Rick moved closer to the door. He could feel his body readying him for a fight: adrenaline was causing his hands to sweat, he was beginning to fidget with the latches on his rifle, and his eyesight sharpened. What other people took as a good sign to run, Rick understood as his body giving him what he needed to survive. He accepted the feeling, and put his now keener senses to work.
Sight was out of the equation. He was not going to open the door and risk someone, or something, noticing the magically moving door and then coming to inspect what actually caused the movement. Smell was also unable to help. The crypts smelled as crypts do, nothing unusual there. He couldn’t hear much, but it was enough to at least understand a couple of things.
First, the shuffling of padded feet started to sound farther away. A telltale slam or the cutting sound of heavy metal grinding on hinges was missing, however, so the feet had yet to leave the building. If Rick paid especially close attention, he could make out a hum of some sort. It was deep, and throaty, and the pace of the murmur reminded him of stories from his childhood where people gathered to sing and pray together.
The mumbling and humming started to rise, the speech itself sounding more desperate and fevered with every passing moment. When the voices had risen to what sounded like a climax, he heard a swish, and a dull sound. The voices stopped immediately, and all that could be heard was a wet gurgling and a sloshing noise. Rick’s heart kept a steady pace, but he completely stopped breathing. He had a horrible feeling that the man who was carried in was no longer with the living.
“Those… bastards…” Rick turned around and took a look at the woman. When he had last looked, she was in shock, staring at the skeletons. She had noticed something that escaped him, and her fear was palpable. Now a completely different woman stood there, clenching her fists, shaking with a fury only her face properly exhibited. Her face contorted with rage, her brows furrowed savagely and her teeth were bared. Her voice was soft and gentle, a contrast that Rick found incredibly disturbing.
“Rick, we can’t just stand here. We need to stop them.” She moved to the door quickly, almost too quickly for Rick to stop her. He moved in front of the door, blocking the exit with his body. He raised his hands to try to calm her down
“Easy, lady, we can’t just-” Suddenly, he had the wind knocked out of him by her fist pushing him easily aside. He hadn’t expected that from her, and he crumpled on the floor clutching his stomach as he regained his breath.
Her delicate voice betrayed none of the rage she showed on her face. “Yes, we can. There are seven of those bastards, and they just murdered a man. Any moron who’s spent more than a day down here could hear what happened.” Stopping for a moment, her rage subsided a little bit. She knelt down next to Rick, and her features softened a bit.
“I’m sorry I hit you. I’m just… Look, I’m sorry; but we can’t just let those fuckers get away with murder. I won’t let it.” She stared directly into him, and Rick could see she meant what she said. She was going with or without him.
“Okay,” wheezing slightly, he got up again and brushed off his coat, “fine. We’ll get them. But we’re doing it my way, we have to be careful.” Rage and focus returned to the woman’s face, as she nodded agreement.
“One more thing,” he said, turning to face her once more before opening the door to whatever lay beyond, “please be careful with that thing, you might hurt someone.” A tremor of a smile touched the corner of her mouth, for just an instant: and then, her mask returned.
Rick turned back to the door, and he reached for the handle to pull the door in. He couldn’t hear the people upstairs anymore, only his own breathing and the sound of blood pumping in his ears. Gently pulling on the door, he signaled the woman to go in and find cover. She nodded, and quickly moved through the now open doorway. He quickly followed after her, leaving the door open in case it made a sound closing. His feet brought him up the stairs quietly, the dull whisper of his coat brushing against the stone sounding out so loudly he thought for sure that someone could hear it. He quickly moved behind the stone dais on the right side, crouching in order to start hidden. The woman crouched opposite him, the fingers on her right hand tracing the grip on her pistol. She was fixated on something past the dais. Rick turned around, and peeked gingerly past the corner.
There were still seven people in the middle of the room, but all seven of them had removed their hoods now. The ones who wore rags were all young. Much too young for this shit, thought RIck, they couldn’t be a day older than sixteen. They had long, wild, and unclean hair tied back in a ponytail. Three of them were boys, three of them girls; and of course, the old bald man from earlier. He stood in the middle of the six others, his hands stained and dripping with blood. The corpse of the unconscious man lay before the bald man. The body’s throat was pierced directly in the middle. A pool of bright crimson engulfed the corpse’s head like a sanguine halo. The rich smell of blood overpowered all other senses. Rick could taste the blood on his tongue, and bile rose in his throat. I’ve seen a lot of fucking shit, he thought, a lot of really weird fucking shit down here; but this takes the cake.
The bald man raised his arms to the air, and arched his head back as if speaking to the ceiling. “This life we give, that ours may be spared.” his voice, though deep, was very soft now, as if trying not to be heard. Rick has to strain to hear it. “Stay your demon’s hands, that we may sleep soundly.” The man bowed his head, and put his hands together. The other six followed suit.
“Amen.” they sounded in unison. A chill rain through Rick’s body, the hair on his neck standing on end. He glanced at the woman, surprised to see her looking at him, waiting for him to give the signal. Relaying to her what he wanted, Rick organized a two way attack, with her on one side while he wrapped around to cover the exit. She nodded, and Rick raised his hand.
His hand fell down, and the two of them moved out.
He moved quickly, running along the back wall. Using the cover of darkness because, thankfully, candles were awful at illuminating large rooms. Without about five seconds to spare before his plan started, he pulled out his rifle and aimed down the sights at the person closest to him. He aimed for their shoulder.
His hand tensed, squeezing the trigger. A soft sound rang out, and the boy toppled over clutching his shoulder.
The rest of the group grabbed their weapons and began looking around in confusion, save the old bald man who ran towards the dais. Unluckily for him, that was exactly where the woman was waiting.
Passing by a large stone, he was stopped abruptly by the woman’s robotic arm. A sickening crunch was heard as he fell backwards out of sight amidst a choked cry of pain. She then unclipped her weapon, and fired twice at one of the cultists, whose head exploded in crimson gore. Surprise and disgust gripped him.
“They’re kids!” he roared, but his cry was drowned out by the four remaining cultists drawing their weapons and firing back. Rick ducked just in time for several bullets to sing just above where his head was, pinging off the stone behind him. He couldn’t see what was happening anymore.
She rolled to her left just as a hail of fire bounced off the nearby boulder and shattered the pew she was hiding behind. She got up and raced along the side, using the darkness of the room and the broken pews as cover. A chorus of angry shouts, directions, and commands rose from the group in the middle. They were angry, and afraid, she thought with relish.
Rising with her pistol in hand, she used her upward momentum to vault over the pew she was hiding behind and spring closer to her targets. She leveled her pistol at another cultist, their jaw vanishing in a red mist. The remaining three spun around, but she was too quick. She grabbed the arm of one of the cultists, and with inhuman strength slammed her target into the ground, the cultist’s head breaking open like a ripe melon. She aimed her pistol using her left hand and blasted a fist sized hole through another cultist’s chest, flinging him backwards into the shadows and out of sight amidst a cry of shock and pain. She let go of the rag doll corpse and ducked under the retaliation shot of the last cultist, leaving himself wide open. Rushing, the woman knew she had little time to take advantage of this opening. She rolled behind a pew as another few shots blasted behind her.
“Too slow.” Using the prosthetic, she flung the bench at the cultist, who ducked just enough to avoid getting slammed by it. The woman leapt at her target, closing the distance in a less than a second. The cultist’s eyes grew wide and suddenly bulged as the woman grabbed the girl by the throat.
“Please,” the cultist girl gasped, “please.” It was all she could manage to say; it fell on deaf ears, however. The woman could only see red, her blood lust having risen to an unquenchable high. She felt powerful. She felt vindicated. She was serene.
She heard a shout to her left. Gripping her pistol, she aimed and… stopped. Suddenly her rage fell away, and the world came out of the clear focus of combat. She was staring down the barrel towards Rick, who had dropped his weapon and put his hands up in surrender.
Sensation rushed back into her; breathing suddenly hurt, her pistol was too heavy, and her leg had pulled a muscle. Her pulse deafened her, and she could feel her temples throbbing from exertion. She could hear the choked sobbing of the girl she still held firmly in her grip by the throat.
Her pistol lowered, clipping to her belt. She relaxed her grip on the cultist, who fell sobbing to the floor. The fight was over.
End of Part 9