Jenna's Archangel: I

A driving New England Nor'Easter had besieged the quiet town of Stonebridge. The roads had been deserted hours before the long night began to settle. It's only inhabitants seemed to be toiling snowplows, their blinking lights barely cutting through the whipping wind. One such plow was occupied be an exhausted Adrienne Burr, a powerful young woman with a taste for strong coffee and wasn't shy with the jelly donuts either.


She was just rounding the corner of Bath Street and Benjamin Parkway when she saw the cathedral and its impressive stained glass spire a block away. It cut through the blizzard as if it had always been there, unmovable and as strong as the faith that built it. She wasn't terribly religious herself, but she respected the kind of humanity that could erect such an impressive structure. It was beautiful, carved out of local granite and built by some of the best New England architects the roaring 1920's had to offer.

Saint Aldhelm's had survived wars, thirteen financial melt downs, a depression and more recently the swine flu pandemic. But it wouldn't quite make it through the night.

She lazily turned the corner in a wide fashion, blowing a wet dirty mess onto the sidewalk. She adjusted gears and slowed, her hopper kicking out as little rock salt as it could. It'd have to last her the rest of the night and she didn't want anyone to kill themselves on her route.

"Just finishing up Bath now, Pops." She barked on her radio before taking a long drawn out sip of coffee from her Dunkin' Donuts thermal mug. It was still hot and creamy, just the way she liked it.

"I hear you, Addie. Be careful, Channel 9 says we're supposed to get some ice before this bastard leaves us for Portland. I don't want to fish you out of a ditch again."

Pops was a cantankerous old man with a penchant for taped baseball games when he was supposed to be dispatching plows and tow trucks. But that night he seemed more watchful than normal. He was on the horn every ten minutes asking for her position, how things were going, if she was okay. After a brief conversation with Joel, her wing man and on again off again boyfriend the same was true with him.

Maybe he felt something deep down in his bones and couldn't fish it out quite right. But he was worried.

She thought it was unusual, but she didn't dwell on it. He was probably jittery from all the free coffee or anxious. The storm was the worst in recent memory and the town already had four or five car accidents since morning. Two of them were fatal.

Addie was just about to reach for the hand piece to ask Joel if he was doing anything when their shift was over, maybe catch some ham and eggs over a cup of joe. Maybe go back to her place for a nightcap (early morning cap?) But she saw someone running from the old church and quickly forgot about her thoughts of breakfast and morning nookie.

They were dark, bundled up against the cold. She was too far off to make out any features but they were booking it. Light spilled from the stained glass windows and the big, iron clad doors were left ajar. She switched gears and shut down the rock salt hopper. Grabbing her jacket with one hand she turned the truck's enormous wheel and pulled in next to the church. The dark figure had disappeared into the night behind a fast food joint. She threw on her jacket and stepped out into the roaring blizzard.

The cold hit her like a sheet of steel and drove ice into her cheeks. Outside the idling truck she could smell woodsmoke from hearths all over the town. But she could just make out something else, the scent of burning plastic and a sharp artificial tang.

Jamming her hands into her pockets she approached the abandoned church and its ominously ajar doors . She kept her head down and her collar up, fighting the driving snow. Because of this she didn't notice the wisp of black smoke curling from the unseen function room hidden behind the granite spire. It wouldn't have prevented the chain of events already taking place beneath the century old structure of course, but that had been long planned and unstoppable. A clockwork freight train barreling down on her life.

Without warning the million dollar stained glass window erupted in a fireball. She could feel the heat on her face and she instinctively fell face first into the deep snow. Tiny shards of Saint Aldhelm, an intellectual man reading a scroll rained down on her cheap Wal-Mart jacket. She could feel the secondary explosion in her chest. A deep rumbling thing that knocked the wind from her and tinged her vision with black. Toppled over in the snow she heard a terrible crack and a crumbling noise.

If she had the courage to marshal (she did not), she would have seen the pillar of the community shatter where it joined with the rest of the church. It's enormous stained glass mural a gaping hole, framed with soot and charred religious brickabrack.

She would have also seen the impressive structure fall straight onto her idling plow, crushing it beneath tons of granite.

When all was said and done she picked up her head and stared at what remained of Saint Aldhelm's, now burning wreck. It took her a couple of minutes to get over the shock of what happened, but when she did she ran to the only light that she could see in the distance. The only thing she could think of as her legs pumped and her chest heaved was whether anyone had been inside.

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