The Bucci Strain: Imprint
Excerpt from Chapter 3
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” He had been whispering the Hail Mary prayer for over an hour. In school, nuns taught that if one prayed to the Blessed Virgin, she would help. Eddie began to wonder just when the help would be coming. A few Hail Marys later, he stopped.
In the absolute darkness, Eddie's imagination began to take command. He knew that the darkness was the natural abode of evil and he was not only in the darkness of the closet, he was alone and only Sister Loretta knew he was there. He wondered when she would come back to let him out. He promised God a hundred times he would never do anything bad again for the rest of his life, if only he could get out. Once again, he began to cry.
Another hour passed. He needed to urinate. He didn't know how he could hold it back much longer. A few minutes later, Eddie stood up and urinated on the back wall of the closet. He was ashamed of himself for doing this, and asked God to forgive him. He had no idea what time it was, nor was he able to subjectively measure time in the confines of the dark closet. Outside the closet, the clock on the wall read 9:54 P.M. Sister Loretta was already in bed, and in only minutes would have a stroke that would kill her as she slept.
Several of the students missed Eddie at dinner that evening. They reported this to Sister Simon Peter, who was in charge of the cafeteria that week. Sister Simon Peter dispatched Charlie Houser, a twelve-year-old, to look for him back at the dormitory. Ten minutes later, Charlie came back and told Sister Simon Peter that Eddie was not in the dorm area. Sister Simon Peter became worried. It was common for an occasional student to miss a meal, and on several occasions, students had run away from St. Catherine's. They usually came back of their own accord in two or three hours. Only two in the history of the orphanage had never come back, and they were both 16 year olds. Eddie was only seven, and Sister knew he would not make it far on his own at night. She went to the phone in the cafeteria and called Sister Thomas Edward, the principal, and told her that Eddie Decker was missing and that she thought a search should be initiated at once.
Sister Simon Peter organized three teams of students to search for Eddie. Each team comprised four older students whom the nuns assigned a specific area of the orphanage in which to search. It was a little past 10:20 P.M. when the searchers began looking for him. Two hours later, they returned to the cafeteria and reported to Sister Simon Peter that they had not found anything. By now, the entire staff of nuns had been alerted to the situation; all except Sister Loretta. She knew where Eddie was, but she had gone to bed and no one had dared to rouse her.
Sister Paula had heard about Eddie's disappearance at 8:30. She thought that perhaps he was simply hiding. She went to the chapel to search for him, but after an hour of walking the grounds, occasionally meeting student searchers, she gave up. She called Sister Thomas Edward and told her she thought it best to wait until morning. They agreed that if Eddie did not show up by that time, Sister Thomas Edward would call the sheriff.
Sister Paula went to her room, took off her headpiece and habit, removed her undergarments and went into the bathroom. She showered and shampooed her short brown hair. Eddie was on her mind the entire time. She felt strangely guilty about the way in which she had made him clean up the footprints earlier in the afternoon. She hoped that it wasn't the cause of his disappearance.
After her shower, she dressed and prepared to go to bed. She went to her dresser and removed a special rosary. She always considered it to bring good fortune, as it seemed that God usually answered prayers she said on it. Sister Paula was 30 years old. She wanted to be a nun since the tenth grade. She had devoted her life to service to her fellow man. She took a certain amount of pride in her accomplishments. When she finished the rosary, she said a special prayer for Eddie. She asked the Blessed Virgin to please keep him safe and let him be found very soon. She then went to bed and fell quickly into a fitful sleep.
In her dream, Sister Paula saw Eddie. He was in a very dark place, crying and hurt. His image in the dream was horrifying. There were terror and pain. He seemed different and needed help immediately. In her dream, Sister Paula prayed for Eddie, but God told her she must help him. To help him, she must first find him. She began to weep in her sleep and suddenly awoke, sweating profusely and trembling.
She almost fell out of the small bed as she shook the effects of the dream from her head. God had commanded her to find Eddie! As quickly as possible, she dressed, but forgot her headpiece.
It was after midnight. Eddie was beginning to hallucinate and go into shock in the closet in which he had been a prisoner for over seven hours. The terrible monsters of a child's mind were becoming all too real.
Sister Paula got a small flashlight from her dresser and carefully went down the stairs and out the front door. The night air seemed almost cold. It helped to fully awaken her. She shuddered and headed off in the direction of the general classroom building, the same building where Eddie lay waiting.
She used her master key to open the front door of the building. The cold white night light outside cast an eerie glow on the front of the building, reminding Sister Paula of a prison. She thought, Why did I come here? Is God directing me? Oh please, God, let Eddie be here. She cautiously entered the building, but did not turn on the hall lights. She thought there was no need to alarm the night watchman. She opened the first three classrooms and softly whispered,
“Eddie, are you there? This is Sister Paula and I'm here to help you. Don't be afraid, I'll take care of you. Please come out.” Her voice sounded strange and there was an echo in the empty rooms. Methodically, she checked each classroom on the first floor. Convinced he was not in any of them, she went upstairs.
That very moment, Eddie was having a waking nightmare. In the darkness of that room, in his terror and sense of hopelessness, he had nearly bitten a two-inch piece of flesh from his left arm. He did it to keep from screaming. He was no longer the same Eddie who awoke the previous morning.
As Sister Paula ascended the stairs, she had a foreboding that Eddie was nearby. The second floor of the classroom building contained eight main classrooms with a hall down the middle. The nuns used some of the rooms for supplementary programs such as chorus and music. Each classroom had a storage closet, but the teachers stored nothing in them at the present time. Sister Paula entered the first classroom and shined the flashlight about. She called out for Eddie. There was nothing but the same silence she encountered on the lower floor. She moved to the next two rooms with the same results. Finally, she came to the door of the music room.
Sister Paula inserted the key into the door lock and turned it. Almost immediately the feeling that someone was in the room struck her, although it was as silent as the others. She turned her flashlight around the room and noticed some broken glass on the floor near the chalkboard. She carefully walked over to the glass and was bending down to inspect it more closely when she heard a low moan coming from the direction of the storage closet. At first she thought it might be her imagination or her own breathing she had heard. She waited and she heard it again, this time it was unmistakable. The moan was coming from the closet! It must be Eddie!
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