D Is For Damien: Chapter 24
An Unceremonious Intrusion
"NOW WHAT DO we do?" Harvey asked, his voice a whine.
"We have to get outta here, that's what!" Dino said.
"No," Damien replied firmly. "We have to get the D's, even if it kills us."
"Which it probably will," Dino muttered.
"If they're doing what I think they're doing, they'll be congregating in the main room," Miss Clare said. "That's where Luther holds all the major ceremonies when they can't go out."
"Ceremonies?" Dino asked, giving her a bewildered look.
"Hey, where's Father Damien?" Harvey asked, looking around. "Shouldn't he be back by now?"
"I knew this was a bad idea," Damien said, looking down into the tunnel. "Where is he!"
"We don't have time for that now," Miss Clare said. "If you want your D's, you'd better get going to the main room."
Damien gave up and shrugged, looking back at her. How come everything always happened so fast? "Where is it?"
"It's too dangerous to go right in. There should be hundreds of people in there." Damien felt his stomach sinking. If only Mabarak hadn't--! "We'll have to take the air ducts. It's the only way to get there unnoticed."
"All right," Damien said, hopelessly. "Show the way."
Miss Clare jogged out of the room and down the hallway. The others followed her. As they went along, their feet clattering against the floor, there was a distant droning sound, and this sound grew louder until they realized what it was: chanting. The cultists were evidently holding some sort of ceremony right now. Miss Clare slowed to a halt and pointed out a grille above her in the wall, which Damien yanked off and handed to Dino. First he put up Harvey and Ez; Wolfgang leapt up agilely and Damien followed. He helped pull the others up and, taking the grille from Dino, put it back in place so if anyone came by they wouldn't be able to know of the trespassers. Then, on hands and knees, they scooted off through the metal air ducts.
Though they only went on as such for a few minutes, it seemed like a lifetime. All the while the chanting grew even louder, taking on a tinny, even more sinister quality through the floor of the ducts. The cultists were saying some odd names they hadn't heard of before, or ones they knew little of, except of course for Damien and Miss Clare--they'd heard the names before, and knew them to be those of demons. The cultists were trying to contact an evil spirit--what for, they could only guess.
Finally a light came up ahead, and Damien could make out another grille, this one in the bottom of the duct. He peered out cautiously. The chanting was very close now. No one was in sight below; just a cement floor. He removed the grille as quietly as he could and dropped out onto a catwalk, which rattled slightly as he landed. He gritted his teeth, but the chanting evidently drowned out the faint noise as no one came running to see what was going on. He motioned to the others. They silently followed, dropping out one by one like some strange litter, looking around with awe. Damien beckoned for them to follow and jogged down the walk, shooting glances over the sides. The catwalk wound around corners and thick pillars holding up the ceiling of the massive warehouse basement, and as Damien quickly rounded one of the corners he stopped abruptly, shocked.
Below him the room was filled with black-robed people, chanting in a singsong voice the names of different demons and spirits. It took a moment for him to take in the sheer greatness of it all. Adorning the walls on left and right were two tapestries, the right a classical rendering of the archangel Lucifer being dispelled from heaven, the other, on the left, showing the devil in his more well-known guise: a horrid, ugly demon with large bat wings and horns, one hand raised and one hand lowered. Baphomet, Damien thought sickly. Between two pillars at the front stood a platform upon which was an altar of sorts, supplemented with a black candle and a red candle, both dripping wax. The people in the room were facing the altar and raising their hands, as if waiting for something to happen. At this moment the others caught up with him and looked down also, the kids gasping and hiding behind Kat to escape the eerie scene. Damien stood transfixed, frightened but also wondering what they could possibly be waiting for.
It was then that he noticed Luther, and his uncle.
Suppressing a cry, Damien bolted down the catwalk. Kat reached out to stop him but grasped only air. Damien leaned over the railing in a panic to see what they planned to do. Two other cultists stood behind Father Damien, ready to apprehend him if he tried to escape, which he didn't. Instead he stared at Luther, with a sort of terrified fascination. Luther ignored him and stepped forward, in front of the altar, to address the gathered Satanists. He raised his hands to the air.
"Followers of the Great Goat!" he announced. The chanting faded as if a giant volume knob had been turned down. Luther looked the gathering over, then spoke again. "The time has come for the Scorpion to unleash his wrath upon the nonbelievers!"
"Power to Scorpio!" the cultists chanted.
"The three D's have been found and are now in our possession," Luther continued, "so now the nonbelievers are no longer of any use to us. So now, for the great sacrifice, I commend the soul of this nonbeliever, Father Damien--" he said this with a sneer, to which the others hissed and booed "--to our beloved master, Satan!"
"Hail Satan!" the cultists cried.
And then he raised a needle.
"No!" Damien howled from the catwalk. All of the cultists spun around to see who dared to interrupt their high priest. But Luther merely smiled up at him, almost as if greeting an old friend, which he was.
"I knew you would be coming," he said. "So now you too can be witness to what we shall achieve tonight--power over the city, then the state, the country, and eventually the world!" So saying, he took Father Damien's arm and again raised the needle, bringing it down abruptly. Its point pierced his arm, and after only a second the priest slumped into a swoon.
"Nooooooo!" Damien screamed, jumping from the catwalk.
"Damien!" Kat cried, again clutching at the air.
A split second after he jumped Damien thought that maybe this hadn't been such a good idea after all; however, it was too late to undo it, so he let the gravity take him down. Everything seemed so slow and peaceful on the way down, like he was floating instead of falling. All of that ended as soon as he hit the floor.
He landed on his shoulder, the same one he'd landed on before; but, biting back the pain, he scrambled to his feet and started to run toward the altar. The others watched in awe as the cultists silently and unhesitatingly cleared a path. Then a shot rang out, Damien stopped in his tracks, and all was still.
The group on the catwalk started looking around, trying to find out where the shot had come from and where it had struck. It took them a moment to see that it had in fact come from Luther, who held out a handgun, its barrel smoking, that had evidently been concealed under his robes until this moment. And the receiver was Damien.
Damien stood there, in the middle of the room, staring up at Luther in shock. And then, he slowly looked down to see the gaping wound in his chest.