( xv )
Within moments all the agents were on their way to the parish. Red and the other Zodiac agents ran as fast as they could but Leila sprinted towards the church with inhuman speed, claws brandished on both of her sides. She ran into the church door and opened her eyes wide to take in the situation visually. Two agents were dead and completely dismembered. She stiffened her hands and her claws were ready to strike. Her footsteps inside the parish hall echoed through the walls and the dome on her top. Blood was flowing down the aisle like a river in monsoon. She noticed that one of the agents’ had his chest pierced through-and-through by something large. Broken fragments of his ribcage were poking out of the cavity and the bright light emitted by his gun’s flashlight cast a macabre shadow on the wall.
Red and the rest of the Zodiacs converged and entered the church. Red got behind Leila with his gun drawn. “Any word from the sniper?” She asked.
“No reply.” Red whispered.
“Then let’s assume the worst.” She said while crossing the nave of the church and approaching its alter.
All of a sudden, they heard the pitter-patter of small feet bouncing across the church walls. The babbling of a baby echoed through the chamber until it trailed away. “Whatever you see, If it isn’t one of us. You shoot.” Red commanded while holding his gun tightly. “You hesitate, you die. As simple as that.” He then turned to Leila: “I stationed some men downstairs. I need to go check on them.” He pointed his fingers to some of the Zodiacs and then pointed himself, and others he designated them to Leila. “Spread out and stay alert.” Leila nodded in approval.
The team split up. Half of the zodiacs dispersed on the floor and the other half followed Red. The team took the stairs to go down into the dark basement. The deeper they ventured the stronger the stench of faeces, fresh blood, and gunpowder became. Red could hear the rapid breathing of his agents, as their fear of the unknown kept rising. The agents had set up a table with all their equipment, but they are now in disarray. They discovered their teammates dismembered and bloody remains. Some of them voided their bowel right after they released their last breath. One of the unlucky ones wiggled painfully in front of Red and his team right before passing away, with a twisted, frightened expression on his face. Even a seasoned professional like Red was shaken to his core. A strange smell resembling fresh soil, formaldehyde and the omnipresent stench of death gave horror a new meaning.
A scream coming from upstairs, followed by the sound of shots fired broke them out of their daze. Red and his team rushed to see what’s happening upstairs. The moment he reached the nave, he saw Leila’s agents scattered all over the place. Leila was writhing in agony on the isle, lying down, clasping her wound on her thigh. Something bit off a large chunk of flesh and she was bleeding profusely. The wooden pews on which her lethal blow landed left either deep claw marks, or they were shattered. She was fast. But whatever attacked her was much, much faster. The foul, pungent stench of her dark, thick blood filled up the hall. But that was the least of anyone’s concern, as a small pale object blurred past them, landed on one of the pews, and leapt upwards. Red and the rest of the Zodiacs started showering the parish dome with bullets, trying to hit the object but kept missing. It kept leaping and crawling incredibly fast from the dome to the ceiling. Leila passed out from blood loss.
They kept moving to get an adequate sight of their target but they had lost it. Red and his Zodiacs kept moving slowly, with their fingers steady on the trigger, with their breath shaking in fear, but hands steady on their guns. They kept sweeping the hall with the sight of their guns. The flashlights attached to the barrel extensions illuminated the insides of the old parish, but their target remained invisible. Once again, the sound of the pitter-patter and babbling of a baby, as if playing with its toys, echoed across the hall, amplified by the oval shape of the dome. A sound that’s meant to evoke feelings of love and affection now evoked a feeling of confusing fear.
Red heard a loud cracking of bones. He turned and saw something pale dirt past him with blood and entrails on its path. One of the Zodiacs got pierced from back to front and immediately collapsed. The two remaining Zodiacs put their rifle on automatic and started firing. The thing kept zigzagging through the isle as Red and the agents kept firing. Pieces of wood flew out and gunpowder smell started to dominate the smell of formaldehyde. The creature was hit and slowed down. They approached the alter slowly and finally saw what they were shooting at. An abnormally pale baby with small claws made cracking noises as it kept climbing on the large crucifix installed on the apse. The two Zodiacs were shaking in fear as the baby, while its back towards its attacker, slowly twisted its head towards them. The sound of its neck cracking made their heart jump out of their chest. The creature glared at them with its red, glowing eyes. Its fangs protruded out of its mouth as it smiled and the babbling noise of a baby made their belly cramp. One of the Zodiacs, raised catholic, hesitated to shoot at the creature on the crucifix, but Red and the other Zodiac had no qualms, not about survival.
The automatic firing of the rifle decimated the crucifix and the alter altogether. But the creature disappeared. One of the Zodiacs tried to run away. He was running towards the entrance but stopped midway. He turned towards Red and his companion to reveal the creature lodging its fang on his face. He fell to his knees, trying to remove the creature but the Red’s companion fired his rounds. The creature vaulted and the steady stream of bullets removed the zodiac’s head from his body. The creature leapt past the Red and bit off a large chunk of the sole surviving Zodiac’s thigh. He collapsed in pain. The creature bit off the femoral artery and he will die within minutes. Red grew desperate started shooting until he could hear only the clicks of an empty magazine. The creature dropped from the ceiling, landed on the floor, making a dense, drumming noise when its claws hit the cold, stone floor. Red tried to back away but tripped on wet blood. He kept crawling backwards. Blood has left his face from fear as he witnessed the creature slowly advancing with a smile, fangs protruding out of its gums. It jumped and landed on his chest. The heavy stench of formaldehyde almost made him faint as the creature grotesquely opened its mouth to engulf his head, making a disturbing cooing noise. This was it for Red.
All of a sudden a hand grabbed the creature by its head. It tried to squirm and wail to get free, but it was useless. As the clawed hand of Red’s saviour dug deeper inside the creature’s head, it started to writhe recklessly, until the hand smashed the head to bits. Slimy and viscous brain matter escaped from the clasp of her hand. It was Leila. She saved Red from certain death with the last bit of strength she had left, before she passed out again from exhaustion and blood loss. Red was lying on the floor, hyperventilating, trying to process what just happened. He reached for his phone with his trembling hands.
“Capricorn! Libra! Call Green for extraction! Now! Come fast… please.” His hand gave up. He couldn’t hold his phone anymore. But the surviving Zodiac agents understood what they needed to do. Red closed his eyes out of exhaustion. His mind and body could only take so much.