I wrote this for a 24 hour contest. They gave a couple of story ‘seeds’ and this is the story I submitted. Didn’t win anything other than the chance to give the $5 they could then give to someone else. Oh well. I liked the story, hope you do too.
An Unexpected Message
By: Wayne Hills
A message, they’ve got some nerve sending her to deliver it. Trying to bring me back, to suck me into the world I’d left seven years ago. I have the perfect cover in this little town. They love me here in my new life; I forgive their transgressions to God’s law, even as I pay the penance for my own.
Every Sunday morning, they come and listen to my sermons, who better to lecture on sin than one of God’s greatest sinners. The people are happy with my parables, the Monseigneur’s ecstatic with the extra donations, and I’m at peace with my life, a bloody perfect plan. Until today, when she boldly walked up in the town market of all places. No thought to be discrete, to maybe just send a note.
Out of the blue, she comes up and touches my sleeve as I’m greeting the townsfolk. As usual I was feigning disinterest in the women shyly stealing glances and sharing knowing nods amongst themselves as I passed by; I thought it was just another lonely housewife looking for some ‘private’ counseling. I looked down, and at first didn’t recognize her, but her unique features pulled the smile from my face.
“What are you doing here? They paid you off; you were never to speak to me again”
The anger in my tone was covered by the crowd’s chatter as they bargained with the hawkers selling goods in their crowded stalls.
Her long lashes cast a thin shadow onto her heavily scarred cheek, reminding me of the pain I caused her, and why I had to leave Her Majesty’s service.
“I know, but they sent me. We have to talk.”
She leaned close and whispered, “You see, I’m bringing a message, and you won’t listen to anyone else. More importantly, they’re pretty sure you won’t kill me. I wasn’t so positive on that part, that’s why I came to you in the open.”
I lifted my head and searched the crowd. We were seen together, so in that point she was correct. Even if the messenger had been some random lackey, I would’ve had a hard time making them disappear without questions.
“Yes my child, I’ll hear your confession, but it must be in the church to be official.”
As I led her by the hand from the town center, I hoped my voice was loud enough for the few curious faces nearby to hear and be satisfied.
We sit in separate booths, only the thin gold screen of the confessional separates us. I grill her, trying to get to the truth.
“What do they want? Why send you? And don’t give me bullocks about me not listening to anyone else.”
“They need you to come back; you’re the only cleric the M17 service has.”
“Had,” I corrected her. “I don’t work for them anymore, not after…” I trailed off. She knows why I left the SIS version of the American X-files division. After all, it was her fault.
“That’s why they sent me. It was my deception which caused your mistake. I’m sorry, and not just because I’ll pay the price of this hideous disfigurement for the rest of my life. I need your forgiveness, not for me, I deserve what I got. I need you to forgive yourself. It wasn’t your fault.”
“What does it matter? I’m happy here; the church and Crown are satisfied with my banishment to this tiny hamlet. What could be so important?”
“The demon is back, the one that you summoned when you performed that unnecessary exorcism. He’s got one of the princes. Your replacement tried to perform the ceremony, and now he’s dead.”
I fall silent. She’s right, it has to be me. I called that devil from the depths of hell; I’m the only one that can send it back.
She was just a lonely teenager trying to get attention from parents that ignored her. Because she happened to be the daughter of the Prime Minister, they called in the M17 to take care of the matter in secret.
Among my other duties in service with the SIS, a vicar is good cover for a spy or a hit-man, I worked a dozen exorcisms. I didn’t know she had access to her father’s private files on the work I’d done in the field of demon expulsion. She studied well and passed, or failed, all the tests for any other explanation for her condition. I had no way of knowing performing the ritual on an unpossessed person would actually produce an evil spirit.
When I tried to banish it back to hell, the demon made the votive candles explode into a napalm fire permanently maiming her. It was an unforeseeable accident.
I should have known about her, I had my doubts, but that’s part of the deal of being a good Catholic, isn’t it? But then, so is faith.
“I’ll come back to eliminate the demon with you. But then I’m done, done with you and the Queen’s, bloody, SIS forever.”
I thought it would be simple, easy to walk away from them the first time. I have to believe this will be the last time I’m needed.
I must have faith.