Kellerika Virtanen wasn’t a star that any astronomer would recall. No constellation requested her presence. The young lady’s warmth hadn’t accounted for a solitary spark in the nighttime skies. The darkness was where she did her best work.
Kell orbited the chair that held the young boy. Flames from her choir of blue and white candles sang their silent hymn around the bedroom. At twenty-two, the demon hunter had seen more shit than most could ever conjure in their worst nightmares.
“I know you take a name.” She stopped before the kid’s limp head. “Give it to me.”
A low gurgle emanated from deep within Toby’s ten-year-old gut.
Kellerika leaned in closer, her chestnut bangs fell around her face. Toby reeked of vomit, some of it dried to his grayed lips. His forehead glistened. Deep circles around his eyes. The burns on his cheek and across the left eye. They told the tale of the last twenty-three hours that his voice could not.
“Which of the Nine sent you?” Her Finnish lineage ornamented her words.
Another deep gurgle, then a belch. The boy’s mouth erupted in a fountain of gore.
Toby’s mom shrieked and reached out for her youngest child.
“Don’t!” Kellerika backpedaled into Toby’s dresser. Some of the blood got her jeans and the side of her Maiden tee. She flipped to a page in her little blue book. Memories of her mentor’s teachings raced through her imagination as she turned to the proper incantation. Stay in control. Don’t give them an entry point. “In the name of the Supreme Creator of all things in the universe, I banish you back to the plane from whence you came.”
An unnatural chuckle. “Fuck you, cleric.” Toby’s voice wasn’t his own.
Kellerika inched forward. “I sever all tethers and ties to this child, and banish you back from whence you came!”
Another fit of maniacal laughter. “Sticks and stones, child.” The boy raised his head. His menacing gaze locked with her hazel one. “Do you even believe what you spout from that cocksucker of yours?”
She turned to the boy’s mother. The woman’s mask of astonishment said it all. Kell confronted her adversary once more. “Your name, demon.” She bent in eye to eye. “Give it to me.” Her words hissed through gritted teeth.
The creature growled. Toby’s collection of cross-country trophies rattled on the desk against the far wall. The floor quaked underfoot.
Kellerika stood her ground. “In the name of our Supreme Creator, I command you to say your name.”
A long fracture spread across the ceiling, showering the boy in white powder. Rumblings intensified. The room’s walls hummed like the driver in a subwoofer.
Kell’s voice rose over the cacophony. “Your name!”
Toby’s head flung back, snapping the top rungs of his chair. A cascade of cracks and pops radiated down his maturing spine. His mother regressed to reciting prayers in a huddled mass against the doorway.
Kellerika marched to the boy’s deformed head and whispered into his ear. “Either you give me your name,” her eyes crept up to his strained face, “or I make your master give it to me.”
The child’s features stretched beyond their natural limits like a piece of plastic wrap. One kneecap cracked and inverted followed by the other.
Kellerika moved to his other ear and continued. “What would your master do to you after I’ve had a chat with them, I wonder?”
An enraged howl. Pillars of fire shot from every candle around the room. She never saw them coming. The trophy collection pelted Kell in her face and torso, sending her to her knees.
“Toby?” The boy’s mother again. “Is he still alive?” Her gaze chased a glowing sphere into the bedroom wall.
Kell held up an arm. “Stay clear.” She wiped some blood from her nose and pushed herself to her feet. “Right now, it’s not your son.” Her gaze searched the air near the ceiling. “Toby?” Kell moved to a far corner near his closet. “Can you hear me? I know you’re still in this room somewhere.”
The rumbling and chaos subsided.
Mommy? His voice was faint but there.
His mom sprung up from her praying. “Toby?” She looked around the ceiling for her baby’s disembodied voice. “Honey?”
Where are you?
Kellerika trailed his words along the window overlooking their slice of suburban Virginia. “Toby. Listen to me. Follow my voice.”
Something bulged along the upper portion of the wall near a dark corner. For a fleeting moment, it resembled a running person.
His mom again. “Stay with us, baby.”
Something’s after me.
“Do not confront it!” Kellerika stepped up on his bed, tracking the bulge across the neighboring wall. She took cautious steps off the mattress next to his nightstand. A growing hum followed by a loud snap. Glass shrapnel and metal wire pierced her face and neck as the Nationals baseball lamp blew apart. Kell whimpered and dropped to the floor next to the boy covering her eyes.
Light footsteps bounced around in heavy air. Leave me alone!
His mother shuffled toward the other wall. “Don’t you dare touch---”
As Kellerika spun around, the woman sailed into the dresser with a dull thud. She blotted her right brow with the butt of her palm. It came back with a red smear. Fuck. She crawled to the motionless mass on the floor. “Ms. Allikson?” She inched closer and set a finger under the woman’s nostrils. Pulses of warm air. Kell rolled onto her haunches and got to her feet.
Somewhere in the ethereal depths of the room, the demon roared. Claws ripped and shredded.
Kellerika staggered to the chair and took it in both hands. “In the name of the Creator of all things,” she summoned all the resolve she had left, “I banish you, demon!” She shook the chair. “I cut all tethers and ties to this body, the family, and property of the same!”
The boy’s head righted itself, returning to its natural shape. One kneecap corrected itself with a pop, and then the other. Toby rolled his head around on his neck cracking it. His nose sniffed the room. “Must be a challenge.” His voice still remained deep, inhuman.
Kell shook her head.
“Having to do such a monumental task while your own body’s shedding.” Again, it sniffed the air. “I can smell your blood, your monthly troubles.” It licked its cracked lips with a foul rotting mass. “Such a waste of potential souls.”
She shook the chair with more force. “I cast you out, demon!”
“No need.” It sounded content like her dad after a holiday dinner. “I’ve had my fill.”
Her determined eyes searched the boy’s blue ones.
It smirked as it rolled Toby’s eyes into the back of his head. “His soul belongs to us.”
A sizzling sound. Kell bent closer and flinched at the pungent odor of burnt flesh. A nine formed in both eyes, branded by an invisible device.
“We’ll see you soon, bitch.”
Loud, dull cracks. It dislocated Toby’s lower jaw and inhaled. Powerful winds picked up as the boy’s throat turned into a spinning black void. Posters ripped from the walls and disappeared. The paranormal storm tore the curtains from the wall, rods and all, and crushed in his swirling maw.
“Ms. Allikson!” Kellerika shook her. “Tabitha!”
Shards of glass, bedsheets, everything… crushed in the vortex. Kell covered Tabitha’s body and held tight until the storm subsided. She turned her head as the thing’s mouth settled back to normal.
The demon’s head lulled as it let out a satisfying sigh. “We’re done here.”
With that, Toby’s terrestrial remains collapsed into a boneless pile of flesh and hair on the broken chair.