When Vance was settled, still unconscious with an ice pack resting on his forehead, Father J sat back in the small chair where the possessed man struggled only moments before. He looked at them thoughtfully. His childlike exuberance was gone.
“What you need to understand…all of you, but especially Aisi, is that there is real good and real evil in this world. The potential for both lies within all of us. Being one or the other is always a choice. Some spirits are so evil, so determined to hurt people, that they’ve been banished to the depths of the earth. A few manage to escape occasionally, and I usually hear about it eventually and try to help the best I can. For the most part these are small potatoes in the world of evil, a few renegade troublemakers who can do very little damage alone. A few, as Aisi has seen,” he continued, looking at her, “are much more powerful. They have bigger plans and will do all they can to bring about the destruction of mankind.”
“Wait, for real? Why?” Zinnia wailed from the bathroom. “What’s their deal?”
“They’re jealous,” Father J answered simply. “They have no real bodies of their own, and they never will. Aisi has seen that they do come close to one when they amass certain power, which they collect by scaring and feeding off human prey.” Aisi reached again for the pocket with the scratch marks, playing with its frayed edges absentmindedly as the priest spoke. “They can leave marks on us, but they can’t do much damage until they take control of a willing partner. Someone who is too frightened or weak to refuse.” He glanced at Vance, who shifted restlessly on the sofa, and added, “…or too stupid.”
“You mean Vance really let him in?” Colby asked incredulously.
Father J nodded. “He must have. I think before you came here, Aisi, your father warned you not to leave each other alone?”
Aisi nodded mutely, feeling suddenly guilty for letting him out of her sight.
Colby sighed knowingly. “The guy is nuts with all this paranormal stuff. He was probably curious and said something lame like, ‘hey, want to take a test drive?’ just so he could document the experience. Seriously!”
“So…you said they can mark you?” Zinnia asked, limping to join the others, holding the wad of tissues to her thigh. When Father J nodded, she pulled back the towel and the torn flap of her pants. “What do you think this means?” At first glance, the wound looked like nothing more than a deep, messy scrape. As Aisi peered more closely, however, she saw a distinct design emerge. Despite the crusting blood and raw, scabbing flesh, she could clearly see the image of an inverted star sitting on top of globe roughly scratched into her flesh.
“I think it symbolizes this powerful demon’s desire for evil to reign over all the earth,” Father J said sadly.
“I think it means my parents are going to see this and think I just joined a cult of devil worshippers,” Zinnia replied. “That’ll freak out my mom. Awesome, right?” She glanced over at Aisi, a mischievous glint in her eye. In spite of everything that just happened, Aisi managed a real smile. Her best friend was kind of crazy, and she loved it