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December 05, 2022

Blue Moon: Part 2

By Mel Trent

VIII.

An organ begins to play as Jacob creeps closer to the cathedral doors. He doesn't recognize the hymn right away, but it is something he's heard before. He can see the man in black at the organ and Shinji lying in a smear of blood at the pulpit. Shinji isn't moving, and Jacob suspects that moving isn't something Shinji's going to do again. He tiptoes up the steps and into the cathedral. He crouches behind the back pews and watches.

The man in black finishes the hymn. He stands up and walks to the pulpit. He looks down at Shinji for a moment. He flips open his bible and places his gangly hands on the sides of the pulpit. "The universe was once Fire. Seeing that there was potential, the Fire made God and commanded Her to make life. Thus was the beginning of the existence of all life, all suns, all planets. And the Fire and God loved what was created and loved each other. From this love were born three guardian angels. Shaman, Firefly and Yuusei. For many hundreds of years, my sons and daughters, we have been without our guardians. They guided our ancestors to this universe, saving them from the Void, and then they left us. But alas, my friends, we are not alone! God has blessed me with the visions of the Shaman! And I will lead you all to salvation! The presence of Shaman will once again comfort you and show you the Way. But beware! For there will be another who makes this claim. Believe him not! For he is a deceiver! He will come with the ringing of a bell, pushing fire from his palms. He will not fool us! For there is only one true Shaman. My friends, let us prepare."

So that's it, Jacob thinks. It explains a lot, but it leaves just as many questions. Jacob doesn't care about those. He can't get to Shinji, and though he can't see the congregation, he has a feeling they might not appreciate an attack on their reverend, particularly if they believe he is Shaman. Getting the hell out of there seems like the best idea. If the man in black doesn't see him, there's a small chance he can get away. As soon as he turns for the door, he knows it's too late.

He empties Hizashi and Getsuei at the man in black as he stumbles backwards out of the cathedral. The man in black twitches as each bullet impacts his body, but he doesn't slow his advance. Jacob makes it back out onto the street and dives for cover. He reloads and runs for the east train terminal. The man in black follows.

The ground blurs as Jacob stumbles towards the terminal. The dark shapes of the ruins loom up in his path. He trips and scrambles to his feet, but he's not even sure where he is. Everything runs together. The ruins close in on him.

He hears footsteps behind him. He turns. A chalk-white face leers at him. His heart lurches. He raises his guns. His hands are shaking. He fires.

The man in black laughs. Jacob keeps shooting. The man in black keeps coming. There's nowhere to run.

Jacob drops the guns and draws his knives. His hands cramp up suddenly. He cries out in pain. Something cold pierces the center of his chest. When he looks down, he sees that his own hands have driven the blades into his chest.

The last sound he hears is his own voice screaming. It barely drowns out the sound of the reverend's laughter.

IX.

Jynx and Kaine step into the cathedral with their guns raised. Reverend Moon is gone. The ghosts swarm around them. There are skeletons in the pews and dark splashes of blood on the floor.

Some of the skeletons are yellow and rotting. Some still have hair and flesh clinging to their cold smooth bones. Some are putrid sacks of greying skin still dressed in the clothes they put on the last morning of their lives. The fresher corpses are mangled. Their hands are twisted into knots of agony and fear. The bodies are bent into unnatural sitting positions while the legs are frozen in their last attempts at flight. Their expressions are locked into mute screams. Rats and crows have taken most of the eyes, but the few that still loll in the skulls are blown with terror. Each has died of wounds they were forced to inflict upon themselves.

Jynx shudders. Sick fuck, he says.

Kaine says nothing. It's not only his own pain he feels now. It comes from each spirit that hovers around him, each pair of desperate and frightened hands clutching at him and asking him for release. They have never believed that Reverend Moon is Shaman. Even if it seemed likely to them while they were alive, in death, they learned otherwise. Shaman would not have kept them there. He's never been able to fully appreciate what it means to be a star angel until this moment, with the fingers of his parents' ghosts pressed against his cheeks and their voices murmuring in his head.

Kaine lifts his right hand, palm to the vaulted ceiling of the cathedral where paintings of angels crumble. His eyes fade to pale blue. "Go," he says to the ghosts. Each corpse is wrapped in a shroud of bright flame. Heat explodes through the church, and the bones and flesh turn to ashes. Kaine draws harder on Yuusei's power and punches a hole in the ceiling. He guides the ashes through it.

Jynx looks up through the hole. The bloated blue moon has swallowed all but the thinnest rind of its smaller yellow sibling. The edge of the eclipse still squirms. The ashes waft across the face of the moon, turning the frigid blue light a somber brown. He puts his left hand on Kaine's shoulder. I won't let you do it alone, he says.

You never do. You're always with me, Kaine says.

When the ashes have gone and the moonlight clears and the ghosts have gratefully slipped into God's hands, the twins search the Cathedral of Three Stars. Reverend Moon has run. They walk back out into Angel City shoulder to shoulder, their sadness shed.

Burn it, Jynx says.

Boom.

The Cathedral of Three Stars becomes of pillar of white and blue flames that rise many feet above the walls of Angel City. The ruins become bright and sharp in the hot light. Reverend Moon can't hide.

X.

Think of the boys, Gloria tells herself as she stalks towards Angel City. Think of the boys.

She is thinking of them. They're old enough to understand what she's doing. They understand that two people can be parts of one soul and that when one is gone, the other can't just weep and ache. She has to do something.

She heard the screams last night and waited. In the silence that followed those screams, she knew. She could feel it. Jacob was dead. She doesn't think it's very likely that Shinji killed him. She's sure the first scream was Shinji's. Someone or something else killed them both. She has to do something.

Think of the boys! she tells herself again as she crosses the threshold of the gateway. She looks over her shoulder. No door has slid into place, but she feels locked in all the same. They'll be alone. No, they won't. They have each other. They'll come back.

The sun has been up for an hour. Jacob should have returned with Shinji before midnight. The rumors are true, it seems. Angel City devours anyone who steps inside. Gloria doesn't care if she gets out. She feels as if something has been ripped out of her. The wound is raw and dripping and slowly rotting. She's not thinking clearly. Everything is filtered through a red haze of rage and pain. It doesn't matter. She has to do something.

"Come out, you fucking bastard!" she screams. She doesn't even know who she's screaming at. Her voice echoes off the steel walls. It comes back to her sounding hollow and sharp.

Movement catches her eye, and she spins in that direction. The Cathedral of Three Stars fills her vision. A figure is descending the steps holding in his hands something that glimmers in the early morning sun. At that distance, she can't see what the man in black is holding, but she knows. Jacob's guns and knives.

Gloria runs towards the man in black, her guns drawn. Stop, she tries to tell herself. Think of the boys. They need a mother. They don't have a father any more; they need a mother. They need something. But they have each other. That's what they need. They have each other, and they'll come back for us.

Screaming, she lets her bullets fly.

Reverend Moon is caught off guard, and three of the bullets actually hit him. One rips off the lower half of his right ear. Another plows into his collarbone. The last one lodges in his withered thigh. The rest merely bruise him. He forces the woman's guns up under her chin, and her fingers clamp down on the triggers. He stands over her for a long time, fascinated by the tears that continue to spill from her eyes long after life has passed from her body.

By noon, the tears have stopped. Reverend Moon steps over her body and continues to the gate. There, he dumps the weapons he carries to the sand. He had thought to keep the two beautifully crafted guns and the two sublimely composed knives, but the mere presence of the weapons wracks his guts with barbed cramps and makes his eyes writhe and burn. He'll see those guns again. The last thing he will do will be to look into the barrels of those guns and stare down the slugs that sing from them. He will not look at the faces behind those guns. That, he knows, would be a punishment far worse than Hell.

XI.

Reverend Moon swallows. His bone-dry throat clicks. He hears their boots striking the cracked pavement. The burning cathedral casts their long shadows over him. He crouches in the rubble, quivering and clutching at his rosary of carved bones. All the souls he had been grooming for salvation have left him. This is what he saw. The horrible shattering of his dream, the one thing that gave him hope as he twisted in the yellow sheets of his sickbed. He had feared this night. He saw those boys in their father's face, and he knew he couldn't fight them. He knew his assumptions were false. God never lent him Her eyes nor whispered in his ears. All he had were hallucinations fueled by raging fevers and morphine that didn't make him sleep so much as spun him into a calm. He can't deny his visions, though. He had them. They were accurate. The angels stalk towards him with white fire at their backs, the menacing shadow of their wings chilling his pale face.

He hears the ringing of a small silver bell punctuating the strikes of their feet as they approach. He wonders why the boy wears a collar with a bell on it. He giggles. The bell stops ringing. Their footfalls are silent. Their shadows consume him.

Reverend Moon crawls out from behind the wreckage. He stops in front of them on his hands and knees. He lifts his head. Backlit as they are by the blazing church, he can't see their faces. They're just black shapes save the silver glint of their guns and the white sparks that race through their forms.

One of them lifts a foot and brings it down on Reverend Moon's rosary, snapping the cord at the back of his neck and crushing the bone cross to dust. "No," he says, but there's no conviction in his denial. There's no point in fighting or begging for mercy.

"You took my name," one of the angels says.

"And killed our parents," the other says.

"You took lives in my name and in God's."

"But I ended a war," Reverend Moon says

"That was not yours to end."

"Would Her angels turn murderous? Would Her angels seek this kind of vengeance? Would they turn their backs on compassion? I was but a sick man with one hope."

"Compassion is God's gig, not ours."

"Please, allow me time for one last prayer."

Reverend Moon takes the silence that follows as a granting of his request. He lifts his head to the sky. The blue moon has obscured the yellow orb. White shapes shimmer about the edge of the moon. He watches the flickering light of the fire against the black sky and finds it impossible to pray. He knows he won't be judged on one final desperate plea. He lowers his eyes as the angels raise their guns. He fixes his gaze on the mouths of the silver barrels. He doesn't flinch when they fire.

XII.

It is six AM. Jynx and Kaine slip back into the room at the Seven Seas Hotel. Kumiko is still asleep and snoring softly. Iai is standing at the window, watching the street. His shoulder blades seem to be sticking out too far from his back, and there are small spots of blood on the back of his shirt. The twins flank him and look down. Elijah Exelby is standing in the middle of the dusty street staring up at the hotel window.

"How long has he been there?" Jynx asks.

"Ten minutes," Iai says.

"What about the other two?" Kaine asks.

"Waiting outside of town."

"Let's go get this over with," Jynx says.

"Are you sure you're ready? They'll wait if you need to rest."

"We're ready," the twins say.

Article © Mel Trent. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-07-14
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