Hours went by and mental and emotional exhaustion overcame them. The air in the space was becoming stale and Theo was certain it was getting warmer though he couldn’t imagine why. The heat made them drowsy and eventually they both fell asleep.
Waking up some time later Theo felt himself covered in sweat. The air in the chamber was stifling and the temperature had risen to the point where he could barely breath. He heard Elaine stir and then she cried out as she became conscious of the changes.
“Theo, what’s happening? It’s so hot in here. I can’t breathe. Theo, what the hell are we going to do?”
“I don’t know. It’s so hot…We have to find a way out…”
He got to his feet and moved toward a wall. The moment he touched it he screamed in agony. The wall was incredibly hot and his hand was instantly blistered. He stumbled back to Elaine.
“God Damn it! My hand is burned. The walls are on fire!”
He sat nursing his injured hand as Elaine began wailing. The nightmare had taken a turn for the worse. They were going to die in this place without ever knowing why. As the minutes went by the temperature increased further until breathing was all but impossible and they both lay on the floor gasping and sweating. A short time later their skin began to redden and blister in the agonizing heat. They began to scream in unison, the sound flat and useless in the dark, enclosed space. Consciousness abandoned them slowly. Just before he passed out completely a horrific thought entered Theo’s head. A thought he couldn’t bear to entertain. Terror overtook him just before blessed oblivion came.
Rising from his seat, the robed, hooded figure approached the dais and placed his hands on either side of the podium. He looked out at the semi-circle of true believers gathered in the concrete space containing the massive kiln and nodded his head. Turning to the large screen displaying what the infrared camera in the sealed chamber revealed to them all he addressed the enclave.
“Brethren, the time of the ceremony is come at last. We, the true believers of The Grail of Understanding will undertake the communion that will bring about the return of The One. These sacrificial lambs, male and female be they, will be ready soon and we shall partake of their flesh as it has been ordained and we will become one with The Grail and revel in the glory of eternal life that their sacrifice brings us. Let the celebration commence!”
The leader held his arms out wide to the assembled and they threw back their hoods and howled their savage joy in anticipation of the feast.