Take Me To Church (Open For Review)
I wouldn’t say that I’m overly religious. I believe there is a power that can’t be explained.
I was about sixteen years old when the worst day of my life unfolded. I know it sounds ridiculously cliched, but it's true.
A man stood in the doorway of a darkly lit hallway. I was on the ground, trying to prop myself on my hands. I slid away in fear of the man now looming over me. I tried as hard as I could to stand and run from him, but I couldn't muster the strength. It was as if his presence was pulling me towards him. The closer I got, the more I felt an odd familiarity with him. His hair was black and his eyes were white. He reached out his hand. Then I shot up from my bed.
My bedsheets were damp with sweat and my clothes stuck to me. I pulled my legs over the edge of the bed. I ran my hands through my soaked blond hair.
"I need to stop watching horror movies," I whispered to myself while chuckling lightly. I stood and stretched my arms above my head. I walked over to my dresser and pulled a pair of jeans and a grey button-up from it. I slid off my drenched pajamas and put on the dry clothes. I opened my door to the hall that smelled like french toast and bacon. My stomach grumbled in demand for food. I walked into the kitchen of the apartment my mom rented. I, her, and Kal, my little brother, lived there in Queens. Kal sat at the table with a plate of food in front of him. He looked down at the phone in one hand and a fork in the other. My mom stood at the sink, cleaning dishes. I walked up and put a hand on Kal's messy black hair.
“Morning, brat,” I said playfully. He glanced up and gave an absent-minded murmur. Even though he was my brother, he didn’t look much like me. I was blond and had green eyes but he had natural black hair with steely blue eyes. My mom placed a kiss on my forehead, even though I was no longer twelve, and towered over her by almost a foot.
“Good morning sweetie,” Mom held a plate of french toast and bacon in front of me. “Please hurry and eat, Jonah, we’ll be late for service.” My mom's name was Laura. She was a stout woman, but a very kind one. She had blond hair and deep, dark green eyes. She named me Jonah after her favorite bible story. I hurried and inhaled my breakfast as I was told. After a minute or two, we were able to get out of the door and onto the cold pavement of Justice Avenue. We drove about thirty minutes to the church from our apartment. I looked out of the car window to the sidewalk that held dozens of pedestrians. Some wore vibrant and bright colors on their jackets, hats, or scarves. And others were plain and bland.
"I had a weird dream last night," I said as I gazed out at the buildings passing by.
"What about, hun?" Mom was always intrigued by my dreams.
"I was in a dark hallway, and this man was coming after me." I turned to my mom. "he had these really weird eyes. They were almost white." I must have said something because my mom started biting her lip. "Mom, what's up?"
"Hm? Nothing honey," she said. I raised my brow in skepticism but dropped the subject anyway. She didn't want to talk about it anyway. The car ride to the church was short after that. We pulled into the parking lot. and got out of the car.
The church itself wasn’t all that impressive like in the movies. It was covered in generic red bricks and was lined with tan faded cement bricks. An electrical sign sat next to the front of the church. It said ‘New Life Fellowship Church’. Along with the name of the church, both the temperature and time were displayed in orange analog numbers. We walked up the steps leading to the dark oak door. A weathered green copper sculpture of a stag sat next to a railing of the entrance. The inside looked much better than the monotonous outside. It was nice and warm. The walls were a calm yellow and the dark wood lined the open hall. It trimmed down to a tan floor with dark blue diamond spaces every few feet. I looked around the familiar setting. A hall at one end of the room was dark and reminded me of the one from my dream.
"It's closed off." A voice said from behind me. The speaker, and pastor of the church, walked up to greet us good morning. "There is an electrical problem."
"Good morning, Henry," mom said. She hugged him tightly and patted his back. Mom and Pastor Henry Addams were close since she had been going to the church as a kid. "What's the sermon for today?"
"It's about Abraham begging God to spare his nephew, Lot, from being harmed." he looked to me and Kal. "It's one of my favorites. Come on then, the sermon should be starting." We walked through the entrance to the room that held the long pews. The usual families sat in the pews. My family sat at one of the middle pews as the pastor stepped up to the podium. He cleared his throat and opened a bible. He began to read a passage in a loud voice. I wondered if he was always this loud. A few minutes passed by as I looked around the room. I was becoming bored and tried to look for something to occupy my wandering mind. Shifted my view from family to family until I landed on a man sitting in the back pews. He wore a nice black vest with a white tie. the sleeves of his shirt were rolled, revealing a very intricate tattoo. He looked very familiar. Kal nudged my arm and pointed to mom.
"Pay attention, Jonah," she scolded. "There's a lesson to this."
"Sorry," I apologized. I gave one last glance at the man and focused my attention back on Pastor Addams. An hour passed by slowly. After Pastor Addams finished the sermon, people began to stand and walk out of the room to the main hall. The pastor stepped down and walked over to my family. He began to speak to my mom about something. I scanned the room once more to find the man I saw earlier. He was still sitting in the same pew as I last saw him. However, this time he was looking at me. I awkwardly raised my hand and gave him a wave. He smirked and did the same. I turned to Kal, who stood next to me. He sipped something from a green mug. He glanced at me.
"I haven't seen him before," Kal said. His breath smelled of coffee. "I think I'm gonna say hi." Before I had a chance to tell him no he strolled off in the man's direction. I walked after him. By the time I got to the two, I could hear Kal introduce himself.
"Hi, I'm Kal," he said. He raised his hand to my shoulder. "This is my older brother, Jonah."
"How are you," I asked awkwardly.
'I"m doing much better," the man said. "I was becoming quite bored." He stood and held his hand out. "My name is James." Kal gripped James' hand and shook. He looked to be in his mid-thirties. He had nice black hair that was brushed to the left side of his face. he reached his hand to me. I took it and grabbed it tightly. I shook then let go of his hand quickly.
"So, James," I continued. "Where are you from?"
"I'm actually from Queens myself," James said. "I'm here to visit someone"
"Boys," My mom called. "Who are you talking to?"
She walked up to us with Pastor Addams.
"Mom," I said. "I'd like you to meet someone." she came up behind my shoulder and looked upon James. she suddenly stepped back in shock.
James?" Her voice faltered for a moment. "I-is that you?" She put her hand on the side of the wooden bench behind her. Pastor Addams went to support her. She held her hand out in protest as she steadied herself and stood straight. James stood and walked a little closer to my mom.
"Hello, Laura." He glanced at the Pastor. "Henry, you're looking spry."
"James," Pastor Addams said. "What are you doing here?" He held the book from his podium tight in his right arm.
"Can't I visit an old friend," James asked. "And a lost love." He smiled an odd grin to mom.
"You know each other," I asked. I was starting to get confused. "How?"
"You haven't told them about me," James questioned. "Truly, Laura, I'm hurt." He turned to me and Kal. "You never told them the tales of our past? Our endeavors?"
"Mom, what is he talking about," Kal questioned. she gave James an angered look. "What is he talking about?"
"Well, boys," mom said with a deep breath. She looked at the Pastor and us. "When I was younger I was in with a bad crowd. That's where I met James." she raised her hand in his direction. "I and James were very close, but the people we knew were very bad. So we left."
"Woah, wait, "I begged. My head began to hurt with what it was processing. "You were saying bad people, you mean a cult?"
"Of sorts." My mother fidgetted with her dress.
"You need to tell them." The pastor said. Mom glanced at him for support. He nodded. She took a deep breath.
"Boy," mom went on. "James, he's you-" She faltered. She inhaled deeply. "Your father."
My mind turned off at this point. It refused to take any more blows of information. Kal looked at me in wonder and then at James. He looked at mom.
"Why?" His eyes were wide and his skin pale. "Why didn't you tell us sooner?"
Honey, I'm sorry, but James is not a good man." she pleaded. " I wanted to keep you away from him."
"Your mother meant well." Pastor Addams said. "She did."
"Hardly," James said in rebuttal. "You two are the reason I wasn't around." He looked at me and Kal. He ushered us to come forward with his hands. I didn't budge, but Kal walked over. "Do you know what an exorcist is?"
"It's a person who helps people by praying for them," Kal said. his hands shook. I felt terrible and more than that, I felt angry.
"Sort of," James said with a chuckle."It's a person who takes demons out of a person. They help end their misery through prayers." He knelt and put his hands on Kals shoulders. "I want to save you, Kal." Kal stopped shaking and hugged James tightly. James smiled and laughed harshly.
"Is this funny to you?"
"I beg your pardon," James asked. "I have no clue what you're talking about."
"You were laughing," I said with anger building in my chest. "So I'm asking what's so comical?" James raised a brow to my comment. He stood and glared at me.
"I'm not an easy man to anger, Jonah," James said. "But do not irritate me."
"Irritated? You're irritated!?" I said in anger. "You came into my life for ten minutes and nuked, what I thought, was a great life!"
"Jonah, please," my mom begged. "Please calm down." I looked at her and realized that she was truly terrified of James. I took a deep breath and looked at him.
"Where were you?" I needed to know.
"Well," James said lightly. He looked at Kal, who was standing next to him and smirked. "I was in a coffin." I raised my brow skeptically. I looked at My mother and Pastor Addams. Henry was sweating.
"Jonah, I was in a botched exorcism." He looked at the pastor. "Henry, Do you have anything to add?"
"It may be true that James died that night," Henry said. "But the thing standing in front of you is not your father." He opened the book in his arms. "Not anymore." He began to chant in Latin. I didn't understand what was happening. Henry was an exorcist. James was reanimated and my father. My mother was in a cult. Nothing in my life made sense anymore.
"Do you think that's going to work, Henry?" James smirked. "It didn't last time." He turned to me and shrugged. "Can you blame me? I want to rid the world of the suffering that is people like Henry. Every exorcist killed and anyone who associates with them to pay for what they have done."
"What did they do," I asked. "What could they have done to deserve that?"
"They tried using my name against me." James stepped closer. "James was mine to use. He was the one to help me kill every self riotous exorcist pig on earth. But Henry took him from me." he turned to Kal and gripped his shoulder. "Now I need one of you boys." Kal looked at him and tried to get out of his grip, but James held tight.
"Let me go," Kal shouted. He elbowed James in the stomach, loosening his grip. James grunted and leaned forward. Kal ran to mom and hugged her tightly. He looked up at Kal and glared.
"Little shit," He muttered. He straightened his back and sighed angrily. The pastor still chanted phrase after phrase. "Give it a rest!" James held up his arm and outstretched his fingers. "Lux ignus." the pastor looked up and started to smoke from the eyes. He cried in pain as he stumbled backward. Then his face burst into flames. The fire traveled quickly and moved to his arm and torso. He dropped to his knees. His cries went to groans, then stopped as he flopped to his stomach. Mom and Kal stared in horror. My stomach dropped making me feel cold. I looked at James, whose eyes were now glowing bright white. He sighed lightly as he ran his hand through his hair. "Now, Laura, we knew this would happen. So give me the children."
"N-no," she stuttered in protest. She held Kal closely to her.
"That's not the right answer," James said. "I'm going to get them one way or the other." He said as he stepped closer to mom and Kal.
"Boys, run," She yelled. Kal and I booked for the door. We broke past the entrance to the prayer hall. The exit was just in front of us when the door slammed shut. I rammed my shoulder into the oak, but it wouldn't budge. I turned and put myself in front of Kal. My mother pushed at his chest and scratched James in the face. James caught her wrist and threw her to the ground
"That's enough, Laura," James said. "Insomnia." Mom dropped to her knees and held her throat. She couldn't breathe.
"Mom!” Kal struggled to get past me as I held him still.
“We need to hide,” I said. I looked around and stopped at the dark hall. “There.” I pointed in the direction of the hallway. Kal nodded as tears ran down his face, we ran as James calmly walked slowly to us. The look in his eye gave me a chill. Immediately, Kal and I ran down the dimly lit corridor, trying every door we passed as James came closer. Kal tried a door and it opened. We slipped into the room and looked around. It was a janitor's closet.
“What now,” Kal asked, “He’ll find us in here!” I looked around the small room and grabbed a broom handle. I motioned to Kal to stay quiet and move behind the door. He did so and we waited. I could hear James just outside the door. I held the handle close to my chest and waited.
“Boys, you know hiding is impossible,” James said as he knocked on the door. Kal put his hand over his mouth to keep himself quiet. “I am god, after all.” He began to kick in the door. With each forceful thud, the hinges creaked and rattled. After the third or fourth time, the door was ready to break free from its screws. I gripped the handle tighter. James kicked the door one last time and pushed it into the room. I rushed forward and pushed James in the midsection in an attempt to hold him back.
“Kal, go!” Kal jumped over the door and ran down the hall. He took a left back into the prayer hall. I pushed as hard as I could, but my Converse squeaked and slid against the tile.
“Jonah, I don’t want to hurt you,” James said. “But I will if you stand in the way of my mission.” He pushed back, snapping the broom and sending me to my back. I pushed myself along the floor away from him. My heart pounded as I tried to get away from James. He held the end of the broomstick that had bokeh off into a sharp point. He moved over me and thrust the point into my thigh. I screamed in pain. Dark red blood came from my leg, soaking my jeans. I gripped the wooden stake that poked out of my leg as I let out an agonized cry. He leaned down and grabbed my shirt and dragged me down the corridor towards the prayer hall. I was leaving a trail of blood through the halls. He was dragging me back into the center of the prayer hall when I caught a glimpse of my mother. Her eyes had reddened and her lips had turned a faint color of blue. She laid on her back where she was motionless. Tears began to stream down my face as I passed by. I gripped the wooden handle as I began to pull.
“I wouldn’t do that.” James held my shirt and threw me against the podium. My back hit it with a loud thump. “You’ll bleed out if you do.” He turned on his heel and spoke loudly enough to make his voice echo. “Kal, If you want your brother to live, then you'll stop hiding and come out.” He turned and smiled at me. It gave me chills. Then I heard from behind me. Kal emerged from the curtain that hung against the wall.
“Please just leave us alone,” Kal pleaded.
“When I'm so close to having my wish become reality?” James smiled. “I don’t think so.” He reached out and grabbed his arm. Kal screamed in protest. He began to pull Kal down the corridor.
“Wait,” I said weakly. “Me for him.” James turned and laughed cruelly.
“You? You're too weak now. You should have made the offer before.” He began to walk away from the podium. I had to do something. I couldn’t let him leave with my brother. I gripped the handle in my leg and ripped it out of the wound. I leaned forward and began to limp towards James. I raised the steak above my head, ready to strike his back. I rushed forward as I screamed in anger. James turned and caught my arm. Griping my wrist tightly he began to squeeze. He squeezed and squeezed until my wrist cracked. I dropped the handle and it rattled on the ground. Kal cried and tried to pull away in protest. Pain shot through my arm. I dropped to my knees and held my arm. I screamed in agony. Pain flooded through my body making it shudder and chill. James picked up the stick and rammed it into my shoulder. I cried as blood rolled out of the wound. Kal screamed for help.
“I know what you're thinking, Jonah,” James said. “You think you can live in a world without your family. So I’ll be merciful. I won't let you live.” He turned and began to haul my brother away from me. As he walked by the entrance, James held out his hand and placed his palm on the curtain. “Lux ignus.’ Fire shot up the curtain to the ceiling and across the wooden benches. James walked out of the exit into the daylight with Kal screaming and calling my name. But I couldn’t move. I lay there trying to breathe. Smoke stuck to the inside of my lungs. I coughed as my vision blurred. I could feel my body chilling by the minute, despite the flames rising all around me. I hoped for God not to hurt Kal. I closed my eyes and coughed several times over. I couldn’t feel my body. I couldn’t feel anything. I was so cold.
Kal sat in the front seat of a stolen Kia Optima.
“It took you long enough,” Kal said in disdain. “That apartment was disgusting.”
“I'm sorry for not coming for you sooner,” James said apologetically. “But I’m here now. Also, you could have gone without the elbow."
“ Sorry. So he’s dead? Jonah, I mean.” Kal began to type on his phone.
“I don’t sense him. Not anymore.”
“Good,” Kal said with a chuckle. He began to put a new post on his Twitter page. ‘Road trip with dad to Vatican City.’
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William See (talk) 04:24, 24 January 2021 (UTC)
Hello, I made some edits in terms of punctuation and capitalization. Foremost, I'd do away with some of the beginning paragraph describing the narrator's morning ritual, much of it is superfluous and not really important. The ending line also doesn't have much to do with the morals/themes presented in the story, IMO.
In terms of the story, I marginally like the concept more of God coming to Earth to reclaim a child of His. It's marginally better than the usual "narrator meets God, God is a dick" shtick, but not by much honestly seeing as this version appears as ((SPOILERS)) a less nuanced version of Chuck from Supernatural. The other problem is that there's not really any lead up to any of the events that take place and it reads like an excuse to have God perform arbitrary cruelty on the characters. Introducing characters solely to have them killed off in a few short paragraphs is a really cheap way to invoke emotions.
We don't know why God/James chose the protagonist's mother to birth the kids, we don't know why he ended up killing everybody, so it just reads like gore porn. With a premise like this you're going to want to spend time thinking of the history behind these characters and have them act more consistently.
I would definitely cut down the morning routine in the beginning and also some of the descriptions of the characters. If it doesn't move the story forward, then leave it out. I found the scene in the church kind of confusing. The kid jumps from hearing "bad crowd" to thinking "cult" immediately, which is odd. Then it jumps to James is their father to James is actually dead. It feels rushed and there needs to be some kind of build up here. The ending didn't make much sense either. Why isn't Kal upset his mother and brother were murdered by his father?
Your writing is pretty good but I think you need to take some time and flesh this story out a bit more. You need to show the reader why the characters are doing what they do. What is their goal? What is the obstacle that stops them from reaching the goal? What is the resolution (reach goal/don't reach goal) and how does it affect them?