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The Pastor's Prophecy
“… says that God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him may never perish, but have eternal life.”
Pastor Leek stepped forward as the last echoes of the hymn faded away. The congregation settled back into the hard wooden pews, trying to get comfortable in the steamy church. Pastor Leek fixed them with a hard glare like that of a bird of prey, making them shiver where they sat. He adjusted his glasses and sighed, then visibly drew himself up. The congregation held their breath.
“People of Good Hope!” His voice was like a jittery round of thunder, albeit a wheezy one. He trained his falcon like gaze on them again as he reached into the folds of his white robe… and threw the red velvet Bible into the fireplace! The crowd gasped. As the flames devoured the book, the pastor spoke again: “I have received a sign from God!” His demonic voice had risen to an unearthly howl, the firelight burning in his eyes.
“In three days, utter mayhem will be unleashed upon the Earth! Every living soul will perish! First will go the nonbelievers…” His words had taken on a malicious tone. Everyone was huddled together like rabbits with a fox in their hutch. “… and then those who don’t eat tacos!” Everyone stared at him. Crickets chirped. Pastor Leek faltered. He had been rather enjoying the show. “Ah, I mean, and then shall go everyone else!” The congregation leaned forward on their seats, discomfort forgotten, eagerly awaiting more. But the pastor just gave a little cough and sat down.
“Wasn’t Pastor’s sermon creepy?”
Twelve-year-old Hannah bounced nervously on the sidewalk, blonde pigtails dancing frantically. Next to her, Brendan snorted. “Load of garbage. I reckon Pastor Leek just couldn’t come up with a good sermon.” Brendan was a good-looking fourteen, and didn’t care about anyone or anything, in Hannah’s opinion. She opened her mouth to retort, but was cut off by her brother’s best friend Jack.
“We should be thankful,” he said seriously, “Shortest sermon we’ve seen in years!” The boys slapped a high five, and the threesome continued their walk home. The huge mansions slowly gave way into neat suburban gardens. Hannah didn’t dare bring up the pastor’s strange behavior again. It was obvious that the others didn’t believe a word of it.
He moved silently along the bright street, a mighty panther stalking his prey. They were like the smartest of lemmings, always against the tide. How they would pay for it! Grinning, the beast let his hungry gaze slip from his quarry to a fast food restaurant advertising huge beef tacos. He licked his lips. The tortillas made the bulging feasts look like blanket-swathed babies. He decided to take a break from hunting and have a light snack. The prey would always be there.
“See you at school!”
Brendan waved to his best friend and carefully locked the front door. He turned to his sister. “You want lunch?” Brendan was always directly to the point.
“Can we order pizza? I’m really hungry and it’s almost one o’clock, plus we haven’t had pizza in a while, so I was thinking that… ”
Nine hours later, Brendan carefully shut Hannah’s bedroom door. “It’s a school night,” he called out, “lights out in ten!”
“I know, sleep is so important, plus I’ve got an algebra quiz tomorrow, and…” Brendan rolled his eyes and walked down the hall into his own bedroom, away from her constant babbling. She could be so talkative sometimes! He sighed. He wished his parents would come home soon. Hannah missed them so much. But living on their own was a far better alternative to horrible Nanny Irma. She had been hired, in Mr. and Mrs. Miller’s usual poor judgment, to watch their kids while they were exploring in the Amazon. It had been a chore for Brendan and Hannah to bribe the old vulture into leaving. Now, as the head of the family, it was Brendan’s job to get food. He worked three shifts at the supermarket just to make ends meet. His other personal goal was to make sure Hannah always got to bed on time. In his eyes, she was still a kid. In fact, they were both just kids. But that was beside the point. Her innocent, pure and, all right, gullible soul was so… fragile. He had to protect her.
“Brendan! BRENDAN! Wake up!”
It seemed as though a great hammer was slamming into him. Repeatedly. “All right…” he groaned, shoving Hannah off the bed. As she scampered away to make breakfast, Brendan groggily dragged himself over to the mirror to get dressed. He had just finished attempting to flatten his wavy caramel hair when he noticed something odd. There seemed to be… a hole right through his chest! It was right on the dot of the i in Adidas, just above his heart… He cautiously touched it. All he felt was the sweater. He tentatively looked down. All normal. The hole existed only in the mirror. Brendan shook his head to clear it. He decided not to tell Hannah and headed for the stairs.
It was Monday, 5th hour, Algebra. Jack knew he would never forget the exact moment when he was called to the front office. He assumed that it was because of the tack he and Brendan had stuck on Vice Principal Irma’s chair last week. She deserved it, the old wart. The grin slipped from his face when he saw the look on Principal Rigat’s. Jack prepared himself for a serious chewing out.
“I assume you were a friend of his?”
At Jack’s confused look, Principal Rigat proceeded to explain that Brendan Miller had been attacked outside in P.E. that morning, and had suffered a fatal bullet wound to the chest. Did Jack happen to know any information that would help clue them in to the attacker’s whereabouts?
At first, Jack was dumbstruck. Then the fury came, a hot wave in the numbness. He gave a curt “No”, overturned his plastic chair, and ran. How could Brendan do this to him? They were supposed to be friends! Now they would never joke or laugh together again…
He barely made it to his bed before he started screaming. His wails and sobs lasted long into the night.
Jack bolted upright, drenched in sweat. 11:46 pm. What had woken him? Was it the wind or a nightmare or– with a jolt, Jack remembered. BRENDAN! He fell back on his pillow with an enormous sigh. Maybe this nightmare would be over in the morning. He had almost drifted off when a terrible thought wormed its way into his head. Brendan had a little sister! She was all alone! Jack knew what he had to do. As quietly as he could, he slipped on his windbreaker and jogged down the street to the Millers’ house.
He found Hannah slumped at the kitchen table, eyes puffy and red. He tried getting her to eat, but the sight of the leftover pizza panicked her. He finally managed to coax her into her bed, then curled up on the living room couch. Brendan’s couch… His pillow was soaked before his head hit it.
“Hey, ah… wake up.” He gave Hannah’s sleeping form a tentative poke.
Jack swallowed hard. “Breakfast in ten,” he whispered. He sighed. He knew that he had no excuse to stay home from school. He had stuffed a bit of cold cereal into his mouth and was halfway out the door when he remembered that he was still wearing yesterday’s tear-encrusted clothes. He slowly made his way up the stairs to Brendan’s room.
The boys had grown up together. People often called them brothers. They were quite alike. They wore the same size of everything and their eyes were the exact same shade of light blue. In fact, there were only a few subtle differences between them. Jack’s hair was auburn, while Brendan’s was caramel. Jack was an adventurer at heart, while Brendan was a thinker. The two had always appreciated their differences and got along amazingly well.
“Not anymore,” Jack muttered sadly as he pulled a white t-shirt over his head. He froze. The mirror… He touched his reflection. There was a line, almost four inches long, on his neck. It was a strange shade of dark pink. Jack carefully placed a finger on his own neck. He felt nothing. His eyes must have been playing tricks on him. He put on his windbreaker and headed for school.
He didn’t make it very far.
About halfway there, someone, or something, stepped out from the bushes lining someone’s yard. He was tall, about six feet, and wore a hockey mask over his face. The scent of ground beef wafted on the breeze. Jack instantly knew in his gut that this was Brendan’s attacker. “Hey,” he murmured cautiously, trying to edge toward the car at the stoplight, catching the driver’s eye. The mysterious figure let out a guttural growl that made Jack stop in his tracks. In that instant, the light changed, the car sped away, and the man lunged forward, pulling something sharp from the pocket of his leather jacket…
There was a glint of silver, and a river of crimson blood was flowing from the deep slash in Jack’s throat. The man had disappeared long before the first police cars arrived.
Hannah felt sick as she flopped onto her bed. She felt like she could never cry again, much less be happy. First Brendan, her kind, smart brother; now Jack, brave, caring Jack. And the policeman who had come to the door now knew that Hannah and Brendan had been living on their own…
Four hours later, she had hardly moved. The cracked plaster ceiling stared at her. She stared back. Go on, it urged, get up. Move around a little!
“I don’t want to,” she protested aloud. Nevertheless, she drew herself up. The ceiling was right. She had to do something. She absentmindedly grabbed her hairbrush and wandered into Brendan’s room. Her hair must look terrible by now. Maybe she could brush it. She glanced into the mirror… and screamed. A mutilated corpse was staring out at her!
Hannah ran. She didn’t quite know where she was going, but she ran. She decided that she would run all the way to the Amazon if she had to. Anything to get away from Jacksonville, Florida. Why couldn’t they have stayed in North Carolina? True, she had only been two when they moved, but she bet her best dress that Brendan would still be alive if they had stayed.
She had slowed to a walk by the time she reached Main Street. Her breathing was ragged and the neat storefronts were becoming a shadowy blur. She sat down on a bench to gather her thoughts. They were raging inside of her like bulls at a rodeo. That’s when she heard the rapidly approaching footsteps. Run! Hannah leaped from the bench, but she froze as a low buzzing sounded behind her. She slowly spun to see the source of the sound. A tall, hockey-masked man was brandishing a chained tree cutter over his head.
“The nonbelievers shall repent!”
A wave of nausea-inducing smell washed over her. The scent of melted cheese and the man’s chilling voice were both somehow… familiar.
“You three will go first!”
Hannah gasped as the grimy mask fell away, revealing the grinning face of Pastor Leek.
Hannah couldn’t place it, but something was different about him now. There was a crazed blue light behind the flames reflected in his glasses.
“Well, you’ll just have to take that saw to yourself, then, because you’ll be a sinner if you murder me!”
Hannah clapped her mouth shut. Pastor Leek’s grin lessened somewhat. Then it broadened and his eyes flashed. “Haven’t seen through my little disguise, eh? Well, I have some news for you! I’m not a pastor! I never was! I, Matthew Leek, will be ‘god’, when the world has fallen…” he broke off in an evil cackle.
Hannah trembled and closed her eyes. In her ears was the blatantly barbaric buzzing that was the last sound she ever heard.