You waste no time looking for the relic. You slip the hammer into your belt and place the reliquary fragment in the pocket with the 9mm clip, freeing your hands to search.
By now your eyes have adjusted to the dimness of the room but you still need more light to look around. You climb over a toppled dresser to get to the old, stained curtains hanging over the window. As you jerk down on the fabric, the screws grate against the drywall. The curtain rod clangs loudly as it hits the floor. The curtains fall in a heap and light floods the room.
You decide to skip the couch and the smaller debris because they’ve obviously been picked through. In the center of the room a torn mattress is resting at an angle against the couch. You flip the mattress over but see nothing resembling the reliquary fragment. You head to the wall where most of the furniture has been shoved. You perform a cursory, panicked inspection of a long bureau, four bookshelves, and a battered entertainment center. Nothing.
Opposite the window, an elaborate wooden credenza has been pushed against the wall. The doors are broken off and its shelves are empty. As you pull the unit away from the wall, one of the feet snaps off and the corner crashes to the floor. Amidst the noise, you hear a faint, metallic clink. You walk around the credenza again, inspecting it carefully, but see no metal parts. You drop to your hands and knees to look underneath the raised corner.
Your eye catches a metallic flash of gold and blue.
You lay flat on your stomach and stretch your arm toward it. Your fingers brush something cold and hard affixed to the wood. Two of your fingers catch a rough edge. You have the reliquary.
As you struggle to pull it loose, you notice the room is growing darker. A shadow slides over you and stretches until it covers the wall.
A hand clamps down on your ankle and jerks you back. You scream. Your fingers dig into the reliquary, straining to retain your grip. You feel the metal of the reliquary bend and the edge digs into your fingers, slicing your skin open. Your free hand flails for a better hold. A deep, inhuman scream fills the room. Your stomach wrenches.
A second jerk, harder. Every muscle in your body tenses, as if afraid your leg will be torn from its socket. The reliquary bends and you feel it come free. You scream as you slide backward.
You are brought to a stop and you twist around awkwardly, trying to see. You’re now holding the reliquary, a small blue and gold box with a jeweled cross set in the lid. There’s a hole in one side that resembles the fragment. The demon towers above you. Its extended wings fill up the room, blocking out the light. A long black robe drapes from its neck to the floor, the hem obscured by otherworldly mist. In the dark, the demon reaches for you.
You swing the reliquary. The metal slams against the demon’s arm and you hear a loud sizzle. The reliquary glows faintly upon contact. The demon screams and releases your leg. You try to scramble away backwards but slam your head on the credenza. You see stars. Panicked, you swing the reliquary blindly. Something rattles around inside the box.
The demon grabs the front of your jacket and hauls you to your feet in a single heave. You swing the reliquary and drag the metal across its chest. The robe burns and peels back, the edges of the leathery cloth sticking to gray, blistered skin. Heavy smoke wafts from the wound.
The demon lifts you off your feet, dangling you in the air, and violently shakes you. Your head bobs erratically on your shoulders. The demon’s hand swipes at you again. You feel razors slice into your side, shredding your armor and skin. You thrash and kick and shout incoherently. A fist slams into the side of your head, snapping it back. The scent of burnt flesh fills your nostrils and the smoke is now so thick that your eyes water. You can no longer see the demon’s face.
The demon starts to chant.
A pinpoint of yellowy-white light in the smoke catches your eye. The light trails in a circular pattern, drawing a symbol. The light comes a little closer to you and its canvas becomes clear. The symbol is on the demon’s palm. You don’t recognize it but it makes your skin crawl.
You don’t know what the demon is trying to do and you don’t care. You kick it in the gut. You grab the hammer with your free hand and swing both arms erratically. The claw of your hammer snags one of the grayed patches, ripping a deep gash in the demon’s torso.
It screams and drops you. You land hard on your back, nearly knocking the breath from your lungs. You swing the reliquary at the demon’s legs and smash the metal against a shin. It growls and takes a step to the side, but it doesn’t retreat. Its good leg swings hard at your chest. Its bare leathery foot smashes into your armor and sends you flying. You slam into the far wall, knocking the reliquary and the hammer from your hands. You watch the reliquary clatter away into the right corner. A small, yellowed bone slips from a hole in the metal.
A Class One relic. The physical remains of a martyred saint.
You attempt to get up but the room spins and you collapse back to the floor. Your nose is gushing blood. You feel broken ribs and your head is light. You know you’re not okay.
You roll onto your stomach and carefully climb to your hands and knees. As you do, a familiar object in the left corner of the room grabs your attention.
It’s a 9mm Beretta. The clip in your pocket would give you 15 shots.
The demon gets down on all fours as if attempting to protect its damaged, vulnerable areas. Smoke pours from its body and you can see black fluid dripping from its chest to the floor. If you don’t finish the demon off, it will finish you.
What do you do?
A: Go for the gun.
B: Go for the relic.
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 every Friday.
Image courtesy of Dan Tantrum.
UPDATE: Voting is now closed. This Friday, you will reach for the relic and hope it saves you. Thanks to all who participated!