Chapter 39: A Books Worth of Revelations
Ben senses the indignation in him blistering his gut. He clutches the arms of the wooden chair that hold his husky frame. He is ready to leap from his seated position and fall upon manipulative twofaced Sin Preacher. How would he explain to his wife and children that he’d beaten a woman senseless? Right now Ben didn’t give a shit they’d forgive him. “Lady …” Ben thrusts up from the chair his arms quaking. “You’re a fucking nut and I’m …” He hears the hammer cock before he sees the silver revolver in Miriam’s hand. “You’re going to do what Mr. James?” She scoffs flipping her frizzy hair back. “You know what you’re going to do Benjamin?” She asks a sneer drawing across her lips. “You will relent to my demands ….. You will agree to give me the heathen and the fatherless child.” She moves around the corner of the desk. “If you don’t agree to my terms your family will be cast down into the pit. Where they will used as fodder to feed the Unclean and keep the rest of us alive.” Ben swallows hard locking his eyes on the Sin Preacher. He falls back limp into the aging wooden chair which groans in protest. His mind races he attempts to suppress the images of his family’s demise. The idea of his children being devoured by zombies brings a glob of vomit to the back of his throat. “You and that mouthy soldier girl Sara will have to be put down as well.” She keeps just out of reach of the big man. Miriam’s hand clutching the pistol doesn’t waiver. Ben watches the barrel leveled at his head but it is the least of his concern. “I will ask you again Mr. James.” The Sin Preacher speaks through gritted teeth. She was not the same person who picked them up in that field what seems like a lifetime ago. “Will you give me the two members of your party I demand as repayment or will you condemn them all?”
“Why?!” Ben croaks. “You never told us there was such a price to pay for your assistance.” He slams a fist down onto her desk but she doesn’t flinch. “Why help us at all? Huh Miriam it appears you had this in mind all along.” The meek woman with the gun shakes her head “No” vigorously. “Look you were in no position to refuse me Benjamin.” The Sin Preacher jabs the pistol in his direction. “My God commands that I help those who cannot help themselves. I wanted you and your people to be a part of what we have here.” She rubs her free hand across her mouth wiping away froth from the corners of her lips. “I simply can’t have that Son of Lot you brought with you in my house of God.” It was Ben’s turn to chuckle. “My wife was right.” He shakes his head giggling softly to himself. “Your ‘House of God” isn’t that an oxymoron?” “Careful Mr. James choose your words very carefully.” The Sin Preacher chides the man before her. “You pretend to speak for God yet you don’t know the true meaning of his words. You don’t know what grace and mercy are. You simply take a gaggle of slack jawed yokels and play on their fears and ignorance.” Ben wonders to himself if she possesses the moxy to do her own dirty work. “What will you do with Jamal and Cammy?” Ben probes sizing the woman up watching her body language. He knows full well he doesn’t want to know what her plans are. “What do you mean when you say ‘fodder’ Miriam?” Miriam breaks eye contact with Ben like a mortified child. She composes herself before speaking. “Your son and companion have already found out by now what I am about to share with you. As they have accompanied Brother Gustavo out on his rounds this morning.” When her eyes find Ben’s again they are as empty as the zombie’s they’ve been fighting the last few days. “I have found a way to distract the ravenous highly intelligent Unclean that hunt during the night. I have Brother Gustavo hang pieces of human meat in various places around the church. This keeps the Unclean preoccupied and fed at night. This way they don’t go roving about thus reducing the risk of them discovering us hidden in here. “You crazy bitch …” Ben blurts beside himself. “You let me send my boy out with that lunatic to feed zombies?!” He screams standing to his feet. “Yes I did Mr. James.” She says coldly. “By the way how did you sleep last night? Were your wife, your kids and your friends safe?” Ben is disgusted at the thought of having paid for his people’s safety with the life of another. “As you can imagine Mr. James this process has a high price and not everyone is willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.” She smiles. “But in this Post Rapture Apocalyptic world Mr. James. There are a few souls who are brave enough. The others … well …” She rolls her eyes. “Well let’s just say that everyone you met in that room across the hall had to offer up a sacrifice to stay here.” Ben’s consciousness darkens at the corners he feels light headed as he fights not to faint. “I will sacrifice that heathen and the baby as well Mr. James if you must know.” The Sin Preacher sighs deeply then fills her lungs with a breath of fresh air. “Either you give me the penance you owe. Then leave here never to return or you and Sara will suffer their fate as well. I’m sure the Olmstead boy will take you all in again or so you can hope.” The Sin Preacher grasp the handle of the revolver with both hands. She steadies her aim taking a shooter’s stance. “Now stop stalling and answer the fucking question.” She shouts shivering with self-righteous outrage. Ben’s lips quiver as he starts to speak. “I ….. I can’t …. I won’t.” As he whispers a single tear pools up in his right eye spilling slowly down his cheek. “In this new world Mr. James cowardice is lethal.” The Sin Preacher and Benjamin stare one another down. “I knew you lacked the conviction to make the right choice Ben.” She shakes her head as she speaks. “Colonel …” She yells out never taking her eyes or the gun barrel off Ben. The door burst open the big brute known as Colonel leads the way. He is dragging Private Lockett roughly into the room. Ben stands to his feet without hesitation turning to face Colonel. “Now Mr. James I assure you that remaining calm is in your best interest. He gazes back over his shoulder eyes dripping hatred but he doesn’t move. Sara fights in protest the whole way but the man is almost three times her size and her hands are zip tied behind her back. He flings her to the dusty floor all the while smiling in Ben’s general direction. Sara looks up from the floor in her brown eyes is a look of sorrow. Ben had never seen her so humbled and unsure of herself. The swelling under her right eye spoke volumes she didn’t have to say a word. “Morning Mr. James.” Colonel winks from across the room pointing a large pistol down at Lockett’s face. Behind them BC and Jim Hosstrum drag Jamal into the room and pin him down like police officers. Following everyone Silas Proctor waddles in clutching a screaming baby Cammy to his doughy chest. He looked to be having more trouble with his load than anyone else. Ben reels from a blow to the back of his head. He wobbles a bit before falling to his knees. The Sin Preacher steps up close to finish beating Ben into submission. Miriam does this with an arching blow to the base of his skull with the butt of the revolver. A man who had been gathered around the church members in the basement earlier reaches in a closes the door to the Preacher’s office. Ben fades quickly into unconsciousness.
Chip scans the floor finding his hammer a few inches in front of where he had come to rest. His eyes fall upon large heap laying in front of a shabby desk. “Dad?” He ask raising up on his hands in a panic. “Dad!” Chip screams pulling his body over to his father his mostly lame legs trail him like a lizard’s tail. Silas steps in blocking his path looming over the boy who can only crawl. “Not so funny now are you boy?” Silas looks down grinning his yellow teeth looking like old fence slats. “Where’s all ya jokes now that I gotcha crawlin’ round the floor cripple?” He places a booted foot down painfully on Chip’s hand. Causing the boy to cry out and roll over onto his back. Chip watches as a bloodied but defiant Private Carson is lifted to his feet by the men. His hands are tied behind his back with a thick length of tightly braided rope. They prop Carson against the wall two of the men lean into his back jamming him in place. The movement in the corner of his eye startles Chip. On his left Sara sits Indian style her face swollen on one side. The man they all called “Colonel” has a watchful eye on her. To his right he observes Jamal his face streaked with tears and blood. Jamal’s face is a pitiful portrait blood flows from his spilt bottom lip. His left eye is only a slit having swollen most of the way shut. “Hey up here boy.” Silas taps his toe against Chip’s shoulder. “Not so high and mighty now without all ya back up. Well looks like ‘Captain Chubby’ got the last laugh.” Silas looks back at The Sin Preacher hoping she won’t cut his fun short. “Tell me boy how does it feel to have to crawl ‘round like some kinda animal on the floor?” He throws his head back laughing so hard his portly body shakes with glee. “You tell me …” Chip mutters in a flash he grabs the mallet from floor. He strikes so fast Silas is wailing before he knows his kneecap has been dislocated by a vicious blow from the hammer. The room is still as Silas topples down on his damaged knee bringing fresh howls of agony. Baby Cammy takes this time to start crying as babies do when someone around them cries. Having reduced to blabbering idiot to his level Chip doesn’t hesitate. His next blow drives the rubber mallets head into Silas Proctors jaw. Amid the blood spray half a dozen of the man’s teeth clatter to the floor like dice. Proctor falls to the floor senseless mere feet from Ben. Chip watches a man blot from his right not waiting he pivots on his hands. Chip brings the hammer down on the man’s foot before he can react to the pain in his foot. Chip punches out with his empty hand connecting with the man’s testicles. “For Christ sake.” Colonel yelps in frustration jamming his pistol into his waistband. “He a got damn feeble!” The Colonel moves in to bring Chip’s irritating rebellion to an end. He pays no mind to Private Lockett. That is until he feels the savage kick to his exposed kidney from the steel toed boot. Sara rocks the man with a second kick to the back before leaping into the air driving her knees down hard as she lands on the old soldier. Carson aware of his captor’s distraction uses one of his muscular legs to push off against the wall. He drives the two smaller men backwards with his shoulder smashing them into a wall. They all hit the wall unleashing a shower of glass from a full length mirror. “Enough!” The Sin Preacher announces. The room falls silent at once as she walks into the center of the fray. She holds the chrome pistol menacingly close to the infant’s temple. “Cease this non sense this instant.” She demands. “With God as my witness if either of you three move I will start with this child and finish with Mr. James on the floor over there.” She looks around the room at her battered and bewildered forces. “You men of First New Faith I thought you could handle such a simple task. They are but children secure them this instant.” The men scurry about with their heads hung low. “Colonel remain here with me.” She uses the gun to control the flow of traffic like a symphony director. “You all take the infirmed boy, his wheelchair and the big one back there.” The Sin Preacher points in Carson’s general direction. “Cast them down in the pit with the unworthy and the rest of their companions.” The men set about doing as they were instructed. “What of Brother Proctor Madam Sin Preacher?” The remaining man guarding Jamal asks. “Drag him out of my office and have the women tend to him.” She rolls her eyes as if talking to the man is causing her physical pain. “Brother Gustavo assist Brother Green in hauling Brother Proctor away.” She fixes him with a hard stare. Brother Gustavo relents moving over slowly taking the obese man by his ankles. He treats the still living Silas no different than one of the corpses he handles. He drags the man away moaning softly while spitting up wads of mucus infused blood. As the bit characters exit the room they close the door. The Sin Preacher and Colonel are left with their chosen prisoners from the James clan.
First off an apology for the delay in posting the new chapter. Real life has a way of complicating the fun we have navigating our favorite survivors through the zombie apocalypse from time to time.
Now moving on we are back in the First New Faith Baptist Church and we thought that Brother Gustavo's behaviors were odd. We and the James clan have found out how truly insidious The Sin Preacher's motives are. Ben has refused to give up Baby Cammy Jamal and it now appears he's sealed his fate and Private Lockett's as well.
We'll see you all back here for an explosive Chapter 40 the week of September 22nd.
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