You decide you’re better off against the flying demon. You turn around for one last peek down the hall and see a large black hand with elongated fingers snake out from the corner. Its nails are bone-white razors. They dig into the wall, drawing deep crevices into the plaster. A deep voice rumbles over you, a mixture of a growl and a low hum. The ancient words cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand on end.
You slam the door shut. Using the paintbrush in your pocket, you sketch the protection symbol on the door. Then you drop to your knees and mash your paintbrush into the carpet, trying to obscure the pentagram. You target the points of the star but can only blot out half before running out of paint.
The sounds of movement are getting louder and the floor vibrates. The primeval voices now come from both directions. You think they’re calling to each other.
You grab the hammer from your belt and shove the paint can off to the side. As you turn to stand, a glimmer of gold catches your eye. You stop and look. Nailed to the wall is a massive, sturdy metal frame with plywood for shelves and backing. The metallic glimmer you saw was a metal fragment jammed behind the plywood. You slip the claw of your hammer under the side of the frame. The nails struggle a little, but you’re able to separate the frame from the wall.
The small metal chunk was probably part of a decorative sculpture. It’s ornately painted in gold and blue. One end is jagged as if it were snapped off. As you reach for it, you catch a glimpse of something large on the wall. It looks like a wood panel. You pull harder on the shelving.
It’s a door.
The footsteps are right outside the room now. The floor shakes and you hear a low, raspy sound, something you can only guess is a victory cry.
You hustle to your feet. You don’t have a spare second to stash the metal fragment in a pocket. You hold it in your free hand as you rip into the shelves with the claw. Fueled by adrenaline, you pull one side of the shelving loose, just enough for you to squeeze behind.
Out of the corner of your eye, you see the far door open. A dark figure towers in the doorway. It stoops to get through.
You slide behind the shelves. Your clothes catch on the nails and you scrape your hand as you smack the metal fragment down on the lever-style door handle. The door swings open freely and you slide through to freedom.
As you pull your hammer through the doorway into the next room, a hot, steel grip clamps down on your wrist and jerks you backward. You scream as you’re slammed against the door frame. A deep voice rumbles above you, close to your ear.
You whirl around. Looming over you is a tall humanoid creature, bent at the knees so it can fit in the room. Pale. Featureless. Its eyes are large, lidless black spheres. Streaks of pink and green swirl around in its eyes like pools of dirty oil. The demon’s wings fill the room behind it, black like the emptiness of space.
You thrash and jerk back as hard as you can, but you can’t get loose. The creature is making sure to stay clear of the hammer and its swinging symbol. Panicked, you slam the metal fragment down on the demon’s wrist. Smoke wafts from its skin on contact and you hear a sizzling sound like an acid burn. The creature screams. Its wings ripple. You scream, too, and slam the fragment down again. And again. The demon releases your wrist. You fling yourself backward and stumble over broken pieces of wooden furniture and bunched carpet. You get up and run.
You’re in the expansive, desolated sanctuary of a church. Stained glass murals stretch high above. The faces of the Saints, the Virgin, and the Christ Child are shattered and gone. Religious symbols are missing, probably taken when the remnants of the human race went underground.
You realize the room you just escaped from had once displayed the church’s holy emblems and its reliquary. The fragment must have been part of the reliquary. It’s still drawing holy energy from the relic it once contained, so the relic must be near. If you’re going to survive, you must find it.
You burst through the doors on the opposite side of the side of the sanctuary. Ahead, the hallway splits into a T. A sign indicates left for the priest’s quarters and right for the church library.
You hear a slam behind you. The demon has torn down the shelving. A low growl echoes off the walls. You tighten your grip on the hammer and run.
What do you do?
A: Search for the relic in the priest’s quarters
B: Search for the relic in the library
Vote in the comments or on Twitter. If voting via Twitter, be sure to add #therelic so I don’t miss it! Voting ends Tuesday night. The highest vote will be the next step in the story, posted on Fridays.
Image courtesy of Daniel Buxton, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
UPDATE: The voting is now closed. The priest’s quarters made an exciting resurgence and overcame the library. The next step in the story will be posted Friday. Many thanks for everyone’s participation!