The priest stood by the communion table, a blood-stained cross gripped tightly in hand, as he stared down at the lifeless body.
It’s face was awash with the flickering candlelight.
Blood that was flowing onto the carpet.
The new carpet.
Fortunately it was burgundy…
To symbolize the blood our Lord Jesus shed, he thought-
…and would hopefully blend in.
He thought he was doing the right thing.
He’d been so careful, so detailed. The months of work and planning had negated any initial alternatives, satisfied any and all reasonable doubts.
He thought he was right.
All signs had pointed to yes. The events he’d witnessed, the evidence he’d gathered…
It all added up.
When he began to follow the man’s daily patterns, when he tracked him through the city, when he lured him to the church and invited him in…
How could he have been so wrong?
What had he overlooked? Where had he made a mistake?
Racking his brain, he mentally retraced his steps.
He couldn’t think of anything.
The clock on the back wall struck out the quarter hour.
He didn’t have time to think now.
The sun was coming up in a few minutes and his flock would arrive very soon after.
It was Easter Sunday.
The one day a year they held a sunrise service. Just one more thing he’d overlooked, apparently.
He had to hide the body…but where?
The small church, though lovely and quaint, wasn’t much more than a sanctuary. Nooks and crannies were hard to come by, which would make the task difficult.
A muted crunch of gravel outside grabbed his attention.
He hurried over to the window and peered out.
The Ayers family, always early because on time was late, had arrived. He watched the father exit the car, with a noticeable limp, before releasing two hyper kids from the back and opening the trunk.
The priest turned away, his back to the wall now.
His gaze fell to the body.
He had minutes at most.
Dragging the limp form into the kitchenette to the left of the sanctuary, he frantically searched for a hiding spot. Small beads of sweat formed on his brow.
He yanked open a closet.
Far too small.
Full of white linen. Not exactly camouflage…
He was running out of options, and fast.
Frustrated, he leaned on a small folding table, his palms flat against the smooth, faux-wood surface.
Closing his eyes he inhaled deeply, held it for a moment, then exhaled completely.
Opening them he found himself staring at a clear, glass pitcher.
In the name of the Father…
…and the Holy Spirit…
Hope spread across his face.
Every last one of his congregants had been baptized, and the odds of them bringing a newcomer in this town were slim to fat-chance.
He quickly dragged the body back into the sanctuary and began rounding the stage towards the choir room.
The first rays of sunlight began to illuminate the stained glass, casting hues of red, blue, and purple across the priest’s straining face.
A clove of garlic fell from his breast pocket, unnoticed, as they made the journey. It rolled out in a lazy, wobbling arc across the middle aisle.
He was nearly to the practice room when the lobby doors squeaked open. Young, undisciplined voices broke into the near silence. Doorstops flipped down as the Ayers secured them.
The priest quickly turned and looked.
His heart turned cold and began descending towards his stomach as a bolt of panic struck him.
Had he unlocked the door connecting the lobby and sanctuary?
He couldn’t recall.
He couldn’t see the latch from where he was, and hadn’t the time to check now.
“Looks like we’re the first ones here…” said Mr. Ayers.
“Yeah,” Mrs. Ayers responded, “…oh, hey! The new carpet was put in last week, right?”
“I believe so.”
“Well, let’s go have a look!”
The priest quickly assessed his situation.
The baptismal was up behind the choir loft.
The choir room led to another door which opened upon a small set of stairs that climbed to the baptismal.
Two doors, another room, and stairs stood between him and the small pool.
No time for all that.
With a fresh surge of adrenaline he threw the body over one shoulder, leapt the divider between the stage and loft with a smoothness that an olympic hurdler would envy, and high-stepped it through the chairs to the back.
Sliding his grip to the man’s waist, he heaved upwards with all his might, pushing his body up the splash guard.
The man’s face now lolled mere inches from his own.
The dead eyes snapped open, bloodshot and soulless.
The dead mouth gaped, full of multiple needle-like fangs.
With a growl the man clawed for the priest’s throat, reaching his fangs towards the palpitating jugular.
The priest pushed him back, fending off the attack, and tumbled backwards between the burgundy rows.
The man followed the priest down, lunging after him with incredible, inhuman speed.
In that moment, Mrs. Ayers threw open the double doors to the sanctuary.
Bright, pure, sunlight flooded into the large room.
The man looked up, horrified.
As he burst into flames, shrieking, Mrs. Ayers let out an excited little scream of her own while she danced over and across the new, synthetic blend.
The man was gone. Not a trace remained.
The priest caught his breath, quickly checking for bites.
Satisfied, he shakily regained his feet, dusting himself off.
Noticing his presence, Mrs. Ayers called out to him. “Oh! Hi, Father! Didn’t see you back there! My goodness, this carpet is to die for!”
He nodded, straightening his collar tab and glancing over where the blood had pooled by the communion table.
That was gone, too.
A tired, thankful grin spread across his face as he glanced heavenward, mouthing a quick “thank you.”
He walked toward the Ayers, hand extended in greeting, and slyly kicked the clove of garlic under a nearby pew.
As he reached the family, Mrs. Ayers took his hand in hers. “It looks fantastic! I can’t believe you did this all yourself! And just–Father! You look exhausted! Are you feeling well?”
He patted her hand and smiled reassuringly.
“Oh, fine, I’m fine, dear,” he said. “The Lord’s work just ran a little late last night.”