July 10, 2025
The broken. That’s what it all comes down to. The gullible, the weak, the lost … The broken. They break you so they can rebuild you. It doesn’t work otherwise, it doesn’t stick. They rebuild you as something new. Not someone. No, there are no individuals here. Not here. Here there is only Commonality Sanctum. Only unity.
How blind. How blind I’ve been. How blind the congregation is still. Can’t they see it? Don’t they understand? There’s something wrong. Commonality Sanctum is wrong. The Supernal Luminary is wrong. Doesn’t anyone see it?
Twenty-three years. That’s how long it’s taken me to realize. My whole goddamn life wasted to this … this lie. What am I doing here? What have I done? I’ve butchered this … I’ve … Oh, shit, what have I done?
When I wipe the back of my hand the blood just smears.
It just smears.
I’ve lost myself to this perverse, pervasive lie. I don’t even know who I am. I am Commonality Sanctum.
But I’m not …
I’m Claudia. I’m Claudia Dayo. Holy shit. Oh, holy shit is that even my real name? Was I someone else I don’t remember? Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Oh, shit. Don’t melt down, don’t melt down here. Twenty-three years … I can wait another day. I can wait until I’m finished here. Oh, please, don’t break down. Just breath … Just breath … Just …
July 10, 2025
Sparse traffic prowled the streets. The alleys were deserted. The dark blue van I’d followed was gone. Had I made a mistake in parking two blocks away?
Of the buildings surrounding this intersection, only two were operational businesses. The other three abandoned, foreclosed, undergoing renovations. In the crumbling facades of these structures were stories and histories I’d never know. But within one of them was a young boy in danger.
A shiver ran through me. I shouldn’t be here. I should have called the cops. I’m just a desk jockey at an advertising company for Christ sake. Maybe an amateur investigator. Sure. Yeah. I’d been investigating my family’s disappearance for the last five years, after all. It was Commonality Sanctum. They seduced my wife and she dragged my son away with her. Fucking doomsday cult. They were growing bolder every year. Hell, every day.
Of the three empty buildings, only two had loading bay doors. I walked around the first, staying close to the wall. Just to the right of the roll-up bay door was a back door with a small window. The pane was clouded over from the inside. I could barely make out the interior of the building, but I could see well enough to know there was no van inside. On to the next building then, just across the parking lot.
I circled the hulking structure, looking for a way in. Both front and rear doors were locked. No way to see inside the back of the building, but there was a series of windows stretching from the ground to near-roof in the front of the building. The bottom left corner of one of the lower panes was busted in. I eyed the width of the hole—it looked big enough—then picked away some of the glass still clinging to the frame. I slid through.
The building might once have been a warehouse or maybe a mechanic’s garage. It was open and mostly empty apart from a few boxes stacked against one of the walls. I crouched there on the floor where I’d come in and let my eyes adjust. The bright street lights were playing hell on my night vision.
I walked the perimeter, staying low. I couldn’t hear any sounds from the north side of the building, so I kept going. The air was dusty, dank. I breathed shallowly. The smell of oil and other chemicals ghosted through the building. I glanced behind the partition of a makeshift office. Nothing there but a rolling chair. I kept going, moving toward the rear of the building now.
My breath caught.
This was the right place. But where was the boy? I circled the van, peering in its windows, but the back had been stripped down to its metal skeleton. Only the two seats up front remained, wrapped in clear plastic. The passenger side door opened easily when I tested it. The dome light above flickered dimly twice before it gave up completely. I leaned into the passenger side, half sitting on the floorboard, and opened the glove compartment. Empty. I tried the console but found more of the same.
A noise came from somewhere beyond the driver’s side of the van. I closed the door as gently as I could and moved toward the sound. Bathrooms. The only completely walled-off rooms in the building. I crouched by the wall separating the men’s from the women’s bathroom and waited. It felt like a long time. My watch said otherwise.
There it was. A tearing noise. And something else.
I leaned toward the men’s room door and listened, but that moved me farther from the sound. I put an ear against the women’s room door. Was that … crying? I tried the handle, slowly, but it caught. Locked. I took a deep breath, gave myself about six feet, then barreled against the door with my shoulder. The pain made me gasp, but the cheap lock buckled under the pressure.
It took me a moment to reconcile what I was seeing with what it meant. What it was.
Too late. I’d come too late.
The room was featureless, the plumbing having been ripped out with the tenants. The bright fluorescent bulb remained, though, and God how I wished it hadn’t. The light was not kind to the scene it illuminated. My eyes and brain finally started working together. A boy of about sixteen was laid out flat on the floor, naked, belly up. Where his back pressed against the floor, the skin was swelling, taking on a purple hue. His head leaned at an angle to the right showing hair dark and matted with blood and small clumps of something glistening under the light. His eyes were open. I couldn’t tell what color they were. His clothes were neatly folded by his left shoulder. His feet had been removed and placed by his right shoulder. A cut ran vertically along his chest and abdomen, the skin around it stretched wide. His intestines had been pulled out. Been pulled out and wrapped around his neck like a noose.
I turned away. I got far enough to collapse against the van. Bile came up. I swallowed it. It came again, persistent. I breathed in through my nose. A mistake.
“Get a grip,” I mumbled. I turned back toward the bathroom, my back against the side of the van. I held my forearm to my forehead as if that would keep my brain from exploding. “Pull it together, Mikey, come on.”
And then I realized. Someone else had been in the bathroom. My vision had pinpointed to the horrific, but someone else had been in there. Was in there right now.
I was not equipped to deal with this.