"Breaking news from Westminster, a state of emergency has been declared in the House of Commons. "
"Manifestations of dark beasts with luminous markings have been seen in the London Boroughs, Hertford and Ware, the coastal parts of Essex, all of Kent, all of Merseyside and Durham, parts of Sussex, Surrey and the Midlands. Schools and colleges all over England have been raided, entire towns are on fire and in ruins, and people are behaving violently on the streets. A panel has been set up by the City of London Police to investigate these happenings."
It was six o'clock, the time I usually wake up. Yet this time, the radio report from my alarm clock woke me up with a jolt. It all seemed dreamlike. I turned on the light and drew the curtains. It was calm, not a soul was stirring. The main street lights were on as always, and so were the lights from the university across the road. All I could hear were crickets chirping.
I am a university chaplain. I live in Hatfield, a small town about half an hour away from London. A lot of people say that this place is quiet and idyllic, but I'm afraid it won't be so for long. What's more worrying is that I live in a time where people do not see the point of fighting, the point of defending themselves and their loved ones. When people automatically assume that any form of fighting is evil, they are left powerless against evil itself: evil has to be fought.
I soon remembered that the radio news report mentioned 'Hertford': a friend of mine -- Pascal Millhouse -- lived there, and he was in great danger. It didn't matter that it was crazy o'clock in the morning -- I rang him up.
"Marcus, what time do you call this?" he said in a slurred voice.
"Five past six, Pascal. But does it even matter? Aren't you supposed to be up for morning prayer?"
"Pfff. I don't think I have the physical strength to stay awake for twelve hours anymore."
I knew just what would force him to wake up.
"What of these news reports? About the strange dark beings and the towns going up in flames? Pascal, you have got to wake up!"
"You called me just for that?"
His voice was clearer and more pronounced this time. I knew I would be in for a mouthful.
"Well, yes, the news reports are true," Pascal continued, "and the reason why I sound so tired is because I am. The parishioners and I have had to hold back those beings for about a week now. They have terrorised the people in our locale by coming in droves, it's not even funny. The Constabulary is doing so little to help us because they know that they just can't, their weapons aren't going to help us in this fight. Those beings are on a completely different level."
"But what will happen to you if you crash? You should know by now what their strategy is: they come in droves and scare people away. If you are brave, they expect you to come and fight them. They wear you out, and then what's going to happen? Remember, this is not the first time this has happened!"
"Marcus, you would be so quick to believe in a fairytale?"
Silence. Then I heard Pascal clenching his fists and his teeth in rage. Did I hit a raw nerve?
"Hmph. Why would you be so angry if it were a fairytale? You wear the collar just like me; you should be more than ready to handle these things."
"You won't cut me any slack, would you, Marcus?"
"How could I?" I replied. "You're my friend. If I have a friend who has to dive into the unknown to save his loved ones, and he doesn't want to, I push him so that he falls headlong into the unknown! It's more forceful, yes, but it gets the job done. Now, these beings can't be taken down with ordinary weapons, but they can be taken down with something else."
"And what might that be?" he asked.
"What do you use to summon out an evil being who cannot be defeated with firearms or swords?" I asked in return.
"Oh." He sounded as if his heart sank.
Truth is, I may have known all the answers in theory, but I began to wonder if it could be put into practice. I began to toy with the idea of gathering together a few people to help search for answers. We would go all over England, fending off any strange dark beats, fighting evil, helping the people who need the most help. We would need very strong people for this to happen. I wouldn't be surprised if all I wound up with were people who doubted their strength, because I would be no different from them. Oh, it'd be lovely, I thought -- a big bunch of people who weren't sure of themselves, going across England and fighting evil!
"By the way, isn't there anyone else who can help? Hertford is a big place," I asked. "Hatfield is pretty calm, we haven't seen any manifestations yet. Still, those demons must be pretty strong if you can even see them."
"Marcus, if you think you can help me, go ahead. If you think you have enough willpower to come here and fend those beasts off, then come," he sneered.
"Of course I have enough willpower, Pascal Millhouse! I am a priest, I drive myself to do this out of love!" I yelled. "You of all people should be the last to sneer at intentions like these! Now you have the manuscripts about Tenebris, don't you?"
"Use them. They're not there for show, you know. Who knows if these beings are actually his spawnâEU¦ I know it's never right to assume, but I have a hunch, and my hunches are often talked about. We will be ringing you up when we receive new leads. We need you to tell us more about these strange happenings as time passes. You want in this mission, you got it. Please, sneer no more, live up to your vocation and help your people in need."
We bade each other goodbye. I secretly wondered whether Pascal would help us in this mission, or if he would crash and burn. But then I soon realised that woeful thoughts bring about woeful situations. Great job, Father Marcus. I shook my head a little, and went to wake the parish assistant, who was still asleep in the next room. He was a young man, about twenty years old, and about two-thirds my height. As I approached the door, I heard snoring. Wow, sleeping really is his thing. I gave the door a sharp knock.
"Demetrio," I called out. "Demetrio, wake up!"
He turned, let out a soft whimper, and went back to sleep. He did once tell me, in his own words, that he had a "PhD in lazing around"... apparently he was living it.
"DEMETRIO, WAKE THE LIVING DAYLIGHT UP!" I yelled.
After a minute or so, the door opened. I took Demetrio out and we went downstairs to my study. Time was running short, and I had a lot of explaining to do. At my study, I told him about the news reports I had heard earlier that morning.
"So what do we do now, Father?" Demetrio asked.
"Ring up the parishioners and tell them to keep watch over the place. I also need you to lock all the doors, including the door at the front of the church. Then, we gather the people whom we know will help us, and we leave Hatfield to search for answers to these strange happenings. Nothing is going to be done if we just sit there and pretend that everything's fine. And as a priest, I must be there for the people, but I cannot do this alone. Now go, we have some work to be done, and we need it done yesterday!"