The Demon of Innocence

As a disclaimer, this story deals with the theme of priests who molest children. It does not graphically describe the act, but does allude to such, and so people who are sensitive to or triggered by the subject may wish to avoid reading this.

I am more than aware that only a very, very small minority of priests molest children. Less than 1%, in fact. It is, however, a truth that adults do exist who abuse their authority over children to abuse them. I am not accusing priests as a whole of this abuse of power, this is a fictional piece about a specific fictional priest, not an indictment of men of faith in general, even if I have little but contempt for that faith.

I hovered over the foul wretch of a man, raven-feathered wings idly flapping. It was only now he got a good look at me, and I pushed my power through the fine mesh of mundanity that usually shrouded it, allowing him a true glimpse of what I was.

“You’ve-” the man quailed before me, mouth suddenly dry and voice hoarse, “you’ve burned out your soul!”

I dismissed my wings and dropped the last foot to the floor, a spectral tail lashing behind me restlessly in my aura, like that of a cat which was biding it’s time as a child flicked it with a feather toy. “Just a short time ago, I’d have scoffed at the idea of a soul.” I padded closer to him, “I’m still not sure I believe in the precise concept you refer to, but obviously some immaterial power exists beyond the spheres material.”

The man was on the verge of quivering in his cassock, hands rising to his mouth as he sunk to his knees. “H-how could you do… this,” he gestured weakly, “to your immortal soul, my boy?” His face was a twisted painting of sorrow and pity.

I sneered. “I am not ‘your boy’,” I snarled, and turned as I heard a tiny gasp behind me. A child–the child whose pain, dimly sensed from across space and time as he called out for salvation from the torment pressed into him by this loathsome abomination in holy clothing, brought me here–cowered behind the jam of the door. My visage unknit, softening as I knelt, playing the knight of justice arrived to rescue the innocent, the spectral imagery of my power resolving for a moment into polished black armour. “Child, do not fear. I am his punishment. I am the answer to your pleas, you will not be harmed-” I turned to look at the man before me, “ever again.”

“How could you turn from the Creator like this?” the man continued, seemingly completely oblivious to his victim’s gaze. “How could you turn your soul to ash for a pittance from the Deceiver?”

“How? Because I’m better than that sorry excuse for omnipotence,” I said, my lips curling in disgust, “and the ‘Deceiver,’ as you call him, actually answered my pleas when your… ‘Creator’,” I spat the words like bile from my throat, “showed no interest.”

The wretch, the… thing who dared to call himself a holy man before me, rose from his knees, suddenly incensed, righteous indignation moving across his face like a wild fire through a dry field, “How dare you. HOW DARE YOU! NO WASTREL WHO PROFFERS HIS SOUL TO THE PITS CAN PRETEND TO EVEN ONE IOTA OF HIS GREATNESS. YOU ARE LESS THAN A GRAIN OF SAND AND GOD IS AS THE UNIVERSE!” The man fumed before me, nearly reaching for my throat.

I readmitted my wings into this plane of matter in an unfurling explosion of force, my hands shooting out to grasp his robe, the man tried to stumble back but my hot fists and sharp claws held fast to the thick fabric, not yet tearing or burning through it, though holes slowly hissed through as the white cloth blackened and smoldered in my grip. “Do you know the key difference between your pauper churl of a god and I? When I hear the cries of a child coerced by a man they trusted, rendered a helpless piece of meat to his disgusting appetites… I respond.” My wings wrapped around us, shielding the sight of the violence I was preparing to unleash from the innocent eyes of the boy behind me. “I dare, because I intervene.”

The pitiful dross-heap’s eyes were wide, “I- I never t-touched that boy… You are being deceived by the Serpent of the Garden! I am a simple priest! Please, do not fall for the lies of the pit!” he pleaded with me.

“No lie could pierce the space of mortals as his cry did.” I… wasn’t actually entirely certain of that. Conceivably a lie believed by enough people, with enough faith behind it, could in fact do so, and the power of the Patriarch does evince something to that effect. “But, shall we examine your mind? I can do that, you know. It’s a simple matter for my power to creep across the folds of your brain, reading the memories stored within as if they were brail on a page. Will those memories save you? Prove you did not harm this child? Or will they proffer a testimony that only condemns your pitiful…” my lips curled of their own accord, and spat “soul.”

His vestments finally succumbing to my grasp of hellfire, the man tore free from me, the chest of his robe in tatters. He backed away, pushing through the tips of my wings, and I slowly followed, wings still curled, blocking him from running to either side, until he backed into the door of the confessional. His panic was wrought across his face as he fumbled with the door behind him, pushing it open and falling through, closing the door behind him.

I had no care for the door, and plunged sharp claws through the edge, pulling it open and breaking latch and jam. I stepped into the small space, towering over the man who knelt in fervent prayer for his life.

I pulled the door close behind me, and smiled in the darkness.

“…Father protect me from the demon that Satan has sent…” he muttered beneath me.

“Hello, father! Have you come to confess your sins?” I said with avuncular warmth. I reached down and pressed my hand against his forehead, gripping his skull and prying into his memory.

The man’s fervent faith put up an almost impressive fight as I searched. The first things I saw were memories of his time in seminary, of helping parishioners, and I almost thought that perhaps I’d assaulted the wrong man. But pushing deeper, I found the memories he didn’t want discovered. I was disgusted by the sensation he remembered, the visceral memory that tried to creep up my arm and sit in my own mind, to claim my own nerves and make me feel the same sense. When I found the visual memories, I nearly retched. I tore my hand away from him, the memories welling in the forefront of his mind as if a hose had been torn free of a spout.

The man’s plaintive whimpers for protection were suddenly turned into pleas for forgiveness in awareness of his crimes. “…b-bless me f-father for I have s-sinned…” he moaned as he was paralyzed with fear and only the hind brain functioned, spitting out rote memorizations.

“How long has it been since your last confession?” I intoned, my mocking avuncularness replaced with reviling contempt.

“O-one w-week” he muttered.

“May the darkness like unto that of the pit where the abominable dwell push you to make a full confession of your sins.”

“I-I have… I…” the pitiful heap of dross could not summon the words to confess. He quivered and moaned beneath me.

“You have abused your position of authority, you have preyed upon your flock, you have betrayed the trust of small children and violated their innocence with your diseased needs born of repression.”

It was almost imperceptible in his frightful shaking, but he nodded in admission.

“I do not absolve you of your sins. Mistakes can be mended, but crimes such as these require punishment. There is no known rehabilitation for one such as you, to my mind, thus you must be rendered unable to commit them in future.” I grasped his head between my hands, “Do you accept your earthly punishment, and any punishment which may be assigned to your incorporeal form?”

The man of false-righteousness seemed to finally break the surface of the memory of his sins, treading the thick, black water of the psyche, and looked up to me. One eye spoke fire and wrath, of fierce denial of his actions, of a refusal to accept my punishment of him. The other accepted all culpability, that it had grievously and heinously acted in violating assault of the innocent. The light of his eyes warred a moment as his brow furrowed in mental exertion, before at last he gazed up again in contrition. I withdrew all dams and barriers which held my might from pouring through my hands, and the infernal force of my Hellish power slammed into his skull from each side, with an effect like unto the hot shockwave of an atomic bomb.

His body slumped to the ground, no longer supported by my grip on skull and blood seeped from the remains of his head, dribbling down his robes, writing his sins on the white fabric.

I turned and left, pushing the door closed behind me, muttering an incantation to seal it to innocents such as the child outside. The child who now stood before me.

I knelt once again, one knee to the ground as a defending crusader before his charge in a painting. My power blazed around me, perceived by this small victim as solid black fire encasing my form as armour. He placed his hands on either side of my face, removing my helm in his sight. “A-am I safe?” he asked, tears coalescing in his eyes.

I lifted one hand to his cheek. The hand that radiated destruction into the skull of my quarry now emanating soothing calm. “You are.” I said. “He has been punished, and cannot harm you ever again.”

“Thank you,” the boy quietly said. His innocence was damaged, tarnished, but not gone. I hoped that it would recover.

“You are welcome, but no thanks is needed, to protect a child is the duty of any who would call themselves powerful or just.” My other hand came to cradle his face, “are there others who acted with him in harming you?”

The boys eyes threatened to flood again as he nodded.

“Do you have family that can protect you?”

Tears broke the levee of his eyes and streamed down his face as he shook his head in my tender grasp.

“I will make sure you are protected. Will you come with me?” I would never let another adult force this child ever again, and I was not about to do so myself.

He nodded, and I picked him up as I stood. Unseen behind me as we winked away from the sanctuary of that temple of false-righteousness pages fluttered to the ground to be found by administrators in the morning when they searched for the former orphan.

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