A priest, a rock star, and a demon walk into a shopping mall…
and then the apocalypse begins.
Christmas Eve, 1985.
Shoppers flood the aisles of Mallzilla, Springfield’s largest shopping mall. But when Abaddon, one of the Devil’s deadliest soldiers, is unleashed, the mall becomes the epicenter of a battle between good and evil.
As Abaddon recruits an army of possessed mall-goers, a group of unlikely heroes, led by Father Sam, the mall’s resident priest, must band together to stop him. As the body count rises and the stakes get higher, the mall becomes the last line of defense against Abaddon’s quest for world domination.
Can the Mall Priest and his team send Abaddon back to Hell, or will he succeed in building an army of darkness?
Available in e-book and paperback NOW
A TALE OF DEMONIC HOLIDAY HORROR
Camera flash or demon possession?
Springfield, USA. December 24 1985
The rhythmic thudding of Father Michael’s fist on the glass partition echoed through the cargo compartment of the Church’s specially commissioned van. His gaze piercing the window that separated him from the driver, he yelled through the intercom, “We need to move faster, Brother!” They should have been on the highway and away from the city by now.
Brother Reg, the middle-aged driver, shook his head in frustration. “It’s those darned protesters,” he exclaimed. “Clashing with shoppers, blocking up the street.”
A chill ran down Father Michael’s spine as he glanced out the rear window of the van. The avenue was clogged with morning traffic, crawling along at a snail’s pace, and overrun with people in winter coats and hats, scurrying from sidewalk to sidewalk. Some of the pedestrians were desperate to reach a destination, while others impeded their progress by thrusting signs in their faces and shouting, “Christ is Christmas!” as if the sheer force of their voices could make the world believe their message.
While Father Michael could not fault the righteousness of the protesters’ point, their tactics appeared to be causing more harm than good. No one was listening, and blocking people’s way only made the last-minute shoppers frantic. One man lunged forward, snatching a placard that read ‘Christ is the True Gift’ in bold letters. He bellowed a furious warning, threatening to strike the protesters with it, before tossing it into the line of traffic.
Beside Father Michael, Father David flinched as the sign banged against the back of the van with a loud thud before bouncing into the street.
“Tomorrow is Christmas.” The young priest’s pale face appeared stark as he darted an anxious glance at Father Michael and twisted his rosary beads between his fingers. “They should all be home, not out shopping.” He closed his eyes and began a quiet prayer to Saint Christopher for assistance with their journey.
Things were getting ugly fast, and no police were in sight.
“Can we take another route?” Father Michael called to the driver. Though it was usually the fastest route out of town, they should have avoided the downtown area this morning.
“As soon as we’re out of this crowd, Father,” Brother Reg called back, his tone heavy with impatience.
Father Michael leaned back in his seat and joined the younger priest in prayer. He tried not to fret. Fretting never did any good. It’s in God’s hands, he reminded himself. Trust that the Lord has a plan. God’s will always prevailed, regardless of the outcome. But it was hard not to worry when time was of the essence. While the van they were in appeared to be an ordinary white utility vehicle from the outside, its cargo was anything but ordinary.
The Vessel, a respected man of faith who had once been a bishop, wore a simple collar and black cassock that reached his ankles. His white hair was brushed neatly to the side, and a cross dangled from his neck on a thick silver chain, which dutifully rested upon his pale, wrinkled skin. But there was a dullness to his gaze, and his shoulders were slumped from many years spent bearing the weight of a sin-filled world. He was no longer the young, fit, and strong priest he had been, and that, of course, was the problem.
That and the fact demons cannot be trusted, Father Michael reflected. The higher-order ones could not be killed either, only contained or banished.
The agreement to house a powerful demon in exchange for bringing peace to the world had extended the Vessel’s life, but that life was now nearing its end, and a new Vessel had been chosen. A younger, stronger, and more devout acolyte now awaited their arrival at Saint Bartholomew’s Cathedral.
Only a man of great faith could be a Vessel and contain a demon. Father Michael knew he was not such a man. He questioned God’s will frequently and doubted too much, as he’d often been told while studying at the seminary in his youth—that was his cross to bear. But he had great faith and respect for those who took on the mantle of responsibility and understood the honor of being chosen to escort the aged Vessel on his last journey. A journey Father Michael wished would go faster. He glanced at his watch and frowned. They were due to begin the anointing at the cathedral in less than an hour.
The van crawled forward, then braked heavily, causing the three occupants in the back to lurch in their velvet-cushioned seats.
“Are you okay, your Eminence?” Father David undid his seatbelt and knelt beside the Vessel, putting a questioning hand on the elderly man’s knee.
The Vessel stirred and blinked as if coming out of a trance. He grimaced as he turned his gaze upon the young priest kneeling before him. “I’ve kept Abaddon at bay for forty years now. I’m sure I can last another hour.”
The priest quickly removed his hand from the Vessel. “I did not mean any disrespect—”
“Father David, you forget your place,” Father Michael chastised the younger man with a shake of his head. “If his Eminence says he is fine, he is fine.”
Although he did appear to have a faint sheen of sweat upon his brow.
Father Michael undid his seat belt and joined Father David in showing concern. “Your Eminence, are you well?” He bent and gently grasped the elderly clergyman’s wrist. His skin was dry and hot, his pulse light and fluttery.
The Vessel snatched his hand back. “I would be better if you two would shut up,” he snapped. He closed his eyes and settled into his seat again as if wanting to return to the meditative state he’d been awakened from.
Father Michael exchanged a quick glance with Father David at the unaccustomed harsh language used by the Vessel. This was not good. The old man’s weakness was showing, which meant he was not as strong as he put forward—the demon was stirring, or both.
Abaddon was not a demon to be underestimated. Many priests had died trying to contain him when the Devil-like being first escaped his dungeon in Hell centuries past. They’d discovered that a demon as powerful as Abaddon couldn’t be defeated. Rather than cast him back to Hell where he could regain strength and launch another assault upon humanity, he had been imprisoned in the body of one strong enough to contain him. The bishop was Abaddon’s twelfth Vessel, and if his Eminence’s time was drawing to a close, then Abaddon surely knew it.
Father Michael returned to his seat and banged on the window at the front to gain the driver’s attention again.
“His Eminence is in distress,” he called through the intercom. “We need to—”
“Hold tight,” Brother Reg shouted.
The van lurched forward as the driver swerved into a break in the oncoming traffic to pass the last car blocking their way in front of them. Alarmed shouts erupted from people outside the van. The unsecured occupants in the back toppled onto the floor as the van accelerated into the intersection.
Tires squealed, to no avail. Something heavy crashed into the side of the van, knocking it into a sideways skid, followed by a second crash.
Dazed by the sudden impact, Father Michael blinked and shook his head. He discovered he lay on the van’s floor beside Father David. The younger priest groaned and glanced around, clutching his head. Shards of broken glass littered the floor, but at least they were level, and the van hadn’t rolled.
Father Michael avoided the worst of the broken glass as he gingerly turned and studied the Vessel. “Bishop, are you okay?”
Restrained by his seatbelt, the elderly man was slumped forward, head bent down and chin against his chest, unmoving.
Father Michael winced as he got to his knees and crawled toward the Vessel. Pain shot through his body, but he ignored it and focused on the more serious problem.
Father David got to his feet and reached the Vessel first. “Bishop Louis,” he called as he pushed the elderly man back against the seat and lifted his chin.
The Vessel’s eyes were open, but they were rolled upward, showing the whites. Spittle dribbled from the side of his slack mouth then he began to convulse slightly.
“He’s having a heart attack,” Father David announced, sounding panicked. “We need to get him to the hospital.”
Father Michael nodded as he got to a sitting position. A glance toward the front of the van through the broken partition showed no sign of the driver or sounds of movement. Maybe he had been knocked unconscious in the accident.
“Do you know first aid?” Father Michael asked the younger priest.
Father David nodded while he hurried to undo the seatbelt holding the Vessel in place. “Yes. But we need help.” He slid the Vessel off the seat and onto the van floor beside Father Michael. “If he stops breathing, start chest compressions. I’ll get someone.” He studied Father Michael for a second. “Are you okay to do that, Father?”
Father Michael nodded. He could do that, couldn’t he? A buzzing sound filled his mind, making everything seem like it was happening from a distance. Perhaps he’d hit his head during the accident.
They turned in unison to stare at the Vessel as he made a choking sound. His breathing had shallowed, and the convulsions were getting worse. Foam covered his lips, which were now tinged blue.
“We’re losing him.” Chest compressions weren’t going to be enough. He made the sign of the cross and started reciting a Prayer for Containment.
The younger priest stared at him wide-eyed. “If he dies, Abaddon will be release—”
“We need to get out of here,” Father David said. He hastened to the back of the van and pushed on the rear doors. They didn’t budge. Damage inflicted by the collision appeared to have buckled them. He lay on his back and kicked them again and again but was unable to move either of the dented doors. He looked to Father Michael. “A little help?”
Father Michael’s lips trembled as he continued his prayer.
Where were the first responders?
Were there no good Samaritans in this crowd?
Would it matter if anyone helped them now?
Abaddon was coming.
He felt the demon draw nearer to the surface of his old friend’s consciousness as the Vessel’s grip on life faded. Hungry. Impatient. The Prayer for Containment was not working. “Abaddon… he’s getting out,” he whimpered.
“Father. Snap out of it. God’s got our backs.” Father David grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him.
Father Michael shook his head as he studied his old friend, who had fought the battle longer than anyone else had. It was already too late. The bishop’s convulsions were getting weaker.
A sinister grin suddenly split the old man’s lips. “Your pathetic prayers are useless.” The Vessel spoke with a deep, inhuman voice that was not his own. If the bass tone that echoed as though a chorus of people spoke in unison wasn’t unnerving enough, the bishop’s mouth didn’t move as the words were spoken. Inhuman laughter filled the van, making it even harder to focus.
“Holy water, stat,” Father David instructed, sounding like his favorite television doctor, Hawkeye Pierce. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a sealed bottle.
Father Michael nodded and did the same. Holding his bottle in one trembling hand, he pulled out the cork with the other. The Vessel had stopped convulsing and lay still on the floor. His skin no longer felt hot. Father Michael tipped the bottle to the unconscious man’s pale lips and prayed fervently for strength. If God was on their side, this would surely contain the demon. “Abaddon, I command you, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy—”
Sunlight abruptly streamed into the van as the driver ripped one of the doors off its hinges and threw it out of sight. Inhuman laughter echoed off the walls again as Brother Reg leaned in toward Father Michael. “Looking for me? I am over here now.” He lunged at Father Michael and grabbed him by the collar, pulling him from the van onto the road.
Father Michael landed on the hard pavement with a thud he felt through every inch of his soul.
They had failed.
Abaddon had escaped and entered the most readily available body, the driver, who Father Michael guessed had been knocked unconscious during the crash. And now he was free to build an army of corrupted souls to create Hell on Earth.
“You cannot command me.” The possessed driver slammed the priest’s head against the ground.
Lights burst before Father Michael’s eyes. It was hard to catch his breath as pain ricocheted through his mind and into his chest. Maybe he was having a heart attack too.
“Father,” he heard Father David shout as if from a distance. The young priest ran toward him—glass bottle open in one hand—then he threw the contents over the driver.
The possessed man looked down at his wet shirt and then back at Father David. “Did you bless that water yourself?”
Father David nodded with the slightest of movements. “Yes.”
The driver smiled. “That is why it tastes like weakness and regret.” He licked the holy water from his fingers and lunged for Father David.
The young priest backed away and fumbled through his pockets for an alternative weapon against his dark foe. He pulled the cross from his pocket and held it high in front of him. “I compel you to return to the flames of Hell, whence you were created.”
“Whence?” Brother Reg said, seeming perplexed. “Who the fuck says ‘whence’ anymore?”
“Be gone,” the priest yelled. He stepped forward, pushing the cross against Brother Reg’s forehead.
“Argh, oh no, what am I going to do?” Brother Reg fell to his knees and raised his hands in the air as if beseeching the priest for mercy. “You have... defeated me.”
Father Michael watched on helplessly, unable to move as he whispered a prayer for God’s mercy. A crowd had gathered around them, and the distant sounds of emergency vehicle sirens added to the chaos. Several voices murmured as confusion reigned over the crowd. Should they intervene? Father David kept the cross pressed against the driver’s forehead. Thin tendrils of smoke began to curl from where the symbol of faith met flesh.
The cross erupted in flames, causing Father David to jump backward and drop it.
The possessed driver rose to his feet. A cold-blooded chuckle issued from his throat, the volume increasing with each passing second until it echoed off the buildings. “You are a fool,” he said in an inhumanly deep baritone. “Just like all your kind.”
“Be. Gone,” Father David insisted, backing away.
“No.” The driver growled. He moved with fiendishly fast speed and grabbed the priest by the throat. “You be gone.”
With a sharp twist of both hands, he wrenched the priest’s head from his shoulders. As the decapitated body fell to the ground, Brother Reg held Father David’s head high, with a booming laugh that shook the van.
The crowd that had gathered erupted in screams. Several of the previously picketing protesters abandoned their placards in their hurry to get away. The demon-possessed driver gestured with Father David’s head toward a group of nearby pedestrians who seemed frozen in shock.
“Boo,” he shouted with a maniacal grin.
The bystanders shrieked and ran, causing the demon to laugh even harder.
A screech of tires near the van drew Father Michael’s attention. Time seemed to slow as a lone pair of police officers appeared cautiously from behind the crashed vehicles. They seemed confused as they assessed the accident scene filled with screaming, running people. They must have been on nearby patrol when they got the call about a crash in the downtown area.
Beyond the tableau of the driver in the middle of the street beside a decapitated body, blood dripping from the severed head he held aloft, Father Michael saw the officers crouch and draw their weapons.
“Freeze,” the lead officer shouted.
“Nooo!” Father Michael shouted in warning.
The driver was an innocent Vessel being used for the demon’s purpose. If he died, the demon would simply move to another available target. However, the only person who seemed to hear his protest was Abaddon.
Brother Reg, filled with the demon’s presence, shrugged and flashed a quick grin at the wounded priest. “Time to party like it’s 1499,” he said, throwing Father David’s head in the direction of an escaping bystander.
The cops took that as permission to open fire. Blood spurted from the driver’s chest as he fell, his body crashing to the pavement as it quickly became lifeless.
“Stop,” Father Michael called to the officers as he watched on hopelessly, despair spreading through him like the pool of blood spreading across the pavement from Father David’s corpse. “He’s loose. The Devil. He’s loose.” His head slumped onto the cold ground while frailty overtook him. He looked up at the cloud-shrouded morning sky, wishing for God to take him home.
Weak. He’d been too weak in his faith, and now the demon had escaped. The unholy being would jump from body to body, looking for a corrupted soul who could give him the power he wanted and a place he could build an army.
“God help us all,” he whispered as the immense failure of his weakness settled into Father Michael’s chest, making it hard to breathe.
Hell on Earth had come.
It would take a man of great faith to stop it now.
A man with far greater faith than he’d ever possessed.
But in the city of Springfield, did such a man exist?
Available in e-book and paperback NOW