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Davey’s pack dug down into his shoulders as he made his way towards his destination.
It was the weight of responsibility, he guessed.
What he was about to do was not pleasant, but it had to be done.
He’d gone back and forth on it in his mind, wondering if he had made the right decision.
He’d never been one for prayer – had, in fact, actively avoided it in every aspect of his day to day life – but he found himself praying now that the course of action he had chosen was the right one.
Did he take out Solomon and his compound for the atrocities it contained?
As far as Davey was concerned, the things he had seen in those warehouses would forever be branded into his consciousness.
He knew he’d see them in his lowest moments, knew they’d always cling like cobwebs to the dark corners of his mind.
Solomon could not be forgiven for such crimes against humanity.
But then there was Cross, an evil man claiming to be good.
Did his utter deranged belief in his God give him the right to imprison people, cut bits off them, and otherwise defile them?
He seesawed over it on his journey, and he was not certain that he was making the right choice at all.
But he had already been spotted by the guards on the gate, so it was too late to turn back now.
He raised his hands and let them come to greet him.
‘So you came back?’ Cross said, a grin on his face that glinted all the way into his dark eyes. ‘I knew you would, young Christian.’
Davey bowed his head.
‘Did you do as I told you?’ Cross said, his voice alive with anticipation.
‘And what did you see?’
‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ Davey was doing his best to keep the depravity of Solomon’s warehouses – and what he’d seen of the rest of the world – locked firmly behind a big black door in his mind.
That door was getting mighty hard to keep shut of late.
‘Then you did see it.’ The grin on Cross’ face was that of a child on Christmas morning.
Davey bowed his head further as a sickening glimpse of the people in the cages lurched into his mind like a violent drunkard.
Tears rose unbidden into his eyes.
A lump appeared in his throat.
Just the thought of it was enough to drive him to the brink of insanity.
Davey felt too sick to speak, so he just nodded without lifting his head.
‘I’m pleased.’ Cross’ smug tone was enough to infuriate Davey and he almost lunged across the room and begun to throttle the preacher man.
‘You’re pleased?’ Davey spat, red-rimmed eyes staring up at Cross with a savage intensity. ‘How the fuck can you be pleased that I saw that?’
For a few seconds, Cross seemed tongue-tied.
Then he slapped Davey hard across the cheek.
The sting brought fresh tears to his eyes.
‘You are in God’s company now, David. Kindly watch your mouth. I will forgive you this trespass, but any more curse words and I will have to introduce you to my dark side.’
The cruel grin that flickered over his lips chilled Davey’s blood.
‘So what did you do about this… Godlessness?’ Cross spat.
His eyes were alive with fire.
He bounced slightly on the spot, impatient to know.
Davey looked up, meeting his glare.
The image of the preacher became blurred by the tears that glistened in his eyes.
Cross met his gaze, unflinching.
Davey saw murder in his eyes.
‘I did nothing,’ Davey said, pausing to let this sink in.
Cross scratched his right temple.
‘You did… nothing?’ he said, unable to grasp the concept.
‘I did nothing,’ Davey repeated. ‘Because there is enough bloodshed and death in this world as it is. I refuse to get any more innocent blood on my hands.’
He didn’t blink, didn’t look away from Cross’ stare.
Cross glanced down at his shoes for a second.
A faint smile played across his lips.
He nodded gently a few times.
‘I understand, David. An act of mercy. It is to be commended, for sure. But, while I am confident your motives were pure, I still think your judgement has been clouded by the devil’s hand.’
‘No. This is the right thing to do. Solomon is just looking after his flock, same as you are yours. He is making sure no one goes hungry.’
‘And what about the poor sinners in the barns? Rutting in their own filth. Tearing each other to pieces with their teeth and nails like animals.’
‘They are part of God’s plan for Solomon. He sees them as cattle. Manna from heaven, if you will.’
Cross shook his head. ‘I see your point. And I commend your turn the other cheek approach. Truly, I am impressed to see such wisdom in one so young. But I must disagree with your assessment of the situation. King Solomon is a sinner of the highest order and his people represent the ascension of hell into our world. I cannot allow you to see them in the same light as myself and my flock.’
Davey shifted his posture, ready to defend himself, but the guard next to him slammed a rifle butt into the outside of his thigh.
Davey’s leg went numb and he collapsed to the floor, desperately trying to get back to his feet.
‘I can see the potential in you, young David,’ Cross said, spittle flying from his jaws with the force of his proclamations. ‘So I will not do you the disservice of killing you. Instead I shall show you the error of your ways. I am going to show you the path to God.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘Young David, I am going to cut the devil out of you.’
The words came from far away.
They were dimly familiar, but he wasn’t sure why or where from.
The voice was sing-song, kinda hypnotic.
His head pounded like the time he and some of the kids from the apartment upstairs had tried smoking cigarettes.
His mouth was bone dry and he felt like the room was spinning.
He tried to turn his head to see who was talking to him, but he couldn’t.
Panic crashed over him like a tidal wave when he realised he couldn’t move any part of his body.
They’ve beaten me so badly I’m paralysed, he thought.
‘Relax,’ the voice that had been reading to him said, breaking its narration. ‘You’ve been drugged. Your body is fine. The effects will wear off soon.’
‘Where am I? What the hell is going on?’
Davey turned his eyes to the left and saw a woman with long red hair standing to his left.
At first he couldn’t place her, but then he saw the scars on her bare breasts and thighs.
‘Mrs Cross?’ he said. ‘What’s going on?’
His eyes widened a little when he noticed the bars of the cage that surrounded him.
‘This is the path to God,’ she said, her tone reverent. She leant in, stroking the bars of the cage as though it was the fur of a favourite pet. ‘This is the same cage I spent my Lent in. He saves it for the very special sinners.’
She smiled, the effect showing the scars around her mouth and eyes which he hadn’t seen before.
‘I found God in here,’ she grinned, the look in her eyes making him think that she wasn’t in screaming distance of her right mind. ‘And I have every faith that you will too.’
Before Davey knew what was happening he was being doused in freezing cold water.
‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness,’ she said, smiling that creepy grin again.
‘So what’s the deal?’ Davey said, naked and freezing now and not even able to move a muscle to do anything about it.
‘Our Lord went into the desert for forty days and forty nights. You will spend the same amount of time in here.’
‘And let me guess, you’re gonna cut bits off me until I see the error of my ways?’
Deborah smiled and nodded. ‘Yes, well, my husband will be the one cutting the devil out of you, day by day, piece by piece. I am just here to keep you clean and fill your ears with the good word.’
‘You’re as crazy as he is.’
She smiled. ‘There’s nothing the matter with me, David. I have been at God’s side. I have his love guiding me every day. And it all began in here.’ Again she stroked the bars of the cage. ‘I envy you,’ she said, smiling that creepy-ass grin again. ‘I would give anything to meet Him again.’
With that she trailed off, staring into space in a way that Davey found distinctly unsettling.
She was aroused from her thoughts by Cross coming in and shouting, ‘Is he clean?’
Deborah nodded, that vacant look still in her eyes.
‘Then let the fun begin,’ Cross beamed, those dark eyes alight with maleficent glee. He held a pair of garden shears in his hands. ‘We’ll start your conversion with castration.’
Davey was powerless to stop him as the cold, sharp edges of the blades began to press into the sides of his scrotum.
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