SOUL DEVOURER

 The Evangelical church in the rotten downtown was closed, with only one light fixture turned on and, without the faithful inside, had a certain apocalyptic air. The uncomfortable silence was broken by the pastor, a brown man, with an upright appearance, who denied adultery but sweated cold and gesticulated excessively. As he leaned over to confront him, he could see in Douglas black hair bald spots aging his red and white goombah face. – “Do you mean, then, that this was your clone?”, he asked, while showing a video with several excerpts of the elder having sex with transvestites. – “If you don’t pay me a lot of money, your wife, who had hired me, and all your sheep will discover your … fascination for playing with dolls. The choice is yours!”, insisted him, grinning slightly.

After receiving the large sum in cash, Douglas took the opportunity to celebrate the night, not without guaranteeing that the religious leader’s wife was informed that he was only “taking the word of the Christian god to the addicts that live along the crackhead blocks”. “Earning twice for the same job was fantastic! Damn scruples in times of crisis. The human race is full of parasites. What’s wrong with milking the own leeches?”, thought the former police officer, now a private detective.

After the fun, as he drove home slowly on his motorcycle, almost staggering, there was a signal to Douglas that Saturday would be bad: when he looked into the eyes of a street gypsy, he saw them as if made of black light. Perhaps the combination of sleep and hangover was causing hallucinations. The feeling that the previous day had not turned, but simply extended and changed color, reinforced this malaise. Going up the stairs, his phone rang. “Who would it be so soon?”. On the other end of the line, an asthmatic voice with a Germanic accent did not allow him to discern that it was a woman, until she specified that “myself, Mrs. Fiser” would come to his office.

Her insistence on whether he could attend to her at that very moment left the investigator quite puzzled, which made him accept it without hesitation.

The fat, grody lady, trembling and a little disjointed, did not even show disgust at the small, dirty and messy room converted into a bedroom. Since 2010, the detective was suffering losses when he saw the old and affluent industrial espionage clients being replaced by a few cases of adultery among middle-class couples. The Fiser’s daughter had disappeared without a trace, without a ransom or farewell note. The only clue was an onyx pendant, a hideous black figure with traces of the most bizarre effigies of voodoo, stolen from the girl by her mother, by intuition or superstition. She handed this over, the payment, a photo of the girl and the name of a place she said her daughter used to hang out just to “have some fun with her friends” (words from the girl to her mother).

The glamorous Miskatonia nightclub, unlike the poor surroundings, was in a vicinity deteriorated by marginals and a stronghold of illegal immigrants, especially sinister Haitians. Douglas had not wanted to say anything to the blubber, since she had paid his highest price without haggling, but this was an establishment famous for having a fine selection of very exotic whores. For this very reason, frequented by wealthy eccentrics wanting to go unnoticed. Douglas knew one of the prostitutes and made an appointment with her at a nearby bar. He stuffed the ominous pendant in his pocket with the photo, part of the money, and went over there, because the bitch was just leaving work.

They sat down to drink beer, despite the cold day. The inspector noticed that the bar had progressed, now with glass doors. When asked about the young woman, showing her photo to the informant, she said: – “Yes, I did know her. Her nickname was Suzy. She was in the “special catalog”, you know. She didn’t have her left hand and was requested by many flashy old ladies. I think they liked that she used on them this … gift. We said that this was proof that the human being is constantly attracted by the weird and the morbid. We joked about what the sound would be if she clapped her hands” and she laughed. She also revealed, in whispering and looking around, that the last time she had seen Suzy, the girl had been taken by the manager to the nearby Masonic Lodge. However, the bosses forbade to comment on this sordid fate of other girls. She was terrified of working there because of this and wanted to give up, but she was constantly threatened.

At that moment, because they were concentrated in the conversation, they didn’t notice that outdoors there was a white man, with the face of a madman, wearing a nice but smeared suit, approaching with a pickaxe. In one stroke, he broke through the glass door beside the table they were on. The glass rain caused a general outcry. The detective froze and could only notice the psychopath’s strange eyes, completely dark and with a certain yellowish phosphorescence. The man, cackling menacingly, said to him: – “He is watching you!”, as he prepared to descend the pointed and heavy tool on the girl’s head. It was time for someone to unload lead and kill the nut. No less than a police officer pouting in the tavern. The bitch who was giving information to the investigator took advantage of the confusion and ran away.

This cop worked at the police station in the area, based in a gloomy old mansion. It didn’t take long until Douglas was heard, just before lunch. As he thanked his hero, the policeman said: – “Mr. Malocchio, it was my pleasure. I’ve read all your books on unusual cases and I loved it. Be careful what you are looking for. The guy who tried to kill you was a judge who slaughtered his family and was in an unknown location for days. It is confidential, but there we also found a body that looked like a raisin, all wrinkled and darkened, of a girl who was healthy just hours before”.

Leaving the police station, the hunger was so great that Malocchio could not fail to eat the delicious takoyaki sold nearby: typical Japanese fried dumplings with octopus legs. This reminded him of the pendant and, before investigating the Freemasonry lodge, he decided to learn more about the mysterious frill: it seemed to be an nkisi, but with several eyes, mollusc tentacles and bat wings. Even with years of study and practice in the occult, he couldn’t figure out what it was about. A hunch led him to the oldest church in the hood, where many fortune tellers worked on the sidewalk making divination with shells, palmistry or card decks. Talking to each one, nobody knew what it was, the dazed reactions were the same and one thing was certain: this pendant had nothing to do with any African religions, nor with hoodoo.

The only exception was a woman who, curiously, had a markedly Eastern descent, although she was dressed like a typical yalorishah, the African priestess. Mother Shizen of Naeh introduced herself saying she used a mix of palm nuts, Arab geomancy and I Ching. When the detective showed her the pendant, she left her pleasant commercial expression and, widening her eyes, became pale and circumspect. She warned that she would only speak about it in a seance performed at her shrine, a small house nearby, where they went. Once inside, she said that, in fact, whoever knew about it was one of her own ehgoon, ancestor spirits. However, a generous offering (obviously) was necessary to facilitate communication with that spirit through incorporation.

Suspicious, the detective initially denied to do it. He only agreed to pay it when the witch spoke seriously: – “This is the only way for you to find out what happened to Miss Fiser”, which gave Malocchio the creeps, since he had not revealed anything to anyone about the case in his custody. After the whole hocus-pocus, with the classic double booze & cigar, a transylvanic storm started: darkness in daylight, plenty of water, very strong wind and a copious thunders. Only then the supposed guide began to incorporate. Visibly unlearned, but kind, the spirit presented himself as a babalawo who had been enslaved on a farm in this place more than a century ago, brought from Africa already a man made.

He told Malocchio that the choker figure belonged to a dark cult, much older than all the older African orishás, voodoos and sorcerers sects. He explained that, in the most primordial versions of the Yoruba legends, the supreme creator of the universe, as soon as he generated himself and before making light, realized that there was someone else in the darkness before him. The same is illustrated on the necklace in the inspector’s hands. It was a dreadful belief, driven by human sacrifices and evil values. He further revealed that the grand chief of this bestial cult was a lurid entity that did not originate in Africa, but in a more distant place. Then, the spirit started to babble, as if the medium was loosing tune with it, saying disconnected things about a “master of the sacred serpent” and wolves.

Rain, lightning and thunders increase. The witch starts rolling up her eyes, shaking and drooling. The place gets darker and colder, to the point where steam comes out of the mouth. The session ends with the woman whiter than paraffin and hurriedly dismissing Douglas, almost driving him out. It seemed to the detective a good time to visit the Freemasons’ temple, because with such a downpour, no one would see him. As he passed by the old church in the neighborhood again, Malocchio swore to have seen in its place, during flashes, a different, unusual and bestial, construction. Heavy black monoliths, impossible to format through Euclidean geometry and human techniques, covered with green goo, something translucent and endowed with a certain phosphorescence … “Am I crazy or what?”, he thought, amazed, speeding up to quickly disappear from such sight.

For an hour, without the rain stopping, he observed the building of the Masonic Order of the Great Orient at a short distance, in order to make sure that it was deserted. He took courage and invaded it, still shocked by the vision of dreadful building in the place of the Catholic temple. The lobby and antechambers of the Masonic lodge did not differ from the commonplace of a Masonic temple. At the library, Douglas found odious volumes, practically unknown to the general public and even genuine Masons, such as a rare Italian version, dating from the 15th century, of the terrible Necronomicon, an ancient handwritten copy of the abominable De Vermis Mysteriis and macabre translations like The Cult of Ghouls and El Culto Inenarrable. The investigator was terrified, trying to deny to himself what those books indicated to be happening there.

What really amazed Malocchio was the temple itself, poorly lit and with clear vestiges of demonic worship superimposed over the usual icons of Freemasons. Inverted pentagrams, abhorrent sentences in Latin and koine, ideograms, horrifying images and unknown writings. Several heavy fetters hung from the walls, stained with blood, feces and other fluids on the floor around them, the air filled with a horrible stench. On the altar, what appeared to be a small twisted, brownish, dry and hard trunk, in fact, was the body of a child. Beside it, a small metal box, with hideous high reliefs and unique inscriptions in some archaic language, suggesting something from outside this world.

Opening this casing, he found a kind of smoked crystal, unlike anything he had seen before. Looking for a few minutes at it, he began to have very clear visions of alien beings and lands, scenes of colliding galaxies and unspeakable terrors … His sanity seemed to run down the drain. His fascination was only broken when he felt a presence through the stone. Something he couldn’t see, but that he was sure to have gazed back at him through the damn rhomboid stone.

He drew his gun as soon as he heard noises, both from where he had come from and from a stairwell at the back. He tried to hide, but was knocked down. The glance at which it all happened only allowed him to discern a huge black wolf head about to snap his face, while he was unloading his .9mm. He noticed another person in there, carrying a double-edged Chinese straight sword surrounded by thin but intense orange flames, which crossed the beast’s head through its eye, killing it instantly.

The man, visibly a Latino, wearing a Chinese navy blue Taichi outfit with white details, all very discreet, held out his hand for Malocchio to stand up. The investigator, wide-eyed and gaping, stood up and stared at the fallen creature, which could only be called a werewolf, a true lycanthrope, black, strong and large. His new lifeguard said only that they should get out of there quickly and that he would explain everything as soon as they were safe.

Only then did Douglas realize that he was bleeding, as the lycanthrope had scratched his arm and chest, even though he wore a closed leather jacket, now damaged. They took the bike running and went to the nearby Kuan Yin Temple. While cleaning Malocchio’s wounds and preparing a bandage, the man said that his name was John Romero and that he taught Shen Che Chuen kung fu, the Fist of the Holy Serpent. The fighter explained to the suspicious inspector: – “This being we just faced was one of the slaves of a powerful and ancient evil entity. Eastern legends speak of vampires not as bloodsuckers, but as devourers of souls, who feed on the most basic vital energy of human beings. They are called kyonshi in Japanese or ‘walking dead’ “, he said, with a frightened expression, gasping with fear.

– “My little daughter was kidnapped and ended up in the hands of one … of one of those things! You know, sometimes, the world of the living mixes with the world of the dead … It all makes me think some weird things, as if it wasn’t me”, he confessed, with a lost look that Malocchio knew well, the astonished look of those who already thought of killing themselves aiming to end all suffering.

He revealed that he had already tried to enter the Masonic lodge once, but when he came across the beast, he would have given up. He had returned there with the sword of his deceased master, a Tibetan relic of great spiritual power, linked to the sacred fire of transcendental wisdom, capable of eliminating all evil. “Lucky me!” Douglas exclaimed, with a mischievous smile. Romero mentioned that two other sites could be the den of the nefarious entity. He had followed a scientist, a black gentleman who, over the weeks, mysteriously began to rejuvenate. Perhaps he was the undead himself.

As a precaution, Malocchio thought it best to stop by his home and pick up more weapons. The first site that Romero had watched was an elegant villa in one of the streets across the main avenue. He said that many people were taken there, to Dr. Jean Legrasse’s residence. This was a sovereign master of Freemasons and a talented genetic engineer. Unusually, he had abandoned a promising career to pursue research considered unethical by the scientific community. The rain had stopped, but night was already falling when they reached the small manor. They waited a while to enter.

Inside, the house was the reverse of its beautiful Methodist exterior, except for the first more social rooms. Peeled and moldy walls, full of evil symbols painted with blood, remains of human and semi-human bodies, visibly used as food or experiment. In the huge basement, a complex laboratory followed by a few underground floors. As they entered the second of these, a hurricane of beasts attacked them. The detective only had time to realize that they were mixed up with men and animals, unloading their weapons and running out, as Romero was already being dismembered without being able to do anything to help him.

Romero’s cries mixed with the beasts’ roars did not leave his head. He ran like never before on his motorbike, passing again by the gypsy beggar with ghostly eyes. The last clue his now dead new friend had left was the old church in the hood. The fighter had said that Dr. Legrasse and his minions were taking catatonic children inside who never left the premises again.

Insanely, the inspector threw himself in, gritting his teeth, bloodshot eyes, almost foaming with anger. After combing the most common parts, he found a very deep catacomb, slightly lit by niches with wisp. Descending quickly, he felt the cold and the stench of an abyss of infinite rot increase. He heard crazy evil laughs. At the end of it all, a cave with a large crack in the ground giving off gases of crimson glow, in which he threw a large stone. Even after a while, no sound. It was bottomless or, at least, very deep.

Abruptly, the hellish flames from the cavities in the walls went out and the darkness was total. Malocchio put his hand to his mouth, having difficulty breathing. He was seized by visions of people being skinned alive, making him cry as a child. It was not a physical sound he heard but, at the same time, it was not something just in his mind: – “Do not waste your tears, you helpless twag! Wait a little longer, until I tear your soul in a thousand pieces for daring to challenge those who have transcended the barrier between life and death”.

The detective went out of the church madly down the main avenue, shooting and killing at random. Witnesses said he was laughing wildly, his eyes injected. He was stopped only when a policeman shot him in the legs and arms. The investigator, who is now in a judicial asylum, is not sure what happened after he invaded the church and reached the damn hole. He was condemned as guilty not only for the deaths he actually committed while taken by the hateful frenzy, but also of several kidnappings and murders that occurred in that period, serving as a scapegoat for the evil cult, which still prowls the crossroads here, there and everywhere…