Home Stories Nights this Bright by RR Trevino

Nights this Bright by RR Trevino


Exorcist Quinton seeks his demonic ex in RR Trevino’s horror tale.

Image generated with OpenAI

The search for his long-lost love led the exorcist to yet another stranger’s front door. This one was connected to a single-story home of red brick; its unruly lawn featuring not one, not two, but three Dallas Cowboys fan signs staked haphazardly among the grass. The priest knocked on the door and waited and listened to two disparate sets of sounds pouring from open windows on either side of the house’s street-facing façade.

The first set of sounds, emanating from a window that looked into a well-lit parlor, was the general sound of revelry; of friends and neighbors congregated around a television, their voices loose and joyous, inhibitions dulled by the variety of spirits no doubt flowing.

The second set, a series of ungodly howls and reverberant moans strung together with snippets of Latin, tore into the night from the dark of a bedroom. These were the sounds that most interested Quinton, that lifted him with hope. The priest cautioned himself, however, having been in this situation countless times before. He knew hope for what it had been these last many years: a powerful lie that had to be kept at bay.

After a few moments, an older woman answered. She wore jorts, a Cowboys Super Bowl champs t-shirt from the mid-nineties, thick octagonal glasses, and a close-cropped perm roughly the size and shape of a football helmet. Over the woman’s shoulder Quinton saw the half-dozen folks gathered there for a football-watching potluck.

“Sandra Stanton?” Quinton lifted a heavy leather briefcase from the ground, ready to begin his work.

“Just Sandy’s fine.” The woman had her doubts looking over the priest at her door. Patchy, unshaven face, with thinning hair slicked back with drugstore gel. Heavy bags hung below tired, kind eyes and there was a notable paunch pushing against the midsection of an ill-fitting, paper-thin cassock, one that looked like it was purchased at one of those fly-by-night Halloween costume shops. He was like no exorcist she had ever seen on TV or in movies. But what could she say? This was who the Church sent.

“May I come in?” Quinton said.

“Please, Father.” Sandy stepped back to make room, then led him toward the hallway. “Hate to hurry you, really I do, but kick-off’s at six and me and Mandy haven’t missed a game since ’93.” As Quinton passed through the living room, he caught encouraging nods and awkward smiles from some of the partygoers. One younger woman made the sign of the cross then gave him a thumbs up. The party resumed behind Quinton as he fully entered the hallway.

Sandy stood as spectator in the far corner of the frigid bedroom, much to Quinton’s annoyance, who stated from the beginning that he would prefer to conduct the ritual alone. It wasn’t personal preference, he assured her, it was Church policy. But the old bag wouldn’t listen. She just had to be there, watching him do his thing, waiting for Mandy, her twin sister, to be vacated by the demonic entity that had taken up residence in her elderly body three weeks prior.

Quinton could see immediately this was a real possession, not just some mental case, or a loner seeking attention. Now, the question remained, was it his demon? Was it Lilith? He brandished a large, official-looking crucifix and held it up for the demon inside Mandy to see clearly. She squirmed violently in her La-Z-Boy chair, jostling against the tight orange extension cord someone had used to strap her down.

“You see that, Demon-Bitch-Inside-My-Sister?” Sandy said from over Quinton’s shoulder, her Texas drawl confrontational, taunting. “That’s the good Lord Jesus H. Christ, come to whoop up on you.”

Quinton sighed, allowed his arm holding up the cross to drop, and turned his head toward Sandy. “Please, Ma’am, that is not helpful.” Sandy huffed in response, then checked her watch. Quinton turned back to the demon and raised the cross again. It started to glow; a strange, pulsating illumination that strobed the dark room. Shadows stirred around them; dark dancing devils locked in a choreographed ghoulish gavotte. “Reveal yourself, Demon,” he said. “Tell us your name!”

A low growl began deep in Mandy’s throat and swelled to a frequency not of the human world, its tone and pitch like the grinding of a planet on a rusted axis. The sound spread violently throughout the house. Quinton and Sandy shielded their eyes as window glass shattered and the walls rattled. Abruptly, the growl ceased and the possessed woman cocked her head and stared Quinton down, her eyes lively and burning, like pearls suspended in flame. The voice that escaped through chittering teeth was strong, male, with a thick Eastern European accent. “You are not of God.” No response from Quinton. The demon erupted into a series of cackles.

Quinton’s eyes flicked toward Sandy. He noted the confused look on her face now, as if her confidence of his exorcism abilities had been called into question. It was time for him to turn things up a notch.

“Liar!” Quinton shouted at the demon, as he pressed the crucifix against Mandy’s cheek, searing away chunks of skin and flesh. Smoke rose from the holy branding and the demon recoiled within, howling with pain. The exorcist flicked his eyes back toward Sandy, and saw that her confidence in him was restored, if only briefly.

“Get a load of that, ya hellish bitch!” Sandy said.

“Ma’am, please,” said Quinton. “This would go faster without the interruptions.”

“‘Bout time for my glass of Barefoot anyway.” She exited the room. Now it was just Quinton, Mandy, and the demon inside of Mandy, whose identity Quinton was still trying to determine. “Who are you?” he demanded.

“We are legion,” replied the demon(s), in a multitude of voices.

Quinton sighed, getting annoyed. He didn’t have much time before the real exorcist showed up. He inched closer to Mandy’s ear, lowering his voice to an almost conversational tone. “Is one of you Lilith?”

The demon(s) inside of Mandy stared at Quinton with utter confusion, and it was then that Quinton lost hope this was the night he would be reunited with his true love.

The possessed woman spewed vomit, a lime-green stream that covered Quinton’s face, hair, and clothes. His body went limp in resignation as he wiped the vomit from his eyes and mouth. He allowed the crucifix to drop from his hand, then slumped onto the nearby bed, his body an arc of defeated exhaustion.

He stiffened at the sound of a distant knock at the front door, followed by the sounds of Sandy’s voice conversing with a man. Quinton stood, rushed to the window and peeked his head out. Standing on the porch was the real priest. He and Sandy both had confused expressions on their faces. Quinton waited for the priest to step into the house before shimmying out of window and hurrying to his car.

The teacher returned to the classroom from her bathroom break to find little Sean sitting at his desk, intensely working on a drawing. The other kids from the class were at recess and she could see them through the open windows, the boys tossing balls to each other and the girls marching around in arm-locked packs, telling secrets and giggling. She studied the lonely boy left behind in silence. She could never understand where his aloofness, his strangeness, came from. From appearances, Sean was just your average nine-year-old boy. Neat were his clothes, and his hair was cut regularly by a professional. Hygiene was good, skin clear of scratches and bruises, the presence of either she knew was always a sign that things weren’t good at home.

Anger rose in the teacher as she approached Sean’s desk. She could see that the drawing was the same she had discovered earlier that day and threw into the trash. Sean must’ve plucked it out of the bin in her absence. He did not look up from it, even as her shadow fell over him. He was too busy putting the finishing flourishes of orange flames on a burning house. She once again compared Sean’s drawing to the drawings of his classmates, which littered the walls around them: colorful trees, smiling people, fantasy castles, ponies.

“Sean,” she said. The boy did not respond. He swapped the orange crayon for a red one and started on the blood that streamed from stick figures jutting from the burning building’s windows in panicked poses.

“Give that here.” The teacher snatched the paper from beneath Sean’s crayon and ripped it into shreds. The boy did not look up, just kept his head down, staring at the scarred and pocked wooden desk surface.

A crashing sound drew the teacher’s attention toward the front of the classroom. A picture frame had been knocked off the wall by phantom hands, the glass shattering on the carpeted floor. Even more horrifying, the large cross that was mounted next to the picture had spun upside down on its nail.

The teacher looked back toward Sean in horror. The boy was staring up at her, his expression flat. His eyes dropped to the small silver crucifix hanging from a thin chain around her neck. It began to glow red, and the teacher could feel her skin burning. Screaming, she ripped the necklace from her neck and threw it to the ground.

As Quinton made the walk to the school from his parked car, he knew it would be the last time. He had made the final walk to many schools in Sean’s young academic career, but always held out hope that they just hadn’t find the right fit yet. He was starting to run out of schools, and if Sean kept at this pace, they would eventually have to move to another district, maybe even another state, to find a learning environment conducive to Sean’s peculiarities.

Sean was in the small waiting area outside the principal’s office, his face glued to a game on a cell phone screen. Seeing the boy in this situation, as he had countless times before, overwhelmed Quinton with sadness. He tried his best to keep things light.

“They busted you, too?” Quinton squeezed into the tiny wooden chair next to Sean. “What for?” No response from Sean. “They caught me looking up the teacher’s skirt again,” Quinton said, and buried his head into hands in faux shame. He peeked at Sean through his fingers and swore he saw the hint of a smile on his son’s face.

“Mr. Hobbs.” Quinton looked up to find the principal standing in the doorway to his office. He tussled Sean’s hair, stood, then walked into the principal’s office.

The doormat below Quinton’s feet, though still Christian-themed like the last one, was new. It said: Just so you know… there’s a lot of Jesus in here. Sean stood off to the side of the doormat. A few moments later, the door opened and there was Quinton’s ex-wife, Anne. She was dressed in her church clothes, which didn’t necessarily mean she was headed to, or returning from, church. Ever since they split, about a month after Sean’s birth, she had dressed like that daily.

Anne’s gaze drifted down toward Sean, who was busy drilling the heel of his sneaker into a column of ants, sending them scattering on their long journey across the concrete path to the grassy refuge on the other side. “We need to talk,” Quinton said.

“Cover its ears,” Anne said. Quinton complied, though Sean didn’t seem to notice or mind and kept to his task of striking fear into the world of ants.

“I told you not to bring it to this house,” Anne said, through clenched teeth.

“He’s your son, Anne.”

“That’s not true, so don’t you dare say it like it is.”

“Sorry, kind of your son. That’s true.”

“What do you want?”

“Can we come in, please?”

Anne sighed, rolling the cross on her necklace in her fingers. Finally, she opened the door and stepped back.

Quinton and Anne left Sean in front of a nature documentary on the TV, and made their way to the kitchen. Anne poured them both coffee from a lukewarm pot and sat down across the table from Quinton.

“He got expelled from another school,” Quinton said.

“You need to keep it away from other kids, from other people. You know what it is… it’s irresponsible of you.”

“Please, Anne, with the it stuff.”

“That is not a person over there, not completely, and you know it. It’s a monster, and I’ll refer to it as it accordingly.”

“That child came from you.”

“Stop. Stop it right now. That child may have come from me, but it is not of me.” She looked away in anger. Quinton dropped his head in shame, in frustration, then sipped from his coffee. “Saw the child psychologist again,” he said. “Always the same thing. Boy needs his mother.”

“Then find her. Aren’t you still looking?”

“I have been, but… nothing. All these years, all the money spent. I think that damned priest your parents hired sent Lilith away for good.”

Anne let his words linger. “Tell me this, Q,” Anne said, her eyes boring into him. “Are you still looking for Lilith for the boy, or for yourself?”

Quinton didn’t have an answer to that. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Anne stood up. “I think it’s time for you both to go.”

The electric company finally followed through on months of threatening letters. Quinton’s was the only dark apartment in the complex. He sat in candlelight, thinking about Anne’s question, the same one he had avoided asking himself since Sean’s birth. There was tremendous difficulty reconciling his thoughts on it all. He did care about the boy, loved him even; after all, he was the product of his passionate love affair with Lilith. But Quinton couldn’t deny the truth any longer. He missed Lilith and thought back longingly on the raw passion she brought into his life, one previously on a conveyor belt of convenience and consumerism, of manning cubicles and paying bills promptly, a life Anne could not provide him, a life he didn’t even know he wanted so desperately until that beautiful demon torpedoed his humdrum existence. And nights this dark, the moon stolen away behind heavy clouds, were the worst when it came to Quinton reminiscing his time with Lilith. The electric light she beamed into his dark life.

The swirling pitch at the flame’s flickering edges seemed to reach out for him, a phantom army mustered from infernal depths. Quinton blew out the flame and closed his eyes, allowing the tendrils of darkness to mummify him in his longing. He enjoyed it while he could – the corners of his lips quivered upward – but the novelty quickly wore off. He knew it was a poor substitute for the embrace of his life’s true love.

What had started as a dull panic had been slowly building this past year to a full-blown nervous breakdown. So many dead ends in his search for her, so many let downs. He was on the verge of losing his job due to all the time taken off, hunting down leads of active possessions found on internet forums or buried in local newspapers, and from dealing with Sean’s struggles to join the ranks of normal children in society. The shrink co-pays, the school registration fees, the airfare and gas bills to travel. Forget the delinquent power bill, his savings were depleted to the point of him questioning where the next rent payment was coming from.

His cell phone rang in the kitchen. Strange, it was well after midnight. He stood, took the candle off the end table, and shuffled through the gloomy condo like some medieval monk traversing a secret catacomb of entombed holy men.

The call was from Isabella, the secretary to a big city bishop who coordinated exorcisms throughout the states. After some cajoling and the promise of a sizable bribe, the first real lead had finally arrived. Officially sanctioned by the Church, all criteria met.

After arranging a quick Venmo payment, Isabella provided the name of a possessed man, his caretaker, and a crude set of directions to the remote Florida Key where the villa they lived in was located, which, he learned then, was only accessible by boat or kayak. The real priest was scheduled to arrive early next week, which meant that Quinton only had a few days to check things out, see if it was Lilith. As he hung up, Quinton fought back the hope that was rising in him. He had been at this point a few times before, following a solid lead that never panned out. But there was something about this one that piqued his interest.

His eyes caught a framed picture of Lilith on his way up the stairs to Sean’s room. In actuality, the picture was of Anne, with Lilith actively possessing her. In it, she’s strapped to a bed, her hair matted, her skin lacerated from the streams of holy water flicked at her by that priest. Quinton himself was crouched in the frame, cheek-to-cheek with Lilith, smiling, his arm outstretched to steal a quick selfie. Quinton halted there to lovingly stare into those demonic eyes, temporarily rejuvenated in his search, before continuing up the stairs.

He entered Sean’s room, his son a dark shape lying coffin-flat on a made bed. Quinton used the beacon of Sean’s red eyes, staring up at the ceiling, like hot coals in a pit, to guide his steps to the edge of the bed.

“Got some good news,” Quinton said, sitting down. Sean rolled onto his side to face him. “We’re off to Florida tomorrow.”

“Florida?” Sean said.

“Might have found your mom there.”

“You always say that.”

“I have a good feeling about this one.”

Sean rolled over to face the wall.

“I’ll get us packed.” Quinton said, then stood and exited the room.

The flat boat motored Quinton and Sean slowly toward the coast of Pretty Jim’s Rock. The shimmering black of Quinton’s cassock like an oil slick in his reflection off the mirrored water below. Butterflies fluttered in his stomach. Lilith was near – he felt her presence – and his body thrummed with anticipation. He wrapped an arm around Sean, dressed like a typical child, but quickly slid it back when he caught a suspicious side-eye from the boat’s captain.

It had been difficult finding a captain in town willing to transport them. Aside from explaining why he as a priest was traveling with a young boy, apparently rumors were rampant on the island of the evil inhabiting the remote key.

A small villa peeked out from behind thick tangles of mangroves. The captain cut the engine well short of a rickety dock jutting out from the island, its pitted pylons heavily barnacled. He dropped anchor and as the metal caught the smooth sand beneath, the boat jerked to a stop, a good hundred yards from shore. The captain began unharnessing the two-person kayak fastened to the gunwale. “Can’t you just drop us off at the dock there?” Quinton inquired, and held up his briefcase of holy tools. “Got lots of equipment here I don’t want to get wet.”

“Sorry Father, I don’t get no closer than this,” the captain said, and continued his task of launching the kayak. Once free of the lines, the captain helped them down into the kayak, which wobbled under their weight. Quinton could hear the whispered prayer issuing from the captain’s lips, as a cross necklace swung from the exposed neckline of his thin, sweat-drenched tropical shirt.

The captain handed them both paddles then shoved the kayak out to sea with a stroke from his leg. “I’ll wait for your call till morning for pick-up,” he shouted. “Any time after that, I’m busy.”

Quinton and Sean paddled toward shore, the ocean around them immense. A smudge of black clouds hovered on the burning horizon, threatening. “This is fun, isn’t it?” Quinton said. Sean nodded from his seat in the bow.

They came upon a school of dead fish, bobbing in the water on both sides of the kayak. Dead eyes shimmering in the sun’s blaze, like coins in a wishing fountain. They both took care not to whack the carcasses with their paddle strokes as they sought out a cleared section of shoreline and paddled toward it. Upon reaching the shoreline, Quinton removed his patent leather shoes and rolled up his pantlegs. He awkwardly lowered himself into the shallow water, nearly losing his balance, then pulled the kayak by its rubber handle onto the beachhead. Sean stepped out onto the sand and assisted.

Quinton tossed a glance back toward the boat to see the captain silhouetted against the falling sun, making the sign of the cross, before pulling up and anchor and roaring away, leaving them alone on the island. He turned back. Sean was already walking along a winding, mangrove-skirted path that led toward the villa. Quinton hurried to follow.

A young man was there at the end of the path to greet them. Dark-skinned, possibly Cuban by birth, in short shorts, bare feet, and a rumpled linen shirt unbuttoned down the middle to expose rippling abs. His hair was messy, and there were heavy bags under bloodshot eyes. The man obviously hadn’t slept in days. He eyed the approaching visitors with confusion. A priest in a cheap cassock, with pant legs rolled up, leather shoes in hand, and a surplice being used as a literal sweat rag. More strangely, the young boy at his side. Quinton spoke first. “You must be Matías.”

Matías nodded, then shifted all his attention to Sean. “Father, excuse me, but why this young boy here with you?”

Quinton had been working out an answer to this question on the boat ride over. “There’s no greater defense against evil than the purity of a child’s soul,” Quinton said, which didn’t seem to satisfy Matías, so he added, “everything you thought you knew about exorcisms, throw it out.” Matías nodded again, still skeptical of the situation. “I can return tomorrow without the child, if you’d like, but the earlier we can start, the better,” Quinton said.

“No, no, don’t leave,” Matías said. “He’s around back, in the cabana.” They followed Matías along a stone pathway that snaked through a copse of palms.

The odd trio arrived at an open area behind the villa that looked out on a layered horizon of sand, sea, and sky. Positioned a hundred yards from the shore was a straw-topped cabana, with lengths of thin white silk making up sides that undulated and snapped against intermittent gusts of wind. It was walled on the island side and open on the sea side, designed to maximize privacy and frame a million-dollar-view. The shoreline was awash with more dead fish, flipping and tossing in the incoming and retreating tide, the water slick with their collective blood.

A nightmarish voice reverberated from within the cabana. “Pool boy, bring us a drink! We’re on vacation!”

“I am not his boy pool, not anymore,” Matías explained to Quinton. “Please, give me my Jim back.” Matías allowed his imploring look to linger on Quinton, then turned and headed back toward the villa. Sean’s eyes were glued to the seabirds circling overhead, occasionally swooping down to snatch a dead fish off the wet sand.

“Maybe you should go wait inside too, until it’s done.” Quinton said to Sean. “This could get messy, whether it’s your mom or not.”

Sean shook his head. “I want to help.” Quinton smiled, then crouched to inventory the supplies in his leather briefcase: a Gideon’s Bible, several crucifixes, three plastic travel bottles of holy water, a rotting bouquet of wilted flowers (her favorite), and a hand-molded, clay bowl with the name LILITH stenciled on the side. Sean plucked one of the travel bottles, its contained liquid a different consistency than that of the others. “This one’s our shampoo, I think.”

“Good catch,” said Quinton, and tossed it aside. He stood and steeled himself as an army of dark clouds advanced toward the island from the open sea. Distant lightning strikes briefly strung ocean to sky. “Wait on this side of the wall till I call for you.” With that, bouquet in hand, Quinton stepped around the corner of the cabana wall.

He found himself facing an elderly man soaking in a bubbling Jacuzzi. Pretty Jim, or, at least the body of Pretty Jim. Jim was shirtless and, Quinton assumed, bottomless, even though the viewing angle thankfully didn’t reveal what was below the water’s surface. Jim’s arms were spread out, his wrists tied to the spa rails. Upon seeing Quinton, Jim’s bloodshot eyes rolled back into his head, as if annoyed. “Ah shit,” the demon voice said, the sounds strumming off raw vocal cords. The demon’s words were all but a confirmation. Quinton was bursting with joy. He had found Lilith, but he worked to maintain his composure. He still had a job to do: get her out of Pretty Jim. “I can’t believe this… I’ve missed you so much, Lily,” Quinton said.

“Go away. You’re ruining our view,” Lilith-inside-of-Jim growled. Quinton stepped forward and extended the bouquet of dead flowers. “All this time, I never stopped looking for you.”

Lilith-inside-of-Jim growled and its eyes transformed into tiny orbs of fire. The bouquet burst into flames, scorching Quinton’s hand. He yelped in pain and dropped the burning bundle into the spa water. The demon laughed as Quinton caressed his burned hand.

“I have a surprise for you, my love.” Quinton called for Sean, who stepped out from around the corner. “This is Sean, our son.”

“Mom?” Sean said, weakly. A rage grew then inside Lilith-inside-of-Jim and the spa water began to boil. “Get him out of here,” Lilith-inside-of-Jim said, the voice thick with restrained rage.

“He’s our son, Lily.”

“He’s nothing of the sort.”

“Sean, show her.”

Sean’s hair spontaneously combusted, but the flames seemed to cause him no pain. Steam rose from all facial orifices as he rotated his head a full 360 degrees. The demonstration finished, the fire on Sean’s head died, leaving behind no trace.

The demon choked back laughter. “This was your hope, was it? That you would show me the product of our week together, a decade ago, the most boring week of all my millennia in existence, I might add, a week I haven’t thought about since it ended, and that would break me down into tears of joy and I would agree to start a family with you, denying every molecule of my demonic nature?”

The demon’s words wounded Quinton deeply, but he forged on. “It’s not just about what I want. The boy needs his mother.”

“Dad, let’s just go,” Sean said, drawing a glare from Quinton.

A cacophony of cackles erupted from the demon. The spa water boiled again and this time turned to blood. The restraints loosened then ripped away on their own, freeing both arms. The old man’s body levitated out of the water, head tilted upward, exposing the full length of flaccid and flabby flesh, pruney from the long soak.

Quinton snapped into action, brandishing a crucifix, and thrusted it toward the suspended body. The demon wailed in agony at the holy assault, and slowly lowered itself back into the water, limp with despondency.

“Tie her hands, quick,” Quinton ordered his son. Sean hurried to tie the demon’s hands back to the railing, but slowed when something caught his eye. Written on the man’s wrinkled skin, the letters grotesquely bubbled up on the fleshly parchment, as if from a brand, were the words: FUCK OFF.

“Uh, Dad?”

Quinton followed Sean’s gaze, and read the words. “Don’t mind that,” Quinton said. “She’s just a little upset that we surprised her, but that’s OK, we still love her, don’t we?” Sean nodded, timidly. “Help me with the candles.” Working together, they arranged a perimeter of lit candles around the spa as the sun slipped behind a shelf of dark clouds.

Thunder cracked and the rain began to fall around the cabana in thick sheets. The scene nearly set, Quinton fumbled a set of laminated notes from out of his pocket and turned to Sean. “Is the bowl ready?” Sean held it up. Holding the crucifix up as a ward, and reading from notes held in the other, Quinton began the ritual.

“In the Name and by the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ, may you be snatched away and driven from the Church of God and redeemed by the Precious Blood of the Divine Lamb,” As thunder boomed around them, Quinton dumped one of the bottles of holy water into the spa water, then continued. “The Most-High God commands you, cunning serpent, be driven from this holy realm.”

The demon squirmed in agony, fighting against the straps. Quinton maintained his composure, even as tiny black snakes slithered out of the possessed man’s black maw and dropped into the water, undulating among the bubbles.

“We drive you from us, whoever you may be, unclean spirits, all satanic powers, all infernal invaders, all wicked legions, assemblies and sects.” He ended with an emphatic, “Be Gone, Demon! I cast you out!”

A roar unimaginable in its tone and pitch followed. A cloud of ghostly mist escaped the possessed man’s every orifice; a demon in gaseous state. Sean stood by frozen but ready, holding the clay bowl bottom-side-up, like a waiter showcasing a meal to a seated patron.

“Do it now!” Quinton commanded. Sean snapped out of it, and quickly flipped the bowl over onto a piece of wood held in his opposite hand. All the escaping mist rushed under the bowl before it slammed home, capturing Lilith’s essence inside. Quinton and Sean shared a relieved glance, then both leaned over and put an ear on the bowl to listen – wails of agony, a million souls suffering in the far distance, like the static sound of the ocean inside of conch shell. Quinton unspooled strips from a roll of duct tape and used them to fasten the bowl to the wood.

“Where’s Matías?” A feeble voice drew both their attention back toward the spa. Pretty Jim examined the filthy, blood-hued water around him. “Tell him to get the chemicals. I think this water’s out of balance.”

Quinton and Sean sat inside their rental car and watched as shoppers trickled in and out of the supermarket doors. The boys were doing some shopping of their own. While Quinton was singling out various females in the lens of his binoculars, Sean’s attention stayed on the bowl in his lap.

Quinton spied an extremely attractive woman in her mid-30s cutting a path through the rows of parked cars. Her voluptuous body bounced in perfect sync with each bubbly step. She was dressed for the sweltering weather; frayed, cut-off shorts and a tight-fitting halter top, hair done up in a messy pony tail. Quinton lowered the glass without mentioning her to Sean. He had to be careful here. The woman they chose had to be appropriate for their situation, not some young Florida beauty. The world would never buy such a set-up, Quinton being broke, and well, Quinton. This had to be for Sean, not himself. The couple of nights since capturing Lilith, Quinton had been practicing the Rite of Ensnarement of Incubi, a satanic ritual designed to lock a demon inside a human host.

Quinton refocused his effort and caught sight of a slim woman, much closer to his age, collecting a shopping cart from the rack. A bit plain in her looks, but she seemed to take care of herself, as evidenced by her slim waist and sweaty gym attire. Most importantly, no ring. “What about her?” Quinton held out the binoculars for Sean. The boy half-heartedly glassed the woman, then returned his eyes to the bowl. “No?” Quinton said.

“Can’t we just go home?”

“It’s better if we find a host here. Less people will be looking for her back home.”

“I mean, can’t we just leave her like this?”

“In the bowl?” Quinton genuinely had not thought about that, but he had to admit, the boy seemed happy sitting there, his mom in his lap. Quinton took some time to consider it. After a while, he tossed the binocs into the backseat, and started the car.

Lilith stayed trapped in the bowl for the rest of Quinton’s life. He made sure she was in attendance at all the milestones throughout Sean’s life; on Quinton’s lap during Sean’s high school and college graduations; on the gift table, with a clear view of the altar, at Sean’s wedding, on the fireplace mantle for several weekend stays in Sean’s first home, at the hospital for the births of Sean’s children. But mostly Quinton would keep her at his side, and as people around his town died or moved away, he became less known as Quinton, the single dad, and more known as that nice, contented man who always carried a taped-down bowl. We’d watch TV with the bowl, eat across the table from it, have one-sided conversations while sipping his wine. At night, he would rest the bowl next to him in bed. Just before sleep, he’d place his ear to its warm surface and listen to the wailing emanating from inside, the distant cries of pain and torture, then kiss it goodnight, and sleep the perfect sleep. And this simple pattern of life continued until Quinton’s death, many happy years later, when Sean, with grown children of his own, made sure the bowl was placed in Quinton’s casket before it closed.


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