The vestments were always a bit tight, heavy. With each attack upon my faith, they burned my skin and made bitter my memory. They were, however, my duty. The Vatican, my employer. No matter how many times I’d been spit at, violated, and broken, my goal was to cleanse the colors of evil from man’s palette.
“Father, oh Father. Thank God you have arrived. The boy, he’s grown worse.”
“Your name?” I had little time for pleasantries, but knowing the names of those that would serve as my assistants made the rites and rituals far easier.
“I am terribly sorry. My name is Isobelle. I am the Abbess of St. Belle’s Orphanage.”
“Do you know the Rite of Exorcism?”
The sister gave pause, looked at the cracked and aged hardwood floor at her feet. “I must apologize, Father, I do not.”
“Ignorance of the Rite was one of the hurdles of having such a secretive arm of the Holy See. It is not a problem, Sister, I will guide you.”
As I was taking off my rain-soaked jacket, a low, creaking moan filled the air. The ambient temperature noticeably dropped.
“We have carefully examined the files and recordings you sent. Have there been any changes?”
Sister Isobelle stopped. The look on her face was drawn and hollow. “Yes.”
I stared, waiting for the thought to be completed. The Sister remained silent. The low moan was joined by a chorus of hideous screams. As the retched sounds reached a fevered pitch, Sister Isobelle slapped her hands to her ears. Tears flooded her mottled cheeks.
“Sister, you must be strong. Now, take me to the boy.”
Isobelle pulled out a handkerchief, blotted her eyes, and blew her nose. The simple act was an island of genuine humility.
Sister Isobelle placed one nervous foot in front of another. At the end of the candlelit hall, Isobelle opened a flimsy wooden door. The creak of the hinges only served to add another layer of macabre to the horrific scene I was about to witness.
Halfway down the cellar steps, I could feel the change. It wasn’t just another drop in temperature; the air felt heavy, corrupt.
“He’s in this room.” Isobelle’s shaky hand reached out and unlocked the door. For some odd reason, I expected the heavy wood to be blown to bits as the demon-infected child sensed the presence of a holy champion.
Instead, there was only low, arrogant laughter. The laugh insisted itself upon me, made sure I knew whatever unclean spirit existed within the room had no fear of the Cloth of God.
“Please, won’t you come in Father.”
The voice was simple – but not that of a child. When I glanced at the boy bound to the bed, the laughter stopped. His oil-black eyes addressed me.
“Did you expect me to speak in tongues? Latin? Something older? I can see the disappointment in your eyes Father. This isn’t the movies. My head will not spin ’round, nor will I spew pea soup. But if it so please you, I can begin afresh the theatrics.”
I sat my bag down and began to pull out the tools of my trade.
“Ahh yes, the weapons of holy war. Sprinkle me with God’s water Father. Speak your clean words into the ears of this infested child. Fight me. Force me to begone. By the power of Christ, compel me! By the power of Christ, compel me!” The boy writhed on the bed as he mocked me and my position.
“Father… ” Isobella started to speak. I held up a hand to stop her.
“Sister, you should know better than to interrupt a man of the cloth when he is near a young boy.” When the last of the demon’s vile words spat from his mouth, the door to the room slammed shut, nearly splintering the wood.
“I can smell it on you Father. Delicious corruption. It was only a matter of time – ”
“From all evil, deliver us, O Lord. From all sin, your wrath.” I began the chant. The sister recited back the words.
The beast roared me to silence and, with little more than a glance, flung the sister across the room. The woman’s head roughly smacked the floor; she lay motionless.
“Sorry, Father. She was weak, and I wanted to have you to myself.” A vile smile slithered its way across the monster’s lips. “It was only a matter of time before the blinded Holy See would send to me a man with such a tenuous grasp on his faith.”
I continued my chant. “From sudden and unprovided death, from the snares of the devil, from anger, hatred, and all ill will, from all lewdness, from lightning and tempest, from the scourge of earthquakes, from plague, famine, and war, from everlasting death.”
“From child-molesting priests, from bigotry, from young men gunning down innocent children, from mothers beating their babies, from hatred, from homophobia, from lust of the flesh and the coin… Shall I continue Father?”
The look on the vile demon’s face was painted with arrogance as he tore his hands free from his bonds and sat up.
“Father, it’s time the truth be set free. I am that truth. I am The Way.”
“Lord, have mercy!” I called out.
“Lord, have mercy!” The demon replied with a laugh. “How can the Lord hand you mercy when he’s none to give? The Lord is a lie. In the beginning was The Word and the The Word was a lie.”
A splash of holy water danced across the flesh of the beast’s face. The demon licked his tongue around his lips.
“The taste of your Lord’s tears is sweet.”
“Do not keep in mind, O Lord, our offenses or those of our parents, nor take vengeance on our sins.”
“Silence Priest!” The demon raised a hand. A gentle calm overcame me. “Please, have a seat. I want to tell you a story.”
From my pack came the written word – the holiest of holies, entrusted to me by my Cardinal.
“Hide that book of filth and shame from my sight or I will burn you Priest.”
Waves of heat rose from the skin of the boy. I assumed the threat honest and tucked my Bible back inside my case.
“Everything you know is a lie. The words in your tomes are little more than trickery to blind you to the greater truth – that some day your kind will be nothing more than fodder for God’s cannon. Once upon a long lost time, God and Lucifer stood side by side. It wasn’t until God realized that all within his dominion saw he and Lucifer as equals, that he decided to cast the loveliest of Angels aside. The Great Fall was tragic and God knew he’d made a grievous error. The Light of Perfection, however, could not admit to his wrong doing, else his power be lost. And so, since that great gaffe, your God has been amassing souls in preparation for Lucifer’s return to the heavenly dominion.”
The lilt and melody of the voice held me fast. I wanted to weep, to fall at the feet of the demon, and beg for some mercy I’d never receive.
“Had I not found you, Priest, your never-ending soul would have joined the Army of God. That is not to be now. Instead, you will fight for the truest truth. My God has been waiting for this chance since before you were nothing more than a shot of sperm from the prick of a self-righteous, ego-maniacal man of the soiled cloth.”
“I don’t understand. Why do you need me to fight your unholy war?”
A great puff of sulfuric smoke spilled from the nostrils of the boy.
“You are going to help me into the Vatican. From within the Holy See, I will gain access to a very special tome. The ‘Santus Bellum’ – or ‘Holy War’. Within that book is the very plan for God’s war to be waged against Lucifer and the dominion of Hell.”
I stood, a righteous fury fueling my voice. “You will never gain access to the Holiest of Holies.”
The demon released a moan, his eyes rolled to gaze within. As the temperature in the room dropped, the boy floated from the bed and into a crucifixion position. Wind howled through the room and ripped pages from the Bible I had stowed away. The gilded paper lashed about the air, slashing the tiniest of paper cuts over my exposed skin. With each slice I could feel my strength drain. I had never experienced such power, such raw emotion.
As an atonal chorus sang an unholy psalm, I felt the demon attempt to enter me, to take root within my spirit, give succor to a wanton soul. The blessed core of my conscience fought back, until a singular memory boiled up from the recesses of my mind.
I was young, innocent, lost in my ways. Until I was found by Father Stephenson, my life was little more than thievery and corruption. The Father took me in, cured me of my indecent ways, and taught me… Taught me love.
The simple memory shattered my trust, my faith. Stirring at the core of my being, my spirit was released from The Way. As the memory was released, a peace I hadn’t known for such a long time encompassed my heart.
“I welcome you demon. I embrace your light. I pledge my fealty to your cause.”
My proclamation brought stillness to the room. The boy’s body dropped back to the bed, his countenance returned to innocence. Isobella roused from the floor, rushed to the boy’s side, and held him in her frail arms.
“You did it Father. You’ve saved the child.”
As I placed my hand on the handle of the door, the wood fell to dust. I left the room and my holy relics behind. My cause was clear. I was to serve the true King of Kings. It was time to arm the Lord of Loss and tilt the scales of righteousness back to the side of truth.
~ Jack Wallen
© Copyright 2013 Jack Wallen. All Rights Reserved.