The flames engulfed the various books and relics within the large fire pit, dancing around, and turning the items within into mere ash, sparking it’s embers in the grasses. The mission was to burn all that is unholy, and Isabelle followed obediently. The clouds were already turning grey, gathering together. Soon, trickles of rain will begin to pour from it’s flesh, and the grey wind began to reach her, seeping through her black coat with great ease.
Isabelle stared at some of the relics she burned. She burned one of her favorite books and some toys as well. There was a innocent wooden doll which she had grown up with. She is eleven now, but she still has nostalgic memories of it which still haunt her with the joy of her past youth. She stood, overlooking the large fire pit, along with her friend Jacob.
“Wow! Look at how the fire crackles and burns!” Said Jacob as he stared at the flames, stretching his hands near the smoke to warm them from the incoming cold. He then looked at Isabelle, who had a slightly crestfallen face. “What’s wrongs Izzy?”
Isabelle was spacing out, and quickly snapped out of it, and nodded.
“Yeah… i know what you mean,” Jacob said in an understanding, yet jokingly fashion. “you’ve had that doll since you were a little baby” He giggled a little. “I burned all of my toys! Because the Father said they were unholy!”
Isabelle looked at his pile of toys within the pit, the toys resembled iconic monsters.
“Yeah, I can tell why.” Isabelle responded.
“Don’t you just love it how the flames dance! So pretty! And so comfy. Good for the fingers!” Jacob stretched his arms further into the smoke.
Isabelle smiled, “Yeah, it’s heat makes everywhere feel like home.”
Jacob has always been a weirdo. He’s the youngest of all the orphans, but his presence made gloomy days gleeful. He always knew what to say, even the weird things that came out of his mouth made Isabelle chuckle.
“When is the storm coming Izzy?” He asked.
“In a few hours I trust,” Isabelle responded,“the Father didn’t say much. But look the sky is darkening. it will come soon.”
“What can a mere storm do to us! We have been through many storms, and we are still here without a scratch!”
“I don’t think that should ease you, have you heard of what happened to New Hazeline? A storm ate the township whole!”
“Not true, Storms cannot eat anything.”
“I meant destroy! The entire town was destroyed by the storm!”
“That can’t happen! It’s just a few lightning strikes and a little rain, how can that destroy an entire town?”
“It was in the papers too,” Isabelle sighed, “Jacob don’t be so stubborn. It wasn’t just thunder and lightning, there were violent winds too! Why else would we be boarding up our windows and refixing all of the walls?”
“Hmm, well we would have to wait a see,” Jacob said with a chuckle.
“I think you’ll need by guidance. Clearly you are not fit to be alone during the storm.”
“In your dreams Izzy!” Jacob hissed!
“Children! Children of God!” A deep voice yelled from afar, followed by the constant clanging of a small bell.
“Father.” Both Isabelle and Jacob said simultaneously, and the other orphans’ voices can be heard slightly from the distance speaking the same.
“Come inside! Time for supper!” He was waving a bell around outside of the ajar door of his house.
The orphans entered the large house, which was stationed a walk away from the church. The township of Queensfield have always been a quiet place. So when news breaks out about a storm or some kind of natural disaster, it is much more impactful. Queensfield is well known around the region, but very lost in place. The train is about a mile from the gates.
Bowls of mashed potatoes, bread, chicken breasts, lamb meat, cheese, and salad swarmed the long table. The maids, who cooked the food, gave all of the children their utensils and napkins. The children gleefully ate the food. Before they knew it, the sky was darkened completely. The Storm was near.
“My children, the storm is near, you know what to do. We will finish this mission and may god bless us with his karmic charm.”
“I’ve burned my entire pile father!” Elizabeth said with an annoyed tone, “Leonard hasn’t done his part!”
“Leonard! You must do your part. The more unholiness we burn, the more we are worthy of God’s assistance. He will help us get through the storm, unscathed.”
“Yes, Father… I understand.” Leonard responded.
“Children, you know what to do! Come on! Trot along!” The children ran around and grabbed artifacts to feed the fire pits.
“Are you sure this will save us?” Isabelle asked.
“It most certainly will. Hazeline was filled with unholiness, there have even been reports of witches within the town. And because of this, the township was destroyed by God’s wrath. Judgement day is near, my child, and God is already picking names.”
“I have my faith in you Father!” Isabelle answered.
She sprinted towards the pile of books nearby, and threw them into the fire one by one. It was the right thing to do. The Father has raised the orphans for years as a legacy to his father before him. He treated the orphans as if they were of his own blood. A good man, and revered in the town. The orphans are raised on good conditions, with a surplus of food, most which are donated by the locals, who weekly attend to the church. After a long hour of burning artifacts, there was barely anything to burn. But there was one object which struck Isabelle.
It was a large painting which was lying in the dirt, and yet, it had no smudge, or no stain. It was large in size, measuring up to Isabelle’s ribs. The image was quite peculiar. It was a being with many eyes, which sat in a throne and stared. Though it was just a painting, it’s pink eyes were bright and lively, seemingly staring at her. She felt paranoid looking at it. Another peculiar thing was the frame itself, which was very thick and blocky, and it had intricate chiselled designs on every surface. The designs resembled swirl markings, which twisted as if it writhed, with an occasional eye design on it. The Copper of the frame had already turned green as well, and was slightly rusted. Even though it is considered an unholy artifact, it was uncannily beautiful. It was shame such thing must be burned for the greater good. Isabelle dragged the painting and threw it into the fire pit. After a while a droplet of rain trickled on her dark-skin cheek. And a slight rumbling was heard from a distance, followed by a gush of wind which struck her.
“Children! Come inside! The storm is starting!” The Father said. As he dragged several barrels inside the house. The children went inside, and stationed themselves. And waited patiently. Some of them cuddled together with blankets in the furniture, wearing their pajamas and nightgowns.
It came to a point when the wind’s whispers violently echoed about the house. Nearly shattering the boarded up glass. Lightning struck and the thunder made everybody jump. Jacob however was laughing. The orphans hid inside closets and under the table. Suddenly a glass window shattered and it’s glass launched all over the room, one of them seering Isabelle’s hair.
All of the children began to panic as the other windows began to shatter. The old tree outside of the house began to bend from the harsh wind it’s loose roots began to tear, and suddenly, in a snap, the tree crashed within the house crushing an entire room, with orphans within. Everybody screamed, while the Father crawled and prayed. The tree left a crack on the wall, which traveled its way towards the ceiling, and a gash became exposed, rain pouring inside the house. The upper floor began to crumble as well, falling atop of a maid, severely wounding her, and fatally wounding an orphan. Isabelle ran towards a wardrobe, and stayed there. Other orphans ran inside, and hid.
“Stay inside, and don’t come out!” Yelled the Father as his coat was being pulled backwards by the strong winds which penetrating within the house. He then gave Jacob a lantern which it’s flickered from the candle inside. Isabelle cuddled up beside Jacob, embracing him with her arms, and closed her eyes, and waited patiently. She heard the other Orphans crying and silently sobbing, of course accompanied by the violent wind’s song. It didn’t feel real for her, why would God, the creator, and lover of mankind allow this to happen? It wasn’t fair. Any of it. But Isabelle felt safe within the wardrobe with clothes, and the soothing warmth of Jacob’s lantern.The mere reverie ended when the wardrobe tipped over, and the lantern nearly crashed, potentially causing a fire. The thunder was roaring beyond the wardrobe, and Isabelle began to cry as well.
“Children, keep calm, stay inside!!” The father’s voice said, “God’s blessing will not fail us.”
“Isabelle… are we going to die?” Asked Jacob.
“Don’t ask me that!” Isabelle responded hesitantly, her voice heavy. “Never think like that, That’s how weak people think-Father taught us better.” They were but mere words, but judging from the house’s destruction, her faith in her survival was gradually vanishing.
“I don’t understand,” an Orphan inside the wardrobe began, “W-we burned the sinful relics… why would this be happening to us?”
The orphans within the wardrobe tried to stay quiet and stay calm, despite the heart-wrenching roars of the angry clouds, which prevented them so. Water began to leak from the gaps within the wardrobe’s doors. Isabelle couldn’t take it anymore, and bursted them open, and got out. Immediately she was overwhelmed with the rain which entered from the ceiling’s cracks, and the wind which harshly pulled her into unwanted directions. The Father was moving the saving some of the kids, which cried, and tried to save the ones within the crushed room. He tried. Isabelle hesitantly looked around, trying to find some sort of escape for such an unforgiving reality.
“Isabelle… stay still!” The Father spoke, his usually light skin, now red with despair, anger, and blame.
Isabelle just nodded. And stayed back. She curled up in a ball on the floor with a face of shock. And next to her… she heard a murmur.
“I…it’s cold…” said Leonard, as he laid in the ground, his skin completely pale, and his clothes overwhelmed by the frigid rain. Life was slowly fading from his eyes, and all Isabelle could do was stare.
After a few hours, the storm gradually calmed down. The light returned, streaks of light gleaming from the gashes in the grey clouds. The rain faded, and the strong winds lessened. Isabelle awoke from her painstaking slumber. The Father laid crestfallen on the floor. He looked defeated, tired, but all the more, heartbroken. The house was almost completely destroyed. The ceiling, with a large gash, the door shattered to pieces.
Isabelle tiredly stood, and noticed several burials with makeshift crosses buried atop of each. There were eight, each with names of the children engraved into the wood. Jacob was one of them, and the two maids died as well.
“Jacob is dead?” Isabelle asked aloud, bemused.
“Yes… only four of us made it, even… the maids… they” He didn’t finish his sentence and started weeping. “Perhaps our sacrifices weren’t enough. God’s wrath has already been unleashed onto us.”
An gradual anger spawned within the girl. She clenched her fist.
“Was it really God?” Isabelle screamed, “I burned everything that I had! You did the same! Was it all for nothing then? Why would he allow this to happen?”
“I already told you, the end times are near, but perhaps… God has allowed us to live… for a little longer”
“NO!” Isabelle screamed, “I will not hear it!” She walked backwards as she spoke, gradually beginning to sob again.
“Isabelle… come,” He aimed his hand and the girl, attempting to lure her, and console her. “we can make it all better.”
“Is it true… Are the end times really coming?”
“Isabelle… please, a paradise awaits-”
“Then God is evil!”
Isabelle turned and ran as fast as she could.
“Isabelle!” The Father screamed as she ran, “Don’t let the demons consume you!”
Isabelle had given up. Why should she trust the Father. There was no way the end times were near. It wasn’t fair, it was cruel. She felt little with such words. A God that controls everything in the universe, and allows pain to pierce into the hearts of men. It wasn’t true! It wasn’t true! It wasn’t true! She repeated the thought in her mind, while continued sprinting. She stopped to catch her breath. Suddenly she began to cough. It was still cold in the wooded areas, the air, humid from the rain. She felt weak, and sick. Every breath emitting steam from her mouth. The smell of ashes plagued the region. And she noticed some burnt paper in the floor. She came to a full stop, upon noticing ashen logs and sticks, as well and charred relics. They must’ve been the very relics they burned at the fire pit, now corroded into unidentifiable ruin.
A meaningless sacrifice it was. Nothing good came from it. She walked atop of the ruin, where charred paper crackled upon every step like dry leaves. Looking around, she gasped, and her heart skipped a beat, upon a sudden revelation.
It was that same peculiar painting, an entity with a multitude of pink eyes, staring.