THE HOUSE WAS a little red bungalow in a quiet part of town, with young, leafless trees and beautiful lawns, street signs and a couple of stores at either part of the street.
Apart from the dull lights reflected through the blinds, the open windows and the old, beat-up truck parked out in front of the walkway, you generally get the uncanny feeling that there was no one home. The house seemed utterly devoid of life and gloomy, like the last occupant vacated half a century ago. The lawn just around the little house was uneven, not well-tended, and the flowers were withered just as the wall paint was old and faded.
Samantha Prince gasped in nervous uncertainty as she parked behind the pickup. Before getting out of the car, she took the card from her small purse and checked the information on it again to be certain she had come to the right address. Then she craned her eyes, stared around apprehensively at the environment, the other houses around and the couple of people walking down the street.
Then she brought her gaze back to the house. Maybe no one was home, after all. She approached the front door hesitantly, but with the vague feeling that her presence had not gone unnoticed, that she was being watched from within the house. Halfway across the yard, she paused tentatively as though she was trying to make up her mind whether to proceed or turn back and walk away.
Then a black tabby crept out from behind the building like a watch dog and stood across the path facing the visitor. It glared indifferently at her for a moment, yawned, stretched lazily and then trotted towards the garage door by the side of the house, where it slunk through a small wooden hatch at the base of the broad, metal door. Samantha turned and followed the cat with her eyes until it went out of sight.
“Never mind Alice,” said a gentle voice behind her, and Samantha turned sharply, startled. “She’s always the first one to come out whenever there’s a visitor.”
Agatha Tronnel was standing at the door, smiling kindly in her thick, lacey undergarment, staring at Samantha keenly. It was a surprise, because Samantha hadn’t heard the door when it opened. The Sister’s hair was disheveled and quite full, much to Samantha’s surprise. And without her loud makeup, Agatha was prettier, although in a plain way, than she’d looked the day before.
“Mrs. Prince?” she said quietly, staring at Samantha curiously, being instantly conscious that that the visit was an indication that something terrible had happened. Then her gaze shifted to the parked car outside; there was no one in it. Samantha was there by herself, and she obviously wouldn’t have come to see her, with that distraught, forlorn look in her eyes, except that it was very urgent.
“Where’s your husband?” she dared to ask, the words heavy on her lips almost as though she was afraid of what the answer might be, or that she already knew what the answer was.
Samantha could not bring herself to say it, and she bowed her head tentatively, her lips quivered gently as though she was going to speak. But she remained quiet. There was a tight and awful glimmer in her eyes. The sight of Sister Agatha again, unlikely as it would appear, helped Samantha then to finally admit the worst about what was happening in her family and to her son. But she didn’t do so with words. She burst into tears instead; just stood there before this woman and began to sob.
Sister Agatha hurried forward, put her hands around Samantha and helped her into the house. “Dear, you must’ve been through so much,” she was saying, whispering as she led Samantha forward. “But you must be brave and have some faith, Mrs. Prince; that’s the only way to keep this evil at bay.”
Once inside the house, Agatha helped her to settle in one of the soft single-seat couch in her rather cramped and unstylish living room. Then she went to the kitchen and fixed her a cup of warm coffee, handed it to her as she took the seat in front of her, planting an intent yet sympathetic gaze on her.
“Thank you, Sister,” sighed Samantha, her voice subdued.
Agatha nodded, still eyeing her carefully. She noticed that the woman was grieving, with a forlorn countenance that seemed to have overwhelmed her. It was clear to see she’d been crying for a while, probably hadn’t slept for days. Now she looked broken, dazed and thoroughly confused.
“Drink up before it gets cold,” Agatha told her in a firm and compassionate tone; the way a nurse would command a patient. “It’ll help your nerves relax.”
Samantha nodded, sipped her coffee in eerie silence for a moment. The air was stale and heavy, the gloom sustained by Samantha’s sour countenance. After a while, when the Sister was sure that her visitor was a bit calmer than when she’d arrived, she paused and stared at her squarely.
“Tell me what happened, Mrs. Prince.”
Samantha sighed, hesitated. Then she proceeded to narrate the horrid fate that had befallen Jonathan in the course of the previous night, and the different macabre events that had been happening around her family over the last week – the nightmare, the dark figure, the missing keys, the upturned furniture and levitating bed, everything!
Sister Agatha Tronnel nodded gravely and clenched her lips. At the end, she said quietly, “I am sorry for your loss, Mrs. Prince, and for these bad things you’ve suffered, so sorry.”
Samantha sniffed hopelessly. She looked beaten and resigned. “But why me?” she said, sounding disillusioned. “What have done? Why’s this happening to my family?”
“You must understand, Mrs. Prince,” answered Sister Tronnel, shaking her heady, “all spirits, foul or pure, are legalistic in nature. They have to have express right into a territory before they can invade it. In the Holy Scriptures, Satan the arch-enemy even had to obtain permission from the Most High before he could scourge Job. There’s always a reason for an evil spirit to come into and manipulate the life of a human being,” said the Sister.
“But how could I have brought a demon spirit into my family in the first place?” asked Samantha, genuinely heartbroken and distressed.
Agatha paused, looked at her visitor quietly. “People invite demons by the choices they make and the way they live. There are things that open the door of our lives to demonic manipulations, whether we’re conscious of them or not, practices we’ve indulged in over time that has become the spawning ground for spiritual attack.
“Sadly, many deny and create a wall of illusion for themselves, and some others turn the other way hopelessly. They tell themselves that there’s nothing they can do to save themselves. Both instances are gravely untrue. That’s why I said to you, Mrs. Prince; you need to be brave and you need to have faith in you.
“Without a doubt, the events you have described happening around you are the handiwork of dark spirits, conspiring to bring shame to you, to run you mad before eventually claiming your life,” she said gravely.
Samantha had tears in her eyes again.
“There are no guarantees, Mrs. Prince,” continued Agatha. “But I can be of help, if you let me.”
“Well, that’s why I’m here, isn’t it?” said Samantha, shrugging helplessly.
Agatha’s lips tightened as she stared at her somber looking visitor with empathy in her eyes, feeling genuinely sorry and concerned for her predicament. “But we have to move quickly,” she stated, after a moment. “Considering what severe calamity you’ve seen and what manner of evil will yet be unleashed, we can’t afford to drag feet now.”
Samantha stared, utterly perplexed and bewildered.
“Oh, yes, Mrs. Prince,” Agatha offered, nodding slowly, “I’m afraid we’ve not yet seen the half of the gore. The demon that has been let loose will have its fill of blood down to the very last drop, from everyone even remotely connected to your son, and from there to those connected to them, and then what we’ll have will be a heinous circle of blood in Tempest.”
“To Alan?” Samatha looked incredulous. “I still don’t understand; what does it have to do with him?”
“Everything, Mrs. Prince; he is the key to all the evil you’ve encountered in the last week and the more that is to come if we don’t stop it now. It’s happening because of Alan and only through him can the darkness be defeated, don’t you understand?”
Agatha looked at the confused woman before her, feeling sorry for her. “Mrs. Prince,” she answered coolly, “even though your son is not dead, his spirit has left his body. That’s why he’s trapped in a death-sleep. It’s an Out-of-Body-Experience, but by far the darkest I’ve personally seen or heard of. His inner being, his soul, is living outside his body as we speak, while his physical body remains in coma.
Agatha ignored the shock on Samantha’s face then. “Right now,” she went on tersely, “Alan actually thinks he’s dreaming, and in that dream he’s making everything you see happen. You know how it is when you can do anything in your dream, don’t you? Things that may otherwise be impossible in real life. Kids fly in their dream because they wished they were like their favorite comic book heroes.
“In Alan’s case, however, his mind has succumbed to the control of darkness. Like a wish-granting genie, his demon will bring to life every horror his mind conceives. To start with, all the signs indicate that it’s your son that’s been haunting your apartment; showing up around you like a formless shadow and making your bed float at night. And I think he directly had something to do with what happened to your husband,” Agatha stated.
Samantha’s jaws dropped, her eyes staring blankly in sheer disbelief.
Agatha Tronnel went on quietly: “If you consider carefully, Mrs. Prince, your son may have abhorred an intense bitterness for his father. Also, if he knew your late boss, I think he didn’t like him as well. If there have been other deaths around you since, who were the victims? They may be people whom Alan feels he has scores to settle with, for some reasons.”
There was a nervous and long-drawn silence, after which Samantha gasped in bewilderment, shaking her head repeatedly, in confusion. “What’s to be done, Sister Agatha? Please tell me; how can I possibly end this nightmare I’m living in?”
“Give me a minute,” Agatha replied, getting to her feet. She went into her room and quickly freshened up, put on a change of clothes and makeup, and came out looking more like the way she’d looked the first time they met at the car park.
“Not here,” she told Samantha. “I certainly cannot get entangled in this warfare by myself; it’s beyond me. But the Mother Divine will be able to help.”
“The Spiritual Leader,” explained Agatha, “a revered Sister of Light with innermost spiritual understanding. And you’re in luck, because there’s going to be a gathering of the Sisters at midnight. Now come, we have to hurry, Mrs. Prince,” she said.
A moment later, they got into Samantha’s car and drove down the street. The time was already past 7 o’clock, and everywhere was quite dark with the street seeming busier that time of the evening.
They drove on in relative silence, Sister Agatha Tronnel directing her along the way, taking a couple of turns and edging farther away from the central district of the city, until they arrived at a grey factory-type building on the outskirt.
Samantha pulled over slowly, contemplating the ambience surrounding the house with apprehension. Sister Agatha was out of the car as soon as the engine was turned off, matching briskly towards the entrance with her purse in hand.
“Come,” she said, without turning to look at Samantha. “Hurry up.”
Samantha Prince gasped nervously, before shutting the door behind her and hurrying after the Sister.
Several seconds later, a black sedan pulled to a halt and parked in the middle of a line of cars across the street, some meters away from the grey building.
Behind the wheel, Detective Lee Davies craned his eyes and watched quietly as the two women strode briskly across the paved yard to the building. Then he cast his gaze on the dashboard clock; it was 8:15 pm and the street was near deserted. Davies sat back quietly and kept watching, even though he wasn’t quite sure why he was tailing her.
Meanwhile, he put a call through to the precinct, gave Simmons the location and description of the building and asked him to check it out in the database. The response came back within a few minutes.
“It’s a worship center,” said Simmons, “run by Madam Fanny Gold. She’s a religious figure in the community.”
“A cult?” asked Davies curiously, his eyes trained on the building and the flow of women slipping in or coming out every once in a while.
“Perhaps,” said Simmons. “I’m not sure. But they’re some sort of fanatics; at least that’s what the report says. All kind of shit has been attributed to them over the years.”
“Yeah? Like what?”
“Well, sorcery, witchery and the likes. They’re unorthodox, you know.”
Davies thought for a moment. “Okay, thanks,” he said, and cut the call.