“In sickness and in health.” The vicar read through his normal routine. The summer wind blew a gust through his rapidly thinning grey hair which, coupled with his thick rimmed glasses perched neatly on the very tip of his nose had been the deciding factor in choosing him to perform their nuptials.
As the vicar spoke Leslie McCartney tried hard to listen to the words, but she couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that continued to grow steadily stronger, like a storm cloud hanging over her head. She had put it down to big day jitters, but as things moved on and the ceremony began the feeling began to turn into something more like dread.
She hadn’t been too enthused by the idea of an outdoor wedding, but it was the only thing her soon to be husband had insisted on. He was happy to leave everything else under her complete control. A very selfless gesture some people would say, but Leslie was over the moon with the idea that she could do it all herself. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Nathan, but organising it all was just something she actually relished unlike many other people who had called her a fool. Organising a wedding, the parties, and the honeymoon all on her own, especially as she had just announced that she was pregnant with their first child did seem like madness when put on paper, but it made Leslie feel at ease.
They were standing before the altar in the garden of the small country church – which they had fallen in love with as they drove home from a weekend away. It looked just like a postcard picture nestled back from the road surrounded by trees. It was old and quaint with ivy covered walls, even the moss coated tombstones held an appeal. It was everything they had been looking for. It even had a large space behind the building, hidden away almost completely from view which they used for summer weddings. Not that it was used much anymore or so the very aged Vicar Roger Butterworth had told them. It was his first wedding for sometime. His main trade he told them with real enthusiasm, was christenings –Leslie’s white dress clung to her body, specially designed to highlight but not over emphasize her growing bump. She felt a chill as sudden gust whipped through the congregation and down the aisle, disturbing everyone in attendance with all the grace of a drunken uncle arriving late.
Leslie could feel all the eyes in attendance focus on her exposed back. Only they were not looking at the almost faded tan lines from the previous month’s early summer sun. Shaking her head slightly, she tried to return her focus to the important matter at hand. She looked up to the vicar and then over to the man standing beside her, they stood with their hands interlocked and she could feel him trembling slightly. In a way it calmed her to know that Nathan was feeling nervous also.
They had been living together for almost 5 years already, getting their first apartment as soon as they graduated university together. They lived just outside the city in a nice up and coming suburb where Nathan worked as a freelance writer and future novelist, while Leslie, faced with only a short commute into the city worked as a legal secretary for Brennan and Bird. One of the largest law firms in the country.
“I do” She said with a smile, unable to take her eyes away from her husband to be. She assumed that this was a good sign and so made no attempt to fight it. She had fallen in love with Nathan Owens the first time she had seen him, for the very same reason she was still hopelessly in love with him. His blue eyes were as deep and clean looking as the sea surrounding a fantasy desert island. They had called out to her across the field outside her dormitory during her third week on campus when she still struggling to find her way around let along concentrate on making friends. Much less a boyfriend.
Behind her she felt a communal sigh of relief as she spoke the famous words. It was silent to everybody but her. Above her head she felt the pressure in the sky building. It was getting so dark around them that in the distance she saw that the street lights were beginning to light yet it was only just after two in the afternoon.
“By the power invested in me” The vicar was now building up to his big final speech. Undoubtedly the most important line of the whole show, when he was drowned out by a large rolling clap of thunder, followed almost instantly by the whip like sound of lightening charging toward the ground like a plummeting locomotive.
This time the gasps coming from the crowd were unmistakable, as was the crying 3-year-old daughter of the best man, who was serving as the ring bearer.
“Lets finish this Reverend” Nathan spoke impetuously, something completely out of character, but Leslie put it down to the weather.
The clouds had developed further and everybody was looking up at the sky, their fingers crossed, worried minds abandoning thoughts of the bride and groom, instead turning to concerns for make up and hats. Even the vicar himself stole the occasional glance towards the heavens as if appealing for just a few more minutes.
“Lord, help us” He whispered under his breath, shortly before he was pushed roughly in the shoulder by Nathan. Whose eyes had narrowed, his lips pulled tight over his teeth, and a vein had risen in the side of his neck which Leslie noticed was steadily pulsing along to the tune played by his heart. Nathan still held Leslie’s hand, only now his gentle touch had turned into a strong grip, holding her in place as if she were in danger of bolting like a spooked horse.
“Just bless us and we can get going.” Nathan growled. The aggression in his voice was clear and shocking, the vein in his neck pumped even faster. It looked like the calamitous fire hose in Donald Duck cartoon. His grip on Leslie’s hand didn’t loosen, and she could feel that the tremor had gone. Leslie began to shake harder now as the screams from the audience behind her grew. Changing from startled shock to pure horror in a ranging from female soprano’s to the deep baritone voice of the men. Leslie wanted to turn but she found that she was held in place. Her stomach began to tense, the muscles, beginning to stretch to accommodate the child within hardened until it felt like granite. Leslie felt weighed down by it; it was as though she were being pulled towards the earth like a human magnetic. Her own heart began to increase and sweat began to stain the delicate white material under her arms and at the base of her spine, her only thoughts now were regarding her child. The importance of the day forgotten, happily removed if that was what it would take to be rid of the rotting feeling that currently persisted in her stomach.
The first drip landed on the back of her neck. It made her jump. Not because of its low temperature, but because of its warmth. The drop felt like the last drips falling from the shower when you turn it off retaining the temperature of the water that they followed, stragglers in the liquid parade desperate to arrive before the end.
Behind her Leslie heard people begin to run, the sound of chairs and benches being overturned was obvious. The sound of the wooden furniture splintering under the weight of people clamouring over it soon filled the air. Combined with the continued screams and calls for help it sounded less like a wedding and more like horror movie.
“Les, come on” Leslie heard a woman’s voice called to her, beckoning her to follow it, she thought it was her mothers, but the characteristics were drowned out.
Next to her, Nathan still stood firm, looking not at the Vicar - who himself seemed to be cowering, his bible still held open in his trembling hands – but rather at the sky, which had begun to darken from grey to the unmistakable deep purple of a heavy storm.
“It’s about time.” Nathan spoke. His neck craned back, his Adam’s apple poking from his throat as though it were a creature trying to burst out.
“May the lord protect us?” The vicar’s words chilled her the way she had expected the raindrop to do. She looked at him and cringed even further. His face was white, his lips matched the shade perfectly, it was as though they had been removed and replaced with skin grafts. His eyes were wide the pupils dilated, and between his eyes there was a dark red spot.
Staring at the stain on an otherwise white surface Leslie soon began to shake. It was a tremor that started deep inside her stomach, rattling her young and unknowing foetus before radiating outwards, travelling along her body in both directions until it ran out of tissue and disappeared into the atmosphere.
The red drop began to move. Slowly tracing its course down the Vicar’s face, following the contours of his nose before stopping on the tip, building in mass, stretching to capacity before taking the final plunge to the ground where it splashed on the makeshift wooden pulpit upon which he stood.
“What?” It was the only thing that Leslie could ask. The remaining words fell silent when she looked down and saw a similar red stain on her white dress. The dark spot made the gown glow even brighter than the sunlight had. Another similarly vulgar spot appeared, closely followed by several others, until they were falling with the steady pattern of a light rain shower.
Lindsey extended her free arm, the palm raised to the sky and followed a droplet falling through the air and onto her skin. Staring at it she knew instantly what it was, the way it felt, the way it pooled and began to solidify almost immediately.
A scream started to build in her throat but its escape was cut off by Nathan’s lips covering her own, his tongue caressing hers and running its way over her teeth. He released her hand but she didn’t notice. Not until he placed both hands on her stomach and began to squeeze. Not exactly roughly, more as if he was checking for ripeness.
While this was going on, the Vicar dropped his bible, which fell to the floor already spackled with crimson. He turned to run but tripped over his feet and fell from the raised platform.
“It’s time. Stand here with me and welcome them” Nathan said, briefly holding her in a faux loving embrace. He held her head in his hands, they were cold, rough and completely unlike the hands that had held the large diamond ring which spent the last 14 months decorating the finger on Lindsey’s right hand. He held her head firmly in place; he had a mad look on his face, grinning like a Cheshire cat, and around them the blood rain continued to pour, falling in liquid drops and clotted lumps, matting their hair and staining their skin.
Most of the guests had fled, a few still limped away with injuries inflicted by the white painted garden furniture. They hurried into the church closely followed the vicar, who was trying his best to organise the chaos all the while refusing to take his eyes away from the bulging purple cloud that was now swirling overhead.
“Nate, what’s going on? What are you doing? You’re scaring me” She blurted out as much as she could in between rapid breaths. Her chest heaving as she balanced on the edge of a panic attack.
“Nothing baby. Our day is being blessed.” He told her, his eyes gleamed, but not didn’t sparkle the way they had before. Now there were as dark and cold as the Atlantic Ocean they should be flying over the next morning. Leslie noticed that even his skin had changed. It looked dry and flaked around his eyes and across his forehead especially. The skin beneath looked different, darker than normal.
Leslie began to shake. Unable to process what was happening. Her perfect man, the man who all her friends had also loved was now standing at their wedding altar, covered in blood holding her face until it hurt. His grip and unusually sharp nails may have drawn blood but it was impossible to tell. He felt her eyelashes become tacky with the gore that was pouring from the sky. Every time she blinked a sickening sound like peeling tape travelled through her senses into her overworked brain. The only thing she could think of was the blood. Not where it came from or why it was falling, but simply the word and substance that it was.
Suddenly, she was grabbed again, only this time Leslie found herself pulled backwards. There was little force behind it but as she was already off balance and about to faint it didn’t take much to get her moving.
“Come with me hurry…..hurry, get inside.” The vicar was crying in her ear. His lips close enough to touch her lobe, but even still she hardly heard his words.
She moved her feet but her body was slow off the mark. Her shoulders were grabbed and pulled back once more, by Nathan now, who was staring at her, his face almost unrecognizable to the sweet gentle face she woke up to most mornings.
“Here he comes. He only wants to bless our day, our child, our future. He chose us, and now you want to walk away before he returns. Where is your motherly love!” Nathan bellowed at her, his voice shaking her with its power. The wind increased, sending drops of still body temperature blood flying through the air almost horizontally, further drenching them all.
Leslie couldn’t speak. Her entire body was frozen, she didn’t even see the rain falling any more. She knew it was there, but it didn’t enter her brain, which was now diverting new information while attempting to sort what it already had. All she saw was Nathan’s face and the wild look in his eyes. Everything else was just black, as if he was delivering his talking heads speech to the camera. Even his words were muted, his lips moved and she heard a sound nothing more.
“Release her! Do you not fear the wrath of God?” The holy man called to Nathan, standing firm, defying his age. If Leslie or anyone who was watching the proceedings spared a glance, they would have noticed that the vicar wasn’t anywhere near as blood soaked as the others. The drops seemed to avoid him as best they could. Some of it was hidden by his already black overcoat, but beneath his unfastened jacket his white dog collar remained a brilliantly white. It seemed to emit light, cutting through the gore like a lighthouse offering ships lost in the fog a safe passage into the harbour.
Nathan stared directly into the eyes of the vicar and held his gaze. The two men stood firm and then Nathan began to smile. “God! I don’t fear your fucking God. God fears me. You hear.” He leant his head back to the heavens again and held his arms out. An ironic pose, and laughed, a deep guttural, maniacal laugh that actually shook a few cobwebs away from Leslie’s mind.
She turned and ran towards to the church.
Behind her she heard Nathan scream once more, his voice unusually carried on the wind that was blowing into her face and therefore directing all other sounds further away. She reached the steps of the church, where each footfall slapped noisily on the wet steps. Deep pools of blood gathered there, but stopped suddenly three steps before the top. This created a waterfall effect that sent the arterial fluid cascading down the remaining steps as if it were desperate to escape the shadow of Gods house.
Yet another scream stopped her in her tracks just inches away from the large heavy oak doors which were slowly being inched shut but the shaken members of both families. Leslie turned and saw to her horror that the vicar was still standing there. He was facing the church, his dog colour still gleaming white, fighting until the end to retain its purity. His eyes were wide and his moth looked like a he was doing the sort of facial exercises that women did in the late 1980’s before Botox became the high street option of choice.
Yet by far the most shocking thing was the arm that was now protruding from the Vicar’s chest. The open hand clenched into a fist, while blood and entrails – which she knew belonged inside the man they were now held before – dripped onto the grass in thick coagulated stings.
The arm then retreated and with a sucking sound that everyone heard – and would continue to hear for some time - it was gone.
The vicar stood for a moment longer before his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fell to the floor, he managed to cross himself and grab his crucifix which he was ironically holding in the inverted position. He tried to correct this but fell before the managed it.
Tears were now pumped freely from Lesley’s eyes, leaving snail like tracks down her cheeks, not removing the rapidly congealing blood from her face, rather just diluting it.
“Come on Les” Her soon to be - if not already for she had lost track of events -brother in law called to her. She was only inches away from the hopeful sanctity of the church but she couldn’t make herself move.
The rain no longer reached her for she was standing on the top step, but her dress was completely dyed, her hair clung in clumps to her scalp, and she stood there like a victim from a low budget slasher film. Suddenly, her unborn child kicked out.
It hurt -
But she didn’t register the pain. She was too concerned by the figure that was now walking up the steps. Nathan ascended the stairs one at a time brining both feet to rest on the same step before moving up another level. He came to rest on the same spot three steps from the summit. Confused for a moment as to why he could go no further.
“You can’t stop it Leslie. He blessed our union long ago, and today is his chance to return and lay claim to what is his.” Nathan hissed, his skin seemed tighter over his bones. Leslie then noticed that the blood didn’t seem to be clotting on him the way it did everything else. It was as though there was a current to it, it simply drifted over his skin, moving in a steady fashion, never stopping. It flowed and the more she looked at him the more she felt it flowing, felt her mind being invaded by its hypnotic movements.
“Fuck You!” She spat suddenly at him, shocking herself with the words. Her pitch high enough to make the lone dog in attendance emit a howl of agreement.
“No we did that already remember.” Nathan grinned at her, and she felt her guts freeze.
Leslie felt the kicking inside her stomach again, stronger this time and painful enough to register, as though something was scratching, trying to escape. Her hands went down to her stomach and she gasped as the realisation dawned on her.
“You really think I’m having a baby blessed by the devil. You have gone mad?” She spat aware that her words had all the sting of a butterfly but was proud at getting them out without stuttering.
Nathan merely smiled at her, his teeth stained red, as if he had been eating liquorice shoe laces.
“Calm down Babe. You’re not having the devil’s baby. I wouldn’t do anything like that to you” Nathan’s eyes never leaving Lesley’s, and no matter how she willed herself to turn away she was powerless to do anything other than listen.
“You are giving birth to the devil himself” Nathan said after a long pause. With the words said he began to chuckle, and Leslie saw his eyes turn yellow as he laughed.
Leslie felt someone standing behind her, and made no effort to resist as the hands groped along her in search of a good grip.
The two fathers pulled her backwards into the church. She was as heavy and rigid as stone, the only thing that let them know she was alive was the agonised cries she made as the pain in her belly grew sharper and sharper. Immeasurably so once she crossed the threshold.
Instantly, her belly began to swell. Within seconds it had almost doubled in size and she felt blood – her own for sure this time – begin to flow without inhibition down her legs under her dress.
She fell to the floor and lay looking up towards the timber supported church ceiling and screamed as her stretch marks begin to split, she felt the same burning sensation as when her slightly schizophrenic cat Bubbles scratched her. She heard a ripping sound and while her first fear was that her skin which was already being stretched thin had ruptured, but she soon felt the cool air on her flesh and realised that her dress had ripped apart to make room for the growing mound.
Her family gathered round her, mainly to hold her down and stop the thrashing, for fear of harming the baby. All thoughts of closing the doors abandoned. All of them unaware of the cause, apart that is for the old man who had been at the back of the party, the grey skinned man who looked like he had only a few days left to live. The unknown man who had slipped in just before the proceedings began. Take his seat at the back of the ceremony completely unnoticed, even by those who he sat beside.
He moved slowly, to the front of the church muttering beneath his breath. The only person who paid it any attention was Nathan. His face twisted in pain as the near silent words reached his ears, burning them. Nathan tried to hold the old man in his gaze, but the searing sound of his ears slowly cooking caused him to jump backwards, further down the steps. With each step Nathan took back, the old man took forward until he was standing directly on the threshold, the wind whipping around him. His long grey hair flying behind him like a small cape.
“You can’t stop him. He has already arrived.” Nathan screamed, his voice so altered now that even deep inside his own mind, in the place where the real Nathan still existed found it hard to recognise. This trapped entity tried in vain to regain control of the body that was his own. To stop the pain being inflicted on the woman he loved, but it was a battle he could never mind. The foe was too tough to be fought alone. Every war has a casualty and Nathan we beginning to realise that he was merely the first.
The newly inhabited shell that was now Nathan gestured towards the sky. The blood still fell but slower, the clouds now glowed with the colour of fire.
The old man followed Nathan’s gaze, and looked up. He flinched slightly at what he saw. The clouds were swirling, and created a funnel that slowly extended towards the ground, groping like the twisted hand of an aged leper reaching out for the small bits of change the kind hearted would throw at him from distance.
Around the top of the funnel as the flame colour in the clouds reached its most vivid two large shapes, like the eyes a preschool child your draw with crayon could be seen staring down towards the world. They were black, not like storm clouds on a autumn day, and not black like the night, for when they were compared they would look like a spring morning compared to the total absence contained within the eyes above.
“You cannot win.” The man spoke now it seemed directly to the funnel. Its rotating orange form looked like a large bonfire licking the sky. He returned his gaze towards Nathan and calmly continued to speak in a different language, one that only Nathan somehow understood.
“Your Aramaic sayings and beliefs will not help you any more old man. Give me the child or I will rip you apart from the middle out.” With that Nathan lunged at him. The man didn’t move and Nathan came to a jolting halt on the same step three from the top as he did before. He held his hands up to his head as if he was dizzy. He lunged again and made no progress. This time the old man backed up half a step as if feeling the force of Nathan’s charge regardless of the space between them.
“You won’t get the child. I won’t allow it.” He spoke simply and in a commanding voice that made everybody listen even Lindsey. The pain began to lessen as the old man walked over to where she lay. Her heart was hammering like the hooves of a herd of stampeding horses, and her belly – which looked like she was a week overdue with triplets – was bordering on splitting open like a piece of rotting fruit. The slightest touch would probably rupture it and send her premature foetus shooting into the world on a geisha of her own bodily fluids.
“Please help me. I can’t loose my baby. Please help my baby” Leslie cried with a wild devotion that only a mother could understand. She didn’t care what happened to her, as long as her child would survive.
The man leant over her and made the sign of the cross on her forehead. “Hold on girl. I’ll do my best for you both” He spoke quietly to her despite the noise. Outside, the wind and the delusional screaming of a mad man grew in intensity.
The old man continued to talk in the same language he did at the door, but Leslie could understand that he was saying names. The names of the Saints, or so it sounded to her – Peter, Paul, Matthew, Barnabas just some the names she recognised.
On the blood soaked lower steps, Nathan leapt at the door once more, and Leslie felt the priest move as if being pushed by some invisible force. This time Nathan laughed in triumph as he landed on the next step up. The man stopped and looked over his shoulder. He shook his head and returned to his prayer, speaking quicker now.
Nathan’s parents turned to look at their son and saw that the blood waterfall and reversed and now the blood was pouring up the steps collecting on the previously unblemished higher ground like a pool. It soon reached the top and Nathan leapt again, making anther gain on his ascent. The blood followed him. In the background the funnel was now a matter of feet above the ground, and the eyes were beginning to glow. A small red dot could be seen in the centre.
The wind began to find its way into the church, as if the protection offered by the sacred walls was slowly being worn away, eroded by the constant battering from the elements.
The man made another three signs of the cross on Leslie’s forehead and quickly followed with another three on her stomach, which flinched at his touch, but was soothing and she felt the swelling decrease each time his gnarled fingers grazed her flesh. She looked up at the man through tear filled eyes, red and stinging from her own sweat, and she saw his face change. His eyes rolled into the back of his head and he began to speak silently. His lips moving in mime to the words he was thinking.
Leslie couldn’t help but shake uncontrollably, she had always been good under pressure or so she thought.
“Lay still my child.” The old man spoke, You must lie still otherwise I cannot end this. We must act fast otherwise he will take your child, and that simply cannot be allowed to happen.” Normally those words would have filled her with panic, but Leslie felt compelled to trust this stranger and was hypnotised by his soothing words. She looked into his eyes and felt herself being protected. Wrapped in a blanket and carried away from harm.
The old man began to speak out loud once more, but before the first syllable passed his lips the wind rushed into the church, throwing the heavy Oak doors open as if they were nothing, the pews began to shake in their fixtures all around them the windows began to groan.
The man was also knocked off balance, his gaze broken, as was the connection that Leslie had felt with him shattered instantly. “Close the doors” He called, his calm voice now replaced with one filled with urgency. Everyone rallied together and tried to force the doors closed against the wind.
The man resumed his prayer, his hand resting gently on Leslie’s stomach which was now quivering as if the blood that flowed beneath it was boiling. Leslie could feel her baby squirming and reaching out for her, instinctively seeking its mother despite its incubated surroundings.
Outside Nathan was now at the top of the stairs, biding his time. Waiting patiently to enter as was the blood, which was now ankle deep on the edge of the threshold.
The group made some progress with the doors, but the driving wind easily countered their rapidly flowing adrenaline and equalised the playing field. They all saw it happen. Behind Nathan, over his left shoulder they saw the funnel touch down. Fire flew down from the sky, sliding down the smoke funnel. The earth split open with a loud crack and flames came billowing out of contact point scorching the ground.
The fire flowed constantly and built into a wall of flame, the heat from which was felt almost immediately inside the church. This was the moment Nathan had waited for, and he took the final steps forwards to the edge of the churches entry point; his feet stopping with a long jumpers precision just behind the line of the threshold.
The congregation whose division was no longer based upon bride or groom but on distribution of strength resumed its heaving efforts to seal the church. While Nathan laughed joyfully as he watched their frantic actions. Beyond them lying on the floor in the middle of the church lay his wife, her legs bent at the knee her feet flat on the floor, but the blood no longer flowed from her loins. Nathan stared in disbelief. “It’s too late” He called, but was ignored by all.
The old man now had his head lowered and he spoke directly to Leslie’s unborn, undeveloped foetus, but he soon raised his head towards the ceiling of the church, the paintings which provided the edge to the oak supported structure were glowing, their colours radiant and new. The figures were all in their sculpted positions, but their heads were all turned to see the scene below. This wasn’t easily seen on those direct above, but as you got further towards the far end of the nave, the clearer the change in head positions had become.
He called at the top of his lungs, his voice filling the air inside and out of the church, echoing around the walls. The stained glass windows shook, the blood covering their external side slipped away leaving them almost flawless once more, before they shattered, the instant Nathan stepped further into the church. A shower of razor sharp shards rained down upon them all.
The wind died slightly and then returned with an almighty gust that blew the doors back against the inside walls and threw those that held them in all directions. With Leslie’s uncle Martin – on her Mother’s side – being the only unlucky one, his skull was caught between the wall and the edge of the door. It was squashed instantly with the same sound of a puss filled spot being burst in the bathroom mirror. The yellowish fluid expelled as a result was also similar.
Panic finally set in among the guests as they saw Nathan walk past them and felt the intense heat that seemed to follow behind him began to scorch their flesh. The smell was repugnant and left most of them retching, adding their own fluid to the tsunami of blood that was also now beginning to flow through the open doorway.
“Stop In the name of the Lord and true King of Men. It is not too late.” The word suddenly filled the church, booming through the wind and shaking the guests, halting their panic and rallying them as a group once again. Although they all knew at that point they would be nothing more than spectators at the very best. Two of them, distant cousins of Nathan’s - invited because his family was much smaller than Leslies and they wanted to have as even a split as possible – ran out of the door, slipping on the steps as they tried to escape. Their screams were heard and that was it.
Nathan stopped moving when he heard the words, not because of what they said, but because of what he saw. The old man had picked Leslie up, and was actually walking her further down the Aisle of the church towards the Altar. It looked as though he was the villain in the story now, holding his hostage as a shield.
“This war is one that cannot begin because it would not end. It is not our place to interfere with the world of men. They are to make their own way, their own choices.” As the old man spoke, his jacket fell from his shoulders and from behind his back, in an explosion of powerful light appeared two wings.
The congregation gasped at this, not merely at what they saw but how it looked. The wings were not white and covered in feathers as always depicted, but old and yellowed like the teeth of a heavy smoker. They were pure light, rather than anything physical and each was easily three of four meters long.
Outside the wall of fire erupted, burning the grass and the broken furniture, scorching the cars and bursting the tires.
“I am Cicero, warrior of the good, and I will not let you claim her life. To meddle in the world of men will not give you power. You know that.” The old man continued to talk, holding Nathan captive. The balance of power had clearly shifted, it was felt by everyone. Even Leslie had stopped shaking now. Her body was cold and numb. She thought that possibly it was merely the shock and blood loss setting in which made her so calm. She raised her head, looked up at the man, his face now obscured by the glow from his wings. “Please, I need to see.” She cried, tears of joy mixed with tears of immense sorry, they tasted evil but like the fabled apple it also tasted right.
The action was done before anybody realised, the incision made suddenly, the pain was dulled by the old man’s touch. Leslie extended her arm, grabbing hold of the old man. “I have to see” She cried as she struggled to stay awake with short shallow breaths. She felt his arm relax and so she continued with her own. Grabbing the partially developed foetus in her weak and trembling grip, it flopped around in her grip like a live fish pulled from its tank, and as she pulled it out into the world she saw its misshapen, underdeveloped body struggled and twist before the Oversized head rolled backwards, its featureless face turned towards her and she cradled it in her arms. Sobbing wildly at the love she felt rushing through her body. An experienced unparalleled by anything she had experienced before.
She felt Cicero’s hands move over her body, caressing her, and she felt warm, as if she had come in from the cold and taken a seat by the fire. Looking across the church she saw Nathan, and while she no longer recognised the figure that stood their, its features moved and shifted, his brow narrowed and his mouth widened, she saw in its eyes, for just a moment at least the person she had agreed to marry.
“I do” She said, but no soon had she uttered the words was the look gone, replaced by one of stony rage.
Beyond Nathan the guests had all fallen to the floor, either fainted at the sight they had witnessed or spared the shock somehow and put to sleep before it occurred. Leslie hoped for the latter.
“How could you” Screamed the figure that had been Nathan, the voice no longer held any human quality, it was deep and growling.
Cicero released his grip on Leslie and strode passed her, through her she could have sworn, just as Nathan lunged through the air. The pair locked with each other in a strong embrace and hung in the air. The ground began to tremble and as they fell to the floor, Cicero closed his wings and sealed them both inside.
With a flash of light, the powerful cocoon was sealed and began to enfold inwards upon itself.
Leslie, standing somehow, managed to limp herself towards to the doorway of the church, where her family and friends were beginning to stir. Her dress had fallen from her body and she was naked save for her knickers and wedding shoes which clicked gently on the stone floor. Her belly ached but the wound had sealed, leaving a glowing line rising vertically from the waistband of her underwear to just beneath her exposed breasts. Looking out at the world she saw the fire retreating back into the ground. The sky already half cleared, back to the clear blue of the morning. The ground remained soaked with blood, it would take a while for this to absorbed, and the damage from the fire was wide spread but restricted to the ground of the church itself.
Leslie turned around as the glowing ball that entombed the two combatants, now the size of a golf ball finally disappeared. It seemed to burn her eyes, and to this day, whenever she closes them the bright glow is all she sees.
Sometimes she can still feel her daughter kicking inside her as she sits behind her desk. Always counting the hours until she can go home and crawl into bed; for it is in her dreams that Cicero still appears. He has long since explained his actions to her, and she in turn accepted this and forgave him and herself. As reward for her actions she has been brought together with her daughter Elisa, who, now dead for seventeen years appears each night as Leslie slumbers. They grow older together, until it is time for them to be reunited.