I balanced on the sidewalk curb, closed my eyes and enjoyed the dark vibrations emanating from the church in front of me. I ran my hand along the low stone wall surrounding it, centuries of cruelty seeping into me.
I remembered walking past this place before. Julian and Nova had shied away from it, not because they could feel what it was about, but because they were philosophically opposed to the church.
After everything that had happened, I’d forgotten about the Bat, the dark thing that my Mother worshipped. In our new society, the Bat wasn’t supposed to exist. Yet here it was, hidden underneath a thin layer of tradition and virtue, the essence of the Bat, the blood and sin and pain.
It was exactly what I needed to get my power back. I inhaled it greedily. I wondered how I could get even more of it. Would I have to go to Mass?
“You can’t be serious,” Julian said. “You’re going to church?”
“Don’t worry, I’m not religious or anything. I just need some emotional support…”
“So why not go to therapy?” Julian lifted his hands in amazement. “Blue, we’re trying to put things back together here. I don’t date people who go to church.”
“I’m only going there because I have to find something.” I didn’t say anything else. There was no good way to explain to him what I was looking for.
My family had never gone to church, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to do, but I found out that as long as I imitated the other parishioners in the pews, I was okay.
I knew right away I had come to the right place. The crucified figure with the nails in its hands and feet, pictures arranged from colorful pieces of glass, saints kneeling in front of virgins and winged creatures. This place was thick with black magic.
Some of the prayers and songs were boring, and I rocked back and forth through them. But then my ears perked up.
“Take this bread, all of you, and eat it…”
This was it. This was what I wanted. My skin tingled. I stood in line for the altar, impatient. I could practically taste the body and blood. I received the wafer from the priest and then, without waiting for it to be my turn, I ran to the man who held the wine, grabbed the cup from him and drained it completely in a couple of quick swallows.
Figuring that the only interesting part of Mass was over, I stumbled out the church doors, somewhat tipsy. I imagined I would not be welcome back there again.
I was sitting on the edge of my bed, buoyed by a mixture of alcohol and Holy Spirit, when Nova crept into the bedroom.
“Hey,” she said.
“I’m here to work on your soul with you,” she explained. “Julian said you may be having problems with a spiritual void. I can help you find a spiritual path that’s not offensive. Are you okay with doing some meditation?”
“Sure.” I slid down onto the floor, and we settled into lotus positions across from each other.
“That’s good. Now, focus….breathe in and out…”
I focused on my breathing, but I wasn’t peaceful. I could swear I had wings growing out of my back… sharp fangs in my mouth…
“Ow!” Nova said, rubbing her head. “What the fuck was that?” she added in a very non-spiritual way. “It’s like something smacked me.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that,” I said, although I possibly did.
“You need to get your vibes under control.” Nova got up and backed away from me. “There’s this weird other being in you… It’s almost like…a devil.” She looked uncomfortable even saying that.
I didn’t care much for Nova’s opinion, but I was still disturbed. Could it be that my energies were demonic?
I decided to go to the expert on dark vibes in the family.
“Why on Earth did you get in touch with the Bat?” Mother chided me over the phone. “How do you know It wanted to hear from you? The Bat is easily angered, you know.”
“Oh, no,” I moaned. “Do you think It might be angry with me now? I’ve kind of been using Its essence. Mom…help. Can you talk to the Bat for me?”
“That will not work.”
“So what can I do?”
“Well, stay away from churches, darling, they’re bad for you.” She was silent for a moment. “Also, you should come over tomorrow night. You can contact the Bat in person.”
The following evening, I knelt in front of our homemade altar next to Mother. Placed on the altar was the sacrifice: microwaved meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
“The Bat loves stuff from Costco,” Mom said. “All right, do the wingflap, dear,” she told me. She flapped her arms gracefully. My wingflap was a bit more ungainly.
“We plead with you, Our Predator, that you bestow upon us only your Lesser and not your Greater Irritation,” Mother intoned. “We ask this in the name of your Eternal Appetite.” We both flapped our arms.
The room grew still. The winged shadow I had seen once before flitted down onto the Costco TV dinner. There were some loud crunches and then the sacrifice vanished, including the packaging.
Mother exhaled. “You’re in luck. It was in the mood for meatloaf tonight.” She peered at me closely. “So, are you feeling any different? Sometimes, when the Bat particularly enjoys a meal, It dispenses a special grace upon the person who brought the food. Anything?”
I waited for a beat before responding. “No, nothing.”
The truth was, I had been blessed by the Bat, and I was horrified by the form this blessing took. The Bat communicated Its message to me through Its emotional sonar, telling me that It knew how much my friends annoyed me, and that I was being granted the ability to bite their heads off.
Now I was in a deeper hole than before. No matter how much the people around me got on my nerves, I realized, I did not want to kill them. So I would have to reject the Bat’s gift. This meant that I would most likely end up with my head bitten off.
“Okay, so I don’t believe in evil, but you seem to be serving the side that’s maybe not as close to the Light,” one of those friends said. “I’m going to have to pull out the big guns and lay my most serious relaxation technique on you.”
Nova and I stretched out on the floor.
“Close your eyes,” she said in her most soothing radio host voice. “You’re in a beautiful meadow… a beautiful meadow with beautiful flowers… and there’s a rainbow…”
Some part of my brain that I couldn’t control was chewing on human flesh and bone… it was almost as if it wanted to bite somebody’s head off…
“And you see bunnies hopping around… fluffy little bunnies….”
Chomp, chomp, said my brain.
“And there are kittens playing… the kittens have little unicorn horns growing out of their heads…”
“Stop!” I leaped up from the floor. “Please stop! For the love of all that is Holy, I can’t handle the fucking unicorn kittens!”
“This is far worse than I thought.” Nova was close to tears. “How can you not love unicorn kittens, unless you’ve been possessed by Satan or something?”
“Well, I don’t,” I roared, tongues of fire shooting up out of my head and a pair of black wings flapping on my shoulders. “Quit with the New Age bullshit or I’ll devour your entrails.”
She instantly shifted from sympathy to irritation. “Fine, fine, I’ll leave you alone. God, you’re being so unpleasant about it.”
Julian came in, carrying a tray with two cups of chai for us. He noticed my hair going up in infernal flame. “I still think you need counseling.”
“I don’t need your advice,” I howled in the voice of a thousand devils.
“Geez, we try to tell you a couple helpful things and you turn into a demon from Hell,” Nova said, making a hasty exit from the room.
True, I had to turn satanic and spit fire in order for it to happen, but at long last, my friends were treating me with respect.
That left only the matter of the Bat to be resolved. I had frightened Julian and Nova, but I had not beheaded them, and I wasn’t going to.
I returned to my trusted old spot for inspiration—the church. I stroked the stone wall again and gazed up at the cross, that beautiful instrument of torture, seeking an answer. I said my prayers.
The priest poked his anxious face out of the window of his office, and then disappeared. This was my cue to leave.
I had been given an answer, and it didn’t have to be murder—my deity would settle for vandalism.
Nova was so concerned with my well-being that she had moved in with us. It may have also had something to do with the fact that she was jobless. She went through phases.
She was the one who now slept on the sofa. I rifled through her stuff in the living room until I found my offering.
Nova was an artist. She had made a watercolor painting of two unicorn cats dancing underneath a rainbow. It was a painting filled with love and positivity.
I tore it into tiny shreds first, then burned it. As I watched the last remaining snippets of kittens and rainbows change to ashes, I had a strong sense that the Bat was pleased with this substitute sacrifice.
My spirit was at peace. I dumped the ashes into the trashcan and went out to celebrate with a cup of divine blood.