He finished through the last row of vines and entered the tower in a blaze of panic. It had been 2 days since his last full glass of water and a meal a few berries. Lenny was in no mood to make new friends.
They smiled at him. Sharp, ear to ear grins.
“Congratulations,” the one with a black pendant necklace said. “We believed in you.”
A colony of men and boys. Heads, eyebrows, and faces all completely shaven. Wearing white, priest-like robes.
Lenny, on the other hand, had a beard, a torn Metallica shirt, and tennis shoes.
“Who are you?” said Lenny.
“I’m your keeper,” said the one with the black pendant. “My name is Sugar.”
“Sugar?” began Lenny, still panting. He grabbed the glass of water before a colony member had offered it and took a swig. “Your momma name you that?”
The colony grinned smugly, but none so much as chuckled.
“No,” said Sugar. He reached out and retrieved the empty glass. “But momma would like to meet you.”
Two of the more husky-looking colony members grabbed Lenny by each of his arms. Lenny resisted, snapping free from their grasps and turning for the door. He was stopped short by a dagger point aimed at his eye. Lenny returned to Sugar.
“I don’t know what this is,” Lenny gritted out. “I don’t remember what happened before I entered that bullshit maze. I just want to go home. I just want to return to my boring life.”
“Meet mom, and you’re free to go,” said Sugar.
Lenny eyed the rest of the room. These bald-headed clowns all displayed the same mindless expression. He’d been kidnapped by a goddamn virgin convention.
“Let’s do it,” said Lenny.
He followed along with the colony outside of the tower. So far he had seen swords and daggers, but no sign of any guns. Even if he was to fight his way free, where would he go? Lenny had fought so hard to escape that maze but he never imagined he’d find himself in a more perilous situation.
The walk from the tower was illuminated with Tiki torches lining the dirt path. The fires ran tall and provided some welcome warmth. White-robed colony members flanked Lenny on all sides as they walked in step-by-step unison toward the Gothic Cathedral. The outdoor area was surrounded by an Iron gate. Arrowed spikes decorated their peaks. Then Lenny spotted something – a gate, appearing badly damaged. It had been busted apart by some kind of army jeep. Whoever had tried to break in hadn’t made it very far – there were pikes still sticking out from the windshield.
“This way!” One of the colony members with a thick, low voice shouted at him.
“You might not be afraid of us,” Sugar said to Lenny. He stopped at the doorway, flashed a devilish smirk, then yanked the fat spiraling door handle to the large door of the cathedral and directed Lenny to enter.
The rest of the colony laughed.
“I ain’t afraid of your fucking mom,” Lenny said.
A set of hands shoved Lenny from behind, and he fell onto his hands and knees inside the building. The door shut behind him, and he was filled with cold dread.
The pews were of old wood, vacant of any church parishioners. The statues inside were nothing like the Catholic saints he had seen growing up – these were of dragons flying, wolves eating, and at the front one giant black leopard, in the pouncing position.
“Hello,” said Lenny, surveying the empty building as his voice echoed through the chambers. His foot struck something – a spotted dog, with a knife in its head. Blood pooled around it.
The sound of glass shattering brought Lenny to jump. It had come from up ahead.
Lenny knelt down, rubbed the bloody dog behind its ear, then tugged the knife out from its skull. He stuffed the blade into the waste of his jeans, then adjusted his ragged shirt to hide the handle.
“Lenny,” said the voice ahead. It was a sort of whispered moan. The type of voice you’d expect to hear from a dying creature. “Bow down to me.”
“Bow down to me!”
The smoke from the candles inside swirled together, materialized into a sort of foggy witch, then sucked the knife out from Lenny’s waistband and plunged it straight through his foot, nailing him where he stood.
“Arrgh!” grunted Lenny. He gripped the knife but a sort of magnetic energy kept him from withdrawing it. The black smoke dispersed into a cloud of locust, swarming the inside of the church. Lenny slapped as they attacked at his face, and when he opened his mouth two crammed their way into his throat. Lenny coughed them out.
The locust dissolved into dust, floating like a dark cloud throughout the empty church.
“You’ve caused me great distress.”
Lenny shook his head, and returned his focus to the knife. He couldn’t get it to budge as his own blood puddled around his foot.
“You entered and were never invited. You destroyed my gate, and have brought with you a curse upon my sons. You will die for this, Lenny.”
- Return for Part II tomorrow
- Thomas M. Watt