"You CANNOT make deals with children!" shouted the Priest with the conviction of a long life spent interpreting the scripture of Heaven and Hell, staring down the body that he had bound to the tiny bed frame. His holy water blessed ropes were bound so tight that tiny splinters of wood were being ripped away from the pine bedposts, worn as though by sandpaper. The iron smell of blood in the air showed they had worked the same on the flesh.
This demon hadn't fought as most of the others had; they had spent the entire exorcism screaming obscenities and filth, blaspheme against heaven and earth, flailing the limbs and tearing the flesh of these children they inhabited, until he had burned them from the tiny bruised bodies. This demon had been perfectly conversational, the words coming from the thirteen-year-old child not entirely unlike the words a precocious but well read teenager might know.
"Come now, James," the presence purred casually, the barest indication of a shrug from shoulders that were tied so tightly they couldn't move, "You know that these days age is just a number, and younger and younger children are exposed to more things and are more adult than some of those in their late thirties in the past. They know things, they have experienced sobering things that have aged them past their earthly years." The girl's normally smiling brown eyes (if the happy pictures of the two girls that lay strewn about the room torn from the walls are any indication) are a muted grey and wracked with pain.
"I am Father Railegh, you filth," spat the Priest, his fading blue eyes the picture of absolute indignation. "We are not on a first name basis." Somewhere inside the house the lone dog he had encountered when he entered started barking crazily and was quickly silenced.
"Perhaps you aren't with me, but I know who you are Priest." hissed the young girl in a voice several octaves too deep. "You claim to be saving children in the name of your God, and yet I know and care more about her life than you ever will."
The acrid stench of sulfur and burned hair filled the room as a gout of flame shot from the girls bound hands, singeing the holy rope from the headboard. The Priest stifled a gasp as the teenager sat up, a section of her long brown hair now slightly shorter than the rest and burned at the ends. Too pale skin wreathed in the angry red of blood peeked from under the frilly nightgown that the girl wore. With seemingly inhuman speed the demon had pulled those wrists back into the nightgown and tucked the girls feet underneath of her, so that aside from her wild and unkempt hair she looked the picture of innocence.
"You have exorcised some of my brethren with wild disregard for the human life that they lived alongside." it crooned to him, "To say nothing of your coworkers, you alone are responsible for creating hundreds more of us!" It sounded like a triumphant boast, belied by the tone of its voice and what seemed to be sorrow in its grey eyes.
"Don't pretend to be magnanimous about the cruelty that you are. You don't live alongside these children. You are an infection, sent from the depths of Hell to twist more souls for your greedy master. I have destroyed scores of you." The girl slowly shook her head. The Priest wore his words as Holy Armor, convicted only of the rightness of his cause.
"You are right about some of us. And yet others... Your world, no- your cause, has only black and white, no opening for the shades of grey of reality. Your kind is outdated." a hint of a presence formed behind the girl, a huge and ethereal shadow much too large to be cast by the lone bulb recessed into the ceiling. "Look around you Father," it sneered irony in its voice as the girl's small hands gestured outward around the room and stayed outstretched. "This girl, as many of the others, seems to come from a perfect home. Mother is sunny and pleasant, if vacant, father is home every night. Frequenters of the nearby church, contributor to the annual bake sale. Two dogs, two children, picket fence, blah blah blah. Or is it?"
The demon rolls up the lacy sleeves, revealing healed but jagged scars up and down the inside of both of the girls wrists. Almost hard to see against the inflamed skin caused by the Priests own binding.
"How did you miss it ..? Did you ask them no questions?" The demons voice was deadpan. Scorn radiated from every line on the girls body, the face contorted by the presence. "The mother drinks every night; drinks until she can pretend she doesn't know. Pretends that she doesn't know why she won't let her husband lay with her at night. Doesn't know why the dog cowers whenever he is in the room. Doesn't know what happened to the other dog that they tell the neighbors 'ran away'. That a thirteen-year-old girl didn't beg her for help." The voice crescendos to a shout that shakes the walls and rattles the bed.
"I am a Warrior in the battle against your kind! I am a Holy Man, righteous and true, and my actions are sanctioned by my God against the invading filth that you are Demon!" The shouted words from the Priest tried to smother the truth he now saw written on the too thin body in front of him. Her sunken eyes showed too much horror for her years; her self inflicted wounds screamed for a help that wouldn't come.
"I came to her in her last moments. Saved her from going straight to Hell. Some of us are created by your kind Priest," the words fell heavy into the room like coins into an empty jar, "Created when someone who needed help and finally lashed out against their attackers were accused of being demons. Had exorcisms performed instead of therapy and removal from a situation that became inescapable. There are a few of us..." It trailed off, grey eyes growing distant for a brief moment. "- a few of us that try to help defend those souls. Give them a second chance. Heaven and Hell aren't the only players, but they are the ones who think of humans as pawns in their game instead of as life of their own."
In a blink the girl was standing in front of the Priest, its eyes burning into his soul, the hulking shadow blotting out most of the light in the room until he almost thought he could see its physical presence.
"And if you take her from me, before I go I will do to you what I did to him when he came to her three days ago. For the Last Time." it said with a finality that brokered no argument. Sadness flitted across the girls face, but it was the sadness of having been betrayed by someone who should have stood up for her. "I will rain on you what the Mother downstairs has been afraid of for a year, the righteous wrath she should have dealt the first time she found bruises on her eldest daughters arms. Before she killed herself a year ago." Fire blazed in the girl's eyes, the shadowy presence growing and dancing in the flames, and the Priest saw for the first time how many other demons he had created by exorcising a protector. How many other lives were cut short by being freed from the thing keeping abuse from continuing.
"I am a Warrior in the battle..." His words are Holy Armor turned to dust and the Priest fell to his knees and sobbed as years of his life were rewritten in an instant.