They say the Old Manse rests on consecrated ground, but we know different now. When evil comes, it does so without warning, without provocation, and without a care of the sacredness or sanctity of one’s home.
The devil lives among us. In fact, it sleeps in the parlor beneath my bed, the one I shared with my older sister, Jessamine, until four weeks ago. It festers within her frail body, a host that grows weaker with each passing day, so weak that I wonder how much more my poor sister can endure.
A week ago, I heard Father mention a word I’d never heard in my studies before.
Reverend Newton claims Jessamine is possessed by an evil spirit. It’s the only thing that can explain the physical change in her body, the mad gibberish she spits at us unabated, the fantastic feats she performs at will. Just yesterday, I watched her rise from the settee as if she had the weight of a cloud. It took Mother and Father to pull her down from the ceiling.
Oh, the terrible things it/she said to Father. The awful epithets it/she hurled at Mother.
The worst is saved for the Reverend. How the demon in Jessamine despises him.
The good Reverend arrived four days ago. Most of his time has been spent at her bedside, reading scripture, sometimes shouting, other times issuing commands in a soft yet commanding voice.
My sister’s exorcism is in its fourth day. It feels and looks as if we have all aged twenty years. Mother’s hair is whiter, and the weariness of Father’s eyes along with his sunken cheeks have given him the mask of a much older, decimated man.
Tonight is to be the last night. Either Jessamine will die or the Reverend will perish from the struggle between God and the Fallen One. I know in my heart of hearts that neither can persevere another day.
I was ordered to stay out of the parlor, but I can’t leave my sister’s side. I watch in mute horror as her body contorts and strange, terrifying sounds issue from her chapped, raw lips.
A hail storm, wild and white with gale winds that batter the glass windows of the Old Manse, howls in unison with the demon that has lodged itself within Jessamine’s throat. She is so pale. Her body is awash with sweat and blood, yet she shivers as if immersed in an icy lake.
“Child, the Reverand’s Bible!” my father shouts at me.
My heart hitches in my chest and I freeze.
It takes everyone in the room, Father, Mother, Reverand Newton and Esther, our charwoman, who was strong as ten horses, to contain my teenage sister’s writhing body. The popping of Jessamine’s shoulders and hips bring a wave of nausea to my already tormented belly.
“Mercy! The book!”
My mother’s panicked voice breaks me from my stupor.
Jessamine had smacked the book out of Reverand Newton’s hand when he tried to place its binding against her flushed, creased forehead. I find it under the chair and run to him.
Using his free hand to press down on my sister’s chest, he opens the book to a page with a red felt bookmark and begins to read.
“Submit yourselves to God! Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!”
Jessamine roars, an inhuman wail that sounds like a zoo of beasts in agony.
I step back, stifling my tears. I squeeze my doll, my only source of comfort, tight against my breast.
“We’re almost there,” the Reverand says to my father.
Jessamine’s eyes roll to the back of her head and her body goes limp.
The Reverend continues, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up!”
A hail stone the size of a man’s fist crashes through the window. The angry wind follows, billowing out the heavy, maroon drapes. All of the candles snuff out and we plunge into darkness.
I scream. I know I’m supposed to be strong and brave for my tormented sister, but out it comes anyway, a scream from the pit of my soul that won’t stop until my throat is torn to pieces. I want it to cease! I can’t bear another moment under this roof, wrestling with the devil that has taken hold of my dear, loving Jessamine.
Through my screams of terror, there is no way to know that all had grown deathly still.
A pair of cold hands place themselves on either side of my face.
“Mercy, please, it’s all right,” a voice hushes. Stale breath brushes across my face.
Reluctantly, I open my eyes, and my spirit soars.
I throw my arms around my frail sister and we go crashing to the floor.
“Be careful,” mother admonishes.
“You’re back! You’re really back!” I cry, gazing into her clear, exhausted eyes.
A stream of tears flow down her cheeks and she kisses the top of my head. “I am,” she replies. “And just in time, I see. You dropped Lucy.”
She hands my doll to me and I notice the crack in her once perfect, porcelain head. It runs from the corner of her right eyebrow to her painted hairline. Normally, such a tragedy would devastate me, but on this day, it was a pittance.
My sister had returned!
…to be continued, Part 1
Written by Hunter Shea, Story & Concept by Ivy Shea and Veronica Shea
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2012 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.
27 thoughts on “Mercy”
Dramatic and powerful prose, Hunter! You have captured Jessamine’s character very well. I felt her anguish. Your use of language is also well-chosen, utilising religious jargon to reinforce the exorcist theme throughout. Intrigued and impressed.
Thank you very much. I figured after writing horror for almost 20 years, it was time I tried my hand at something gothic. This was supposed to be flash fiction, but it grew beyond any plans I had. Hell, it may have to be broken up into 5 parts by the time I’m done.
Excellent story Hunter! Though I have to say, waiting half a year to read the end may be a bit of a tease! LOL
I’ll definitely find ways to speed it up. 🙂
Great installment Hunter! Can’t wait to see what happens next!
Me either! LOL
Wow! The concept alone gives me chills, but when combined with your talent for words, this story floored me. I cannot wait to read the upcoming installments. This elicited a sense of unease and paranoia I have not felt since watching The Exorcist. *shudders* Well done, Hunter; WELL done!
Thank you so much Adriana. That really means a lot to me. Since we’er all horror lunatics here, it’s not always easy to get the damned to be uneasy!
Hey Hunter, sorry for delay as I’m away on vacation, but I enjoyed the first installment of ‘Mercy.’ It seemed almost too docile (as docile as possession & exorcisms can be); I have a sneaking suspicion that you’ll be unleashing hell oh so soon enough.
The fact your daughters helped provide the glue to your Gothic gruesomeness is really a special thing! 🙂
The docility is nothing but a cheap ruse. LOL Twisted dads make twisted kids.
Oh (Demon) Hunter, you must be proud of those daughters of yours as they must be some wonderful evil little creatures. *wicked smile* And, of course, coming from me that’s meant to be a good thing. A very good thing… As I do so like a good possession every now and then, I enjoyed the read. Felt like I was in the room waiting for the power of Christ to compel someone. *not-of-course-the-unfortunate-soon-to-be-evicted-demon-though grin* And, like Joe and rest, I looking forward to the next edition.
I’m very proud of my little ghoulies. The story only gets stranger from here.
“When evil comes, it does so without warning, without provocation, and without a care of the sacredness or sanctity of one’s home.” In one sentence, you capture the essence of why evil frightens us. Not only is it unpredictable, it is the absence of decency and compassion.
The broken doll seems more like a portent than a pittance, but I guess I’ll have to wait to find out!
This story could go in some really fantastic directions! The cliff hanger (with the broken doll picked up by the newly risen Jessamine)…absolutely spot on.
Thanks. I plan to have a lot of fun with this story.
Great work as always, Master Shea. I can’t wait to read the continuation!
Reblogged this on Robert Rumery's Blog.
Extremely well written piece. The crack has me wondering… Thank you for posting this. I feel fortunate that I get to go straight to Part 2 with out the wait.
Thank you so much! I posted part 3 on my website on Halloween. You can read it here : http://huntershea.com/2012/10/31/a-gothic-tale-for-halloween-mercy/
The final chapter will be here on POTD in early December.
I did go to your website and read part 3. Excellent continuation! I’m excited for part 4. I also enjoyed perusing through your website. Lots of great stuff on there. Until December and the final chapter of Mercy…