THE ATTIC

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Photo by Kalhh

Something smelled.

It was coming from the attic above my brother Henry’s bedroom. The old farmhouse reeked of death. It wasn’t the same sweet-smelling place it once was. 

 Ever since that Sunday in August, when the new minister, Pastor Rick, came to our town, something had changed. He put a spell on the entire city when he arrived. He had laid hands on little Jolie Pike, who was dying of cancer.

She healed right up a few days later.  

Pastor Rick led sermons of fire and brimstone and told us we’d all go to Hell unless we asked Jesus Christ to forgive us of our sins. Pastor Rick was strict and didn’t like teenagers very much. He called us unclean messengers of Satan and the things we did alone in our rooms God could see, especially us boys.  

Pastor Rick never left the town either. I started to notice that no new people came either slowly. It was as though once he arrived, we lived in our sort of utopia. Peaceful townsfolk who worshipped on Sundays and took a fellowship with one another whenever they could. Pastor Rick was like the second coming of Christ. He was purposefully kind to all of the children in our town as well. 

Pastor Rick was particularly fascinated with my younger siblings. He often offered them a ride into town or to Church. I didn’t interest him much. I was nineteen and stuck around to help my parents with the farm. I was the oldest boy of the three of us. There was me, Johnny, then Henry, and our baby sister Elsa. She was fifteen that August. Pastor Rick often called upon Elsa to read scripture during teen bible study, which she secretly hated. He used Henry to help out with his lawn and paid him handsomely. Pastor Rick could do no wrong in anyone’s eyes. That soon changed.

Elsa was happy and had just had her first kiss. I knew because I was the one who caught her. I laughed, and she was downright mortified. I promised I wouldn’t tell ma and pa. I wasn’t like Henry he’d sure as shit run his mouth every chance he got.  

It wasn’t long after Elsa’s new beau Ken got caught smoking behind the Church. It was Pastor Rick that found him. After that incident, Ken was sent to a camp that Pastor Rick founded for teenagers that got into trouble. He said that Ken was on his way to a place that only led straight to Hell unless he got right with God.  

No one saw Ken again.  

Elsa was angry and blamed Pastor Rick. She rebelled and stopped attending Sunday services. When my parents found out, they tried forcing her to go, but she would not. That is when they asked Pastor Rick to come to our house to talk some sense into her. My parents were devout Christians and looked up to Pastor Rick because of all the miracles. Jolie Pike wasn’t the only child he had helped. There was Billy Thompson, who lived with his abusive father. He made sure that Billy never got hit on again. He let Billy move in with him, and Billy was always at Pastor Rick’s side. He seemed happier after Pastor Rick took him in.

Pastor Rick came by on that late September afternoon, and when he did, he insisted on speaking to Elsa alone in her room. Twenty-five minutes passed, and then we heard her scream.

My father, the ever protective parent, broke into her room to find Pastor Rick pinning her down with a cross.

“What the Hell is going on?” My father barked.

“This child is possessed by a demon.” Pastor Rick held her into place, and when I saw her eyes, there was no denying that a demon indeed possessed her.

She writhed, screamed, and she growled. The room went black, and the lights in the hallway flickered.  

Elsa spat, and she bit at Pastor Rick. Her previously stated hatred for him only increased in the state she was in. My family had no choice but to trust this man of God.  

We all stood in shock and terror. This was the type of thing you only saw in movies. 

Elsa managed to calm down a bit, and Pastor Rick insisted on her transport to another area of our home that had fewer items in it that could harm her or us when she was having her fits of anger.

My father suggested the attic, and so my parents put out a mattress and tied her arms and legs to chains on the floor as Pastor Rick instructed them. He stayed out of the room while he waited for Elsa to be tied down. All the while, she fought, and she screamed, and yellow puss fell from scabs on her face.

We lived in terror for days, and only in quiet times when my sister was calm, did I try and help her eat and drink. Pastor Rick made daily visits to our home to try and expel the demon from her. I made sure I visited her every day to make sure she kept up her strength. Elsa would calm down and turn back to normal in those few moments when Pastor Rick wasn’t around. As soon as he came to our house to “treat” Elsa, she would once again turn into a rabid animal. Elsa would remain afraid of us and vise versa. 

“There’s nothing wrong with me, Johnny. You are scaring me.” She said as I fed her soup and bread.

“Elsa, I saw you with my own eyes. You turned into a rabid beast, and that scared me.”  

 I heard the door to the attic slowly creep open, and I stood up as Pastor Rick walked in, spewing his venom of Bible scripture. Billy was with him and helped pin Elsa into place so that she could get the full amount of the Lord’s word.

Elsa wouldn’t eat anymore. Instead, she screamed at the top of her lungs and kicked and tried scratching my face. She scratched at me as though she were afraid of me, and I backed away in fear because her eyes had gone black. 

I ran from the room because, according to Pastor Rick, he had to be alone with the demon so that when it left, it didn’t try and enter another person’s body.

Pastor Rick came out of the attic that night, insisting that no one go in until the morning.  

We complied with his wishes and waited till morning.

When morning came, we waited, and still, there was no response from Pastor Rick. My father knocked on the door a few times, but Billy was there, stopping my father from entering. 

“It is a sensitive time,” Billy said. “Please a while longer.”  

My father and mother didn’t eat; they didn’t sleep. No one in our house ate or slept. There were screams all hours of the night as though someone was being ripped in half. If I had not witnessed Elsa with my own eyes, I would never have believed she was possessed.  

Finally, after three long days, Pastor Rick came out of my sister’s room, solemn with a look of defeat.  

“I’m afraid your daughter suffers greatly, and I do not think there is anything else we can do. The demon has taken hold of her. Let me take her to a place where we can help her. I have a farm just outside of town where my wayward children live. There are people there that can take care of her in a way you can’t.  

My father thought long and hard about it and then shook his head.

“I’m sorry, Pastor, my child, will stay with us. She will not be sent away. I believe with God’s help, we can and will defeat this demon.”

Pastor Rick’s eyes grew heavy and dark. “Are you sure you know what you are doing?”

“Yes.” my father answered confidently.

“Well, then, come on, Billy, there is nothing else we can do to help them. Please keep in mind the devil dwells within your house now. When you turn your back on God, you open the door to the devil. I tried to help.”

My father let Pastor Rick leave, and then he slowly opened the door to the attic. The foul smell took my father’s breath away because there were feces, urine, and old uneaten food all around her as flies buzzed all around. My father choked back tears when he saw my sister. She was thin, fragile and still chained to the floor. There was something about her face that puzzled me. It was no longer demonic-looking, and the scabs on her face had disappeared. The only thing wrong with her was the fact she was so scared and traumatized from the treatment of her “exorcism.”

I helped my father and mother get Elsa up, and my mother bathed her. Elsa had bruises all over her body, and she refused to speak to anyone. She remained fearful, and I assumed it was because of what happened to her. Later that night, my mother went into her bedroom to check on her after she had fallen asleep when I heard my mother scream, and then I heard Elsa screaming.  

My mother ran down the hallway and into my room. 

“Johnny, help me with your sister!”

When I walked into the bathroom, Elsa was curled up into a ball on the bathroom floor wrapped in a large towel. She wouldn’t look at either of us. Instead, she remained hidden behind her long dark hair.  

I heard a knock at the door, and when my father went to the front door, that is when I saw him.

“Pastor Rick now is not a good time.” my father said.

“I think it is the best time. I had a premonition about your daughter. I believe that she is still in need of relief. Your family cannot possibly cope with the pain of losing her to Satan.”

“I think you need to go. I’ll see you in Church Sunday, Pastor Rick, as we always do.” 

“You are no man of God and therefore are no longer welcome in my church.” 

My father was puzzled, but his main concern was Elsa.

Once Pastor Rick left, my sister returned to her regular self. No wild eyes or demonic screaming.  

A strange thing happened that Sunday when most of the townsfolk went to the Church, they found the windows boarded up and the doors locked. Pastor Rick was nowhere to be found.

Elsa no longer had any further episodes, and strangely, the town went back to being normal again.

One thing happened that left me scarred for a long time after he left.

One afternoon Elsa and I were taking a walk in our fields after taking our two horses for a ride when she said something I will never forget.

“I know Pastor Rick tried to help me.”

“Yes, I think he did.”

“I’m mostly glad he’s gone,” she began. “Because when he was around, all of you became so different. It is like he had a spell on you.”

“How were we different?” I asked her, confused.

“Well, when he was around, you all turned into demons. He kept me away from you all for days and wouldn’t let me get help. He said that when you were in the throws of your possessions, you were evil. That is why I was chained and locked away. Dad and mom chained me up. I will never look at them and not see those yellow eyes, and those evil laughs.”

I looked at her in horror.  

“So, you are saying you saw us as the possessed ones?”

“Yeah, it scared me when you said you saw me. I laid in the attic for days while Pastor Rick talked to me, trying to comfort me. Pastor Rick said if I wanted to go away with him and away from all of you, then all I had to do was say it. I didn’t want to go with him. There was something about him, a darkness I cannot explain.”

I agreed but said no more to Elsa about it.  

For a long time, we forgot about Pastor Rick. A new Pastor opened the Church back up. The new pastor was nothing like Pastor Rick. He seldom bothered with the townsfolk when he wasn’t preaching. He was a quiet sort of man who kept to himself. 

######## 

Years passed, and then one day, I was driving home from a business trip in another state. On my drive home, I was passing what looked like a small village. There was smoke all around it, and the stench coming from it smelled familiar to me.

It smelled exactly like our home when Elsa had suffered from her possessions. The stench of death and decay. I passed a massive farm as I drove towards my exit to the little village, which was a shortcut to my town. As I passed, I saw a crowd of children, I looked at them, and they all looked back at me with yellow eyes like that of a devil. I nearly wrecked my car when I saw them. Instead, and for whatever reason, I stopped my car as I could go no further into this town. It was as if something was telling me I was not welcome here.  

Behind them was a cloud of smoke and ash. The town looked as though it had become entirely charred. Through a cloud of smoke, I saw him wearing his black suit and top hat. He beckoned for the children to come to him.  

The tall man smiled as I looked at him through the smoke as he stood on the other side of the fence. I felt safer knowing there was a barrier between us because the man was none other than Pastor Rick, and I suddenly felt him reading my mind.  

“Don’t worry, Johnny; once I’m finished here, I’ll come back; for you.” 

I saw a vision then of the world burning all around me, demons, and acts of evil all around me. There was a piece of fence that fell, and the two pieces of wood broke away to form an upside-down cross. 

I got into my car and drove away as fast as I could. Now I wait for him to come back and finish what he started in our little town.  

He will go to other towns; first, he will show you miracles and provide many gifts. 

 The next town may be yours. 

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