viernes, 13 de enero de 2012

A Bad Joke

Comic timing is an art. Punch lines are useless if not delivered at the exact moment of impact. When Father Di Matteo arrived at the abandoned farmhouse, he at first thought it was a joke; mist clung to the hillside, shrouding the crumbling building in a nightmare ambience. A full moon gleamed sickly onto the bare branches of a dead oak tree. An owl hooted and just as he bent to open the rusty iron gate a fox barked for effect.

“Brilliant,” he muttered to himself, pulling free a large wooden crucifix from one pocket of his cassock, and an ornately carved knife from the other.

The strange instructions from his Bishop had been sent via courier and contained a map, the keys to a hire car and vague premonitions of evil-doing. Di Matteo was a troubleshooter; the Church sent him where they had run out of other ideas. His reputation was for cleaning up others’ messes and ridding the world of troublesome spirits. Of course, no-one wanted to admit that such spirits existed, but the Church had always believed.

Frost suddenly rimed the iron railings, the temperature plummeting. The strange tattoos on his lower legs writhed and he gasped involuntarily in pain. This was no joke. He felt, rather than heard his visitor and refused to turn and give the creature the satisfaction of his fear. Di Matteo walked on.

The front door to the building creaked open, small particles of rust and dirt breaking free from the door frame and swirling in a now chill breeze. The fog had thickened and the opening door appeared to suck it inside, the motion accompanied by a low sigh. Father Di Matteo gripped his crucifix tighter.

A hand fell onto his shoulder with a wet thump, yet he still refused to turn. He walked inside. Three steps on and the door slammed shut behind him killing the wan light of the moon and plunging the priest into darkness.

“Hello, my old friend…”

Now he was frightened. He recognized the voice and its echo of tortured souls. Each new footstep was difficult, like pushing a tremendous weight up hill. Di Matteo struggled to breathe. He struggled not to cry out and to control his bowels. He failed.

“I see you remember me…?”

The knife was slippy in his hand, but the blessed blade began to glow and he recovered his poise, if not his dignity. On he walked.

“I am talking to you!”

Claws ripped into his shoulders, tearing flesh and cloth as one. A blow knocked him forward and he almost fell, yet somehow he kept to his feet. Di Matteo began to pray.

“That won’t work…and you know it,” the voice was caressing, sinuous and enticing. He ignored it, placing one foot in front of the other. His objective was now visible, a small chest stood on a table in the center of the hall. Its outside was carved with leering demons and foul creatures, who cavorted in unrestrained abandon. The priest raised his voice and the crucifix as one.

“I said STOP!”

This time the blow threw him to his knees in a tangle of soiled clothing and as he tried to rise his ankle buckled and he crashed back to the floor. Something was broken. He crawled on, his prayers now sobbed into the horrid air.
Weight pressed down onto his ankle and he screamed. Anger over-rode his piety and he turned, the knife slashing swiftly. There was a roar of pain and the priest smiled as the beast´s flesh smoked.

“Oh, I remember you,” he snarled, dropping his cross and withdrawing the pistol strapped to his thigh, “only too well. Although it’s not about you, it’s really all…about…”

The beast laughed at the puny weapon before it and hunched its enormous shoulders ready to strike.

“Timing…” said Di Matteo conversationally, as he twisted round and pulled the trigger.

The explosive round smashed through the chest’s lock plate, bursting into flame as its silvered coating came into contact with the rotting flesh within. Behind him the Demon screamed in agony and terror.

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