THE PARISH-CHAPTER TWELVE

January 4, 0100

The Parish

The cell door creaks open, revealing a few cots with sweaty sheets and two soldiers who have been stripped back to boys. Enoch looks bitter, hunched in a cotton tunic and nursing a festering wound on his wrist.

“You’re not bitten!” Oscar bellows, wrenching me into a lung-collapsing hug. I awkwardly sink into his embrace until he releases me. He steps back and I notice a rock sized bruise on his temple, blood matted in his hair.
Fresh blood.

But Enoch draws my attention by standing up to glare at me as if to say:
“Why aren’t you dead?”
I hurl myself at him without thinking. My fist clutches and punches straight for his face.
“Here we go.” Oscar grumbles.

I hear the satisfying crunch of Enoch’s nose giving way beneath my fist. He staggers back, bewildered, and catches himself on the wall. “What’s wrong with you?” He spits.
“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you!? You can’t keep trying to kill me for no reason!” I roar.
He blinks at me, letting the blood from his nose trickle down his face and onto his shirt. I shake out my hand, I can already feel the bruises on my knuckles.

“And you might want to clean that up. You’re getting blood on the cobblestone.”
I go and sit down beside Oscar. “Have you –“
“I think we should join them. I’ve spent the last three hours trying to persuade Captain Stubborn over there to join them too.” He exasperatedly gestures to Enoch.

“I am –“ Enoch starts, failing to keep his voice authoritarian through his mouthful of blood.
“I am loyal to the Parish! I took an Oath and I shall not disregard it! Yeah, yeah that’s been the persisting argument for the last hour. And in case you haven’t noticed the Parish isn’t exactly the most stable, let alone uncorrupted, government currently.” Oscar shakes his head.

“I’m not having this argument anymore. I don’t care that the Parish’s citizens are rebelling, chanting her name like she’s some sort of Goddess. She’s a convict and it’s her fault the Priest is dead. I took an Oath not only to the Parish but with God and I will not, under any circumstance, change my mind.” Enoch growls, the blood overflowing from his cupped hands.

“Nice job with that, by the way.” Oscar grins, knocking my knee with his fist as he stands up.
“I don’t trust them.” I say. Oscar turns to look at me.
“For what reason?” He inquires.
“My interrogator, or whatever he was, was manipulative. He got everything out of me easily.” I explain.
“Well maybe you should put up a better defense.” Enoch taunts.
I glare at him, and oh if looks could kill… “Maybe you should stop bothering me before I break another one of your extremities.”

Oscar ignores our bickering. “What did you tell him?” He inquires.
“He asked about my schooling mostly. I told him my grade average: 90%, what I specialized in: combative engineering, and, oh, did I mention I had a full scholarship to Cyprian University and was going to join the military?” I direct the statement to Enoch, whose eyes widen slightly. I can’t help but smirk.
“Whoa, you’d have gotten a better education than our friend Enoch here. Maybe you could teach him a few things.” Oscar smirks.

Enoch stalks away like a caged animal. His face wearing a furious expression. “Can we get back on topic?” He snaps and I can’t supress my laughter.
“Yeah, sure Enoch. Whatever you want.” I chuckle.

He goes to the little, ramshackle bathroom and washes the blood from his face, neck and hands. “What are we going to do, then?” He asks. “I’m assuming they’ll kill us if we don’t join them.”
“I’d rather be dead!” Enoch calls.
“We know your opinion. Anyways, you really want to join them?” I say.
“Yes.” Oscar replies wholeheartedly.
“What about your faith, you’re willing to abandon that?” I question.
“I don’t have to, this isn’t really about religious stance. There’s Catholic’s, nonbelievers, Mormons, Buddhists, everything here. And they all get along.” He explains wistfully.

“You’re trusting your interrogators, one man’s, word?” I demand dubiously. Enoch enters the room and sits across from Oscar. “He can be real stupid.” He pats Oscar’s knees affectionately. I can see the bones of an ancient friendship in the gesture.
Oscar brushes him away, though. “Sometimes you have to believe in people.”

EMMA IRVINE

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