“Would you look at that?” Flint said from the truck bed. He white-knuckled the cauldron’s handle to keep it still. The truck hit a pot hole outside of Roan’s neighborhood and knocked out the tailgate. Celia’s shout and Flint’s look of dread brought their drive into town square to a crawl.
Flint was looking at the ruins of the square as they pulled in. A statue outside of the town hall had toppled over, shattering upon hitting the ground. The statue’s head had rolled into the crumbled and uplifted street.
“That’s new,” Celia said. A slow moving river of lava was pouring from the road, carrying the statue head away from the rest of its body.
“Of all the times for my phone battery to be dead. That’s a good picture right there,” Flint said.
The truck had parked and Roan ran to the back, motioning for the cauldron to be pushed out.
“We get this to the judge’s chamber and start the ritual my dad described,” Roan said.
He pulled the cauldron to the back of the truck bed.
“Maybe we do the ritual in the front lobby,” he said. He did not remember the cauldron being so heavy.
“And if Comesh shows up?” Celia asked.
“Then we work faster,” Sheriff Dunn replied. “There’s a guard station at the front door. I’ll check for ammunition.”
The quartet heaved the cauldron out of the truck and carried it, shuffling their feet the entire way, to the entrance of town hall. It was a magnificent building inside. Once through the metal detectors and guard booth, a grand stair well greeted guests upon entering. Roan had not been here since a Civics field trip in 10th grade. He remembered how bored every one of his classmates was at the site. He remembered Belinda Roth saying, “meh, like I’m ever going to vote” before sneaking away from the group to grab a cigarette. He remembered Belinda having to go back to the building three weeks later for her the court date caused by the ensuing ticket for such actions.
It was a memory he had not thought on for years. Celia would have just gone through the school’s civics course. He wanted to ask if she had any bizarre stories from the day, but his mind was brought back to the moment by Flint screeching about his hand going numb.
“Ah! Ah! I’ve gotta put it down, sorry guys. It has to go down here,” Flint said through a strained voice. The cauldron rattled and rocked as it hit the ground of the main lobby.
“Ok, we do it here. Anyone know where we can boil water?” Roan asked.
“There’s a kitchen on the third floor,” Celia said.
“You paid attention during the field trip!” Roan was excited.
“I needed a sink. Ryan Free elbowed me in the face while he and Dorman goofed around. My nose bled all over the place. It was awesome to see how freaked out they were. I was fine,” Celia said.
“And you got a crazy story from the whole thing. I’m very proud of you,” Roan said.
Celia tilted her head in confusion.
“You and Flint get to the kitchen and microwave some water I guess. Sheriff and I will go to the judge’s chambers,” Roan clapped his hands and the group split up. Flint and Celia went up the grand stairs and the Sheriff led the way to the judge’s chambers.
The interior of the Town Hall appeared unscathed. No sign of ruined walls or broken windows. Even the smell of fire that permeated the outside was absent from the stone building. Roan and the Sheriff walked by a mural outside the city council’s chamber. The Sheriff had walked by the mural a thousand times over, but had never paid it attention.
“Sheriff, do you see that?” Roan asked, pointing at a familiar looking cauldron in the mural.
“I’ll be,” the sheriff replied. She stepped closer to the wall sized painting. “Are those hands rising out of the dirt to hold it up? How have I never seen that before?” She asked.
“Oh that’s gross,” Roan said. The skin of the hands was falling off the bone, muscle and tendons were drawn to such detail it could have only been painted by a mind most deranged.
“Those are five sets of hands. There are five city council members. Funny coincidence?” The Sheriff asked as if joking.
Roan sighed. “You had to say something, didn’t you Sheriff? Just had to go for the joke.”
“Oh come on, levity in the face of a dire situation. That’s what’s kept us alive so far.”
“Your bullets have kept us alive so far. And now those are gone.”
“I found a clip at the guard booth. Should hold us for a while.”
They continued their walk to the Judge’s chamber. The sound of their footsteps echoed down the cavernous hallway.
“Did you hear that?” Roan asked. A slight thud from down the hall caught his ear.
“Nothing. What did you hear?” The sheriff asked. She checked the safety on her sidearm.
“I think Flint and Celia are back downstairs. That happened fast. Let’s head back and check.” Roan turned back down the hallway.
Every step felt faster, their heartbeats picked up. There was no sound, but Roan was sure he heard something.
As they moved by the mural, Roan turned his head to take another look at the painting. The construction of the piece was gorgeous. Brushstrokes were precise, colors were chosen with great care. If not for the hands of the dead holding a cauldron, it would have been near perfect.
The two were nearly running as they moved by the city council chamber once more. Roan heard the thud again.
“Wait, the sound is coming from in there,” Roan said. He stopped at the chamber’s door and held his ear to the solid wood door. He was not sure of what he heard.
“Anything?” The sheriff asked. Her sidearm was at the ready.
“Nothing anymo-” Roan was cut off.
The chamber door flung off its hinges, nearly falling on Roan and the Sheriff.
Roan looked at the door on the floor and then to its hinges, trying to make sense of what had happened. As he looked up he saw hands of rotting flesh, muscle and tendons exposed. He followed the hands to arms, the arms to shoulders and shoulders to faces. The faces once belonged to the five members of the city council. Now their cartilidge had fallen away, their eyes were sunken and their mouths frothed with blood and spit. There was anger and pain in what remained of their face.
“You had to say something about the council, Sheriff. You just had to say something.”
“We’ll talk about it later. Run!” The sheriff emptied her pistol and lead the retreat.
Thanks for reading!
Find out why they had to go with Plan B by reading the rest of the story at these links: