Seven blocks to the east, an ancient structure looms, casting long, piercing shadows to the west as the sun slowly rises on the horizon. The evening dew evaporates, sending trails of steam into the hungry heaven above. The cross atop The Church of the Twelve Apostles throws the cruelest shadow of them all, and I step gingerly over it … for I dare not trample the darkness cast by gods.

Three people mill about the street. A single beep echoes against the distant roar of downtown, as a businessman unlocks the door to his Mazda with his magic button.

Tuesday morning and the church must be empty. I test the door, gently at first with just a nudge of my toe. It budges ever so slightly, and I place the palms of my hands against the worn oak.

I push, and the gateway opens.

No one is here, yet I dip my fingers into the holy water. In case someone is watching. Someone who I cannot see.

Forehead, stomach, left breast and right.

I’ve placed a spell of protection.

Souls reverberate in this space. Decades. Centuries even. Tens. Hundreds. The infinite belief of millions.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary. How does your garden grow?

Up, up, up. Like a beanstalk to heaven, where the giant is a monster called God. Good or evil, that is up for debate. But a monster nonetheless because he towers above us. Can smite us at his will. Or pull us close in a warm embrace and protect us from the demons of hell.

It’s the unknown that terrifies.

Up, up, up I go. Not on a beanstalk, but via the stairway built to man. A stairway not to heaven. Not even to stars, but to a secret place I know is there. A place for me.

A place to cook. A place to hatch. A place to be reborn.

Three stories. Twenty-four steps. Up and away from the place where men worship, to the place where music rings out across the city. The call of a siren.

Crash upon these rocks.

I pray to Mary. I pray to Marcy.

Ten Hail Marcy’s followed by seven more Our Carla’s.

Is the child the answer? I shudder at the thought.

Thirteen times I slam my head against the heavy cast iron bell, each strike of skull against metal echoing across the city.

I have become a siren. Heed my call.

On the thirteenth note, my skull cracks open and my brains pour out. They sizzle like eggs on the black summoner’s bell.

Light surrounds, and I sleep in the roost with the pigeons.

Continue to Chapter Twenty-Nine.