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FIVE

Father Daniel Kerry had been overseeing the parishioners of the town for thirty years now. Although the visitors of the church had been dwindling over the years he still counted on a good amount of loyal devotees. He liked his work. The best part of it was the way he managed to sometimes make a difference in people’s lives. Sometimes with some advice, sometimes with just a listening ear. And of course, sometimes performing the last rites.

Just before the knock on the door, he was reading his favorite Bible passage, Psalm 34: 5. It said, "Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces." He liked that. And although his job had prevented him from starting a family he’d never felt alone. He had his parishioners and he had the Good Lord.

He pushed his reading glasses up on his forehead and said, “Come in.”

He recognized the plain looking freckled brunette. Beth Simmons, such tragedy had befallen her. She wasn’t a churchgoer, but everybody in town knew about how she suddenly had lost her hearing. And of course, there was the fact her paintings had gotten quite some press. He thought her work was disgusting but in a way fascinating as well. Fascinating, because she seemed to depict images from hell so well. He believed in hell, as much as in heaven.

Next to Beth was a young man, in his mid-teens. His hair a bit long and unkempt. He understood the boy was the one who’d had to have heard his agreement for them to enter.

“Father Kerry, thanks for agreeing to see us at such short notice,” Beth said.

“I’m here for the people in my parish. Even if they don’t visit my church,” Father Kerry said. “Have a seat and tell me what I can do for you and the boy.”

Beth and the boy sat down in front of Father Kerry’s desk. He put away his reading glasses and folded his hands, inviting them to tell what was on their mind.

“It’s a very strange story, Father… But… Have you ever heard of Alastor?” Beth asked.

The name sent a shiver down his spine. That was a name he wasn’t used to hear. He’d been interested in demonology back when he started his studies. But this was probably the first time he heard someone utter that demon’s name like that.

“The demon? Yes, I have. He is knows as a minor demon, sometimes described as Hell’s Commissioner of Public Works. In some mythologies he is the personification of blood feuds between families.”

The boy said, “Sounds like we came to the right person. You know your demonology.”

“I have had an interest in that, yes. But why do you mention that infernal name?”

“That’s quite a story,” Beth warned Father Kerry and told it.

Father Kerry rubbed his temples. “That is quite a story indeed. Well, there have been stories and Bible passages about demonic possessions causing blindness, deafness and other handicaps. But surely you don’t actually think that is the case for you?”

Beth shrugged. “I don’t know, Father. I just know things are becoming stranger and more horrific by the day. I think I need the help of someone like you.”

“I’m not exactly an exorcist,” Father Kerry said. “That takes special training.”

“We might not have the time to spare waiting for one,” the boy said. He indicated the cut on his cheek the demon had made. “Now it only drew a little blood. Next time, it might take a life.”

Father Kerry stood from his chair. He felt a little bit silly for what he was about to do. But if the stories he’d read during his days in seminary were true, and if the suspicions of Beth and the boy were true it might make sense. It might prove their theories were true.

He approached Beth, took the crucifix that was around his neck. He kissed, it said a hail Mary and put it against Beth’s forehead. She started to shake like electricity coursed through her body. She screamed, “Motherfucker! Bastard!”

Shook, Father Kerry drew back the crucifix. Beth stopped shaking. Tears ran down her face. The boy hugged her.

“Dear God, I think you are right,” Father Kerry had to admit.

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Jochem Vandersteen

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