The church was deserted, long since abandoned by the Lord and his flock. I entered through the front door and beheld the silence. It was old and unbroken, blossomed from the desert of dust that lay across the altar and pews. I moved to the rear of the church, leaving the silence as I found it. The rooms in the back contained nothing of interest save for the pleasant comfort of forgotten places, having slipped quietly beyond the boundaries of memory, tumbling into oblivion. I moved to the cellar door, the cold feeling of underground places lapping at my feet. Strangely, it was nailed shut from the opposite side. I wondered if Mr. Trill had some idea that I would be calling on him. Perhaps he received a warning from something that walked behind the world—an opposing force to that which invited me to transform Mr. Trill—allowing him to prepare for my coming. However, if nailed-up doors were all he could offer…
I returned to the exterior of the church, looking for a way into the cellar. Locating an entrance proved more difficult than I expected, as it was cleverly concealed beneath the ruins of an old shed. I opened the hidden door and a new silence overtook me. The sound of waiting—the sound of a hunter. It permeated everything. The darkness and silence belonged to someone—someone who had cultivated it, trained it, cared for it.
I had carelessly allowed a thin blade of moonlight to slice past me when I opened the door. The cold light cut into the subterranean darkness, stabbing deep into the cellar. Quickly and quietly I closed the door, repairing the darkness, but the master of those deep places would already be alerted to my intrusion. I pressed on.
I gave little thought to why this was happening, focusing exclusively on the what of it all. It was clear what I was stalking was no mere human, but a man of prey. Whether he was a true artist however, remained to be seen. I joined my silence with that of the hunter’s, and I moved through the gloom to the bottom of the stairs. Somewhere deep within, a weak light flickered—candlelight. This was either a distraction or another signpost. The smell of burning wax hung thick—the candles were lit long before I entered the church. I moved closer to the flickering radiance, wary of surprise. Somewhere, wrapped in obedient shadows, was the other. He would be waiting for me to make a mistake. I would make none. The darkness was not my own, but it would serve me none the less.
I slipped behind the shifting shadows of the candlelit room. The chamber was large and crowded, as the trembling light revealed the bodies of over a dozen crucified men. They were arranged in no discernible order, most little more than crumpled paper dolls of desiccated skin. Death had frozen horrified and pleading expressions to their faces, save one. The most recent victim—a corpse less than a week old—wore a death mask of an entirely different disposition—rage and indignation. This man had been fierce even in death, and his sunken eyes still held an echo of a terrible and interrupted purpose. My host in the darkness had killed one of his own. Hayden Trill was indeed an artist.
Comments will be approved before showing up.