I was woken from a disturbing dream at three in the morning by a phone call.
“Someone better be dead,” I said as a greeting.
“Someone is,” came the reply.
“Who is this?”
“My name is Father Ignacio. Monsignor Hawks… suggested I call you.”
“Something terrible. We… we think we have contained the situation for now, but… we need help.”
“You think you’ve contained it?”
“I don’t know…. Maybe… You should come quickly.”
“What exactly are we dealing with?”
“El diablo,” he said.
“Give me the address,” I said.
He did. It was in Pasadena. At this time of day, I could be there in 20 minutes. Or I could call it in to Home Office and let them have someone on duty take it. But Monsignor Hawks’ recommendation gnawed at my conscious. The old priest was a pain in the ass and an asshole for that matter, and if he was willing to let Father Ignacio turn to outside help, it meant things were worse than Ignacio had led on.
I sighed, got out of bed and threw on the clothes I wore yesterday. On the way out of the door, I grabbed my cell phone from the charger on the table and called it in to Home Office.
“Sentinel Imports and Exports, this is Sarah.”
“This is Courier Green. Got a call in from the Church. I’m heading over to check it out. Sounds like a very messy export job.”
“What is the pickup location?”
I gave Sarah the address.
“Understood. Do you require assistance?”
“Have additional Couriers on standby and it sounds like we’ll need a Janitor. I’ll let you know once I arrive and can assess the situation.”
“Be safe, Mr. Green,” she said.
I arrived at a two-story, yellow Victorian house that was run down and, in the darkness of the night, looked like your stereotypical horror movie house where a perky innocent newlywed couple would get haunted by a poltergeist. The street itself was dark with the exception of a few weak streetlights that did little to illuminate the area and mostly succeeded in making the street seem more frightening. There was a light on in the front room, but all of the other rooms were dark.
I grabbed my cane and equipment from the trunk. I was already wearing my gun, but I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that. If we were dealing with a simple possession, I should be able to extract the entity without harming its host and I had other ways to defend myself if I had to. But it was better to have the damned thing and not need it than to need it and not have it. I’d heard enough stories from some older couriers about their sidearm saving their lives.
I ascended the cracked cement walkway to the creaky wooden steps that announced my presence even before I rapped three times with my cane on the door.
A young man with a face whiter than a ghost answered the door. His hands were visibly shaking.
“Hello,” I said.
He said nothing.
“I’m Mr. Green.”
“Father Ignacio called me?”
He nodded. We stood there for a moment before I broke the silence, “Are you going to invite me in?”
He nodded. So I stepped to one side of him into the living room. It looked like someone had been smashing shit with an axe. There was a broken bannister. There were slashes in the furniture. A love seat had been thrown into the dining room table, breaking both in the process.
Worse, was the disturbing amount of blood that had been splashed onto the walls. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear an artist had taken a bucket of crimson paint and splashed it haphazardly on the wallpaper and wooden walls and floor.
On the remaining couch, I found the source of at least some of that blood. A young man was lying on the couch in a blood covered white T-shirt with a large gash in it and his torso that went from his left shoulder down to his right hip. Blood had soaked the couch and dripped into a pool on the floor. In the middle of the pool, a man in clerical garb was kneeling next to the body praying with a crucifix.
I texted Sarah.
Send the Janitors.
“Father Ignacio,” I said.
“He is dead,” Father Ignacio said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Are you hurt?”
He shook his head. “He… it tried to do to me what it did to Tomas… but I was not cut. I was knocked down the stairs.”
“Is anyone else hurt?”
“There are two more bodies. The brother… so cold… the mother… God have mercy… the mother…”
“Stay with me, Father,” I said. “Where is it now?”
“Upstairs in the boy’s room.”
“It’s just staying there?”
“When… when it got Tomas… I sprinkled holy water on it and the door and floor outside of the room. It did not like the holy water. Manuel managed to pull me out of harm’s way and pushed over a book case over the door.
I sighed. “What exactly happened? Start from the beginning.”
William “Billy” Marsters was the son of Jane Moore, a very Catholic and very dour woman who had been a part of Ignacio’s parish for the last five years. She would be at Mass every week. Usually alone, but sometimes accompanied by Billy or his older brother Bruce. Recently, she had been complaining about Billy’s behavior. Little things: backtalk, anger, not listening, the usual things you’d expect from a thirteen year-old boy. Then she had complained of an evil presence in her house. Sounds of growling and howling at all hours of the night. Disappearing objects or objects that had been moved out of place.
“She begged me to come out and perform an exorcism on the house,” Ignacio said. “I finally agreed if only to put her mind at ease. You have to understand…”
He looked at me,” Most of the time it is just a drafty house or a furnace that creaks. I never expected to find the devil here. He… he tore his mother apart and did something to Tomas…”
“It’s okay,” I assured him. “You called me and I’ll take care of it. You say it’s got ahold of the youngest boy?”
“Upstairs, the second room on the right,” he said.
“Okay, I’ll be back,” I said.
“You’re going up?”
“Gotta see what I’m dealing with,” I said.
“You can’t! It will kill you!”
“You called me, Father. Remember? This isn’t the first demon I’ve dealt with. Stay here, I’ll be back in a minute.”
Father Ignacio didn’t listen. He followed closely behind me whispering prayers in Latin and crossing himself multiple times.
When we reached the upstairs landing, I noticed more damage. The door to the mother’s room had been torn from the hinges and thrown across the room. It lay on the opposite wall next to newly damaged stucco. I won’t tell you what had been done to the mother. But I almost gagged and lost it. The Padre looked faint. I grabbed him by the shoulder and gently directed him from the doorway.
Father Ignacio was really shaking now as we approached the boy’s room. A white door with the words “Billy’s Room” was shut and barred on the outside with a heavy bookcase pushed over on its side. I tapped the bookcase with my cane and it slid aside. As a precaution, I immediately drew a curved line with salt in front of the door and tapped the completed line gently with my cane. The salt line glowed a soft white light. I could have picked the priest’s jaw off the floor.
It’s always funny to me that people who profess belief in the supernatural are always so shocked when they it happen.
“Do I… do I come with you?” he asked.
“Let’s assess the situation first, Father,” I said.
I knocked with my cane three times.
“Billy,” I said. “Billy, my name is Mr. Green. I’d like to have a word with you, please.”
No answer. I knocked again.
“Billy, I’m going to open the door, okay? I mean you no harm. I just want to talk for a bit. Is that okay?”
Still no answer. I looked at Father Ignacio. I didn’t want to tell him, but even before I opened the door, I knew he would be useless. Faith can be a powerful magic against certain kind of manifestations. It had probably saved his life already. But he had been shaken to his core. Any more exposure to the demon and he’d likely have no protection from the entity and end up like Tomas downstairs.
I rapped on the door once with the cane and the door unlocked and opened. It swung out just inside of the salt line. In side of the door showed cracks and splintering. Bloody hand prints smeared along its length.
The lights were off inside of the room, but moonlight illuminated the boy’s room. I couldn’t see him. Which meant he was either planning on rushing us or was lying in wait for us to come to him.
The boy moved with inhuman speed and leapt at the priest with a raspy scream. The priest instinctively threw up his hands and stumbled backward. But in mid-leap, the boy smashed into the barrier I had drawn and flew backwards. He landed hard on the floor, but immediately picked himself back up. He turned back to us and looked at me. He looked like a normal kid you’d find at a Little League game. No obvious signs of possession. No physical deformities that I could see.
The only thing that gave him away was his smile. It was the smile of a predator.
“You’re a magician,” he said. “A real one. What’s your name?”
“Mr. Green,” I said.
He smiled more broadly, “Not your real name.”
“For obvious reasons,” I said. “Do you have a name?”
“I’m sure the priest has told you it.”
“I know Billy’s name, but I don’t know your name.”
“For obvious reasons,” Billy said.
I nodded. “Okay… “Billy.” Are you going to behave?”
The boy stared at me for a moment and nodded. A panicked look came over him and he said, “You have to help me! Please! He’s hurting me!”
“ENOUGH!” the boy shouted. “SHUT UP!”
He looked at me and smiled again, “I’ve been wanting to talk to a real magician for a while now, Green. Send the priest away and come inside.”
“You don’t like the priest?”
“He’s a fucking Philistine,” Billy said. “His very presence makes me want to tear out his throat.”
“I think you should wait in the living room, Father,” I said.
Father Ignacio nodded and quickly made his way downstairs. “I will be praying for you!”
“I will be praying for you,” Billy sniveled.
“Okay, Billy, Father Ignacio is gone. I’m going to drop the barrier. If you decide to attack me, I can turn this entire block into a smoking crater and walk away unscathed.”
I didn’t know if I could actually do that, but I wanted the entity to think I could.
“I won’t hurt you,” he grinned. “Not unless you’re as dull and boring as those assholes with their holy water and Latin.”
I tapped the line of salt with my cane again and the soft light faded. Billy stared at me as I stepped over the barrier.
“Alright, let’s just talk for a bit.”
“Can you teach me how to do that thing with the salt?”
It was an odd request. Was the demon toying with me? Trying to get me to let my guard down. I nodded, “I can. But I’d like to talk a little more about what’s happened.”
“There are so many things I want to know,” Billy said. “And I’ve never had anyone to talk to about this before. All of the idiots as school made fun of me.”
So I was talking to the boy now. Or was the demon fucking with me?
“That had to be difficult,” I said.
“It was. Some of the older boys would pick on me, call me “Harry Pooper” as they beat the shit out of me or dunked my head in the toilet. I wonder what they think now,” Billy said.
“You hurt them?”
“Send them to the hospital with a curse,” he said. “They got what was coming to them. I didn’t get the curse right though.”
“How do you know?”
“They lived,” the boy said in a low growl. He broke into an earnest smile. “But they never bothered me again.”
“Who is speaking to me now?” I said.
“Does it matter?” he said.
“Billy, how did you discover magic?”
“When I was five, I had a bird. A yellow canary named Cecil. My brother, the vile twat, took him one day and stuck him in the freezer. He was dead when I found him. I cried. I prayed. I wished with all of my heart that he would come back.”
“And he did,” I said.
Billy nodded. “But he didn’t come back right, you know. Started to rot. He’d be hopping in his cage and his feathers and skin would fall off. Pretty soon, he was just a skeleton. Couldn’t even sing anymore.”
“Mom smashed him. Said it was a demon. But it wasn’t. He was my pet. He still loved me. And she killed him.”
Things were clearer now, “And she hurt you.”
The boy raised his shirt silently. Visible scars ran across his back, sides and stomach. “Tried to beat the devil out of me,” he said. “Almost every day. Every time I did magic. Every time I talked back. Every time I wouldn’t go to her precious church! Now she won’t hurt anyone ever. We’ve seen to that.”
“What did you do to her?” I said.
“WE gave her my pain,” he snarled. “Pathetic bitch couldn’t handle it. Her heart gave out after five hours of screaming.”
“And your brother? What did you do to him?”
“I put him in the freezer,” Billy said. “I thought it was fitting.”
“How did you meet your ‘friend,’” I said.
“I brought him here,” Billy said. He motioned at the walls of the room I used my cane to illuminate the room and noticed that the walls had been etched with sacred and profane geometric figures and words of power.
“Where did you find this all of this?” I said.
“You can find anything on the Internet if you know where to look. And I looked. Occult forums. Wicca sites. It was mostly useless, but they did point me to other places. Places that had what I wanted.”
“A demon,” I said.
“No, power,” the boy said. “I wanted to never be hurt again!”
“So he summoned a demon.”
Billy laughed. “No… not a demon. Many demons. Small ones at first. Weak… pathetic really… hardly strong enough to give me the power I wanted. But how they wanted me… how they offered me anything I wanted… how they begged me to play with them. So I did.”
“And they took over?” I said. “You took over.”
The boy looked at me until it became uncomfortable.
“I’ve always been in control, Green,” he said. “Do you think I’m stupid? I’ve seen movies. I took precautions. Yes, I brought them here. I tempted them with what they wanted most: a sweet, innocent child just waiting to be taken advantage of, just waiting to be abused. They were too happy to come inside. They realized too late that I was the master. Then they didn’t want to play with me.”
He took a step closer to me and I took a step backwards.
“But I made them play,” he said. His voice changed and he screeched in an inhuman voice, “Please! Release us! You’re hurting us! You’re killing us!”
His voice returned to normal and he grinned, “Like I said, pathetic.”
“How…” I managed.
He pulled up his sleeve and showed me a series of dark cuts on his skin. The cuttings, like the drawings on the wall, invoked profane and ancient symbols. Some were darkened and crusted over with scabs or scar tissue, some had been cut as recently as this evening.
“Blood magic,” I said.
He smiled. “I wear long sleeves, so they don’t see it. Once they come in, they can’t control me. They can’t leave me. And I MAKE them play with me.”
“Your mother… your brother… the man downstairs…”
The boy grinned, “It was me. Always me. I made them suffer. Like they made me… and there will be more… many, many more.”
“Billy, you don’t want to do this…”
“DON’T TELL ME WHAT I WANT TO DO!” he screamed. The room shook as he spoke.
“Okay, okay,” I said. “I’m sorry. The Father and I are concerned about what’s going on inside of you. The demons may be influencing your thoughts. Even if they’re bound, they might be-”
“Please,” he said. “They can’t do a damn thing. He can’t do a damn thing. I take what I want from him. And when he’s shriveled up and useless, I’ll find and consume another!”
“Billy, dealing with demons never works out. I’ve seen it dozens of times. Eventually, a ritual goes wrong. A mistake is made. You don’t think over the consequences of a bargain and then very bad things happen. Worse than what’s happened already.”
“Worse? I’m free. Free at last,” Billy said. “What downside is there, huh?”
“Well, you’ll be a wanted murderer, for starts.”
“You wouldn’t report me,” he said.
“Can you say the same of the people downstairs or the people who sent them?”
He seemed to think about this for a moment and nodded. “Fuck. What do you want?”
“I want to help you, Billy,” I said.
“What sort of help?”
“Get the demon out of you. Get you help. Find someone to train you.”
“You’re offering to help me?”
“If you’ll let me,” I said.
He looked down. “I’m so angry.”
“Can you help me?” he said.
“I can try,” I said.
“You can make the pain and anger go away?”
“Only you can do that, but I can point you in the right direction, Billy. Teach you about your gift.”
He looked at the floor for a moment before he sighed, “I’ve done bad things, haven’t I?”
“Yes,” I said. “But there is still hope for you.”
“Okay,” he said at last. “What do you want to do?”
“I can draw the demon out of you and send it home, if you’re willing.”
“Please, help me,” the boy said. He reached a hand toward me. I slowly reached towards it.
And then I was blasted backwards by a concussive force that lifted me off my feet and threw me through his bedroom wall. I landed on my back on the floor of his parent’s room, smacking my head against a post of their bed. My cane landed near the open door frame, well out of reach. My vision blurred and I could see stars, but I managed to stay conscious. I felt the back of my head and my hand came away wet with blood.
Stupid. Very stupid, Green, I thought.
Billy stepped through the hole my body had made in the wall, “You can help me. You see, I do have so many questions. Questions I couldn’t find the answers to on the Internet. I have power, but I need more knowledge. You know things I don’t. Things I can’t find on the Internet and I think the soul of a trained wizard could very much give me the knowledge I seek.”
“Billy-“ I started. “Don’t.”
“You thought I was just a child. Someone to be talked down to. Taken advantage of. Controlled,” he said. “Just like them… and just like them, only when it’s too late do you realize that I’m not your prey. You were my prey.”
The child raised his hand again and a knife flew from his bedroom into his palm. He raised the knife to his other hand and I knew that I had only a second to react. So I looked at my own bloody hand and acted.
Blood magic. It’s forbidden because just about everyone who has ever used it has only used it to do the worst things imaginable.
And that’s what I did. In my fear, in my survival instinct, I uttered the first spell that came to mind. A spell uttered in a guttural infernal language that I had once heard from a Necromancer Blood Mage. And the blood on my hand… my blood, flew forward towards the boy like daggers. The blood solidified in the short distance into crystals which buried themselves into Billy’s eye sockets. And with a red flash, the boy collapsed dead.
He never even screamed.
Without a soul or a demon to control it, his body expired. I felt sick as I looked at the boy’s mutilated face.
I know it was self-defense. I know I was desperate. But what had I done?
I took the two crystals from the boy’s body and I called Home Office.
“Send the cleanup, Sarah,” I said. “Export is complete. Four additional parcels.”
“Understood,” she said. “Rough one?”
“Yeah. Understatement,” I said.
The Janitors arrived in ten minutes along with my boss, a tall, lean man with white hair and a pointed goatee.
“Agent Green,” he said.
“Black,” I said. “Josiah.”
“Heard your report,” he said. “Father Ignacio and his surviving helper had their memories wiped. We’re going to scrub the site completely. Four dead in a tragic house fire.”
I glanced at the two crystals still in my hand, “Sometimes a lie is better than the truth.”
The truth is that the boy lives, but will never live. He will spend forever in an endless void. Trapped forever with his only companion being his own thoughts. An eternity of spiraling madness and torment. A hellish nightmare that I condemned him to.
Josiah nodded. “There will be an investigation, of course.”
“Warranted. I don’t know where it came from, Josiah. I just did it. He got the jump on me and it was the first thing that came to mind,” I said.
“I understand,” he said. “But you know the section chiefs. Any sort of rules violation, especially one that involves blood curses has to be investigated thoroughly.”
“Yeah. I get it,” I said.
“Good. For now, go home, Edward, I’ll be in touch. And you should leave those with me,” he said. “They will be evidence.”
I nodded blankly and held out the crystals to Josiah. They glowed an infernal red, one with a dark red light that burns an unimaginable hatred towards humanity and those that abused him and one that burns with a weaker sadder red that looks drained and tired. I feel pity for them both… and I feel drawn toward them. They are beautiful and horrifying and… powerful. So much power just waiting for me to tap into.
I shook my head and let Josiah take them.
“Sorry, Josiah. It’s been a long night,” I said.
The Janitors acknowledged me as I left the scene. The Investigators looked at me with pity. I just kept walking. A part of me never wanted to stop. Maybe just disappear and find a quiet spot on this Earth with a warm healing energy where I will build a farm. Someplace far away from churches and spooky buildings and demons and monsters in the dark. Somewhere where I can forget about the things that live in the dark and the worse things that breed and live within our souls.
But that’s not me, is it? I don’t know. Maybe things will be clearer after a good night’s sleep and a drink or five. Maybe not necessarily in that order.