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   Chapter 3 The Freesia Flowers

SANCTUM By JMFelic Characters: 13348

Updated: 2018-08-10 21:24


The two priests arrived in the green front gate of the St. Therese Charity House at exactly one o'clock in the afternoon. A nun peered through a small rectangular hatch and without delay, she opened the gate door to admit them.

"Bishop Elliot, it is good to see you again, " the nun, wearing a black traditional habit, greeted with happiness. She had a soft smile on her face that formed enough wrinkles in the corner of her eyes.

"Sister Rhea, good to see you, good to see you, " the Bishop greeted back, patting her shoulder at the same time. "Where is Sister Cene?"

"Ah, Sister Cene is in her office, Bishop. Shall I call for her?"

"No, no. It is not needed. We will go there now, " he noted, eyeing Father Azrael who followed behind them.

"Okay, Bishop, " the nun nodded.

They continued walking down a brick courtyard, passing a small garden fountain before reaching the front portico of the house.

Both of the priests have now worn their robes. A white robe with a blue embroidered insignia of the risen Christ for the Bishop and for Father Azrael, his black ecclesiastic robe, being his typical exorcist accoutrement. An additional small sling bag was left hanging on his left shoulder — the contents of which the Bishop could only guess were exorcism-related.

Father Azrael, with a neutral expression, busily inspected the length of the house as they neared it.

The St. Therese Charity House was constructed during the early eighteen-fifties. It was first used as a local clinic in the first floor and the Governor's office on the second. After the end of the second cholera pandemic during the next year, the building remained a primary care clinic until it was transformed into an orphanage house in the late nineteen-seventies. The main supervisor was the governor of Soren, until she transferred the care, responsibility and the deeds to Bishop Elliot who was just assigned in the area.

The house, although antiquated-looking, was well-built. It had a wide cemented foundation and the wood materials used looked strong and sturdy. There were three gable fronted dormers seen on the front side of the house with green concrete tile roofing, and on top of the three, was a modest campanile with a forearm-sized silver bell.

There was a small patio in front that conjoined the rest of the building and this was where a couple of kids sprawled their legs while playing card games. Four elementary boys exactly played a game of slapjack. They were so engrossed with the hoopla that they didn't even notice the two men towering above them except for one observant preschool girl cuddling a brown husky puppy. She stood up from squatting and approached Father Azrael.

"Mistah, are you— g'na stay in the pfink hou—se?" the girl asked, garbling her words.

Father Azrael turned to look at the Bishop in a confused way. The latter smiled and then bent down to meet the girl eye to eye.

"Hello little Jennie, still as chatty as ever I see. Well, this is Father Azrael, our new priest, here to take care of your dear friend, Jessa May."

Jennie's eyes lit up. She skipped closer to the exorcist priest and suddenly gave him a well-rounded hug with her skinny arms — the puppy falling down the ground in the process. "Th—ank yooo, Pad—re, " she said with much appreciation.

Father Azrael was taken aback by the gesture. He glanced at the Bishop who showed a pleased smile and a nod of encouragement to bless the child.

Being solitary for years, this kind of show of affection was fresh for him, but he otherwise relented, crouching down and touching her head whilst saying with a smile, "Dio ti benedica! You're welcome, Little One."

The girl's angelic doe eyes stared deep into his for seconds. Briefly then, her brows flinched and then followed by a slight recognition.

Father Azrael had to stand up in haste before she could clearly see — see something that even an innocent girl would deem out unusual.

"I hav—en't played with Jessa too ma—ny days Padre. Can...can you take her boo-boo a—away?" Jennie, in a sad tone, stated.

Father Azrael hasn't seen the severity of the demonic possession but even so, he still gave the little girl a forthright answer, "I will do Little One, but pray also for her fast recovery okay?"

"Yes Padre!" she exclaimed, suddenly with beaming teeth.

Children change their mood quite quickly, that was a known fact even a solitary priest such as himself knew.

"I guess my work is already cut out for me, " he commented in a hushed tone, watching Jennie as she ran towards the fountain where the puppy stooped for a drink.

"It sure looks like it, " Bishop Elliot managed to answer after a soft chuckle. "Now, let us go inside. I want you to meet Sister Cene who will lead us to Jessa's room upstairs."

The inside of the orphanage house was pretty much neat and clean. There were a dozen of children running all over the spacious living room when Bishop Elliot and Father Azrael walked in. The Bishop was already accustomed to seeing this much outbursts every time he visits the house, but for the new priest, it was yet another new encounter from a cloistered lifestyle.

They threaded into a narrow corridor where there were a row of orange doors leading to the beds of the children and the sleeping quarters of the staff. At the end of the corridor, there were two private rooms. One on the right, the door was colored yellow, and it was both the Mother Superior's office and her bedroom, and one on the left, it had a moss green door.

"Dios Mio! Bishop Elliot! Nobody informed us that you would visit today!" Sister Cene exclaimed when she opened her office door after a series of knocks done by the old man.

"Good afternoon Sister Cene, " the Bishop greeted with his usual jolly demeanor, completely ignoring the old woman's startled expression. "Do not fret Sister. I didn't have time to inform you of my visit today because I was busy attending to our new guest, " he reasoned, hinting her to look at his back.

She was confused at first, but as soon as she peeked behind him, she became astonished even more.

"Oh my God! Is that Father Azrael?"

She shifted her eyes to the Bishop, then back to the exorcist priest, then back to the Bishop who finally nodded in agreement. On impulse, she made a sign of the cross in her chest and rolled her eyes heavenward.

Father Azrael intentionally looked away, acting as if he was oblivious of the idyllic expression on the Mother Superior's face. He didn't expect he was this badly needed. If he could burst out laughing, he would have done so long ago, but as reserved as he was and a priest for

that matter, he respected her overt show of appreciation.

Sister Cene was a year younger than the Bishop in terms of age and had been taking care of the house for over ten years. A good personal friend of Bishop Elliot, she shared the same amount of concern that he has about the repeated demonic attacks in the house. She also knew of the popularity gaining ground with regards to Father Azrael's exorcism, so she was this much happy and relieved that the famous priest had finally come to help them.

"Come! Come!" she exclaimed in impatience, pulling the younger priest by the arm. Formal introductions weren't needed if they had a grave of a problem at hand and Sister Cene knew this. She cared less that the Bishop was unable to introduce them properly. All she had in mind was that she needed to get this man in Jessa's room as soon as possible.

*

*

*

Both visitors and residents of the house needed to manage two flights of stairs to reach the second floor. The children knew that when climbing in it, they needed to tread on slowly lest they would leave a gaping hole in the floor. Amidst this, the stairs were still functional, except of course the squeaking sound.

The second floor had another long corridor with the same line of orange doors as the first floor. The rooms were more private, with two wooden double-deck beds and an individual bathroom for each room.

Sister Cene explained that the second floor housed orphaned teens, most of which girls between ages thirteen to fifteen years old. The rooms were twelve all in all, occupied in full except for the last two rooms in the farthest corner that were empty, and the twelfth room, occupying a single female, Jessa May. This was where Sister Cene expeditiously directed them.

There were no orphans along the corridor and the bedrooms lacked their occupants. It was understandable though as it was still school hours. Considering this opportunity, the nuns and Bishop Elliot took advantage of it back then and asked the priests to hold their exorcism rites during these hours. It was a sensitive issue that they had to keep a secret in order to protect the children primarily and to decrease their fear.

"We had purposely emptied the two rooms next to Jessa's so that the girls would be protected Father Azrael, " Sister Cene informed after stopping in front of the last door. "Father Daniels is inside this room, you might want to talk to him about the details of the possession."

Father Azrael nodded and then the Mother Superior opened the door. What greeted him immediately was a foul stench. Dried urine and decaying corpse was the most comparable smell he could muster up.

This is exactly the smell of a low-class demon, he deduced quickly to himself.

He stepped inside the room looking as if he wasn't affected by the foul smell, but behind him, Bishop Elliot and Sister Cene were already covering their noses.

"The smell is stronger and stronger every day, " a gravelly voice appeared from Father Azrael's right. It came from Father Daniels who stood in the doorway of the bathroom; in his hand were a bowl of holy water and a small white towel. He placed the materials on a nearby table and stretched out a hand in his counterpart's way.

"Good to see you Father Azrael, " he stated with a trace of relief in his voice.

"Father Daniels, it has been awhile." The latter took his hand and shook it briefly.

Father Daniels had a graying hair even at the age of thirty-nine. He was an inch shorter than Father Azrael and with a slender body structure. He had a protruding belly however that was noticeable. He resides in the Vatican Palace, so they sometimes meet in the hallways whenever the Pope summons the much famous one.

"So, what's the status?" Father Azrael asked, looking at the pale face of Jessa who lay peacefully in the mattress. She wore a white poplin dress. Her hands and feet were restrained on each side with loose ropes, but imprints of it were visible as an angry bruise indicating struggle. She looked seemingly sleeping, but her eyelids were quivering akin to the wings of a bee in flight.

"As you can see, " Father Daniels cast a look on the girl too. "But if it is of any help to you, her hair had grown longer from originally an ear-length cut in just four days."

"Hmmm..." a low grumble followed it. Father Azrael inched closer at the foot of the bed and surveyed the god-awful appearance of the girl. There was a nun sitting beside her, giving Jessa a sponge bath on her arms with another bowl of holy water and towel. Every time the nun applies the soaked towel, visible smoke would arise from her arms and then quickly evaporates into thin air. This was a certain indication that the demon still resided her body.

The bowl that was placed in the bedside table was near a crystal vase. Inside the vase was a fresh plant. It was a stem of pink freesia flowers with its roots dirtying the bottom. Father Azrael eyed it for a moment and found that there was familiarity about the buds.

"Holy water?" he inquired, abruptly cutting his uninvited recollection of the mysterious woman that the pink petals elicited.

Father Daniels nodded and reasoned in haste, "Four days ago, I made my first attempt of exorcism on this girl. Thinking that this was just a low-class demon, I used the basic methods of holy water and the silver crucifix on her forehead, but nothing happened. The demon — whatever it is — fought off every holy passage from the bible I have read. It was at first very destructive; using the girl to hurt me and my assistant nuns."

Father Azrael noticed the nail scratch marks in the cheeks and forehead of the priest believing his claim in an instant.

"We were able to restrain her with the ropes — as you can see — thinking that the demon will struggle for awhile but after a day, it suddenly calmed down. She has been like this ever since. Her body is fighting the demon though, which explains the putrid smell all over the room. The holy water reduces the smell a bit."

"I see, " Father Azrael replied and then patted his left shoulder as if to commend the older exorcist priest with his remarkable efforts.

"Father Azrael, whatever it is you are planning, tell me what I need to do to help you, " Father Daniels stated in a sincere voice. "This poor girl is already suffering too much."

Father Azrael paused briefly as if he was contemplating on it thoroughly. After a moment of silence, he cleared his throat and then began in a strict voice, "Well, to start, you need to ask your assistant nun here, Sister Cene and Bishop Elliot to leave the room now."

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