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He never expected this kind of thing, nor would he have ever in his whole life. A simple man like Father Kaufmann never would have fathomed such a surprise, especially from one of the men who attended his mass from time to time. Then again, they say that desperate times call for desperate measures.
Another Sunday morning withered away into its grave, allowing the birth of the sunny afternoon in Linz, Austria. The sounds of horses pulling buggies were passing through the roads, but the hunger pains were pulling his mind from anything outside the church. Sitting on one of the many empty, wooden benches, the priest’s stomach thundered in need, louder by the minute. His palms clasped together, shaking, and he kneeled on the floor. The priest was no longer feeling his rib cage resting on his organs, which were beginning to feed on themselves.
Breathing with what felt like some weight pushing his lungs inward, he bowed his head. The balding, spectacled, greying man gently rested the surface of his face against the edges of his thumbs. “Father in Heaven, I am in great need of help. I don’t understand why this is happening. This is the second Sunday that my church is empty. What am I not doing right? Am I not serving you sufficiently? It’s not my place to question, but I need an answer. I just need a sign.”
His eyelids were sinking. With some of the small reservoir of strength left in his body, he jolted his eyes more open. Yet this sudden, forced energy wasn’t to last very long at all. You see, it was simply a matter of seconds before his eyes were shut again, and the boat of his mind drifted off shore, sailing into the sea of unconsciousness.
Since the door leading inside was still open since morning, perhaps someone was bound to become curious, and so, someone did. The curiosity, in this visitor’s thoughts, never once asked if the deed could be done, but rather, how much convincing it would need.
There, leaning with a left elbow against the church door trim, stood a man or figure, holding this cheeky grin at the priest. There was a fresh chunk of opportunity for the man or figure to sink his or its teeth inside, and fall in ecstasy over its succulence. His or its mouth just beginning to spawn a thick saliva, the man or figure’s clean grin turned just slightly wider.
He or it took first steps closer to the priest’s involuntarily sleeping body. Just as this entity wearing an all-paper white suit and hat walked far inside enough to be out of its way, the church door slammed shut. It were as if a gust of wind pushed it shut, but there was no such force of earthly nature to make it do so.
The sound of the large, wooden door creaking, then banging closed boomed against Kaufmann’s heart, waking him up. Pivoting his head and eyes to see all around him, there was no new, visible presence in his sight. The only difference he noticed was the only exit from the church being shut off. Thinking nothing of it but perhaps the wind, or maybe one of the townsfolk, the preacher lifted his body, sitting it down on the front bench.
Looking up at the large crucifix that binded Christ before the altar, Kaufmann heard a soft squeak. It only started after the slamming of the door though. The noise was just near him, and the towering cross as well. Pointing his pupils more towards the ceiling, indeed he found the source of the sounds. It was the chandelier, the real light source that used candles to help illuminate the room. Slowly, it was swinging back and forth, like something or someone gave it a little push. The man or figure being somewhere inside was still unknown to the priest. His eyes starting to sink once more, he started to think that a bit of wind might have caused this as well, possibly from the closing off of the only exit.
Nodding off and shutting his eyelids again, he wouldn’t see what else occurred with the chandelier. Swinging to and fro a little harder, the candles now went out. After emitting only smoke for maybe two minutes, they were beginning to burn again. Instead of a usual, natural orange, though, they burned off a different tint. It was that of a very dim crimson, almost a sort of pink hue. That very color echoed off the flames, consuming the room. Just before the preacher opened up his eyelids again, the light from the candles died for a second time. The space around him was dark, but not quite dark enough to not be able to see, since there were glimmers of sunlight seeping in from the outside.
A couple, unseeable footsteps crept up to Father Kaufmann. They stopped, followed by the feeling of a frozen hand on his shoulder. That gave the priest a sudden sensation of ice racing to his heart. Quickly turning his head, the priest saw a smiling, pale man in a purely white suit and hat standing there with a harmless smile.
“Oh!” The priest clutched against his heart as if that would slow it down when he looked at who was behind him. “Oh, it’s you.” He breathed calmly, grinning to see the follower of his church, even though it was merely one.
“Yes, Padre.” The man or figure stroked his bare chin, looking around the church. “A bit empty this Sunday, I see.”
“It is. It’s been that way for the past couple of weeks. I’m… I’m at a bit of a struggle.”
“That’s rather unfortunate, Father.” The person in all white took a seat next to Kaufmann.
“Very. I’m not sure what to do at this point. I may have to resort to shutting down the church, or worse, beg on the street.”
The tone in the other person’s voice turned a little softer as a gentle gasp initiated it. Whatever pleasantness on his visage was wiped clean, off, replaced with that of dread.“Oh no. I’d hate to see that ever happen. Perhaps there’s a way I could help.”
“That’s very kind of you, but without enough people attending Mass, it’s a distinct possibility.”
“Hmm, yes, I hate to say it, but that’s very true.”
“I’m sure you can tell it’s a bit of a dark time for me.”
“Yes, yes, indeed. I’d still like to help you though, Father.”
“I have my ways, Father.”
“Hmm, well, I suppose you could say that, in a way, at least.”
“Again, that’s very kind of you, but I couldn’t ask you to just take care of me like that.”
“Oh no, that’s not what I had in mind. Oh, speaking of dark times,” he said, gazing at the chandelier. “Maybe I should go ahead, and light up those candles.”
“No, please, you don’t have to climb up the ladder for that. It’s not needed. I insist.”
“That wouldn’t be any trouble at all. Besides, I have an easier way anyway.”
The priest raised one eyebrow. “What’s that?”
“Here, I’ll show you.”
“Oh, by the way, I hope you won’t mind my asking, but why is it that you only visit the church sometimes? The other people who’d attend would do so every week.”
“You could say I’m a traveling man. I mean, if you’re someone who goes to different places around the world, it’s not quite as plausible to stay with only one church.”
“Ah, now I understand. So, what do you do that requires world travel like this?”
“I guess I’ll tell you in just a moment. For now, though, let’s fix how dark it is in here. I’m sure you’d like to see a little better, right?” The man-figure clapped his or its hands together twice.
At the second clap the wicks of the candles burst in flame for a second time. The light glowing from them was a little different though. The flames were at a natural orange, but not the color radiating from them. It was now a darker red than before. The hue was more of a blood shade.
With this new light that was twitching between that shade of blood, and complete darkness, the large cross was also changing. It’s movements, or lack of, were no longer completely static. Even though both the cross, and the image of Christ attached to it didn’t move, something from within it did. The priest looked over at it as he saw the wooden image dribble blood from the spots of The Savior’s agonizing wounds, but also, down from the eyes.
“How’s that, Father? Better, huh?” The humanoid figure looked over to see the priest’s eyes and mouth stretched open. “What? You look like you’ve seen a ghost or something.” He or it had stretched arms on top of the back of the bench. Chuckling, the being told Kaufmann, “Just joking, Padre. I mean, someone of my status needs to make dramatic introductions sometimes. I’m sure you understand, right?”
Dashing away, the preacher stopped at the door, desperately tugging on it. He tugged harder, and his palms heated up, sweating. He looked back at he or it, who smiled back at him, pulling the door as hard as he could. The door was in no way positioned to be locked, but it refused to budge as if it were.
The speaker of the gospel trembled in placed, forcing himself to shout, “Who are you!? Is this some kind of trick!?”
“Oh, no trick, Padre, and hey! I see you’ve finally gotten rid of that monotone for once! Maybe if you showed a little more emotion all the time, people wouldn’t have been so eager to leave for a different church, eh?” He or it slapped his palm against his forehead. “Oh Dear, I’m so sorry! I forgot to really introduce myself! Man, I guess when you’re nearly as old as me, you tend to forget. I just hope it doesn’t get as bad as it does when you mortals get wrinkly after only less than a hundred years. Anyway, you mortals have given me a lot of names, actually, but I’m sure you know them all. I am The Accuser, The Adversary, Author of All Sin, The Father of Lies, The Old Serpent, The Morning Star, The Prince of Darkness, Satan, Lucifer. Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Father.” The being stared straight into the priest’s eyes, and its became that of a snake’s.
“No, it can’t be true.”
“Oh, yes, Father.” The entity stood up, taking one step, and then another towards the old man. “Right here…” He or it had both arms spread out, as if to bow in front of an audience. “In the flesh.”
Looking to the left side of the door, he realized there was still the small body of holy water in the bowl attached to the wall. Without any second thought, he cupped his wrinkly hands in it, throwing what he scooped at the entity in white.
The bits of water splashed in his or its face. Upon the impact of the sacred liquid, the entity fell on to the floor, curling into the fetal position. The being in the white suit screamed in absolute pain, his or its voice becoming a pitch far, far too low to be anything human. The sound stabbed into the priest’s ear drums as two black tips pierced through, and emerging from the visitor’s forehead. Following the tips of ebony were lengths of bone ivory that curled, and then two more pairs of similar, but smaller horns in between. Rolling onto his or its back, the teeth in the entity’s mouth turned into something much more long and sharpened, like the edge of a sword. The visitor’s mouth widened with more screaming, showing rows of more fangs rising, and maturing into full. The being’s eyes shifted into the back of his or its head, the corneas becoming a flawless black. Soon, the unnatural shrieks of pain stopped to be replaced by a different sound from the visitor’s mouth.
The entity’s mouth curled up into a smile, followed by giddy laughter. The person in all white stood back up on his feet, still giggling in glee to himself, and looking back to Kaufmann.
Laughter waning a bit, the unholy thing crossed his or its arms. The voice coming from this being’s lips returned to its previous state. “Come on, Father, you really think a little splash of water’s going to do any harm to me? I’m The Prince of Darkness. Surely, I deserve a little more credit than that.”
Even though the preacher’s ears were ringing from the sound of the other party’s other voice, he was still fairly capable of distinguishing spoken words. “How do I know you’re The Devil, and not just some demon?”
“Well…” The being stroked his chin carefully. “I suppose you don’t have to believe that if you don’t choose to, but if it were some mere demon trying to impersonate my greatness? Let’s say their punishment would be immediate, and terribly great.”
“They’d be damned, along with men?”
“‘Along with men’?” The figure let out another chuckle. “Oh, no, Father. Ha, you think the punishment for damned mortals is incomprehensible? You should try to imagine that for the demons who displease me.” The Morning Star pointed his hand at the church floor, gradually rising his arm.
As his arm rose higher, something was starting to peak up from underneath the floor. It rumbled, cracking the wood of the floor, eventually bursting it. What rose from underneath was a dirty and burned skeleton of a human being. It climbed on to the floor from what would seem to be an endless hole through the soil. The frame of a human body hissed at the priest, positioning itself on its hands and knees.
Brushing dirt off the upper surface of the bones, The Prince of Darkness casually took a seat on its spine, crossing one leg over the other. “Now, I’ll forgive your rude behavior, Father. I’ll forgive this one time. All I ask is that you give me audience with you.”
Without a verbal reply, Kaufmann tried again to pull open the door, summoning all of his strength. Still, it was to no success.
“Listen, Father, you’re not leaving until you at least hear me out. Give me an audience for my full proposition, and if you’re still not interested, I’ll leave you be, and never bother you again.”
“How do I know you’re not lying?”
“I suppose you really don’t, but right now, you’ll pretty much have to take my word for it. You really don’t have much of a choice at the moment.”
Father Kaufmann stopped pulling on the church door, keeping his back against it, and looked the fallen angel in the eyes. “What do you want with me?”
“Like I said, I want to help you, Father.” He rested his right elbow on top of his leg, and then his chin on top of his right palm. That cheeky smirk was still stuck on his visage as he conversed with the clergyman.
“Help me how?”
“Perhaps that was a bad choice of words. It’s really a deal, if anything. I’m going to help you bring people back to your church every Sunday.”
“And what do you want for it, my soul?”
Giving out a big sigh, The Prince of Darkness looked down, shaking his head. “I mean, you could, but that’s become so typical. It’s grown a bit cliché. It’s just not that fun anymore. I mean, what’s the fun in making deals with people if you keep asking for the same thing every time?”
“You’re giving options?”
The Devil’s face jolted back up with a big, shining snicker. “Sure! Nowadays, I like to give my clients three options with a deal. I mean, we’re living in the nineteenth century, Father. Let’s mix things up a little!”
“So, what options are you giving me?”
The snicker disappeared off of Satan’s face. “Well, you could sell your soul, I guess.” His visage immediately brightened back up. “The second choice is sending someone else to me instead, preferably an innocent.”
“You can sell someone else?”
“Oh, sure, but it’s just not very heard of. Most people don’t go with that choice though. I mean, it’s easy enough. All you need is something of theirs like an article of clothing, lock of hair, a photograph, something of the sort. Once you have that, draw a circle of graveyard dust during the night of a solar eclipse, repeat a certain incantation, blah, blah, and the soul of an innocent is mine. No harm’s done to you.” “I could never.”
“Eh.” The Father of Lies shrugged. “Yeah, I figured as much. You always sort of had a big stick up your ass.”
“So, why does the notion of someone selling their own soul bore you so much? Is it really that common?”
“Well, kind of. I mean, that’s part of it. It just stops being so much fun when you really realize that most people are always going to end up in eternal damnation.” He pointed at the priest. “You of all people should know this, Padre.” Circling his hand around, The Author of Sin went on. “It’s more exciting when you don’t know if you’re going to win the game or not. If you’re having so much of a winning streak for so long though, you start to see that, and winning too much gets so boring.”
“So you’re saying each soul is just a point in a game?”
“More or less, yeah, so a guy selling his soul isn’t as anticipated as it used to be. Most people are smart enough to realize that eighty years of bliss is nothing compared to an eternity of torment. That’s most people though. There’s always going to be people dumb enough to do it anyway, especially young people who want to be famous. Heh, in say, around the year two-thousand and ten, there’ll be a ripe handful of young, teen singers for the picking.”
“Then, what’s the third option?”
“Whatever favor I want in return.”
“What kind of favor?”
The Prince of Darkness shrugged. “Hell if I know. I’ll think of something though. Maybe I’ll just want to be treated to dinner. Then again, we’re in Austria and not Italy, and you’re a bit tight on money anyway. So it looks like that’s out of the question.”
“And what happens if I don’t hold up my end of the bargain?”
“Like I said, Hell if I know, but I’ll think of something. There was this one guy, you may have heard of him. His name was Edgar Allan Poe. He asked to deal that kind of deal with me to make him a literary legend. Since a deal is sacred to me, I, naturally, keep to my word. However, he didn’t fulfill his end of the agreement. Get this.” He started to chuckle mischievously. “I stirred a little something up, and he never got a chance to see his own fame. The guy was broke, lost the women in his family to tuberculosis, and ended up dead in a gutter. That was forty years ago though, so who knows what I might cook up?”
“And why should I agree to these terms?”
“Oh, come on, Father. I probably won’t ask you to do anything too drastic. It’ll probably be something you do a lot anyway. Well, you would if people attended Mass at all. Besides, I know you’re a pretty hungry guy. I mean, sure, if you say ‘no,’ I’ll leave you alone for good, but what happens to you? I’m sure the hunger pains are just unbearable.” The Devil gently patted his thigh, and the preacher’s hunger intensified.
It was a waving ripple that crumbled to more biting and crying for food within his abdomen. Kaufmann’s legs were shaking at this point. The clergyman was barely even able to keep standing. Trying not to fall to his knees or tailbone, he held himself up with the wooden appendage carrying the holy water.
The Devil scoffed to himself. “And starving to death isn’t a very peaceful way to go. Besides, what about your church? Why should all the effort you’ve put into this place crumble at your feet? What’ll you do then? I know you, Father Kaufmann, and I know you wouldn’t want to fail your service to the guy upstairs, would you?”
“No, no, of course not. I’d be working with you to do it though. Isn’t that, in itself a heavy sin?”
“A sin is a sin, Father. Besides, even if a small deal with me were a sin, think about all the things people have done in the past in His name. I would think that murder is a bit more extreme than a simple deal.”
“I suppose so.”
“Oh, come on, you’ve read that book of yours front to back. You know the kinds of things carried out in His name. I promise to you a little deal like this isn’t such a big deal. You’d be doing it to do His work anyway, right? Besides, if you’re worried about your soul after this, you can always ask for forgiveness, maybe confess, and all will be okay, right?” Putting his hand over his mouth, but not covering his smile very much, Satan giggled like a schoolboy with a dirty secret.
“Yes. Yes, that’s true.”
“So how about it, Padre?” The Prince of Darkness stood up from his seat, reaching out his right hand to the priest.
“Wait. Why me?”
“I’ve known about your struggle before people started attending Mass less often. I learn about these sort of human affairs all the time. I don’t usually go out of my way for mortals, so I was really passing by more or less. Seeing you in misfortune just sort of sparked my interest.”
“How will you get people to come back though?”
“Oh, worry not your balding head about that. Influencing mortals isn’t so difficult. I’ll be honest here. Free will is a bit of a joke. Yahweh tries to respect it, but I don’t get why. It’s kind of silly to have millions of pawns at the tips of your fingers if you can’t have a little control over them, right?”
Kaufmann stayed silent, his pupils quivering.
The Father of Lies gave the priest a gentle slap on the shoulder. “Ah, you know I’m just kidding, Padre.” He gave another tiny snicker, not to the clergyman’s hearing. “What do you say then?” He put out his right hand to the preacher again. “Are we going to seal the deal?”
Trembling, Father Kaufmann’s right hand reached towards The Devil’s. It slowly crept more and more forward until grasping it to shake. “Yes. Yes.” Looking up to the heavens, he murmured, “Father in Heaven, please forgive me.”
“Good.” At that word, the appearance of the visitor, and the inside of the church clicked back to how it was before. It were as if it was never The Devil, but rather, another follower who simply wanted to help. All looked as normal once more. Swinging back open, the church door pivoted violently, banging against the wall next to it. It creaked, coming to a stop as the entity told Kaufmann, “Oh, one more thing, Father. Hold out your hands. There’s something I should give you. Trust me, you need it by now.”
Hesitating at first the clergyman did as instructed. “Wait, what are you going to do?” “Come on, Father. Have a little faith.” The Prince of Darkness winked at him.
The Adversary waved his hand, and then flicked it over the priest’s open palms. There appeared something to make the hungry preacher’s eyes widen, and jaw drop. What materialized onto his hands was a plate with small, neat piles of meat and potatoes joined by appropriate utensils.
“Eat up, Padre.” The entity turned, walking towards the only doorway out. “You’ll need it for tonight’s Mass, and don’t worry. I’ll help you tonight, of course.”
“An evening Mass? How peculiar, but very well.”
“Be ready by moonlight, Father.” At these words, there was no visible, physical form. It was a mere, embodied murmur that echoed around the room.
Devouring the mass on his plate, the priest still wandered his eyes around the church, and indeed, saw nothing.
The Moon was standing high, and cleaned up, Kaufmann was standing at the altar. He watched the opened, church door. The balding man was shaking a little bit, but not from hunger.
The first, guest footstep entered the church. “Hiya, Father!” It was him again. It was that same visitor in his all-white suit and matching hat. The Accuser walked right up to the priest, saying, “I thought I’d show a little earlier than everyone else just so you can see my example, and this won’t have to be an issue for you anymore.”
“Right. When should the others be arriving, and how full will it be tonight?”
“Oh, the building’s going to be completely filled.” He stepped closer, being just centimeters from the man. The Author of Sin softly whispered into his ear, “And they should be arriving right about now.”
Kaufmann’s head turned to his side where the whisper came from. It was just as he looked over that the being’s image was dissipating and fading, The Devil’s body instantly becoming a thick fog. Surrounding the priest, this fog forced itself inside through his nostrils, ears and mouth. The preacher’s pupils rolled up, away from sight, as the entity was completely within.
From the innards of his body, the body he tried to move, but was unable to, he heard The Morning Star speaking to him. “So yeah, I’ve got this part for ya, Padre.”
The clergyman attempted as hard as he could to speak back. However, he found himself also not able to vibrate his vocal chords even slightly, let alone move his jaw.
“Oh, right,” Satan let him know, “It’s okay, Father. You can just think whatever you want to say to me. I’ll hear you just fine.”
The priest wondered, Why can’t I move!? What are you doing!?
“Didn’t you listen before? I’m showing you how to do things so this isn’t a problem anymore. I’m setting an example for you, so stop fighting it. If you keep that up, it’ll only make things extremely painful for you.”
Kaufmann did as he was told, trying to imagine whatever extent of bodily torment the entity meant. So, what about my end of the bargain?
“Haven’t thought of it yet, Padre. I’ll let you know when I think about it, okay?” Giggling at first, The Prince of Darkness shifted his voice into being more serious. “All right, here we go. People are starting to show up.”
Kaufmann watched as his body waltzed over to the entrance of the church, pulling off a little grin. As returning attendees approached the building, his body’s smile grew, and The Devil shook every person’s hand. Energetic welcomes were given to each person attending, they did the same back to him. There wasn’t quite as much enthusiasm in their replies though, and being seated in the wooden benches, they whispered among themselves. Sometimes, a few of them would look at the preacher, and then back to one another, resuming whatever they were murmuring.
Wearing the clergyman’s body like a meaty suit, The Author of Sin hastily walked up to the wooden podium before the audience. Clasping his hands together, The Devil let out a great shout. “Good evening!”
Maybe half or so of the attending townspeople jumped an inch in their maple seats, staring at the priest’s body.
Although not listening so much to the sermon The Accuser gave at maybe the moment’s notice, Kaufmann paid his attention to something else. It was funneled towards The Father of Lies’ tones, and how he’d move the body’s arms and hands about. That, and then at how the people were reacting to this. They weren’t looking around, or sneaking in more conversation towards one another. The people before the priest and the entity were all sitting perfectly still, gazing in fascination. They were listening in perfection, and it was a sight Father Kaufmann had never quite seen in his own church before. At some point, there was the passing of the collection plate. By the time it came back, it was full, just as a rich orchard of ripe apples, beckoning to be bitten into.
An hour of the night, maybe a bit more time, waned into non-existence before the attendees made their leave. All of them were smiling, but this time, with a flowing energy in their walking. Instead of none this time, several of them gathered in a somewhat scattered group to shake the hand of the priest’s body. With every shake were compliments about how moving the sermon was, and questions of when the next service was. The answer given by The Adversary was the typical, Sunday morning. The Devil waved at all them, and smiling with persistence until they were all gone. A moment after the last attendee was out of sight, the door to the church pushed shut. Once again, it wasn’t by any hand, nor wind.
Now, an opportunity for a bit of privacy between the two faded inside the building. The church being closed away from the outside world, that same thick fog gathered into the center of the clergyman’s stomach. It rose, forcing Kaufmann’s jaw open. Eyes rolling back once more, the fog seeped out of the body’s throat, like a much slower vomiting.
The thickness that finally exited his body gained a man-looking form. Colors of pale flesh and paper white swirled until a clear image of Satan’s image, upon first speaking to the priest, returned.
“Well, Padre,” the visitor giggled again. “That wasn’t so bad, now, was it?”
“Maybe not.” The preacher’s voice was quieted down, his visage angled towards the floor, but his eyes still meeting the entity’s.
“Ah, right.” Kaufmann’s visitor stroked his bare chin again, looking upward, but at nothing. “Before I forget, there is your end of the bargain, Father.”
Those words were something the clergyman would’ve shaken at no matter how much time he had to prepare for it. Even though the amount of time he had before hearing them was more short-lived than the life of a fly, all the tomorrows would’ve made no difference. It could only be imagined what his end of the bargain would be. Perhaps a mortal sin, or even a ghastly collection of them that would haunt the back of his mind for remainder of his life. Maybe not just a mortal sin, but what he taught people in the church to be known as a “grave matter.” Something as grave a matter as murder, maybe something even more grave. With The Devil Himself, God only knows. “My end?” “Yeah, and don’t worry.” The entity in the white suit chuckled. “It’s not like I’ll ask you to take anyone life, as entertaining as it could be. No, it’s much simpler, and much better.”
“What?” The priest’s breathing gained weight, fueling his terrified imagination.
“Easy, Padre. Jeez, I keep telling you it’s really easy, but you just don’t want to have any faith. You keep thinking like I’m a bad guy or something. I’m not nearly as bad as you and your ancestors have taught the mortals, you know. I may be The Father of Lies, but I’m not always dishonest. Anyway, what I want in return. All I need you to do is a simple baptism.”
“A baptism? That’s all?” The images that spiraled into the darkest whirlpools of his imagination that may have sunken into no true return whisked away.
“Yes, in fact for a family of three who were just attending ‘your’ service this evening.” The smile on his face looked pleasant, and innocent enough.
“Oh? Who are they?”
“The father’s name is Alois. They should be coming again next Sunday, just like all the others. Then, they’ll ask you to baptise their newborn son in the nearby lake.” The face, as pleasant as it looked just a moment ago, transformed into a little bit of a scowl.
At first glance, this expression would look like simple, human irritation. Looking into the eyes though… Gazing into the eyes of the Morning Star, Father Kaufmann could just feel countless lashings, slashings and unearthly fires burning just inches away from his tingling flesh.
The Devil’s voice deepened back into the voice he carried when screaming at the touch of the holy water. “It’s absolutely imperative that this child does not drown. This is a simple task that I am bestowing upon you, and I trust that you will accomplish this with no problems. This child is going to make an unimaginable difference for both you and me. It’s absolutely necessary that all goes well. You have a single job, Father, and nothing more. If you think what I did to Poe was terrible, only attempt to fathom the things I would have in store for you if you would even dare to let this go less than satisfactory. Do you understand me, Kaufmann?”
The priest, for some reason, wasn’t cowering in the corner of the room like some beaten pup, despite his wanting to. There was ringing in his ears just as before, but he still heard every word of The Prince of Darkness’ inhuman voice. “Yes.” He shivered in an unnoticeably thin layer of cold sweat. “Yes, I understand.”
The entity’s vocal chords expelled the same, seemingly human voice with a dash of lightheartedness like it did just a moment ago. “Good.” He tipped his hat at the priest, and walked away. “Pleasure doing business with you, Father. Have a good night, and remember.” He stopped at the door, turning his face to the clergyman. “Even though I may be away and out of sight, I’ll always be around, with you.” The Father of Lies left the church, away from any townsman’s seeing.
The next Sunday morning came, and that family asked the priest to perform the baptism, just as was told. Without any question, the preacher agreed. Not many days afterwards, the family and Kaufmann went to the nearby lake for the baptism. The child did indeed come fairly close to drowning. Luckily for the family, and especially the priest, the baby boy was saved before it was too late. The parents were regardless, happy over the baptism, and proudly said how their little boy would grow up, making a great difference for the church. Their baby would make a big difference for maybe Austria, perhaps even the world, their little Adolf Hitler.
Credited to Dylon Winfield