For This Divinity

A short story by C.B. Blanchard, originally published in ‘INTO THE CRYPTS OF RAYS: A BLACK METAL HORROR ANTHOLOGY’ and then on my substack.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

– WB Yeats

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6 verse 54, KJV

To worship you must unmake yourself. You must lay everything at the foot of the divine, from petty flaws right to the deep poison. If you truly love God, you will give your blood and bone and flesh. You will give your desire. You will give everything.

It costs. Worship costs. Devotion costs. Today it has cost Ezra two fingers and a lot of blood. He leans against a worm-eaten pew in the wrecked church, watching through a dizzy,blurred gaze as Johanna adds his sacrifices to the collection. Flesh and bone in the pile. Blood in the cup.

There were twelve of them, because of course there had to be. They came to this ruined church and they stripped naked before The Lord, and they took knives to their own flesh for Him.

Ezra has cut himself deep on his side, where Jesus took the spear point.

Some of them have not survived this. Ezra knows, with transcendent joy, that they have gone somewhere grand and beautiful for giving to the last. He wishes he had died for this. But if God wills him live, he will do it.

Johanna lights the incense. It drifts over mildew and stone dust, over the metallic, meaty reek of blood clotting. The empty windows let in the night and the cold. They let in the dark. It seeps in.

He met Johanna at university. They were in a prayer group together. They bonded over hating the mealy-mouthed facile faith that had become so common. Vague spirituality and saccharine angels. Nothing of the depth and truth and viscera. Nothing about blood and how much that meant.

Someone is weeping, in joy and abandon. Ezra’s own eyes are wet. His side is wet.

The stumps of his missing fingers are wet.

He supposed some people would call them a cult. But then, hadn’t all faiths been cults when they took their first, shivering steps?

The thing they built between them made him understand, with a kind of excited horror, the urge that led people to burn heretics, make war based on religion. The fervour that took them. He supposed that the safe, gentle take on faith had developed to protect them all from a world burned to ash in the name of a thousand gods.

He would burn the world; but the world was God’s. Instead, he would burn himself. If the world burns, it is up to Him that guides them, Him that made them.

They had come to do one thing and one thing only – bring God back to the earth, to His faithful. Lay their yearning eyes upon the Divine.

And so now they give God their bodies, their flesh, their blood.

Johanna lifts the cup to the ruined altar, her eyes rolled back in their sockets. Her clumsily shaved head reflects candlelight. She used to be a plump, pretty thing, long brown hair glossy and gleaming, but she is all bone and sinew now. She eats only the bare minimum to survive. She takes the mixed, clotting blood and lifts it to her chapped, raw lips. She drinks it down and lets out a gasp almost like orgasm.

When she has finished, she comes to the congregation. Ezra first.

He puts out his dry tongue, takes the flesh on it. Bland, fatty, bloody, raw. She rubs a shaking thumb over his cheekbone, her dark eyes alight with something holy. He takes the meat right from her fingers. He thinks he knows the shape of this piece, remembers Patrick gazing up at him. Pressing his sweat-damp forehead into Ezra’s hand as he cut a lopsided square out of his pale thigh.

Yes, this delicate piece of meat is Patrick’s thigh. He chews it into pulp, slow, and swallows it down. He thinks of Patrick’s lovely freckles, like cinnamon over cream, and imagines the meat tastes just the same.

“There,” she tells him, as blood still pulses from the sockets of his fingers.

Patrick, yes, lovely Patrick, with his wide brown eyes. He glances over to the pew in flickering darkness, thinks he sees a pale unmoving shape where Patrick was. One arm flung out, the hand curled. Perhaps he had nicked an artery, then. There is a deeper pool of thick,sticky darkness around him.

Patrick was the first to join them. He gazed up at Ezra like Ezra had opened a door for him and what lay beyond it was beautiful beyond bearing.

She gives him the blood next, curdling and thick. Not the sour burn of wine on his tongue but cloying metal half-liquid. It paints his mouth, trickles down his chin.

Johanna wipes some off, presses it into her own mouth.

“In His name,” she whispers in her ruined voice.

“In His name,” Ezra mouths back.

The pain from his fingers has spread, blended, become so much that it has become nothing. It is nothing. He looks up at the cross. Christ gave up so much more. His own flesh, His own blood, His life on torment on the cross. What is this sacrifice if it will bring Him back?

As a younger man, sometimes he thought of that sacrifice and it brought him to an ecstasy beyond sexual. Head back on the pillow, body arching. He never touched himself. He didn’t need to. God came into him then, and God has always played with Ezra’s body like a sweet and beloved tool.

He lies now, on the detritus-strewn floor, his fingers still pulsing blood into a pool beneath them, and he looks up at the arches and vaults, and he gives all to his greatest prayer.

That God, the Christ-as-Man, will see their devotion and come to them. Will come beautiful and beloved, and absolve all things. Make all things good again. He prays, and Johanna gives meat and blood to their congregation, whispering the words back and forth between them.

Sometimes it is only her voice that speaks.

He watches, ablaze and dying, alive and freezing, as Johanna crouches over the dead body of Patrick and gives him his share.

If the covenant was only for the living it would be broken, spoiled.

This binds them all together in Faith, as brothers and sisters, as a church in the real sense. Not merely people who go to a building together and mouth words given to them by parents, they believe.

Patrick believed. He knelt so prettily, begged for grace with tears in his eyes. And now he will have his reward. Ezra knows it.

Johanna walks to the altar. She kneels. From behind like this she looks like Joan of Arc, ready to be consumed on the pyre. She lifts the blade, still dark with blood.

“No fear,” he croaks. “No fear. Only joy.”

She looks over her shoulder to him, just once, looks at him mouth open. She nods. She turns back and begins to pray. He is so, so proud as she brings the blade down towards her gut. So proud of her willing sacrifice.

She makes only the softest grunt as she rips herself open and her guts spill over the floor in front of the altar. She drops the knife with a clatter. Ezra pulls himself shakily to his feet, stumbles on them towards her. He presses his lips to the prickly hair on the back of her skull. Leaves a smear of blood on there, the dead and dying eyes of his congregation all fixed on him.


“Good. Good girl. Go with God,” he tells her and gathers her entrails into his hand.

“God, use this vessel as you see fit,” she says, voice hitching. “Use me as yours.”

She is so wet and hot here. She moans with his hand against her insides. He slips a finger between wet curls of meat.

She twitches and jerks. Her legs spasm weakly, scrabbling amid dust. Ezra keeps his hand in her, his lips on her. Feels God take the soul of his most faithful daughter, his most beloved, leaving the body a shell.

There is a hush over the church, the few laboured breaths that remain echoing amid the stone.

The candle flickering in front of Ezra goes out. Then the other. Then every candle, all at once.

Ezra holds his breath.

There is the faintest scent of lilies.

Johanna’s body moves, bows at the spine, lifts away from his grip. It rises in the air, her starved limbs hanging down, the sharp lines of her body highlighted by the moonlight through the broken window. Her entrails droop in glossy dark ropes.

There are shuffling sounds as the surviving congregation move closer to watch. Ezra lifts his hands in worship.

She curves almost into a circle, her dead hands touching her dead feet. Her blank face, eyes open, stares past him. Her intestines lift and move in organic, living shapes. They curve to make a face, a hand. Desperate, high pitched voices raise in fervent prayer. Over that, Johanna’s spine snaps.

There is more inside her than he suspected. The coils of her guts wrap around her broken body, take the shape of her limbs and make a new form. He hears one of his congregation stutter out a death rattle, and then another. Like the candles, they blow out, until there is only Ezra still living in this church. Watching God become physical once more.

The writhing flesh coalesces into smooth skin. Eyes open over the perfectly formed naked chest, thighs, calves, swim over the body. Open and looking at Ezra with love, with searing terrifying knowledge and love. Ezra is frozen where he stands, his body jerking, electric shudders taking him from the soles of his feet to the tip of his hair. He bites down on his swollen lips and gives a little more of his blood to the cause.

God, Christ-as-Man, Christ as something more than man. His dozens of open eyes blink. His wrists bleed a constant, sluggish ichor. A glowing blackness comes from the open space in his chest, from the heart beating there slowly. The exact opposite of light. It burns Ezra’s eyes. A mortal should not expect to look on the face of God and keep their sight, go unchanged.

When the Angels came to the Shepherds the first thing they said was “be not afraid.”

It makes sense to Ezra that God Himself would be far more terrifying.

He is filled with a great and powerful awe. He is bleeding to death.

“My Son,” God says, with a voice like choirs singing and trumpets sounding and walls crumbling. A voice that is a thousand voices screaming, praying, laughing, sobbing.

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

“My Lord,” Ezra manages.

God’s form settles down, becomes more bearable to look upon. He becomes a little taller than Ezra, His face shifting through every kind of male beauty there is. He is naked, and formed well, and shaped as men are if more impressively. Most of the eyes over his body close, but Ezra somehow knows they are still looking at him.

“Is this more comfortable for you?” God asks him and Ezra could weep for that holy compassion shown to him, a weak sinner.

“It is. My God, My Lord, I am your faithful servant.”

“You are.”

God reaches out a hand and presses it to the wound Ezra made in his own side, still bleeding. There is a wonderful agony and the wound seals itself shut. He does the same with the lopped off fingers, and they become long healed stumps.

Then His hands travel along Ezra’s limbs. Freezing cold or burning hot, he cannot tell. It makes him whimper, sob, overloads his poor simple nerve endings.

Ezra is hard. This, too, belongs to God. All he is is for God to use.

“Tell me what to do,” he begs, as God cups the back of his neck with that searing hand.

“What you have always done, Ezra. Worship.”

He kneels. With joy, with devotion, he opens his mouth and takes the flesh of God within it.