Renewal. Short Story.

This was ridiculous. Jenny sat down on the couch, trying to keep calm, she needed to stay calm, in a few moments they’d realise their mistake then they’d just go away, she didn’t care where it was, as long as it was somewhere else. They had to be wrong, after all she wasn’t anyone important, she was just a primary school teacher, and not a very good one if she was honest with herself. There was no possible way that this could be real. And yet, they had been so insistent.

“Are you-”

“Just give me a second, all right?”

Ok, so they weren’t right, what would they do to her now? After all they might get rid of her to keep it all hush hush, no doubt they were some kind of crazy cult or something.

“And you’re sure?”
“Quite certain. We haven’t made a mistake. Unless you have a roommate. Do you?”
“No, it’s just me and my cat.”
The man smiled, she couldn’t think of his name, but she wanted to slap the smug grin off his face. “Then there has been no mistake. It is you.”
Jenny stood from the couch and went into the kitchen, she could still see them and them her, but it felt a little more private. She needed to keep calm, she couldn’t let herself freak out. If she did it might kill her. She went to the cupboard and grabbed out a bottle, then she quickly and discretely took a quick slug. It burned going down and she winced at the taste, but it should help a little. She put the bottle back and turned on the kettle. “Does anyone want tea?”
“No, thank you. We really must be going.”
“Oh, ok. Good, so do you want to like, arrange a time to come back here or what?”
“No, you misunderstood, we all have to go.”
“What about my things?”
“You or someone else can come back for them.”
“What about my cat? I can’t just leave him here.”
“He can’t really come along, not for this bit, but you can get him later tonight.”

Jenny grabbed his water bowl and filled it, then she filled another bowl with water, just in case. She checked his food bowl and topped it off.

She stepped out of the kitchen, “ok, I think I’m ready.” Behind her, the kettle clicked, signalling it was done.

As they walked to the car parked outside her building, Jenny thought about shouting to one of the many passerby, hope that they’d step in and stop this. It was madness. She could run, but if they caught her, they’d probably torture her or hobble her. No, she had to get out of this alone. Her parents had always insisted she take self defence classes, so she could become self reliant, now was the time to put that to the test. Right now there was three of them, four including the driver. She’d have to wait until she got a chance to break free. Perhaps when she arrived at where ever they were taking her. They didn’t seem to be all that sacrificy, and if she was who they thought, they wouldn’t dare try. She sat into the car, surprised at the space inside. She thought it would be a tight squeeze, but instead it was perfectly comfortable, she wasn’t even squished up against anyone. The driver signalled and pulled out into the afternoon traffic. It wouldn’t take them long to get through the city, she had been off early and most people were still in work, traffic was moving quickly.

They pulled up outside a large Victorian manor in the suburbs, Jenny tried to stop herself rolling her eyes, how very cliché, she should have known the place would look like this. There was only a few options, creepy warehouse, Victorian manor, desert compound. The warehouse district was at least a good hours drive away and the desert was off in some other country. Then again, a creepy, forested middle of nowhere compound would also serve. She was shaken from her thoughts as the door slammed closed, the people in front had gotten out, beside her was an empty space and an open door. She slid across.
“Welcome to your new home.”
Jenny felt like bolting, but the five men seemed to have already thought of that, they had surrounded her, like a shield. She’d just have to get through what ever creepy induction ceremony they had going, then she could make a break for it.

As they walked up the path Jenny looked around at the garden, it was well maintained and quite pretty, with flowers blooming everywhere. It had a kind of controlled disorder, which gave off strong fairytale vibes. They reached the porch and the door swung open silently, she half expected a rusty screech. The men in front stepped inside and she followed after.

The hall was brightly lit and thickly carpeted, the walls were a dark blue with paintings hanging at intervals. “We can show you to your room if you like, then give you a tour once you’ve had a chance to relax a little.”
“Yeah, sure, that would be great.”

Perfect. No doubt in a place like this with it’s slopey roofs there would be lots of ways for her to get out through the windows. They brought her up three flights of stairs, then they stopped at the bottom of a fourth.
“Your room is just at the top of the stairs, you get the entire floor.”
“Um. Thank you?”
“We’ll wait here. If you need anything, let us know.”

Jenny ascended the steps, heart thudding wildly, this was the point where she was going to get axe murdered, she could feel it. She glanced back when she reached the door, the men below had turned away, apparently uninterested in her impending doom. She opened the door and stepped in, wincing as she did so. No axe met her body, no knife cut her skin. Jenny let out a breath she had been holding. Ok, maybe there wouldn’t be axe murdering, but there had to be mutant freaks or something hidden up here. Jenny steeled herself, then began to explore.

Once she had searched the place, she was surprised to find herself vaguely disappointed, no murders, no mutant freaks, no aliens. What kind of cult were these people? The fourth floor had everything she could want, except a kitchen, though she assumed there were cooks downstairs. There was a bedroom with an impossibly large canopied bed, in the room there was also a writing desk, a large mirror, a window with an amazing view and a fireplace. The rest of the floor seemed to be composed of a large bathroom, a sitting room, a dining room and a library. At each of the windows she had paused and looked out, hoping for an escape route to present itself, but each one had a drop of at least ten feet before meeting a dangerously sloped roof, if she tried to get out that way she’d slide off and fall to her death.

When she had explored the entire floor, and spent some time sitting in the plush, comfortable couches, Jenny want back to the stairs. At the bottom, the two men still waited, they didn’t appear to have moved at all.
“Would you like to see the rest of the house?”
“Sure. Why not?”
After ten minutes, she lost track of where she was and what the rooms were called, they all blended into one, the lounge, the sitting room, the front parlour, the back parlour. Her stomach grumbled, she hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch.
“Are you hungry? Our chef could whip up something for you.”
“Ok, that’d be nice.”
“What would you like?”
“I don’t know. Something easy I guess.”
One of the men nodded and left them. The tour continued on.
They explored every room in the house, except for one, the chapel. She was assured that she would see it later. That sent a brief chill up her spine, no doubt they wanted her there for some good old fashioned sacrifices. The final room she was brought to was the dining room, inside was a long table with a meal sitting at one of the places.
“Ah good, I was afraid we’d arrive slightly early. I hope you enjoy your food.”
Jenny sat down, in front of her was a sandwich, it looked to be a BLT. Ok, that was probably hard to drug. She picked through it discretely, looking for any sign of pills or powders, but there was none. Her stomach grumbled again and shrugging, she took a bite. They hadn’t shown any desire to hurt her, nor had there been any real creepiness. Maybe they weren’t bad people, just deluded. The sandwich was delicious, when she had finished, she had a few of the fries that were sitting in a bowl on her plate. When she was done, someone emerged from a side room and whisked away the plates.
“I hope it was to your satisfaction?”
“It was delicious.”
The man smiled, “Good. Now, we want you to get settled as quickly as possible, so we are working on bringing your stuff over here. Is there anything you want now, or anything you want left behind?”

“Well, my cat first thing. He doesn’t like being left alone for too long. As for the rest, there’s no rush. The furniture can be ignored, except for the dresser in my bedroom. I want that.”
As she finished, Jenny realised she had agreed to move in with these people. Crap. Well, they seemed nice and she could always play a long a little longer. As long as they didn’t start asking for too much she’d be fine.

That night she sat in her room, writing letters, her cat curled in a ball on the couch beside her. They had no problem with her writing letters, they even gave her the address so people could write her back. She talked on the phone with most of her friends, but some people preferred letters. Mostly her mother, but it was a fun thing to do with her friends too. She finished up the last and slid it into its envelope, then she printed the address on it. She had asked if she could post them herself and there had been no hesitance, no reluctance. She was starting to believe that these people were legit. Maybe they were crazy, but it was the good kind. Jenny still didn’t know the names of most of the people she had come across, they had never offered and it somehow seemed impolite to ask. There was a brief, timid knock on the door. Jenny stood and answered it.
“It’s time for one of our midnight masses. If you would like to join us.”
“I’m feeling pretty tired.”
“That’s ok, we also have mass in the morning at noon if you would like to attend then.”
“How long does the mass last?”
“Well, midnight mass is usually a monthly occurrence and lasts about half an hour.”
Jenny though for a moment, he wasn’t being pushy and if they did want her for something nefarious, they wouldn’t have taken no for an answer.
“Ok, I’ll join you.”
“Great, follow me please, I’ll lead you to the chapel.”
“Thank you.”

The doors were closed when they arrived, she had expected them to be open, “Has it started already? I don’t want to interrupt.”
“Oh don’t worry, someone is always late anyway. I’ll just slip in quietly, though you might be expected to sit at the top. It might be best though if you stand at the back, it will be less of an interruption. We can talk to the priest tonight and clear up what happened.”
“Ok, if you’re sure.”
Together they snuck in through the door, the man that had brought her slipped into the end of one of the pews and sat, she stayed standing. Around her candles burned, casting light and shadow in equal amounts. There were electric lights dotted about the place, providing highlights. She looked around as the priest spoke, she didn’t pay too much attention to what he was saying. There appeared to be dozens of stained glass windows around the room, it must be beautiful in the daylight. As she studied them, she felt a growing unease in her stomach. The main character in each of them was eerily similar to her. If these were the only depictions of their god, it was no wonder they thought it was her. She finished studying the glass and looked at the priest for the first time. He stood on a slightly raised platform, behind him was a large mural, covering the wall. Her breath caught. It was her, there was no doubt. She looked identical to the woman in the painting.

She couldn’t be their god, she just couldn’t. She had been born to two ordinary people in an ordinary way. She have never shown any kind of powers, divine or otherwise. She had taken this too far, allowed herself to be carried along by the crazy train. She needed to get out, she needed to run, just get to any where that wasn’t here. At the front, the priest had stopped talking, there was silence in the room.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you were among us, please, take a seat, right here. I’m so sorry.”
Everyone turned to look at her, hushed whispers began to filter through the crowd. “Um. It’s ok. I don’t want to interrupt.” She could feel her cheeks burning, everyone as looking at her. She wished it wasn’t so bright. Around her the candles extinguished. She looked around, confused. That was weird. It must have been part of their ritual. The crowd had gone silent again. The priest paled, then he beckoned her forward. Jenny started to walk, seemingly unable to stop herself. She stubbed her toe against one of the pews, she grimaced and barely restrained herself from cursing. Why the hell did they had to make it so dark in this damned place? The candles flared into existence, the stained glass windows started to glow, bathing the room in multicoloured light. The crowd gazed around in wonder, the priest looked as though he was in ecstasy.
“It’s true, you’re really her, you’re really here.”
Jenny looked around at the light, wondering herself. How? She had never done anything like this before. She stepped forward, moving slowly. Maybe being a god wasn’t all that bad after all. She concentrated and the light dimmed slightly, becoming less harsh. Ok, so she was the one controlling it. Smiling, Jenny moved down the aisle, up onto the dais, there she sat on a throne like chair. She looked out at the people, her people, they bowed their heads, the priest was kneeling before her.

Feeling awkward, Jenny smiled, “You can stand up if you want.”

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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