“Man, I don’t know,” Chris hated the way that Marco’s voice whined when he was anxious. He loved the guy like a brother, but he was more nervous than any grown man ought to be. “Something is weird about her.”
“Marco, bro, she is a solid ten,” Chris put his arm around his friend’s shoulder as they walked, trying to calm him. “You scared she’s going to laugh when you drop those skinny jeans?”
Marco made a tsk noise and pushed him away. Both men nearly slipped on the ice that coated the sidewalk. It was a cold winter day, one that was dry and made it hard to breathe. At least the two men had their backs to the wind.
“This weather sucks,” Marco muttered. The thought of her, of Hannah, did do a good job of keeping him warm though.
He had met her two Sundays ago at church. Her skin was so pale it almost glowed, as if the snow itself had formed her body. Sleek black hair fell down to her shoulders and swayed as she walked. But it was her smile that had lured him in, had ensnared him in her web.
The two men nearly broke through the door to Marco’s house. They gulped in the warm, heated air as if their lives depended on it. Taking off their snow-covered boots, the pair moved through the kitchen, ignored the pile of dirty dishes in the sink and grabbed a beer each from the near-empty fridge.
“It’s supposed to get colder,” Chris flopped onto one of the two mustard-yellow couches that populated Marco’s living room. He twisted the cap off his bottle and took a sip. It was cold, but soon the alcohol would warm him.
“Well,” Marco smiled, “she did say that she had two friends. They could probably keep you warm.”
“You better not be fucking with me,” Chris’s eyes narrowed.
“Would I joke about something like that?”
“Just answer the question,” Chris looked as if he were on the edge of drooling.
“You never asked a question,” Marco laughed as his friend hurled a cushion at him. He went to the kitchen and pulled out another two beers, their cold glass bottles a sharp reminder of the air outside. Hannah’s face flashed in his mind and he could feel a warmth permeate his entire body. The young man walked back into the living room and dropped the full bottle onto Chris’s stomach. Chris let out a sharp rasp of air in surprise.
“Don’t fuck with me, man. Does she really have two hot friends?”
“Yeah, she does,” Marco chuckled again. Chris was too easy to work up. Suddenly Marco’s phone lit up and vibrated in his pocket, its bright light shining through the pocket of his blue jeans. Chris was right, they were skinny jeans.
“Hey, is that her?” a question that Marco did not answer. The phone buzzed again in his hands.
“She wants me to see her tonight. Says it will just be to hang out, says her two friends will be there.” Marco grinned. “She says to bring a friend, too.”
“Marco,” Chris looked like a dog begging for a treat.
“Have someone in mind?” Marco took another swig of beer. He would need half a dozen more to muster up the courage to hang out with a woman who looked like nothing short of an angel.
“I’ll owe you, man,” Chris pleaded. He hopped off the couch and dropped to a knee before Marco. He held up the beer bottle that Marco had dropped on him, still unopened. “An offering, my liege,” he said mockingly.
Marco could see his reflection in the glass, tinged amber by the liquid inside. “Don’t mess it up for me,” he said without a moment’s hesitation.
Chris sprang into the air and pumped his fist. He had a boyish grin on his face. The man was handsome enough that he would undoubtedly get one of the friends tonight, maybe even both. Just for tonight though; Chris had commitment issues.
“So are they coming here? Or are we going there?” Both Chris and Marco quickly scanned the main floor. Clothes that Marco had just pulled out of the dryer were sitting in a pile on a chair in the corner of the living room. The dishes that sat in the sink were piled higher than the stainless steel brim, threatening to spill over onto the floor. On the plates and bowls were hardened, nearly moulding food from meals that may have been from last week. The stench threatened to spread into the living room like a fetid, invisible ivy. Before either of them had to claim the obvious, Marco’s phone lit up again.
“Weird,” he said, the excitement from his voice faded. “They want to meet at the old Baptist church. That place is full of damned cobwebs.”
* * *
The wind had not calmed in the least, but the temperature had dropped even further. The wicked wind blew dry, frigid air that left the two men breathless. By the time they had made it to the gate outside of the church, ice had accumulate on their eyelashes and in what little facial hair they had under their noses. Marco’s glove stuck to the iron gate as he pushed it open, almost pulling the thick mitt from his hand. The wind whistled around the tombstones and gravemarkers in the cemetery next to the church itself. Silhouettes of skeletal trees swayed in the ruthless wind, vicious black claws raking at the night air.
“Are you sure they are here?” Chris yelled over the wind. The church was pitch black, not a single light visible through the handful of windows. Marco could not give a real answer to his friend. A knot was tying itself in his stomach. The wind still bit at his face, but the alcohol and rushing blood in his veins kept the cold at bay.
They waded through the piling snow to the large oak doors. They were intricately carved with scenes that Marco had heard about since his childhood. Chris rapped his knuckles against a saint’s smiling face. The pair waited for a moment, listening for any movement inside. When they heard none, Chris knocked again. The same silence was all that answered.
“Fuck this,” Chris muttered under his foggy breath. He pressed down on the iron handle and pushed, forcing the wooden door inwards. It swung without complaint. The harsh wind flooded in around them, flooding the dark church with its chilling touch.
Marco took out his phone and turned on the flashlight app. The bright, white light illuminated a cone in front of them. The two moved slowly, following the lit path in between the two sections of pews. Chris closed the door behind them, the echo of its large wooden body coming to rest echoing up into the soaring vaulted ceiling. Shadows seemed to crawl at the edge of Marco’s light.
Any moonlight that filtered in from the frigid outdoors was tinged by the coloured stained glass that filled the few windows in the church. Despite the myriad of colours, it seemed that only red light painted the area outside of Marco’s flashlight.
“Hannah?” he called out, meekly. Only the strained, groaning timbers answered the man.
“This is fucking creepy,” Chris whispered. Marco’s dry throat tightened up when he tried to respond. He barely managed a nod.
The flashlight beam hit the base of the large, ornate alter that loomed at the pulpit of the church. It climbed up, higher and higher, as it revealed pale toes and feet hanging above it. The higher the light went, the more the statue of Jesus Christ was revealed. Dried blood was painted on his side, surrounding the gaping wound of a spearhead. A crown of thorns decorated his head, rivulets of blood caked to his dirty face. Something that was not part of the statue also marked the face of Jesus, but the small insect quickly scurried out of the revealing beam of light.
“Man, this isn’t worth it, let’s get out of here,” Chris tugged firmly on the arm of Marco’s jacket. The wind seemed to pick up and howl in protest. Marco started to respond, but was cut off.
“Hello, Marco,” the young man instantly recognized the melodic voice. He moved his cell phone around, quickly scanning the interior of the church to find where the angel’s voice came from. It settled on her delicate frame in the front row of the pews.
She had silky black hair that seemed as delicate as a spider’s web, yet cascaded over her shoulders like an ebon waterfall. Her eyes, squinting against the harsh ray of light shining in her face, were as if someone had placed tiny emeralds in her sockets. Her shirt was as black as her hair, but was sheer across her collarbone. Even the briefest glimpse of her pale skin excited Marco to the point of speechlessness. Her lips were painted with a bright crimson shade, their corners curled up in the tiniest smile.
“Damn, man,” Marco could hear his friend mutter under his breath. Hannah’s smile grew by just a fraction at the pseudo-compliment. Marco punched Chris’s shoulder, which elicited a “what?” in response.
“Hey Hannah,” Marco stumbled over the easiest of words. “You are looking real good tonight.”
“Thank you, Marco,” was all she said in return. Hannah did not speak much, her sentences hardly ever more than a few words. Marco didn’t mind; she said more in a handful of words than others did in an entire conversation.
“Thank you, Marco,” a voice reiterated, its tone mocking Hannah’s soft voice.
Marco jumped in surprise and brought his light over to the opposite row of pews. Also sitting in the front row were two more women sitting next to each other. One had blazing red hair, while the other had black hair like Hannah. The redhead’s hair was curled, her locks bouncing with each subtle movement of her head. The raven-haired woman had one side of her head shaved. A spider web tattoo extended from above her ear to her hairline, its dark edges just visible in the white light. The redhead absently twirled the other girl’s hair with her fingers while giggling at the mockery.
“So very nice to meet you, Marco,” she said. The woman wore a red silk top that was as bright as her hair. It was cut far too low to be worn in a church. But, Marco inwardly laughed, they weren’t exactly at Sunday school.
“Hannah said you would bring a friend,” the girl with the half-shaved head piped in. Her voice was harsher, coarse like sandpaper, but no less seductive. She wore dark, tight jeans and a fishnet top that showed her purple bra underneath.
“Never one for foreplay, Kim?” the redhead sighed as she rolled her eyes.
“Kim, Aly, behave,” Hannah chuckled.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance ladies,” Chris was quick to jump in. Marco did not see as he threw a few winks at the two women.
“A real gentleman we have here,” the one named Kim grinned as she spoke.
“I bet he will be absolutely,” Aly paused for a moment before exhaling her last word, “delicious.” Both she and Kim broke out in unabated laughter, their voices echoing from every corner of the church.
Marco and Chris stood awkwardly at the front, neither men knowing how to proceed. For all of his talk, Chris was just as nervous as Marco. Hannah’s eyes were only locked with Marco’s though, drawing him in, inviting him to the empty spot beside her. Kim and Aly were less subtle, and even less patient, as the latter’s fingers began tracing the former’s leg. They alternated between staring at each other and Chris, giggling the whole time.
“Wish me luck,” Chris whispered as he walked towards the pair. They both got up as he came closer and linked arms with him, one on each side.
Marco pictured all three of them frothing at the mouth as they opened a squealing wooden door that led to the duplex attached to the church. It led to the pastor’s house that had been empty for the last few days while the holy man had been road tripping to the south with his family. Marco was just happy that the high-pitched screams of the wind would drown out whatever noises those three made.
The young man could see his breath materialize in front of him. It was cold in the church, even in his bulky winter gear. Hannah must have been freezing. But he sat down next to her and didn’t see her shaking, didn’t hear her teeth chattering. Unlike him, no cloud of vapor showed up when she breathed.
“Aren’t you cold?” Marco tripped over the words. Talking to Hannah was not easy. There were so many things he wanted to say to her. His tongue felt numb in his mouth, unable to form the words he wanted.
Hannah didn’t answer him, merely wrapped her fragile arms around his and rested her head on his shoulder. One of her hands moved to pull down the zipper of his jacket, letting the chilled air spill over his chest. When she moved her shirt shifted and brushed Marco’s hand.
“Your shirt is so soft,” he was already shaking his head in embarrassment as the words fell out of his mouth.
“Silk,” Hannah said, her quick smile illuminated by the white light of the phone.
Suddenly she stood up, grabbing Marco’s hand with her soft fingers. Without a word she led him towards the same door that Chris and the two women had gone through. The hinges cried out once again has the pair stepped through to the house beyond.
Marco felt a wave of welcomed heat roll over him as soon as he left the church. They came to a living room, small but cozy, that had a fire burning in a large stone fireplace. Outdated couches formed an L in front of it, surrounding a coffee table that was old enough to be an antique, but tacky enough to be worthless. A few candles burned around the room, providing enough illumination to move around but leaving it the atmosphere mysterious and arrousing.
Hannah guided Marco to one of the couches and sat down. The heat from the fire was invigorating, finally allowing his blood to pump freely, his heart to race at the excitement of being in a room, alone, with Hannah. Her necklace glimmered in the dancing light of the fire, six green gemstones on a fine silver thread that he had not noticed before.
And suddenly she was kissing him. Her lips felt incredible on his own, like they were sending pulses of electricity through his body. She pulled away for just a moment – a moment longer than Marco wanted her to – so she could pull off the silk shirt that she was wearing. Marco’s smile was short lived, Hannah’s lips soon smothering his once again. The man was too distracted as he lowered Hannah onto her back to hear the groan from the floorboards over their heads.
“Fuck this house is noisy,” Chris laughed as the floor protested under him and the two girls shifting.
“You haven’t heard anything yet,” Aly whispered coyly in his ear.
She pushed his chest back so he was lying down between her and Kim. The two women leaned over him and began kissing each other, their hands exploring Chris’s body as they did. Chris could barely contain himself anymore and he began caressing the two women. They pinned his hands down, simultaneously, as if he was not allowed to touch them.
“Okay,” he was surprised with their aggression, “I like it a little rough.”
He felt helpless against the girls, caught in their snare. The warm light of the candles made the sweat on their bodies glisten. He caught sight of another tattoo on Kim, something red on the base of her neck. But his attention was stolen as something crawled at the edge of the light, scuttling just beyond the flame’s reach. Something big.
“What the fuck is that?” Chris couldn’t help but be angry at the thing – a rat? – that was threatening to ruin this once in a lifetime moment.
The two women didn’t answer him. They were too enthralled with one another. Chris tried to shift out from under them, but they were stronger than they looked. His head kept snapping back and forth, trying to get a good look at whatever it was that moved around them. Thin, black, hairy legs game briefly into few, half a foot long before they disappeared into the darkness again. Then another, this time on the other side. Chris realized that, whatever it was, there was more than one.
“Ladies, I hate to interrupt this, I really do,” panic was beginning to creep into his voice. When he finally looked at Aly and Kim, astounded that they could still be ignoring him, he was expecting to see the two women wrapped in each other’s passion. But what he saw made him want to scream, want to beg for God to come and save him.
Chris was too distracted to realize that the women were changing right before him. The flesh on their body had slackened, almost becoming a liquid. With their bodies pressed together, the two women – if Chris could call them that – had started to become one. Their chests melded into something that could no longer be identified as human while their bones cracked and shifted. Two slim figures became one hulking form overtop of Chris. The melted flesh spread and grew over the new body, stretched to the point of translucency. The two arms still pinned Chris down but the others snapped and moved until the monstrosity was supported on eight human limbs.
Chris wanted to kick out, but he could not move his legs. He felt a thousand sharp pricks all over his body and realized, to his horror, that he was covered in dozens of black spiders, all of them biting him over and over. He was paralyzed as their venom coursed through his veins and burned his insides. He felt as if his entire body was on fire; a hairy, writhing, black fire with flames that had eight legs each.
Something dripped onto his face. His eyes – the only part of him that could move – shot back upwards and stared into the hideous combined visage of Aly and Kim. Aly’s red hair still existed in thin tufts, making the creature look even more revolting. Both pairs of eyes existed on this new face, glaring at its prey. Drool leaked out of a broken mouth of crowded teeth.
“Delicious,” the word was wet when it left the thing’s maw.
Chris tried to scream, but all that came out was a raspy wheeze, one drowned out by the howling from outside.
“Did you hear that?” Marco propped himself up with his elbows, panting from the effort. He was only in his boxers, though he was hoping that would change soon.
“Just the wind,” Hannah said, drawing him back in.
There was a clamour above them, like something heavy was moving across the second floor. It paused for a moment at the top of the staircase. Hannah groaned as if she was annoyed.
“They are so impatient,” she muttered.
It sounded as if a bull was charging down the short flight of stairs, the wooden planks buckling under its weight. Marco turned to look at whatever it was, only to see a shambling behemoth of flesh crawling at the two of them on eight limbs. He could see Kim’s cobweb tattoo stand out on the hideous, grey flesh.
Marco swore and prayed at the same time as he tried to push himself away from Hannah. His thoughts were no longer about her, but about putting as much distance between himself and that thing as possible. But something was holding him down, keeping him stuck on top of Hannah. Gleaming, silvery webs were clinging to his chest, their threads tracing back to Hannah’s fingertips.
“Hannah,” he sounded as if he were close to tears. That thing was still getting closer to them. “Hannah, what’s going on?”
He turned his confused gaze back to the woman’s face, the woman who he still lay atop of. She smiled at him, a delicate smile that Chris no realized belied her true intentions. A crimson line appeared from her bottom lip to her chin. With a sickening suction noise, Hannah’s bottom jaw split into two, revealing a pair of wicked fangs that glimmered in the fire’s light.
“Come here, Marco,” the voice hardly sounded like Hannah’s anymore. “Give me a kiss.”