Chapter Five

Luke wasn’t about to rush into the fire ill-prepared. He knew he needed to preserve his strength, but there was something above and beyond that, and that something was his life. He wasn’t ready to make that kind of sacrifice for another. He couldn’t afford to lose his neck over this. He had to be cautious. He had a wife and kids at home who needed him…who loved him. As he trotted slowly towards the rear of the now defunct church, Luke knew he had to make it back out alive. He simply had to. That was his first priority. “The pastor might not be in there anyway.”

A few steps later, the magnificent sight of the ongoing blaze challenged his reasoning. He thought, “I have to be stupid to be doing this.” At that exact moment, his memory brought up a good point. It allowed him to remember the last time he’d used that word. It was when he’d called the stranger ‘”stupid” for leaving town that very night. “Oh, my God! Did he start this? Why would he do such a thing? He wasn’t even running away.” But he’d made it around to the back by now, and he hadn’t the time to question himself further. As Luke stood right there in front of the door, his fears came to the surface once again.

He hesitantly paused to listen to his conscience. Luke figured he ought to put forth an earnest plea to God Almighty, even though he was more than a little upset with Him and His Will. He sighed, and shook a bowed head, “It’s all stupid.” But Luke was a man of habit, so he stuck to his guns and prayed out loud, “Lord, have mercy on me.” Then silently he added, “After all…this is your house!”

Not wishing to waste any more precious seconds, Luke kicked the door with the bottom of his boot smack-dab beside the handle. It flew open. He ducked and covered his head with his arms as the smoke and heat rushed out. Two seconds later he opened his eyes, and peered into the building. In the forbidding sight, he light from the flames could dimly be seen flickering here and there. He couldn’t make anything out, except for the floor at his feet. He got down on his hands and knees and crawled through the doorway. “Hello? Hello? Anybody in there?” But no answer came forth. He wasn’t surprised. Luke visualized the last time he’d been in the church. He remembered that there was a low platform not far from where he was right then. A piano and a pulpit were the only things on it. He’d seen and heard the pastor rehearsing his first sermon in there a couple of days before. Luke aimed himself for center stage.

The wooden floors had begun to absorb the heat, and felt warm on his hands. Creeping along quickly, Luke soon reached the platform. He got himself up on it and continued on anxiously. Barreling ahead, he suddenly ran his shoulder into the piano. “Almost there.” He slowed down to get a better view, but the dark grey smoke was thickening fast. Using both hands, he reached and searched around on the floor as he moved along. Just a little further on he touched something hard. “Ah, here it is.” Luke stuck his right arm out in front of him, and waved it back and forth, afraid of what he might touch next. He was hectically zigzagging here and there when his left hand felt a cool wetness. He looked down at a puddle of blood. Instantly Luke became dizzy and felt even more nauseous. His right hand reflexively covered his mouth, as he stared aghast at the other hand and gagged. In a fit of determination, he willed himself to move and follow the dark red trail. A second later he found what he was looking for, but it was worse than he expected. He blinked and squinted to get a better view, hoping his eyes had deceived him. No such luck. The pastor’s throat had been slit. He lay there on his back with both arms straight out to the sides. His shirt was ripped open, and there was a large gash at the bottom of his rib cage on the left side. It was a deep, wide, gory open wound. It appeared to Luke as if someone had taken a knife and cut out his heart. But he couldn’t make himself believe it. He couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever do such a thing, and he made himself ignore the very thought of it. The pastor’s silver cross was still around his neck, hanging off to the side. Blood continued to flow from his throat, and on down the chain. Drip after drip, it dropped from the cross and onto the killing floor. Stunned and stupefied, Luke’s heart skipped a beat. The terrifying cruelty behind this horrid scene became too much for Luke to bear. Tears of grief streamed down his cheeks from his burning, inflamed eyes, blurring his vision. Luke convulsively shivered and shook from his head down to his toes. He turned his head to the side and vomited, adding the contents of his stomach to the gross pool of blood. He felt the nearness of death in his own person, and he knew he had to act quickly.

His first thought was to grab the still warm corpse by the feet and drag it out. He could leave it behind the church, so the children wouldn’t have to see this gruesome sight; a sight they’d surely remember for the rest of their lives. With an abrupt realization, Luke felt that his heart was beating at too rapid of a pace, and he found himself gasping for air right then and there. All the symptoms of asphyxiation were settling into his system. He had to get out, and get out now before he fainted. That much he knew. He looked around at the flames of destruction to size up the situation — to see if he could buy himself a little more time. In his current state of confusion, he concluded he did. He’d leave the pastor’s body there for now, and come back for it as soon as he’d recovered a bit. Begrudgingly, he turned himself around and began crawling towards the exit. Luke was fast losing his strength. It took everything he had to close the distance between himself and the door.

He’d barely made it through the door when his strength gave way. He collapsed to the ground, and lay there on his stomach. His head was throbbing in pain. His clothes — soaked in sweat. “I’ll go back in a minute…need a few seconds…need to rest.” His thoughts dropped away and he shut his eyes. He fell unconscious an instant later.

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11 thoughts on “Chapter Five

  1. uuuuhhhmm, i hope the next chapter isn’t too far away. left me hangin there uncle.

    ….Frankestein, the book, very different from the movies i’ve seen. much more twisted. also much more of a psychological thriller than i expected. i really enjoyed it, thanks for the suggestion and at the perfect time.

  2. I’ve already started on it, Derek. But, but, but…
    I’m afraid I can’t finish the whole story by tonight. Believe me,
    I really wanted to hang someone by this evening. Really, I did. Dammit!
    This was an experiment, and timing wise I failed. Makes me feel stupid.

    I have to put together a posse yet, and go after Mr. Mysterious.
    He will be hung on the night of October 31st, 1869, that’s for sure.
    Oh, what, oh, what shall I do? Can you wait? Or shall I ruin it and just
    tell what all happens real quick, in a half-ass’d, half-hearted manner?

    I knew you’d like Frankie. Your welcome, fine sir! (Heeeeelp!)

  3. art runs at it’s own pace uncle tree, no need to rush it. someone will hang for this, i just know it.

  4. Great, Stuart. Thanks!

    Perhaps, I don’t understand your question, “When did Luke find time to
    see a heart missing that I didn’t get to see?” Paragraph six, right? Luke
    was in denial, and even though he didn’t want to believe it, he could tell
    what had happened, or what was missing. True, I have no idea what
    that would really look like. Is there something else I could add to make
    it more obvious?

  5. The situation seems like he’s fighting through smoke on the floor and disorientation due to heat and fire. How does he see that gaping wound through all of the obstacles that are going on around him? …More detail to emphasize and focus the terror in the situation.
    You see…there is a contrast between the third paragraph from the bottom and the one above it…These two paragraphs are a key component to this stories over all feeling. Without these two paragraphs the story does not give Luke a reason to act the way he does from this moment on. They need to be blended together in some way. Could even use your narrator here but I think that would take the reader out of the action…Don’t know what to do but I kinda feel like these two paragraphs are a turning point between normal and nightmare and they some how need to be working together to give it an impact worthy of the terror that this moment would actually be like. May need expanded…?

  6. I see what you mean, Stuart. This is where the technical aspects of a house fire come into play. I was guessing. Is it too dark to see or not? First he could see, then he couldn’t, then he could. I’ll have to make up my mind. Or, rather, I’ll have to find a nice firefighter willing to answer those questions.

    The two paragraphs should be one. Don’t know why I made the split there. Probably didn’t like the looks of a super-long para. If Luke can’t see, then I suppose he’ll have to take a hands-on approach. Oh, yuck! That sounds gross. Feeling a man’s chest cut open…how does he know what a cold dead heart feels like if he’s never held a real live one throbbing away? Oh, my! Good question. Yikes! I’m gonna hope the heck he can see, and I’ll have to go back and make it less dark to start with…less dark, so that he can see at least dimly a foot or so above the floor. Is that what you mean?

    Luke isn’t necessarily the main character in this story. This whole fire scene, which should be altogether in one chapter probably, could have been told in a summary-styled way by the narrator. An editor would decide what stays, what goes, and what needs changing overall. My job, if you can call it that, my mission is to write the damn story and worry about that kind of crap later, when I’m through…when I find a way to end it. Luke may have to show back up seein’s he was the hero from the beginning. Either that, or I’ll have to make the tree the headliner, and tell ya what happens to that old oak as all these things are happening. Only an omniscient narrator can do that. Everyone knows I’m making this up anyway. How do I know what a tree thinks, or could think, if it could think? 🙂 Perhaps, the tree should have been the narrator? You’re smart, Stuart, and you make good points. I have no doubt you’ll be able to see and understand what I mean as you follow along. That is my main concern.

    Thanks again, my friend! I can’t say that enough…

  7. I actually like the fire part of this story…the technical can be made easier though…let me tell you what happened about 3 weeks ago and you’ll see what I mean.
    My wife, Eli, and I were coming home and driving down a hill about a mile and a half from the hill that we live on the top of. Shawnda scream’s “Oh my god!…Stuart Flames!” That was the longest few minutes of our lives taking that trip home. We got there and the fire trucks were all over the place. The neighbor had an abandon trailer house, a tool shed, and a camper on fire 50 yards from my house next to my field (3ft high grass!). the firemen were fighting the fire from the opposite side from my house. I was afraid the fire would catch my field so I started wetting it down with a garden hose(good thing I had a long one). Foot long cinders were coming off the fire it was so hot you could only see smoke straight up above the buildings about 40′ in the air…the fire was hot and bright due to the open doors and windows that ventilation acts as a bellows and it made the fire worse. I could see right through to one of the firefighters in close proximity of the opposite side of the trailer trying to quench the flames. I was worried about him because he was surrounded on three side by flames at one point. The trailer exploded three times during a 20 minute period during this time. I started splitting my time between wetting my field and filling the water truck at the hydrant on the opposite side of my house from the fire. The old man that was doing it was exhausted from the heat,age, and the shear weigh of the hoses. It was a long night but the one thing I noticed was the fact that I could see into the trailer and around it quite clearly because the flames were hot and the smoke had some place to go.
    Keep this in mind if the place has a chimney and the front door is open it creates a draft usually an up draft as the smoke is trying to rise. Learned that fact from the wood stove in my living room.

  8. That’s another helluva story, Stuart! And true, no less!
    My goodness…glad y’awl stayed safe and your place is o.k.
    Glad to hear you liked this and think it pertinent. Luke will be able
    to see then. Yeah! One of these days I will go back and set that aright.

  9. Yeah…come to find out the neighbor was burning a stump and the roots went under a building. When the stump burned some of the roots ,where they surfaced, they caught leaves under the building on fire…and poof!

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