PLEASE, DON’T CALL ME FATHER

1. The Call

When Peter walked towards the sofa to sit down and to watch garbage TV, the phone started to ring. Sighing, he picked up the handset.

‘Hello?’ he asked, trying to put a little enthusiasm into his voice.

‘Hello? Am I speaking to Father Austin?’ asked a panting woman.

‘Yes, this is Mr Austin, but please, don’t call me Father. Who is this anyway?’

‘Please, my daughter. I don’t know who to call anymore. The doctors can’t help. You’re our last chance,’ she cried.

‘How do you know my name and my number?’

‘The family’s friend, Mr Merchant gave it to us. Please, help us.’

‘Ah Merchant… Okay. You have to calm down. What’s your name?’

‘Edith.’

‘All right, Edith. Give me your address. I’m gonna visit you tonight. Once I’m there, we can talk through everything.’

‘…5 Rodney Road, London.’

‘Thanks. I’m gonna be there in an hour, or so. See you soon.’ He put down the phone. ‘Damn. My evening is fucked.’

He poured himself a glass of cheap cognac and drank it with one big swallow. He put on a black shirt, black jeans and a long raincoat, placed a pack of cigarettes into the inner pocket, then poured some cognac into a hip flask. It was time to order a taxi.

#

Staring at the house outside, he smoked again. It was a beautiful two level apartment with a big garden inside handmade iron fences. Good that the neighbouring houses weren’t in close vicinity, he thought.

Somebody switched on the outdoor lights. A woman opened the front door and walked towards Peter, stepped next to him, grabbed his right hand, then kissed it. ‘Father. I’m so glad that you are here,’ she said, her eyes begging for absolution.

‘I told you already not to call me Father. My name is Peter,’ he said, pushed her away and strode towards the house, his raincoat fluttering behind him in the wind. He turned back a moment later as he felt the stabbing eyes of the woman on himself and asked: ‘Are you coming?’

‘Oh, of course,’ she said and hurried to let in her guest.

Inside the living room, a middle-aged man was sitting on the sofa. ‘Peter, this is my husband, Matthew.’ The two men acknowledged each other’s existence with a gentle nod. ‘Would you like a cup of coffee, tea, or something stronger maybe?’

‘Do you have cognac?’ asked Peter unashamedly, then sat down in front of Matthew.

‘Let me check,’ she said, frowning, then walked to the bar.

Matthew and Peter wore strained smiles while they were listening to Edith’s fumbling between the bottles. Matthew looked like a shy boy on the first date, except his shining red eyes.

‘I think I found something for you.’ Her smile was fake as she held up the bottle of Hennessy, but not Peter’s.

‘Excellent,’ he said, ‘no need for my hip flask tonight.’

Edith poured the cognac into a beautiful whiskey glass. Peter drank, then snapped down the glass onto the table. He caught the couple staring at his tattooed forearm, but he didn’t bother to explain the odd triangular symbols.

‘All right. Now, you’re gonna tell me the whole story from the beginning. I’m gonna listen carefully, then ask some questions. Is that okay?’

Edith nodded and began to talk. ‘Freda is eighteen years old, still studying. She’s an only child… The whole thing begun around two months ago. First, the mood swings plus the swearing. She never swore before, and she never became aggressive. But lately we had arguments every single day. Terrible arguments. I’m sorry…’

Her chin trembled. Matthew stroked her back.

‘We were fine,’ she continued, ‘we got over it. We thought it would go away, like most of the weird teenager habits she had those days. But it just got worse. The arguments became wilder. She threw the dishes at us, pulled her hair out; she asked me why I gave birth to her, why I didn’t kill her when she was born. I didn’t understand her. We didn’t change anything in our parenting, she changed so suddenly. We couldn’t scold or ground her anymore. We tried to buy presents, speak to her, but nothing seemed to work.’

Edith cried more intensely now. Peter poured himself another drink.

‘Then the boys. God knows how many boys she slept with recently. She’s very pretty; she can get whoever she wants. We didn’t know about it because she didn’t really bring them home for a while, but once we found her with a boy in the living room. Matt chased him away, but it happened again.

‘Once, she organised an orgy. Five guys plus three girls, including her. Freda bit one of the boys pretty badly, and the sheet was covered in blood. Apparently everybody was in a trance or whatever, because when Matt entered the room, nobody cared. We had never seen something like that before, not even in the TV. And Freda was the centre of attention. She controlled them all.

‘The day after, I called a psychiatrist. It wasn’t easy to talk to Freda about it, but sometimes she had better moments. So we visited this guy–‘

‘You can leave out this part,’ interrupted Peter. ‘I know all of them. All the same. I bet the pills they gave to her worsened the situation. You searched for a new guy, so on, and so on. I know. What happened after?’

Edith and Matthew looked at each other. ‘Well, something like that,’ she said. ‘But the medicines were effective in the beginning. She felt better and the tantrums went away. We lived in peace for a few days, then it got worse again. She had been expelled from school because she masturbated during class. She hit her teacher, threw her clothes away, sat down onto the classroom floor, and did it there. She spat on her classmates.

‘We picked her up, came back home, but she didn’t want to stop, only when she got tired. Then, we made her a cup of tea with sedative in it. At least we could sleep a bit too.’

Edith squeezed Matthew’s hand. Her husband was quiet during the whole story, only nodding sometimes.

‘The thing that had happened yesterday made us call you. We should have done it earlier; we had your number from Mr Merchant.

‘Anyway, before we went to bed last night, Matt had put our old baby monitor into Freda’s room. During night we woke up to strange noises, so we turned up the volume. We heard Freda, but somebody else was there too. The other person didn’t speak English or a language that we could recognise. It sounded ancient.

‘We ran upstairs in a few seconds. Freda sat in the corner, crying. She asked us what was happening to her. “I don’t want him to come back,” she told me. I asked who. Then she pointed at herself and screamed: “HIM!” Her eyes were red, and she screamed inarticulately. She hit and kicked us. It took long minutes to hold her down. We tied her to the bed and–’

‘All right, enough,’ barked Peter. ‘I heard enough. Are you religious?’

‘We’ve been raised in a Catholic family, but we don’t practise the religion itself. We raised our daughter in truth and told her the opportunities from the beginning. This way she can decide to believe in God or science.’

‘Understood. I’d like to see her if possible. Is she still tied up?’

‘Yes. We don’t want her to hurt herself.’

Edith showed the way up to the stairs, followed by Peter and Matthew. Peter felt the evil in the air. It grew stronger as they approached the room, like a vast weight crushing his shoulders. When Edith opened the door a weird smell filled the corridor, similar to female genitals, but somewhat stronger. Their breaths were visible in the cold air.

Freda lay in bed, tied up. She looked very pretty, even in her childish pyjamas, only her skin seemed a bit pale in the dim room. However, that huge amount of negative energy around her made Peter know that something malevolent nested in Freda–so strong that the parents shook in fear when they got close to her.

Peter and Freda stared into each other’s eyes for long seconds, without words spoken. Only the parents’ nervous panting could be heard in the absolute silence.

‘Hmmm, we will see,‘ said Peter suddenly.

Freda started to grin, showing almost all of her teeth and said: ‘Yes. We will have so much fun.’

‘Tomorrow, the rite will be done,’ said Peter, standing in front of the parents now. ‘Let’s talk about my payment downstairs.’

Edith and Matthew stepped back from the door, speechless.

‘What?’ managed Matthew. He looked small in Peter’s shadow.

‘Your daughter is possessed,’ said Peter. ‘I’ll help, but there’s a price.’

‘What? You must be joking. Possessed by what? A demon?’

‘Honey! We’ve been through this,’ interrupted Edith, frowning at her husband.

As she finished the sentence, a glass shattering howl filled the air, followed by a putrid stench coming from the room. The parents covered their ears and gagged.

‘Yes. A demon,’ said Peter.

 

2. The Rite

Peter’s study contained empty bottles everywhere. The ancient books, codexes, and ashtrays gave a stuffy smell to the room. The desk lamp cast strange shades on the brown antique desk, where he examined his tools in two metal boxes, a silver and a black. The black box had been untouched since years, so he just needed to refresh the containment of the silver one. He put some fresh holy water next to the crucifixes, Bibles, signet rings, holy candles, medallions and rosaries, then locked both of the boxes.

Thoughts whirled in his mind about Freda. She wasn’t a stupid teenager with attention deficit, who faked her possession. It wouldn’t be enough to read a few words from the Bible and to spill some tap water onto her, as it would be for most of his cases. She suffered by a real, incredibly strong entity that wanted to capture her soul. But how strong the creature was, he didn’t know for sure.

When he lifted the boxes, he glimpsed at his old priest tools in the chest of the desk. As he touched the white clerical collar, a child’s voice filled his ears.

‘What is that, daddy?’ she asked in her innocent tone, pointing at Peter’s neck.

‘It’s a clerical collar, darling. Daddy has to wear it when he goes to the church.’ They both smiled. Peter expected another question, but she just sat there, cocking her head and staring at him.

‘All right. Now finish your breakfast.’

And then he watched her, sitting at the table, sipping from the fresh orange juice served by his beautiful wife, thinking that he couldn’t be happier even if he wanted to. He had everything: loving family, a nice home, the perfect job, a community that loved him, even money.

But when Peter blinked, his eyes teary, he realised that he was alone in his eerie study. He let out a small, miserable laughter, then switched off the lamp and left.

#

The family waited for him at the porch. They greeted each other, then went into the living room. Mr Merchant was there too, a skinny, tall gentleman, wearing a fedora. His face was wrinkled, a little bit scary, but he expressed a soft and kind smile.

‘Peter,’ said Mr Merchant. He took off the fedora and hugged him.

Peter returned the gesture. Matthew and Edith couldn’t say a word, as the two grumpy old men literally brightened up in each other’s company.

Matthew broke the silence with his question: ‘From where do you know each other?’

‘I would say,’ said Mr Merchant, ‘we have a few common stories. Some happy, some sad, but we’ve survived all together.’

Peter nodded. He didn’t want to add anything else. They knew about their friendship now, which was enough. After all, there was a little girl fighting for her life upstairs.

‘All right. Let’s start,’ said Peter. ‘Have you prepared the things I’d suggested?’

‘We have done what we could,’ answered Edith.

‘Excellent. The rest is my duty. There is nothing else you have to do from now, only to believe. In God, in me, or whatever you want, I don’t really care, but you have to believe strongly that everything will be fine. Do you understand? It’s very important.’

‘Yes,’ they answered in a choir.

‘Good. Now, close the windows and lock up. Keep the keys easily accessible.’

They did what Peter ordered.

#

As they took the steps on the stairs, the shades on the wall were alive, monstrous, moving separately from their casters. The pressure grew, and the chilly air bit their skin. Peter walked in the front, carrying the two metal boxes.

‘You have to do everything as I say. No hesitation,’ he said. ‘Love has invaluable power, but you have to clear out your minds from any doubt. What you’re going to see in there is not your daughter, you must not forget that in any circumstance. You have to help me with your love… Are you ready?’

He didn’t wait for the answer, just opened the door. The smell got stronger since yesterday, reaching an almost unbearable level. The electronic devices were removed, the windows stuffed with duvets, and egg trays covered the walls instead of decoration as he asked. Peter stood at the end of the bed, and the rest of them at the entrance.

Freda lay in bed with an evil grin on her face. She looked at Peter, licking her lips like a pervert who just got turned on by a nasty thought.

The parents burst into tears when they glimpsed at her, but Mr Merchant smartly reminded them to the words of his friend.

Peter left the black box at the doorway, took a few steps, placed the silver box in front of himself, then opened it up. He pulled the rings on and put out some of the candles. He asked Mr Merchant to light them up.

Freda giggled. ‘We are going to have so much fun,’ she said, biting her lips. ‘This is going to be funny, so funny for a little girl like me. Fun, fun, fun mountains.’ Her voice was similar to a man’s this time.

Peter hung a crucifix at his chest, holding the Bible, holy water in his other hand. ‘Let’s have fun then, shall we,’ he snapped back at Freda.

She roared with laughter, shaking, like she was suffocating. Matthew jumped. He got to the other side of the room in a blink of an eye.

‘Don’t touch her!’ shouted Peter. ‘She’s faking it.’

He touched her daughter at the chest to check her breathing. Mr Merchant pulled him back. Matthew let her go, but his palm began to swell, and he screamed in pain, his voice mixing with the satanic laughter of Freda. ‘Hehe, fun,’ she said and stopped choking. She cocked her head now to the left and to the right, continuously.

‘Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun…’ Her head changed side at every repetition. She grinned, her mouth getting wider and wider, almost touching her earlobes, making her skin crack and bleed.

Mr Merchant tried his best to take care of the parents, leaving Peter free to focus, but his words didn’t help any longer, and they cried so desperately like a child who lost its favourite toy.

Peter, ignoring the background noises, hinted some holy water onto Freda and read from the Bible. His powerful voice filled the entire room. ‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…

‘…your time is now! The time of your leave!’ shouted Peter, loudly enough to make the window rattle.

Matthew had to sit down in the corner. His wife cuddled him, as Peter continued: ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Now reveal yourself. Tell us your name, Demon!’

Freda groaned from the holy water and tried to get out from the bondage.

‘I command you! In the name of God, reveal your name, Demon!’ shouted Peter again. He poured more holy water onto the girl, making her moan louder. She tensed all of her muscles suddenly, generating a pulse, so the candles faded out.

‘Merchant, light them up!’ ordered Peter, and Mr Merchant did it straight away.

Freda looked like she was being crucified. Giggling, with the clotted blood visible on the edge of her mouth, she shook her entire body.

‘Do you think this will be enough, you pathetic old dick?’ asked a brand new voice coming from the girl. ‘My name is Asmodeus, the almighty. I reveal my name, so you’ll know who will cause your deaths, and who will rape your souls for an eternity.’

That explains the sexual behaviour, thought Peter, because Asmodeus was the demon of lust, twister of sexual desires, a strong demon king.

Freda moved her hips now like she would have been having sex with someone or something invisible. The holy water didn’t make a difference anymore. Freda tried to lick it off of her skin.

‘Come on. Fuck me, you old prick, if you can!’ she yelled. Her irises turned dark red, and her forked tongue flickered everywhere in her wide open mouth. Peter pushed one of his rings to her forehead. ‘Get out from this body, Asmodeus! Go back to Hell, where you belong!’

Freda’s skin sizzled, and she tried to bite Peter’s hand. The smell of burning flesh filled the air.

Peter started to read from the Bible again, but after a few words, another strong air pulse kicked him away from the bed, and he hit his back at the window corner. As the excruciating pain spread through his body, blurring his perception of reality, a vision started to take over his mind. Peter and his child, Clara, were swimming in a pool. They laughed, splashed each other with water, and enjoyed themselves. Then, the water in the pool turned to blood, as Asmodeus penetrated the memory, and Peter started to drown, hearing Clara’s cry for help. He fought and tried to stay on the surface, but an invisible weight kept him down.

Somehow he could breathe and see like a humanoid fish, as the weightless body of Clara floated towards him in the sea of blood, and Freda’s mutated head appeared up behind her, opening its mouth to devour her whole body. Peter swam, and in the moment he touched his daughter’s hand to pull her back from the mouth of the monster, Mr Merchant’s face flashed into existence in front of him. They were in the dim room again, where Freda writhed on the sheet, and her parents sobbed in the corner, cuddling each other.

Peter staggered to his feet. The pain slowly evaporated, freeing up his tired mind and body. He was very pleased about the presence of his old friend, as probably Merchant saved him from being trapped in an endless, demonic dream cycle.

Freda happened to rescue her right hand and hit it to the chest of drawers’ edge with an incredible force, so everyone could hear the crackling bones. Peter stepped next to her and managed to hold her down for a few seconds, while Mr Merchant reapplied the bondage. She stopped screaming, as the deep, menacing voice took over, grunting and laughing.

‘Do you wanna play?’ said Peter. ‘Let’s play then.’ He turned to Mr Merchant. ‘Get out with the parents. Now! They can’t be here when I’m doing the black rite!’

Mr Merchant, hearing the words ‘black rite’ nodded with the most serious face and walked towards Edith and Matthew. They were out in a minute, leaving Peter and Freda alone.

Peter opened the black metal box, threw his robe onto the ground, and rolled up his shirt sleeves revealing his tattoo covered, muscular arms. The box did not contain regular priest tools but supplies for a different ceremony: dried goat blood, inverted crucifixes, cards, symbols, brushes, and a book similar to the Bible with an unrecognisable, troublesome drawing on its leather cover.

He had a strange grin on his face. ‘You know Asmodeus, I hoped that I wouldn’t have to use my good old techniques again, but you earned them. Soon, you are going to beg for mercy from the Lord himself.’

Nefarious laughter filled the room, louder than it ever had been. Freda’s forked tongue flickered, while a black liquid started to ooze, first from her mouth, then from all of her orifices.

Peter grabbed a little pot of the goat blood and added some holy water to it. He mixed them with two fingers, then began to draw a perfect circle and an equal-sided triangle onto the floor. He squatted over the piece of work.

The dark, red-blackish liquid had flown everywhere, and now something moved inside the body of the girl. She looked like a breeding animal. A snake slipped out from between her legs, slithering down from the bed, then more came. The green, slippery reptiles targeted Peter.

The sight, smell, and hissing noise almost made him sick, but there was no time for that. He picked up an inverted crucifix sharpened at the bottom and threw himself onto the closing snakes without hesitation, stabbing their heads through, making them scream in agony, making them vanish.

When he had a small pause between two assaults, he quickly dipped his fingers into the unholy mixture, drew a second circle around the first one, then a weird alphabet onto his forehead. He clapped his hands together, stood up, his palms pointing towards the walls, then began to swing on his own axis, clockwise. The next serpent army burnt away immediately when they reached the outer drawn ring, generating a fizzling noise. Peter looked like an ice skater spinning in the middle of an arena. After he stopped, they were staring at each other again, and Asmodeus had to realise that he lost this battle.

The door flung open, and Matthew stood now in the open doorway. Peter noticed him. ‘Get out!’ he shouted. ‘Are you deaf? Get out!’

When Matthew stepped inside, Peter kicked him in the chest, so he flew back through the corridor, his legs not even touching the surface. After landing, he raised his head, but the door was closing already.

‘Oh please Father, don’t hurt me anymore. It hurts so much.’ Freda’s original, innocent voice would have convinced every adult, except Peter, who knew what was going on and continued the drawing of the symbols in between the two circles on the floor.

‘Let it be,’ he said, now standing. Freda watched quietly, licking her mouth.

Peter clapped, creating a pulse almost as strong as the one had come from the demon before, then rose up from the ground with black eyes wide open, no irises visible in them. Wind started to blow.

Levitating in the middle of the room, a small tornado twisting around him, he opened his hands, forming a living cross with palms pointing towards the floor, murmuring something in a deep, mysterious voice. The bed took off as well, for the big surprise of Asmodeus. They were both in the air, on the same level.

The door swung open again. The silhouette of Matthew became visible in the doorway. Panting, now a butcher knife in his right hand, he sniffed in the air like a hound, but his vicious expression turned into a puppy’s face when he noticed Peter levitating in the air, as well as the bed with his daughter. He attacked regardless.

Peter noticed the happenings only when the knife landed in his right shoulder. The pain and surprise made him scream, however, he didn’t say anything to the unexpected visitor, just pointed at him with his index finger. Matthew flew away, then landed at the end of the corridor. The door closed straight after him. Peter checked his wound and noted that the cut was not deep at all, and he would be able to take care of it later.

As his concentration returned, the whirling objects started to slow down in the air, the noises disappeared. When time stopped around them, everything froze, and they looked like a picture painted by the maddest artist.

 

3. An Old Friendship

When Peter opened his eyes, Asmodeus stood in front of him. He didn’t look like Freda anymore but he was tall as an elephant and fat like a walrus. His body colour varied somewhere between red and black with bubbles appearing and disappearing on his reptilian skin. His shape changed continuously while the well-known liquid was flowing from the thousands of holes left by the popping bubbles. Arms were forming and deforming everywhere on him.

Asmodeus looked around, looked at himself, paused, and then stared back at Peter.

‘How do you like this, you piece of shit?’ asked Peter, not forming a single word with his mouth. He knew that Asmodeus heard him in his head, but there was no answer coming from the demon.

They stood on a perfectly round island, infinite high or infinite deep, one could not tell as there were similar pillars going up and down everywhere. Red colour oozed from the surfaces, like a touchable mist. The wind blowing on their side was sweltering hot, carrying a smell that would have made every creature on Earth vomit instantly. The pressure wouldn’t have been this high even in the bottom of the deepest oceans. It should have crushed them, but Asmodeus was at home, no harm could be done on him, and Peter had special abilities. He could bare the circumstances for a while.

He had a few seconds before the rush, so he clapped his palms again, knowing that there was no chance to physically win against the true form of Asmodeus, especially not here, in Hell.

Asmodeus, awaken from the shock of teleportation, started to crawl towards him in rage, spitting acid from his holes and leaving a sluggish trail. Peter jumped and dodged the attack, then created a pulse of force, which confused the demon for a few more seconds. He didn’t need a lot more time to finish the spell, but Asmodeus pressed his disgusting body to the force field and pushed forward. Peter couldn’t hold him, so he had to jump again, getting himself too close to the edge of the island.

While trying to balance and waiting for Asmodeus to strike, Peter murmured the last words of his incantation, and a new feeling rose in the air; an immeasurable evil, that made Asmodeus stop. A creature appeared between them in utter silence–big as a blue whale–eight long, blade sharp spider legs supporting its stand. Tentacles and spikes covered its back, continuing on the shard-like head with terrible fangs on the sides. It seemed it could reach as long as it wished with those four hands.

‘Welcome, my old friend,‘ it said in Peter’s head. The terrible grin on its face revealed thousands of rotting teeth. One could not tell if it was male or female because its voice was a mixture of the two, and there was no visible evidence either.

‘How are you doing, Baal?’ asked Peter, and he raised his imaginary fedora.

‘You really aged a lot since I’ve last seen you, my dear friend,’ said the demon.

‘And you really are more disgusting than ever,’ replied Peter. Baal burst out in a terrific, shallow laughter, drooling onto its legs. It nodded towards Peter, turned, then raised one of its legs and stabbed through the body of the smaller Asmodeus, like a hot knife going through butter. Asmodeus screamed as his body leaked more and more of the black fluid. He tried to get free, but he couldn’t stand a chance against Baal. ‘What are you doing?’ he shouted.

Without answer, a new leg landed in him from another direction. Baal grabbed Asmodeus’s head with its giant hands, tore it apart, then did the same to his bubbling body. Soggy pieces splashed onto Peter; he didn’t even have time to cover his face.  Baal, still grinning, looked back at him.

‘You are a very lucky man,’ it said. ‘My little brother would have killed you in a blink of an eye, then played with your soul for a few thousand years.’

‘Thanks. I always knew that you loved me deep inside,’ said Peter, but Baal didn’t get the joke this time.

‘You are aware of the price,’ said Baal.

‘I might be old, but I’m not an idiot.’

‘Oh, by the way, how is Clara and Isabel?’

‘Don’t dare to mention their names you fucking filthy bastard,’ shouted Peter.

‘Mehhehhe, don’t worry, you saved them from me. But you couldn’t save yourself, remember. Soon, the time will come, my dear friend, and you will wish for being a toy of Asmodeus, not mine. See you soon…’

Baal licked its mouth with its enormous tongue and faded away. There was silence again, not counting the always audible, terrifying background sounds of Hell.

Peter closed his eyes and opened them in the room, where time was still frozen, and the objects were levitating in the air.

He released time by a clap. The bed fell off to the ground, followed by the girl. Peter put one of his hands on her forehead, the other one onto her broken arm, then stood there for a few seconds, concentrating. After he finished and felt that she was fine, he packed all his belongings.

‘Edith, Matthew. You can come in,’ he yelled.

Mr Merchant opened the door. Peter gasped when he saw him, because Mr Merchant was covered in blood from several cuts, his face was swollen, and he could barely stand.

‘Merchant,’ yelled Peter and reached for his falling body. ‘What happened?’

‘Matthew,’ whispered Mr Merchant. ‘He got controlled by the demon.’ In that second, Peter understood the earlier behaviour of Matthew. ‘I tried to stop him from entering the room.’

‘Fuckin’ hell Merchant, you should have let me handle it.’

‘You had enough to handle.’

Mr Merchant coughed up some blood. Peter put his hand onto the old man’s forehead, just like he did for Freda, closed his eyes and concentrated. The swelling began to decrease on Mr Merchant’s face and his fractured nose got back to shape too. The cuts on his body started to close. Peter felt his heart growing cold, beating slower and slower as he pushed his last remnants of energy into the healing process. He saw Isabel and Clara again, in their home garden, chasing each other in the sunshine, laughing, the grass glowing green underneath them, just like in paradise. He missed them so much there were no words for describing the feeling.

When Merchant pushed him away, the picture disappeared. Peter fell onto the ground.

‘You fool… You almost killed yourself,’ said Mr Merchant, who looked completely healthy now.

‘I’m fine,’ said Peter and sat up, forcing his mouth to grin, his heartbeat slowly returning to normal.

Edith stood in the doorway. She formed a terrified expression when she glimpsed at the mess in the room.

‘Come in,’ gestured Peter. And then she saw her daughter. Pure love and relief took over the concerns on her face as she hugged Freda.

Matthew, who had suffered quite serious injuries after the second blow, seemed to be conscious again, not controlled by anything. He couldn’t stand up, so he tried to crawl. When he got closer, Mr Merchant grabbed him, pulled him up and put him next to the bed.

‘I’m sorry for hurting you. You didn’t leave me another choice,’ said Peter, however, he didn’t mean to apologise only to conform the father a little. Matthew, seeing his daughter alive, forgave everything with a gentle nod, then hugged his family in tears.

‘Thank you, thank you so much’, whispered Edith. ‘You must be an angel.’

Peter smiled. ‘You’re welcome,’ he said. ‘My duty is done here. Clean up the room tonight. Wash your daughter and sleep next to her. Most likely, she won’t remember anything, but if she will, it’s up to you to tell her the truth or lie. Matthew, you should be checked by a doctor, sooner is better. I fixed your daughter’s hand as much as I could, but I can’t help you.’

Peter stood up, stroking his own back, lifted his stuff and went to the living room downstairs. Mr Merchant followed him. ‘Thank you for healing me. Are you going to be alright?’

‘I’ll be fine. I heal myself later,’ replied Peter.

‘I’m so happy for them. They are such a nice family.’

‘They will appreciate their lives more from now.’

‘And what about you?’

‘I appreciate what I have left,’ said Peter. Walking towards the main entrance, he grabbed the bottle of Hennessy from the bar and put it into the inner pocket of his coat. He looked back with the knob in his hand, winked at Mr Merchant, then headed into the night.

Mr Merchant stared into the darkness of the street where his friend had disappeared just a minute ago and said: ‘God bless you, Father.’

The End

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