her to her core. Her running clothes offered no protection, and she felt alone as she shivered and buckled.
Briefly, she considered dashing towards the trees that surrounded the base of the acropolis. The groves where she played as a child, though, looked alien and perverted in the frosted moonlight. She became aware of another light, though. From beneath the broken spire, a faltering, warm glow burst through a chance tunnel and, curious and exhausted, she crawled towards it.
The space within the mound was larger than she’d expected. Beneath the sloping, singed wood the church had barely changed and the pews stood ordered, if dusty. At the centre stood a twisted, wooden alter, carved with bizarre religious icons, warped and well used. She passed the altar and, seeing the dark stains at its centre, felt a growing, creeping fear. Beneath the cavernous maw of a ruined stained-glass window, she walked towards the pedestal. Her feet crunching on the broken window, she stared into the flame on the single deep-red candle that flickered above the book. Her heart pounded once more as she lifted the heavy leather tome and opened it.
The book was damnably close to a being a bible. As she read through some of its gold leaf pages, though, she saw that this god was not one that she had known, even as a child in Sunday school when her parents still enforced church on her. This god was too swift to chide, too slow to bless. She read names and places that seemed familiar, but were all wrong: Golgotha, Yeng, Azif. She read accounts of divine retribution and insane prophecies, and before she knew it she felt tears roll down her face.
She turned to the centre spread. There, in horrendous detail and demonic glory was a horrendous figure, standing malignant and, worse, proud. Her eyes traced across the rippling muscles and sinew, and saw the hell fire that blazed in His golden eyes. Passing the cloven feet and calligraphy prayers, she at last came to rest her gaze upon the Word, the Name of Him. She spoke the unspeakable Word, and a sudden blast of hot wind snuffed out the candle and made her eyes water. Though the chapel was now pitch black, she knew that she was no longer alone.
She was reported missing a day later, and her body was found next month. Face down in the sewers, she was naked and bloated. Before running to find the police, the man would notice the arcane words carved and burned into her, and the strange seven-fingered hand tattooed onto her back. A minority or two were arrested and released as the police, half-hearted, chased leads. Inevitably, though, there would be stories, stories that linked the cold case to the hill. Stories that would be repeated and changed across the schoolyards and back-streets of the city.
They would serve as a warning. “Don’t stay out after dark”, the mothers of the city would say. “Stay away from the church as well”, they would continue, “Stay away or the Vrag will take you.”
(P.S- I wrote this on post-it notes again. My planner’s getting more post-it than book at the moment. This wasn’t the big post I’ve got coming up, I just really wanted to write something based off of one of the post-its from the other day. Thanks for reading! c:)
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