Introduction

Crunching to a stop in the cracked, weedy parking lot, Shirlee paused to look at the Old Congregational Church. Like the rest of Dunwich, the decrepit stone edifice was permeated with decay.

Pastor Aridha had presided over the pulpit for five decades until his death two years prior, and seems he’d never had a bit of maintenance done on the building in all that time. Well, he did put plywood over the stained glass window that a bird flew through during service one Sunday. A brick-shaped bird, according to rumor.

Pastor David Gardner, of the failed (and since demolished) Congregational church in Kingsport, had moved to Dunwich to take over the flock. Shirlee Babson had long taught Sunday school in Kingsport. Gardner pleaded for hours before Shirlee agreed to make the trip each week to Dunwich to share the Good News with the local children.

She didn’t much like them. As her friend Eunice had pointed out, the phone directory in Dunwich had only three last names in it, and it showed in the vacant stares of the town’s youth. Some of them even drooled in class, for crying out loud.

A sharp tap at the window startled her. “Pastor, don’t do that!” Shirlee opened the door to get out. “Must you always scare me?”

Gardner grinned sheepishly in apology. “Er . . . so how are the kids this year?”

“Mostly the same as last year, Pastor. They just sit there, it’s like I’m reading to a room of wax dummies. Except for Ginny Weatherby, she’s the only one with a lick of sense. Just a lick, mind you,” she added.

Ginny was a bit different. Her mother was a Dunwich local, but had briefly taken up with a boy attending university not far away. The boy only lasted a few months, taking off and transferring to another school days after his first visit to meet the family. But he didn’t run off before leaving a little fresh water in the local gene pool, so to speak.

“Don’t expect much from these kids. Apples don’t fall far from the tree, Shirlee.”

“At least they don’t expect socials after service. The parents are about as interactive as dead goldfish.”

“Shirlee!” Gardner chided. He had to act ashamed of her comment, being a Pastor and all, but couldn’t hide his agreement with the sentiment. “Well, there’s good news, anyway. A couple of bright young men will be joining your class. Their parents just moved to Kingsport, and found that this is the nearest Congregational church.”

“That’s a relief! Do they speak in complete sentences?”

“Yes. I’ve met them, and can confirm that they are literate, intelligent fellows. Got your recorder?”

“Of course, Pastor.” Ever since the ‘Jephthah Incident’ last year, Shirlee had taken to recording her Bible lessons. She still couldn’t believe the police had tried to blame her for the Judson boys trying to burn their little sister alive. “Poor Emily. At least it was just rubbing alcohol.”

“Yes, I saw her just last week. No scars, and her hair has grown back. Poor thing.”

“Doesn’t say a word in class, ever. Not sure if she even can speak.” Shirlee paused. “Pastor, I’ve been thinking. Maybe I should write up my classes, the discussion and all, and put them on the Internet.”

“Isn’t that going just a little far?”

“Far? No, I think it’d be educational for people all over to learn about the Bible.”

“Not just to cover yourself, right?”

“I’m keeping the recordings for that, Pastor!”

“Good enough, then. Have at it.”