GFP 006: But We Deal

Shelley’s gut hopped as the sub rosa elevator inside Mausoleum Psi began its descent thirty stories below Basilica di San Pietro.

She stood solemnly next to Leanne. They were both covered in plutonic waste. Black, leftover inanimate sludge from their fight with a demon in Piazza Navona. The third materialization this week alone. They were coming faster. And more often.

The stitching had went sloppy. It was Leanne’s first night.

Shelley looked at Leanne. She was so damn young. Fourteen at most. The Vatican was getting desperate.

Half-a-lifetime ago, when they had recruited Shelley, she was sixteen, a gymnast and had two Kumdo championships under her belt. In fact, Shelley’s entire class of girls was of that caliber. But times were different now. She doubted if Leanne had any martial arts training at all besides bootcamp.

Leanne was holding herself tightly, arms crossed, wound up, shuddering, dripping black waste on the clean elevator floor.

Shelley became self-conscious when Leanne caught her staring. Shelley quickly turned her head back towards the elevator doors.

“Are they always that big?” Leanne asked, teeth chattering.

“Yes,” Shelley said, without looking at her.

“Is it always this messy?”


“Does it always smell like this?”


Leanne paused. “Did I do OK?” her voice broke.

“Yeah, you did fine, kid. You did fine,” Shelley faced her and lied, holding back tears. “The papal conclave wouldn’t have put you out on the field if they didn’t think you were ready.”

Shelley wanted to wrap her arms around her like a big sister would. She remembered her first night out. But that would probably do more harm than good.

They were Needles. The Church’s Needles. And they were the only thing standing between this reality and the infernal plane breaking through. They had to be “stalwart, steadfast, stoic and strong”. The Needles’ credo.

The elevator stopped and the doors slid open. The two Needles stepped out.

“You go wash up, kiddo,” Shelley told Leanne. “I want to check in with the Tailors first. They seriously fucked up on the navigation tonight.”

“O.K.,” Leanne said. “Don’t be so hard on them. They’re just trying to do their job.”

Leanne limped away to the showers. Shelley frowned. She’s so naïve.

Shelley’s former partners would’ve joined her in a screaming match with the Tailors after a night like this. After all, they were the ones out there fighting. All Tailors ever do is hide underground, and give directions from their headsets and monitors… and they can’t even seem to do that right these days.

But no one will be joining Shelley’s crusade for the welfare of Needles tonight. Her peers were dead. All of them were, her entire class. She was the last one left. Hell, Needles were dying everywhere around the world.

Shelley approached the control room, and was about to enter, but stopped short when she heard the Tailors gossiping.

“What do you think of the new kid?” Roma rasped.

“Who? Whatshername? Leanne?” Baylen drawled. “She’s not gonna last. That’s what I think.”

Baylen was the biggest asshole at the Vatican unit. Shelley hated him.

“I dunno,” Moss said. “She handled herself OK tonight.”

“Nobody asked you, Moss,” Baylen shot back.

There was a brief uncomfortable silence.

“Anyway,” Baylen continued. “That bitch she’s hooked up with. Shelley Song. She’ll get her killed. She got Emily killed last month. She’s careless. And she blames it on us. I don’t know how many times I almost got written up because of her.”

At this, Shelley marched in. Roma and Moss swiveled towards her in surprise. Baylen didn’t budge.

“Yeah, you heard me, Song,” Baylen said, back turned. “Every single word. I knew you were eavesdropping.”

“You fucking asshole….” Shelley fumed. “Emily was like a sister to me. You got her killed with your shitty coordinates, just like you almost got Leanne and me killed tonight. How fucking dare you.”

Baylen turned to face her. “Oh fuck, Shelley. We gonna do this again?”

He stood up, carrying his heavy gait with him. “You. You were the one who told Emily to go off-the-grid that night. How many FUCKING times do I have to tell you? Leave your earpiece in! We can’t feed you real-time intel if your FUCKING EARPIECE is NOT IN YOUR FUCKING EAR!!!”

The “earpiece” was Baylen’s protocol. The papal conclave agreed to the technology earlier this year once they could no longer deny that the number of materializations were increasing exponentially.

It was also really dumb. The last thing Shelley needed in the heat of battle was some data jockey chattering incessantly in her ear. Needles were not trained to fight like this. It made no sense. Fighting demons and casting them back into hell required a spiritual fluidity. A oneness with your mind and body and soul.

“Here’s your fucking earpiece,” Shelley tore hers off and hurled it at Baylen. It bounced unsatisfactorily off his fat chest.

“Baylen?” Moss mumbled.

Baylen ignored him. He was fixated on Shelley, destroying her with his heterochromatic glare.

“Baylen…” Moss repeated.

“WHAT?!” Baylen shouted.

“I think I got something here.”

“Well. What is it?!”

Roma turned back to his monitor, started tapping keys. “Uh…”

“Is anyone going to fucking talk to me??” Baylen exhaled.

Roma adjusted his maps, rotating them, zooming in. “This can’t be right…”

“What? What is it!!??” Baylen broke his stare with Shelley, and turned to his console.

“It looks like it’s right on top of us. Or beneath us. I don’t know…” Roma said.

Baylen hunched over his monitors. “Holy….”

Shelley heard the faint, familiar crackle in the air. Static. Black static.

And then she saw it above their heads. A small rending in the fabric of reality. Dark oozing claws pushing through, tearing into the world. The stench of sulphur, sewage and brimstone. The sound of canvass being ripped slowly. Reality breaking down.

“GET DOWN!!!” Shelley shouted as he rushed towards Baylen and the others.

She threw herself against Baylen, knocked him down. Seized Roma’s left arm, dragged him down.

An ebony tentacle lashed out from a second tear, wrapped around Moss’s neck and threw him across the room.

Sitting on top of Baylen, Shelley screamed. “Call Leanne, Baylen. Call her now. We need her in here.”

Baylen muttered. “Yes. Yes. Call Leanne. I got it.”

Shelley got up and unsheathed her steel samingeom, personally blessed by the Pope. She spied Roma in a fetal position under his console. Gritting herself, she schemed her next move.

Shelley launched herself off Baylen’s console towards the tentacle’s source. She somersaulted in the air, and with one swift motion, her samingeom sliced clean through the unholy limb. A high-pitch shriek filled the room.

As Shelley began free fall, she closed her eyes, found her center and invoked Saint Michael the Archangel. “Prínceps gloriosíssime coeléstis milítiae, sancte Míchael Archángele”

Shelley landed, crouched and continued, “Defend us in the battle and in our wrestling against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.

Sicut déficit fumus defíciant; sicut fluit cera a fácie ígnis, sic péreant peccatóres a fácie Dei. Let the wicked perish at the presence of God.”

A powerful energy force filled Shelley’s body, condensing, compressing her. She repeated the holy words, “Let the wicked perish at the presence of God.”

And once more, “Let the wicked perish at the presence of God!” And with that, the energy blasted from her towards the tear where the tentacle had appeared. It cauterized like spreading cancer, grew rigid and closed up.

Shelley opened her eyes, drained, and saw Leanne appear.

Leanne’s eyes widened with shock. “Omigod. Omigod, omigod, omigod…”

“Leanne!” Shelley barked. “We need you!”

A third tear appeared near Roma. It pulsated and convulsed and spat out an small oily onyx goblin. It wailed like a newborn, gathered its senses and rushed at Roma.

“Leanne!!!” Shelley screamed.

Leanne unfroze. She raised her Franchi SPAS-12, pumped, chambered a holy silver round, aimed, fired. She missed. The goblin jumped on top of Roma and clawed at his eyes.

Roma cried out as he bled to death. “In nómine Pátris, et Fílii, et Spirítus Sancti. In nómine Pátris, et Fílii, et Spirítus Sancti.

Shelley looked up. She was directly under the first, original tear, and both clawed arms had breached into the Earthly plane, gripping our reality to pull itself out. A small head appeared, hidden behind a grotesque ballroom mask with dragon scales and vulture feathers.

It whispered and seethed, “Anima i et comedetis panem vestrum…” I will eat your soul.

Leanne pumped her Franchi again. A spent casing flew out, another silver round chambered. She fired again.

The demon goblin gnawing at Roma’s face exploded. Plutonic waste splattered all over Roma’s console.

The ballroom-masked demon hanging over Shelley dove down from its womb. Shelley rolled forward, away, and sprang up on her feet. “Stitch up your tear, Leanne! Stitch it up!”

Leanne kneeled down, and clasped her hands in prayer.

Ker-splat. The ballroom-masked demon landed in a thick pool of black ooze. It got up, faced Shelley and grinned a wide mouth of a thousand sharp baby teeth. It staggered in a strange, otherworldly gait towards Shelley.

Baylen, numbed into inaction this entire time, suddenly ginned up the panic to run.

Shelley gripped her samingeom tightly with both hands, stood ready for the demon. It cackled, and screeched and hollered, “Anima i et comedetis panem vestrum…”

And then its shoulder blades began to rumble and boiled, until suddenly, it burst. Wings of obsidian knives unfurled. Its left wing cut Baylen in half. Shelley, unfazed, lifted her samingeom above her head.

BAM! The demon’s ballroom mask shattered, blinding her. It keened wildly. Leanne pumped her Franchi again. “I’ll distract it. You stitch up that chasm there. It’s too big for me.”

Shelley turned and saw a scared little girl drawing up every bit of courage she had from the depths of her soul. “OK, you got enough rounds?”

“Yes, Shelley. Go.”

Shelley ran behind Leanne, found a spot near the entrance. She knelt down and began to recite her supplication.

En antíquus inimícus et homicída veheménter eréctus est. Behold, the ancient enemy and murderer strongly raises his head!

BAM!! Leanne fired another shot at the demon, setting it back.

Transfigurátus in ángelum lúcis, cum tóta malignórum spirítuum catérva láte círcuit et invádit térram Transformed into an angel of light, with the entire horde of wicked spirits he goes about everywhere and takes possession of the earth…

BAM!! The demon screeched as the silver round burnt a hole through its third breast.

ut in ea déleat nómen Dei et Christi éjus …so that therein he may blot out the Name of God and of His Christ and steal away…

BAM!!! Its shoulder burst open, separating its right claw arm.

animásque ad aetérnae glóriae corónam destinátas furétur, máctet ac pérdat in sempitérnum intéritum. …afflict and ruin unto everlasting destruction the souls destined for a crown of eternal glory.

BAM!!! Leanne blew out the demon’s left kneecap.

Hinc tuo confísi praesídio ac tutéla ácri ministérii nostri auctoritáte Hence confiding in thy protection and guardianship, by the sacred authority of our ministry…

ad infestatiónes diabólicae fráudis repelléndas in nómine Jésu Chrísti Dei et Dómini nóstri fidéntes et secúri agrédimur. …We confidently and securely begin the task in the name of Jesus Christ our God and Lord, of driving away the attacks of diabolical deceit.

Écce Crúcem Dómini, fúgite pártes advérsae. Behold the Cross of the Lord, flee away ye hostile forces.

Shelley held up the crucifix around her neck, and directed its energy towards the chasm.

Écce Crúcem Dómini, fúgite pártes advérsae. Écce Crúcem Dómini, fúgite pártes advérsae. Écce Crúcem Dómini, fúgite pártes advérsae.

The jet-black chasm of infinite darkness began to wrap around itself, like a piece of paper balling itself up. It sucked at the ballroom-mask demon, vacuuming it back into its dimension. The demon shrieked and gurgled and choked.

The demon coughed violently as the chasm inhaled the obsidian blades from its wings. It sucked and it sucked, swallowing masses and gobs of black ooze, until the demon was no more, and the chasm closed in on itself with a whimpering pop.

Leanne, dazed, slouched to the nearest wall and collapsed against it. She wrapped her arms around herself, and began to sob uncontrollably.

“Non posso fare questo,” She whined in her native Italian. I can’t do this. “Non posso fare questo. Nonpossofarequesto, nonpossofarequesto, nonpossofarequesto. It’s too much!!!”

Shelley, beat, ambled towards Leanne. She crouched next to her. “Leanne. Snap out of it. Leanne.”

“No, I can’t!” she cried. “I’m not strong like you.”

“Leanne. Listen to me. Listen. Shitty things happen to us. Horrible, terrible shitty things. That’s the life of a Needle. And shitty things are going to keep happening to us for the rest of our lives. That’s it. You gotta deal. Accept it.

“We can’t control when, or how, or how often these demons will tear through into our world. It’s happening more frequently. It sucks. I know. I’ve lost friends. Friends like you. But we deal. We’re Needles.

“The only thing we can control is ourselves. The only thing we can trust in is ourselves. We get up every morning and trust we can handle whatever this fucked up life has dealt us.

“Leanne. Do you hear me?”

Leanne threw herself into Shelley, wrapped her arms around her, wailing.

“OK, Leanne,” Shelley whispered. “I got you. Shh. Shh, shh. I got you.” ☣