Chapter 1: A day of unanswered prayers
"Red sky at night shepherd's delight, Red sky in morning shepherd's warning."
A large moth flickered outside an old windowpane in a desperate bid to get to the harsh light that shone from a solitary bulb. The room was not overly small, even though it gave off a slightly claustrophobic atmosphere. White paint was starting to peel off the timber walls. Faded graffiti and carved signatures were scattered about the house, visible through a half hearted paint job. Other than these small glimpses of colour the director's office in Wish House was stark in nature.
The hooded figures wore large red robes, similar to a fashion that befitted a monastery. They sat in a semi-circle with the leader standing behind a large desk at the front of the room. The main feature that distinguished him from the others in the group was that he carried a large sacrificial blade at his side. It was an unusual sword that looked like a slightly oversized machete with a strange and ancient inscription on the blade. It had been passed down a long line of directors and he was proud to show his status by carrying the blade with him at nearly all times. He also wore a large gold chain that glinted in the light. At the end of the chain hung a small symbol. It looked like a pyramid with an eye inside it. The same runes encircled the pyramid.
The large hood partially hid his face from the light, which in effect made him look quite menacing. He firmly planted his hands on the desk and began to address the rest of the robed figures.
"Brothers. Sisters. I have brought you here to discuss some rather disturbing news that has just recently been brought to my attention." He paused for effect, resuming in a tone of controlled anger. "It appears that the mother has discovered and rejected her destiny. Sister Dahlia has been trying to resolve the situation by talking, even pleading with her to persuade her to read the scriptures and accept the role that was clearly predestined for her. Sister how is your progress?"
One of the smaller figures looked up, a long strand of grey hair falling from the hood of her robe. Her hands shook a little as she gave her response. The way the leader looked tonight made her think that this was not the right time to show strength as it might get her killed.
"I…I…I am sorry master. She will not accept her fate, it seems that she does not hate the world enough to bring it to an end."
The leader interrupted "Have you not told her that from the ashes God shall create a new Paradise. It is only through fire that the purest things can be forged."
Dahlia spoke in a resigned tone.
"She knows the scriptures as well as you or I. That is not the problem. She knows about the result but she also knows that the process will take away everything she ever loved; making Paradise pointless as there would be nothing for her there. She refuses to cause the ones she loves pain." Although Dahlia sounded old her skin was still young and firm, albeit a little too pale for an ordinary person.
The leader gripped the hilt of the sword, his knuckles starting to go white.
"How is it that the mother found the path she must walk so soon? She was not supposed to know until she had undergone the rights of ascension.” Dahlia hung her head low, as if to cower. No emotion or even a sign of movement was displayed from the other figures in the group. The leader shifted impatiently, the old floorboards creaking as he did so.
Dahlia was now really starting to shake at the angry tone in his voice.
"You of all people should know how well I school my daughters in the scriptures. Claudia, through an act of enthusiasm in the scriptures read past the point that I instructed her to read, and accidentally revealed her sister's fate to her."
"IDIOT CHILD." It was one of the other members. This one also seemed to have a medallion of the symbol except his was made of silver and the runes seemed to be inscribed by blood. A mystical energy pulsed from it and seemed to react with greater strength when it neared the sword. This man was powerful in the group however he was obviously not as powerful as the leader. He got up to slap Dahlia and sent her sprawling across the floor.
Breathless, Dahlia folded herself into a ball, repeating the words
"Forgive me mother for my sins are great and numerous and my repentances are small."
The leader grabbed the attacker by the neck with a steely grip.
"You will not attack another member in my presence while I live, is that understood?" The man's face now exposed to the light showed fear. He appeared to be in his late twenties. He had a thick mane of dark brown hair. He was not overly tall for his age. Beads of sweat glistened on his forehead as his skin slowly turned the same shade of red as his robe. His eyes shifted wildly about the room looking for help. It did not come. The leader spoke again
"Do we have an understanding Mr Wolf? There are few enough disciples as there is without you trying to kill any off." The man, nearly losing consciousness, nodded and the leader dropped him to the floor. His medallion making a dull thud as it hit the floorboards.
By this time the group was unsettled to say the least. The leader drew his blade and held it above his head.
"You forget yourselves. Do you know why it is that you are here? We cannot afford to have unrest for the sake of God. Do you forget the power that we will attain as God's most loyal servants?" The group settled, some through fear, some through reason that came from greed and ambition. Dahlia stood up her robe dusty and a little worse for wear, her bruised face now fully exposed. Her haggard appearance made her look like she was in her late fifties. In reality she was a girl only in her early twenties. She opened her mouth as if to speak, remembering that this was not the time for shows of strength she shut her mouth and quickly sat down. The leader saw this and smiled into himself. He knew it wasn't easy for Dahlia to hold her tongue; he admired her sheer willpower to humble herself like that and had no idea what she ever saw in Leonard Wolf. The only sound to be heard in those few long seconds was that of a moth beating its tiny wings against the window.
The Leader focused his gaze on Dahlia "Speak child."
Dahlia bit her lip as she stood up, and winced when she realised that she had drawn blood. She sucked her lip, letting the rich, warm liquid swirl around her tongue before swallowing.
"I…Its Alessa. Her powers are growing. I c.c…can't control her anymore. Claudia is the only one who can really speak to her, but lately I've noticed a change in Alessa. She is becoming very detached from us, even Claudia is worried about her."
As Dahlia went to sit down again a cold, clinical voice came from the robed figure nearest the leader.
"What are we going to do then? If the mother will not accept her destiny then how will God be born into this world?"
To this question a deep dark voice spoke up. It was the figure sitting next to Dahlia, she recognised it as the prison warden, a Mr DeSalvo
"I have an answer if it pleases the council." Most heads in the room nodded in agreement. Dahlia did not want to agree to anything this man came up with before she heard it, she did not trust him one bit.
"I have studied Alessa's habits while she spent time with us in the holding cells. She seems to depend on thoughts of her friends and family to get her through bad times. She is especially attached to her pet dog Scamp. His name came up quite a few times. We need hate to bring forth God and show her how urgently this world needs purified. I suggest that we destroy everything this girl has ever loved by purifying it and sending it to Paradise, and if we follow my idea there will be a force of hatred big enough to sustain God indefinitely by the end of it."
The moth fell to the ground and stopped moving completely. A small hand scooped it up. "Ahh little one. Don't worry, soon you will be in Paradise, free from the bonds of this world." The little girl slipped quietly back into Wish House. She stealthily made her way up the stairs to her dorm room where all the other children were fast asleep. Claudia lit the candle at her bedside, making sure that she could still hear voices down below. She didn't want to go back to that prison like Bob or poor little Walter, that DeSalvo man was creepy.
She hoped that Walter found his mum someday. He could get really upset when he talked about her. Claudia didn't like seeing her friend upset so she told him not to give up hope and read a few encouraging passages from the scriptures. When they came across a passage called "the Descent of the Holy Mother" he seemed to cheer up and rushed off somewhere.
She read the "Act of Purification" into herself. Then taking the moth she put it into the flame of the candle.
"Be released little one. Purified by fire to be free and happy in Paradise." She wished that it were so easy to help Alessa. It would be Alessa's birthday soon and she hadn't a clue what to get her. It had to be special as this was probably going to be the year that she would go through the rites of ascension, now that she knew of her destiny. In a way Claudia was jealous but she smothered that emotion with joy for her sister. She moved her long hair behind her shoulders and blew the candle out. Tucking herself under the covers of the bed she could feel the springs poking her through the thin sheet. She grabbed a tattered rag doll made by her mother; it bore a strange symbol like that of the one the leader wore. It was the symbol of god and it made her feel safe. Alessa had a doll just like hers. Her mother said it would protect her from bad dreams. As Claudia drifted off to sleep in the warm, balmy air, she could have sworn that she heard moth's wings beating against the window. She smiled and drifted off into a deep, peaceful sleep.