Through A Glass, Darkly:

A Horror Anthology


By




Scott Roche



Copyright © 2011 

Scott Roche

All rights reserved by the author.

Introduction

Welcome to my little horror anthology. If you’re reading this, thank you. This is a small collection of stories both self published and digitally published by others around the internet. I decided to put it together to test the waters on a number of levels and I hope you enjoy it. I though I’d start off with a little description of each story to whet your appetite. 

“The Good Samaritan” was part of collaboration with a friend of mine. We alternated telling stories to one another, taking an element from the previous story and using it in our own. The Doc Marten boots that the main character wears to kick a little ass came off of a dead man, though she didn’t know it. I wanted to see if I could create a strong heroine in the vein of Buffy and I hope I succeeded

“Fetch” was written as part of a podcast anthology. The first half of the story can be found at http://www.everyphototells.com. I like infusing some of my stories with elements of my own faith and this is one example. The priest in this story asks some of the same questions I routinely do in my own life, particularly when faced with the evils (whether mundane or supernatural) that this world offers.

“Power In the Blood” is my first professional sale. It was posted at http://www.hubfiction.com/ in issue 119 and I was tickled when they bought it. It’s easily my darkest and most violent story to date, my “Rage” if you will. I do identify with the main character quite a bit, though thankfully I was never possessed by an evil something or other.

Finally I wrap up this group of stories with “The Good Doctor”. I wanted to end on something a bit more fun (if being chased by werewolves can be considered fun). I love mixing the Old West into my stories whether they’re horror, sci-fi, or fantasy.

So that’s it. Have fun with these and if you enjoy them check out my website http://www.scottroche.com for more information on other projects.







The Good Samaritan


Trudi walked from her tiny bedroom, into the living area she shared with her three flat mates.  She was dressed to the nines in black leather from shoulders to feet: duster, corset, pants, and eighteen hole Doc Martins. The dark colors contrasted against what pale skin was visible and her long platinum hair, restrained by a thin leather cord.  Even her kohl rimmed eyes were a watery blue.  She was a study in contrasts inside and out.

“You look delightfully dreadful deary.”  Kali giggled at her own alliteration.  The lithe, Pakistani got up from the couch and straightened the layers of silky scarves that covered her dark skin.  Each square hung from a leather harness, the whole effect revealing no more than normal street clothes might, but hinting at a lot more.

 They traded mostly platonic kisses, Trudi wincing at the taste of cigarette smoke.  “Thanks sweet.”  She tugged the duster close around her, feeling the large bladed Bowie knife digging into her side.  Her last boyfriend, Larry, gave the blade to her encouraging her to keep it for ‘protection’.  Her size and strength alone, useful in her day job as a lorry driver delivering kegs to the local pubs, was usually enough, but the south London neighborhood they lived in wasn’t very safe.  “Ready to hit the party?”

 “Please, yes.  I’m about to die from boredom.”  Kali did a little pirouette causing the scarves to shift and revealing more of her skin and the swirls of henna that decorated every inch of it.

 Trudi smiled appreciatively.  “Well we can’t have that.  The blokes at the party should liven things up a little.”  She was looking forward to tonight and had been for weeks.  Kent, who pulled pints down at the local, knew of a barn for rent in Essex and there would be a bonfire and plenty of booze and good music.  The muscles in her broad shoulders unknotted just thinking about it.

 “If they don’t, I shall.”  She pulled a long, dark green wrap around her and waited for Trudi to open the door.

 The two ladies walked out into the chilly night, stepping quickly to the old motorbike that was Trudi’s main form of transport.  Ben, the one before Larry, helped her build it from the ground up.  It looked like an old surplus from the last Great War, and it was for the most part.  The new engine had plenty of power though, and she loved it for its classic lines. 

 Kali crawled into the sidecar and kicked the breakdown kit out of her way with one foot.  She pulled on her helmet with a slight grimace.  “When are you going to get a proper car?”

 Eschewing a helmet, Trudi grinned wickedly.  “When I’m old.”  The bike roared to life and they took off down the unlit street.

 The smog-like cloak fell away behind them as they headed into the countryside.  The party was about a half hour outside of town so they both settled in and enjoyed the ride.

Once on the country roads she slowed the bike and took a flask that Kali produced from somewhere.  The wind cut through even her leathers and she needed the false warmth it offered.  It was good that she did, since just as they crested the top of a hill she saw a car in the ditch.

 If they had been moving at speed she would have never noticed.  Its nose was pointing down and she could just see the light from its headlamps diffused by the murky standing water. The bike came to a stop and she dismounted.

“Wait here love. I’m gonna see if they need a hand.”

Kali pouted.  “TB…”  She whined Trudi’s nickname.  It was short for Triple B, itself an abbreviation of Big Blond Bitch.  It was endearing from her female friends and dangerous for anyone else to use.  “Why don’t we just keep going? I don’t see anyone. Let someone else stop.”

Trudi tutted at her.  “Don’t fret. Shouldn’t be too long and if nobody’s here we’ll keep going.”  She circled around the bike to the sidecar and held out her hand.  “Hand me the torch.”

 With a resigned look Kali fished it out of the kit and gave it to her.  “Be careful.”

 “Always.”  The light flared to life, cutting through the gloom.  She crossed the road and took in the scene.  The engine on the brand new, bright red roadster was still running.  There was no one inside it, so Trudi leaned down and opened the door.  She cut it off and pocketed the keys.  No sense in wasting the petrol.

 In the increased silence, a noise caught her ear. It sounded like sobbing. She couldn’t be certain because the growling of her bike interfered. It sounded like it was coming from some trees just beyond the far ditch bank. 

The short hairs on the back of Trudi’s neck stood, but she was determined to find out what was going on. A few steps carried her back to the motorcycle. “I’m gonna go check this out. I think I heard someone crying over by those trees. They could be badly hurt. Do you wanna run to the party and get somebody with a van to come back here in case someone is hurt?”  She knew that Kali could handle the bike well enough.

Kali shook her head violently.  “Hell no. I am not leaving you alone. I wish you would just ride to the party and come back with more people. I am scared.”

“Don’t worry Kali. I’ll be OK.” A peck on Kali’s cheek and she ran and jumped the ditch. Farther from the noise of her bike she could hear that it was indeed someone crying. It was a weary sound, like a child would make at the end of a long jag. 

There was a break in the trees just a few feet away. In the circle of light, she saw that the grass there mashed flat as though something heavy had been dragged through it. When she got to the clearing beyond the trees the sight revealed by her torch almost made her retch.

 A figure in soiled rags hunched over a very dead man and was making a meal of his lower intestine. Just beyond the creature was a young lady.  Her black skirt was raked up above her waist and her silk blouse ruined by mud and ripped nearly to shreds.

 The creature, she couldn’t think of it as anything else, looked up as light broke the trees and snarled at her, reddish-black teeth gleaming.  Slowly the thing rose from its squatting position and began to move towards her. Yellow eyes shone back at her catching the bright light. Shorter then she was by at least a head and more wiry, it didn’t look much like a threat, but she found herself unable to move.  Sheer terror rooted her to the spot. 

 It seemed to rely on this reaction because it never moved quickly.  It reached the halfway point when Trudi came to her senses. Whatever this thing was, she had fended of bigger and uglier men. Her knife practically flew from its sheath, a move that Larry made her practice ad nauseum because he thought it was “dead cool”.  She humored him at the time because he may have been a manipulative wanker, but he was amazing in bed. The steel gleamed in the harvest moon’s light. 

Her opponent seemed unfazed by this presentation and continued its slow approach. She circled around heading towards the lady, keeping the beast in front of her. Halfway to her target she realized that she had been muttering an almost constant stream of obscenities the whole time. Finally she put herself between the two. “Alright missy I want you to run through that line of trees that I came through and wait by my bike. I’ll hold this one off.”

 As she said it, the thing leapt snarling with its long bony fingers out stretched. 

Trudi ducked under its assault and stepped forward and at an angle away from it, sweeping her blade in an arc. The creature landed awkwardly and her blow caught it in the small of its back.  It lacked power but the spikes ripped pale grey skin and drew perfectly red blood. It snarled at the pain and whipped around.

 They faced off again this time just outside of arm’s reach of one another.  She decided to use her superior size and try to bulldoze the thing into the ground. It proved faster than she had guessed and folded up and rolled to the side. As she passed the crouching horror it caught her foot and tripped her. Tucking into a roll prevented her from hurting anything as she fell, but she landed flat on her back and lost her knife and torch in the process. 

Not a second later, the thing jumped onto her chest and sought out her throat with gnashing teeth. Hot, fetid breath filled her nostrils and she heaved it off screaming in fear and anger.

It landed on its back a few feet away. 

She quickly came to her feet, still screaming incoherently, and hurried to the spot where it lay. In the struggle her hair came loose and framed her face. Anyone who saw her like this - eyes blazing and makeup running down her pale face as she shrieked at the top of her lungs - might have an understanding of where the banshee legend came from. Her right foot came back and she drove the toe of her spit-shined boot into its rib cage. A rotten cracking sound and a wet snarl gave her an idea of the success of her effort.

Trudi glanced over to where she thought the girl was and saw her still lying there motionless.  The creature took this opportunity to leap on her again, coming up from the ground in a blur.  Claws raked at her eyes and she felt a warm stickiness flow from a cut in her scalp. Fingers had caught in her hair and ripped some of it free. 

She screeched again and slammed both fists into its gut. Foul air and spit blew from its mouth, the wetness splattering on her cleavage. The twin blows knocked it back a step and she threw another kick, this one aiming for its crotch. Man or not she was determined to put it down for the count.

Something squished and gave under the hard leather assault and the thing screamed, doubling over. Trudi brought both hands down in a double fisted club on the back of its neck. It fell and lay on the ground writhing in pain.

She ran for the girl, scooping up her blade on the way. When she got there, she could see that the young lady was still breathing fast and shallow. She knelt down and started to pull her up. The odd shuffling gate behind her let her know that it had gotten up and was coming her way. 

Kali’s voice cut through the night. “Watch out TB!”

The blond giantess stood, spinning around only to see that the thing changed tactics and was heading towards her flat-mate. The weight of this girl seemed nothing and she broke into a trot after it closing easily. Blood flowed into her left eye and her torch was long gone but the moon came out from behind a cloud and she could see the hideous thing with little difficulty.

Once within striking distance she threw her foot out and caused him to stumble and fall. Determined not to let it get to her friend she jumped and landed with both knees in the small of its back. Bones cracked and gave way under her weight and a thick groan came from it. She brought her blade down again and again into the base of its neck and after a moment of that began smashing its skull with the knuckle spikes.

She didn’t stop until the crunching had taken on more of a squishing sound. Blood and brains coated her right hand and its metal extension. Weary from the exertion she stumbled to her feet and saw the look of horror on Kali’s face.

“What the hell was that thing?” Kali asked. Her voice shook and tears flowed down her cheeks.

Her own voice was unstable as she replied. “Hell if I know but I hope it’s dead. It was eating…” before she could finish the sentence her last meal made a messy exit from her mouth caused by adrenaline, revulsion, and the charnel smell that clung to her. Once finished she shook violently and was calm once more. “Let’s get to the bike and civilization.”  Slowly, Trudi walked over to the wounded woman, picking her up and putting her over one shoulder in a fireman’s carry, Kali helping her as best she could. 

Trudi’s burden seemed to gain weight with each step. They found a place to cross the ditch a little further up and made it to the bike finally needing to carry the limp girl between the two of them. They secured her in the sidecar and Kali rode behind Trudi. The three women rode slowly into the night and away from the horror behind them. 

In the moonlit clearing the body of the young man began to stir. After a few minutes it managed to get up under its own power, even though it had to hold its guts in with one hand. Its free hand found the black silk rope and brought it up for a good sniff.  Satisfied, it tucked the strand in a pocket. Feasting on the remains of the other, it felt its flesh begin to knit back together. The meal’s last memory was of the blond woman and the pain it had brought. The road was long but the creature knew by the sent of exhaust which way she had gone and it began its slow steady walk to find her.







Fetch



"'Twas the twin I never had, Father. Saw him as plain as I see you there.” Caffrey’s hand trembled slightly as he sipped from the glass of soda.

Father’s Ian’s brow furrowed. “And what were you doing by the old cemetery that late anyway?” Caffrey lived within a half mile of the small square of hallowed ground. He was the unofficial caretaker since there was no church attached and no bodies buried there in the last hundred years, but that was largely a symbolic title. There was little he actually needed to do, especially this time of year.

“Just clearing my head.”

Ian nodded. “I’ll check it out for you then.”

Fear had further creased the old man’s face. “Mind that you take the sacramentals with you, Father. I fear the Devil himself has taken up residence there.”

Ian had agreed to go have a look, though all he had taken with him was a rosary with a small Saint Michael’s medal he had carried since he was a boy.

The grounds on the other side of the fence were ringed by hedges and looked undisturbed. No one had walked those grounds in the last two days, of that he was certain. It had been that long since this particular snow had fallen. That put the lie to old Caffrey’s claim that he had seen someone walking here last night.

He shook his head. He loved the old man and in ninety nine cases out of a hundred he would believe anything Caffrey said. He had given up the drink ten years ago and by all accounts hadn’t fallen once. Still, seeing things that weren’t there meant either all the drink he had taken over the previous fifty years had done its work in destroying the brain cells that could tell the difference between reality and fantasy or else he had leapt from the wagon and had a drop or two.

He felt no evil presence, if such a thing could be felt. The only thing to feel here was the ever present wind and the water leaking through any available crack in his boots from snow that melted underfoot. Satisfied that he had fulfilled his obligation, he turned to walk to Caffrey’s little house to set the man’s fears to rest. The walk was pleasant enough, in spite of the biting cold. His black wool coat sucked every bit of heat it could from the sun and brisk walking helped fight the chill. He made a mental note to pick up a new pair of boots once his visit was done.

He arrived at the two room hovel that Caffrey called home and knocked, knowing that a warm fire and a hot cup of tea awaited him inside if the past was any indication. No answering call came.

Ian knocked again, more loudly this time. It wasn’t as though the man wouldn’t hear if he were home. This time the door opened slightly under the force of Ian’s blows.

“Hello? Caffrey?” Ian stepped in. The air was as warm as predicted, but the priest still felt a chill.

To the left was the kitchenette. From his vantage point he could see bed, hearth, and door to the water closet. The codger’s recliner had its back to him and seemed to sit accusing.

“Caffrey?” His voice was tremulous now. He stepped up to the recliner and saw the top of the old gray head. Each step heavier, he moved around to see that his parishioner was dead. His was not the first corpse Ian had seen. The stillness in his chest and the pale, waxy quality of his skin were telling.

Ian crossed himself.

There was no obvious violence done to the man. A quilt lay in his lap, tucked in. A cup of tea sat on his side table, half drunk. He was mildly surprised to see a new bottle of brandy next to it. Little of the alcohol was missing, perhaps enough to add a bit of additional “warmth” to the cup.

“Poor, poor man.” There was no phone here to call nine-nine-nine. He knew that his cell phone would get no signal this far from town and had left it in his car. He would call the Gardai station at his earliest opportunity and meet them back out here if they needed him. There was nothing more he could do here and now.

He turned to go when something caught his eye. There was a scrap of paper clutched in Caffrey’s weathered hand. He also saw the stub of a pencil in a fold of quilt. Knowing he probably shouldn’t touch the body or disturb the tableau, a part of him wondered if this might be a deathbed confession of some sort. As this man’s confessor he felt bound to at least read it before anyone else.

With the utmost respect Ian carefully pulled the paper from the dead man’s hand. Thankfully it didn’t tear. Ian straightened it out and the single word written there puzzled him.

Fetch.

It was decidedly Caffrey’s writing. He had seen it enough in notes the man would leave him at the church, usually regarding grounds-keeping needs. The quality of the letters always surprised him. The elegant script seemed odd considering its source. He hadn’t written this in the throws of death. It was as clean and even as his writing ever was.

What had he felt the need to fetch? Maybe he wanted someone to fetch something for him? The period made it feel more like a command than a reminder. If so then fetch what? It made no sense to him. He placed the paper on the side table. “One for the Gardai to figure out.” He looked at the corpse again. “Goodbye old friend. Rest in peace.”

He made sure that the door was well closed behind him. The walk back towards the ancient cemetery was colder. The sun was still out, but something had drained from the world with the knowledge that he had failed Caffrey at the last. He decided to make it up to the man’s memory at least. He would come back here with holy water and perhaps his scapular and bless the cemetery properly. It wasn’t that he thought there was anything evil there. He wasn’t sure he still entirely believed in that sort of evil, but it would make him feel better and it wouldn’t do any harm.

The late afternoon light suddenly became even more dim. Ian looked up to see clouds crossing the face of the sun. It looked like they were going to get another flurry. He doubled his efforts, wanting to get back to the car before it started. As he neared the hedgerow he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Now more than his body was cold as a chill wrapped around his heart.

He changed course slightly. If there was someone there maybe there was more to Caffrey’s death than his old heart stopping. Maybe the man really had seen someone out here, a drifter or a criminal on the run, and had been done in by them. Just because he hadn’t seen a wound on the corpse didn’t mean there wasn’t one.

“You there!” He called out, the sound of his words muffled by snow and the realization as he spoke them that if this drifter, or worse, had a weapon of any kind Ian might soon be joining Caffrey.

There was no answer, but clearly saw movement, like someone was crouching down behind the hedges. The Gardai would want a description or they would assume it was a dog or some other animal. Another furtive movement almost convinced him that it was until the man stood.

Ian’s jaw dropped. It was as if he looked in a mirror. The man had his same black pea coat, a clerical collar peaking out. Jet black hair streaked with premature silver and tossed by the wind, “just a little too long for a proper priest”, crowned his head. High cheek bones from his mother and a prominent nose from his father made him look equal parts prince and prize fighter. The only thing different was the eyes. Ian’s were the blue of the sea on a bright summer’s day. This... this thing’s eyes were black as tar, no white visible.

The “other” Ian smiled. It was like a punch to the priest’s stomach. “Hello Father.”

Suddenly Ian wasn’t worried about a weapon. His right hand went of its own accord to the rosary in his pocket. “Hello.” The word came out a croak. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Hello.” That was a little better. His brain spun in his skull looking for an explanation for what he saw. He had none.

“‘Twas the twin I never had. Saw him as plan as I see you there, Father.”

Caffrey’s words from last night echoed in his head.

“Mind that you take the sacramentals with you, Father. I think the Devil himself has taken up residence there.”

Those words taunted him. He wasn’t prepared, physically, mentally, or spiritually for something like this.

“Oh, I’m not Himself, dear boy. Not at all.” The thing’s voice was almost his. It was flattened somehow. Not so much in pitch as it was just lifeless. Where there should have been acidic humor, there was no real emotion. “Though I am here for your soul.”

Ian pinched the medal at the end of his rosary between thumb and forefinger. “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.” The prayer started out rough, his words coughing out of his mouth. Halfway through they gained momentum and clarity.

The thing in priest’s garb seemed to thin. Then it laughed and gained solidity. “This is not a battle Ian. I will take your soul just as Angus Caffrey’s was taken. You will not see another sun set.”

The thing then simply faded from sight. Ian shook his head like he was trying to free himself from a nightmare. Then the pain from the tips of the fingers on his right hand registered. He pulled them out and looked at them. The pressure he had been exerting on the medal left an impression in angry red and bone white.

Eventually he realized that it was dark. This far from town when the sun went down it was pitch black. Clouds obscured the stars, leaving him only the waning moon for illumination. He must have been standing there for more than forty-five minutes. Little feeling was left in his toes or on the tip of his nose.  His brain rejected any attempt to think about the experience of the last hour. It only moved him to his car and the warmth the heater would provide.

The drive back was a blur. Traffic on those back country roads was non-existent particularly given the amount of snow they had. By most standards it wasn’t much, but in this part of Ireland it was notable. When he came to again he was parked in front of The Green Man, the local pub. He had managed to do a fair job of it too, avoiding the other cars by a hair.

He looked at himself in his rear view mirror, almost afraid to look in case his eyes had gone black. Scared blue ones looked back at him. It seemed he also had a fresh strand or two of silver hair. He hoped it was just the way the wind had blown it. The car’s heater had barely touched the cold at his center. Eager for the company of human beings and a glass of whiskey he left the car and rushed for the door.

Subdued music and friendly laughter greeted him. He found the closest chair at the bar and fell into it.

“Gracious Father, you look a complete fright!”  Erin, the barkeep and owner of the Green Man, placed a hand on his arm. Her soft brown eyes filled with concern.

“I’ll be fine dear. Just a bit of whiskey.” His voice still had a ragged edge to it. “It’s so cold out there, too cold.”

She held his arm for one more heartbeat and then turned to pour his drink. She slid it in front of him a second later. “I know you Ian McOwan, have since school, and it’s more than the cold has you in this state. What is it Love?”

He sipped at the Jameson, tempted to finish it in one go. The liquid hit his stomach and warmth began to work its way up and out. “Mr. Caffrey has passed.”

“What? Well I, well we all saw him in here just last night and he was right as rain.”

“It was sudden, it seems to me. Maybe it was his heart. I need to call the Gardai office and let someone know.” He took another sip of the Jameson.

Erin looked over his shoulder. “Coleman. Coleman, come here.” Her shout cut through the pub noise.

A wall of a man moved through the crowd and stopped behind Ian. “What is it Erin?” He nodded to the priest. “Father.”

Ian looked over his shoulder “Garda Coleman.”

“Just Coleman, Father Ian. I’m off duty just now.” He was indeed dressed in plain clothes, a sturdy pair of khaki trousers and an olive drab sweater.

Ian finished the whiskey and placed the glass on the bar, nodding at Erin for another. She cocked an eyebrow, but turned to fill it anyway. “I have some need of you in your official capacity, Coleman. I found Angus Caffrey dead at his house just a short time ago.” It felt like it had been a lifetime.

The big man reached back and produced a pen and notebook from his trouser pocket. He flipped it open and began taking down notes. “Okay Father, anything else to tell me? What state was his body in, was his house broken into, like that?”

“He was sitting in his chair. It looked for all the world like he had gone to sleep, but I know death when I see it.”

Coleman nodded and continued taking notes and nodding his head.

“His place was undisturbed. His front door was unlocked and may have been partially open.”

“Here you go Father. Nurse this one now.” Erin chided gently.

He didn’t think he had thrown the other one back so quickly, but he could feel the effects on his body. He took the glass and looked into the amber liquid. “There was nothing there worth stealing and the man didn’t have an enemy I know of.” He looked up. “There was... one thing.”

“Go on Father.” Coleman’s face and build were that of a footballer, but there was a gentleness in his eyes and tone.

“He told me that he had seen someone out at the cemetery near his place. He wanted me to check it out.”

“You Father? Why on Earth?” Erin interrupted. She looked sheepish as both men turned to look. “Excuse me. I’ve got drinks to pour down the bar.” She moved off and left the men to their talk.

“Fair question Father, why a priest and not the Gardai?” Coleman looked more interested than concerned.

“Well he didn’t think it was a person. He thought it might be... something else.”

“Something more in keeping with your line of work.” There was a hint of skepticism in his tone, but no disrespect.

“Exactly.” Ian took another sip of his drink and left it on the bar.

“Did you see anyone?”

Ian stopped and thought. After a second he shook his head. “No. It was just me and Mr. Caffrey out there. Sorry.”

“No worries there Father. I’ll call this one in.”

“I hate to bother you with this.”

“Nonsense, Father. It’s my job on-duty or off. I’ll call this in. If we need you for anything we’ll let you know.”  He flipped the notebook closed and put it and the pen away. He unclipped a handset from his belt and began speaking into it in clipped tones after a second, while walking towards the door.

Ian swiveled back around and simply held his glass of whiskey. He breathed in the musky fumes like incense. Nothing it seemed could drive those eyes from his head. Why hadn’t he mentioned what he had seen? Simple, even he didn’t know what he had seen.

“Crying in your whiskey Ian?”

The jovial voice drew him out of his turmoil. He turned and tried screwing a smile on as he did. “Jared. Good to see you.” He stuck out a hand. The much younger man took it, though the look on his face had dropped from happy to worried.

“Good to see you too, though I was just joking about the tears.”

Ian reached up and touched his own face. He was surprised to find a dampness there. Embarrassed he reached for a napkin and tried to surreptitiously dry them away. “Sit down, sit down. How’s school?” The American had only been in Ireland for a few months, but already a bond had developed between the two men in spite of their many differences.

Jared raised a finger at Erin and motioned for a drink. “Oh, you know, still settling in. The kids still make fun of my accent. Most of my colleagues do to actually.” Erin slid a Guinness in front of him. “Thank you darlin’.” He accentuated his southern American drawl. He sipped at the stout and smacked his lips appreciatively.

“Sorry for the...” Ian pointed at his face.

“Oh heavens man, don’t apologize. I just want to know what’s got you bothered?”

“One of my parishioners died today. I discovered his body.”

Jared took a deeper draught. “Sorry to hear that.”

“He was an older man. It wasn’t unexpected.” He sipped the whisky, now more because of want than need. A part of him still had a chill, but an ocean of spirits wouldn’t wash that away. “Help me take my mind off of this. I have a question for your skeptical mind.”

Jared adjusted his horn-rims and took on a mock professorial air. “Fire when ready.”

“Have you ever been confronted by something that you felt probably existed, but that you weren’t one hundred percent sure about?” He saw the look in his friend’s eye and held a palm out. “I’m talking about something potentially world shaking.”

“So more than just a straight hair dresser then?”

“Yes.”

Jared stroked his chin. “Well, and I’m being serious here, I did see a UFO when I was in college. Some friends of mine and I were hanging out in the back yard after a cookout and I saw a large saucer shape in the sky. It was clear as a bell. I’m not saying it was from an alien planet, but now I can’t make fun of those folks in trailer parks any more.”

Ian almost chuckled, but the seriousness of the situation killed the humor. “What happened to me tonight was a bit more serious.” He looked around to see if anyone was paying them close attention. Erin was busy down the bar and the rest of the patrons were more concerned with their drinks or chatting up the person next to them. “I was visiting an old cemetery on behalf of the parishioner that died recently. He told me last night in this very pub that he had seen someone that looked exactly like him in the cemetery. It had him so bothered that he asked me to re-sanctify the grounds.”

“So it’s possible for holy ground to lose its charge?”

“I wouldn’t put it quite that way, but I can imagine that if such a place is neglected as this one was then it might cease to be a sacred place. Mind you,” he touched his collar lightly, “this doesn’t make me an expert on all matters spiritual. Don’t let that get around.”

“Did you do it?”

“I’m getting there. When I got to the cemetery I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Honestly?” He ran one finger around the rim of his glass. It produced an eerie hum. “I blamed it on the drink.” Guilt flared up again. “I found him dead, clutching a piece of paper in one hand. It said, ‘Fetch’. I’m not sure what that means. In any case, I left his house intending to come back and report his death. As I passed by the cemetery a second time, I saw myself.”

Jared took a sip of his stout. He seemed to almost chew on it. “And you’re thinking that him seeing his twin and dying means that since you’ve seen your twin, you’ve got a death sentence?”

Ian shrugged. “You saying it out loud like that makes it seem silly somehow.” His brow furrowed. “But I saw it Jared. I saw me. I can’t explain it and I want to disbelieve it, but I can’t. It said that it was here for my soul and that I wouldn’t live to see another sun set.”

“Well Ian, you know that I don’t really believe in any of this stuff. Maybe there’s a god out there and maybe not. I’d like to think that something’s behind all this and not just the random grinding of universal gears, but so far I’ve seen nothing to indicate it. Still, I respect you and what you do for your people and you look like you saw something upsetting tonight. So what do you plan on doing about it? And why tell me?”

Ian ran his fingers through his hair scratching at his scalp. “I don’t know. I was hoping maybe you’d tell me what an eejit I am and tell me to get a good night’s sleep.” He looked a little sheepishly at his friend. “I don’t want to trust what I saw. Still, I do believe in the supernatural. To quote Mr. Carroll, I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast this morning. God, the immortal soul, demons, I say that I believe in all of these things...”

“But to have something like this thrust upon you makes it all real somehow?”

“Exactly. And if what I saw was real then it likely caused the death of a friend. A death that I could have prevented.”

Jared rested a hand on Ian’s arm. “Hey now. You can’t carry that weight. Let’s say you believed what he told you last night and let’s say you did consecrate the grounds this morning or even last night. There’s no guarantee that would have worked is there?”

Ian covered Jared’s hand with his own. “No. No I suppose not.” Another jolt of cold blew through him. “If what I saw was real though and responsible for Caffrey’s death then what’s going to happen to me?”

“Here’s where I should tell you to finish that whiskey and go crawl into bed with a hot water bottle and a good book.” Jared gently took his hand back. “But whether what you believe you saw is real or not, this is going to tear you apart.”  He squared his shoulders. “Let’s go sanctify this grave yard.”

Ian raised an eyebrow. “Pardon?”

“Seriously. Let’s go to your church, get what you need, and sanctify the cemetery where you saw this. I’m not saying that it’ll banish the bogey man, but maybe it’ll get rid of this guilt and help you feel better. Of course that may be the bogey man in need of banishing.”

“And you want to come along?”

“Yeah. Hey, just because I’m a skeptic doesn’t mean I’m a heartless bastard. I don’t want you to go alone. And if something does happen I want to be there to see it.”

Ian nodded. “Alright then. Let’s go to the church so I can pick up a few things and go on over.”

“Tonight?”

“Well, the thing said that I wouldn’t live to see another sun set. That doesn’t mean I have all day tomorrow to take care of this.” Ian stood from his stool and laid down the money for both drinks.

Jared finished his stout in two long pulls and set the glass down with a solid thunk. “A little Dutch courage.”


~~~~~


The moon was still nearly gibbous and for now had broken free from the clouds. Ian and Jared stood a few yards from the fence separating the realm of the dead from that of the living. It was good to have a friend along side him, even if it was one that didn’t believe in what they were about to do.

They each held sample cases, briefcases on steroids. Ian looked over at Jared. “Are you sure about this?”

Jared nodded. “Mostly.”

Ian walked to the gate and opened it. It resisted, though not with any supernatural power. A thin covering of ice and snow made opening it a bit of a challenge. Ian’s thin black gloves didn’t offer much protection from the chill, but they would at least let him handle the sacramentals he brought without fumbling.

Both pairs of feet crunched through the icy snow. Ian stopped about halfway into the middle of the square. “Put the candles at each corner and one about there.” He pointed as near to dead center as he could.

As Jared went about his orders, Ian sat his case down and snapped it open. He removed the Scapular of Saint Michael and kissed each square of cloth before settling the bands over his shoulders. The blue square of cloth that rested against his chest depicted Michael slaying Satan as did the black one that hung between his shoulder blades. Next he removed the purple stole from the case and kissed the white cross embroidered into one end.

“Restore unto me, I beseech You, O Lord, the stole of immortality, which I lost through the collusion of our first parents, and inasmuch as I presume to draw near to Your holy Mystery with this adornment, unworthy though I be, grant that I may be worthy to rejoice in the same unto eternity.” He slid the cloth around his neck and crossed the ends over, binding them together.

He looked up to see that Jared had finished placing the fat white candles and each one gleamed from its place, five tiny points of light amplified by the blanket of white they sat in.  “Thank you Jared.”

The teacher nodded silently and moved to stand near the gate.

Next Ian took five wooden crosses from his case and walked around, impaling the snow behind each candle with one. He was following a modification of the ritual used to bless a new cemetery. There was so much more to it than what he could do on short notice. Being frank with himself, he wasn’t even sure that this would work.

Finally he returned to his case and retrieved the aspergillum. It looked somewhat like a mace, a silver ball on the end of a metal shaft. A reservoir inside held holy water and it was this that he would use to begin the consecration.  

He moved to the corner nearest Jared. It was near this spot that he had first seen the thing. It occurred to him what Caffrey’s note must have referred to. The creature had said that he would take Ian’s soul, just as he had taken Caffrey’s. Perhaps that was what it was called, a Fetch?

“Lord Jesus Christ, I ask you to deign to consecrate this earth to the use of burial.” He swung the aspergillum watching as water spattered the snow near the first candle. He was careful to avoid the light itself. A laugh from nearby broke his line of thought. He thought at first to accuse Jared, but it was not his friend’s laugh.

“Really, Father? You think this will save you?”

Ian soldiered on, ignoring the creature. “From out of the blessing of your buried body, and grant those buried together with you together in baptism.” He swung again. “About to be buried here in the flesh in the hope of your resurrection, to rest in the mercy of your redemption.” Again water landed on the snow adding new particles of ice.

Ian swung to face his accuser, bringing his tool up like the ancient weapon it resembled. “No. My hope for salvation lies in Christ.”  Candle light just beyond the Fetch shown through it dimly. It stood there, arms crossed, dressed as Ian had been earlier that day. There were no vestments. For that at least he was grateful.

“Pretty words, Father. Pretty words. But do they mean anything?” The Fetch extended its arms and clenched its fists.

Ian felt something deep inside him rip. He nearly dropped the aspergillum, only the spasming of his muscles keeping it in his hand. He didn’t make a noise. The pain eclipsed even his desire to scream.

“Ian!” Jared shouted. He rushed to the priest’s side. “What did you do to him?” He looked back and forth from one man to the other.

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Through A Glass, Darkly