Her stealth power masks the breaking of security glass of the front doors. It still surprises me when she shows such strength. True, she is taller than me, but so are a majority of the people I am acquainted with. God has deemed that great height is not necessary to carry out His missions and I have found that my unthreatening appearance has diffused many situations that might have come to violence otherwise. As I heave awkwardly through the broken glass panel, I say thanks for a diminutive frame that allows such a feat. The next set of doors is unlocked and lead to a dark cafeteria, round tables scattered at regular intervals on the linoleum floor. There is just a hint of cooking oil in the air.
Joan pauses and tilts her head back, perhaps to sniff out the enemy. I am never sure what abilities she has and what she feigns in my presence. I take these quiet moments to try to regain my breath without collapsing in a coughing fit. Tomorrow, I am certain I shall be reminded that I am no longer the young man I once was. Tonight, I shall have to rely on the strength from above to keep me upright. Joan is not out of breath from our brief jog, but she wouldn’t be.
Our heads both snap to the left as a fresh wave of screams break out from that direction. There is a hallway leading to the gym, lit only with emergency exit signs. No windows, not that the night is especially luminescent tonight. I find myself wishing my night vision was as advanced as Joan’s is, or that I had at least thought to bring a flashlight. However, my eyes do eventually adapt and until then, Joan leads the way.
We pass two sets of doors that enter into the gymnasium where the dance is located. The bass beat is still thumping, accompanied by choruses of thundering footsteps and shrieks of terror. Joan does not even try the doors. They are most definitely secured and we can see the backs of Legion’s minions blocking those exits through the thin panes of glass in the doors. Across from the second pair of doors is a wide set of stairs leading to the school’s second floor. Up we go, swift and silent as shadows, though I feel as clumsy and awkward as I always felt in high school.
On the second floor, we encounter a door that is labelled “Pool Seating.” Deciding that kicking the door in might ruin her stealth spell, I gently push her back and try the handle. Praise God, it is unlocked. Past this door is a set of risers on our left facing a window on our right overlooking the school’s darkened swimming pool. Behind the risers is a metal guard rail and on the other side we can look down on the gym floor. It is difficult to make out details because the main fluorescent lights have been substituted with a spinning disco ball and swirling spotlights. What I can make out fills me with growing dread and anger.
There are clusters of students all around the gym’s perimeter. Some appear to be trying to defend themselves from the onslaught of the demons. Others are trying to get to an exit. Directly below us, a door swings open and one of the beasts starts dragging out crying girls and tossing them to his awaiting fiends. I breathe deeply through my nose, trying to figure out the best way to stop this. There are dozens of demons and hundreds of bystanders, those numbers dwindling at an alarming rate before my eyes. I have to get down there and help. I drop my duffel bag and retrieve my axe, tucking a couple of knives into my belt in a haphazard way. I am not particularly concerned with elementary weapon safety. Again, I am praying. Please, God, say Bernadette is at home with her brother. If any of Legion’s minions latch onto a hybrid like her, there is no telling the kind of damage that might be done.
Joan is crouched behind the guard rail with her glowing eyes fixed on the stage set-up opposite the main gym entrance. There is a drum set and a few other various instruments set up there with a nest of multicolored cords traversing the expanse like a tangle of snakes. Poised amid the cords is a very tall young woman with tanned skin, pale blonde hair and a blood-red dress. She is not doing anything but gazing lovingly upon the chaos, a mother doting on the exploits of her many children. Legion. Her gaze drifts lazily over her progeny and unexpectantly lifts to our shadowy perch. And she smiles.
A loud crash diverts my attention away from the demon to what had been the outside entrance and is now a pile of rubble and a gaping hole. There is a roar like a motorcycle engine and a pink shape flies over the heads of the minions and lands on the stage before Legion. Ah, yes. There is the fear. It is Lady Fabulous, the last person I would want anywhere near a creature that can possess any body if given the right opportunity. A breeze stirs my hair and I look just in time to see Joan take a flying leap over the guard rail and land with a roll twenty feet below. All of a sudden, everything becomes very organized.
The remaining students, a few dozen now, are corralled on the risers directly below me, probably an emergency supply in case things go poorly. Other demons set about collecting their food supply, swiftly dragging bodies into piles around the perimeter. Most are occupied with Joan, trying to slow her down, though obviously not trying to kill her. The last group I see is a set of four near the collapsed door surrounding a white-clad person I had not noticed before. He must have come in with Lady Fabulous. Two prime hybrid specimens that would give Legion even more power. I watch for only a moment while the fool tries to disable his opponents, a tactic that the Council teaches because “good guys,” as they call themselves, do not kill people. There are so many hosts around that they won’t even need the standard ritual in order to duplicate.
As this thought arrives, the hapless hero drops his first four enemies and is immediately surrounded by eight newly risen demons. I spot a glowing exit sign on my right that is illuminating a narrow set of stairs. Down I go, aware that my stealth has rushed off to fight Legion and I am very much on my own. No, that’s not right. I am never alone. I can feel the reassurance inside me, supporting my thin arms as they swing my axe at a handy neck. I am not normally a man of violence and I feel no pleasure in dispatching even the Fallen from their hosts. However, as I weave through the detached limbs of what had been living innocents hours before, I feel that low anger simmer again. God’s will be done.
I finally reach the lone hybrid who is now surrounded by a significantly larger crowd. I pick a likely target, let the axe’s momentum do most of the work and make eye contact with an opaque face mask. “Detach the head from the body or destroy the heart,” I say, a little proud that I sound absolutely calm and not shaky from my exertion. Four of the demons turn on me and I scurry away to a section of floor that is relatively dry and clear of obstacles.
A normal man my age might be concerned about facing four much younger enemies when most of his fighting experience has involved more prayer than violence. I am not a normal man. These beasts hold no fear for me. “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,” I begin, a small smile forming on my lips. The demons watch me with glazed eyes. “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” Legion has not given them much of himself. They are puppets to wear down his enemies. The attack was not for building an army but for drawing in a hero, someone strong enough to last years rather than weeks. Someone he could use to begin a worldwide attack.
“Give us this day our daily bread,” I continue, my axe lowering. “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The axe makes a low thunk as it hits the ground. The demons smile identical smiles, thinking they have me at a disadvantage. Out of the corner of my eye I can see the white hero, now blood spattered, making quick work of the crowd. The demons that are guarding the hostages start dropping dead from some invisible attack. I can almost see their beasts being ripped out by an unseen hand and evaporating. The children are beyond screaming. They sit in shock, free from captors but imprisoned by fear. “Lead us not into temptation,” I breathe, feeling the veils dropping. I shouldn’t do this. It is too soon, but there are no objections from Him.
“But deliver us from evil.” My enemies freeze, their eyes widen with terror. They see me. They know who I am now. “Go back. You are not welcome here.” Their host bodies collapse lifeless and I feel my disguise reform around me. “For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, forever and ever. Amen.”