Chapter One

Father Abbott was a man of God.

His earliest memory was of seeing the crucifix above the altar during First Communion when he was seven-years-old. He knew, even then, that he wanted to be ordained. To serve the Lord. When the priest placed the wafer on his tongue and said the blessing he felt an overwhelming calm. Peace. He knew in his heart that his life belonged to Him. But now, more than sixty years later, as precious drops of his blood dripped away on the filthy floor, Father Abbott desperately wondered where He was.

Bitter pain coursed through his whole body. His wavy grey hair clung to the sides of his unshaven face with sweat. Several of his teeth were loose with raw, bloody gaps where the missing ones had been. Though his hands were bound behind the back of his chair so tight that they had lost feeling, he was sure a finger was missing. Perhaps two. With each labored breath his broken ribs stung, and with each one he silently prayed for death. The flesh around his left eye had swollen to the size of a fist. All he could see through it was a narrow slit of light.

Through that narrow slit, a silhouette appeared.

“Do you think me evil?” Even with his shallow pulse thundering in his ears, the serpentine tickle of the words sickened him.

“Yes,” Abbott said weakly.

The creature smiled. “Good.”

“You didn’t have to do all this.”

A shrug. “Where’s the fun in that?”

Father Abbott heard the muted creak of a door as it opened, then a slam as it shut. Beyond the flickering halo of light cast by the lone brown bulb dangling from the ceiling, another entered the room. He could make out only the faintest of details — a woman no doubt by the clicking of high heels, he saw long, frizzed hair nearly white around a blanched face with large, dark purple shades obscuring the eyes.

“Has he said anything?” she asked and took a seat in the corner, crossing one stockinged leg over the other, giggling wickedly to herself.

The slightest of nods. “He has said everything.”

“Are you going to kill me now?” Father Abbott half asked, half pleaded.

The fiend considered him a moment, moved in close so that the shadows became a face. Skin bone tight against the cheeks, wild hair the color of rust and eyes that glinted like those of an animal in the night.

“I am.”

“Thank you,” Abbott choked with what he could muster of his voice.

“But before I do,” he said and crouched down near the priest. “Let me tell you two things. Thing the First, tonight you’ve provided us with information most valuable. So thanks all around are an order.”

Father Abbott spat blood in his face.

His captor didn’t seem to mind. Just the opposite. Smearing it down the slope of his nose until the tips of his fingers reached the end, dangling a drop of brilliant red for a moment before it fell and touched his tongue.

The creature got nearer to him, face-to-face and smiled. The breath emanating from behind his pointed teeth, hot and foul as the depths of Hell, made Father Abbott’s stomach turn. And the eyes, those horrible hollow eyes let him know that there was no soul behind them.

“And Thing the Second, believe it or not, is good news for you, holy man.” He licked the priest’s forehead, lapping up the thick drops of sweat that gathered there, and looked him in the eyes again. “If you really are a man of faith, if you truly believe in a just and merciful god,” the creature took three slow steps back from the chair, “you are about to meet him.”

Father Abbott’s face sunk. His impending demise so real he could taste it. And with his last ounce of breath, he whispered, “Forgive me.”

A colorless hand curled into a hook directed at Father Abbott’s chest. An unbelievable bloom of heat swelled beneath the ribs until his heart itself was burning with the intensity of a hot coal. A quick twist and the priest’s chest burst open with a spray of blood and bone. He didn’t even have time to scream before seeing his own heart practically leap from his torso.

His head dropped forward, dead as Bela Lugosi.

“Mmmm…” The only sound as the red-haired one towered over his corpse, and fed on his heart.

Next Chapter: Chapter Two