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I’ve been in love with Joey Templeton since the first time I saw him. He had an innocence about him, a sweetness that even now turns me to mush. He’s such a kind and gentle person I’m surprised little birds don’t land on his shoulder when we walk to school or that he’s not overwhelmed by tiny forest creatures when we hike through the woods. The first time I looked into those big blue eyes I knew we were meant to be together.

My dad and Joey’s mom were both executives at National Timber and the Templeton’s moved to the tiny Maine backwater of Pleasantville the same day we did. National Timber had just acquired Pleasantville Pine Products and our parents were sent to head up the new management team. I’d never met Joey before, his mom transferred from the Seattle, Washington, office while we moved from Portland, Oregon. I was just setting up my room when I looked out the window and saw one of the moving trucks pull away from the house across the street. With the view clear I spotted a slight, sandy haired boy playing fetch on the lawn with a Cocker Spaniel.

He was little but I figured he was around my age, twelve years old. His hair was cut short and combed to the side but every time the wind caught his bangs he had to brush them off his forehead. He was wearing a grey t-shirt with the unmistakable purple logo of the University of Washington Huskies, khaki shorts, white ankle socks and a pair of red Converse low tops. Eventually he caught me staring and when our eyes met he offered a shy wave.

Growing up with two sisters and four brothers I’ve never had the time to be shy. I waved back and when he smiled I bolted downstairs to say hello. His dog barked and ran up to me the moment I stepped on his lawn. I dropped to my knees to pet him and he jumped up too lick my face.

“Hey boy, what’s your name?” I giggled.

“That’s Seamus.”

“Cool, how about you?”

“I’m Joey Templeton, you?”

“Carter Harris. So you guys are just moving in too?”

“Yeah, we drove all the way from Seattle.”

“Portland here.”

“Oh, your dad works for National Timber, right?”

“Yeah, how did you know?”

“My mom said there was another manager moving his family cross country so I just assumed.”

“Cool, yeah, we drove too.”

“God, it took forever,” Joey groaned.

“Tell me about it.” I rolled my eyes. “So you got any brothers and sisters?”

“No, it’s just me and my mom,” said Joey, looking shyly at his feet.

“Where’s your dad?”

“I-I don’t know. I’ve never met him.”

The look on his face said it all. I thought he was going to cry and I instantly felt terrible. He had the cutest face when he smiled and I decided I should do something to make him laugh just so I could enjoy his expression.

“Well, you’re lucky. Cathy’s the oldest then there’s Jason, me, the twins Timmy and Tommy, Sara and Rory. Our house is like a funny farm and someone’s always in the bathroom when you really gotta pee!”

“Um, you can pee over here if you need to,” Joey snickered.

“Sweet! Can I play with you guys?” I gestured to Seamus and the stick Joey was holding.

“Sure, let me get the football. Seamus likes to play keep away.”

Joey grabbed a Nerf football from a box on the front porch marked, “Dog Toys,” and we spent the afternoon playing catch and chasing Seamus when he made interceptions. By the time our moms called us in for dinner we’d laid the foundation for the most profound relationship either of us would ever know. We were instant best friends. When I needed a break from the craziness at my house I’d go over to Joey’s and whenever he was lonely or his mom was working late he’d come over to mine. He grew close to my whole family and my parents treated him like he was just another inmate at the loony bin.

A year after first meeting we were boyfriends and now, three years later, we’re still together. In fact we’re even closer. National Lumber is in negotiations to buy out a company based in Eastern Siberia and Joey’s mom is heading the team brokering the deal. Fortunately the Templeton’s aren’t moving there but buying out a foreign company is a lot of work and Mrs. T was staying in Russia for three months to work out the details. She didn’t want to take Joey out of school and away from his friends so my mom and dad offered an easy solution to the problem when they invited Joey and Seamus to live with us while his mother was away.

Since Joey’s house was right across the street we didn’t really have to move anything. We packed up his clothes and moved them into my dresser but other than that all he brought with him was his pillow. I have bunk beds in my room because I used to share with Jason but he has his own room now since Cathy’s away at college. We gave Joey the top bunk but he rarely slept there. The first week his mom was away I think he missed her more than he was willing to admit. When he got lonely he climbed into my bed and we snuggled. Eventually he stopped bothering to climb to the top bunk and we shared my bed every night.

I knew I was lucky. What fifteen year old boy wouldn’t love to have his boyfriend move in and sleep with him every night? Our parents know we’re gay and they trust us enough to share a bed without thinking we were going at it every night. I mean sure, we got naked together sometimes and we’ve jerked each other off but we’re both shy when it comes to sex so that aspect of our relationship is a little more PG rated then most people who have been together as long as we have.

It was a Saturday morning in early spring and I had Joey cuddled in my arms with his face nuzzled into my neck. We’d planned to do what most teenagers do on a Saturday, you know, sleep till noon and then bitch about having nothing to do the rest of the day, but my sister Cathy had other plans. We were sound asleep when she burst into the room and jumped on the end of our bed. We were both startled and Joey’s first reaction was to pull away from me so no one would see what we were up too. It’s one thing for people to know we’re gay; it’s another for them to see it in action. You know what I mean? I wasn’t embarrassed though, I love Joey and I don’t care who sees me being affectionate with him. I tightened my grip around his waist and he settled down but did pull the covers up to his neck. It was very cute.

“Wake up nerds!” Cathy shouted. “Mom says breakfast is ready.”

“Ugh, what are you doing here?” I groaned. “Did they kick you out? Are you moving home?”

“Awww and ruin your little love nest you’ve got going on here?” Cathy teased. Joey blushed. “No, I’m taking a course in parapsychology this term and my professor is leading a group out to Wakefield Cemetery this afternoon.”

“Parapsychology? Like, ghosts and stuff?” asked Joey.

“It’s the study of paranormal and psychic phenomenon.”

“Awesome, they have classes in that?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s great. This field trip should be a lot of fun,” said Cathy. “Hey, do you guys wanna tag along? I’m sure no one would mind.”

“I don’t know. Joey gets scared watching Ghost Hunters,” I giggled.

“I do not. You cried like a little girl with a skinned knee when we saw Paranormal Activity 4,” Joey retorted.

“You wish,” I replied and hit him with my pillow.

Joey jumped on me and we started to wrestle but I won easily when I pulled the blankets down and exposed his underwear. He squeaked like a little mouse and dove under the covers.

“You guys are retarded.” Cathy rolled her eyes. “So do you want to come or not?”

“Yeah, that sounds cool.”

“Joey?”

“Yeah,” he nodded his head under the blanket.

“Alright, get dressed and come eat before it gets cold,” said Cathy as she walked to the door. When she got there she turned back to us for a moment. “Oh and Joey?”

“Yeah?”

“Cute undies,” she giggled and closed the door behind her.

“I can’t believe you let her see me in my underwear!” Joey blushed and shoved me.

“Relax, she’s got five brothers. She’s seen a boy’s butt in tighty whities before. Probably not one this cute though.” I reached over and pinched his bottom.

That resulted in another brief wrestling match which further resulted in me pinning Joey down and giving him the tickle torture. We would have been content to play all morning but when my dad knocked on the door and told us to move our asses before he moved them for us, we, well, moved our asses!

When you have seven kids in your family mealtimes are always crazy. When Joey and I got downstairs the morning routine was in full swing. Mom was at the stove turning a loaf of bread into French toast. Jason was texting his girlfriend. Cathy was reading over his shoulder and snickering at his attempt to be charming. The twins were chasing Seamus around the table and Rory was pulling Sara’s hair. Dad sat at the head of the table and hid behind his newspaper. We took our seats and joined the madness.

When we finished breakfast Joey and I went back upstairs to take our showers and get dressed. We have so much in common that without really thinking about it we put on almost the same thing. We each wore a long sleeve t-shirt with a regular t-shirt over it, jeans, hoodies and a pair of Converse sneakers. Mine were dark gray and Joey’s were blue. When we went down to the living room to see if there was a game on Timmy and Tommy snickered at as.

“What’s so funny?” I demanded.

“Mommy stopped dressing us the same when we were five,” Tommy giggled.

Joey and I looked each other up and down. He giggled; I rolled my eyes and told the twins to beat it. We couldn’t find a game to watch but we did find a Lord of the Rings marathon to keep us busy for a while. It was a quiet day; we snuggled on the couch and watched TV without a care in the world.

Joey and I love scary movies and TV shows like “A Haunting,” and “Ghost Hunters,” and we were really looking forward to the field trip. At 3:30 Cathy said it was time to head over to the cemetery so we grabbed our jackets and piled into her Toyota. There was a chill in the air and some dark clouds in the sky threatening rain. Spring storms are pretty common in New England but we had warm clothes and waterproof jackets so we weren’t worried.

There were only a handful of cars in the cemetery parking lot when we arrived and we quickly found Cathy’s classmates. The group was led by Professor Quimby, a short chubby man with thinning hair, glasses and a kind face. The professor had his wife, Grace, with him. She was the female version of her husband and they made a cute older couple. Chip Andrews was a tall blond guy who looked like a football player and wore a grey hoodie with his fraternity letters on it. Joey and I both blushed at Chip, he was HOT. Leslie Marcus was short and petite with red hair and bright green eyes. She was dressed like me and Joey and looked like see could have been in school with us rather than attending the University of Maine.

“Hi Cathy, glad to see the weather didn’t keep you away,” Professor Quimby smiled his greeting. The trip to the cemetery was extra credit and most of the class evidently lost interest with the threat of rain. “I see you have some friends with you.”

“Hi professor,” said Cathy. “This is my little brother, Carter, and his boyfriend, Joey. They’re really into movies and TV shows about ghosts and I thought they might have fun coming out here with me. You don’t mind do you?”

“Not at all. Welcome boys.” Professor Quimby shook our hands.

I wish Cathy hadn’t mentioned Joey and I are couple. Chip grinned at us as if it were funny we’re a pair of queers and Mrs. Quimby and Leslie gave us that, “awwww, how cute,” expression.

“Alright gang, gather round,” said the Professor, pulling the group together around his car. “Today we’re going to be exploring Wakefield Cemetery. This cemetery is over 400 years old and is said to be one of the most haunted places in Maine. One of the most famous spirits often reported as being seen here is the Lady in Red. The Lady in Red is thought to be the unrequited love of a young soldier in the Continental Army. They say she walks among the graves waiting for him to return from battle. On some nights she can be seen floating among the headstones. On other nights she's been known to stand in the middle of the highway and wait to be "hit," only for the terrified driver’s to get out of their cars and find there's nobody there.”

“Wicked,” Joey whispered. I gave him a playful shove with my elbow and he shot me his million dollar grin.

“We’ll be splitting into two teams today,” said the Professor. “Leslie, you’ll come with me and Grace. Chip, you’ll go with Cathy and the boys.”

Chip’s face lit up with a big smile and Cathy rolled her eyes. He clearly liked her but my sister didn’t seem interested. I don’t know what her problem was, like I said, Chip was HOT!

“Everyone have your tape recorders?” asked Professor Quimby. Leslie, Chip and Cathy each pulled a mini-tape recorder from their purses or pockets. Then the professor turned his attention to me and Joey. “We use tape recorders to try and capture EVP’s.”

“What’s an EVP?” I asked.

“It’s a recording found in static and background noise,” said Joey.

“That’s right, Joey. Sometimes we’ll record a stray word or short phrase. We believe EVP’s are a way in which we can record communications from the spirit world,” the Professor explained.

“How did you know that?” I asked Joey.

“It’s called multi-tasking.” Joey grinned.

“That some kind of ghost hunting method too?”

“No, it means that when we’re making out I can still follow what’s going on, on TV.”

Everyone giggled and I blushed.

“Alright, take these with you and let’s get started,” said Professor Quimby as he handed me a pair of long thin rods shaped like “L’s.” They looked like wire hangers that had been twisted and cut apart.

“So what are these things?” I asked as our groups split up and we wandered into the cemetery.

“Don’t ask me,” Joey shrugged his shoulders.

“Oh, didn’t pick that up during your multitasking?” I giggled. It was Joey’s turn to give me a playful shove.

“They’re dowsing rods,” said Chip.

“What’s dowsing?” Joey and I asked simultaneously.

“It mean’s using a rod or pendulum to find something. It’s been around for centuries,” Chip explained.

“I don’t get how these things are going to help us find anything,” I stated dubiously.

“Ok, hold them like this,” said Chip, as he placed the rods in my hands so that I was holding the short part of the L and the long part was pointed forward. “Animate and inanimate objects have energy fields. Everything that exists in the universe is ultimately pure energy that gives off a vibrational frequency. That includes every thought, word, emotion, object and experience. When you dowse for a target you tune into its frequency. The response from the rods means you are reflecting energy back to yourself for interpretation.”

“Yeah but we’re not trying to find, I don’t know, Carter’s missing shoes or something,” said Joey. I have a habit of misplacing shoes sometimes.

“Like I said, it includes every thought, word and emotion. They all generate electromagnetic fields. Hold the rods loosely and when they start to move, well, maybe we found ourselves a ghost,” said Chip.

“Cool.” I smiled.

We wandered the cemetery for an hour before the rain started. It was only a light drizzle so we pressed on to the oldest part of the graveyard. You could tell by the dates on the tombstones how old the place was but also by the fact that wind and rain had eroded some of the stones so badly you couldn’t read anything at all. I’d been holding the rods the entire time and I was starting to think they were a lost cause.

“Guy’s this is bullshit,” I groaned. “I’ve been holding these stupid things all afternoon and they haven’t even twitched.”

“Maybe you’re doing it wrong?” asked Joey.

“I’m holding them just like Chip said.”

“Why don’t you let Joey have a turn,” said Cathy.

“You wanna try?”

“Sure,” Joey replied excitedly. I placed the rods in his hands like Chip did.

“You have to hold them loosely and…” I started.

“Hey, check it out,” said Joey. The second I pulled my hands away from him, the rods pointed sharply to the right. Chip and Cathy both came over and gathered around us.

“Do you feel any vibration?” asked Cathy.

“Yeah, I..ahhhhhhh,” Joey groaned and scrunched up his face as if he were in pain.

“Sweetie, are you ok?” asked Cathy.

“I think so, I…ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Joey shouted. He dropped the rods, clutched his stomach and fell to his knees.

“Oh my God, Joey, what’s wrong?” I dropped down next to him.

“I don’t know. It hurts,” he said through clenched teeth.

As if on cue the rain began to fall in sheets. It felt like the whole area around us grew dark and the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. Cathy and Chip noticed it too. They looked around the surrounding trees and tombstones for the source of the strange phenomenon and I swear I saw a shadow move.

“I don’t like this,” said Cathy.

Our fears were accentuated by the rolling of thunder and a flash of lightening followed by what sounded like a ghostly laugh.

“It’s time to go,” said Chip.

“What about Joey?” He was still on his knees, doubled over in pain.

Chip scooped Joey up in his powerful arms and carried him like a baby, “Let’s go.”

Chip led the way and as we progressed through the cemetery the rain plastered our hair to our scalps, lightening flashed and the thunder roared. All around us the shadows seemed to move as if reaching out to pull us back. We broke into a run and when we stumbled out of the cemetery gates they slammed behind us.

“My God, are you guys alright?” asked Professor Quimby when he saw us. His group was waiting by the cars.

Chip put Joey down. He said he was ok but he still seemed wobbly so I put my arm around his waist. Joey clutched me tightly and rested his head against my shoulder.

“We were in the old part of the cemetery,” Cathy panted, still catching her breath. “Joey had the dowsing rods and they started pointing to the right of him then he collapsed like his stomach hurt. All hell broke loose. The rain came down harder and I swear…things started moving.”

“Things?” asked the Professor.

“Shadows,” Chip answered.

“Yeah, I saw them too,” I added.

The professor’s brow furrowed and he stepped over to Joey. He felt Joey’s face and forehead as if checking for a temperature.

“Joey, were you feeling sick at all before you collapsed?” asked the Professor.

“No sir. Carter handed me the rods and it was like someone flipped a switch and my stomach started to hurt.”

“How do you feel now?”

“I’m ok. Just tired.”

“Joey, I want you to take this and wear it around your neck for a few days,” said the professor as he took a chain from around his neck and placed it around Joey’s.

“What is it?” Joey asked.

“It’s a St. Christopher medal, it’ll protect you,” the Professor replied.

“Protect him from what?” Asked Cathy.

“It sounds like you encountered a shadow spirit out there,” said the Professor. “Shadow spirits are ghosts attached to a place or location. We often perceive them badly because we’ve been conditioned to see anything dark as negative. They’re typically harmless but as Joey seems to have had a negative reaction when they appeared I’d like him to wear the medal as a precaution.”

“Holy shit,” I muttered.

“Don’t worry, Joey. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Go home and get some rest and you’ll be fine,” said the Professor, patting Joey on the shoulder.

“Yeah, ok,” Joey yawned.

We said our goodbyes and I helped Joey get in the car. Normally I’d jump in the front seat with Cathy but I got in the back with Joey instead. He was asleep and using my shoulder as a pillow before we even pulled out of the parking lot. Our experience in the cemetery scared the shit out of me and whatever it was we encountered hurt my sweetheart. I was glad to get out of there and from now on we’ll leave the ghost hunting to guys like Professor Quimby.

Whatever had been in the cemetery with us, it sapped Joey’s energy. He remained lethargic the rest of the evening and when it was time for bed I had to take his clothes off and put him under the covers. I stripped him to his undies and left his socks on because his feet get cold. When I climbed into bed with him and shut off the light, the moonlight drifting through the window made the St. Christopher medal on his chest glow. I stroked the medal with my thumb and said a silent prayer that it would protect Joey like the professor said it would.

On Sunday morning I woke up alone. I rolled over to snuggle Joey but opened my eyes when I found nothing but his pillow in my arms. I sat up and stretched, wondering where he’d gone off to when he came bounding into the room full of energy in nothing but a towel.

“Good morning,” said Joey cheerfully as he came over and planted a kiss on my lips.

“You’re sure perky this morning.”

“Yeah, I feel great,” said Joey as he took his towel off and dried his hair.

I sat back and took in the show. Joey’s small in stature but he has the cutest little body. He runs and plays soccer and it’s given him some nice muscle tone. And, not to sound like a perv or anything but he’s got the cutest penis. I watched Joey dry off and then he snapped me out of my trance when he snapped me with his towel.

“Quit staring at me and get up,” he giggled. “Your dad will have a cow if we’re late for church.”

“I can’t help it,” I smiled as I got out of bed. I put my arms around Joey and gently pressed my morning erection into him while I reached down and fondled his penis. “You’re so damn cute!”

“Quit it ya perv!” Joey giggled. “We can’t get all sexy before church, that’s sacrilegious!”

“Pretty please? Just a little?” I whined and ground myself into him again.

“NO! Bad boy,” Joey exclaimed and slapped my boner. I groaned and put on my bathrobe, then headed for the shower while Joey put on his underwear.

You’re probably thinking that with seven kids in my family we must be Catholic but you’d be incorrect in your assumption. We piled into two cars and drove over to Pleasantville First Methodist Church and took our seats in our normal pews. As we sat there listening to the sermon, Joey started acting weird. He scratched and clawed at his skin like he’d been rolling around in Poison Ivy, his neatly combed hair was falling on his forehead and by the time the minister was finished speaking, Joey was sweating like, well, the proverbial whore in church.

“What’s the matter with you?” I whispered.

“I don’t know. I can’t stop itching and it’s so hot in here,” Joey panted. I hadn’t noticed until then that he was breathing funny.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine. It’s just so hot in here,” said Joey as he loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt.

“Just try and relax. The service is almost over,” I reminded him as people began to line up for communion.

“I gotta get out of here,” said Joey.

“What?”

“I need some air. I’ll meet you out front.”

“But you’ll miss communion.”

“It’s ok,” said Joey, as he got up and made a b-line for the exit instead of the altar.

“Is he alright?” asked mom.

“Yeah, he just needed some air,” I covered.

I was a little concerned. Joey’s behavior was really out of character. He’s a choir boy, which I’ve always found sweet, but that morning he didn’t even stand up to sing hymns and then there was the whole scratching and sweating thing. I didn’t even think of the incident in the cemetery at the time, I figured he was coming down with something.

When the service was over we skipped social hour and found Joey standing by the car. His hair was back in place, his shirt was buttoned up and his tie was perfectly straight. There were no signs he’d been under any stress.

“Honey, are you feeling alright?” asked mom as she checked Joey for a temperature like the professor had the day before.

“Yeah, I’m good. I just got a little overheated in church,” he explained.

“Are you sure? I thought it was rather cool in there.”

“Yeah, I’m ok. It must be hot flashes,” Joey grinned.

“Don’t baby the boy, Jill,” said dad. That earned him a reproachful glare from mom. “He says he’s ok. Let’s go to brunch.”

We got into the various cars and headed downtown for brunch at the Pleasantville Inn. We go there every Sunday because they have just about everything you could think to eat and it’s the only place we ever go where everyone can find something they’re happy with. I kept an eye on Joey. He seemed fine and as we started talking about our plans for the coming week at school I let the image of him struggling to get through the service slip from my memory.

P.F.J.

I woke with a chill the next morning, my skin was broken out in goose pimples but there was the most wonderful warm and wet sensation coming from my penis. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and looked down to find Joey’s blond head gently bobbing up and down on my erection.

“Joey, what are you doing?” I exclaimed.

We’re both shy about sex, Joey more so than me, and to find him giving me my first blow job was a total shock.

“Mmmm,” Joey replied.

He didn’t stop and didn’t look up at me. He wrapped his arms around my waist and sucked me harder and the feeling was incredible.

“Joey, stop,” I groaned. I loved the sensations I was experiencing but it was so out of character for Joey to be doing this. I thought I should stop him, that we should talk about this major step in our relationship. “Joey, come on.”

That’s when he growled. It was the weirdest sound I’ve ever heard him make. I’ve heard him yelp and squeak in his soft boy soprano, this was different, deep and guttural.

“Are you ok?” I moaned, finding it hard to separate the pleasure of what he was doing to me from my concern.

He continued to ignore me and then his tongue scrapped against my glans and I collapsed back on the bed. At that point I figured if this was what Joey wanted he could have it. I spread my legs a little further and in seconds I was no longer able to hold back. I covered my face with a pillow to conceal my moaning as I filled his mouth.

I lie there panting for breath and when I pulled the pillow away I found Joey sitting next to me. “Did you like it?”

“Yeah,” I panted. “That was…it was…wow.”

“Good.” Joey smiled.

“It was amazing but what’s come over you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Joey, you just blew me and we didn’t even talk about it…” I started.

“Talk, talk, talk.” Joey rolled his eyes in exasperation.

“Hey, I thought you were the one who wanted to talk about things before we tried them?”

“I did but I’ve been waking up to your boner digging into me for weeks now and when it happened this morning I decided to just go for it,” said Joey.

“Um, ok,” I replied, then shook my head. “Thanks, it felt really good.”

“I’m glad you liked it.” Joey grinned, slipped his underwear off and threw them in my face. He giggled, slipped into his bathrobe and headed for the shower as I lay there still trying to process what just happened.

Half an hour later I was showered too. Joey was sitting on the end of the bed tying his shoes while I checked my hair in the mirror, making sure it was carefully disheveled. When I looked down at the top of the dresser I found Joey’s St. Christopher medal lying next to his watch and house keys.

“Are you done yet, I’m hungry,” said Joey as he finished tying his shoes and stood up.

“Yeah,” I replied and reached the medal out to him. “Here, you forgot this.”

“Oh, I don’t want it,” said Joey as he headed towards the door.

“Hey, Professor Quimby said you should wear it for a few days.”

“That’s stupid, I’m not Catholic and besides, putting your faith in inanimate objects is just dumb,” said Joey.

“Maybe but I’d feel better if you wore it for a few days.”

“Carter, I’m fine.”

“I know but…” I started but Joey’s entire demeanor changed. He scowled at me, his nostrils flared and he slapped the medal out of my hand sending it flying across the room.

“I said keep that thing away from me,” Joey growled and then his demeanor changed again. The scowl vanished, his breathing returned to normal and he chirped, “Come on, I’m hungry,” then grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the door.

I was starting to worry. Joey acted really weird in church on Sunday then I wake up with my dick in his mouth and now he’s freaking out over the medal. This was all completely and totally out of character for such a sweet, good natured person and I was beginning to wonder if it had something to do with our trip to Wakefield Cemetery. I know it sounds stupid but Joey had that weird reaction to the shadow spirit, or whatever Professor Quimby called it, and now he’s acting strange.

I watched him closely at breakfast. He was his usual chipper and upbeat self. He chatted with my dad, snuck table scraps to Seamus and gave my hand the occasional squeeze under the table. Maybe I was just being paranoid.

Watching him interact with my family the way he normally did at breakfast put my mind at ease and I started to think I was worrying over nothing. Ok, so he sucked my dick out of the blue. We hadn’t talked about it but I could see his point, he’d woken to my erection touching him and we’re fourteen, maybe he was just horny. I mean, I wake up horny sometimes and have to resist the urge to touch him, maybe he couldn’t hold back. And the thing with the medal, sure it was irrational but I was pestering him about it, maybe he was just annoyed.

By the time mom dropped us off at school that morning I felt something of a return to normalcy. When Joey and I parted for first period he shot me his characteristic shy smile and another day in our crazy lives got underway.

If there’s one thing that sucks about this school year it’s that I don’t see Joey until lunch. We have all of our afternoon classes together but I miss him in the morning. I know it sounds silly, I mean we’re together twenty hours a day, but when you love someone all you want is to be with them all the time. Being with Joey never got old, his company never got stale and my love for him only grew.

By the time lunch rolled around I was anxious to see my sweetheart and began to wonder where he was. I was sitting at our usual table with some of our friends and ten minutes into lunch Joey still hadn’t shown up. At fifteen minutes I started to worry so I left my lunch behind and set out to find him. His last class before lunch was Intro to German so I headed for the language arts hall.

Language arts is a long hallway and I spotted Joey at the end of it the second I rounded the corner. The problem was Joey wasn’t alone. Casey Young is the biggest bully in our school, both literally and metaphorically. He picked on everyone, especially little guys he could menace with his size; guys like Joey. I couldn’t tell what was being said, they were too far away, but the way Joey was cowering said it couldn’t be good. I ran down the hall to his aide but as I got close I saw the most extraordinary thing.

Joey’s face changed like it had that morning when I tried to give him the St. Christopher’s medal. His blue eyes sparkled malevolently, his nostrils flared like a pit viper, coiled and ready to strike. He growled and then threw Casey across the hall, slamming him into a bank of lockers. Casey slid down the wall and landed on his ass, a look of shock and terror on his face.

“Joey, are you alright?” I asked as I skidded to a halt on the tile floor.

He rounded, turning his scowl on my. His nostrils were still flaring, his body coiled for another strike. When he recognized me the tension in his shoulders let up and he stood more relaxed but the look on his face was as hard as before.

“Is he alright?” Casey exclaimed. “Did you see what that fucker did to me?”

“Get out of here,” said Joey in a guttural, disembodied voice I’d never heard before.

Casey sat there in stunned disbelief. He couldn’t figure out how little Joey Templeton had thrown him and the timber of Joey’s voice, well, even I was frightened by it.

“Now!” Joey growled.

Casey scrambled to his feet and ran from the hall as if he’d seen a ghost. Once the bully was gone, Joey’s face softened, his body wavered and he started to collapse. I caught him just in time.

“Carter,” Joey whined.

“I’m here, I’ve got you,” I assured him. “What’s wrong?”

“I-I don’t feel so good.”

I helped Joey sit down and propped him up against a wall but he didn’t get any better. Eventually he put his arm around my shoulders and I put my arm around his waist to support him as I took him to the nurse’s office. School nurses are worthless; all she did was take Joey’s temperature and then call my mom to come pick him up. He was feeling a little better when mom arrived, at least he was able to walk out to the car under his own steam and I had to go back to class.

I should have talked mom into taking me home with them. I didn’t learn anything the rest of the day; all I did was take up space in class. I couldn’t get my mind off of the incident in the hall. When I got home that afternoon I found Joey in his pajamas, lying under a blanket on the couch.

“Hey,” said Joey but he wouldn’t look me in the eye.

“Hey,” I replied as I sat next to him. I took his hand and he squeezed it but still wouldn’t look at me. “Joey, come on, look at me.”

He hesitated for a moment but the next thing I knew he was practically in my lap, his arms around my neck as he hugged me tight.

“It’s ok,” I assured him and rubbed his back soothingly.

“I’m scared, Carter.” Joey sniffled.

“Of what, what happened today?”

“I-I don’t know.”

“Joey, come on…”

“I really don’t, Carter. One minute I was on my way to lunch and then everything went blank. The next thing I knew I was in your arms,” said Joey, as he buried his face against my chest.

“It’ll be alright,” I assured him though I had no way of knowing that. “Did you tell my mom? What did she say?”

“She’s going to take me to the doctor in the morning,” said Joey.

“Well that’s good. Maybe, I don’t know, you’re sick or something.”

“I guess so,” said Joey.

I stayed with him the rest of the afternoon and when it was time for bed I snuggled close to him. Joey slept but he didn’t rest. His body tossed and turned and every now and then he let out one of those deep, guttural growls. I didn’t think he was sick, I’d only mentioned it that afternoon because I didn’t know what else to say. The only thing I could think of that made any sense frightened me too much to mention. I did think there was one thing that might help Joey and it wasn’t a doctor.

I got out of bed and pulled a flashlight from my nightstand. We live in an old house and sometimes the power goes out, usually during storms. I got down on my hands and knees and waved the light around until it glinted off of something shiny. I found the St. Christopher medal in the corner where it landed when Joey knocked it out of my hand. I put the medal around his neck, said a silent prayer for it to protect my boyfriend and then kissed it before laying it flat against his chest. I snuggled up to Joey again and he seemed to calm down. At least he stopped tossing and turning.

The next morning I woke up shivering. The room was freezing cold, I could see my breath as I exhaled and there was no sign of Joey. I got out of bed and pulled my robe tightly around my body. I was about to go look for Joey when I heard the deep guttural growl. I looked around the room but then I saw his breath coming from the top bunk, fogging in the cold. I climbed up the ladder to see what he was doing. It was dark up there and he was curled up in the corner. His eyes glowed like a cat’s caught in headlights.

“Joey?”

He didn’t move, didn’t acknowledge his name. He sat there and growled. I reached out for him and he scratched me, drawing blood. I pulled back and lost my balance; I fell off the ladder and landed on my bed below. Joey crept to the edge of the top bunk and in his disembodied voice he grumbled, “aem amina silorp.”

P.F.J.

I didn’t leave Joey’s side for the next three days. After he scratched me he retreated to the dark corner of the top bunk. My mom and I tried to coax him out but he wouldn’t move or say anything other than the same line of gibberish, “aem amina silorp.” Mom called dad at work, he came home and tried to help us but it was no use. Eventually we called 9-1-1 and they sent a team of paramedics who had to wrestle Joey to the ground and strap him to a gurney to get him out of the house.

Pleasantville Memorial Hospital is more of a clinic then a hospital. The doctors on staff were great if you broke an arm or came down with the flu but the facility was totally unprepared for Joey. The first night he was there a nurse tried to take a blood sample from him and he scratched her so bad she had to have stitches. He’d been restrained since then. He wouldn’t talk to me or anyone else, he wouldn’t eat, all he would do is growl and babble the same line over and over again.

Joey’s doctor believed he’d suffered some kind of mental or nervous breakdown. He’d been in contact with the Chief of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General down in Boston but so far they hadn’t sent anyone to see Joey.

To add to our frustration, dad was unable to get ahold of Mrs. Templeton. He was able to reach the hotel where she and her team were working out of but they said she was on a tour of facilities in the Siberian wilderness and all of the phone lines were down because of a storm. Cell towers hadn’t made it that deep into Siberia yet so her iPhone was useless too. Before she left for Russia, Mrs. Templeton signed a blanket power of attorney so that my parents could speak on her behalf in case something happened to Joey and he needed medical care but no one could ever have expected a situation like this.

While all of this was going on around us I stayed by Joey’s side hoping he’d get better but knowing it was a fool’s hope. I knew Joey wasn’t sick, I knew the thing that kept muttering “aem amina silorp,” wasn’t my Joey but rather some…thing that had taken hold of him. The first day in the hospital, after he’d attacked the nurse, the doctors gave him a sedative and knocked him out. I pulled back his gown and looked at his chest; there was a small oval shaped burn mark where the St. Christopher medal had been.

I watched Joey sleep. I was desperate to help him but I didn’t know what to do. His room was always freezing. No matter how high they turned up the thermostat it never got any warmer. I pulled my coat tight around my body and reclined in my chair. My parents had gone home to get a couple hours of sleep. I was tired too and dozed off for just a few minutes; when I woke up Joey was gone. His bed was empty; the restraints that held him in place were broken and lying on the floor.

I bolted out of my chair and looked around the room but he wasn’t there. I hit the call button for the nurse and while I waited for her to respond I spotted a couple of drops of blood on the white linoleum floor. I followed the trail to the bathroom. Joey was in the corner, his legs curled up to his chest and his arms wrapped around them. His arms were bloody and he’d used the blood to smear a cryptic message onto the tile wall, “Help me.”

“Oh, Joey. Oh my God,” I whimpered as I knelt by his side.

For the first time in three days he looked up at me and I saw Joey, the real Joey, looking back at me, not some monster that hid behind his sweet façade.

The nurse I’d called for finally arrived and pushed me aside to tend to her patient. Joey didn’t attack, didn’t scratch this time, instead he let her help him to his feet and back into bed. His wounds were superficial so she cleaned and dressed them, then the doctor came in. He couldn’t figure out how Joey had broken out of his restraints. He gave Joey a sedative and then put him in a strait-jacket.

I was at my wits end. I slipped from Joey’s room and paced the hall then sat against the wall and broke into tears. My poor sweet Joey was suffering, being held hostage, by what I didn’t know. He was in there, somewhere, held against his will. He’d reached out to me, he’d asked for help and there was nothing I could do. I put my face in my hands and cried and that’s when my salvation arrived.

“Carter.”

I looked up and through my tears I found my sister, Cathy, the pudgy Professor Quimby and Chip Andrews.

“W-what are you guys doing here?”

Chip put his arm around Cathy and grinned like the cat that killed the canary. Cathy rolled her eyes but didn’t push him away.

“I talked to mom,” said Cathy. “Long story short, when she told me what was happening with Joey, I talked to the professor and he said we needed to come up right away.”

“Something happened to him in the cemetery, didn’t it?” I asked.

“Possibly, I’d like to see him,” said Professor Quimby.

“He’s asleep but ok,” I said. I stood up, hugged Cathy really quick and led them into Joey’s room. He should have been sleeping after the shot the doctor had given him but he was wide awake and calmly sitting up in bed, staring off into space.

“Holy shit,” said Chip. Joey looked a lot different than when Chip last saw him. His eyes were surrounded by deep, dark circles and his cheeks looked hollow. Joey has always been thin but now it was an unhealthy kind of thin, almost emaciated.

“Where is the St. Christopher’s medal I gave him?” asked the Professor.

“I don’t know. I, well, I think it melted. The night before we brought him here he kept tossing and turning in his sleep, growling and stuff. I put the medal around his neck and then in the morning it was gone. There’s a burn mark on his chest,” I said.

The professor examined Joey carefully. Joey sat quietly looking off into space as though he didn’t even know we were there. That’s when Professor Quimby pulled a crucifix from his briefcase. Joey’s head snapped around, his eyes looked on the cross and he started fighting the strait-jacket. He growled and hissed and fought and kicked and the closer the cross came to him the more agitated he became.

Aem amina silorp!” Joey shouted.

“What did he say?” asked Cathy.

“It’s gibberish, it’s the same thing he’s been saying for days,” I replied.

Aem amina silorp,” Joey repeated.

Professor Quimby went white as a ghost; the cross fell from his hand and clattered to the floor.

“H-has Joey ever studied Latin?” asked the professor.

“No, he takes German,” I explained. “Why?”

“I-it’s not gibberish,” said the professor. “It’s Latin, backwards.”

“What’s it mean?” asked Cathy.

Prolis anima mea, the child’s soul is mine.”

“Oh God,” I cried and buried my face against Cathy.

My sister stroked my back to comfort me but turned her attention to the professor. “What do we do?”

P.F.J.

We waited until Joey fell asleep before making our move. As I mentioned before, Pleasantville Memorial is more of a clinic then a hospital and as such there isn’t much staff on duty at night. Cathy walked down to the nurse’s station to distract the night nurse while Professor Quimby kept watch outside Joey’s door. When the professor gave us the all clear signal, Chip scooped Joey up in his powerful arms.

“Careful with him,” I said.

“Relax, little dude’s fine,” said Chip.

“I know, I just…”

“You want to protect him, I get it,” said Chip.

“Yeah, thanks for coming and helping.”

“I’d do anything for Cathy, just like you’d do anything for Joey,” said Chip.

“Hurry,” said Professor Quimby, sticking his head through the door.

I held the door open while Chip brought Joey out into the hall. The professor went down the corridor and looked around the corner; when the coast was clear Chip and I joined him and took Joey out to the car. Cathy rejoined us and we put Joey in the backseat with me and the professor. I pulled Joey close to me and rested his head against my chest.

“You should try and get some sleep,” said the professor as Chip pulled out of the parking lot. “It’s a long drive to Connecticut and you’re going to need your strength when we get there.”

P/.F/J.

New Haven, Connecticut, is a seven hour drive from Maine. It was dawn when we arrived and I was surprised I’d slept the whole way. I’d barely slept the last few days as I stood vigil over Joey. I guess having a plan, ridding south to save his soul, put me at ease or maybe it was the knowledge that I would need my strength for the battle to come.

We pulled up to a Victorian style farmhouse on the outskirts of New Haven shortly after 7am. Father Michael Ashcroft had been a Jesuit priest for twenty-five years when he was injured in a major car accident. While recovering in the hospital, Father Ashcroft fell in love with his nurse, a man named Jacob Collins. The love affair had cost the Father his collar but ten years after being defrocked by the Catholic Church the couple was still together.

Professor Quimby had worked with Father Ashcroft during previous paranormal investigations and called him before we removed Joey from the hospital. It gave me comfort to know the man who was going to help us embraced the love that dare not speak its name. There was some sort of poetic justice in a fellow traveler giving me my Joey back.

Chip parked his SUV under an oak tree and the professor helped me get Joey out. Joey had woken and the demon inside him seemed to know something was up. He twisted and turned, gnashed his teeth and snapped at us, he did everything he could to wriggle free but I wouldn’t let him go. Father Ashcroft and his partner came out of the house but there was no time to exchange greetings. Chip took Joey from me and hoisted him over his shoulder, carrying him like a sack of potatoes.

“Bring him inside,” said Father Ashcroft.

We followed him into the 150 year old farmhouse and took Joey down to the basement. Chip placed him in a chair and though he was still in the strait-jacket, Father Ashcroft tied him down, making sure to secure Joey’s feet so he couldn’t kick anyone.

“I need some time alone with him,” said Father Ashcroft.

“But…” I started to object.

“It’ll be alright,” said Jacob, placing his hand on my shoulder in a grandfatherly, reassuring way.

Jacob led us upstairs and into the dining room. We sat quietly as we waited for Father Ashcroft to join us. Chip was exhausted from driving all night, so was Cathy who stayed up to keep him company. Jacob disappeared for a few minutes and then came back with a tray of muffins, croissants, fruit and juice for everyone.

“I’m not hungry,” I said as I pushed the food away from me.

“The boy, Joey, he’s your boyfriend?” asked Jacob.

I started to tear up at that word, boyfriend. Joey was mine, I firmly believed our relationship was fate, meant to be, and I didn’t know what I would do without him if we failed. Jacob looked at me, waiting for an answer and I nodded my head.

“Then you must eat. You’ll need your strength. More than any ritual, your love is what will lead him back,” said Jacob.

With that said I took the offered plate and nibbled at a muffin as Jacob took his seat.

“How are you holding up?” asked Cathy.

“I’m ok, I just don’t understand. Joey is the sweetest person in the world. Why would a demon want him?” I replied.

“Demons are fallen angels who rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven,” said Jacob. “Satan realized he could never win a war against God so he targeted God’s most beloved creation, the human race. Humanity was made in God’s image. Demons are extremely jealous of man. God became flesh to redeem mankind of its sins giving man a chance to escape damnation. Demons hate humans for these advantages and despise the image of God they recognize within us.

Further, Satan has been seeking to prove God wrong for a long time. He tried to prove Job unworthy, and he tried to tempt Jesus in the desert. He feels that by proving to God that humans are wicked and unworthy creatures God is wrong to give them the love that he does. Your Joey, a sweet, good natured boy, would be catnip to a demon,” Jacob explained.

“I should never have taken you guys to that cemetery,” said Cathy.

“Honey, it’s not your fault,” said Chip, taking her hand to comfort her.

“No one is to blame,” said Professor Quimby. “There was no way for any of us to know what lurked in that cemetery.”

Father Ashcroft joined us then. He was carrying a medium size rosewood box that he placed on the dining table.

“We need to act quickly. There is precious little time,” said Father Ashcroft.

“Then what are we waiting for?” I exclaimed and jumped to my feet.

“Not just yet. We cannot go into battle without armor,” said Father Ashcroft as he opened the box.

I started to ask another question but stopped short and sat down when he produced a chalice from the box and filled it with wine.

“At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood,” said Father Ashcroft. “Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is to be honored with the worship of adoration. To visit the Blessed Sacrament is a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord."

Father Ashcroft served us communion. We drank the wine and ate the bread. He made the sign of the cross on our foreheads with oil and pronounced us ready.

Father Ashcroft led us to the basement and stopped at the door. He turned to us and said, “Avoid conversation with the demon. The demon will lie and try to poison your hearts, you must not let him.”

“So what do we do?” I asked.

“I will recite the rite of exorcism. Jacob will monitor Joey’s physical health. The demon will fight hard to remain in the child’s body; we don’t want him having a heart attack on us. The four of you must pray and respond at the appropriate parts of the rite,” he explained.

“I’m not Catholic, I don’t know what to say or do,” I said.

“Follow my lead,” said Professor Quimby.

I nodded my head and Father Ashcroft opened the basement door. We were greeted with freezing cold air as we descended the staircase and found Joey tied to his chair. His eyes glowed maliciously and he wore a sickeningly satisfied smirk on his face. He focused on Father Ashcroft and said “The child’s soul is mine,” in his disembodied voice.

Father Ashcroft ignored him. He made the sign of the cross over himself, over each of us and lastly over Joey. Joey groaned and struggled against his bonds as the Father knelt and we followed his lead.

“Lord have mercy,” Father Ashcroft began.

“Lord have mercy,” said Professor Quimby with the rest of us following suit.

“Christ have mercy.”

“Christ have mercy,” we responded.

“God, the Father in heaven.”

“Have mercy on us.”

“God, the Son, Redeemer of the world.”

“Have mercy on us.”

“God the Holy Spirit.”

“Have mercy on us.”

“Holy Trinity, one God.”

“Have mercy on us.”

“Holy Mary, Mother of God.”

“Pray for us.”

“Saint Michael.”

“Pray for us.”

“Saint Gabriel.”

“Pray for us.”

“Saint Raphael.”

“Pray for us.

“All holy angels and archangels, all holy orders, all holy patriarchs and prophets, all holy apostles and evangelists, all holy disciples of the Lord, all holy innocents, all holy martyrs, all holy bishops and confessors, all holy priests and monks, all holy virgins and widows,” Father Ashcroft listed.

“Intercede for us.”

“From all evil, deliver us, 0 Lord.”

"Deliver us, 0 Lord."

“From all sin.”

“Deliver us, oh Lord.”

“From your wrath.”

“Deliver us, oh Lord.”

“From sudden and unprovided death”

“Deliver us, oh Lord.”

“From the snares of the devil.”

“Deliver us, oh Lord.”

“From anger, hatred, and all ill will.”

“Deliver us, oh Lord.”

“From all lewdness, from lightning and tempest, from the scourge of earthquakes, from plague, famine, and war, from everlasting death.”

“Deliver us, oh Lord.”

“By the mystery of your holy incarnation, by your coming, by your birth, by your baptism and holy fasting, by your cross and passion, by your death and burial, by your holy resurrection, by your wondrous ascension, by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate on the day of judgment.”

“Deliver us, oh Lord.”

“Fools, the child is mine!” the Demon shouted. I refused to think of him as Joey. Joey was his prisoner; it was up to us to free him from this unclean thing.

Father Ashcroft continued to ignore the demon.

“God, by your name save me, and by your might defend my cause,” said Father Ashcroft.

“God, hear my prayer; hearken to the words of my mouth,” we recited.

“For haughty men have risen up against me, and fierce men seek my life; they set not God before their eyes.”

“God is my helper; the Lord sustains my life.”

“Turn back the evil upon my foes; in your faithfulness destroy them.”

“Freely will I offer you sacrifice; I will praise your name, Lord, for its goodness.”

“Because from all distress you have rescued me, and my eyes look down upon my enemies.”

“Glory be to the Father, as it was in the beginning.”

“Save your servant,” said Father Ashcroft.

“The boy is mine. He takes it up the ass in hell!” the demon shouted.

“Let him find in you, Lord, a fortified tower,” Father Ashcroft continued. “Let the enemy have no power over him and the son of iniquity be powerless to harm him. Lord, send him aid from your holy place and watch over him from Sion. Lord, heed my prayer,” Father Ashcroft exalted.

“And let my cry be heard by you,” we responded.

“Help me Carter, help me,” said Joey. It was his voice, the first time I’d heard it in days. My eyes snapped open and I tried to pull away from the group. Professor Quimby grabbed my hand and pulled me back.

“Don’t listen to him, Carter. The demon is a liar, that’s not Joey,” said Professor Quimby.

“Help me Carter, please, it hurts,” Joey begged.

“Joey,” I choked on my tears.

“It’s not him, Carter, don’t listen,” said Cathy, taking my other hand.

“God, whose nature is ever merciful and forgiving, accept our prayer that this servant of yours, bound by the fetters of sin, may be pardoned by your loving kindness.”

“Holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who once and for all consigned that fallen and apostate tyrant to the flames of hell, who sent your only-begotten Son into the world to crush that roaring lion; hasten to our call for help and snatch from ruination and from the clutches of the noonday devil this human being made in your image and likeness. Strike terror, Lord, into the beast now laying waste your vineyard. Let your mighty hand cast him out of your servant, Joey, so he may no longer hold captive this person whom it pleased you to make in your image, and to redeem through your Son; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever,” Father Ashcroft prayed.

“Amen,” we replied.

“I command you, unclean spirit, whoever you are, along with all your minions now attacking this servant of God, by the mysteries of the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the descent of the Holy Spirit, by the coming of our Lord for judgment, that you tell me by some sign your name, and the day and hour of your departure,” Father Ashcroft ordered.

The demon laughed an evil, maniacal laugh. I looked over and saw Joey’s chair begin to rise in the air. My jaw hung open, I’d never seen anything more terrifying in my life but Father Ashcroft was undeterred. He placed his hand on Joey’s forehead and said, “They shall lay their hands upon the sick and all will be well with them. May Jesus, Son of Mary, Lord and Savior of the world, through the merits and intercession of His holy apostles Peter and Paul and all His saints, show you favor and mercy.”

“Amen,” we replied.

“Fuck you,” the demon spat. “Soon you will join the boy. You’ll be sucking cock in hell!”

Father Ashcroft made the sign of the cross over himself and then on Joey’s forehead, lips and chest. The demon screamed out as if in pain.

“When time began, the Word was there, and the Word was face to face with God, and the Word was God. This Word, when time began, was face to face with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him there came to be not one thing that has come to be. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not lay hold of it…”

“Help me, Carter.” This time the demon called out to me in its own terrible voice. The very idea that it would ask anything of me was infuriating.

“Fuck you. You go back to hell where you came from!”

“Don’t argue with it, Carter,” said Professor Quimby. “That’s what it wants.”

“… there came upon the scene a man, a messenger from God, whose name was John. This man came to give testimony to testify in behalf of the light that all might believe through him. He was not himself the light; he only was to testify in behalf of the light. Meanwhile the true light, which illumines every man, was making its entrance into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through Him, and the world did not acknowledge Him. He came into His home, and His own people did not welcome Him. But to as many as welcomed Him He gave the power to become children of God those who believe in His name; who were born not of blood, or of carnal desire, or of man's will; no, they were born of God…”

“Help me, Carter and I’ll give you what you want,” the demon enticed.

“I don’t want anything from you!”

“Carter, don’t,” said the professor.

“… and the Word became man and lived among us; and we have looked upon His glory such a glory as befits the Father's only-begotten Son full of grace and truth,” Father Ashcroft exclaimed.

“Thanks be to God!” we replied.

The demon gnashed his teeth and swore. He spit and struggled against the bonds but they were holding.

“May the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, come upon you and remain with you forever,” said Father Ashcroft.

“It burns me,” the demon screamed.

“Amen,” we shouted our reply.

Father Ashcroft doused the demon with holy water. He screamed and struggled but still the bonds held. He placed his cross against Joey’s forehead and no matter how much the demon screamed and snarled, Father Ashcroft stood firm.

“Tremble at the cross of the Lord, be gone you hostile power! Lord heed my prayer,” Father Ashcroft commanded.

“And let my cry be heard by you,” we responded.

“I’ll never let him go!” The demon shouted. He struggled and fought even harder and finally the strap on the strait-jacket broke and his arm was free. Chip saw it and ran to Joey to stop him from freeing himself but the demon used all his power to toss Chip across the basement like a rag doll. While Chip distracted the demon Jacob snuck up behind it and secured Joey’s arms with a length of rope.

“Chip,” Cathy exclaimed but Professor Quimby grabbed her free hand before she could run to him.

“He’ll be ok,” said the professor. “Hold tight, we can’t stop now.”

“I cast you out, unclean spirit, along with every Satanic power of the enemy, every spectre from hell, and all your fell companions; in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be gone and stay far from this creature of God. For it is He who commands you, He who flung you headlong from the heights of heaven into the depths of hell…”

“Help me, Carter, and I’ll give you what you want. It was I who took you into his mouth.”

“No, no, no,” I cried.

“…it is He who commands you, He who once stilled the sea and the wind and the storm. Hearken, therefore, and tremble in fear, Satan, you enemy of the faith, you foe of the human race, you begetter of death, you robber of life, you corrupter of justice, you root of all evil and vice; seducer of men, betrayer of the nations, instigator of envy, font of avarice, fomentor of discord, author of pain and sorrow…”

“I’ll give you everything you want. Untie me so I may strike them down and give you his body,” the demon cried out.

I started to curse the demon but Professor Quimby grabbed me by the shoulders and forced me to look at him.

“He’s getting weaker, that’s why he’s tormenting you. Don’t listen, Carter, we’re almost there.”

I nodded my head ant steeled my resolve. This thing would not get any help from me. I would not let him take advantage of my feelings.

“…why, then, do you stand and resist, knowing as you must that Christ the Lord brings your plans to nothing? Fear Him, who in Isaac was offered in sacrifice, in Joseph sold into bondage, slain as the paschal lamb, crucified as man, yet triumphed over the powers of hell!” Father Ashcroft exclaimed.

Father Ashcroft made the sign of the cross on Joey’s forehead again and shouted, “Be gone, then, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Give place to the Holy Spirit by this sign of the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.”

“Amen.”

“God, Creator and defender of the human race, who made man in your own image, look down in pity on this your servant, Joey, now in the toils of the unclean spirit, now caught up in the fearsome threats of man's ancient enemy, sworn foe of our race, who befuddles and stupefies the human mind, throws it into terror, overwhelms it with fear and panic. Repel, 0 Lord, the devil's power, break asunder his snares and traps, put the unholy tempter to flight. By the sign of your name, let your servant be protected in mind and body,” said Father Ashcroft and then he made the sign of the cross on Joey’s chest. “Keep watch over the inmost recesses of his heart; rule over his emotions; strengthen his will. Let vanish from his soul the temptings of the mighty adversary. Graciously grant, 0 Lord, as we call on your holy name, that the evil spirit, who hitherto terrorized over us, may himself retreat in terror and defeat, so that this servant of yours may sincerely and steadfastly render you the service which is your due; through Christ our Lord.”

“Amen.”

The demon roared and struggled but he seemed to be losing strength. God, help Joey, I prayed silently, give him back to me I beg you.

“I adjure you, ancient serpent, by the judge of the living and the dead, by your Creator, by the Creator of the whole universe, by Him who has the power to consign you to hell, to depart forthwith in fear, along with your savage minions, from this servant of God, Joey, who seeks refuge in the fold of the Church. I adjure you again,” said Father Ashcroft, making the sign of the cross on Joey’s forehead again, “Tremble before that mighty arm that broke asunder the dark prison walls and led souls forth to light.”

“Nooooo,” the demon wailed.

“Depart, then, transgressor. Depart, seducer, full of lies and cunning, foe of virtue, persecutor of the innocent. Give place, abominable creature, give way, you monster, give way to Christ, in whom you found none of your works. For He has already stripped you of your powers and laid waste your kingdom, bound you prisoner and plundered your weapons.”

“Therefore, I adjure you, profligate dragon, in the name of the spotless Lamb, who has trodden down the asp and the basilisk, and overcome the lion and the dragon, to depart from this man, to depart from the Church of God. Tremble and flee, as we call on the name of the Lord, before whom the denizens of hell cower, to whom the heavenly Virtues and Powers and Dominations are subject, whom the Cherubim and Seraphim praise with unending cries as they sing: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. The longer you delay, the heavier your punishment shall be; for it is not men you are condemning, but rather Him who rules the living and the dead, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire,” shouted Father Ashcroft. “The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!”

The demon screamed and writhed in pain and then there was a noise like a sonic boom that resonated throughout the basement. Light shone on Joey’s face, the circles around his eyes vanished and the look on his face was one of peace and serenity. The light faded as quickly as it came and Joey’s head fell against his chest. The basement was quiet as death and then Joey whimpered, “Carter,” and began to cry.

I looked to Father Ashcroft who smiled and said, “Go to him child. The evil is gone from this place.”

P.F.J.

Two weeks later life had returned to normal in our little corner of Maine. Naturally when we got home we had some explaining to do. When Joey was discovered missing from Pleasantville Memorial the police were called, my parents panicked and the whole state started looking for us. We couldn’t tell my parents the truth, they’d never believe it. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t been there, hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. We told mom and dad that Joey had slipped his bonds and wandered out of the hospital; that we’d gone after him but didn’t call for help because we were afraid Joey might be hurt. It was a flimsy lie but when we brought Joey home healthy and returned to his normal state, what could they say?

Joey had to spend a couple more days in the hospital. The doctors couldn’t explain how he’d suddenly returned to normal but then they couldn’t explain what had come over him to begin with. We brought Joey home and three days later his mom returned from Russia. The company had finally gotten through to her and when she learned what was happening in Maine she hoped the first flight home. I missed having Joey in bed beside me every night but seeing how happy he was to be reunited with his mom warmed my heart.

I was kicking back on my head when I heard a dog barking. I walked over to the window and saw Joey across the street, kicking a soccer ball and trying to keep it away from Seamus. Joey saw me staring then smiled and waved.

I sprinted down the stairs and across the street, Seamus barked in greeting and I knelt down to scratch behind his ears.

“Looks like you guys are having fun, mind if I join you?”

“Sure,” said Joey.

We kicked the ball back and forth between us with Seamus chasing after it until Joey stepped on the ball and tripped. I ran over to make sure he wasn’t hurt and when I took his hand he pulled me down on top of him. He tried to wrestle his way on top of me but it was a losing battle, I’m not that much bigger than him but it was enough to give me an advantage.

“Ok, I give up,” Joey panted.

I collapsed against him, equally out of breath, and he put his arms around me.

“I-I never said thank you,” said Joey, after a moment’s quiet when he’d caught his breath.

“For what?”

“For saving my life.”

“Joey, you don’t have…”

“Yes I do. I didn’t have any control over my own body. That thing took me over and made me do things even to you,” said Joey.

“The blow job.” I sighed.

“It knew how much I love you. It did that to hurt me, to take the experience from me, to show me it could give you what I couldn’t.”

“I knew it wasn’t you,” I admitted. “Not at first but when I realized what was wrong with you, then I knew. There was no love in it; it was just an act. I’m so sorry it took me so long to realize…”

“How were you supposed to know?” asked Joey. “Carter, you saved me. I know that.”

“I just repeated what Professor Quimby said.” I blushed.

“Yeah and it wasn’t that that brought me back. It was you. I could feel it.”

“Feel what?”

“Your love,” said Joey. “It was like a light house leading the way home for me. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

“Well, you’ll never know because I’m never letting you go. I love you, Joey.”

“I love you too, Carter.”

Seamus rejoined us then and started licking our faces and nipping at our ears. We got back on our feet to fight off the assault and resume our play. All was right in the world.

THE END