Miya's Note: Hello! I apologize to those waiting for a new chapter of this story. After a long, long period of writer's block and business, I'm getting back to this. I was unhappy with a lot of the original story, so I'm going to be going back to the beginning and reduxing the entire thing. Cleaning up, adding things, and updating my writing to be more to my current standards. Then, I'll write the other chapters based on the new version. :D
To those new to the story, welcome! I'll spare you any lengthy explanation and just allow you to read the story. This is the first edited chapter. Watch for more updates, and then the other chapters, in the near future.
Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
The pain was like a knife, just as sudden, and just as deadly.
When that stabbing agony hit most people, they grasped at their chests, trying to dig into and claw out their hearts themselves before the fevered and deadly beating drove them mad in their last moments.
Mihael Keehl, however, clutched at his rosary, tears streaming down his cheeks like they hadn't in years, the last of his voice choked out by his own foaming saliva and chocolate-tinged bile.
"I…believe in…God…Father Almighty…."
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.
It was a holy war, the radicals said. They called the Catholics idol-worshippers, heretics. They called them the sinners, and though thou shalt not kill, kill they did.
It was because of this that the Keehls died during church service, in the middle of their prayers.
Their son had snuck away from them in the midst of the Hail Marys. He had been afraid they'd see him do it, but he'd been wrong.
Their hearts and minds were on God.
The six-year-old had hidden away, crying, in the confessional. He had snapped the chain of his small new rosary and was ashamed, thinking that God would punish him for destroying such a holy relic. Even worse, the commandments told him to honor his father and mother, but he had broken their birthday gift to him instead.
It didn't matter that it had been an accident. In his mind's eye, Mihael could see Papa's frustration, and Mama's quiet disappointment. He held the tiny cross to his chest, staring down at the snapped thread and considering for a moment leaving to look for the prayer beads that were missing.
If he left, they might see him. However, if he stayed, they could follow the beads to his location. They would find him, and then they would know.
He was terrified of either possibility. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned," came a confession without a priest, in a voice so shy and so frail that only God could hear. "Please, God. Don't be angry with me. Don't let Mama and Papa be mad."
As if in answer to his prayers came the assurance that his parents would never even know.
The explosion shook the building, causing the thin wooden walls of the confessional to shiver and creak and the child inside of it to scream. Although the new gaping cracks in the walls of the cathedral let in the cold winter air, the fires themselves heated those winds to burning temperatures, making the child's eyes sting and skin crawl. He was trapped, and as he cowered from the heat, the fires seemed to reach in to touch him as they painted glowing fleur-de-lis on his face through the ornately carved air-holes in the sinner's cage.
There were crashes, screams. The steeple bell rang out like a death-toll as the tower that enclosed it crumbled and fell. The terrified shouts and wails of everyone Mihael had held dear were how he had imagined the sounds of Hell.
But why? Why were they being punished? He had been the one to sin, not them.
As the screams began to fade away, new voices filled the air. The beating of feet on the ground and the rushing sound of pressurized water slowly took away that of crackling flame.
Mihael, by this time, had crouched back into the farthest corner of the confessional, underneath the wooden bench. The smoke had begun to make him light-headed, but still he prayed silently to the broken rosary in his hands, "Oh, God, make it stop! Mama…Papa…I wanna see my Mama and Papa! Please don't let me die!"
Even at such a young age, Mihael's prayers had always reached the ears of God, and the door of the confessional burst open. Strong, adult arms encircled the tiny, shivering boy protectively. The firefighter carried him out of the cathedral, over the rubble of the church, through smoke and dust and into the blinding sun. They said that he had been lucky - marveled over the fact that the corner with the confessionals had remained intact long enough to leave the child alive. A remarkable stroke of luck, they called it.
Mihael, on the other hand, thought to himself that it could have been nothing other than faith, because his prayers had been answered exactly as he had said them: He was alive, and he saw Mama and Papa once more, right before men zipped the body bags over their burnt faces.
He was given Mama's rosary, the only thing left almost miraculously unmarred amongst scorched clothing and flesh. It was cruel. Cruel that he had only this to remember them by. Cruel that it had to be a brother to the object that had killed them.
That day, Mihael Keehl truly became a God-fearing man. The Lord's message had become to him akin to that of genies in the "blasphemous" and "wicked" fairy tales that he'd read behind his papa's back:
"Be careful how you word your wishes, because they'll come true."
He wanted to blame God. He wanted to blame the trickery, the injustice. But he could only blame himself.
"I broke it. This is all my fault. If only I hadn't snapped the chain. If only I hadn't been so afraid. If only I had been a better son…"