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Sunday, October 02, 2011

Flash Fiction: Under a Dead Sun: Past Sins

Chapter 33

Father Santiago felt the branches whipping at his face as he tried to brush them aside. He'd been running for over an hour, finding stamina in his legs that he had forgotten he could have. He could still hear the screams of his flock... of his brothers, of the people he had lied to. The screams of his old life dying.

Enrico stumbled, his sandal getting caught on a loose stone, and he scraped his hand on the bark of a tree to prevent himself from falling. His breath came in ragged huffs and he seemed to become exhausted all at once. He took a few more faltering steps and slumped down by the trunk of another tree. He'd cut through the thin woods near the church after he had fled, using the branches to hide himself as he made to the small creek that ran through the woods. He followed the tributary until it ran into the river and splashed partway downstream avoiding cutting back across treeline to the main road. Hoping that the river bank will offer some shelter. It was here he sat now, his thin breath running puffs of smoke in the abnormally cool air.

He looked at his hands as he sat there, his left hand bloody from the scratch, his right almost white, clutching the old pistol tightly. He unclenched his fist, feeling the raw pain and stiffness in his hand as he flexed his fingers. He hadn't seen anymore of the foul creatures since his mad dash, but Enrico knew they would be back sooner or later. One look to the blackened sun above and he knew that this was a godless land.

After he caught his breath, Enrico pulled himself up and slipped the gun back under his frayed robes. No longer running, he hurried along the edge of the river, ready to dart off the trail at the first sign of trouble. He continued to follow the trail generally south, as the river would eventually take him to the town of Desperation. It was there he would either find help, or find out the extent of his, and the world's, damnation.

He followed the stream until nearly dusk before he saw the first of them. One creature, bent over a score of bodies, feasting on the ruined hunks of flesh. There had to be at least 7 bodies, some of them the foul creatures themselves. He stayed back, watching for other signs of movement, for more of them, but there was nothing. You could smell death in the air, the place was fetid with the rot of man. Santiago closed his eyes, forcing the remembrance of the last time he had smelled this same stench, forcing away the memories of Bull Run and his fallen friends.

With a final calming breath, Santiago stood and walked towards the creature. He wasn't sure why he was doing it, maybe it was guilt, or maybe he had run out of fear, or maybe, just maybe, he was to tired to be afraid anymore. Anyway he looked at it though, he had to get by this monster. This one creature represented all that he had failed in in life. His hand clenched the pistol as he crept closer. The beast seemed oblivious to his progress. Enrico forced himself to look away from the bodies of the dead men he passed, ignoring everything, until he stood behind the monster. He thumbed back the hammer, and the beast whirled with an inhuman quickness. It's jaws were red with blood as he saw the broken black claws of the monster flash in the fading sunlight. He fired, and fired again, until the creature moved no more.

He stood over the body for some time. The faint echoes of gun smoke still wafting from the barrel of his gun. He let the guilt and fear wash over him as his free hand absently went to the worn rosary beads he still wore. He prayed then, standing there rubbing the beads, asking for a way to atone, for a way to forgive himself. He prayed for something to show him the path, for someone to end the pain. It was then that he heard the sounds of hoof beats on the earth and the click of the hammer of a rifle being drawn behind him. Enrico Santiago closed his eyes, and thanked a God he had thought forsakened, for his deliverance.

End of Line.

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