"Are you a religious man?"
The question took Sime aback, and he looked up abruptly at the preacher sitting at the altar, his head bowed in deep though, or perhaps prayer. Prayer interrupted by an important question.
"What do you mean?" Sime asked, almost defensively. His eyes narrowed as he searched for the purpose of the question.
"I mean what I mean, simply put, without bullshit...Lord forgive me..." He quickly added this last bit. Andrew Frost may have been a preacher, but he still had moments of slip ups. Speaking in that sort of a language had, for the longest time, been one of those slip ups. The man was nearing his elder years now, his once light brown hair replaced with silver wisdom, and his eyes were old. So very old. Within the last eight hours, he had received more wrinkles than his many years prior put together.
"Am I religious?" asked Sime, the burly, young construction worker asked, scratching at his severely sweat laced head, his light blue eyes wide with the surprise at such a question. How could the old man be asking such things, now!?
"Yes. Do you have any sort of faith, Mr. Yu?"
"Nah. I mean, sure, I used to build churches for those Unitologist freaks, but that was just business. Never took on their belief system or anything."
"I would hope not. How about Christians? What do you feel about them?"
"How cliched. I don't mean the stereotypes that society has given them. I mean what do you truly perceive them to be?"
"Your religion calls us to do the impossible."
"And you're afraid that you cannot do it."
"What? Can't do what?"
BANG! Both men looked up quickly, fearful, one elderly heart crying softly, one hardened one grimacing with absolute, inner terror. Trying hard to regain composure, Andrew turned his attention back to Sime, but even as he opened his mouth, a distant, horrible scream erupted in their ears.
"No," snapped Andrew sharply, his eyes flaring at the construction worker. Sime spun around, furious.
"They're fixing to be here. They'll break into this church of yours, old man, and then we're dead!
"If it be God's will, perhaps. But I believe that He has better plans for us than this."
"Yeah, and did He have better plans for those poor sons of bitches out there!?" hissed Sime, his eyes boring fiercely into Andrew's old, withered windows. Andrew sighed.
"I can't question what God intends for anyone, Sime. I can only recognize the signs in my life, and perhaps interpret the signs that arise in the lives of others. We, who stand upon the brink of destruction in this place, have a right to that, I believe."
"Well, you can interpret all you want, but I don't give a shit about what God wants for me, alright. This is my survival. I'm going to make it happen my way!" Sime began to stroll away, and Andrew bowed his head. Desperately, he began to whisper a prayer.
"Please, give me the strength to reach out to that man. He's in his last moments...I mean, darn it, no...I can't say that. Forgive me, Lord. What I mean is, I don't know what is going to happen here. Your plan is not for my full interpretation unless it is Your will to be. I can't say that I have a place to make that judgement. I can, however, as a human, acknowledge my fear. If you could take that away, I will rejoice, and if not, I will still rejoice. Because what I need to ask for is your courage to reach out to this man. If this is my last test, my last great witness, then I need you to help me. This man can be saved from more than just undead. He can be saved from death itself. I can be a tool. I just need you to pick me up. In your blessed and admittedly awesome name I ask this, amen."
He opened his eyes, and noticed Sime staring at him, shaking his head, his face sad.
"Whole world's gone to Hell, and you're just gonna pray?"
"What else is there to do?" Andrew challenged him, though calmly. "The doors are locked and there is no way out of this church but through the front, and it's probably swarming with those things right now. Perhaps you'll join me."
"What is there to be harmed?"
"And your dignity is going to save you from what those creatures will do to you?"
"Hell no. I'm resigned to the fact that I'm going to die in this place, with a lunatic who only has time for praying and no time for building up a defense!"
"A defense can be interpreted, as God's word can, or dreams, or stuffy literature."
"What the hell are you talking about!?"
"Sit, Sime, and we can talk about it. And don't shout, okay. They'll hear you."
As if on cue, something terrible screeched into the day, and this time, it was so very close. It was surely on the other side of the distant church door. They heard it clawing, scratching at the very metal of the entrance, sniffing them out with its terrible nostrils. It would hunt them down. It would find a way in. Both of them knew it. The darkness of this dimly lit cathedral would not hide them. The blue flamed candles along the walls would do no good. They were prey, and now, the only thing to do was wait. Wait, and be devoured. For they were Legion, many.
"Please, Sime, sit down. I want to talk to you about many things."
"There's no time, alright. They're coming."
"And we'll wait. Now, sit, please." He said it kindly, but there was also a form of genuine firmness behind his voice, something that commanded, yearned even. Sime exhaled deeply. The preacher was right. They had to simply wait. He could sense no antagonism within the man, but all the same...why did it have to end like this? The man gave in, and fell to his knees, staring at the preacher and lost for words.
"Talk, then. Why are you intent on prayer, now? Can't you see that your God has failed you?"
"My God? So, then, you acknowledge presence?"
"Presence is perspective, preacher. I've seen them, Frost. They're the only angels in my life, and they're certainly not the harp playing kind."
"I suppose creatures like that could never be taught to play instruments, you are correct. However, they can be used to instruct."
"In what way?"
"Think about it. The possibilities of such things. Their essence, their core, everything that defines what they are, and why they are?"
"You're going to say that playing God has brought this upon us all."
"You know very well that no one was playing God, Sime. That...marker...was pure alien. Designed by beings of which we have no true knowledge. But when man first set out to explore these stars, he had a purpose. To bring new horizons back home. A dangerous situation like the moon landing revolutionized an entire planet. Changed perspectives completely."
"We made it possible to expand ourselves," Sime put in. "We made it so that we could change more than our own lives."
"Perhaps so, yes. And in those pursuits, we found dangers. We lost people. Many innocent people, just trying to make a difference. But we pushed on anyway, because we knew that even in that dark, there was a change waiting. A good change."
"You preaching while those things are coming in here?"
"Yes, I am," replied Frost firmly. "Sime, I want you to understand that my own life has had its doubts, its fears. Many times I have questioned God's purpose in my life, and now, as this station falls and these new forms of dead take lives of so many others, that fear is creeping in. The Enemy likes that fear." He stared down at the floor hard. "He likes it so much. I don't profess to be perfect, and I certainly have no desire to make myself heard as a judge of man. I simply do what I have given my life to do. Preach, you call it. Yes, preach, and teach. I'm a teacher, Sime. I'll always be a preacher, until the moment I die, whether it be in a few minutes or a few years. Whatever the case, whenever the time of death, it matters little. I know what my priority is, I know what I have to do. Consider your blessings, Sime. Consider all the good things that have risen in your life. Where did they come from?"
BANG! A thunderous sound. They both looked to the door and saw that a fresh dent had been pushed into it. A monstrous growl sung on the other side. Another loud bang, and a second dent pushed inward, this one a little above the first. Sime and Andrew stood to their feet.
"Consider all of your blessing, Andrew. All of the good things. Your education, your job skills, your friends. Consider them all and know that they were gifts, as much as they were teaching tools. Know that they made a difference in your life, and that you used them to all to see the differences in various ways."
"But in the end, this was my fate?" Sime's voice shook as he said it, and Andrew Frost realized that the burly man was crying Tears were running down his face, and he was heartbroken at the sight. His own tears were falling now.
"Perhaps. But Sime...those moments...what were they to you?"
"I'll tell you what they were...they were everything." And he looked at the preacher with earnest desire in his face. "Tell me, Frost...is there an afterlife!?"
BANG! A hole had appeared in the door now, and they saw that a massive black, round claw-like hand had punched its way through. A burning smell hit them, the stench so foul and oily. The growl intensified, a scream of the hunter, and they knew he was coming. They knew they would be eaten soon.
"Frost..." Sime was shaking terribly, and he was losing control now, his entire cellular structure freezing, trembling with unstoppable terror. He was stricken and he was feeling sick on the inside. "Frost...is there an afterlife?"
And Frost turned to Sime, with a small, sad smile on his face. "I believe so, son. What do you say? Give Him a chance. You're not dead yet."
Sime was not sure what to say. He was completely lost for words. Sime had lived, for so long, a life without a need to believe. He had been content with his job as a construction worker aboard several star vessels, had found solace in his contracts that he could secure about the Titan Station of The Sprawl. He had been adequate about the station's small history, and the achievements made by the voyagers of space. A girlfriend here, a nice income tax there, nothing could have been more basic and more beautiful than the simplicity of the way of his life. Titan Heights had been his life. Miniature golf, trips to the cinema, even snow cone runs down to Fred's. Where was that life? What decisions were there left to make now?
Sime had always been a man of concrete. If it was there, it could be touched, harmed, smelled, licked, focked, and all manner of things. It could be seen, it could be experienced. The physical state of being in the object of question was, undeniably, present and confirmed by hard on, relentless evidence. Why, then, did he suddenly feel an absolute fear that did not originate from the monster outside of the door that was slowly tearing its way inside to eat them, but from the calm, concerned words of this church's elderly preacher?
"How?" was his pleading whisper.
"Take some time and talk to him. Ignore the creature outside this door. He is the Enemy's fear. Just take time and talk to Him. Alright?"
"And what good will it do? I don't believe in Him..."
"Maybe He can change your perception, Sime. Just...patience."
Sime shook his head. He really could never come to understand Andrew Frost. What exactly was this man? Where had he come from? What good would it be, to throw himself into a belief system he had never given credit, with only seconds until their death? It seemed like an absolute waste of time to him.
"I have no fear of you, Frost..." he lied, edging away from the man slowly. Frost, however, was ignoring Sime, and instead had fallen to his knees and into silent meditation. He was going to prepare himself for whatever awaited him on the other side of that door. Now was the time to open other doors. Open them, and understand why they needed to be opened. Sime fell to his knees to, and slowly began to weep into the cold stone floor...
To Be Continued...