Eddie D. Moore
“Brother Calum, where are you going?”
Calum selected a worn black book from a small bookshelf and tossed it on top of his clothes before latching his foot chest. “I can’t just sit here and let that demon run free. How many more people will it kill, Brother Aiden, before someone stops it?”
“The Church has people trained to hunt these abominations; this isn’t your responsibility!”
Calum picked up his chest and shook his head before marching passed Aiden. “The truth is that our world is infested, and it’s the Church’s job to deal with them. The last I checked, we were part of that Church.” He took a deep breath lowered his voice. “Look Aiden, I know I weakened it, and if it’s not stopped now, it will grow stronger and kill again. They thrive on pain and take pleasure in death. I can’t just let it go.”
Aiden followed Calum through the halls and outside. “Please, Brother, be reasonable. You should at least notify the Abbot of your intentions.”
“He would just try to stop me.” Calum shook his head and kept walking. “We had our chance to stop it, and it escaped because we… I didn’t know what I was walking into and a man died. That makes this my fault and my responsibility. What would you have me do, sit here and pray about it? That’s what the Abbot would tell me.”
The monophonic singing of the other monks grew louder as Calum got closer to the cathedral. He tied his chest to the back of a waiting donkey and then looked up at the stone crucifix that hung above the cathedral’s massive doors. He dropped to his knees, crossed himself, and said a quick prayer before taking the lead rope in hand and walking toward the gate.
Aiden followed on Calum’s heels. “I’m not letting you do this alone, Brother.”
A bystander stepped to the side and watched the monks with a curious expression. Calum gave him a polite nod as they passed him. “I won’t try and stop you, but you haven’t packed anything, and I’m not waiting for you.”
“When the Lord sent out the Seventy, he sent them out without purse, scrip, and shoes. I at least have my shoes. Surely, He will provide.”
Calum nodded. “Do you believe in destiny, Brother Aiden?”
“I believe we make our own destiny.” As they reached the top of a hill, the cathedral bells rang behind them. Aiden glanced back at the belfry and sighed. “I hope Brother John feeds Chipper in my absence.”
“We’re on a journey to hunt down an escaped demon from hell, and you’re worried about a little green parakeet.” Calum chuckled to himself. “You said a few minutes ago that you trusted God to provide for you. The scriptures say that the Heavenly Father feeds the birds.”
“I have no doubt that he does; it’s trusting Brother John to do it that worries me.”
“How did you get that bird anyway?”
Calum shrugged as they walked. “I was down by the port and ran into a sailor with a guilty conscience. After I spoke with him awhile, he gave me the bird after his wife…”
Aiden took three steps before he realized that Calum had stopped walking. “What is it?”
“Do you see the path of wilted grass? Demons are life sucking parasites. The only way they can stay in our world is to siphon life from the living. Paths like this are how you hunt them.”
Aiden swallowed the lump in his throat. “How do you know that?”
“I read,” they began following the trail, “a lot.”
They followed the trail into the woods. The leaves on many of the lower tree limbs hung wilted and shriveled making their path all too clear. Crows cawed and flapped about in the tops of the trees. The air itself felt heavy and ominous as they climbed hills and searched for alternate routes when their pack mule refused to be led through thickets.
They broke camp early on the third day, and after a couple hours of walking, they followed the trail down a steep hill. A rancid odor grew stronger the closer they came to the bottom of the hill.
Aiden wrinkled his nose. “What is that awful smell?”
Calum stopped and held up a hand. “Do you hear that?”
“I don’t hear a thing.”
Calum whispered, “Exactly,” and slowly started moving again, “Not even a crow.”
They found the rotting carcass of a deer at the bottom of the hill. Calum let out a long sigh and crossed himself. “It’s grown stronger.”
“How do you know?”
“This deer didn’t just happen to drop dead in the demon’s path of destruction. Have you noticed the dead insects and birds we’ve seen on the path?”
“He’s been preying upon larger and larger animals as he gaines strength. If he can take down a deer this size,” Calum shook his head, “I hope I’m wrong, but I think he’s strong enough to possess a human now.”
The color drained from Aiden’s face, and his eyes shifted nervously to the rotting carcass and back the way they came. “This is dangerous, Calum. Maybe we should leave this to someone that the Church has sanctified and trained for it. What would keep it from possessing one of us?”
In answer, Calum lifted his right arm and let his sleeve fall below his elbow. Aiden took a step closer his eyes narrowed as he looked at Calum’s forearm. He saw lines of scar tissue that formed a cross. The outer points of the cross were connected by four more lines enclosing the cross.
“It’s a seal to prevent possession.” Calum retrieved a small dagger from his chest. “I made a friend when I made my pilgrimage to Rome. It turned out that he was a member of the Exorcists. He taught me a few things and tried to get me into training.”
Aiden jerked back his arm as Calum reached for it. “Whoa now, I don’t know about this, and you never told me that you tried to join the Exorcists.”
Calum sighed. “Look, I haven’t got to cut very deep. Just a light scratch will be enough to protect you. It won’t even scar unless you do it daily for several weeks. Just a little pain now and you won’t have to worry about this demon burning out your soul.”
Aiden considered his options for a moment and then let out a slow resigned sigh before holding out his arm. “So, why are you here? Why aren’t you with the rest of the Exorcists?”
With short quick flecks of his wrist, Calum slowly sketched the enclosed cross in his friend’s arm, stopping only to wipe away blood with a rag. He answered the last question while he worked. “The Exorcists don’t actively search for demons like you’d think. Most of them are happy studying the subject, keeping records, and writing replies to requests for help. Generally, by the time an Exorcists is dispatched the demon has moved on and the crises is over long before he arrives. I voiced my objections to this practice a little too forcefully and found myself on a ship heading toward a distant mission that afternoon.”
Through clinched teeth, Aiden asked, “Can you do this?”
“I drove him out of the village, didn’t I?”
Aiden winced as he wiped away the last of the blood from his arm. He flexed his hand and rotated his forearm and gritted his teeth against the pain. They heard the faint but clear scream of a woman in the distance. After sharing a quick worried glance, they ran toward the screams.
They emerged from the woods and found a small farm. Calum dropped the mule’s lead, quickly gathered a few items from his trunk, and then scattered chickens as he ran toward the small farm house ahead. Aiden was a step behind and almost ran into Calum when he rounded a corner and suddenly stopped.
A broad shouldered man stood over the curled up body of a young teenage boy. The boy’s mother knelt beside him and begged frantically. “Please, leave him alone. What has come over you, Jacon?”
The large man spoke, and a chill ran down Calum’s back as he heard a faint yet familiar growl beneath the man’s words. “He’s lazy, and no son of mine.”
The woman sobbed and wiped blood from her lip with the back of her hand. “He’s only a boy. For the last few days you’ve demanded that he put in a man’s day of work. He’s done his best, and so have I. What more do you want from us?”
Jacon voice dripped with a mixture of a cruel amusement and a perverse pleasure when he replied. “Oh, there’s only one more thing I need from either of you.”
When Jacon lifted his arm, Calum noticed the hammer in his hand and knew that he had to intervene fast. Hope returned to the woman’s eyes as Calum spoke. “This isn’t your husband at the moment and probably hasn’t been for days. He’s been possessed by a demon.”
A grin spread across the possessed man’s face as he turned to face the monks, and his grip tightened on the hammer. “Oh, how I hoped that you’d be foolish enough to follow me. No mere mortal has ever caused me to flee.”
“You’re wasting your breath. You’ll find no pride to manipulate me with.”
The demon barked a laugh that seemed to nearly shake the ground. “You’re human; your kind can be lifted in pride by a solid bowel movement.”
Calum lifted his arm to expose his scars. “That’s why we made sure that you couldn’t possess us.”
The demon growled and ran toward Calum as he raised the hammer. Standing his ground, Calum quickly spat out several words in Latin, and the demon ran passed him. A confused look flashed over the possessed man’s face as he stumbled to a stop. When Calum took his left hand from his robe’s pocket, he held his black book already open to a marked page. As he began to read, the demon screamed and threw his hammer.
Aiden crumpled to the ground holding his shoulder with a startled yelp.
Calum’s voice grew louder as the demon marched toward Aiden. “I’ll enjoy seeing your face as your friend dies.” The demon’s steps grew slower and he grunted as he forced them to keep walking. “You can’t stop me. I’m stronger than you.” His words grew more strained as he raised a heavy booted foot over Aiden’s head.
Aiden rolled as a heavy thump landed where his head had been a moment earlier. Calum flipped to a new page and began repeating a new litany of commands in Latin. The possessed man tumbled to a nearby ash tree and fell to his knees. He laid both hands on the tree, tossed back his head and roared. An unfortunate bird resting high in the tree fell dead to the ground and the leaves on the tree sagged as the demon siphoned away its life in desperation. The grass wilted in a perfect circle around the tree, and the demon expression turned to one of determination, and the corners of his mouth twitched up forming a malicious smile.
Calum’s heart pounded as worry and doubts began to fill his head. Somehow he was losing this battle, and he didn’t know why. The hairs on the back of his arms stood up as the possessed man got to his feet, and thoughts of running caused him to flex his toes.
Suddenly Aiden was by Calum’s side, and he added his voice to the repetitive Latin commands. The possessed man snarled and searched wildly around himself for a weapon, a rock, or anything he could throw. His knees weakened and his eyes flicked about searching for a renewing life source. There were no more trees close to the house; the cattle were on the other side of the pasture… He dropped to the ground with a low growl.
As Calum and Aiden neared the bottom of the page, the possessed man dug his fingers into the dirt, and his eyes rolled back. A moment later, the man fell over limply. They stopped chanting and sighed in relief.
Calum sighed and turned to see the mother hugging her son. Her eyes found Calum’s and she asked, “Is it over?”
“The demon is gone.”
The woman walked slowly closer to her husband softly saying his name over and over. When she was a few steps away, she heard a soft, “Oh Caroline, I’m sorry,” followed by short sobs.
She dropped to her knees by her husband and wrapped her arms around him while they cried together. A moment later, the couple’s son joined their embrace.
Aiden wiped a tear from his eye and flashed a smile at Calum. “What do we do now?” He winced as Calum grasped his forearm with a tight grip.
“Now we go check on my bird; I still don’t trust Brother John to feed him.”