Praise the Lord! Abacus Jones: Soulless Cowboy Gets An Exorcism!

Well, here I was again. Locked away “fer my own good.” At least this time the chain was attached to the middle a’ the floor. Meant I could get up and walk around. Stretch my legs some. There was one time where I was chained to a wall for a month. That got so boring that by the end a’ my imprisonment I’d taken ta’ hittin’ my head against the wall for fun. I made a game of it. Seeing how long it took me ta’ knock myself out. When I woke up I would try ta’ beat the record. Don’t rightly remember how I got outta’ that situation.

I had ta’ admit, aside from being wrongly locked up, there were worse places ta’ be. In my lifetime I had spent a lot a’ time in cells and this was one a’ the nicer ones. Even compared ta’ real jail cells. Those were the worst. Often they were used as the drunk tank so’s they all smelled like puke and shit. The windows, if they had ‘em were tiny meanin’ no air flow whatsoever. It all added up ta’ an uncomfortably claustrophobic level a’ hell. These Catholics who had me now were treatin’ me much better.

This was the first time locked away where I got three steady meals a day. And they let me use the outside toilet so I didn’t have ta’ go into a bucket. Truth be told, I kinda’ needed it. Before they captured me I was on my last legs. It’d been a while since I’d had a payin’ job. I had been working. Vampire one town, witch in ‘nother, but, like always, the towns just had somethin’ against paying me fer helpin’ ‘em out. I was runnin’ low on supplies, hadn’t eaten in a week and my horse had died in the desert sun.

So I took a simple exorcism job. The money weren’t great, but it was somethin.’ Exorcisms ain’t bad, they’re just tedious. Really, it’s all about securin’ the person down, binding the demon and then waiting fer it to get bored and vacate the host. Some people like usin’ holy water or reading scripture. I found that antagonizes the demon most a’ the time. Makes it mean. Makes it want ta’ stay around and mess with the exorcist.

Me, I sing. This is torture fer the demon ‘cuz I can’t sing. Hell, it’s torture fer anyone who has to hear it. Exorcism is fairly simple, so’s I don’t charge much fer it. I was in the middle of my second song, tryin’ ta’ get a demon out of a little boy, when three priests burst inta’ the room. They called me a fraud and a charlatan. I tried reasonin’ with ‘em, but they wouldn’t have none of it. Everything was goin’ fine until one a’ them caught a good look at my black eyes. Then all hell broke loose.

Fer men who claim to work fer peace, they sure as hell kicked the shit outta’ me.

I woke up chained to the floor in their cell. That was four days ago. Every so often they drag me into another chamber where I’m hung from the ceiling while they splash me with holy water, chant hymns and scream at me to leave this poor soul’s body.

They were havin’ a hard time figurin’ out I weren’t possessin’ anybody. Every time I tried ta’ explain that I sold my soul the younger priest just got louder with his prayer book. The leader, a priest who was about my age, seemed to be in charge. He kept callin’ my rational explanations “blasphemy” and “foul lies.” There was an older priest who mostly hung around the back and doused me with holy water whenever he was told.

It was kinda’ refreshing. With all the screaming and chanting the room could get a might stuffy. The young priest reading looked kinda’ envious of me. I would be too if I had to wear all those robes.

“I command you to leave this body at once!”

“Would if I could, padre. I’d just skip down ta’ the saloon and knock a few back while ya’ get this over with.” The priest punched me in the mouth. I tasted blood. “That ain’t very Christian.”

“Enough. I can’t deal with this filth anymore. I need to take a rest before resuming.”

“You want us to take him back to his cell?”

“No, Brother William, leave him to hang. We will be resuming shortly.”

The priests all left the room. I was left hanging by my wrists, my feet barely touching the floor. If I stood on my tiptoes I could take some a’ the pressure off my hands. I did that fer a bit, but then my legs started killing me. Outta’ boredom I started swinging. Jest back and forth. It was hell on my hands, but they hurt anyway so I figured I might have some fun. Maybe I’d get lucky and they’d just pop off and I’d be free.

Handless life weren’t gonna’ be much fun, but what the hell. I hadn’t had an easy life up ‘til this point, so why not add another trouble?

After a few times back and forth I started ta get sick. I was about ta stop when the chains gave way. I went flyin’ forward at the exact time the door opened. I hit the old priest square in the chest and we tumbled to the ground.

“He’s tryin’ to escape!” the younger priest screamed.

“No, well, yeah, but really I was jest bored!”

I scrambled up. The priests were between me and the exit.

“Out of my way, humans, or I’ll eat your souls whole!” I shouted. I was doin’ my best ta’ sound like one a’ the demons I’d met before. It tore up my throat so bad I was afraid I’d start puking blood. It worked and they backed outta’ my way. The younger priest looked nearabouts ready ta’ piss himself. He’d probably go catatonic if he ever saw a real demon.

I couldn’t resist shoving the lead priest ta’ the ground as I passed. No disrespect on men of God, but he was an asshole.

When I had tumbled into the old priest I think I knocked my head on the ground. It was pounding mighty fierce. The narrow corridors seemed ta’ be closin’ in on me. I had ta’ stop and catch my breath. My heart was pounding so hard it seemed like it was preventing me from getting any sorta’ air.

I ran up some stairs and pushed my way through a door. I thought it was the one that led to the outside. Turned out ta’ actually lead to the main part a’ the church. Where a service was going on. The priest leading the ceremony stopped reading from the bible and stared at me along with all the entire congregation. I tried ta’ wave, but forgot I had the manacles still clamped ta’ my wrists.

“Howdy. Sorry ta’ interrupt your little get together here. I’ll leave.”

There was no way out without walking down the center aisle. Everybody stared. I started ta’ wonder where exactly the hell I was. Before startin’ the exorcism I’d spent a night in the town and none a’ the folks in the congregation looked familiar. Course the people ya’ see in the bar tend not ta’ be the same people you see at church. Still, where did those priests bring me?

I was halfway to the door, startin’ to wonder how I was going to get along without my gear, when the three priests burst outta’ the door.

“Someone restrain that servant of the devil!” the leader shouted.

“I think he’s talkin’ about her,” I said as I pointed to an old lady.

My ruse failed. Immediately two farmers were up and grabbin’ me. Turned out that my word meant nothing compared to a priest’s. They dragged me down the stairs, followin’ the priests towards the cell. The youngest priest walked behind us, shouting phrases from his book. It was latin, but none a’ it sounded like any prayers I was familiar with. Something about did ring a bell.

“Hey, padre?”

“Shut up.”

“In a minute. I jest wanted ta’ know if that was some kinda’ new bible.”

The lead priest stopped and listened to what the young priest was sayin’.

“William, where did you get that book?”

“Your room. You said it was the third one from the left on the top shelf.”

“I said second shelf, fifth book over. Give me that!” The lead priest snatched the book from the younger priest. He looked at the cover, “Oh, no!”

Whatever the priest was afraid of happenin’ seemed too late ta’ stop. We heard screams coming from the congregation. The two men holding me let go and ran back up the stairs. The priests all followed. I went after ‘em. Curiosity mostly.

The church was in chaos. People were screaming and running everywhere. A fire raged at the far end of the room. At the center a’ all this was a giant demon. It was twice as tall as any man in the church, covered in brown scales. The head was like a skinned bull’s skull. It was only when I saw the broken horn that I realized that I’d met that demon before. I started inchin’ back towards the door ta’ the basement.

I weren’t quick enough. The demon saw me. It rushed through the crowd, shoving church goers outta’ the way to get to me.

“You! You did this to me!” It grabbed me by the neck and lifted me off the ground. I tried ta’ tell him that it weren’t really my fault, but it was squeezing my throat closed. I gurgled out a’ response. Finally it released my neck and held me up by the shackles I was wearing. “Why have you summoned me yet again?”

“I didn’t summon you the first time!”

“I tire of this. Don’t think that since your soul is pledged to another that I will not hurt you. Even I have my limits!”

He tossed me away. I thought he’d go away like he did last time. Instead he grabbed a man and started eatin’ his head. The demon was standing in front of the door so I decided to head back down the stairs and find the back way out. I was almost there when I got hit on the back a’ the head. I turned ta’ see the elderly priest holding a giant metal cross.

“What the hell? Ow, dammit! What is wrong with you? Shouldn’t you be runnin’? Or prayin’? Or anything other than hittin’ me with the symbol a’ the lord?”

“You brought this vile beast upon us!”

“I am getting a lot a’ blame today. I didn’t do shit, padre. It was you priests and your damned book. If you noticed I was trying ta’ get in the general vicinity of away.”

I stumbled away from the priest. He was unsure of what to do. On one hand I was getting away, but on the other I wasn’t the one slaughtering his congregation. He had ta’ know that hitting it with a cross weren’t gonna’ do a thing against it. When I reached the door ta’ the outside I looked back one last time. The priest stood there for a short spell, then hefted up the cross and headed back up the stairs to fight the demon.

Admittedly that took a lot a’ courage. I respected that in a man. I, on the other hand, started runnin’ as fast as I could from the church. I didn’t get very far. I could hear all the screams of terror from the church. Smoke was pouring out of all the windows. The demon must’ve done something to keep everyone in there. I didn’t know what exactly I could do, but I had ta’ try something. Maybe I wasn’t as brave as the priest, but I found often times the large amount a’ guilt I carry around served me better than any courage I could muster.

I went back down into the church. On a hunch I headed to the head priest’s chambers. There I found him frantically searching through his books. I lucked out and saw that my gun belt was sittin’ out in the open. He didn’t seem to notice me as I strapped it on. I opened up the gun and loaded it with some iron bullets I had made. Lead’ll work fine on most creatures, but iron causes them a whole heap a’ pain. I figured I needed all the help I could get. I was headin’ out the door when he finally saw me.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“I was plannin’ on shooting at the demon until he ripped my arms off. I figure that might give some a’ them folks time to get ta’ safety.”

“That’s idiotic.”

“And yer plan is? Throw a book at him?”

“I am trying to find an incantation that will banish that demon back into the pit that spawned it.”

“You know, for a priest that just spent the last few days tryin’ ta’ exorcise the demon outta’ my body you sure do seem to have a lotta’ things relating to the occult.”

He was about to respond when a woman’s scream echoed down the hall. I walked outta’ the chamber while he continued to rummage through his books.

Upstairs was total carnage. It looked like a slaughterhouse blew up. Though it looked like most of the people were still alive. They were huddled at the far end of the church. The demon was taking its time with them. Killing them slow. Enjoying itself. It was in the middle slowly pulling strips a’ flesh of the somehow still alive young priest and eating them. The demon looked at me when I came outta’ the basement.

“So, you returned. I expected you to flee with piss running down your legs.”

“I was fleeing, but guilty conscience made me return. Only one way to settle a guilty conscience.”

“How’s that?” It grinned. It was one of the more frightening things I’ve seen on this earth.

“Shooting it,” I said without too much quiver in my voice.

I drew my gun from the holster and shot. It went wide and nearly hit a woman in the head. Instead it made a neat little hole about an inch from her hat. I always forgot that I was the worst shot in the west. The demon stood up and walked towards me, its arms outstretched, darin’ me ta’ shoot it. I weren’t one to pass up an open invitation. The closer it got meant the less chance I had ta’ miss.

My next two shots hit it square in the chest and did nothing. Absolutely nothing. After that I missed again. The demon was getting dangerously close. I steadied my hand and risked a head shot. I hit the unbroken horn and shattered it. Unfortunately there was a ricochet and the bullet hit me in the knee. As if that weren’t bad enough the demon kicked me hard in the chest as I was falling down. I flew through the air and collided with a wall.

It felt like all my ribs were broken. It got hard ta breath with my throat fillin’ up with blood. The demon was still comin’ for me. I frantically looked around for my gun, but I couldn’t see it anywhere. Things were about ta’ get unpleasant fer me when the head priest came outta’ the basement. He was chantin’ from a book, screaming the words. Behind him the elderly priest held up the cross he had bludgeoned me with.

The demon seemed ta’ recoil at first, but then started laughing. Something was wrong. I kept lookin’ for my gun. If I couldn’t hurt the demon maybe I could shoot the priest, stop him from doing something stupid. I found my gun just in time to see the result a’ the priest’s chanting.

Cracks started ta’ form all over the demon’s body. A bright, red light shone out from them. Looking at the light made me nauseous. Images a’ all the people I’d ever killed, all the bad things I’d done in life, flashed through my head. I couldn’t think of anything else. I wanted ta’ look away, but couldn’t.

The demon alternated between howling in pain and laughing. The cracks got bigger until eventually the skin fell to a heap on the floor. The demon was now just a ball of red light. It flew towards the priest, but he ducked outta’ the way. The older priest was not as lucky. Instead a’ splattering him all over the wall like I expected the light became pointed and funneled down his throat. As the light flowed inta’ him the priest got bigger. Not wider, more muscular. His white hair turned inta’ a dark black and the wrinkles disappeared from his face.

When all the light was gone the church was silent except for the occasional pops of the fire that was still burning. The head priest crawled up from the floor. Before he could say a word the possessed priest started beating him with the cross he was holding. This went on for minutes until there was nothing but a stain on the ground.

Then he came for me. Even though the possessed priest was smaller than the demon I was still terrified. I raised my gun and pulled the trigger only to hear a click. The round, my last shot, was a dud. Just my luck. The possessed priest was nearly skipping with joy by the time he got ta’ me. I couldn’t do nothin’ but lie there in pain and wait for death.

Instead the possessed priest leaned down close ta’ me.

“I’m going to have so much fun.”

He laughed as he walked away. The doors ta’ the church flung open so hard they flew off the hinges. The surviving congregation waited for a spell then followed, anxious ta’ get the hell out.

No one helped me. My wounds were serious, but not lethal. Because a’ my condition I healed quick so I just needed some time fer my ribs ta’ knit together then I could limp to a doctor and get the slug removed from my knee. I hoped the fire didn’t spread too fast so’s I wouldn’t burn ta’ death while healing.

It’s because a’ this that I don’t go ta’ church much.



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