The clouds had rolled across the sky and Samantha felt a ripple ricochet through her entire body. She was tall, wore her hair in a loose bun and her nose was sprinkled with freckles. She took a deep breath, held her husband Riley’s hand and walked up to the front door of the Gordon household. Samantha and Riley were the only demonologists who lived close enough to the Gordon’s in Chatswood. Out of despair, Tim and Maree Gordon contacted Samantha and Riley through an online advertisement.
“Can you feel it?” Riley asked. He too, was tall with jet black curly hair which he kept away from his eyes with an elastic band.
Samantha nodded. “It’s strong. Is Father Emelio on his way?”
Father Emelio was an old Jesuit priest who worked alongside the Barton’s. He was short, wore glasses to enlarge his brown eyes and his hair was dusted with grey. Samantha and Riley had met Father Emelio when they had been present in one of his sermons at St Ignatius. He had been speaking about moral conscience in a Homily where he was discussing God’s work and how He draws people in love. Both Samantha and Riley kept returning each week to listen to the priest and soon enough, they discovered Father Emelio shared a similar gift with Samantha. This gift would eventually exonerate the priest from the Ministry. In the late 00s, he had performed an exorcism without the approval from the Roman Catholic Church. The church claimed he ignored the Vatican’s protocols and disregarded the Roman Ritual on exorcism. The Catholic Church didn’t want a case of possession leaking out into the news and tarnishing their already distasteful image.
Samantha placed her hand on the door knob – it was warm, one of the signs a demon was inside the house. She couldn’t isolate the exact the moment when she was able to feel and see entities, but it had begun back when she was a child. She’d see things – shadows, deformed and vulgar faces and hear angry and malevolent voices. It took some time before she could tell anyone what was happening to her and by the time she was in her teens, she accepted this would be part of her life. When she met Father Emelio, he had held her hand and an energy engulfed her body. “You see them too?” he had said. He could also feel and see entities and like her, they seemed to follow him no matter how hard he prayed. He would often tell Samantha to turn to God and the angels for guidance. “Fill up your heart with the power of the Holy Spirit. It will tell you what to do,” he would say. After that day, she and the Priest became inseparable. He talked about the possessed ancient relics the church kept hidden, cases he had dealt with and he educated her on the Roman Ritual.
When they entered the home, they were greeted by Lara’s father Tim. His eyes were black around the sockets and he almost collapsed into Riley as they shook hands. “Lara’s getting worse. She... I can’t...” he said turning away. Riley cajoled him into the lounge and insisted he get some food into him.
Samantha followed the energy pulling her towards Lara’s room. Outside the door, Lara’s mother Maree lay crouched on the floor. Samantha placed her hand on her shoulder and squeezed it. “Go and rest. We’re here now,” she said. Maree hesitated then left, leaving Samantha alone. When she entered the room, something hit her stomach and she was bowled over, landing hard on the floor. A sudden burst of laughter and croaking followed by a pungent odour filled the air. “I’m glad you could join us Mrs Barton. It’s been a while. Why don’t you come and have a seat.” The voice, although coming from Lara’s mouth, was not of Lara. The skeletal shell lying on the bed was not Lara but an entity living inside her body. It had latched itself onto the young girl’s soul and wouldn’t leave until she was dead. Entities were the hardest to overcome. The longer they stayed inside a person, the stronger they became. This thing had had been inside Lara for almost three months and it was stronger than ever. Samantha was afraid to go near the twelve year old girl yet she couldn’t show the demon her fear. “Don’t be afraid. I was expecting you.” Samantha closed her eyes and held them shut for a second longer than normal. When she opened them, Lara’s sockets had become red like fire balls. Her body catapulted across the room and she landed on the floor. The thud of her head hitting the floor boards made Samantha cringe with pain. Instinctively, she scrambled over to help the girl. When she got closer, she felt something sting the side of her face, only to realise she had been slapped by Lara who was now crawling up the side of the wall like a beetle. Samantha’s eyes widened. Her mouth remained open as her head followed Lara’s body scatter along the walls defying gravity. Samantha’s feet felt heavy and as she tried to move towards the door, Lara fell to the ground; her knees hitting the floor sounded like cricket balls being smashed by a bat. Samantha pulled her head down to chest and scrunched her eyes. She needed to get out of the room and refocus herself.
By the time Father Emelio arrived, Riley had already taken Tim and Maree to a nearby motel. There was nothing more they could do for their daughter and staying would only provoke the demon.
“Tell me about the girl,” Father Emelio said, gathering his Bible, Rosary Beads and Holy Water. Samantha wiped her brow. She wasn’t sure where to begin. When she and Riley had first met Lara, the symptoms she showed were superficial. She would curse at her parents, spit on strangers and she even began self- harming. But as the entity began to grow inside of her, it also began to manifest itself through Lara. Holy objects around the home caused her to contort her body so that her back would arch and her head would rest on the floor. Her neck would bulge out as though there was a ball stuck in it. The young girl’s symptoms reminded her very much of the Tobias Milligan case Father Emelio spoke about. His small head beating against the wooden bed bar was indelible in her mind. And just like Tobais Milligan, Lara had constant lumps between her flesh and her skin which swelled when she would convulse.
“What are the signs?”
“She is showing unexplained bouts of strength, she is speaking in tongues and she curses at anything Holy. She is beginning to show disfigurement. Her mother believes she caught it from something.”
“Caught it? You can’t catch the devil. Are the family into anything that could be classified as occult?”
Samantha fiddled with the cross around her neck. “I don’t think so.”
“Well, are they religious?”
Samantha kept her fingers on her cross. “I guess so.”
She directed the Priest up the stairs; her was heart working overtime with every step she took. She felt the Priest’s hand on her shoulder just before they reached the top of the stairs.
“Remember, the demon is a liar. Don’t listen to it. Don’t engage in conversation with it. It will mix lies with the truth to confuse you.”
Samantha led the way and as soon as they reached the door, it continuously flew open and slammed shut until Father Emelio raised the glass bottle he had and covered the door with drops of Holy Water. A shriek came from within the darkness. Samantha stayed behind the safety of Father Emelio as they slowly entered the room.
“We meet again, Father. You should have left the whore outside. We can be much better acquainted without her.”
Samantha watched as the Priest made the sign of the cross and kissed the Bible and then put it on the bed stand. She watched Lara’s red eyes illuminate and her body begin to contort. She flipped off the bed and was crouching over in the opposite corner of the room. Father Emelio threw gulps of Holy Water onto Lara who began screaming in agony. He moved closer to her and placed his hand on Lara’s forehead. Rosary Beads draped her forehead and it was as though the Holy beads were forcing her to stay twisted in the corner. “I command you, unclean spirit to leave this servant of God. I command you to leave by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Samantha’s feet were again heavy as she watched the priest signing himself and Lara on the brow, lips and chest. Lara let out an agonising roar and managed to pick herself up. She punched Father Emelio’s nose, startling him and causing him to drop his Holy Water. It smashed on the floor as he fell back and hit his head. Samantha stood still, confusion set in and she couldn’t move. Lara began scratching the walls with such force her nails began to flick off. “You killed your daughter, you whore. I wonder what your husband thinks!”
Samantha closed her eyes and tried to ignore the words coming out of Lara’s mouth. The stillbirth three years ago- they lost their baby girl. Samantha wiped the saltiness away from her eyes. She couldn’t listen. The Priest needed her. She finally reached Father Emelio and cradled his head. “Father, are you hurt?”
“D...Don’t listen to it Sam. Go, get out of here.”
Samantha looked away for a second. Lara was sitting on her bed, giggling and interlocking her fingers. Her red eyes consumed her entire face and her plump figure had wasted away to reveal bones and sagging skin. She felt Father Emelio push her arm away. She kissed his forehead and squeezed his hand. “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” she whispered into his ear. She quickly left the room and darted down the stairs. When she reached the lounge, Riley was already waiting there. She fell into the safety of his arms and sobbed as he held her close. She stayed buried in his chest. She had met Riley while she was studying mysticism at University. She was never one to believe in fate, but when he sat himself next to her in the lecture theatre, calmness enveloped her and from the corner of her eye, she could see a light around him. They had smiled at one another as they took their note books out. Riley’s kiss on her forehead brought her back to reality.
“We need to get back to Father,” she said pulling her husband in the opposite direction. She felt him tug her back.
“No, you’re too weak. I’ll go.” She felt his hand slip through hers as he ran up the stairs. She followed him, holding onto the rail as she climbed the stairs. When she reached the top, there was an odd stillness and the closer she got to the door, the quieter it became. “Riley? Riley?” she held her breath each time she said his name, hoping for an answer. As she walked into Lara’s room, she cupped her mouth. A revolting stench had swamped the room. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness and now a cool breeze enveloped parts of the room. She looked up and noticed the window was smashed. Shards of glass lay scattered the floor. Her eyes searched for where she’d left Father Emelio. His body wasn’t there and neither was Lara. She called out for Riley again and jolted when she felt hands on the back of her shoulders. “Sam, come on. I’ve got Father in another room.”
Father Emelio lay on the bed with his eyes closed. His breathing was shallow.
“She’s gone. She’s gone Sam. What are we going to do?” Riley bit his bottom lip.
Samantha closed her eyes. Before she could explain her theory, a loud crash was heard coming from the girl’s room followed by a raspy echo. “Emelio... EEEEEEMMMMMEEEELLLLLIIIIOOOO come back here and fight me you son of a bitch.”
The priest opened his eyes and coughed. He tried to sit up, but Riley forced him down. “Father, you can’t get up. You’re too weak.”
“B…but the ex…exorcism. It...has... to be...done.”
Samantha sat beside the priest. “Father, let me do it. I can do it.”
Father Emelio didn’t answer, instead he shook his head relentlessly.
Riley grabbed her arm and pulled her close. “I won’t let you do this Sam.”
“If I don’t do this, then the girl will die.” She pushed her husband away, grabbed father’s purple sash which had fallen on the floor and placed it around her neck. “Pray for me Father,” she said as she walked out of the room. She stayed in the corridor for a few moments and gathered her thoughts. She had witnessed Father perform four exorcisms in all the times she’d known him. All she had to do was recite the passages and fight the entity.
She felt Riley’s hand slip into hers. He pulled her in and held her close to his chest. “I’ll be with you, every step of the way,” he whispered. She held onto his hand as they made their way into Lara’s room.
The odour was stronger than ever. The breeze from the broken window made the curtains flutter. As Samantha and Riley walked deeper into the room, dolls and picture frames came flying off the wall, cupboards opened and closed on their own and Lara sat upright on her bed, laughing and rolling around. “It’s funny, isn’t it? That you two are here to try and save her? She’s mine now. She’s in here with Beelzebub, Legion and Judas”
Samantha took a deep exhalation and held out the Bible. “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to leave this servant of God.”
Riley splashed Holy Water onto Lara’s bare legs. She screamed and hissed. As Riley moved closer, he kept throwing more water onto her skin. The girl’s skin reacted severely, blistering upon impact. Samantha moved closer, chanting more versus from the Bible.
“You killed your daughter don’t you know...hinc etiam in ipsa nobias.”
Samantha stumbled and fell to the ground. Riley dashed to her side.
“I can’t do this. Riley...”
“Don’t listen to it. It’s lying.”
“Porcelli, mea sunt... porcelli mea sunt.”
Samantha tried to hear what Lara was saying. “Is that Latin?”
Riley nodded. “We need to hurry.” He helped her up and they held each other for a few seconds. Samantha knew love and the power of the goodness in God would be the only thing to help Lara. In a flurry, Lara bellowed and tried to get off the bed but Riley’s crucifix acted as a shield. Samantha held out the bible and Rosary Beads. Together they moved closer to Lara, repeating bible passages, throwing Holy Water, placing the sash on her. They repeated this for what seemed like hours.
By now, the sunlight had begun seeping through the window. Samantha wiped the sweat which was dripping down her brow. She looked over at Riley who was slumped on the floor. Her eyes were hazy and she could make out Lara on the bed. The girl was lying still and not moving. Samantha slowly moved closer to the bed and Lara didn’t react.
“Is it over?” Riley called out.
Samantha placed her hand on Lara’s chest. It was warm and the wounds around her legs were healing themselves. Samantha rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. Her body began to calm itself down and lightness filled the air around her. Lara coughed and tried to sit up. Her face, although pale, resembled a twelve year old girl. Her skin regained its plumpness. “Who are you?”
Samantha smiled at the angelic tone of the child’s voice. “I’m Samantha and he is Riley.”
“Am I better now?”
Samantha nodded and sat on the edge of the bed. She cradled Lara in her arms and kissed her forehead. “More than ever.”
After Riley and Samantha had taken Lara back to her parents and sent Father Emelio to the hospital in an ambulance, they were relieved to be sleeping in their own bed.
Samantha sat on the edge of the bed, tousling her wet hair with her finger tips. She noticed her husband standing in the doorway of their bedroom. He wasn’t looking at Samantha and she turned her head to see what had caught his attention. There was nothing there and when she turned back to say something, Riley was gone. She swallowed the lump that had crept up her oesophagus and frantically brushed her hair behind her ears. She got up off the bed and walked into her bathroom. She turned the basin tap on and splashed her face with cool water. She took a towel from the shower rail and wiped her face. As she looked at herself in the bathroom mirror, she flinched at the sight of Riley staring at her through the reflection of the mirror. She dropped her hand towel and it hit the ceramic cup holding the toothbrushes in it, toppling it to the floor. It bounced along the tiles and came to rest in the corner of the bathroom.
Riley didn’t respond, instead he tilted his neck to the left, looked up the ceiling and then sharply turned his head back to Samantha. She momentarily closed her eyes and when she opened them, her husband was gone. She heard a door slam shut and the sound of creaking walls echoed through the house. Her husband was under the spell of the demon who had infested itself into Lara. Father Emelio had warned Samantha that demons would often switch bodies with those in their presence, especially during exorcisms. Tears streamed down her face as the pressure of the situation magnified itself when she saw the crucifix in the hallway facing downwards. She trembled as she turned it round and kissed the statue’s cold feet. In a flurry, the lights dimmed, then one by one, the globes smashed. She scurried to where she kept an emergency torch and lit it as the last globe combusted. The demon was at its most powerful as it had already infested Lara. Now it had latched itself onto Riley. It had been feeding off Lara for months and now, it only needed a short amount of time inside Riley before it became a superior being. Samantha needed to find Riley and she needed to save his soul. She walked through her house and into the lounge and found Riley standing beside the couch. She walked on tip toes, guided by the light of the torch. Riley was catatonic; his eyes like two black holes, far from the green she had fallen in love with. “Riley?” she whispered as she moved closer to him. “Riley, it’s me, Sam.” She stood still, occasionally shining the light onto his face. He wasn’t fazed by the brightness or by Samantha’s presence. She moved an inch closer, sweat beginning to fall down her brow. She kept moving until she could place her hand across her husband’s cold face. His skin felt like rubber and as she ran her fingers across his forehead, she repeatedly whispered the names of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Riley didn’t move; his eyes remained fixed on something in the distance. Samantha knew her husband didn’t have much time before the demon completely took over his soul. She took her necklace off and held the crucifix against his head. Riley didn’t move as the chain draped around his forehead. She stared into her husband’s eyes and felt his body tremble the longer she kept the crucifix against his head. “Leave this servant of God in the name of all things good,” she said. She held Riley close to her and prayed for God to save him.
When Samantha opened her eyes a few moments later, Riley was lying beside her. His eyes were closed and his face was regaining some of its colour. She gently placed her hand on his face. “Riley?” Her husband looked up and wrapped his arms around her. They held each other tightly. “We won,” Riley said, tears welled in his eyes.
Samantha didn’t answer, instead held him close. Their love and God had saved them.