The Spoken Word
November, 2002 The girl crouched at the door. It stood slightly ajar, with just enough space to see through to the room on the other side. She tried to stay as still and silent as possible. If the floor were to creak or she were to lose her balance and make any noise – she shuddered, thinking of the potential consequences. It was dark, and something in the pit of her stomach kept trying to get her to flee, but she stayed put. Something was happening in that room – something that the Pastor and the archdeacons, including her father, should NOT have been taking part in. She’d followed him after pretending to turn in for the night. He’d barely waited five minutes before slipping out the backdoor of their dilapidated ranch. They’d never been particularly close, and it seemed obvious that he wished she’d been a boy. Girls were harder to protect from temptation, he’d always said. Still, it had been just the two of them for the past five years, since her mother had passed suddenly one night. They’d said it was a heart attack, but her mom had been one of the healthiest people she knew. She knew better than to ask too many questions, however. Her dad was strict, but not to the point of being abusive. He wasn’t forthcoming with physical affection, but she knew he loved her in his own way. They were all each other had. That was why she had to find out what he was up to. He was into something bad with Pastor Jeremy and there had been whisperings throughout the congregation for weeks. The girl watched as her dad, the Pastor, and the others moved aside the old, musty rug that had covered the floor of the church for as long as she could remember. She gasped, clamping a hand over her mouth to muffle the sound, when she saw what it had been covering. It was a pentagram drawn in a sickly red chalk. The five men each took one point to stand on. Pastor Jeremy stood at the top: the leader. Beside him was a small altar. It held a small silver bowl, a red candle, a dagger, and a little black book. Call her crazy, but something told her it definitely wasn’t the Bible. Pastor Jeremy lit the candle and picked up the book. He started chanting in something that sounded like Latin. Everyone else was standing stock still, heads bowed, hands pressed together as if in prayer. The chanting continued for several minutes. Finally, Pastor Jeremy picked up the dagger from the table. He handed it wordlessly to the man on his right – her father. Starting to feel slightly sick, she watched as he made a diagonal slice across his palm. Then, he moved to the silver bowl on the altar and let his blood drip down inside. Each man followed his lead. Pastor Jeremy added his last, and moved to set the bowl in the middle of the pentagram. Then, he returned to his place. He looked around at each of the archdeacons, locking eyes in some kind of wordless command. Then, he raised his hands, palms facing toward the ceiling, and bellowed. “Nephilim! You who were washed off the earth by our humble God. You who succumbed to the temptations of His daughters and fell from grace, I call upon thee. Cast out of paradise for your misdeeds, rise up from the depths of Tartarus and join me now. Reclaim your destiny, and help me weed out the sinners and wicked among this flock!” Several tense moments passed in silence. Nothing seemed to be happening. Her father and the other archdeacons kept their eyes trained on the bowl, but periodically exchanged uncertain glances with each other. Her father started to speak. “Sir?” Pastor Jeremy shushed him harshly. She could see in her head the way her father’s jaw was probably hardening, the vein throbbing in his neck. He was not accustomed to being silenced. The ground started to shake. The girl almost fell backward, but managed to catch herself on the door frame. Her elbow hit the wall with a thump, and she was terrified they might have heard, but the sound was lost as a dreadful roar filled the air. She watched as a black, smoky mass emanated from the center of the pentagram, rising up until it was eye-level with Pastor Jeremy. The entity had no defined shape, but still had the ability to speak in a terrible, rasping, hissing voice that made the hair stand up along the back of her neck. “Fool!” it raged. “You are not our Master. We had the blood of angels in our veins. You are but insignificant wasps. You shall serve us.” Then the smoky, black mass swirled into a mini tornado and forced its way into the Pastor’s mouth. Her father and the other three men around the pentagram stood paralyzed. She wasn’t sure if it was the black entity or fear that kept them from springing into action to banish the demon. (At least, she assumed it had to be some kind of demon.) What the Pastor was doing summoning demons inside their sacred church, however, she wasn’t sure she wanted to know. Before the other men could snap themselves to attention, the demon now possessing the Pastor commanded, “Come!” And suddenly more dark shapes were shooting up from the center of the pentagram. She heard the first demon laughing darkly as he made a final request. “For millennia we have roamed the shadow realm of the Earth without the power of a physical body. Now, go forth, and feast on those who damned us!” All of the dark shapes shot away out the window, through the wall, out of the ceiling. They were going to search for vessels to take control of. They were hunting for human victims. All, but the leader and the entities possessing her father and the other three men, exited the building. The young woman knew she had to get out, now. She’d only taken one small step backward when she heard it speak again. “Silly girl!” it cackled. “You thought I wouldn’t be able to sense you? Smell your fear? Or the blood that flows through your veins?” It stalked closer and closer with each new word. Then it was snatching her by the wrist, yanking her up off the floor and up against his new human body. She shuddered, seeing the face of the Pastor leer at her, his now completely black eyes traveling up and down her legs, her hips, her breasts. A meaty, sweaty finger trailed her jaw. She could hardly breathe. She closed her eyes, and then it lunged.
Rayne opened her eyes to sunlight slipping through the cracks in her blinds. She rolled over, checking the alarm clock on her nightstand. It was only a little after 9:00am, early for her standards in the summer, but she could hear her mom roaming around in the kitchen downstairs, banging cabinet doors and clattering plates around. Yawning, she peeled back the blankets and started heading down the stairs. The tv was blaring. It was always up loud – quiet was not something that was attained easily in their house. Her mom was sprawled on the couch as she walked into the living room. Rayne stopped to pour herself a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal, and then joined her. Her mom smiled and slipped an arm around her shoulders as she sat. Rayne leaned into her, popping pieces of cereal into her mouth. Rayne and her mom were each other’s’ best friends. It had only been the two of them Rayne’s entire life. When Rayne was born, her mom had only been 18, one year older than she was now – or would be tomorrow, at least. She didn’t know her dad. Actually, she didn’t even know who he was. She’d asked every so often when she was younger, during elementary school projects when they’d been required to fill out family trees or research family history. She’d always felt so – what was the word? Self-conscious, she supposed, since those were the only assignments she’d never been able to complete like her classmates. She knew nothing about her family aside from her mom. She had no siblings. No cousins, aunts or uncles. She’d never taken holiday trips to a grandparent’s house to make cookies or decorate a Christmas tree. Her world had only ever included her mom, and a few close friends over the years from school. When she tried asking about her family, her mom always said that it wasn’t worth getting into. Her father wasn’t around, and it sounded like he may not have even been a good guy. And besides, her mother would say, they would always have each other, and they were safe in their small-town life in Walworth, so why rock the boat when the waters were calm. “I’m going to go hop in the shower,” Rayne said as she set her empty bowl on the table next to the couch. Her mom patted her knee. “Okay, I’m ready to leave when you are,” she smiled. About a half hour later, they were pulling out of the driveway in her mom’s Escape on a Wegmans run. Rayne was planning on having a couple of friends over tomorrow night for her birthday, and their fridge and pantry were in desperate need of restocking. As they turned onto Route 441, Rayne couldn’t help noticing the way that her mom kept glancing at her. She looked sad, almost worried, and she couldn’t think what the reason could possibly be. “What’s the matter?” she wondered. Her mom blinked, like she was coming out of a trance. Not exactly a comforting thought considering she was currently powering a large vehicle. “Sorry, I guess I’ve just been thinking about how fast you’ve grown up.” Rayne shrugged, turning away to look out the window. “Doesn’t feel all that fast to me,” she muttered. They rolled to a stop at a red light toward the bottom of the hill. “Well, that’s good,” her mom gushed. “You’re in the prime of your life. I know they say time flies when you’re having fun, but I don’t want you to feel like time is flying by so fast that it’s slipping through your fingers.” Rayne narrowed her eyes. “What’s with the uber-sentimentality today?” she asked. Her mom didn’t answer, just smiled and turned back to the road ahead. Her words echoed in Rayne’s mind. She only had one year left of high school, and then she’d be off to college somewhere. It was weird to imagine calling anywhere else home. As they drove into the parking lot of the store, she did her best to shake the thought from her mind. It was the middle of the week, but it was still packed. “Uh-oh,” her mom uttered. Looking up, Rayne watched as big, fat rain drops started to splatter on the windshield. The clouds to the West were black with an oncoming storm. A jagged string of lightning snaked across the sky, and she swore she could feel the charge it left behind in the air. We ran across the parking lot to the entrance. The crazy change in the weather made a rock form in Rayne’s stomach. When they’d left their house fifteen minutes ago, the sun had been shining and the air was dry with the humidity of early August. Now, the atmosphere was so thick she could almost taste it. It was like the storm was meant to be an omen for something, sent by some higher authority of power. “Where should we go first?” her mom asked. “Cake? Duh!” They laughed. “Come on, then, sugar freak.” They traipsed over to the bakery section. There were cookies and fancy breads; muffins and pastries; donuts and bagels. Rayne’s mouth watered just looking at all of it. She picked out a large, round chocolate cake, and it smelled so good she wanted to dive into it right there. Everything seemed normal. They made their way around the store, ending up in the snack and bulk aisle. She was trying to decide between a giant bag of popcorn and jelly beans when she started to get that paranoid, prickly feeling that someone was watching her. She tried to covertly look around, but she didn’t see anyone. Rayne sighed, and turned around to go find her mom. She didn’t take more than two steps before smacking straight into another person. “I’m sorry!” she blurted, looking up. The man she bumped into looked to be around her mother’s age, perhaps a little older. He had salt-and-pepper colored hair; hard, almost black eyes and a goatee covering a sharp chin. He smiled and said, “No problem sweetheart, my fault.” The man brushed Rayne’s arm as he walked by, staying closer to her body than was necessary. She shivered uncomfortably, and watched him as he walked away. She didn’t hear her mom walk up behind her. “Rayne?” She jumped, almost knocking her over. “God! Don’t sneak up on me like that!” Rayne yelled. Her voice came out a little harsher than she intended, and her mom’s gaze narrowed. “Sorry, I thought you heard me. I was calling your name. Are you okay? You look spooked.” “Yeah, I’m fine,” Rayne grumbled. “Some weird guy just bumped into me, is all.” “Weird guy?” Rayne pointed to the man, who was still lingering at the end of the aisle. She waited for her mom to make some snarky anecdote about creepy middle-aged men, but instead, she paled. In fact, her mother looked terrified for a split second before she took control of her expression again and tried to plaster a smile on her face. “Mom?” “It’s nothing,” she replied. “Let’s go, I think we’ve done good here.” Rayne hesitated for a moment as her mom started walking the opposite way toward the registers. She looked back to where the man had been, but he was gone now. Convincing herself that she was just being silly, she sighed and walked away. All the way home Rayne could tell that her mother was distracted. Her brows were furrowed, and she didn’t speak except to mutter curses when they hit potholes, which was way out of character for her. When they pulled into the garage, she helped Rayne take the groceries inside and then headed back toward the door. “Where are you going, Mom?” “I forgot I’m out of stamps,” she answered. There was something in her voice that made Rayne pause. “Since when do you need stamps? We don’t send letters to anyone.” “Well, I still have to send out bills, don’t I?” Before Rayne could utter another word, she was gone, the door closing hard behind her. Joy Goodman climbed back into her car and mechanically turned the key. The ignition roared to life. She caught a glimpse of her reflection in the rearview mirror. No wonder Rayne hadn’t seemed to buy her stamp excuse, she was pale, her eyes were wide and shifty. Sweat was gathering on her upper lip. Ripping her eyes from her own image, she backed out of the garage, out of the driveway. She didn’t know how they’d found her, but she had to protect Rayne. She had to go ask for help from the one person she swore she’d never see again. Joy was halfway to her destination when she noticed the tail on her. A seemingly unassuming black sedan, but she wasn’t an idiot. It was them. She couldn’t lead them to the safe house. It would be the only place left where she could send Rayne. With frustrated tears filming her vision, she jabbed at the call button on her steering wheel to activate the Bluetooth and called her daughter.