Author’s Note: This is a continuation from What The Hell Pricked Me.
Questions swamped my mind as I read the text over and over again.
Is Bathym still on earth? How did he survive the Pope’s sweat? Why had he decided to go after Craig?
After snapping out of my initial shock I desperately tried calling Craig several times. I wanted to warn him that what pricked him are no roses at all. I wanted to tell him to run as fast as he can to the nearest church and get help. But all my calls went straight to voicemail.
I could feel the air being sucked out of my room. I could hear the sound of my heart beat in my ears. I called my father and lucky enough he answered his phone. I told him of my concern and asked him to check on Craig. My father assured me he will get right to it. I told him to take as many crucifixes as he can and asked him to update me as soon as he has spoken with Craig. He assured me he will.
All I could do was wait for feedback from my father and pray for Craig. I couldn’t stomach the idea of what I went through happening to someone else. In fact this was not just someone else, this was the guy who had always sat with me during lunchtime back in high school when no one else wanted to. This was a guy who shared my pain and struggles during those awful teenage years. A guy I got bullied with and even stood up for me several times. A guy who always shared his fascinating stories and lightened me up even during my darkest of days. A guy who even asked Marjory Brown to go to the prom with me because I was too much of a coward to ask her myself (she rejected me of course, but I appreciated Craig’s help). This was a guy who made my high school life not a boring and lonely experience.
This was also someone who I had just spent some quality time with a few days ago and he told me about his job, his wife and children. Even though I had been estranged to him for a while after high school, he is the one person I can say was and is my friend.
I was very concerned about Craig. He was the one who initially led me away from a religious life. His parents were atheists, so was he. During one of our many lunchtime discussions back in high school, he had convinced me that there is no God. Being the fallible minded fool I was, I quickly accepted his line of thinking. Ever since then, I had abandoned my faith.
Even when I met him a few days ago, he said he still doesn’t believe in God and tried to persuade me away from my faith again. But having seen and experienced what I had with the roses, I was not to be moved. So I knew that Craig’s chances of removing Bathym from his body before the demon fully possessed him are slim. Unless if atheists have their own ways of exorcising demons.
I told Rebecca and Joseph about the text message I received from Craig. Both of them were stunned.
“It can’t be. The Pope’s sweat should have done away with that bozo,” Joseph said.
Rebecca clenched her fists and uttered, “If that demon is still here on earth we have to exorcise him.” The jaundice in her voice suggested that she desperately wanted to avenge her father.
“I agree but I am not drinking the Pope’s sweat again,” I said recalling the bitter taste of that liquid in my mouth.
“I don’t think we can get that anymore,” Rebecca replied. “My father was well connected and liked. I think he had to pull several strings to get that jar. I am not sure the Bishop will give any of us another jar.”
“Okay fine, we should gather all the demon trackers, go back to my hometown and hope that all our weapons would be enough to kill this damn demon,” I suggested.
“That also won’t work. Most of the trackers have left the city. I heard there is another powerful demon in some desolate town up North that needs several people to take it down. By the time they get back, it may be too late for your friend,” Rebecca said.
It’s then I remembered that Patrick had said something about leaving the city for a few days. It was probably because of that. This also meant I could skip work for a while and not get into trouble.
“So what should we do?” I asked.
“I think we can kill him ourselves. If he did survive from the Pope’s sweat he should be very weak. It could take weeks or months for him to regain his strength. With the weapons we have, I am sure we can still send him back to hell,” Rebecca said with the bitterness still evident in her tone.
“Then let’s do it!” Joseph yelled.
So that was what we had planned, to attack Bathym while he was still weak and finish him off with our holy water soaked rubber bullets. However, things didn’t quite go according to plan. As we prepared to leave, the new pastor arrived.
I don’t usually like speaking badly about people but this man was an a*****e with a capital A. By his accent I could tell he was British, he had thinning grey hair, sky blue eyes, a hunched back and his saggy skin suggested he was no spring chicken. He called all of us to the lounge for a meeting where he introduced himself as Father Henry Moffat. He bragged about how long he has been a pastor for the church. He also vaunted about how he comes from a family of powerful pastors and influential men in the Catholic Church.
Apparently his great grandfather was one of the first missionaries to preach the word of God in Africa. I am not sure that is something pastor Moffat was supposed to boast about because it meant that his great grandfather was involved with British Colonialism in a way. But we didn’t interrupt the priest to point this out, we all let him talk proudly about his family. When he was done, he then asked me and Joseph of what we do at the church.
“Handymen,” Joseph replied.
“Both of you?” Father Moffat asked.
We hadn’t really talked about what we will tell him about me, so I just played along with Joseph’s idea. We both nodded out heads.
“Really? Your hands are rather soft for a handyman,” the pastor said frowning at me.
Joseph laughed and replied, “Well, my co-worker here struggles with masturbation. We are still praying for him to overcome it.”
Father Moffat grimaced in disgust and wiped his hands on his black baggy trousers as if to show he regretted shaking hands with me.
“And what happened to your hand?” the pastor fired another question pointing at my plastered limb.
Joseph laughed and replied again, “also masturbation.”
The pastor snapped at Joseph, “I was not talking to you, was I?! I am sure he can speak for himself!”
“I am his roommate and if needs be, I can speak for him. It’s the roommate code,” Joseph replied.
“Roommate? You two stay inside the house?” the pastor asked.
Joseph and I exchanged quick glances and we nodded.
“Why is that?”
Joseph and I looked at each other again.
“As handymen you should be residing at your own quarters.” The pastor stretched his long bony hand to point outside the window. “I think you will find that shed to be most befitting for men of your… profession.”
I was irate to the extent of my face turning red. Not only was this man delaying us from going to kill Bathym but he was now chasing us out of the house. Rebecca and Joseph were about to protest but I spoke up first. We could argue with the pastor about our new accommodation later but there was something more important we needed to attend to.
“Excuse me Father, you actually arrived when we were just about to head out. We have to go-“
“On leave!” Joseph blurted out before I could finish.
I got the impression that father Moffat didn’t know about demon tracking and Joseph wanted to keep it this way.
“Leave? The both of you?” the priest asked.
We all nodded our heads including Rebecca. The pastor turned to her and said she can’t leave because she has to brief him about everything regarding the church. I could tell Rebecca was annoyed but she didn’t argue.
As for me and Joseph, the pastor demanded that we write him a letter stating the reasons why we are going on leave at the same time. We spent most of the day moving our stuff into the shed behind the house. The shed which was barely big enough to swing a cat had a roof and walls made purely of wood. We only finished moving our stuff into the shed in the early hours of the night. Father Moffat had insisted that we write the letter after we have moved out of the house. The man had not even off loaded his suitcase yet but he was already pushing my every button.
I delegated the task of writing the letter to Joseph while I tried to call Craig again. My calls still went to voicemail. My body began to shiver when both of my parents were not picking up their phones. My stomach was rolling with anxiety as I wondered if it was a good idea to ask them to check on Craig. It only put them at risk.
I pushed Joseph to finish the letter so we could be on our way. When he was done, he took the letter to the pastor. I kept trying to call my parents and Craig but to no prevail.
Joseph came back and told me the pastor refused to approve the letter. When I read the letter he wrote, I found out why. Joseph had written that we are married to the same woman and she is not feeling well, so we are going visit her. I couldn’t even bring myself to be angry with him because I would only be wasting more time. I settled down to write the letter myself using my not so good left hand but almost immediately there was a knock on the door.
Joseph went to answer it and said it was for me. When I went to the door, I realized our visitor was a police officer. He was short but well built. He had black Caesar cut hair, dark brown eyes and a round baby face which was cleanly shaven.
“Stanford Black?” he asked in a sharp militant voice.
“You will have to come with me, sir.”
Before I could speak, Joseph asked, “What is this about?”
“It has nothing to do with you, sir,” the police officer answered dismissively as he gestured for me to head out of the shed.
“Well, he is my roommate and I deserve to know, it’s the roommate code,” Joseph said.
“Am I under arrest?” I asked.
The officer breathed out in frustration, “Look sir, you have to come with me or I will have to use force,” he said the words as he placed his right hand on his gun holster.
“Okay fine, I will come with you,” I replied not wanting to escalate the situation.
“I will also come with you. Roommates stick together, roommate code,” Joseph said.
The officer didn’t object and he led us to his cruiser. We sat in the back as the police officer drove us downtown. But he didn’t take us to the police station. The officer parked in a dark alley in between fast food restaurants. He opened my door and told me to climb out. He prevented Joseph from exiting and locked him inside the car. The officer gestured for me to go to the black Impala parked further down the alley. I trudged over to the car worried sick of what was going on. As I got closer, I realized someone was standing outside the 1967 Chevrolet Impala.
The man had a flat manilla file in his hand and cigar on the side of his mouth. He was wearing a white shirt with rolled up sleeves, blue suspenders and a loosely hang black tie. He had more hair on his arms than on his head and his stomach was big enough to put an eight month pregnant woman to shame. His blue eyes looked up as I approached him and he smiled.
“So this is the famous Stanford Black. I have read and heard a lot about you,” he said as he threw the file on the roof of his car and folded his arms.
“I am sorry you have at a disadvantage,” I said.
He chuckled, “Oh of course. I captain Steven Ledger. Father Hernandez was a dear friend of mine, may he rest in peace.”
That was when I realized this was father Hernandez’s police contact.
“I thought it best we meet and talk, face to face. I heard what you did to Candice Stone.”
My stomach tightened at the mention of Candice.
“I also know of what you did in Jerry’s internet café.”
Again my stomach constricted.
The police captain could sense my uneasiness and said, “Don’t worry. If I wanted to arrest you, you would have been in some hell hole by now. Trust me, I am a guy who gets it. The world is full of… evil and people like you deal with it in your own ways to keep everyone else safe. However, I want you to know that I won’t be very understanding to anymore of your transgressions by that I mean the killings. No more people should die from your exorcisms or whatever you do to possessed folks. I am glad to see you put a cast on that hand, it shows me you are not a killer.”
“Well, I am happy to know you are an understanding man because I need your help. The demon that was haunting me and killed father Hernandez is still out there and I think it has got my friend. We can use all the help we can get, especially police help.”
“Sorry son. I am not a demon hunter or whatever you guys call yourselves. I also prefer few to none police officers being mired in all this demon business, so I can’t really help you there. I can however help you leave the city.”
I was shocked that he knew that pastor Moffat was making it difficult for us to leave. He weakly smiled at me as if to say, ‘I know everything, kid.’
“Officer Richards, will take you back to the church and you should be able to leave the city with no problem. Here is my number, give me a call sometime and remember no more human casualties,” the captain said as he handed me a business card with his contact details.
I thanked him and walked back to the cruiser. I told Joseph everything as officer Richards drove us back to the church. When we arrived we got no problems from the Simon Cowell accented pastor. This made me respect Captain Ledger because whatever he did or say to the pastor it made him tame like a wet puppy. We loaded the truck with all our weapons and left. Rebecca couldn’t come with us because the pastor was adamant that she stays. I couldn’t even properly say goodbye to her because pastor Moffat was watching us like a hawk before we left.
It was close to 3 A.M in the morning when we hit the highway. I was as tired as I could get. Joseph was driving, I couldn’t because of my hand. Frustrated that my calls to both Craig and my parents were going to voicemail, I decided to sleep for a while. Before I slept, I prayed to God for help in our mission. We had fewer weapons than the last time we journeyed to fight the demon and our plan wasn’t all that solid. In fact we didn’t even have a proper plan. I just prayed that Jesus would lead the way.
When I woke up, the sun had risen. I realized someone was resting their head on my shoulder. I looked over at the driver seat and it wasn’t Joseph driving. In fact Joseph was seated in between me and the driver. He was using my shoulder as a pillow and as always he was snoring loud enough to shake the earth.
The man behind the wheel had long straight black hair, his cheeks were covered by a well-trimmed beard and he was wearing a long white shirt that looked like a gown on his slender body.
“Jesus?” I muttered.
The man smiled at me and exclaimed, “Oh hi dude, you are awake! My name is Nathan but you can call me Nat,” his raspy voice reminded me of Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. His brown eyes had a shade of red which led me to think the guy was probably high as a kite.
I quickly sat upright and shook off my grogginess. I prodded Joseph to wake up. “Who the hell is this?” I asked him.
Joseph rubbed his eyes and looked over at the man driving the truck and then back to me. “That’s Nat,” he replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“You let a stranger drive the car?!”
“He is not a stranger, he is Nat. I just told you that. Besides I was tired and I already checked, he is not crazy or possessed.”
“It’s true dude, I am not crazy but actually I am totally possessed… with music. I am a great DJ. If you ever need me to play at your parties, I am game, free of charge my dude,” Nat said.
“You see? He is cool,” Joseph said.
I wanted to shout my head off at the both of them but the truck began to sputter, white smoke emanated from the bonnet and eventually the car came to a stop. Joseph and Nat checked on the problem while I tried to call Craig and my parents, I still had no luck.
Joseph told me that the truck won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Apparently the previous crush we had on the oak tree in my parent’s neighborhood had caused some damage that was overlooked when the truck was repaired.
Joseph put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I know you are thinking of giving up (I wasn’t) but don’t lose hope (I hadn’t). We will find a way. Heroes like us always do.”
“Uhm okay. Your zipper is open, man,” I said to him.
He looked down and replied, “I know, it’s broken.”
“So why are you wearing those pants?”
“Because they are my lucky pants.”
I deeply exhaled out of frustration, worry and weariness. I hadn’t been paying attention to Nat but the next time I looked over at him he had waved down a big old yellow school bus.
Joseph leaned into me and said it’s because of his lucky pants that the bus stopped for us. I ignored him and quickly carried our luggage to the bus.
When we got inside, we realized the bus was full of nuns. All of them were old enough to have attended high school with Jesus himself. They were also very sweet women because they agreed to give us a ride to our exact destination.
We sat on the vacant three leather seats in the front. It then came to my attention that all the nuns in the bus were drinking tea from white demitasses. The head nun offered us some tea which Joseph and Nat took without hesitation. I had initially refused but the nuns repeatedly persuaded me until I relented.
After just three sips of the sweet tea, my vision became bleary. Less than ten seconds later, I passed out.
When I woke up, the sun was setting. The bus was shaking to suggest that we were moving on a rough road and my hands were tied behind my back. I looked outside and saw we were off the highway. The bus was riding down a dirt road of a wooden area filled with an assortment of tall fruitless trees.
I noticed Joseph and Nat were both still passed out. They were also tied up like me. I couldn’t see where our bags with our weapons were.
When I stared at the head nun seated to our right, a chill swept through my soul. Her eyes were blinding black. He face was crunched into a wrinkled frown like she had been constipated for the past week. I turned my head around and realized all the nuns in the bus now had black eyes and hideously ridged faces.
Joseph and Nat woke up at the same time. They went through the same shock realization of our situation.
“What is going on?” Nat hysterically asked.
The nuns began laughing. “You are about to die,” the head nun said with a nefarious robotic voice I had come to realize all possessed people use. The rest of the nuns chuckled like a group of witches and it made my body quaver.
“Oh my God, dudes,” Nat said. I think they are demons. Don’t worry, I read somewhere that if we can guess their names we will have power over them. Gary, Peter, Jack, Phillip, Rachel, Juliet-“
“Please stop,” I begged him.
“Sarah, Carol, David, Leonard, Larry, Tom, Tommy, Thompson!-“
“Just shut up! It’s not going to work!” I screamed at Nat.
“You better untie us now. My roommate knows the Pope on a ‘I can drink your sweat bases’ and he will report you,” Joseph said.
The head nun slapped Joseph so hard across the face, I thought his skin will peel off.
“You think I am joking? Roomie, call the man.”
“Oh, shut up Joseph. We need to-,” I trailed off when I realized the bus was slowing down.
We had reached a derelict farm house built of red bricks and a grey asbestos roof. It had a spacious yard filled with empty barns, fowl runs, pig sties and kennels. The fields next to the house were devoid of any form of vegetation and were nothing but dust.
The nuns violently ushered us out of the bus and led us to a large brick well behind the house. The top of the well was covered with huge metal plates and thick rusting chains. The nuns easily removed the metal plates and chains like birthday wrappings. They were whistling and laughing so loudly that I could barely hear what Joseph was screaming at them. It was already nightfall but I could tell inside the well was much darker.
The nuns cut Nat loose and he screamed as he was thrown into the black abyss of the well. Joseph was also cut loose and hurled in next.
Before I was tossed in, one of the nuns shouted, “Dinner is served!”
I was freed from my restrains and aggressively chucked into the well. The fall was long. For several seconds I wailed as I sank into the blackness. I eventually landed with a loud and agonizing thump at the bottom of the well. Despite the pain aching throughout my whole body, I was thankful the well was dry.
My mind was still in a haze but it didn’t stop me from smelling it. The stench that I had become so accustomed to. The stench of a rotten egg. The stench that always caused a knot to form on my throat. The stench that had meant the same thing every time I smelt it.
The stench of danger.
The stench of evil.