by James L. Secor
The writing was difficult to decipher and I leaned over the old, yellowing, brown- edged paper, refocusing the lamp so that I could see better the smudgy handwriting. I turned off the room light so I’d not be distracted. I pulled the curtains so I’d not be noticed, disturbed in my studies. My eyes ached. I felt the blood pulsing through my temples. And I tried hard not to breathe for fear of destroying the amazing find before me–an ancient letter. A testament. Hurriedly scrawled and in a faltering hand: was the writer old? By the writing, the tale told was not of a primordial time, despite the condition of the paper, but of the recent past. Why, I asked myself, was it so important for this person to write down this story? Who would read it, for that matter, stuffed as it had been in a hole in the chimney of an old, historic house my friend had bought.
I leaned back and exhaled to one side. I did not even want to disturb the dust, believing that it, too, held the secret–some secret as to the writer and the writing. . . and the events. And why was this letter so important it should be hidden?
I looked at my hooded windows. Yes. What was out there? Out there that I could not see? I should be used to this hovering anxiety but I was not. Not after all these years. Too sensitive, I’m told–and laughed at for this utterly disgusting human failing. Perhaps. Perhaps so. I’d long since given up mixing with people, co-mingling, commiserating at one or the other approved public house. I could never escape looking for the surround-sound cameras and listening devices. . .and staring at them. No one else bothered with them. Just part of the scenery. I imagine I’m very well-known indeed to the people on the other side, especially as I’ve taken to not frequenting these places any more. To them, this will mean I have something to hide. But, in fact, don’t we all? Don’t we have a private life?
I rose hastily and began walking around the room, upset at myself for getting upset at. . .myself. And at letting the outside world infringe on the wonder of a past life that lay upon my table. Letting off steam was good. And the passing of my shadow behind the curtained window was good as well.
I took a deep breath and sat down at the table again.
They only come at night, believing that is when demons can be best appreciated without the finders being themselves found. They appear out of the blackness like ghost riders, glowing in their circle of pale light, a torch-like flame held high above them. Another, out front, holds some kind of cross, a divining rod, similar to what we used to use to find water. Whether it worked or not no one really knew but it was fun for us kids. And it was a long-lasting belief, for I remember my grandmother telling me of its use and how our distant relatives managed to live because they’d found water with such a thing. A divining rod.
I leaned back. There was a clue as to the time this was written: divining rods. They supposedly found water. What did they look like? I carefully made a note to look this up at the library. I am sometimes a little forgetful.
Slowly, silently they make their way down the street, the torch of light moving from side to side, hesitating occasionally, but always moving, moving. And suddenly the rod jerks wildly, out of control and draws it’s user off to one side and toward a particular house. He stands there as the rod vibrates and plunges up and down. The torch-bearer then steps up before the trembling rod, between it and the house–for, more often than not, it is a house– and raises his light on high and intones in a strange, secret language. . . something. And then he barks over his shoulder and the followers, clothed in robes, grey robes, all kneel and begin praying. They pray a long time. They pray silently. They occasionally respond to some outcry or other from their torch-bearer. Eventually, they erupt in wild hysteria, weaving and bobbing and throwing themselves on the ground. And then they clamber back to their feet and proceed further down the street. But the house is marked. Tomorrow, a different group will descend upon the house and take away its inhabitants who scream and plead. But to no avail. they are never seen again–unless the news of another nest of witches and warlocks, demon- worshipers, is an indication of their being. And then not being.
I had heard of these people before and laughed them off as fringe lunatics. They were then full of bluster and found only in isolated clusters in out-of-the-way little towns. Even when they began to make themselves known in larger towns, they remained localized. No one paid them much mind. We should have. It was so unfortunate for us that we did not notice their growth, like kudzu. And now we’re all caught. And afraid. So afraid no one will even talk about it. We’d be heard if we did. There is no place where there is privacy any more. The streets are indeed public! The light poles house cameras and listening devices. The picture-takers downtown–a tourist destination, though lord knows why, there’s nothing there but an old, crumbling wall with markings eons ago scratched on it and an old bronze statue of the last great hero of a past age, Titus Aguevivre– These picture-takers are but watchers in disguise. A Suspended sense of the real engages travelers and they flock to these people wanting their photographs taken opposite this or that part of the wall, in front of Aguevivre. To prove they were there. And then the police know who they are, where they live–everything. For they mail the photos to the naïfs. Selective blindness. People so obsessed with finding joy and
–there! I heard it just now. That horrid ringing in my ear. A thin high pitch that hurts. I don’t know where it comes from and I can’t ascertain when, if there’s a particular time or occurrence that brings it to me. But I know it is not natural. This time it is in the left ear and I clutch at it, squinching my eyes shut against the intrusion. When the intensity lessens, it seems to migrate into my right ear, so that both are beaming, you might say. But the intensity is not so great.
I must rest now. Turn out the light and go to bed. It is the usual time. It will not be seen as unnatural or suspicious.
So, I fold up the old document and slip it inbetween the city maps I am allowed to keep in my house due to my work at the City Offices. I turn down my covers and turn off the light.
The next evening I am at it again.
They have been coming down this particular street, my street, for the past several nights, apparently as they have been cruising down other streets in the city. Neighborhood by neighborhood they trek through the night uncovering the demons that cause us to go astray, it is said. They say. On their broadcasts on the news. It is news after all that there are demon- infested people in our town, leading us astray. But is it true that through our sinning we open up a portal for the demons to come in to us? What sin is it that’s been committed? No one is ever told. Someone surely must know what the sin–the sins are!
These are the Prayer Warriors. And this is spiritual warfare. These people believe they can pray–I so want to write “prey”!–out the evil that inhabits our society, the evil sent by this devil they say that is evil incarnate, rollicking round his fire deep, deep in the bowels of the earth– down there–tearing us away from the goodness that should be ours by entering us through these sinful portals. All of the ills that affect society are attributed to this Devil and the slaves he enlists, slaves that look like everyone else, behave like everyone else but nonetheless wreak havoc and cracks in the cosmic egg in the dark of night. How? Waves of ill influence. Emanations of evil. These people, the night prowling Spiritual warriors, know how to find them, Smell them out, if you will. With their divining rods, praying and panting before the house to weaken the evil spirit-carriers inside.
Only by way of praying can the wrongs of the world be righted. Only
The deep rumble of cars disturbed me, making the floor and windows shake in their passing. I got up from the table and walked to the window, looking out onto the now not-so-well lit street. Once it had been but as the lamps burnt out–or simply refused to light up at dusk–they were left untended. No one bothered to fix them. There was not total darkness out there, it is true, but it was dark enough that it was disturbing. But, of course, no one would go walking around in the dark of night. How unnatural! So, the grazing lights that blared through the darkness and the thrumming and rumbling of these joy-riding vehicles was disturbing. People complained about this kind of disturbance but. . .what was there to do about it?
I looked down the street to where they’d disappeared, their red tail lights still shadowing into the night. I looked back the way they’d come. No shafts of oncoming rowdies. I breathed deeply and shut the curtains.
Only by the furtive warring and furious praying of the Spiritual Warriors can this, this insidious iniquity poisoning our lives, be gotten rid of. For too long this malevolence had been infecting the world and, now the Prayer Warriors were strong enough, it could be fought. This was the story, the life story of these spiritual soldiers, the legion from heaven come to rid the garden of Satan and snakes. Long since, the police had been done away with, at least they did not appear at night, looking for the trouble they’d been saving us from for–how long?– interfering in the cleansing activities of these onward soldiers. But they were there during the day. The evil then was of a different sort that humanity’s earthly do-gooders could deal with. And they cleaned up the remains of the prior evening’s finding, hauling off the offenders. Doing their duty.
I must smile at myself–I want to write “And of course” but it is not “of course.” Not at all an expectation of their helping the Spiritualists on their sweeping up of the marked warped souls. Nevertheless, they are there, though not so many and not so obtrusive and obdurate as before. They hold wands of a sort that emit fire of heaven, it is called, to control the corralled people. It is a device that emits a ray, a beam of crackling energy that–how can I say?– enlivens the devil’s minions. By fire the enemies of The People shall be destroyed.
Fire from heaven is what it is called. A euphemism for electrical shock, I’m sure. It is hard to watch it being applied. A pointing of the wand and a spitting of the crackling wave and down the infected one goes, groveling on the ground, groaning with the writhing within of the perverted spirit that has infected its soul being touched, fingered. Sometimes, their wickedness is so deep-seated that they must be burned numerous times til they cannot rise again. They are left where they lay, twisted and deformed, for the rescue squad to dispose of. There are forever sirens in the cities.
Later in the week, there will be a prayer gathering and the announcement of the finding and prayerful disposal of yet another coven of devil-spawn is made to great peals of singing and pounding of feet. I never go near these gatherings but you can hear them nonetheless, as they bound around the city from one spiritual Prayer Cleansing Meeting to another. A powerful and frightening message that one would think would dissuade the devil from further deviltry but this is not the case, for the evil one keeps investing other citizens with his waywardness. His call is apparently unresistable. Thus, more and more searchings at night. More and more Prayer Cleansing Meetings are held–even televised portions of such meetings are broadcast so that day and night the spiritual warriors’ shrill and intoxicated voices are heard, reminding us that we are not free, not yet. More work is necessary halleluiah.
I sat back in my chair, pressing my cool fingers to my eyelids. This was hard going, the handwriting so scratchy and the paper so discolored and friable–and the words so. . .mad, possessed and–there are the rumbling street machines again. As if on cue. Frightening the hell out of me.
Sometimes I was afraid I’d tear the pages as I turned them. I got up and went into the kitchen to fetch a drink of tonic water. The tart fizz would revive me, though perhaps I should pack it in for the evening–a few had commented at work of the dark circles under my eyes.
I had better cover my tracks.
So, I stashed the pages, switched off the light and went in to bed, still bothered by the images this person had drawn. But the next evening I was drawn again to reading this man’s story:
I do believe that their work will never be done, for humans will be human and it is only humans who sin. At least so it seem to me–I never see these Praying mantises
Oh! Now that’s a good pun. Praying mantises. This writer, whoever he is has a sense of humor. There is some character here, aside from a man who watches and writes, writes secretly and hurriedly.
stopping at a dog house or running after cats. Or catching birds. Only humans. Where will it end? When will there be a human who is not accessible to the demon king?
Lately there has been a rush to join the prayer groups in the belief that this will save their souls. Converts are hyperbolic about their new-found answer and ever find themselves in the front lines of the night-roving prayer warriors. In the dimness of the semi-lit streets, they are frightening of themselves. I guess the more to frighten the dEvil? Yet he laughs at them as he continues to fly through sin-opening portals to establish his hell on earth, to pervert the heaven we supposedly inhabit.
Heaven! What a laugh! Where is the heaven when people are afraid to go out at night? Where is the heaven that needs cameras and microphones to monitor its angels, its human manifestation of itself?
My heart aches and I burn inside to talk to someone about this. But who can I trust? It is blasphemy to question. If the reality does not fit the teaching, as I see it, the reality is altered or disinfected, gotten rid of. For whatever it is–it is not called “reality”–it is an imposed wave of distorting evil sent to
Damn! Those rumbling motor cars are at it again. Gunning it up and down the street, their metal plates slapping, slapping, slapping at the pavement like great webbed feet. The grating when they turn and retrace their course. Is there then something wrong on my street? Will someone here be fingered? There are so few of us left on this street any more. The others have all left for parts unknown. As no one else here works in the City Offices, I never see these people again. Only a smattering of dark houses with empty eyes. A more and more common sight, not only here but throughout the city, throughout the land if the TV eye is to be believed.
I shudder and turn my attention back to the manuscript on the table.
The holy war has finally come home, as it was sure to do, for the corruption of the soul is not something that exists only over there. It is something that exists wherever there are humans. Even amongst themselves there are those who fall. Their fate is truly horrible and their abuse and cleansing is televised, not only on the home sets but on the huge screens that abound throughout the town. They are inescapable. And. . .people actually stand there and watch without showing any emotion! Just as the sirens and helicopters roaming the skies above us are not given a second thought. No one–no one but me–looks up to see what they’re about, where they are training their glowing white-gold eye. They hover and they circle and no one bothers with them. Do they know what they’ve given up?
Ha-ha. I sometimes wonder what it is that is wrong with me–I am the only one to see this, the only one to pay attention. And what is one against the horde? Soon, soon I will be found out. The tell-tale signs of my. . .disease are visible in my face, for I cannot hide my reaction to the horrors thrown at us by the big screens. And, of course, I look up How long can I get away with pretending that I am looking at the birds, birds no one else also sees? I shudder in my skin. When will the hammer fall on my nailness? What new crime will I be charged with as they come crashing through my door, heaven’s fire whiplashing me. I am sure I am so infected that I will be left for the rescue squad to clean up in the morning. And I have done nothing but retain my. . .my humanity. I feel therefore I–
I jumped up. The rumbling road warriors raged by and then stopped. Right outside my house, their headlights illuminating my window. Quickly, I stash the manuscript and run to the window–and stop myself. I turn aside and go to the kitchen to look out. They cannot see me from there. And, yes, they are there. Headlights and great long proboscises pointing at my house. And on their bulging spider bodies. . .a white divining rod. . .
Their black minions, single opaque eye gleaming, are running up my walk, smashing in my door and filling up my room and
© James L. Secor, 2015