Part 1
Written by Christopher Ikpoh | Illustration by Logan Carroll

15th Century Italy – 52 miles outside of Rome

The bedroom used to be quaint, yet, beautiful. The original wood comprising the architecture inside the home was rich and healthy once. The glass in the windows was perfectly clear as if it were not present. The furniture was humble but of quality craftsmanship, and the linens on the bed were handmade with skill and love, dressing the mattress with a personable elegance. Thus, it was tragic when the charming bedroom became home to a terror-filled nightmare.

         Now, the bedroom was soaked with rot and decay. The wood had developed a putrid film of slime over it and was discolored. The glass fogged with remnants of soot. The linens on the bed were soiled and decrepit. And it was nestled amidst this awful transformation that lied the cause.

         A woman’s eyes shone bright. They had an unnatural reflective surface akin to a mirror. With them, she glared into the near distance. Her skin was ashen, and she wore an expression that would unsettle the dead. It was a still hatred. Alas, in her heightened state of infuriated agitation, she was motionless. Her arms dangled by her sides lifelessly. Her legs did the same beneath her. Both hands and both feet were chained to a cylindrical, mold-covered pillar in the corner of the room next to the wall extending from beneath the floor through the ceiling. She was bound, but she was far from contained, as she hovered ever-so-slightly off the ground; it was almost undetectable. Nevertheless, this sight was morbidly evident to the object of her wrathful gaze.

         As the moonlight peered through the windows, filling up the room, its beams illuminated the bustling dust particles floating in the air. The woman’s body contorted in unseemly ways before the priest forcibly prostrated near her, performing a cacophony of horrific positions. It was this sight along with the raging glare and permeating energy – produced by the oppressive, intangible hatred – that instilled a pain into her captive unlike any the world had ever experienced. The victim pawed and scratched at the floor incessantly, desperately attempting to alleviate the torment being inflicted upon him by the woman. Yet, there was no escape. He was damned.

         The priest scraped the floor more aggressively with each passing moment. Some of his nails were peeling off, finger-painting the floor with his blood. His attire was tattered and ripped as if he were mauled by a predator; his pants barely clung to his waist, and his shredded shirt was falling off his torso. The priest’s body adorned scratches across the entire surface, and his stole was firmly tied around his neck. Surrounding him were loose, marble beads from a broken, ornate rosary, and pages from a Bible strewn about. The book was opened flat, face down on the floor, with an inverted crucifix impaling it to the wood encircled by shattered glass over a water puddle of spilled holy water. The bedroom had become a torture chamber of iniquity and despair as he writhed in agony, fighting aimlessly to escape the possessed woman’s afflictions.

         Meanwhile, on the first floor of the home beneath the bedroom hosting the woman and the priest, a clergyman voiced, “I believe I see him!” His statement carried hope within it, which became immediately infectious to the distraught group accompanying him.

         Outside, a Man with neatly styled hair and tanned beige skin approached the modest abode. He studied the brick and wood structure, immediately fixing his attention on the windows to the bedroom. He was dressed entirely in perfectly tailored, elegant, black attire with gold accents and trim. The Man’s gait exuded confidence. His presence was utterly commanding. There was something understated but domineering about him. He carried the experience of one who had lived multiple lifetimes. The Man was, in a sense, otherworldly, and this sentiment was written all over the face of the clergyman who answered the door as The Man arrived.

         “Welcome! Thank you so much for coming. I am Deacon Giovanni,” the clergyman said holding the door handle with a subdued enthusiasm. The Man instantly resumed his gait and walked past the deacon without saying a word.

         As The Man entered the home, it was as if he walked into a thick fog. The air inside was heavy and stifling. A faint, continuous whisper could also be heard in the ears of everyone present. The words transitioned from Aramaic to Hebrew, to Arabic and Latin, and then to Greek and Italian before repeating the trend. However, the words were quietly spoken and indecipherable. The Man instantly began working to decode the whispering while following the unknown, unseen origin as he moved through the home to the stairs.

         “I can’t believe it’s really you. None of us can. I…” The deacon rambled as he followed along, but The Man continued as if he had not heard a word the clergyman said. Deacon Giovanni noticed this and cut himself short in order to gather the best words that might elicit a response. The Man was intensely focused, though. The air was suddenly growing colder and a chill was sweeping the home. It was visible by the formation of small clouds emanating from the mouths of those present.

         The Man moved forward towards his destination, dividing the crowd gathered near the bottom of the staircase. They were the woman’s kin, and they showered The Man with admiration and hope as their eyes piled on pleas of salvation for their beloved family member. The Man was not distracted by this, nor was he by their repeated gestures making the sign of the cross, their genuflection, and the weeping of joyful tears as if they were witnessing a miracle in the flesh through him. Their clutched rosaries gently knocked against one another as they held hands tightly and prayed giving thanks; they were in disbelief The Man had arrived. Nevertheless, he did not cease his fixation on the cynosure in the home.

         He began walking up the stairs with Deacon Giovanni still behind him. As to remain quiet while approaching the bedroom, the clergyman softly stated, “Father Lucas has been in there for 21 hours straight. He specifically instructed me to not interrupt no matter what, but I felt I had to do something. So, I called Bishop Florini at the Vatican this morning.”

         A loud thud boomed through the floor of the bedroom! It rocked the attention of the family and the deacon, startling them. The Man was unaffected, though. He merely stopped, calmly moved his blazer-type coat from his side, and placed his hand over the handle of an ornate black whip coiled on his belt. As the deacon witnessed this, he also noticed a captivating ring on The Man’s right ring finger. Elaborate and mesmerizing runes were etched on the sides, and on the face of the ring was the Star of David intricately designed into a host of perfectly inscribed symbols. The deacon had never seen or heard of anything like it. Before the clergyman could examine it more, though, The Man removed his hand from the whip handle, allowing his coat to fall back to his side before continuing up the stairs.

         Deacon Giovanni was still rattled by the abrupt noise, and in a shaky voice inquired, “Was that Father Lucas? Do you think…?”

         The Man and the clergyman arrived at the top of the staircase as the deacon expressed his query. However, the clergyman was not able to finish for he suddenly became incredibly nauseous as an excruciating migraine overtook him. “God… I feel terrible. Nausea… my head…” Yet again, The Man remained vigilant only towards the bedroom.

While Deacon Giovanni succumbed to the pain being inflicted on him, The Man opened the bedroom door. From behind, the deacon witnessed the possessed woman and the agonizing Father Lucas with his own eyes. Demonic cackles were heard as the faint whispering grew louder amongst noises of beastly growling and the crunching sound of teeth biting through flesh and bone. A mirage of a jackal gently wrapped in a serpent trotted across the room as well, before quickly dissipating out of sight. At this moment, Deacon Giovanni realized he was in the presence of the purest evil the world had ever known, and he was overwhelmed with fear.

         The clergyman dropped to his knees and shook uncontrollably. He frantically covered his ears to block out all sound, but the cackling, growling, and crunching only grew more intense, driving him insane. He clawed at his ears, digging his nails into his skin, drawing blood while cutting them repeatedly. The deacon was unraveling in horrific fashion.

         The Man, however, remained unchanged. He stepped over the threshold of the bedroom doorway, and as his foot slowly descended towards the ground, his heel’s impact caused a bellowing noise as if he’d entered a vacuum of space. From his body pulsated a transparent energy as his foot flattened on the floor, and with each slow step taken forward, the energy grew more intense and formed a spherical pattern around him spreading beyond the walls of the home into the night sky.

         The Man’s power washed over the deacon in waves, and as it did, the clergyman was knocked back. After a few seconds, though, all of the pain and terror he experienced was eradicated. He was no longer ill nor driven to madness, and the return of his health and sanity amidst the supernatural sight before him caused Deacon Giovanni to stare at The Man in pure amazement.

Slowly, beside The Man, the clergyman saw Father Lucas’s agony cease as well. The priest was broken and battered, but The Man’s energy eliminated the hold the woman had over him. The father was at peace once more.

         Seeing what The Man had achieved with his mere presence, the woman overflowed with animosity. She roared furiously as multiple, unnatural voices resounded from the depths of her spirit. Hovering higher into the air, she maneuvered to display her malevolent dominance. The Man was unmoved, though, and in response he extended his arm and waved his right hand, directing the ring over her position. This outstretched her arms to their sides and pulled her legs taut beneath her, as if she were being nailed to a cross. The transparent waves washed over her as well, and as they did black ash flaked madly off her entire body with each pulse of energy.

         The possessed woman grew increasingly furious. The room rotted at an accelerated rate, causing the wood to creak loudly, as she gnashed her teeth and breathed heavily through a clenched jaw. Saliva wisped from her mouth with each exhalation, before eventually she shouted in a demonic tone, “SOLOMOOOOOOOON!”

         Deacon Giovanni looked on in absolute shock. The Man, known to the faithful as Seraph Solomon, was simply holding his hand over the woman as if he were silently praying for her. The ring on his hand amplified the transparent waves of energy, sending them rippling all around. It was then Seraph Solomon turned towards the deacon, revealing the side of his face. He made eye contact with the clergyman as the evil entities inside the possessed woman vociferated relentlessly. Black mist continued to emanate from her body as each pulse of Solomon’s power drowned her whilst suspended in midair. Then, in the blink of an eye as Deacon Giovanni remained paralyzed with awe, incapable of taking his eyes off the magical experience before him, the door to the bedroom slammed shut.