The following short story was presented at the Jersey City Writers’ monthly genre event–Whispers of an Apparition: Literary Reading of Paranormal Fiction. Please enjoy.
The demon made its home on the second floor of the house, so Molly stayed downstairs in the living room. Every few days, the demon had a new way to torment her. Last week it caused stabbing pain in her arms and legs. Before that, sticky, putrid black bile poured out of from every orifice of her body. The demon had marked her with sores and bruises. It had shapeshifted into terrifying things with teeth and claws. It had broken precious objects in the house and made other things disappear entirely.
But today, it was making noise. Lots of noise. Ear splitting noise. Teasing noise. Annoying noise. Constant noise. Screams. Shrieks. Howls. Grunts. Groans. Shouts. Yells.
Molly fell to her knees in front of the big crucifix above the fireplace, squeezed her eyes shut and prayed. “The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence. The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence. The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.”
She shouted the verse over and over with increased volume until she found rhythm in the words and rocked back and forth in time. Her throat felt raw and she could taste blood, but she manage to rasp out the holy words once more in spite of the pain. “The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.”
Her prayers were desperate and sincere and her heart good and pure, but the filthy beast bellowed still. This time she was sure the satanic words were Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic like before. She strained to separate the ancient babbling into words to see if she recognized any message, but she didn’t understand anything. The primordial spirit which dwelt upstairs was deliberately confusing her.
Molly rose from the floor and went to the iPod stereo dock. Hezekiah Walker was still on the screen. She pushed play and maxed the volume. “Every Praise” bounced off the walls and rattled the ceiling. She tuned out the stinging in her throat and raised her voice. She sounded cracked and broken, but she directed those good words to the top of the staircase, so the demon would know she was praising her Lord and Saviour. But it was a barren effort. The demon was louder than Hezekiah and his mighty chorus of the blessed.
Molly stared at the black void at the top of the stairs. Before the demon possessed the second story of her home, it had possessed her own body. The parasite repeatedly violated her temple with bloating, infections, and fiery pain. She had expelled the demon through fasting and prayer. Although the possession was painful and the exorcism brutal; she had managed to keep her soul clean even though the demon tearing at her inside was unclean. Now in her living room, she knew she was helpless against the demon. It would possess her again. “Please, lord. Keep it contained upstairs,” she begged. “Don’t let it take me again.”
She had nowhere to go and everyone had forsaken her. Her priest, Pastor Bob was a fool. The book of prayers he’d given her and his blessing of the house did nothing. The wretched and crafty fiend remained quiet and hid during the Pastor’s visits. It was always silent when others were present. It only unleashed the abuse when she was alone and vulnerable. Molly knew if she continued to talk about it to others, she would be locked away. So, she kept her mouth shut and her bible open.
Lost and burdened with dread, she collapsed on to the couch ready for the tears she usually yielded to this time of day, but something caught her eye before she surrendered: The framed crochet pastoral scene on the end table. Her grandmother had made it for her when she was a child. It showed a baby Jesus holding a lamb, a peaceful smile on his gentle face. Beneath the picture it read: “And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.”
A joy entered Molly’s heart. She cried and traced the face of baby Jesus with her finger. He would give her the power to defeat this demon. She cradled the picture to her breasts and rose to her feet. It was time to smite the demon.
Molly emptied the wicker basket of magazines and gathered every crucifix she could find on the first floor. The one above the fireplace. The framed one painted in pastel with the Lord’s Prayer scripted underneath it. The one in the guest bathroom above the light switch. The three magnetic ones on the fridge. She went to the kitchen and collected the ingredients for her holy water recipe: thyme and fennel. In the dining room she grabbed the King James family Bible from the China cabinet. It was plump with birth certificates and baptism records and birth announcements and obituaries. It always gave her comfort, and now she needed more than ever. She needed it to free her.
She stood at the bottom of the staircase with her wicker basket of divine weapons. “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out, and his angels were cast out with him!” she yelled climbing the stairs.
* * *
Hours later Molly sat slumped at the kitchen table; damp with sweat. She touched her hot face and knew it must be beet red. She was physically spent, but the sense of delicious relief was setting in an taking her to a place rapture must feel like. The house was blessedly silent and cool. “Thank you, Jesus,” she cried. “Thank you, my Lord.”
The slam of the front door took Molly out of her prayer. “Honey, I’m home,” Roger called from the living room. Molly ran to meet him knocking over the kitchen chair in her haste. She threw her arms around him and kissed him all over his face, his mouth, his neck.
“Whoa, babe. You ok?” he chuckled and wiped a tear from her face with his thumb. He pushed her bangs back and kissed her forehead, “Bad day again?”
She stepped away from him and took a deep breath. “No. A good day. The best. Oh, Roger, it’s been a glorious day.”
“Good, that’s good to hear,” he said putting his brief case on the coffee table. “You were due a good day.”
“I have been delivered,” she whispered. “Roger, I am free.”
Molly nodded tearing up. “Holy water. Holy water was the answer this whole time,” she laughed.
“Holy water? Did Pastor Bob come by again today?”
Molly shook her head. “No. I made the holy water myself. Upstairs. In the bathtub.”
Baffled, Roger’s eyes followed each step to the top of the staircase. “What do you mean you made holy water in the bathtub? I don’t think it works that way.”
Molly sighed and threw her hands in the air. “Praise to Jesus, Roger! I drowned the demon in the holy water!”
Roger looked at his wife. “You drowned the demon,” he repeated trying to make sense of her words. Molly nodded and smiled. Roger looked sick. “Oh, Molly. Please don’t tell me…”
Roger attacked the stairs two steps at a time. Molly followed him taking her time. “There was a lot of wrestling. The demon was hard to grab. I know I made a mess, but I am too tired tonight. I will clean it up tomorrow when I…”
“Oh my god! No! Molly, what have you done?” Roger’s voice boomed from the bathroom. Molly stopped in her tracks in the hallway outside the door. “Come on, breathe for daddy, baby!”
Molly cautiously peeked around the door jamb and was relieved to see the demon was still dead. Roger had the lifeless, fleshy thing sprawled on his lap. She watched him massage it’s chest with one hand and clutched his phone in the other. “Yes! 213 Griffith! My baby has been drowned! Please hurry! Please!” Roger cried. “Oh, Molly what have you done! What have you done…”
Molly stood over her husband and smiled down at him. “Everything is OK now.”