a mob surrounding a flame they're coming for you

They’re Coming For You – A Novelette (Part 11)

I kissed them goodbye and told them to call me once they reach Kathy’s. I watched as they drove away down the road. I couldn’t shake the sickening feeling blooming underneath my skin. The dread of not seeing my family again sunk deep and made my face and hands numb. Was I making the wrong decision? Would the dark cloaks burn me like they did Tom? I knew then I had to try to find his family. They might have the answers to why all this was happening.

I went back to the Gergis’ house to convince them to tell me the whereabouts of the Houtkoopers. After knocking several times and no answer, I grew nervous. The Gergis’ stayed home most of the time. I couldn’t remember a time I went to their house and they didn’t answer. Anxious and impatient, I turned the doorknob and opened the door into their kitchen, the same kitchen where we spoke only a few days before.

The house was totally empty, quiet, and a little eerie. I checked all the rooms but found nothing except an envelope on their master bed. Swiftly, I ripped it open and read the letter:

 

Nathan,

We couldn’t stay any longer. After I spoke with Pastor Jonathan, things only got worse for us. Those dark figures terrorized us to no end, writing awful messages on our walls and standing outside our windows while we slept. We couldn’t take it anymore. Polly went to the grocery store and someone threw lettuce and tomatoes at her while calling her a bitch. I won’t say where we went but we won’t return until Norcross is safe. Don’t worry, I didn’t tell Pastor Jonathan about the Houtkoopers’ location. I hope you’re safely reading this.

Yours,

Bartholomew

Nathan knew where the Houtkoopers were hiding. I had to find Nathan if I wanted to get to the bottom of all this. I didn’t stay long, placing the letter back into the envelope and stuffing it in my jacket pocket. The only way to find Nathan was to pick up the phone and give him a call. I slipped on my winter gloves after picking up the Gergis’ phone and dialing Nathan’s number on the rotary. It rang a few times and Nathan’s voice came on the other end.

“Hello?” Nathan asked.

“Nathan, it’s me. Jonathan.”

“Oh, hi there, Pastor. I didn’t expect your call. Is this still about that smell at the church? I promise I did-”

“No, no, it’s not that,” I said, cutting him off. “I need to know where the Houtkoopers are.”

It grew real quiet on the other end. I couldn’t even hear him breathing.

“Nathan?” I asked.

“I can’t tell you where they are, Pastor. I wish I could but I can’t.”

“Listen, Nathan, something seriously wrong is going on here. They came to my house today while I was at church and threatened my family. I need to know what is going on and talking to the Houtkoopers could really help me out.”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Look, they won’t even know I’m there. I’ll slip in and out like a ghost. But this is really important. I need to see them.”

“Okay but they aren’t too far.”

“Where are they?”

“The church, Pastor. We’ve been hiding them there. I guess I should have been more forthright. The smell…I think it’s the Houtkoopers. They aren’t doing well. I tried to mask it like I said but it’s almost impossible.”

“The church,” I muttered. I couldn’t believe they had been hiding right under my nose this whole time. I knew every nook and cranny of that church. I had a hard time believing I couldn’t find them. “That can’t be, Nathan. I’ve checked every room.”

“There’s a secret room in the steeple. Not many know about it. It’s like a big attic up there,” Nathan said.

“Why didn’t you tell me? I could have seen them so easily if I’d known!” I yelled, furious they kept it from me.

“We didn’t know who to trust, Jonathan. We didn’t know if you were one of them. The Houtkoopers didn’t believe you could be, but we told them we had to be careful.”

“I understand. For the record, I’m not. I’m going to try to make this right, Nathan.”

“I hope you can. I truly do. But I don’t think there’s much anyone can do. This is a force beyond all reckoning. We’re powerless.”

I didn’t say anything to that, thinking about all of it closing in on all of us like some kind of force majeure. But God’s hand wasn’t on these acts of violence. If they were, I truly would have been an oppressor and an adulterer.

“Stay safe, Nathan. Maybe you should skip town for a while, too,” I said finally.

“Not a bad idea. But, I’m not afraid of the mob. If they want me, they can have me.”

“How can you be so calm? Are you not afraid?” I asked.

“Remember: Perfect love casts out fear,” he said. “May the God of peace be with you.”

“You too,” I said, but he already hung up.

 

End of Part 11

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