The story so far:
“Come out, come out wherever you are,” I said in a fun sing-song voice as I peeked around a corner and into the living room. I’d forgotten how fun hide-and-go-seek could be. Movement to my left caught my eye and I barely suppressed a giggle as the preacher, looking wonderfully undignified, poked his head out from behind a recliner. He’s up there he mouthed as he pointed toward the stairs. What a fun game the preacher and I were having with our quarry. I held a finger to my lips, listening for noise. None. This little **** was clever. Keeping quite isn’t easy for a child. Sometimes they have to be cleansed of the demons that make them noisy. The preacher taught me that.
I moved quietly up the carpeted stairs. Daddy no. Where would a little boy hide? I can tell you where two frightened little girls hid. The preacher laughed behind me. Ah the memories. Now that I’ve stopped the happy pills, the memories aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. In contrast to the happy, they’d seemed horrible. I wondered if doctors realized that happy pills made the horrible worse in contrast as I checked the hall closet.
“I’m going to send my doctor an email, Preacher, he ought to know that happy pills are no good.” The preacher made a noise in agreement behind me. He wasn’t always very verbose, but he was a good listener. No kid in the hall closet.
“Hey, Preach, have you ever taken happy pills?” He didn’t respond. He was right anyway, we should be quiet or the kid might give us the slip. Daddy no.
We moved to the first bed room. The preacher served as sentinel in the doorway as I searched under the bed and in the closet. No kid. I cracked my knuckles. I sometimes do that when I’m anxious. I guess that’s one good thing about the happy pills, they stopped me from cracking my knuckles. Which is good since Elizabeth hated it. Had hated it. I should have started taking them sooner, maybe.
“Captain obvious,” growls the preacher as we move to the next bedroom. What a funny guy. You’d never think it to look at him, but he has quite a great sense of humor. I didn’t like him at first. His talk of cleansing the girls. Silliness. Vile silliness. But he explained it so many times. So many times. It started to make sense. The method was extreme maybe, but the principle, purging demons, solid logic. Who likes demons? Answer: no sane person. And he couldn’t help where demons lived any more than I could find this little **** brat. I slapped the wall in the hall way with my flat hand.
“Come out, come out wherever you are,” I said again. Maybe not as fun this time.
“No!” muffled, from somewhere ahead of us. That was unexpected. The preacher laughed. He was in a good mood today.
I rounded the corner into the third bedroom at the end of the hall. WHAM! I doubled over on the floor with the wind knocked out of me and wishing I could laugh. Only a kid would waste a good swing on a body shot. Chicken. A baseball bat dropped by my head and two Nike swooshes flew past me. I reached out to grab an ankle and missed. Quick little ****. I got to my feet and grabbed the bat, nice solid wood bat, not one of those aluminum travesties. I took a practice swing and knocked a couple of pictures off the wall. Felt good.
“You didn’t grab him, Preach?” I said as I took another swing. Of course he didn’t, I have to fight my own demons. I heard the front door slam. Ah Christ! I looked at the stairs, there sure were a lot of them. Daddy no. ****… Daddy didn’t, shut up. Preach looked disgusted. Did I miss something? I hammered, I fixed. I’m batting one for two. It ain’t great, but it ain’t bad either. Daddy no. This isn’t even my Goddamned house, where is that coming from? Daddy no I turn, it’s behind me. And there they are. Twins in twin pink and twin pig-tails waiving twin fairy wands. They put a pink jester’s collar on Buzz. Oh the humanity. Daddy no Blood is running down their legs and pooling around their feet. I remember the blood. The blood of Satan, the blood of impurity, the blood of unholiness. In pink tutus with blue eyes. Daddy no I swung the bat at them and Natalie grabbed it mid-swing in her tiny hand. Daddy she tilted her head to the side, piercing blue eyes no. Daddy’s gonna go get some happy pills, honey. Maybe I misjudged them. I yanked the bat out of her hand but lost my grip and it went sailing behind me, down the hall and skidding down the stairs.
With my hand on the rail I descended backwards down the stairs, the girls following me step for step. Buzz just stared and followed. I glanced behind me, but the preacher was gone. Guess he can’t explain this then. Daddy? What? What? What do you want from me? I missed a step and stumbled. I grasped the rail tighter and continued my slow backward descent. Daddy? Shut-up. Buzz barked. Shut-up. Daddy? SHUT-UP! I took my hand off the rail and reached for Chloe. I put my foot down and the bat rolled under it. I lost my balance and fell, hitting my head against one wall and twisting my foot under me. Pain pulsed through my body as I laid on my back on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. I took a deep breath. I wasn’t sure I could walk. I tried to wiggle my foot and hot searing pain throbbed up my leg. Daddy Now is not the time!
I sat up, new pain surging from everywhere. Daddy I grabbed the bat. With one hand on the corner of the sofa I lifted myself off the floor. I was going to hobble out of there, go back home, take five or six, or maybe five and six, happy pills, and take a nap. I used the bat like a cane to help me step over Charlotte’s still bleeding body. No demons there. Daddy Daddy’s leaving. I turned to face the front door and there they were, the diminutive triumvirate of my past. They were supposed to be dead and buried. Spectral coprolites I must have shat out on really bad day. Unearthed and unpleasant. Daddy I reached for the door. Pain surged up my arm and my body turned cold. Daddy purge your demons daddy Oh, no. I don’t have demons. Little children have demons.
“Preach? Little children have demons right?” I heard his snort from somewhere, but I couldn’t see him. Grown people don’t have demons. Purge your demons daddy I don’t have any Goddamned demons!
“Preacher! Get out here!” This was no time for games. Daddy And then I felt his hot breath on my neck. He ripped the bat from my hand and I reached for a wall to steady myself. He was so close behind me, touching me. He’d never been like this before. No, he had been like this once before. Heat and lust on his fetid breath, I should have thought to run. And then the pain, ripping, tearing flesh and muscle. Smooth wood where no wood should ever be. I screamed, I tried to move, to run, but his cold hand on my shoulder froze me. I fell to floor in agony. I could feel warm blood gushing out from under me. I couldn’t move. The preacher squatted down in front of me. I strained to look at him.“Pain purges demons,” he said, showing his yellow teeth, “ain’t nothing like a baseball bat up the **** to cause some pain.” His laughed rose through the house and faded into the sound of sirens as I faded out of consciousness.