In the belly of the church: An introduction of Orrin

by Lorena Christine

“Arthur is acting strange lately” or “what happened to Arthur?” seems to be the talk in the neighborhood. And they aren’t wrong to wonder.

Truly, I can feel it crawling inside and out of me. Day by day, something hasn’t been right. Something was beclouding my serenity.

First, it started with the thoughts. They were becoming more foreign, distorted, warped, and infected with sin with every traveling moment. Subconscious scripts telling me to steal from the neighbor’s yard, to pillage, to scare the village children. Unspeakable actions. Commands so strong in nature that it made me doubt how real they were. I fear these thoughts. I want to rip them out of my skull, yet the fear appears to turn into acceptance and determination. A sign that my heart was rotting.

Then, it was the sense of a silent poison seizing my hearth. The place I called my dwelling was turning colorless. Lately, impenetrable shadows would possess and swallow whatever light may roam. Moonlight’s arrowed arms scoring through the gaps between my panels would be silenced, out of reach. Not even a candlelight could keep up with the somberness anymore.

Speaking to Ghash is my answer. I have no other option than to pray. To pray with the same devotion as I always had.

The guilt cast by my thoughts is chasing me out of my own house. My only haven is the Church.

I take off, leaving behind my village shack and following the wise tracks to the mean hovering old part of the city. Meandering through the hooded ways in the gray city, I feel my vision blurring, overwhelmed by the smog, the chatter resonating within the narrowness, and the oppressive sellers and carriages obstructing my path. I clench my jaw, as my desperation to get to Church strengthens. Peace is waiting for me. Just a few more steps forward and I would be among the pious village people.

Gladfully, I leave behind the tumultuous core of the city, and now, beyond me, surrounding me is the blooming field. The fragrant whiff of the fertile flowers hugging my senses reminds me of that day. The Blessing of Flowers. Even a blind person could recognize this place by following that floral enchantment alone.
I watch the graveyard in the distance and the recreational grounds on the other side of it, contemplating the contrast that the view offers. No wonder this was my favorite place.

“Ghash has left.” I hear an old man deliver the unwanted news as he passes me by.

And just like that, the thoughts are back. A strong desire hatches in my chest at the same time as a thought’s voice increases in volume. The image in my head is of following the old man and twisting his neck between the grip of my palms.

But it isn’t just an image. I am confronting a desire to act. A repulsive action birthed among the perverse infection inside of me. My body is pulling me away from my original destination, and I am close to altering my course. My feet are betraying my true intentions. This couldn’t be…

Suddenly, I try my best to silence the barking concept in my mind. I start running as fast as I can toward the Church. I want to scream and growl at the surrounding wind, but I am only capable of panting.

Behind me, I leave an ephemeral trail of trampled flowers, experiencing their quick death before they are replaced by their mysterious regenerating descendants. The unexplainable blessing.

Amid my sprinting momentum, my eyes seem to fixate on the bell of the Church. Something deep within it is calling me, and what’s more, I have a vague awareness that my heart is responding to it. The closer I get to its sacred doors, the more intense I can feel my heart’s blood pumping, like a catalyzing tonic, awakening and spurring me onwards. I can almost hear the rhythmic gurgling stomp behind my ears.

I find myself compressed within a vicious orchestra of sounds, compounded by my internal and external environment, dizzying as it is, but a distraction from my mind’s corruption.

My sense of rush is undeterred, and like a speeding dart, I shoot through the outer gates of the Church, an instance resembling the entrance to a retreat above the clouds.

Yet, inside the Church, I feel no relief. Instead, the silence I sense is pestering, disturbing, almost deafening. Unexpectedly, I feel intimidated by the rayless heights supported by the atrium’s main chamber. Then, intimidation fades into feeling threatened by the dancing flames of the floating and pillar candles crowning the enclosure.

I feel myself collapsing under the force of fear. It is still following me.

And solitude only serves to inflame the sound of the thoughts. Thoughts so loud, I believe they are bouncing off the Church walls.

I need to hide, to find a solution that could only be found here. So I run. I continue running to parts unknown, to the back of the church, until I discern a glistening low-slung aperture in a discreet right corner. Some sort of trapdoor I had not seen before. And just like earlier, my heartbeat hastens, and only every time I set my eyes on the trapdoor. My heart is responding extravagantly again, in the same way it did when I focused on the Church bell moments prior.

Somehow, my heart feels safe in knowing that I am taking the direction of the trapdoor.

I step through the trapdoor into a cave-like space, and somehow, a new lease of life is taunting me. A tingling antidote to the roaring thoughts. Somewhere distant it lies.

In this window-less dimly lit backroom filled with abandoned burlap sacks, I am led by an ungenerous draft, like a weak breath of wet spring, despite the pervasive weight of mold and humid air all around. Everything is closing in around me. Desperately, my willpower takes me to find an escape, ransacking and upturning what limited my space and freedom. Until I spot it.

Rubble, covering an open cellar door, where the coolness was originating from. Inconspicuous, but calling me all the same.

I descend the steps it offers, only to find the cave-like quality to take on protagonism.

The lower I go, the sooner I discover I am able to walk through what I notice are damp cave tunnels, completely immersed in darkness. Unable to rely on my sight, I carry on following my heart to guide me through the splitting junctions, as though these were Earth’s own arterial passageways. And it is working. Where it is leading me, I don’t know.

I must have been a long distance below the Church, uncharted yet secretly known and used by somebody. Who knows about this?

I think I am alone.

Or not.

As I reach flat ground, out of nothingness, a hair-raising wheeze appears. A feral, brute-like presence nearby. Undetermined, but aware of my intrusion.
“Arthur. Oh, Arthur.” A manly roar emanating from deeper beyond the cave interrupts the wheezing. It is a voice too deep to belong to an organic man. “I have been waiting for you.”

He knows my name. I don’t know what to say, but I am trembling.

“Thank you for your prayers, my humble one. You have served me greatly.” He vociferates before I hear him approaching with a clopping sound.

“Who… who are you?” I manage to say, still trembling.

Behind a hand-clasped lit-up candlestick, I notice that the man behind the rumbling voice is a beastly muscular figure, two times the size of me. A hybrid of an unknown kind. Part-human, part-beast, displaying a mutated anatomy. My attention picks up on his facelessness, the matte hair under a moose-like skull, his elongated sharp claws, and hairy hooves. The creature is also covered in primitive tribal cloths, tattoos, and bands.

“Orrin is my name. The one that you and thousands more have been worshiping all this time.” He confesses in between huffing through his skull.

I stare in fascinated horror, frozen and confused, but I stay quiet, waiting to hear more.

He maniacally laughs. “It is quite the spectacle, to watch you all believe that you’ve been blessed by a higher power.”

“Blessed?” I question, now that the topic is becoming familiar.

“You imbecile!” He reprimands before intensifying his baritone laughter. Then, he carries on speaking.

“The Blessing of Flowers, hm? Really, the foolish belief that some entity gifted you all with these seedless, ever-regenerating flowers as a sign that you’re all suddenly blessed with health and beauty? I applaud the storytelling, truly. You villagers are creative.” He mocks while crossing his brawny arms.

Possessed by the offense, I tensely bark at him, clenching my fist.

“You can’t say that! You don’t know anything about The Blessing of Flowers. We have never seen your kind in the village. You’re just a prisoner in a subterranean cave!”

Orrin roars at me in retaliation, as the flame on the candle starts to burn even more violently. Before he speaks, a gust of hot air pushes through from somewhere deep behind.

“Without me, there would be none of that lie that is the Blessing of Flowers. Nobody is here to grace your filthy world with flowers. Mother nature is merely fighting against my existence and the corruption I deliver. You see, Arthur, I am the entity that you have been worshiping all this time. My birth and incarnation right under this very Church, has materialized the collective illusion. It was meant to be, as foretold by the prophecy.”

I nod in denial as a tear seeps through, undecided whether to believe his words or not.

He continues.

“I have corrupted your heart long ago, Arthur. How else could you have found your way to me? Think about it. Your torment and suffering led you here. Your final fate is here, to be my feast.” Orrin huffs.

It all clicks into place. My thoughts… my heart. Is this the bitter truth I am unwilling to accept?

“You feeble villagers and your prayers make me stronger. I will soon consume enough to resurrect the dead.” The roar vibrates.

“No! That will never happen. Ghash would never let that happen!” I cry.

“It is too late for Ghash to come and save you now, villager!” he threatens.

Orrin cackles, before he inadvertently raises his arm. Within the duration of a blink, the last I see is his menacing claws curving their trajectory and racing toward me at falcon speed.