That which Preys on the Weak

by D. A. Cairns

In the night. They sleep unsuspectingly, peacefully. Man and wife with their two young children between them smothered under blankets of cool air. Also in the air-conditioned upstairs room of the woman’s sister’s house are five other family members. Bangkok nights are always hot. Sleep is impossible without a cooled bedroom, and this house has only one of them. In the night, when nothing stirs but the creatures of darkness, and the minions of Hell, the house spirit roams freely.

In the half light, in the desert between waking and slumber where whispers are inaudible screams, and clear thoughts drown in thick soup, one of the children stirs. The boy, aged three, twists his little body and moans. And so it begins.

The man is alert: sensitive to the sound and movement of his young son. He feels radiant heat. He smells something he can’t define. The boy’s moan escalates through crying to wailing, and he thrashes around in bed. After less than a minute, the man supposes, of his son’s terrible sound piercing the quiet, everyone is awake, and voices float in and out. The voices are soft, concerned, sympathetic. They all want to help but the man decides to remove his son from the room. He’s worried, panicking. His heart is beating too fast. He doesn’t know what to do, how to pacify his son. He doesn’t even know what’s wrong.

Pain warns of injury as he struggles to lift the boy, and hold on to him. If he’s dreaming, then it must be the worst nightmare he’s ever had. Surely, he should have woken by now. The voices fade as he approaches the door and it opens magically. Squirming and flailing in his arms, his son feels weightless, and the man feels hopeless. The child won’t wake up. What’s wrong with him? He’s completely unaware of his surroundings. Doesn’t know he is safe in his father’s arms. Does not even recognize, let alone respond to, his father’s frightened pleading.

Every shadow embraces a dark secret. The stairs are partially illuminated so he travels quickly down, ignoring the crevices and the devilry they conceal. It’s an attack, a spiritual attack. He thinks briefly of the smaller room across the hall for the bedroom in which they were sleeping. Faint luminescence leaked out from under the closed door. He saw that. He noticed. The room not only contains the temple of the house spirit, but bone fragments and ashes of family ancestors, and hundreds of tiny idols. He remembers being shown the room, and some advice about paying his respects. As a guest, he should have paid his respects to the House Spirit. It was offended.

The man has never seen these dark forces, the spirits of the air, at work before. He’s only heard about them. He reaches the ground floor and stands, his feet glued to the floor as he battles to prevent his son from falling from his arms onto the hard polished floor. Humidity assaults him. Is that laughter he can hear? Snickering?

Possession. That which preys on the weak lacks courage, is devoid of real power. The man intuits the need for prayer. He’s hesitant at first, speaking quietly but firmly. Repeating a mantra, the name of the most powerful spiritual being he knows, the Author of life. He speaks his name. Again and again, sweating, dizzy. Nothing happens. The moaning and wailing continue. He’s frantic. It’s not working. God, when will this end? Why is this happening? He holds his little boy tight to his chest and continues to evoke the name above all names. Searing pain steals his words. Pain from his arm. What happened?

He concentrates, on what he knows. Evil spirits cannot directly harm a person but they can cause a person to injure themselves or hurt others. A tiny hand flies free and swipes the man’s chin, cutting flesh with a sharp nail. Blood flows. He’s shaking now from the strain, and fearful. He’s afraid for his son’s safety and scared that there is, in fact, no power to defeat this evil, to rebuke this demon. What he’s heard and believed is wrong. Nothing’s happening but he doesn’t know what else to do.  Overwhelmed by hopelessness, he starts to cry, but he doesn’t stop praying. He’s blubbering now. The words sound like gibberish in his ears. His back aches and the strength in his legs is fading.

The words, daddy wee wee, escape from the boy’s mouth at the same time as warm liquid escapes his bladder. Urine wets the boy’s pants, then mingles with sweat on the chest of his father, before pooling on the floor. All at once, the boy stops thrashing, and wailing and moaning, and it’s over. The attack is over, the demon has left the child’s body. The man glances towards the stairs, into the shadows and he curses the house Spirit.

Without moving or releasing his grip on his son, the man waits for another breath to fill his lungs and he gives thanks. Later, he’ll berate himself for being so timid in the face of evil and for doubting the power of the risen Christ. Now he simply savors the intense relief he feels, as pain reminds him of the physical nature of his spiritual fight, and the boy begins to cry because of the discomfort of urine drenched clothes.

In the night, having washed and changed their clothes, the man and his son rejoin the family in the air-conditioned bedroom. They drift back to sleep, trustfully, peacefully. Even the boy, who has forgotten the incident already, dozes off. The man has one eye on his son, and the other on the door. He sees the supernatural light from the other room creeping in under it. He won’t be sleeping.

The End