~ the raven chronicles ~ 12

28 Jun

(Chapters are stored chronologically in ARCHIVES.)

Fr. Michael Leavell, OP.
Sacred Heart Church
Raven, Ohio

November 18, 1932

As I reached the bottom of the stairs and rounded the last banister, the aroma of Mrs. Sullivan’s first breakfast at the rectory hit my nostrils; it was a heavenly essence.

I entered the dining room and found Monsignor Byrne seated at the table with a platter before him arrayed with buckwheat cakes, links of stout sausages, and eggs scrambled with potatoes speckled with black pepper. Nearby, on an iron trivet, sat a skillet of fried apples topped with walnuts and cinnamon. A percolator of coffee and a small pitcher of orange juice completed the buffet. I could tell by the depleted portions that Monsignor had been working at the feast for awhile.

I took a seat and said, Good morning, Father.

Monsignor Byrne glanced up from his plate, took one look at me, and the smile on his face faded a bit. Michael, he said, how do you feel this morning?

I was not in the least surprised by his reaction to my visage; gazing on my reflection in the bathroom mirror had given me a start. I was gripped by nightmares, I answered truthfully, but they fled with the approach of dawn. I did manage to get several hours of sound sleep, though. I’ll be alright.

Well this breakfast ought to help, he said. I haven’t had a morning meal like this since I don’t know when.

It all looks wonderful, I replied, and poured myself coffee.

Mrs. Sullivan came in from the kitchen and said that she would be going to the grocer’s and doing other errands soon. She asked the Monsignor if there was anything in particular that he would like for dinner. He paused with his knife halfway through a sausage, then looked thoughtfully at me; Mrs. Sullivan joined his gaze and her message was crystal clear: there’ll be only one captain on this ship. I hoisted a pair of buckwheat cakes, put them on my plate and went about my business.

I can’t think of a thing, the Monsignor said. I’ll just leave it to you, Mrs. Sullivan. She gave him a nod and a little smile and walked back into the kitchen.

When the swinging door came to rest, Monsignor Byrne looked at me. Thank goodness for Methodist doctrine, eh Michael?

I smirked and said, Yes, the Lord works in strange and mysterious ways, doesn’t he?

Monsignor Byrne chuckled at my comment; I thought to myself that the Lord does work in strange and mysterious ways; for if his beneficence and guardianship are to be accepted on faith, then he must be aware of the brink to which my soul has been pushed the past few days. I quickly admitted to myself that I had not asked for his help or guidance; I knew what I wanted; even though I could never have it, I wanted it. Wanted it badly enough to flirt with the powers of darkness to obtain it, even if only for a fleeting moment.

I realized then that the mistake had been mine; I could not blame the agony that resulted from my longings on Rhea Sinclair or any other creature I had encountered. I had been wedded last night to a demon because of my unchecked desires, and faced the very real possibility of it happening again, if I continued to wallow in irrelevant nostalgia for a past that never even existed. They have come for me, upon my invitation, and now I must renounce them or suffer dire consequences. I shuddered at the thought of being coupled to whatever unholy thing had visited my bed last night; the taste of blood welled up in my mouth simply from the recollection. I quickly downed some coffee to wash away the infernal residue.

Next to the hot cakes on my plate, I piled sausages and scrambled eggs, then dolloped a generous portion of the fried apples next to them. I filled my glass with orange juice, shook out my napkin and lifted my knife and fork. I noticed Monsignor Byrne looking on me with satisfaction.

A healthy appetite, Michael, he said, that is a good sign. I think you’re going to be alright.

I do believe so, Monsignor, I replied, I do believe so.

Mrs. Sullivan went off to do her errands and said she would clean the table upon her return. The Monsignor and I lingered over breakfast; it had been quite some time for us to have had any reason to do so. We enjoyed ourselves immensely.

After our meal, the Monsignor left on his weekly rounds to visit sick and incapacitated parishioners; I was thankful for that, because I had work to do that he must not see or even be aware of. Once again, the pang brought on by my clandestine behavior conducted under the nose of my superior, touched my heart.

After the Monsignor’s departure, I retired to the den; there is only one office in the rectory and it is the province of the ranking prelate. Monsignor Byrne is not the curious type, so I have no qualms about storing my esoteric volumes in the den library; even so, I keep them nestled on the upper shelves.

Without consideration, I knew the volume that I must retrieve first; before the events of the past several days, I would never have entertained opening that book again and delving into its contents.

I reached to my utmost, grasped the spine of the weighty volume, and retrieved it from the shelf. I laid the book on the low table before the fireplace, sat on the small sofa, and considered it: The Malleus Maleficarum; the Hexenhammer, the Hammer of Witches. The book had, for the most part, been discredited and resigned to the dust bin of history centuries earlier; yet, I had been required to read and memorize the work as part of my training as a Designatus. There is one section in particular that I sought out, as a result of my experience last night; “By which Devils are the Operations of Incubus and Succubus Practised?”

I read the chapter, as I had done several years before, and was left with my original impression intact: that the information contained therein was of scant value, even in my current circumstances. The whole work is little more than a misanthropic screed that is neither scholarly, nor insightful, but merely served as a tool for misogynists in the middle ages who wished to shift their own misfortune onto the shoulders of others, especially women, and make them suffer in penance for crimes imagined and fabricated.

I then pored over other volumes by St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Father Sinistrari de Ameno. They mostly dealt with children conceived by the visit of incubi and offered very little useful information to me, beyond a belief that such entities do exist.

Then I stumbled upon this account in the Description of Scotlande of Hector Boethius; it bore a resemblance to the situation of Rhea Sinclair, in more ways than one. I transcribe the relevant passage here, so I will have it in hand for quick reference.

“In the year 1480 it chanced as a Scottish ship departed out of the Forth towards Flanders, there arose a wonderful great tempest of wind and weather, so outrageous, that the master of the ship, with other the mariners, wondered not a little what the matter meant, to see such weather at that time of the year, for it was about the middle of summer. At length, when the furious pirrie and rage of winds still increased, in such wise that all those within the ship looked for present death, there was a woman underneath the hatches called unto them above, and willed them to throw her into the sea, that all the residue, by God’s grace, might yet be saved; and thereupon told them how she had been haunted a long time with a spirit dailie coming into hir in man’s likenesse. In the ship there chanced also to be priest, who by the master’s appointment going down to this woman, and finding her like a most wretched and desperate person, lamenting hir great misfortune and miserable estate, used such wholesome admonition and comfortable advertisements, willing her to repent and hope for mercy at the hands of God, that, at length, she seeming right penitent for her grievous offences committed, and fetching sundrie sighs even from the bottome of her heart, being witnesse, as should appeare, of the same, there issued forth of the pumpe of the ship, a foule and evil-favoured blacke cloud with a mighty terrible noise, flame, smoke, and stinke, which presently fell into the sea. And suddenlie thereupon the tempest ceased, and the ship passing in great quiet the residue of her journey, arrived in saftie at the place whither she was bound.” (Chronicles, vol. 5, p. 146, 1808 ed).”

I looked up from the text into the low-burning fire and wondered; is Rhea Sinclair possessed, or a possessor? Obviously, she is not the woman she once was, and evidence points to that being the result of some forces outside her; yet, she wove a spell that ensnared me at Sterns-Carson, and that same spell was the catalyst for last night’s demonic assault on me. To brand her a witch would be simplistic and short-sighted; I am not really sure exactly what she is, or rather, what she is becoming; I do believe that if she were able to manifest physically the degree of power which she showed to me in that hallucinatory state she put me under, then iron bars would not be able to hold her. Her power is ascending, there is no doubt of that, so time is of the essence.

Is exorcism a solution? Something tells me that it is not; something tells me that such a thing would only exacerbate the situation; that an attempt to cast out spirits, could result in the calling forth of more spirits. It occurs to me then, that perhaps the solution to this riddle lies right under my nose, inside the yellow house at the Echo Lake Spiritualist Camp. Gareth Tavish had been conducting seances for nearly a year in his “spirit room”, perhaps he succeeded at something more than lining his pockets with the money of gullible and wealthy clients; perhaps he summoned, unwittingly, someone, or some thing, from beyond the veil.

I know the answers are not to be found inside any book; the answers are outside the doors and walls of this rectory waiting to be discovered. I will need all the wit and courage I can muster to uncover them and devise the proper plan of action. I cannot do this alone; I will need a stalwart by my side, for I do not even know the numbers of my adversaries; they could be legion. I will lay down this pen, go to Wallace, and enlist his aid; I pray that he knows nothing of what has transpired the past days, so we can begin our quest without suspicion and reservation. May God guide our footsteps.

The battle has been joined; should I ever have anticipated less?

©2011 j.edwardfitzgerald all rights reserved

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One Response to “~ the raven chronicles ~ 12”

  1. Kimberly Eason June 19, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    I so enjoy your work Ed. I’ve only recently discovered the (Tumblers) and love those too! thanks fof expanding my little world. 🙂

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