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Chapter 27 · Chapter 28 · Chapter 29


"My blackened Skin falls away from me, the heat scorches my very frame"
Job 30:30

Mid-November 1872

We continued through the dry and dark canyons of the Black Mesa area until we came to the Chinlee valley. I followed my distant sensation of Ryan through this valley until we approached another plateau region. The mark of his presence grew stronger in my mind, as if the rocks themselves screamed their disgust at his existence. Once more he had defied the laws of nature using the gifts which the valley had given him for evil purposes.

Atop of the soil, in almost random spots, there were thin scatterings of black ash resonating with trapped emotions; fear, horror, physical agony and despair. As the people of Jeziah were reduced to carbon their last thoughts had been imprinted into their very dust.

Ryan's mental traces drew stronger as we continued through the dry, grey gritty wastes. Although plant life was plentiful it was just the spiky, harsh growths of desert flora. It all looked the same to me, wasteland life is an acquired taste and one I confess, I was never to really cotton to. Dio however loved the desert, loved its grotesque plants and animals with equal relish, loved its hot, inhospitable, desolation but then he loved any place where there weren't any people.

The whitish and gray ash became less scattered and more clumped as we approached a creek which cut through the southernmost part of the Defiance Plateau. The mental residue of pain and torture also increased as the ash clumps increased. I had been rather blissfully ignorant that this gray ash covering the landscape was all that remained of yet more victims to Donegal Ryan S madness. Perhaps it was a conscious oversight on my part but I had truly believed that these sensations were traces of Ryan's memories imprinted on the soil.

Yet when the insight struck me, when I first saw the charred wrist bones of a child, vertigo swept over me. Phantom nausea burned through my rotting gullet and gut but without the relief of actual regurgitation.

Even the devoutly misanthropic Dio was shocked at the carnage which had taken place in Jeziah.

The fields of corn and rye outside the city of Jeziah had become an expanse of charred stubble, carbonized ash still in the shape of fallen stalks or stems, it flew apart at our touch, dissembling into black mists of carbon particles.

The town's wooden structures had been incinerated into ash by the red hot death cloud from Mount Ryan. The exposed adobe and stone had fared little better. Adobe baked until it it had collapsed into a carbonized dust while the stone had cracked and often melted under the tremendous heat. The adobe which had not been outside had often baked harder than granite with black carbonized glaze to it.

The buildings were piles of black adobe dust and crumbled rock with certain portions of granite hard adobe jutting through the black dust in jagged, abstract formations.

Dio remarked it looked like someone had accidentally set a jigsaw puzzle on fire, grabbed it, put it out and then flung it in the air as the pain became too intense. The pieces had then landed willy nilly in the ashes of a campfire.

We saw very few bones but enough proving that this place had been inhabited. The emanations of despair and agony increased tenfold as we traveled through the town yet these emanations had very little to do with Ryan but with Jeziah's inhabitants. Unlike the Hopi I did not feel their unshriven souls chained to the land but just the psychic residue of their pain bursting out in sudden death.

When I bent my mind inwards to see if I could somehow close the door on this noise, I became aware that the most powerful sensations were not the residue of the entire town but of one man.

I had Dio hurry to the center of the rubble and dig down under a few pile of ash and crumbled stone.

Having seen the destruction I had not thought anyone could be alive but I was proven wrong.

Beneath the rubble was the body of a man he had been burnt black by the death cloud. His skin had melted, ran and dried so that it resembled layers of cooled tar. The heat had rendered him completely bald and sexless, taking his ears and nose as well. His hands were now three fingered and four fingered, the missing fingers having been melted onto another finger.

Having melted inside his boots, which had later disintegrated, his feet resembled cobbler's models made of tar.

The man was comatose and only the rise of his thick, black, furrowed chest proved that he still lived.

Brimstone walked over to where the man lay in a pile of ash, as I struggled to look down at him, the eyes popped open followed by a loud, muffled scream from his sealed mouth. Working his jaw, a hole was ripped in his face below his nostril holes, creating a lipless mouth. His eyes were glowing sapphires, yet only in their whites. His irises were a dark green. Mine were a hazel color but I realized we were related by blood. Somehow he had shared blood with Ryan before the destruction of his town. This had enabled him to survive.

"We are brothers you and I. We have both tasted the madman's blood and suffered because of it. I am Poul Ichabod. Who are you, brother?" I whispered, letting my vocal chords and larynx vibrate in the still air.

"I was Bishop Walsh of the Jeziah stake," he answered in a voice filled with gravel and sludge. Gazing at his malformed, melted hands, he said, "I don't know who I am anymore."

`"I will call you the Black Bishop."

"The Black Bishop." he echoed, so softly I could barely hear him. His teeth, pure white and perfect flashed in his black face and blackened mouth. "That will do nicely."

Home · Ryan's Psalm
Chapter 1 · Chapter 2 · Chapter 3· Chapter 4· Chapter 5· Chapter 6·
Chapter 7· Chapter 8· Chapter 9· Chapter 10 · Chapter 11 · Chapter 12 · Chapter 13· Chapter 14· Chapter 15· Chapter 16·
Chapter 17· Chapter 19· Chapter 20 · Chapter 21 · Chapter 22 · Chapter 23· Chapter24· Chapter25· Chapter 26·
Chapter 27· Chapter 28· Chapter 29


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