Bites of Epiphany
Wrinkles spread over Alexia’s face. They start at the child’s eyes, light whisker marks that turn into crevices as wrinkles appear around her mouth, then her neck, her hands. Seren steps away, leaving the nine-year old sitting on the floor playing with a toy truck.
At her side, TK frowns. The kid’s muttering in Somali, agitation dancing through his tone. Seren bumps her hand on his arm. When he tears his gaze from the aging child, she gestures him forward with a smile.
“What!” He keeps the exclamation low but Alexia still looks up and sunken eyes track over them both for a minute before she returns to her play. TK comes closer to Seren to talk into her ear. “Are you insane? I can’t handle an aging demon.” He pauses, swagger pride rearing up. “Well, yeah I can, but this one’s, you know, younger than those other ones.”
‘Those other ones’ each took TK over an hour to exorcise. Their targets were teenagers, victims that age slower but have less youth to steal. Demons savor their crumble but are far more willing to flee the bodies when attacked. That it still took TK that long is why Seren brought him to a younger victim. Better to jump in with both feet and no lifeguard than to wade in from a white sands beach.
“You’ll be great. You know the methods, don’t rely on religious paraphilia, these types don’t regard it at all. And don’t be afraid of handling Alexia. Right now that’s not a little girl.” The words are easy to say but hard to believe, to stomach, or to follow. Seren’s lack of irritation over what TK must do stems from a lifetime of pursuing demons and seeing them torn out of fragile bodies. Done right, or half-right, most victims survive with minimal permanent damage. “Go for it kid.”
“Go for it?” TK bounces on his toes and rolls his head to painful angles with a groan that stays in his throat. His restraint is better than when they met two weeks ago.
Seren chuckles and gestures him forward again.
Despite the complaints, he approaches Alexia with an easy smile, as if she isn’t housing a demon of unknown strength beneath her skin. Crouching before her, he asks to play with her and when she agrees Seren leaves to speak to the parents fretting in the living room. She closes the door on TK snagging a red SUV from a pile of matchbox cars.
Holding Alexia’s parents back when she begins shrieking brings tears to Seren’s eyes.
TK manages well.
He works efficient and careful, and though he bursts from Alexia’s bedroom into the living room with strings of jumbled Somali curses that Seren hasn’t yet learned, he’s triumphant and carrying a tired, safe little girl. He places Alexia in Mr. Brennan’s arms, explains to Mrs. Brennan the care methods for recovery and the likelihood that Alexia will retain most of the wrinkles and won’t live as long. It’s a harsh truth but undeniable. The demons don’t spit the years back out when they die.
As he wraps up his explanation Seren walks the bedroom, righting furniture and collecting toys into piles. A scorched spot smolders as demon ash decomposes into dust. Seren kicks at the dust to scatter it around the room. It’ll act as a deterrent, discouraging future demons from entering an area known to exorcists.
TK clears his throat. It’s a signal of discomfort. Seren exits the bedroom to find him swallowed in a hug from Mrs. Brennan. She laughs.
“Sorry we have to leave but you’ve got much to do still,” Seren extracts TK, pushing him toward the freedom of the yard as she directs Mrs. Brennan to her daughter. “Alexia will need lots of rest and attention over the next week. Did TK give you the care package?”
“Yes, yes he did. We can’t tell you how grateful we are for saving our daughter!”
“I appreciate that Mrs. Brennan. I’m just thankful we were able to do so. We’ll be leaving you in peace now. Should anything come up again, the package includes instructions on finding me and contact info for others who can help you. Take care.”
Seren allows Mrs. Brennan to hug her, the woman’s pure joy soothing after the stress of ridding the world of one more demon, and then excuses herself to join TK where he waits by their horses in the front yard.
Daybreaks over the horizon as she mounts Epiphany, a gelding given to her as a colt on her thirtieth birthday. Now thirteen, Epiphany acts as her foundation, a steadying force in the midst of a growing wasteland. Urging him into a clipping trot, Seren doesn’t worry about TK and his mare, Bite.They’ll catch up.