Atheists for Liberty News - Halloween Edition, Issue #9
Halloween Heathen Edition!
AFL’s Halloween Considered:
Thoughts on Halloween, from AFL members:
"I kind of just like the whole aesthetic of Halloween. The idea of focusing on fear and horror but in a positive way, by embracing the supernatural where we can just ignore realism and pretend we're in some gothic fantasy. What usually causes terror becomes fun. It's on those days that we can become more sociable, no matter who the people on the street asking for candy are, I will surely join them and treat them as close friends.” - Roling Kaloti and Regina Molina.
“Who doesn't love a good costume party? But what I really love about Halloween is how it shows the abandonment of superstition that society has achieved over the last 100 years or so. At one time, witches, devils, and demons were real concerns that many people had... now little children dress up as these characters without a second thought. We know that these are simply fictional characters that do not pose any real danger. Halloween gives us a hopeful perspective on how supernatural beliefs have been put in their proper place." - Max Carlisle
“For me Halloween is a holiday of liberty. Where we break away from traditional norms and dress up as something raunchy or scary or offensive. It provokes people but this kind of provocation is expected and accepted. Despite it only being once a year, pushing boundaries like this is actually helping people to grow thicker skin, and doing so in a way that is positive and fun.” - Alice McCoole
The Death of the Dinosaurs: A Short Story of a Second Extinction
By Kristine Harley
(First published in the Torsion issue of Ricky’s Back Yard
“We’re taking the dinosaurs back!” proclaimed the bumper stickers, and the window decals, and the buttons, and naturally the t-shirts—so many t-shirts, so many colors, so many styles (sport-t and casual-t, which due to a memo from management was about to be renamed, and feminine-t, which was simply abbreviated as…you guessed it), and so many sizes, but no insulting L or XL or XXL, and even no S or M (this had also merited a memo from management), but having been newly christened, as it were, in these ascending motifs: Innocent (baby sizes), Quester, Apostle, Samaritan, Penitent, and most comfortingly for those who were struggling to cut their food portions in half, Solomon.
Each of these items, the bumper stickers, decals, buttons, and shirts, also featured a laughing dinosaur flanked by Biblical characters in clothing drawn from a screen capture on the news that could pass for Middle Eastern dress, and all were also for sale (as were the action figures complete with sandal and Moses staff accessories) behind the recently-installed glass of the gift shop. Small dinosaur action figures were for sale there, too—they had names such as Leviathan and Enmity—as well as books that “proclaim that absolutely inerrancy and scientific accuracy of the Bible.”
There were Jesus chemistry sets, complete with a “spontaneous generation vial,” into which one merely poured water in order to watch the miracle of God creating tiny sea horses out of nothing, and which looked to the cynical eye much like the “Sea Monkey” kit ads that had smiled from many a comic book of the 1970s. There was, however, no complementary vial to mimic the special cocktail shaker Christ used at the wedding at Cana.
There were the ubiquitous copies of that homeschool textbook favorite, Of Pandas and People, with its updated supplemental text, Panda Thumbs and Personal Theories, plus videos that debunked evolution and the Big Bang, and refrigerator magnets with catchy phrases (such as “Pray, or prey?” “God is my co-signer,” and “If it’s SUNDAY, you must be GOD!”).
The gift shop was not yet open for business, and neither was the museum. The museum’s lobby, its halls, and its exhibits all reposed during the day in a gray twilight which was slanted through with milky shafts from the windows, but at night the place fairly simmered in a greenish security light. Vague, still semi-formed four-footed figures pantomimed for a future audience, as if rehearsing for the museum’s upcoming opening day, a silent and tragic spectacle: their formation by God out of dust, every one of them a separate and special creation; the presentation of them to Adam and his naming of them; their amiable, peaceful, carefree, and vegetarian coexistence with the couple, the upright, standing male and female human figures who, at the conclusion of this tableau, raised their arms above their heads as if to clutch at the hands of the unseen God as He drove them out of this garden and into the nightmare of necessity, where their former four-clawed friends now stalked and preyed upon them in a fallen nature red in tooth and claw.
Apparently, the creators of this full-scale model of Eden were disobedient to the order of the first of the two Genesis stories, for most of the animals in this series of boxed vignettes had been only partly completed, each needing a final coat of paint or a touch-up with whiskers, but the couple, this man and this woman, Adam and Eve, were already finished—and this was only Tuesday.
The bland, low-slung cinderblock building had as yet no sign to announce itself. But on its website, the homepage banner jauntily announced, “Welcome to the Genesis Museum! The Genesis Museum is an outreach of Questions of Creation, a non-profit ministry located in Gallileville, eastern Kentucky, USA. We offer a walk-through man’s history from his Creation, through his Sin and Fall, to his Redemption by the Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This 25,000 square foot facility will strike the first blow against the dogmatic, evolution-driven, atheistic natural history museums that are turning countless minds against the authority of the Scriptures. We proclaim to the world that the Bible is inerrant, the supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice, the basis of all morality, and the origin of all true Science.”
The large entry was flanked by cuddly-looking dinosaurs, huge and lumbering, not unlike Barney. In the lobby a smaller, lither dinosaur stood upright on its hind legs, dangling its front limbs—and it wore a saddle. One expected there to be a coin machine attached to this cute, harmless-looking Barney twin, as there had been coin machines beside the galloping horses outside of the Jubilee Foods of old Gallileville before all the big box stores rose up like giants amongst the sons of men. However, it would seem that Christ had already descended to this particular temple to shake hands with the power-suited director of the Genesis Museum, Dr. Kenneth Loin, for there was a painting of them both—The Lord in his robe, and Ken Loin in a suit and tie—shaking hands, just as He was also doing in the painting on the main wall of the Gilead Bank just down the road a mile, where “Biblical-based investment counseling” was advertised, along with interest rate prayers and credit-healing sessions, in traveling red letters on the jumbletron at the edge of the parking lot.
There was Jesus in that painting just inside the glass doors—there was the Lamb of God Himself in his modest robe and beard, shaking hands with the man in the three-piece suit, the bank’s head moneychanger, William Tremplaux, who was also the best friend and financier of Kenneth Loin and the Genesis Museum. “Follow me,” said the quote on the scrolled brass plaque beneath the painting, “and I will make you golfers of men.” William Tremplaux, like Kenneth Loin, loved golf, and together they had formed the Genesis Golfers Outreach Platoon which sought to “Go ‘Fore!’ into the world to save souls.”
The Genesis Museum’s grand opening was not scheduled for another year, but a publicity release offering a special tour of the premises, by invitation only, did reach the desk of the metro section of the Gallileville Spectator. It landed on the desk along with the yearly press release from the DNR, which urged Kentuckians to obey the law this year and remember not to burn wood in their yards, or to burn off the brush on their property, or even to burn trash in barrels, for fear of starting a grass fire.
“People think that burning off their property will get rid of the snakes. They actually believe this,” a DNR official was quoted as saying. “Rainfall levels were especially down this year. The conditions that we are seeing now are just the sort of tinderbox that we feared to encounter earlier in the summer. We urge all citizens to remember that starting private fires are not only dangerous—they are illegal.”
The metro section of the Spectator led with the headline, “State Officials Seek to Prevent Fall Forest Fires,” but the second headline in the smaller font was accompanied by a photo, provided with the press release, of the burdened dinosaur in the entryway of the Genesis Museum. The metro section would later devote its entire front page to the publicity tour of the Genesis Museum, much of it cut-and-pasted from the press release sent out afterward by the museum itself to head off any nasty rumors that the tour had in fact not gone well.
It had not. One of the visitors on this pilgrimage, a reporter writing for a major men’s magazine—who took the tour along with other reporters, local homeschool advocates, Intelligent Design theorists, Young Earth scientists, HIV-to-AIDS deniers, and assorted veterinarians who scouted, freelance, for the chupacabra on month-long sabbaticals—later noted dryly in his unauthorized article about the tour that the dinosaur in the lobby was, in truth, wearing an English saddle, a particular style of saddle which lacked a horn, indicating that the huge reptile was not really meant to be ridden, or even to be yoked, but was rather a show dinosaur of sorts, perhaps trotted out for stakes races at the local Mesopotamian equestrian ring.
This writer’s sarcastic review of the museum’s exhibits, the sole review that was not lifted from the Genesis Museum’s genial press release, prompted several Christian bloggers to take his article seriously, and they had a lot of fun exchanging their speculations of how the ancient Israelites might have utilized the various species of dinosaurs for different purposes, such as for shows. These young bloggers, pious and earnest like so many teens, traded various theories on where and when man first domesticated the thunder-lizards—when Adam first named them, what he had named them (“I think he would have called him Joyosaurus—I know I would have,”), whether he and Eve had ridden them out of the Garden after the Fall, or if Cain had made his quick getaway on one and if so, had the beast erased its own huge footprints with its 1950s-textbook-era kangaroo tail?
This online discussion attracted so much local attention that a noted evolutionary biologist from the University of Kentucky, when asked in a television interview on the local news about the date of Adam’s domestication of the dinosaur on a local news show, answered in disgust that the dinosaurs were first domesticated in present-day Gallileville, Kentucky—and had also become truly extinct on that same day, as had common sense.
The other visitors on the tour, the parents and the members of the clergy who been invited as “seed members” for their having donated money (there were various levels of monetary contribution, from “mustard seed” on up to “all I have”) noted that the differences between various dinosaurs roughly paralleled the differences between the makes of cars. One “noted biblio-paleontologist,” a dentist by day, wrote an article after the tour stating that the variety of dinosaurs exploited by Biblical man broke down according to ethnic and social class: Pontius Pilate, for example, used the—but, guess!—Tyrannosaurus Rex on which to yacht himself, with a muzzle on its humongous snout of course, easily removed to terrorize the Israelites like a Doberman on a leash, whereas Abraham rode on the gentle Brontosaurus, “the first SUV,” as the author put it, “to accommodate his growing family.”
Apparently, when Abraham, that great patriarch, threw his mistress, a pregnant and weeping Hagar, out of his house, Hagar and Abraham’s unborn son (who would later father the whole race of Arab peoples and thus become the patriarch of petroleum, blessing us all with a liquefied dinosaur in every gas tank) searched for water in the wilderness with the help of another dinosaur, Diplodocus, a sort of lanky, living divining rod.
About a week after the official press release came out from the Genesis Museum, some actual tour footage, shot by a hidden body camera that had been smuggled in by one of the reporters from the mainstream press, was posted on YouTube. The reporters had entered the museum with all good intentions of being polite, smiling at the emasculated dinos in the lobby and at the plaster “fossil reproductions” (“No actual dinosaurs were harmed in the making of Jurassic Snark,” one of them joked in a low voice)—but they were soon overtaken by incredulity, particularly when escorted into the exhibits area and shown the newly-completed vignette of Adam and Eve enjoying their innocence in the Garden of Eden.
“Why are they white?” asked one of the reporters, putting up his hand and interrupting the guided tour given by the museum’s director, Dr. Kenneth Loin. “Why did you make Adam and Eve white?”
“What?” asked the director blankly.
Fingers from the group of reporters pointed at Eve, who stood smiling, vapidly enjoying the stream that ran through the garden, its conspiratorial depth covering her up to her waist, her hair trailing its mermaid-ingénue tresses conveniently, and presumably, across her breasts, which, as one reporter discovered when he hung back from the group and lifted her rayon hair with a fake cattail pulled from the Astroturf bank, she proved not to have.
“She looks like she’s in Behind the Green Door, not in Mesopotamia,” sneered another of the reporters.
“Wrong hair,” retorted another reporter.
“But a snake.”
“More like The Devil IN Miss Jones,” cracked another reporter.
“Well, we don’t know what Adam and Eve looked like,” Loin retorted.
“Wouldn’t it have been more accurate to portray them as African?”
“We represent them as ordinary people, so that our audience can identify with them. The point is not to show any bias. We are asking you to use your imagination.”
There was a flurry of writing at this—the reporters had been forbidden to bring their cameras, or their phones, or their “biases,” with them. “Did she have a double mastectomy, too?” asked the guy on the bank, the looky-loo. All of the reporters turned to him, and back to Eve, in renewed interest. The reporter hurriedly stuck the purloined cattail behind his leg.
“Look at Adam, while you’re at it,” sniggered another reporter, standing awkwardly on the Astroturf in her high heels. She pointed to Adam, bearded Adam, as he reposed tepidly on the stream bank on his back, one arm outstretched, the other behind his head, and with one knee strategically bent to cover his privates. “Take a look at him from this side. Adam has no penis!” Head craned to look, while the visiting parents hurriedly clamped their hands over their children’s ears. There a chorus of fascinated gasps from the reporters, and some snarls from the parents about modesty, and a few outright guffaws. Someone snapped a photo, and promptly had his camera taken away by a guard dressed in a Security Angel costume. The reporter was hurriedly escorted past the Tree of Knowledge and out the exit.
The reporters, having tried valiantly to hold back their laughter while Dr. Loin was speaking, now collapsed into hilarity right in the answering silence that had descended upon the group like a godly finger from the clouds.
“Hey, Ken! Why doesn’t the Ken-doll have a wee-wee!” The reporters were practically falling on each other in mirth. The angry murmur from the assembled parents swelled into a shout of impatience, and Dr. Loin turned beet red. The kids, with their heads held like steering wheels between the hands of their parents, just stared, some with their thumbs in their mouths.
At this point, the director angrily motioned to the guards—all in their angel suits complete with wings, complete with bobbing halos anchored to the headbands on their heads—and the guards terminated the press tour. All of the reporters were turned out of the Garden and deposited without ceremony in the parking lot, thus missing out on the fruit cocktail and coffee that was served in the neighboring commissary, which featured an Assyrian-inspired deli counter prepped with Red Seafood Salad, Manna Sandwiches, and Bethlehem Bread Pudding. It was perhaps a week later that a friendlier reporter managed another visit and noted that Adam and Eve had been repainted, it seemed, a safe and inoffensive caramel.
This video at YouTube of the visit to the Genesis Museum provoked a furious response on talk radio. The reporters were referred to by many prominent creationists and their sympathizers as evolutionist “snakes in the grass” without an intentional pun. The “snakes” metaphor was used so many times by so many creationists that a prominent evolutionary biologist pointed out with sarcastic glee that everyone seemed to have forgotten that even the Bible portrayed the serpent as actually once dominating the treetops, not unlike our own distant ancestors! Fundamentalists howled at such desecration of biblical inerrancy.
This joke garnered the appreciation of a certain niche of online mammals located all around the American continent and the world, who created online contests such as “$1000 for the Most Intelligently Designed Post-Mastectomy Reconstructive Surgery for Eve” and advertised Panda Thumbs in People’s Bums, a hastily-written satirical electronic book. The mainstream media in the U.S. largely ignored this ribald hilarity and geared up for another season of the War on Christmas.
As it was, it was almost Halloween. This year, a small but vocal Wiccan group in Dayton, Ohio launched its own pre-emptive “Stop the War on Halloween” salvo by quoting, and parodying (though it was hard to tell one from the other), various fundamentalist denunciations of Samhain. These also did not get snapped up by the major news media. It was just too difficult to pick on Halloween, being that it still emptied the store shelves every year and was big with the local churches besides. However, one group of charismatic Catholics, who shouted in tongues and brandished brochures clutched in their fists, did manage to get on “Good Morning America” by disrupting a group of dumbfounded parents in Agape, Ohio, who had taken their children Trunk-or-Treating in the local megachurch parking lot. Trunk-or-Treating was a sort of substitute Halloween celebration, in which the trunks of cars were decorated as tiger mouths or treasure chests, into which the costumed children reached for treats.
“Stop this satanic worship! The wildfires are proof that God is not mocked!” the Catholic charismatics cried, on cue and on camera, referring of course to the drought-fed grassfires that had started a week ago in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. God, unlike His performance in Japan during World War II, was apparently firing a bunch of practice shots before aiming square at those snakes in the grasses of Kentucky, for then, inexplicably, He had paused—for a thick mist had enveloped the eastern state of Kentucky, temporarily, weirdly, and ironically, just in time for Halloween. Therefore, the Catholic charismatics formed their human chain between the children and the trunks in a Roger Corman-like mist that wilted the decorations and sogged the kid’s masks and made the on-location local news reporter look like she was delivering her spot at an Angel concert.
Soon enough, the wildfires in Kentucky were burning off the fog. The DNR blamed the first grassfire on a Tarshish County man, a freelance evangelical minister and poet, who had stored a huge pile of tires next to his grain elevator on his farm. The subsequent discovery of the remains of a meth lab in a shed right at the foot of Mount Goodyear corroborated the DNR’s theory—though of course, no one had been there to witness the making of meth, and after all, there was no way to prove that the charred fossil remains of glass beakers and tins of battery acid could not have been deposited by a great flood that had swept through the area several years earlier when a creek burst its banks.
As the grassfires rose around them, the citizens shouted for the DNR to save their property from the very people who were “saving” all of Kentucky from the snakes, but the DNR had to defer to the Department of Homeland Security, who sent a runner to FEMA, while, in an act of divine sarcasm, a fire rainbow hovered all day over the still-clear skies of Gallileville, which stood directly in the path of the flames, a hapless, oblivious rainbow like some four-year-old Christmas angel that had emerged proudly, but too early, from the wings of the stage to appear before the surprised Owner of the Inn at the Sunday school holiday pageant.
When a state of emergency was declared, the citizenry finally piled onto the buses that FEMA supplied or commandeered their own cars off the highways and over the terrain in a collective mad-dash that would have gratified Lot. As it was, Dr. Kenneth Loin was the only one to look back, for his Genesis Museum was burning along with whatever Sodom and Gomorrah one could have found in the mauve-carpeted three-season porches, and the refrigerators stocked with Lean Cuisine, and the “We’ve got Wifi!” church marquees, and the businesses advertising “Bring Your Bible to Work Day.”
And though he did not turn into a pillar of salt, Dr. Loin did emerge pale and ashen, as it were, staring out with bloodshot eyes from under a government-issued blanket at a bus station in Memphis, Tennessee, as the uprooted newscaster from the parking lot newscast on Halloween in Agape, Ohio stood before her grime-caked camera man, shooting and re-shooting the account of their miraculous escape in Loin’s private plane, which was dotted with Bible verses and had been painted to look like—but this had been over ten years ago, and so was a coincidence—a Pterodactyl.
And then the end was the beginning, and the beginning the end, for at last dawn broke amid the smoldering ruins of the museum, and of the man and the woman there remained no sign at all, and no paper-maché rock or tree had given shelter, for all of the dinosaurs were now nothing but bones, just bones, just skeletal chicken wire and metal scaffolding without flesh, lying shattered among the ruins of a lost world beneath a burning red sky.
Imagine a region in the grip of a religion pushing a cursed remedy on its populace. A world brimming with Eldritch terrors and bloodborne contagions. No one can be trusted and even the holy men are suspect.
The Madness Which Breaks Upon Beasts: A Bloodborne fan-made fiction
By TJ Tuttle
Jo’ sat at the edge of the fountain. Streams of red mixed in with the clear water flowing through the cherub’s trumpet. She glanced up. A pale scowl enveloped Vash’s face, much more sinister than those she was used to. His head was cocked to the side as he raised his voice slightly to get her attention. “This doesn’t change protocol going forward,” he snarled.
Jo raised her bloodied hands from the now unclean water and began, “Do you think we should send to Yharnam for the minister?”
“By B’her, what would you have them do, Jocasta?” he retorted. A slight melancholy grin ran away from her face. She could feel it. Too many questions and less than no time to answer them. She felt like this when she entered the dream, though she never told, Vash. Did she even mention to him that she had dreams? Her memory was unclear even on this. The many swirling, churning emotions one felt when one dreamt always had that effect on those like her. She didn’t think much of it at the time but when her father lay bleeding on that chapel floor, she had begun to have that feeling once again. She felt it once before when her dreams began to manifest; an initial existential dread followed by a feeling of being freed from heavy shackles.
Like being frightened awake from an awful nightmare, Jo’ arose from the edge of the fountain and grabbed Vash by the shoulders, “I’m going to go see the Constable.”
The only light in the dingy office was a lone lantern hanging high above from the ceiling. It caught Jo’s attention, if only briefly, for she couldn’t decide what fuel the lantern was using to light the cramped space. “Edward! I need you to come with me back to Weynon. We may not have much time,” she exclaimed as a tall, blonde, uniformed gentleman came into her eyeline.
Edward Valtr raised an eyebrow but continued to peruse his paperwork with a monocle that hinted at his failing eyesight. He began; ”Jocasta; I can’t be pulled away on one of your ‘missions’ today.”
He continued; “ And furthermore, I’m still cleaning up the mess that...” “Jackson is dead, Edward,” she cut him off cleanly, her pose much more deliberate than when she entered the constabulary.
“We’ve little time if we intend to conduct a proper investigation. Hurry and hand me my mantle. We need to leave out of the back.” And so, the two wiry figures made their way down the avenues of Cathedral Ward, out the northwestern gate, and with haste towards the Hamlet of Weynon.
Jocasta noticed Valtr was unusually quiet as they galloped towards the site of her father’s murder and she couldn’t help but think Vash seemed rather dismissive of the whole affair. “I want to know how it is you do it, this time. I want you to show me how you see them. I deserve that much,” she implored him.
He attempted to stifle his reservations about the entire ordeal. Jo’ was his friend. He did owe her that much. After a palpable pause, he nodded. As they caught each other’s’ eyes Valtr noticed a lone figure in the middle of the road. The hooded and cloaked man raised a hand as to halt the pair. “You there! Law man! Didn’t you see the warning?” There was an awkward pause.
“I’m sure I would have seen it had one been posted, Father,” Valtr stood his ground. He regarded the cleric oddly, and his ears perked up. “Ride, Jo’!” he exclaimed as he heard the faint snap of a hammer being drawn back on some out-of-sight highwayman’s weapon.
In an instant the two were charging full speed down toward the verge of Weynon proper and out of sight of the stalkers. She was now roaring “How the hell did you…” “I saw one. Very bright. More vivid than anything I had ever seen before,” his voice was booming over the sound of thundering hooves. This was his gift. He truly saw through men. Saw the corruption within. The Vermin. Whether blood drunk or raving at the edges of solipsistic madness, he could reach in and cleanse a man’s beastly immorality. That was the curse he’d pass on to Jocasta.
The gaunt pair dismounted quietly and crept to the rear of the priory, leaving their steeds just inside the tree line. Jo’ knew they would surely be behind them and she had an awful feeling Vash was now involved. Although she was grateful for his tutelage in being groomed as a blood-saint, Jo’ never quite trusted him. Many of the times she dreamed, she caught glimpses of Vash bathed in blood and excrement – always a bad sign in her experience. She even swore she could remember seeing him in the nightmare once. It was all adding up now, and it shook her to her core. “Shh,” Valtr placed his index finger in front of pursed lips.
Jo’ peered through an unadorned window, “I don’t see my father’s body.” She paused. She had to squint and look far into the interior of the building. “The implements are gone. I don’t…” they both heard the clicks. Now, much closer. Very near their heads, in fact.
“That’s about as far as I’d move if I were you,” Vash’s gravelly voice pierced the relative silence. “Out. Step over this way, please.” The pair reluctantly complied.
“Father, this won’t end very well for you. I’m due in court at the Main Cathedral this very evening and very soon,” Valtr regarded him sternly. “I’m sure you won’t want to explain this to Madame Amelia.
“Oh, don’t worry, officer. This won’t take long. And I don’t intend on keeping you from the Church’s justice.” Vash, retorted.
“And what, prithee, would make you think the Church’s aim is to dispense justice upon a peace officer, especially in times such as these?” he grinned, knowing the remark would unbalance his prey.
Two men; each with a weapon pointed at their heads. Vash; standing with hands folded approximately ten feet to their southeast. One grotesquely large humanoid with a larger scythe in-hand, standing beside Vash. He’d been in similar predicaments, although not with her at his side. Just then, as Vash evaluated Jo’, Valtr took the opportunity to Quicken towards the Cleric. As Vash attempted to draw a blade from his vestments Valtr produced an Evelyn from his waistcoat and put a well-placed round directly into the clergyman’s left leg. Vash’s stance faltered and just as quickly as he shot, the Constable threw open his robe and plunged his open hand into the man’s exposed bosom. He shot a deliberate glance at Jo’ “through the window! Now!”
With the shock on the faces of Vash’s cohorts still fresh, Jocasta leapt through the window of the chapel as Edward wrenched the still beating heart from his chest. Immediately steeled for battle the two gunmen aimed their weapons but were no match for the Law Man’s supernatural speed. Narrowly dodging the giant goon’s blade and almost as quickly as his riposte, Valtr Quickened to the rear of his final opponent, drew a Fine Silver Rapier from the scabbard on his back and plunged it into the brute’s spine. Similarly, to Father Vash, yet he reached into the foe’s back this time, he pulled out what looked to be a mass of blood and gore that resembled a still beating heart. Edward recoiled from contact with the creature’s blood. Holding his now crippled appendage limply with the other. Disoriented from his tumble to the ground he feverishly called out to Jo’.
Jocasta and Edward stood over the bodies wrought by the sudden melee occurring in the rear cemetery of the small shrine. A look of dismay dominated Edwards face as he began to question many things he’d believed. “What the hell is all this about, Jo’? What in Odeon’s name is going on?”
“If I had suspected myself, we’d not be in this pickle. But I do know Vash was certainly becoming suspicious of my gifts.”
Valtr began again; “and just what is this… thing? I’ve seen many hideous beasts before, but this? Just what is The Healing Church doing in that lab of theirs?”
“You look hurt. Can I see it?” Jo’ furrowed her brow. “I’m going to look in the larder for some antiseptic. Don’t move it”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got Blood.” Valtr tried to reassure her. “besides, I’ve had worse. I’m just at a loss as to…” as he turned around Jo’ had already disappeared into the monastery. As he motioned to turn back towards the carnage he heard a scream from inside.
Edward came upon an odd scene. There, in the chantry where they conducted ministration, was Jocasta, on here knees, sobbing into her hands. Sat upon a chair in the center of the room was Jo’s father, Jackson . No blood issued from his corpse and he appeared to have been given a change of clothes. Oddest of all was the peculiar metal cage that seemed to be carefully placed upon his head, eyes ajar as if staring into the cosmos itself. Several moments passed as Edward watched as his friend and pupil vocally mourn the loss of her father – his very own and closest colleague.
Once the shock of the scene had begun to wear off. Edward gently approached Jo’, “C’mon, we need to get him out of that thing and to the clinic. Iosefka will want to do a postmortem.”
“How could they, Edward? I don’t understand. And to defile his body in this manner I…. I just can’t fathom the reason… Umbasa…” There was an audible trembling in her voice. She was mustering every ounce of courage she could find to approach her father’s corpse. And there, in the sight of the Formless One, she approached the body, gently stooped to place a hand on her father’s shoulder and in a moment of gusting wind and ethereal mist, Jocasta vanished. Edward’s mouth, practically agape with amazement had just witnessed his apprentice and his best friend’s daughter disappear without a trace.
Jocasta awoke to the sounds of gulls and water lapping in the distance. Rising and wiping the sand and salt from her face, she opened her eyes to see a white sand beach, the sun baking overhead. It had been long since she’d seen the ocean. She must have been taken on a very long journey indeed to end up on a beach, she mused. Before she had an opportunity to contemplate her surroundings further, she began to hear distance voices, as if hunters out with their hounds. Would she carry her name with her to this new dream? Or perhaps she would need to adopt a new, more primordial persona if she was to elude the Church Assassins who would almost assuredly follow her here to keep Lawrence’s secrets…
After a few days of living off the land, something she’d never really grown accustomed to, she started to wonder at the state of the people in this new land, seemingly surrounded in the same fog of war the nightmare had been. Except this nightmare included some all too familiar saints and Sinners. The Old dead Great Ones of this realm bore striking resemblance to the Pthumerians her father described to her from his prospecting days. If she was to survive here, she’d need tools… and friends. And so, borrowing the name of the men and women who were responsible for cleansing a vile den of bloodthirsty beasts in a far away and forsaken land, she dubbed herself an Executioner. If B’her and the Church’s hunters were going to find her here, she’d be sure to give them a fight with a new type of wild beast. One they’d not imagine inhabiting their worst Nightmares.
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