El 26 de Septiembre, 2008. 12:00 am
Energy poured into him. It filled his wicked soul, strengthened his anger and solidified his grasp on reality. Arms raised high, melted skin stretched taut, he howled. The walls of the building shuddered in the process, plaster fell and he twisted and turned, anxious to leave.
Brilliant light shone through the doorway, outlining his elemental struggle and one arm reached towards his prey. A woman’s scream reverberated through both actual and imagined existence. As he grew in power, the broken and burnt shape of the schoolhouse transposed itself. It fit like a badly cut cloth over the walls and foundations of the Surgery. His feral grin recognised the moment the hunted ran. Their fear was like a rich wine to his burgeoning senses and with one heave he was free.
Juan soared upwards, enfolding himself in the fog which thickened in tandem with his thoughts. Then he saw him and dived down.
Padre Francisco had forgotten all his training. What was faith when terror overcame all? There was nothing he remembered which prepared a simple country priest for this. Evil as a concept he understood. Bad men did bad things. The Universe raged against the righteous. He was there to counsel, to guide and to ensure that his parishioners did not stray from their path to God. This was so different.
At a basic level his body had reacted. Adrenalin pumped through him and he ran. There was no clear goal in his mind, just escape. Wave after wave of triumphal laughter washed over him. It was a sickening parody of baptism and each step became harder. When he could run no more, when his legs failed to obey his body and his chest struggled to contain the erratic beat of his heart, he stopped.
From his hideout, Rodrigo watched. His main camera was forgotten. It lay where it had fallen. He still had his video-camera though and enough space on its disk. With its screen turned towards him, he raised it high and filmed.
Juan swooped above the cowering priest. He saw the mumbling lips but no words could hurt him now. There was another close behind him, but he could wait. The fog became wispy, translucent as his form took shape. There was no hidden beauty in his ravaged visage, only spite and hatred. Tears fell from the priest’s tightly shut eyes and Juan was content.
“Where is your God now?”
His voice hissed and bubbled from the warped face. Padre Francisco caught a whiff of burnt meat and putrefaction, twined together in an unholy mixture.
“He cannot save you. No-one can.”
The priest crumpled. A vice-like grip dragged him upward.
“Not yet.” Juan said close to his ear. “First, I get to play.”
Rodrigo saw Padre Francisco jerk upwards. He zoomed in. There was nothing substantial there! The priest shivered in terror, head cocked to one side. Who was he listening to? He saw one arm drawn backwards and heard the sharp crack of breaking bone. This was repeated on the other side. Now he focussed on Padre Francisco’s face. His lips moved, but no sound uttered forth.
The left side of the priest’s chest began to move. A strange writhing movement which pushed against the cloth of his shirt. Blood sprayed as something tore its way free. There clear to Rodrigo’s eyes was a pale and tortured fist. Within it lay the still beating heart of the priest. The fist tightened, squeezing blood and flesh in a slow drip to the floor. Then the priest’s body was flung roughly aside and Rodrigo saw what was there. Another camera hit the floor, vomit spattering over it.
When he raised his head again, the fear controlled only to the most minimal extent, he saw Padre Francisco’s body. It was sprawled in grotesque abandonment. The thing was nowhere to be seen.
Rosa cowered inside a small shed. The wooden door was pulled tightly closed. Someone had tried to join her there, but her curses and tight grip refused them entry. They had gone now and she was safe. At least for the moment.Her mobile pone buzzed in her pocket and she flipped it open.
“Rosa, it’s Emilio. What the hell is going on. We can’t stall the public much longer.”
“Emilio, thank God. You’ve got to get us out of here. It’s all true.”
A short silence followed, then Emilio’s voice returned, cold and vindictive.
“You knew that it was true. We planned this. Get your lazy arse back to wherever the camera is. We need a live feed and now. The ratings are through the roof and I’m not going to lose this once in a lifetime chance. Not for you. Not for anyone.”
“Emilio, you don’t understand. It’ll kill me. There’s no way…”
He interrupted her. His voice calm now almost soothing.
“Just get me one more clear picture. That’s all I ask. When we stop talking I promise I’ll ring the Guardia Civil... and Rosa. Make sure you get that film or one stupid ghost will be nothing compared to what I’ll do to you.”
The connection died and she sat for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip. He had no intention of calling the police. No, her only possible way out was the old man. Hiding here though, she would have no chance. Decision made, she cracked open the door and peered into the dark and fog-filled street.
“Where are we going?”
The old man didn’t answer. He was saving all of his energy for their flight. They stumbled and slithered down a glass-lined slope, finally coming to an abrupt stop against a rough stone wall. Inching his way round, the Professor found and unhitched a small gate.
“In here,” he gasped, falling to his knees and peering at the small upright stones within the walled area.
Then Toni realised where they were. The cemetery. Was this old fool crazy?
“Are you stupid?”
His normal respect for his elders had been lost in their mad flight. Good manners were far from his mind and it was only the Professor’s ironic laugh which grounded him.
“That has never been up for much debate,” said the old man, “coming to this village was indeed the height of stupidity. The cemetery is a different matter altogether.”
“We are here for information. There is something about this plan of Sanchez which, apart from being half-baked, smacks of a certain confidence. We need to find the link and perhaps here we can start.”
He pulled out his torch and snapped it on, peering at the headstones.
“Look at the names. Try to find some common factor between them and our party. You, yourself are involved somehow, of that I am sure.”
Toni’s guilt was overpowering and he reached inside his jacket, pulling free the battered book.
“Maybe this will help, Professor.”
The old man took it from him and opened it to the first page. He flicked pages rapidly, the colour draining from his face. At last he looked up.
“Where did you get this?” he demanded anger clouding his voice.
“From my Abuela...Irene...”
“Holy Mary, Mother of God ...” gasped the Professor, as he slumped against a headstone, “You are the reason we are here. Those others are just the warm-up routine...”
SDIV El Juego Chapter Thirty Part Three
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