Spoiler Alert: If you have not read the prequel, Divine Guidance, and are planning to do so, don’t read the following chapters as some things may be given away that will ruin the suspense for you.
Chapter One of Torn Veil, updated August 24, 2015.
Snowy footprints marred the path leading to a quaint chapel in St. Michael’s Cemetery. The chapel was covered with straggling and decaying reminders of last summer’s ivy. The harsh echo of a shovel cutting frozen earth broke the silence of the early morning calm.
The Collective, six men and seven women, stood around him watching his progress. Steam puffed with his every breath as the shovel finally broke through the hardened earth. Each push of the shovel into the ice-crusted ground reminded him of the sound of a knife blade going through skin and hitting bone. He grimaced at the thought, clenched his cold hands around the handle of the shovel and continued his work.
He had doubts of whether this was the correct thing to do, but they had taken him into their sanctuary, fed him, given him clothes and counseled him. They had prayed for him and with him. They gave to him when so many others had taken away. He could finally help them and so he did – shoveling a hole in the frozen earth so that their work could begin. Hushed voices broke the quiet of the winter’s dawn. He could hear plotting and scheming in the hissing voices around him.
When the hole was two feet deep and two feet in diameter, The Collective moved closer and peered into the hole. Alice, a small round woman with cropped red hair, a sour face and a prominent birthmark over her left eye, pulled a small cloth sack from her large handbag. She opened the sack and took out a picture of Carl Parkins and a picture Marnie Reilly. She placed the pictures into the hole. Next, she removed the feather of a vulture from the sack and put it atop the pictures. She sprinkled some of the frozen earth over the top and then some rock salt and lastly, she added a dead rat with a large hat pin piercing its chest. Alice stepped back and motioned for the other members of The Collective to complete their tasks. One by one they picked up handfuls of dirt and in turn, they each threw their handfuls of dirt into the hole. When the hole was filled, Alice stepped forward and jabbed a sprig of holly wound with a sprig of mistletoe and a sprig of water hemlock into the earth. Alice stood back and looked at the work they had completed and began to chant,
“The divine power of The Collective damns those we distrust;
Hallowed ground and scavenging pests, feed on their souls and make it just.
The divine power of The Collective calls to the Holy Spirit for absolution;
Protect our souls as we deliver retribution”.
The Collective held hands in a circle around the small grave, chanting as the sun peeked over the hill of St Michael’s Cemetery.
Alice tied her scarf around her red, chubby face, smiled and said, “Well then, by Christmas we won’t have to worry about Carl and Marnie damaging our reputations anymore. God will protect us. He will keep us safe.”
The man who had just dug the hole moved to the inner edge of the circle. He turned slowly and watched the expressions on the faces of the members of The Collective. He stopped when he reached Alice and anxiously said, “Ma’am, I don’t understand why you want to hurt these people? Carl was very kind to me and I thought you all liked him”.
Alice shook her head dismissively and advised, “We don’t want to hurt them, Patrick. We want God to teach them a lesson. Carl has left our group to work with Marnie. She mocks us, calls us names and steals our customers. Well, our clients. She has spread horrible rumors about us over the years”.
Alice looked up into Patrick’s face, searching for his understanding and acceptance. She continued, “We helped her, Patrick, just as we helped you. She has taken our love and kindness and thrown it back into our faces. She has taken Carl away from us, too. We need to find another source of income now to continue our good work. We want to help people like you and others who are tormented by pain and spiritual hunger. We need a new energy healer to ensure money flows and that we, The Collective, prosper.” Alice stepped back and turned to the others for confirmation.
As they all stood beneath the rising sun nodding in agreement with Alice, a crow flew overhead and cawed at them.
Patrick looked up, flinched and fretfully warned, “That’s a bad omen. What you have done here is wrong. You should not have done this.” Patrick nervously searched the faces of the people in the group – eyes darting from person to person. He wrung the hem of his jacket in his hands, he leaned into the group and whispered, “God will punish you for this.” As he searched the faces and saw no remorse, his voice grew louder and stronger as he shouted, “God will punish you. God will punish you. God will punish you!”
Patrick stood with defiance in the center of the group. He searched every face for a sign that someone agreed with him. Sensing pain, he looked down at his hands and he realized he was nervously wringing the hem of his jacket – the zipper digging in and tearing his skin. He dropped his hands to his sides and then raised his right hand, pointing one by one to each person in The Collective.
“I have seen evil and hatred in my life. I have seen people killed and maimed and destroyed out of hatred. So much evil, but nothing that compares to the evil I see right now. Your souls are empty…dark…sick – all of you. Empty and dark,” Patrick lamented, turning slowly and purposefully to address everyone in the group.
“Hang on just one minute, Patrick, and you listen to me,” Alice said, anger reddening her face under her twisted brow.
“No!” shouted Patrick, as he turned quickly and ran down the path, covering his ears as the crow flew over again and cawed. He stopped sharply, looked back and saw the huge crow land on a large, long tombstone. He stepped off the path and watched the big, black bird. It appeared as if the crow was watching him too. He stepped closer and read the stone,
“Colin Reilly and Sophia Reilly
Loving Parents of Marnie and Sam”.
He stood looking at the tombstone and then said to the crow, “Marnie? Marnie Reilly. You’ve given me a sign haven’t you?”
The crow cawed and flew away. Patrick ran down the path to the edge of the city in search of Marnie Reilly and Carl Parkins.