September 16, 198X
“Dr. Barbara Moore?”
I took off my reading glasses to look up at the man who had entered my office.
He was insignificant in stature, gaunt and with a reedy tone of voice. His thick rimmed glasses sat a bit too far down his nose but his watch was worth more salary than I made in a month. He smiled.
“I have… an opportunity for a professor of psychology, like yourself. I think you’ll want to listen.”
That’s when I first met Dr. Herb Lewis and learned of the Legion Studies.
We had coffee at a local diner as several photographs were set in front of me. I attempted to seem casual as I flipped through them. All of them were shockingly graphic, men horrifically murdered, children with their heads flipped in such ways they couldn’t have survived, women with bleeding eyes, and a few of a girl that I recognized.
“This is Anneliese Michel,” I said, lifting the photograph up.
Dr. Lewis nodded, his fingers neatly interlaced together. “That is correct. What do you know about her?”
I set the photo back down and ran my finger over the smiling face. “Her parents believed she was possessed by demons. They attempted to exorcise her, to no avail as Anneliese was clearly a very ill young woman. She died of starvation.” Poor girl.
“Is that all that happened, then?”
I frowned. “Of course.”
Dr. Lewis seemed all too pleased at my dismissal. “Perhaps, maybe this girl… but I find that there is more to the story than it simply being an imbalanced brain every time. What about what happened to your mother?”
The chill that ran down my spine was dismissed by the fact someone had just opened a door to enter.
“… She was not possessed. She was sick. Very sick. She’s the reason I entered psychology, to understand the human mind.”
Dr. Lewis seemed even more excited. “What if I could tell you that there was nothing you could have done to understand her? That I’m currently being sponsored by our government to conduct a six month study in demonic possession, and that I’d be privileged to have someone with personal experience like yourself and the intelligence you could bring to this project?”
Decades of experience had taught me to keep a straight face. That showing emotion could let people in to manipulate you. Even if Dr. Lewis’ offer was tempting, it was utterly ridiculous. I sipped the last of my coffee. “I’d tell you that I’m far too busy to chase after myth.” I allowed myself a grin. “But I still thank you for the opportunity to volunteer.”
“Who said anything about volunteering?”
A check was slid across the table, and I made out my name before my eyes landed on the sum.
Written in dark blue pen and in elegant handwriting was the equivalent of two year’s salary.
Dr. Lewis’ smile was that of the Cheshire Cat.
“That is just your sign on bonus. You’ll get that and half again once the six months is completed. You’re a woman of logic, Dr. Moore. And I am a man determined to find the truth in a myth. What’s six months in an entire life time?”
I swallowed before I lifted up the check, as if I expected it to evaporate and vanish. I thought about my father in the hospital, ridden with dementia and never expected to leave his bed again except to go down to the morgue, and that was looking closer with every passing day. I thought about the piles of bills for his care. The funeral I’d soon have to pay for.
“… I will… consider it.” I pushed the check across the table.
Dr. Lewis pressed it back into my hands.
“No need to give it back. Call me when you want to fly up to where we’re conducting the Legion Studies.”
October 31, 198X
I had never been a very good flier. I was afraid of heights and suffered from motion sickness. I hadn’t kept down anything in twenty four hours by the time I was dropped off at the laboratory.
I call it a laboratory loosely, the place looked more like several aircraft carriers than a place I’d consider a lab. I walked into the building that had the letter ‘A’ inscribed on the right side. Inside there were, unsurprisingly, airplanes. The personal kind which could maybe board only four or five people. Those ones made me queasy just by looking at them.
I was told I would have been met by Dr. Lewis. But instead I was greeted by Hugo Blake. The resident demonology expert and soon to be one of my only friends up in this stretch of barren tundra.
The first and immediate impression I had from him was some form of Gothic rock star. Leather pants, black long jacket, the multiple silver necklaces and startling amount of makeup gave the second impression he should not have been allowed here.
But he smiled, I took note of his missing left incisor then, and he said, “You must be Barbara! Lovely to meet you, I’m Hugo! The doctor’s downstairs, come on! It’s warmer down in the dungeons anyway.”
He was also quite British and never shut his mouth.
We entered the true part of the laboratory via a trapdoor. Down here bore more resemblance to a place dedicated to science- white paneled walls, steel flooring, and glaring fluorescent lights. A scenery I was well accustomed to from my school days. And true to what I said, Hugo never stopped yapping, which only succeeded in grating my nerves further.
“It’s nice to have a lady around here, apparently there will be more doctors arriving in the weeks to come and I think one of them’s a girl, but who’s to know? All I got was their last names, that doesn’t tell nothing of their gender!”
“Anything. It does not tell anything of their gender,” I corrected him, attempting to keep my voice calm.
Hugo didn’t seem to realize I had spoken at all. “Well, either way, nice to have you! Maybe you can bat those pretty eyes and ask the doctor when my personal belongings will be here, I don’t think he likes me very much. Dunno why, he asked me to be here, you wanna know why?”
I took a deep breath. “No, Hugo, I really don’t care. I just want to speak with Dr. Lewis and then rest. Please shut up.”
Hugo raised his eyebrows before his hands followed, upheld in defeat. “All right, all right. You’ve been flying all day, that can make anyone a bit prickly. We’re here anyway.”
Here was a steel enforced door. Hugo flipped open the panel and tapped in four numbers. “My number’s 6166. Heh. Think they added in the one so I didn’t have to press in 666 wherever I went,” He joked. I didn’t laugh.
The door slid open, and we entered a room that highly contrasted the sterile surroundings outside.
Here, it was a child’s play and bed room, with three little beds and three children gathered at the foot of a rocking chair.
Children. The grip on my briefcase tightened.
Dr. Lewis was quietly reading to them the story of Peter Rabbit when he alerted to my presence. He smiled broadly and stood, closing the book. “Children! Dr. Barbara is here. Why don’t you all say hello and introduce yourselves properly?”
The three children stood up and turned around.
All three were clearly siblings, with varying shades of brunette hair and sharing similar shapes to their eyes and noses. The eldest was a girl, and she curtsied. “My name’s Chloe. I’m twelve years old.” She then looked to her two brothers.
The older boy stepped forward next, and clumsily bowed as if to imitate his sister. “I’m Graham. I’m ten years old.”
The youngest didn’t bother to bow, he just wiped his nose and grinned. “You’re very pretty, Dr. Barbara! I’m Scotty! I’m nine!”
Swallowing, I smiled. “Hello. Dr. Lewis, may we speak?”
“That sounds wonderful.” Dr. Lewis handed the book to Chloe. “You read this to your brothers now.”
We walked into the hall, where I looked at him with an incredulous gaze. “Children. The experiment revolves around the possession of children?” I asked.
“Oh no, of course not!” Dr. Lewis raised his hands. “It’s only an attempt to recreate previous conditions in which suspected or confirmed demon activity has taken place. The main part of the experiment are in group B-2 and B-3, B-2 containing prisoners and criminals while B-3 contains mentally ill and lunatics. Don’t worry, if anything gets out of control the doors are designed to lock, and we have already one holy man on the grounds. Father Carter is a devout man who has taken so well to the children, he has vowed with his company they will be entirely safe.”
I opened my mouth to object, only to close it a moment later. Deep breath. Rational discussion.
“… Don’t you need the permission of the parents?”
Dr. Lewis smiled again.
“Why, I am their father, Dr. Moore. Do you really think I’d put my own children in a situation where I did not believe they would be safe?”
That was the question that had me up half the night, staring at the ceiling of my room as I truly wondered what I had gotten myself into.