Prompt: “You’re an exorcist, and this is your most conflicting assignment yet. The demon possessing the child seems to actually be protecting it from abusive parents.”
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Casper,” The woman at the door said.
“No problem, Mrs. Morris,” I stepped into the house and then proceeded to hang up my raincoat.
“Can you help us with our…problem,” Mr. Morris said.
He stood in the doorway to the living room looking me up and down.
“I believe so,” I said.
Mr. John Morris and Mrs. Sarah Morris. According to the file I read over in the car, they were your average family. John fought in the war and now works in the local factory. Sarah is the stay at home mom. She’s not a Tupperware saleswoman or avid book club member. Just stays in the house.
Their son, Henry, was no where to be seen. Not too unusual with his current condition.
“Can I talk to you a bit before I see Henry?” I asked them.
There was a moment where Mr. and Mrs. Morris exhanged eye contact.
“Of course. Come sit,” Mr. Morris said showing me into the living room.
I took a seat on the couch while Mr. Morris sat in the chair facing the television.
“Do you want something to eat? Drink?” Mrs. Morris asked me.
“I’m fine, thanks,” I said.
“Bring me a beer, Sarah,” Mr. Morris said.
She nodded and went to the kitchen. It was just a moment before she returned with a beer from the fridge.
We had a brief conversation in the living room. We discussed Henry’s condition and how it was progressing. The whole thing seemed a little off. Mrs. Morris was nervous and barely spoke. When I asked her a question, she glance over to her husband before she spoke. It was almost like she was trying to repeat rehearsed lines. In contrast, Mr. Morris seemed too calm. Demonic possession was a serious and scary matter that very few people took lightly, but he seemed more annoyed by the whole thing than worried about his son. His responses were defensive.
I reassured both of them that this wasn’t their fault. I would meet with Henry one-on-one and I would get exorcise the demon from Henry’s body.
Both of them walked me to the stairs and I went upstairs.
I walked up to Henry’s door. It was slightly ajar and I could hear a voice coming from the room. He was talking to himself, but half of the conversation seemed distorted. Henry was in the middle of a conversation when he suddenly stopped.
“Someone is outside,” I heard Henry say and then there was silence.
I knocked on the door and then pushed it open.
“Hello, Henry, may I come in?” I asked as I popped my head into his room.
He stared at me not saying anything.
“I’m here to help you,” I said as I pushed the door open further and walked in.
Again Henry looked at me without saying anything.
“How are you doing today, Henry?” I asked as I looked around his room.
The room seemed normal if not plain. There was a small television in the corner, books on a small bookshelf by the bed, and a few pictures hung on the wall. Henry sat on his bed, never taking his eyes off me, but he didn’t speak.
“I talked to your mom and dad,” I said. “They seem worried about you.”
“No they don’t,” Henry spoke up finally.
I was taken back.
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
His eyebrows narrowed.
“They don’t care about him,” Henry said but his voice seemed hazy and a little distant.
“This isn’t Henry I’m talking to. Who is this?” I asked Henry clutching my Bible tightly.
Still after many exorcisms, talking to the possessed put me on edge. You never knew how they were going to act. Some were calm and menacing while others were violent and endangered their host if that meant they could escape.
“I speak for both of us,” Henry said.
“Well I would like to talk to Henry,” I said.
“I speak for both of us,” He repeated a little louder.
“Ok alright,” I tried to reason with him. “Tell me, what do you mean when you say that Henry’s parents don’t care about him?”
“Come on. You know what I mean. You sensed it. You could feel the tension in the room.”
“I…I sensed that there was something off about them.”
“The man is an aggressor. Drunk. Violent. He has no outlet for the nightmares he lives through. Waking nightmares. So he takes it out on Henry. Night after night he took it out on Henry.”
“The woman is meek. Silent. A victim in her own right, but she does not stop it. She feels powerless in her own home. She takes it out on Henry as well. Henry tried to reach out to her, but she beats him as well. Both of them use Henry as their personal punching bag.”
“That doesn’t mean you can-” I began but was cut off.
“Henry was practically dying when I came to him. An empty husk. I was excited to find a host, but this wasn’t normal,” Henry said, practically hissing. “I decided I had to act. To keep Henry alive and those two people at bay.”
“The file did mention strange happenings. Silverware floating. Strange sounds in the walls. Shattering of glass,” I said.
Henry calmed some and gave me a smile.
“Yes those were fun,” He said. “But I did them out of necessity.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Your file might have mentioned that stuff but they didn’t give you all the details. The man came at Henry with a knife after a drunken tirade that woke up the entire neighborhood. I turned it on him. I pressed it up against his throat and told him to be quiet or I would cut out his tongue. The words in the walls were just me repeating their own words back at them. Every time he came up here with a beer or when she came up here with a glass of wine, I broke the glass, spilling the contents. They can’t handle their alcohol.”
I wasn’t sure what to do. It was obvious that Henry was in a bad situation. Two abusive parents. That’s something that is difficult if not impossible to overcome for such a young boy. He had no way of escaping. He was as good as dead before this demon shows up. It was literal incarnation of evil, but it was here protecting Henry.
“What are you going to do?” Henry asked picking up on my hesitation. “What does your Holy Book tell you what to do?”
“Maybe you’re a liar,” I said.
“You know I’m not,” He replied. “I’m the only thing keeping this boy alive. If you exercise me, Henry is as good as dead. You’ll be fully responsible for this boy dying at the hands of his parents.”
“I know,” I said looking down at the floor.
“So?” He asked again. “Are you going to kill this child?”
“I need to speak to Henry,” I said.
“I speak -”
“Now,” I said more forceful.
“Fine,” He muttered.
I lifted my head and looked at Henry. His body seemed to twitch for a few seconds and his eyes rolled back into his head. His whole body shook and then he blinked.
“Hello?” He said.
His demeanor had completely changed. No longer was he a demon in a kid’s body. He was just a kid.
“Henry?” I asked.
“Did you hear everything we were talking about?”
“Is it true? Do you parents…ummmm… are they?”
“Yes,” He said with a serious look on his face.
“Alright,” I said with a sigh.
“Are you here to get rid of my friend?” Henry asked me.
Henry nodded again.
“He’s my only friend. My mom and dad don’t let me have anyone else over? He’s the only person I get to talk to and I get to watch cartoons with. He even reads me bedtime stories every night,” Henry said with a smile.
That was the final thing I needed to hear. From that moment I knew what I had to do.
I handed Henry my business card telling him (and the demon) to contact me if the parents tried to hurt Henry again. I then walked down the stairs. There Mr. and Mrs. Morris asked me what had happened.
I threw on my coat telling them that the demon was much more powerful than I could handle and that it would take some serious manpower to get that demon out of Henry. I told them that only someone from the Vatican could handle something like this and it would very expensive to get someone from the Vatican to fly in for an exorcism. I figured that would deter them from pursuing it further.
Than I told them to limit their contact with Henry or the demon and that they were lucky to be alive. Any violent action against the demon would likely result in death.
That I said while staring right at Mr. Morris.
Mrs. Morris begged me to stay and try something else. Anything else. Mr. Morris was silent.
I gathered up my things and walked out into the rain leaving Mr. and Mrs. Morris in the doorway.
When I first attended an exorcism, I thought it couldn’t get worse. It was frightening. It was dark.
But now I think I found one that one-upped it. One where I saw true evil. Not in the boy upstairs, but in the parents sitting in the living room.
Header Photo Credit to the movie The Exorcist, but I got the still from Cinephilia Beyond
Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/Kaleon