I went to the kitchen and poured myself a drink. I gulped it down without blinking and then refilled the glass. I closed my eyes and steadied myself. I knew that whatever was coming wouldn’t be good. The two tapes I had already seen foretold horrors I wasn’t sure I could handle. Horrors that involved Patricia, my missing wife.
I made my way back to the box of tapes. I stared down at them. I drank half the liquor from the tumbler and then picked up the cassette labeled: #3 Baptism.
I pushed it into the VCR and sank back onto the couch. My head was beginning to ache. The tapes and their foreboding, graphic nature disturbed me to the core. Because I knew Patricia hid behind one of these movies.
It didn’t take long to find her.
The third tape began.
A bouncing image from inside the cab of a car. The camera panning the landscape to reveal acres of dark, moonlit grassland. Gravel crunching beneath the tires . Muffled sounds from inside the car. The lens remains trained on the blurring terrain. A voice then. Quiet. Commanding.
“There’s the cow.”
The image cuts to an entirely different scene.
Five robed and hooded figures standing around a cow in the middle of a field. The cow has a black bag tied over its head. The camera swings slowly so as to catch each of the cloaked figures encircling it. Then, it dips to reveal a woman lying beneath the cow. She is naked. She is bound. She is gagged. Her eyes are wide and it’s clear she has been crying. The woman is Patricia.
One of the cloaked figures steps forward and his voice rises and blares loudly through the speakers of the TV.
“Chosen of the Blessed Blood, we gather here today to baptize you and begin this great journey together. We pray that this ceremony will be fruitful so that you may take the next step in realizing your great destiny.”
The man steps back and another takes his place. A woman. Her voice carries in the night.
“Blessed of the Goat, in order for you to fully embrace the role you were born into, you must first understand the Anti-Trinity and all its imperfections.”
The camera retreats as the woman raises her hand and places it on the cow’s covered head.
“The Cow. The Crow. The Goat. There can only be one. There IS only one. Damned is the Cow. Damned is the Crow. Blessed be the Goat. Blessed be Azazel. Wash yourself in the blood of imperfection so that you may be reborn with the understanding of your enemy. Know thine enemy so that you may defeat it. Know thy false gods so that you may kneel before the holy. Know imperfection. Know the Anti-Trinity. The Cow. The Crow. The Goat. Know the imperfections of its beauty.”
The others call out as one voice: “Imperfect!”
Patricia is squirming miserably beneath the cow. Her body is aligned perpendicular beneath its covered head. As she tries to wriggle away, one of the cloaked figures kicks her back into place.
“Know thine enemy!” The woman calls, bringing a knife out from beneath her robes, “Know the imperfections of the Anti-Trinity!”
The woman cuts the cow’s throat and it buckles beneath a waterfall of blood. It splashes in a great wave over Patricia, a sluicing, spurting gush.
The camera zooms in as Patricia gasps and cries, her skin soaked with wet crimson. The cow gurgles and tips over on its side, dead. The cloaked figures gather around Patricia who shudders and blinks back puddles of pooling red.
“Understand imperfection so that you may cleanse your mind of it!” They all call in unison.
A great burp of static and jarring color.
Cut to Patricia bound to a chair in a plain faced room. The wooden floor beneath her feet is covered in blood. Blood that’s still dripping off her quivering body. Her eyes are wild and her hair is a tangled mess of gore.
The camera is immobile as a man enters the frame, coming at her from behind. He’s holding something. It’s moving. There is no sound. He’s holding a crow.
Patricia is screaming. Her silent howls are deafening. The man leans over her shoulder and extends the live crow so she can see it. She recoils immediately and tries to shake herself free from the ropes. The man grabs her by the hair and yanks her head back.
He looks down into her terrified eyes. The crow flaps wildly in his hand. The man speaks. One word. Sound fills the room.
The man clamps his teeth down over the crow’s head. He bites down and tears it from its body. Slowly, he upends the squirting stump into Patricia’s face. He keeps the crow’s torn head in his mouth. The beak is poking from his lips. Patricia quakes beneath the drizzle of blood. The man compresses his hand around the crow. Its body is crushed beneath his grip and a nozzle of gore sprays down over Patricia.
The man releases her. She’s screaming and gagging and weeping and shaking and convulsing.
The man spits out the crow head and utters the last line of the tape. It blasts through the living room.
The screen goes dark.
I gripped the glass in my hand so hard I thought it would shatter. My gag reflex buckled beneath the onslaught of horrific images I had just ingested. My vision swam and I swallowed hard, forcing myself to breathe. Tears welled behind my bloodshot eyes and a lump formed in my throat.
Patricia. Jesus Christ. What the hell had you suffered at the hands of these monsters? What had they done to you?
I knew I needed to go to the police with these tapes. I knew I needed to find someone to help me decipher the madness, the terror, the brutality of these cultists. Was she still out there? Was she still alive?
Against my better judgement, I felt my eyes return to the box of tapes. I didn’t want to keep watching. My mind screamed to give in and flee to the authorities.
But I couldn’t. Not yet.
I had to finish this. I had to know if she was still alive. Three years and no contact from her. Was it even possible?
Only one way to find out for sure.
I wiped my eyes, took a deep breath, and reached for another. As I did so, my chest hitched and I let out a quivering shudder.
The label read: #4 Red Mass.
I placed my glass on the floor and pushed the cassette into the VCR.
Some kind of sanctuary. The lights were dim, casting long shadows over rows of wooden pews. A church. The walls were stone and no windows were visible. The camera pans slowly around the room, exposing dozens of red-hooded figures standing at attention, facing a massive alter at the front.
The camera focuses on the altar. Five cloaked figures are standing around it. Something is lying on the great stone slab before them.
It’s a goat. It’s alive.
The cultists hold it down as it squirms.
It’s the goat from the previous tapes.
One of the figures steps forward, his voice rising, “We are gathered tonight to offer our sins. We shall fill this vessel with our wrongdoings and misconceptions. We will empty the evil from our hearts and bodies into this offering. Witness the transformation. Witness our sin!”
The audience cries their approval.
The man continues, “We pray that our transgressions consume this living flesh so that Azazel will hear our call. Through this goat and through the Blessed Blood, we shall divide the Anti-Trinity, expose the false gods, and raise our voices to the one true God.”
“Amen!” The chorus follows.
“Do you reject the Cow?”
“Do you reject the Crow?”
“Who do we kneel before?”
“We do we call for?”
“Amen brothers and sisters, AMEN!” The man screams, raising his hands.
He turns back to the altar. The camera zooms in and the goat fills the frame. Its eyes are wild as the robed cultists pin it down to the altar. The man who had been speaking now climbs on top of the great slab and retrieves something from beneath his robe.
It’s a massive power drill.
“Join me brothers in filling this vessel with our sin! Together, let us we impregnate its flesh so that it may be transformed into the catalyst that calls to our God, Azazel!”
The man kneels over the goat. The power drill roars.
The man pushes the whirring metal into the goat’s body. The goat howls as blood explodes from its punctured flesh.
The man pulls the drill out, blood splashing. He guides it to the goat’s flank. He drills again, gore churning and splattering the others. He does this five times. Five holes. Five cultists.
Blood gushes over the altar and the goat’s mewling cries crawl from its throat.
Wordlessly, the others around the massive slab ascend it. They pull the goat up into a standing position, its hooves clattering. The camera makes its way up the aisle in order to gain a better view.
The men pull their robes up to reveal their erect penises. As one, they begin to fuck the gored goat. Blood squirts from the ruined flesh as the men pump vigorously into the dying animal.
One after another, they ejaculate into the drill holes.
As the last one cums, they drop the goat back onto the altar. They cover their blood soaked cocks with their robes. They climb down from the altar. The goat seems almost dead now.
The man with the power drill addresses the crowd, “The vessel has been filled. Our sin has been heard. Our sin has been accepted. Let us now pray that it is enough to gather the eyes of Azazel. Let us pray that our offering is enough to birth the one true lord of the Anti-Trinity.”
“AMEN!” The crowd roars.
The man raises his hands, “Let us descend now, to the depths of this great church!”
He turns and faces the camera, “Her of the Blessed Blood awaits us. Let us pray her womb is ready for this great honor. Let us fold our hands together and have faith that through her, Azazel may be born to us.”
He turns and points to the goat behind him, “Let us go then! Bring the Seed of God! Its mother awaits!”
A roar of excited voices.
The tape ends.
I turned away from the screen and vomited violently. This couldn’t be real. This just couldn’t be fucking real. Exhausted tears ran down my cheeks. My breath blew sour across my tongue. My stomach gurgled.
There was one final tape left.