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ALAN PRINCE’S BROWS furrowed hatefully as he glared in surprise at the curious turn of events.

Before he made up his mind what was going on, the league of veiled Sisters charged and were upon him like an army of ants subduing a prey. They wrestled and pinned him to the ground with all the strength they could muster as a unit, while yet chanting audacious invocations in old Latin aimed at stripping him of power and essence.

The demon roared wildly, kicked and cursed the women swarming him with vile utterances. He fought like a beast to break free of the multiple hands fastened at just about every inch of his dark, slippery body, squirming and twisting through their hands like a serpent. His strength was alarming, and he hurled and swayed them about quite easily, yet they held on as though clinging to dear life with every ounce of muscle in their bodies.

Then in the heat of the fierce struggle, the women’s veil, expectedly, began to come off one by one so that the demon could peer directly into their faces. The terror in the demon’s eyes grew when he saw the blood mark of the Pentagram, the devil’s trap, on each of their foreheads and on the back of their hands. He swore dreadfully, and intensified his fight to escape their grip just then.

“Curse you!” he growled in bloodshot rage, roaring and snarled like an animal. “Curse you all! You’ll burn in hell, all of you! Aargh!”

“Be still, Foul Spirit,” commanded the Mother Divine, now standing over the demon cramped in the midst of the valiant women who bore on them the blood mark. In one hand she was carrying the silver chalice and in the other, she held a piece of unleavened bread. “Hold him.”

The hands fastened tighter around Alan, held him firmly in spite of how violently he kicked and thrashed. Now he was growling ferociously like some savage beasts under the pains of torture. He struggled and latched in fury, tossed the women to and fro, scratching some and spat on the rest as he hissed darkly.

The women had a tough time keeping him firmly restrained, which made it near impossible for the Mother Divine to continue with that aspect of the Rite for a brief moment. A number of the Sisters were apprehensive, afraid and even uncertain.

But as she anxiously watched the scene from her relatively safe position a few meters away, Samantha Prince suddenly came to herself and realized the gravity of what was at stake then. So she dashed forward and threw herself right in the midst of the fray, reached out and grabbed whatever part of Alan’s body she could reach and then held firmly.

In the wake of the ominous atmosphere that had been stirred in the temple due to the intensity of spiritual field being released from the conflict of good and evil, an inexplicable wind that shook the foundation of the building rose up with a vile, hissing sound, rattling the shut doors vehemently, blowing out the candles and knocking off the chandeliers from its base. It fell a few feet from where the Sisters were holding Alan, burst explosively, sending splintered glasses scattering in all direction.

In that instant, Alan’s face became grossly distorted and fiendish, the color of his skin turning bluish grey while his teeth grew as fangs. Then a part of his face began to droop and melt like wax; his eyes receded into his head, leaving in place only a dark, grim-looking hollow.

When the Mother Divine saw this abominable transformation, she was appalled at the sight and immediately charged the Sisters to turn away their eyes. “It is the demon itself,” she whispered in dread. “You mustn’t look into his face!”

And so they shut their eyes, all heads turned away to avoid meeting the gory stare of this despicable fiend while the prayers persisted, even though it appeared all too clearly that they were losing ground. The demon was more than a match for all their strength combined, and with a little more thrashing, it would break free.

Lee Davies needed no further prompting before he dived into the imbroglio as well; he pushed his way through and took hold of the demon’s head, locking his arm around his neck from behind tightly, the way professional wrestlers employ to immobilize their opponent.

The demon fought and kicked desperately, but Davies was not about to slacken his grip then. Not sure how long he could hold on to the demon, Davies shouted desperately for the Mother Divine to hurry up with whatever she had in mind to do while he still had it in him to hold on to the manifested demon.

Then she stepped forward with bated apprehension, stretched forth her little hand with the Cup of Communion held over Alan’s head. The demon kicked more fervently when he saw this, writhed and hissed aggressively and attempted to spring up and snap the girl’s fingers. Its eyes turned blood red and murderous, and its skin had become a darker shade of green, wrinkled and slimy.

The Mother Divine shut her eyes in a solemnly grave disposition, turning her face away whilst yet muttering a heartfelt prayer of salvation. Her lips quivered as she prayed in earnest, and sweat broke out all over her face. Then in all those confusion and rage of the demon, the Mother Divine willed herself to fall into a meditative trance, thus effectively shutting out the noises around her as she journeyed in her spirit to a realm of absolutely tranquility.

Meanwhile, the demon fought and bawled relentlessly, its horrible cries and accusations permeating the atmosphere and filling the hearts of everyone with unspeakable dread.

The young girl remained still, concentrating deeply for a few seconds, and when she opened her eyes again, she cried in a stern voice:

“I sanctify you this day, Alan Prince, in the name of the only true God, and by the power of his Son crucified.”

She poured the oil on the boy’s head in an almost unending flow, watching as it dribbled down his face, neck and chest. The demon roared horrendously, shrieking and cursing in anguish, and it might have broken free then had not Lee Davies doubled his effort in holding him down with the active support of the other women in their numbers.

But in the midst of all that confusion and mingling of bodies, three of the women restraining the demon succumbed to panic and inadvertently opened their eyes against the dire warnings of the Mother Divine. The sight that greeted them was that of an infernal abomination; a howling, inhuman creature creeping out of the gaping mouth of Alan Prince!

The women shrieked, horrified, and a bluish, icy mist oozed out of their nostrils and eyes. They became as statues in an instant, and their lifeless bodies slumped to the ground, hideously deformed with the eyes black and hollow.

With the fall of these Sisters, the demon gained a moment’s respite to push back against the weight of humans upon it; it growled insipiently, flicked its thick, serpentine tongue in the air, terrorizing the people with its gaping jaws and vampire-like fangs.

But Davies held on like a vice, turning and tumbling with the boy locked in his grip. In spite of all his effort however, he had the sinking feeling that he would not be able to hold on for too long. Already, he was weakening, and he’d suffered a number of bruises from the claws of the demon digging into his arms, shoulders and face.

The Sisters did not relent on their part, though their numbers had been reduced. They held onto the demon from every corner, falling off and being flung away yet rising up to join the fray each time, doing so not just for Alan’s sake then, but also for theirs as well. If they let go of him and lost control, they were all be doomed for sure.

The Mother Divine had stood back for a moment with an anxious disposition and trembling hands, watching for an opportune moment to proceed with the ritual. When she saw a small window, she took the bread dipped in oil and grabbed the boy’s jaws at once, forcing the meal into his mouth.

The demon spat it with a dark grimace.

“Curse you, whore!” he growled. “I’m taking you to hell!”

Ignoring the vile words, she said to the women piled on top and around him: “Hold him still.”

Davies applied a little more pressure around Alan’s neck, using his injured right leg as a support lever. The women put their weight behind him and together, they all held Alan in position to limit his movement as much as possible while the Mother Divine held his jaws open with a firmness that belied her small hands.

Then slowly, she poured the oil into his mouth at the same time that the detective held Alan’s nostril shut with his thumb and index fingers, holding his head back to force the liquid down his throat, even if it damn well meant choking the boy.

Alan gurgled and retched, but only a few drops of the liquid spilled out of his mouth. Most of it went down his throat and he cried hatefully, turning whitish in color with his black tongue sticking out like a rabid dog’s. He wailed like a lost soul, stretched and convulsed violently to the consternation of everyone. Then he stiffened abruptly, became limp and stopped moving altogether, and the hall fell into a grim quietness.

Detective Davies paused with cautious apprehension before releasing the boy from his grip, laying him gently on the floor beside him. He was bleeding from several cuts on his body and his clothes were in shreds. Everyone stepped backwards, watching Alan Prince awkwardly. His skin had returned to normal, and he was unclad. He lay quietly on the floor, not breathing.

Samantha watched her son with palpitating heartbeat, wondering if he was still alive. She was spent and also wounded, like most of the women there were. She had tears streaming down her cheeks.

Lee Davies was still just a few paces away from where Alan lay, and with bated anxiety while still panting and catching his breath from the rigorous task of holding down a demon, he reached forward surreptitiously and touched Alan’s forehead lightly. Then he felt for his pulse, after which he turned slowly and glanced at Samantha standing some meters away.

She gasped, caught her breath with her hand over her mount, and began to cry in despair.

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