The chapel in Telyhurst Castle-under a high vaulted ceiling-extended far back from the heavy wooden doors leading into its space. An intricate series of cogs and gears encased the walls in a tapestry of perpetually moving machine art instead of stained glass. Skulls rolled own through a single hole in the ceiling and tumbled along a web of chutes to the tops of the walls. From there the skulls fell down the gear works turning at different speeds. Each skull, without exception, became completely crushed and ground into dust by the time it reached the floor. Along the bottom of the walls were paper fans connected to the gears which blew the dust of the crushed skulls into the air, spreading a fine ashen haze over the deformed congregation slouched in the pews.

Reverend Arturo stood in a small wooden pulpit beside the altar wearing vestments billowing under his stern, hardened expression. He'd stopped for a breath after beginning his sermon and seeing only blank expressions staring back at him from still bodies. Sweat beaded on his upper lip and the pulpit began feeling small around his form. He readied himself to again address his congregation of beings no more than three to four feet tall with skin the sparkling milk-white colour of opal. Their eyes shone radiantly but their mouths lay slack and open while they sat either crumpled against the backs of the benches or doubled over while staring at the floor.

Reverend Arturo continued.

"I promise you this: I'll never hide the dust from you. Breathe deep and remember that the dust is eternal, its spirit endures…let it coat your lungs and one day synchronize beautifully with you when you too attain its holy body. Think of indestructible matter, think of your assured immortality, your purer form, which means…" the Reverend raised one hand and his eyebrows, expecting a response from his flock.

When none came he slammed his fist down on the pulpit where he stood and shouted "do you think your rage will save you!? Stay down, with the God worm, and the God lint…if you attempt to rise, and fall, the image of your blazing tragedy will sear into the minds of those around you, and you'll forever be responsible for their agonized insomnia and frustrations, forever guilty of their suffering…but, if you vanish gradually into gray you'll fade so slowly from their minds they'll not miss you, and their hearts will not knot into tight aches, and then you'll be a kind soul, a good soul, with your thoughts outside yourself while you slide honourably into disintegration, thinking only of those spared from your failure, and of your good Reverend who punishes his flesh in solidarity…fear not the beasts, for while they dream always of dismembering your bodies, they only attempt a hunt thrice per season; does that not elevate your spirits? Resist as the rag doll does, and collapse…they swipe eternally at those who flail, but abandon limp bodies who crumble into the formless dust which runs through their claws. If you stay on the ground and crawl beneath the hateful fog fallen over this world the beasts will not think of you, and you'll rest safely both in the world of blood and in the world of ether-"

A dry croak escaped the mouth of a small parishioner crumbled on a pew somewhere in the crowd. Reverend Arturo silenced the disruption by raising one fist and baring his clenched teeth through which he shot spittle while breathing heavily. He lowered his hand and relaxed his face when silence returned.

"Do you see how peaceful I am with patience as my virtue?" he asked while surveying his audience after lowering his hand. Without waiting for a response he said "I'll not tolerate grousing here in Telyhurst Castle, built by noble men who wore their silence always, even when the stones they'd stacked began collapsing in on themselves…you will not have the right to speak out in protest until you accept this silence as your natural state …"

Paul Edward Costa