by C. Joy
Teresa stumbled, the underbrush grasping her feet as she plunged towards the shore. The sound of breaking waves roared nearby. The island was caught in the last rays of daylight, and she quietly begged the sun to have mercy for a few minutes longer. A lone howl made her cast a fearful glance behind her. They were already looking.
Jerkily, she clambered over the slippery, moss covered rocks. Surviving on worms, beetles and little sleep made her muscles scream. Her breath was uneven, coming in short gasps and grunts. The sharp rocks cut her hands, but she ignored the pain, terror pressing her on. A misstep sent her sliding down a large boulder, leaving a crimson trail along the jagged surface and sea green moss. She screamed in frustration, climbing back up. The darkening night air filled with howls and moans, making her skin prickle. The last place she had found solace still lay a hundred yards away.
The yacht lay sideways in a shallow pool. It drifted lifeless, each wave mocking its inability to free itself. Finally, last of the sun disappeared, leaving her to blindly stumble across the uneven rocks. The air was thick, borderline electric. A distant rumble of thunder joined a brilliant burst of lightning.
A storm was coming. Even the stars had hid from the horrors to come.
He mentioned the island on their first date. His story fascinated her, but so had his bright blue eyes. The horrifying tale of an insane asylum on a deserted island, home to the worst and most terrifying , the blight of society. Church leaders and psychiatrist argued between mental illness or demonic possession, he scoffed. Fearing the latter, the Lady Sovereign of the Ursuline Convent was consulted. Soon, fourteen seasoned nuns arrived to manage and care for the asylum.
In theory, it was perfect. The ultimate humanitarians caring for the morally and mentally deranged. They were horribly wrong. Indiscernible scrawls and terrifying images covered every wall and ceiling. Notes were found, detailing futile exorcisms, patients vomiting nails, blood running down the walls, and concerns of a heavy presence of evil.
She had listened, scared and enthralled. A small graveyard bordered the convent and asylum, tombstones dated older than both. Years after they closed the asylum, it was there that they’d found the nuns bodies. Chained, nailed, and burned, they were found in various, ritualistic forms of torment, evidence of the evil residing within.
Three weeks ago. Their third date. Out of the blue, he’d suggested a quick sail. Once on the water, he asked if she wanted to see the island. She should have said no.
The sky lit with a deafening peal of thunder. In that brief second, glimpsing an incoming swell, she noticed the waves increasing size and intensity. Panic kicked her sleep deprived brain. Desperately, her round eyes picked a path to the yacht. Glancing behind her, she realized it was impossible to go back as the rocks had been swallowed by the growing waves. And the yacht was dancing in a deepening pool, threatened to break free. She could see a sliver of grass just beyond the yacht. Ribbons of a sand dune crest connecting the rocky shore and the island. The island she was running from.
The sky bellowed with another flash of lightning. In that second, everything changed. A wail escaped her, hope splintering around her. It was the flash of the emblem on the broken hull that caused her to cry out. She had hoped, prayed that he’d escaped. And would return to rescue her. That this was a different yacht she’d stumbled on three long days ago. Waves crashed around her, breaking her trance as the sinking realization overcame her. She would never leave this island. Sobbing, she debated letting go, letting the sea claim her.
But she didn’t.
Tired, weak, shoeless, with her shredded shirt and shorts barely covering the countless bloodied crosses she had cut onto her skin, she climbed past the broken yacht toward the grass and sand. Teresa de Meo, a forbidden descendant of Father Gabrielle de Meo, stood and faced the island of Evil.
Howling wind and sharp needles of rain began to sting her cheeks. Black, wet tendrils of hair whipped her face. Taking a long ragged breath, she began to grasp that this night had been set in motion an eternity before. Destiny had patiently waited, until a man with bright blue eyes and a story like a sirens song lulled her here. Her great-great-grandfather, Father de Meo was a powerful, righteous man. His blood, forged centuries before, was destined to war against the evil Blackness throughout the ages. This blood of triumph and loss mingled with the insatiable need for eternal vengeance, carried for centuries, now stirred within her.
The hair on the back of her neck rose in response to the howls and moans closing in. Her fingers, wet with blood, curled around the silver crucifix in her pocket. One night, as she scoured the island for relief from the night terrors, she had found the crucifix clutched in the hand of a nuns corpse, still chained upside down on the cemetery gate.
She’d been here three weeks. Twenty one days. She had lost four days of memory, and almost her mind to the taunting voices in the asylum. She’d fled to the abandoned convent seeking refuge. Instead, fourteen angry souls tormented her, their work interrupted and unfinished. She spent nights running and hiding in crags, holes and trees, caught in an ageless war between the righteous dead and spirits of darkness, a war no mortal could survive. She knew victory wasn’t promised, but neither was defeat. Gingerly, she made her way up the path.
He was waiting at the gate. She clasped her trembling hands, the crucifix tightly hid within. Small sobs of fear threatened to overtake her.
“Good Evening, Teresa. We’ve been waiting for you,” he whispered, his blue eyes dancing.