Jessica screamed as another groan echoed from beyond her blocked doorway, the pounding of fists on the flimsy wood causing the entire frame to shake. She didn’t know what was going on, and frankly she didn’t want to know. She’d come over as a missionary to the godless regions of South America in hopes of saving a few souls and helping to make their villages a tad bit more civilized.
Now she was trapped in her hut in the dead of night with something pounding on the doorway, moaning a bone-shivering moan as it assaulted the door. In the distance she heard screams from the villagers, as well as the missionaries. A distant gunshot rang through the turbulent night though it was almost impossible to hear due to the number of groans rising from the darkness.
Reaching over to her bed, she slipped her hand underneath it and pulled out her bible, as well as a knife she’d confiscated from a local witch doctor; the long hilted carved bone dagger, while blasphemous in its use in pagan ceremonies, might very well save her life. She thanked God for his wisdom in urging her to take the blade away from the aged shaman, who had merely stared at her as the missionaries raided his home and disposed of all the satanic paraphernalia that was within.
Jessica yelped as the door splintered, the fury of the blows growing stronger by the second. It wouldn’t be long now… soon whatever it was outside would be rushing into her hut, ready to do God knows what to her. Flipping open the bible, she selected the verses she knew would aid her in her time of need.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil,” she recited, closing her eyes and doing her best to tune out the screams from the next hut over. “For you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows…”
She couldn’t continue as her door finally snapped beneath the hammering blows, shards of wood scattering about the one room hut. A gust of wind flew in, causing her lantern to flicker ever so slightly, just enough to where the figure shambling in was now cast in heavy shadows. Even as he groaned, a fetid stench seemed to roil off of him, one arm raised up with grey fingers swiping at the air. Behind him two more such creatures shuffled in behind him, groaning as well. One of them was stained with red gore, a large section of neck missing from a wound reminiscent of an animal attack. Head lolling back and forth, Jessica recognized this creature as Johnathan, one of the missionary’s leaders.
“Johnathan! Please, stay back!” Jessica cried, clutching her bible to her chest as she brandished her knife towards the closest pale figure.
“He will not listen to you…” A slow, stoic voice said from beyond the doorway. “He is one with the earth spirits now, under my command for as long as he is needed.”
“God forbids this! This is an abomination unto the Lord!” Jessica cried, lashing out with her knife, cutting deep into the hand swiping at her. The creature didn’t even flinch as two fingers fell to the ground, curling like caterpillars as the flexed around an invisible foe.
“God?” The voice said an audible sneer in his voice. “Your God is not the only force within our world, and he is hardly the most potent.”
“The Almighty will smite you for these acts of blasphemy!” Jessica cried, lunging forward and ramming the bone knife to the hilt in the creature’s chest, before crying out as its other arm slapped her down to the ground with fingers as thick as meaty sausages.
From her spot on the floor, she could see that the creature she’d just stabbed was one of the villagers, a man who had taken the name Paul after his baptism. With the knife stuck in his chest and thick, dark blood oozing from the stumps where his fingers had been, he looked as if he were about to fall over. But he obviously retained some sort of vigor, as he hardly even noticed the weapon lodged where his heart should be.
A tapping of a staff silenced the groans of the men shuffling around Jessica, and from the faint light of her lantern she saw a stooped figure move into her hut. The old shaman, a man whose name was impossible to pronounce, stood just at the edge of the light, his wrinkled features made all the more visible by the dancing light of the flame. His eyes, white with cataracts, gazed over her and around her hut. He smiled a toothless grin, before looking down at Jessica.
“You preach of God and Jesus, of the laws he laid down for all of mankind. You come to my home and begin forcing this… religion onto my people.” He whispered, his voice carrying through the hut with ease.
“We came here to save your souls from eternal damnation!” Jessica spat, holding her shoulder where Paul had slapped her. Johnathan and the third creature were now standing by her side, reaching down with grey fingers, grasping her arms and hauling her up. “What you’re doing is wrong! There is no redemption if you take a life!”
“Then I am already beyond redemption, aren’t I? I mean look at my followers here,” the shaman said, waving at the three creatures in their profane glory. “Simple plucking of magic and I have them back from the dead, ready to serve me until I deem them fit to move onto the afterlife.”
“Blasphemy! Nobody could do such a thing!” Jessica growled, struggling feebly against the iron grips of her captors.
The shaman waved a hand at Paul, who reached numbly up to his chest to grab hold of the hilt. He slowly pulled it out, a sickening slurping noise ringing through the hut as blood bubbled out of the wound. He now stood, his chest dribbling thick blood, dagger in his good hand, staring blankly ahead.
“Now I believe you named Asoka something silly… Paul, wasn’t it?” The shaman said with a feral chuckle. “Well Paul, take the blade she stole from me and give it back to her. After all, she went through so much trouble to get it, isn’t that right Jessica?”
“No,” Jessica cried, watching helplessly as Paul stumbled forward, holding the blade clumsily with his good hand. “No Paul, you don’t have to do this! Have faith and fight against his control!”
“Paul is no more you silly girl, just a soul trapped within his mortal shell, forced to watch what he’s doing as punishment for abandoning the old ways. Now give her the knife back!”
Jessica gasped as Paul rammed the blade into her chest, a spurt of blood arcing out from her simple nightshirt, staining Paul with red as he pushed the blade in as deep as he could. Jessica howled in agony as she felt the ridged blade slide along her ribs, slicing through muscle and bone as Paul forced it in.
Then she howled again when he began pulling it out, slow enough that she could feel the serrated edges cutting into her tender flesh every fiber at a time.
For over a minute, Jessica was forced to endure being stabbed over and over by the ritualistic knife, blood spattering down on the dirt floor of her hut as her captors held her aloft while Paul slowly and methodically peppered her hide with holes. As she began to lose consciousness, she could only find the strength of will to pray for forgiveness and to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior one last time.
Then everything went dark.
What she expected, she couldn’t say. She’d heard of a brilliant white light before, of relatives calling her to come home to the kingdom of Heaven.
What she got was a cold numbness, her eyes fluttering open on their own. Staring out from within her own body, Jessica desperately tried to move her arms, or legs. Anything really. But she just remained still, the knife buried in her chest, Paul moving to the side as the Shaman slouched over towards her.
Smiling, he grabbed the hilt of the knife and pulled it out. No pain flashed through her body or any pressure… in fact, she felt nothing at all!
“That’s right girl,” the shaman smiled. “Where’s your God now?”