STORIES Original fiction.

This story originally appeared in Zone 9 (print) and Star Leaper (e-zine). It's placed here by permission of the author.

Time of Horror

by Joy V. Smith

"So you see, Father, we really can't allow you to hold your services in the community meeting rooms; separation of church and state is the law," Frank Saunders said, only a trifle less belligerent when he realized the priest wasn't protesting.

"We've already made other arrangements until the church is rebuilt," Father Tim said mildly, gazing across his desk at the militant atheist who had recently won a seat on the city council.

Something about the priest's gentle demeanor made Frank uncomfortable. Nevertheless, he had run for city council so that he could right this wrong. Then he realized the implications of Father Tim's response. He turned and glared at Samuel Goldman, the fellow councilman who had accompanied him.

Samuel nodded. "Yes, I warned Father Tim." No way I'd let you have the satisfaction, you petty, would-be tyrant, he thought. Furious, Frank stood up reluctantly. He'd been looking forward to this confrontation.

Samuel added slyly, "I'm surprised you haven't changed your name since it's from the Bible.'

Frank stiffened. "It is not," he snapped.

"Frankincense is certainly from the Bible. Everyone knows that's where Frank comes from."

Frank paled with rage even as he felt the familiar burning sensation in his temples. He sputtered as a half dozen angry thoughts fought for utterance.

Samuel continued inexorably, "What are you going to do about all those holy days, excuse me, holidays? And the calendar. What are your plans for the calendar? You know, don't you, that..."

Frank had gone from pale to crimson. Now he turned and rushed out the door with a snarl. Almost immediately after the door slammed, the two men heard squealing brakes and a faint, sodden whump. "Good Lord,' Samuel said faintly, "I never meant..." They rushed outside.

The ambulance deposited Frank at the hospital. A woman in a starched white habit met him in receiving. "Welcome to Sisters of Mercy Hospital," she began. He was still screaming when they wheeled him into surgery.

Patient's chart (Frank Ambrose Saunders)

12/26/97: Patient admitted. Injuries not serious.
01/01/98: Patient badly burned his hands while making a bonfire with old and new calendars he gathered from throughout the hospital.
03/02/98: Patient stabbed himself with a fork while attempting to attack thenurse when served a piece of angel food cake with his noon meal.
04/08/98: Deranged man who claimed to be Jesus Christ took two sisters hostage in receiving. After due consideration, the Mother Superior sent Mr.Saunders in to talk to him. The sisters managed to pull Saunders off the man after they worked themselves free from their bonds. I believe the man will walk again, but it's a pity about his eyes. Saunders fractured several bones in his feet and hands.
12/18/98: West wing flooded when Saunders tried to flush a small Christmas tree which had been placed in the corridor outside his room. Saunders slipped and hurt his back.
02/17/99: The aliens that landed in downtown St. Petersburg continue to wreak havoc. Sister Angelina has suggested a plan, though we have no armaments, nor could we use them, of course....
02/18/99: Sister Martha brought out from storage a large box of sling shots she confiscated during her years of teaching at St. Joseph's.
02/19/99: We told Mr. Saunders the aliens were missionaries and sent him to the alien ship. As he told us afterwards, when he ran out of stones, he used the slings to jam all the levers he could find throughout the ship, after changing the settings.

According to news reports, the aliens began rushing to the ship immediately. Saunders ran out even as they were charging in. They took off in such a hurry, that not all of them were on board. (I'm afraid those aliens left were killed by an enraged populace.)

The ship rose in a flickering haze; it was several miles up when it exploded, quite spectacularly, in a blaze of glory, if I may say so. (All of the sisters involved are, or course, doing penance.)


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