A baying echoed through the clear night, and purple clouds amassed from the air and roiled their way among the headstones

The Purple Bishop

A baying echoed through the clear night, and purple clouds amassed from the air and roiled their way among the headstones. From within the violet mist the wheels of a carriage could be heard clacking along cobblestones, an out-of-place reminder from a bygone era.

A girl, scraggly-thin and with messy hair, stopped in mid-stride, eyes going wide as she saw the dark fog stretching its leisurely way through the small cemetery. A voice called out, Lana. "June! Come on! If we don't hide, Abby and the rest are gonna find us!..." her voice trailed off as she drew farther away from the graveyard. Yet June didn't hear a word she said, eyes transfixed on the otherworldly spectacle taking place before her.

She started to shiver, and droplets of chill sweat beaded her forehead. Her throat closed, drowning any hope of a scream she had been building in her throat. Slowly, ever so slowly, the lilac haze stretched slow, careful fingers around her, and then it was all around her. A wall of purple reared up on all sides, and it forced its way up through her nostrils, down her throat, and into her skin.

Just as she lapsed into unconsciousness, she saw the figure of a man in dark robes and a pointed hat drawing near, two amethyst-eyed hounds loping beside him.

The next morning, they only found her shoes.

The lone figure made his way down the empty street, past the shoppes of Main Street and the few houses scattered here and there. Faces eagerly pressed themselves to windowpanes, hoping for a view of this phantom figure that haunted the church.

Harriett pressed herself against his leg, and he scratched her head, shushing her. The other hound, Clandestine, joyously jumped around him in circles as they made their way to the small wooden church off to the side of the town. He wearily opened the door and lets the dogs dash in ahead of him, shutting it firmly behind him to keep out the wind. The mutts had collapsed themselves at the base of the altar, panting happily beneath the feet of the crucified Lord.

The Bishop sighed as he looked around him, noting the cobwebs beginning to form in the corners of the ceiling. The church was always empty, the townspeople fearing the "Devil's Man," always dressed in purple with his two "hellhounds" always at his side. Some of the children said that they pulled him through the town in a black carriage on Halloween night.

He pulled out a pad of paper and several pieces of charcoal from the chest of drawers in his private room and sat on the front pew. He quietly set about sketching the front of the church, mainly focusing on his two hounds sprawled at the feet of the Lord. Ah, what a fine portrait that would make! He smiled sadly to himself, knowing none would view his pictures but God.

Clandestine made her way over to him, and he slowly scratched her behind the ears. "And how are you, my friend?" She panted happily in response, and her back leg began to thump as he hit just the right spot. He chuckled quietly to himself, knowing that was another thing that had earned him the town's stigma: what seemed, from a distance, to be a crazy old man muttering to himself.

The Bishop sighed, adjusted his purple robes, and set about dusting the cobwebs up in the corners, setting his pad of paper down on the pew.

A perfectly proportioned woman with auburn hair and a made-for-T.V. smile composed her features as the producer counted down. As he silently motioned from one to zero, she lit up her face and cheerily chatted about car crashes, murders, robberies and such. Yet she adopted a more solemn expression when she came to the final bit for tonight.

"And finally, we have three more missing children, all taken in circumstances similar to that of June Cahill. Abducted while they were alone, at dusk, in the vicinity of downtown Downers Grove. We would like to remind parents to please keep their children away from this area until police apprehend the culprit. Some suspect that it has a link with the disappearances that took place twenty years ago, in 1979, and forty years ago, in 1959. Yet aside from similar situations, police have not been able to draw any conclusions. Please keep a lookout for Andy Marshall, Vincent Aldridge, and Hannah Willington…" she rattled off a description for each, then let off a sigh of relief when the teleprompter went blank.

Henry, Thomas, and Bradley leaned against the gate of the church, teasing Bradley's younger brother, Andrew, who had just fallen on his face after running to catch up with them. Their laugher made his face flush red, and he valiantly tried to stand up straight against their taunts.

"Graceful as a swan, you are, Andrew!" Henry hooted.

Thomas turned to Bradley, laughter and annoyance in his eyes. "Why did you have to bring the whelp along?"

He shrugged, "Father said that if I went, I was to take him along. I think he was having a meeting with the mayor or some such."

Henry snorted. "More likely a mistress than the mayor."

Bradley averted his eyes, well aware that his father's extramarital promiscuity was the talk of the town at this moment.

Thomas turned back to Andrew. "What? Are you too daft to stand up for yourself?"

Bradley laughed. "He's nothing but a coward. Once, I lit a candle in his room and he jumped at the shadow!" They all chuckled, and the redness on Andrew's face spread from his face down to his neck and back to his ears.

"I am too brave!" He jabbed his thumb towards his chest. "Bradley's just lying! He's the ninny."

Immediately Bradley noticed when Thomas got that glint in his eye, that particular one that meant nothing but the possibility for a cheap laugh and a very, very large potential for trouble. "If you're so brave then," he said in a sly, convincing voice, "then why don't you go in there," he jabbed his thumb at the church behind them, "and see if you spot him."

As red as he had been a second ago, the color drained out of Andrew's face as he stared at the small, simple wooden building behind them. "You want me to go into the Purple Bishop's church?!" he couldn't help it; his voice shook slightly as he said it.

Henry's face lit up. "Naw, you don't have to. We'll just know that you really are as big a ninny as Bradley said you were."

With a determined set to his features, Andrew puffed out his chest, determined to prove that he was as brave as any of them, so that they'd stop picking on him and finally decide to let him do all the cool older-person stuff they did—whatever it was.

"I can do it. Just you watch me!"

Bradley watched with a hint of alarm as his younger brother strode away from them and up along the path to the church's door. Andrew pushed it open a crack, having second thoughts, but then Thomas and Henry's jeering came to the forefront of his mind, and he angrily shoved it open more.

Inside there was nothing but a few empty pews, the altar up front, and a large depiction of a crucified Jesus on one wall. He crept inside a step, then another, pausing in the shafts of light filtering through the stained-glass windows.

The smell of burning incense reached his nostrils, and only then did he notice the mauve shadow hunched in the corner. At his gasp of surprise and fear, the figure straightened and turned, and he let out a small scream as he turned and ran, knocking over a candle in his hurried rush.

The flames quickly spread to the dried flowers carefully arranged a safe distance behind them, and from there to the incense oil. As the fire climbed up the wall, the figure, and the two whimpering shapes beside him backed away from the door that was quickly being burned. He watched four retreating figures through the heat haze, sprinting down the street and away from his church.

In front of the doorstep, he noticed a small brown shoe that had been carelessly kicked off, and sent off an angry prayer to his God to never let his spirit rest until he brought their sinful souls to salvation.