It was a horrendous August night in New Orleans, for a tropical storm had struck. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled outside of a Catholic church. Its doors were locked. The lights inside had been shut off and replaced with candles surrounding the altar, underneath a hanging crucifix with Jesus Christ upon it. The altar had been cleared and replaced with a regular wooden table. Upon that was Abigail, a redhead in her late twenties, with a pillow under her head and restraints keeping her flat. Surrounding her were four priests.
The exorcism had already begun.
Abigail was thrashing on the table, straining her bonds and cursing God and his host. The priests tried their best to remain calm, for none of them had seen this before, nor did they ever expect to. They managed to follow their instructions and rituals to a tee.
The priest in charge yelled out one final command at the demon with Abigail. The demon answered and laughed. During its laughter, a tremendous wind blew across the altar. The candles were extinguished and the priests were blown off their feet. And then there were only the sounds of the storm echoing in everyone’s ears.
Abigail awoke the next morning, wearing the same casual clothes from the night before, in a bed within the church. She felt weak and noted bruises around her wrists and ankles. She gathered her belongings and left the room. The sounds of the tropical storm persisted, though they had lessened.
She found one of the priests in the nave, on his knees in prayer. He heard Abigail’s footsteps, made the sign of the cross, and then rose to greet her.
“Abigail. How do you feel?”
“I’m sorry. Bad. I feel bad, like I was mugged.”
“Your body endured tremendous strain last night.”
Abigail looked down. “It didn’t work, did it?”
The priest sighed and put his hands on Abigail’s trembling shoulders. “I’m sorry, Abigail. We failed you.”
“No. You tried, and that means more to mean than you can possibly imagine.” Abigail put a hand on her chest. “I still feel it.”
“We may have failed, but we learned its name.”
Abigail’s head shot up. “What?”
“It claims to be known as ‘Ire’.”
“So, what can I do with this information?”
The priest furrowed his brow. “Frankly, we do not know. We researched that last night, after your exorcism. Some sources claim that saying the demon’s name gives you power over it. However, more believe that uttering its name gives it more power over you.”
“Which do you think it is?”
The priest shook his head. “I’m am afraid to answer. I can only pray that it is the former, but that is a massive risk to take.”
They said their goodbyes.
That night, Abigail went to a bar. It was an old dive bar with a broken neon sign so that no one knew what this place was. Other souls were present. There was Abigail, of course, sitting alone at the far end, sipping a Sazerac. The owner stood behind the bar, closer to the front door. In front of him was a regular. There was no additional seating aside from the line of bar stools.
The old men were craning their necks at the news on the screen in the corner. It was blah, blah, blah, Trump, for a while, before it shifted to the local news. Abigail stared at the screen. The anchor introduced a viral video that was sweeping the nation. Abigail drank faster.
On the screen, a female, redhead police officer was gripping a suspect by the collar and held him over her head with one hand, and had her partner in the other by his throat. Two more officers arrived. The redhead threw the suspect and officer several yards away and challenged the new officers. There was a struggle, the redhead gained the upper hand, but then her partner shot her with a Taser, and she went down.
The men looked in Abigail’s direction. But she was gone. Left behind was cash on the counter and an empty glass. The news moved on to cover a series of murders and kidnappings in Lafayette.
Abigail stepped from the back door out into the street. The storm had diminished to a drizzle. Abigail flipped her hoodie over her head and started walking homeward. In the darkness, she cursed the news. Then she cursed the weather, then herself, then God. She kicked a lamppost. The light went out and the pole was left bent at an angle.
Though Abigail’s mind raced, she found that her movements had become sluggish, as if gravity had increased its pull on her. Her vision began to tunnel as well.
“Damn it!” she said aloud.
A group of young men walked around the corner. In their drunken stupor, they could not help but approach the lonesome woman.
“Well, hey there, gorgeous,” the first said.
“What are you doing out here by yourself?”
“Ain’t got no man?”
“Run,” Abigail grunted under her breath.
“What?” one asked. They all stepped closer to hear what she had said.
“I said run!” Abigail’s left hand shot toward one of the men but she redirected her grasp to her right arm.
The startled men backed up, and obeyed the plea with fast walks in the opposite direction. Abigail was left alone, panting, clutching herself as she fought for control over her own body. Before her sanity was lost, she felt her phone buzzing in her pocket. She forced herself to focus on it, and it served as her anchor and she regained her senses.
She had missed the call during the struggle, but saw that it was her best friend, Rebecca.
“Hey, sorry I missed you,” Abigail said after returning the call. She was out of breath.
“You’re on the news.”
Abigail rolled her eyes. “That… wasn’t me.”
“It’s your name, though. And your face.”
“Look, it’s me but it isn’t me.” She put a hand over her eyes.
“So, it’s that thing.”
“When we went out the other night and you got hammered, you started going on and on about being possessed by some ‘thing’.”
“Christ, I forgot about that.”
“Look, I don’t know what’s going on, but I believe you. The psycho on the news isn’t the Abigail we all know and love.”
“So, were you fired or what?”
“No, I was put on leave.”
“Thank God because I payed for the drinks last time so you need to keep your job and buy next time.”
“You got it, Rebecca.”
“Why won’t you call me ‘Becca’ like everyone else?”
“Because it’s not your real name.”
“So, what now?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’ll just binge Netflix until I can work again.”
“You should go home.”
“Why on earth would I do that?”
“To clear your head! It worked for me when Chad and I broke up. I went home, got some local tail, and poof, came back here as good as new. Oh, I have to go. Your partner is calling. He’s supposed to take me out. Love you!”
“Wait, what? You’re dating?”
Rebecca had already hung up. Abigail continued her walk to her apartment building. She arrived safely, went upstairs, and then went to bed. But before she fell asleep, she reached the conclusion that maybe Rebecca wasn’t wrong about going home.
To hell with it, Abigail though. The next day she packed a bag and hit the road. The drive to Lafayette, Louisiana was only a few hours but Abigail made good time and arrived around noon. She cruised through the town, recognizing old haunts left and right. But her destination was not within the city.