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Jaston closed his eyes and pictured himself in a grand auditorium, seats filled as far as the eye could see with rabid, devoted followers. The light and sound systems were top-of-the-line, the choir was well-trained and well-fed, and the cameras fought to convey a sense of Jaston’s glory. Jaston smiled to himself, hearing the multitudes praise his name…
End of daydream. Jaston could be out there in the tents every night until the Judgment Day, testifying his ass off, and it wouldn’t mean diddly unless the good old boys at America’s top gospel television network got off their backsides and gave him a look-see.
Jaston finished off his drink. He was trying to decide if he should hunt down some young thing who wanted to ‘get closer to God’ or if he should just have his boys rustle up a hooker for him and get it over with when someone knocked on the door. If you don’t have tits or a TV camera, I’m not interested, he thought as he grudgingly hauled himself off the end of his bed.
“I need your help, Reverend Phillips,” the woman standing at the door said. “My boy’s possessed by the Devil.”
Jaston Phillips sat in his room, alone with a sixteen-year-old boy and demon using the boy as a rest stop.
Jaston’s first response when the kid’s mother had mentioned possession was to tell her to find a priest. The Catholics were more in tune with this whole exorcism thing. He didn’t mention that he found the whole idea of demonic possession ridiculous; that might have sounded a little too much like he didn’t believe in God, either. The woman had been insistent, though, and Jaston was just bored enough go along with the nonsense. It might even be worth a laugh or two. “You go ahead and bring the boy in,” he told her, “and I’ll see what the Lord and I can do for him.”
Now, twenty minutes later, he sat on the end of his motel bed as a pimply, greasy-haired teen hunched sullenly in a chair across from him. Jaston had told the boy’s mother to wait outside, just in case ‘the demon got violent’. The truth was more banal. Frankly, he expected the kid to be a typical rebellious teen, and he didn’t want Mama there if he needed to put a little fear-of-the-Lord into the boy.
“So, your Mom tells me your name is Dillard?” Dullard is more like it. Jaston smiled and nodded at the kid, but there was no response other than a slight roll of the eyes.
“What’re you, a junior in high school? You must think about girls a lot, right?” Still nothing from Dillard. He just stared and scowled.
“Okay, maybe you like the boys then, Dillard, that how it is?”
“Go to Hell, preacher.” Dillard’s voice was deeper than Jaston would have expected. A lot deeper. Still, the boy had reacted, at least.
“Nice language there, son. You know what it says in the Good Book about respecting your--”
“Aaaaarrrrgh!” The sound exploded from Dillard and shook the cheap prints that hung on the motel room walls. “Do not mention that accursed book in my presence!” Dillard’s face seemed to swell up, the veins popping from his forehead as if all the blood in his body had rushed there.
Jaston fought to keep the surprise from his expression. “What? You mean this book?” He picked up his King James -- gold-leaf embossed, leather-bound and rarely used -- and thrust it forward.
The effect was interesting, to put it mildly. Dillard (or, Jaston was ready to concede, the demon inside Dillard) leapt straight up from his chair and levitated to the far corner of the room. His body writhed and twisted bonelessly, and ugly purple blotches broke out on his face and arms. A hideous moan filled the room, along with a strange buzzing, like a plague of locusts trying to burst forth from the boy’s throat. Jaston found himself on his feet, his Bible held shieldlike before him, his body quivering with the righteous indignation of God, Jesus, and all the saints…
Then Jaston Phillips remembered where he was and, more importantly, who he was. Now, let’s just hold on a minute, Jazz old boy, and take a long hard squint at the situation. Jaston lowered his arm, dropped the Bible carelessly on the bed, and smiled his meetinghouse smile. “Hey! Calm down, now! Just relax. Why don’t you come on back down here, so we can talk.”
The demon in Dillard closed its host’s mouth, gave Jaston a confused glance, and slid slowly down the wall until Dillard’s feet touched the ground.
“So be it,” it said. “Let us converse.”
“This is not an unpleasant experience.” The demon took another sip of the whiskey, rolling it around in his mouth for a moment. It had been Dillard’s mouth, but Dillard, no matter what his failings as a teen might have been, was not a drinker -- he’d relinquished any control of his body after the first two glasses. Now the demon was in complete control -- Dillard’s pupils flashed bright red whenever he looked at Jaston.
“There’s plenty where that came from.” Jaston was totally relaxed now. His shoes were off, his shirt half-unbuttoned. He sprawled across the bed, his head against the backboard, and he felt wonderful. He wasn’t drunk, at least not from the alcohol -- he was just giddy with possibilities.
“In fact, I’m enjoying this more with every drink.”
“You haven’t done this a lot, have you?”
The demon paused while refilling his glass. “What? Incorporated myself into a human?”
“Sure, the whole possession thing. Say, can you put yourself in any body? You know, just go from one host to the next, whenever you feel like it?”
“I guess.” The demon looked thoughtful for a moment. “It’s tiring, so I would need to have some downtime in between, but…”
“You’re talking a lot better now.”
“You know, like you’re actually from this century. You said ‘downtime’, f’rinstance.”
“Big deal.” The demon shrugged and drank.