They’re Coming For You – A Novelette (Part 4)
My hand, still aching from writing the sermon, hurt while I shook the many hands of my parishioners. They smiled and thanked me for the sermon and the kind words about Tom. Some merely exchanged pleasantries with a smile and a nod. A few looked suspiciously reserved, eyeing me but trying their best to slip away while I spoke with others. It didn’t take long for the last person to leave and for me to shut the doors and stand alone inside God’s sanctuary. The afternoon sun’s light burned through the stained glass windows, creating a peaceful kaleidoscope display on the pews and the carpet. I sat in the last pew, clasped my hands together, and hung my head to pray.
Before I could say much of anything to God, a loud bang came at the door. The abrupt sound jostled me from my seat and reignited my nerves. My hands trembled and I clasped them tightly together to make them stop. Inhaling deeply, I looked at the door like it had changed form. What stood on the other side, I wondered.
I trembled and grabbed the pew for support.
“Hello? Jonathan? Are you in there?” Pat Howell asked.
I took a big sigh of relief. “Yes, one second,” I replied.
Opening the door, Pat slipped through hastily with a fearful expression and quickly shut the door himself with his hand still flat against the surface. His wide eyed, terrified face told me he wasn’t bearing good news.
Pat and I had been good friends since Laura and I moved to Norcross five years ago. He was older than me by about a decade, give or take a few years, but his age didn’t really hinder the friendship. He never patronized me or undermined my position. As an elder of the church, he frequently went to bat for me. Yes, he was a good friend, and it’s hard to imagine getting through the last few years without him.
The first day we moved into Norcross, he and his wife Marjorie invited us out to dinner at the old diner, Philby’s, down on Quaker Road. The food was greasy and a little overcooked, but the conversation lasted for hours into the night. Meeting up with them was a true blessing from the Lord. Laura called it an answer to prayer. She particularly felt uneasy, missing her friends and worried she’d struggle to make new ones in a small town like Norcross. A blessing, indeed.
Over the years, one thing I could depend on was hearing the truth from Pat. He laid it out plain and simple, no beating around the bush, and no sugar coating. He told me the God’s honest truth even when it stung like a hornet. So, when I saw him that day with an urgent and horrified look in his eye, he was covered in hornets.
He grabbed me by the arm and walked me into the middle of the sanctuary. Once he realized he was squeezing too hard, he released and gently placed his hands on my shoulders, looking me in the eye.
“Jonathan, are you okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine. What’s the matter, Pat?”
“I just came from Holly Gergis’ house. Things are bad. Real bad.”
“Yeah, I know, I saw the Houtkoopers house.”
Pat shook his head. “It’s not that. I mean, yes that, but not that. Anyway, let me backup. Something is terribly wrong is with the Houtkoopers. You know they’re in hiding at the Gergis’ house, right?”
I nodded. “What’s the matter?”
“Their skin…it’s uh…well…it’s hard to explain really. It’s slowly turning black and purple and splotchy.”
“All of them?”
“They need to go to a hospital immediately.”
“No, no, they’re afraid to go to the hospital. Doctors can’t help them, Jonathan.”
“What do you mean? Of course, they can!”
Pat wildly shook his head. “Doctors can help them about as much as firefighters can help putting out that fire!” he roared but immediately silenced himself. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I said. I honestly hadn’t seen him get so worked up before. He’d always been collected in the past. Disciplined. Like me, the anxiety, the fear, infected him, spreading through his mind like a disease.
“They want you,” he said.
“Yes, I was planning to see them. I didn’t know about their condition, though.”
“If you go to the Gergis’ house, you need to do it at night. Too many people are watching. I made things seem casual when I went over there, but if too many people come in one day, it could look suspicious.”
“I’ll be discreet,” I said.
End of Part 4
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