Adagio

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My name is Christopher.

I have been dead for a long time.

I don’t know for how long. Time really doesn’t stand for anything anymore because there is no time here, wherever ‘here’ is. I should say that ‘here’ is not much different than ‘there.’ ‘There’ being where you are, I guess, in that place where the living are and where I am not. What’s strange is that ‘here’ is where I am and where you are, as well. It’s just that you can’t see me. That’s all.

That hurts so very much, you know? It’s easy to forget someone when you can’t see, touch, or hear them anymore. So, I guess that’s what I am. I am one of the forgotten.

I can see you, but I don’t know that I can touch you and you don’t seem to be able to sense me. There is like this veil that separates us so that I can’t reach out to you in any way. It is kind of mean to do that to a person. I truly don’t understand death. Why do I still exist if I can no longer be a part of anything? It seems so unfair, especially because of the way I died. No one deserves that. I don’t care how bad they are.

I think the year was 1978 and sometime around late October when I died. I was fifteen years old and a month away from my sixteenth birthday. I remember some things, not a lot, but some. It’s funny how memories fade here and how things that used to mean a lot don’t much any longer. I work very hard to keep hold of the memory of how I passed to this place by frequently visiting the place where I was murdered.

Yes, alas, I was a victim of a horrific crime. No one knew or cared except maybe the detective that investigated my murder and the coroner who was the last one to speak to me knowing my spirit was nearby. I guess I was a street hustler in life. Maybe that is why I am here instead of where the Light leads. The churches and mosques and various temples have men who say they are holy and the ones in the churches told me that what I was could only be forgiven through repentance and prayer. I know now that what I needed was love.

They didn’t give me that. They were very cold as I remember. Perhaps that is why I do not see their spirits here or hear their voices in the Light. They, perhaps, have gone into the Darkness. If there is one thing I would have you know out there in the living world, it’s that love is important. Love is everything. Love is what holds us all together whether we still live in the flesh or not.

I didn’t know much about love and maybe that is why I am still in-between and not in the Light or in the Darkness. Perhaps, I am here to learn something. But, if there is a lesson here, there are no teachers. There are only wandering souls just like mine . . . lost.

So, yeah, I was murdered and I was a street prostitute at fifteen. I guess from what I’ve heard from people out in the living world such a life is a shame and such a death is a tragedy beyond words. There are some, though, that see it as just desserts for a life lived in rebellion against ‘God’ and ‘Faith.’ Honestly, I don’t know. I just don’t see that here. I don’t feel condemned in any way. I just feel . . . forgotten.

I think I remember having a home somewhere and parents, although, it seems, that maybe my parents weren’t my parents. Maybe I was a foster kid? I don’t remember that. I only remember that whoever was supposed to be taking care of me stopped doing it one day and I was left to fend for myself at thirteen. It kind of feels like I was part of a family that was very religious or something and when they found out that I liked boys instead of girls they cast me out.

Yeah . . . that’s what it was. I remember it now, and the spinning disk in front of me that is a window to the past shows me that day. I am walking into the disk now . . .

~~~~~

Sometime in 1975-76

“What, in the very name of God Almighty, do you MEAN that you have a thing for . . . boys? Are you sick or something? No . . . that ain’t it!” Father shouted across the dinner table at me. I sat cowed in my dinner chair with the pork chops going cold in front of me. I was looking at them because . . . they were safe.

My mom sat similarly with her hands folded in her lap, looking down as my father raged. There were no brothers or sisters anymore because they were gone already. I figured it was my turn to go now, although . . . I was only thirteen and couldn’t even get a job.

“I swear to Jehovah on High I should beat this devil out of you, my son! I should take you out to the shed and drive it out! By all that is holy!” My father beat the table with his fist for effect. I could not help but flinch and then start to whimper.

I knew instantly that he was serious. It was why my older brother, Jacob, ran away finally. He knew he or his father was going to die if he stayed because my father’s temper was indeed terrible and Jacob was, by then, a grown man of 18 and had a right to defend himself. But, Jacob loved his mother and I and he knew that if he hurt his father in any way the Sheriff would arrest him on the spot, if not shoot him outright. My Father was the Pastor of His Heavenly Word, Second Baptist Church the only church in this little town. My father was a very powerful man and revered as well as feared. No one dared cross him since his brother was Sheriff and his cousin’s deputies . . . all expert marksmen.

So Jacob left the family never to return. My mother’s grief was nothing to my father and he barely tolerated it and, of course, my grief was a sign of spiritual weakness unbecoming of a budding ‘man’. I was roundly castigated and punished if I even spoke his name. My punishments were often severe. The doctor had to resuscitate me from unconsciousness once, but only under protest against my father, whom ‘had gone too far this time.’

Dr. McCluskey was made to leave town shortly after when the mayor could no longer ‘with a clear conscience’ renew the business license of ‘a known abortionist.’ Dr. McCluskey never performed any abortions in his life, but such a rumor started by my father always held ‘merit.’

Once, my mother tried to stop him from beating me half to death one evening and he backhanded her into the iron stove. When he couldn’t revive her, he sent me, limping, to get the new doctor. Fortunately, she survived, but would always have a trembling in her hand and a terrible scar on her forehead that she was told to hide with a veil or her hair.

When my father began to reach for me across the table to ‘beat the devil out of me’ I ran. He tried to catch me, but he was too fat and slow. I was in terrible fear that he would kill me this time. The look in his eye was something I had never seen even in his angered face. It was a look of pure hatred.

Instinctively I ran to my father’s study. I ran and I found the gun he had hidden in the desk drawer. He had hidden it, but I’d found it long before that day. It haunted me, that gun. It begged me to use it on myself so that I could ‘escape.’ That day I didn’t plan on using it on myself. Finally, I was done. My father had done enough and I would have his cousins kill me first before he had the satisfaction.

That hate he had for me . . . he taught it well. I had nothing more than that hate for him too. He’d brought that upon himself.

He was reaped what he had sown.

He stormed into his study but froze when he saw me pointing the revolver at him. It was a .38 special and at that close of a range, it was deadly as all sin.

“You don’t have the guts, boy! If you are so weak willed that you’d turn effeminate and have abominable relations with some other perverts, then you’ll have no will to pull that trigger!” He growled at me. He’d gotten a golf club to hit me with. He raised it and charged.

I fired one shot and it hit the shoulder that was raising the club. The club dropped and then he dropped, clutching his broken shoulder and arm.

“YOU LITTLE FILTH! YOU FUCKING SHOT ME!, he groaned. Funny about my father, all his virtuous speech turned dirty when he no longer had the upper hand.

“You . . . you’re dead, you little sodomite! You are fucking DEAD; do you understand me? I’ll have the Sheriff himself string you up from the tree in the back yard! We’ll roast hot dogs on your burning corpse!” My father hissed as he rose, clutching his shoulder. He slowly turned to get the telephone and that’s when I heard a loud BOOM!

My father literally flew across the room and into his precious bookcases splattering them with his pulsing gore. The shotgun wound had killed him instantly. He lay dead and I crouched unmoved gaping in horror at him.

My mother stood with the smoking Remington pump-action shotgun in her hands. She had a look so placid and relieved that it was beautiful.

“Run, Christopher. Run away and never look back. Do you hear? Do whatever you have to do to survive. I’ll . . . hold them off,” She said calmly with only the hint of tears at the back of her throat. That’s when I heard the sirens. As I stated, it was a little town and the reports of both a .38 and then a shotgun would not go unheard.

I choked back the sob. “But, Mama . . . ?” I was having trouble seeing as the tears turned my vision to burning hot murk.

“GO!” my mother shouted with a sob and the force of that shout sent me running and running.

I ran out the back door and out the back gate into the woods behind the house. Far behind me, I heard another shotgun blast . . . then the popping of service revolvers.

I knew then that my mother was dead too.

~~~~~

I must have gotten away from that town. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of it. I don’t remember if anyone came after me to call me to answer for my part in the ‘awful murder of such a righteous man.’ They mustn’t have spent too much time looking for me because it took me a while to catch a train hobo-style and leave that place. They would have had any number of opportunities to nab me. Maybe my dear old dad wasn’t as loved as he thought he was.

Anyway, I ended up in Los Angeles of all places. I must have already learned to trade favors for survival because I remember I had hitchhiked most of the way since the train only took me so far. The rules were always the same: gas, grass, or ass; no one rides for free. I only had one of those to give . . . mouth too. Some were gentle . . . most weren’t so much.

Uh-oh. I have somehow arrived at the 7/11 I came to when I first landed in LA. I’ve let my mind drift and when my mind drifts then I drift along with it. Mind and movement are one and the same when you are a spirit.

I had my first meal in the city, here: beef jerky, Twinkies and warm pop. I’d swiped them before the cashier could even blink. I had to steal them because I had no money and no one gives anyone anything on the street for free . . . except pain.

Everyone in the store feels the chill that shouldn’t be there. They are looking up at the air conditioning vents and wondering if they are on too high. All the bad memories are making me agitated again. This happens when I am agitated. I draw energy from my surroundings and it makes things cold. It makes the living very uncomfortable. I feel sorry about that. I don’t mean any harm to anyone. I never have!

I need to find something to calm me. I find the Twinkies . . . they always made me happy. I even try to reach for one and I manage to knock a package off the rack. I still don’t know how I can do that without real hands. It’s just that sometimes I want it so bad, you know? It’s funny, I can only do this after I draw off some energy and make a place cold like this.

Now I’m frustrated. I WANT a Twinkie! Why can’t I have ONE fucking Twinkie! It’s not even fair. It’s NOT! IT’S NOT!

Uh-oh again! Wow! I just knocked the whole rack down onto the floor! Now there are Twinkies, Ho-Hos and Ding Dongs all over the place.

“I’m sorry Mister. It was an accident . . . honest!” I say voicelessly.

They are all running out of the store now. The store manager just stands there shaking and looking around for me even though he’ll never see me. Well, I’ve gone and done it now. This isn’t working. I didn’t want to come here in the first place. I didn’t mean to scare everyone away, but then . . .

. . . I am a ghost, after all, I suppose.

“Who is there! Why is it that you come to here? I try make good living! You GO AWAY!” the poor manager says to me, though he is not sure he is talking to anyone. He speaks with broken English because he is an immigrant. He sounds like he is from India or Pakistan. It is funny how Americans from other places more readily accept my presence and can identify what is going on better than Americans born in this country.

I want to make my peace with him. He is a good man and I feel badly that I have frightened him so much and driven his customers away. Like I said, I never want to do things like this. Sometimes it just happens.

I focus my will and I manage to knock a piece of hard candy off from the little open box next to his cash register. It’s a peace offering and it is the best I can do because I am so drained already from knocking the rack over.

The poor man watches the candy roll in front of him, and at first his eyes are huge with fear, but then they soften. He picks the candy up and holds it in his hand gently.

“You are ok. You forgiven. I . . . Understand. Find peace. I will pray to Allah that He guide you to Paradise.” He says to the air. His breath comes in visible puffs and I can see he is shivering. My love and regard for this simple man radiate from me without my control. His breath returns to normal because the cold is gone . . . for him at least.

The shop manager smiles as he feels it and he clutches the candy to his heart. I can see a tear roll down his cheek. He thinks I am someone he used to love . . .

” . . . Amah.” He weeps.

I leave him with his assumptions. Perhaps I can find his Amah some day and bring that spirit here with me. But for now, it is I who must leave him in peace because there can be no peace for me.

A part of me hopes that I never see Amah in this spirit world because then I would know that she too is suffering.

~~~

Suffering.

Yes, I suffered in life. At my end, I suffered the most. My death was not a good one.

Like I said, I was a male prostitute for the two short years that I lived out here on LA’s streets. I frequented Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. I was told by some guys I met that it was the best place to find johns because it was the gay part of town. That suited me well at the time, I thought. I wish I had thought better of it, but what does a homeless thirteen to fourteen year-old gay boy know of the world except for a hungry stomach and a need for drugs to kill the pain of the prostitute’s work.

There is the swirling mirror again. Ah no . . . I don’t want to do this again! Why must I go through this again?

~~~~~

I am bound.

I’ve had this game done before, but usually I give permission for it and charge extra. This time, I didn’t have any say whatsoever.

He has me over a trash can and my hands and feet are tied to it somehow. The old alley I’m in is abandoned and I don’t remember coming in here. My head hurts a lot. It hurts like something hit me. It throbs and I can hear myself whimper.

“Good, boy! That’s what I like to hear. Take your punishment like the good little faggot you are! You little filthy fucking pervert!” It rasps from behind my ear. A deep, gruff, crackling voice. I smell the alcohol on its breath. I know it was the john I let pick me up in the van. I don’t remember much after that moment.

“Fuck off, Asshole! Let me the fuck off of this and I might not tell Frankie about this shit!” I bluster back at him. It’s foolish bravado, but usually, Frankie’s name coming up puts the ice down the pants of these walking diseases that look for little boys to rape.

I am wrong about this one, though. It has no fear of Frankie. I doubt it fears anything, much. I swear it cackles at me a bit like some wicked character out of a bad horror flick. The sound is chilling, though, because it comes from somewhere real . . . somewhere dark.

It comes from Hell.

I feel a searing, burning pain draw a line down my back. I hold my breath from the horrible surprise of it before I gag a noise out that is between a choke and cry. I’m left shivering like I am cold. I actually am going cold because I am already going into shock.

I’ve just been cut very badly!

The pain burns and throbs and I feel the warm blood come down my naked sides.

“Any more naughty words now, my Sunshine Boy?” It says with mock sweetness as I feel it wipe the wet knife on my shoulder . . . so very close to my neck. I hear a smile on its face and I hear it chuckle as I begin to cry in panic.

“Please, Mister! I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it. I . . . ” The rest of the word is knocked back into my throat as the pommel of the knife cracks down on my spine. I suck in air as the electric pain arcs through me. Something has broken in there and I feel numbness and tingles suddenly in my legs.

“Shut . . . Up, Bitch.” It growls.

Those are the last words I hear until my awareness is ripped back into me by the burning of smelling salts. I cough which brings new pain to me. My arms are stretched and I can feel my tendons wrenching and cracking because they have been tied even tighter. My legs ache similarly. My hands and feet have lost all feeling because the circulation has been cut off from them. All I feel there is the bite of the cable holding them.

I feel stretched like on a torture rack. Adding to this is the familiar burning sharpness of an unlubed penis invading me and tearing at my insides. I am slowly but brutally being raped by the thing that has me.

I cannot help but cry out at each sharp thrust of the Beast. I will be torn inside when this is done. It will be painful for a couple of weeks to go to the bathroom and there will probably be infections again. The infections nearly killed me the last time this happened. The free clinics don’t help much. I start to cry once more.

“Didn’t daddy ever tell you that boys don’t cry, little bitch? Here, let me give you something to cry about . . . ” it hisses in a kind of shuddering ecstasy because it is close to a climax. I don’t know what more he can do to me than what he is already doing.

Only then I feel the edge of the knife primed to deliver the unkindest cut that can be delivered to a man . . . much less a boy.

“Oh God! OH GOD! NOOO! PLEAASE! PLEEAASE NOT THAT!! PLEE-AAHHHEEEE . . . .”

~~~

The cats yowl in fear. Dogs begin to bark and howl in the distance. All the trash cans in the alley where I was murdered fly into the walls and the echo of my ghastly death wail echoes in that small place . . . again.

“Oh, fucking shit! It’s back! Oh SHIT!” The poor vagrant who’d been unfortunate enough to be caught sleeping in the Haunted Alley scrambles up and runs leaving all his meagre possessions behind. He looks all around in terror, wondering when it or rather *I* will ‘happen’ again. He must have been luckless to have to sleep here. All the others stay as far away from here as possible.

I suppose that’s a good thing, though. My tantrums are getting worse lately and more dangerous to the living. I mean no harm but, this is the place of my disturbance. This is the place that is crying to Heaven for justice that will never come. The monster that murdered me still walks free. I have found him and I have stalked him, but I have been unable to do anything but watch him work his evil over and over to others.

He is a serial killer of young male prostitutes and the cops are hopelessly outmatched by his demonic cunning. The cops also don’t seem to think that capturing him is a priority. The young men who die deserve it after all. They chose to live wretched lives. Homosexuality must be a worse crime than child rape and murder in their estimation it would seem.

I suppose that I will be forced to relive my own murder over and over until the fiend is captured or killed. I almost fear his death. I fear that the demon that is his soul will then be set free to torment me here in the spiritual world forever if his body is killed. Would God permit such a thing? Or is this my Hell for wounding my religiously righteous father and being a homosexual? I . . . Hope not. Could God truly be as cruel and unfair as that?

“I’m so sorry that happened to you.” The young boy’s voice manages to startle me, a feeling I had not felt since my death those many years ago.

My awareness comes to focus on him. I suppose it’s like turning and looking at him, though that doesn’t make as much sense as you might think it does to a ghost. We can see in every direction at once.

“You were really cute in life. I think it’s rotten that you didn’t get a chance to grow up.” The boy is blond and blue eyed and about the age I was when I died. He is thirteen or fourteen years old, but rather small for his age. He almost gives the impression of being younger, but he is also getting that ‘teenage’ gawkiness about him too.

Even in my noncorporeal state, I can see that he is and will be quite a heartbreaker. The sweetness of his gaze holds my awareness fixed upon him to the point where I see his hair stand on end a bit.

Rather than being made afraid of this he merely chuckles a bit. “Hehehehe! That tickles. Hehehehe! You are getting stronger!” His smile is so sweet; I wonder if he is an angel. That can be the only explanation for why he can see me.

“Are you an angel?” I ask with a little more hope than I should have.

He looks at me rather strangely and says: “No. I’m not that. Why would you think that?” He seems perplexed by the question.

“You can see and talk to me for one. You can do this, but only the others here can do that. I find myself drifting toward him closer because I am drawn to him by pure curiosity and wonder. He also gives off a radiance I have not seen before.

“Oh? There are others? I don’t see anybody else but you at the moment.” He looks behind me and above me looking for the others. Looking for them like he expects to see them!

I cannot help but reach for him to touch his hair. It moves ever so slightly, sort of like a little breeze is touching it. In other words, just like if I were to touch any other living person. I can only barely feel them there and they hardly feel me.

“Oh, yeah. You still can’t really touch me yet because you are low on energy. I can see it in your aura.” He assures me with a nod.

I was not even aware I had an aura!

“Throwing those trash cans around took out about a months’ worth, I should say. You won’t be able to do much for a while,” he says with authority.

“How on earth do you know anything about this? Who are you?I look into those bright blue eyes, trying to see past them into where his soul is housed. Inside I see the soul of a boy, but one that is looking back at me as if he were here with me here in this death.

“I’m Simon.” He smiles and extends his hand to shake.

“I cannot shake your hand, Simon. I’m . . . dead.” I must look skeptical.

“No, you’re not. You’re in spirit, that’s all. I’m not stupid, I know you and I won’t feel the handshake right now, but it’s a nice thing to do anyway! It’s like manners!” He cocks his head and smiles wider as he reaches his arm out with more determination.

As silly as I feel doing it, I extend my ghostly ‘hand’ and make a motion to accept his. Oddly enough, I do feel him a bit. It is like a warmth that is there. I can barely feel it, but it is there. Much like how I must feel to a living person when I touch them. A very light touch.

“Yeah. Burr! You need to feed yourself. You are sucking a lot of juice at the moment. It’s already a cold day, so you probably hadn’t noticed my breath puffing,” Simon observes shaking out his hand a bit. He apparently felt something too!

“I saw that at the 7/11. I was ‘feeding’ there too. I scared the customers away. The store manager thought I was his Amah . . . “ I felt myself looping back to the 7/11, but that’s when the boy reaches for my ghostly hand again. He manages to ‘catch’ me somehow.

“No! Wait. Don’t go just yet.” Simon says. I find that his tug on me is powerful. I have attached to him in a way I’d never done with any of the other living persons before. I don’t like to attach because then the people I attach to start getting frightened when they start feeling me there.

“I won’t. I sometimes don’t know when I’m ‘going’ or not ‘going.’ I seem to move place to place if my mind changes. It is annoying sometimes,“ I say listlessly.

“That’s cool. That’s how it is with spirits. You go where your heart tells you to go. It’s like when I dream. I am one place and then I think of another and suddenly I’m there!” Simon is so a matter of fact about things I have never quite understood myself.

“It must be fun being able to go anywhere you want in a blink of an eye!” Simon’s innocence is as refreshing to me as a cold bottle of Coke used to be for me on a sweltering day.

“I wish it worked like that for me, but I don’t really have control of my ‘hopping,’ Simon. I am pulled from place to place where I was in life. Places that were significant to me. Places where I have to relive the memories over and over. Places like . . . here.“ I must sound mournful.

“Awww . . . I’m sorry Chris.” Simon says my name like he’s known it all along. Again, I am shocked and mystified!

“How do you know my name?” I must know who this boy is! He is not like anyone I had ever met before, even when I was alive or now that I am dead!

Frustratingly, Simon merely shrugs.

“I don’t know. The name Chris came into my mind and that is what I was supposed to call you.” Simon’s simple answer mystifies me even more.

“Who said you were ‘supposed’ to call me by my name?“ I do not want to sound offended because I’m not, but it’s just really weird that Simon knows my name because he was ‘supposed to call’ me by it.

Again, Simon shrugs: “I don’t know. It’s just part of the Medium thing, I guess. I get information from all over the place, but . . .” Simon pauses and looks worried for a moment.

He looks off down the street like he is wary of someone coming. I figure he doesn’t want to be caught talking to nobody who isn’t even there.

“I gotta go. He’s coming!” Simon looks white as a sheet and his emphasis on ‘He’ worries me greatly. But then I feel it too . . .

Indeed . . . He or rather ‘It’ IS coming! It figures he would show up now when my new friend is here. The Thing will make lunch out of Simon!

“Run, Simon! Get out of here!! You DON’T want him finding you here! You just . . . DON’T!“ If a ghost can become hysterical, I am getting very close to it. I hear a trash can lid start to shake behind me.

“I’m going, but I’ll be back and with some help . . . ” Simon says. I don’t quite understand what help he means, but I really don’t care either.

“QUICK!!” I urge with all of my will! I manage to push Simon a little. This seems to catch the boy off guard.

“Wow, dude! You’re like the strongest I’ve met in a while . . . ” Simon says with amazement. I am about out of patience and I manage to nudge him quite hard in the direction I need him to go . . . and fast!

“Ok! I’m going!” He darts off in the opposite direction from whence the Thing comes.

But, before long It has arrived. Simon had gone just in the knick of time. I swear the fiend sniffs the air as if catching the scent of my new friend. Oh . . . if only I could kill it!

I could see it now. I hadn’t seen it when it killed me. I’ve seen it plenty of times since then, though. It is so horribly ‘ordinary.’ It’d not look like a threat to anyone, really. A perfect chameleon housing the appetite and power of a T-Rex.

The Thing is in the form of petty little excuse for a man. My murderer is balding with a bit of a tonsure around his head. He’s slightly overweight, which perfectly disguises the maniac strength that lies beneath the flab. He has a putty-like nondescript face and soft wet eyes that need cheap glasses so he can see straight. He wears that dull plaid shirt that seems to be in style these days and a pair of oversized Docker pants. He is also wearing cheap looking loafers and he has a messy mustache that looks trimmed with scissors.

He looks like your deli guy, grocer, or . . . butcher. So very ordinary and unattractive of attention. Like any good monster, he blends in perfectly with his surroundings. No one would ever suspect him for what he really is. A demon incarnate. An evil spirit wrapped in fetid, stinking middle-aged flesh.

Finally, he betrays himself. He moves a piece of an old dirty tarp over like he’s done so many times before and he sees the remnants of my earthly form. The only thing that remains of me in the world since I had been cremated like all John Does.

Like all of the Forgotten.

These are the last traces of blood that represent those last few minutes of agonizing life I spent bleeding out in this alley. This blood may be why this place ends up being my ‘home’. The one place I always return to after I’ve wandered far.

The Thing grins and sighs in absolute distended hideous pleasure. The look would curdle the blood of the most hardened terrorist. This is my destiny to see this horror until this Thing is finally hatched out of Its decaying body.

“Awww . . . my Sunshine Boy. I’ll never forget you. It was too quick . . . way too quick.” It whispers in a hiss.

The trash can lid sails in my killer’s direction. With seeming inhuman speed, the creature ducks before the lid can tear its head off right there!

I see ice form on the walls of my alley and the stinking cadaverous breath of the Thing comes in great clouds.

This has never happened before. My rage has become so great I find that I can draw power from everywhere. Lights on the street go off and electrical boxes short nearby.

“I . . . feel you! I know you are here, Sunshine Boy! How . . . delicious! God’s stranded you here! Hahahahaha!” That cackle from Hell merely angers me now. I find that my fear has melted into something worse.

}}} GEEEET OOOOOOOUT! {{{

The sound of the voice that comes into the air around me is terrifying beyond description. It is so utterly inhuman and filled with such devastating hatred.

Inside, something shrivels in horror to know that the sound being made is my OWN voice!

A transformer bursts against the wall, sending a shower of sparks. That’s when the rats come . . .

They rush out of every hole and every unseen crack in the alley. They swarm around the murderer’s cheap shoes. Some even begin to chew them. Despite himself, the Beast in human form shrieks and begins trying to run out of the alley. The rats make it difficult as they trip it up a bit, but not, unfortunately enough to make it fall into their swarming jaws.

It is at the last that I see why . . . something supports him. A shadow being. It turns and glares at me with two red slits that seem to smile at me evilly.

Then it is I who become afraid, for I have never seen a spirit like that before. It is completely night black and featureless except for what looks like a hood and then the red sickle-shaped eyes.

“Oh boy, Chris! You sure know how to pick ’em!” Simon’s voice is behind me. My aspect turns in shock to regard him. He stands looking at the evil running away being chased by my rats.

}}} WHY ARE YOU STILL HEERRRE? {{{

The air around me seems to shiver with my terrifying new voice and I see Simon step back away from me in fear for the first time.

“Dude! Whoa! Chill pill, please! You’re freaking terrifying right now!” Chris’s wide eyes tell the story of what I have suddenly become.

I look into his frightened blue eyes and the wash of guilt and remorse at causing this good soul such fear seems to bring me back from some dark place that I was heading. The fit of anger flees from me and I feel my aspect shifting somehow.

His eyes soften like he can see my change. Simon looks relieved that I can ‘come back’ to myself. He reaches to grasp my hand and this time we both feel each other as if we are actually present together in the physical world.

“Oh, yeah. Much better, Chris! I think you just Leveled Up in the ghost power level or something, Bro!” He shakes my hand and makes to remove it, but I can’t quite let go. It has been so long since I’ve felt, well, anything.

“Hehehe. Can I have my hand back, please?” Simon blushes a bit. I release him reluctantly.

“Yeah. It’s weird that I’m suddenly uberghost or something.I turn to look back and I no longer see my tormentors. I am now assured that I have two evil beings plaguing me now.

I ask Simon: “You said something about ‘knowing how to pick them.’ What did you mean just then?”

Simon surprises me again and answers without speaking: “Yeah, dude. Like, now I know why that freak is so evil. He’s been possessed. That’s why he’s not been caught yet. That umbereth protects him.” Simon says to me in his thoughts.

“Umbereth? What is that, I’m afraid to ask?” I really am almost afraid to ask. Such a creature I never dreamed of existing. It was like concentrated darkness: pure evil.

“An umbereth is the psychic emanation of a demonic spirit or whatever. That’s what Father tells me anyway. People who see them, call them ‘Shadow People.’ They aren’t really ‘people’ at all. They are more like drones, kind of.” Simon tries to explain, but it’s hard for me to get it.

“Drones?” I didn’t know what to make of that word. Drone bees I know about, but I don’t think that’s what Simon means.

“Oh, yeah. I forgot you’ve been out of the loop for a long time. A drone is a remote-controlled robot that folks use to do stuff they don’t want to have to do themselves.” Simon does manage to explain it in a way that sort of makes sense. I find it amazing that something that was in Star Wars is now real! Star Wars was the last good thing I ever experienced. Somehow I managed to come by some tickets and I snuck in and saw it. I was completely blown away by it, way back in 1978.

“Sort of like a Droid from Star Wars?” I try to make the connection.

“Sure. I guess. Not as smart as R2-D2 though. Really, that’s where the comparisons end anyways with trying to describe an umbereth.” Simon’s thoughts explain.

“Umbereths basically have all the awareness and some of the strength of the demon spirit projecting them, but umbereths are capable of independent thinking too. It’s just hard to explain. Anyway, they’re bad news!” He gets a rather frightened look when he thinks the last part.

“I need to take you to see somebody because if this guy is who killed you and the only way you can be free is if he is brought to justice then the umbereth is going to have to be dealt with. Your killer is untouchable until that thing is driven off.” Simon thinks to me as he starts to walk down the street away from the dismal alleyway of my demise.

I follow him. Where else would I go? Somehow I made a good friend today as well as a walking miracle on two legs. A boy about my age when I died who can talk to me. Despite what I’ve become, I still ‘get’ him because he’s like I was and . . . still am in a lot of ways.

I’m dead and I’ve had a lot of experiences that would weather the wisest and oldest person ever to live, but, at heart, I’m still just that lost teenager. I’ll always be that lost teenager. I’ll never know what it’s like to grow into a man or grow old. I’ll be eternally young, but I’ll also be forever immature. Maybe that’s why I am throwing tantrums.

“ Who are we going to see?” I want to know.

“Father Malachi. He is a friend who understands these things.” Simon conveys with gentle confidence.

I am completely unconvinced!

“You’re taking me to see a PRIEST? What good will that do for me? I’m a damned soul already.” I stop my following. I will not enter into a church. There is no telling what would happen. I don’t like churches.

Simon turns to me and looks up at me sadly.

“You’re so wrong, Chris. You aren’t even close to being damned! You’re merely lost. Father and I can help you. He is the one who has watched over me since my parents died. He is a very good man and very wise. He is especially wise about this kind of stuff.” Simon speaks to me with his voice. I can hear the conviction in it and I can feel the truth in his spirit.

“You aren’t lying. I can tell when people lie to me. I can always tell. I’ll see this priest . . . but if he tries any exorcism crap I’m leaving!” I warn Simon.

He smiles and giggles at me which I find slightly irritating because I am dead serious.

“No exorcism stuff. Promise.” The thoughts travel with Simon’s absolute honesty and I accept his word. We continue on until we do finally reach a church. It is a fine Spanish colonial looking thing. It’s a slightly ghoulish looking place at night and it looks to be about perfect for something like me to haunt. It even has an active bell tower so that I can torment the townsfolk at the hour of my death every night. Not that I would really ever want to do anything like that, but maybe for a laugh.

We enter an adobe style rectory across a patio from the church’s chapel. It has an enclosed garden in a very early California style. Where a fountain might have been now stands a statue of St. Francis of Assisi feeding birds. Very typical for a rectory garden. I sometimes find myself drifting through such places because they are very peaceful and oddly ‘safe’ feeling for me somehow. Church gardens and cemeteries I can handle, but churches and chapels not so much.

Simon knocks on the door of one of the rooms that surround the patio garden area. A light can be seen through the curtains of an open window. The glow seems to be warmer and more inviting than regular electric lights. I realize that it must be candles.

“It’s unlocked. Come on in. Is that you Simon? Is the blackout still going on?” An older voice asks through the door.

“Yes, Father. It’s just me and, yeah, someTHING shorted out a transformer up the street. I think the power company will be out soon.” Simon answers and smirks at me. He then opens the door allowing some of the warm light to spill out onto the concrete walkway. He enters and I follow.

It’s a study with a simple but nice desk, an old swivel chair and shelves and shelves of books surrounding all. Several Moroccan lamps hang from the ceiling in a cluster and it is from these that the beautiful candlelight is cast in intricate designs on everything.

Father Malachi was writing something but he turns in his seat and embraces Simon warmly. He is a man in his 60s who is clean shaven with grey hair and inexpensive reading glasses. His ‘dog’s collar’ peaks out white from the black lapeless shirt collar at his wrinkling neck. He has deep loving eyes that look like they’ve seen too much, but they brighten upon seeing Simon’s happy face. The priest truly loves Simon in the way a father loves a son.

“I was just touching up next Sunday’s homily when the lights went out. This one has angels in it. I always love talking about angels!” Father smiles contentedly.

“So, what mischief have you been up to today, my boy?” Father asks while giving Simon his whole attention and holding his arms affectionately.

“Well, actually . . . ” Simon turns a little toward the door in my direction and then looks back at Father with a slightly guilty look.

“Uh-oh! Did you bring home another stray cat? We can’t possibly feed the whole neighborhood of cats. It’s simply not in the budget!” Father chuckles.

“Um, no Father . . . not a . . . cat exactly.” Simon shifts his feet uncomfortably and tries not to look Father Malachi in the eye. Father gently turns Simon’s face up to look him square.

“Oh, don’t go hiding again. It is always best to tell the truth in all things. It’s really much easier than you think. Things that might be problems get fixed faster and things that are funny can be enjoyed sooner.” The good Father smiles. He has a sweetness about him that I have rarely seen. He is so gently encouraging.

“Well . . . ok, but . . . ” Simon hesitates.

“No ‘buts’ in here except the one’s that we happen to sit upon. Come on . . . tell me, lad?” Father encourages.

Simon turns fully to the door and nods for me to enter the place, something I don’t do unless invited. Naturally, Father Malachi sees nothing and is perplexed at first, but then, as his lamp candles start to flicker without the movement of air, he understands all too well what Simon has just let in through the door.

“What have we here, Simon? We’ve talked about this . . . it’s very dangerous to let one come and attach here.” Father Malachi’s voice changes to one of dire concern and he rises to his feet cautiously.

“This one is different, Father. This one really needs our help. He’s for real this time. He’s not a liar.” Simon says confidently with a bit of begging in the voice.

“Chris, come in. Come meet Father Malachi.” Simon beckons to me to come in further. I drift in very slowly and carefully. My presence extinguishes the candles entirely. Fortunately, Father Malachi’s battery operated reading light is unaffected so all can see well enough in the semi-dark.

“It gave you a name? Oh no . . . ” Malachi groans in slight terror.

“Father, please. HE is Chris. He really is one of the lost. I know this because he made enemies with an umbereth already.” Simon explains cautiously.

Father Malachi stands and begins fumbling for something in one of his drawers. The vial of holy water comes into his hand. I knew this would happen eventually. As luck would have it, to me, holy water is just water.

“NO, Father! I promised no exorcism business!” Simon is horrified!

Quick as lightning Father Malachi tosses two streams of water in the emptiness that is where I am supposedly standing. He tosses them in the sign of a cross while saying the Benediction (In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The water lands just outside the door on the pavement just making things wet. As I expected, the water goes right through me and I feel nothing.

Father’s eyes narrow as nothing happens.

“Ok, Simon. I need discerning eyes. Is that the place where this ‘Chris’ is standing?” Father eyes the space before the door hard as if trying himself to see something there. A layperson would probably think both man and child are crazy as loons by this behavior. But, they are not actually crazy at all. I really AM there.

“Yes, Father. Right where you tried to splat him with the holy water.” Simon says rather derisively.

“Consecrate . . . not ‘splat,’ my son.” Father Malachi corrects.

“No effect. That usually makes them very unhappy.” Malachi steps toward me examining the area. I actually think now he can sense me somehow.

“Show me some sign that you are here, Chris. Give me some confirmation that you can hear me.” Father speaks to me while looking directly into what might pass for my ‘face’.

I still feel some strength from before, but it is fading. Whatever I do, it needs to be simple but communicates. I scan the area for a few moments looking for ideas.

“Come, ‘Chris.’ You will not fear me if you are what Simon says you are. I’d like to help if that is true. But, I need to know that you can communicate with me. I do not have Simon’s gifts.” Father Malachi now encourages me to action.

The reading light is simplest and can be used to make signals. Electrical things are easier to manipulate for me. They have their own energy and all I have to do is draw and release it to make the light go on and off.

I draw off the energy from the light and it dims. I try harder and then it goes off. I release it and it slowly comes back on again.

Father Malachi observes and nods in the assurance that he understands while at the same time looking a little frightened.

Father swallows hard and then goes on: “Very good, Chris. Can you blink the light once for yes and twice for no?” He asks of me. That is smart and that was what I was hoping he’d ask of me.

I cause the light to blink once.

“Well done, Chris. Thank you for that.” Father Malachi says with some effort.

“I must ask you this, Chris. If you are in line with Satan, then you are bound to answer in truth as it is Divine Law upon my invocation of Our Lord and my Saviour. Can you, in the very name of Jesus Christ, Most Holy, confirm that you are the spirit of the person, Chris and not that of a demon enemy of God and his Faithful?” Father asks this question with the precision of a lawyer. I have no problem answering it truthfully.

I cause the light to blink once and hold the light a long while before letting it go. I think it delivers the appropriate emphasis to who I am and why I am here.

Father looks at the light and the bit of nuance I put in the response. This causes the good man’s eyes to tear up a bit and his face to express deep sorrow.

“Oh, my dear boy. My dear lost child . . . I am so sorry. So very sorry.” The love and the sympathy that I feel coming from him causes my soul to shudder in my own strength of feeling. I unintentionally cause a vibration in the air around me that becomes sound. It is a deep ghostly sob. It is a sob too long held.

No one has ever cared about me before in this way. No one has ever . . . mourned for me!

The sound of my despair makes Father Malachi close his eyes in shared anguish and he allows the tears that had formed in his eyes to fall down his weathered cheeks.

“Awww! Don’t cry Chris! I knew Father would understand!” Simon says to me directly as one who is talking to someone he can see fully.

In a hoarse voice strained with his emotion Father asks of his charge: “You . . . you can see him, then, Simon?”

“Yes, Father. Of course I can! He’s right there!” Simon merely points to where I am in the room.

I feel the need to manifest something. I need to show him something that tells of how much the good Father has touched me tonight.

I see a small crucifix resting on top of the Father’s Douai-Rheims Bible. It is the familiar ‘little black bible’ that was once used in courtrooms all around America with large Catholic communities. The crucifix is an ordinary one that you can purchase at any religious store.

I manage to use my remaining strength to push the cross off the bible and gently drag it over to rest next to Father Malachi’s hand.

He gently but shakily puts his hand over it. He smiles with bittersweet recognition of the meaning of what I have just done.

“Ah yes, my son. You have more than proven yourself to me. No demon could ever do that with this holy and consecrated effigy of the Lord.” He pats the cross and then looks to Simon.

“Does he wish to speak through you, Simon? I don’t think he is strong enough now to communicate in any other way for the time being. I know that must have taken great effort.” Father says with a surprising understanding of my situation.

“Chris?” Simon asks me.

“That would be cool, Simon. I wish I could talk to him directly, but he’s right. I don’t have the strength for that right now. I can tell that I am making it cold in here already.” I tell Simon.

“He’s ‘cool’ with it, Father.” Simon giggles a bit. He is a boy after all.

Father smiles and nods. “‘Cool.’ Yes, indeed. It’s actually getting quite cool in here. We should let Chris recharge before we proceed any farther. But, rest assured, I will do my very best to help him get Home.” Father Malachi says with utmost reassurance. He speaks now as if he is speaking to a troubled member of his flock. I don’t really understand his meaning for ‘Home’ though. I had never really considered such a thing.

“Thank you so much, Father. You’ll never know what this means to me. In fact, I hope, blessed as you are, that you will NEVER know because that means you’ll not be lost and forgotten as I have been.” I tell Father hoping he can at least feel some of my gratitude come from me even though he can’t hear me.

“He says, ‘Thanks.'” Simon gives the Cliff Notes version of my answer. I do a ghost’s equivalent of rolling my eyes.

“It’s more than a pleasure, Chris. I am, right now in our hearing, experiencing a miracle in the making.” With that Father grins widely with joy and he leads us both out into the night.

~~~~~

Where I thought that Simon and Father Malachi would just be going out into the patio for a while, I find instead that we have come to the alley where I was murdered once again. I feel somewhat unhappy about this because of the scene I made earlier in the evening. The trash cans are still all over the place and many are bent and dented badly. I guess I don’t know my own strength!

Simon guides Father to a place I rather the old priest not have to see. I try to intervene:

“Simon! Don’t let him go over there! He shouldn’t have to see it.” I try to cajole, but it is already too late. Both the living are already picking away the debris to look at the still stained concrete and stucco where I bled to death. The blood never leaves and never degrades. It remains there even after it rains. Its like my blood stains can never be washed away.

“The blood remains because it still cries to Heaven for justice.” Father Malachi states with mysterious knowing. It is as if he is answering my question even though he can’t actually hear me ask it.

“It’s strange that it is still here after all this time, Father. He died in 1978.” Simon says. I don’t know how he knows this, but then with these two such questions would only lead to even more questions.

“He’s been dead for ten years and still the blood looks as if it has barely dried. Surely the police didn’t investigate this well at all. I doubt they even found this place.” Father Malachi says with sadness.

It is partly a true statement. They did find this place because my body was still here when it was discovered. The cops never bothered to do much more than have the coroner collect my mutilated corpse, though. They didn’t have DNA analysis back then so blood scrapings were pointless. Being a deserted alley they just left it and forgot it just like they forgot me.

“They were here, but they didn’t do much.” Simon says like a tattletale on my thoughts. I fear a bond is forming between me and him. I fear for him. What I experienced should never go into his innocently sweet brain. I would die a thousand more times to keep that from happening.

“Hence, the need for justice. We should pray, Simon. We need to pray for guidance. The detective that investigated this, he might still be working. I have to think that this unsolved murder must weigh upon him somehow.” Father Malachi supposes.

I don’t suppose so much as I remember well that he tried to follow all kinds of leads, but they were all distractions created by my murderer. My killer, like I said, was and is preternaturally clever. Now that I’ve seen this umbereth thing with him, I know that it must help him in spirit.

“Do you remember the name of the detective, Chris?” Simon asks as he turns to me. Simon does not wait for an answer because his eyes go really wide and his mouth gapes in terror.

“CHRIS! DUCK . . . OR SOMETHING!” he screams at me startling poor Father Malachi into a near heart attack.

I instinctively flinch away from where I am only to feel an icy electric burning barely caress my ‘spirit body’. I spin to see the umbereth shadow looming before me. It seems to have hands outstretched or a more accurate description would be skeletal claws! Its glowing eyes are no longer slits but wide almost comically prototypical ‘ghost eyes in sheet’ except red on black rather than black on white. Truly, comical isn’t really a word to describe them. Terrifying beyond all hope is a better way to do so!

I cringe at the umbereth before me. It is only now that I see how much bigger it is than it seemed before. A vast overwhelmingly black mass pulsing with terror and hate.

“yOu sHoULd hAVe sTAYYYYEd FORGOTTEN” its voice is a warped noise between a groan, a growl and a distorted record or a sound made underwater. The voice sounds ‘unclean’ and it has the effect of making me shudder in spirit and to make Simon cry out in utter trauma.

It rises to strike again and I knew this time it will rake its claws through me. I can’t even imagine what agony that would cause. All I know is that I will probably be left a wailing lost soul in agony forever after the umbereth is done with me.

Something diamond bright and crystal clear reaches out and hits the umbereth square in the center of its ebony mass. The water about the umbereth hisses and sizzles in the air like it has hit a hot stove.

The thing lets go a shriek of agony that causes me to wail in spiritually empathetic despair and terror. Simon has gone and buried his head in the mass of dirty clothes left by the vagrant I’d scared away earlier. If only that poor old bum knew how good he had it just dealing we me and not this denizen of Hell.

Before us, as another wave of holy water strikes, the shadow ceases its terrifying screeching and folds in on itself and then disappears completely.

Father Malachi stands strong with a determined look. In his hand, he holds the empty vial of holy water. None of what he has released from the small decanter is left anywhere. Its holiness has been used up against the concentrated evil it had been set against.

“I suppose it is gone. I no longer feel the feeling of fear and despair nor do I smell the foulness of rotting death. It was so potent an entity that I could almost see it. A vague darkness shifting over there . . . ” Malachi points at the air behind me.

He turns and gently picks up Simon from the filthy rags and holds him until the sobbing stops.

I feel positively awful that my young friend had to experience something like that on account of me. He is just a boy and a good and innocent one at that. He’ll have lost some of that now. Surely he has experienced such things before since he could recognize the umbereth readily, but I don’t think he’d ever been directly attacked by one. It was a harrowing experience!

“It’s gone, Father. You drove it off.” I say, forgetting he can’t hear me.

“C-Chris says it’s gone. It is. I saw it…leave like . . . it was flushed down a t-toilet or something.” Simon sobs and stammers.

“Heh. An apt departure for that scum. Come, I think we’ve had quite enough for tonight. We’ll think of more things to do after tomorrow morning’s Mass. We will be safe back at the rectory. It is guarded by a thousand angels after all.” Malachi smiles at Simon and kisses his forehead to push away the all too real demon that he had to confront today.

I don’t know about the angels. I suppose if they are there I can’t see them, but there is something particularly forbidding about churches. To me they feel like fortresses where the guards are all hiding in wait. I try to stay away from them as much as possible.

Father Malachi’s promise is a sound one, however. Simon is finally able to get to sleep and nothing comes to bother us in the night. I stand vigil in any case. There may or may not be angels protecting this place, but at least I’m here to watch things. I can warn if something comes. I suppose that makes me a guardian now. Strange, a Guardian Ghost?

In those wee hours I have time to study the beatifically innocent beauty that is Simon’s face. Only a pure soul can sleep so peacefully after experiencing all the horrors he has today. I find I must reach and caress his soft cheek. Somehow I am able to touch it just as if I had my own fingers. I ruffle his golden silky hair and he stirs in his sleep. He is beyond beautiful to me. I only wish…but how can I wish for impossible things. He lives and I am dead. Love like this can’t reach across the veil of shadows. I feel the old despair creep into my wishing. Such things can never be and yet . . .

. . . I love you Chris.” Simon mumbles softly in his sleep.

I love you too, Simon.” I tell him tenderly.

I place a spectral kiss on Simon’s forehead and he sighs contentedly and smiles in his slumber.

~~~~~

Before dawn breaks, Father Malachi is already awake and multitasking. He has set some warmed oatmeal on the stove for Simon, dressed himself in his suit and vestments and rehearsed his short homily for the daily Mass. He acts like nothing at all had happened the night before.

I feel a need to remind him that I am here. I don’t want to be forgotten again! Though meant to torment me, the evil words of the umbereth from the night before held a sting of truth. If I had remained forgotten then I would not have gotten these good people mixed up in my misery. Let the fiend do his work. In the end, death is nothing. It is just a change from one way of living to another. How we live seems to be the only thing that matters. I must have chosen this shadowy life or I would not be existing this way. If I were to give up on the fiend and my justice, then perhaps the Light would come for me again and I could leave this world behind finally.

But, I can’t let go! Now, I am committed anyway because this good man and that marvelous boy have committed themselves to helping me find my justice and then my peace. I owe them my help so I can’t just abandon them and slip back into the shadows again.

I place my ‘hand’ on Father Malachi’s shoulder, not expecting him to feel me there. But then he DOES feel me!

He reaches back and puts his hand on the shoulder where mine is resting and pats it.

“No, Chris. I had not forgotten you. You can come with me to Mass if you wish. I promise, there will be nothing there to harm you. As a matter of fact, you might even find help.” Father says tenderly.

I do not think he understands my place in things. I am lost. I am beyond where a church can help me. Churches are for people who are still whole and intact. An alien spirit invading a sacred place would be ejected forthwith.

“They don’t work that way, Chris. Everyone is welcome in a church . . . especially lost people!” I am somewhat surprised to hear Simon’s groggy voice. I am even more surprised that he can tell what I am worried about.

“I always feel unwanted when I come near a church. I feel like an intruder there. I know what is in there will cast me out. I’m not a holy spirit at all, you see.” I say with trepidation.

“He says he isn’t good enough to go to church, Father. He thinks they’ll throw him out.” Simon explains to Father Malachi irritably and somewhat incorrectly.

“Being good enough or not doesn’t matter in the least, Chris. The church is a place for the broken and the lost because it is a place of healing. The fears you have come from your own insecurities and perhaps from things like the umbereth who can speak to you more potently since you are now in spirit.” Father says.

It is something I had not considered before. That my fears and insecurities may be from something whispering to me in the dark. The thoughts come to me so subtly that I think they are my own. But, what if they’re not?

“If you are with me, Chris, nothing will bother you. I am consecrated to do the Lord’s work. Those spirits within the Church are duty-bound to do the same.” Malachi turns to look at the empty space where I drift unseen to him.

“Trust me.” He implores.

“Ok, I guess. You already know I don’t like this, but if you want it, then I shall have to try.” I answer.

“He’ll go with you Father,” Simon translates tiredly as he begins to eat his oats and raisins.

“Very good, Chris! Very good indeed. I have a feeling you may be surprised at what awaits you there.” Father Malachi probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Surprises here on the other side are few and far between and those that do exist are usually things like the umbereth.

I drift with the Father as he enters the Sacristy to prepare to go onto the ‘stage’ where the alter is or whatever that raised part of the church is called. I pass through the outer door and into the Sacristy without incident. I feel no barriers or bindings suddenly restraining me and I am not presented with a stern angel with an outstretched hand signaling me to stop. No bright spirits appear with flaming swords either. I seem entirely unnoticed.

Father Malachi seems to reassure me with a small nod and a slight smile as he comes in through the inner door from the Sacristy to the alter. Never having been a Catholic I have no idea what to expect.

The church is old and beautiful. The alter ‘stage’ is marble, as is the altar itself. The altar is covered with a green cloth and there are two candle holders with lit candles on either side. It’s such a beautiful sight and so much more ‘noble’ looking than the simple preachers stand my father used to bloviate behind.

There are darkened stained glass windows in pointed arches all the way down the nave of the church and there are rows of pews with just a few people in them. It’s early and it must be a weekday so it is mostly older people who can come because they don’t work anymore.

Father begins his Mass with the Benediction and that’s when I see something . . .

A golden aura falls on the whole gathering and from the vaulted ceiling I see the golden light condense and solidify into vaguely humanoid shapes. The shapes resolve into two of the most beautiful beings I have ever seen! They seem to have flowing golden robes and glittering hair. One has dark hair and the other blonde. Both look like two beautiful young men. They come to stand by the sides of Father Malachi as he offers the rest of the introduction to the service.

They remain at his side throughout the readings and the homily and when they walk with Father I can see something subtle glitter behind them. I find that what I can make out are the faint wispy impressions of great wings!

These are angels!

The dark haired one notices me and I am immediately frozen with fright! I figure they will be driving me out from the church now because I don’t belong!

But instead, the angel smiles a warm and inviting smile and then beckons for me to come forward toward the altar. I hesitate because I am naturally suspicious of other spirits. It has become a way with me since finding myself this way.

“Don’t be afraid, Christopher. You are welcome here. You always have been. Come forth and join us!” The voice is like deep liquid music. He speaks and it is the definition of peace and love.

Despite my reservations, I timidly come forward as I am bidden. I realize now how tall the angel is next to me. He seems to stand a full seven feet tall! As I approach his smile lingers and intensifies with a kind of joy I have never known.

“I am Abdiel and that is Shemiel.” Abdiel says, gesturing to his companion.

His blonde companion, Shemiel, is also smiling warmly though in a more conservative way. He seems to be the more serious of the two, I suppose.

As the Mass progresses, we come to the point when the Holy Eucharist is offered for communion. The Lord’s Prayer is read and as it is I notice the two angels kneel and I can see their wings fold and become more visible. They really are SO beautiful. They place their palms together in a classically angelic pose as they both kneel. I manage to do the same, though it is hard to do without actual knees.

Before long, Father Malachi reads the prayers and does the rituals that make the communion host and the wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. As he does this, I am suddenly filled with complete awe and wonder.

The Light appears! Right then and there! What I’ve waited ten years to see again, I suddenly see shining right down on the altar where the Eucharist has been blessed!

If I wanted to I could ask to go to the Light. I could be free from my wanderings at last!

I ask Abdiel:

“M-may I go with the Light? I didn’t know where to find it until now. I should have known it would be here!” If I could weep, I would, but it would be with joy now and not in sadness.

“He would certainly take you as it is your time, but, are YOU ready? Do you still wish to do what you wished to do here in the World?” Shemiel is the one to ask this. His voice is lighter and more steady than Abdiel’s. I know of what he speaks because he speaks about my need to bring my murderer to justice.

“I would love to go with Him, but . . . but I guess I have to do this first. I have to find the monster that murdered me and put an end to hi murdering and to his ‘protector’.” I say sadly as Father Malachi goes to give the Eucharist to the communicants in the church.

“Take heart, sweet Christopher! Your task can be accomplished and you will have help. Certainly, if He wills it, we can help though what we are up against is mighty and will need much strength to overcome. Shemiel says rather seriously.

“But, on that front, your greatest help will come from Father Malachi himself, Blessings and Peace Be Upon him. He is the strength that can, through his own choice of purpose, brings to heel that being which works its evil. He can bring to bear the punishment for the Beast that commits such atrocities so brazenly through this benighted man who murdered you. Abdiel encourages further.

“You will also need to find Detective Albert Cummings. He works for the San Francisco Police Department now. He is the instrument of justice that you need most of all here.” Shemiel explains.

“Albert Cummings needs this justice almost as much as you do, Christopher. By setting you free from your duty, you will be setting him free as well. You see, you were NEVER forgotten! All these years, your unsolved murder has plagued that good man. It may be for him as much as yourself that you have been called to remain here until this justice can be done.” Abdiel exhorts.

Something inside me seems to choke up and by some miracle, I feel ghostly tears fall down my spectral cheeks. I was . . . never forgotten?

I suddenly feel an intense warmth wrap around me as if I am standing in the sun on a lovely tropical beach somewhere. The warmth translates into an intense and thrilling feeling of the greatest love I have ever known. I look upward . . .

. . . and the Light is shining upon me!

Up through its beam, I seem to see a tunnel going upwards at a distance. Beyond that distance seems to be the source of the Light and it seems to have the definition of a figure standing with arms extended toward me as if it wishes to hug me.

“When you are finished . . . I’ll be waiting for you, Christopher.” I hear a voice coming from the Light.

The voice is deep but infinitely gentle and it pulses through me. I feel every fiber of my spirit resonate with that voice. It seems to speak through the very fabric of my ethereal being. The love in the voice is beyond description and I find I am no longer afraid. What is more, I no longer feel lost.

“Yes, my Lord. It will be as you will. Thank you! Thank you so very much.” I weep to the being in the Light.

The Light fades and the angels reach to gently raise me up as I am still kneeling.

“He’s glowing, Shemiel! Do you see? How marvelous!” Abdiel’s beautiful shining eyes widen as he sees me.

“Indeed! He will make a fine Guardian one day! He is practically one of us already!” Shemiel says approvingly.

I am mystified by this, but before I can question my new angelic companions, I hear the clatter of a golden chalice hit the floor.

Father Malachi stands looking in shock in my direction. He has dropped the precious thing, but one of the communicants quickly comes to the rescue and retrieves the holy device. He tries to hand it to the Father, but cannot seem to get Malachi’s attention.

“Christopher?” the Father mouths and then remembers where he is and looks away from me just long enough to take the chalice from the man and thank him. Fortunately, there was no wine left to spill. The communicants back away to their pews looking strangely at the good Father.

“Yes, Father! Can you see me now?”I am nearly as amazed as he is.

Father tucks his head, puts his knuckle to his lips and clears his throat. He then nods slightly before he approaches and takes up his position behind the altar. He nearly trips in the process but is balanced with a slight touch of an angelic hand on Father’s elbow. Remarkably, Father can now hear me as well!

Father Malachi closes out Mass rather hastily, but respectfully and then pretends to ‘do the dishes’ as his parishioners file out still casting strange glances in the Father’s direction. When they are gone, he whirls around on me and looks upon me with wild astonishment.

“How? I can see you, but just barely. You are barely defined by a golden light of some kind, like you are angel dust standing there.” Father Malachi whispers.

“Tell him the Light has granted visible form to you, Christopher, so that the Father can look upon you and hear you as Simon does. Shemiel instructs me.

“They tell me to tell you that the Light has made it so you can see me and I can talk to you, Father.” I relay the message.

“They?” Father’s whisper raises to a husky exclamation. As luck would have it, all the parishioners have left or they may have felt the need to call an ambulance for him since to them it would look like he is talking to thin air.

“The angels, Father. They tell me to tell you this.” I look toward the two and my face beams with happiness at what I see. Father Malachi notices this and covers his mouth in an attempt to stifle his emotions.

“The . . . angels? Oh, by all that is holy! What a . . . miracle you are Christopher!” Father begins to shake a little trying to contain his depth of feeling.

“We need to disappear for a while, but we will be near, Christopher. Try not to say too much more about us to the good Father. His body is not as strong as it once was.” Abdiel says with a touch of concern as he looks with pity on Father Malachi.

Father attempts to touch me and does manage to disturb my presence sufficiently for him to draw his hand back as if he’d touched something he should not have. I feel his touch and suddenly it is I who feel a wave of emotion. I control it, though; I don’t want to stress him any more than he already is especially in light of Abdiel’s cryptic warning.

I look to the angels and I am loath to see them go. They bring such long needed comfort to me. A comfort and a sense of peace I’ve never experienced before. But, before I can plead for them to stay they turn to a gold mist and rise back up into the vaults of the church. As they do, I can just make out the vague impression of wings opening and spreading as they arise.

Seeing Father standing there staring into my eyes with tearing eyes of his own and with a look of continued shock, tells me that it is time to ground things before the experience becomes too much for him. This is indeed a strange situation for all concerned.

“Simon needs us. I can feel him wondering what is taking so long. He has been very anxious since last night, naturally.” I tell Father Malachi and at the sound of Simon’s name and that he might be in some distress Father does snap out of his daze.

“But . . . of course. Yes. Yes! Simon needs us. But of course.” He follows me as I drift soundlessly into the Sacristy and then through the courtyard back to the rectory.

Actually, Simon really doesn’t need us, but he is a good excuse to give Father Malachi something familiar to do. I don’t know why that sounded like the right thing to do, but it seems to have been a good move.

Simon sits at the desk in the study reading something. It’s a large book that must have taken a lot of effort to get down from the shelf. It is a book on Demonology! I peek over his shoulder and see what looks like medieval woodcuts of various kinds of demonic creatures. The one he is looking at is . . . truly horrifying.

The being he is reading about is the evil god Ba’al Dagon who was worshiped once by the Philistines. This was a being that often thirsted for human sacrifice . . . particularly children. Many depictions of him have him looking very Pharaoh-like. But this one . . . this one was beyond terrifying.

The woodcut depicted a black skeletal being enmeshed in a shadowy robe of tentacle-like appendages. Each tentacle seemed to end in the head of a venomous snake, but an eyeless one. The snakes seemed to have no face, but be all fangs! The face of Dagon was a cross between a screaming human skull and a feral wolf’s skull. Huge fangs protruded from an elongated muzzle. In the eye sockets burned two red dots for eyes. It seemed to be the sum of all primordial human terrors: the perfect monster.

“Whatever are you looking at, Simon? You know that book will only give you nightmares again!” Father Malachi admonished.

“I know, Father, but I kind of had to do it. Michael said so. He helped me get the book down from the top shelf there.” There was a large space on the far top shelf where the book had been filed away. With no ladder present it would have been impossible for Simon to reach it on his own!

Simon shivers as he turns the page. That image on the next page shows a fairly exact representation of an umbereth. Above the woodcut of the ghoulish specter is the name ‘Umbra Daemonus’.

“Michael?” Before I can get an answer, Father Malachi sharply takes his glasses off and rubs his eyes. He sits on the window seat under the window to the courtyard. He seems so tired suddenly.

“Are you ok, Father?” I ask with concern.

“Chris wants to know if you are ok…and I kind of need to know that too, Father!” Simon rises to go by Father Malachi’s side. Lovingly, he rubs the priest’s back.

“Yes, my son. I . . . know what Christopher said. I heard him.” Father says as he continues rubbing his eyes tiredly with one hand.

Simon’s mouth drops open with a look of complete surprise. “You . . . you can HEAR Chris now? When did this happen? Wow!” Chris smiles excitedly and looks to me with wonder.

“It was the Light. It apparently revealed Christopher to me and opened my consciousness to him. But . . . whoever is this ‘Michael’ you speak of?” Father finally looks up into Simon’s face questioningly yet wary.

“The Archangel. He came here just after you left. Sometimes I see him. I love it when he visits!” Simon’s childlike acceptance that the most powerful of all the Cherubim just visited him especially charms me for some reason. Simon’s openness is very endearing. It makes me love him all the more.

“Oh my good Lord, what is it that you are asking of us?” Father Malachi looks to the ceiling in weary trepidation. As he asks his simple prayer, he thumbs the crucifix hanging from his neck lovingly. It is a nervous reflexive gesture that begs for comfort.

“You are afraid.” I state in way of confirmation of what I am seeing in Father’s behavior.

“I am. I am because I realize what has to happen. Holy Michael only comes when there is a need for spiritual combat. I don’t fear for the safety of our bodies or even our souls because I feel our souls will be preserved. I am afraid that Simon will never be the same again after seeing some of the things we will be forced to see. His precious innocence will . . . be lost.” Father looks tenderly at Simon, who keeps rapt attention on everything Father Malachi is saying.

I notice that Father Malachi does not put ‘bodies’ in the ‘preserved’ category. This concerns me for both he and Simon because it is basically saying that this could be a deadly proposition. I have to break this up before they go any further with it. I won’t have innocent people dying just to feed my need for justice.

“I will not have either of you dying for me and what I want. If I am to have justice I won’t have it by the blood of the innocent. That filthy bastard has killed enough people!” I am becoming angry and fearful. The room goes chill as I again become aggravated.

“That’s really the reason why we need to do something to stop this. Obviously, we are a part of something that has been brewing for a while now. Michael, Blessed and Holy, comes only when the Enemy has overstepped his bounds. It looks as if this entity that has been guiding and guarding this murderer for so long has done just that.” Father Malachi explains.

“So you are saying this is beyond us now? We are a part of something greater than ourselves. Why weren’t we given a choice to fight this or not?” I feel my fear swelling. This has become a terrible trap for us all. As my fear grows the windows frost over and both of the living are beginning to shiver.

“W-We a-always ha-have a ch-ch-ch choice, Ch-Christopher.” Father Malachi says through shivers. I am becoming too agitated to stay among them without causing more discomfort, so I leave the room to go out into the courtyard.

“Wait! D-don’t go, Christopher! We will need you now more than ever. You are a part of it. Please!” Father believes I am leaving because I want no part in what is to happen.

“No, Father. I will not leave you. I just came out here so I’d stop making you and Simon cold. This whole thing makes me very unhappy, but I will do what must be done if you ‘choose’ to continue with this. I just hope you know what you are doing because I don’t even know what we’re doing.” I must be sulking because the Father becomes firm with me.

“Christopher! You need to do this and you need to of YOUR own choice as well! You still have that even in spirit, the power to choose. You have to have faith, my son. Have faith that there is indeed a plan in place and that we are all part of it. In the end, everything will be made right again and we will all be better for it once the dominion of this creature is broken.” Father Malachi exhorts.

“I shall do this, Father, if for no other reason than for my love of Simon and yourself. If you say we will be guided in this confrontation, then let it be as you say.” I concede. I see Simon’s face brighten in astonishment at my mentioning my love for him. This would be the first time I have revealed this to him while still awake.

“Very well then. Let us begin. We have to plan our next move carefully. Demons are vastly intelligent; many times more so than we are. There will be no outsmarting this one.” Father begins to scan his bookshelves for knowledge he will need.

“We have to find Albert Cummings. He is the detective who first investigated my murder. He’s working in San Francisco right now. The angels told me so. “ I inform.

Father Malachi closes a book and looks at me with un-asked questions. He then looks like he is thinking and unsure how to proceed with what I’ve said.

Simon pipes up: “The police department probably knows how to get in touch with him. We should start there.”

So that is what we do thanks to a parishioner who is also a sergeant in LAPD Homicide. He knew Detective Cummings well and was more than happy to put us in contact when Father told the sergeant that someone peculiar had been seen haunting the alley of my murder. The sergeant figured Cummings would be very interested in this bit of news and was willing to set things in motion with his brass and the SFPD to have Cummings come down on loan from his current department.

A day passes and the detective finally contacts us by telephone. The conversation seems to be somewhat one sided with Father Malachi doing most of the talking. It is obvious that he is answering the detective’s questions as to what this is about and how it would concern him.

Father Malachi’s instincts were dead on about Mr. Cummings. There seems to be a fight on the Detective’s end between again getting involved a case that has bothered him all these years and staying in San Francisco where he has a full docket of cases to investigate for current crimes.

The Detective calls us again, after two rather wearisome days of waiting, saying that his Captain had made arrangements with LAPD to loan out Cummings for this cold case. Apparently, favors had been traded and LAPD Homicide had a debt to pay. There was also a certain decorated sergeant that insisted Cummings should do this for his own sake.

That late afternoon, Detective Albert Cummings comes to the rectory and finally meets with Father Malachi and Simon. I stand invisible, giving promptings as needed as the detective conducts his interview.

“So, you say that you believe this murderer that I’ve been chasing for the better part of ten years has suddenly started showing up at this old crime scene?” The detective is not so much skeptical as seeking clarification.

“He has. Oddly enough, Detective, that murder has not been forgotten in this neighborhood. Many vagrants that come to my soup kitchen say they won’t stay in that alley because they have heard about what went on there. They often see a strange man come there from time to time and he frightens them. He always strikes them as ‘weird.’ Then there is the situation with the blood stains . . . ” Shrewdly Malachi puts the worm on the hook to get Detective Cumming’s interest.

“Blood stains?” The good Detective bites and Father is pretty sure he has the gentleman hooked.

“Yes. Those blood stains have never washed away. They are still there. The vagrants think that the alleyway is cursed.” Now Father is hitting a bit closer to the mark, but doing so in such a way as to put the possible craziness on the vagrants and not on himself.

“Well, that may be so, but drunk and stoned homeless don’t make the most reliable of witnesses. I appreciate that there seems to be something going on there that might be the hint of a lead, but I can’t figure after ten years of weather, even in LA, that the blood would still be there. True, the poor boy bled his entire blood volume out into that alley, but that would be long gone by now.” The detective sighs as the hook falls out of his mouth.

I sigh with him in spirit. So logical and yet so wrong. I also hate to be reminded of what I went through. I feel the memory portal shiver behind me calling me to again re-experience the horrible event, but I refuse it this time. Its call, though difficult to resist, does not appear to hold the magnetic pull it usually has on me. Going through it is like picking at a scab. It is painful but you can’t resist doing it thus opening the wound again.

“Well, of course, I would tend to agree, Detective. I work with these poor souls daily and I am quite familiar with the addlings of schizophrenic minds and of the flights of fantasy an inebriated tongue likes to speak of, but I have seen this blood myself. So has my charge, Simon, here. We are witnesses to this.” Father Malachi states with serious finality.

The detective scratches at the stubble on his chin and studies Father Malachi for a minute. “Ok. Well, you have me interested now. Let’s go have a look.” He says.

He and Father Malachi follow Simon to the alley and I drift with them, keeping an eye open for anything discarnate. Per usual, the perfectly quiet alleyway is deserted while most of the other ones in the neighborhood have at least one or two people living in them and usually more.

Simon pushes back the old tarp that always seems to cover the blood stain. Exposed, the blood stain looks as reddish-black as it did the day it dried onto the pavement. Detective Cummings is astonished at first, but then stands back and regards it from a distance. He acts like he is looking for some different view of it from another perspective.

“It definitely is a dried substrate. It hasn’t sunk into the grain of the concrete like paint would. But . . . ” Detective Cummings then takes something from the knapsack he’d been carrying. It looks like a spray of some kind. It says ‘Luminol’ on it. I’d never heard of the stuff before.

He sprays it on a small part of the stain and puts his coat over the where he sprayed to darken the area.The part he’s sprayed glows in the dark!

“Wow! That’s indeed blood. It also looks like just the amount I remember seeing when I investigated this scene. Incredible! I need to take a sample, though, for testing to be sure it’s human. It could only be a coincidence that some animal, or, God forbid, another murder happened here. It’s still very hard to believe that this could be Christopher Rhodes’ blood.” The Detective says with professional reserve. I know there is no way to convince him that it is my blood when I know for a FACT that it is, but for evidence sake, I think taking a sample is a good idea, so I allow it.

My last name was Rhodes? I had . . . forgotten.

Two days pass with no word came back from the LA County forensics lab. Simon is very antsy to get hard evidence that my blood still exists in that alley after 10 years. Father Malachi is, as always, patient and he applies his time to his other duties. For me, time is meaningless, so I at once understand that all this has been asked and answered already, but that I must wait for those who live to ask the question and answer it to their own satisfaction. It is strange to know the truth of things, but have to wait for the living to figure it out in their own way. But, that is the way of this dominion.

By the end of the third day of waiting, Detective Cummings returns to the rectory to go over the forensic findings.

“Firstly, it’s indeed human blood. Secondly, by some miracle, the blood still had enough left in it to render A Positive as the blood type. This was Chris’s blood type, but the forensics folks could not come up with a definitive match to anyone in the FBI Database of Lost Persons from 1978. That, regretfully, was a very popular year for missing kids and serial killers.” Mr. Cummings reports. The last part he seems rather sad about.

“But, even without complete positive identification, I see there is evidence enough to assume that the blood in that alley is the same blood left there when poor Christopher was murdered in that way.” Detective Cummings lets go a breath that he seemed to have been holding.

“The scientists couldn’t account for why the blood was still there and intact after all these years. They thought maybe it was LA’s dry climate or that the killer may have left some preservative with the blood to ‘fix’ it there like paint. So far, neither of these theories seem to fit everything.” The detective continues his report.

“It is cursed blood. Christopher should never have died that way or any other way. He was MY age when he died! He was my . . . ” Simon begins to tear up and I feel myself reach to him in comfort. I trust he can feel my ghostly arms encircle him!

“You are quite right, Simon. Christopher should never have had to die and most certainly not like that. Worse, he never got the justice he deserved or the respect. LAPD was worlds different in those days. It was a field day in the late 70s for this kind of thing. It’s one of the reasons I . . . left.” Detective Cummings says.

“Yes. I remember it all too well. So many wasted lives and no one seemed to care at all.” Father Malachi laments.

“All but you, right Father?” Simon sought to affirm.

“No. I didn’t care enough either. I was a younger priest then and all caught up with the day to day rituals, etc. I never looked up from my prayer books long enough to see how things really were around me. But, at least I know now and am trying . . . however little it is too late.” Father says sadly.

“That’s enough from both of you! All there is right now is NOW and right now that murderer is walking free probably killing some other innocent in service to his demon god! Let’s get moving and put some kind of plan in place to finally CATCH this motherfucker!” I can feel the growl in my voice and the anger in me rising. The trash can lids begin to shake threateningly, but I hold myself back. I won’t do this! Not now and hopefully not ever again. No more violent tantrums! They are totally counterproductive!

“What the hell was that all about?” Detective Cummings looks over at the trash cans wondering why they are shaking.

“Hello? You better come out now or I’ll have the cops come down and vacate you. This is an active crime scene!” Detective Cummings threatens the person he thinks is behind the cans.

Of course, no one comes forward which causes the good detective to draw his gun and ease with trained care to look behind the trash cans. Naturally, no one is there. Mr. Cummings is completely baffled by this.

“Hmm . . . must be rats or something . . . whatever. Anyway, I’ll stay across the street and keep an eye on this alley for any late night visitors other than the vagabond kind.” The detective declares.

“Do you think that he will show up again after last night?” Simon asks me with his mind.

“Definitely. Tonight . . . will be the anniversary.” My mental voice seems to sag and Simon looks at his shoes trying not to shed any more tears on my behalf.

“It’s the anniversary?” Father Malachi semi-whispers his question.

The detective picks up on this: “It’s the what, Father? It’s . . . Oookay! This is either a setup or something else is going on here! How did you know this was the anniversary of Christopher Rhodes’ murder?” Det. Cummings asks pointedly.

The Father covers so as not to throw the detective off the scent: “You are right. We had knowledge, both Simon and I, that tonight would be the anniversary. I remember things like this and, like I said, I was here serving as assistant Priest when Christopher was murdered. Though it didn’t seem to make much difference to the police at the time, it did make a deep impact on this community. A resource center was actually put together by the local LGBT community to assist runaways after this atrocity was perpetrated. Other similar ones throughout the county and state gained the center more supporters through the LGBT network.”

Father speaks of things I never really had much knowledge of. Though I was present in spirit here, what the living did made very little difference to me. Though I thirsted for justice and knew the murderer still came here and stalked the area, he was my only focus in the living world. Nothing else mattered anymore. I’d forgotten the world as it had forgotten me!

For Det. Cummings part, rather than be put off by this information it sets off his instincts to probe deeper and to dig out as much information out of this witness as possible.

“Ok, so say I continue to believe this story, where is this resource center now?” The Detective queries.

“It has now become part of the LA LGBT Resource Center, particularly the Hate Crime department,” Father informs.

“Ah . . . ok that makes sense. Alright, well then I’m not wasting my time, I guess. However, you guys knowing that it’s the anniversary, it stands to reason that the Perp will make an appearance tonight of nights. So, you guys skedaddle and let me get set up. I need to be in place and “normalized” into the scenery so that the bastard doesn’t make me.” Det. Cummings says.

It is an eventuality I hadn’t considered. The fact that the scumbag might be watching us right now and alerted to what’s going on here. Somehow, though, I don’t think so. I don’t sense the oppressive horror that he has when he is near me. I really don’t think he is here and aware of this.

“He isn’t. We made sure of that.” A familiar musical voice speaks from behind my awareness. I turn my attention to take in the glory of Shemiel, who stands patiently behind me, tall, bright and golden. He looks on the proceedings with much interest through his gleaming blue eyes.

“Shemiel and I have been tasked with helping you. Your steadfast faith that this justice is possible has to be answered.” Abdiel is there too, his glistening soft dark curls nearly covering his beautiful topaz eyes.

I smile in spirit and they smile back. I am assured now that we will be victorious over both the murderer who viciously killed me and the demon that encouraged him to kill for all these years.

“Thank you guys!” I respond with an emotion I didn’t think I could have anymore: joy!

“Our pleasure!” They both say in perfect choral unison.

~~~~~

That night Detective Cummings stays in his car with his deeply tinted windows up. He’d stayed with the car since earlier in the afternoon and continued to stay there into the night. The fiend would be none the wiser unless his umbereth tips him off again in which case, anniversary or not, the killer will not show. But, I don’t think this will happen. I have faith in the angels that they did as they said and kept this monster in ‘the dark.’

Time passes, though I am not really aware of it. I don’t have impatience like I did when I was alive. I can wait for years and not feel the passage of time at all. But, that said, this relative peace after days of unrest allows my thoughts to drift.

For a spirit, this can be a powerful thing. We become entirely ‘thought and mind’ when we pass into the spirit realm. My thoughts and daydreams can become as real as any of the most potent experiences I had in life.

I imagine myself in a garden at twilight. Night-blooming jasmine sweetens the air and the little flowers shine like fallen stars from the sky. I lay on a carpet of freshly mowed green grass. I look up into the sky and watch the purple clouds pass before a darkening blue sky. Just beyond the last remnants of the sky, I can see stars appear. The brighter ones first, then the dimmer ones.

All around things become just visible with dim halos of brightness against the deepening dark of night. The white painted gazebo in this twilight garden seems to glow in the dark as it reflects back the last pale light of the fading day.

I feel a hand in mine and my hand is lifted to a pair of soft, warm lips. I roll my head over to look into Simon’s eyes. He is smiling and I can see that same violet glow the gazebo has shining there on his white teeth. He has such a bright smile and such a starry twinkle in his blue eyes. They too seem to light with the violet light of twilight making of his eyes two amethysts looking back at me.

He rolls over and rests his head on my chest. He can hear my heart beating. It beats for him and he knows it does. He rubs and massages my chest as if to touch my heart. Before long he cranes his neck a bit so as to reach my lips with his. We kiss is such a sweet and innocent kiss. We kiss as lovers do.

For we are in love! We are of an age and we are free to live here forever in our eternal youth. We don’t have to utter a word. We merely lay together and breathe together. I feel his heart and it beats the same beat mine beats. We are in heaven here in our twilight garden. This is where we shall always rest . . . beyond the end of time.

“Oh, Christ! What in the hell is he doing here now? Oh my God! How STUPID!” the detective blurts and I am taken from my living dream.

I train my awareness on the alleyway and see, in abject horror, as the subject of my dream enters into that darkness. Simon has come for what reasons I cannot fathom! Worse, the Beast has come to!

My distraction in my dream world has cost me dearly and will cost Simon more. There is no time to warn him. There is no time to help him. Simon is perfect prey for The Beast. He may be made to suffer before he dies just as I had to or the fiend may kill him outright.

“EEEEEeeeee!” there comes the dreaded scream. It sends ice through my ethereal being and I feel something twist in me. Something . . . black!

I hear feet pounding up the street and at the same time, I see Detective Cummings leap from his car, .38 special in hand. Again, that horrible weapon, only now, perhaps, it can be put to better use than I could have done back with my father.

Father Malachi, by some mad strength I did not know the old man possessed, hauls himself with some speed toward the alley at the same time the detective homes in on that place of death.

I hear a muffled shout like a strained voice covered by a gloved hand. Simon still lives. In a way, I regret that. But then, The Beast has little time for fun now, not with the armed detective coming and also a priest as a witness.

I lunge forward and am in my the haunted alley as well. The pudgy monster has Simon by the head with his arm wrapped around it and his hand over the mouth. The knife in the Beasts other hand flashes in the light of Detective Cummings’ flashlight. The point is brought quickly to Simon’s neck.

“Drop the knife, Caine. You know the only way you’re coming out of here alive is if you let go of the kid and give yourself up. After ten years I finally have you cornered your unbelievable fuck-up!” The detective bellows into the alley. The sound of his voice rings off the garbage cans and metal pipes in the hollow space.

“Oh . . . I don’t think you’ll risk my cutting this sweet thing up here just to blast little ol’ me, Bertie. Drop your weapon, allow me to leave and this innocent child . . . may live.” The pudgy grizzled face grins hideously. It is a look of pure evil that causes Father Malachi to gasp in horror.

Simon whimpers. The knife point is digging into his flesh! Already the fiend was torturing my beloved one! My innocent love!

I feel it building in me . . . this dark fire. This need to avenge and to destroy this monster.

“Do it.”

A new voice whispers into my awareness. The exhortation thrills me and galvanizes me. Is it the umbereth goading me? Oddly, there is no sign of the umbereth. It is not here to interfere with the detective or me. Yet . . .

“Do it now or Caine will surely cut the throat of your dear Simon.” The voice cajoles.

To hear my Simon’s name called by THIS voice is too much. I dare to turn my attention away from the tensely frightening pantomime being carried out for all of us to mourn.

I turn and I see a good-looking man dressed in an elegant grey suit. He has a black cane with a wolf’s skull pommel on its top. He stands so seemingly small in the middle of the street and yet he seems more than he is.

Who are you?” I bite out my question in my mounting anger.

You know who I am, my friend. But, that is unimportant now. You should be quick, my Christopher. Time is of the essence here. Bertie’s first shot will not strike soon enough to save the boy. Only you can make that happen. You know you have the power. Can you not feel it?” Dagon asks affirmatively. Yes . . . I know who this is and yet what he is telling me is so true!

Oh, but I can feel a power growing in me! It grows with each passing moment. As a matter of fact, the air around me seems to have become hazy with a chill. I can see the breath of each living mortal. The detective starts to shiver, throwing his aim off. Father is also shivering. He searches for me, but, he cannot see me now.

“Christopher. Please do not interfere. Do not give in to your hatred. You have no idea what it can do to you as a spirit! Please listen to me, Christopher “ It is Shemiel’s voice, but I cannot see him. He seems not to be able to manifest now. What is happening that a holy angel can’t stop this?

“They are impotent as always, Christopher. The Divine shackles them so that they can do nothing if He is into playing one of His little games. We are all toys to Him. Look how badly He has toyed with you. All that has transpired in your life was His doing. The failure of your father, the murder of your mother, your being driven into prostitution, your murder and finally your being abandoned.” Dagon instructs like an all knowing professor in a lecturer’s lilting tone that is toneless and untroubled. It is so very…reasonable!

I don’t want to listen to Ba’al Dagon’s reasoning because I have to regard the source. But, despite my best attempts to resist his words, I feel them begin to affect me and my belief in things.

“We seem to be at a stalemate, Mr. Detective.” The Beast growls and then fakes the death-strike on Simon. Detective Cummings fires his weapon . . . too late. The fiend manages to duck behind my Simon just as the detective fires. The bullet misses Caine . . . but finds another mark instead.

Simon stands for just a second, his eyes wide in shock. He coughs a breath that brings out frothy blood. My beautiful boy then collapses.

Caine has pushed Simon into the path of the bullet meant for him.

“NO!” The Detective shouts in horror.

“GaaaAAAH . . . SIIIIIIMOOOON!” Father Malachi holds his head and sinks to his knees as his anguish grips into the spasmed muscles of his face.

The Beast is the only one unaffected by all this. He begins to run to make his getaway.

He does not get very far before I rise!

Transformers up and down the block explode in electric sparks! The neighborhood goes dark. The darkness becomes my will and that darkness then becomes a black pillar of smoking shadow and force. I lift the living body of Caine into the air and pin him to the wall with this dark force . . . hard! The look of abject terror on his face is sweet to me like good sex.

“Good. Now it’s time to break him. Destroy his body so that we might feast upon his ruined soul.” Dagon intones with calm menace.

I wanted it badly. I wanted it more than anything I have ever wanted. I wanted to feel his bones grind and crush under my hate. I wanted to watch his body wither and fade while his wickedly necrotic soul oozes from its criminal housing that it has existed in since birth.

My want becomes action, unconsciously. Caine begins to scream as his death agony begins.

“CHRISTOPHER! Stop all this now! Once you do this there is no going back. You’ll become what you hate! Don’t you see it? Dagon wanted you as a replacement for the umbereth Father Malachi cast out yesterday! He wants you to fall so that you’ll serve him and another murderer in the future!” Abdiel blurts. I cannot see him. He cannot even appear to me now.

Abdiel, like Shemiel, is weak.

“Be silent, angelings. Allow my Christopher to do what your God should have done long ago. Let him destroy this man and then his soul. Christopher, do what needs to be done, my Sunshine Boy! Do this and become like God! Become the judge and executor you were always meant to be.” Dagon’s words ring like the peals of salvations bells to me. They ring until they thunk . . . Sunshine Boy? My grip on the filth slips and I can feel him wriggling like a worm.

Sunshine Boy? The last thing I had heard before I died. ‘Goodbye, my Sunshine Boy! I hope your filthy little soul stays here to rot!’ Caine’s last words to me.

I see the creature in my grasp and his terror becomes abject horror as he sees something in me change. His pupils widen and his face and eyes go slack as he nearly goes mad with terror. He feels my plans for him now!

“NO! Oh God! STOP! I’M SORRY! Please! NOT THAT! NOT . . . .THAAAAGH!” I feel my shadow-claws grip at his manhood. I mean to tear them out of him and leave him to bleed as he did to me!

“Chris! Stop! Please!”

The voice shatters me! I know that voice!

My awareness turns slowly in my dark menace. It is only now that I see both Father Malachi and Detective Cummings looking up at me quaking in abject fear. They see me . . . or something that used to be me.

I see him solid as flesh and glowing like a little star. Simon’s spirit reaches for me in a gesture of supplication. I see him sobbing as he looks at the horror I must have become.

“Tricks, Christopher. That child is gone. The angels are trying to deceive you. They want this murderer free and they expect me to continue babysitting him. Lazy and useless, they are. Do not listen. Be free of this manipulation and free yourself of the burden of your murderer’s life. Avenge yourself!” Dagon’s warning seems like a solid one. This one is just one of the angels trying to distract me from my justice.

But, a wave of feeling comes over me and I sense that Simon is passing the flavor of his essence to me. It hits me like a breeze off the ocean, refreshing and golden and completely Simon! I turn to regard the tormented murderer in my clutches and then I turn to regard the spirit of Simon. I remember the Twilight Garden and I remember the time we shared in my dream. The promise in Simon’s shining etheric eyes tells me that my dream was our shared dream and that he knew he would be joining me this day. He came here purposely for that destiny.

“Yes, Chris. I chose to come here and I was told that I would be needed here and so I am. What you are becoming or will become if you break this Law of Vengeance can never join me in our Heaven together. You will be made into what you hate. Dagon will own your soul as surely as he owned Ryan McAllister’s . . . the umbereth we cast out before! He was murdered too by another one of Dagon’s human tools.” Simon reveals knowledge black as the blackest night. The horror! Victims turned dark slaves to the darkest of masters. Why? How could that even be possible in God’s justice? But, as withering as this knowledge is, it is the loss of Simon that gives me pause.

“I was given this to say to you, Chris! Please listen carefully. Defy this demon and break his hold on you and all others from this point forward! PLEASE!” Simon begs me and I feel wave after wave of love and sorrow. But, the Beast, this Caine! If I let him go, then he will run and disappear again. He will claim more lives, I suppose, in the name of this Grey Suited Man-Demon.

“Do not be weak, Christopher. Do not allow yourself to be overcome with pity for this miserable little monster. You are so much more than he will ever be. You are so much more even than my dear little Ryan . . . cast away like so much garbage by a mere human servant of God. You shan’t be cast out so easily. You are . . . strong! But only if you do not allow the corrosive compassion of these fools to weigh you down.” Dagon cajoles with a placid numbing calm. His voice acts on me with a feeling like being drunk or drugged; anesthetized.

Dagon is ever so patient. He does not exhort me with any passion at all. His is a calm and still voice. Seemingly a cool salve that can be mine to heal my current burning. For I burn! How I burn in this hatred and lust for vengeance. No man in a body can experience the exposed bareness of being a spirit. All emotions are so much hotter and cooler! Especially now when my power is at its fullest and most sensitive. So very much like sex. So very strangely intimate.

The feelings of anger and hatred burn like fire and yet thrill me with an orgasmic despair. A nihilistic euphoria one cannot compare to anything experienced in the flesh.

Caine screams. Despite myself, I am losing control.

“PLEAAASE STOOOP! YOU’RE BURNING ME TO DEEEAATH! AAAAARGH!” Caine convulses and tries to escape in spasms from the burning. He is helpless in my grip. Already I am torturing him to death . . . just like any demon would.

Suddenly I see in my mind the image of a vast cloud of darkness barely concealing a raging inferno. The flames inside the shadowy smoke seem to shape a half hidden skeletal form. Burning out from the shadows stab two burning embers that must be the eyes of the thing. As it moves the face of the horror is revealed to be a grinning skull of pure fire.

One of the arms of the thing is outstretched. A shadow-smoking fiery appendage that pins Caine to the far brick wall of the haunted alley! My haunted alley is now my possessed and cursed alley!

The terrible being of shadow and flame is . . . me!

“Good! Good!! Do it now! Fry him! Emasculate him in fire! He is of no use to us now. But hurry! Time is wasting!” Now Dagon shows, at last, a spark of passion or rather impatience. He seems distracted by something as his face repeatedly lifts to the sky as if he is expecting something to fall from there.

But Simon’s vision of truth has unmade me. I . . . do not want to be this thing that I’ve become. I do not want . . . this! I am not . . . this!

“No.” I drop Caine and he falls from the wall into the pile of garbage and trash below him. It cushions his fall as well as presents a symbol of what he is in this world and in the next.

Through the eyes of Father Malachi, Simon shows me as my etheric body reconstitutes and comes back into a form I have not seen in a decade. I see my fifteen year old self: T-shirt, bell bottom jeans and long silky blonde hair. I see myself as I was when I died. I see myself as the spirit I am.

Dagon glares at me with a preternatural intensity. I can feel the heat of his powerful displeasure. The heat increases and I suddenly feel something hot and agonizing grip me.

“AAAAIIIEEEE!” I scream!

It is then that a gleaming bright sword sings in its speed to sever Dagon from his dreadful intent. Ba’al Dagon is now the one to scream as his seemingly docile gray-suited man disguise evaporates as the sword slices him through. The Scream is a sound that I fear will never leave me. It is the sound of a million children making their death screams. In those screams . . . I hear my own!

We were all but child sacrifices to Dagon’s continued dark glory. As he did in ancient times, he does now by taking his black priests from the most evil of men and putting them to work murdering children to feed Dagon’s black lust. Some of the dark phantoms of the murdered children become creatures of shadow. They become Dagon’s umbereths. Even in death they are made to serve the one who wished them dead. Such evil is beyond my knowing.

As for the one who struck Dagon down, he stands a tall and massive angelic being. He is behind where the Dagon apparition had been standing. He sprouts no less than four vast wings that seem to stretch in their rainbow glory for half the city block. His long fiery reddish blonde hair is somehow incandescent in a light none of us can see a source for. I determine that the light is the great angel’s halo! The Archangel’s own crown of glory!

From behind me, I hear the faint whisperings of a prayer. Father Malachi is reciting the Prayer to St. Michael. Now I know who has summoned the Archangel.

Michael looks up to see me as he returns his gleaming sun shard of a sword to its pure white scabbard. His eyes are a radiant blue, the blue of 4 billion years of sunrise skies. The look in his eyes is pure compassion and love. He beckons me to come near him. I hesitate a moment, fearing that I must be next to be dispatched due to my decidedly demonic display from before.

But, just before I can move I hear the sound of a scuffle and I turn to look for the source. Caine has hold of Father Malachi from behind! He has not a scar on him despite my attack. He seeks to do the same thing with the good Father as he did with poor little Simon: use him as a human shield. But, this time, the Detective is not frazzled. He seems amazingly calm given the circumstance. He’s aimed.38 is steady as a rock and pointed right at Caine’s accursed forehead.

“Drop that knife, you fucking pus pocket on the face of life. Do it and do it now if you want to live.” Detective Cummings growls with menace.

“Oh . . . you want 2 and 0 now, is that it?” The Beast retorts snidely if fearfully.

“No, I’ll take 1 for 1.” The.38 pops and Caine falls dead from the perfect shot to his forehead. Father Malachi wrenches away from the dead Beast’s grasp.

In that instant, a skeletal abomination rises from Caine’s body. The thing looks like a skeleton with dried skin still attached to the bones in flayed shreds. Its eyeless, gaunt and hollow face opens its mouth wide and a shrill inhuman scream escapes it. The fiend’s ruined soul has finally made its appearance. The thing is even more wretched than the man it once was.

I see the weak and miserable thing shiver and shake as if it’s cold or like it doesn’t have the strength even to hold itself up. Like a new-born colt or an old man who’s dying body can no longer support his own weight anymore.

It tries to move away from its body and only manages to do so by stumbling backwards. Its etheric legs crumple under it and the filth falls into a pitiful heap.

“hEElllP MeeEEEE!” Caine’s damned soul cries to me in a warped moan. Somehow, a pang of pity hits me and I find myself moving on instinct to get him up. A gentle, but firm hand restrains me by my ghostly shoulder.

“Hold, young champion. This one is not for you to deal with. Another comes for him.” Michael has come to my side since I did not come to him. His gentle touch has an irresistible strength and I cannot move forward to spend my compassion on my murderer’s tormented and miserably withered soul.

But then I see why . . .

It starts as a vast shadow covering everything under it like some massive bird of prey is suddenly blocking out the night sky. I look up and I see nothing but blackness and yet I perceive something is descending. Something enormous!

“AHHHH! HAAAAAAA! AAAARRRAAAGGH!” Caine’s damned shade begins waving frantically with its boney hands as if that could drive this majestic darkness away. But, instead, the shadow takes massive form bigger even than Michael towering beside me. It’s vast wings fold down to fit in the small space as it comes down slowly to envelop Caine.

Caine’s hands are gently caught up by shadowy hands and he is then lifted into the air by the darkness. Caine’s spirit twists and turns wildly and frantically within the shadow’s grip. But, it is beyond hope. He looks like a captured rabbit in the talons of a giant hawk, helplessly doomed.

“NOOOO! STOP! I DON’T WANT TO GOT THEEERE! NOOO! DON’T SEND ME THERE! NOOOOO!” the wretched thing screeches hopelessly.

Away they go back into the sky and I stand perplexed trying to figure out what I have just witnessed.

“What was that, Michael? What was that that descended?” I ask in awe and fear.

“Azrael: The Destroying Angel. The Angel of Death. Such a solemn work he does for Our Lord. He is ever so gentle about it, though. See how he gently lifted the damned one. He does not relish his duty. Honor him, Christopher, for his sacrificial sorrow cannot end until the Judgement comes or men stop listening to the likes of Ba’al Dagon.” Michael answers with reverence as he bows his head.

“Thank you for saving me, Michael. I am humbled that you would come just to help little old me.” I say turning to look meekly at that most beautiful of angelic faces.

“Thank me if you wish and I accept it gratefully. But, really, your thanks belongs to the One Above and to that faithful man over there. That wonderful man whose heart has just been broken to the point where I fear for him. You have a duty to perform, Christopher . . . comfort him.” Michael gracefully gestures toward Father Malachi who now holds the bloodied body of Simon. He rocks the corpse like a babe he is trying to ease into sleep. He weeps a song that sounds like an old Irish lullaby. I feel something inside me tear right around where my heart might be. I can feel his heart breaking. I feel his terrible grief as if it is my own.

I flutter my wings and come to rest beside the good Father. I find that my instinct is to cover him with them. Then I realize something . . . I have wings?

I look to Michael who is now flanked by Shemiel and Abdiel. The three angels are smiling at me knowingly. Abdiel even chuckles into his hand a bit.

“But, how?” I don’t understand what has happened to me.

“There is an eternity to explain, Christopher, but for now do your duty as a duly vested Guardian. Use your love to heal and comfort this faithful friend. Michael points to Father Malachi who seems to have stopped rocking. I feel his head rest on my chest.

“Oh, if I could only see you again, Simon! If only I could, by God’s Grace, know that . . . you are truly free of this veil of tears.” Father prays.

“It is Permitted, Chris. Show him. Show my holy and faithful priest that he might have his prayer answered. It is Permitted.” The clear, calm, steady and infinitely loving voice thrums through my being. The Light shines upon me and Father Malachi. What it wants of me is a pleasure to do.

I gesture to Simon to come to me. My lovely friend is still in apparent awe as to what he sees in me. He comes meekly, but when he is within my reach, I draw him into a warm embrace. I kiss his soul’s forehead and I turn him to face his grieving earthly guardian. I gently stroke Simon’s hair and lay my head against his. As I do Father Malachi’s eyes widen and his mouth opens in absolute astonishment. He sees us both. I have answered his prayer!

“Oh, my boy! Oh, my beautiful Simon! There you are! Oh blessed Angel, thank you so . . . Christopher?” Father Malachi is now doubly astounded.

I continue to stroke Simon’s shimmering blonde-gold hair. He turns to me and smiles and then turns back to Father Malachi.

“Hi, Father! We’re going to be ok, now. Better than OK, actually.” Simon leans into me and I clutch him closer to my ethereal breast.

“I-I see! I’m so glad! I’m so glad we found you, Christopher! I don’t understand what I witnessed today, but it is a miracle! Now, you give me this bit of knowledge. This bit of precious knowing! We go on! We go on and our love . . . it NEVER dies!” Father chokes up a bit, but not from sorrow this time, but from transcendent joy.

“Have him pass on this knowing, Chris. His faith has given him this sight. Through him, I will give this knowledge to those who are open and listening. The knowledge will not pass to those who are closed. The voice in the Light urges.

“ . . . who are closed.” I finish what I am told to pass on by the Light.

“I will, Christopher! Blessed Christopher . . . I will! Take care of my Simon for me. Take him to Heaven!” Father Malachi implores with a strain in his voice.

“Come on Father, the ME and the Police are on their way. We need to get going. They’ll have some questions for us. I don’t think we’ll be able to answer . . . all of them tonight.” Detective Cummings interrupts.

“Simon will be with me always and also with you, Father. We’ll be here waiting. Waiting for the time when you can join us again.” I assure my earthbound friend.

~~~~~

Later, we all attend the requiem mass. There are a number of people attending. Simon was well loved in his community. As he stands beside me in spirit, he is overcome with joy and sorrow to see the faces that love him and that they grieve because he can’t be with them anymore.

” . . . Simon’s sweet soul will always be with us, my friends. Do not weep . . . but rejoice! He has gone . . . Home!” Father finishes his eulogy and there are only a few dry eyes in the house. Simon was so dearly loved here!

Let us also pray for a dear child we lost many years ago who’s murder has only now been solved and to whom at last justice has been given. His name was Christopher Rhodes and we remember him as well in today’s eulogy. May his soul rest in repose with Simon’s, our dearly departed son.” I look there near the flowers next to Simon’s casket and I see another picture next to his. Somehow someone had found an old school picture of mine! My picture was set right beside Simon’s! I have not words to express at that moment the joy I feel.

I guess . . . I was never really forgotten at all!

The choir then opens up with a crushingly beautiful piece of music done acapella. It is Barber’s Adagio. Angels could not have done better than that choir of loving friends. Though they try: Shemiel and Abdiel sing along with the Agnus Dei chant as verse to go with the Adagio.

As the Adagio plays the Light opens above Simon and I.

“Time to go, guys. I’ve got something I want to show you.” The voice in the Light gently entices.

We rise and the Being in the Light takes us both by our hands and leads us to a Twilight Garden where we will live and love happily ever after.

Amen.

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