Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Death of Alexa Grace

A broken Home
Part 2

He watched as her body dangled, swaying gently in the rush of heat from outside, arms drifting at her sides, her toes pointed towards the ground and wondered how she had come to this. Her face was not troubled or desperate as most suicides by hanging often left behind. Instead, a rather pleasant calm had formed, with a ghost of a smile hugging the fading world around her as if to say, "I won." whether she had or not. The fire had crawled in through the window and spread along the floor. Flames licked at her heels, causing the rubber soles of her boots to bubble, moments from reaching up from the floor to consume her flesh, along with the guts of her old home. Even now, her beauty parted the smoke piling in from outside, like beams of sunshine breaking through the fog of dawn. It was during this intense moment of brilliance that she gave a small but noticeable sign of life- a tiny twitch of her pinkie-finger on her right hand. It was brief but enough to tell him that a soul remained. A soul that caught fire as her clothes could no longer defuse the flames crawling up her laced boots. 
     "Ajunge!" A voice shouted. 
Suddenly, the room, the house, the burning trees out front, and all things beyond here, stopped. Inside the body, the soul was no longer calm or at peace. The pain was instant, more destructive than the moment her neck snapped, and remained with her, unlike the moment death replaced the life she so selfishly threw away. That she had prepared for, the moment the noose tightened at her throat, crushing her larynx, squeezing every last bit of life through her nose. Weeks were spent leading up to this moment, purposely choking herself so that she knew what to expect, releasing her grasp on the knot at the last second, before losing consciousness. Sometimes, she would maim her arms or legs with razor blades for that initial shock of pain, to experience what it must be like to hang so that her morbid portrait could reflect the smile she now wore.  
The figured stepped through the smoke, revealing himself to the young woman, as the inferno roared silently, frozen in time, behind him. He stood just in front, looking up to her as though admiring her work, but also to question it with his apprehensiveness to speak. 
     "M-ai înțeles?" He asked. 
     "Arăți îngrozitor, draga mea." 
He observed the flames that rolled up her legs to her torso, amazed by how her smile continued to remained even now. So much hurt to the flesh, and yet the body smiles. He took his hand and placed it high beneath her chin, resting it on her chest between her breast and closed his eyes. 

She sat legs spread outwards on a beach, with the bluest ocean she had ever seen rolling up gently to the shore, tickling the bottoms of her feet, and then receded back into the crystal sea. The sand she sat in was white as chalk powder, digging her fingers into the warm granules, holding her head back as far as it could go, so that the ends of her hair brushed against the beach. She took in a deep elongated breath, eyes closed, and allowed the kiss of the sun to embody her flesh from her head down to her toes. This was her place, a place of safety that no one could touch but her. Sometimes, she would come here and stay for hours on end and never lay eyes upon another person. Here, it was just her and the ocean, with the beautiful sun to embrace her, and at night, when everyone else slept, she would be here dancing among the moon-lit sea. She had always told herself that, one day, she would come here and never leave- today was a perfect day to do just that. She then felt the presence of another there with her, but did not open her eyes, for a part of her knew who her visitor was; because, they had met long ago, when she was a child.
     "I know you, don't I?" She whispered. 
Once she felt the hand at her forehead, cold like the sea but warm like sun rays, she did not flinch. 
     "You have changed, child."
     "I had no other choice."
     "Perhaps. But to see you like this-"
Her eyes opened, glaring at her Guardian Angel, still as beautiful and perfect as she remembered. Even as a little girl, her heart fluttered against her chest for him, a feeling that returned to her now. "Have you any idea the life I have led? No, you haven't. You couldn't, because if you had you would have known what he did to me all those times-" 
The Angel could feel her angry interwoven within her pain, images of his face, sweat pouring from his brow as he repeatedly raped her. The mural wall burning its images into her brain like sear marks, each one another unholy terror she could never again ignore or push from her mind. Hell hath no fury, words embroiled on his collar in blood red stitching that he would whisper in her ear as his body crushed onto her small frame, "Hell hath no fury!" He had preached this to the girls he defiled that he was preparing them for a life their mother's and father's had given them, a life less ordinary that each of them would later thank him for. 
     "I am sorry, Alexa. Had I known I-"
     "Why are you here?"
The question stumped the Angel. 
    "Because, out there," he motioned with his hand to the sea, "You can no longer hear me."
Her face fell, her olive complexion now devoid of color. The waves rushed up to her feet again, this time they burned her heels, the sting lasting and running the length of her slender legs. Alexa was beginning to lose herself. 
     "I went through with it then."
Tears swelled in her eyes. Emotional drainage that consisted solely of mental duress, for now.
     "But there is still a chance, slim as it may be, for you to make a better choice. One that will serve the Lord and fulfill a destiny that not even I am privy to. My being here is not for show, Alexa. I was sent to bring you to a place far from here, where your life can flourish. You will be born again, this life will be one of great importance to the world as you will not walk among your brothers and sisters as equal, but as Soul Warrior to carry out the Word of your God and, Lord willing, save those He so loves."
Alexa stood up from the sand, minding the surge of pain consuming her whole. She looked around her safe-haven, seeing the sea aflame, gaining momentum and size- a tidal wave of hell-fire rolled ever closer. 
     "Why me?"
     "I do not know."
     "Why now?"
     "I do not know."
The Angel looked to the waters, the tide rushed ashore, roaring overhead, a wall of fire rushed against an unseen shell of protection that the Angel had cast atop them both. The furious fires of the tide swallowed her world, its weight bearing down on the Angel.
     "Alexa, please, I cannot hold back the tide much longer!"
     "Promise me. Promise me you will never again leave me that you will always protect me in my moment of need."

The limp body of Alex Grace fell into the arms of the Angel who turned and rushed the window as he unraveled the noose from around her neck. 

     "Beyond here, in a place not far removed from your memory, I have already come to your aid, child. I have never left you. And I never will."
The Angel held back the tide of fire with one hand braced against his shield cast over them, and extended his other hand to Alexa, calling for her.
     "I cannot promise you the world, but I can promise I will die trying." 
Alexa looked into the angel's piercing black eyes, deeper than anyone or anything ever had, and felt what she likened to be a heartbeat, a pulse of something more powerful than a promise and sweeter than any love she'd ever known.

The Angel shot through the black plume of smoke, clutching Alexa Grace in his powerful arms, turning his back to shield them both from the intense heat rising up from the burning grounds below. What little life remained in her was waning quickly, which opened its eyes for a brief moment to gaze weakly at her guardian Angel, "Gri...gori?" His wings unfurled and braced against the wind, flipping them round again, catching the wind that lifted them towards open night sky. She fought to remain conscious but could not in her weakened state. Her head fell to the side, catching the last image she would see for some time. Below, Saint Martha's Home for Hope burned brilliantly under a full moon, while flashing red and blue lights raced for its rusted out gates. Her portrait was exactly how she had envisioned it, although its centerpiece was omitted from the final work. As the darkness swooned, she felt a smile once more, and the words spoken to her so many times rung loud in her subconscious, Hell Hath No Fury. Later, she would remind him of this saying in its entirety, while standing over his pummeled and bloodied body.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


In the end, there was nothing but the light. Brilliant luminosity filled the lifeless vessel laying flat against the ground, blood of the enemy drying under the hot sun on its armor, sounds of war exploding all around it. The pain had long subsided but the memory remained, shadows of horrors unfolding like pieces to a grand puzzle, placed before it one dreadful wedge at a time. All of the pieces came together to form a mural of its past, present, and potential future. Mother and father stood over it like proud gods admiring its tiny creation, promising big things to come, sheltering it with love and offering it protection. Then it looked into the eyes of a beautiful woman, arms outstretched to embrace him, with eyes like twin galaxies calling out silently into the night for him to behold, begging him to stay. And then his own creation laying quietly in its crib, an occasional coo escaping its tiny crested mouth. Here was something to fight for, something in which to die for. All of it taken away, long ago when Kings ruled the land, brandishing their broadswords upon the backs of armored war horses on the battlefields. Though free from any more pain and suffering, the image of her calling out to him, and his inability to go to her, was more damaging than the wounds suffered in battle- a battle that he and his King would lose in the end.

Lifeless was the battlefield now, stained red with the blood of man that seeped into the earth as those who survived, victoriously or defeated, had retreated far from the battle in order to escape the stench and death promised to them by war. Night crawled over open grounds, bathing the dead in its moonlight. Sounds of hooves crushing against fallen leaves emerged from the surrounding woods, trotting slowly across the battlefield. Whispers carried in the wind, sounding like the voices of children, some laughing while others more sever in their opinions of the dead.
     "Too deceiving," Said one.
     "No honor," Said another.
In the middle of the battleground, a lone voice stood among a crowd of fallen warriors. This one stepped down from its beast and tip-toed over the body of a fallen soldier, and then another and another. Finally it found what it had first smelled. Unlike the rest, this one smelled pure. Clean of conscious and devoid of regret, its scent tasted like water to the dry dehydrated tongue of a weary traveler.
     "Here!" It's voice rushed the battlefield alerting all the others.
Within seconds, the voices converged to the middle of the battlefield, drawn to its scent like a pack of wolves to a wounded doe. This intoxicating smell was that of a Retriever. A soul that clung to its vessel refusing the light, choosing to remain lost inside a pocket of time many called Purgatory. The voices huddled over the body, their shapes like twisted silhouettes of disfigured things that go bump under the moonlight thirsting for the soul within.
From above them, a great wind rushed the field with a force that pushed the horde back from the body, kicking up dust into a whirlwind that settled around a feathered cocoon in front of the fallen soul. Slowly the cocoon unfurled into mighty wings that flexed outwards from the back of a humanoid being, with eyes devoid of color like two black holes side by side eating away the light around them. The being's hair were like strands of sunshine cascading down around its face that continued down the length of its body.
     "This one has my protection. If you wish to challenge me for it, then do so now or leave us be," The light moved from its side, forming an arm that held in its hand a flaming sword that glowed bright orange in color.
The creatures jumped back onto the backs of their beast returning to the woods.

The Angel knelt beside the body and reached out with its hand, touching the forehead of the fallen.
     "You do not wish to leave?"
A distant voice cried out from another place and time. It did not fear where it was, nor did it ask why it were there. It heard the Angel and simply replied, "There is work still to be done."
The Angel stood.
It looked upwards to the open night, the distant starts glimmering peacefully light years away and said, "Lord, hear my prayer."
The fallen warrior lie still under the stars. Its soul listened as the Angel spoke in a language it could not understand, at least not at first. As the Angel prayed the words slowly became coherent to the soul at its feet.
     "Mortua heic ego sum cinis, is cinis terrast: sein est terra dea, ego sum dea, mortua non sum. Say it." The Angel said.
The Soul inside listened as the Angel repeated the words again, each time more easily understood than the last. Finally, as instructed, the mouth of the corpse opened and spoke.
     "Dead, I am here and I am ashes, the ashes terrast: Saint Clare is the earth goddess, a goddess, I am, I am not dead."
The warrior's eyes opened and he saw for the first time his Guardian Angel.
     "Hello brother. Tell me, what is your name?"
     "Ely. I am Ely Perseus."
     "Ely was your earthly name. You are now born again, to serve the Lord; therefore, you are Grigori. Come now, there is much you will endure along your path to Him."
The man once known as Ely took pause.
     "My family-"
     "You will see them again. But, for now, we go."
The Angel approached Ely, wrapping him within the light of his being, absorbing flesh into the spiritual manifold that makes up his angelic self. His powerful wings forced the air beneath them down towards the ground, lifting them both effortlessly into the air. As they traveled higher into the night, the Angel felt the fear inside him.
     "Fear not. You will become like me soon."
Below, the world changed. Time passed like sand in an hourglass that was turned by the hand of progress, shifting landscapes that morphed stone castles into towering steel skyscrapers, horse drawn carriages into engineered machines that advanced the people further out, ushering in the tides of change. One that brought with it technologies that neared the heavens and challenged God at every corner. All the while, far beyond man's advancement in a place no modern technology could reach, a celebration was occurring. It was the coronation of one man's journey towards life eternal, to serve God and carry out what the Guardian had called, Acceptance.

     "The first step in Acceptance," the Angel said, lifting his hand up to the heavens, "Is knowing."

Above them the stars appeared to split, opening a view into the cosmos as though Moses himself had parted the galaxies as he had the Red Sea. From the center of the universe, light flooded in so intensely that it could not be looked upon, without blinding the observer. The Angels helplessly dropped to their knees, their wings raised into the air in salute to their Lord, God. Their perfect faces, soiled by black tears that were the texture of hot wax running alongside a candle stick, wept joyfully over His presence, for it, like all things, was unrivaled. Both chaotic and beautiful, The Father, the Sun, and the Holy Spirit had in an instant, become the embodiment of the universe before them. Grigori, who had adapted to his new eyes long ago still had to slightly shield his onyx-colored eyes against the shine. Then Grigori saw it. A mountainous burden of guilt, shame, and humility lifted from his shoulders. His thoughts were answered and his heart healed by a voice inside him not his own. Grigori then felt infinite sadness. It was knowing how it would all end that broke him, his own uniqueness had soured part of his angelic awakening; however, this was part of the plan. In a blink of the eye, all was removed. Grigori stood at the cliff of a snow-capped mountain overlooking a white snow-covered world below. His Guardian stood alongside him, pointing to the north beyond the veil of frosted clouds.
     "I am not like you am I?"
     "In His eyes, you're better. You can walk among them, call upon your wings when needed and see with their eyes. Above all, you have something we do not- choice."
     "I do not understand. I thought my Acceptance-"
     "Acceptance doesn't make you one of us, Grigori. It makes you enlightened. You have what they all want
and very rarely ever achieve. That is why you are so special, and why your role in Acceptance critical. Your final lesson is this. God is flawless. He is the creator of the heavens and the earth, and just look at how detailed and wonderful the earth alone is. His love for humans and their world goes far beyond its atmosphere, stretching beyond this galaxy and the next, racing ever onward to the infinite rim of the universe. He left his imprint with you, and watched as you slaughtered it like sheep. And still, He loves you most, more so than even those beings who can do nothing but serve him.  The reason, Grigori, is out there somewhere. And Lucifer knows it too." The Angel turned and looked over the edge of the cliff. "Much has changed since we were here last."
     "It is not the same world I remember. It feels...dark." Grigori said
     "Evil has a firm grasp here. Demons walk among them. They sleep in their beds, eat at their dinner tables, breed with them, employ their services and coach them like puppets; humans are such a fragile species, lost within their own sin they do not realize what is right in front of their noses."

The Angels admired the world ahead of them. It was easy to enjoy the view from here, far from unspeakable atrocities humans dished out to one another daily. They closed their eyes and listened to the world at large. For Grigori's Guardian, the noise was calm and soothing. The innocence and purity of God's army did not allow for sin to interfere or impact their judgement, free of those things that sculpted sin, contributing to a long list of desires that have crippled humanity since the time of Adam and Eve. Grigori, however, fought to push the noise aside. Though angelic, his humanity still resided inside him. Sin in any fashion was like heroin to an ex-junkie- he could smell it in the air and taste it upon his tongue. Evil flowed in his veins, which made his Acceptance all the more challenging and risky, for he could turn on his Guardian and his God at a moment's notice. This flaw in his design was his strength and his weakness. His Guardian knew this too, but could not teach him, for he knew nothing of sin.
     "Time grows closer for my departure, my friend."
     "What will you do now, since I have become one of you?" Grigori asked.
     "Protect another. The world is full of souls in need of protection."
The Guardian turned, his wings unfurling as the air gently rushed beneath them, lifting the angel from the ground.
The Guardian turned his head.
     "Is Acceptance the same for us all?"
A smile unseen by Grigori etched along Gabriel's mouth. "The vision of his grace is common amongst us, but the message is our own."
There was a hint of worry to Grigori's voice as he attempted to hide his concern from his Guardian. "I saw terrible things coming to this world, Gabriel. Things I believe I am responsible for."
     "Perhaps. That is the miracle of life, brother. The freedom to change those things we are responsible for, to repent or even mend whole again. Whatever you were shown can be changed."
The powerful wings of Gabriel flapped towards the ground, the Angel shot upwards until swallowed by clouds. Grigori took a deep long breath, tasting air he had not felt in his lungs in hundreds of years. There was much to learn about his home now, and he still needed to find the girl from his vision. He could not shake the vision from mind, the raging fires that burned across cities, demons enslaving humanity, and Lucifer rising from hell. It was the girl though that captivated him the most. Who was she? Why had he been chosen to protect her; especially, since she was damned. The breath Grigori had been holding slowly released from his lips as he stepped off the edge of the cliff, plummeting through skirted clouds that hugged the mountain top. He held his arms out to his side, palms flat against the wind, and flexed the muscles in his back. Midway down, he tilted his momentum and moved his arms to his side, barreling towards earth like an arrow, waiting for the last possible moment, when he would unleash his new wings and fly.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Death of Alexa Grace

Part One
A Broken Home

Alexa Grace sat out on the cold chipped steps of Saint Martha's Home for Hope, smoking a cigarette recalling old memories of a time not that long ago, where the girls would huddle beneath the tall fir trees, with their study books in their laps, their crafts at their sides, and the sisters watching them from this very spot, gossiping about Father Reese. He would frequent the orphanage two or three times a month, supposedly to make the rounds and make sure everything was in order; but, she, like any other girl with any sense about her, knew of his extracurricular activities with Sister Sara; Sister Jennifer; Sister Darlene- the list went on and on. She once called this place home, her room being on the fourth floor west wing, her lone window blocked by one of the hulking trees out front, which she would use to scale down to the ground at night to meet up with the first guy willing to drive her ten miles down the road to the market for smokes and, if they were willing, booze to get her through the next few grueling days here. In fact, she spent a lot of time sitting on the ledge of her window, looking far below and wondering if her fall would lead to any broken bones or permanent damage, because a girl without a good pair of sturdy legs beneath her was worthless to a family in need of a nanny for their real children. 

She had long given up on being adopted by anyone. Most girls, who did not get a family before the age of six, ended up spending their entire youth here, only to be released into the world on their 18th birthday, with only a bag of clothes and the torn and tasseled shoes on their feet. Some had an allowance, which they saved in mason jars taken from the kitchen, for their day of release that often never made it, due to being stolen by one girl or another. Alexa, however, had saved up over 500 dollars. She had also managed a broken nose, a dozen busted lips, a forearm fracture, dislocated jaw and more black eyes than she could remember; but, she had her money. She puffed from her cigarette, holding it in her lungs for some time, and then exhaled a band of perfectly formed smoke rings. The wind took hold of the rings and pushed them to the side. She had fought the urge to question why no one ever adopted her. Why was it that Alexa Grace in all of her beauty and pride not bear the gift of a million dollar smile? That was key in landing a family, a warm friendly smile that both her manila file photo and up close and personal face could mirror. She could never find her smile. Her history did not hold smiles in its cards. Her beginnings were tainted by the smell of booze and musky body odor that she could still smell till this day. The taste of evil still present on her tongue, kissing her as though she were another street whore, purchased by the man who came home well into the night to kiss his faithful wife and children goodnight. The same man who had raped her repeatedly, and then forced her to call him Daddy the following morning, with a smile about her face at the breakfast table. 

She stamped the butt out beneath her black heeled boots, searching her matching coat for another smoke. Her life, she remembered, was all pain and shame that was supposed to end at these chipped and cracked doorsteps. The faded red entry doors at her back were to be a way out of the hurt, turning out instead to be a new chapter of humbling life lessons with the priest, who dropped in on the girls periodically, and the occasional lesbian sister in search of acceptance outside her habit. Her slender fingers fondled the zippo, striking the thumbwheel that scratched at the butane soaked wick, sparking a flame at the end of her cigarette. Images of fire raced through her foresight. An intense heat overwhelmed her as the memory of her father and mother's scorched face cried out to her, their bodies flailing in the flames like tassels at the end of sparklers. She was fourteen then, already nearing that critical age of adoption when children are not only helping hands around the house, but potential playthings to husband's who had not seen their wives nude in years. All she needed to do was smile- she would tell herself this every time a family chose to meet with her, standing outside the interview hall, checking her dress to make sure nothing inappropriate was showing repeating these words slowly over and over again. All you need to do is smile. But she couldn't. Not then. Not now. 

Life beyond Saint Martha's netted more of the same failures, even when she managed to find one small diamond in the rough; somehow, she managed to turn it too into an exuberant waste of time for all involved- relationships were nothing more than delays in the inevitable loneliness that stalked her. For some reason, Saint Martha's Home for Hope had always tugged at her heart, pulling her back to its quietly contained chaos in which she learned how to be a lady, as well as how to give fellatio to Father Jessley- a perverted man she recalled, more so than that other clothed liar, with his sweaty palms and his cigarette breath. What was his name again? Father Reese, was it? Alexa stood. She approached the doors, kicking them. Their old hinges creaked but held firm as did the rusted chains that wrapped and coiled in between the wrought handles that had withstood countless attempts of breaking and entering by hopeful squatters. The first three levels of the building were boarded or bricked to keep out vagrant youths, trying to vandalize or initiate themselves into gangs who fought one another in hopes to lay claim to the lost treasures beyond its walls. The higher floors remained accessible, due to funds for its annual maintenance shifting in the churches accounts to settle sex abuse cases across the country. Its windows had long been shattered by numerous stones from the ground. Many were by the very children who once lived here, casting their metaphorical rocks that broke the panes above, releasing pent up frustrations and spirits of long ago into the world- freeing mind, body and souls one stone at a time.

Having no luck with the door, Alexa returned out front, where her black 83' Honda V65 Magna stood. On the back of her bike were two ten gallon gas tanks, each one filled with petrol that would be the foundation of her portrait she held in mind. She took a tank from the bike and opened the cap. Strong fumes escaped from the container. She turned her head away so that the fumes would not further flirt with the end of her cigarette while she poured the gasoline down the steps, pooling a bit at the end, and then ran the remaining fuel along the grass to the base of a tree that stood a yard or so from the building. She then sat the container down next to it and returned to her bike. She sucked smoke into her lungs, dropping the butt at her foot, crushing it into the gravel. Her hesitation to continue would be pushed aside by pride. She did not come here to stop now. What she was now doing was what should have been done long ago, before the trials, before the evil could spread from one innocent to the next. She eyed the center window on the fourth floor, the hallway window that looked out beyond the garden to the black gates out front. This would be her swan song, and the climax of decades of abuse that went unjustly ignored by the church, its leaders and those who would not listen to the tearful confessions of all who endured this living hell. Alexa grabbed the second container and turned back for the home. For this one, she began at the base of the steps, moving left towards the second tree, the same tree that had supported the weight of a restless teenager so many times during the twilight hours of her youth. She then quickly ascended the treetop, moving gracefully from limb to limb, her hands finding old familiar branches as easily as the first day she had climbed out from her window from above,  until she was face to face once more with the jagged smile of her bedroom window.

She sat, perched atop the limb like a cat plotting its way onto the window ledge, considering her actions a final time. The bitter air rushed out from the haunted halls inside, raising the hairs on her forearms as though she had passed through a field of static electricity. She found her inner self smiling for the first time. The gap between the window ledge and the ground below seemed so far away at the age of fourteen, now just a stretch of her arm and a slight hop from the branch and she would be inside. She grabbed hold of the window ledge and pulled herself through, minding small shards of glass that continued to cling to rusted frames. Her old room was hauntingly still, unchanged since she was taken away by men and women who wore badges and gun belts around their waist. She stood to her feet, memories flooding her mind, her bed still rested to her left, burned out in the center. Was this the same bed she remembered? She felt a pain in her stomach, stinging pain that resonated from her bladder to the small of her back. That taste returned to her tongue. The fire that scorched her tiny body, traveled up her legs along her small frame to the back of her neck, as well as the black cloth her young fingers tore at, fragments of which remained under her fingernails, would later wash away beneath a cold shower to remove him from her. The graffiti laden wallpaper, portions of which had stripped or peeled, clung to the wall against a cold wind blowing throughout the old children's home, spoke of discarded sins and paved way to stories that continued to allude the masses. Pentagrams encircled the names of staff who contributed in the darkness a filthy secret that died along with the house, buried in the dust and grime of time. Alexa fought these images, proceeding into the dark hallway.

The Halls of Saint Martha's Home for Hope stretched in every direction, each path a slow desolate march into the abyss, escorted by monsters among men. Callous individuals who thrived on the weak and powerless also thrived on the children’s infinite sadness. The sisters acting as slave drivers to the children, always reminded them of their misfortunes, blaming them for having the cards dealt unfairly in favor of everyone, but them. They were unwanted, unloved, misbegotten souls left in a purgatory of sorts, their only means of escape being prayer and the occasional foster family. She casually walked along the hall, her hand grazing the discolored pastel wallpaper, eyeing the mold that had built up along the crown molding. Like the Sistine Chapel, the ceilings here also depicted scenes from The Holy Bible, as well as the first Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus. Those murals existed beyond the constantly locked door of Father Reese's quarters, which were situated on the fourth floor as well, at the far end of the east wing, far enough not to be heard by anyone of any importance. Alexa remembered this hallway well. So much so, she could traverse it in pitch dark, a feat now assisted by daylight, funneled in from the blown window midway along- her final destination.

The portrait was nearly complete; her song of sorrow nearing its crescendo as she reached for the belt around her waist, pulling the leather strap from its catch. The center window ran from the floor to the ceiling, highlighted at night by a hanging chandelier whose rust covered arms stretched out like a three-pointed star, each point holding six candle-shaped bulbs on a platinum dish. No one ever asked about its shape or talked about the coincidences that it implied, for doing so would mark time spent with Father Reese who was more than happy to show you his murals. Alexa stood at the base of the window looking down over the concrete steps below. The smell of gasoline rose into the air, a scent that had become intoxicating, even arousing, to her. It brought a sense of cleansing to her surroundings, its fumes mixing with the musk damp air inside, moments away from removing the stench from this place- her home. Alexa tied the belt around her neck tight, gagging against the squeeze from the leather at her throat. She then took her zippo from her pocket and held it outside the window. She had only one shot at hitting the pooled petrol at the top of the stairs. Four stories was a lot further than the eye perceived from the ground, but she did not worry. It was that reoccurring feeling she had lived with ever since they took her from the burning house, she once called home. She flipped the silver top, and spun the thumbwheel that grinded against the wick. A spark turned into flame at her fingertips, which she then carefully aimed. With a long elongated breath, Alexa dropped the lighter, turning to focus her attention now on the chandelier. The hand of a true architect never doubted its creation, and this being her most desirable creation of them all would be no different.

Alexa then walked into a nearby room, Cailee's room, if she remembered correctly. Cailee was a quiet girl. This did not bode well for her, especially since those girls who said little often made the best bedfellows. She had long blond hair that would turn white by the time it was all said and done. She was Sister Sarah's favorite. Each night, Sister Sarah would read to Cailee before bed. Once she was asleep, the chair in which she read from was used as a brace, wedged under the doorknob, for there were no locks in the house, except for Father Reese's quarters. Just as she had hoped it would be, the chair remained intact, located in the corner of Cailee's room. Alexa took the chair and drug it out into the hallway underneath the chandelier. She then climbed up onto the chair and looped the end of her belt over one arm of the chandelier. A draft of hot air rushed in from the outside as both trees had now caught fire. If their dry bark and orange and brown leaves burned as she had hoped they would, her portrait would soon be on display. She then reached up, standing on the tips of her toes, and tied the end of her belt firmly into a knot. This was the final and most delicate piece of her portrait. She weighed a hundred and fifteen pounds, one-twenty wet. The home was old, but its foundation and frame sturdy. The bolts that held the chandelier firmly in place would certainly the extra pull of her body weight. It must in order to forever be immortalized. Confident in her construction, Alexa looked out over the garden to the vacant street. She then started to say the names of those girls she hardly knew. Betty Thomas; Sabrina Ruez; Denise Shelly; Abigale Stevens; The sisters, Stacy and Brie and Alexa Grace, would now be free. She then kicked the chair away from underneath her. The chandelier pulled violently at its steel bracket, bracing against the extra weight suddenly thrust upon it and held its ground exactly how she had hoped that it would.