Father McKenna looked out at the congregation as they stood from their pews to sing with the choir. His eyes slipped shut as the organ notes began to echo though the sanctuary.
The high ceiling echoed with the faith filled voices of those present for mass this night. Did they know? Could they see the difference in him?
His eyes turned to the crowd. Some stood with their hands out palms upward to catch Heaven’s blessings. While others lifted their faces as if God would press his lips to their brow to take the sorrow from their souls.
What of his soul, did it exist or did she drink it with her seductions. He gingerly touched the edge of his collar, grateful it hid his secret beneath. The church faded before his eyes as his mind replayed the memory of last night.
He couldn’t sleep, the night was too warm in the rectory. After restless minutes of failed attempts to find comfort, the Father walked out into the garden. He knelt before the stone cross in the center with his rosary.
McKenna bowed his head and crossed himself as he began the prayers. He turned the beads in his fingers as he spoke. “Our Father, Who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy name… “
As the words fell into the night, his soul began to calm, his eyes closed as he opened to deity’s touch. The air around him stilled, a dark silence descended. He took a deep breath to clear the distraction his focus on God as he continued to pray.
A soft giggle broke the silence, Father McKenna opened his eyes and fell backward with a startled breath. A young woman stood behind the stone cross her arms wrapped around it. Her petite fingers covering her mouth to stifle her laughter.
Her eyes were dark sunken into her face as though it had been a hundred years since she last slept. McKenna could feel darkness in her. “The church is open for prayer. The rectory is private, my child.”
The girl, no thing… pushed from the stone, her tongue slowly moved across her bottom lip. “Child? Priest… you’re not even old enough to be my father.”
McKenna stilled as she stood over him. His eyes couldn’t focus on her face, dizziness fell on him.
She… it, bent to bring her face to his and sniffed at the air before him, then again at his neck. McKenna’s pulse jumped as she moved closer, her lip curled wickedly. “I smell fear on your skin. Is your faith not strong enough?”
Her breath a bouquet of decay, soured milk, and roses filled face. The father coughed and swallowed back the sickness. “He will protect me, my faith is strong.”
Her fingers slid through his hair slowly as she gave a sound something between a scoff and curt laugh. “No, priest, faith can’t protect you. Your hair is so soft, you do smell nice, fresh.”
The creature nuzzled his neck, for a brief moment the gentle touch of her fingertips along the line of his neck distracted him from what he was. His hand clenched and he felt the rosary wrapped in his palm.
He drew back from her. “I am a man of God, I will not be corrupt.”
The creature was undeterred rested her brow to his. “You were corrupt the moment you spoke to me, priest.”
That last word she spat into his face with contempt for all he was and believed.
This close he could see her eyes were dead, soulless things. He felt his heartbeat slow, her tiny hands grip his shoulders. Those hands had strength that defied their size. She moved closer, her head tilted toward the side of his neck as if to kiss.
McKenna pushed her off as he scurried backward until he could stand and put distance between them. “Be gone unclean spirit.” He swung the crucifix; the silver cross struck the monster across her cheek.
She hissed and pressed a hand to her wound but not before, he saw blood thick and black ooze forth. The blood of a corpse. Her eyes shifted until there was no white left in them. He gazed into orbs of pure onyx.
McKenna tried to look away but those orbs held him captive. In an attempt to break the spell, he rose the crucifix between them. Bluish smoke rose from the bits of flesh and ooze that clung to the holy item.
“Unclean, perhaps you should look in the mirror, priest.” She brushed the ooze from her cheek; the wound closed and began to fade from her skin.
When it vanished, McKenna looked at the rosary to see the gore still present. He hadn’t dreamed the gash. Though his faith was strong, the hand which clutched the beaded strand trembled. “I am a child of God.”
She laughed, not the girlish giggle that brought his attention from prayer. This was as though gravel were being poured into his ears. Only something made of darkness could laugh like that. “Does he love you, priest?”
He gasped as her voice whispered behind him against his ear, she had moved faster than a blink. “Despite the blood I smell on your hands?”
He could not stop the shiver which coursed down his spine when her breath fell down the line of his throat. “Old blood, long forgiven. He loves me.”
McKenna turned his head to look at her, but his eyes focused on her lips not her eyes. “He has love for you.”
She cackled again, the sound dug painfully inside his ears. “Love for me, an unclean beast? You think I still have a soul to save? Perhaps I don’t want your salvation.”
The edge of her fingernail trailed down his neck. “You have to wait for your rewards in Heaven. I get my rewards when I take them.” The nail turned and sliced into his flesh.
He froze caught by fear and her gaze. Her lip curled into a grin that would haunt his dreams for the rest of his days on earth. She pressed a soft kiss to his lips. “My reward tonight shall be you.”
McKenna tried to push her away again but he was powerless held in her gaze, one hand at his throat a razor like nail dug at his skin as the other hand fisted in his hair. His mouth opened to scream, protest, cry for help, but nothing uttered forth. Only a groan of pain as she drew back his head and struck the line of soft flesh she exposed.
The next moment he knew dawn had begun to break. The beams of soft light danced over his face to open his eyes. The creature had gone but her kiss remained on his neck, he felt the punctures gingerly and hissed in pain. He lived… at least part of him had survived.
As McKenna stumbled to his room he felt changed, the world seemed too bright, the light ached his eyes.
Silence called him back from memory to Morning Mass. The songs were finished, the voices of the blessed quiet to receive the message. McKenna stood and approached the pulpit. Was he cursed, could he speak the words?
His rosary clean and polished lay gazing at him. It had burned the thing; if he was cursed, it would him also. It was time to see if his soul was her reward. McKenna closed his eyes and uttered a prayer as his hand descended on the rosary, and the truth of his soul.