Part three of Survivors tells the story of Simon, a young boy thrust into a horrifying situation beyond his comprehension.
“Welcome everyone! I’m so happy you all could make it!” Father Damon lifted his arms at his sides, trying to look welcoming as everyone gathered around in the open field. Ascension day had finally arrived.
Simon looked around. Mom had been extra frazzled this morning trying to get ready, wanting them to be there hours early even though the ceremony wasn’t due to begin until sundown. He was glad they had arrived later, as the heavy cloth of their ceremonial robes would have been far too hot while the sun was out.
All hundred or so members of the church were there, along with some of the new faces he had seen at last weeks ceremony. He frowned to himself. He had been told about The Ascension since he was a young boy, his mother always telling them how she couldn’t wait for that day, and how it would change everything for them.
“We’ll be seen as Gods by everyone when that day comes.” She would say, getting a wistful look in her eyes. “I just wish your father could be here to see it.”
They all gathered around the large table set out in the field and had a meal together. Simon and his twin, Arthur, were the youngest members of the church at only thirteen. Their mother and father were founding members along with Father Damon and some others. Now it was only Damon and their mother left, the rest having died five years ago at their original church building.
They sat near Father Damon at the head of the table. He looked to their mother and offered up a smile.
“I’m so glad we made it to this day, Alexandria. I know Thomas would be so proud of you and the boys.”
“I’m sure he would.” She replied, gazing off into the distance. “He made the way for this. We will honor him by seeing it through.”
Simon glanced over at Arthur. Mom rarely ever spoke about their father, only telling them that he and some other members of the church were killed in an explosion years ago. She had said that they were killed, supposedly, by someone cutting gas lines in the old church and setting it on fire. When they tried to ask about it she would just grow silent, telling them they would see him again soon.
Something wasn’t right. This was supposed to be a joyous day, a day that would change them forever. Everyone from the church was tense, barely saying a word as they ate. Newcomers looked uncomfortable, not really sure what to do or who to talk to. Simon was so used to his church family being loud and raucous, not this gloom that pervaded them now.
He took the spoon he was holding and used it as a catapult, launching bits of potato at his twin. This started a brief food fight between them before their mother told them to stop in a stern tone. Father Damon gave a slight chuckle, motioning for her to leave them be.
“Let them be boys, Alexandria. They can only be like this for so long.”
As dusk set in, church deacons went around the field, lighting torches every few feet and making sure they were secured in the ground. There was an alter set up in the center of the clearing, with a large stone basin in the middle filled with water. From what Father Damon had told them, this water was holy, taken from the Dead Sea and shipped here, to middle America. Simon knew that it was crucial to the ritual, but he had no idea what to expect from it.
“I ask that one of our newcomers step forward, so that we may welcome you as our family.” Damon stood in front of the basin, arms wide. A frail man, probably in his mid-thirties and seemingly on the verge of a panic attack, was nudged forward by another of the crowd. He stepped up to Damon next to the basin. “And what is your name, my brother?”
“Robert, Father.” He stammered. His eyes were glancing around furtively, as if trying to find an exit in the open field. The deacons had closed in the gaps between torches, their crimson robes even darker in the firelight.
“Robert, allow me to baptize you as one of our own, as the first of our great Ascension. Become as a god, and show your true self.” Damon motioned for him to lean over the basin, instructing him to hold his breath and cover his nose. Robert drew in a deep breath, then let the priest dunk his head in the water.
The knife flashed in the moonlight, taking Simon and Arthur by surprise. Damon whipped the blade out from his robe and ran it across Robert’s neck, still submerged. He hit the artery perfectly, and a mixture of blood and water began overflowing from the alter, splashing to earth.
Simon choked back vomit. This wasn’t what the ascension was supposed to be. They had always preached love and acceptance, not… murder.
“Robert shall become as a god. He shall leave this mortal vessel, and ascend to the moon above. Look, brothers and sisters, as the moon inhales his essence. He is one with the cosmos.” Damon shouted to the crowd. All of them cheered, except the other newcomers. They tried to run, flee from the horror they were witnessing. Deacons stopped their escape, pulling knives similar to Damon’s and slitting the throat of whoever tried to break free.
All around them similar chaos was breaking out. Simon could see all of these people he had known and loved, all falling dead one by one. Each person pulled a blade from their robes, sliding them across throats and covering the earth in crimson. Church members were grabbing newcomers, making sure they didn’t escape.
He looked over and saw Aaron, one of their mothers closest friends, grabbing a newcomer. He took his own blade, slicing across their throat and basking in the blood that poured forth.
Simon didn’t realize he was screaming until Arthur grabbed him, shaking him and screaming into his face.
“Boys, no. We are next to ascend. We will join your father in the cosmos.” Their mother was staring upwards, moonlight reflecting from the basin onto her face causing everything to appear red.
“Now my time has come. Witness as my essence becomes one with the cosmos. I shall ascend, and all shall see my glory.” Father Damon lifted the blade to his neck, making one clean slice from left to right. His blood spurted forth, mixing with the other fluids already spilled. He slumped over into the basin, twitching once before laying still, facedown.
Arthur and Simon were clutching each other, holding on for safety. Simon didn’t believe what he was seeing. So many of his friends and family, people he had known all his life, began slitting throats and wrists with reckless abandon. The field grew to a deep crimson, reflecting the moon above as it began taking on a similar hue. He was hallucinating. That must be it. Father Damon was standing up, almost floating above the altar. This was all a bad dream.
Simon closed his eyes tight as blood began rising from the ground, encircling a now delirious Father Damon. It was all a bad dream.
Arthur was screaming at him. Trying to wake him up.
Mother pulled a knife from her robes. They were once a clean, spotless white. Now the hem around her feet was crimson, seeping upward, taking her over, moving towards the moon. Drawn to the cosmos
She grabbed Arthur, pulling him in close. He was screaming. Begging for his brother, begging for his mother to save him from this. Alexandria looked at Simon, her mind a million miles away.
“Don’t you want to see your father again?” She said softly, “He’s waiting for us.”
“SIMON! HELP! HELP ME! I don’t want to die!” Arthur was screaming. Simon wasn’t hearing him through the surrounding chaos, but he could feel his brothers fear. They were twins, forever connected, sharing in this twisted dream.
Father Damon was encased in blood, thousands of gallons all swirling around him. Alexandria looked from him to the moon, a lustful smile moving across her face. The blood became like armor around Damon, making him into some cursed knight from one of Hell’s battalions. He towered above them now, at least ten meters tall.
“You can only ascend if you do it yourself.” Alexandria said to her sons. “I hope you’ll both join me in our cosmos. Your father and I will be waiting.”
She made a quick slice and covered her sons with a spray of crimson. Twins screamed as one, tears making tracks through their mothers blood. They held each other, wondering why this was happening, what had they been taught? Why couldn’t they wake up?
All a bad dream.
“Simon! We gotta go! RUN!” Arthur slapped him, trying to elicit some reaction. He wasn’t going to die here.
Simon finally snapped into clarity. He took Arthur’s hand, running toward the church parking lot. They had to get out of here, they had to run. The world was bathed red by moonlight. Everything trapped in a nightmare as they ran.
He felt Arthur let go of his hand as they were almost clear of the torches. He looked behind him to see why his brother had stopped and felt his heart jump to his throat.
Father Damon, now in a full armor of crimson, held Arthur aloft. The boy struggled, kicking and swinging his arms at the monster, but couldn’t break free. Simon ran back toward them, determined to rescue his twin.
“No! Simon! Run!” He shouted. He could see Damon’s eyes through the flowing armor. Drained of color, now filmed over in death, he was staring lifelessly at the boy in his grasp. He lifted Arthur toward the moon, as if in offering.
“Accept this gift, cosmos. Allow my ascension when your ritual is complete.” Damon was monotone, a stark contrast to Arthurs shrill screams. Simon fell to his knees, frozen from fear. He was helpless, He couldn’t wake up. It was all a bad dream he couldn’t leave.
“Let him go. Please. Don’t do this!” He screamed at the mass of blood holding his brother. “You can’t take him. Please!”
Tendrils of crimson burst forth from Damon’s armor, piercing through Arthur. He let out a shrill scream then fell quiet. Simon felt a part of himself die as his twin took one last breath. Their connection broke. Simon was alone.
Silver light poured down onto the field once more. He looked up to see the moon was no longer rusted, but back to it’s normal state. The blood enshrouding Damon ascended to the sky, flying toward the pure white moon. It hovered far above the earth before bursting forth, raining back down and drenching the surrounding area.
The last remaining members sliced at their skin, completing their ritual. The blood rained down with hurricane force, covering Simon. He looked at the sky, tears mixing with blood, as silence settled in around him.
He screamed in anguish. He was alone now. Family, friends, gone. Only the moon remained, washing over the frail, broken boy floating in a sea of crimson.
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