The next chapter of Chadpocalypse is here! One key change for those of you who have been reading. Changed the name of the church to Church of the Second Book from Church of the Alternative Teachings of God, because one sounds way better. I may change this again, but for now, enjoy!
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1:10 Church of the Second Book
What immediately struck Chad about the church was not its dim quality, dark corners, or strange stalagmitic ceiling, but the relaxed nature of its clergy. Their robes were black and looked ripe for human sacrifice to be sure, but most were smiling and strolling through the shelves as if it were typical. The alcove containing the elevators hid them slightly from view, giving Chad a chance to take it all in, or attempt to. A group of people walked by, some of their faces concealed, others hoods thrown back, casually discussing the meaning of eternal damnation.
Chad stared, stunned that such a place even existed.
Joe on the other hand, wore an expression of fear. “Stick close. This place is more dangerous than it seems.”
Chad took another look around the room. A thick brown chest propped against a book shelf shook violently as if something inside wanted out. “Seems pretty dangerous.”
“More dangerous than being attacked by a hell hound on the freeway?”
“Let’s see if we live through it and then I’ll tell you.” Steeling himself, Joe stepped away from the alcove containing the elevators and into the church proper. In his somber attire, Joe blended well, and actually looked at home.
Chad followed him into the church and immediately felt out of place in his street clothes. The fact that they were still unwashed after a night of heavy drinking did nothing to help the situation. In between a set of tall shelves to their right, a group of monks chattered excitedly. From the center of their group, a pillar of flame erupted, briefly taking the form of a skeleton. It clawed its way toward the ceiling, but disappeared in a puff of smoke just before it reached it.
Involuntarily, Chad moved closer to Joe.
Ahead, a massive stone archway was cut out of the darkness, revealing a long room lit with red candles. Rows of pews lined it leading up to a black wood altar. On the wall behind it, several mean-looking swords hung in the shape of the five-pointed star.
“Don’t tell me we’re going in there?”
“What if I told you it’s just for show,” said Joe.
Joe’s muscles tensed. “No, it isn’t.”
They were about to cross the threshold when a voice called out from behind them. “Hello Joe.”
Joe moaned. “Carla,” he said, speaking as he turned to face the voice.
Chad also turned and found himself face-to-face with a beautiful woman, practically a shining beacon in her dark robes. Chad was struck with a sudden urge to say something both clever and complimentary, but instead managed a half-gag, half-belch. Trying his best to cover up the blunder, he opted instead for a smile.
The woman looked at him as if he were pond scum and his heart might as well have exploded. Dreams shattered, he tried to look up at her, but felt the pang as if he had lost the love of his life over the course of a few seconds. Has to be a curse, he thought. No one can be that beautiful.
“You alright, Chad?” asked Joe. To the outside observer, it might have appeared that Chad were having a short series of seizures, intermixed with miniature psychotic breaks. His mouth hung slack and more involuntary noises came from his throat as if he were choking.
With a disappointed sigh, the woman pulled a veil in front of her face. “Does this help?”
Chad felt as though a spell had been lifted. He could look and speak once more. “Is there some kind of curse upon you?”
“No, you’re just male, and an idiot at that. I’d kick you in the balls to right your mind, but it seems inappropriate given that we’ve just met.” She looked him up and down with dissatisfied appraisal. “However, slobber over me again,” she made a swift kicking motion, “I’ll treat you with the same respect.”
Chad gulped and nodded silently.
Satisfied, the woman turned her attention to Joe. “So, Joe. How have things been?”
“Never mind, I don’t care. What’s it been, five years since you had me excommunicated?” She arched an eyebrow. “That means you’ve either decided to leave the faith for something more interesting, or you’re in trouble.” She looked him up and down, calculating. “It’s the latter isn’t it.”
Joe shifted uncomfortably. “Indeed, it is.”
“So, it was you who ran afoul of that hell hound on the freeway. I would never have guessed. Maybe you are into something more interesting after all.”
“Yes!” blurted Chad. That’s it, she’s a telepath, how else would she know?
She observed Chad’s expression with a mirthless humor. “No, I’m not a telepath.”
Then how would you know what I’m thinking?! Chad tried to conjure images of a much more muscular version of himself, in hopes of showing inner confidence.
“We do get the news here,” she continued, ignoring Chad’s silence. From an inside pocket in her dark robes, she pulled out a cell phone and showed Joe a headline.
Chad crowded in to look. The headline read: Sudden Fault Line Opens up on Midway Freeway. It went on to say that the sudden fault had created a shockwave that nearly killed the as of yet unidentified passengers of an aging Buick.
“Hey, that’s us!” exclaimed Chad. He had never been on the news before. The thought that it was for an accident was disappointing, but he had made it nonetheless.
Joe made a non-committal huff. “How’d you know it was a hell hound?”
“There have been some uncommon vibrations recently. I had a few guesses, but hell hound seemed most likely.” There was a loud bang from somewhere deeper in the church. Both Chad and Joe jumped, but Carla didn’t flinch. “So, what have you gotten yourself mixed into that’s got a hell hound after you?” Her tone was one of mild curiosity.
“It’s not what I’ve gotten myself mixed up in; it’s him.” Joe jabbed a finger at Chad. “He’s been selected for the purposes of ‘fair play’ such as it were.”
A look of recognition flickered in the woman’s eyes and she began to circle Chad like prey. “So this is the fabled herald of our doom?” She snorted, unimpressed. “Smells like a dumpster fire.”
“Hey,” put in Chad.
“Sorry honey, it’s true. You’re a sad sack. It’s probably why they chose you.” She stopped so that they were eye-to-eye. “Which horseman was it?”
“It’s unclear,” began Joe, but the woman put up a hand to silence him.
“Chad, is it?”
“Y-yes.” Chad felt a mixture of anger, fear, and hunger welling within him. Despite the spirits that had occupied it, he still felt like a return trip to B’s diner.
“What did the horseman look like, Chad?” She spoke to him as one would speak to an unstable witness, or a child.
“Like some bro in a polo tee with an attitude problem.”
“Strike that, who wouldn’t be.”
“Asshole,” muttered Chad.
The woman made a gesture to remove the veil from her face and Chad silenced. “Anything else?”
“He opened a portal to Hell and shoved my head through it. That’s about it.”
“Sounds like a pestilence to me. What do you think Joe?”
“My thoughts exactly.”
“Hold on,” said Chad, growing tired of feeling like the idiot in the conversation. “Isn’t pestilence supposed to bring disease?”
“It does read,” said Carla with mock excitement. “Yes, he does, but the definition of disease changes. Really, Pestilence is here to cause discomfort whether it’s physical or mental.”
“Ah.” Chad thought back to the horseman shoving his head through the Hell portal. “Yeah, that seems to fit.”
“Splendid, well now that Chad is back on board, it seems like we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
“You’re going to help us?” The fact that anyone was going to willingly involve themselves with the business of Hell came as a bit of a shock.
“Wouldn’t be much of a church if we didn’t. You still drink, Joe?
“Apocalypse only a year away? You bet I do.”