Exorcism. An extract from “29 Argyle Drive”

Father Dominic was balding, overweight and round-faced; and he possessed a ready, dimpled smile, which made him popular with his parishioners.
“Miners used to take canaries down into the pits with them, in case of poisonous gas. Barbara and Vivian are my canaries. I don’t possess their strange gifts. I am a simple priest. I just go by the book.”
They were standing in front of the house. It was late afternoon, and the sky was gray. The wind blowing up from the sea carried a sharp tang of sand and seaweed. They were alone on the property.
“The psychic turmoil has ceased,” Miss Keel said. “Even the treetops are still.”
Fr. Dominic turned his dimpled smile to Tuff and O’Dowd.
“Well, let’s hope it’s as spiritually tranquil inside as it is out here.”
He rested the briefcase he had brought on the bonnet of his car and opened it.
“But, if it is not; I mean, if there is any kind of activity, please try to just ignore it.”
“What kind of activity?” O’Dowd asked.
Taking a white clerical stole out of the case, kissing it and hanging it around his neck, crossing the ends and hooking them together, he said, briskly:
“Strange sounds, knockings, tapping, animal noises, whisperings from inside the walls, bad smells, shadows, clouds…”
He arched his eyebrows at O’Dowd.
“That kind of activity.”
He took out a leather-bound missal and a large glass vial of holy water, emblazoned with a gold cross.
“Shall we go inside?”
They went up the steps to the front door. O’Dowd stepped aside.
“After you, Father.”
“Surely the Christchurch Police should go first?”
It was his dry sense of humour, along with the smile, that made him so well-liked in the parish.
“I’m retired.”
Tuff opened the door and led them into the entrance hall.
“How are my canaries feeling?”
“The psychic space is calm,” said Miss Keel.  
Vivian agreed.
“There is none of the infestation that we felt so strongly last time.”
“That’s good. Let’s begin.”
Father Dominic knelt down on the tiles. Miss Keel and Vivian knelt on either side of him, while Tuff and O’Dowd waited in the background.  He opened the missal.
“In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen. Most glorious Prince of the Heavenly Armies, Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in our battle against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places…”
While he continued with the prayer in a loud voice, with measured tones, Tuff’s and O’Dowd’s eyes shifted about, looking for shadows and clouds; and their ears strained to catch any strange noises. But they neither saw, heard nor smelt anything untoward.
Fr. Dominic stood up and moved the glass vial, like a drummer tapping a cymbal, three times, and holy water sprinkled from the vial’s perforated cap.
Miss Keel whispered, “Upstairs first, Father – the room at the end of the landing.”
But as they walked across the entrance hall to the stairs, the air grew humid. Sweat broke out on Tuff’s cheeks, and O’Dowd wiped it off his own forehead, although it came up again from the skin and rolled down his face like rain. The air became greenhouse-hot during the time it took them to walk four steps.
There was an edge of panic in Fr. Dominic’s voice when he began the prayer of exorcism.
“We drive you from us and out of this house, whoever you may be, unclean spirits, all satanic powers, all infernal invaders, all wicked legions, assemblies and sects…”
Each step towards the stairs took them deeper into the sauna the entrance hall had become. Every blink caused sweat to roll off their lashes and sting their eyes.
The priest started up the stairs with Miss Keel at his side, but Vivian stayed at the bottom of the staircase. Her clothes stuck to her skin as though she had just stepped out of a swimming pool, and her hair was a sodden, sweaty mess. O’Dowd took her hand and squeezed it, trying to transmit a reassurance he didn’t himself feel.
Tuff went after the priest and Miss Keel. But the sauna had become a jungle; the sweltering heat made him dizzy and the sweat blinded him. Fr. Dominic continued, heavily, up the stairs, reciting from the missal:
“In the Name and by the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ may you be snatched away and driven from the Church of God and from the souls made to the image and likeness of God and redeemed by the precious Blood of the Divine Lamb…”
He moved through a burning desert of heat.
“…Most cunning serpent, you shall no more dare to deceive the human race, persecute the Church, torment God’s elect and sift them as wheat.  The Most High God commands you to depart from this house, never to return…”
He stumbled. Miss Keel pulled him to his feet. Through the dizziness whirling in Tuff’s brain and the sweat that clouded his vision, he noticed red sparks dancing around the priest’s neck. Smoke rose from the white stole.
“…God the Father commands you. God the Son commands you.  God the Holy Ghost commands you….The glorious Mother of God, the Virgin Mary commands you to depart from this house never to return…Begone from this house, Satan, inventor and master of all deceit, enemy of man’s salvation…O Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come unto thee.”
Miss Keel screeched. Her hair had started to burn. Tuff took off his jacket and threw it over her head to smother the flames.  
Lifting her up, he carried her down the stairs through the burning air, passed O’Dowd, who grabbed the priest by the shoulders and dragged him to the bottom of the staircase.
Vivian had opened the front door, and they fell out of the house, away from the suffocating tropics into the temperate zone. 

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