01: breaking point [the High Priest]
Something clung in this foul air of vices that began to eat away at his cultivated heart. It weighed heavily, deeply within his mind, but perhaps the High Priest was now simply so far gone from salvation that he couldn’t claw his way back to the divine light that had always promised him mercy. Thoughts of his former creed had become obscured by the essence of these cursed grounds, where cypress and poison ivy drank from the blood that ran plentifully into the dirt from each Lacuna. The air was thick and he was forced to swallow this air into his lungs. He was forced to allow all of it into his body, and he could feel the sins hissing through his veins. The High Priest was tainted, and he knew it, but all of his thoughts were consumed by her.
Even now, the High Priest thought he could see her.
He thought he saw her bright red hair flash through the trees, and without a second thought, he bolted. The High Priest ran despite the wound from the bullet that had grazed his knee, and swiftly ducked underneath sinister branches as he chased after her red hair. It was the hair that danced, swam in his vision and drove him to enter this Lacuna, and he would give so, so much just to even touch it again, to touch that –
Surely, it had to be hers, for who else had that exact shade of red that whispered the depths of garnet and the carnality of rubies? Certainly not the girl who had shot him, or failed to shoot him, as she clearly did not know how to use a firearm of any sort. What she was doing in a place like this, the High Priest did not care. Truthfully, he was not interested in going out of his way to harm anyone, unlike the other competitors who had entered Lacuna for less than good intentions. But to purposely cause affliction to others was not in his nature. It was not within the teachings of the higher powers above that he pledged his soul to, swore to abide to faithfully for as long as he walked the earth. But such promises did not apply to an accursed place such as this.
The High Priest did not need anyone here that would interfere with finding her, and felt no grief when he stabbed the miserable girl who had been unlucky to cross his path and lack the red hair he so futilely searched for.
Her red hair was closer now. He saw it between the trembling leaves that whipped his cheek with their sharp edges and snagged on his delicate blond hair. Holy blood ran down his cheek and stained his path with the slivers of purity that still remained in it. His hands desperately tore at the branches and pushed aside obstructing fauna in this dense forest, for there it was, that red hair of vermillion –
The red hair that he saw was not hers.
It was splashed across the gray branches, across the dirt that thirsted for human life, along the slender blades of grass. With what little light managed to sneak its way into the forest, it shined mockingly, laughing at the High Priest.
This all belonged to someone else, another woman who lay twisted across the forest floor, her chest cavity shredded and proudly put on display. Weak, the High Priest collapsed to the ground, panting, as he could only imagine her, and her alone –
– did she end like this? Was her self-righteous blood spilled for something more than a sacrifice, but torn so ruthlessly from her body, had her journey to find herself ended here, like this, brutally contorted with her scarlet inflamed hair scattered around her –
- was she now trapped in this world he could not touch, but he hovered ever so close to, in a space she could not escape, for it would not allow the release of the souls it trapped in this cage of depravity, forced to wander with a desecrated body and granted no release to the peaceful afterlife she was promised, tormented as she was decomposed by the remnants of the seven devils that he could feel
- pressing, probing, grasping desperately for the virtue of his being –
The High Priest gasped on all fours, finding his hands now stained with blood as he faced this girl before him. With trembling hands, he reached over and closed her empty eyes, mouthing the words of a prayer. He could only hope that the powers above would hear his words and reach beyond this purgatory he willingly stepped into. He knew he could not save her, not now, not anymore, not with the blood on his hands and the laughter of the devils in his ears that cackled with the demise of yet another. They laughed with glee at having such an exquisite catch, a pretty soul in their hands that was so pliable to their whims.
In his mind’s eye, the High Priest could see her. Her red hair, the face that resembled his own so much. The face he longed to see more than anything. She haunted his dreams, begging to be saved, but he was coming to understand that it was an impossible goal. Not when he was dragged down by the weight of his own sins that he had fallen to in this Lacuna, but he still knew that he would search for her. He swore it to her in his misty dreams when he left his role as a man of faith, and had already sacrificed a place in the Elysian Fields to search for her.
The blood-slicked knife in his hands was now heavier than before, greedily absorbing the blood of the fallen. The High Priest wiped the remaining drops onto his once ivory robes, which were now stained beyond salvation. He stumbled over his own feet as he set off again, into the deep of the forest, in hopes of finding her.
Her and her red hair that matched the color of his cursed hands.
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