Author's note: For those of you out there that don't keep up with 1980's football legends, Joe Montana was the Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers during their dynasty years. Jerry Rice and Roger Craig were his receiver and running back.Enjoy
The day was cool, a perfect Connecticut autumn morning. Cool enough for just a light jacket yet not so cold that one could become uncomfortable. The sky was a perfect blue portrait of beauty. The birds were singing. The wind joined in their song by gently puffing among the trees, rattling the few stubborn leaves that simply refused to fall just yet.
A young man of only eighteen years stands alone on a small dirt path. This young man, Brian Lawrence to his family, just Brian to his friends and Big Bri to his long deceased brother, was dressed today in his usual attire. An expensive polo shirt tucked into a rather snazzy pair of slacks, a respectable pair of loafers on his feet, and a pair of sunglasses that cost more than most people spend on food in a month. To a random passerby, Brian was just another product of the American success story, two wealthy parents, a good home on a wealthy piece of Connecticut estate and lots of friends.
Brian was even all set for college, finishing school with a promising GPA. A scholarship was already secured, partly by Brian's efforts, mostly by his father's connections. Either way, Brian was a young man on his way to the top. According to his father, in ten years Brian would be running a company somewhere, making big advances, shaking and moving, and most of all, keeping the untarnished Lawrence name on top.
So, maybe untarnished isn't the right word for the Lawrence family exactly. Even the most beautiful of faces often have a blemish or two, nothing that a quick pat down of makeup can't fix of course. Well, the Lawrence family had a blemish as well. As mentioned above,
Brian used to have a brother, Joseph.
Brian and Joseph were about ten years apart in age. However, this didn't seem to stop them from just being the best of friends. Since the father of the Lawrence tribe was so often at meetings or work retreats, it fell on Joseph to be big brother and dad, something that he was more than happy to do.
Even now, as Brian stands on this dirt road, staring towards the enormous building in front of him, he reflects back on his times with Joe. After all, Joe is why he is here right now.
Brian thinks back to the best times he and Joe spent together. Those times of course, were their almost night games of football played between the two brothers in their gorgeous back yard. This was almost a decade ago though. Back when Brian himself was only eight years old, and Joe himself was eighteen. Joe was on his way to college himself, and this was to be one of his last weekends at home.
Joe always pretended to be Joe Montana, and would usually appoint Brian to be either Jerry Rice or Roger Craig, depending on whether he was going to pass or run. Brian used to beg to be Montana, but Joe would typically just laugh and tell him that he wasn't ready to be a Quarterback.
Brian remembers that weekend for far more than just a game of backyard football though. That was also the week that Joseph would be found murdered, his body left in the bushes of the park where he was jogging. The police would search and investigate; however, they would get nowhere. Months would turn into years, and finally those years would become a decade. Brian's parents would move on. Careers and such would demand it. Brian would spend the next decade going through the motions. Making grades, dating girls, being popular and beloved by both his friends and even much of the staff.
However, Brian knew something, something that he had held inside for years. He knew who killed Joseph, which is what leads us to this point, to where Brian Lawrence is standing on a remote dirt road, far away from the safety of Greenwich. What was Brian looking towards on this dirt road? Why, the Foundation of Christly Fellowship, or the Foundation, as it was known around town. Why was he here? His family didn't attend church here, nor did anyone he knew. So why did Brian come to the Foundation on this beautiful, crisp morning?
Honestly, even young Brian might have a hard time answering that question. Was he here for revenge? Was he here to expose the truth? Brian honestly didn't know. However, he knew that he had to make the nightmares stop, and he was almost certain that this was the place to accomplish that.
The Foundation was a huge building that sat on several acres of land in the woods west of Greenwich. It had been there forever, and Brian grew up hearing ghost stories about it all the time. Just the appearance of the building alone was enough to spark any number of scary stories, especially among kids. The main cathedral was in the front, and it alone was easily as tall as a five story building. Built into the rear of the cathedral was the even more expansive abbey portion. This was a ghastly cube of a building, four stories tall with four spires on each end. The church was only accessible through a dirt road, and get this; it even had its own graveyard around the back.
This place, just on looks alone, was a gold mine of late night ghost stories. The rumors about the place just added fuel. Some kids said that devil worshippers held their Black Mass there on a regular basis. Others claimed to see all of the windows flashing strange colored lights during the wee hours of the morning. One kid claimed that he once walked near the church at night and heard screams coming from inside.
Before Joe's death, Brian didn't buy into these stories much. They were fun for a late night sleep over, but Brian wasn't impressed by the idea of an evil church. Then came Joe's senior year, and Joe's decision to go to college for journalism. Joe wanted to do a real story, something that would impress the high school administration that he was saying goodbye to, and also impress the college deans he would be saying hello to.
Joe chose to investigate The Foundation, spinning it as a famous hometown urban legend. Joe began asking around, going to shops and businesses that had been open in Greenwich for a long time. Most people that he talked to seemed to know very little. It was a secretive group that rarely exposed what they did. Membership was by invitation only. That was about all people were able to say about it.
Joe was actually considering dropping the story, when he received a phone call one day from the Foundation itself. Joe had no idea how they got his home number, as the Lawrences were unlisted. The voice on the other end of the phone instructed Joe to let sleeping dogs lie, and promptly hung up.
Joe had told Brian all about this creepy phone call, but Brian assumed Joe was just teasing him. Joe continued to ask his questions, and finally put together a fairly interesting article, although he was never able to see it published. Joe graduated high school shortly afterwards. A few months passed, and dead birds began to show up on the Lawrence yard every few mornings. Their father assumed it was kids. Joe had another idea.
He told Brian that he felt like he was being followed sometimes. He even found a flyer on his car, inviting him to come out to the Foundation for a special service. Joe said that he looked at all the other cars, and his was the only one with the invitation.
Brian was still convinced that Joe was just messing with him though. Finally came the fateful week. Joe had gone to the park for a morning jog and had simply never come home. That was when he was found murdered, his throat slit.
Joe was buried. The family mourned. Time went by and things began to return to normal. Then Brian began to have the nightmares.
For ten years he was visited nightly by visions of Joe's murder. In all of them, Brian was running through the park, looking for Joe. He would see Joe jogging and would call out to him. Before Joe could look though, a man in dark robes holding a jeweled dagger with a twisted blade would step out. Joe would try and stop running, but could never stop in time. The dagger would be plunged into his throat, and the robed man would begin to walk away.
Brian would chase him in these dreams, and in every single one, the robed man would lead Brian back to The Foundation. Brian would follow the man into the cathedral, only to hear the doors slam behind him. The robed man would be waiting for him, and would always say the same things.
"Your brother was charged with the sin of knowledge, and the Camiastra, our sacred blade, delivered to him the Judgment of the Gray Omen."
Brian would stand there, frozen, while the robed man would move towards him.
"Your brother is now in the ground, beneath our feet."
Then there would be a loud scream, like a woman screaming in rage, and a bright and brilliant light would fill the room. This is where Brian would awaken, shaking and covered in cold sweat. This had been his life for the last ten years.
He told his parents about the nightmares. At first, they told him it was just normal, because he had just lost his brother. Later they would tell him that it was normal, because of the stress of high school. Most recently, they told him it was normal because college was coming up.
Brian knew better though. He knew that no matter what sort of nightmares he was having, his parents would always say it was nothing to worry about. The only other option might be take Brian to therapy, and in the Lawrence family, such things just didn't happen. To have one son dead and another going to a shrink, oh my no, not for the Lawrences. They were far more concerned with how such a thing might affect their reputation at the country club. As far as the Lawrence parents were concerned, one crisis was enough.
That brings us back to the present, where Brian now prepares to step into the Foundation. He doesn't want to, but he feels that he must. These dreams have turned into obsessions. His logical mind tells him that what he'll find inside will be just normal people. Normal church folks, folks that will probably be friendly and happy to talk to him. He hopes that if his mind can be put to ease, that this obsession with the Foundation will be put to rest along with it, thus ending these nightmares.
Brian approaches the doors, half expecting them to be locked. However, they open easily, despite their massive height, revealing the cathedral that until now had only been seen in his dreams.
He is taken back at how similar the actual inside is to his dream.
"Just a coincidence," he tells himself. Seen one church, seen them all.
A crimson carpet runs the center of the church. Two rows of pews occupy either side. The stain glass windows appear to be images of Saints and other biblical figures. They all look down on Brian, all with disapproving expressions on their faces. The altar is at the end of the carpet. It is covered in a crimson cloth, much like the carpet.
He walks slowly down the center, feeling out of place here. His legs feel heavy. The carpet makes a gentle swish sound under his feet. Besides himself and the frowning Saints on the windows, he is alone. He walks to the altar and looks upon it. Four candles sit at each corner. A black ring of fabric is the only detail in the otherwise solid red cloth.
"Guess they lock up the expensive stuff when service isn't going on," Brian mumbles.
In his determination to explore the cathedral, he never notices that large oak doors slowly close.
Brian pokes around a bit more, finding nothing of interest. He decides that this was a waste of time. No one is here.
"They must leave the doors unlocked for people to come in and pray."
He turns to walk back to the exit and notices the doors are now shut. Thinking that it was just the wind, he begins to walk towards them. Upon arrival though, he finds them both to be locked.
"Oh shit... the damned things closed and locked." he whispers.
Still grounded in reality, Brian is not particularly concerned about this. Worst case scenario, he tells someone that he wandered in to use the phone or whatever, and became locked in. What were they going to do, call the Jesus Police on him?
Brian scans the room and sees a small door to the left of the altar.
"That must lead into the abbey. I'll just find the priest and ask to use the phone."
A dark thought briefly crosses Brian's mind though. They had called Joe on the phone, told him to back off. Brian shivered a bit at this thought.
"Stay calm... that's what Joe would say right now. When he used to throw me the long passes, he would say... stay calm Jerry Rice, stay calm and keep your eye on the ball... so, the ball is me getting out of here, so, let me just get my eyes on that."
Brian walked towards the small wooden door when he suddenly felt a chill. He was being watched, or at least had that feeling. He darted his eyes in the direction of the sensation, and noticed that he was standing underneath an air vent. For just a moment, a split second, he thought he saw a face staring at him from inside the vent, and then it was gone.
"C'mon Jerry Rice, stay calm."
Brian turned the old metal knob on the door and was amazed when it opened. He was sure that it would have been locked. Now he just had to find someone.
The door opened into a long set of dark oak halls. The halls were lined with doors on either side. He began to walk down the hall, hoping to find an office or a rectory room. This place seemed like it would go on forever.
He reached an intersection and went to the right. This lead to a stairwell. Not a normal one either, but one of those old winding stairwells. He thought about going back and trying the left hall, but the stairs were here and being lost going up was no different than being lost going to the left. He ascended the spiral stairs, coming out on the second floor landing.
"Okay, this looks good," he thought to himself as he saw the next floor.
It looked like where the living quarters would be. The floor was carpeted, and there were comfortable looking benches along the walls. He felt hopeful that this would lead him to a friendly nun, or maybe even the stereotypical Irish priest.
He walked on and noticed that there were framed plaques along the wall. He paused to read on.
The interloper is the greatest foe of the Un. None pose so great a threat to the Birth of the Un than the interloper.
Below that bizarre little quote was a wood carving styled image of a man peering through a key hole.
Brian pondered on the strange message.
He walked a bit further and found another plaque.
The Birth of Un will mark the Grand Occurrence, so set in motion by our first brothers. When the bloodline of Tier should make itself known, we shall have their daughters unto Un.
Brian was becoming more convinced that perhaps this place was some sort of outlandish cult.
He kept telling himself that they wouldn't be dangerous, that they would help him. Just because their beliefs were exotic, that didn't make them evil, or so he hoped.
The final plaque read:
He of the House Tier, whom in his Unholy rescue of the Traitor St. Simon, whom did prevent the First Occurrence, shall pay for his sin with the blood of his daughters. In in the wash of this daughter's blood, the stain of Tier shall be washed away, and Un will be brought forth, ushering in the Grand Occurrence, and the glory of the Gray Omen.
With that, Brian's heart froze. In that moment, all the nightmares suddenly became real. The Gray Omen, the name whispered to him in his countless dreams, countless dreams in which his brother was murdered before his eye, was suddenly before him, in the world of the waking.
Brian came and got what he was looking for. There was the link, and it wasn't a friendly nun or an Irish priest. This plaque may not prove that this church killed Joe, but it certainly lent a strong lead that they were involved. It also lent heavy validation to his dreams.
That's when he heard voices coming down the hallway. Two men. He couldn't hear exactly what they were saying, but he knew by the rise of their voices that they were coming in his direction. At that moment, Brian no longer wanted to ask them for help. He would find his own way out of here. After all, the plaque itself clearly states that interlopers are frowned upon here. Brian wasn't interested in finding out if they would believe that he was simply lost and looking for a phone.
Glancing quickly around the halls, he spotted an alcove a few meters ahead and to his right. Without thought, he ran into the alcove, and took cover underneath a bench. The voices of the two men were not close enough to make out.
"So the girl is still running loose in here, and now we have another one."
"Yes, however, Father Haller sensed his coming for some time. It would appear he finally came forth."
"Do you think he will interfere?"
"No. The stars will be aligned correctly tonight for the first time in almost two-thousand years. We are pretty sure we can flush the girl out. She can't hide forever, especially without food. As for the boy, he is not important. Once the Grand Occurrence is complete, we won't even have to concern ourselves with the likes of trespassers."
"They know I'm here... they're hunting for me right now..." Brian thought.
He could now see their legs as they stopped to chat, right next to the alcove. Brian frantically searched for a way out.
The slight brisk, warm air that hit his face caught his attention. A vent. The grate outside of the vent was large, large enough for him to crawl into perhaps. He didn't have time to think it over. He was a strapping boy of almost six feet. He knew this bench wouldn't conceal him for long.
The grate was designed to swing in and out. As quietly as possible, Brian pushed in the grate, and began to slide himself into the vent shaft. It was in fact large enough to accommodate him.
Brian and Joey Play Football
Slowly, and as carefully as a surgeon making the first cut, Brian crawled into the vent. Everything was going well for him at first, pulling his body in was easy. The inside of the vent was spacious enough. He thought he was in the clear, until he felt a painful clamp on his left foot, and he could pull himself no further.
The grate had fallen closed on his foot. Brian tried to pull forward anyway, but it was caught around his ankle in just the right way. Pulling only brought on shooting pains. He tried to use his other foot to free himself, but the grate had to open inward, and try as he might, he couldn't hook his foot under enough to lift the grate up.
His only hope now was to contort his body around and lift the grate by hand. He could still hear the voices of the two men outside as well, they hadn't left. Worse, it sounded like one of them had sat down on the small bench. It would only be a matter of time before one of them looked down long enough to notice a brown loafer sticking out of their air vent. Then it would be all over.
Brian twisted around as best he could, using all the space available, reaching for the grate. He focused all his will, all his strength or reaching it. Still, he was at least a foot away. The walls of the vent would not permit him to inch any closer. As he tried to pull his arm back, his elbow struck the wall of the vent.
"What was that?" he heard one of the men say.
"Sounds like something in the walls, could be the girl."
Brian knew he was almost out of time. With one last lunge, he reached again for the grate, but still came up a foot short. He closed his eyes and strained. Suddenly he was in his backyard again. It was a warm night, fireflies dotted the darkening sky.
"Heads up, Jerry Rice!" shouted the familiar voice of Joe.
Brian looked up just in time to avoid getting struck in the face by a whirling football.
"Woah Jerry, you almost lost your head there."
Brian picked up the football and threw it back to Joe.
The throw was a bit short, landing on the ground about ten feet in front of his brother.
"See, that's why you're not ready to be Joe Montana!" laughed Joseph.
Brian was relieved. He had a thought in the back of his mind that something bad had happened to him, but perhaps it was just a dream. Here was Joe, alive and well, throwing the ball just like always.
Joseph ran over to Brian, the football in hand.
"Okay Big Bri, let's try that pass again. You were so close."
"Sure," Brian answered.
Joe ran out to the middle of their backyard and launched the ball hard. Brian ran backwards, trying to keep up with it so he could dive down and make the catch.
"Brian, go for it, you are so close," called Joe.
Brian ran, extending his arm as far as he could.
"Brian, you have to stretch, you have to reach. REACH for it Brian."
The ball was coming down, still it looked like it might be just a bit out of Brian's reach.
"Brian, you can do this, you're so close. You have to reach for it. Time is running out on the clock."
Brian dove to the ground, stretching his arm as far as he could. The ball landed in his hand. He smiled.
Except, it didn't feel like a football. It was cold, and hard, metallic. Brian opened his eyes.
He was in the air vent. Still in the church. Everything was the same. Except now his hand was firmly touching the air grate. How? He didn't take the time to ponder that here and now, he lifted the grate and pulled his foot in. He crawled forward, deeper into the darkness, just in time to hear the bench slide over.
"I can't see anything in there," said one of the men from out in the hallway.
"I'll go get a flashlight," responded the other.
Brian didn't want to wait around for them to come back with essentials. He continued to crawl forward, eventually turning a corner.
From behind him, he heard one of the men, in a mocking voice, call, "If you're in there, we'll find you. You're not going home today, kiddo."
Brian crawled on for a bit. Every time he came across another grate, he would hear voices in the hallway. It was either the two men from before, or someone just as bad. He kept hoping to find a vent shaft that would take him back to the main cathedral.
Suddenly he heard the base of the shaft that he was crawling through begin to moan under his pressure. He froze. His heart pounded. After a moment of stilled panic, when nothing happened, Brian placed his hand out in front of him to crawl further.
In the next second the shaft gave out and Brian found himself falling.
Brian hit the floor in the room below with a painful thud. Stars danced before his eyes. After a moment of regaining his composure, he realized that he had landed in a study of sorts.
It was a small room, with books lining either wall. A small sofa and a couch were present, and he damned his luck for managing to miss both of them when he fell from the ceiling.
Brian steadied himself to his feet. Within seconds he heard movement on the other side of the study door. He froze again. He heard the jingle of keys.
Still frozen, Brian had no time to search for a place to hide. He was caught. He had no hope. He heard the door unlock. He watched the door knob begin to turn, and he braced himself for whatever fate awaited him.
The door opened. Standing before Brian was not the harbinger of death that he had expected, but rather a beautiful young woman, of perhaps eighteen or nineteen years of age. To Brian, she looked almost like an angel. Her most noticeable feature being her hair, which was solid white. Her eyes were of the deepest blue he had ever seen. In that moment, he actually could have believed that she was an angel from heaven.
"We have to hurry, I know a safe place," said the girl.
"Who are you... who are these people...?" he responded.
"No time to explain here, I am sure they heard you crash through the ceiling. We have to go," she answered.
Brian didn't know who she was or why he should trust her, but she had to be better than whatever else might be hunting him at the moment.
He followed her through a series of hallways. She seemed to have a set of keys and was amazingly able to pick the correct key each time. She moved with a speed and grace that Brian found to almost be unnatural.
Finally they turned into a small room, and she locked the door behind them. It appeared to be a pantry. She took a bottle of water for herself from the shelf and handed one to Brian. He drank greedily. All this time he didn't realize just how dry his mouth had become.
"Okay," she said, after downing half a bottle.
For the next half an hour or so, the white haired woman who had come to be Brian’s savior explained the bizarre circumstances that led to their meeting today. She began with Brian’s very own entrance, something that she had been watching from an air duct much like the one he had fallen from.
"I saw you come in today. God only knows why you would choose to come here. This place is a death trap," she began.
”Honestly, I am not so sure why I came here myself. Now I just want to get out." She nodded at his statement, as if that told her everything she needed to know.
"Why are you here?" he asked her.
"My name is Cindy Tierney. I am from Providence, Rhode Island. A few weeks ago, right around the time I was looking into colleges; my parents received a letter from this place. They convinced my parents that this place was a school, some sort of alternative college. Not only did they offer to pay for my education, but they also offered my parents a good deal of money if they would convince me to come to school here. So, being that we were not exactly wealthy to start with, they agreed and brought me here."
"The fact that it's a church didn't alert them that this might not be a school?" Brian asked.
"Like I said, they convinced my parents that this was some sort of alternative school. All they wanted to do was show me around, let me get a feel for it, at least, that's what they told my folks. When we got here, they showed us around a part of the building that could have passed as a school of sorts. They asked me if I would be willing to spend three nights here, to get an idea of the area. My parents... they were all for it. The guy that showed us around, he was a real charmer. Had them eating out of his hands. He offered to put my parents up in the best hotel in Greenwich. All expenses paid."
"And your parents went for it?" Brian interjected.
"Of course they did. They're good parents, but we are really broke. They weren't sure how I was even going to go to college, and then, like a miracle, this place calls us, offers to fly us out there for free. I am fairly sure my parents have never stayed in a Five-Star hotel room service comped. I think they were as excited about getting a mini-vacation as they were about me going to a free school. Like I said, the guy, Mr. Levit, he was a real charmer."
"So what happened?" he asked her.
"My parents left. Levit showed me to a room and told me that one of the school counselors would be around to explain how the program works. The first day was fine. I asked them why they chose me out of so many other more gifted kids. They told me that I was gifted in a very unique way. I asked them what they meant, but all they would say was that it would be revealed.
"The second day is when things started to get strange. I asked to use the phone, so I could call my parents and let them know how things were going. That guy Levit told me that phone calls weren't permitted during the three day interest period. He told me that I needed to focus on preparing for the school. Keep in mind, no decision to attend their so called school had been made. They still wouldn't give me a straight answer as to why they even wanted me. Finally, I demanded to call my parents. I told them I didn't care what their rules were, that I wanted to speak with my parents."
"What happened then?" asked Brian.
"The guy Levit said, sorry Princess, no calls."
She continued, "At first I thought he was calling me princess in the sarcastic way, but I certainly wasn't acting like some spoiled rich girl, because I'm not. I got annoyed and asked him not to call me that. He replied by saying, why not, it's your title by birthright."
"Of course I had no idea what he meant by that, but this place had begun to weird me out too much. There were no other kids here at all, and not once had anyone spoken to me about attending classes, what my major would be, nothing. Finally I demanded an answer."
"What did they tell you?" Brian inquired.
"They told me that I came from some kind of bloodline, the House of Tier. They said that some ancestor of mine had done something and that I was the only remaining daughter. That was too much for me to take. I told them I wanted to leave immediately, and began to walk out. I would walk to town if I had to, but this place was too far out in the Twilight Zone for me.
"That's when they got aggressive. Levit grabbed me and threw me in my room. He told me that the Great Occurrence or something was happening tomorrow night, and that I would have to be in attendance."
"What did you do then?"
"I panicked. I screamed for help, and when I did, Levit flew up against the wall. He dropped his key ring. I just grabbed it and ran. That's when; well, when the usual stuff happened."
"Usual stuff?" asked Brian.
"Yeah, ever since I was a kid, I just sort of, knew what to do in certain situations. If bullies were chasing me, I always knew exactly where to run and hide. If I had a test that I didn't study for, my pencil seemed to just spell out the answers for me. I always figured I just had really great luck. But yesterday, when Levit was chasing me, I just knew which doors to take. I knew which keys opened which doors, I don't know, that stuff just comes to me."
Brian spoke up, "That name, Tier, I read it on these plaques. Something about the Grand Occurrence, and the House of Tier. Is that why they wanted you here?"
"My last name is Tierney, I guess it could be related, but, why did he say I was a princess?"
"I have no idea, Cindy. These people are nuts though. The reason I came here today was, well, I think they killed my brother. After he died, I just kept having these nightmares, and the dreams always lead me here. It sort of became an obsession. I’ve been having these nightmares every night for a decade. I guess I was hoping that if I came here, saw this place, met some of the members, that I would realize they were just normal people.”
“Why do you think they killed your brother?” asked Cindy.
Brian explained, telling the story of how Joe was going to do a story about the church. He told her about the cops finding Joe’s body in the park, with his throat slit.
“The killer in the dreams always mentioned something about the Gray Omen. When I read those plaques today, there it was, right in front of me, in bold print.
“But the real question is, why are you still stuck in here. You say you have this… ability to find your way through stuff, why not use it to just, escape?”
Cindy frowned, which to Brian, made her appear even more beautiful.
“Every time I try and use the ability to find my way out of here, I just end up getting lost. It’s fine for escaping inside of the building, but using it to get out, that’s another thing.”
Brian stood up and rubbed his chin. He knew it was time for him to take charge and get them both out of this church. After all, Brian himself had always been a quick success at all he tried. Sports, debate team, anything really. He wouldn’t go so far as to claim that he had any powers, but he was a natural at most anything he tried. Plus, he was a Lawrence. When he did get out of this place, he was going to make sure his dad sued these sick bastards into the ground.
Brian the Leader
“Okay, maybe going out the front door isn’t the answer. For a building this size, there has to be multiple exits.” Brian presented this idea, still rubbing his chin, trying his best to remember the exterior of the building.
Cindy spoke up, “Well, when they were giving me and my parents a tour of the place, I remember that near the fake school area, there was a garden terrace. I’ve been afraid to really wander this place alone, but now that you’re here…”
She began to blush. Brian smiled at her, showing perfect teeth that years of regular cleanings and expensive whitening had given him.
“Do you think we can find it?” asked Brian.
“If I focus on the classroom, and not the exit, maybe my gift will kick in,” she answered.
“Okay then, Cindy, you lead the way.”
They were on the move quickly. Cindy moved swiftly, always going for the right key without hesitation. At one point she turned and walked automatically into what Brian thought was a broom closet. When she opened the door though, it was just a small corridor that led down to the ground floor. She did this without breaking stride.
They came to a short flight of stairs going up, but they could both see sunlight not far up ahead.
“I’ll go first Cindy, just to make sure no one is waiting for us.”
Cindy smiled and squeezed Brian’s hand.
He climbed the stairs and came out in a small area that appeared to be an atrium. Glass walls, a ceramic floor and pleasant looking furnishings. Brian walked a few feet in, saw no one, and turned back to call for Cindy. She appeared at the top of the stairs, but she had a look of utter misery on her face.
Standing behind her was a blonde man in an expensive suit. He was all smiles as he held a large knife to Cindy’s throat.
Brian went to lunge forward, but felt a cold steel against the back of his head.
“No, no, no. Don’t move. Don’t move a fucking muscle!” ordered a male voice from behind him.
“The game has gone on long enough Cindy, we’ve spent a lot of time tracking you down, and the time for running and hiding is over,” said the man with the knife to her throat.
“What do you bastards want with me!” shouted Cindy.
The man with the knife feigned a sad look, “Now, now, is that anyway for a princess to speak?”
“Why do you keep calling me that? Just who the hell are you?” she demanded.
“Why, we are the honorable servants of Un, the God-King. You are Princess Cynthia Tierney, last surviving daughter of the House of Tier. The very traitor that prevented the First Occurrence almost two-thousand years ago. Such a shame how you kids don’t know your family legacies anymore.”
“Well, she’s not exactly the last daughter, there is her mother,” mocked the man standing behind Brian.
“Of course, the mother with ovarian cancer, the mother that will either die or be left barren. No, she’s of no concern,” answered the knife wielder.
“What...?” whimpered Cindy.
“Oh my, she didn’t know. Cindy, why do you think your parents were so thrilled to accept our money and leave you here? Your mom is dying, and not slowly. She needs a surgery. When we learned of that little gem, we knew we had you right where we wanted you.
“You are the last daughter that could possible spawn more Children of Tier. Your blood, when given to sacrifice tonight, will wash clean the disaster of the First Occurrence, and will usher in the Grand Occurrence. Our God-King Un will rise, and we, his most loyal of servants, will be made masters of this world.”
Brian was forced down into a kneeling position by the man behind him. He still felt the cold steel on the back of his head.
Suddenly, a voice spoke, directly into his left ear. A voice he knew immediately.
“Tough play you got here Big Bri.”
“Joe?” asked Brian, only to feel the steel dig harder into his skull as the gunman ordered him to shut up.
“Bri, speak to me in your mind, this is going to be a snap play, can’t let the opposing team know what’s coming.”
“Joe…” Brian spoke in his mind, “How are you here…?”
Brian heard the sarcastic laugh that his brother always saved for questions that he thought were silly. He could almost picture Joe’s crooked grin as let out that chuckle.
“Bri, this is no time to question your Quarterback. Now, I’ll be Joe Montana, as always, and you get to be Roger Craig this time around. This is going to be a running play alright.”
“What if he shoots me when I move?” thought Brian.
“Look, trust your QB kid. Now, here’s what you’re going to do.”
Cindy was staring ahead, feeling the blade to her throat and regretting that Brian had to be in this situation. She intended to look over to him and mouth "I’m sorry" or some such sentiment. What she saw when she looked at him though amazed her.
For one, he was smiling, and had a look of determination that certainly didn’t fit this particular situation. For two, his right leg was twitching. Three, he was staring directly at the man behind her, and for all she could tell; it looked like he was sizing him up.
The knife man, whose real name was Phillip Walker, never expected what came next. Walker had the knife, and his pal across from him had the gun. They had complete mastery of the situation. In fact, Walker was already preparing to receive praise from Father Haller when he turned the girl over. His mind was a million miles away from anything other than complete and total victory.
Then Brian darted.
Brian heard the gun fire, felt the heat off of the bullet as it came within inches of his face, but instead buried itself into the floor. Brian moved forward with a speed neither of the men was prepared for. Brian tucked his head and stuck out his shoulder, the simple charging tackle technique that Joe had taught him when he was a kid.
Cindy, understanding what was happening, pushed Walker’s arm away and dove to the side, just as Brian rammed into Walker with all his might. Walker was aware of the young man striking into him, shoulder first. Walker was aware of falling backwards onto the stairs that he was standing in front of just moments ago. Walker was aware of feeling his feet flying up while all the weight of his body suddenly rested on his neck. Walker was aware of a slight, barely audible popping sensation in his neck, and then Walker lost all awareness of everything.
“You little shit!” screamed the man with the gun. Brian got to his feet and turned around, just in time to see the gunman taking aim. That is when the second miracle occurred.
Cindy stepped forward, and with a shriek that would have scared off most banshees, shouted, “NOOO!” towards the gunman.
Gunman suddenly felt as if he had been struck by a Mac truck. His back impacted the wall and his head snapped back and made a crunching noise. Gunman slowly slid to the floor and gave no more interference to either of the young people.
“Cindy… how did you…?” Brian gasped.
“Part of the gift I suppose. No princess should leave home without psychic screams,” she smiled, and Brian smiled back. For the first time today, things were looking up.
Brian picked up the gun, and both he and Cindy made their ways out onto the terrace.
“Okay, my car is about a quarter of a mile from here. I left it on the side of the highway right before the dirt road that leads here. I think if we just move fast, we can get back to the city.”
Cindy nodded. Brian took her hand, which was cool and delicate, much like that of a princess, and began to lead her towards the road.
They were halfway down the dirt road when a man in lavish robes, purple, green and gold, stepped out in front of them.
The Wicked Father Haller
“A merry chase. Good show Mr. Lawrence, but much like your brother, it is time for you to bow out,” the man spoke. He looked to be in his sixties. Very fit looking for a man his age. His gray hair was combed back. He spoke with distinction.
Brian raised the gun at the man in front of him.
“Move or I shoot,” he said, trying to sound convincing.
“Oh, I doubt that. A spoiled child like yourself? Why, had we not taken away your brother, you would be off on your daddy’s yacht right now. You have certainly never committed a murder. Oh my no, people like you would never think of such a thing.”
Brian cocked the hammer of the gun, “I’ll do it… I will!”
“No, you won’t. Not that it would make much of a difference to one like myself. Now, the game ends here.”
Brian amazed himself when he felt his finger squeeze down on the trigger. The gun never fired though. Only a dry popping noise was heard.
Suddenly, the man was standing only inches from Brian, how he had moved so quickly was a thing of wonder.
Cindy screamed and held out her arms. “BE GONE!” she bellowed.
The robed man didn’t move. Instead he held out his own arm, and Brian was suddenly flying back through the air. He landed on the gravel road with a hard thud. He could hear Cindy screaming for help. He looked up and saw two more men emerge and grab her. Was the robed man somehow suppressing her abilities? Brian attempted to stand, but felt a heel of a booted foot come down on his head. His vision blurred, he felt another kick but barely registered it.
Then all went black.
The Summoning of Un
Brian awoke, though he did not know how long he had been out. The first thing he saw was a red carpet. Slowly he lifted his head, which ached severely, and realized that he was back in The Foundation. The main cathedral to be exact. There were two large men standing on either side of him. He looked left and right quickly, and realized that there were probably about two dozen others in the large church. Looking forward towards the altar, he saw Cindy, tied to a wooden beam.
The man in robes from the road entered from the main cathedral doors, and slowly walked down the aisle. As he passed, members stood. When he passed Brian, the two men violently pulled him to his feet.
“Stand when Father Haller passes you, worm!” snarled one of the men.
Haller took center stage directly in front of his altar.
“My people, tonight we celebrate the Grand Occurrence. Two-thousand years we have spent, correcting the actions of Traitor King Tier. Two-thousand years since King Tier stopped the very first Agents of the Gray Omen from ending the life of the False Saint Simon. 2000 years we have spent working generation after generation, waiting for the night when the stars would align, and our God-King Un could once again be called forth to claim this world.
“Tonight, we have finally brought the last daughter of Tier, Cynthia Tierney, to justice. Tonight, her blood shall be spilled so that Un may once again live. Un, who governs over the Treasury of Hell. Un who shall reward us, his most faithful servants with eternal life, eternal wealth and eternal power.
“We stand tonight on the first shore of a new continent. We stand tonight on the precipice of glory. With Princess Cynthia Tierney’s blood, we begin this world again.
“Now I prepare the Camiastra, our most Holy Instrument, for the ritual.”
Haller removed a large, jeweled dagger from its case. He held it towards the congregation, who all gasped and moaned in ecstasy at its very sight. Brian recognized the blade at once. He had seen it in every dream he had for the last ten years. He knew, at that moment, that the blade in Haller’s hands was the blade that took Joe’s life.
Haller lowered the blade, and began to slide it across Cindy’s cheek. Her blood fell onto the altar. As the drops landed, a groaning sound, like steel and earth being shifted violently about, began to emit from below the church.
“Yes, YES! He is coming my people, HE IS COMING!” screamed Haller in glee.
He dragged the knife down Cindy’s arm, brings more blood, and suddenly, on the wall behind the altar, opened a vast, black hole. The wall crumbled, and Brian could hear something large, something primitive, breathing within that hole.
“Prepare yourselves my children, for now comes the death blow, and with that shall come Un, our King, our Savior, our path to Glory!”
Haller raised the Camiastra.
That was when Cindy’s eyes became solid white, as white as her hair.
“Noooooooo!!” she bellowed in such a voice, a voice that would make gods stop and notice. Her scream shattered the windows of the church. Father Haller was blown back, landing on the floor at the base of the altar.
With a force of pure energy, Cindy tore off the ropes that were binding her to the post. Her white hair was flowing above her head now, as though the very forces of the air were dedicated to her. Her body began to glow a bright white, just like her eyes. Her feet never touched the ground as she moved forward.
The Glowing Princess Cynthia Tierney
Some members of the congregation attempted to charge her. Cindy looked down towards them, a smile on her face, and with a flick of her wrist, sent them flying across the room. Other members must have decided that perhaps world domination wasn’t quite to their liking anymore, as they charged towards the doors, threw them open, and ran for their lives.
The two men that were holding Brian stepped towards Cindy, pulling guns from their jackets. They opened fire. Cindy shifted her gaze in their direction, held out her hand and stopped the bullets in midair.
The two goons that fired the shots began to back up. Cindy flicked her wrist and the four bullets flew back, striking the men down.
“Brian, run, escape while you can!” Cindy called to him.
Brian began to back up towards the open cathedral doors. Suddenly, Haller reappeared, speaking in some unknown language. Cindy was knocked to the floor.
“Big Bri, looks like your girlfriend has gotten herself into quite a mess,” spoke the voice of Joe, once again, directly into Brian’s ear.
Now that Haller had regained some control, other cultists were beginning to move towards Cindy as well.
“Joe… I don’t know what I can do,” Brian said in a low voice.
“Well, how long do you think she can keep that up, Haller is going to outlast her. She is very powerful, but this guy has been in the game a long time. He knows how to hedge his bets.”
“Tell me what to do Joe, please!” Brian begged.
“I can’t. Not this time. I am all out of plays. It’s time for you to be the Quarterback.
"Brian, it’s time for you to be Joe Montana.”
Brian’s mind was hectic. His thoughts were going in all directions.
Cindy pushed out another burst of energy, forcing the group of cultists back. Haller seemed unaffected though.
“Be Montana,” Brian heard in his mind. He wasn’t sure if it was his voice, or Joe’s. It didn’t matter.
Brian looked towards the altar. Whatever was in that hole was waiting to come out. That’s when he saw Haller’s dagger, the Camiastra. He had dropped it when Cindy mind blasted him. Brian cleared his head. He pictured himself in his backyard again. Only now he was the big kid. Now he was Joe Montana. He began to speak to himself, low and determined, just like his brother spoke to him before they would execute one of their many plays.
“Okay, the Camiastra is the football. That black hole in the wall is the end zone. I am going to assume that Haller needs that knife to complete the ceremony. Get the knife, and get the knife to the hole. Get the ball; get the ball to the end zone.”
Brian sprinted forward. A cultist attempted to restrain him. Brian threw a punch and felt the satisfaction of the cultist’s nose breaking. The man fell away with a groan. Haller, occupied with trying to restrain Cindy, had no time to react as Brian charged the altar, grabbed the Camiastra, and hurled it with all his might into the black hole in the wall.
“Oh you little fucker!” screamed Haller, taking his attention off of Cindy for the first time.
Haller reached forward and balled his fist. Brian suddenly fell to the ground. It felt as though his heart was in Haller’s hand.
“You will pay for that boy! You will suffer in such a way that your brother’s death will look like a blessing. You will scream until your throat breaks. You will….”
Haller’s litany of threats was cut short. He had taken his attention off of Cindy for too long. Now he was being lifted off of the ground, as the glowing white Princess stood behind him.
“You want your knife, then go get it!” she screamed, and Haller was throw towards the hole. Haller threw out his arms and stopped just short of the hole in the wall. He turned back to face her.
“You still are not ready for the likes of me, you feeble little twit!” shouted Haller. With a thrust of his arms, Cindy was brought down to the ground, hard. Her glow began to fade. Haller began to walk towards her, stopping long enough to pick up a shard of broken stain glass from the floor.
“Perhaps the ritual will not be as proper without the Camiastra, but I think your blood will taste as fine to Un regardless of how it is spilled.” Cindy was unable to crawl away. She has simply exhausted all of her energy. Brian as well was felt too weak to stand.
“Princess, any last words?” asked Haller, grinning demonically.
Haller raised the glass over his head, prepared to thrust it down into Cindy’s chest. Brian watched this in horror.
Suddenly an ear bursting roar emitted from the hole. A black arm, easily the size of a tree trunk, reached out, grasping. It was Un. He was tired of waiting.
Haller never had time to react. He was standing closest to the hole. The giant hand grabbed him and lifted him into the air. Brian could hear Haller’s arms and ribs breaking in the demon’s grip. They sounded like twigs.
Haller’s eyes bulged out of their sockets. Blood poured from his mouth. The demon Un pulled Haller into the hole, where Haller’s final screams could be heard echoing. The hole then collapsed, sealing Haller away with his precious God-King.
Brian found himself able to stand. The few remaining cultist decided that they too had seen enough. They ran for the exit without looking back. Brian walked slowly over to Cindy. She seemed to be unconscious. He picked her up in his arms and walked out of the church.
As he left the church, he heard the voice of his brother whisper to him one last time.
“You did good Brian, very good. I love you kid.”
“Joe, you saved me back there, thank you so much. I love you too, I love you forever Joseph.”
Brian carried Cindy back to his car. Once he got her in the passenger seat, she began to stir, and finally opened her eyes and looked at him.
“Brian, you came back for me…” she spoke, her voice barely a whisper.
“Well, yeah. I’ve got a big brother that would have kicked my ass if I’d left you back there.”
Cindy laughed softly and took Brian’s hand in her own.
The police spent months investigating the church. Each and every room of The Foundation was torn apart by the cops and even the FBI.
None of the escaped members of the church were ever caught, although there was a rash of suicides shortly after in the Greenwich area. In all the suicides, a single note was found with the body.
“We Failed” was written on each note.
While the Foundation members were telling the truth about Cindy’s mother having cancer, they were very wrong about their money being her only hope.
After months passed and things returned to normal, the Lawrence Group, a non-profit organization run by a certain very wealthy Greenwich family, paid for Cindy’s mother to be treated at the finest private hospitals available.
After college, when the time came, Brian and Cindy became husband and wife.
They named their first child Joseph, and called him Joe Junior most of the time. When Joe Junior was old enough to start throwing the football around with his dad, Brian introduced him to what he called, "a very important family tradition."
Brian always let his son be Joe Montana.
Written by K. Banning Kellum
Published August 9th, 2014