“Forgive me Father for I have sinned.”
Naturally I wasn’t speaking to my real Father. He had never been the forgiving sort. I’ve never been inside a church before either. Again that was no great surprise. It did feel odd. The smell of the place, the electric sensation as I walked through the door both unnerved me. It was surprisingly cold in here. A complete contrast to the balmy summer day I’d just left.
I really didn’t feel comfortable being in here. Lifetimes of conditioning will do that to you I guess. I had to be here though; this small church represented my only chance for salvation.
“How long has it been since your last confession?” The priest’s voice sounded muffled through the grill in the wooden panel of the confessional. Even so, the timbre revealed him to be an old man. A priest of the old school, maybe that would help me. The wood itself looked old, covered with a sheen from many years of polish.
“I have never confessed.” Pleaded for release many times, but never confessed.
“Never? Are you baptised?”
“Not in your faith Father. My father would never allow it.”
“Not in my faith? In what faith were you baptised?”
This was a tricky question to answer, the truth was the only possible answer, but he wouldn’t like it. I doubted he’d even believe me. I had to try, there would be no escape otherwise. “I was baptized in blood. The blood of my virgin mother after she gave birth to me.”
That shocked him a little. Maybe I should have eased into it a bit more slowly, unfortunately I lacked the time for subtly. I gave the priest a moment to absorb and sat in the silence while waiting for his response.
“I don’t think I understand what you mean my son.”
“I’m not sure I can really explain Father any more clearly. I was baptised into the faith of your great enemy.”
“Your parents were Satanists?” He sounded incredulous.
“Not in the sense you mean. I was raised by cultists; my parents are... something else. That’s not really important. I’ve come here for one reason. I need your forgiveness.”
“My forgiveness? What have you done that needs confession for the first time in your life?” Now I could sense the concern in his voice. Concern for me, or worry about who sat in the box next to him I didn’t know.
“It’s not what I’ve done; it’s what I am that is the problem. I must be absolved of my sins so that I may enter Heaven.”
“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not just forgiveness you need to enter Heaven. You must follow the path of righteousness.”
“Unfortunately I don’t have time for that Father. I need to be absolved of my last sin on this Earth so that when I die I will be accepted in Heaven and not in that other place.” I couldn’t say it. As craven as it sounds I couldn’t name that other place.
“Your last sin?”
“Yes Father. I have to perform one final sin, this time I have to succeed. It’s the only way to save the world.” I started to seem a little frantic at this point.
“Calm down, tell me what the problem is. What is this sin you must commit?” I noticed he missed the part about saving the world, he must think I’m a nutter. It doesn’t matter as long as he provides the absolution I need.
“I have to kill myself Father. And I cannot be sent to... that place after I do so.”
“Suicide is a mortal sin my son. No confession can absolve you of a mortal sin, you must earn your forgiveness and suicide makes that impossible.”
“Father it is the only way.” Now I sounded desperate..
“It cannot be the only way. What is so wrong with your life that you want to end it?”
I would have to tell him more. How could I make him believe me? I’ve lived with the fact all of my life and I sometimes don’t believe it. “I don’t want to end my life. I would love to live a normal life. How can I explain this?”
“I was born thirty years ago. This time the actual birth took place in a ruined abbey. I’ve never been able to find out exactly where. I do know that I had to be born on holy ground, it’s always the same. Without that sacrilege my father could never seize control of me.”
I paused for almost a minute. Allowed that settle into the priest’s mind. “Why would you have to born on sacred ground?”
“As I said Father, it somehow taints my soul, allowing my father to take possession of my body. I was born for a single purpose. I am a body for my father to inhabit when he returns to this world. To contain his spirit certain rituals had to be performed to make his vessel strong enough.”
“Who is your father?”
I sighed. “My father is Lucifer. I am his son, the antichrist. It is my body that he will inhabit for his reign on Earth.”
He didn’t mock, I’ll give him that. He only asked, “You really believe your father is the Devil?”
“It’s not a question of belief. It is the truth. I was born at the culmination of a black mass, my afterbirth used to celebrate the communion. They baptised me in the blood of my mother. She died a virgin.”
“How could she be a virgin and have given birth to you?”
“Read your Bible Father. My father wasn’t the first divine being to do this.”
He didn’t like that. I can’t say I blamed him.
“Please do not mock my faith. Is that what this is? A tasteless joke on an old priest?”
“No Father. I assure you. I’ve known my fate all my life, but the time is close.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve been through this before. I can feel his presence. It... he infects my dreams. I can see his domain, and it is a terrible place Father. I can’t describe the horror of it. Even in my dreams, a universe away from that place, I experience the agony and the anguish of its inhabitants. This new contact means that the time is close.”
“Close? What happens when he arrives?”
“I’ve told you Father, my father will posses my body. He will then begin his reign on Earth.”
“You’re claiming that you are the antichrist?”
He didn’t believe me and who could blame him. “That’s what I said Father. He will come for me tonight. I have to die before that happens and I need to make sure that when I am judged I will not be sent to his realm. Only in Heaven will I be safe. If I die and go to... that place I will be punished by him for an eternal moment. I will then be cast into the body of a new conception and the cycle will start again.”
“How do you know this?”
“Because it has happened before. Throughout the centuries I’ve been born many times, always for the same purpose. A vessel for Lucifer to gain control of this world. Each time I have killed myself before that moment arrives. Every time I do so I am dragged back into... that place where he unleashes his fury upon me. In our time maybe only hours passes before my soul is placed into a new unborn. But for those hours my soul suffers such torment. It feels like centuries that I suffer. Time and time again I have been through this. I want this to end and I do not want to be the vessel for my father. I need to kill myself and I need to be forgiven for doing so.”
Again the silence. Without being able to see his face, I couldn’t tell what the old priest was thinking.
“Please help me Father.”
“I don’t know how I can. I cannot forgive you for suicide. Have you received or considered medical help?”
“Father, what I am telling you is true.” My control slipped and I shouted at him, my words echoing in the confines of the confessional. “If I cannot escape my father’s reach I will either be the gateway for the end times, or cast back into Hell as foreplay for another life.” My anger (or was it really panic?) enabled me to name that dreaded place.
“Calm down my son, I want to help you.”
“Then grant me forgiveness Father.”
“I’m sorry I can’t do that.”
“What if I did it now? Could you grant me last rites and save my soul?”
This time he sighed. “It doesn’t work that way.”
“Then how can I be saved?”
“Let’s leave the confessional and discuss this properly.”
I heard the door on the other side of the panel open. Seconds later the door to the confessional opened and I saw the priest for the first time. I guessed he was in his sixties, his hair short and white, but covered his head. He stood tall with a spreading waist covered by the black cassock. His smile appeared warm and inviting, with a motion he invited me out of the box. I followed the invitation and we sat on one of the pews.
The church lay empty. It was deathly silent as we both tried to think of what we should say next. I used the excuse of looking round the church as cover for the pause. The church followed the usual pattern, cross shaped with the covered altar at the top end. A large crucifix hung framed by the stained glass window. Tinted sunlight streamed through the window. Outside it was a lovely sunny day, within the ancient stone walls it felt cool.
I counted all of the Stations of the Cross that lined each of the columns before the Father spoke. “I can’t provide absolution if you are not baptised.”
I guessed this was a delaying tactic. He assumed I was some lunatic suffering from delusions that wandered in from the streets. I wished that was the case. If that were true then medicine could chase the nightmares away. “If you say so Father, but we have to do it now.”
The priest guided me to the font at the entrance to the church. “Really we should do a full service in the company of your friends and family. There is a ritual that should be completed.”
“Will this work even though I have already been baptised?”
“To be honest I have no idea. I should really confer with the Bishop.”
“Father we don’t have time for that. He is coming for me tonight.”
“This is the house of God, here you will be safe.” More delaying tactics.
“Only God himself could stop him coming. You must help me Father. Please.”
A flicker of doubt crossed his face. “I will baptise you on one condition. You must stay here, with me in this church. Together we’ll pray for the Lord to protect you. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
I wished it could be so simple. It occurred to me that I’d never tried this before. Maybe baptism would protect my soul sufficiently to prevent my father’s possession. I doubted it, but a slender hope is better than no hope. Besides I still have the suicide option if needed.
“Ok Father. Let’s do this.”
“As I said, this is usually an involved ritual.” He interrupted me before I could object. “I can cut it down to the basics on this occasion. Are you ready?”
I nodded the affirmative.
“Do you accept Jesus as your saviour?”
I nodded again. “Please say the words.” He prompted.
“Do you accept the Gospel of the Lord as the true word of God?”
He dipped his thumb into the font. “I baptise you in the name of the Father...” He touched his wet thumb to my forehead. My scream shattered the still quiet of the church. The water seared my flesh like acid. The pain intense and immediate. I knocked the priest to his feet as I lashed out. The pain eased slightly by the time he climbed to his feet. He looked at me and gasped in shock.
“Your face!” His voice no longer calm.
“Your face is burned where I touched you.”
“I know Father. I felt it.” I did feel bad about hitting him. “I’m sorry Father. I just lashed out.”
“That’s ok. I’ve heard of this, from another priest, back in Rome.”
“How? What did he see?”
“He mentioned it in the case of demonic possession. I didn’t think much of it at the time, I’ve always believed evil to be of human origin. He was ordained as a Jesuit, they take a more supernatural view.”
“What did he say?”
“Sorry. I tend to ramble. He said that holy water scalded the possessed man. Not just psychosomatically, but actually caused burn wounds to the skin.”
“You think I’m possessed?”
“Maybe. I don’t know, this is beyond my experience.” He then smiled, an almost embarrassed gesture. “At least I know there’s some truth to your story.”
I was about to retort when a wave of agony burst from my head and swept through my entire body. The shock drove me to my knees. The priest hurried to my side. I felt him, my father. Not with my Earth born senses, but with some instinct. His anger burned across the universe. The baptism hurt him, but wouldn’t stop him.
“He’s coming.” I struggled to speak. “He’s coming. You cannot stop him. These walls will not stop him. Forgive me Father.” It took all my effort, but I reached into my jacket and pulled the knife free.
“No my son. That cannot be the way.”
The ground beneath us shook. The tremors heralded my father’s arrival. A fresh pain lanced into my skull, the knife fell from my hands. I could barely concentrate through the pain. “He’s here Father. You must run.”
Above the noise of the shaking building I heard the old priest pray. His voice surprisingly powerful. He recited the Lord’s Prayer. It barely slowed my father’s charging spirit. His claws reached into my mind. I was too late. I should have just killed myself and accepted the resulting torment as my fate. Now I had dammed the world.
The crucifix shattered into a thousand shards. None hit me, but several struck the priest. He grunted with his own pain. Blood flowed freely from his wounds. A new pain contorted my face, my father already beginning to transform my body into a shape more pleasing to him.
Another agony, this one sharp and violent in my chest. I looked and saw my knife protruding from my chest. The pain felt clean. I smiled; my father wouldn’t gain entrance this time. My smile slipped, an eternal moment of torment awaited me. As the darkness started to swallow me I heard the priest speaking the last rites. As he finished and with my last breath I said. “I forgive you.” to the priest. I hoped that would help him in some way.
He smiled in response. I heard my father’s howl of rage as I departed from my body. The cry faded as my soul left the Earth.
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