Ruby drove to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Maryville for Saturday evening mass. After making a few wrong turns, the tall bell tower guided her to the stone parish church. Even though the old monastery occupied the highest spot on the island, this church maintained a prominent location in Maryville. It also did not appear to be as old as Castle Moldovan and must have been built at a later time.
“Wow, there are lots of people here for such a small town,” Ruby said, driving around the block trying to find a place to park, hoping she would not be late.
Finally, she found a spot, two blocks away, next to a picturesque playground overlooking Lake Michigan. She would have to parallel park, but there were no other parking spaces nearby. When she finally wrangled her car between two others, she got out and walked down the sidewalk toward the church where the last of the parishioners were entering as the bells rang in the campanile.
She walked up the steps and into the main entrance—surrounded with statues and reliefs of biblical scenes— and walked into the narthex. Then passing through the narthex doors, she dipped her fingers in a font of holy water, blessed herself, and sat at the end of the last pew on the far left aisle where she genuflected before squeezing into what appeared to be the last seat in the place. Why were so many people here? It was not Christmas or Easter or any other holy day, at least as far as she knew. Nonetheless, the church was packed—and it was exceptionally quiet. Unusually quiet. Aside from an occasional coo of a baby, people were either kneeling or sitting gravely still.
An hour had passed and Mass was over. Many people knelt in prayer while others solemnly walked out of the church, dipping fingers into the holy water once more. This was customary practice, but there was something that seemed odd. The congregation seemed almost afraid to walk outside of the church—out of the sacred place—as if afraid of the setting sun.
As Ruby got closer to her car, she noticed—what appeared to be—goth teenagers in the park. However, they were different and older. Their clothing seemed to be more Victorian—more from another time and looked expensive. Then she realized she was staring at them when they began staring back and one of the men began walking toward her.
Oh, no, he wants to talk to me, she thought, still a distance from her car. To her surprise, people began rushing to their vehicles and driving off in haste. Were they afraid of these people?
The man walked to the sidewalk and stood in front of her. He was handsome and debonair as he stood there, in her path, smiling. Ruby stopped and looked at his face. He was older than he seemed to be from a distance, possibly her age or even older, but with a body that seemed trapped in its youth. His pale skin, fine lines around his dark eyes, and shoulder length black hair all clashed with each other. It was as though he had some wrinkles like a middle-aged man, hair of a twenty-something, clothes of someone from a different time, and pale skin of . . . someone close to death.
“Do I know you?” Ruby said, standing ten feet from him.
“Maybe,” he said, with an accent she did not recognize. Possibly something from Europe, she thought. Then he began taking slow, deliberate steps toward her until he stood within arm’s length from her. “You look just like you . . .”
Ruby was mesmerized. She felt drawn to him as if they were opposite poles of a magnet. She studied him, trying to place him and wondering if she just may know him, but she knew she did not.
“Who do I look like?” Ruby needed to know.
He was about to speak when one of the women came up to them. Ruby glanced at her—long straight black hair, bright red lipstick, and the same white skin—until her eyes were drawn back to meet his.
“Draven,” the woman said, as she extended a dainty lily white hand. “It is time for us to go.”
He bowed his head to Ruby, and then said, “Until we meet again.”
Ruby watched as he and the woman walked away, joining the other four. Then, without looking back at her, they all began walking toward the back of the park, toward the woods.
Then, realizing she was still standing on the sidewalk, she took the keys from her purse, got into the car, and drove onto the now deserted road. She was trembling so badly that it was difficult for her to hold the steering wheel. I have to find Ethel, she said aloud.
Ruby drove toward downtown, to where she had seen the Feathered Peacock, hoping she would not see those strange people again. The streetlights were lit as twilight fell upon the village. She pulled behind the store, parked, and sat there a moment. Then she got out and walked down the alley to the front entrance.
A bell tinkled when she opened the door and stepped inside the small shop. Immediately she felt relieved as the stress—or whatever it was—began to lesson. There was a sweet smell of incense in the warm air. It made her feel that the Feathered Peacock was a place of refuge, and that was exactly what she needed after meeting Draven.
On the walls were various crucifixes, zombie posters, and shelves of books. Glass cases held various religious medals, crystals, and jewelry. There were pendulums, herbs, and wands. Ruby had never been in a store quite like this one.
She walked up to the counter where a woman, dressed in the same gypsy attire as Ethel, was busy sorting through prayer cards before she looked up. “May I help you?”
“My name’s Ruby. I was wondering if Ethel Dory was staying here.”
“She’s staying in an apartment upstairs. I’ll ring her and make sure she’s there and is accepting guests.”
Ruby waited while the woman—with the name Fran etched in a nametag—spoke gleefully to the person on the other end.
“Ethel said she’d be delighted to see you,” Fran said, pointing to a staircase on Ruby’s right. “She’s on the next floor up; apartment 2C.”
Ruby walked to the stairs and up the narrow staircase. The treads creaked with each step up; it must be as old as the two women inside it. When she reached the top, she saw an open door in the hallway and 2C tacked on a placard above it.
Then Ethel appeared. “Come in, my dear. I wasn’t expecting to see you so soon. How are things going?”
Ruby went inside the cozy apartment. Not wanting to trouble Ethel with what she had just encountered, so soon, she said, “Every thing’s fine.”
Ethel looked at Ruby, sighed, and walked to the end table beside the couch where she kept the wood-tip cigars. She held one up with her gnarled, arthritic fingers. “Do you mind?”
“No,” Ruby said, looking around the room.
Ethel lit it, puffed, and then said, “Every thing’s not fine, what’s going on? You know you might as well spill the beans because I know something is troubling you.”
“Well,” Ruby said, walking to the small round table where Ethel was pulling out a chair for her sit in. “After Mass, just moments ago, I saw one of those goth people you were telling me about, but I don’t think they’re the goth’s we typically see. They’re something else.”
Ethel sat across from Ruby. “Where and what happened.”
Ruby explained the scene, and then said, “His name was Draven.”
Ethel choked on the smoke in her throat. She got up, went into the bathroom, and returned moments later, looking shakier than usual. “It’s already begun.”
“I wish you had done what I said and never stepped foot on this island.”