I’m getting back into the saddle with the Terribleminds Flash Fiction challenge, and doing so has me writing the first 1000 words of a story someone else will finish. Hopefully, someone will find this interesting.
I can’t imagine to understand everything that occurs in my life. I can’t account for everything I’ve seen. At least in terms of science. But those aren’t the circles I’ve traveled in, even after I left the church.
Not that me leaving keeps the church out of my life.
The balding priest sitting across my desk from me kept looking down at his hat, his fingers on the brim, perhaps because instructions were embroidered on it in really tiny letters. I rested my elbows on the desk’s blotter and interlaced my fingers in front of my chin. The clock on my wall ticked away seconds quietly. Finally, he took a deep breath and looked up at me.
“Forgive me, Mister Luther. This is not the sort of thing I am used to discussing.”
I shook my head. “It’s okay, Father O’Donnell. This isn’t the normal thing your parishioners deal with.”
“Ah… yes.” His brow furrowed. “I would appreciate it if you did not mention I brought this to you.”
“Right. Because the church would not want to admit that things like this actually exist.”
O’Donnell shifted uncomfortably in the chair. I kept myself from shaking my head or making a retching noise. Instead, I took a deep breath.
“Why don’t you tell me about the problem?”
“The problem is Samantha. She’s the daughter of one of our parishioners. She’s sixteen years old.”
I lowered my hands to reach for my notebook and a pen. “Possessed?”
“I’m not sure.”
I stopped writing. “You’re… not sure? Is it possible she just has a fever or something?”
O’Donnell shook his head. “She is speaking in tongues. Being… abrasive with her parents, when she never has before. She refers to things she could not possibly know. We cannot think of another way to explain it.”
“And how are you keeping the family from telling everybody in the neighborhood their daughter is possessed by a demon?”
“Her father told me of the trouble in confession. I reminded him that what he told me there remained between us, and that his wife and household were also bound by that stricture.”
I chuckled. “No wonder the girl was open to possession. It’s clear her old man isn’t very bright.”
O’Donnell glared at me. “I don’t think I appreciate your tone, Mister Luther.”
“Not the first time I’ve heard that.”
“We don’t have time for this.”
I looked up from my notes. “If you don’t like how I do things, Father, the door is behind you. Best of luck finding another freelance exorcist in the phone book.”
“But you are not listed in the phone book, Mister Luther. The church office has your card on file.”
Some priests, like most nuns, have no sense of humor. “My point is, I am your only option, unless you want to dust off your older texts, launder a fresh collar, and do this yourself.”
“I have no experience with such things. You have a great deal. Which is why you charge such exorbitant amounts of money for your… freelance exorcism services.”
“I also ghost-write inspirational books for churches like yours to sell in their gift shops!” I gave Father O’Donnell my best, cheesiest smile. He glared at me.
“Please. Mister Luther.” He paused. “Bartholomew. She needs your help.”
I sighed. “You don’t have to use the girl to get me to help you, Mike. I’m going to do it.”
“You had your reasons for leaving the church, I know, and…”
“Mike, come on, it’s okay. I’m sorry I was so hard on you. You can relax.”
The priest clutched his hat and let out a long breath. “It has been a hard time for me. I christened Samantha. Her confirmation is in two weeks. Or, at least, it should be.”
That got a smile. “Do you know I still have my confirmation bible?”
The priest started smiling, too. “Still sentimental after all these years, my son? That’s a promising sign.”
“You know I’m not coming back to the church, right?”
“I’m not sure why you left the priesthood in the first place…”
“I didn’t like the view from the inside.” I picked up my valise, opening it to check the inventory. “I still pray every day, Mike, and I do what I can to do right by Christ and my neighbors. But between bilking innocent, gullible people for cash and all of the shady crap the Vatican’s been responsible for over the years…”
Father O’Donnell held up his hands in surrender. “I do not agree with your reasoning, Bartholomew. But I’m heartened to know you’re still serving the Lord.”
I shook my head. “However you see it. Now, what else can you tell me about Samantha?”
Father O’Donnell told me where Samantha and her family lived, the sort of things she’d been saying, and I wrote all of it down. I made a fresh batch of coffee, poured some into a paper cup for Mike with a lid, and handed it to the priest before he left. I returned to my desk and sat.
An actual exorcism. From everything Mike had told me, Samantha was now renting out her head to one of the more nasty denizens of Dis. I dug out one of my source journals and looked through my notes. I had it narrowed down to a few possibilities, but I would need more information before I knew for sure. I closed up my journals and notebook, dropping them in the valise on top of the vials of holy water and my blessed crucifix.
I needed to get myself to Samantha’s family’s house to try and save her. But I also needed to make sure I had all the help I could manage. If I was right, I wasn’t the only one in danger.
So, taking a deep breath, I reached for my phone and started to dial her number.
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