|Feature Short Story
|To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
By Dimitris P. Boskainos (Author)
& Dimitris J. Boskainos (Translator)
St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral
New York City
Monday, February 4, 2013, 4:45 pm
Father Jerome wiped his lips with a clean white napkin after having a
He was the youngest priest ever to hold mass in St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in
50 years. He was just 31 and had come to the big city from a small
Pennsylvania parish about two months ago.
He had just started to get used to the City’s mentality, the traffic, the ruckus,
the food and the more clement weather, but he never forgot who he was and
where he had started from, so he never neglected praying for the people of
his little village who he had spent his early years as a priest with.
But today was different.
No, this was not the same. He had been part of two exorcisms as father
Nicholas’ apprentice, but he had never been alone.
Furthermore, the symptoms that those two “hosts” presented with were so
mild that even if he had not yet formed a consolidated view of the
manifestations of Good and Evil, he had started to lean towards some
Freudian transference of their meaning and had convinced himself that the
exorcized were just weak characters that required psychiatric assistance
before they started to immerse themselves again in the calm haven of Faith.
He laid both his hands in the gold-embroidered altar cloth and bent forward
taking in slow breaths as his father had taught him as a child so that he could
channel all his stress, especially when he was a mess and had to be with
people that very time.
He had a bad premonition.
Maybe he was somewhat ill, he said to himself, while the last bite of his lunch
threatened to charge upward again, into his esophagus.
He was expecting, in about a quarter of an hour, one Margaret Malone, 22,
law student, and some members of her family.
Her father, Vincent Malone, had approached him last Sunday after mass and
had related those unthinkable for any human mind events that involved his
one and only daughter, events that since last month had changed the life of
all his family.
Those events were so hair-raising that Father Jerome rose his eyes ever so
often to meet Vincent’s eyes, as if he could not believe that all those hideous,
horrific images were the product of speech of an everyday middle-aged man,
a rail driver in the Long Island line.
Unfortunately, the Polaroid pictures that Vincent showed him with tears and
desperation in his eyes as their short conversation ended dispersed both his
incredulity and his restful night’s sleep for the week that followed.
You needn’t be an orthopedics specialist to see that the joints of the arms
and legs of this unfortunate young woman were bent backwards from normal
while she exhibited her swollen tongue in a torn and bruised face with her
head looking upwards in a body curved like a human table.
He walked to the small washbasin outside and to the left of the chancel,
turned the tap and made to drink some water.
He looked at his clean collar and his pale gaunt face in the little mirror above
the washbasin. He wiped the drops of sweat from his brow and coughed a
couple of times to clear his voice.
He looked at the statue of Christ Crucified which reached up to his waist, at
the right side of the altar. Made of plaster and painted with light pastel
colors, it looked worn with age as the sparkling luster of its surface had
started to fade with the passage of time.
With a slow and determined step he walked towards the statue, kneeled and
casting a fleeting glance into the soulless artificial eyes he bent his head
humbly and began to pray...
“-Lord, help Thy humble servant... -Give me the strength, O Lord, to
despatch Evil to the flames of Hell... -Help me deliver this young Christian
from the mephitic Spirit of Evil... -In the Name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen...”
A creaking noise, augmented by the acoustics of the ample space of the
church was heard and then what sounded like conversation. But the thing
that frightened Father Jerome was an otherworldly laughter, ironic shrieks
and smiles that were extinguished abruptly as he turned to look...
He got up and walked towards the family.
What he had heard seconds before had indelibly registered into his
subconscious but the sudden silence that ensued made him think he might
just have imagined it.
Vincent was holding tightly the left arm of his daughter while his wife held on
to the right arm, both so close to her that they supported her and looked
alternately at her and Father Jerome who was walking toward them.
The girl wore a questioning expression on her face and sized up Father
Jerome with disbelief. She was sweating profusely with her hair glued on her
face, while she breathed slowly with a whistling sound. Her head was slightly
inclined to the side, while her eyes were wide open and wet.
Father Jerome took a small aged leather-bound book from his pocket and
opened it somewhere in the middle. He turned towards the parents and said:
“Come closer, don’t let her go, bring her here at the center under the dome.”
Vincent tightened his grip on his daughter. “Come, dear, be brave and all will
The young girl pulled away her eyes from Father Jerome and spoke to her
father with a heavy male voice and an indistinct accent: “Pot....glurgh....all
will go to pot.”
Her malevolent laughter ceased immediately and her look transfixed the
priest again until his stomach was taut. “Did you soil your pants, yella boy?
You ain’t seen nothing yet, horny guy. Wahahaha glurgh (she started to spit
mucus on the ground) do ya wanna see everything, fag? Well, here it is.”
(Her body curved backwards by itself like a huge parenthesis mark, and, with
an abrupt move, her clothes were torn from top to bottom as if a razor had
ripped them apart). “You are nothing to me, you don’t scare me, come and
fuck me now, fuck me!” And she started to moan loudly and contract her
pelvis up and down in a lewd and primitive fashion.
Her mother uttered a whimper of desolation which hit the ears of the others
like a club.
Father Jerome drew in a deep breath, tensed his body and started reciting
slowly and steadily “Crux sancta sit mihi lux / Non draco sit mihi dux, Vade
retro Satana” (transl. May the Holy Cross be my Light / Let not the dragon be
my guide, go back Satan).
The possessed girl tensed every muscle in her face in a grimace full of
furrows and hate and cried out to the priest “Are you a sissy? Don’t you
hear me when I’m talking to you?”
Suddenly her voice became a more booming bass as if the element that
haunted spoke at last: “TELL HIM TO SHUT UP TELL HIM TO SHOVE IT
NOOO NOT THAT PRAYER F...ED BENEDICT...YOU HAD SENT ME AWAY
BY THAT THEN AHIIIIII PUT A LID ON IT PRIMATE OF THE CHURCH”.
Father Jerome continued steadfastly and with greater certainty, seeing that
his words began to have an effect.
“Nunquam suade mihi vana. Sunt mala quae libas / Ipse venena bibas*
(Transl.* “Never lead me unto temptation with vain things. What you are
offering is evil / Drink the poison yourself.”)
After the reading of the last word and while all present crossed themselves
with eyes shut, the girl closed her eyes and collapsed. Her parents with
Father Jerome’s assistance laid her down in the pews of the first row. There
the priest continued the reading for quite some time more, but the only
reaction from the girl were some movement of her eyeballs under eyes closed
tight and, from time to time, some mild unintelligible murmurs.
With none of the three of them being any the wiser, a thin black plume of
smoke was beginning to emit from the girl’s nostrils and began whirling and
growing. They were quite close to her, but no one of them saw the
ectoplasm, which, once its exit was complete, quickly soared toward the
The girl’s mother wiped her forehead with a handkerchief and after making
sure her daughter was breathing more regularly this time looked at Father
Jerome with her eyes full of anticipation and agony. She asked him if he was
finished and smiled a smile of deliverance for the first time in quite a while
when she saw his affirmative nod.
The couple covered the girl with a blanket which Father Jerome provided and
with a drink of water succeeded in making her stand on her feet again.
Her look had changed. Her face, even though showing the exhaustion of the
ordeal she had been through was now serene and her eyes were full of
gratitude, even though she had not yet realized why.
Father Jerome accompanied them to the exit and advised them to get the girl
to a hospital for her to rest and be examined for a supposed collapse due to
He reached the washbasin dragging his feet. He was a physical wreck but
the heaviest blow had been to his soul. It was too much for him. His
reflection in the mirror gave him a start. He had to calm down. To relax and
try and get some sleep.
He opened a small trunk where his vestments and some personal belongings
were. He fumbled a little with his hands under the garments.
He took out a small metal flask of brandy. He opened it and pressed it on his
lips, shaking. He needed strength and warmth. He took in one gulp and then
another... and another. He drank looking at his image in the mirror without
thinking, until the flask was empty.
He took in a few deep breaths and felt the delivering numbness of alcohol to
rise from his stomach to the rest of his body. He went into the chancel again.
He would pray and would go home to bed. He wished for a deep, dreamless
sleep he was so in need of.
He kneeled a bit in a daze before the statue of the crucified Lord and started
praying. He wanted to thank Jesus for giving him the power to relieve that girl
from the demon that possessed her. There was no doubt that something
metaphysical had taken place. Something great even for him with his quite
He cleared his throat and started mumbling. “Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name, thy...”. He began to notice a burning feeling, from the
outside this time, hammering him on his head, coming from above his
position. He lifted his head by reflex while he continued to pray perfunctorily.
In the low light of the altar he saw the statue of the crucifixion shining
intensely and... it couldn’t be...it was probably the brandy and the fact he
doused it down all at once...it couldn’t...the statue LET DOWN TEARS...
He got a grip of his eyes and his heart and went on...”Thank you Lord for...”
The heat was rising all at once and was almost burning him... he looked at
the statue again. The aged varnish together with paint was flowing now from
the statue’s face canceling the details that its artist had effected. As if his
eyes no longer communicated with his brain, Jerome completed his phrase in
a louder voice “Thank you Lord for helping me exorcize this Demon...”
(the eyelids of Jesus opened suddenly revealing horrid ebony eyes - the
statue’s head turned towards the priest making the sound of chalk being
rubbed on a blackboard and a white fissure appeared in the statue’s neck
revealing the underlying gypsum. The answer was direct and forceful,
forceful enough to shake the altar as lightning on a clear day.)
“YOU EXORCIZED BALLS AHAHAHAHAHA”
The demon in his utmost irony had haunted the statue of Christ Crucified
knowing who he was facing and that he would break him, once and for all.
He unhinged his hands and feet from the Cross and with a back flip started to
move, spider-like, climbing on all fours the wall over the altar. And... he
laughed... with a sarcastic laughter that tore apart Jerome’s heart.
The priest found his legs with some difficulty and stepping back he gripped a
chair inside the chancel. He grabbed on the fly a small glass vessel with holy
water in it and took the bunch of basil that was dipped inside. He started
sprinkling towards the demon’s direction crying out. “Not Him, not Him
blasphemer... abominable creature of Darkness, child of Satan... feel His
Fire... the One and True”
The demon was on the ceiling of the chancel by now and whimpered like a
wounded feline at each drop of holy water that touched him. Just as Jerome
thought he had beaten him he began to laugh again and to spew out in a
horrid sarcastic voice “AHAHAHAHA YOU REALLY BELIEVED THAT YOUR
DROPS OF WATER BURN ME?... DO YOU WANT TO SEE FIRE
ASSHOLE?... REAL FIRE?”
Still hanging upside down and on all fours he looked around, snarled and
started SPITTING... sputa of fire that enflamed whatever they touched. HE
SPAT, BURNED and LAUGHED.
Jerome backtracked outside the chancel but the Beast followed him from the
ceiling, never ceasing to spew fire to the left and right but never up front. He
did not want to kill the priest but worse... He wanted to scare him to death...
The chancel was engulfed in flames and now the contents of the alcoves in
front of it burned. Now the candelabra had caught fire too and the bending
candles bowed to the force of the fire that all the while raised the temperature
inside the church.
Very quickly the flames had engulfed all the nave and transept and the
stained glass in the windows was exploding outwards.
Father Jerome thought he was in Hell. All the faces of Saints in the
iconography of the church were blackened now and suggested soldiers from
the Order of Evil.
He was stepping back continuously without thinking, having surrendered to
the rage of the demon and the insufferable heat of the fire. He was by now a
human-like puppet, as if his movements were controlled by a joker’s strings.
Suddenly... noises were heard from the front main gate of the church.
Someone was trying to break it from the outside.
A Fire Department siren began breaking in through the raucous progress of
the flames that were swallowing everything in their path.
The demon, knowing what was to follow, gave a leap in no time and landed
on the floor.
He bypassed Jerome and climbed on a wall.
He crucified himself anew between two forms of saints and laughing and
winking at the priest he closed his eyelids, turned his head on the side and
became a soulless statue once more.
The door of the church opened with a loud noise and two police officers
followed by three firemen entered the vestibule with their faces covered.
They found Jerome in a miserable state and asked him what had happened.
The neighbor who had called 911 had stated with certainty that all the while
he was on his balcony during the last hour, the priest was alone in the church.
Father Jerome was not listening at the police officers’ questions. He was
pointing at the figure of the statue of the Crucifixion crying all the time... It...
Him... He is there. His breath was reeking a mixture of fear and alcohol and
the officer beside him was quick to make the connection.
The priest became drunk and set fire to the church.
They handcuffed him and led him to the patrol car. He had a lot to answer
for. Outside the church who by now was burning almost to the ground were
parked in a haste a police cruiser and a fire brigade vehicle.
The police put Jerome in the back seat of the cruiser and set off for the
Inside the church the firefighters had begun their work but the struggle
looked uneven. There was now little hope for even the least thing to be
Father Jerome uttered not a word from the moment he was hand cuffed and
did not resist arrest. Yet at the moment the cruiser was starting he turned his
head with unease and in tears behind him and looked for no obvious reason
at the front gate of the church... And...
He was certain that HE SAW...
....the black ectoplasm that had come out of the girl’s nostrils (and which no-
one had seen) after the exorcism was now coming out of the church and
Jerome could now see it, in the light of the fire under the church gate... he
saw it disappear again into the grille of the fire truck’s door.
He thought he also saw a spark in the fire truck’s cabin and the driver jerking
like a string puppet for a moment.
As soon as the cruiser was turning to disappear on a route to the station,
Jerome saw the fire truck dashing in the wrong lane with tires screeching.
|About Dimitris P.