“So you’re saying that this demon was brought to this side by those … those Satanists?” The priest spat the word like it had murdered his whole family and spit on their graves.
“A bunch of kids, yeah. They weren’t Satanists, though, they were just curious.” Benedict was in a foul mood. He had no patience for Christian lectures and catholic superstition right now. “But yeah, playing with that board probably had something to do with that monster getting-“
“Whatever. It probably had something to do with it coming here.”
“The devil’s tools to be sure, those boards.”
“It’s produced by Hasbro!” Ben said, more harshly than he intended. “It runs on batteries, for Christ’s sake!” He pointed at the vial of ashes he’d given the priest. “None of those fools were devil worshippers – they were just unlucky!” He slumped down in a nearby chair. Was there no talking to these people? Sure, he was a freelancer himself. An exorcist for hire, so to speak, no matter how stupid that sounded. But shouldn’t he be able to talk to someone about this? Someone who didn’t see everything in black and white, heaven and hell?
“Mind your blasphemous tongue!” The priest said.
That answered Ben’s question. “Mind your damn thoughts!” He replied, standing up again, walking for the door. “If you keep thinking everyone who’s killed by these things are devil worshippers who deserve nothing less, you’ll find yourself pretty fucking alone when they start to come through in numbers, killing everyone in their wake.” He opened the door and stepped through.
“My mind is pure, dear Benedict, and my soul clean!”
The door shut before Ben could reply. Probably a good thing; he had nothing pleasant to say. He grabbed a smoke and started walking down the street, towards his hotel.
It was raining in Riga, but no more than a slight drizzle. All in all, he’d been to worse places, but he sure as hell had seen better ones, too. He was right by the old-town, just a bridge away from his hotel, newly furbished and classy as hell. I’m sorry, priest, I meant ‘classy as darn.’
The offices of the faith were strategically placed next to a small basilica near the river Daugava. It was a beautiful thing, as such, but right now, everything concerning Christianity and Catholicism gave Ben a bad taste in his mouth. He finished his smoke and crossed the bridge, walking across Freedom Square. Or was it Liberty Square? Something like that, at least.
He dropped by a weathered old Narvesen kiosk on the corner, filling up on booze and coke (the soda, not the drug), before going to his hotel. You could probably say a lot about Latvia – well, Ben couldn’t, but someone – but it was a cheap country, that was for sure. He’d been to countries like Sweden, Norway and Denmark a whole lot, and it nearly bankrupted him each time. He sent all of his papers and bills to the offices of the faith, of course, but the clerks there were slow, and would take their sweet time reimbursing him.
One time, he’d asked if they were waiting for hell to freeze over. He felt particularly funny, as he actually was in Hell at the time (Hell, Norway, not the eternal damnation place the monsters were supposedly coming from). This little accident had left him penny-less for close to three months. Fucking fascists.
It was quiet in Riga in October, he realized as he rounded the final corner. The old-town was mostly empty, apart from a few street performers and an old lady selling roses. He jogged along the final few cobblestones and entered, the fluorescent lights burning his eyes. He ignored the gorgeous model-like twenty-year old flashing her white teeth behind the desk and vanished into the elevator.
Alone at last.
He dumped his bags on the bed and turned the TV on. “MTV … why does this shit still exist?” It said always music up in the corner, at least. That meant he wouldn’t have to watch those shitty reality programs while getting drunk.
Cheap country or not, he’d quickly learnt that minibar bottles were both tiny and expensive. He’d always buy his booze elsewhere when he needed it, better that way. Besides, the office of the faith floated the bills, and minibar expenses simply wouldn’t do. A reciept from a local grocery shop would usually go through just fine though, even if it contained mostly alcohol.
He poured himself a glass of Jack and coke (incredibly stereotypical, he knew) as some half-naked girl sang about her heart or her booty or some such nonsense, throwing it back in one swift movement.
Bad case, he thought to himself. Kids summoning those monsters with a fucking Ouija board. Being labelled forever as Satanists by those stuck-ups at the church. He tossed back another Jack ‘n coke, opening the window to have a cigarette. The backyard was eerily quiet, the pool from the spa-department reflecting in a glass ceiling far below.
What the hell were they trying to do, anyway? Bringing those shambling heaps over to this side? This ain’t the movies … it’s not like Lucifer himself is gonna come knocking. There’s only death and pain on the other side.
He tipped a speck of ash into the empty night air, a picture of his late wife flashing across his retinas. There’s death and pain on this side, too. He thought solemnly. He emptied his glass, raising it to the sky. “Happy sixteenth kid … too bad you ain’t never gonna see your seventeenth.”
His next drink was interrupted by the phone.
He sighed and grabbed the handset, lodging it between his shoulder and his ear. “Two seconds.” He fumbled for the remote, muting a person telling some girl to work it, and that he was some kind of hustler. “This is Benedict,” he mumbled, awkwardly filling his glass again.
There was a short burst of angry Latvian on the other side – well, it wasn’t necessarily angry, but Ben thought they talked rather like machine guns in most eastern European countries, and that made them sound aggressive – then a few clicks and some noise, before a pleasant voice asked him for his badge number.
“Badge … fuck.” He dropped the handset, leaving it dangling from the desk as he rummaged around in his leather jacket. He threw an old MP3-player and a slew of old receipts on the bed – important, for reimbursement – then finally fished a tired old laminate out of the pocket. He grabbed the phone again, flipping it over. The picture of him was almost completely eroded, the plastic cracked and parted in all of the corners. The numbers on the bottom right were still readable, though. I should memorize these, he thought. “Eight, five, zero, zero, one.” He said.
There was another click, and the line went quiet for a beat.
Then a familiar voice cut through the pouring of another drink. “A little early for that, isn’t it?”
“What time is it?”
Laughter. “I knew you’d ask me that. It’s actually one at night, the perfect time to be drinking.”
“So why are you giving me this shit?”
“Because the very fact you didn’t know that, is-“
“Goddammit, Geir! Would you cut to the chase already? It’s been a particularly bad one.”
He could hear Geir nodding. “I saw: two kids dead in a busy residential area. Lots of publicity for the church.”
“Which means a whole new batch of converts, which means more stuck-up assholes for me to deal with in the future.”
Once again, nodding. “At least you’re helping us secure that future.”
A drink. “Whatever.”
“Listen, there’s been some developments here in Norway. Do you have time?”
Ben took the phone with him and stepped over to the window. He looked at the sleepy town surrounding him. The drizzle had stopped, the cobblestones dry and grey. Same climate as Norway, more or less. “Sure, what’s not to love about Norway?”
“It should be a clear cut case, really. A monster is skulking around near Bergen. It’s confused and forlorn and shouldn’t cause much havoc. I’ve arranged for you to catch a ride with a military transport headed straight for Bergen airport.”
“Fle, something…” Ben knew. “Flensan?”
“Close, it’s Flesland.”
“Huh… And why do I get the feeling military transport ain’t as professional and badass as on TV?” He glanced up. Some long-haired dude was driving a motorcycle, a read headed woman sitting on the back, singing and trying to keep her breasts from spilling out.
“Because it’s Norway you’re heading for, not the U.S. It’s a Hercules plane; loud, fat and noisy, but it will save some time.”
Ben finished the drink and stowed the remaining alcohol in his bag. Not flying commercial meant he could take it with him at least. That was indeed something, Norway was one of the most expensive countries in the world.
“All right, I’ll see you in Bergen, Geir.”
“Take care, you hear? I know these monsters suck, but it’s not your fault those kids died.”
“It’s not your fault she vanished either, you hear?”
Ben hung up. “Sure it is…”
Of Monsters is written by Magnus H. Blystad and Robert Bishop.
This is their first publicly available collaboration.
Robert Bishop’s other works can be found here.
His first book, Awakenings: The Fall of Noman – Book 1, is for sale over at Amazon!