The Pulpit and the Pully
An ideal vantage point from which to observe.
A weak noise, an echo, snaps his wavering attentions to one side.
I know he's in there I can smell his vileness and sweat. I can smell the young lad's fear. But we'll have to wait, only fools rush in.
Fully focused he looks toward the back and side of the church from whence the sound came. Several pews back from the pulpit were the confessional chambers. They looked more like a large sheds really, very expensive lavishly decorated storage units, seemingly no bigger in dimension than a large sedan.
Muted light dances in the slight gap in between the bottom of the closed door and the stone floor. It beat an unsteady, jagged and feverish rhythm.
I'm surprised he doesn't knock that thing over.
The door swings open suddenly. With a brisk pace, a youth in a white frock exits. His eyes are wide and the garments he wears are in obvious disarray. A reflection, from the turned down lights, high above in the rafters, shimmers upon a splash of liquid on his disheveled starched whites.
Someone has been a bad boy.
He shrinks back as the youth passes, even if he sat at the edge of the row and away from the concealment of shadows the boy wouldn't notice him. The youth's gaze was fixed and his thoughts, like his cassock and surplice, seemed askew and out of order. As the entryway closes behind him his footsteps becoming louder.
A whistled melody turns his attentions toward the confessional chambers once more. A robed figure unhurriedly makes his way from inside. A large hand lazily wipes at thinning strands of hair plastered across a sweaty brow, the knuckles are embossed in shimmering gems and gold finery.
Apparently the raping of innocence pays well these days too.
The happily whistling, extravagantly robed man makes his way, slowly, between the rows of pews. Swinging a set of keys he continues to whistle a merry tune, it is unrecognizable to he who hides in the shadows, but it has surprising clarity and melody.
Yes...we get it! You're happy now. Quite the beautiful melody for such a vile creature.
He stops suddenly, the whistling abruptly cut short, and looks directly at the patient watcher's position. Something has grabbed his attention at the rear of the church. The watcher is confident he is camouflaged within dense shadows.
Move on Boy-O, there's nothing to see here. Do you think he saw us? Do you? I think the game is up.
Stock still, with his breathing held in check, the watcher can hear what he believes the priest has seen. A flash of fur scurries swiftly under his seated position.
“Damn! The exterminator was only here last week. I'll need to pay closer attention that the doors are closed from now on.”
Capture and release one would hope. The least you can do when they shit all over your home is to wring the furry little bastard's necks.
The whistling starts again. Within a few steps the priest has reached the heavy wooden split door entrance. With a click and an echoing thunk, he turns a key selected from the vast ringed collection in his hand, and locks them securely. He flips a switch to the right of the door. Vagrants hiding within and sleeping in the church after hours has been a problem as of late. The church is now fully illuminated and...empty.
One of their favorite pastimes was to visit the local junkyard. It was full of rusted treasures and strange objects of yesteryear that fascinated both of them. They constantly dared each other to climb the towering stacks of crushed cars, giving each other kudos for reaching previously unattained heights. All the while keeping an eye out for Old Man Browne and his slobbering mangy mutt 'Killer', who really wasn't much of one (his best years a thing of the forgotten past).
”George! George! Take a look at this!”
He couldn't, he wouldn't. He was nearing the top of the “monolith”, a stack of vehicles, that looked down upon all the others in the yard. It was the King of stacks, he would be heralded as a hero by his brother, Nick. All he had to do was traverse this rusted fender. It's precarious position only possible because of the lifted trunk of the faded pink car underneath. To think this car used to be a classic, and probably salivated over by his grandad. It was all angles and strange dimensions, not to mention it probably consumed gas faster than his uncle drank scotch.
”Wow! You passed the Chevy. C'mon George you can make it!”
Nick moved closer dropping the item of current interest; he didn't wish to yell his enthusiasm across the yard. Old Man Browne's hearing was notorious for being bad, but not that bad.
George held onto the fender's edge with one hand, careful not to rend his flesh on the jagged rusted metal. All he had to do now was to shuffle and swing his body around the trunk. It was huge! You could hide anything in there; his other hand was in a tight grip on the edge of the trunk's surface. Slowly he shuffled his weight lifting one leg. That was when the trunk clicked open.
”Fuck! Be careful George… Dad will kill us both if you fall...” A sudden and very adult realization flashed across George's subconscious. Perhaps it wasn't a great idea to be climbing this high, his brother was like a mere ant from this height and it would surely hurt like a bitch (a word never used in the house, only ever at school) if he managed to survive a fall.
The trunk lifted slowly, George's heart races suddenly pounding in his chest as he loses his balance. Thankfully his grip is still tight on the trunk's edge.
”George!” Louder this time, unconcerned now that someone might hear.
But his other hand lets go of it's grip on the fender. A natural reaction to release something sharp that has now broken his skin. George looks down for but a split second. Blood drips from his wrist in a steady stream.
Mum's gonna be pissed, she hates going to the hospital.
Moving his foot he slips, blood is dripping down his pant leg and pooling beneath his feet. With a ninja-esque reaction he reaches inside the trunk for any handhold. His weight shifts, mind bogglingly slow in a situation as urgent as this, he pulls and miraculously finds himself inside the spacious trunk.
”GEORGE!” Nick issues a throat burning scream.
George barely manages to pull his legs inside the trunk's framework. He loses sight of his brother as the lid of the trunk shuts and the utter absence of light closes upon him.
Well hello young Sir...Welcome to Hell!
Be nice. Can't you see the poor lad is scared witless.
George screams in the consuming darkness. His frantic and panicked movements cause the car to shift. The impressive, and recently conquered, stack of junk cars known as the “Monolith” wavers unsteadily then topples. A hellish chaotic churning of twisted metal causing a cacophony heard for miles.
George opens his eyes.
He is in a room smothered in faded light and surrounded by pale curtains.
A noise snaps his eyes to one side. A recognizable face is slumped in a sitting position close by, his head buried in his hands. George tries for a humorous greeting, but instead makes an unintelligent gurgling noise.
He has finally awoken!
You'll find it's hard to talk with your throat full of tubes and crap.
He tries his best to scream and again only manages a barely audible squeak that dies in his throat around the plastic tubing exiting his mouth. As darkness claims him once more his brother jerks to attention unsteadily, the chair falls from its four legged stance under him.
In the last week his patience had rewarded him with a detailed study of the preacher's surprisingly rigid schedule. Though slovenly in appearance the despicable one has a disciplined timetable, only occasionally veering off course to sate his dietary weakness of frosted confectionery treats. An aid also used, no doubt, to help gain favor and confidence in his vile hobby of the taking of innocence.
I can smell him. Sweat and sin - certainly not a fragrance one would bottle. I never did understand why a man of the cloth would feel the need to wear cologne.
The opulent car's suspension creaks, and the vehicle lifts as the priest exits, his considerable bulk leaving a nonflattering indent on the seats plush leather. Heading towards the trunk, unquestionably for the box of sprinkled goodies, his heavy footsteps resonate loudly in the parking garage. This evening is the last of the mid-week practices. The weekend’s fresh faced choir gathering once more for final touches and precision tuning for the selected songs to be performed in Sunday's all important morning service.
The light blinks on as the rear of the vehicle opens. An ear to ear grin splits the priest's face as his sugary boxed bounty is unveiled. An arm appears from the dissipated shadows behind him. Swiftly it encircles the fleshy neck, as the other grasps a chloroformed rag tight to his unsuspecting wildly flaring nostrils. The unconscious form slumps into powerful arms that lower it gradually to the unyielding ground.
Don't let him fall, we don't want the righteous slob to dent the concrete. I can see that work out regiment is paying off. He must weigh a ton!
The vehicle is left unoccupied, and idling, it's next destination yet to be determined. It is illuminated briefly as another car flashes by, loaded now with it's new righteous and sanctimonious cargo.
Tubes flowing throughout his respiratory system still obstruct his ability to converse and communicate with anything more than unintelligible grunts so he did his best to communicate with finger gestures. Many years in a hospital bed had left him weak, everyday, taken for granted, movement was still difficult. It was near impossible for him to lift even a pen to paper. The framework supporting his form upon the bed didn't help. The doctors visited on a regular basis, and promised with every visit.
”Soon, very soon, you are healing nicely. It's a miracle really.” Some even commented that guardian angels must be looking out for him while others suggested that he must have a very important purpose in life that was as yet unfulfilled.
”Here it is. I saved it.” Nick hoisted a plastic covered newspaper article to within inches of George's face.
His name was never...Mr. Browne. Terrence. Oliver. Stanton. Let's just say we will never forget him.
The article is pulled away and briefly summarized, ”Mr. Stanton was last seen near a known unlicensed gambling establishment in the Chicago area in late September ‘57...blah, blah, blah...Here it is...from dental records Police can confirm he was (still is) wanted in three states for larceny, arson and... Murder!... Old man Browne was a murderer! I about shit my drawers when I first read that!”
Let's not forget an untrustworthy bastard!
”When I saw those cars shift I moved! Faster than I've ever ran before. You would've been proud George! I turned and saw the car I knew you were in, the biggest one, the 'King Car'.” A fleeting smile touches Nick's lips.
”Flattened him. He didn't even try to move out of the way! Stood there, for a moment he seemed to look up and focus... on something..? Weird. Killer never had a chance either, poor mutt.”
Karma... is a cruel Bitch!
”They managed to pull you out. You were barely breathing but busted all to bits. I was close to vomiting when I saw your shirt. There was a bone poking through it, just nasty! The trunk was cracked open it seemed like you were hiding in a pile of bones. Not just a few… A BUNCH!”
Keep reading... Did they bury us?
”I thought I'd lost my big brother. I've been here because I knew…” Nick lets the article drop to the floor, his hand laid gently over his brother's unmoving arm. The rest of his body was encased in rigid steel rods. Nick’s other hand shakily covers his eyes and forehead.
”My best friend would make it...”
George finds himself blinking rapidly. Moisture flows freely down his cheeks and onto the sheets.
You guys are killing me!
Leave them be, it's a touching family moment.
Heavy lidded eyes flicker, a barely audible grunt followed by a curse…
That wasn't at all Man of the Cloth like.
I've yet to read language like that in the Bible, even in the St James version.
...signify that the anesthetic properties of the substance lesser known as trichloromethane are wearing off.
”Who the fuck are you!? Why am I naked?”
Yes...Why is he naked?
It was your idea. Have you forgotten already?
They all look like they had just rolled off of the showroom floor. Amazingly they are all stacked on top of each other. Lights blinking on and off in a strangely hypnotic rhythm. It was a dream. This could only happen in a dream!
“George, over here!” His feet start to move, taking him in the direction of the summons. Blindingly fast he is soon within sight of a peculiar looking couple.
He has never seen these two characters before, though weirdly feels like he knows them. His hand extends in greeting (which he hadn’t commanded...it had moved instinctively) his mother had always told him this was correct etiquette in a situation such as this.
First offering an introduction was the burly, square shouldered no nonsense looking type. Heavyset but not fat he towered several inches over his companion. The other seemed lost in an ill fitting suit. He had prominent cheekbones with spindly wrists that extended well below the suit's cuffs.
“Hi, George.” The voice was nervous and barely audible. It was obvious which of the two made the final decision on questionable matters.
“Alright guys, what gives? Do I know you?”
The two briefly glance at each other, exchanging knowing smiles.
“You could very well say that George.”
A reflection shines from a car's brilliant paintwork next to the odd pair showing George's expression, that of comic puzzlement. A Kodak moment that one, if captured, would have provided amusement for generations to come.
Suddenly all three stand in the trunk of a huge car. It sits proud atop a pile of others, the tower precariously sways but the two seemed unfazed, and since he's in a dream, he doesn’t allow it to bother him either.
“This is where we... lets call it 'met'.” George steals a glance over the edge. He can see his brother, Nick, standing silent he squints towards his position. A look of idol worship is plastered across his face.
“Why don’t I see Mr. Browne, or Killer?”
“We really don't need distractions at this point, his part in this is over.”
“If this were a movie, he would've collected his check and left already. A bit part if you will, important to the storyline that's now been established. Thinkin' Mickey Rourke might have been a good actor...”
“Larry!” The smaller of the two peers upwards with a stern look.
“What my esteemed colleague is trying to say, with not quite so many distractions and digressions, is this...we are all now bound, and somewhat entwined.”
George's eyebrow twitches upwards he lets out a, “Huh!”
”Strange though it my seem we have been with you for a little while now. I thought it only proper we were formally introduced to one another. You've taken quite the stumble.”
“Which didn't affect us, seems as we were just laying around in the trunk.”
“With your body in the state it was in, it was easy for us to gain access, that doesn't sound too nefarious, does it?” George had never heard, or read, that word before, though knew exactly its meaning.
”Regardless, you were very close to disappointing everyone; a young death disappoints everyone, right?” George had the feeling this guy talked a lot, and the larger one spent a great deal of time, in his company, listening.
“Until we lent a helping hand. Quite the agreement it turned out to be. You got to live and we gained a mobile view of the world. A nice change from the loneliness and boredom of this trunk.”
“It was alright, relaxing really.”
“Lar! Again with the interruptions! This poor lad is confused enough. By my reckoning it has been a fair number of years since we first took up our sudden and quite unexpected residence here.” He pauses to spread his lengthy arms wide with a flourish. “In that time we have discovered some things, some very interesting developments and situations we would have never in a breathing state.”
“Ha! You're funny! I know, I know, sorry! I get excited! Do carry on.”
George had the realization this duo would have made an ideal and very successful comedic team, if their doppelgangers Laurel and Hardy hadn't made an appearance first.
“This will blow your mind. It sent our lad here, Larry, into hysterics when we first stumbled onto it. Prepare yourself!”
They were in a dream so what scenario could possibly call for preparation, it was his dream, therefore wasn't he... in control?
The carpeted floor of the trunk fell away; the impressive car similar in shape to a small watercraft was no longer surrounding them.
“Don't worry George, they can't harm you, they are only manifestations. Please try to relax.”
“I'll try.” It was difficult. It seemed several of the mist like apparitions had a personal interest in his pant legs and the contents of his pockets. They whipped and slid around his form as though he were a frequent visitor in a “Gentleman’s Establishment” who had recently departed with a large sum of cash for “special” services. (How did he even know what such a place was? Maybe he was closer than he imagined to this unlikely pair and their thoughts?) George briefly glanced at Larry who smiled knowingly, winking back. He relaxed somewhat, straightening from his fearful crouched position, returning his smile.
“If you look closely you can make out forms and faces. Observe the sneers, the laughter and the deviance. Only those with thoughts truly wicked, those that devise and enact such abhorrence and vileness, will appear somewhat in focus. Truly the manifestation of malevolence, others just swirl about, perhaps lost, playful, who really knows?”
“Tell him Ken. This is the best part.”
“I'm all ears.” He was relaxed enough now to let the frolicking ether have its fun, it was admittedly a little ticklish (perhaps it was just his subconscious telling him this? But he was dreaming...weird!) but otherwise harmless.
“Recently we have seen the same vision several times, a face. Its expression so repugnant it's as if you can read the intentions upon it and they aren't good, the worst type. Interspersed with this face are several others, all much younger and very innocent looking. The faces change as the other comes close. Fear, despair, and darkness swiftly consume their shining brilliance.” Larry pauses, takes a breath. “He's the worst, the lowest, a truly damned sort with a special place reserved in the lowest depths of hell...He's a thief of innocence, a Pedophile!”
George had never heard the word used before but immediately knew its meaning, a title that made his very skin crawl with utter revulsion.
His surroundings flicker, as if someone is flipping off the light switch to the scenery he is in.
“He's not a good guy at all, a scourge that doesn't deserve to draw breath, a vileness in need of eradication!”
“A travesty that he's even allowed around those sweet little angels, if one was mine I would ring the fucka's neck!”
“It's time to change your sheets and turn you over.”
The playful ether and the duo fade as George's eye's snap open.
“Ahh, Handsome you're awake.”
Questions transform quickly from anger to rage.
The rope securing him does not give an inch, his struggles are useless, and becoming meager, the vicious spat diatribe continues.
Let it out!
He has quite the vocabulary for a preacher. Very inventive in his use of euphemisms you wouldn't usually use within fifty feet of a place of worship.
Spittle erupts from the bound one's mouth landing on the face of his tormentor. Rather than wipe it away, a sly smirk cracks the face in the darkness of the hood. He pulls at a lever the thick rope is wrapped around and through. It climbs and is lost in the inky absence of light and the upper reaches of the ceiling. The rope tightens with a clicking noise as the lever continues to be cranked. The priest's considerable bulk lifts slowly. His heels rise from the marble...
“What the fuck are YOU doing?!”
“Who the HELL are you?..”
“Do you even know who I AM?”
The priest's anger transforms into panic. His face loses its purple hue and his pupils dilate in an impossibly wide eyed stare.
The string of loud curses diminishes then stops altogether.
A single question falls from the preacher's mouth,“Is this a joke?”
The JOKE, if it ever was one... is finally on you!
How are we doing for time?
Strong hands continue to manipulate the pulley mechanism. The fleshy expansive lower torso is now fully raised from the cold smooth ground.
“Stop! I'm sorry. I really am!”
The clicking stops, as do the rope's movements.
Let's hear what he has to say.
But...the Confessional booth is over there.
“I know. I know. I'll do whatever it takes to make things right!” Rivulets of sweat are visible on his panic stricken face in the only source of light thrown by the lone candle that burns close by.
”I know I've done wrong. I will never trespass upon the innocent again.”
Rivulets of sweat run down the priests ample jowls. It begins to pool around him. His sparse mop of hair slowly becomes drenched. He blinks rapidly to rid his eyes of the stinging liquid, but to no avail.
”I'm sorry... Shit! What is it you want from me?”
“What is it?”
You know what... I'm not buying it.
Continued struggles from the bound one only succeed in one thing, the turning of an obese and shapeless bulk on to one side. The face is now flat against the frigid preaching platform. Copious amounts of flesh scrape for a few moments before the torso lifts until fully suspended. As the body begins to gently sway, thick liquid drips, forming a viscous circle underneath.
“Our Father who art in H... h…heaven..” The barely audible words, spoken in a soft, shaky voice.
“I'm sorry for my trespasses Father.”
The clicking of the lever's mechanism stops, the rope becomes still. The suspended one starts to slowly rotate as he continues to sway.
”Hallowed be thy name...”
I'm surprised this rope is holding.
Tighter than any guitar string I've ever seen.
The hooded one runs a finger over the taut rope as if to make a point then turns away. Suddenly Orchestral organ music fills the silent cavernous void. The priest can't help but scream. His body rotates as he glimpses a reflection of his own stark terror in the wicked looking steel his tormentor now grasps in both hands.
Now we have to be careful.
This thing is bloody sharp, we wouldn't want anyone to get hurt.
Nope. Can't let that happen.
The hood is unfurled, a gesture, barely recognizable as a smile breaks cracking across discolored unhealthy looking flesh.
The sharpened blade advances.
The screams become louder, yielding a broken high note melody unlike that of the impressive melodic whistling that issued earlier from the same throat.
It was on a breezy October morning that the heart monitor beeped its last. The silent straight edged razor wire showed what everyone had expected and imagined it to for months previous.
For several long years Nick had watched his broken brother make progress, sacrificing what remained of his youth in order to give support. A recognizable face for his sibling and best friend in what had degenerated into, at best, infrequent and sporadic waking moments. No tears flowed as he watched the sheet covered cart leave; his ducts were dried up from constant and over usage in the past months. Truth be told this was more of an emotional release of sorts. He was of the belief that his brother was in a better place now and was happy for him. He wasn't and never had been, the religious type but he was of the mind that there had to be something better than this after your final breath was taken.
So what now?
We wait...and practice.
Apparently we have a new “Ride”.
The equipment is in excellent condition, razor sharp, gleaming spotless and surgically precise. Whirring steel spits chunks of flesh across plastic sheeting as the hooded one collects, separates and positions matter, muscle and organ upon command.
Now I'm thinking another piece. The 'icing on the cake' if you will.
Don't you think we've made our point?
I want it to be so sharp you would fear to even look upon it.
Seriously, I believe the point has been made.
Are you sure?
More than anything.
I believe we're just getting started.
I'm very sure, positive in fact.
As you wish.
Is it too much to ask that I get a dozen eggs that aren't broken when I finally get them home?” Mavis, her companion, barely has time to nod before the diatribe, not the first of the day and probably not the last, starts again. “... and the baggers! To think some people actually tip the...” It was as though a presence had suddenly swooped in and removed Doris' tongue, an act probably a long time in the making and long overdue (Mavis would never admit that to anyone, for they had been the closest of friends since high school). She looks away from her friend's open mouthed expression following her friend's line of sight, a scene deemed worthy of her rare silence. Her hand was firm on the brass knob of the oversized door open barely a crack.
…Barely a blink.
“What is it? The Rapture? Second Coming? Elvis naked...tap dancing? It can't be all that bad.” The hand on the door drops. It moves but a whisper of an inch before another stops its progress.
“Let me take a peek.” Her friend's head whips suddenly towards her, mouthing “No”, but it' too late.
The door swings open.
Faint music becomes louder. The church is empty at first glance. Something on the lectern shimmers in the blinding brilliance of the overhead spotlights. Rather than the usual “heavenly” light’s (Rev. Thornbull dimmed them especially for that effect, he liked to tell the parishioners) full coverage they appear aimed in certain areas in a spotlight effect. The beams like blazing pointing fingers of illumination from on high.
The main attraction hangs suspended from the vaulted rafters, several feet above the ground and dead center between the two rows of pews.
An echoing splash pulls Mavis from her shocked state.
Her focus is drawn to the dangling still form. Naked and upside down its limbs bound tight against the body. The head is absent, the jagged vertebrae left with nothing to support them. Hypnotized her legs seem to move of their own volition. Within seconds the highlighted scene on the pulpit is unobstructed in its full glory. Unable to tear her gaze away she is at first unable to discern the pierced chunk of meat in the puddle of scarlet liquid, it is only when she reads a snippet of text bloated by the viscous liquid,“Hypocrisy” then “Pederast”. She fully comprehends the grisly tableau.
On instinct her hands fly to her mouth as she twists her body away. She can only hope the image will leave the chalkboard of her mind. It is then that her eyes fall upon the skull lying on its side propped against the confessional door.
Its spilled contents reacquaint her with her last meal. Matter pounds uncontrollably against the back of her teeth flowing like sewerage from a burst pipe between her fingers. She weakens, nausea claims her spirit, as her muscles forget their purpose and she crumbles to the ornate stone.