excerpt

Marker of Faith

Chapter 1

     He thought the Rosary would save him. Nothing could now.

     “Merciful God in heaven, I am most highly sorry for having offended thee.” The priest moaned out the Last Act of Contrition as he hung suspended in the air, trapped in a constricting mist of shadows while malformed hands in the gloom tore at his flesh.

     Dawn was on the horizon for Portsmouth, the sun creeping up to bathe the small town in its light and warmth, but here only darkness and the chill of the void held sway. A slight breeze swirled trash around the footings of the overhead bridge. In the distance heavy trucks rumbled down the highway, the sound of their engines carrying to the dying priest as a reminder of the living world now beyond his reach.

     Father Burnley made his rounds in the last hours of night, looking for the homeless and hungry citizens of this sleepy little town to make sure they knew he was there for them, that the church would not abandon anyone; he had cereal bars and kind words if nothing else. He came to the Evanston Bridge but found only shadows waiting. The priest tried to run as the darkness swelled and enveloped him while he brandished the rosary like a weapon, but the things in the darkness were too quick; merciless.

     “Oh Heavenly Father, please protect your faithful servant,” he gasped as the shadows constricted tighter.

     “Your God can’t help you, Marker,” a multitude of voices hissed from the darkness coiling around the man’s tortured body. The priest shrieked in agony as the shadows ripped his arm from the socket, the worn and weathered beads of the rosary still clutched tightly in his bony hand as it dropped to the ground.

     “I defy you, Satan!” Father Burnley managed weakly as lifeblood spurted from his ruined shoulder.

     A creature formed in the shadows, smiling with thin lips stretched over jagged teeth, and rose up in front of the priest.

     The shadow demon whispered in the priest's ear, “Your God and your Satan are nothing to us. But where is your precious light?”

     The priest’s eyes bugged in terror, his faith wavering at the shadow’s words, as the creature stroked the dying man's cheek. Father Burnley didn't have the strength to flinch from the icy touch.

     “That’s right, holy man. We are the true darkness and our time has come again. The destruction of the Void Gate begins now.” The shadow placed its hands on the priest’s head, twisting quickly and yanking the trophy away in a spray of hot blood that rained down into the swirling darkness below.

     Father Burnley didn’t even have time to scream. The rest of his body exploded into multiple fragments that dropped to the ground in an intricate, circular pattern. The demon placed the head faced-down in the center of the circle and stretched its own arms wide, gathering in the rest of the shadows until there was only a mass of darkness hovering over the slaughter. This was the start of the rituals...the beginning of the end.

     “The first Marker of Faith has been opened,” the voices hissed as the darkness receded with a snap, folding in on itself as it dissipated into the shadows of the bridge; waiting.

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