Chapter reveal for 'Tainted Blood'...

January 27, 2016

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

Terrible rows.  Endless, terrible rows of majestic live oak trees drenched in blood, humbled in submission before the tapestry of an ashen sky seething with cruelty and rage.  I remember the first time I saw them.  I remember the first time I could smell the smoke, and the metallic tinge of the blood.  Sulfur.  Smoke.  Bleeding oak and embers wallowing in sorrow and despair.  It all seemed so strange and yet so familiar.  I could feel my heart beating-trembling even, almost as if someone was locked inside.  Forever shackled as a prisoner in some manner of torment I could never fathom, I could hear the voice. 

 

I could hear his voice.

 

“What becomes of a heart that has been bled completely dry of love?”

 

Those words.  For some reason, they have haunted me deeply.  For as long as I can remember, I have heard those very words calling to me in my deepest slumber-splinters forever crackling inside the vast recesses of my mind.  His voice burned in my soul with such melancholy and menace that my heart nearly bled inside my chest.  My knees quaked and trembled as I ventured forward-the ground seeping with contempt and fury.  Sorrow and hatred howled through the winds.  Beating against the trees with such fervor and venom, they threatened to tear them from the very roots holding them together.

 

I dread this place.  I dread this place.

 

Bleeding oak and embers, they crackled and raged against winds screaming in exquisite agony.

What manner of painful torture was this?

 

What manner of exquisite agony had created this place; this realm of darkness and mystery?  Was this the end result of what had become of the man and all the madness that conspired to drag him to the farthest depths of his own destruction?  How could one once so strong be so easily corrupted by the vices of love and betrayal?  It appeared as though love itself had conspired to become both his captor and tormentor…and had taken him all too soon to his long, beleaguered journey into that endless night.

 

But that was all of course just a story.

 

A story whispered amongst the lips of those who knew him best, and those for whom he existed now only in rumor and theory.  And as for the name of the man…it was never to be spoken. 

 

Ever.

 

He never existed.  In the eyes of the guilty, it was better that way.

But he did exist, and I was the proof.  With the sweet whisper of death flowing through fiery locks of hair, I pressed forward to the endless rows of trees.  Majestic trees of misery and foreboding, they danced beneath crimson skies containing horrors I could not bear to look at.  I knew they were up there, watching me…following me with every bleeding step.  The scorched earth beneath the soles of my bare feet stung with the sting of scorpions molesting me with their venom. 

 

So much blood everywhere… 

So much pain everywhere… 

 

When in the realm of delusions and nightmares, we try to tell ourselves that it is only a dream.  Clutching with fanciful trepidation and blind faith onto humble and fragile security, we envelop ourselves in the notion that this too shall pass.

 

But what happens when it doesn’t?

 

What happens when the dark delusion is no mere delusion…but a vision of inexplicable reality?  What happens when the dream dances along the edges of our sanity, forcing us to accept the very notion that we are not dreaming?

 

And no one is coming to save us…

 

“Guide me O thou, great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land.  I am weak but thou art mighty; hold me with thy powerful hand.”

 

Thunder rolled through the ashen sky with a force suggesting that Heaven itself would explode into a multitude of daggers, piercing the very earth upon which I stood.  It was a song I’d heard many years before…ages ago it seems.  An old gospel song that called forth memories I could not bear to stand.

It was then that I saw them standing there.  Almost appearing out of nowhere, I could sense they were waiting for me.  They’d been waiting for this moment for an eternity.

 

“Bread of Heaven, bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.  Feed me till I want no more.  Open now the crystal fountain, whence the healing stream doth flow; let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me on my journey through.  Strong deliverer, strong deliverer, be thou still my strength and shield.  Be thou still my strength and shield.”

 

A row of mysterious women all dressed in black, their faces were adorned with eerie vaudeville masks.  They did not move, not even a little.  They only stood there in uniformed anticipation, eyes of hollow black darkness permanently fixed on me.  There were approximately thirty-three of them, and in their hands each held thirty-three golden lamps and thirty-three orbs of fire.  I knew not what their intentions were, nor of the journey into the apparent abyss that awaited me.  Still, compelled by a force beyond my understanding, I ventured forward.

 

“Abandon all hope,” one of them whispered.

 

At that very moment, the ground began to shake and burn-venom and scorpions emerging from the dust below.  Hidden behind the surface of their masks, I did not see their mouths move…but I knew they were speaking.  What language was spoken was unclear to me.  It was something ancient; a dialect the world had seemingly abandoned ages ago.  I continued to venture forward, their archaic banter growing louder as I drew closer to them.  Their robes as black as decrepit sackcloth, billowing in the putrid winds, I could soon see snakes slithering out from beneath them.  Compounded with the greatest of fear, I continued onward.

 

“Remember his name!” one of them shouted.

 

Regardless of their futile command, I knew better.  His name was never to be spoken.

 

Ever.

 

“He is coming soon!” bellowed another.

 

I continued my journey forward, deeper into the madness that would not destroy him…only nurture what was left of his poisoned, tormented soul.

 

He is coming soon.

 

Somehow, I always knew this day was coming.  I always knew.  Sulfur.  Smoke.  Bleeding oak and embers.  I knew exactly what this place was.  How could I forget?  It was the place that made him the thing he’d become.

 

It was The Forest of Suicides…his eternal home.

 

The masked women all broke rank, making way for me as even the trees themselves seemed to do his bidding.  At that moment, a small child emerged from the thick, permeating darkness of the abyss.  He could have been no more than eight years old.  Adorned in flowing white garments complete with a white head wrap, this was the traditional dress of a candidate for baptism.  As he proceeded forward, I immediately began to drown into the ominous black rivers that were the boy’s eyes.  Filled with sorrow and hatred, they were as sullen and hostile as the eyes of the Devil himself.  In his hands rested the horrible sight of a large book covered in blood.

 

Thunder crackled.

Lightning scorched the sky with luminous rage.

What manner of madness was this that I have wrought? 

 

It was then that the boy leaned forward and spoke.  The women disappeared as though they were never there.

 

“Come and see.”

 

***

“Are you ready to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

 

The tremors through the young man’s body were as a storm raging through a barren valley completely devoid of any color, virtue or the purity of life itself.  So many mistakes, so many grotesque infractions of character…so many evil deeds had he done in his life that his bed now became his chamber of misery.  Like wretched, racked, gnarled weeds rising from the depths of a thirsty earth, suffocating, struggling for breath of life, they all came back to haunt him.  His pale and tattered flesh brought forth no fruit of renewal, only regret and the cold sweat announcing that Death itself would finally come to collect its tab.  Why is it that we only truly thirst for life in the abject face of certain extinction?  Why is it that we hunger for forgiveness only when the evil has run its course, and Heaven will not grant mercy to the wicked and despised?

 

His breathing labored and his brittle bones rattled, almost as if he already saw the ghosts; if he could already see the jingle jangle of the dry bones, forever feasted on by the scavengers of that deep, dark prison below.  Why do we fear the darkness when it is all around us watching…waiting…desperately aching for us to nourish it with fresh, lost souls?

 

“Are you ready to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

 

Perhaps he didn’t hear her the first time.  The thunder crackling through an ashen sky caused tremors throughout the old, dilapidated house in the lower Ninth Ward.  Battered, weathered wood creaked and groaned while dreary raindrops fought their way into the house that could tell a thousand tales.  Worn, rotted and infested furniture filled the building that poorly passed itself off as a home.  It only provided sanctuary to the roaches, rats and other vermin that made their bleak, temporary residence there.

 

His eyes, once a beautiful brown only glimmered in the reflection of the lightning dancing outside.  He searched for some sliver of hope in the eyes of the beloved Sister sitting beside him.  A virtual angel in his final hour of need, this little nun provided so much happiness and joy in an area of the city that desperately needed it most.  He stared at the crucifix dangling from her neck, hoping for some sign that the Messiah truly was real, and that he would come to save him.  With a slow and steady pace, his sweaty and cold outstretched hand reached for hers.  It was almost time for the end, and he knew it.  That growing creaking permeating throughout the old house tortured him constantly, feeling like broken shards of glass in his brain.  Soon, it would all be over.

 

“Give your soul to Jesus,” she whispered softly.

 

That old, barren creaking continued, rising with intensity and volume.  Somewhere deep within, the house was coming to life.  The cold hand of the boy clasped on to hers, squeezing with what ounce of life he had left.  She knew it was time, and smiled lovingly at him.

 

“Jesus loves the little children.  All the little children of the world…”

 

The raspy, mangled voice came from out of nowhere, surprising her.  They were the only ones in the house, or at least she thought they were.  That old creaking intensified…back and forth, back and forth.  It was the sound of an old, disheveled rocking chair, singing its very own lullaby.  The loud clap of thunder startled her, diverting the Sister’s attention.  She looked back at the man, only to see a change in his demeanor.  The cold, bruised and pale face that once bore the visage of death itself now fevered with the perspiration of purpose.  Those eyes once dead, now trembled with a haunting excitement that confused her.

 

“Jesus loves the little children.  All the little children of the world…”

 

That eerie and dreadful voice shook her to her very core, distracting her once again.  This time it would be too late.  She never saw the gleam of light flashing.  She never noticed the rusty dagger digging deep into her throat, but didn’t have to.  The blood spurting all over the bed splashed onto the man, now filled with a venomous vigor.  The blood was the life of course, and he proudly satiated himself in this fact, baptizing his dark energy in the fury of holy, virtuous blood pouring all over him.

 

Thunder crackled.

Lightning scorched the sky with luminous rage.

 

Somewhere deep in the soul of the old house, a man clapped his hands.  Extremely pleased by what had taken place, the blood truly was the life.  Poor old woman she was.  Poor old woman corrupted and brainwashed by the fallacy of blind faith, she marched to the beat of a drum for many years that harbored no true reward for her.  Great would not be her reward in the place she’d heard about called Heaven.

 

For in bitter truth…there was no such place, and he knew it.

His laughter bellowed through the house as he continued to sing.

 

“Jesus loves the little children…all the little children of the world.  Tell me something; what is this ‘love’ you so desperately speak of brothers and sisters?  Where is this beautiful, bountiful love that you so desperately clamor to in blind faith and reverence?”

 

Still lying in the bed, baptized in blood, the young man licked the jewels of crimson from his fingers, just before savoring what blood still spewed from the dearly departed nun’s body.

 

“Where is your precious Jesus, my brothers and sisters?” the man continued as he made his way somewhere through the house.  Still unseen, his voice grew louder as his heavy presence marched up the stairs.

 

“Where is your beloved Jesus when you need him most?  Where is this so-called Messiah born of a virgin who walked on water and raised the dead?”

 

The mere mention of the name of Jesus suddenly rattled the man to his core.  Bullets of sweat seeping from his brow, his near naked body covered in scabs and lesions, stretched and contorted in painful positions.  He began to cry out in agony because his soul for some reason now could not bear to hear that name.

 

The heavy footsteps grew closer…and closer…

 

“And whosoever believeth in me shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  Is it truly everlasting life you seek?  For if that is truly what you so desire, then as the saying goes…be careful what you wish for.”

 

Dark rage and madness suddenly took over the boy, compelling him to slam his head into the wall with a force that was frightening.

 

“PLEASE DON’T SAY HIS FUCKING NAME!!!”

 

The footsteps of the man ventured forward…closer.

 

“The world is a cruel and evil place…and my brothers are soon coming.  Follow me and I will show you the true death…and the true life.”

 

The young man could feel his heart racing as more beads of sweat poured from his brow.  Searching around the room for some sense of escape, he found none.  A horrible deed he had committed…a horrible deed surely.  The innocent blood of a pure and virtuous soul spilled before him, and now festering in the pit of his aching stomach, he grew more desperate.  Scratching and clawing at the tattered floorboards, his bony fingers suddenly drew blood as several of his fingernails broke off.  He could feel the presence of the man drawing closer.

 

“DON’T SAY HIS FUCKING NAME!!!”

 

Laughter followed.  “Jesus loves the little children…all the little children of the world.”

 

And then he saw him.

 

His body quaking with fear, the young man’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he looked into the eyes of the man.  The presence of him in the flesh was enough to make anyone who’d heard of him quake.  Up until this very moment, he’d existed only in rumor and theory.  And as for the name of the man…it was never to be spoken.

 

Ever.

 

The dagger, now stained with the Sister’s blood lay before him.  Her dead eyes staring off into eternity, tears soon emerged from his.  A horrible deed had been committed…a horrible deed surely.  His hands quivering with fear, he snatched the blade from its resting place.  The man studied his movements carefully, an evil smirk forming on his face.  The growing fear in the boy was not just of the man who was known only as a myth.

 

His fear came from the fact that he knew this man.  He knew exactly who he was.  He’d witnessed firsthand the abject hatred and evil the man possessed deep within the chasms of his black heart.  He knew what the man was planning.  He’d been burdened long ago with knowledge of the storm that was coming. 

 

It was a storm that was too much even for him.

 

The man delighted in the sight of the young boy plunging the dagger into his own throat.  There was no final scream, no final show of fear…only the acceptance of what was to come.  Such a senseless waste of life, his eyes grew cold and empty, his soul passing on to some other form of punishment far greater than this.  Such a waste of blood, the man thought to himself.

 

And the blood truly was the life…

 

The man knelt before him, eyes locking onto his.

 

“You who linger and wallow in the sun, what do you know of the darkness and all that it harbors?  You know nothing, but I’m going to show you.  I’m going to show you far more than you can ever imagine.”

 

Thunder crackled.

Lightning scorched the sky with luminous rage.

 

“Wake up.”

 

 

COMING SOON

 

 

 

 

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