Most cultists run a tight budget.
Jack stepped under the police tape, and moved inside, scanning the double-wide. "Wood" veneer and fiberglass, every surface scratched and dented. Cheap plates and chipped glasses piled up in the sink, the gentle pervading odor of stale shit from the toilet. Against one wall, a sort of cage made from a broken playpen, scattered pieces of brightly-colored trucks; crayon-drawings of stick figures in red, orange, and green; waxy blobs melted into the cheap carpet.
The shrine was in the bedroom. The altar was a formica tabletop, nailed to the headboard. Incense sticks and stubbed-out cigarettes stuck out of dozens of little hand-made ceramic pots, on every flat surface, the walls and ceiling were smoke-stained, and almost covered up the stench of raw sex from the bed sheets. The floor and bed weren't so much sticky as glazed, and molding in spots. Beneath the off-white splatter of the altar he could see a line of symbols, marked right around the edge of the altar in sharpie.
Jack couldn't see the offering, but he could smell the jizz - and all smell is particulate. The though made him angry. He pulled out an evidence bag, carefully opened it, and drew out the .38 with the runes carved into the side. Cocked the hammer with an audible click.
"I'm going to count to three." He aimed at the center of the bed. "Then I'm going to start firing."
Above the altar, a hazy presence coalesced. Little more than a torso and arms, an apparition that just seemed to hang in the hazy air; dust particles in the loose shape of a man. Meth-head skinny, homemade ballpoint tattoos from knuckles to elbows, like coiling multiheaded serpents. Haunted eyes with permanent shadows under them. Bad teeth, peeling skin on the shoulders. Jack could just about recognize the image of the corpse on the slab.
My people remember the snake.
"Don't get me fucking started." Jack muttered. "Snake-handler offshoots that tapped into the wrong current, and it got you in the end. What did she want?"
A baby. So bad. What I couldn't give her. The doctor said, she was too fucked up inside, after the last time. But Papa Yig...we knew the stories...the Children of Yig...he would come for them...
"Oh shit." Jack didn't blink, but the apparition was gaining more focus and detail. Looked younger than he'd thought at first. "Did she know what she was in for?"
She was kinda into it.
"Wonderful. How many tries did it take?"
We had to find it first...that was the hard part. They're all his children, but he has to be there, you know? Or close.
"Snake nest, got it. So that scene at the reptile zoo?"
Yeah, that was us. I don't know what went wrong.
"Nothing, dumbass. It actually worked. You know the end of the story, right? What happened to her husband?"
"Well, that's why what's left of you is on a slab in the morgue. Where is she?"
If it worked...the baby...she'd be making a nest, I think.
Jack put three bullets through the altar, and dropped the gun back in the evidence bag. The specter ceased almost immediately, dust particles floating back in their normal patterns.
"Fucking snake cultists."
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