“So why don’t you come get me, then?” I said, breathing hard, my hands on my knees.
“I can’t.” The response was harsh, and grey-sounding. A little ways off, over the field, thunder rumbled, and I pulled my jacket tight over my shoulders.
I’d gone out late that night – out to think, but also to keep myself safe. I had a new bruise on my neck from Dad, and Mom had a new one on her face from me. I wanted out from between that rock and hard place.
I’d shot off from my normal route through the cemetery behind the enormous old Orthodox church, and discovered that the lot beyond went far deeper than I’d ever realized, down into the only woods untouched by roads and strip-malls. Apparently, all of that also belonged to “it.”
“You can’t?” I taunted back without really wanting too. My legs were on fire and there didn’t seem to be enough air in the world.
“No. That,” it said, and gestured toward the church with a thin, clawed hand, the air humming as it moved. “Is his. Everything else,” it drew a line with its finger across the headstone I cowered behind. “Whatever isn’t his, is mine.”
Through short, unpredictable flashes of lightning, I got a good look at what I was talking to – nocturnal yellow eyes illuminating a needle-toothed smile. Brown, leathery skin filled in the gaps and held it all together.
Worst though were the feet. There weren’t any. Its shins ended at the ankles where blood mottled the torn flesh and rods of broken bone poked out. It hovered just above the ground right in front of me, as though aloft on the buzzing of a cloud of flies.
“What are you?” I said.
The answer was almost lost in the hum: “Beelzy,” it said.
“That’s not what I meant,” I said. It didn’t answer; it just smiled, and I trembled. Almost from the moment I’d ventured into the woods, I’d run from this thing until my body gave out and couldn’t think of starting again. I took a step towards the church.
“And I’ll be safe in there?” I said as the wind and rain started to drown me out.
“Yes,” it said.
I shook my head. “I don’t believe in that stuff,” I said. “Does that make a difference?”
“He’s rather generous with his protection,” the thing said and grinned wider. I thought its mouth might unzip its face from its head. “You can refuse it, of course.”
I rubbed at the bruise around my neck. “Why would you tell me this?”
“Because I have to.”
I stared into its lantern eyes, and its growing smile. Then, with a catch in my chest, I turned my back on it.
The huge door slammed behind me, and I jolted. The place looked and smelled as old as it was – more than two hundred years, with little done to restore it. Not much had been needed.
I shook the rain from my body. The pews were made of dark wood, with cushions lining the floor for people to kneel on. A crack of lightning shone through the stained-glass window behind me and illuminated the crucifix behind the altar – a nine-foot red-stained carving of a tired and dying Christ. Above his bowed head were painted the words, Come, All Ye That Are Weary…
“You look it enough for both of us,” I said.
None of this was new to me. I grew up in Sunday School when my uncle could sneak me away. Mom and Dad found out. Uncle Troy moved away. Over the years, Dad got angrier, Mom got meaner, and they both got drunker. I didn’t get that far, but I became plenty of the other two. Meanwhile the Lamb of God was too busy hanging out here and staring at the carpet to notice.
So no, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about being in his house. Then again, I wasn’t too thrilled by Beelzy, either.
I started making my way around the sanctuary, waiting for the sun to come up. It crossed my mind that Beelzy only ever said I’d be safe here, he never specified that night or day would matter. God might not be there but, against all reason, Beelzy was, and it slowly made more sense that he’d have trapped me in the last place I wanted to be.
The storm had died down, and the moon was shining in through the windows now. By that light, I could make out a couple more verses scattered around the place.
Abide in Me, and I Shall Abide in You.
The script was embossed on the altar, which held the communion chalice, a priest’s rod, a big open Bible, and another smaller book. I decided to flip through that one.
It was old, and most of it was written in old colonial speak, but from what I could read it looked like it was the history of this church.
Then there were the pictures – grisly watercolors of parishioners marching out against a ragged mob led by some spike-legged demon flying through the air. Beelzebub, the page read. Dominus Muscae. Princeps Aerem.
The next page displayed the messy aftermath, and where the dead were buried – the faithful in the church cemetery, and the cultists in the unmarked lot all the way down into the woods.
Something thrilled me about the whole scene – and it wasn’t the pious valor of the parishioners. It was in the open eyes of the heretics from the woods, the pure rebellion of apostasy every bit as fervent and genuine in their faces as the stoic faith of the saints.
I looked up and noticed, behind the partition, something that looked like a door built into the far wall. I went up to it and looked through a small window in its center.
Sure enough, it looked like it might be a service tunnel. For a place this old, especially with its history, it made enough sense. I was wise to Beelzy’s game now; I couldn’t leave the church, but it couldn’t leave the unmarked lot where its cult was buried. If this tunnel emptied out to the road, I could bypass it completely. After all, as it had said, “whatever isn’t his, is mine.” This tunnel certainly still qualified as part of the church, and went the total opposite direction of Beelzy’s woods.
The door was locked, but I remembered the priest’s rod near the altar. I could probably pry it open with that.
Going back, I glanced over at the Bible, open to the book of Matthew: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
I thought of Mom and Dad.
I cursed and shoved the altar over, took the rod, and cracked open the door.
Abide in me, that I might also abide in you. Those words would keep coming back to me as I made my way through the heavy darkness of the tunnel.
It unnerved me that Beelzy had been so seemingly straightforward. If it was what I thought it was, some sor
t of weird localized haunt, then it would have done whatever it took to get me into its territory. So why’d it point me to where it couldn’t go?
“Because it said it had to…” I whispered. For a moment, I let myself think that, if Beelzy was real, maybe Jesus was too.
Abide in me, and I will abide in you.
But I would not love, bless, be good, or pray. In the black, I was directed purely by instinct and growing, still rage. I realized I was planning for something.
Sure enough, the tunnel emptied out onto the road. I stepped out to a red dawn in the sky, and started home.
The storm is back.
Mom and Dad are downstairs now. They’re out cold. I’m in the attic because they’re going to be pissed when they wake up.
They’d ripped into me for coming into the house soaked. I didn’t say anything, I just started swinging the rod in my hand and tied them up after. Just like I’d planned to.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do now. I hope they know by now that I won’t take any more of their shit.
I doubt it, though. I know I’ll probably have to kill them, one day. Maybe not “have to,” but it’ll happen. Soon.
It scares me a little that the idea isn’t just darkly or fancifully appealing anymore – it’s becoming a fire in my mind, where it feels warm and right.
There’s a heavy weight on my shoulders, and a claw digging into my chest. I look around, wondering who’s with me, but the only feet I see on the floor are mine, and I realize the weight pulling me down is familiar. It’s been with me since the tunnel; maybe even before that. Long before.
And there’s the voice. It’s in that fire, crackling with the buzzing of a thousand invisible flies. When it speaks, it’s soft, and right in my ear. It’s a grey-sounding voice, and it’s saying, “Remember – Whatever isn’t his is mine.”