Summary: SH2, post Rebirth Ending. "The Old Gods haven't left this place. And they still grant power to those who venerate them. Power to defy even death."
The rowboat comes to a stop at the edge of the dock. James releases his grip on the paddles, rotating his sore shoulder muscles and cracking his back a little. He can rest easy now. The monsters have all disappeared, and the veil has been lifted at last. There is only one thing left in the entire world for him to do. It consumes him completely.
He turns to his wife, lying on the floor of the boat. She is so serene. The face of death seen in a Wake.
Unfortunately, after spending hours in an unventilated trunk and now being suddenly exposed to the air, Mary's skin has begun to discolor and look even more sickly and blotchy than when she was alive. She has only been dead for less than two days, and already she's starting to smell. Her extremities are bluish grey as if she had been afflicted with plague.
Even with Mary in this state, he's sure that he doesn't look much better. After running around a dank prison, coming to at the bottom of dark holes, knee-deep in piles of trash, and sloshing around in the impossibly rancid, murky waters of the catacombs, there probably isn't much difference between them. They are both ghastly corpses now.
But soon none of that will matter. She'll be new like an infant from the womb, and he a smiling man.
He digs under Mary's limp body and lifts her to his chest, cautiously setting foot on the dock. He takes his time, hearing the old wooden boards creak under his feet, and steps onto the mushy sand. The waters lap against the shore like absently licking tongues, washing pebbles into the waves. The trees sway in solemnity. He hears the faint drone of cicadas above his head, pleased to hear that there is still life here.
He strides up the path. The church begins to peek out from the trees as they become sparser and farther apart.
His eerie elation only doubles.
Mary's weight means nothing to him at this point. Only now does he realize that he's carried far heavier things than her.
At some points along the way it seems she might wake up and ask him where they're going. Her lips open slightly every time her head falls back from being jostled up the path.
The trees shade his terrible hope, throwing whipping shadows that lash at his face.
The paint on the old white church is starting to peel, curling back like chipped, withered centipedes. With a powerful kick, the doors creak open and the dust puffs into his face like he's dropped a bag of flour. He turns his head aside to sneeze, and then he enters.
The pews are lined with tarnished gold and the walkway is inlaid with red carpeting. There are more pews in this church than would otherwise be normal. In addition, there are three tiers of galleries above them. This would probably hold an audience of over 1000 easy. Why, though?
In the place of a podium is a marble altar that comes up to his waist. He lays Mary carefully upon it. Names swim in his head.
The Church of the Rebirth.
436 People at a Recital.
His eyes trail all over, from the arched columns to the stained glass windows to the candelabra at either side of the altar. He takes out his little notepad and flips to the notes he took in one of the prison cells.
On Sacrifice and the Art of Demon Summoning… Tome of the Seer… The Resurrection of the Deceased…
He'd read that long ago, these rituals had been carried out in front of an audience—most likely the loved ones of the deceased and a great deal of fierce believers. Maybe even some skeptics. But the old texts are so archaic and vague there's no way to know for sure.
He fishes in his pocket for everything he's procured along the way: all the life-saving notes and illegible scribbles penned by him and long-dead lunatics alike. Tucked away safely in his inner pocket is the White Chrism, which looks little more like a vial of cloudy milk, and sets it down near Mary's leg. He takes out the two tomes he picked up from the library at Lakeview. He grasps the spiraled stem of the Obsidian Goblet. His fingers caress the rim of the cup, faintly wondering how many lips had touched it before his. He sets it down and picks up The Crimson Ceremony.
"..Heed my words and speaketh them to all, that they shall ever be obeyed even under the light of the proud and merciless sun.
I shall bring down bitter vengeance upon thee and thou shalt suffer my eternal wrath.
The beauty of the withering flower and the last struggles of the dying man, they are my blessings.
Thou shalt call upon me and all that is me in the place that is silent.
Oh, proud fragrance of life which flies toward the heart.
Oh cup which brims with the whitest of wine, it is in thee that all begins."
He takes the vial of White Chrism and pours it into the Obsidian Goblet. He then lifts it to his lips and drinks. It's immediately bitter and makes his tongue shirk back from the taste. His nostrils are overcome with the pungency and he starts to cough. He sets down the Goblet and tries to breathe.
He takes Angela's knife, which he'd cleaned prior to the beginning of the recitation, opens the skin of his palm with a delicious slit, and brings it to Mary's unresponsive mouth. Her lips are laced with his blood, and now her mouth is red and cavernous. The blood is the life.
In a flash, the blood begins to cloud. It morphs into a dark blue, then a violent, sudden black. It converges and snakes around her face like lost leeches and finally finds her mouth again, slipping inside.
He feels lightheaded.
A drumming pressure fissures through his temples. Ogre-like praying bursts from somewhere below his feet and its ascension absorbs all other sound. The walls begin to bleed, opening up like a festering wound. His cranium is splitting. Somewhere in the cacophony, he can hear her calling him.
The walls, the pews, the altar, and everything else start peeling off like skin from burning apples. It all flies up in a flurry of black and bright orange ash. His skin starts feeling tighter. His brain wants to squeeze into one side of his skull for fear of being halved, or left behind entirely. He doesn't know anything but that the darkness is coming.
A long row of rusted metal catwalks descend through his vision like climbing down a ladder. An industrial fan whirrs loudly and passes him by, its blades slicing into his hearing.
His temperature drops to an unknowable cold at the wail of the siren. The same siren that had called Red Pyramid back to a place dark and constantly afraid. A place no one could ever dream up.
He can hear a valve turning.
"James." Her arm falls over the ledge and reaches out to him. His head swims with a yearning he can't satisfy. Somewhere in the stuffy muddle of this dream, or whatever else it may be, is happiness. A restless, uneasy, dreaming joy. They're here. Silent Heaven.
She is everything to me
The unrequited dream
The song that no one sings
She's a myth that I have to believe in
All I need to make it real is one more reason…