89 - Chicago
SEVERAL WEEKS AGO It turned out that Mrs. Claire thought that Alex had taken to haunting her business. Either that or possessing it. She wasn’t exactly clear on the terminology but rather kept switching from one to the other. And I didn’t know that either particularly applied in this particular case.
In either case, it didn’t matter as I couldn’t actually perform an exorcism. It wasn’t that I didn’t vaguely believe that such things were possible, it was more that I’d never been given even the least bit of training for how to do one. All I could recall–and that barely–was sacramental but not a sacrament, so it wasn’t necessarily as structured and that it required two things: the faith of the man doing the exorcism and the backing of the Church.
I had faith. At least I believe in what I taught. And I was almost sure that I believed that Alex really was something that might actually warrant an exorcism.
But backing from the Church was another matter entirely. It had been enough to convince them that I could take this post here on the outskirts of Chicago, that any baggage I was still carrying from my time overseas would not negatively impact my performance. And up until recently, it hadn’t. It was only with the reappearance of a quite literal piece of my past that I’d even really thought about my time in Iraq.
Still, I was hesitant to involve my higher ups in the Church in the matter until I was absolutely sure that I didn’t have another choice.
“But how do you know that it’s Alex causing all of this trouble?” I asked for what felt like the dozenth time.
It didn’t help that she’d been vague even to the extent of what said troubles were.
She didn’t seem to notice though either the wearing-thin tone in my voice or the repetition of the question. Rather she just launched again into the same story about the sudden drop in customers and how it was harder to read them. I’d tried saying that maybe she’d just been shaken, but we’d come right back around again and again.
“But how do you know it’s Alex?”
I put the same emphasis on it that I’d done a dozen times before, but for a wonder this time she actually stopped and considered it for a moment. “Well… now that you mention it, I guess it doesn’t have to be.”
“But who else could it be? He’s the only ghost that I’ve ever met.”
She did have something of a point. Mentally, I sighed. I had been hoping that she would call, but only if something had happened with the Smiths. Say, them showing up at her doorstep once again. This was a little more questionable. I could almost wish that I’d been well on my way to Rome already. But as it was, I still had about a week to go until I left.
“How about we go back to your place and have a look around,” I finally suggested. It couldn’t hurt after all, and maybe it would even help.
I asked her to wait while I went to get a few things. I felt a little silly the entire time I did it, but I packed up a few vials of holy water that we had near the entrance to the church and took down a few of the smaller crosses that we had on the walls.
I thought about stopping by the grocery store and picking up some garlic, but stopped myself. Whatever he is, he isn’t a vampire. It really did feel like something out of a vampire story though. Going off to do a battle against evil and all that. The thing was, I wasn’t sure what Alex was–or even if there was only a single answer to that question.
Perhaps we were dealing with both a ghost and a demon possessing him. At this point, I was prepared to consider just about anything.
90 - Rome
PRESENT DAY “What do you mean He didn’t?” My words came out louder than I would have liked and harsher than was probably smart, given my recent experience with Michael’s sword. Still, it seemed kind of important.
Luckily for me, he just shrugged. “He didn’t show me the way. Is that a problem?”
He sounded so completely nonchalant about the whole thing I just stared at him for a long moment.
“How is that not a problem? You’re an angel. You’re supposed to have … I don’t know, like a direct line or something.”
“It doesn’t work like that.”
“But you said that you were praying about it.”
He inclined his head slightly. “I did. But what about when you pray? Does God answer you then?”
“Well, no. But you’re an angel…”
“That’s true. But when you get down to it, we’re really not that different, you and I.”
So says the man who could make a sword appear just like that. If we weren’t so different, I was going to have to book a ticket to Vegas when I got back to the states, start a magic show. I could make a mint.
“After all,” he said. “We each have our own immortal soul, we were each created by the Creator. I guess the main difference is that you have a physical body.”
My first instinct was to reach out and poke him.
Had he read my mind?
“It’s what you all want to do.”
So maybe he was just a good guesser. But he had given permission at least. That lowered the probability of sword-to-neck-ing somewhat significantly.
So I reached out and poked the Archangel Michel in the arm. Definitely one of the stranger things I’d ever done.
He seemed solid enough.
“And that’s one of the great mysteries of the universe. I don’t have a body, yet it certainly feels like it, doesn’t it?”
He pinched himself light on the arm. I just stared at him.
“So then you have a body.”
“But it’s right there.”
“Bodies aren’t quite so mutable.”
And just like that, the sword was back in his hand. At least it wasn’t at my neck this time.
Then he flexed, muscles rippling along his arms.
The sword was gone again.
“That’s a neat trick,” I said.
“It’s not really a trick. More of … a way of looking at the world.”
“The world isn’t as simple as mankind makes it out to be.”
I thought of the little physics and chemistry that I’d studied in school. That had seem plenty complicated.
Then again, no one in either of those classes could make a sword appear and vanish quite so effectively either.
“Okay fine. So we’re more or less the same. But getting back on point, what does that have with what we need to do next?” All of this was fascinating in the abstract, but we had more pressing needs. Plus, if Father Antonio was right–and I had experience that confirmed that he was–then I wasn’t likely to remember any of the details anyways. “You said that we have to keep moving. But that’s hardly a long term goal.”
Rather than answer, he turned on his heel and started walking towards the back of the church. A moment later, I followed. I couldn’t be sure if he was just collecting his thoughts or if he was going to just ignore me again. He seemed a fan of doing that.
When we got to the door though and he held it open for me, he had an answer.
“We’re going to find your friends.”