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Author's note: This is my entry into Banning's June/July, Demon/Devil Writing Contest.The following appears to be a record of a confession kept by the late Fr. Paul Smith. Dates indicate that Fr. Smith heard it sometime in early 2001, before he retired from the priesthood. Since it was jotted down in the moment, some editing has been performed to make it more readable.
So what do I do here? I've never done this before.
Alright. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. But more than that, I need someone to talk to—no, that's not it. I need someone to listen.
When I was ten years old, my parents died, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I don't mean that I was helpless at the time, or that they were away from me when it happened. I mean that it was inevitable. There was nothing I could do to stop them dying. I've spent years reckoning with this fact, and I can't seem to do it. I don't dare to go to a therapist because I don't want to be committed. I know I'm not insane, but I know I'd sound that way if I talked about this. I used to wonder if I was crazy for having this memory, but if I was crazy, you'd expect it to go on beyond just the memory, right?
Never mind. Point is, you're a Priest. You believe in this sort of thing. And I need someone who might believe me, or who, failing that, can tell me if they think I need help.
It all started when my parents and I moved to Pennsylvania back in the 70's. My dad and mom had both been pretty successful as lawyers—they'd met at Harvard Law—and were looking for someplace to settle down and maybe open a comfortable family practice that would make enough to avoid draining their savings while they raised me. One of their other law school friends, who'd since given up law for the real estate business, decided to give them a little help and found this cute little two-story Victorian house in a small town in Pennsylvania that was going for a song. The previous owner defaulted on her mortgage, I think, and the bank wanted to flip the house fast. Anyway, this wasn't your typical foreclosure home, and my parents saw a steal, so they snatched it up and we moved out there fast.
I wonder if they'd have changed their mind if they'd done more research. Probably not. I've gone back and done a lot of research and there wasn't anything obviously wrong with the place. It was in a nice, if secluded area. No one had been murdered there. Nobody was buried nearby. Weirdest thing you'd find was that the previous owner had been some crazy, ancient lady from Eastern Europe who barely spoke a word of English. I only found this out because I managed to dig up some old letters from the friend who found the house. No information beyond that, and believe me, I've tried looking now that I'm old enough and smart enough to try and figure out my experience.
Anyway, we moved out there about a month after my folks bought the house, and for the first week or so, nothing really weird happened. Occasionally we'd come downstairs and find the cartons of milk splashed all over the floor, or the pantry ravaged, but my parents just assumed animals were breaking in.
The really weird stuff started to happen the night we had the power outage.
It was around Christmas break, about a month after we'd moved into the house. My parents were just getting ready to put me to bed, when the lights in our house just completely went out. My parents thought it was the weather, because we'd had a snowstorm very recently, and they thought one of the power lines might've given out after the fact.
Well, they did what anyone does during a power outage. They got candles and flashlights and decided we'd all grope our way to bed and then go into town and find out what had happened the next day. Perfectly reasonable, though I admit I was a bit upset about it because I was still afraid of the dark. What was worse was that my bedroom was at the very top of the house, which meant I had to climb not just the usual flight of stairs to get to the second floor, but also a short ladder to get to my room.
Worst of all, my candle just would not stay lit. I kept trying to light it with the small box of matches I carried with me, but it just kept going out, almost like someone was deliberately blowing on it.
Also, because this was an old house, you can guess there were a lot of superfluous noises. I'd guess most of them were just the wood settling after the storm, but given... well, I won't get ahead of myself.
Anyway, I got up to bed without much worse than a few light bruises on my knees from whacking my legs on stairs in the dark, and like any scared kid, I pulled the covers over my head and went to sleep.
What happened next was something I assumed was a nightmare after the fact. While I was sleeping, I felt what I thought was a very hard, very painful pinch and woke up with a start. The first thing I saw was that my candle had somehow been lit again, even though I hadn't touched the matches since going to sleep, and sitting next to it was a small sheet of paper that I know hadn't been there before. It wasn't normal paper either. It looked ancient, like it had come from a RenFaire or something. And it smelled like something burning, which I would later discover was because someone had drawn on it in fresh charcoal.
As to the drawing itself? Well, it looked like a really crude picture of our house, but there was one really horrible detail. From the very top part of the house, which was where the chimney was, there was a figure hanging with its face drawn in a way that clearly indicated that it was dead. And the worst part was that I knew from looking at it that it was supposed to be my dad. I can't tell you how I knew this at the time, but I just knew it.
I picked up the ghastly picture and started to tear it up, and that's when I heard what sounded like a hoarse, raspy, choking noise near the foot of my bed, like I was hearing the sound of someone—someone who the same part of me knew was my dad—being strangled to death. I didn't bother looking at what it was, but shut my eyes and ran blind for the door, and didn't stop until I reached my parents' room, even though I stumbled a bit running down the stairs. My parents were thankfully indulgent and let me sleep with them after the "nightmare."
Well, the next day, my dad drove to town to find out what had happened just as promised. When he returned, he brought a very confused looking electrician who told us that nobody in the area had reported power outages of any kind, and that, in fact, he'd never had to come out here before now. My dad and he spent the day going over the wiring, but couldn't find a single thing wrong.
Finally, they decided to have a look at the wires that ran to the very top of the house. And this is where I got involved in the process. You see, my dad was younger than the electrician, and offered to have a look at the more hard to reach parts of the wiring himself before making the older man do anything. But when I heard this, I remembered my experience of the previous night and without even thinking, fastened myself around my dad's legs, screaming and crying and begging him not to go. My dad was clearly irritated and told me to get off him multiple times, but I held on, and it seemed to work, because the electrician finally agreed to do it instead as a favor to me.
I guess this makes what happened next my fault. You see, the topmost part of our house was fairly inaccessible and could only be reached through usage of an old rope ladder that hung from the chimney. Well, no sooner had the electrician climbed up this than he stepped on what must have been a loose tile and tumbled back down the ladder, which eventually caught him... round the neck. He was killed instantly.
And like clockwork, the instant we heard his neck snap, the power came back on.
Well, if I'd been terrified of what had happened the night before, I was damn nigh inconsolable now. My parents tried to console me by doing a thorough search of the room for my alleged paper, but they found absolutely nothing there. Ultimately, it was only because the power stayed on that night that I was at all persuaded to go back and sleep there.
And you know what happened? Nothing. Really, nothing at all. I slept like a baby, and no more mysterious papers showed up in my room. For the next few days, everything was totally fine, and I was convinced that what I had thought was a prophetic nightmare had been a fluke.
But after the events of the night after Christmas, I began to really doubt this.
I don't need to tell you that the day after Christmas is always a bit depressing for a kid, after the excitement of the previous day. But my parents had gotten me an awesome new bike that Christmas, and so I spent the day after biking around our house joyfully, kicking up snow, mud, and anything else that lay in my way. Of course, this made me completely unsuitable for dinner when I got home, so my parents told me that I would have to take a shower before we had dinner. Not needing to be told twice, I pattered up to the second floor bathroom, because it had the bigger bathtub, which somehow made having a shower there seem cooler. I don't know, I was a kid. It made sense then.
Anyway, I was busy splashing around in the shower, hoping we'd be having spaghetti for dinner because it was my favorite when I heard the door to the bathroom open. I assumed it was one of my parents and went right on splashing, figuring they'd get whatever they wanted and leave. But then I heard the shower curtain move.
I froze. Something was getting into the shower with me. Too scared to move, I shut my eyes tight, reasoning that if I couldn't see whatever it was, it couldn't get me.
Boy was I wrong, because the next thing I knew, what felt like a set of crooked knives dug into my shoulder, like something was trying to scratch my skin off. I screamed and reached out to pull the shower curtain aside, but what I heard as I screamed stopped me. Whatever was behind me was screaming, too, and screaming in a voice I somehow recognized unmistakably as that of my mother. Its screams kept getting louder the more it poked me, and I realized it was simulating the experience of my mother being stabbed with a knife.
Suddenly, I realized with horror that my mother was probably preparing dinner downstairs while I showered, and that the process probably involved knives. The urgency of the situation overcame my fear and my eyes shot open. I pulled the curtains aside without hesitation and rushed down to the kitchen, where I found my mother just putting down a large kitchen knife on the counter. Not even pondering the fact that I was naked and dripping, I barreled into her to keep her away from it.
As she fell, the rolling pin she'd been using rolled toward the knife and hit it just so that it fell, handle first, into the open maw of the garbage disposal, which my mother had been apparently using to dispose of the remains of whatever she'd been cutting. I could hear it rattling around for a few seconds before the disposal ground to an ugly screeching halt and the knife, still propelled by the momentum, shot out of it at the ceiling, burying itself several inches into the wood. With a sick feeling, I realized that if I hadn't pushed my mother aside, it would've probably hit her instead.
My mother seemed to realize this, too, and was almost too grateful for my having been downstairs to wonder at my terrified, wet, naked state. I tried to tell her what had happened, but unfortunately, it seemed to lose some of its effect when she looked at my back and informed me, with classic parental condescension, that there wasn't a scratch on me. All my reassurances that it really had happened did no good.
By this point, I was certain that something evil shared the house with us, but there was little to nothing I could do to get my parents to believe me. What was worse was that I had no idea what it was, why it wanted to kill my parents, or how it chose when to strike. And I'm sorry to say that I still don't know the answers to any of these questions.
But I know now that it wasn't something I could outsmart forever.
The damn thing waited for months after the incident in the shower. It must've realized I wouldn't give it a window of opportunity until I thought I was safe again. And for that reason, it waited all the way until July of the next year, on the day right before my eleventh birthday.
To give you some context, my parents had a habit of sneaking out of the house at unpredictable times to try and get my cake. They'd usually leave me in the company of a babysitter, and this time was no different, but the only babysitter they could find in town was a particularly antisocial, pug-faced girl named Billie, whose theory of babysitting pretty much was that she could read the entire time she was at the house, provided she made sure any and all sharp objects had been placed out of reach of her charge. I honestly didn't mind this all that much, since most babysitters had an annoying habit of pinching my cheeks or telling me how cute I was, or worse, trying to act like we were friends when they were girls and that was impossible. Billie at least knew her proper place, I thought.
The one annoyance was that Billie didn't want me going outside, probably because that would've required actual supervision. But so what. I still had the run of the house. And after quite literally making the run of the house (i.e. running up and down the stairs in as many imaginative ways as I could after sneaking as many sugary foods as I could take from the kitchen), I was so tired from my sugar rush that I decided to go up to my room and have a lie down. I even took my father's copy of Dracula with me, because he never let me read it when he was home, which made me think this was an impressively subversive act.
My dad needn't have bothered. There were too many big words in the book, and after a few pages, I was seriously confused why it was supposed to be so scary anyway. It just seemed boring, instead. Where were the creepy vampires, or the blood? I shut it in disgust and made myself put it down.
And that's when I saw it crouching at the foot of my bed.
It was—I don't even know what to say. I guess I'll start with what wasn't frightening about it, which was that it was actually very short. No more than my childlike height, actually.
But what it lacked in height, it made up for in hideousness. To start with, it was almost covered in hair—bushy, coarse, filthy grey hair that seemed to bloom out from its body, making it look at first like a squat, writhing ball of matted fuzz. It must've had arms of some sort, but the hair was too dense to see them. From what I could tell, though, they must've extended from its front rather than its side, because a set of glistening black talons protruded from the matted mess at the front of its body. Its spine must've been terribly crooked, for it was bent at an angle that no creature could've mimicked with healthy vertebrae.
And its face... I still see that in my nightmares. The hair bristled all over its mouth, and yet I could see, through the tangles, that it was smiling a wide, open-mouthed smile that showed nothing but bloody, chapped gums. It was bald above where the nose should've been, which was nothing but a pair of deformed-looking holes, and its unnaturally large, bulbous black eyes looked almost segmented like an insect's. It was staring at me with devilish malevolence, and as its gaping mouth opened wider, it let out the terrible sound of metal grinding against metal, of brakes being slammed, and of horns screeching against the backdrop of human screams. The sound of a car crash. With a terrible, thundering realization, I understood that the thing must have no voice beyond being able to reproduce the sounds that its future victims would make.
Still petrified with fear, I tried to move toward the door, but the thing seemed ready for me this time, for it sprang onto the bed and, scuffling toward me like an angry rodent, stuffed its face into my own and shook its head fiercely, its razor sharp talons holding my face in place and its rancid breath pouring into my nostrils. I couldn't help myself. I passed out from terror.
When I woke up, it was to the sound of sirens, and the consoling hands of policemen on my shoulders. My parents had, of course, been killed in a car crash, just as the hideous, demonic thing in our house had promised the only way it could. I tried to scream and yell about what I had seen—about what lived in the house—but of course the police didn't listen. Why should they? It probably sounded like the ravings of a grief-stricken child.
Of course, I know the thing was only toying with me the first two times. It clearly wanted me to think I had control over the situation so that when it finally wrested it away, it would hurt just that much more. Beyond the desire to torture me, I've got no clue what else it could have wanted, or why it was there. And mythology and theology have been no help at all. Household demons are one of the most common sorts out there, and I've got no idea which of them this thing might have been.
That's part of why I'm here. Father, you tell me—am I crazy? Can I be forgiven for not being able to save my parents, if something this evil and this powerful had it out for them? I want someone, anyone, to tell me it's not my fault.
But the other part of the reason I'm here is that things have been happening, and I'm afraid. You see, I've been finding milk spilled in my kitchen, and my pantry broken into, and while my neighbors think it's nothing but animals, I have a sneaking dread that I know better. And maybe, just maybe, since you're a priest, you'll have some idea of how to get rid of the thing if it comes back. If it isn't... already back, that is.
Oh God, can you hear that? Can you hear that?! Don't tell me you don't, I know you do! Listen! Don't you hear that hissing noise?
I think it's here. Father... just tell me what to do. I'll do anything. Anything. Just please, tell me what to do. Tell me I can stop it this time. I don't want to die. I don't want to die. Tell me I'm crazy. Tell me I'm crazy! Tell me I'm crazy... please...
Folded in with this item is a brief newspaper clipping. The clipping originates from the obituary section of a local paper describing the death of a local man from a freak gas leak.
Written by Lordnmaster