Matthew locked himself in his room, free from the gaping eyes of Mrs. Braden. He simply couldn’t explain the cuts on his head, and the one didn’t seem to want to stop bleeding regardless of how much pressure he put on it. He woke up with blood on his pillow, showered with blood going down the drain, and dressed with his black shirt growing darker with a bloodstain. He wondered if he even had this much blood in him.
So he told Mrs. Braden to call Dr. McDonagh for him, even though she insisted that her soup would cure whatever the issue was. He considered saying that only if she could conjure a Holy Soup for him would he eat it, and he chuckled at his own blasphemous joke. Matthew woke with good humour (he thought, perhaps, it was an effect of blood loss) and decided if God was going to tempt him with Satan’s demon, He must have some sort of a sense of humour.
When Dr. McDonagh arrived, Matthew let him (and none of Mrs. Braden’s peering eyes) into the room. Dr. McDonagh’s deep brown eyes ran over Matthew as he stated the obvious in a hushed tone, “You’re bleeding.”
“I can’t get it to stop,” Matthew said, smiling.
“Sit down,” the Doctor said. “And take off your shirt.”
Matthew complied quickly, remembering his various fantasies where Dr. McDonagh gave him extremely thorough physical with an emphasis on testing the strength of his penis. The fantasies frustrated Matthew, but perhaps they frustrated him most because he often avoided appointments with Dr. McDonagh so as not to accidentally become erect in his presence.
Matthew firmly placed his hands on his legs, trying to focus on the throbbing pain in his body as Dr. McDonagh gently stroked Matthew’s hair to examine his other wounds. He felt a familiar throb run through him, and heat rushed to his cheeks. Dr. McDonagh tsked and said, “What have you been up to, Father?”
Matthew considered telling the Doctor the truth. He was a man of science, after all. Maybe he could help explain all of this – or commit him to the psyche ward and free him of this burden. He found a fantasy rise to his thoughts, where Dr. McDonagh put him in a straightjacket before fucking him senseless. He thought of Dr. McDonagh’s strong hands gripping his hips with his own hands completely restrained. He thought of Dr. McDonagh’s generous penis (it would obviously be big, Matthew inspected the man’s well-groomed hands on many occasions) working its way inside of him.
“Sorry?” Matthew asked.
“These wounds,” the Doctor said. “Where did you get them from?”
“Oh,” Matthew replied. Maybe if he had stared into Dr. McDonagh’s dark eyes – Matthew never liked the cliché phrase “I could get lost in his eyes” until he met Dr. McDonagh – he would have told the truth. But the Doctor was behind him, stroking his hair. So Matthew lied: “I woke up with them.”
Dr. McDonagh made a thoughtful noise. “I can’t imagine what would have caused these, father,” he replied. “They look like – well they look like thorns.” He paused and he moved to face Matthew. (Matthew folded his hands in his lap to try to cover his forthcoming erection.) Dr. McDonagh inspected Matthew’s head and ran a hand through his own grey hair. He knitted his dark brows and replied, “You know I believe the Bible is more… well more metaphorical.”
“Yes,” Matthew said. Dr. McDonagh and he often discussed it at length over tea. Sometimes the arguments would get heated, but they never ripped off each other’s clothes and ravaged each other on Matthew’s desk like his dreams implied. His thoughts froze as he wondered if he always thought about this much sex in excess, or if the Demon had opened the floodgates to his passion.
“Father, your eyes keep glazing over.”
“Sorry,” Matthew replied.
“I’m going to give you a shot to freeze the skin on your head. Then I’m going to cauterize the wound, okay?”
Matthew nodded. His thoughts whirled back to his Demon. He should have banished it last night. He couldn’t risk having so many sexual thoughts – he couldn’t preach if there was the possibility that he’d get erect partway through. He wondered if he could get one of those podiums to go in front of him, but he supposed anyone looking at him from an angle would probably see it.
He winced as Dr. McDonagh stuck the needle in. “I’m sorry, Father,” Dr. McDonagh said. “I wasn’t thinking. You’re probably having a hard time concentrating if you’ve lost a lot of blood.”
Matthew said, “Oh then that might be why –” his thought stopped there as he realized he spoke aloud. But he decided that that might be why he was becoming overwhelmed with sexual thoughts. Though, he supposed if he was going to have a sexual thought, it would be when Dr. McDonagh stroked his hair and told him to take off his shirt.
“That might be why what, Father?”
“Nothing,” Matthew replied. “I’m simply not thinking clearly.”
He always suspected Dr. McDonagh to be light on his loafers. He had effeminate mannerisms, for one, though they were not explicit. Matthew noticed the Doctor gave him extra attention (going out of his way to say hello and the like), and while he thought he may just be flattering himself, he thought for certain the Doctor flirted with him from time to time during their religious discussions. He thought perhaps that the Doctor possessed a bit of a fetish for Priests. He had met several women that grew attached to him for the same reason, and he often enjoyed their flirtations as much as he enjoyed the Doctor’s.
Another reason for suspect was that Dr. McDonagh was an eligible bachelor. His title overcame his prematurely grey hair. The ladies swarmed to him, but Dr. McDonagh was only polite and turned down all initiations for any possibility of a date (including harmless coffees). There were rumours, too, that he was gay and went to the next town over to enjoy himself, but nothing was ever proven. While Matthew secretly enjoyed listening to gossip, he rarely believed any gossip without clear proof.
He smelt a faint burning and quickly realized that the Doctor started treating his head. He could hear the smile in Dr. McDonagh’s voice as he said, “Oh, I have your attention now. That doesn’t hurt, does it, Father?”
“No,” Matthew replied. “Sorry, did I stop listening again?”
“Yes. Will you bless me with your full attention now?”
Matthew smiled softly. “I think so.” (He let his thoughts drift to a sexual reason why Dr. McDonagh would want his full attention. He imagined Dr. McDonagh started taking off his clothes behind him, and he would step in front of him completely nude and say “Pay Attention to this!” And Matthew supposed he would maybe blow him or something. He wondered why his sexual fantasies were getting less creative.)
Dr. McDonagh sighed and said, “Father…”
“I am listening,” Matthew said.
“I was saying that you know I’m not a believer in the more… fantastical elements of the Bible. I believe cases of bleeding statues and stigmata belong in the tabloids that Mrs. Braden reads. However these wounds look like they could be made from a crown of thorns.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“When I’m done here, you’ll have to look in the mirror, Father. But have you had any experiences that you would describe as… overly religious? Perhaps something that would inspire a crown of thorns upon you?”
“No,” Matthew replied. The idea that a forced blowjob created a crown of thorns sent shivers through his spine. “No!”
“Sorry, Father. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m done, have a look.”
Matthew stood up quickly and launched himself in front of the mirror. Sure enough, the cuts looked like they could be from the crown of thorns. God definitely had a sense of humour – or someone did, at least. He frowned.
“Father, I think you should sit back down. You’re as white as a sheet.”
Matthew limply dropped back into the chair. Dr. McDonagh kneeled in front of Matthew and patted his thigh in a friendly way. “Father, you should tell me if something’s going on. If Mrs. Braden isn’t taking proper care of you-”
“It’s not her.”
“Well, someone else then. If there’s someone abusing you-”
Matthew felt numb. His expression stayed blank despite the placement of the Doctor’s hand. He placed his hands together as if in prayer and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He whispered, “I think it is a Religious Event.”
The Doctor frowned.
“Things have been… different,” Matthew began, his thoughts beginning to whirl and jumble together. “I can’t explain it, but I think it’s a sign of something.”
“But of what?”
“I’m not sure, Doctor,” Matthew replied.
The Doctor visibly stiffened in discomfort. Matthew wondered if the Doctor hoped that Matthew would debunk rather than support his accusation. Matthew took Dr. McDonagh’s hands in his gently, staring into his eyes. He noticed the colour rushing to the Doctor’s cheeks. He suddenly realized how thick the Doctor’s eyelashes were.
He wanted to tell Dr. McDonagh to be his. He wanted to run away together and be happy and not be hiding in their professions and have copious amounts of sex and curl up together at night and twist together as if they were one person. He didn’t want to share the Doctor with everyone and he didn’t want to share himself with everyone. No one listened to his sermons anymore, but Dr. McDonagh did so they could discuss them later. For once, Matthew felt bitterness inside of him, bitterness that Dr. McDonagh could solve if he just could have him to himself.
He heard a soft giggle – as if from a child – come from the corner of his room. Matthew glanced around and then looked at Dr. McDonagh. The Doctor hadn’t moved his head as if he heard it. “I want you to know,” Matthew said, “that if you ever need to talk to me about anything, I am here for you, Doctor.”
Dr. McDonagh opened his mouth, but closed it again. He slid his hands out of Matthew’s. From the frown on Dr. McDonagh’s face, Matthew decided his withdrawn hands were from shame and not from disgust or discomfort.
Matthew continued, “You may find yourself surprised at how open-minded I am.”
The Doctor offered Matthew a small smile as he stood up. Matthew almost told him about the days of his youth when he found himself hopelessly attracted to both genders, and how much that mutual attraction frightened him. Homosexuality he could explain as a slip of God’s hand, but both? He later decided that God Himself was genderless (though man simply named Him “Him” for familiarity’s sake), and thus Matthew needed to be attracted to both genders to love God in all ways possible.
But Matthew held his tongue. What if he was wrong about the Doctor and he was simply a straight man insecure about everyone calling him gay? Matthew certainly wouldn’t be helping him then.
“I appreciate that, Father,” the Doctor finally said. “I have other patients to attend to before your morning sermon. Please do not hesitate to contact me if it starts bleeding again.”
“Of course, Doctor,” Matthew replied. “Thank you.”
“And please do not hesitate to contact me if you want to discuss the other cuts and bruises on your body. I suppose you can’t frivolously explain them with God’s touch, can you?”
“Well, God’s Voice is not a gentle one,” Matthew replied with a thin smile.
Dr. McDonagh frowned.
“Do you have any suggestions on how I cover the wounds?” Matthew asked. “I do not wish to advertise… my blessing.”
The Doctor opened the door to Matthew’s room as he replied, “I suggest a crown.” And he did not smile as he left.
Matthew sighed and closed the door before Mrs. Braden began to snoop. He stepped back to the mirror, looking at the matted blood in his brown hair. He washed the blood out of his hair. He tried slicking his hair back with water, but it only ended up emphasizing the wounds. Sighing, Matthew tousled his hair, making sure that the wounds were covered with a messy bedhead. He sighed and supposed it was better than preaching with gaping wounds. He toyed with the idea of going up with a baseball cap and a polo shirt. That man, the casual man, could link arms with Dr. McDonagh proudly.
He heard the giggle again. “Out demon,” Matthew said through his teeth.
He took the cross off his wall and slowly began to search his room. Sure enough, wedged between his headboard and the wall, he saw a small demon there. It had the frail, chubby body of a child, but the face of a smiling man. Its smile contained sharp teeth, with its canine’s extended and curling out of its mouth. Its yellow eyes displayed a hint of fear, and yet the smile stayed.
“Can you speak?” Matthew asked, holding out the cross.
It giggled, but neither shook nor nodded its head in response. Matthew bit his bottom lip, but his other Demon didn’t lurk in his room. So he pressed the cross against it, and it screeched and clawed at Matthew’s hands as it burned up against it. Matthew hung the cross back on the wall and inspected himself once more in the mirror.
He offered himself a soft smile before stepping out to face Mrs. Braden. She bombarded him with questions that he carefully stepped through, not quite lying but not quite saying the truth. She stared at his hair, and he wondered if she thought her stare would automatically smooth it out. But he kept his hair firmly dishevelled, and he asked if she wanted to walk to the Church with him.
Of course, walking to the Church actually meant gawking at everyone else and criticizing their Sunday attire as they shook hands and talked to members of his flock.. Matthew enjoyed Mrs. Braden’s brusque, judgemental company because she kept things entertaining. She never was pessimistic and, despite being widowed, she never spoke of her loneliness or clung to anyone. She offered to help Matthew out because he was too busy serving the Lord to cook his own meals. He drew the line at her doing his laundry, though mainly because he didn’t like the idea of her snooping through it.
Matthew suspected he filled a void in Mrs. Braden’s life, but he supposed she, too, filled one in his.
So he walked with her to the Church with a calm smile on his face, with Mrs. Braden’s voice low and rushed, already speaking to him about the people she saw. However, his smile faded once he took a good look at his flock. Originally he thought, perhaps, that everyone brought their children with them, but on closer inspection he saw the curling canine teeth, the adult faces and, surely, their parents wouldn’t let them walk around nearly nude in a church.
Matthew excused himself to prepare for his sermon. He relaxed once he was alone, telling himself he would deal with the demons one-by-one. He couldn’t exactly go about exercising them in the Church. And why could they just walk into a Holy place? He rubbed his face and checked his bed head before stepping out to read his sermon. His thoughts kept drifting, and he found himself mechanically reading what he had written – something about being neighbourly. Whenever he looked up from his notes, he’d see the small demons sitting on top of the pews, staring at him with eager yellow eyes. From time to time they winced, but most of the time they carried a careful smirk.
His stomach turned, and he found himself hurrying. He mentally apologized to Him for rushing, but there was happy chatter as everyone filtered out of the church. He caught a glimpse of Dr. McDonagh glancing at him as he left, but the Doctor didn’t stay to chat. As Matthew stepped down, Mrs. Braden asked, “Are you all right, Father?” Mrs. Braden asked.
She lowered her voice and added, “Have you seen the collection plate, Father?” (He couldn’t have, of course.) “Let me tell you, they’re walking around with change jingling in their pockets, but they must like the noise, Father, because they’re not helping out with the plate any. Perhaps your next sermon should be about generosity. You tell them they’d be happier poor and with the Lord than rich and Godless. I don’t know who would love some of these people, Father. God is their only hope. I’d bet they’d be happier with less Money, Father. Truly I do.”
Matthew said, “Perhaps I might, Mrs. Braden. Thank you for that suggestion.”
He put his hand on Mrs. Braden’s shoulder before walking away to attend to his Church. He wondered if he might need to come up with a sermon strong enough to scare the demons off.
Part of him feared that his flock may stop attending his church if a demon kept them under its thumb. He had less and less people coming already, he wasn’t sure anyone would come for him to save.
While he went about his routine, he wondered if he could just make house calls. He would ask for a cup of tea and he would survey the situation. If he saw a demon, then he could decide how to handle its exorcism.
So when Matthew went home, he spent the rest of his day (aside from his dinner with Mrs. Braden) working on a sermon to inspire his flock to destroy their demons. Matthew stepped out to say goodnight to Mrs. Braden as she headed home. As he walked back inside, he finally smoothed out his hair. He wondered how he could expect his flock to overcome their own personal demons when he himself had yet to exorcise his own.
When he opened the door to his office, sure enough, Asmadai leaned against his chair. Matthew avoided looking at its shifting face. Matthew said, “Remember what I said. I won’t let you abuse me again.”
“I thought you may want to hear about the demon you killed today,” the Demon said.
Matthew batted away Asmadai’s hands so he could sit back down in his chair. “I might be interested,” Matthew replied.
“May I ask a question first?” Asmadai’s silky voice asked.
“I may not answer,” Matthew replied.
Matthew felt its claws gently tease his hair. It asked, “Would you feel more comfortable with me if you told yourself our relationship was purely for information? It would be useful, you realize, to have a sin on your side when your town is being overrun with sin.”
Matthew licked his lips and simply replied, “Perhaps.” His cheeks burned. He definitely liked that idea over thinking that he actually liked being overwhelmed by Asmadai, that he was desperate enough for sex to be fucked by sin itself.
“I thought you might,” it purred, running his hands down Matthew’s chest. “You saw Greed today. You overcame your own fairly easily – you are not a selfish man.”
“You only wanted your dear Doctor so badly that a demon came to you. But you beat it easily because it had nothing else to feed on.”
“I feel greedy sometimes.”
“You’re not,” Asmadai replied, nuzzling into Matthew’s hair. “We even learned from Gluttony that you do not want to be drowning in sex. You’re content with what you have, though you would love to have that Doctor by your side, and perhaps a few others.”
“How can I stop them from harming the others?”
“They’re only harming their wallets,” Asmadai replied, waving a hand nonchalantly.
“How you handled the others will be fine. You’ll need to make a lot of stops though.” Asmadai released Matthew’s hair and began to examine the papers on his desk. “These Words are a start though. You may want to give them something physical to help ward them off. Crosses, perhaps? Though I do not suggest you wear one.”
“I don’t think I can afford to buy my entire flock new cross necklaces.”
“You could always ask your Doctor for a donation,” Asmadai replied. It curled its fingers back through Matthew’s hair and continued, “He’s just filled to the brim with sin he feels shame for. He’d throw money at you to try to suppress that shame.”
Matthew felt a pulse through him, and he pressed his hands against his knees. “I will consider it, though as a last resort.”
Asmadai smiled at Matthew, and Matthew found its facial features suddenly similar to those of Dr. McDonagh. The Demon cupped Matthew’s cheek and said, “You do know that I can help you feel less greedy too.” Asmadai started to change shape, the human flesh forming Dr. McDonagh’s nude form. Matthew stared at the adjustments to Asmadai’s body, his pants tightening in desire. The Demon said in McDonagh’s voice, “Do you want me to help overcome that greed?”
Matthew shook his head fiercely. He looked into Asmadai’s yellow eyes, seeing the sharp teeth in its – in Dr. McDonagh’s – smile. The Demon took Matthew’s other cheek in its hand, pulling Matthew’s face close to its own. “I know all of your fantasies inside out. I can make any of them as real as you want them.”
“But they won’t be real,” Matthew replied, sharply. “I will have to face these people in church knowing what I’ve done. I will not allow my fantasies to become that out of control.”
“Despite how much you want me?” Asmadai asked through Dr. McDonagh.
Matthew bit his bottom lip and said, “Despite that.”
Asmadai chuckled and its human flesh changed back to the inconsistent Demon form. Matthew watched as its chest extended and receded, switching between masculine and feminine before Matthew’s eyes. He realized how perfect Asmadai was for his ever changing desires, and he realized how perfectly Asmadai had been sculpting to tempt him.
“Perhaps you’ll be happy with me then,” Asmadai said, nuzzling into Matthew’s trousers.
Matthew allowed himself a moment of it. A moment of the Demon unbuttoning his pants and freeing his erection. A moment of the Demon’s thick lips enveloping the head of it. Matthew spread his legs and exhaled. He felt the Demon’s tongue crawl down his shaft, and then Matthew grabbed onto the Demon’s horn and pulled it off of him. “I will exorcise you if this behaviour continues,” Matthew snarled.
Asmadai laughed, but backed into the hole under Matthew’s desk. It put on a look of mock fear and said, “Oh no, not that!” It laughed again and continued, “Are you just going to go jerk off? Does it feel holier when you’re alone? Do you use your left hand or your right hand?”
Matthew said nothing, his blue eyes narrowing at the Demon.
Asmadai said, “Remember, the Lord giveth with His right hand and taketh with His left.”
Matthew frowned as the Demon disappeared under the floorboards. He walked into his bedroom, his pants already down around his knees and pulled them off fiercely. He took off his shirt and dropped onto his bed, his hand gently rubbing his pelvis. He arched up against his hand as he bit his bottom lip, thinking of Dr. McDonagh sucking him off. He squeezed his eyes shut.
Matthew grasped his erection, jerking himself off at the base to try to end things quickly. His hand moved rapidly, and he thought of his hands burrowing into the Doctor’s grey hair as the Doctor sucked him off fiercely. He gasped and arched up more, pulling harder on his erection until he felt himself aching. He needed to feel the pain that the sin was.
Asmadai suddenly invaded his thoughts as he thought about its teeth teasing his erection. He groaned and slowed his hand down, feeling himself spilling across it. He thought of Asmadai’s tail pounding into his asshole, and his toes curled at the thought of it. His body ached as he thought of the claws digging into him, the pain he needed to feel. He suddenly quickened his pace back to his painful speed, and he moaned loudly as he came.
Panting, he curled up in his sheets. He couldn’t find the energy to change them, so he closed his eyes and tried to sleep.