Exorcising with Exercise
Exorcising with Exercise
The room was dark and the hushed whispers coming from somewhere nearby roused Alan. He slowly regained consciousness but as he glanced around in the dark it was hard to tell how long he’d been slipping in and out of lucidity.
'Hello?' Alan mumbled feebly in the void. He tried to reach his head with his hands but something unseen held them down. All at once awareness crept upon him and whatever drugs were being used to knock him out lost effect. Back alert he waited for his eyes to grow accustomed to the dark before trying to make out what the whispering voices were saying. He almost called for help again before remembering how he got here in the first place.
What did the priest do to me? He thought groggily, clenching his buttocks in fear. As his eyes adapted to the gloom Alan began to make out shapes in the dark and fear forced him to clench tighter. There were large looking machines, no doubt used solely for fiendish torture. Long poles with thick ends, probably used as cudgels. Apparatus coming down from the ceiling with ropes and pulleys, probably a modern day rack. Alan tried to grab his head again before realising, with horror, that he was strapped to one of these machines of torture. It was long with two bars running down its length, and it was to these bars his hands were tied. A red light winked ominously on a black dashboard in front of him, the rest of the controls were too dark to make out.
Oh dear God, what unspeakable horror is this used for? Alan let out a moan and the whispering outside the door stopped. Alan looked in the direction of the now-silence and swallowed, hard. A door creaked open and bright lights suddenly illuminated the room, burning his retinas. Alan hissed in pain and tried to cover his eyes with his hands before again remembering that they were tied down.
‘See, I told you he was possessed.’ A familiar voice heralded in the blinding light. The machines of torture were illuminated and as Alan slowly opened his pained eyes he saw what he was tied to; causing his heart to stop still with fright.
A treadmill! His mind screamed with fear. All the other equipment now swam into view; dumbbells, an exercise bike, a weights-machine; all on a black and white tiled floor. He was in a gym and stood on the modern day equivalent of the rack. Alan’s eyes watered under the intense glare of the lights and he blinked madly at the two men who had entered the room. One was the priest who had drugged him, Matthias, the other was an elderly gentleman dressed in a similar robe but with a large golden cross hanging around his neck and a gold leafed Bible under one arm. This man looked at Alan distrustfully.
‘I see the burns, but how sure are you they came from the pit?’ The man asked the priest. His accent was heavily slurred, almost as if English was a third or even fourth language to him. Alan shivered and looked down, realising that he was stripped to the waist with all his scars on show.
‘He confessed to me so, Archbishop.’ Matthias answered quickly, eager to please.
‘Is this so?’ The Archbishop looked to Alan disdainfully, as if demanding an answer from a dog which had just soiled itself.
‘I have no idea what this man is talking about. He drugged me and then I woke up here. Please, help me. Let me go. I won’t tell…’
‘SILENCE!’ Alan was shocked to silence by the Archbishop’s words. ‘I believe you,’ he continued, Alan sagging with relief at the Archbishop’s words, ‘this man has clearly been in the lair of the dark one. See how the lies just spill forth? We must prepare at once, come.’ Alan watched dumbfounded as the Archbishop and Matthias left the room and closed the door, before plunging it back into darkness.
Alan was trying to keep track of the time by counting the winking red light on the treadmill dashboard, but being unaware of the interval between winks he was struggling. He’d tried freeing his hands earlier but had only succeeded in making himself bleed, and thirsty. His legs soon began to feel weary from being stood up for so long but when he'd tried to sit his freshly cut arms had screamed in pain. He found he was able to half squat to ease some pressure from his knees, but could only do so for short periods before the rope dug too deeply into his wrists. Time continued to pass with little to do except count blinking lights.
Seven hundred and twenty four. Seven hundred and twenty five. Seven hundred and twenty six. The urge to urinate grew with every red wink, despite craving water, and it was becoming unbearable. The urge continued to grow and grow and by the time Alan reached one thousand and twelve winks he could hold back the dam no longer. He sobbed quietly as warm liquid made its way down the inside of his leg, soaking into his pants and pooling in the dark at his feet. Alan’s sobs turned into a sigh of relief and as he did so the lights glared on and the archbishop walked into the room.
‘Pleasure in fouling yourself? You are a disgusting beast indeed.’ He stated with disdain before crossing himself and muttering something in a language Alan didn’t recognise.
‘No, it’s not. It’s just. I really needed to pee. Please, you've got to help me!’ Alan begged, hopping from damp foot to damp foot.
‘That is exactly what I am here to do.’ Spoke the archbishop, beginning to flick water at Alan and recite words in what Alan now guessed was Latin. Nothing happened.
‘I told you, I’m not possessed. Now please, let me go!’ As Alan begged again as Matthias walked into the room with a tray. A tray with both food and water, and instruments Alan didn’t want to know about.
‘The demon must be deep within him. Holy water is having no effect. We will need to sweat it out of him.’ The archbishop told Matthias before stalking out of the room.
‘Please. Please let me go.’ Alan tried his luck with Matthias.
‘We are here to help you, Alan.’ Matthias said as he cradled Alan’s cheek with a free hand. ‘You are a soul from the fiery pit. You can only be here with the aid of a demon and it must be cast out. Here, drink this.’ Matthias’ features softened slightly as he lifted a beaker of water to Alan’s lips. Alan drank greedily from the cup and Matthias shrivelled his nose at the smell of urea. ‘Eat, too.’ Matthias spoon fed him soup, much of which Alan dribbled down himself.
‘We’ll be back in the morning.’ Matthias whispered, to Alan’s horror.
‘No! NO! Please! Please don’t leave me here. Not in the dark, please!’ But his cries fell on deaf ears. Matthias took the tray, leaving behind the instruments, and then turned the light off behind him as he left. Alan was engulfed by the darkness, and hopelessness, again.
Alan lost track of time and began to doze, when he was able to; now refusing to count the winking light. His legs had begun to cramp terribly, as had his arms, whilst the small of his back screamed in constant agony. Alan estimated that this was his second day of captivity but he had no time reference to go off; other than an internal body-clock which he had never fully trusted. It always seemed to wake him either ten minutes before any alarms he had set, or half an hour after he was required somewhere. Alan wracked his brain for ways to get out but nothing came to mind other than complete submission and mercy. And Matthias’ words were stuck on loop in his head,
‘You are a soul from the fiery pit. You can only be here with the aid of a demon …’
How did I escape? He tentatively thought before images of flames and tortured screams filled his mind, and he shut it out. He knew it was information he needed, information he wanted, but Alan didn’t want to relive those memories. He tried to think of another way out and once again began working on the ropes binding him to the treadmill. His wrists began to bleed quicker than before but he continued, gritting his teeth in a futile attempt to stop the pain. At some point he passed out.
Cold water woke him.
‘Been working on an escape, have we?’ A familiar voice said, although Alan couldn’t see who it belonged to through the water. Someone grabbed his wrist and Alan howled with pain. ‘We’re here to help you, if you let us. If you don’t? Well; it will just take longer.’ Alan recognised the watery image of the archbishop’s face in front of his eyes and he sobbed to himself.
This isn't a dream. Alan thought with abject misery, feebly standing up and taking the pressure off his tired arms.
‘Please. Water.’ Alan croaked, tongue trying to catch the last drops that dribbled down his face. Matthias stepped forward and poured water into Alan’s mouth, causing him to cough up what he could not swallow. ‘How long have you had me?’ He asked between gulps.
‘This is the second morning, or the third day since I rescued you.’ Matthias confided in him, causing Alan to weakly laugh at the word rescued.
‘You’re both sick, do you know that?’ Alan said manically, panting for breath and spraying water into Matthias' face.
‘Silence, demon! You’re the sick one.’ The Archbishop splashed more water in Alan’s face, the anger on his face being replaced by confusion when again nothing happened. ‘We’ll need to work him. Turn on the machine.’ Meekly Matthias stepped forward again, this time turning on the treadmill; much to Alan’s horror.
‘Please, I can’t. I’m exhausted.’
‘I said exercise the devil,’ Shouted the Archbishop, thrusting his arm in the air and sending water cascading onto Alan from the cup he was holding. Alan temporarily had a mental picture of a parson holding up a cross to a Martian, but that soon faded as the treadmill began to spring into life. The machine was only set to walking pace but Alan was already tripping over his own feet. The archbishop stood before the treadmill with his Bible open, speaking in what Alan still assumed was Latin. Every pause for breath he flicked water in Alan’s direction and after every page turned he nodded at Matthias who sped the machine up. After the fifth page Alan collapsed and the treadmill tore at his pants. His wrists tugged at the rope binding him and he screamed feebly before passing out from the pain.
Alan came back around slowly, tentatively opening his eyes and panting heavily.
Why is the room swaying back and forth? When he finally came all the way to he saw he was no longer on the treadmill but tied to a cross-trainer; a cross-trainer that was on. His soiled pants had been replaced with highly unfashionable shorts, although Alan was still naked above the waist. Now in control of his body he wrestled with the automatic cross trainer that had been working him, despite him being unconscious, and Alan managed to slow it down ever so slightly.
‘Back to the light, are we?’ The archbishop asked, not hiding the mocking tone and stood in front of the machine with the Bible still open. ‘You speak of dark things when you allow the demon to take full control.’ He resumed reciting from the Bible and flicking Holy Water on Alan.
Alan took stock of this new view of the room and saw nothing of value to him. His hands were not tied as tight this time, but his feet were also bound to this new machine of torture. He began to sob.
‘Please. Please, I beg of you. I am not possessed. I don’t know how I escaped Hell but I am not possessed.’ Alan whimpered causing the archbishop to slam shut the Bible and Matthias to turn off the machine.
‘At last, a confession! Well done, Alan. You took your first step forwards towards redemption, and the exorcism of the demon within you. Matthias, tend to his needs; I need to make more water.’ The archbishop stalked out of the room again, leaving Alan to curse his big mouth.
Great, now denial is out of the window. Alan began to weep as Matthias first fed and watered him before helping him go to the toilet in a plastic bottle, still bound to the cross trainer and all in complete silence. Matthias then left and turned out the lights.
Alan whittled away the rest of the hours, of what he assumed was night, in fits and starts. He had begun to probe his mind for memories of Hell and whilst he still often shied away from them he was making progress; progress to a degree that he was waking up from his dozing states screaming. Finally, in what he assumed was the middle of the night, and despite breaking out with sweats and shakes, he burst through the images of flames and the sounds of screams to have a clear lucid memory.
‘Hello again, Alan,’ Lucifer stood before him with a wicked smile dancing at the corners of his rouge lips. The rest of him was mostly cloven hooves, red skin, pitch fork, and glasses. It was the glasses that were throwing it for Alan, and keeping him in the perpetual belief that this was all a twisted nightmare of his mind’s making. What convinced him more, and almost made him laugh every time, was when the devil peered over the rims of the glasses at Alan before sliding them up his nose. Almost like an annoyed teacher; or a patronising secretary.
‘I see I’m still dreaming.’ Alan replied, sweating profusely. He was tied to a vertical rack and whilst there was an air-conditioning unit in the corner it wasn’t on. The devil laughed.
‘You still refuse to accept your fate, I see, no matter how many times I show you the last moments of your pathetic excuse for an existence. Regardless, what’ll it be today, Alan? Some flaying and salting? We’ve not had disembowelment for a few days. Oh, I know.’ Alan’s face spasmed in anticipation of what was to come. Lucifer left the room and Alan tried in vain to undo the shackles holding him to the upright rack. He screamed in frustration and horror, his voice joining the countless other souls suffering in Hell. The devil returned and Alan shook at his shackles harder.
‘Please, please no. I’ll take the flaying. The disembowelment. I’ll take them both! Please.’ The devil smiled with pity.
‘Now now Alan, calm down. Your parents are here to see you. They’ve brought with them their holiday slides and they have hours and hours and hours’ worth of photographs and videos of Slough. You’re in for a real treat today, I assure you.’ Lucifer began to laugh manically as Alan howled the tortured screams of a mad man.
The memory melted away as bright light stung Alan’s eyes again. It was day four and time for exorcising.
Or is that exercising? He thought without humour as Matthias force fed him some mouldy smelling cereal and water, both of which Alan wolfed down greedily. Matthias and the archbishop whispered between themselves about whether to move him back to the treadmill. Alan couldn't make out much but it seemed in the end they decided against it; in case the demon tried to flee. Instead, they started up the cross trainer and the archbishop began to recite from the Bible, and splash Alan with Holy Water.
‘Confess, Demon! Leave this body!’ Matthias shouted in excitement as the archbishop spoke in Latin.
‘I’m. Not. Possessed.’ Alan puffed between breaths, arms and legs flailing like a cow in a stampede. They had only increased the setting twice so far and Alan was already struggling to breath.
I wish I'd taken better care of my body when I was alive. Alan thought, remembering the most vigorous exercise he regularly took part in was pint lifting every weekend down at his local; something he was close to being professional in.
‘You will confess! You will be brought to the light! You will be exorcised!’ Matthias seemed to be enjoying himself a little too much for Alan’s liking, a flicker of madness dancing behind those eyes.
‘I think. I’m. Over. Exer. Cised. All. Ready.’ Not a flicker of emotion passed on Matthias’ face, although the archbishop did appear to momentarily snort with mirth.
‘Insolence will get you nowhere, Demon!’ Matthias grabbed Alan’s wrist causing him to scream and stars of white light to dance across his vision. ‘Curb your tongue in my presence.’ The archbishop slammed his book shut.
‘Let him go, Matthias. Shut off the machine and then get out!’ Matthias stared at the archbishop opened mouthed before bowing and complying, hurriedly. As he left he shot Alan a dirty look, before disappearing out of the room; footfalls revealing a staircase somewhere beyond the still open door.
‘Forgive him. It is his first exorcism and he’s not good with people.’
No shit, Alan thought, confused by the turn of events. The archbishop seemed to recognise this and began to chortle.
‘The Holy Water and Bible passages are having no effect on you, Alan. You have either somehow managed to subdue the demon or the demon has since left you. I hope the former for I fear what a demon free in this heathen world may do. But regardless, it will mean a change in tactic.’
‘I don’t remember a possession. I remember the torture, the screams, the heat.’ Alan closed his eyes as tears began to form, ‘that’s it. I don’t know how I escaped and I don’t want to know. I want to go home. To my wife.’ Alan began to cry, hope crumbling beneath him.
‘Rest easy, my child.’ The archbishop whispered calmingly, placing a hand on Alan’s head. ‘We must help you remember, so we can then free your soul from the demon inside.’ Alan looked up at the archbishop, head silhouetted by a light from behind him.
‘Thank you, Archbishop.’ Alan sobbed.
‘Please, call me Reverend.’ The archbishop smiled and then left. As he did so Alan noticed he shuffled sideways to the door, avoiding all the black tiles on the black and white tiled surface. When he reached the door he turned off the lights and darkness enveloped the room. Alan began to sob again, this time in confusion.
In the darkness Alan began to probe his memories again. It was only afternoon, by the reckoning of his internal clock and the breakfast eaten previously, and no doubt they’d be back for more torturing soon.
I have to find out how I escaped Hell. I need to convince the archbishop that I was not possessed. Again, he fought against the urge to run from the memory of the heat of the flames, the screams of the damned, and the acridity of the sulphur. Suddenly, as the memories became almost unbearable, he burst through and the previous memory bubbled to the surface.
His parents had just left and Alan slumped loose in his shackles, panting. He’d never been to Slough before but after the past three hours he felt like he knew each and every inch of it, intimately. Every now and then an after-image of a grey building floated across his vision, accompanied with his dad’s droning voice and his mum’s excited squeals, and he would spasm.
Maybe I really am in Hell. He thought in drained fear. He found some strength and dragged himself back upright, beginning to gently tug at his shackles again. If past tortures were anything to go by the devil would give him a few hours to drool before hitting him with round two of the day. His wrist shackles suddenly snapped with Alan so shocked he didn’t brace for the fall. He face-planted, hard. Moaning he slowly rolled onto his back and rubbed his bleeding nose, before removing the twisted shackles still attached to his feet. There seemed to be only one exit from the room and so he took it, not questioning his sudden find of good luck.
The corridor consisted of blisteringly hot red rock which was melting in places forming small pools of magma on the floor. As he jogged down the corridor, in the only direction he could go, he passed numerous doors on either side; screams of the damned coming from within. Alan stopped momentarily at one to see a man strapped to a table having his feet tickled by a floating feather. Alan shivered at the sight and carried on down the corridor, refusing to look back. Through another window he passed Alan saw a woman having her spleen removed by children, before they forced her to eat it. Terror now began to chase Alan down the corridor until it split into a fork and he was forced to make a decision.
Damn, which way? There was a green neon exit sign pointing towards the corridor to the right, so he took it, without questioning why such a sign would even exist in the first place here in Hell. The corridor began to look older as he ran down it, chased by the quietening screams of the damned. The rock walls began to change from a red to grey, with less and less of it melting until it was cool enough for Alan to touch. There were still doors on either side but many now hung open, and none contained the damned. A faint white light began to glow at the end of the corridor and a roar cut through the screams behind him, silencing them all.
‘AAALLLLAAAAANNNNN!’ Alan stopped momentarily and looked over his shoulder for the source of the sound.
Looks like the devil came back sooner than expected. Alan thought as he started to run again. The corridor seemed to stretch on forever but as he progressed it continued to appear older and older, and the light grew brighter and brighter. Dust soon began to appear on the floor and many of the doors had fallen from their rusted hinges. A rush of hot air blasted down the corridor from behind him and threw Alan to the ground.
‘Found you!’ Echoed an inhuman scream. Alan looked over his shoulder and saw a deep red glow dimly in the distance. He clambered to his feet and set off running again before he tripped over a door that had fallen into his path and landed heavily on his side. Alan continued to look back, gripped by fear and peering into the red light. The light seemed to pulse and Alan saw eyes. They were a lighter red and hard to make out but they were most definitely there.
Did they just wink? Alan scrambled to his feet and ran, the white light in front of him getting brighter and brighter with every laboured step. Alan occasionally glanced over his shoulder as he ran, always sure to check there were no obstacles before him first. The eyes began to become more pronounced and more in focus, and soon he could make out the outline of the pursuing devil. He wasn’t alone: demons of all shapes and sizes crowded behind him, salivating at the chase. Alan pressed on in fear. In the centre of the eye stinging bright light ahead of him gold began to shimmer gently. As he neared the light the gold began to take the form of a ladder, and hope sprung forth in Alan’s heart.
Freedom! He pressed on, ignoring the howls from the demons behind him. As Alan reached the ladders he looked back once more; the demons and devil were no more than ten doors away and the devil looked horrified.
‘Get away from those ladders, Alan!’ Alan smiled, flipped the devil the bird, and looked up into the source of the light; his hands on the golden rungs.
Bright light stung his eyes and the memory faded instantly.
‘For fuck’s sake!’ Alan howled in frustration, writhing against his shackles.
‘The demon shows itself!’ Matthias shouted as he walked in; Alan glared at him, wishing for a team of spleen removing children.
‘I had it! I had the memory of how I escaped!’
‘This is excellent news!' Shouted the Archbishop as he followed Matthias in. 'Matthias, feed the man. We must help his memory return so we can cleanse him.’ Matthias bowed before bringing over a bowl of soup and what appeared to be more stale bread. Alan wolfed it down regardless, not minding the scolding heat of the soup nor the green flecks in the bread. The archbishop, in the meantime, began to set up a laptop in front of the treadmill.
‘What are you doing?’ Alan asked confused. The archbishop shot Alan a flicker of annoyance before returning his attention back to the computer. Alan caught a brief glimpse of the user name on screen; FuturePope01. ‘What are you doing, Reverend?’ Alan ventured again, more respectfully.
‘I’m glad you asked, Alan. In much the same way we worked your body to oust the demon, we must work your mind to oust the memory. I have here brain exercises for you to take part in.’
‘And this is scientifically proven, is it?’ The archbishop laughed at Alan’s question.
‘Alan, science has no place here. Science does not know everything. You have to put your faith in God, and place yourself in the hands of we, his servants.’ The archbishop said, returning his attention back to the computer.
‘His servants have so far drugged me, fed me stale bread, and forced me to exercise in the hope of bringing out a none-existent demon. Forgive me if I find it difficult to place myself in your hands, Reverend. Based on your screen saver, I fear where they might have been.’ The archbishop reddened when he saw that Alan could see the wallpaper on the laptop: a nun wearing only a dog collar and a head scarf.
‘Enough! Now then, you won’t give us any trouble if we transfer you back to the treadmill, will you?’
‘No, no. None at all. I won’t actually be running again, will I?’ Alan answered and asked apprehensively.
‘Alan, we’re trying to bring out your missing memory. For that we require the exercise of the mind alone.’ Alan, satisfied with that, nodded then waited patiently as he was unshackled from the cross trainer. He walked on heavy legs to the treadmill before being secured again.
‘There’s no need to secure me, I promise I won’t run. I actually want to know what happened to me.’ Alan pleaded as Matthias began to tie his other arm to the treadmill's rails.
‘The ropes are for as much of your protection as our own and I assure you, you will run. For when we bring out the demon in the exercise exorcism we don’t want him escaping.’ The archbishop said, nodding to Matthias who continued to bind his arms to the rails.
‘I thought you were just giving me mind exercises?’ Alan asked in confusion. The archbishop laid a comforting hand on his shoulder.
‘Child, we exercise the mind for the memory. We must still exercise the body to bring out the demon.’ Alan’s heart sank.
I should have known not to trust a man in a dress.
‘Shall we begin?' The archbishop asked no-one. Alan nodded slowly, fearful for what was to come next, but the archbishop didn’t even glance his way. ‘Matthias start the machine then leave. Alan answer the questions as they come up on screen. Out loud. You will have five seconds to answer each of them before I encourage you.’ Matthias started the treadmill before being shooed out of the room by the archbishop.
‘Oh, I forgot to mention. For every question you get wrong I shall be poking you with this,’ Alan turned away from the screen to see the archbishop brandishing a cattle prod, ‘the encouragement.’
You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Alan hoped his memory would return again soon, he didn’t think he could take much more of this.
The first question popped up on screen: “2 + 2 = ?”
‘Four.’ Alan chimed in instantly.
‘Correct.’ Replied the archbishop, almost sadly, as he waved and activated the cattle prod in Alan’s peripheral vision. ‘They will get harder though; to help encourage thought.’ The second question popped up on screen: “How many wives did Henry the VIII have?”
‘Six.’ Alan again said instantly. A jolt of pain seared through his side and he screamed, nearly falling from the slow moving treadmill.
‘The brute got a marriage annulled and was still married to Catherine of Aragon when Anne Boleyn came along.’ The archbishop explained, tapping the treadmill with the cattle prod as he did. Alan continued to jog, confused by the archbishop’s reasoning. The next question flashed on screen: “What is the Capital of Italy?”
‘Rome!’ Alan shouted in desperation. The archbishop mumbled an affirmation under his breath before reaching over and stepping up the treadmill’s speed. He then flicked Holy Water in Alan’s face as a secondary thought.
‘Water and electricity. Are you sure that’s such a good idea…. Reverend?’ Alan asked, beginning to pant. Instead of responding he tapped the laptop’s monitor with the cattle prod, the next question had appeared: “Born from the line of David and of the Madonna, whose name means “the anointed”?”
‘Jesus Christ, what kind of a question is that?’ Alan asked, flabbergasted.
‘Correct, and don’t question the inquisition.’ The archbishop grumbled, again stepping up the treadmill speed and splashing Alan with more Holy Water. The lid of the bottle came off and Alan was drenched with water, partially obscuring his sight of the next question: “Different coloured robes worn by archbishops signify what?”
Alan realised it was this archbishop who had written these questions in as much as he realised he didn’t know the answer.
‘The number. Of children. Abused?’ Alan offered between pants. The archbishop jammed the cattle prod into Alan’s side for his insolence, and squeezed the trigger tightly. Electricity coursed through Alan causing him to spasm and silently scream. The Holy Water, mixed with his sweat, was amplifying the current and Alan suffered for it. Stars danced across his vision and out of the corner of his eye he saw the archbishop down on his knees, twitching too. The overloaded cattle prod was reversing the charge. During a spasm the archbishop released his hold of the cattle prod, throwing it into the laptop which fell off the treadmill and into the gap between the wall. It caught in the plug socket and the treadmill stopped, plug hanging loose on the floor. With a current no longer passing through either of them, both the archbishop and Alan collapsed, face first, and both of them unconscious.
Alan’s world was full of hurt. His eyes throbbed with a red light, his arms - attached to the rails - ached and screamed at the angle they were in, and his side felt burnt from the cattle prod.
This is my only chance to escape! Alan thought groggily as he forced himself into a kneeling position and looked around. His face felt raw from where he landed and he saw that his knees were bleeding from friction burns. Unsteadily he got to his feet and examined the rope binding him to this machine of torture. In transferring him from the cross trainer they hadn’t secured his left arm as tightly, and a strand of rope hung loose. Alan gripped it in his teeth and pulled. Much to his relief the rope loosened, slightly. He tugged more until the rope caught on itself and panic set in.
Easy now. Slow and steady wins the race. He took a deep calming breath and wriggled his hand. There was enough room to free it! Painstakingly slow, and convinced Matthias was going to walk in at any minute, Alan worked his hand free. He stared at it blankly for a few seconds, quite unable to grasp the fact he was free. A triumphant beam of a smile began to form on his face, and he was about to shout with delight, when the archbishop moaned in pain. Fear crept back upon Alan and he worked on freeing the other hand, quickly. He glanced once at the archbishop, who was still motionless on the floor, before he managed to free his other hand completely. Once free he bounded off the treadmill, wobbly on his feet, and grabbed the cattle prod before he made his way, unsteadily, towards the door. He glanced back at the archbishop, who was still unconscious, and struggled, barely, to contain the rising hatred.
I should kill you, he thought to himself before hearing the disapproving tut of Mary in his mind. The urge passed. On feet that felt alien to him, Alan climbed the set of stairs beyond the door, before slowly opening the closed door at the top and stepping out into the kitchen he was drugged in. Matthias who had his back to him - washing up at a sink - stopped at the sound of the opening door.
‘Has he confessed yet, archbishop?’ When silence answered Matthias’ question he turned around. Alan stood panting at the top of the stairs and Matthias dropped the plate he had in his hands, shattering it into pieces.
‘Say you’re sorry.’ Alan stated.
‘Excuse me?’ The priest asked, leaning away from Alan and towards the sink.
‘To the plate, say you’re sorry.’ Alan trigged the cattle prod causing Matthias to flinch.
‘I’m. I’m sorry.’ Matthias stated, looking down at the plate.
‘Did it go back to being a plate again?’ Alan asked with what sounded like genuine interest.
‘No?’ Matthias answered in confusion, looking from the plate back to Alan.
‘Then now you’ll understand why I’m about to do what I am to you.’ Moments of silence passed between them before Alan slowly lurched his way towards Matthias, feral snarl on his face.
‘Stay back, demon!’ Matthias shouted, lifting the cross around his neck with one hand whilst he plunged his other into the sink in search of a knife.
‘I told you already,’ Alan began, anger rising, ‘I am not possessed. I have never been possessed. And I will never be possessed! If there is any possession to be having it will be you! Of an arse kicking from me!’ Alan thrust the cattle prod into Matthias’ mid-rift, mindful to let it go as soon as he squeezed the trigger. Matthias, hand plunged deep into the hot soapy water, twitched back and forth before collapsing to the floor unconscious. Alan stood looking at him for a few moments before he noticed his clothes in a bag under the table, but upon remembering about the split pants, decided to leave them there and scooped up the cattle prod instead. He did, however, root through the bag long enough to grab his wallet before heading upstairs in search of Matthias' bedroom and some fresh clothes.
After all, if the scars don't draw attention these hot pants will. He thought dryly as he looked through the wardrobe in Matthias' bedroom. Most of the clothes on offer were, unsurprisingly, priest cassocks. He did find a pair of jeans a little short on the leg, and a shirt a little long on the arm, and, after spending a moment wondering if Matthias was really a chimpanzee, dressed in them. He grabbed a jumper that was left on the bed and made his way back downstairs, still a little unsteady on his legs. As he did so he heard footsteps coming up from the basement and in that moment decided to flee. He tossed the cattle prod behind him, when testing the trigger did nothing, and bounded out of the front door; slamming to a standstill when he tried to cut across the church grounds. He rubbed his freshly bleeding nose, checked over his shoulder for pursuers, and half ran half staggered around the church and onto the street; giving the invisible barrier around the church a wide berth. He didn't look back again until he was at a busy intersection but by then the coast was clear. He leant on railings by a zebra crossing, as cars stopped to allow pedestrians to cross. Catching his breath he watched a window cleaner set up his ladders and began to climb, and the last of the memory came flooding back.
Alan began to climb; sweet golden rung after sweet golden rung. He could hear the demons below, the noise slowly fading away. Alan concentrated solely on the light above and the golden rungs before him. Hand over hand, foot over foot. He had no idea how long this ladder was, the light was too bright to see more than three or four rungs ahead, but he kept going. He refused to look down and constantly fought the fear that any minute now a clawed hand would grab a trailing foot. After what seemed like half an hour, Alan began to tire. The sense of vertigo was beginning to get to him after all the climbing, and the urge to look down to see how far he had come overwhelmed him. Alan slowed his climb and finally stopped. Gripping the golden ladder tightly, and panting heavily, he peeked down. The devil stood smiling up at him, less than twenty feet away, on the ground.
I've not been climbing anywhere! The devil waved and Alan sobbed in despair against the golden rungs.
'Did you miss me, Alan?' Lucifer asked wickedly.
I've been tricked. Tortured, again. Alan though, weeping against the rungs of the golden ladder. He'd been given hope only to have it snatched away again at the final moments. All the fight in him ebbed away.
'I'm in Hell, there's no longer denying any of this.' Alan wailed aloud.
‘Come on down Alan, there's no need to climb the walls.’ Demon mirth followed Lucifer's voice up the ladder to Alan. He took a step down before giving one last longing look at the bright light above him.
So close, yet so far. He thought when suddenly, staring into the bright light, Alan saw movement. His retinas burnt in the glow but he peered deeper. The movement began to take shape and suddenly an open hand thrust itself through the light towards him. The devil screamed below,
‘Nooooooooo!’ Alan didn't hesitate when he heard the genuine fear in the devil’s voice. He grabbed the hand with both of his and was drawn upwards into the light. He saw a smiling angelic face, wings of white, and a halo of gold.
‘Have no fear Adam, there was a mix up in admissions. You're heaven bound.’ The voice was as sweet as the face.
‘Adam?’ Alan said, now unsure of what was going on. 'I'm Alan.' The smiling face wrinkled in confusion.
‘Oh.’ Said the angel, and the hand let go. Alan tumbled downwards out of the light and as consciousness swam away from him he heard the same sweet voice say, ‘send our apologies to Luci,’ before he landed face first on sand and lost consciousness.