Impossibly, the click of the gun as it refused to fire resonated louder than the gunshot would have. Somehow, the silence afterwards was even louder.
Lana's pulse pounded in her ears. As she clutched her useless gun tighter, her aim wavering, the dim flame from the furnace's pilot light reflected in her wide glistening eyes. She tried to fire again and again, the gun clicking in a quick staccato.
Thredson had stopped dead when he had seen Lana's finger tighten around the trigger the first time. Now, as the weapon's worthlessness became obvious, a small smile began to trace his lips, and again began to move towards Lana.
Before he completed a single step, the door burst open, splintering as it smashed into the wall. In a blur of movement, a human-shaped mass slammed into Thredson, easily shoving him to the floor before landing on top of him. With a sound of shattering glass and bone, Thredson's glasses were ground into his face and his face was ground into the stone floor.
The creature on top of Thredson raised its fist and brought it down, pounding it into the back of his skull. With a sick splash, the fist cracked through bone and into brain.
Swallowing hard, Lana crept towards the door, desperate to not draw any attention to herself.
Finishing the ritual for the second time that night, Monsignor Howard shouted, "Go away, Seducer!"
Still pulling at her face, chunks of skin and muscle tissue in her fist, Sister Mary Eunice glared at him. Sister Jude neared her, still chanting, holding out the small finger bone from the altar. Mary Eunice's eyes flicked to the bone before focusing even more intently on the Monsignor.
The force of Mary Eunice's stare suddenly became tangible, as what felt like a wall crashed into Monsignor Howard. He was pushed backwards, sliding on his heels, into a pew, where he crumpled to the floor.
The finger bone in Sister Jude's hand touched Mary Eunice's face where her skin had been pulled away to reveal muscle and tendons. With a shriek, Mary Eunice collapsed into sobs on the floor. Behind her, the candles began to go out, one by one, and darkness spread around the perimeter of the church.
Abandoning his post at the door, Dr. Arden raced to where Monsignor Howard had fallen. He knelt at his side as the Monsignor tried to struggle to his feet.
"It's time," Monsignor Howard said over Mary Eunice's sobs of despair. He pulled a small silver dagger out from his robe and handed it to Arden. "The demon has been weakened."
Arden stared at him, disbelievingly. Another piercing scream from Mary Eunice shook him out of his doubt, and he stood, steeling himself. Sister Jude still held Mary Eunice back, digging the finger bone into her face and fending off Mary Eunice's flailing hands, which scratched and clawed at her.
Taking a deep breath, Dr. Arden finally pushed himself, running forward. He grabbed Mary Eunice's hair and pulled her head back, exposing her neck. She sobbed again, tears streaming down her cheeks to drip off her chin, her mouth forming silent pleas for mercy. With wide eyes, Jude looked up at Arden and nodded sadly.
Arden brought the dagger down into Mary Eunice's carotid artery, immediately pulling it out to let the blood gush forward in thick spurts. He quickly stabbed her again in the other side of her neck before burying the knife in the trachea, trying to end her pain as quickly as possible. As he let go of her hair, she slumped forward, no longer breathing.
Blood spread out in a wide circle, sinking into the cold stone floor. Her black habit pooled around her, and the unmarred side of her face stared across the room. Arden reached forward and closed the wide, blue eyes.
Lana backed out of the room slowly. As she crossed into the hallway, she focused on the idea of escape, trying to ignore the sounds of Thredson's body being torn apart and devoured.
Keeping her breathing even, Lana turned to run, or rather feel her way towards her exit, when she was struck from the side. She screamed as she careened into the wall. A hand clamped over her mouth. Struggling, she tried to pry it away.
"Shh," Kit hushed her. "It's me."
Recognizing his voice in the darkness, Lana stopped fighting. When it was clear she understood what was happening, Kit's grip loosened and he dropped his hand.
"We have to get out of here," she whispered.
Kit nodded, and then realized Lana couldn't see him. "Let's go," he agreed, and the held hands, together racing for the tunnel.
The chapel was silent. The warm glow of the candles had receded, and the only light came from a still-lit cluster behind Monsignor Howard. Kneeling in the spreading blood, Jude held Mary Eunice's cold hand as blood invisibly seeped up the black cloth of her habit.
"I need…" she whispered, her breath shuddering. "I need some time alone with her."
"Of course, Sister," the Monsignor replied softly. Dr. Arden looked over at him, glaring. The Monsignor shook his head. "You'll have time later."
Still holding the bloody dagger, Arden stormed towards the door, lifted the wooden beam blocking them in, and stepped into the corridor. Monsignor Howard followed to find Arden pacing the width of the hall.
"There's nothing for me here, anymore," Arden observed.
"There hasn't been for a while," Monsignor Howard shot back. "Not since Jude found out about your past."
Arden gave a quick nod, but continued pacing. After a moment, Monsignor Howard outstretched a hand to him, holding out a rosary. Looking at him questioningly, Arden finally stopped.
"It might help," the Monsignor encouraged him. "I know you're not a man of faith, but after all you've seen, you must have a better understanding of the nature of God."
Slowly, Arden took the beads from Monsignor Howards's hand, and the Monsignor turned to leave.
"You're right," Arden answered, rolling the beads between his fingertips. "I do understand now." The dagger rang as it struck the floor, and Arden pulled the rosary taught between both fists and brought it over the Monsignor's head, drawing it across his neck.
Monsignor Howard gagged momentarily as he was wrenched backward. Winding the rosary beads around his hands, Arden tightened his grip. He smiled. The Monsignor wasn't even struggling, and in a minute, the man who had forced him to kill Mary Eunice would be dead.
With a sharp cry of pain, Arden let go of the beads. As they clattered to the floor, he examined his shaking hands. Twin lines of circles were burnt into his flesh. Arden looked up to see Monsignor Howard glaring at him, completely unfazed by the murder attempt.
His eyes darting from the Monsignor to the rosary beads on the floor and back, Arden's brow furrowed in confusion. His hands still felt like they were on fire from the impossible effect of the beads. And then it clicked into place.
"You…" Arden said like it was a curse. "You made me kill her, even though you were already gone."
Monsignor Howard – or the demon now controlling him – smirked. "And there's nothing you can do about it," he told Arden before turning and walking away.
Arden sank to his knees. Mary Eunice was dead, and it had accomplished nothing. His eyes wandered to the dagger covered in her blood, lying next to his knee. Slowly, he picked it up and studied it, as if he was no idea what it was. As if in a daze, he brought the point to his wrist and then buried it in his ulnar artery.
Deliberately, but calmly, Arden dragged the blade along his arm. His blood mixed with Mary Eunice's, then overwhelmed it, surging over his forearm and spilling to the floor. The blood loss was already making Arden lightheaded when the dagger came to an abrupt stop, the force of an impact resonating up the knife's length as it ran up against something metallic.
Arden dropped the dagger. It fell to the ground with a thud muffled by blood. Tranquilly, Arden dug into his own torn tissue, groping for what had halted the knife, and yanked out a thin black piece of metal.
The metal, a flat hexagon, sprouted legs and skittered away. Arden barely had time to recognize it as the bug he had found in Kit before he was blinded by white light pouring in through every window of the asylum.
As soon as the light had appeared it was gone, and Arden was plunged into darkness. Somehow he was suddenly lying down, his back against something cold. He tried to sit up, but straps across his chest kept him in place. As his eyes adjusted, he made out large, cruel black eyes above him, and long fingers holding a sharp instrument.
The light streaming in through the windows was the warm sunshine of late morning when Kit finally stirred. Lana leaned in closer as his eyes opened and he looked around in uncertainty.
"Where am I?" he asked.
"You're safe. We're at the hospital, remember?" Lana prompted him. "After we got out of Briarcliff we came here. How's your shoulder feeling?"
Struggling to sit up, Kit grunted in discomfort. "Better. They've got me on enough drugs that I barely feel it. It still hurts though." He paused as bits and pieces of the events of the night before began resurfacing. "Did I dream seeing that light at Briarcliff?"
Lana shook her head. "No, I saw it too," she confirmed. "You said it was your aliens, but you were babbling by that point."
"It had to be them though," Kit nodded.
"Ever figure out why they were so interested in you?"
"I think I might've," Kit said, frowning. "It's gonna sound crazy though."
"Last night…" There was a pause as Kit tried to articulate his suspicions. "Last night, I think I made all the guards' guns stop working. After I got shot." As Lana's eyes widened, Kit shook his head, dismissing his theory. "What have the police said? Have you heard anything?"
"I was watching the news all night. There were a lot of witnesses. Of course they don't know what caused the light." Lana smiled at Kit. "And I doubt they'd believe it if a former mental patient told them it was aliens, even if everyone knows you're innocent now."
"What about those monsters?"
"No one said anything about them," Lana told him. "I don't think anyone who saw them survived."
"Yeah, but there's still the bodies," Kit said. "I mean, what do they think killed all those people?"
"That's the really weird part." Lana hesitated. "There were none," she finally finished.
Shocked, Kit gasped. "What?" he exclaimed. "None?"
"The police are saying they must have escaped."
"But… That's impossible! I saw..." Kit trailed off, not wanting to relive what had happened. "There was no way they were getting up and running off."
"I know," Lana nodded. "And there's blood all over Briarcliff. Someone snuck in and took photos, so everyone knows what happened there wasn't a normal riot. The police just don't want to admit that they can't explain it."
"If everyone's seen the pictures, what do they think happened?"
"They're saying…" Lana swallowed, hating what she was about to say. "That they were brought up to Heaven. That it was a miracle."
Kit blinked in surprise. "A miracle?" he repeated. "At Briarcliff?"
"I know." Bitterly, Lana smirked. "Monsignor Timothy Howard is going to come out of this with a better reputation than ever. Because of this 'miracle', he's gonna be impervious to any criticism. They'll think he's practically a saint."
The room was quiet as both Lana and Kit mulled over her words. Finally, Kit asked: "What about Thredson?"
"As you said," Lana replied, "He wasn't about to get up and run off."
"You think he's dead?"
"I hope so. He has to be." After a moment, she added, "I'm sure he's dead."
Kit nodded. "And what about…?"
Lana smiled with relief. "I just got tested. I'm not pregnant."
"That's impossible," Lana repeated with more certainty. "The pennyroyal I was talking about, on that tape," she added, pointing to the decrepit tape recorder, its bulk heavy, even through the blankets, "It did the trick. I never had Bloody Face's child, or anyone else's."
"But…" The gun wavered, its wielder unsure. "This can't be right."
"I think I would know if I had a kid." An edge crept into Lana's voice, despite the weapon pointed at her head.
"No. I know you're the one."
The familiar words jarred memories loose in Lana's mind. Squinting, she peered through the darkness. He was difficult to make out, and his face – his whole head – was misshapen, as if it had been broken in many places before being put back together by someone who didn't quite know how a human face should look, but Lana felt a sudden flash of recognition.
"Oliver?" she gasped.
DUN DUN DUUUUUUN!
Hi everyone! Thanks to anyone who actually read this whole, unnecessary thing.
One of the things I love about this site, and fanfic in general, is that it's all about the love of writing for writing's sake, so I feel guilty about turning this into an ad for a second. However, as someone who has somehow gotten an original work published, and who wants to turn this from a hobby into a career, I have to, ironically, be super shameless.
*sigh* Here goes. Imagine this being said in the perkiest sounding voice you possibly can:
If you enjoyed my writing, please check out my debut short story Approaching One (at www . tinyurl dotcom slash ApproachingOne*). And if you enjoy that one, you can also follow me on twitter ( SeaLenz), where I'll hopefully announce new stories when (more like if) I sell them.
*Sorry for the mess, this site seems unhappy with links. Take the spaces out and translate the dotcom and slash as appropriate.