“I left clear instructions for you not to leave!” were the first words the pastor said to me as soon as I entered the house.
Before he could go on to give me a reprimanding lecture, I managed to stammer out, “he is going after my parents.”
The pastor widened his eyes and demanded for me to tell him what had happened. When I told him all that I went through ever since I left the house, father Hernandez called out for Joseph. The tall and thin handy man came in dipping a biscuit into a jar of peanut butter before he threw the biscuit into his mouth. This would have made me vomit if my mind was not too preoccupied with concern over my parents’ safety.
“Code 10!” the pastor vociferated.
“Oh boy!” Joseph exclaimed as he dropped the jar of peanut butter and raced out of the lounge.
“Don’t worry, Señor. We will get this demonio,” father Hernandez assured me. “You first need to clean up. Then we will go and help your parents.”
For the second time in two days, I washed off black slime from my body in the pastor’s bathroom. When I was done, I found father Hernandez, Joseph and Rebecca in the garage where there were loading guns into the back of a crimson open pick-up truck. The guns were quite a lot. I saw AKA47s, a couple of shotguns, a few revolvers and other big black guns I have no idea what they are called.
“Señor Stanford! You are done? Good, we need to get a move on!” the pastor yelled out to me.
I remained rooted to where I stood with my eyes bulged out to the extent of almost popping out of their sockets. I tried to process what I was seeing. Where did the pastor get all these guns? Why does he even have them? Isn’t God enough protection for him?
The pastor walked over to me and placed a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry. We will save your parents. I have a plan to exorcise that demon from this world.”
“Why do you have all these guns?” I asked ignoring his affirming words.
The pastor sighed and briefly looked back at Rebecca and Joseph who were still loading the truck before he turned back to me.
“I have a complicated past, Señor. A past I am not proud of. I wasn’t always like this. I used to be a very bad man. I was once part of a powerful Mexican mafia. I did terrible things that you wouldn’t believe. But I soon discovered God and decided to turn my life around. The mafia wouldn’t allow it. ‘Only way out is death,’ is what they told me. When they killed my wife, I blew the whistle on them. Most of them were arrested but some are still out there. Rebecca and I got witness protection here where I eventually became a pastor. I still had all my guns and weapons from my days in the mafia and was about to do away with them, when I was introduced to demon tracking. I know Rebecca already told you about that.”
I didn’t know how he knew but there was no point denying it, so I nodded my head. The pastor reached into his pocket and took out a rubber bullet which was carved in a cross in the middle.
“The reason I had said you shouldn’t use the power of that mark on your finger is because there are better ways of removing an evil presence from a possessed individual. Of course you can use a crucifix and so forth, but if you shoot them with this rubber bullet which was soaked and anointed in holy water, the evil inside them is quickly expelled. White flames light up in their eyes, they throw up black mire and usually collapse after that. They will have to nurse a sore spot when they wake up but at least they would have survived. Different demon trackers use different methods which all aim to make sure the person survives and my method is no different.”
“We are all done here, padre!” Joseph yelled out.
“Let’s get a move on, I will explain everything else on the way,” the pastor said to me as he briskly walked towards the truck.
Joseph jumped into the back of the truck while I climbed up front into the passenger seat.
“You are not going mi hija,” father Hernandez sternly broke the news to Rebecca who was prepared to climb in next to me. She was about to argue when the pastor held up his hand, “We have talked about this Rebecca. It’s too dangerous. End of discussion.”
“Should I at least call back up for you?” she asked.
“We will be fine. I have a plan,” the pastor said dismissively.
Rebecca sighed, held my hand and whispered to me, “be safe.” She then closed the truck’s door and watched us drive off.
It was a fairly quiet six-hour drive to my home town. The journey was hardly eventful and I barely spoke with the reverend. He only spoke briefly about demon tracking and told me there are many trackers around the world like Patrick who saved me in the café. He also said I don’t need to worry about being convicted for Candice’s death because he talked with his connections in the police. As for the people I had killed in the café, he first scolded me like a child and said he will handle it when we get back. He also spoke about his plan. Besides that, he didn’t seem inclined to small talk, neither did I. I was too concerned about my parents and I didn’t feel well. I tried calling both of my parents a couple of times using the pastor’s phone, but neither of them picked up. This augmented my worry.
The sun had already gone down when we arrived. It was a bittersweet experience for me coming back to my home town. It had been months since I had last been there, so I was enthralled to be back. But I was also anxious of probably finding my parents murdered by Bathym. I didn’t have many friends besides Craig when I was growing up, so every time I came back home I was only visiting my parents. I had lost touch with Craig after high school, but I knew he had also moved away from the town.
I directed father Hernandez to the suburb where my parents live. Just outside the suburb there is large park Craig and I always used to play in. It wasn’t much of a park because it was poorly managed and overran with weeds. It was more of a bush than a park. Most parents didn’t want their children playing in that deplorable park. But as hot headed kids, Craig and I spent most of our time there. Craig would travel from the other side of town to come and hang out with me in that park/bush. This is how I began loving walks in the woods. A thousand memories floated in my head as we passed the bushy park.
There was dead silence in my parent’s suburb when we arrived and not a single person was in any of the streets. The suburb isn’t ritzy but also isn’t the kind to have junkies, drug dealers and gangs roaming the streets at night. But usually there would always be a few people in the streets, some will be joggers and others will be lovers taking a stroll under the stars. But on that night there was no one outside (so we thought.)
The pastor decided to slow down as his eyes looked around at the suburban houses of the neighborhood which all seemed to have the same gardener. The houses all had well cut grass, trimmed hedges, a few fruit trees in the yard and white picket fences.
I felt angst because all the houses had their inside and outside lights switched off. It was like everyone had decided to go to bed early. Besides the flickering street lights, the truck’s headlights and the half-moon in the sky, there was no other light source. I could tell father Hernandez was as concerned as I was. Something was awry.
When we were three streets away from my parents’ house, the front porch lights of all the houses began switching on. That was when we noticed people standing outside their houses. Family after family was standing on the front porch of their houses in a straight horizontal line. They were all dressed in their pajamas. Their eyes were pitch-black with a red vertical line in the middle. Their faces were rumpled up as if their skin had been hand washed in cold water. They were all inert as they stared at the truck as it passed by.
When we were two streets away from my parents’ house, the whistling started. It was so loud it sounded like the jeers of a football crowd. I had no idea where it emanated from because the lips of all the people standing by their houses never moved. The whistling resonated all around the truck and I was afraid the windows will shatter at any moment. I think the pastor’s apprehension was growing because he decided to speed up the truck.
When we were one street away from our destination, the clanking of metal on metal accompanied the whistling. It was also a mystery where this sound came from. The whistling and clanking metal were in such perfect harmony with one another, I was expecting the black eyed people to break into a song at any given moment. But it never happened (I was very disappointed).
Since the pastor’s eyes kept veering from side to side, I was the first to see her. A young girl of somewhere between six and ten years old was standing up ahead in the middle of the road. Her platinum blonde hair was tied into a double pony tail. She was wearing white stockings, black shiny shoes and a white dress with red suspenders. She was holding a brown teddy bear in her left hand and a huge red lollipop in her right hand. She would have been adorable if it wasn’t for her black eyes and wrinkled face which looked like the grimace of an old woman.
I yelled at the pastor to look out and when he noticed the girl he made a sharp right turn. The truck swayed and crushed into a thick oak tree on the side of the road.
I had never been in an accident before and to say I was shaken would be an understatement.
Both the pastor and I were unharmed but I was… shaken. Okay shaken does seem like the best word. The airbags did their job. I looked back at Joseph. After the crush he had fallen on his back and was now getting up. He also appeared fine.
I then realized the whistling and clanking of metal had stopped. That deafening silence had returned. It was so quiet you could hear a feather drop.
Father Hernandez opened his door and immediately the whistling resumed. From the close by houses and up the street we saw the black-eyed families sprinting towards us. My heart leaped to my mouth because these demonized people were running towards the truck as if they were being powered by jet fuel.
The pastor threw a shotgun on my lap and commanded me to follow him as he climbed out of the truck. The loud banging of an AKA47 then clamored into my ears. When I looked back, I saw Joseph was using the gun to fire away at the myriad of black-eyed people racing towards the truck.
I got out of the truck and tried to lift up my shotgun but the weight of the gun caught me by surprise. I nearly took a nosedive to the ground and wondered if it was now a good time to tell either the pastor or Joseph that I had never used a gun before. But I then decided to just have a go at it and I pulled up the gun with great effort. I aimed it at a middle aged brunette woman who was galloping towards me.
I pulled the trigger and my body jerked back into the side of the truck. As the bullet hit her chest, the woman’s body flew back with white flames roaring in her eyes. I dropped the shotgun because the vibration it made when I pulled the trigger, added more pain to my still recovering right hand with no fingernails. I took out the crucifix Patrick gave back to me in the café because I knew that would be a more appropriate weapon for me to use. I just wasn’t sure how I would use it efficiently at the gobs of black-eyed people who were speeding towards me.
Joseph then jumped in front of me. He no longer had his AKA47. He was now holding a crucifix in one hand and a bottle of holy water in the other. He extended his arm and clotheslined the chest of a tall teenage boy with long black hair who was rushing towards him. Joseph then flew down with his elbow on the fallen boy. He threw water on the young man’s face and white flames combusted in the boy’s eyes. The teenage boy retched out black slime and passed out.
Joseph quickly got up and kicked an old woman in the stomach. He put her head under his arm and lifted her upside down before he suplexed her to the ground. He dove down on her small body with his elbow and washed her face with the water from his bottle.
Again, the church handyman was fast to spring up to his feet and spear tackled two blonde twin girls to the ground. He rose up and sprayed them with water from his bottle before he kneed the nose of a short Indian man with thick round glasses and a heavy black moustache. He then used his bottled water to make it rain on the Indian man who instantly puked out black slime and fainted.
Joseph then rinsed his crucifix with holy water and threw it at a chubby woman with auburn bob cut hair, who was running at him with a baby in her arms. The crucifix hit the woman on her forehead and she fell on her a*s with white flames burning in her eyes. The baby, who had fallen out of the mother’s arms, locked her black eyes on Joseph and crawled towards him with abnormal speed. I thought Joseph will go easy on the baby but my jaw dropped when I saw him sprinkle water on his leg before he kicked the child like a soccer ball. I held my breath as the baby flew up in the air with white flames in her eyes. Fortunately, the child landed safely on the heavyset unconscious body of the mother.
Joseph didn’t care less, as he gripped the throat of a skinny guy with an orange Mohawk and he chokeslammed him to the ground. He then crushed down on the Mohawk guy with his elbow and showered him with holy water.
I was impressed with Joseph, but I also thought he was over doing it with the wrestling moves.
“Move Señor!” the pastor yelled at me from the other side of the truck.
I dashed over to the priest and found him having better fortunes with his shotgun. Any doubt that I had about the man being in the mafia was vanquished then. He fired to his left at a potbellied man who had grey hair and a balding scalp. The man caught the rubber bullet with his stomach and fell face down to the ground.
The pastor swiftly turned to his right and fired at a brawny blonde-haired guy. The bullet thwacked the blonde man on the left shoulder and sent him tumbling to the ground.
Father Hernandez was spry, as he turned ahead and fired a bullet into the crinkled face of the little girl who caused for us to crush. Part of me felt sorry for the girl but the pastor seemed unmoved as he continued shooting at the scads of black-eyed people running towards us. The pastor then scurried to the closest house and screamed for me to follow him. We ran into the house and barricaded the front door with different kinds of furniture.
“Where is your gun?!” the breathless pastor asked over the noise of possessed people banging on the door from the other side.
“I lost it,” I stammered out. If there was ever a time for me to speak up on my inexperience with guns, it was then. But I never did, instead I asked, “Is Joseph going to be alright?”
“He will be fine! Is there a shortcut from here to your parents’ house?!” As I told him of a route we can use, father Hernandez threw at me a revolver.
“Great, let’s go!” he commanded as he scuttled towards the back door of the house.
I took a moment to look out the window at Joseph and sure enough he was doing well. He had abandoned his wrestling moves for a shotgun he was using to blow away anyone who came within a meter of him.
I ran after the pastor with the revolver in one hand and the crucifix in the other. We climbed over the back yard fence to a house on the next street, which happened to be the street with my parent’s house. We managed to slink over to my parents’ home within a few minutes without grabbing the attention of any possessed person.
I noticed someone was standing on the roof of my parent’s white and blue double story house. I realized him almost immediately, Jim Blare. Back in high school Jim was the kind of jock who fought his boredom by picking on kids less popular than him. He often beat Craig and I for the sake of it. I lost count of how many times he took our lunch money, knocked down our books from our hands and tripped our feet in the hallways. I knew nowadays he worked in his father’s garage and he is a bigger jerk than he was in high school. He was standing on the roof with his hands in the pockets of his faded grey skinny jeans. His burly body seemed too big for the dark blue t-shirt he was wearing.
I was petrified when his black eyes focused on where the pastor and I hid as we plotted on what to do next.
“I see you Stan! Don’t be shy. Come on out!” Jim shouted in that same bone chilling voice Candice used in her apartment.
The pastor and I stood up from behind the hedges of the opposite house, realizing that it was probably not a good hiding spot. We walked over to the middle of the road. Jim’s black eyes remained concentrated on us. He smiled malevolently as he ran his hand through his shiny black hair which was neatly trimmed into an undercut hairstyle.
“Where are my parents?!” I yelled out at him.
“You don’t have to worry about them. They are fine, for now. You know all of this could have been avoided if you had just accepted Bathym in that café.”
“I want to see my parents!” I bellowed at him.
Jim laughed. He laughed longer than I had expected. I think he spent a whole minute laughing, before father Hernandez loaded his shotgun, aimed and fired at him. But Jim was quick. He evaded the bullet as he leaped up into the air like a soaring eagle and landed right in front of the pastor with a loud thud. He knocked down the shotgun from the Reverend’s hands before he sank his teeth into the pastor’s neck like a deranged vampire. Father Hernandez screamed as he fell to the ground.
Everything happened so fast, I barely had time to react quickly enough. When I tried to shoot Jim with my revolver, he backhand slapped me to the ground. I plummeted to the cold hard tar of the road like a sack of potatoes and I dropped both my revolver and crucifix.
Jim kicked away my weapons and started laughing again as he slowly walked to the lawn of my parents’ house.
I crawled over to the pastor who had blood gushing out from his neck. Black veins rapidly slid from his wound to the rest of his body. In a matter of seconds, his whole body had turned tire black and then it gradually corroded to white rubble. My mind was still trying to come to terms with what just happened, but my eyes already knew the pastor was dead so they welled up with tears. An enormous amount of dread ached in my heart as I stared at the white dust in front of me which was a human body a few seconds ago.
“I really didn’t want to do that. I wanted all of this to be resolved diplomatically,” Jim said with the pastor’s blood dripping from his mouth. “But now that you have seen what I can do, don’t test my temper again.”
“Screw you! I don’t care if you kill me!” I cried out.
“Kill you? Who said anything about killing you?” Jim looked back at my parent’s house and the front door opened.
Two beefy men with black eyes came out of the house holding my parents on the back of their heads like terrorist prisoners. They made my parents kneel on the front lawn of the house. From behind me I saw Joseph also apprehended by two other hefty men with black eyes. They made him kneel on the lawn with my parents.
“Roomie! You are still alive? Good boy!” Joseph shouted at me.
If it wasn’t for the tense situation we were in, I would have yelled at him. We had shared a room for one night but he already considered me as his roommate.
“Wait! Where is the padre?! What did you do to him you-“ Joseph was cut off by Jim’s strong right hand punch that caught him on the jaw.
Jim turned back to me and bawled, “I will kill them one by one as you watch if you don’t submit to Bathym right now!”
I looked over at my parents. My mother couldn’t stop crying and my father had his bruised face held down. The thought of them dying right before my eyes made my skin crawl.
“Okay fine, I will do it. Just please let them go,” I pleaded with Jim.
He chuckled. “First, let Bathym possess you and then I let them go. All you have to do is go into your mummy and daddy’s house and you will find him in there.”
I got up and walked over to my parents. “I love you,” I softly mouthed to both of them.
“I love you too roomie but don’t go in there. There has got to be another way,” Joseph surprisingly replied as he squirmed in the bindings on his hands.
“Sorry man, this is my only option,” I said as I walked over to the front door.
When I got into the lounge, I found a bed of roses on the coffee table. The malodor of a sewer is better than the pungent smell which the lounge was submerged in. Red vines of the roses mantled the walls and roof making the place look more like a weird licorice jungle than a lounge. I didn’t move as the roses slithered up to me. I took a deep breath as they all pricked my right hand with their red thorns. This time there was no pain. As soon as they pricked me, everything went black.
In the darkness, something spoke to me. Its voice was high pitched and soft. It was the type of voice to fit in perfectly with the soprano section of a choir.
“Thank you, Stanford. You will not regret this, dear,” it said.
“Bathym?” I asked.
“Where am I?”
“You are in me and I am in you, dear.”
I was aghast, not only because this demon sounded high-pitched but also because of where I was. I had no idea that when you are possessed, your conscious self will be trapped in a black abyss. There was nothing I could see, feel, smell or touch. I was as good as dead.
“But-what do you even want with me?” I asked with overt trepidation in my voice.
The demon laughed. “I thought Candice explained everything to you, dear.”
“Yeah, but I was distracted that time. I didn’t hear anything she said.”
The demon guffawed, “Ha ha oh Stanford dear. I- arghhhh,” Bathym suddenly made an ear piercing shriek.
A blinding white light illuminated from somewhere in the darkness and the next thing I knew I was lying on the floor of my parent’s lounge. Joseph was leaning down, slapping me and screaming, “Come back to me roomie! Come back!”
I sat up and realized the lounge was covered in black slime and rays of sunlight shined from the window. It was morning. The roses were nowhere in sight.
“What happened?” I asked Joseph.
I can’t retell Joseph’s words verbatim because my head hurt badly at that moment and he was speaking so fast I could barely keep up. But the gist of it goes like this; when I went into the house, Jim was very much prepared to kill Joseph and my parents.
They all then heard the faint sound of a song playing in a distance. When Jim and his goons looked up the street, they saw a fat naked Chinese man running towards them. His head phones were blasting Korean music and a colorless liquid spritzed from his oily body. When some of this liquid landed on Jim and his crew, white flames kindled in their eyes, they vomited blame slime and fell to the ground.
Behind the Chinese man was a blue monster truck that had speakers pealing rap music. The monster truck sped up and parked in front of my parent’s house. Out came Miss Brown with two machine guns in both her hands. She fired wildly as she cursed at the scores of possessed people who were darting towards her with the speed of zombies from movie.
Soon a helicopter dropped off Patrick and Rebecca. Patrick had his faithful sword and pistol with him while Rebecca was using her bow and arrows which were spewing out holy water on the black-eyed people. More and more demon trackers came to the fight, each one stranger than the last. But even with the help of all the demon trackers who came, the possessed people were too many to overcome until a bright light glowed from inside my parent’s house. That was when white flames torched the eyes of all the bedeviled people and they collapsed to the ground in unison.
The story sounded too loony for me to believe until I walked over to the window of the lounge. I saw a lot of people outside including Rebecca, Patrick (my former boss), Donald (the guard), Miss Brown (my neighbor), the naked Chinese man from the grocery store and a lot of other grotesque individuals I didn’t know. They were carrying the knocked out bodies of people to their different houses. I didn’t know how they knew who lives where, but they all seemed to know what they were doing. I then recalled father Hernandez’s words, “It is a strange world we live in, Señor and most people don’t even recognize it.”
Rebecca came into the house. She ran and embraced me, “I am so glad you are okay. What happened in here?” she asked.
I then told her and Joseph of father Hernandez’s plan. (Remember when I said I wasn’t feeling well in the truck?) It was because father Hernandez had made me drink eight liters of holy water during the journey. The plan was for Bathym to possess me so that he is eradicated by the holy water inside my body. So when the demon took over my body, him and all of his possessive power that affected the neighborhood were exorcised back to hell by the copious amount of holy water I drank.
“Holy water? Oh you mean that big jar that was upfront in the truck? No roomie that was the Pope’s sweat,” Joseph said.
“Wait, what?!” I screamed at him.
“Oh yeah, that was the Pope’s sweat. The church usually keeps jars of the Pope’s sweat because they are great for exorcising demons. Fiends can’t stand that stuff. When the padre went out yesterday morning, I am sure he was collecting that sweat jar from the Bishop,” Joseph explained.
My stomach turned like a merry go round and I was overwhelmed with the urged to throw up.
“Please tell me you are joking.”
“I am afraid he is not,” Rebecca replied.
“Do you mean to tell me, I drank eight liters of a man’s sweat?!” I yelled.
“No, you drank eight liters of the Pope’s sweat. It’s the sweat of a righteous man. You should feel honored!” Joseph retorted with a grin of the Cheshire cat.
I vomited in one of my mother’s plants for what seemed like eternity. I also realized that is why the ‘holy water’ was so salty. I never got the chance to ask how the church gets the sweat of the Pope or the thousand other questions I had about that because Rebecca then asked me of the whereabouts of her father.
I have never said a more difficult sentence in my life than when I told her of what happened to the priest. She ran over to the white detritus which was still in the middle of the road. She knelt down beside the dust and wept.
Before we left town to go and make arrangements for the pastor’s burial, I got to spend a few minutes with my parents. I tried as best as I could to explain to them everything that happened. I also saw Craig, he arrived just before I left and told me he was in town for a while. We exchanged phone numbers and I told him I will call him and we can catch up some other time.
The funeral for father Hernandez was two days later. A lot of people came including some high ranking Catholic priests and Bishops from all over the country. It was an emotional occasion, especially for Rebecca. She seemed inconsolable. She asked me to stay with her for a while after the funeral. I don’t remember saying much to her at the time but I think my presence was helping her heal.
She eventually completed her nun training and took her temporary vows in honor of her father’s wish. Due to the great work father Hernandez had done for the church they allowed for her and Joseph to continue staying at the house. They also said another priest will be soon taking over at the church, but he hasn’t arrived yet.
Rebecca soon asked me to permanently move in with her and Joseph. I agreed, obviously. My relationship with her has slowly been developing into something more because these days I am no longer Joseph’s roommate but hers. (I am not sure the new priest will like this but who knows, he may be cool.)
For the past couple of weeks the house behind the Catholic Church in the city center has been my home. It has been a place where I feel I belong, a place filled with love and a place filled with care. On my first day here I made sure to get internet for the house and I also brought my computer to modernize the place a little.
I still have no idea why Bathym wanted to possess me so badly because he never got the chance to explain that.
My right hand is now in a cast. Once again, Bathym left me with some of his juice and this time it’s a lot. The skin from my palm to my elbow glows light green. Rebecca is the one who suggested that my hand be placed in a plaster bandage to avoid me from killing anyone else.
Besides that, things were going great for me. Patrick gave me back my job after he made me kneel and kiss his shoe. I also found a day to travel back to my hometown where I met up and spent time with Craig.
I came back to the city a few days ago. This morning I received a text message from Craig. The text made my spine writhe.
It read, “Hi Stan, how are doing? It was great seeing you dude. Do you remember that park we used to play in as kids? I bet you do. Anyway I was feeling nostalgic today so I went for a walk there. I came upon these roses. Dude, they were beautiful but they smelt bad. There had red stems and black shining petals. When I tried to touch them, they pricked me. It hurt for a while but the pain then stopped. I have been asking around but no one knows anything about roses like that. Do you have any idea of what the hell pricked me?”