Joseph stood on the doorstep, waiting. He had rang the bell a few minutes ago, but so far no one had answered. He sighed and looked at his watch. He had plenty of things to be doing. Sure, this was important, but it was just as important as ten other he could do instead. He knocked on the door loudly several times, then he started to count down from twenty. It wouldn’t be so bad if he was just turning up out of the blue, but he had an appointment, this had been the best time, apparently. He sighed again and took out a small black book, as he counted down he scanned through it, deciding where he should go next. He picked his next task and closed the book, he slid it into his pocket as he reached four and as he reached one he turned and started to walk away.
He managed to take five steps before the door opened, “Wait! Wait! I’m sorry! I had a bit of an accident.” Joseph turned and looked at the man, who flinched back from the glare. The man held up his hand, swaddled in bandages, offering proof.
“I didn’t want to get blood every where you see and-”
“Yes, that’s me, and you must be Mr. Clark?”
“Call me Joseph.”
The man stuck out his bandaged hand for a handshake, then reconsidered.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Would you like to come in?”
Jack stood back and let Joseph walk inside, then he closed the door.
“I’m sorry about the mess. The last few weeks have been…interesting. I’ve found it quite difficult to adapt. Thought to be honest sometimes I just pretend it never happened. I always feel bad when I do, like I’m being ungrateful or something if that makes sense? Would you like some coffee?”
“Good. Ok, um, the kitchen is this way.”
Jack started to walk in slow and steady steps. After a moment he sighed, then he started to walk faster.
“I’m trying to teach myself, but it gets frustrating sometimes. I assume you’re a busy man and this will make things a bit faster. Please, take a seat.”
Jack gestured at a table and chairs. Joseph picked one and sat down, placing his bag gently onto the floor beside the chair. The kitchen was small but it had everything Jack would need. Despite the general clutter and mess the place had a clean quality to it. In one corner there was a dustpan and broom, the shattered remains of something sat in the dustpan. On the table sat a first aid kit and a smattering of supplies, Joseph gathered some items and started to repack the kit. Splotches and dashes of blood covered the floor and a small bit of the table.
“Do you have any kind of disinfectant and cloths?”
“Oh, yes, I’m sorry, I didn’t get a chance to do it. Just give me a moment.”
“That’s ok, it will be faster if I help.”
“No I can do it myself.” Jack sighed and stood still, he took a breath, then let it out slowly. “I’m sorry. Yes, that would be great. Um, cleaning stuff is under the sink.”
Joseph stood and went to the cupboard where he took out a basin that was filled with cleaning supplies.
“I’m not used to accepting help that I haven’t asked for. My parents always wanted me to do things by myself. It was helpful, I learned, but sometimes it can be a little annoying. Like just now for instance.”
Joseph thoroughly cleaned off the floor and table, Jack had offered to finish it up once the coffee had been made, but Joseph insisted he finish. When he was done, he put the supplies away as he had found them and in the same space. Joseph sat across from Jack who picked up his coffee and took a sip. Jack had closed his eyes at some point and they were still closed.
“May I ask how you became blind?”
“I was born blind. Nothing could be done at the time. About five years ago there were some new treatments I was offered, but I decided to wait a while. I mean, I was already blind for twenty eight years, what difference would a few more make? I wanted them to perfect the procedures and all that. I think I was a bit afraid to to be honest and…” Jack trailed off to silence.
“And when did you regain the ability to see?”
“Well, about two weeks ago now.”
“And it was Father Cahill that restored your vision?”
“Can you tell me how that happened?”
“Um. Well, it was just a regular mass, I was at St. Marys as I usually am. I’ve gone there since I was a child. Before mass, Father Cahill asked me to stay for a little while once he had finished. I did as he asked. I’m not sure exactly what he did before hand, but we stood at the front of the church, on the altar and he said something in Latin, then he splashed water into my face and eyes. It kind of burned, but it was a nice burning if that makes sense? And then I could see.”
“Just like that?”
Jack nodded, “Just like that. Some people had remained behind after the mass to speak to the Father, they all saw it. I don’t know what they thought but they fell to their knees a moment later and started to pray. It’s been a very difficult transition, but I appreciate the miracle that God worked in allowing me to see. He has plans for us all, and part of that plan seems to be that I regained my sight.”
“Did you go for any eye exams?”
“Oh yes, straight away, they said I have excellent vision. Though as I said, it’s been difficult getting used to it.” He lowered his voice slightly, “Sometimes it’s easier if I close my eyes and pretend still. But I know I’ll manage eventually, God never gives someone something they cannot handle.”
“Do you mind if I examine your eyes?”
“No, of course not.”
“Thank you, it will only take a second.”
Joseph reached down and opened his bag, he removed a small torch and then a small magnifying glass.
“I’m going to shine this light into your eyes, it might be a little uncomfortable. Please look up to your left.”
Joseph shone the light into Jacks eyes and began to look at them carefully. After a moment he flicked the light off and reached into his bag again, this time he brought out another magnifying glass. This one looked older, the handle was made of wood and had symbols engraved onto the handle. Joseph didn’t bother using the torch this time.
Once he was done Joseph packed away everything, “ok, that is it. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. So…what’s the verdict?”
“Well, I’ll have to report my findings, but it seems as though this is a genuine miracle. Someone else might want to get in touch with you again about this, but it will just be to tick off a few boxes.”
Jack was smiling, “I knew it, obviously, but it’s still nice to have it confirmed.” Joseph stood and smiled, “yes, well, I don’t want to take up any more of your time, I’ll let you get back to the rest of your evening.”
“Oh, yes, thank you. Really.”
They left the kitchen, Joseph hadn’t touched any of his coffee.
Outside, Joseph walked away from the house and got into his car. Once there he cursed once or twice, then started the engine. He was hoping it was something good, but really in his line of work it rarely ever was.
The tests on the blood confirmed it. The presence of a demon. He had seen it himself when he had looked at Jacks eyes through the magnifying glass, the small dark tendrils that wrapped around the pupils, the slight unnatural gleam at the back of the eye. Still, he needed to be sure. He opened his small black book and started to cross off names. There was no need to visit any of these people, he had all the confirmation he needed. He tried to ignore the ailments as he crossed them off. Telling himself it wasn’t his fault that they would all return but he didn’t believe that. He had a choice here. He knew which choice would benefit humanity and which would benefit those infected. If he didn’t stem the infection as it was it would continue to spread, both through false miracles and through those already infected. It was still early days, they were not strong enough to survive on their own. If he destroyed the source it would destroy the infection. It was all quite simple. The people would be better off with their ailments. Even if they didn’t think so, even if it killed them. They would die pure deaths, clean. They wouldn’t live to have their minds destroyed and their bodies taken over by things they could not comprehend. It would be a slow process of course, gradual until there was nothing of themselves truly left, they would belong to the darkness. Joseph gathered his tools, it was time to go to church.
The church was smaller than he had expected, Joseph had thought it would be large, imposing, but it wasn’t. The walls were made of thick stone, gargoyles were dotted about the building. The stained glass windows were lit from the inside by a flickering light. Joseph glanced at the gargoyles as he walked up the small path, they were slacking. He shot one a glare and placed one hand on the door then entered. He felt a faint shiver run up his spine. It always happened when he entered a holy place, regardless of the religion. The door opened silently into a small room, Joseph stepped through another door and quietly closed it, hanging back in the shadows. A group of people stood at the altar, at the centre was the Father. The shouts of Latin grew louder and the Father threw water at the person before him. The crowd wasn’t as large as he expected. Word of the miracles had spread, but people were too jaded to believe them yet. Only the most desperate would have sought out healing. The woman in the wheel chair cried out in joy, then shakily, she tried to stand. Her body only supported her for a few seconds before she collapsed backwards, but she laughed, tears of joys steaming down her face. “Thank you, thank you!” The Father smiled and said something. Joseph was too far away to hear. He spotted someone recording it on their phone. The Fathers voice rose, “You will have a long road ahead of you, though God has cured your illness your body still has the after affects. You will need to work hard to restore your body to its full strength.” His voice lowered again as he talked to those around him. Joseph wondered if any of those attending were aware that the Father was speaking in gibberish. It did sound like Latin, but the words were meaningless. The Father wasn’t aware of it himself yet. That meant the roots of the darkness hadn’t burrowed deep inside. Not yet anyway. Joseph felt himself relax a little, the fathers energy would be low after the healing, the darkness inside would not be able to put up too much of a fight.
The people didn’t notice Joseph standing in the shadows as they left. Only the Father remained behind. He was sitting in one of the pews, his head bowed. Joseph frowned at that, then he began to walk up the aisle.
Father Cahill jumped and let out a shaky laugh.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“That’s all right, I didn’t hear you.”
Father Cahill extended his hand, Joseph reached for it, knowing that he would need to be quick. Their hands tightened on one another and Joseph could feel it, that thick, oily feeling that emanated from the Fathers hand. Father Cahill’s eyes widened, but Joseph held a tight grip, preventing him from pulling away. The Fathers eyes went completely white, he struggled harder and started to screech something in a high, nasal tone. The sound of the fathers voice caused Joseph to wince, he was too far gone for him to do anything that might help the Father. Josephs free hand came from his pocket, Father Cahill, or what ever was inside him, was using his free hand to try and pry their hands apart. Joseph slammed the dagger into the Fathers chest, it slid through his ribs and pierced the heart. Father Cahill sagged forward, but still he continued to struggle. The colour began to return to his eyes, he looked old, confused. Then he collapsed. The dagger jerked in Josephs hands, he waited until it stood still, then he pulled it free, carefully wiping it on the Fathers cassock. He looked down at the body, “I’m sorry Father, it had to be done.” Then he turned and left the church.
The car park was empty and Joseph was thankful for that. He had feared the woman in the wheelchair would be nearby when her disease returned. He felt a stab of guilt when he remembered her cries of happiness. No. That wasn’t his fault. He turned and looked at the church again, the Gargoyles had moved, ever so slightly. He nodded at them, “it’s over. Next time do your damned job.” He could feel them glowering at him as he turned and walked away. It had been young, the thing that infected the father. Easy to fight. He was glad it wasn’t a long protracted battle. It had been a clean death, he had followed all protocols. He didn’t sneak attack, he had approached the opponent and announced himself. Everything was by the book. He got into his car and started the engine. By the book or not, something would be alerted of the Fathers death and it would come looking for who ever did it. Joseph wanted to be long gone at that point. He pulled out into traffic and drove away calmly. Already planning for what he would need at his next destination.