I had another awful night last night as I just could not sleep well, tossing and turning for no good reason. Things were going from bad to worse; I had problems at work with my boss and I was still thinking about the shadow. I then thought about what the doctor had said to me about that priest, John Verdi. I didn’t know him and it had been quite some time since I had step inside a church, but I thought that perhaps the doctor was right. Maybe everything was related to my mind. I decided to give him a call and maybe get an appointment for counseling. I thought that I had nothing to lose and least I would be doing something to solve my problem, or so I thought.
I located the number of the church easily as it was always in the newspaper ads. They were always looking for new converts. “Hello, I would like to speak to John Verdi, the priest at Hollytown church, please.”
“Just a second,” said a friendly voice. Probably the receptionist I thought.
“Yes this is Father John Verdi, who is this?”
“Father, my name is Walter Horn and I would like to meet you for counseling as soon as possible.”
“Well that can be arranged my son. How about next week, Monday perhaps?”
“No, this isn’t good for me. How about today?” I said in an urgent manner. I could detect some hesitation on the part of the priest.
“Today? Why this is simply impossible. I have a burial later on. How about tomorrow morning, 09:00?”
“Fine. That is perfect. So tomorrow it is. Thank-you.” And I hung up quickly. No, I thought, it wasn’t fine as I would have to miss work probably for the whole day. But I felt that I had no choice as I had to find out if another person would find my story absurd or if there was something that I was missing. I needed some sort of validation of my story or a reasonable explanation of what had happened to me.
Monday arrived and I was ready and happy to explain my story to another person, an intelligent person who might be able to make sense of it all. I dressed quickly and took the bus to the church and in a matter of minutes I was inside. There was a small office there, I presented myself and the receptionist quickly called the priest.
The man that arrived in front me was not what I had expected: he was a mountain of a man, at least 6’2″ and well over 250 pounds with arms as large as a tree. He must have been a football player in his youth. He was completely bald save for his goatee.
“Hello, you must be Walter Horn,” he said as he extended his massive hand towards me. He sounded like Barry White, the singer with that deep voice.
“Yes,” I stammered. “I am.” I was tongue tied in front of him, looking more like a frightened mouse standing beside an elephant.
“Come, follow me. My office is just at the back. You said you wanted counseling but you didn’t specify for what. Is it a divorce, or the bottle, drugs maybe?”
I looked at him and smiled. I thought that he would be surprised that it was none of the above. Even now I had trouble explaining it to myself what I was suffering.
“No you see, it is a very peculiar problem that I have. One of my shadows has left me.” He looked at me wide-eyed, and then laughed as if I had said a very good joke, slapping his thighs repeatedly.
“Surely you are joking Mr.Horn. Here is my office. Let us sit and talk about this, hum, problem of yours.”
I sat sit down and looked around. It was your run-of-the-mill kind of office; a desk, some chairs and religious paraphernalia everywhere. Behind him was a big crucifix, with Jesus looking at me. I winced and looked away.
“Now, you said something about your shadow separating from you, and this has caused you distress?”
“Yes, exactly.” I then proceeded to tell him in minute details what had happened, from how my shadow had separated to how it had gone into my house and how I saw it hanging over me at the police station. And of course, that black smoke seen at the murder of that girl. He listened to my story without any interruption. At times he smiled and I wondered if he thought that I was crazy. Maybe he thought I was possessed? Finally he slumped back into his chair, put his two large hands on the sides of his head and said nothing for a while. He then looked at me and said only two words.
“The devil.” I looked at him with a blank face.
“What? That is your answer, your best response to what is happening to me? The devil?” I thought that he was joking, but he was not laughing. In fact he was quite serious.
“Yes Mr. Horn, it is the devil or the work of the devil. You must accept that it is.” I thought that his answer was too obvious and conventional. I should have expected such an answer coming from a priest but the answer was too simplistic.
“But I did not see a devil with horns, just my shadow and black smoke.” I replied glumly.
“I know, I know. But the devil can take many shapes and forms and for you, it was or seemed as if it was your shadow, but it was the devil I can assure you.” he said, seemingly convinced. He sat back in his chair and smiled.
I was not convinced. I knew that it could not be the answer. I knew then that a priest was not the person who could solve my problems after all. I decided to cut short our meeting as it was pointless to continue. I stood up abruptly, catching him by surprise.
“Where are you going my friend, the devil is after you and you need help!” he cried out. “Sit down and let’s pray to almighty God to save you. Are you saved?” he said in a hesitant voice, fearful of the answer.
“Hum, no, look, thanks for everything and for the time spent with me but I think that I have to leave now.” He looked at me astonished as I quickly left his office. As I was exiting the church I suddenly heard his booming voice.
“The devil will get you Mr. Horn, mark my words. He’ll get you when you least expect it!”
I hurried out of that church, eager to get away from that voice that offered only simple explanations to me, a sort of one-size-fits-all solution. I should have known better than to go to a churchman. For them, it starts with the devil and it ends with the devil.