THE EVIL VISITOR: Part I: "The Shadow of Death".




"Darkness was absolute. His bones were cold, but the terror he felt reached to his soul"...


Here you can read the first part : "THE SHADOW OF DEATH" Chapters I to VI of my novel: "THE EVIL VISITOR"





THE EVIL VISITOR





SPANISH TITLE:
EL VISITANTE MALIGNO
FERNANDO E. SOBENES BUITRÓN


All rights reserved. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, 11/19/2009
7805—015155

SAFE CREATIVE 1104229042854, April 22, 2011

NOT TO BE COPIED IN WHOLE OR PART BY
ANY MEANS WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR


TRANSLATED BY:
Benjamin Barnett




*** All names of characters and places are fictitious; any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental.


DEDICATION


       “To the two most important people in my life: my beloved wife Islet and my son; my dearest Fabricio, who are my inspiration and strength”

        “To my dearly and missed mother. Wherever you are; may you find the happiness and understanding that you never had in this life.”


THANKS AND APPRECIATION


        To my beloved wife for her love; her invaluable support and understanding to allow me to be able to complete this work.



AUTHOR’S NOTE



      Is there life after death? Do God and the Devil exist? Nobody knows for sure. We all want to believe that this life is a step towards something else, toward some other dimension that brings a better existence than the current one. All of this is based on faith, for there is no scientific proof either way.

      All religions (or many of them) deal with the topic of life after death: reincarnation, good and evil. They use these concepts and adapt them conveniently for their purposes. The figure of a vengeful God is present in the Bible and Christian doctrine affirms it, summoning a radical Manichaeism: God or the devil, heaven or the underworld; adapt to our rules or you'll burn in the fires of hell.  Threats and blackmail, rewards and punishments, where if we do not embrace the former, we fall without recourse, in the claws of the latter, condemning us to an eternal existence, frightening, in the never ending pit of purgatory paying for our sins and being the object of a merciless God that sentences us to a brutal and ruthless punishment for all eternity.
If we become aware of the horrible acts that have occurred on our planet since before any of our memories such as epidemics, wars, bloody dictatorships, genocides, accidents, catastrophes, natural disasters, abuse and abandonment of children, people born handicapped, deformed, various diseases, and finally, an unending wave of plagues, we ask ourselves:  Why does God permit all this?  Does He really want us to suffer?  Should we be condemned to pay for the sins of "our first parents" who committed the "original sin"?

      If you ask a priest the cause of all these miseries, his answer is that the ways of the Lord are mysterious and that mankind has free will.  That is, we remain the same, without an adequate or convincing explanation about God that reveals his existence and behavior.
On the other hand, it would appear that the Devil is winning the battle against good.  Man has suffered and committed indescribable outrages against his fellows since the beginning of time; innocent blood has been shed many times for no reason at all.  Many absurd accidents occur in which people perish indiscriminately without even having had the opportunity to enjoy life, and others fall in the claws of drug addiction and alcoholism.  The victims of wars, child exploitation, terrorism and drug trafficking, kidnappings, imprisonment and suffering of the innocent, religious fanaticism that does so much damage to humanity, and executions due to hate or sexual or racial nature, make one think that there is a supernatural force behind all of the evil of humankind.

      Society's moral values are in these times, lower than ever.  The marvels of the modern world that have contributed enormously to the advancement of humanity are also its disgrace, such as in the case of the inappropriate use of the Internet, where children are the main victims of the evil that is easily transmitted and messages of hate, racism, violence, and darkness cannot be controlled.  Iniquity, depravity, and negativity are two clicks away.  Globalization is, for some, a blessing, while for others, a curse; it all depends on how it is used.

      As for me, I believe that something exists; a superior or greater being that has created all good and evil and it is up to us to make a difference:  Loving others, causing no harm, and treating others as we would want to be treated. I believe in therein lies the good and evil.  Doing well is the work of God. Doing evil is the work of the Devil. It is that simple.

The author.

14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground; I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.
18 Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.
19 All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more. (Ezekiel 28)
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation. In the sides of the north:
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;
17 That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?
18 All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, everyone in his own house.
19 But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet.
20 Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.
21 Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities. (Isaiah 14, Old Testament


PROLOGUE


      He could never get that terrible day out of his mind when something happened that froze his heart and changed his life forever. It was the month of February 1991; Peter Donovan Lieutenant of the United States Army, 2nd Infantry Division was in charge of a group of forty soldiers in the Persian Gulf who had to get to the Ar Rumaylah oil field in northern Kuwait; where Iraqi troops had put explosive charges in the oil wells with the intention of exploding them when coalition forces arrived; following the orders of Saddam "Butcher of Baghdad" Hussein, turning them into "fiery graves" creating chaos and destruction. Their mission consisted of deactivating the explosives and clearing the area before the Iraqi dictator accomplished his goal.

      The target was 10 miles away, and they were on foot; since there was still some resistance from the Iraqi Republican Guard; and it was necessary to neutralize the enemy troops that they found in their way.  They could depend on air support if this proved necessary.

      The march through the middle of the desert was difficult due to the amount of men and equipment traveling.  The sky was filled with stars and the sound of aircraft flying through Iraqi airspace could be heard.  The cold was harsh, but in spite of this, they moved quickly.

      Their night goggles allowed them to see the enemies hiding under the cloak of darkness:  sporadic gunfire; a human silhouette in the sights. The sounds of missiles and automatic weapons; the flash of tracers and the target fell.  Resistance was indeed minimal.

      The roar of explosions in the distance made the ground under their boots shake.  The sky lit up with the flashes of the bombs and missiles that fell from the planes.  From far off, the tongues of fire from some wells that were already burning gave off clouds of black smoke that made the night even darker. The smell of burned fuel filled the air and made it almost unbearable.

      —Sergeant Wilkins!  — said the Lieutenant — order your men to put on their masks; there are still three miles before we arrive at the target.

      —Yes, sir — responded the sergeant — Men, put on your masks!

      In silence, soldiers continued, advancing, braving the cold with the wind whipping the desert sand against their bodies; while approaching nearer and nearer to their destination. Anxiety was growing; they did not know what they would come across; if there would be an ambush. Suddenly a whistle and then an explosion were felt in the rear, instantly killing three soldiers and injuring two more. Donovan fell on the sand propelled by the shock wave of a mortar projectile. He could not hear anything but an intense piercing sound. He could see the flashes of guns resembling fireflies in the middle of the night. Then in the distance, he heard the sound of gunfire and the rattle of machine—gun fire.

      —Mortars! Mortars, under cover! Take cover! — One of the soldiers shouted.

      From a trench two hundred yards away they could see the flashes of tracer rounds from AK—47 rifles fired continuously toward them, while the explosions would not stop.

—Wilkins! — Ordered Donovan —: check the status of the men. Split up into two groups to surround ... Wilkins!

      He turned to look at the sergeant, just to see him lying on the sand a few feet away writhing in pain; his left leg was completely gone, and the arm on the same side only holding onto a shred of muscle.

      —Corporal Torres! — Ordered Donovan — request immediate air support.

      —Yes sir! — Said the corporal, making use of the radio: Fox 2! Fox, 2! Sleuth 3, here, requesting immediate air support; coordinates 0—5—7. We are under mortar fire. We have six casualties!

      —Copy, Sleuth 3! Air support on its way! — Said the voice on the radio.

      Donovan and his men defended themselves, repelling the attack. They were cornered, unable to move. Then, they heard a hopeful sound of a Comanche helicopter firing Hellfire missiles into the enemy nest of enemy mortars position, eliminating the attackers.

      The air raid lasted no more than a couple of minutes, until the sound of gunfire ceased. Another medical rescue helicopter appeared. It descended to assist the wounded and to collect the bodies, while the Comanche swam ashore to protect personnel and verify that the coast was clear.
Donovan and his men entered the trench to see if there were enemy survivors. Peter was shocked to see what remained of the enemy; the sight was dantesque.

      Dismembered corpses, charred bodies, organs scattered everywhere, burned bodies thrown against the walls of the trench, and others in various grotesque positions, products of the shock waves that made them seem like puppets. Every part of the trench had turned purple, as if a giant hand had been immersed in a pool of blood and had shaken at the site. The smell of death reigned in the area.

      Some Iraqi soldiers were writhing in pain, men without arms, legs. One of them, with only one arm remaining, was trying to crawl unsuccessfully. The cries of pain and wails of the wounded were unbearable.

      —Lieutenant! What do we do with the Iraqi wounded? —Corporal Ferris asked, who arrived in the medical aircraft.

      —Is there room in the helicopter? — Asked the lieutenant.

      —No sir, we are full with casualties! I have the order...

      —Yes, yes! I know! No prisoners. — Donovan finished.

      —Corporal Torres!

      —Sir?

      —Arrange to verify whether if there is any information! Look up and down all over! Destroy any weapon you find!

      —Yes, Sir!

      —Torres! ...

      —Yes, Sir?

      —No prisoners!

      —Yes, Sir!

      Like a slow motion movie, soldiers approached the wounded soldiers, pointing their guns at the enemies’ heads to make them explode with the impact of bullets.

      —Here, motherfucker, damn you!

      —Hussein piece of shit! Eat lead!

       Shots sounded while some of the wounded were begging for their lives, imploring not to be killed. There were others who even managed to get on their knees, but still, they were assassinated.  Revenge was on holiday. The anger over the attack made soldiers showed no mercy to the fallen. Some soldiers used their bayonets and enjoyed the time when cutting their enemies’ throats; others burst the heads of the wounded by hitting them with the butt. The orgy of horror seemed to be endless.

      Peter Donovan was unable to stop the killing, even though he felt bad for the atrocities committed by the soldiers, he remembered how the enemy ambushed them, and how his men had fallen destroyed by enemy fire.

      —Screw them! – He thought — these bastards deserve it! ...

      —Sir, — Ferris said — Cathedral radioed and ordered to suspend operations, and ordered all men to return to base.

      —Okay! — Donovan said — Corporal Torres! We are leaving. This mission has been canceled. Order the men to retreat, and go back to the base!

      —Understood, sir!
      
      The helicopter with the wounded began to take off, while its blades raised desert sand creating a cloud of dust. Soldiers began to retrace their steps while Donovan stared at the infernal spectacle of the mutilated bodies in the trenches. The memory of the pleas of Iraqi soldiers, their voices and moans were still piercing his head.

      —Life sucks! — He thought.

      He turned and started walking. Suddenly, he ran into his left boot with something that made him stumble. He looked down and thought he saw something shining, but it was only for a moment. He bent down and picked it up. It was a small flat figure about four inches long and about half an inch thick. It was made of black stone, with a carved feline head, goat's horns on the forehead and a fierce, defiant face, staring ahead denoting cruelty, and open jaws showing its fang with a savage gesture. The figure had a hole in its jaws, like a large coin going through, and the fang sticking out of it.

      —It must be some kind of charm. — He said to himself — and put it in the pocket of his uniform pants.
     
      His men were already about twenty feet away when he heard a murmur, which it was not clearly distinguished. He turned to see what it was, but could not see anything, and thought it was the wind of the desert, so he prepared to walk away, when he heard it clearly. It was a crying child!
     
      He returned to the place where the bodies of the soldiers were, and he heard the heartbreaking crying even harder, sharp, crying for help. It came from the bottom of the trench that was about three feet deep.

      —Who's there? — He shouted — raising his rifle, and pointing in the direction from where the sound came.
     
      The crying grew louder and Peter kept moving among the bodies, but could not distinguish very well in the trench. The infrared light started flashing. He removed it and turned it out. He switched on his flashlight, and there it was, hidden in the background, the entrance to a small cave, where the crying was coming. He leaned over and lit the inside, but could see nothing. He had to lie on the floor and begin to crawl to enter the small hole in the sand that looked like the lair of an animal. He began to feel a smell, there was something stale, decomposed, it was clear that there was something dead in there.

      The sobs became louder.

      —I'm coming to help you, just wait! ...

      The stench got worse as he moved forward. He put the gas mask back, in spite of this he could hardly bear the retches, but managed to enter by crawling down through the hole, to finally be able to rise. He had come to a kind of large chamber. He lit up around the walls with the lantern, and saw some drawings and letters that he could not understand but assumed they were ancient characters. Gradually he figured out that they were some type of box covered by sheets. Those were shrouds, and some of them were half—buried. He was in a grave. Skulls and bones could be seen on the walls and floor of the enclosure, the roof was about twelve feet in height.

      The crying continued. It was a terrible, a painful lament coming from the grave. He shone the light in the direction of the sob and saw a strange figure, the back covered with a black mantle; it was leaning over one of the mummies and it was muttering something strange, incomprehensible. At that time the flashlight was turned off and the murmur of "that" ended. Donovan could not turn it on again, it did not work...

      —Peter, Peter! ... — He could hear his name in the gloom.

      He heard several voices, terrible screaming of women and men whispering to him.

      —We were waiting for you.

      His blood ran cold when he heard those voices, and he was overcome with panic.

      —Join us! ... — said those horrific voices.

      —Peter, Peter, join us!

      Darkness was absolute, his bones were cold, but the terror he felt reached to his soul.

      He put the night vision equipment back immediately, and what he saw made all the hair on his body stand on end. The mummies in the tomb were in motion. They had come to life! The "being", crouching just moments ago, was now standing in front of Peter, and he was very tall. Peter could see those eyes through the night viewer, and that filled him with horror.

      —Peter, join us! Come to us! — Said the "being" with a booming voice.

      Peter raised his gun and started shooting at "that", in front of him, until he emptied the magazine of his gun, while the "being" laughed out loud. Peter Donovan knew that if he did not escape from there he was going to meet death face to face. Once again the infrared light started flashing, remaining in darkness.
Instinctively he threw himself on the ground, and began to crawl through where he came as fast as he could.

      —Peter, PEEEETEEEER! ...

      The screams were deafening and he could hear the voices getting closer.

      —PETER, JOIN, JOIN US!
      Crawling swiftly he went, terrified by what was behind. He could see nothing. He only listened to these frightening voices and laments. Suddenly he felt someone grab his boots and pulled him to make him go back. Amid laughter and screaming, "something" prevented him from advancing and kept returning him back to the tomb.

      —HELP! HELP ME! HELP! ...  FOR GOD’S SAKE, SOMEONE HELP ME! — He began to cry.

      The voices behind him said:

      —GOD IS NOT HERE, HE FORGOT ABOUT YOU, BUT WE DID NOT. COME HERE, JOIN US, PETER!

      His strength was sapped from him. Whoever was previously holding his boots, held his calves this time, burning his skin with an intense pain. These "beings" were dragging him along back to the tomb, as Peter was unable to get away.
Unexpectedly, he felt a pair of hands holding him tightly by his arms and pulling him forward, to release him from the small tunnel. It was his battalion who made a human chain to get him out. At that moment, Donovan lost consciousness.

      When he regained consciousness he was in the rescue helicopter, with bandaged legs. He could feel the burning pain of burns, with the shock of horror at the experience in the tomb.

      —Are you OK, Lieutenant? What happened down there? — Asked Ferris.

      —I do not know; — said Donovan— I do not know. Then, the helicopter moved away leaving behind the hideous orgy of blood, terror and death.

——————oooooo——————
                                                     


PART ONE:

THE SHADOW OF DEATH


CHAPTER I



      I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me (Ex 20, 2—5). It is written: You shall worship the lord, your God, and serve him only (Mt 4, 10).

      “Lago Feliz” was a small lovely town located ninety minutes from the city, where some families had decided to move to get away from the noise, traffic and the stress of big cities.

      It was a halcyon place in the woods, only linked to the outside world by an access road connected with a highway, twenty miles away. Surrounded by trees and mountains, it had a huge forest and a beautiful lake, which gave the village its name, where people enjoyed swimming and sunbathing during the summer, and the cold and snow in the winter. Fishing was plentiful and they had deer hunting as well. The town was also famous for its entertainment: clubs, restaurants, a small amusement park and a roller coaster that attracted those who wanted to leave the city on the weekends and take a ride to the town to relax and get entertainment.

      "Lago Feliz" was founded twenty years ago by some entrepreneurs who had the idea to create an exclusive community which would feature all the comforts of the big city and the tranquility that nature provides in the countryside. Hence its development had been according to their needs. They had a fire station, church, municipality, police station, shopping center, several motels, a library, a small hospital, school, cemetery, and everything they needed to not have to go to the city. It had a five—block street of restaurants, cafes, cinemas and the like, to allow locals and none—locals alike to be entertained. Modern, spacious and comfortable houses made of this town a dream place for almost fifteen hundred souls who inhabited this community.

      Dawn came as usual for Peter Donovan. He started his day with a lazy morning and wanting to stay in bed and not have to go to work; with an instant arousal revealing his desire to make love, which was already habitual. The friction of the sheet between his legs, and then moving a little bit to get close to her; to feel her soft skin and begin to caress his wife’s body, expecting the desired response. Jennifer would come to her husband to feel his erection and then, as usual, they would make a drowsy love at first until they fully wake up with a frenzied sex that left them at ease, with the feeling of bodily rest; leisurely, relaxed. Staying close together, embracing, wet with passion and trying to catch a few more winks, to continue thus avoiding getting up, getting ready, caring for their child, making breakfast and continuing with the routine they had had, since they got married several years ago.

      He had been the sheriff of Lago Feliz for fifteen years. After he returned from the Gulf War he decided not to stay in the Army and immediately turned in his retirement papers. He decided to leave in the past the terrible moments he lived through. The builders of the village contacted Peter and offered him the Sheriff’s post, with a very good salary, room and board, which he accepted immediately and moved in. Once there, he met Jennifer Petersen, daughter of the owner of one of the main chain restaurants in the country, who resolved to settle in the village to start her own business. And now she owned the best restaurant in town, "The Golden Dinner" which many people of the city frequented. Jenny (as she was called) had dark brown hair, brown eyes, full lips, oval face, thin hands and slender fingers with beautiful legs, wide hips, beautiful feet very impeccable, not very tall, with small breasts. She was certainly a beautiful woman who attracted the stares of men. For his part, Peter was six feet tall, tan skin, brown eyes, thin face, athletic build and friendly voice. Immediately, they fell in love, they married a year after, and had their son, George, after five years of marriage. Donovan's family was very happy in the small town.

      Peter went out with George in the morning to take him to school, which was ten minutes from home. Driving the police van he watched as people left early for work. Vehicles with parents who also picked other children up; little Luke riding his bike to deliver the paper, throwing it house to house carelessly, and waving to the neighbors who woke up sleepy to clean their yards, or just to pick up the paper, or the ones who went out jogging and exercising.

      —Good morning, Mrs. Kerry!

      —Good morning, Mr. James!

      —Hello Luke! — Answered the neighbors.

      Peter watched the tranquility of the place and looked at his son in the back seat who was still sleepy and trying to go back to sleep.

      —It's good to be here! —He thought. He turned on the car and began driving toward George’s school.

      After dropping his son off at school, he went downtown to his office. The old police station had been growing as the town did. Initially, when Peter came, there were five men and they had only one vehicle. After fifteen years of being in charge, he turned it into a police department with twenty—five men under his command and eight vehicles, earning the respect and affection of the villagers. At first the work was not very hard: traffic problems, speeding down the road when "tourists" were in the city, or those who drank heavily in nightclubs and caused a disturbance. Then, as the town became more popular and more people began to visit it, work became more arduous.

      —Good morning chief!—His assistant, Jeff Douglas greeted him as Peter entered—, the weekend's almost here!

      —Hi Jeff! —said Peter — Yes, I'm afraid so. Have you posted the staff on the roads and restaurant areas?

      —Yes, chief.

      —Did anybody go to investigate Mrs. Mitchell's broken fence?  Remember she called several times.

      —Yes, chief.

      —Did you remind the men about the new plan? Keep in mind that in the tourist area of the lake...

      —Yes, Peter, — sympathetic, his assistant interrupted him — I've done it several times. Why are you so nervous?

      —Peter remained thoughtful for a few seconds — I have a strange feeling that something is about to happen.

      —Did something happen, Peter? Is there any problem?

      —No, it's nothing, Jeff, thank you! — Let’s see what we have here.

      And they began to check the documents and the routine work of the office.
     
      Jeff Douglas had worked with Peter for twelve years and they had become good friends. Besides work, they had something else in common; both of them fought in the Gulf War. Jeff belonged to the Marine Corps and he was in an M1 Abrams tank which participated in the Kuwait City liberation, and he retired with the rank of sergeant. Mary Rock had been married to Jeff for three years and they had a nine month old baby named Thomas, and they lived happily in the village. The remaining men had been recruited by Peter in the big city; some of them were members of other police offices, and some came from different security forces and were attracted by the good pay, stability and tranquility of the place, and decided to move to “Lago Feliz”, which offered a better prospective life.
     
      That Friday, as the day progressed, tourists were arriving from the city, joining the villagers who had their jobs or businesses in the city, and commuted the fifty minutes that separated the two places. That was Will’s case, a lawyer and Peter’s neighbor with whom he use to take turns every weekend to meet among friends, have a beer and get together.
     
      But that Friday was not inviting, due to the threatening gray clouds in the sky that forecasted a storm and discouraged regular visitors from taking the road to the village. Late at night, it was evident that the storm was ready to burst at any time and the streets were half empty, and due to the storm forecast, business had a low influx of people and they had to wait for better conditions to encouraged people to go to the town.

      This time, friends agreed to meet at the house of Will and Anna Perrys, who had two children: six year old Francis and Louise, three years old. They had a playroom in the first floor, with all the necessary equipment and toys to have fun. Anna's mom, Susan, who lived with them, loved to play with her grandchildren, to watch them run and to look after them.

      Clouds were getting blacker over the skies of Lago Feliz. Friends started to gather: Charles Mercy and his wife, Dolores, with their children Dennis and Michael, five and seven years old, respectively; Josh Miller, the village priest with a PhD in Philosophy; Jeff, Mary and little Thomas, who felt asleep in his stroller, with his pacifier hanging from a red bow around his neck; then came Jennifer and George.

      The kids ran up, followed by Susan, enjoying themselves.

      —Children, children! No running! You can get hurt... — said Susan — trying to catch them.

      —Charles said — Smells great, I'm starving! Is the meat ready?

      —Almost! — Answered Will – Jennifer, where is Peter?

      —He’s coming; he is bringing the beer — said Jennifer –

      Peter was watching from his house the thick darkness of night and the black clouds announcing the gathering storm.

      —This will be a violent storm, hopefully nobody will think of coming here with this weather.—Peter thought.

      Using a portable radio, Peter contacted his men on duty, to ensure they were in position and that everything was going without problems. He left his room and went downstairs to the kitchen.

      —Hey, Peter! — It was Will’s voice from the other house – we're waiting for you! The game is about to start, and we are starving. Hurry!

      —Okay! I'll get the beers, I'm coming ... — Peter replied —. He went down to the basement to find a case of beer. He tried to turn on the light but it didn’t work.

      —Damn! The light bulb burned out — he said to himself.

      Peter groped for the second switch in the basement, being careful not to bump into things that were there. Suddenly he noticed something shining in the dark. He didn’t know what it was, so he got closer to the mantelpiece where the object was. He moved forward toward it, and when he was close enough he noticed it was that strange shaped stone animal head he found in the desert, the one he had tried to erase from his mind. Peter was terrified, and began to sweat. Those fierce eyes were watching him intently. It was an evil, wicked look, and its jaws opened even more, like trying to burst out laughing. Peter was paralyzed by fear. The memories of that night of horror, blood and fright, turned back to his mind. Peter tried to calm down and overcome the feeling, when suddenly the first thunder sounded, and started to rain.

      Unexpectedly the light came on. Peter saw the small rock he had found in the deserts of Iraq, and understood that nothing bad was happening… — it’s just my imagination — he said to himself.
     
      He grabbed the case of beer, two bottles of whiskey and went upstairs. He crossed the garden and entered the house of his neighbor and friend.

      —Finally! —exclaimed some of his friends.

      —Peter! Did you see a ghost? You are pale — Will asked him.

      —No, it was nothing. The thunder took me by surprise that was it — said Peter.

      —Ha, ha, ha, — everyone laughed.

      Jennifer approached her husband with a kiss on the cheek and asked him.

      —My love, is everything okay?

      —Yes, sweetie, everything is fine...

      The evening was very lively. They enjoyed the baseball game that they'd been looking forward to. Dinner was very animated. The children ran around the table and they wanted to go back to the playroom.

      Peter was still thinking about what took place that night. Although he had tried to forget what happened all those years ago, memories came to his mind, as ghosts bringing the memories when his comrades died. Sergeant Wilkins torn apart by a mortar shell; the wounded men, the executions of Iraqi soldiers, the crying child and entering to that infernal tomb, where he was a victim of unimaginable terror; events that he never experienced in his life.

      He kept watching his friends, talking, drinking beer. The children were upstairs with Grandma. Peter was looking all this, but he was not listening. In his mind he repeated, PETER, JOIN US, PETER!

      —Peter, Peter, join us, what planet are you on? You have been distracted all night — said father Josh.

      —Must have been the thunder – Said Anna smiling.

      —I was thinking of the men on duty in this weather, I hope they are doing well ... — answered Peter.

      —You know, if they have not called, it is because everything is all quiet, relax — replied Jeff.

      —Yes, you're right. No reason to worry — Peter agreed.

      The night progressed, it was early morning when the rain became a storm, and the lights in town started to flicker.

      —The storm must have affected the transformers, — said Will.

      —Yes — said Dolores —, the rain has become a flood.

      Water flowed like a small river by Main Street.

      —Please, Jeff, get in contact with the men, check that everything is fine.

      —Yes, Peter.

      Using the walkie—talkie, Jeff began to call:

      —All units: please report to Command 2. — Absolute silence.

      —Is the radio working, Jeff? — Asked Peter.

      —Yes, — said Jeff — the battery is at full load. There is something causing interference and it won't let us communicate. Let me try again:

      —Lightning, Lightning, Command 2, here, please report.

      —Contact the head office — ordered Peter.

      —nothing, no response — reported Jeff.

      —It could be some static because of the storm — said Jeff.

      —Well; duty calls— said Peter, standing up follow by Jeff — let's see how everything is going. We'll back in a couple of hours.

      —Yes, Peter, let's go—said Jeff—.

      —Watch out, boys — said Jennifer.

      —Don't worry, we'll be back as quickly as we can —her husband answered.

      The gathering continued. Father Josh was telling about something that had happened.

      —It was terrible what happened to that girl, the video has been uploaded to the Internet.

      —Yes I saw it, they captured just as she was dying — said Charles.

      —What did happen? –asked Susan, walking downstairs and whispering because the children were asleep.

      —A young woman was killed in Iran during a protest. You can see the moment when she was wheeled away. Then she lost consciousness, and started bleeding from her nose and mouth, I think they shot her in the chest — said Charles.

      —Oh, my Goodness, how horrible! — Said Anna— what a misfortune. I don’t know what the world’s coming to.

      —Only God knows, — said father Josh—. Only He knows.

      —Okay, Okay—said Will — let's not talk about sad things, we are here to have fun, isn’t it? How about if we play something?

      —Card games — said Anna.

      —NOOOOO! — Jokingly, all chanted.

      —Well, — said Anna laughing — what do you want to play?

      —I bought something special in the city, wait a second — Will said. — He got up and went to his studio to get something on the desktop.

      He returned with a plastic bag, he opened it and pulled out a box placing it on the table. It was a rectangular tablet of yellow wood, and antique look. In the upper left corner it had the image of the sun with a smiling face and the word "YES" on it. On the opposite side, it was the moon on crescent with a star, and a face of woman looking to the first one, preceding the word "NO". Below, forming and arc, capital letters were arranged in two rows: the first one from letter "A to M" and the second one, from "N to Z". Under the letters were the numbers from 1 to 0, and immediately at the end, the word "GOODBYE". At the bottom corners two figures of witches stood, watching up at the sun and the moon respectively. It was an Ouija board.

      —Good! —said Charles— we will close the evening with ghosts. Everyone started laughing.

      —I have not played with the "board" since college — said Mary — I remember it was a little scary.

      —It is not good to play with things we don't understand — said Susan — I think it can be dangerous.

      —Come on, Susan — encouraged her son—in—law — what could happen? Let's have some fun until Peter and Jeff return.
      —Cheer up, Susan – seconded Jennifer —it’s only a game.

      —Come on, Mom, then you can go to see the children, — said Ann.

      —Yes, that’s it. —said Dolores — In that case, we can ask the expert. What do you think, Josh?
     Father Josh watched them amused and curious. He smiled nervously, wondering what his fellow priests would think if they saw him playing with the Ouija board invoking spirits, beings from beyond. The first commandment "love God above all things" came into his mind, remembering the Catechism of the Catholic Church, especially the part about prediction and magic *. But to tell the truth he was a little drunk and he wanted to continue the fun.

      —Josh, Your Eminence: Did a "spirit” turn you dumb? — asked Will sarcastically — and everyone started laughing.

      —I do not think our Lord will be offended over some fun — he said smiling — let's play. Who cares! If it's just a game — he thought.

      —Very good —said Will— well done Josh, His Eminence spoke and we are determined, I will bring some candles.

      —And I will get pencil and paper — said Dolores.

      —What do we use as a pointer? — Asked Anna — should we use a cup?

      —No, I have something much better, which is just for the occasion. — Jennifer said — and she went home, to look for that rare "thing" in the basement, the "souvenir" that Peter brought from the time he was in the Gulf War.

      —This will be rather a long night — thought Josh.

      —I have some candles to make it more exciting, — said Susan.

      —What a mess I got myself into? — Josh thought – making a frown.

      —Come on, cheer up, Josh —Ann assured him, realizing his discomfort. — It doesn’t hurt, it's only a game. Nobody will get hurt...

      —I hope so —said Josh— I hope so...

* Prediction and Magic (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
2116 All forms of prediction are to be rejected: the recourse to Satan or to demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future (cf. Dt 18, 10, Jr 29, 8). Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, the use of 'mediums' conceal a desire for power over time, history and, finally, men, the well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor and respect, and loving fear that we have only to God.
2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which seeks to tame occult powers to bring them to their service and have a supernatural power over others — even to seek health — are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more reprehensible when accompanied by an intention to harm another, with or without the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritualism often implies prediction or magical practices. That is why the Church warns the faithful to be saved from it. The uses of traditional medicines do not legitimate the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.
——————ooo——————

      Peter and Jeff got to the Sheriff's Office, as the rain began to subside. The streets were deserted; the tourists for the weekend (the few who dared to go into town in that weather) were in the clubs and restaurants. No one ventured out to get wet yet.

      Jeff spoke to the officer on duty:

      —Jack, what’s new?

      —Nothing sir, everything is calm.

      —Is the radio working? — Asked Peter.

      —Yes, chief — said Jack — a few moments ago the signal was interrupted, but now it works.
     
      —Communicate with all positions to report news.

      —Yes, sir: — Lightning, Central here, report situation –

      Through the radio, the officers on duty began to report that, despite the rain, everything was quiet, except for the checkpoint number 2, which had not been reported since the storm started.

      —Chief! Lightning 2 is not responding.

      —When was the last time you contacted them?

      —About three hours ago.

      —Okay, Jeff, let's see how our men are doing. Jack, keep us informed if you manage to communicate with them.

      —Yes, sir...

      Peter and Jeff left again in the police vehicle, a rustic van with four—wheel drive with high and wide tires, great to navigate any terrain, they had no problem crossing the small streams that had formed by this strange storm that had not lasted long.

      The checkpoint Lightning 2 was 25 minutes from town, at the southern end of the lake, a place chosen by young people to dance, drink, and have fun outdoors. Most of the time they installed a platform there, for weekend events where they had rock bands or other kinds of music. Also at night, it was a favorite place for young people to escape with their partners to make love. The more adventurous swam in the lake at night, when the weather was favorable. Police were always hanging around the area to prevent scandals or intoxicated persons involved in a fight. Otherwise, a night like this, the situation must be calm. It was difficult for some madman would think of going that far and the danger that the vehicle was damaged in the middle of the road to wait for someone to get help, or to be located by the police car rounding in the area.

      —Who is on duty in Lightning 2? — Peter asked to Jeff.

      —Franklin and Michael — Jeff said– it's odd that they haven't called.

      —That's what worries me — said Peter — neither the patrol radios nor cell phones are working. I hope everything is fine.

      —I insist, Peter, I think it is only the storm interfering.

      —Well, let's see how they are doing.

      They continued to drive along the road parallel to the lake, and began to penetrate the pine—covered road in the middle of the night. The storm subsided and bound away to the city, the track was still wet, but the sky was clearing, revealing the light of the moon that looked great with a sky full of stars.

——————ooo——————

      Well, — said Will — we already have everything ready:  paper, pencils, and candles, let's organize everything.

      Dolores and Ann began the distribution of candles while Josh and Charles arranged the chairs. Susan and Mary went to the playroom and found that the children were sleeping, Mary saw her little Thomas who was fast asleep with her pacifier in his mouth. There, carefully and quietly to not wake them up, they returned to the living room.

      Jennifer came down to the basement to find the amulet and realized that the face of the beast now looked wild, his fierce gesture more terrible than before. She felt a little afraid to pick it up, but then she smiled, thinking that her thought was silly; that was the perfect object for the game they were about to start. She never thought how this action would change her life and the others’ forever.

      She went back to the neighbor’s house and was surprised to see the lights off and the candles arranged around the table, illuminating the faces of her friends who were now drinking coffee and talking, waiting for her to join and start the game, creating a magical and ghostly atmosphere.

      —Ah ... Finally, there you are, Jenny. What did you bring us? – Asked her Will.

      —I brought a piece that will serve as a pointer. — Said Jennifer — putting the amulet on the table.

      —How interesting! — Charles said — watching and carefully lifting it up— it seems like an animal, like a cat with horns or something.
     
      —Does it have magical powers? — Mary interjected — everyone laughed

      —Hey, “his Eminence!” What do you think of it, — Will asked to Josh.

      —I've never seen anything like it! — Said Josh – It's a strange carving. Where did you get it? —he asked Jennifer.

      —It's a souvenir that brought Peter from Iraq — said Jennifer.

      —Good enough, let's get started — said Susan.

      Will grabbed the makeshift "pointer" and placed it on the table.

      —Now everyone put their finger on the pointer — said Will — doing the same.

      Jennifer, Anna, Susan, Charles, Dolores, Mary, and finally Josh joined Will.

      —Now everyone let your mind go blank, try not to think about anything — continued Will — breathe deeply, let's calm down and forget what is around us, do not think anything, close your eyes and let yourself be seduced by my voice, please.

      Everyone got silent, trying to concentrate. The candlelight lit up the room when suddenly they heard two very loud knocks on the floor. All eyes were opened. Anna saw Jennifer get frightened, while Charles and Dolores raised their hands off from the pointer instinctively. Josh watched them without saying anything. Once again they heard the two beats, then Susan started laughing and they realized that it was she, who with her feet was knocking the floor to scare them. She couldn't contain her laughter.

      —Oh, Mama! You don’t change. — Ann told Susan.

      —Sorry, — said Susan — I could not help it; you should´ve seen Josh’s face.

      The priest blushed with shame.

      —Well, well, no more laughter, let’s start for real. Will said; remember that you must not lift your fingers until game is over, right? It is very important.


——————oooooo——————


CHAPTER II



      Have you seen how the sky is clearing, the storm was very fast, don’t you think, Peter? How strange this is — commented Jeff.

      —Yes, indeed, the moon is very bright. We should be getting to where the men are— said Peter.

      They continued along the road and the lake could not been seen anymore because the trees covered the road doing it a little more narrow. Abruptly from the bushes, a deer came running swiftly crossing the road. The reflection of the lights from the patrol make her eyes bright red for a second; hardly the vehicle slammed on the brakes and it was stopped. The animal continued his race at full speed and crashed headfirst into a tree.

      —Damn! Did you see that Jeff? — exclaimed Peter—it seemed he wanted to rush against us. What the hell happened to that deer?

     They got out of the car and headed to the place where the animal was.

      Although the moon was now clear, it was impossible to distinguish very well the conditions of the deer. They walked toward it which was about fifty feet and Jeff lit the lantern.

      —God! — Exclaimed Peter.

      One of the animal's antlers had broken when it hit the tree; the other was run through the cortex. His legs shook in a spasm. The head, the side that lacked part of the antlers, was bleeding, glowing with the reflection of moonlight and part of the brain was emerging. Blood gushed from his nose and foam: uncontrollable shaking dominated his body, making a horrible roar of pain. His suffering was terrible.

      —We can´t help him, Peter. — Jeff said.

      —You are right Jeff, there is nothing to do.

      —Do you want me to...?—Asked Jeff, pointing to his gun.

      —No thanks Jeff, I'll do it.

       Peter drew his pistol from the holster and approached the deer which kept bleeding with his eyes wide open and the brain mass hanging over the side of the head. The roar grew louder, now was not the same feeling of suffering— they could feel it — it could be feel his anger, his rage. The animal was trying desperately to get rid of the tree.

      The Sheriff pointed the gun to the head of the animal.

      —Sorry, buddy, this is so you won't suffer anymore.
     
      The bellow was mixed with the shot that echoed through the night. The bullet pierced the deer's head sideways smashing what was left of his brain. But the animal did not fall. Still struggling to escape, his eyes were now more open and bloodshot, his look gave off hatred.
     
      Both were surprised:
     
      —How could he not fall? — Peter thought — did I miss?

     He threw light on the spot where the animal was shot. The bloody hole in and out gave the answer.

      He aimed the gun again at the head of the animal, to give the coup de grace, when suddenly a huge shadow flew over, just for a moment, but everything went dark for a couple of seconds.

—What was that Peter? Did you see anything? — Jeff asked.

—I could not see anything. What could have been that? — Peter replied.

       The deer was frantically trying to escape, and once again, pointing now to the base of the head, Peter fired.

       The animal stood still for a moment after receiving the second shot, but started moving again, still desperately trying to break free. Peter and Jeff stepped back surprised. They did not understand what was happening; all at once the deer managed to escape, leaving his horn stuck in the tree, then he turned to where both men were, giving them a blank stare, all covered in blood, took two steps and fell thunderstruck.

      They looked confused and surprised at the same time. There was the animal lying on the ground. Both men were stunned.

      —Do you hear that? — Asked Peter.

      —No, I don't hear anything — said Jeff.

      —That’s what I mean, there is no noise, and everything is quiet.

      It was true. Not only was everything quiet, the strange thing was they did not hear anything, nor the sound of crickets, or the movement of the leaves of the trees to be shaken by the wind, nothing. There was no noise at all. It was as if everything had been paralyzed. As in a picture, everything was still and did not hear a single soul.

      Both of them were puzzled, surprised by this situation, when their radios sounded and startled them.

      —Chief Donovan, Chief Donovan, Central here.

      —Go ahead, Central, use the codes — said Peter.

      —Sorry Tornado – it was Jack’s voice —. We still have no contact with Lightning 2. The other Lightning has not reported in.

      —OK, Central — said Peter — keep trying to communicate with them; we're getting to the area.

      —Understood, Tornado, over and out.

      The police returned to their vehicle in silence, meditating on the moment they had just experienced. The moon was down to half the sky and looked red.

      —Do you think something bad happened to the guys? — asked Jeff —. It is strange they have been cut off.

      —We will see what has happened, we are only a few miles from them. — Peter answered.

      They continued to drive for a few minutes down the road, in the middle of pine trees and came to a straight path where it could be seen the lake again.

      —What an awful smell! — Said Peter.

      —Yes, it's like a skunk or something — Jeff seconded.

      —What the hell?! — Exclaimed Peter.

      In the distance we could see some bumps on the road at both sides of the highway. They moved closer with the vehicle and finally, they could see what it was. Several dead deer lying on the pavement, with their eyes and snout wide open and expressing terror, not less than thirty were arranged along the path that way.

      They got out of the vehicle and turned on the lights, with shotguns in one hand and covering their noses and mouths with the other. Approaching the body of the first animal, the stench of rotting flesh made them gag. Flies buzzed around the body, producing an infernal buzzing, and the animal's belly was open and everything inside was strewn on the ground; it seemed to have exploded. All the bodies were infested by maggots and worms.

      There were no signs of struggle, no trace of any other animal. Also found no traces of vehicles or anything that indicated that the animals had been killed elsewhere and taken there; the bodies had been rotting for at least twenty four hours.

      Jeff, trying not to vomit, touched one of the animals.

      —Peter, it’s still warm.

      —What? — Peter asked — what do you mean?

      —This carcass is still warm.

    That's not possible, — said Peter — also touching it —. Shit, you're right, it's warm, let's see the others.
     
      They approached the other carcasses and verified that all of them retained their body heat as if they were alive.

      —This can't be possible! — Peter exclaimed —. For the level of decomposition they should be dead for at least few hours; plus the storm, the rain should have cooled them and because of this, the organs should be scattered, blood....

      —But, what about if they were struck by lightning? — Jeff interrupted.

      Peter looked at him and said:

      —I do not think so; there is no trace of burns, or in their bodies, or in the vegetation, not even on the asphalt. Let's look for the boys.

      It was impossible to continue in their vehicle; the bodies were blocking the road, so they had to continue on foot. The headlights of the truck's shining from behind as they went by road through the bodies of animals, both policemen cast their shadows over the trees and made them look like two giants, but as they came to the other side, their shadows became shorter.

      At that time, they heard a shot, then another and another; they felt the unmistakable sound of bullets flying over their heads.

      —On the ground, somebody is shooting at us! — Shouted Peter.

     They threw themselves to the ground, while the shooting continued, but no longer in the direction where the policemen were.

      —Do you see anything? — Asked Peter.

      —No, nothing — said, Jeff.

      Once again they heard the shots now follow by cries of despair.

      —NO! DAMN IT! NO! HELP, HELP ME!

      —That's Franklin’s voice! — Said Jeff.

      —Let’s go help him, — Peter ordered.

      Shots continued and finally they saw Franklin running from behind the bushes, firing toward the trees.

      —Franklin, Franklin! What’s the matter? Who are you shooting at? — Asked Peter.

      The policeman was pale, trembling from fright, wide—eyed, and though he had run out of bullets, he tried in vain to keep shooting.

      Peter and Jeff raised their rifles pointing toward the trees and came to Franklin.

      —What is in there? What it was attacking you? Where is Michael? — Asked Jeff.

      —Here they come, here they come! — Said Franklin sweating and trembling —. There they are!
    
      First they heard squealing like pigs, and then this sound was multiplied becoming people screaming and wailing. Then clear voices of men and women, pleading for help and mocking. It was the sound of a crowd of people. The screams were heartbreaking, hair—raising and was it coming from there, from the place where moments ago, the police had been firing.

     The bushes began to move and then, out of nowhere, a herd of animals came, black, hairy, huge, full—bodied wild boar, tusks, and human faces with eyes of fire that caught them by surprise, jumping on them, snarling and laughing.
    
       Peter and Jeff shot their guns without success. The beasts threw them to the ground while the policemen tried to protect themselves by covering their heads with their arms. The animals began to bite them everywhere; the cries of pain were heard echoing through the forest while the beasts laughed and snarled. Finally the creatures ran to the lake and disappeared into the water.

     Jeff and Peter got up from the ground shocked by what had happened, their heads were exploding with pain and they felt dizzy. Franklin was still on the ground, vomiting. Gradually they came to their senses and started running towards the vehicle which was far away with the lights on.
    
      They came to the place where the deer were dead. The three policemen were out of breath, they were still shocked by what had happened.
      —What was that? What the fuck was that? — asked Jeff — breathless.

      —They were chasing us! They wanted to kill us! — said Franklin.

      Regaining his breath and sitting up, Peter looked at his men and began to touch his body, realizing that he had no type of injury; only his clothes were dirty, filthy, having rolled in the vegetation. He was covered with mud, animal hoof prints were all over his clothes, same like Jeff and Franklin, but they were not injured.

      —Let's calm down — said Peter.

      —What was it happened? — asked Jeff —. What the hell was that?

      —Franklin was still in shock and uttered no words.

      —Franklin, what happened? — Peter asked.

      The policeman did not answer and kept looking back in terror. Peter grabbed him by the shoulders shaking vigorously.

      —Franklin, what happened back there? Answer me, snap out of it.

      Franklin looked at Peter, then to Jeff and started to babble.

      —We ... We, Michael and I were going to the lake, checking if anyone was swimming and to warn them of the storm.

      Peter realized that they had forgotten Michael.

      —Where's Michael? Where did you leave him? — Asked Jeff.

      —I do not know, — said Franklin — we were running together and we got separated when getting on the road. I do not know where he is.

      —We have to look for him. — Peter said — we have to find him.

      —NO! — cried Franklin — I don't want to go back there!

      —Chief, he’s right; we cannot do anything, at least not alone. To go back there would be a suicide mission.—said Jeff.

      Peter remained silent in thought.

      —You are right, Jeff, call reinforcements. Wake up all the staff that is sleeping, leave only two positions covering the town and the entrance; send the rest here immediately. — ordered Peter.
      —Yes, chief. — Jeff said — and he contacted the station. The stench and insects flutter around the carcasses of deer increased,

——————oooooo——————



CHAPTER III


      —Now let's place our index fingers on the pointer and concentrate solely on my voice — said Will.

      Everybody put their fingers touching the amulet that moved the pointer. When touched, they felt a kind of chill that was transmitted from the tip of their fingers to their heels. The stone was cold and everybody, this time for real, concentrated on Will’s voice.

      —Is there anybody there? — Will asked.

      —Does anyone wish to contact us?

      Suddenly, the pointer began to move slowly to make circles on the table, all fingers on top of these. It wasn't heading anywhere specific, just moving in circles.
Josh thought someone was moving the pointer, so he decided to follow suit.

      —We want to talk with whoever is there — Will said aloud – EXPRESS YOURSELF!

This time, the pointer started to move a little faster.

      Dolores began to write. H... E.... L.... L…O

      —Very well, we have a guest — said Will.

      —What is your name?

      The fingers on the pointer were moving more quickly now.

      —Rose — Dolores wrote and then read aloud.

      —Where were you born Rose?

      —England.

      —Where are you? — Ann asked.

      —Somewhere.

      —When did you die? — Will continued.

      —In 1945.

      —What happened?
      —Disease ... heart.

      —Well, well, to play a joke that’s it. — Said Charles — who is moving the pointer?

      —Why did not you ask a question that only you know the answer? — Jennifer asked him

      —Okay, let's see — said Charles.

      —What color is my underwear?

      —None, you forgot to wear It.—it was the answer.

      —Ha, ha, ha, ha. —All the laughter burst —As Charles looked bewildered at his wife. Dolores looked at him shaking her head, indicating that she didn’t do it.

      Josh was convinced that the response had been from Dolores; as she was still shaking his head and gesturing with her mouth — not me—

      They all looked at each other, skeptical and nervous — Ann asked —:

      —Are you happy where you are?

      —I'm calm – was the answer.

      —Who are you with? Will asked.

      —With my parents.

      —Did you love somebody on earth?

      —Yes

      —Is he there?

      —Yes. He is here with me...

      —Are you scared?

      —No.

      —Will you come back to earth?

      —I do not know.

      —What's it like being dead?
      —Different.

      —Different? How?

      —It's different.

      —Could you be more specific?

      —You will know at its moment.

      —What do you mean? Would you tell us later?

      —No. Everyone will experience it. Everyone gets there, it is inevitable...

      —Have you seen God?

      The pointer didn’t move.

      —Is there a hell?

      The pointer wasn’t moving, until it started to spin again.

      —Message...

      —Do you want to give a message?

      —Danger.

      —Who is at risk?

      —All of you.

      —What do you mean?

      —All of you are in danger.

      —Yes, but what do you mean? — Josh asked now — confused.

      —Your souls.

      —Why do you say that our souls are in danger?

      —You have opened a door. I have to go, goodbye.

      Fingers got frozen on the pointer; everybody looked at it suspicious, thinking about what "Rose" had told them, when there again it began to spin, moving by a strange power, supernatural. Josh's doubts were dissipated yet, thinking it was a joke played by Will for them to believe in the game, so Josh decided to play along.

      —Is there anybody here? — Will asked again.
      There was no response; the fingers were making erratic movements.

      —Is there anyone who wants to express before us?

      Now the pointer began to move over the letters. Dolores went to take notes.

      —Yes

      —What is your name?

      —Michael.

      —Where were you born Michael?

      —In the United States.

      —How did you die?

      Now the pointer was moving faster.

      —I was killed.

      —Who killed you?

      —I was forced to.

      —Who made you do it?

      —Them.

      —Who are they?

      —They have my soul.

      Josh spoke now with a startled.

      —Who took your life?

      —“Evil”
      —What do you mean by "evil"?

      —“Evil”

      —What is evil?

      —They got me.

      —Who got you?

      —The evil´s forces.
     
      At this point, everyone was scared. Ann and Susan tried to lift up their fingers from the board, but it was impossible, their fingers were as heavy as a ton of lead. Their fingers now moved quickly instead, making it difficult for Dolores to continue the writing.

      —Lion, goat, they devour me...

      —What are you saying? Did a lion eat you?

      —It has a lion’s head and goat’s horns.

      An atmosphere of fear invaded the room; everyone felt apprehension about what "Michael" was saying.

      —When did you die?

      —Today.

      —How did you die? — Asked Charles.

      —They forced me…, they forced me to do it— he repeated. And you are next.

      Will’s voice began to tremble. He was nervous for sure.

      —What do you mean we are next? What danger are you talking about?

      —They have my soul, help me.

      —Who has your soul? How can we help you? — Asked Will.

      —Where did you die? — Josh intervened.

      —LAGO FELIZ!—was the terrible answer.

      Everyone was shocked; they look at each other terrified. The lights of the candles began to lose intensity and a chill wind entered the place where they were gathering, making their skin to get goose bumps; they were frightened to death. Their fingers moved frenzied across the board without any logical order, and they could not leave the table, making their wrists ache.
     
      Susan lost consciousness at the table, banging her forehead and getting a small wound which began trickle blood. Ann and Jennifer tried to help her, but could not take their fingers off the pointer. Susan’s blood trickled down on the table and at that moment they began to hear a whisper that gradually became a shrill laugh, sarcastic, macabre. It started at the window, and then they realized it was coming from the injured woman.

      —Michael is with us, now he belongs to us. — Said the voice coming from Susan.

      They all looked scared how Susan's face was rising slowly, with an atmosphere turning into terror. Her forehead and part of her face were bathed in blood. Her face sprouted knots under the skin, and seem to try to let them out without success. Her eyes, normally green, were now black and moved completely out of control. Her skin was so completely transparent that was possible to see her blood circulating through the veins. Her heart was clearly seen in spite of her dress and a pair of hands with black nails like a lion’s claws stained red with Susan's blood, wrapped around her neck and started to tear her chest and belly.

      She opened her mouth and let out a yellow vapor, offensive, which let them see two fangs like a snake with yellow and brown teeth in an advanced state of decomposition.

      —HE BELONGS TO US! — Said the voices coming from her mouth – AND SO THIS OLD WHORE!

      The voice began to laugh out loud, while everyone looked on shocked, full of dread, struggling to let go of the Ouija board without success, Dolores wet herself, scared, while Jennifer and Ann cried desperate, seized with a nervous breakdown. At that moment, the pointer stopped and left their hands forcefully projected, giving them the relief they craved. The table flew through the air and the charm was thrown out the window breaking the glass. Everyone fell over and the candlelight went out, leaving the room dark.

      Everything was silent, only the sobs of Ann and Jennifer were listening.

      —Quiet, shut up! — Will shouted — ... silence!

      In the midst of darkness, they listened to a hiss; it was the sound of something moving, like a snake crawling on different sides of the room, with a strange voice moaning at the same time. That thing was moving quickly, hissing and getting closer to the people in the room, while laughing hysterically.

      —Please, turn on the lights, whoever can do it, turn on the lights now. — Ann said sobbing.

      Charles, who was closer to the switch, got the light on, so they saw her.
     
      Susan was crawling on the ceiling with her arms perpendicular to torso and her legs moving together like a snake. Her black eyes were injected with the blood vessels on the verge of bursting; her body was covered in blood and from her mouth went a dark forked tongue in and out nonstop between its fangs. She began to spit at all of them as she moved through the ceiling down the walls and climb again. The figure was hellish.
     
      All those present were paralyzed by the horror they were witnessing, while Susan was on the ceiling laughing and shouted:

      —SO, FAGGOT PRIEST, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?
     
      —THIS OLD BITCH IS MINE! AND THE FAGGOT COP TOO! NOW, I'M GOING TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR BASTARDS.
     
      Having said this, she collapsed on the table and her shadow stayed on the ceiling for an instant, while opening her jaws and looking at them with those bright, scary, evil eyes. Then, she disappeared.

      Jennifer and Ann rushed to help her while Josh did not hide his amazement, he was petrified. Charles and Dolores approached with caution, looking at Susan who lay on her back over the table. Suddenly, they heard screams coming from the nursery.

      —MOM, DAD: HELP! – They shouted – and an appalling noise was heard.

      —THE KIDS! — Will cried— IT IS UPSTAIRS WITH THE KIDS!

     They ran upstairs to rescue the children, while Josh stood downstairs gazing at the dying woman on the table, badly wounded and covered in blood. He approached her, and still with the terror of what had happen he overcame and grabbed her hand.

      —Susan, Susan, can you hear me, Susan?

      Her eyes were half open, with an absent gaze when she saw Josh, and tried to say something. Two streams of blood gushed from her mouth, attempting to talk.

      —Wait, Susan, I will ask for help – Josh told her –

      Using her last strength, Susan raised her hand and grabbed him by the arm, beginning to tremble.

      Josh put his ear to her mouth who said to him:

      —I have seen evil — whispered the moribund —Embrace God, embrace the real God. — Her right eye let a tear out...

       She stretched her arm a little, and weakly she clutched the crucifix that hung from the priest’s neck:

      —This is not what HE wants; it doesn’t stand for him...

      Josh began to mourn, as blood dripped from mouth and nose of the dying woman, who cried with one last breath:

      —Forgive me, Lord! — And she breathed her last breath, with her eyes open, as if she was looking at the priest – She was dead!


——————oooooo——————
  
CHAPTER IV

      —Now you will tell me exactly what happened. What happened to Michael? Focus, Franklin — Peter spoke harshly to Franklin — while this one was still pale, but recovering a little from the race the three of them had made to escape from those "beasts".

      —Michael and I were on patrol on the lake, by the jetty. Everything was quiet, we had not seen anything when the storm began — told Franklin — the rain was so strong that we decided to stay parked and to come into the hut at the entrance of the dock. We got off, starting to smoke and play cards waiting for the storm to be over.

      —Did you try to communicate with Central? – Jeff asked.

      —We were all the time trying to talk to Central, but it was useless. Radios seemed to be dead — said the policeman.

  Continue — Peter ordered.

      —Clap of thunder began and lightning was seen in the lake. Then we looked through the window and saw how this kind of small clouds were forming, in white color and gleaming; and they were approaching to the cabin. One of them came in with an infernal whistle. We were very frightened; suddenly it exploded with a small noise.

      —Yes, — said Peter —I've seen that before, they are called: ball lightning or sparks *** 2

      —The storm lasted a few minutes. We found it odd that it had ended very soon, but we were still nervous about what we saw. These objects were very strange, they kept floating still and then exploded, — Franklin continued.

      —What the hell are you talking about, Franklin? — Jeff asked.

    That's real, — Peter confirmed—. These rays are natural phenomena that occur sometimes in storms like the one we had today.

*** 2 Ball lightning, also known as spark, lightning or spherical object, is a natural phenomenon associated with thunderstorms. It takes the form of a bright floating object that, unlike the short common lightning discharge, this is persistent. It can move slowly or quickly, or remain almost stationary. It can make whistling sounds, crackle or no noise at all. Globular lightning discharges are extremely rare and the details from the witnesses can vary widely. Many of the observed properties of ball lightning reports are incompatible with each other, and it is very possible that several different phenomena are being incorrectly grouped under one name.
Discharges tend to float or glide in the air and gave the appearance of spheroid. The shape can be spherical, ovoid, teardrop—shaped or a cane, with no dimension much larger than the others. The larger dimension measured between 0.1 to 0.4 meters. Many have a reddish—yellow color. Sometimes the discharge appears to be attracted by an object, while occasionally it moves randomly. After several seconds the discharge will go away, be scattered, absorbed by something or, in rare cases, it vanishes with a bang. (Information taken from Wikipedia)

      —Are you saying that all what is happening, the deer, the..., the ... the "things", those which attacked to us, came with the storm? Are you kidding me, Peter? Here's something strange, very strange, we almost got killed. What the hell does the storm have to do with it? You saw those things with human faces, animal bodies, and the screams; something else is going on here.

      —No, I didn’t say that the cause is the storm, I really do not know. — Peter answered— what I know is that you have to calm down; this should have a logical explanation. One thing is sure: those lightning that Michael and Franklin saw, are not ghosts or anything supernatural, it is just a natural phenomenon, that's all.

      The three policemen were lying in Peter’s truck, Jeff pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He offered one to Peter, who did not accept it, and then to Franklin, who lit it up and swallowed a deep puff, trying to pluck up courage.

      —Continue, Franklin — Peter said.

      —The storm ended and the clouds began to move into the city. Michael and I left the cabin, still frightened by those rays and we decided to return to the fork in the road to the lake, to continue our rounds. We got into the patrol car and set out. We moved a few yards along the shore and then it happened...

      —What happened? – Jeff asked.

      —We heard those laughs, some women guffawed.

      —Was someone swimming in the lake after the storm? — Jeff asked incredulously.

      —Well, I really would not be surprise if some couples had escaped to the lake and waited until the storm was over. Remember that today is a Friday and many people come to have fun, especially those who want to get away and have fun with their partners — Peter said

      —True — Jeff nodded.

      —We though the same, chief, so we stopped the car and we got to see what was the matter.

      —So? — Asked Jeff.
      —In the distance we heard the laughter of women, playing, you could hear the splash of water, but we did not distinguish very well what was going on. I shone my flashlight to the place where the laughter came from and we saw two women, very pale, bathing naked, laughing, and jumping. We note that there was something between them; they held something in their hands. They were flinging it up to the air and then sank it into the water. They passed it between their legs, breasts and they laughed ... and laughed. We got closer and could see what they were sinking, and then biting. We could not believe it, it was A BABY! Can you believe it? It was a baby ... and he began to cry.

      Peter and Jeff got goose bumps. In the distance they could see the lights of the other police cars that came in support. The red and white lights were flashing in the distance.

      —Then — Franklin continued — the two women looked at us and we saw that they had torn part of the chest to the creature; you could see a hole through which blood flowed abundant. Both of them had red eyes, they fixed us with a stony gaze and dropped the child, who disappeared in the water. Then they began to leave the lake and we drew our weapons. At that time they rose from the water and they pounce on us; Michael and I shot them but could not stop them. One of them knocked Michael down, while the other tried to grab me. I started to run and I heard the awful laugh again. I stopped and saw that Michael had gotten up and ran to the hut. Suddenly those "things" became that... those animals that we saw and began to chase us. I kept shooting and running until you found me.

      The lights indicated that the patrols were very close. Jeff told Peter.

      —Chief, we’d be better off telling nothing, they would not believe it. They would think we're crazy, drunk or drugged.

      Peter stayed thoughtful for a moment.

      —You are right, we will not say anything about what happened to us; are we all agree? Franklin, I want to know if you understand me.

      —Yes, chief — he said – wiping his tears away and pulling himself together.

      Then, Peter spoke to Jeff.
     
      —We organize a search for Michael. Get the men together and let’s go to the hut first.

      —Yes, chief.

      —Chief Donovan; guys, are you okay? — David Fuller asked; he was one of the policemen who came to the rescue.

      —Yes, David.—answered Donovan.

      When Fuller saw the dead deer and felt the stench of the carcasses, he began to gag and could not help vomiting. Three more vehicles arrived with six men, so there were nine men, and Jeff began to order.

      —Listen, we have a situation — Jeff said — Officer Michael Hudson is lost, we will organize a search in the vicinity of the lake. Take out all your shotguns and flashlights. We are going all together; I don’t want anybody to separate from the group, not even for a moment. Is that clear?

      Excuse me, Jeff — Dean Beacon, one of the newcomers, replied —, we should separate off by pairs to cover more ground and thus faster to find Michael. We can buy time, especially if he is injured.

      —No. — Peter said – We are going all together with lanterns and prepared for any eventuality. Is that clear?

      —Yes, chief — his men responded.

      —Chief Donovan, what happened to these deer? How were they killed? That’s why we need to stay together? — Asked Fuller.

      —We’ll see it afterwards — Peter said— to find Michael that’s all that matters. Do not separate and stay alert.

      With the lights of the vehicles on, behind them, they went into the woods, shining their flashlights, going forward, until they spotted Michael and Franklin’s patrol, which was still with the police lights and headlights on. They went to the jetty illuminating the lake, but they found nothing. There was no sign of Michael, just a reflection of the moon on the water, moving gently with the breeze.

      —Let’s check the cabin – Peter said.

      They realized that there was no electricity supply in the jetty, surely because of the storm. Peter and David came to the door, anguish reflected in their faces. Peter tried to open it, but he couldn’t, it was locked.

      —See if you can see something through the windows — said Peter.

      Mark Kowalski, one of the policemen, tried to lean in the window and turning on his flashlight he saw the legs of a person. The police uniform was unmistakable.

      —There he is, chief, he is sitting on the floor.

      —Break the door down, — ordered Peter.

      Three policemen began to push hard on the door until it gave way. Jeff lit the kerosene lamp that was hung at the entrance, and came into the cabin. There he was, Michael Hudson sitting on the floor, his back against the wall. He was still holding his pistol with the right hand and the other lay inert hanging from his body. His head against the wall with his eyes open staring at the ceiling. The bullet entered under his chin and exited through the skull. The exit hole was huge, parts of the scalp, teeth and brains were left stuck to the ceiling, and his body lay in a pool of blood.

      —God! What happened here? — David exclaimed.

      —Do not move anything —the sheriff ordered. Secure the area! Jeff, contact the city police and report what it has happened. They will take charge.

      —You heard the chief! Secure the area. Do not touch anything.

      Peter and Jeff stayed looking at Michael’s body.

      —What do you think is going on, Peter? I had never seen anything like this, tonight has been terrible, there is something very bad, something supernatural among us. It must have been something hideous so Michael committed suicide. He was a veteran of the Gulf War as us, and we know he was not a coward – Jeff said —.

      —I do not know what to do, Jeff. I do not know how to fight something that lacks any logic, or who to ask. Those things we saw, that attacked us. I do not understand — replied Peter.

      —Peter, I did not believe in witchcraft or spirits or anything of those ghost stories, but now I'm changing my mind, and to be honest, I am afraid of what might happen — Jeff said.

       Peter listened to Jeff talking, meditating on the ghost stories and witchcraft. He had not told anybody about what he experienced that night at the tomb of the Iraqi desert, not even to his beloved Jennifer. He even made himself to the idea that it was a nightmare product of the blast that threw him to the ground and left him stunned. Long since he had those dreams, but he said to himself: "That was not real, it was only a nightmare." He attributed those scars on his legs from burns, to the explosion of a mortar, refusing to recognize that something really happened, that he faced something strange in that place, something unknown, supernatural, where he felt a terror ever experienced until now, when he relive the horror, the terrible experience to feel the nearness of death, fear of the supernatural and having no way to defend themselves or to know how. He looked at Michael and felt a shiver to see him there, sitting on the floor. What could be so awful to make him commit suicide? Was it so terrible that instead of escaping, he decided to take his life?

      —I am also afraid, Jeff — Peter replied. There must be an explanation for this. There has to be something logical. We will find the solution. Do not show the rest of them your fear, all right? We must lead by example. Let's see if we get something before the homicide department of the city gets here. Check in the hut I am going to check his pockets.

      —Okay chief, you're right — Jeff agreed.


——————oooooo——————


CHAPTER V


      Josh remained contemplating Susan while the others ran up the stairs when the children scream of panic, asking for help, crying, calling their parents. When they reached the hall, the walls and the ceiling were on fire, they could see human faces in pain coming from the flames. Faces of men, women and children who tried to speak, but nothing came out of their mouths of flame.

      They saw the door of the playroom opened; from there they could see as the lights were on and off. Toys, dolls, ornaments and everything was flying in circles at breakneck speed. The children were huddled on the opposite wall of the door unable to stand up due to the moving objects that fly uncontrollably and could beat them and hurt them. The computer, the little train, the plastic horse and all the furniture revolved by the heads of the terrified crying children asking to be rescued.
     
      The shadow that had left Susan’s body a moment ago was now on the ceiling of the playroom, roaring with laughing.

      —HA, HA, HA, NOW THIS LITTLE BASTARD IS OURS! HE IS OURS...

      The fire in the hall prevented them from reaching the room. The faces in the flames that look in pain before were now laughing with a horrible, shrill sound. Go through the hall in fire was impossible.

      At that moment, Jennifer heard George's voice.

      —Mommy, Mommy, please help me. HELP ME!

      —I'm coming, sweetie, I'm coming. — Jennifer screamed – LEAVE HIM ALONE, SON OF A BITCH! LEAVE MY CHILD ALONE! ...

     She ran through the hall in flames. As she headed toward the playroom the corridor began to lengthen, stretching in a way that she did not reach the door. As she walked through the flames, she could feel how the beings of fire bit her, licking her and holding her with arms of fire, burning her on the way. Jennifer felt the excruciating pain on her skin consumed by the fire, and the smell of charred flesh, HER FLESH! It was spread throughout the house. She was ablaze, writhing in pain, but still kept running towards the playroom.

      Been unable to stand the pain, overwhelmed with tears, she implored.

      —God of heaven, help me to save my son...!
     
      She jumped to get to the playroom and immediately the flames extinguished, the door was closed and everything fell silent.

      Jennifer was lying on the floor against the door, trembling and crying. She looked at her hands, arms, legs, and she found that nothing had happened to her; she has no burns, no injuries.

       Everybody else stood paralyzed with terror, they thought Jennifer was burned to death and when they saw her kneeling at the entrance, they approached her in silence. Ann and Dolores were crying inconsolable.

      —I can hear nothing — said Will.

      —Let's go inside, I think the men should go first — Charles said.

      —But what if "that thing" is still there — said Will — we could....

      Jennifer stood over, walked between the two men and opened the door slowly. The whole room was a mess; it seemed that a hurricane had passed through, toys, ornaments, furniture, everything was upside down.

      —And the children? — Ann asked — where are the children?

      The children were nowhere to be found.

      —SEARCH EVERYWHERE! UNDER THE FURNITURE! MOVE EVERYTHING, THEY HAVE TO BE HERE! — Cried Will.

      —Holy Moses! “It” took them! “It” took the kids! — Said Dolores — crying in distress.

      —It can’t be true, they have to be somewhere — Charles said — and he continued looking for them frantically. DENNIS, MICHAEL, ANSWER, PLEASE! ... WHERE ARE YOU?

     Josh ran upstairs and found everybody looking for the children everywhere; calling them, crying, screaming in pain and despair.

      —Josh, Josh, our children are gone; they are nowhere to be found, Josh. They are not here, please help us. — Ann begged...

      —What has happened to them, damn? Where are they? — Will said, crying inconsolable.

      The priest was shocked, moved by the grief of his friends, terrified by what he had seen. First, Susan's death, and now the children disappear. What had happened? He loved God with all his heart. When he left the seminary and he was ordained a priest, his blind faith prevented him from seeing beyond what he had learned. The Bible was for him "holy word", no doubt about it, something that could not be questioned. He became a more critical person over time. He still loved God but was also aware of how Catholicism used manipulation to keep the faithful, with a doctrine of blackmail, most of the time, and threats that he did not share. He realized that the congregation where he belonged was controlled by human beings with ambitions, envy, errors, defects and unlimited desire for power. He had seen with much sadness how over the years, his congregation was losing followers. The so absurd banning in the use of condoms, by the Catholic Church, seemed really wrong to him. The policy to hide the sins of pedophile priests or the ones who committed other crimes, and to make it public only when it was inevitable and already a public scandal, it was unacceptable to him. For him, evil, devil or whoever was evil personified was on the earth, in evil deeds, when do badly to others and not to help fellow men. Devil was just a fable, stories that "enriched" to Catholicism, a way to sell the doctrine and win followers. Cases of demonic possession were merely mental problems in nature; God was everywhere, in the love felt by parents for their children, in the marriage vows, in helping others, in protecting helpless people, in saving a life even of a stranger, in a work of art, in sacrificing ones’ life for others. Josh could see God's work every day, but that night, his faith and beliefs collapsed when he realized the presence of evil. Surely, the author of all that horror was a dark and evil force, and he didn’t see God anywhere.

     Will, Ann and Jennifer were still in the frantic search for the children while Charles was attending Dolores, who lied unconscious on the floor. Instinctively, Josh went downstairs to the living room; he looked at the corpse and went out. He got to his car, entered by the passenger side, opened the glove compartment and pulled out a black leather case; he thought for a moment and then returned to his friend’s house.

      He passed by the deceased again and said:

      —Dead people can wait.

     He went upstairs and found Will talking on his cell phone with the police, while the others were sitting on the playroom floor. Desperation and despair seized the room.

     Father Josh Miller opened the black leather case from which he got a very small brown glass bottle, with a gold cross, containing a transparent liquid, and a metal swab with wooden base. He placed it on a small table next to the door, then he took a green clerical stole out, he kissed it and placed it over his neck so that the ends descended on both sides of the chest as if he was going to celebrate a mass. Then he pulled a small black book, with a cover where it reads in gilt letters “The Holy Bible".

     Standing in the middle of the room, while the others were left in their despair, he made the sign of the cross, and with clear, firm voice he said:

      —IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT, AMEN.

      —Lord, you who can see everything and have mercy on your people, we pray for the children of these families, for the innocent children who are paying for a sin they have not committed, Oh, Lord! I implore you to enlighten this place to find the whereabouts of Francis, Luisa, George, Dennis, Michael and Thomas. Please do not let these innocent creatures suffer, dear Lord. —He knelt down touched by the pain of the parents, making a plea from the bottom of his heart and he raised his arms—: LORD, I IMPLORE YOU TO FORGIVE MY SINS. PLEASE, SAVE THESE CHILDREN. IF SOMEONE HAS TO PAY FOR ANY OFFENSE, LET ME BE THE ONE, NOT THEM!

     In the midst of her suffering Jennifer turned to see Josh and instinctively knelt down, so did the others, except Ann, who turned red with anger began to shout at the priest.

      —WHERE IS THAT GOD WHO HAS ALLOWED SOMEBODY TO TAKE MY MOTHER AND MY CHILDREN? WHERE IS THE SON OF A BITCH WE PRAY TO EVERY DAY? AND I ALWAYS GO TO MASS. WHERE IS THAT GOD WHO HAS TOLERATED “THAT THING” TO RUIN MY LIFE? WHERE? WHERE?

     Josh paid no attention to the screams of Ann; he took the swab and began to agitate it against the corners of the room by spraying water everywhere.

      —Oh, Lord, Our Father which art in heaven! ... Give us your indulgence and save these children. Bless this home and deliver us from evil.

     He went on for a while and nothing happened, while everybody else wept disconsolately. Josh was desperate not knowing what to do. Around him there was sadness, despair and pain. With all his strength Josh threw the bottle at the wall and broke it into several pieces, then he threw the swab and finally the bible; some pages came away when banging the surface and then stayed on the floor while Josh screamed with his face flushed with anger:

      —WHERE ARE YOU, GOD! SHOW YOUR POWER AND MERCY! DO NOT LET EVIL WIN! HELP THESE FAMILIES! ... LISTEN TO YOUR PEOPLE! LISTEN TO YOUR CHILDREN!

     Suddenly the house started to shake. Jenny and the others looked terrified, screaming while Josh went completely out of himself...

      —DO SOMETHING! DO NOT ABANDON US! DO NOT LET EVIL TRIUMPH! DO NOT REMAIN IMPASSIVE WHILE THESE CREATURES ARE IN DESPAIR! DO SOMETHING!

     The whole house was moving, the furniture in living room, the kitchen utensils; the ceiling lamps trembled uncontrollably.

      Next, Josh addressed the evil event that wiped the children out.

      —YOU, DAMNABLE ABOMINATION! LET THE CHILDREN FREE! EVIL FREAK, REMAIN OF THE UNIVERSE! RELEASE THEM! MISERABLE MONSTER, GET BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM! ...

     The walls began to crack as pieces of paintings felt from the ceilings, making them fear that they were to come down. Without warning, one of the windows exploded like a giant vacuum cleaner, absorbing what it was around. It seemed that something very big, a huge body had gone unseen by. The shaking stopped, and everybody remained very quiet and they were amazed.

      —Are you all right? — Asked Charles.

      —Quiet — Josh said — listen.

      They stayed quiet, trying to hear something. A few seconds passed.

      —There's nothing, said Will. What did you hear?

      At that moment they heard the children crying and calling to their parents.

      —Mom, Dad, here we are, here we are. — They were the voices of the kids –

      Everyone stood up immediately, but they didn’t know where the voices were coming from.

      —Search again — said Josh.

     Will went to the closet and there he found Francis and Luisa, who were sitting and crying, very frightened.

      —Dad, we are here, Dad...

     Will hugged and called Ann. The four of them came together in a big hug, filling their children with kisses and tears of joy.

      —Mommy, Mommy — it was George who came out from under a chair that was overturned on the bed — Hi Mommy.

      Jennifer ran and hugged her son, saying, thank you, God, thank you, God.

      —Dad, Mom, — There were Dennis and Michael who were in the little toy tent. Charles and Dolores could not control their emotions and went to hug their children.

      —Thomas, Thomas, where are you my love? Thomas, repeated Mary, Thomas...

      Josh started looking around the room again.

      —Will, Charles, look all over the house, we have to find Thomas. — Josh said.

      —Yes, — said Will – let’s go, Charles.

      —Listen to me, Mary, we will look everywhere for Thomas. We will find him, all right? — Josh said.
      —Yes, let's go to look for him... said Mary

      They were about to leave the room when Jennifer said:

      —There, under the blanket! There’s something there!

     Mary and Josh were running to the blue blanket that covered the playpen. Everybody checked it several times before the children appeared. Josh uncovered all at once. Thomas was there.

     Wide—eyed, blue pants, red shirt and stockings with comics, he was semi—sitting with arms at his sides, face and tongue out bruised. The neck secured by the ribbon in the pacifier that had been entangled in the corner of the playpen, choking him to death.
  NOOOO! — Shouted Mary — grabbing Thomas and removing the neck loop, No, Thomas, wake up, Thomas, my love, you're with Mommy, let’s go, wake up, sweetie, wake up.

      She hugged and kissed him tenderly as her tears felt on Thomas’ face.

      —Thomas, baby, wake up, sweetheart; please, wake up.

      Jennifer came to Mary, hugging her.

      —Mary, he is gone, he is gone.

      —No — said Mary – with Thomas’ little body in her arms. Don’t you realize he is asleep? He will wake up at any time, won’t he, Josh. Father Josh?
    
       Now she was begging Josh, as if he had the power to raise the baby

      —Tell me that Thomas is going to wake up, please, make him wake up, Josh.

      The priest moved closer and sore, he had a feeling of immense sadness and grief, he was overwhelmed by seeing the suffering of Mary. He approached her, hugged her, and with a lump in his throat, he said,

      —Thomas is gone, dear Mary, he is gone.


      Mary kept hugging Thomas, crying silently, rocking and cuddling him as if he was asleep...

——————oooooo——————


CHAPTER VI


      Chief Donovan, you have a call from Central, they say it's an emergency. — Dean said.

      —Why they didn’t call my cell phone? — said Peter.

      —It seems that this area has no coverage or you have it turned off.

      Donovan found that his cell phone had indeed no signal. He turned to Jeff.
     
      —Take over, I will contact central from the patrol.

      —Is the radio in Lightning 2 working? – Peter asked to Dean.

      —Yes, chief, it does now. But portables do not reach here that well.

      Peter walked to the patrol and reported by radio:

      —Go ahead, Central, Tornado here.

      —Tornado, you need to return home as soon as possible.

      —What is the matter, Central?

      —We have an emergency situation.

      Peter felt his legs trembling.

      —What's the problem, Central?

      —It's not clear what happened; apparently there was an accident at your neighbor’s house — Will Perrys. We suspect there are injuries. I've already sent an ambulance and firefighters are on their way.

      Peter felt short of breath.

      —Chief, Chief! Are you still there?

      —Yes, central, we are in our way, keep me informed.

      —Yes, Sir, over and out...

      —JEFF, JEFF! — Shouted Peter— let's go, hurry up, let’s go...!

      —What’s the matter, Chief? — Asked Jeff –

      —Something has happened at Will’s; it seems there was an accident. I don't have a complete report. Leave Fuller in charge.
    
      Peter and Jeff ran back down the road passing between the dead deer and they brought Franklin with them. They got into the van and drove back home at full speed.

      —What did Central tell you? — Asked Jeff –

      —Apparently, there was an accident, we'll find out when we get there — Peter replied.

      The three policemen remained silent in the vehicle, going through the road in the middle of the night. Peter feared the worst, that Jennifer and her son George were wounded. Same as Jeff, Peter wanted to arrive as soon as possible. Franklin was still shaking remembering what he had experienced.

      The officers who remained in the cabin began to cordon it off placing yellow plastic tape with the inscription: "NO TRESPASSING – LAGO FELIZ POLICE"
    
      Beacon and Fuller finished putting the ribbon, when Kowalski, who was searching the lake's edge, came up by the dock and shouted:

      —Hey! Guys! Come see this! — Said Mark.

      —David and Dean approached and Mark pointed at something:

      —Look down there.

     Numerous shells of bullets were scattered on the ground, it seemed as if some sort of confrontation took place.

      —What happened here? — Asked Dean — someone was shooting into the lake.

      Dean reached down, picked up a sleeve, looked at it and then sniffed it.

      —It's a nine millimeter, it should be Michael’s, and it shows that it was shot recently; the smell of burnt gunpowder is fresh.

      —Yes, Michael and Franklin were at this position. This is very strange — David said.

      —The shells come from the shore and reach the edge of the woods, there are some heading to the cottage. — said Mark.

     Suddenly everything turned completely dark, it seemed like an eclipse was happening and an icy wind made them shudder. They felt overwhelmed with fear but that sensation lasted a few seconds, then everything returned to normal.

      —Shit, did you feel that? — asked Mark.

      —Yes, — said Dean — I felt a sort of cold hand touching my neck. Really, I don’t know what happened.

      —I felt the same and also I couldn't breathe — said David.

      —How long do we have to stay here? I have a strange feeling as if something bad is going to happen. There is something strange; I can feel it in the air — said Dean.

      —Come on, come on. Do you think a ghost is going to come? — Mark said mocking — and started laughing.

     Dean and David forced a smile, trying to pluck up courage, but the three officers were afraid for real, really afraid, it was clear...

     When Peter and Jeff arrived, they saw a hearse, an ambulance and the patrol they left in the village, right in front of Will’s house, with the emergency lights on. At that moment they were lifting a black bag up on a gurney, while somebody was bringing out a smaller bag from the house. Mary wept uncontrollably as Josh was holding her by her arm preventing her to fainting. Will and Ann hugged their children, so did Charles and Dolores.

      Jeff jumped from the car still running and ran towards his wife.

      —Mary, Mary, Where is Thomas? Where is Thomas, Mary?

      —Oh, Jeff, Thomas is gone; he’s gone — replied Mary – crying at the same time.

      —Mary, for God’s sake! Where is Thomas? Where is my son?

     The Douglas’ were destroyed. Peter got down and hugged his family, he turned to see his friend and it was excruciatingly painful. Apart from them, Ann hugged her husband and her children, looking with sorrow as they carried the remains of her mother.


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