The first thing you may ask is – why on earth are you giving a story away? Well, I like the story, and I want people to read it. That’s the easiest answer. But truly, this is a way to let you see what I do, and how I do it. And if you like it, then hey, you should check my books out. The links to the right have the info for all that.
The second thing you ask is – why am I wearing clown pants, and that my friend, you have to answer for yourself. Here’s the story.
“In blood did we come, and in fire shall we go. Aye preacher?”
The calf’s mouth twisted into a parody of a grin before starting to chew at its own foreleg again. As it chewed through its leg the boy stood placid five feet from it, rubbing is hands together for warmth. It was late autumn and the taste of winter was already in the air. He was dressed warmly, in wool pants and a sweater made by a townswoman specially for him, but there was dampness in the air he couldn’t shake. Just there was the feeling of being watched by things unseen. He had been here in the barn for over three hours already and he was getting anxious. He had been called here just this monring by the widow, a woman who was his father’s half sister, though she had been pushed from the family when his da was but a boy. The widow had been losing animals and strange things had happened on her farm and she felt the boy was the only person who could take care of the matter. So he had come, but while he had come with business in mind it seemed the thing in the goat only wanted to play. It was toying with him, playing games, as it had done the other times he had faced it. If it truly was the same thing he had faced at the other three farms. It was hard to tell. Lies and games. Games and lies. So many games, but beneath them all was the danger, the very real danger because the most horrible thing it could do was tell the truth, the worst and most awful truth. That had happened at the last farm, the Henkins’ place, where it had talked about his mother. Secrets about his mother and father. The boy shook his head violently back and forth. His mind was wandering and that was dangerous, he needed to concentrate, to be here, or else, or else…
The thing let out a satisfied grunt as its leg fell onto the hay of the barn and its blood pumped out across the wood floor.
“You look cold, preacher, come, warm yourself with my blood before it cools. Isn’t that what you people do? Or is it just the blood of your so-called savior that warms you?”
The boy ignored the thing and picked up his Bible again. It was cheap and old, a present from his mother when he first started his work for the Lord, and it still bore the names of the previous owners and their scribbles and underlining throughout it. It was modest, it was worn, but it felt good in his hands. He looked back at the animal and saw that the calf was losing a lot of blood and would be gone soon but the thing in it was going to get the most out of its puppet as it quickly chewed through its remaining foreleg. The other animals of the barn screamed and moaned at what was going on pushed against their corral and it took everything he had for the boy to block it out. This had gone on longer than he had thought, than anyone had thought. He could still hear the crowd that stood outside the barn, huddled around a fire to keep warm, but could tell their numbers had thinned. He had done three others like this but they had all been with animals and had gone quickly. This though, this was…this was different. This was going to be worse.
“I am going now, preacher. You have bested me. You have won, oh, oh the fires, they burn, oh how they burn! ” The calf, two legs now gone, kicked its back legs and let out a low moan as its eyes rolled up into its head and a thin trickle of blood ran from its mouth and then it was finally still. The animals around the boy began whimpering again, sensing the same thing he did, that it was far from over. And while they were frightened, the boy knew too well that the last thing wanted was another animal. It wanted more than just that. That wouldn’t be enough anymore.
In the quiet moments as the boy waited he surveyed the damage the thing had already committed – much of the barn’s floor was covered in blood and there were four animals lay bled out in the form of a circle that formed around the boy. When he had arrived both cats had already been dead after having told the widow stories of her dead husband’s infidelity, but he got here in time for the goat and calf to be taken, which left only one more thing in the circle other than the boy. And it was always the circle. Always. Even Hell had its rules and for they of the shadows it was the circle where you could call them or expel them. The circle was where you played the game out. Whatever was brought into the circle was part of the game, part of the play, and for the boy, he was part of it too. He could chase it from animal to animal to animal throughout the barn but until it finally killed all of them here or until it settled into something else, something bigger. The animals he could take completely and the boy could do nothing to stop it. There was no expelling them when they were in the lesser animals. There was no resistance, no strong will, so the thing could take it over, as the stories told back to Jesus and before. But in animals they had little power to do more than blaspheme and upset people, ah, but in humans they could do a great deal of damage, but it was also only from a human that they could be expelled. It took something with self awareness and Will to aid in their expulsion, and once expelled they would return to whatever darkness they called home and the body and soul would be cleansed. The boy had never really even expelled the thing before. It always seemed to leave the host body willingly, as if it got bored. In fact he feared that the thing in the barn with him was the very thing he had dealt with before, still here and waiting for him as he arrived. But the people believed in him, the boy who could speak to demons.
It had been several years now that the boy had walked in the Light of the Lord. Was it five or six? He wasn’t sure. He had taken the gift of the Word and the hand of the Lord after nearly drowning when he was seven, when he had thought he had seen a light and had heard the voices of the angels but when he had awakened he found he was among a group of girls who had gotten him from the lake and onto land before it was too late. And was it the angels that had been calling him or the girls? He wasn’t sure but whatever the reality of what had happened, he had promised to serve the Lord, and had done just that, taking up the Word and spreading it every Sunday in the town. When the thing, the demon, began taking animals in the town he had been called to expel it. But each time he had gone to the home where the thing had appeared to do the Lord’s work the thing had toyed with him and left on its own, leaving the dead animals behind and promising to see him again. Had he scared it, with the words of the Bible, and his own righteousness? Or had it truly left on its own? He couldn’t be sure. Now though, now was his chance to truly expel it, to be rid of it and to do the Lord’s work and, thinking this, he gripped the Bible tightly in his hands and stood. It was time to finish this game.
“Lord, look upon your servant and grant me the grace to drive the evil from this town. Grant me the strength to send the shadow back into hiding. Grant me the power to purge the unclean enemy.” The words felt good, felt hot in his mouth, and the shaking in his legs slowed and then stopped the more he spoke.
He was not the only one with something to say though.
“That’s it preacher, that’s it. Talk dirty. I like it when you talk dirty.” The calf’s head lifted slightly, the light gone from its eyes but the thing still in it, using up the very last that was left of the animal. Sucking it dry before moving on.
The boy looked down at the poor creature, which attempted a smile but finally collapsed before it could. This thing had eaten and been made fat on the meat of the Lord’s creatures, but it would have no more. The boy smiled with righteousness and he raised his head and looked to the farthest part of the circle, where the light was thinnest and where lay the wiry form of a girl. The seventeen year old was Angela, the only daughter of the widow. She was weak in the mind but strong in the Lord and tonight she was bait. It had not been the boy’s choice to use her but his father’s, telling the boy that the demon must be called out and expelled. And to expel it you needed a human. And to do it right you needed someone pure. Why it was his father’s shunned niece that was chosen, the boy wasn’t sure. The boy had never met his cousin formally but had seen her at the church every Sunday and she had always seemed a sweet girl, despite her slowness of mind and body, and she had his father’s soft grey eyes so it tore him to know she was here with he and the thing, but it was the Lord’s Will and he could only follow it. He took a breath and waited.
He didn’t wait long.
There was a heavy feeling in the room as the thing took her, the girl having been slipped sleeping medicine in her dinner milk, and when the demon finally took control of her, the boy realized what a mistake they had made. Her body twitched as it found its control, her legs shaking, her neck twisting back and forth violently and her hands slapping the hay covered floor until it finally had her and slowly she sat up and faced the boy.
“Now we all have what we wanted when we started this game. So, tell me, preacher, how are you going to chase me out this time? Do you think you’re finally strong enough to do it? Or shall you run crying for your mother as you did the other times.”
“Unclean spirit, you are commanded by this servant of the Lord Almighty and his Host to depart His child. Return to the fire, return to the flame, return to the Abyss which sent you forth.”
“Pretty words. Pretty, but useless. Do you think words will make me leave? Do you really? Poor, poor boy. They lied to you. Your God lied to you. I am never leaving this girl. Never. She’s mine now.”
Laughter filled the barn, high pitched mad laughter and the boy heard a gasp from outside the barn and a scream that had to be Angela’s mother. The animals too were upset again, having crowded to the far corner of their corral, away from the he and the girl. The boy’s hands were shaking again but he tried to put it out of mind. It was lying. It always lied. God was good. God was good. God was good…
“Out. I command you out! The Lord, God has dominion over the Heavens and the earth and over the soul of this child. I cry thee depart and return to your infernal master!”
The girl stood, slowly, awkwardly, the braces on her legs making it hard for the thing to move smoothly. It snarled and bent down to pull at the braces and as it did her hands and legs were cut, but it kept pulling at them until finally it was free of them and Angela’s hands and legs were covered in deep gashes and blood. It smiled at the boy and took a step toward him, wobbling as it moved, unsteady but coming. Her face was blank, her expression dead, but the eyes, the eyes were wide and wild, like his mothers had been when she had gotten the sickness and his father had put her down like one of the livestock.
“Do you know what I like about little girls, preacher? Do you? No? I like the same thing you and your daddy like – the soft parts. The wet parts.” The thing ran Angela’s hands over her body, the blood leaving a trail from chest to crotch to thigh to throat to lips before running her hands through her hair and dying the white blonde hair with the red. It shuddered forward another step.
The boy felt his stomach turn. This wasn’t working. It wasn’t even afraid of him. It wasn’t afraid of the Lord. He clenched the Bible tighter in one hand and dropped the other to his side and pulled a small bottle from his pants pocket and uncorked it. In one motion the boy lifted his hand and splashed liquid from the bottle onto the thing and it let out a howl of pain that set it back to the darkest part of the circle again.
“Cheating. That’s cheating, preacher. Using another’s Holy Water. Using REAL Holy Water. Where did you get it? Calvin, that drunk of a barkeep? Maybe O’Flynn, the pedophile that owns the feed mill? Or was it your mother’s? Yes, that’s it, isn’t it? Dear mother who daddy put down when I started calling her out to play. Using something she had used to protect herself for so long. Ah, but you see, it was she that sought ME out, not the other way around. Did your daddy tell you that? It was she that called me to play at first.” The thing laughed and stood in the shadows, rocking back and forth on bare feet.
As the boy watched the thing it began picking at Angela’s arms, as if pulling bugs from her skin, and as soon as it picked something it raised her arm to the mouth and then went back to picking again. He couldn’t make out quite what it was doing but it turned his stomach to watch. The barn was hot and he was sweating now. He looked down at his feet and the lamp. Three other lamps outlined the circle and filled the barn with light, but despite the flood of light shadows still moved in the corners of the barn and the boy felt eyes other than the thing on him. It must have sensed this.
“Oh, we’re not alone, preacher. No, I always travel with friends. They prefer the shadows though – they’re shy, where I always like the attention. So, now that you’ve used up all of your, sorry, your MOTHER’S Holy Water, what’s next? More spells? More nonsense from that book of yours? Oh, preacher, are you hungry?”
The thing stepped from the shadows and the boy took a step back from it and let out a gasp. Angela’s arms were coated in her blood where big chunks of her skin had been pulled free to reveal the muscle beneath and all over her face and mouth like lipstick was the story of what it had been doing to her in the dark. The thing held a small piece of meat out to him and smiled but when her didn’t come to take it, ate it itself.
“Lord, I beseech thee, I am but your servant but fill me with your righteousness, fill me with your Light. Let me by thy sword. Let me strike this enemy low and cast it out.”
The thing laughed and began pacing around the circle. The boy stood dead center so it walked around him, never coming closer but never breaking the circle. It was contained. But not dispelled. But then it changed the game.
The demon stopped pacing and looked at the boy, smiling, rocking back and forth. It put its fingers in the girl’s mouth and began pulling at the sides until long tears formed and ran up her cheek. More blood poured out and the boy could see her teeth clearly through her cheek and a thick, wet laugh escaped it again. Then it cocked its head to the side and turned away from the boy and looked down at the circle. It thrust and arm out into the open air of the circle and swung it around. Then thrust the other outside the circle. It then took a step from the circle and the boy gasped. The thing shuddered as the blood on Angela’s skin sizzled. It forced a pained laugh then stepped back into the circle and the girl’s skin was blackened in spots and one eye was drooping now. The thing raised her hand up and pushed at the eye, as if trying to fix it, then, giving up altogether, pulled it from its socket and let it hang on her cheek.
“Do you like the game? Preacher? This IS great fun, I must admit. You’re so much more fun than your mother. She only wanted power. You people. You HUMANS, you APES – you and your power. Always power, or money, or whores. Never an appreciation for the game. Ah, but you, you seem like you could get a taste for it. Am I wrong, preacher?”
The thing took a step toward him and the boy stepped back. His heart was racing, he was sweating, his breath was short but deep down, deep down he was enjoying it. Deep down there was a fire in his belly that was growing. He had stopped shaking and beneath his determined face was a grin waiting to escape. This was truly the Lord’s work. This was power. He smiled and took a step toward the demon.
“Demon. Foul THING from the Abyss. Be GONE and return to the PIT where you come from. You are a DEVIL and a DEMON and the Light of the Lord is STRONG in me and I shall overcome you. OUT!”
The boy raised the Bible at Angela and the thing hissed at him and limped back to the dark part of the circle again and started giggling.
“Oh yes, you have a taste for it. This is going to be fun, preacher. Very fun. I see a lot of games in our future. A lot. I can hardly wait.” Its voice still a whisper, but now it had a lisp because of the torn cheeks. Like a hiss. The barn creaked and there was movement in the shadows. The demon crouched and hissed at the boy and made Angela urinate all over the floor.
“DEMON I say thee beGONE from this girl. BeGONE from this clean, innocent soul. Return to the Abyss and flee from the Light. I say thee beGONE in His name BEGONE!”
The thing laughed and sat down with the girl’s legs splayed. Her face, throat, legs, arms, hands all soaked with blood and her cheeks flapping as it spoke.
“I never came for the soul, preacher. I came for the game. Always the game. We’ll be seeing you again. Oh yes, we’ll be seeing you again. I think I like you. And deep down, I think you’re starting to like me. Isn’t Love grand? Good night preacher.”
The barn shook again, the light from the lamps went low, the animals started to whine and cry, and the sound from the corners rose to a crescendo until suddenly it all stopped and the girl slumped backward out of the circle and onto the ground. The boy let out a long sigh and wiped sweat from his brow. He smiled and held the Bible up above his head in one hand and nodded. It was a glorious night. The boy lifted the lamp at his feet and walked over to his cousin to look down on her. She was bloodied and torn but she was free of the evil. She was free. She stirred slightly and moved, and as she moved the many wounds on her must have sung out and she screamed with pain. She rolled over and looked up at her cousin and, seeing a kind face, held her hand out to him, hoping he could take her pain away. He looked down at her, at her wounds, at the tears and her weakness and suddenly knew what he must do.
The boy lifted the lamp high above his head and then dropped it onto the girl and almost immediately the kerosene spread across her skin and clothes and she caught fire, and with the fire came more screams. The boy watched her writhe a moment then turned and grabbed another lamp and he threw that into a corner of the barn that had hay piled high. He grabbed one more lamp and threw it toward the animals, which were tied up together in the small corral. He then went to the barn doors and threw them open wide. Outside a hundred eyes watched him silently.
“She is clean. The demon is gone. But her body is unclean. The barn is unclean. The animals are unclean. Let it burn. Let it all burn and let the Lord’s wrath wash the evil from this place. Praise to He, Amen.”
“Amen.” Replied the flock.
A woman ran forward from the back of the crowd, stopped to look at the boy a moment, and then ran into the fire to find her child. The boy made his way through the crowd, Bible in hand, and smiled as hands reached to touch him, to feel his energy, his power. As he walked, quickly emerging from the crowd and separating himself from it, from even his father who jogged after the boy, he began to hum. It was only three days until Sunday and he had a feeling it’d be a packed house. That made his smile wider still. Lucky for him he had just the sermon for them.
One they’d not soon forget,