Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

Tattoo Book 5, part 3.20

Posted by harmony0stars on March 31, 2010

The crowd slowly parted as a man in a wheelchair was pushed towards the truck. The masses nearest to the man looked uneasy, the desire to remain close enough to protect him from harm obviously warring with fear of his displeasure. It took two men, marginally healthier than the rest of their folk, to wheel him forward, so bloated was his body. Clearly any food coming into the town went through him first and everyone else last. Chester clenched his jaw and fought down a feeling of revulsion. He had never hated anyone, not even the mysterious men of Miskatonic who apparently despised him and all his kind, but suddenly he hated this man who by violence and deprivation kept his people as virtual slaves.

He rubbed his eyes as if tired, but all the while Chester hoped that the malice he suddenly felt was not reflected in his expression. More importantly, he struggled to control his thoughts. He had been blessed with strong telepathic and empathic abilities since birth, something which had been as much a boon as a burden over the years. The only reason he had agreed to Glory’s plan was because if his eyes had not told him otherwise, he would never have even noticed when she accompanied Cindy into her Mother‘s home. Unfortunately, that might also have been why his companions had rejected her out of hand. Even the weakest of his people could sense the motives of those they encountered, hostility… friendship. To sense nothing at all was disturbing in the extreme. Just because Chester had never met anyone with stronger ability than himself however, didn’t mean that he never would. If father Dag was likewise blessed, Chester didn’t want him to sense his dislike, let alone his duplicity. Hopefully the older man would not sense Glory, but that didn’t mean Chester couldn’t give her away simply by thinking about her when he felt he was safe from scrutiny. He struggled to keep his mind as blank and disinterested as possible.

“Brother,” the corpulent priest cried magnanimously, holding his hands out to the truck and smiling, though it never reached his eyes. The crowd immediately lowered their weapons, and Father Llugh opened the door, struggling to descend to the street. Despite Father Miguel digging his fingers into his arm to stop him, Chester struggled out after him, supporting the elder priest as he staggered over the broken street. Father Llugh had been cooped up in the car for hours and his legs were obviously cramping up worse than usual.

Though he at first attempted to wave the younger man off, Father Llugh was clearly exhausted from the drive. He finally gave in with a sigh and leaned on Chester for support as they made their way closer to the High Priest. Chester couldn’t even imagine how the man would have made it across the uneven road as he stumbled and slipped in the rubble, especially as none of Father Dag’s followers made any move to help him. Father Miguel glared at them both from the truck, but stayed put. Was he afraid to leave the truck until some sign had been given?

“Well, brother. Another year and what have you brought us? A barrel of your own blood is a poor offering for the Mourning Tide,” Father Dag sneered. “Our kin want revenge, not more blood from their kinsmen, though it does serve as a reminder of those we’ve lost over the years.” He gave Chester an appraising glance, though the younger man kept his eyes averted. “And who is this strapping young man? If we had a dozen like him, we’d collect more than enough to appease our kin in the Deep.”

The way he kept calling Father Llugh brother… as if to reaffirm some connection with the other man. It was strange. Chester hadn’t known Father Llugh even had any family, above or below water. The elder man hadn’t even taken a wife, though it wasn’t required of him. On the rare occasions he spoke of living in Innsmouth, he’d never mentioned leaving any family behind.

Regardless of who Father Dag was, he was an elder and so to be respected, so Chester tried to focus on that thought just in case the high priest caught any errant feelings. Like as not, no one in the crowd surrounding the truck would appreciate Chester’s inner criticism of their lifestyle, nor would Father Dag find Chester‘s sudden disgust at the old man‘s actions to his liking. His people were so inured to their condition, they’d become blind to it, but Chester doubted very much that Dag was blind to what he was doing, unless he was that much of a megalomaniac. Chester made up his mind to talk to Father Llugh in private as soon as possible however.

“I’ve told you about Father Chester, brother,” Father Llugh said wearily, though there was certain hardness to his tone when he pronounced the word brother.

“Ah yes, the elusive youngest priest in Kingsport,” Dag responded. Obviously whatever he’d heard had not impressed him. “Good of you to finally join us, boy. It never seemed right that you avoided the Mourning and Swelling Tides.”

Getting the sense that a response was expected, Chester stuttered out, “I- I was just worried that someone might n-need a priest while my elders were away, sir.”

Father Dag gave a noncommittal grunt and waved some of his people towards the truck. Two burlier specimens trotted to the back doors with a handcart, and Father Miguel finally left the confines of the truck, keys in hand. He quickly unlocked the doors and wrestled the metal drum out the back where the men lowered it to the trolley.

Waving a hand at the men who pushed his chair, they wordlessly turned him around, leading the way back into the warren of collapsing houses. Father Llugh was obviously not meant to keep up as the aisle opened by his followers to allow him passage to the truck collapsed in on itself. They reached the fallen building, once an office or municipal building if Chester was any judge, and followed a narrow walkway through to the other side. It had been cleared of debris, probably to allow Dag’s wheelchair through. Most of the town’s natives climbed over the fallen masonry or dispersed through buildings that looked as though they might crumble to the ground at any moment, leaving the way clear for Fathers Llugh and Chester. Their trek was made easier once Father Miguel came up to support Llugh on the other side, and the men with the pushcart came behind.

Beyond the rubble of the building was more debris, but it seemed almost staged. The buildings were certainly in better condition and some even had glass panes in the windows, even if they were so filthy no one could possibly benefit from the light they provided. Chester finally saw some youngsters gaping at the progression from open doors, though they were quickly whisked out of sight by mothers or older siblings.

Behind them the truck sat abandoned. Even if someone had still been watching the vehicle, they wouldn’t have noticed the door unlatch itself and open a few inches only to fall shut once more. Even if they had, they probably would have assumed it was merely the wind blowing open a door that had not been properly closed in the first place.

to Book 5, part 3, page 21

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