December 10

The Manifestation (Part 9)

 

“I have a theory. But I don’t think you’ll like it.”

The scholar, Carlson, addressed the group in a private meeting room. He was the latest so‑called expert to debrief them after a session with the demon. They’d tried criminal profilers, psychologists, pathologists, police and military interrogators. The sessions produced lots of printed transcripts. Not a lot of answers.

Watkins had suggested they bring Carlson back in. Because he’d been present during the summoning, he might have extra insight. Plus, with his historical and literary knowledge, he could comb through the transcripts for any meaning that eluded the rest of them.

Myers’ first question had been, “Can we send it back where it came from?”

“We’d need to know where that was, to start with. This may be the first successful demonic summoning, at least in modern times. That fraud who led the ceremony, I’m willing to bet he’d never seen anything like it before it crossed the pentagram and ripped him to pieces.”

Carlson continued: “I believe that the forbidden texts were printed with significant flaws in the instructions, to keep an amateur from succeeding by accident. Only someone with actual training, with real understanding of passed-down lore, could decipher the texts properly.”

He stood from the table and began pacing back and forth, in full lecture mode. “I think we’ve lost that oral tradition, the inherited expertise. The only reason this ceremony worked was because its leader was Broken — and an idiot as well. He made mistakes that somehow corrected the flaws in the text; he blundered into an accurate, actual ritual.”

“But what demon did he actually call up?” Watkins asked.

This was when Carlson shared the theory they didn’t want to hear. He pointed at the stack of classified folders; combined, they were the size of three unabridged dictionaries.

“All this talk, but nothing new about the disease.” He waved over the papers, spread them out in a fan on the table top. “The demon only knows what we know. Whatever was in the minds of the people in the room during the ceremony, everyone watching from the observation booth. Things about the school, about the immediate area — including secrets even you, Commander Myers, haven’t chosen to share with us.

“But also, somehow, things from the past. Everything in the history of that place is part of what the demon is. Memories from frightened children. Embittered thoughts of juvenile delinquents. Perversities of Satanists, government bureaucrats . . .

“. . .and, worst of all, bargain hunters.”

He stopped pacing, set both hands on the table and looked down at them to offer his final summation.

“Gentlemen, you didn’t manifest the disease that’s been cursing our world. You summoned up the evil manifestation of a rummage sale!”

 

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Sometimes the humans talked to it. They stayed as far away as possible, of course. Hid up in the booth and spoke through microphones.

Cowards.

Other times they let it watch television to keep from getting too bored or angry. They had replaced the scoreboard with a large‑screen monitor, mounted behind a piece of shatterproof plexi‑glass.

Once in a while, it saw some interesting bargains on the Home Shopping Channel.

The demon sat on a large makeshift couch, a bulky wooden contraption the humans had pieced together from the worst rummage discards. Whatever the demon couldn’t break easily.

It sensed people outside sometimes, particularly the large weekend crowd once a month. It couldn’t see them, but sniffed at the air like a child trying to smell cake and icing through the window of a closed bakery.

The Rummage Demon pressed his wooden pointer against the remote control. The television had switched to the golf network by accident. But now the channel wouldn’t change.

“Friggin’ remote,” the demon said, and shook it. A plastic compartment clicked open and two “AA” batteries fell to the floor.

“Typical.” It threw the remote into a corner pile of defective controls.

“Deitrich!” the demon yelled.

Send me back or kill me, the Rummage Demon thought.

Or find something for me to do . . . .

 

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