A roly-poly-looking boy opened the door to the supposed exorcism room, and I nearly choked on the smell. What is that…tuna shit? I looked around. Was it a closet? There was one lightbulb in the low ceiling, dainty flowered wallpaper, and peeling, crumbling plaster. And a goddamn toddler bed? I turned. “Is this a joke? I told you I had to be chained someplace solid.”
Roly smirked. “This exorcism room. No place else.”
I threw my hands out. “What the hell, dude? Why did you say ‘yes yes yes’ on the goddamn phone when we talked about this thirty minutes ago?”
His eyes bulged, and he mumbled around the noodles he’d crammed in his mouth. “’Cause I not think you are being serious.”
Well, motherfuck. I headed out of the nauseating shoe box and ran into a thousand-year-old man two feet shorter than me, with about seven silver hairs glued down on his head. “Are you the priest?” It was difficult to breathe around the new smell of tequila and pissed-on daisies that followed the man. “Look, sorry, I can’t do this. I told your…secretary…that I have to be chained to do this. The last priest to perform an exorcism on me died. I’m not killing anybody again, no way.”
The old man raised his right hand and nodded his head. “Santo is good helper, but he is very stupid.” I scanned his black and yellow silk robe as the old man leveled his calm, cirrhosis-yellowed gaze at me. “I am very sorry for your trouble. If you would prefer, I can perform this exorcism with you in the bathroom downstairs.”
Like this happened every day.
“Can lock you in, chain you to the big iron tub.” His bushy brows lifted to a height that said he thought this was cute.
I imagined his gnarly, twig body snapping in two right after the “Big Bad Wolf” blew his little room down.
Why am I doing this? I lowered my head and pressed a shaky thumb and index finger to my eye. Sheeku. “Okay. Let me see this tub.”
Thirty minutes later I’m wrapped in chain, and it is wrapped around a claw-foot tub. The bathroom door is locked, and the door leading to the bathroom is locked. So why was I terrified?
The chains would hold me.
I lay there, and the helper stood at the door, keeping an eye on me and updating me on the progress. “Will only take fifteen minutes.”
Alarm struck. “Fifteen minutes? That’s it? Is that…normal?” I called out.
“Yes. This very normal.”
He was so lying. He just wanted me to shut up. “What is this, a five-and-dime exorcism?”
“Not five-and-dime!” he yelled. “The master begins. You shut up.”
I listened to him call out each step of the exorcism. Then he said, “The master is on final phase. He loads the Tao gun.”
Tao gun. I had no idea what the hell that was, but the demon responded to it like a crucifix. And for him, it was like unlocking his prison cell. The word echoed and dragged as eternal things infringed on my reality. It was coming. I heard the shots of the Tao gun, and the giant black form slithered through the crack in the demon’s prison cell. Frozen in horror before the ten-foot monster form of rage and lust unified, I could only stare wide-eyed at the molten lava that oozed like an infection from the jagged ravines in thick-crusted skin. The charred black monster grinned at me, twisting its seven-horned head, relieving a kink in its neck. Then he entered me, hard and ruthless. My scream came from far away as he shoved his way inside me, tearing me everywhere.
My vision blurred, small bones cracked in my ears, and strange symbols flashed before my eyes as the demon slipped on my skin like a suit and took control of my body. “Kill the little man four rooms away,” Rage said.
That was the extent of his purpose. No, that was all he was allowed. The Tao priest was the doorway; he was the one who’d opened it. He was the prize to collect. All I could do was watch as I moved under the power of the duel demons within me.
The exorcist needed to hurry.
“Stupid chains,” Lust said. The voices of rage and lust took turns gurgling out of my mouth. I stood and jerked the tub once, twice, water pipes hissing. I roared and plunged through the door.
The fat kid scuttled down the hall.
I only needed to get within five feet of the priest, and the tub would make a perfect weapon.
I gave a long, warbled giggle and pulled the tub through the hall, taking out walls along the way.
“He’s going crazy, hurry!”
I spun at the helper’s voice, pissed. My mouth opened, and hell roared out in a blast of fury. The window was brief. I jerked to the stairway.
“Can I shove the Tao gun up the old man’s ass?” Lust asked.
More giggles rumbled through me as I dragged the tub up the stairs, railings and spindles groaning and snapping off with each step. “We’re gonna huff…” I took several more steps. “And we’re gonna puff…” I gave another vicious jerk. “We’re gonna blow your house down.”
I rammed through the paper door and grinned at the priest. He crouched in the corner, and I waggled my brows. “How’s ’bout a bath?”
The priest made frantic hand movements to dispel me.
I thrashed my head. “Stop it, stop it.” Then I laughed. “Go ahead, shoot me. Here’s your target. Do it.” I held my testicles. “Got your hell right here.”
The man mumbled frantic Chinese, cowering in fear.
I panicked from deep inside my mind where I watched, helpless. This isn’t working, this isn’t working. I quickly envisioned another reality. Demon in the cube, demon in the cube, cube whole, cube whole!
Time suspended as I waited in terror for it to work. A deep rumbling raced toward me, low at first, until it became a roar inside me, rattling my bones. Then everything whirled and pulled in toward my center, sucking until it all ended in a soft shhhhhhhwooop.
My eyes rolled up in my head, and I collapsed in the sudden darkness, my blue shield growling with a frigid “I told you so.”
All that remained, all I could think about, was the shitload of pain I was in. Fuck.
I woke up in my bed, smelling Sheeku everywhere. Silk slid over my body, and I opened my eyes.
Shit. Not my bed. I looked around—double shit—Sheeku’s bed.
What, why, where, when, and how flew through my head as I moved up on my elbows. Pain racked my body. What the fuck had happened? Delicate pink undergarments were laid out neatly on the covers, igniting heat in celibate places, and bringing an instant I’m-naked revelation.
I made my way out of the bed, dragging the sheet with me and hiding my aching need for the bathroom. I went to the door and listened, hearing silence in the house. I glanced at the digital clock and saw it was five.
I tiptoed into the hallway and saw Jeremy sleeping on the couch. I heard the door in the master bathroom and rushed back into her room, not wanting to get caught in only a sheet. Then I realized she was probably headed to my hiding spot. Shit.
I hid behind the door in the bedroom, listening. It swung open, and Sheeku walked in and pushed it shut with her heel, not even glancing in my direction.
I held my breath, watching her as she walked to the now sheetless bed. Wet, in a pink satin robe. My God, I should say something.
She opened her robe and turned toward me.
“Oh shit.” I shut my eyes.
Sheeku screamed in frantic Chinese.
I kept my eyes closed. “I’m so sorry.” I held out my hand in peace. “I thought you’d see me here, and I promise, I was about to stop you, but you were too fast.”
“You see me!” she whispered, sounding horrified.
“No, no, I barely—”
She gave another appalled gasp.
“I’m sorry. I closed my eyes as fast as I could. I don’t even remember what I saw.” Goddamn lie of the century. She was every bit as beautiful as I remembered.
“Can I…open my eyes now?”
I did and found her sitting on the edge of the bed, still shaken, both hands over her lowered face.
She finally looked at me. “Why are you in here?”
“I was…about to ask you the same question. I don’t remember coming in.”
“You have been gone for four days!”
“Four days?” I closed my eyes and implored help from my shield. Then I saw the cube and remembered. Oh shit, the exorcism. That’s why I hurt like hell. The demon had raped the fuck out of my body, disgusting bastard. “What’s today?”
Her expression was pained, like why did that matter? “Wednesday!” She put her hands over her face again.
“Hey, hey.” I sat next to her and touched her shoulder. Oh wow, her hair was down. I stroked it gently. “What’s wrong?”
She shook her head, keeping her face covered.
“Did anybody upset you?”
She jerked toward me and spoke incredulous Chinese.
I widened my eyes a little. She looked adorable when she was angry. “Sheeku, I…I can’t understand you. What are you saying?” I continued stroking the black river down her back.
“You! You upset me!” She slapped my hand away. “You leave and do not tell me where you are.”
I tried to keep the smile down, but it was impossible. “You were worried about me?”
She aimed her blue eyes at me, anger flashing. “No, I am not worried. Angry with you,” she corrected.
She slapped her legs. “I tell you this.”
“Because I left without telling you? Because I was gone for…” I thought about it a moment. “Three days?”
“Four days! All night Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday!” She demonstrated the math on her fingers right in my face, then stood up, glaring down, clenching the robe tightly at her chest. “Do not make fun about this.”
My grin went from ear to ear before I took in her appearance. God, she looked amazing with her hair down. I hated that braid. “It’s okay if you missed me.”
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