By Ray McHallem 2018
It all happened on the day the gods came. Everyone in Thornhill had a story of where they were and what they were doing when it happened. Stephen’s just happened to be a bit more interesting.
Stephen’s father owned Thornhill House, a huge manor, sitting on the edge of town. It was surrounded on every side by many acres of land, most of them forest.
In an act of teenage defiance, Stephen had run from his house and into the woods, where he got promptly lost. He wandered, still fuming from and confrontation with his father, when he saw movement just a little further into the woods.
He hid behind a tree and watched a group of hooded figures in lavender robes trapeze lazily through the woods.
They were humming some kind of mantra that made the hair on the back of Stephen’s neck stand up. He followed as closely as he could, not noticing that he was being led further and further from his home.
The mysterious group reached the edge of a river and stopped, but Stephen didn’t, tripping over a root and landing in a heap in front of one of the strangers.
The man, or at least Stephen assumed it was a man, looked down at the blonde-haired boy lying at his feet and smiled.
Before Stephen could even shout he was grabbed and dragged to his feet, hand over his mouth.
He was pulled forward to the front of the line, where someone in a plum robe was leading the procession. One of the cultists - for Stephen was sure that was what they were – whispered something in the leader’s ear and the leader smiled under her hood.
Stephen was tied down at the edge of the river and the cultists began to prepare for some kind of ritual.
“Who are you?” asked Stephen to the woman in the plum hood. She smiled, a cruel smile, her dark lipstick gave it the appearance of a gash in her face. “We are the Church of the Third Eye.” She drew back her hood and Stephen had to still a scream.
Her eyelids had been stitched shit, black thread pierced her pale face and dried blood speckled around her eyes.
“What did you do!” shouted Stephen.
“I’ve achieved true sight,” she said, the lazy smile on her face only making her creepier.
“Are you going to do that to me?” asked Stephen, worriedly.
The leader laughed. “Of course not, dear. That privilege is reserved for members of the Church.” She took an ornate dagger from her robe. “Your blood line is pure Stephen Thornhill. You are to become a vessel for the Eyeless.”
“Are you going to remove my eyes?”
The leader laughed. “Eventually.”
A cultist jogged over to them and whispered something in the leader’s ear.
Her face fell from a contented smile to and angry scowl. She turned back to Stephen.
“Looks like we’ll have to start earlier than expected.”
She raised the knife and dragged it from just above his eyebrow, down across his closed eyelid and down before lifting the knife.
The would was light but bled and hurt, but Stephen stopped concentrating on it when the leader began carving into the other eye.
Then she stopped.
Stephen head a commotion, panicked voices, screaming and he felt a warmth hand on his eyes. The warmth grew to a gentle burning and eventually Stephen opened his eyes, blinking against the light. Someone was leaning over him. Stephen had assumed the light was coming from the sun, but now he saw that the source was from whoever was bending over him. The ropes on his wrist were lifted off and he was pulled to standing. He stood face to face with Phoebus Apollo, in all his shining glory. Without a word, Phoebus turned and faded into nothing, leaving Stephen to find his way home, newly scarred.