I left the Church, by which I mean I resigned.
Luckily, a friend from seminary school lives in the area, and I am able to bunk on his sofa for a while. Things came to a head when the Archdeacon gave me an ultimatum – submit to counselling, or get written up. By that point, I had had enough. They were sending the Deliverance Ministry to cleanse the church, which was good. But my trust in the authority of the Anglican Church had shattered.
It was actually a relief when I made the decision.
There were bigger fish to fry.
At that point, I had only negative responses to my post on the forums. The contact with Aloysius was a lifeline. I ate up the details of what he told me. I tried to do my own research on Quod Diaboli Ianua, the book that the strange verse had come from. Was it a prophecy, or a set of instructions? It was impossible to find information on it outside library catalogue references.
Aloysius turned out to be a woman called Freda White, and we struck up the start of a friendship via email. She said that she would try to contact a fellow in London who worked on cases like mine. She said he did it for free as well.
In the meantime, I kept an eye on my church. I still thought of it as my church. It was about a month after I had left, and they still had not replaced me. My congregation didn’t mind that, as they had all found other places to worship long before. It stood in the centre of the graveyard, now an echoing monolith without life.
Yesterday, quite early in the morning, I walked to the church for yet another visit. I tend to stand and stare at the building from the outside. Not sure what this accomplishes, but I feel like I am doing… something! I don’t hold any fantasies about reinstatement once I rid the place of its infestation. In truth, I don’t want to be a priest any more. But I can’t leave it in such a state. Some sort of divine etiquette told me to leave my church in the same condition as I found it!
I felt a tap on my shoulder, and I turned to find the elderly groundsman, Billy Frome. He tidied the graveyard and kept an eye on things, given that his cottage backed onto the premises. “Hello Billy,” I said and turned around.
There was an odd look in his eyes. He was a man of few words, but now said, “I know why you left.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“I’ve seen it,” he continued. “At night, the lights turn on and off. When they are on, I can see it moving about the church.”
“What does it look like?” I asked.
“A shadow. An enormous shadow. It makes the windows dark.”
I felt the need to explain, to make sure he knew I was not deserting him. “I am going to try to sort it out, Billy. Did the Deliverance Ministry come?”
“Yes, I let them in about a fortnight ago. They only stayed for about an hour.”
Only an hour? Had they retreated from fear? They usually only deal with blessing new homes. That, and reassuring parents that their wayward teenagers are safe from Satan.
“Can you let me in?” He glanced at the church, then nodded. With no more words, he led the way up the flagstones to the church steps.
“Here,” he said, and handed me the key.
“I’ll drop it by your cottage when I am done.”
He shook his head. “No need. You can keep it. You’ll need to get inside at all hours I imagine.”
“Thank you, Billy.” He turned without saying goodbye and tottered off towards his home. Access to the church was the least of my problems, but at least this key made the rest of it possible.
I stood on the steps and looked upwards at the steeple. The white-faced clock still showed the correct time. It and the church bells were on an automated system that would run without supervision. The building looked… darker. It loomed.
I trotted up the steps and stopped at the heavy door. A heavy wooden thing covered in iron studs. I placed my hand against the wood grain. The wood was… breathing! The surface was expanding and contracting about once every two seconds. It was slight, but there.
I shivered. Not from being cold. I put the large key into the lock and turned it. There was some brief resistance, and then a loud click as the door unlocked.
I pushed open the door and went inside.