Monthly Short Story Winner: Known Title, Unknown Story
The name of the short story must be that of a fantasy bestseller but the story isn’t allowed to have anything to do with the original book. So if your story’s title is The Name of the Wind it isn’t allowed to be about an orphan musician magician sex god king killer and the power of the true names of things. 😉
We thought it was time for an open theme again, so get inspired by your home library, pick a book and write a completely different story about anything SFF you like. If that’s too open for you, you CAN (but don’t have to) make it about All Hallow’s Eve. Could be funny to write a story titled Dune, Old Man’s War, or Ready Player One with Halloween themed content.
1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. Must contain a bestselling book’s title as the story’s title without using any of the book’s plot, world, characters, etc.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
5. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That’s why they’re called limits.
This month’s winning story was by Nora and is called “The Exorcist”.
Congrats on your win, Nora!
You can find all our entries here.
And now on with the story!
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Here’s the blurb of the original book, The Exorcist, in case you lived under a rock till now:
The story focuses on Regan, the 11-year-old daughter of a movie actress residing in Washington, D.C. The child is possessed by an ancient demon. It’s up to a small group of overwhelmed yet determined humans to somehow rescue Regan from this unspeakable fate.
Assencard could not believe his misfortune. At first he hadn’t worried when his subordinate had come to him, wings stiffly folded and hands trembling. He only thought the demon had come to report a mission failure. Nothing unexpected.
Freshly promoted to the head of a legion of spirits, Assencard was given a tight agenda. All new members of the Order of The Fly had to prove their worth, or risk demotion. An idea that gave a terrible itch to his fresh scarifications, the sign of his rank, carved in broad gouges across his chest.
But the underling had come to report worse than failure: something as outrageous as it was unprecedented. Upon returning from a simple possession assignment, where an entire squad entered an orphanage, one of the spirits had fallen ill.
The concept in itself was ludicrous, and it soon appeared the demon was being controlled by someone else. A human, of all things. Assencard needed to see it to believe it.
The spirit was locked in a dark room. It had started spewing lines from the Bible lesser demons could not bear to hear. Assencard was forced to seek help with his Master.
The fact that a human had breached the doors of Hell through a spirit possession was so bewildering it required a full report anyway. Out of choices, his bowels in knots and his scars burning from dread, he made his way to Hell’s capital: Pandemonium.
Ebony fumes rose languidly from the lake of blood that puddled at the feet of the city’s spires. Carved in obsidian, home to the Princes and Dukes of Hell, the towers and temples shone in somber hues lending false life to the countless statues carved in their flanks.
Assencard presented himself to a lesser household familiar and followed it through the pillars of the Roman domus that was the home of his Master, Marquis Marchosias, all the way to a wide atrium wherein the Marquis sat, playing cards with two infernal guests.
The heat rose to scorching as three pairs of flaming eyes fixated on him.
“What can my newly promoted Captain of my twenty-second legion possibly want from Me?”
“I come in to report a grave anomaly, my Lord.”
Silence buzzed like a corpse-fly through the room. The smaller man sitting across from the imposing warrior figure of the Marquis laughed, and in his excitement his appearance wavered, revealing a hart’s skull and flaming antlers – Earl Furfur.
The third character’s identity escaped him. The man looked like an old knight of the Order, but the red snake coiled around his arm suggested deception.
“Tell your tale, Captain Assencard,” the Marquis ordered.
Assencard swallowed hard and went straight to the point. “I believe a priest has taken possession of one of my legion’s spirit.”
The new silence would be lethal to the hardiest fly that dared cross the atrium.
“I saw it myself, my Lord. The demon is restless and cannot direct his body. He started with random curses but later turned to Latin spells. I had him locked up.”
The Marquis’ face started to boil. Hair sprang out above sharp canines. Yellow eyes spurted sparks as his human body dissolved into the monstrous form that was Marchosias’ true nature: that of a winged black wolf, with serpent’s tail.
Earl Furfur jumped back on hoofed legs, avoiding the thrashing body of the Marquis and addressed Assencard directly. “Are you sure, dog, that it is a priest? And why not a sorcerer? A master of the black arts, emboldened in his practice? Maybe a conjuring through a Black Mirror gone wrong?”
“No, my Lord Earl, it is very puzzling as the spirit is too lowly, it is nameless and cannot be conjured.” Assencard anxiously edged toward the Earl and away from his Master. “Besides, no sorcerer would spit, ‘Crux sacra sit mihi lux’ at the sight of me.”
With that the Marquis exploded, his jaws spread beyond rupture with a harrowing howl. “Who dares?! Where is he, the impudent human insect who ventures to breach the walls of Hell through the body of one of my legions?”
Sulfuric spit came flying and furniture shattered under the strikes of his scaly tail. “Attacking Me, Marchosias, a Great Marquis of Hell, leader of thirty legions? Imbecile! I shall teach him and hex his rotten soul! Where is he?”
The Marquis turned toward Assencard, now huddled in a corner with the Earl and the still silent knight.
“Lead me to him!” the Marquis ordered, “and come with us Eligos, if you will. If humans care to wage a war on our grounds, you may envision their intent.”
The knight bowed his head in answer, and Assencard broke in yet another sweat as he realised who stood by him. There was but one Eligos in Hell, and he was a mighty Duke, a divinatory demon who led twice as many legions as the Marquis did.
Deuce, if this turned sour, Assencard could kiss goodbye any chance of promotion or transfer, and likely his hide as well.
The spirit started screeching the moment the door opened. As Assencard led the trio of infernal nobility in, the parched, bloody lips of the thing curled in a grin. “In nomini et virtute Domini nostri Jesu Christi, eradicare….”
“Shut the fuck up!” The Marquis barked, waving a black paw in a spell of silence.
The demon’s teeth ground shut, his eyes bulging out of his skull.
“Hmm… It looks like your captain was right, as impossible as it seems,” Earl Furfur said, approaching the lesser spirit. “What could he mean, Marquis? Spying on us? Striking back?”
“Vengeance is hardly in the priests’ handbook.”
“Well, neither are revolutionary spells of the Black Arts.”
“Could it be a scout, a test before a bigger strike?” Assencard said, and felt temperature rise again as stares focused on him.
The Marquis turned to the Duke who had remained by the entrance, propped against a wall.
“What say you, Eligos?”
“I see no plans,” the Duke answered in a whisper, “there is no war looming, other than the one the church of men always leads in vain against us.”
All turned back toward the bound spirit.
“Are you a loner then?” The Marquis asked him. “Do you have grief with Me? Why sneak in a lowly servant, and not try to invoke me through my famous and powerful name?”
The demon’s skin turned black and blotched, nostrils flaring and sweat dripping abundantly.
“Your spell, Marchosias,” Earl Furfur said.
The Marquis waved another command. “Answer me worm, what are you trying to achieve here?”
“I… don’t… talk with demons! Vade retro, spiritus immundi!”
“A priest indeed,” Furfur snorted.
Marchosias growled and signed a triangular symbol over the demon’s head. Assencard recognised it as one used by skilled sorcerers to force spirits to speak the truth. The demon’s eyes started bleeding, his teeth clattering.
“Let’s start again,” the Marquis said, “what is your name, priest?”
“Fa… father Nager.”
“What is your purpose here?”
The demon resisted, yet the answer was torn from his lips. “Watch… and learn.”
“Who gave you your orders?”
“Nooo.. no one!”
Earl Furfur whistled and elbowed Assencard playfully. “Looks like we have an ambitious careerist on our arms.”
“How did you arrive here, where did you learn the way?”
“The Vatican’s library has an annotated copy of…the Liber Juratus. There is one spell, for tracking. A simple spell. But the notes…I decrypted them. They were to turn it…to…into a hunting spell. To follow the trail the demon leaves in…the mind. Like a burnt road…in the victim’s mind. The spell worked…I took over my prey’s body.”
“One last question,” Marchosias said, belching a small ball of fire, “who else, father Nager, knows about this spell?”
Panic sent the demon thrashing desperately against its invisible bonds, but the answer came again, unstoppable, “Nobodyyyy…”
“Great!” The Marquis barked, rising on his hind legs. His coarse voice droned with power, his tongue wreathed along the black breath of a hideous curse. “Amon Ra – et em fillissit Ra – essit etem ossun hem.”
His paws elongated and split in a mimicry of hands, twisted fingers danced, carving the air with the symbol of death entwined in tortured destiny with the pattern of a cyclic life. “You shall leave this vessel only to return to the body of a vermin. You are never to die, never to return to your God. Forever a rat or cockroach to the eyes of men, undying, you’ll learn with time to curse your curiosity. Now be gone.”
And it was gone. Exorcised by Evil. It looked to Assencard like he might well survive another day in Hell.
A raspy laugh came from the entrance. There Duke Eligos stood smiling. “Well Furfur, Marchosias,” he said, “looks like we have a library to burn down.”
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Congratulations again to Nora! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for more information.