Based on true accounts.
It is not true that good can only follow from good and evil only from evil, but that often the opposite is true. – Max Weber
Five miles from Bell Buckle, Tennessee – 1973
The crickets chirped in the tall grass in the field on the far side of the long yard. In the distance, echoing over that field could be heard a great horned owl in the woods. No doubt, small prey heard it and tried to find safety among the same tall grass the crickets were in the mid-summer night. And in the distance, a train whistle could be heard. The heat of the day was still in the air. There were no clouds in the sky, giving view to stars that can’t be seen in the city. Even a hint of the Milky Way with its colored gases and nebulas could be spotted here and there.
It was a beautiful night out here, thought Dan, looking up with his tear ridden face. He sat in his bare feet on the front porch he shared with his wife, Helen, and two daughters, Emily and Lily. Yes, he thought, it was beautiful… out here.
Inside was a different story. He ran the events in his head over and over, each time feeling worse. He rubbed his temples with the palms of his hands. He wondered if tonight was going to be the final straw, would it finally mean the end. Dan wasn’t sure it was going to go the way he hoped.
He had hoped that it would finally fade away to be a forgotten memory. But tonight it was back in full force. Tonight the screaming hadn’t stopped.
It was still going on.
He hoped help was coming.
Dan stopped rubbing his aching temples, the headache that raged there from the lack of sleep and the screaming that still echoed through the halls of the house, and looked up. From the road that was one-third of a mile from the house, a car turned onto his driveway. The headlights shifting into view. He suddenly had a flare of hope in his chest, his heart nearly stuttered.
He lifted his head up and prayed. He asked to whomever (whatever) that might hear him bring his daughter a miracle. He knew now that was what it was going to take. He stood up on weak legs and waited for the car to deliver its occupant to him and to his daughter. When he did, he heard more furniture breaking. It sounded like the four-poster bed.
He turned back toward the house to see his wife looking out the window from his daughter’s room. Even from where he stood, he saw her cheeks were wet with tears and the still unhealed wounds from his daughter’s fingernails were still red as if they were fresh and not two weeks old. Dan wondered if they wouldn’t heal until this was over, one way or another. Or would she always bear them? He would love her no matter what.
But would she still love me, he wondered, as he turned to watch the car drive down the gravel drive at a high rate of speed, headlights lighting the way. Dust was kicked up from the back that could be seen in the reflection of the red taillights.
He felt Emily, his oldest, come to stand beside and take his hand. She looked up at her father, she had the same face as her mother’s, the same shape and the same eyes, the same tear streaks down her cheeks minus the red fingernail wounds, thank God.
The girl inside, Lily, the one screaming, looked more like him. His eyes, his square jaw, his delicate nature.
Those red taillights in the dust cloud looked like flame and smoke.
There were flame and smoke inside, too.
Three weeks earlier…
Lily woke up early. As an eight-year-old, she wasn’t supposed to wake up early. She was supposed to sleep until her mom would wake her to get ready for school. That was most children. But Lily was like her father, she had started waking up at three AM on her own. Instead of trying to wake her sister or go try and sleep with her parents who were asleep down the hall, she would turn on her lamp that sits beside her bed on her nightstand and read comic books. Lily was special. She began reading when she was three. By the time she was five, she was reading novels and understanding them… mostly. Some of the situations were beyond her. But she would ask her father about them later and he would explain what they meant. Then she would continue the book. By the time she was seven, she stopped asking her father. Not because she didn’t want to bother him but because everything she read made sense to her.
This one particular early morning was no different than the others. The clock clicked to three AM and her eyes popped open.
But she didn’t turn on the light.
This time she just listened. She had heard something. Something in her room had made a … sound. It sounded to her as a scratching, as if a cat was sharpening its claws on the wood flooring. But they didn’t have a cat. Her mother was horribly allergic. They did try to keep a cat outside to help with mice and such, her mother couldn’t get anywhere near it. Finally the cat, Rascal, just disappeared. Her father figured he decided to take off for the sunset. They never saw it again. Though, Emily and Lily believed they had seen him once or twice disappearing into the cornfield that their father grew.
But this wasn’t Rascal she was hearing now, she thought. Not unless he had become much bigger. And with bigger claws.
She stared into the darkness of her room. There was no moon and even if there was, the sky was clouded over from an oncoming rain storm with no lightning. No, her room was completely dark.
Lily also felt like the walls were closing in. And it felt like someone was holding her pillow behind her head and holding the ends over her ears. Or as if they were stopped up from being sick. She thought about trying to put her fingers in her ears and wiggling them back and forth to try and see if they were stopped up with ear wax. She even wanted to look at her alarm clock to see if she could if the face was illuminated but she was afraid to do both.
All she could do was look straight ahead and hope the sound would stop. She wanted to close her eyes and will it to be quiet. That would take courage that she didn’t have now.
Then… the sound stopped. Then she could hear no sound at all. Only her too quickly beating heart in her chest and the sound of her too fast breath. Lily stayed that way for a moment, her eyes darting around the room without moving her head.
There was nothing. Finally, her courage was coming back to her. If only she could turn on her lamp, everything would be fine. In a sudden lunge, she reached out to turn on the light, his hand quickly gliding into thin air toward the little black turn knob on the knob socket. She could find it every time without looking.
Instead of touching the familiar black knob, she touched something else. It was soft but leathery. She turned her head with an uncontrolled urge. What she saw made her scream.
Down the hall, Dan and Helen had been sleeping soundly. It was as soundly as the way they made love some nights due to having two very precocious girls. They had never been caught in the act, though they had come close twice. Luckily it was too dark for the girls to see into the darkened room when they opened the door without knocking and the parents were quick to get completely under the covers before they could be seen. This always brought smiles to them over breakfast or in some department store in the ‘big city’ when they went from their little town when it was brought up.
Dan was a bit slower coming to but first out of the bed and down the hall turning on the light as he went. He opened Lily’s door just as Helen caught up. They both entered the room not seeing Lily under the covers but standing in the corner of the room next to the window. Helen turned on the overhead light in her room. Lily was still screaming, staring at the lamp next to her bed.
“What’s wrong”, her mother asked loudly. She was trying to be heard over the sound coming from her daughter.
She started to walk toward Lily, but Dan stopped her by grabbing her wrist. Then she saw. The reason was she was hovering by some unknown force two inches off the floor. If not for the angle of the light, she would have never had noticed that Lily’s toes were curled downward. Her toenails slightly touched the varnished wood flooring but made two gouges into it as she went back further into the corner. The varnish coating curled as if they were pencil shavings from a sharpener.
They both stood still in absolute shock as they watched their youngest float. Still, Lily continued to scream at the lamp across the room. It was nearly ear-piercing. Dan thought in his head that she had not taken a breath since they came into the room.
Finally, their paralysis was broken as Emily joined them at their sides.
“What is she screaming at?” Emily screamed with her hands over her ears.
Dan moved forward, not knowing what to expect, and grabbed Lily. As soon as he touched her, she stopped floating and he felt her full weight drop into his arms and she became quiet. He pulled her toward his chest and she felt cold.
“What’s happening? Did she see a spider or something?” Emily tried to see around her mother as Helen tried to block her view. She wasn’t sure what she saw but she knew she didn’t see her floating. She wasn’t sure she herself saw her floating. Mother instinct took over and she gently pushed Emily back toward her room. “It’s alright. Lily just had a nightmare. Go back to bed. It’s fine.” Helen didn’t believe it but she tried to smile and let Emily know it was alright.
As Helen maneuvered their eldest down the hall, Dan looked at the little girl in his arms. She had her eyes closed and this scared him. She felt too cold. He could feel the coolness through her nightgown. But he could see she was breathing.
“Lily? Are you alright?” That was all he could get out with his heart beating so hard.
Just as Helen came back into the room by putting Emily to bed, Lily’s eyes opened to look at her father. She had dark brown eyes like her mother but suddenly, they seemed almost black. But she blinked and they were brown again.
As Helen came up to them, Lily looked from one to another. “What happened? Was I sleepwalking?”
Her parents were quiet for a moment. They weren’t sure what to say.
“I guess you were,” her mother said, taking Lily from Dan’s arms. She carried her back to her bed and laid her down. Dan looked down at the long scratches on the floor. He touched one with toe and felt the grove. It had to be a couple of millimeters deep. He was pulled from his investigation with his wife’s voice.
“Let’s give Lily another kiss goodnight, hon. Maybe she’ll get back to sleep and sleep until morning for a change.”
Dan saw that his wife was forcing herself to be pleasant. He’s known her for over twenty years, sharing this house with her for over fourteen. He knew her better than anybody else in the world. He could tell she was scared out of her mind but didn’t want Lily to sense it. And it looked as if it was working. Dan couldn’t find any words yet. He kept thinking about the sound of her grinding toes nails into the wood and how her feet hung as if she had a noose around her neck.
He bent down and kissed Lily on her forehead. It was cold and damp. He suddenly wanted to run the back of his hand across his lips. He stopped himself. He knew how that would look. It would look as if he didn’t love his youngest daughter. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Right, honey?” Helen had been talking to him and he didn’t hear.
He got a hold of himself. “What was that?” He tried to play it off as if he was in deep thought.
“I was telling Lily that tomorrow since it was Saturday, we’d drive to town and get her some ice cream.”
He nodded. “Yes. Yes, of course. Ice cream. That sounds good.”
“Emily, too,” Lily squeaked out.
Her mother nodded at her. “Yes. Emily, too. Now, why don’t you go back to sleep and we’ll see you in the morning.”
Helen pulled the sheets up to Lily’s neck where she liked them. Lily had seen a vampire movie once and pulled her sheets up to her neck ever since, even if it was hot in her room. She would sweat bullets before leaving her neck out for a buffet.
Dan followed Helen to the door. They both turned and said goodnight and closed the door but not all of the way.
At that moment, Helen grabbed Dan’s hand and pulled him toward their room half running, only slowing down as they passed Emily’s closed door. They made it and she shut the door with a quiet, quickness.
Helen looked at Dan dead in the eyes and whispered so hard she sounded like a snake.
“What the fuck?”
The next morning, Lily didn’t remember any of it. She didn’t even remember being awake. Helen and Dan waited for Lily to say something first. All during breakfast and after table clean-up, they waited. They would look at each other whenever they heard Lily speak, thinking this was it. But she never did. It was only about the kind of ice cream she would get and asking if they could go to the bookstore, too.
After their discussion when they shut the door to their room the night before, they wondered if they saw what they thought they had seen. They tried their best to think it all through, weighing each moment. Helen had come up with the idea that she had been sleepwalking and for some reason was standing on her toes. Children can do strange things when they sleepwalk. She mentioned that once when she was little that she had walked out into the front yard in the middle of the night and squatted down and peed. Right there for all to see. Helen was glad that her father had heard her wake-up and followed her, grabbing her gently as soon as she was finished, not wanting to disturb her. He watched to make sure nobody was looking and then helped her back to bed and told her about it the next morning.
Dan was starting to convince himself that maybe she was right. Lily’s scream had awakened him from a deep sleep and maybe part of him was still partway awake when he got to her room. Maybe he imagined that her eyes were black and not the chestnut brown that they really were.
Yes. He had come close to convincing himself that was the way it was.
Except for those grooves in the wood floor. He knew they had not been there the night before. And the curled up sliver of flooring made from her toenails was still there. After Lily had gone downstairs, he had found himself back in her room looking down at them. He picked them up and put them in the pocket of his pajama bottoms. They were still there as they ate breakfast. He touched them with his finger through the thin fabric.
Later that afternoon, they were driving down the two-lane road towards town. The family’s white 1965 2-door Bonneville glided over the asphalt. Dan drove and Helen sat in the passenger seat as Emily and Lily played eye-spy in the back seat. It was a beautiful day and the girls were enjoying the weather and the drive in the car. Helen looked out her window, trying to forget the night before but it wasn’t working. She would give Dan slight glances to see if she could read his thoughts. She had been married to him long enough to know what was on his mind. And she saw it.
Dan barely noticed the road let alone the glances he was getting from his wife. His mind kept reeling back. He couldn’t get the vision of his youngest, with her big toes hanging down and the strips of flooring the toenails dug out of the wood, out of his head. And the look on her face. She looked…dead. He glanced in the rearview mirror to see Lily getting a correct answer from Emily. She looked so happy sitting back there, smiling and laughing. She didn’t seem to have a care in the world.
That was when Lily looked at his reflection in the mirror and her eyes suddenly turned black like they did earlier. Dan’s eyes widened.
And so did Helen’s. Not from Lily but from the tractor and its driver that decided that was the best time to pull out of a field and onto the road right in front of them.
“DAN!!!!”, Helen screamed. That caused Emily to scream.
Dan continued his wide-eyed look as he saw the tractor. He swerved into the other lane at the last minute and avoided the tractor. But had to swerve right back as another car was barreling down the road at a high rate of speed. Dan’s reflexes were all that saved them from being hit head-on.
After getting his heart back under control, he heard Helen asking him if he was alright. He nodded with a sweat covered forehead that he was. Helen turned to check on the kids. Dan looked back cautiously into the rearview mirror and saw his kids were fine.
But what he noticed the most was Lily was still looking at him. He could swear, just for a briefest of moments, she had smirked.
PREPARE!!! PREPARE FOR THE OMINOUS ONE TO COME!!!
Two weeks earlier…
In less than a weeks’ time, Lily had changed. She went from a joyful girl to somebody they didn’t know. She had almost stopped speaking completely and hardly ate, not even something sweet which her parents had denied her before because she had a tendency to overindulge. Now they were allowing her to eat only something sweet if it would get her to eat. It rarely worked. The few times she had taken a bite out of a piece of cake or a bite out of a slice of apple pie with ice cream (her favorite), she would get down a small bite and then spit the rest out as if it tasted like acid.
Lily stayed in her room a lot of the time, sleeping when she wasn’t pushed into trying to eat or to bathe. Dan had entered her room during an afternoon. It was a beautiful day, though hot, and he knew how much she loved being outside on days like this. She had come down earlier for breakfast but just picked at her omelet and only took a few small sips at her orange juice. Dan and Helen had tried to encourage her to go outside and swing on the playset. Maybe Emily would push her. But Lily put her hand to her head and said she didn’t feel well. Helen put her hand to Lily’s forehead and she yanked it away. Dan looked at her and thought maybe they would need to rush her to the emergency room. But Helen said her head was icy cold. They figured that if she still felt the same later that day, they would take her to the doctor in town.
That was then Lily lashed out at her mother. The nails from her small delicate hand swiped at Helen’s face and dug grooves into her cheek. Helen yanked back and threw her hand up to cover her face only to bring it back with blood on her fingers and palm. Dan stood shocked, afraid to move. He watched Helen look at their daughter with anger but with a hurtful look and Lily’s face was smiling and her eyes were dark, nearly black. But then her face smoothed and she was Lily again, her brown eyes appearing like clouds disappearing from a blue sky.
Lily started to cry and cover her face. The anger left Helen’s own face and she reached out to hug Lily without any hesitation. Lily reached for her with closed eyes and they hugged and cried. Dan still couldn’t move. Fear had gripped him.
Lily headed back to bed and stayed there until after lunch. Dan figured she had slept enough and wanted to go check on her. He walked up the stairs and knocked on her door. There was no answer. He turned the knob and walked in.
As soon as he stepped into the dark room (she had pulled the shades and put a blanket over the window), he felt the coldness. He looked down at the skin on his arms and saw gooseflesh. He looked around. He couldn’t believe it could be that cold in here. They normally had to run fans upstairs during the Summer because no matter how hard the air conditioner worked, it could never get the upstairs cool enough during the day.
Dan walked to her bed, the covers pulled over her, even her head. He couldn’t hear her breathing but he could see the covers rising with each inhale. As he got closer, he could hear something else. She was talking in her sleep.
Based on the way her body was under the covers, he walked around to where her head was. It was completely buried. He put a hand on the covers and before he started to pull them up and away from her face, he had a sudden gut ache. He was scared. He flinched back a few inches, afraid of what he might see, maybe something other than his daughter under the covers, speaking. But now it didn’t sound like speaking, not exactly. It sounded like chanting. It was just a mumble but the pattern had a certain cadence to it. And even though he couldn’t understand what she was saying, it didn’t sound like nonsense. It sounded like… a language.
Dan built his courage up and in one quick yank, he pulled the covers from her head. For the briefest of moments, the head he saw was not his daughter’s. It was dark and deformed and bore horns just a couple of inches from her/its head. The sheet even caught on one.
Then it was her, there in a wink of an eye. Later on, Dan thought he imagined it, that it was a trick of the darkness in the room.
Later on, yes. He almost believed it.
But when he pulled the covers and saw what he thought he saw, he had to muffle a scream.
HE SPOKE TO THE HIGHEST IN HIS ARMY AND SAID, “YOU WILL BE NEEDED. SHARPEN THY SWORD AND PREPARE YOURSELF FOR BATTLE.”
One week earlier…
The doctors had no idea what was going on. Dan and Helen had taken Lily to Nashville to one of the best hospitals they could afford. There they ran test after test and all of them coming up that she was in normal health, even though the doctors could see Lily was suffering from something. Multiple blood samples, MRI’s, ct scans, and even a spinal tap. With all of Lily’s pain and suffering from the medical procedures, they all came back negative. And yet, Lily continued to draw ever inward. She had suddenly stopped talking, then she closed her eyes and went into a deep sleep. The doctors said it wasn’t a coma but it looked like one. All of the doctors and nurses had wondered why this little girl had drawn into herself and refused to come out again.
Then one night at the hospital, while Dan tried to sleep in one of the chairs in Lily’s room, Lily began to speak. Dan pulled out of his doze to the words coming from his daughter’s mouth. He sat up and listened. They were the same words that she had spoken under her covers.
Dan jumped up and went to her bedside. Her mouth was moving very fast and words that she could never have known were being blurted out at a high rate of speed. Once, when Dan was small, his father took him to a livestock auction where an auctioneer blurted out words and prices so fast he couldn’t understand them. His daughter spoke even faster. But not like a sped up record. Her voice was just a bit lower than normal. It almost sounded like a man speaking through her mouth.
As he listened, the voice became faster and lower at the same time. This language known to him ceased to be any identifiable words. It now sounded like the hum from a very large machine that hadn’t completely started yet but was about to. He was scared that some sort of machine from deep inside his daughter might start and it would kill her in the process.
The hospital light on the wall above her head dimmed along with the lights outside in the hall. And the hum was suddenly surrounding him. He just kept looking at his daughter, not knowing what to do.
Then Dan had a vision. It was as if he had no control of it yet it came to him like a film at a drive-in theater. It told him what to do and after one questioning moment, he did what he was bade to do. He grabbed her hand with both of his and he knelt down on the floor. He closed his eyes and did something he hadn’t done since he was little; he prayed.
As he prayed, his hands holding hers started vibrating and becoming warm and then hot. He continued to hold her hands, even when he felt that his hands would burst into flames. And at that moment, he saw… He saw what had been speaking through his daughter, what was in his daughter. He saw he was no longer in the hospital room with his daughter lying on the bed. Dan was in a void. He was kneeling as he was and his daughter was kneeling across the room from him. Behind her was a figure. It was tall and deformed and dark. It was so dark, he couldn’t make out its facial features except for two-inch black horns. They looked sharp on the ends. Then he could make out a mouth because the figure started to smile. Its teeth, sharp and crooked, shone yellow. Its eyes started to glow a red that made his eyes hurt. It had placed one dark hand on Lily’s head and she silently screamed. He felt so alone at that moment. He felt helpless. He tried to stand so he could run at this thing and try and make him let go of Lily if it meant his life but his legs had no strength. He could only silently scream himself and feel the hot, scorching tears fall down his cheeks. From across the void, Dan felt Lily dying and himself along with her.
The thing’s face started to change. The yellow teethed mouth slowly turned from a sneer into a snarl. Its red eyes turned to slits. Dan didn’t know why but he could see the thing was looking past him to something behind him. Where Dan and Lily couldn’t make a sound as much as they tried, the thing could. It screamed a bloodcurdling bray at whatever was behind Dan.
Then there was a glow from behind Dan, white and natural. The last thing he saw was when he turned his head to the right and saw a glowing hand fall onto his shoulder…
He looked around the hospital room. He looked at his daughter from the kneeling position. She was looking at him. But it wasn’t the thing looking through her eyes, it was her. He wanted to cry as he continued to hold her hand. The hot scalding tears he had felt in the other place were still there on his cheeks but were now cool in the air condition of the hospital room.
Dan blinked and smiled. “Hi, sweetie. How are you?”
She smiled back but it was false. There was no good humor in it.
“He’s still here, daddy.” Tears started to fall down from her brown eyes. “He’s still here.”
Three days earlier…
Emily stared at the big wooden door and swung her feet under the wooden pew she sat on outside of the priest’s office. Mom and dad had let her bring a couple of books to read and look at but she didn’t even crack them open. She wondered what was going on in there and wondered if what affected her younger sister would affect her. She wondered if Lily would ever be the same again.
Inside the office, Dan thought the same thing. He never was one to believe in God as his parents did. They dragged him to a Baptist church for Sunday school for about a six months until they just…stopped. They never gave a reason for why they stopped. One Sunday he waited for his mother to tell him to put on his suit and get ready but it never came. Dan’s dad worked out in the garage and his mom stayed in the kitchen. It seemed that they had a fight and wasn’t in the church going mood. He just stayed in his room and stayed out of their way. The next Sunday came and again no ‘commandment’ to get ready for church. And that was that.
Now, Dan and Helen (a former Catholic) sat in the priest’s office and she told him the story of what has been going on with Lily. Helen didn’t leave anything out. She told him everything, from the first night to when Lily was released from the hospital, the doctors still flabbergasted. Dan sat quiet, holding Lily in his lap. Lily never even moved. She had become comatose for two days, not speaking or eating. She would only move if she was led. Dan thought she acted like a zombie from the George Romero movie from a few years ago. Except Lily wasn’t trying to bite anyone.
At least, not yet, Dan thought with a large dose of guilt.
The priest listened to what Helen had to say and would look to Lily and Dan, the priest’s eyes became larger at each mention of something else Lily had done in her ‘spells’. He occasionally nodded and once even crossed himself and spoke a silent prayer as Helen finally finished up.
When Helen stopped talking, the priest was silent, only looking at Lily. Then he sat forward.
“Lily? How do you fe…”
The priest meant to say ‘feel’, but didn’t get it out. Lily finally spoke then in a voice that couldn’t have come from such a little girl.
“SHUT THE FUCK UP, PRIEST!!!”
As the priest drew back in fear and sucked in his breath, Dan and Helen didn’t react at all. Helen just gave a small sigh and Dan couldn’t even look at the holy man on the other side of the desk. Dan was embarrassed for Lily. He wanted this priest to see her as she really was, a smart, funny little girl who could light up a room and had a heart the size of the world. Not who (what) sat in his lap now.
The priest cleared his throat. “Does she do this often?”
“Too often,” Dan said, finally speaking since they walked in. He reached up and gently pushed the hair from Lily’s forehead. It had covered her face when she had her outburst. She just looked toward the priest, her eyes staring daggers into his eyes.
The priest sat back and thought, not taking his eyes off of the little girl. Dan and Helen let him take his time. Finally, he cleared his throat again.
“I will have to make a couple of calls, one of those being to Rome. What you’re asking for will take some doing. Very few have been performed in the United States in the past century. It’s starting to become nothing but a myth. Also, she isn’t a member of the church. Even though you are or were a Catholic, Helen, it’s not something that stands in her favor.”
Dan felt Lily laughing before the sound came from her. It didn’t sound like her laugh at all. It was deep and guttural. It was demonic.
Her laugh became very loud and echoed in the small office of the priest. Emily even heard it in her pew and it echoed down the hall of wood and stone.
“Of course, priest.” Spit flew from her lips with the P sound. “The lack of belief in ME will be your doom and your belief in Him will not save you. You are weak and so is your GOD!” Lily reached out with her hands toward the priest, her fingers splayed out. All three of the grownups in the room saw the same thing before Dan grabbed her and held her tight against him. Her fingernails were much longer and were curved like the talons of some predatory animal. But as soon as Dan held her, they were just her regular chewed fingernails.
The priest had jumped back in his leather chair, pushing it into the table behind him. Helen looked wide-eyed from the priest back the Dan holding their little girl and back to the scared priest.
After a moment, there was a knock at the door and Emily peeked inside.
“Did you guys hear that sound?”
The three adults looked at each other not knowing what to say.
Finally, the priest cleared his throat once more. Sweat had popped out on his forehead.
“I’ll make some calls.”
“YOUR TIME HAS COME. PREPARE! PERMISSION HAS BEEN GIVEN. YOU WILL KNOW WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT.”
The day of…
Helen waited by the phone while Dan tried to fix himself and Emily something for dinner. He asked Helen if she had wanted something, too. She just waved him away, not wanting to speak. Upstairs, Lily was alone in her room. She lay in bed staring straight at the ceiling, not blinking. The only thing that moved was her chest going up and down during breaths. And her mouth moved. She was speaking in some unknown language and in that deep, unnatural voice that was not her own. They left her alone other than keeping the door shut. They had to nail it to the wall to keep it from closing on its own. Though there were moments when the door cracked and popped due to some unseen force trying to close it.
Dan finished making Emily and himself a ham sandwich but both just picked at it not really wanting it. Dan gave her a small smile. “Don’t worry about it, kiddo. Guess I’m not hungry, either.”
Emily tried to smile but couldn’t bring it up. She just nodded and pushed the plate from her, getting up and coming around to her dad. She gave him a hug and then found herself crying into his neck. He held her tight, holding back his own tears, tears that he only allowed himself to spill once in the past few weeks. One late night, he got up from a horrible nightmare and went outside. He looked up into the cloudless night sky and was amazed at the stars he saw. The pressures of what was happening with Lily and the beauty of the sky brought a flood of tears as if some internal dam had burst. He had gone to his knees and cried, not taking his eyes from the sky.
And he had prayed. Something he hadn’t done in a very long time.
Helen watched Emily cry in her father’s embrace and tears welled in her own eyes. But before she could wipe them away, the phone rang.
And, at that very moment, all hell broke loose upstairs.
The screaming started as soon as the first ring began. Helen answered the phone as Dan let go of Emily and ran for the stairs. He bounded up in four leaps and was about to enter Lily’s room when the door pulled itself from the wall, popping the nails as if they were made from toothpicks. The door slammed shut and Dan ran almost full force into it. He tried to stop at the last minute which probably saved him from breaking his hand but nearly dislocated his shoulder as he turned at the last second. His head also bounced against the wood making him see double. He shook it, trying to clear the double vision.
Helen could hear the priest on the other side of the phone better once the door was shut but then a high-pitched squeal emanated from the receiver. She yanked away nearly dropping the phone. She touched her ear and thought for a moment she would come away with blood on her fingers. Luckily that wasn’t the case but her hearing was nearly gone on that side to be replaced with an echoing in her head of the squeal. She brought the phone back to her other ear but it had gone dead. The last thing she heard was the priest saying something that might have been the word approved and is on the way.
Emily stood where she was. She looked at her mother put the phone back in its cradle and run up the stairs where she could also see her father trying to bust Lily’s door open. Emily couldn’t move. She felt like a statue. As her mother raced up the stairs, Emily slowly turned to look out the window and could see night had come along. She wanted desperately to walk out the front door, continue down the gravel driveway all the way to the road and keep walking, leaving this nightmare behind. She was scared to death. But she loved her mother and father and she loved her little sister, too. She knew from that love that whatever was making her sister act this way wasn’t her sister’s fault and staying might just help.
Dan continued to put his shoulder against the door after running starts. The door wouldn’t budge. It wouldn’t even bounce against the frame. It felt as if the door was a solid brick wall. But he didn’t stop. He continued to slam himself against it until Helen gently put her arms around him and held him close. He had a moment he wanted to break free of her and continue his fruitless task of turning his shoulder into broken pieces but at her insistent embrace, he relented. His ferocity melted away and his body slumped. Helen felt his weight in her arms then, afraid he might suddenly drop to the floor.
A laugh came from the other side of this unmovable wooden door that sounded unearthly. Again, it was too deep to be from their little girl, but they knew that’s where it rose from all the same. That gruesome sound echoed throughout the house. The darkness of the night outside seemed to allow it to carry in all directions.
“SHE’S GONE!!! THERE IS NO CHANCE!!! SHE IS WITH US!!!”
That voice caused all three of them to have gooseflesh rise on their skin. Their hair rose, and fear came slamming into them harder than ever before. Emily moaned and rushed out the front door into the yard, crying harder than she knew she could. She was scared and dread was taking hold. Helen continued to beat against the door, tears pouring down her face as she sobbed but her ferocity kept her beating the door. She hoped to turn the wood door into splinters.
Dan grabbed her hands to stop her, pulling her into him and holding her tight. She was still beating, now against his chest. But she slowed and then just grabbed him and held him.
Helen silently sobbed and Dan was still holding her, mentally too tired to cry any more when the lock clicked, and the door slowly swung open.
They turned their heads and saw Lily in bed. The sheets were pushed down to her feet. She was sitting up. Though she had her eyes shut, she turned her head slowly as if she was looking at her father and then to her mother.
Dan felt like he was being watched.
Lily lowered herself back into a lying position and became still.
They watched her for a couple of minutes before Helen pulled from his arms.
“Go check on Emily. I’ll stay in the room with her. We’ll wait for the priest.”
Dan started to argue but she shook her head slowly.
“I’ll be fine. Go check on Emily.”
He knew she was right. He kissed her gently on the lips and she walked into the room. The door slowly closed on its own.
THE TIME IS NOW!!!
Father and daughter stood, holding hands as the car pulled up, skidding to a halt a dozen feet in front of them. Out of the car in a rush was the priest. He was carrying a small black leather bag. He heard the screaming, stopping him in his tracks. The sound he heard was like some large wounded animal. Or monster.
“Is that….?” the priest started to ask.
“Yes,” Dan answered, looking at the priest who looked up to the window where Helen still stood.
The priest’s face gave way to a furrowed brow and his mouth became slack. He remembered how she acted and spoke (dear God, that voice) in his office. Now it was as if Hell itself was inside that little girl. He held onto his bag a bit tighter.
“Let’s try and save her.”
Dan led the way and opened the front screen door. When his daughter came in, he held her at the shoulders.
“I need you to stay down here. No matter what, don’t come upstairs. Wait until we come down.”
Emily started to argue but the priest spoke up then, though he didn’t look at her. He just looked up the stairs to the closed door beyond where the screams were louder.
“Your father is right. Stay down here. We can’t allow it to transfer to you.”
When the priest said it, goosebumps rose on Dan’s skin. He hated the thought of having to acknowledge it, knowing it lived inside of his daughter.
Dan tried to smile. “Stay down here and think good thoughts.” He kissed her on the forehead and then looked at the priest. “Let’s go.”
Emily watched them go up the stairs. Dan cautiously tried the knob. It turned easy enough and he opened the door to Lily’s room (where the screaming became much louder) and then closed the door behind them.
Instead of going into the living room, Emily sat down where she was. She didn’t want to leave the sight of that door. She wanted to cry but there were no tears left.
The priest and Dan opened the door and walked into a sound that was impossible to be coming from a little girl. It was high pitched and piercing but below that was a deep growl. They saw her eyes were shut and she was bucking off of the bed. With each bounce, she was coming up two feet. Dan looked at Helen who looked back at him with her hands up over her ears. Both of them felt each other’s desperation.
The priest shook his head, breaking the trance of what he was seeing, and placed his bag down on a wooden chair. He unzipped it and brought out a Bible, a wooden cross, and a small vial. He kissed the cross and started toward the bed.
But as soon as he took a step toward Lily, she suddenly stopped moving and the sound died to complete silence. Helen’s eyes went wide. She wasn’t sure if the sound stopped or she had finally gone completely deaf. She pulled her hands down slowly, looking from Lily to Dan to the priest. She didn’t lower her hands all of the way down, afraid the sound would start again.
Dan didn’t move. He just looked at Lily. He felt something was about to happen and didn’t know how to prepare. His chest had become tight and he had a slight ringing in his ears. But he knew it wasn’t from the ear-piercing sounds of Lily but something else. He ignored it and waited.
The priest had started forward again slowly until he reached the foot of Lily’s bed. He had the wooden cross in his right hand and the vial in his left. He had left the Bible on the wooden chair. He raised the wooden cross toward Lily and was about to speak when Lily rose from the waist and opened her eyes to look at the priest. Her face suddenly became warped and dark and full of hatred.
“I DO NOT FEAR YOU, PRIEST! YOUR SOUL IS CORRUPT! YOUR BELIEF IS WEAK! YOU HOLD A SYMBOL WITH NO POWER!”
The wooden cross burst into flames burning the priests’ hand. He held onto it for a second before he realized his hand had started to become engulfed. He finally dropped the cross and as soon as it left his hand, the flame went out. It struck the floor and smoldered. The priest stuck his burnt, blistering hand under his other armpit and tried to pull the little cork out of the vial with his teeth but it suddenly became hot and the cork caught fire burning his lips and scorching his teeth. He yelled out in pain and dropped the vial next to the cross where it shattered and spilled the holy water. It bubbled and turned into water vapor and was gone into the air.
The priest’s free hand was now covering his mouth and now he was screaming. He stepped backward and tripped on his own feet, falling down where he hit his head on the door frame, nearly knocking himself out.
During this, Helen stood with her mouth wide open in surprise, not knowing what to do. She watched Lily stop looking at the priest with her/its look of amusement and turn her/its head toward her. The amusement stayed on her/its face when she spoke again.
“BITCH, SHE IS GONE! I CAN TAKE YOU TO HER IF YOU COME FORWARD!”
The thing that looked like Lily held out her/its hand.
“TAKE MY HAND! YOU CAN BE WITH HER!”
Helen felt herself starting to take a step forward. She wanted to stop but something was making her lift her foot. She looked toward Dan, wanting him to stop her, wanting him to do something.
But Dan didn’t see her. He didn’t see the priest burn his mouth with the holy water or fall backward. As the cross fell to the floor, Dan had closed his eyes.
He had heard a voice inside his head. It had been louder than the sound that had come from Lily. It had been louder than all of the thunder he had heard in his life. Instead of it being painful, it had been…soothing. The voice in his head had come from all around and from inside him.
“FEAR NOT! I HAVE COME TO SEND THE DEMON KNOWN AS LUCIFER BACK TO HELL UNTIL THE TIME KNOWN AS THE END OF DAYS FORETOLD IN! I HAVE PERMISSION FROM THE MOST HIGH TO DO BATTLE BUT YOU MUST GIVE PERMISSION TO DO SO BY GAINING USE OF YOUR BODY AND SOUL! DO YOU GIVE ME THY PERMISSION?”
As Helen took a step forward and looked at Dan with his eyes shut, she heard him say two words. The two words he said to her fifteen years ago…
Lily/Lucifer suddenly stopped looking at Helen and turned her/its head toward Dan. Her/its face went from smug indignation to one of horror and deep hate. Her/its mouth open wide in a loud scream that showed rows of teeth that belonged in a shark and not a little girl. Steam spilled out of her/its mouth in a sudden rush. Her/its eyes turned a blood red.
“NO!!! YOU CAN’T HAVE HER!!!”
The power that willed Helen to move forward ceased and she found herself in control again. She forced herself back to the wall, her eyes not leaving Lily or whatever was on her bed. Then she saw Dan, or the back of him, as his head rose up. She stayed close to the wall but came around so that she could see his face. When she was able to, she put a fist to her mouth to keep from screaming.
Dan’s eyes had changed. They were now the clearest blue, not the hazel he had been born with. And they seemed to glow with that same blue. His face was no longer covered in scruff but was completely smooth. It was Dan…but not Dan, at the same time. Helen’s eyes went wide and though the situation hadn’t changed, her fear was suddenly gone, like a tiny feather in her hand that had blown away.
The priest had sat up but didn’t move. He wanted to reach for his Bible that was still on the wooden chair. Not to use against what was happen (What WAS happening?) but to hold it in comfort. But he still couldn’t move.
Dan was still there inside his body but he felt like he wasn’t in control of it anymore. He felt more like a spectator through his own eyes. A presence gently pushed him aside internally and took control. Dan didn’t mind. His own fear was pushed away just like he had been. He simply watched. And smiled.
The Dan that Helen and the priest saw was different than the one they had seen earlier. This Dan stood straight and defiant and took the air out of the room. This Dan was more than human.
And the Dan that Lily/Lucifer saw was different from that. She/it didn’t see Dan or anything resembling Dan.
They saw Michael, the archangel.
Dan’s/Michael’s arms went straight out to his/His sides and in his/His right started to glow. From his back, two large wings started to come into existence. They were the purest white except for the tips and along the end of each feather. Instead of the blue glow like in his eyes, it was a silvery-blue. They felt as if they were full of power. Out of that hand, this bright white/blue light began to extend out of his palm, growing longer until it stopped. His/His hand gripped the end. Two hilts formed above where he/He gripped it and the light past that flattened. Suddenly, the glow dimmed but didn’t entirely go out. It was more silver than white-blue.
It had become a sword.
Dan/Michael aimed it at Lily/Lucifer and spoke in a voice that caused the room to shake with the vibrato.
“I, MICAHEL, THE ARCHANGEL, THE GUARDIAN, THE PROTECTOR, UNDER COMMAND FROM THE ALMIGHTY GOD, THE KING OF KINGS, COMMAND YOU, LUCIFER, BACK TO HELL UNTIL THE TIME OF YOUR JUDGEMENT!!! BE GONE FROM THIS SOUL!!!”
Lily/Lucifer screamed a high pitched shriek. Her/Its mouth opening wider than humanly possible. Her/Its head pushed out toward Dan/Michael as if trying to scream them off of their feet.
The sound was so piercing, Helen felt like needles were working their way into every pore of her body. She put her hands back over her ears but to no avail. She had to scream herself.
The priest finally found the courage to grab his Bible and held it out in front of him as he screamed and cried.
Dan’s body started to waver and each time his body faded, the Archangel Michael showed through, still holding his sword out. Helen saw this with wide eyes. She prayed to herself that she wouldn’t lose her daughter and her husband both.
Downstairs, when the noise became too much, Emily ran up the stairs and tried to get in but the door was unmovable. Even the doorknob wouldn’t turn. She gave up and just banged against it with her small fists. The occupants inside didn’t hear it at all.
Dan/Michael started forward, the sword now pulled back to his/His shoulder, ready to plunge it into the heart of Lily/Lucifer. Helen started to scream for him/Him to stop but before she could move forward to try and stop him/Him, her body became rigid. She lost all mobility. And then a voice cut through the still screaming Lily/Lucifer but it was calm and felt like a whisper in her ear.
“MY SISTER, FEAR NOT. THIS CHILD OF GOD WILL NOT BE HARMED FOR SHE HAS A SPECIAL PURPOSE LATER IN HER LIFE. THE SWORD WILL NOT HARM HER BUT SEND THE EVIL ONE BACK TO WHERE HE BELONGS. I SWEAR ON MY HEAVENLY FATHER.”
With that, Helen became calm. She dropped her hands and watched calmly.
The priest, though he didn’t hear the words that Helen heard, became calm himself and watched.
Dan spoke, without the voice of Michael. The wings spread, nearly touching the sides of the room and just missing the priest’s head. He never even noticed.
“I love you, baby girl.”
Dan/Michael drove the sword into the chest of Lily/Lucifer.
The house shook. Outside the door, Emily fell to her knees. She tried the doorknob again and it turned. She fell inward, almost on top of the priest, as the door suddenly opened. He grabbed her and kept her from falling onto her face. She righted herself and finally saw what was going on. Her father or what looked like her father had plunged a sword into the chest of Lily. She started to scream and was about to try and reach for her father to try and pull the sword from her sister.
But the same voice that came to her mother spoke to her.
“FEAR NOT, SISTER. GOOD HAS CONQUERED.”
Emily looked again and this time saw the situation as it really was. Her father was really an angel with large white wings and a white-blue silver sword and it was piercing not her sister but the thing inside of her. She could see Lily kneeling on the bed and not moving one inch as the sword had been driven into a creature. It squirmed and writhed back and forth with the sword in its chest just underneath the transparent skin of her sister. Emily’s fear was gone.
Dan/Michael held the sword fast as Lucifer fought to take the sword out of its chest. It grabbed at the blade, trying to find purchase but the strength that held it was too strong. Greenish blood started to pour from Lucifer’s hands, falling through the transparent Lily and falling to the bed below where it smoked. Lucifer screamed again but not through Lily’s mouth.
Helen could see this, could see Lily with her eyes closed and not harmed in any way. This just reinforced the peace she felt. The priest and Emily were unmoving, seeing something they never knew they would, a demon. The priest was silently crying, his Bible held tightly in one hand and had Emily’s arm in the other, not wanting her to get any closer. Newly formed blisters from the burns opened under his grip.
Dan/Michael shoved the sword forward and the tip of the blade came out through Lucifer’s back where more green blood sprayed backward against the wall and the headboard. Greenish smoke had risen from each drop. And Lucifer screamed so loud that his voice went from a loud piercing to a garbled choke. Its hands stopped grabbing the blade and just batted at it weakly.
Finally, with one last garbled moan, Lucifer, the fallen angel, started to fade from their sights. Right before the moment, he faded completely, Dan/Michael pulled the sword out and held it to his/His side. With Lucifer gone, Lily became suddenly whole again and fell backward onto the bed. The greenish blood that had been spilled and smoldered, disappeared with the demon.
Helen broke her stillness and leaped to the bed, grabbing Lily and feeling her all over to see if she was alight. Emily joined her and they both held Lily. The priest slowly got up and stared from Lily to Dan/Michael. His eyes felt like they were going to fall from his skull.
Lily stirred and opened her eyes. She blinked twice and looked at her mother.
Helen could not control herself. She pulled Lily to her and cried with joy. After a minute, Lily gently pushed her mother away and looked at her father/Michael.
“Is my daddy ok?”
The wings lowered slowly as Dan/Michael smiled together but it was Michael that spoke.
“YES, MY SISTER. HE IS FINE. AND SO, YOU WILL BE. LUCIFER WILL NOT BOTHER YOU AGAIN FOR HE NOW KNOWS YOU ARE PROTECTED BY THY HOLY GOD.”
Lily looked at Him quizzically. That look made Dan/Michael smile.
“ONE DAY, YOU WILL SAVE THE WORLD…”
Helen looked at Dan/Michael and gawked, as did Emily and the priest.
And with that, Michael faded from Dan’s body and Dan became whole again, scruffy beard and all. He stood there blinking and looked around the room, finally settling on Lily.
They both smiled at each other knowing they were alright.
Dan walked to the bed and sat down, his arms stretched out and held his girls and his wife. They stayed that way for some time.
The priest didn’t say a word when he left the room. He closed the door behind him gently. Down the stairs and out the front door, he made his way to his car. Before he opened the door, he looked up into the night sky. The stars were still there, blinking from far away. He thought about what he had seen. He thought about his own wavered belief and felt it renewed. The pain in his hand and mouth had faded. He looked at his hand and the blisters were gone. It was just red as if it had a sunburn.
He thought about what Michael had said about the little girl.
He hoped he would be around to find out. He hoped he could earn it.
He got in his car and turned back down the driveway.