Valerie wiped the sweat off of her forehead with a handkerchief. The 13 year old boy who had been possessed with a demon had clawed the armrests of the wooden office chair so bad that you could see the deep scratch marks on the chair and deep red cuts on his arms from the rope holding him stationary. Right now though, he looked exhausted as he sat huffing and puffing with his eyes closed and his head tilted back. “Donavon,” whispered the boy’s mother, her bright blue eyes wide with worry, “Are you there boy?” She moved closer and he groaned before opening his eyes. “Is it…gone?” he asked as he looked at Valerie with concern.
Val nodded once. The mother of the boy shot up and grabbed her in her arms and started crying on Valerie’s shoulder. “Thank you! Thank you!” she cried.
Valerie assured the boy and his mother that the exorcism was not a guarantee that the demon wouldn’t come back, they nodded and acknowledged this before Val got on her blue Vespa scooter and drove off to her small hotel room in the heart of Italy.
She put the kettle on and made herself a cup of coffee before sitting at her desk with the writing lamp fixed upon her paperwork. She looked over at the digital clock that said it was 1pm, despite the blackness of the sunless day. It wasn’t the first black day they had experienced in Italy either. It had easily been a week and a half that the sun had not come up. The news proclaimed it was some form of global warming, but those who knew something of it had said nothing.
Valerie Ackerman was one of them. She was a born and bred British exorcist who had moved to Italy when she had heard about the coming darkness. She was a student of The Magical Arts College in London and had studied Exorcism for 3 years. One of her assignments involved moving to a city where demons were attacking most and monitor their behaviour and it was just her –if you can say it like that – luck that Italy was having one of the grossest amounts of demon-possession they had had in over 200 years.
Val’s cellphone rang. “Hello?”
“Val, Jonathon here. How did the exorcism go?” Jonathon Small was Valerie’s best friend. He was studying Herbology at the same school and decided it would be a great opportunity to explore Italy, so he accompanied her on her trip. “I can’t be sure,” she said, staring at the paperwork she was supposed to report her last exorcism on. It stood blank except for the questions that were pre-printed that she needed to answer. “The boy seemed fine, the mother was ecstatic, but the demon made it sound like the boy had been possessed by a demon before it got there. It kept telling me ‘Salavor’ had been right and that ‘Salavor’ saw that this boy was special. The mother told me symptoms only started occurring about 3 months ago and he hadn’t been possessed before.”
“You don’t think the demon was just talking about itself in the third person?”
“Maybe,” she said, “It never mentioned its name.”
“Did you look at the home surroundings?” he asked.
“Yes. It’s an old hotel actually.”
There was a long silence as Jonathon thought. “Any strange plants?” Valerie rolled her eyes. “Are you actually suggesting that plant-demons are toying with the boy?”
“Yes.” he said simply. “There are demons called Immerti who possess plants. They make turns in possessing a person; it’s almost like a hobby for them. I’m surprised you didn’t know this Miss Exorcism.” Jonathon mocked.
She thought for a second and she had to admit to herself that it had been stupid of her not to think of it. Then a terrible thought occurred to her, Immerti demons multiplied like cockroaches and fed off of the young, leaving behind a dark cloud over the house of the children whenever they were done.
“I think we know what’s causing the darkness then.” said Jonathon.
* * * * *
That evening Jonathon and Valerie decided to go out for a drink with Marian Ranger, who was also studying exorcism with Val. It hadn’t been a great idea on Jonathon’s part as it was pouring quite heavily with rain. They met up in a secluded jazz café and Valerie had taken her notes with her. They found a quiet spot in the corner and Marian went over Val’s notes about the boy and the two other exorcism cases she had worked on.
“All these kids are under 18.” she said.
Valerie nodded. “All three were blonde boys too. Do you think there’s a connection?”
Marian frowned and looked at the notes she had scribbled. “I never noticed before, but I’ve also only exercised blonde teens between the ages of 13 and 18. All boys.”
“Immerti?” Jonathon asked, taking a sip from his rum and raisin.
“Sounds about right,” said Marian, “but why would they only attack boys?”
“Who knows?” Jonathon said, “Does anyone know why they only attack teens?”
“Actually yes,” said Val, “They catch on with teenage depression and make teens hallucinate and hear voices.”
“Yes, they’re normally comforting. They tell the teen what they want to hear and convince them not to tell anyone about the voice until it’s too late. Whereas kids unwillingly tell people about an imaginary friend and adults will confide in somebody like a doctor or a therapist.”
“Which takes us back to the question,” said Marian, before ordering a pizza to share and a long-island ice tea. “Why only blonde teenage boys?”
* * * * *
After a few days of research and two more exorcisms involving blonde teenage boys under her belt, Valerie received a phone call from Jonathon. “No forgetting my birthday now.” he said. Valerie felt her face go warm with embarrassment; she’d totally forgotten the date was the 17th of November, Jonathon’s 22nd birthday. “How are we celebrating?” she asked. “My place tonight, a white wine party.”
Valerie laughed at the idea of her, Jonathon and Marian dressing up for a white wine party at Jonathon’s hotel room. She imagined how silly it would look when they add the drunken photos on Facebook with the caption; “Apparently 3’s a party”. Nonetheless, she dressed in a beige halter neck dress, black waistcoat, black pumps and she tied her long brown hair back and knocked on Jonathon’s hotel room door, which was about 5 doors down from hers.
To her surprise Jonathon answered the door in a red bathrobe that would put Hugh Hefner’s to shame. She laughed, “You look ridiculous Jonathon!”
“I think you look amazing.”
Valerie had to do a double take. Her best friend was looking at her like she was the most incredible creature he’d ever laid his eyes on, the music exiting his room sounded like R&B and from what she could see Marian wasn’t there.
“Jonathon, what’s going on?” she asked, her voice uneasy. “What do you mean?” he asked.
Valerie shook her head and just walked in. A table was set up with a red tablecloth and red roses in the centre and roast chicken was served on two plates.
”Yummy!” she said in an exaggerated tone to lighten the mood, but it didn’t work. Valerie quickly realised that she was the only awkward one.
“Um,” she said and sat down, taking her notes out of her handbag. “I realised something abut the exorcisms.”
Jonathon wasn’t paying attention and walked to the kitchen. He came back holding a bottle of Merlot in his hands.
“The teens, they all had German parents. Most of their grandfathers were Nazi’s. I take it it’s like the demon’s way of being ‘righteous’.” she said and made hyphens in the air, “Their parents ran away from the grandparents years ago and immigrated here. Do you think there’s a connection?”
Jonathon finished pouring their glasses and looked at Valerie. “Val, why must you be so nosy?” he asked and set the bottle down. Valerie frowned. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked.
Suddenly Jonathon’s eyes became crimson, his glare focussed on Val and she dropped her notes. “This is all an illusion,” said a deep, dark voice that escaped Jonathon’s lips. “Jonathon’s not possessed. You are.”
Suddenly the room went black. Valerie felt the blood drain from her body and cold sweat dripped down her arms as she sat in a wooden armchair, tied with ropes. She shook and shuddered uncontrollably and next thing she knew she was facing Marian who was holding a bible in her hands, reading a verse from it she knew well.
“…for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. As Jesus went, the people pressed around him…”
It was Luke 8:7 – the one she knew was used for exorcism.
Then it all went white. Valerie knew she wasn’t going to be a survivor and she knew it wasn’t just teenage boys the demon was attacking. It was teenagers with a liking for the supernatural, with German descendants, and 18 year old Valerie Ackerman was no exception.