Start here for Part 1.
They just stared at him. Ting Ting looked around at the other women, and when she saw that the other women were concerned, her serenity faded for just a moment. She then grasped the hands of those closest to her, Amrita and Rachel.
“I don’t believe in Hell,” said Rachel.
“That’s not relevant in this case,” said the priest.
“What is relevant?” asked Darla. “Where are the gates? Why hasn’t anybody heard of this before? You don’t sound Italian. Where are all the demons flying around? How did we get picked? Is it a genetic thing? Mama certainly never mentioned…”
The priest interrupted. “I beg your pardon, but we’re still waiting to see if any of the others arrive. I’ll give you as full an explanation as I can, but only after we have enough of you to even make an attempt.”
“An attempt? That doesn’t sound promising,” said Amrita.
“In the past we’ve had more. Many more. Dozens. But now no one is answering the call. I’m sorry, I misspoke. Of course you all answered, and Farah is on her way from the Emirates. She’s had difficulty traveling.”
“I bet she has,” said Darla. “Muslim, right?”
“Yes, of course,” said the priest. “But I’m hoping there are others who may come, who weren’t able to send word.”
“Hell you say,” said Darla. “It’s the Vatican. How do you not get word? Can’t blame the temp for losing your messages.”
“I prefer to maintain hope,” he said.
“Not faith?” asked Darla.
“Both,” he replied.
Rachel noticed that Ting Ting was gazing off to the side, directly at the side of the hill. She pointed, and Ting Ting nodded, letting go of her and Amrita’s hand. She stepped off the porch, passing the priest on the step, and Rachel followed her.
Ting Ting and Rachel stood at the bottom of the hill.
“It feels like dread,” said Rachel, and Ting Ting reached for her hand again. Darla walked up and stood beside Ting Ting.
“You’re right,” said Darla, “like when the pressure drops just before the hurricane gets there.”
“I don’t see a gate,” said Amrita. “How can we close it if nothing’s open?”
“You sense it, then,” said the priest, now standing behind them. “That means it’s open.”