“What took you so long?” Peter asks. “Come in.”
The room is dark. A lantern is flickering in the corner. Mother Abrahams is standing by the table, holding a willow switch stained with brown. Emily is sitting in the chair.
She’s Peter’s wife now, but I know her from before. I tried to speak to her once, a few years ago. She was pretty. I thought she’d understand for some reason. But nothing came out, same as always. Just mumbles. She laughed.
Never mind that.
A tree branch is knocking on the windowpane. Outside is dark too.
“Thank you for coming,” Mother Abrahams says. “We need two men to hold her.”
I shake my head, trying to say, no, it’s not a problem, I’m glad to help. I think Mother Abrahams understands.
She gestures toward Emily. “Hold her arms. Good.”
“I think it’s gone now,” Emily says. “It left. I felt it go away.”
“It only wants you to think that,” says Mother Abrahams. “It’s afraid.”
And she takes her book from the table, and reads from it, and lifts the switch. I close my eyes. Emily screams. Mother Abrahams reads another passage. Strikes again. Reads more. Emily screams. I lose track of the sequence – the reading, the whoosh of the switch in the air, the screaming, all mixed together now.
Something scratches the windowpane.
I open my eyes.
Peter’s eyes are closed.
In the window behind Mother Abrahams’ back, what I had mistaken for a branch before is a hand. The demon smiles – sharp teeth, a face both a man’s and a woman’s, beautiful, hideous. Eyes dark and burning at the same time.
Mother Abrahams strikes. Emily screams.
I don’t say anything. If I tried, only mumbles would come out.
Louis Rakovich writes fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in LitroNY, Goldfish Grimm, Firewords Quarterly, Bad Dream Entertainment, Spark: A Creative Anthology and Phobos Magazine, among others. He grew up in Jerusalem, Israel, and currently lives in New York City, where he is working on his first novel. You can find more stories by him at louisrakovich.com