Abi, Mrs. Walker, and Reverend Walker finished the Sinner's Prayer with a simultaneous "Amen." Uncomfortable silence followed the solemn moment. Mrs. Walker, as hostess, felt obligated to fill this silence with the clatter of gold-trimmed teacups.
Rev. Walker smiled widely at his new protégé. He exclaimed in his southern accent, "Wot a pleasure it will be to baptize ma neighba b'fore th' congregation on Sunday!"
Abi asked, "Isn't baptism for children? I don't think it’s right for me. I do appreciate the tea and your time, Reverend."
Abi wanted to get acclimated to her new status as a Christian before she practiced rites and rituals. She’d simply accepted a casual invitation for tea, but the reverend proved to be rather persuasive about the religion.
“I’ll think about it,” Abi conceded. They bid their goodbyes, and Abi walked home.
The art deco Pepé Le Pew print greeted Abi with his usual bouquet as she entered her foyer and dropped her keys on a desk that overflowed with a collection of skunks, stuffed and sculpted. She climbed the stairs and readied herself for bed. Painted in lotions and adorned in her pink chenille bathrobe, she crawled onto her wicker bed and curled up with a romance paperback.
She barely read a word when an evil voice shouted, "You are..."
Abi clasped her ears, but the voice continued, "...not allowed to..."
She closed her eyes tightly, froze her thoughts, and wished the voice away. It was silent. Abi opened her eyes once more.
Two yellow eyes framed in green-black scales glared right back into Abi’s. The figure stood upright. The female form appeared to be naked except for the scales which served as her skin.
The voice seemed deceptively sweet, "I don't think you know what trouble you started, sweetheart. Why don't you just recant the little prayer? If you do, we promise to leave you alone with your kissy book." The lizard-like creature snatched the book and analyzed the cover. Abi said nothing, but simply stared.
Perturbed by her silence, the creature fanned out her neck, opened her mouth, and hissed in Abi's face. Abi's shrill scream distressed the creature. It climbed the wall and onto the ceiling where it looked down on Abi before it scurried out the bedroom door.
When the scampering sound grew distant, Abi forced herself to breathe again. She realized that she’d curled into a fetal position and rolled onto her back to regain composure. She then noticed that her back never touched the covers.
She looked down and saw her bed six inches below her. As her fear increased, Abi hovered higher and higher. She grabbed the wicker headboard in an attempt to cease the levitation. Abi was not strong enough to pull her body down. She needed to find a calm state of mind.
Contrived images of beloved objects flooded her mind’s eye. Quilts and skunks pacified her terrified mind. Abi fell to the bed like a concrete block dropped into a muddy river. She felt so alone. For a brief second, she wished the lizard would return.
Abi was wrong though; she was not alone. The corner of her eye caught a flash of light. She twisted her head and saw an evil silhouette. This figure appeared to have been dead sometime. Streams of light outlined rotting features. It lulled Abi into a feeling of powerlessness. The demon of light beckoned, "Come." Abi complied.
Hand in hand, the demon led Abi to the kitchen where she suggested, "Take some medicine for your head." Abi's head began to ache so horribly, it felt as though it had been struck with an ax.
Abi took one pill. The pain subsided. Moments later, the pain returned worse than before. She took more and more pills until vomit spewed from her mouth. She vomited time and again, until the thrust caused fluids to ooze from her other bodily orifices. Abi’s body was at its weakest when her mind defiantly concluded she would not allow herself to die like this.
Abi pulled her body to the door. She propped herself up on the doorknob and managed to leave the house. Abi struggled to her neighbor's doorstep. The weakness overcame her and she passed out.
The couch seemed unfamiliar to Abi, but the southern accent was unmistakably familiar.
"Call th' hospital. I’ll git a quilt," the Reverend directed Mrs. Walker. The Reverend fussed with the contents of an overstuffed hall closet while Abi dragged herself to the bathroom unnoticed. She sat fully clothed in the running bath when Rev. Walker rushed in.
"Baptize me now!"
The Reverend knelt. "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I baptize you." He dunked her head in the bath water.
The Reverend's wife cleaned the vomit from her mouth and hair. A fresh set of clothes were handed through a crack in the bathroom door. Abi reassured the couple of her health as she stepped out the door.
"Now don' miss church this Sunday," the Reverend called after Abi. "We'll be takin’ Communion."
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