“So are any of you going to tell me what the fuck that was? Do I even get that courtesy?”
It had only been a good thirty minutes in the backseat of their car on the road to god-knows-where, but is was a terse, silent thirty. Or about as silent as you can get with me crying and wheezing in the back seat. I seriously don’t think you can blame me on that one though, I’ve seriously been having a hell of a time here. I couldn’t see where we were headed with me trying to calm by laying down, my head resting on Joey’s lap. I assumed the answer would just be ‘away from the monster’.
“Jo, I tried to tell you in the house. That was… whatever the fuck attacked Sarah last night! The thing must have, like, seen me leave and ran after me for some reason.”
“Oh I’m sorry, I guess the story is changing now. You didn’t say she got attacked, you said she summoned something. She probably sent that ugly fucker after us! Why are we even in this car with them!”
‘She’s ugly huh? Well you’re not the looks of the century either kid.’ Wait, why did I think that... I don’t know why I felt compelled to defend that thing’s looks, it was horrifying!
“Jesus Liam would you knock it off with the voice? It’s kinda creepy. And I thought I was a cutie just a few minutes ago?” Oh jesus did I say that out loud too? What in the world is wrong with me?
Sarah finally turns her head and stares daggers into my eyes. “Are you serious? A few hours on your own and you’re already hitting on people? Do you have no shame?” Oh god I didn’t, I’m not hitting on him!
“Sarah no, I didn’t! I swear I’m not, something weird is goin…”
Her face softens at that… “Oh, Sca… Liam, no. I didn’t mean you.” I swear to god almighty I’m going to have an aneurysm here.
Sarah’s dad gives a gruff scoff. “Princess, I think you owe the boys an explanation. It’d be more productive than bickering. Hell kid, you still owe me an explanation of what was going on in that head of yours.”
I didn’t like that tone one bit. I get he was mad but I don’t like my friends being yelled at. “Mr. Caputo, you say that like you’re uninvolved, but you were talking about the quote unquote ritual last night. You knew …”
“Son, first off I’ve said just call me Carl, I don’t like the formalities.” Ugh, I hate that smug dad tone he’s putting on here. “Secondly, that wasn’t the ritual, I would have never barged in on my daughter in such a state, let alone bring all her friends in with me. All that was supposed to happen was we say a few hymns and break a little bread, light a few candles, make a few pledges. Your basic bonding celebration.” He looks back at mine and Joey’s undoubtedly puzzled faces, and glances to Sarah’s sheepish one. “Jesus princess, you really didn’t tell them anything about us?”
He lets that just sit in the air for a second, turning his head to the road. “Kid, we’re part of an ecological society for the preservation of endangered species - namely the lillum. And through our efforts, I’ll have you know, they’ve gone from nigh-extinct to an appreciable rebound in the population over the last few decades! It’s not a fight that’s over, but it’s one that we’re actively winning.” He beams and points a finger up into the air, as if waiting for applause and not the silent confusion he’s going to get from that spiel.
Sarah sighs and turns to stare out the window. I can see her fingers tittering against the glass. “God dad, thanks for pivoting to the stump speech. We, uh. We save demons.”
I can feel my breath hitch in the back of my throat at that. Joey just scoffs hard and crosses his arms, smacking me in the face a little. I’m not gonna complain. “So we’re just supposed to believe that Miss Goodbody back there was a demon? Why not just say the fucking Goatman was after us?”
“Actually I helped save the Goatman myself back in ‘06. You gotta try his hot brown son, Jeff is a wonder in the kitchen.” I honestly don’t know if Mr. Caputo is fucking with me on that or if he’s fucking with me on everything, but it’s really getting on my nerves.
Joey rolls his eyes and goes back to idly petting my hair. “So that’s what you were doing last night then? Saving them? From fucking what? That thing looked like it could handle a tank by itself.”
“Jo, that thing has no skin. Frankly it should have been dead five minutes after showing up.”
He huffs again and pokes me in the heart. “Don’t tell me you’re on their side now. It ain’t my shoulder that thing tore a chunk outta.” I didn’t even realize we were on sides here.
Sarah peeks back to look at us, before scrunching her nose and whipping back to look out the window. “To be fair, she’s <i>supposed</i> to have skin. I got, interrupted…” with a quick daggers stare at her father, “and the separating ritual failed spectacularly. See, the thing is… so a while ago, right? God, how do I say this… You know dad works in the church right? That’s what they call this thing, the church. One night in the summer one of the people in our group got attacked pretty bad. She was essentially going to die. That was, unless we found someone to bind her soul to, and, I, uh, volunteered to do it. Essentially was the only real option other than just let her die. Consensual possession, we call it. With the lillum’s soul out of the body it can be despawned into their plane, where it could take the next few years to heal up. You, uh, remember my story about my ‘family friend’? Well, that’s Lucy.”
I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t. I’m not sure if her doing that would make her a saint or a monster. “Why would you ever want to save that thing? It just started attacking me for no reason!”
“That isn’t Lucy, that’s just her body. Again, I was trying to remove her and it all went to shit. You, uh, when you fainted… you landed right on the seal and broke it. The whole thing got aborted halfway. Her soul was already out, but the body was half formed and mangled and impossible to use. And I’m pretty sure it, uh, it went… Well ok, there’s two options. Either she had nowhere to go and just died there, or since you were inside the circle…”
Oh fuck. Oh fuck oh fuck “oh fuck, Sarah, you’re not, you can’t be implying that…”
“Tell me son, have you been having any thoughts you can’t describe as your own? Have you been saying things that are out of character? Did you wake up this morning and have something about you just not look right anymore?”
“Stop the car, stop the car stop the car stop the fucking car, I’m going to fucking yartz, I, its IN ME?!”
It turns out we were on the freeway, so it took a few minutes to get off and into a gas station parking lot. I absolutely <i>did</i> sick the second I was out of that car, but I was able to hold it in long enough to get there. Sarah’s dad at least got a chuckle out of it. “Well son, looks like we just made it then! Lucky us you made it out of the car huh!”
I blanch pretty hard at that. “Oh yeah wouldn’t want to mess up the satanists car huh? Might ruin the resale value if it got on any of the goat’s blood!”
“First off, I’m not a satanist. No such thing. Second off, I only meant we wouldn’t be smelling vomit the next few days. You didn’t do any wrong son.”
“Mr. Caputo please would you just stop fucking calling me that! I’m not your fucking son! Do I look like your fucking son!” Tears start welling up in my eyes. “I’m not… I’m not anyone’s son. Not anymore.” I can’t stand up right now, so I just sit on the curb and start sobbing.
Sarah comes up and sits next to me, pulling me into her shoulder and letting me cry into it. “Scarlett, what do you mean by that?” Oh, I guess I need to tell her that too. I sniffle loudly and try to get some composure so I can lose it again.
“My… I got caught coming home last night and my parents saw me dressed like this, and my mom… I got kicked out. I got told I’m dead to them. That I should be dead to everyone. She did everything but hand me the rope. She said I was a demon. And I apperently fucking am.” She just presses me tight into her shoulder. I can feel tears drip onto my neck. “What do I do. How am I rid of it? I want it out of me!”
“That’s what we’re doing so… kiddo. I’m driving us to headquarters, it’s a few states over. High priestess will be able to figure out what’s up and how to safely get her out. The body will stop coming for you too then, it’s only going to attack what it has to in order to get that soul back.”
“So let it come and I’ll just give it to her then. Problem solved, we can all go home!”
“Kiddo, you ever eat an oyster? Do you politely ask for the meat and it just gets handed over safe and sound? No, you shuck it, tear out the bits you want, and throw out the shell. That body right now is essentially a wild animal, and an injured one at that. It’s desperate, and it’s just going to kill you to get what it needs. Wouldn’t even do it any good, it’s essentially rotting away as we speak. There’s zero chance to put them back together now.”
‘Besides Scarlett, I thought we were getting along so well! I’m only just getting to know you darling~ Why be rid of me already?’ I nearly jump out of my skin hearing that monster speak. Now that I’m listening for it, I can clearly tell her sickly sweet mocking voice. ‘You paint such a grim picture of me snowbelle. Is that how you treat all your guests?’
I look up at Sarah’s brilliant eyes. “Sarah… did I say any of that… can you hear what she’s saying…”
She just shakes her head no. “She can speak out of your mouth if she wants to, but not every thought is going to come spilling out. She’s essentially thinking with the same brain you are, so she can just do that to talk to you. It gets easier with time. Pretty soon it just feels natural. Actually, today it feels like I’m missing it…”
I balk. “If it’s so good and natural, if it matters so much to you, why would you even get rid of her in the first place? Why didn’t you even tell me about any of this?”
“Because… I just. I wanted to be normal. God, do you know how much I never get to be normal about anything? And then I meet you and you’re amazing and I just know this stupid shit is going to make you run and I just, I wanted to be free of it. I wanted you to just never know and not have to know. Lucy taught me what I had to do so I could just…”
I look back up at her face, at her run-ragged dewy red eyes. "Why do it at all? Why run around and save these things then? Why give up yourself just to keep one around?"
"Because they're people, Scarlett! They're just people. They've never done a god damned thing wrong but just exist where they're not wanted. What kind of monster would I be if I didn't?" I almost felt ashamed at that.
I hear a cough and I jump. Joey has been leaning on the car, arms folded, just watching my newest bout of crying jags go on. I almost forgot he was here at all... He doesn’t look annoyed or angry anymore, just back to that sad look he’s been giving me all morning. “So, old man. How long is this trip going to take. Bout a week?” Mr. Caputo just gives a little nod. “Right, fine then. I’m in.”
“You sure son? Your home’s in the clear now, you could stay here and get picked up by your folks. No reason to risk yourself if you don’t need to.”
“Look, my best friend’s life is being threatened, I’m going to stay here and help. I’m not going to bail so I can watch a few half hour chunks of About Schimdt and learn a few more equations. It’s community college at the start of the semester, we’ll be fine.”
He strolls up to me and offers his hand to pull me up. "Let's go, valley girl." I let him yank me up to my feet, and pull myself a little into him. "My dude, you know I love ya right? We all love ya. We're getting you through this." Sarah presses up tight behind me and wraps her arms around the both of us, her dad with his hand on my shoulder. I honestly don't think I have a single tear left for the next millennia, or the more likely next few days I've got to be kicking. It would have been nice to have some happy tears at the end of all this.