Guest Blog: Bishop’s Curse Part II by J. C. Eickelberg

Bishop’s Curse Part II

By: J. C. Eickelberg

 

All the soldiers looked at the killer. He looked to his comrade-in-arms, calling out some who shared comments about the music. Agitated sounds from outside went unnoticed. Heavy doors slammed open and boomed when they hit the wall. A shadow filled the doorway. It passed through the group to fall across the musician. Screams of astonishment spread around the Bishop’s men. The figure stopped by the fallen musician. It stood head and shoulders above the assembly. Space appeared around the Monsignor, musician and massive figure. Murmurs of astonishment went around the group.

Who stopped the music?” The voice reverberated in the vast building. He looked at each man in turn.

I did, Gargoyle,” came the voice of the soldier.

It’s not proper music for a house of worship. Neither are you, Abomination!” Bishop Cornelius spoke up as the musician’s killer advanced. Monsignor was shocked to hear the senior cleric speak up so severely. He hadn’t mentioned his disfavor of the music until it was too late to make a change.

Stop,” Monsignor interjected. His voice boomed over his guests. Eyes locked on the younger cleric. “There will be no more violence in my church. You will answer for your actions.”

Bishop Cornelius was uncertain of the massive figure. He stood among his entourage. Now he came forward. “Monsignor, you will answer for allowing this creature in a house of God.”

Monsignor wasn’t moved. “Bishop. As far as this town is concerned, myself included, this creature is a protecting angel. One of many. They defend us from invasion and pestilence. In return, we give them music, whether in voice or by an instrument. The organ is their most loved form of music.”

Nonsense,” Bishop intoned. “They are animals. No house of worship should be defiled by their presence.” He pointed at the gargoyle and looked to the captain of the guard. “Remove that thing from this church.”

Soldiers moved in. Dozens of voices came alive. Everyone reacted to the cacophony. All looked to the choir loft. Standing, sitting and occupying every available space was a gargoyle. Each sounding a warning to the visitors. The guards faced the gargoyles, surrounding the Bishop. The massive gargoyle stood his ground, unperturbed.

Bishop, your visit here is over,” Monsignor announced. “My flock has spoken. One of yours killed one of mine. You may not welcome gargoyles, but I do. So does this town. I will not stand for more violence in this church, or town. I cannot guarantee your safety any longer. No one in your traveling party is welcome here anymore.” His voice held authority Cornelius flinched at.

Sounds of mayhem from outside brought attention to the doors. Bishop Cornelius looked back to Monsignor Marcus. Fear convulsed Cornelius’s countenance when he saw the gargoyles had descended to their level. There were twenty gargoyles for every person present. Only the aisle to the door remained clear.

Monsignor,” Bishop Cornelius said. He locked his gaze on the younger cleric. “If this is your flock, I curse you and your flock to forever live as one. Women will give birth to the offspring of the animals they care for.” He locked a scornful gaze on Marcus.

May you have safe travels home,” Marcus replied in good faith. Marcus wasn’t fazed by the bishop’s words. All humans were as welcome in his church as the animals they brought in with them.

As Bishop Cornelius exited the church, Marcus pondered the significance of a curse from a religious figure. Curses were spoken and believed by practitioners of the dark arts. Witches cursed people, not a church leader. Marcus wasn’t concerned about a curse from a cleric. His concern was for the well-being of his community and parishioners.

Marcus turned to see his organist being taken away. Shadows sailed across the windows. Horses and soldiers clamored to get ready for travel. Gargoyles walled off the Bishop’s group from returning inside. Noises from the organist’s pit brought Marcus’s attention to the vacated keyboard. An alternate organist was getting ready to play. Signals went to his assistants to start working the organ’s bellows. Notes and tones murmured as the organist warmed up. Six bars into his warm up the organ wound up to full volume. Notes of ‘Toccata and Fugue’ rattled any loose items in the cathedral. Windows vibrated in their frames. Marcus had to take refuge in the courtyard. Ringing ears and physical discomfort followed him out.

Groups of gargoyles had taken wing from all directions, blocking the sun like storm clouds. Every clan within earshot responded to the call of danger. No living gargoyle remained still as Bishop Cornelius’s group left town as fast as their tired mounts could go. Every animal nearby voiced their displeasure with the organ’s volume. Birds able to take flight did. A falconer had his birds hooded, but still had to sooth his charges. Marcus noted all flying masses routed themselves along the road leading away from town.

Monsignor,” a page said, running to him. He was out of breath. Marcus calmed him. “A mounted unit is running out of the forest to meet the Bishop. There’s going to be trouble for Bishop Cornelius.”

Yes, there is,” Marcus agreed. “Is everyone back from hunting?”

Yes, Monsignor. They told me about the soldiers coming towards town.”

Unfortunately, the Bishop hasn’t been agreeable to us.”

Why? I heard him speak so highly of our town.”

He doesn’t like our dealings with the gargoyles and animals. Our friendship with them wasn’t acceptable to him.” The page was crestfallen to hear this. He looked up, realizing something. “Why is Master Garrett playing the organ?”

How do you know he’s playing?”

This is his call-to-arms piece. I recognize his playing. Master Gregor should be playing.”

I have some bad news.” Monsignor’s face saddened. “Master Gregor was killed by one of the soldiers waiting for the Bishop.”

Despair crossed the page’s face. Gregor was Garrett’s twin brother. They were equals in everything they did. Music was now deafening inside. Outside the volume was tolerable when the page arrived. Now both could feel the music’s intensity in their bones. Marcus, in all his years leading this church, had never heard the organ played so loudly, so intensely.

Marcus led the page to a lookout tower at the far corner of the building. They witnessed the gargoyles dive toward the horsemen. Gargoyles dove with the grace of a hawk. They gained altitude with a rider before dropping them. Some soldiers flailed, trying to swim to safety. Some fell like stones. Bishop Cornelius’s outbound contingent was unceremoniously dispatched. Few members of his inbound contingent fell victim to the onslaught. Experienced leaders retreated back to the forested hills to wait out the attack.

Bishop Cornelius and his group were properly laid to rest. Monsignor Marcus made sure everyone was calmed and repairs were made. Master Gregor was interred in regal fashion. His brother played solemn pieces at the service. Every member of the church turned out to pay their respects. During the service, all parishioners passed by, saying their goodbyes, and commenting on the music. Garrett was present at the graveside service. Monsignor presided over all ceremonies. Every townsperson, organist, and cleric were present. As people dispersed Marcus pulled Garrett aside.

Master Garrett. Who’s playing the organ?” Marcus asked.

No one,” Garrett replied. “You don’t suppose Gregor is making his presence known?”

Perhaps,” Marcus said. Gregor was a dedicated organist in life. In death, he seemed unable to part with the best instrument in existence.

Life went on adjusting to the loss of a much-loved musician. Weeks passed, life returned to normal. Bishop Cornelius’s visit faded from memory. Marriages and births brought light back to the community. Organ music kept the townspeople in good spirits. Gargoyles flew and performed their acrobatics like any other day. Good memories dimmed for Monsignor Marcus when parents brought their newborns to him. Parents of one youth he remembered brought their newborn for a visit.

How is you litter doing, Marie?” he asked the young girl.

Very well, Monsignor,” she said. “They’re very playful.”

That’s nice to hear.” He smiled at her, turned to her parents and asked, “What brings you here?”

Our son,” Marie’s mother said. “He wasn’t born right.” She controlled sobs, but tears leaked down her cheeks.

He’s different from other children,” Marie’s father stated.

Let’s see him,” Marcus said, calmly. He hadn’t seen this level of fear since Bishop Cornelius’s departure.

Marcus looked at the bundled form. His heart chilled at the sight of the newborn. A small hand reached out for his finger. Hairiness had been seen before. In front of him, swaddled by his loving mother was the face heavily influenced by a lynx. Roundness in shape of an infant was covered in soft fuzz. Ears, slender like his mother’s, had the distinct tufts of a lynx, and the mouth and nose stuck out like a kitten’s. Father, mother, and sister had no traits of a lynx.

He’s as beautiful as his family,” Marcus said.

No one in our family has any resemblance to him, or near as much hair,” mother said. The baby cooed, almost purred. “Other mothers have similar concerns.” She pointed out other parents approaching Marcus and her family.

Similarly, swaddled infants paraded forward to be shown their altered appearances. An assortment of irregularities presented themselves. Canine and feline traits morphed with human traits were most common. Faces and limbs displayed all sorts of combinations. Fingers and toes were lengthened to various degrees, ending in equal varieties of nails and claws. Spread through the congregation were gargoyle broods. Their youth showed equal influences of humans.

Monsignor Marcus looked around. All newborns were unique in their appearance and loved by the parents. He stepped into an impromptu sermon about God’s love of man, beast and the willingness of all present to live next to each other. He preached love of all God’s creatures. Background ambiance of the organ kept people calm. Everyone left the sermon even more enamored by their recent additions. The shock of the unusualness of each infant disappeared.

Monsignor, you gave a wonderful sermon,” came a firm voice.

Thank you, Turok. Everyone was more accepting than I believed possible,” Marcus said. He turned to leave.

Turok followed Marcus. “You seem worried.”

Turok, during Bishop Cornelius’s visit, he voiced a curse referencing our cohabitation. I took it as heated words and passed it off. He cursed our children to be mixed with animals their families cared for.” He turned to look at the taller being. “What are your thoughts?”

Being a senior member of your church, he may have knowledge of dark arts to keep tabs on its practitioners. Perhaps he was tempted to experience the power of those dark arts. Unfortunately, I’ve seen its use, just not to this extent,” Turok said.

You’re more insightful than any bishop I’ve ever met.”

Bishop Cornelius…” Turok searched for the right phrasing.

Was corrupt and power hungry,” Marcus finished. “I recognized his desire to claim this cathedral as his.” They walked in silence for a minute.

Now we live with the changelings,” Turok said.

Yes, we do,” Marcus agreed. “We’ve cohabitated all these years and are as neighborly as can be.”

Now we learn to live with a new progeny and teach them a new way of life,” Turok said.

Our ancestors adapted to each other,” Marcus reminisced.

And we will continue to live just fine together,” Turok stated.

Care for lunch, old friend?” Marcus asked.

I’d be happy to join you. Audrey does wonders in the kitchen.”

They sat down to eat. Lynx cubs playfully greeted them when they entered the dining room. Marie hurried after them. Her parents settled down on one side of the table. Turok looked at their newborn. A hand swiped at him.

As playful and beautiful as his sister,” Turok admired.

Thank you,” Marie’s mother said. She accepted her new child as easily as the gargoyle next to her. “I hope he won’t shed too bad as he grows.”

That may be the least of your worries,” Turok said. He looked over to see one cub balancing on the mantle while a littermate leapt for a butterfly flying through the room.

 

********

J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.
Advertisements

Through Doll’s Eyes: Intervention Part II by Jesse Orr

ThroughDollsEyes

Through Doll’s Eyes: Intervention Part II by Jesse Orr

Ever since Mommy had stopped moving, Sofia had been living outside with Janie. It was great fun. Sometimes she missed Junie and her mommy, but Janie said not to worry. Her daddy was with Janie’s sister while mommy was in the forever sleep.

When Janie told her about the forever sleep, Sofia had been scared. What if she, Sofia, went to sleep one night and it was the forever sleep? Janie said not to worry, that Sofia was safe from the forever sleep as long as she did exactly as Janie told her.

Sometimes Sofia wondered about Daddy, but she didn’t ask anymore. The first time she had, Janie had said Daddy was fine, with Junie. The second time she asked, Janie got mad, and said that she hoped Daddy hadn’t fallen into a forever sleep. She asked Sofia if she should go and see. The look in Janie’s eyes made Sofia shake her head, and that night, Janie had punished her for asking. She had not asked about Daddy since. Besides, she had such fun with Janie that she hardly thought of Mommy or Daddy anymore.

She and Janie were having tea in the garden as was their custom, when Janie told her that very soon, some men would come.

“What men?” Sofia asked, setting down her cup of tea. She didn’t like tea much, but Janie told her she did when they played tea party. “What do they want?”

Janie said they were going to take Sofia and her daddy away so they couldn’t play with Janie and her sister Junie anymore.

“Why?” Sofia was horrified. Lose Janie? Her closest friend in the world? They couldn’t!

The men wouldn’t understand that they were friends, Janie explained. The men would insist that Janie and Junie weren’t worth bothering with, and they would take Sofia and her daddy away.

“No!” Sofia said, beginning to cry. “They can’t do that, can they? Can’t you stop them?”

Janie told her not to worry, there was nothing to fear. Daddy would be taken somewhere else, but as long as Sofia did exactly as Janie told her, the two of them would not have to part. Sofia skipped over what would happen to her father, fixating like a dog with a bone on the most important facts. If Sofia listened to Janie, they wouldn’t take her away.

Sofia promised to listen. “When is this going to happen?” she asked, her voice still shaky.

Janie said it would be very soon.

Eduardo the paramedic was already on edge. The scene in the house had been weird to begin with, without the stench and the oppressive mugginess. Eduardo ducked outside to the marginally fresher air and stood gulping in breaths. The stench of rotting meat surrounded the house, baking in the heat. He looked around the garden, seeking diversion.

A little girl with brown hair sat in a plastic chair with her back to him, apparently engaged in a tea party with a plastic doll set. Eduardo started. “Hey, there’s a little girl back here!” he shouted to the people inside the house. “Hey! Little girl! Are you ok?”

Eduardo jumped down from the porch and walked toward her, glad to get away from the stink of the house. Mentally he ran through his opening line. Hi honey, my name is Eduardo and I’m with the paramedics, how are you today?

His little speech arranged, Eduardo reached the tea party. “Hi honey, my name is E–”

His name died in his mouth as he took in the scene. The little girl sat at the green plastic table, knees tucked under its faded surface. Her hands were on the table, palms flat, as she stared at a doll seated across from her. She was nodding as though it spoke to her. Her hair was not brown, as he had thought, but a blonde so dirty it appeared to be a brown wig. In her matted hair were branches and leaves from a bed she had dug herself under a bush. Looking at the girl’s hands, Eduardo’s stomach swooped as he saw she had only nine fingers, her left smallest finger gone above the first knuckle. The wound was gray with dirt and infection. A puffy scratch above her eyebrow had swollen her left eye half shut, giving her eyelid a droop.

Hiding a sob, Eduardo sank to a knee, his speech forgotten. “Oh my god, what happened to your finger?”

The girl looked at him without a hint of emotion. “Janie took it.”

The paramedic heard others crossing the garden and felt sweet relief flooding into him. Relief that he was no longer alone with this horror. “Who’s Janie?”

Raising her four-fingered hand, the girl pointed at the doll sitting across from her.

Eduardo looked at the doll, and his stomach swooped again. The fucking thing was creepy. “Well that wasn’t very nice of her, now was it?” He glanced over his shoulder. Swanson and another paramedic were approaching. “Honey, we’re going to take you with us, somewhere safe. How about that?”

Her eyes shot to his. “And Janie?”

Taken aback, Eduardo nodded. “Of course, you can bring your doll.” He plucked Janie from her seat and deposited her in Sofia’s lap. He missed the look of peace which came over Sofia’s face as she wrapped her arms around the doll. She smiled as he stood up and turned to the two men. “Little girl’s lost a finger, she’ll need to roll.” The medic knelt down beside her.

“She’d have to roll to a foster home anyways,” said Swanson, glancing down at Sofia’s hand. “Father’s off his rocker, can’t leave her with him.” He shook his head. “Fucking sad.”

Eduardo nodded, his face grim. “I think we got here just in time.” He gestured at the house. “What are we doing with him?”

“They’ll take him to the mental hospital up at Stonebriar,” Swanson said. “Once they patch up his missing finger, they’ll–”

“Wait a minute,” Eduardo said, turning to look at the detective. “His missing finger?”

Swanson nodded. “Left pinky, lopped clean off. Says the doll took it.”