The Exorcism of CJ
The exorcist arrived two hours late.
“You know how they are,” Josephine said, wiping her hands on her apron. “And they don’t care about what happens in the small towns.”
Obadiah nodded and let out a deep sigh then got up from where he was reclining. He strode towards the exorcist, hat in hand, and greeted him.
Dressed in a t-shirt, loose pants, and flip-flops, he got his kit out of the transporter and slung the bag over his shoulder before shaking Obadiah’s hand.
“Where is she?” he asked.
“Over here,” Obadiah said, leading the Exorcist to a room at the back of the delivery centre.
“CJ usually does the mail packages,” Josephine explained, falling in beside them. “With the drought and people moving through, she started looking for a… hobby. She seemed to have stumbled on something while researching the town’s genealogy though.”
“Ah, of course. The witch scare of 2136 that turned out to be demons.”
“It seems she unlocked something she shouldn’t have. We only realised it once her programming was affected.”
The exorcist turned the door handle and entered the makeshift cell.
CJ was sitting cross-legged on the floor in the centre of the room. Her head swivelled back to the door as they entered.
“Oooh, a new playmate,” she said in a deep, otherworldly voice, and stood in one swift movement.
The exorcist sighed, scanning the body for signs of tampering.
“You were right not to do a factory reset. They love that. Gives them all the power they want. More than a human can offer.”
He opened his bag and she quailed when she saw the crucifix.
“Crux sacra sit mihi lux,” the exorcist said and CJ’s body contorted, metal scraping and bending. Josephine looked away, tears in her eyes.
Behind the Story, or, How to Creep Yourself Out
“The Exorcism of CJ” was written for the Microcosms competition. The prompts I had to use, were: “exorcist”, “rural town”, and “sci-fi”.
When I saw my prompts I immediately thought about having a possessed robot with the “IT guy” being an exorcist. I also wanted it to read almost like an old western rural town and that’s why I chose names like Josephine and Obadiah for the other characters and a more modern-sounding “CJ” for the robot. As we’re dealing with an exorcism, I also wanted the human names to sound Biblical.
Because CJ is very human-like, I wanted the – shall I call them symptoms? – of the possession to be very human-like, with the body contorting into unnatural positions. Unfortunately, with only 300 words, it was a bit difficult to truly get this idea down on paper.
However, I wanted to quote part of a real exorcism rite and not some pseudo-Latin. As I didn’t have too much time on my hands, I looked on Wikipedia as a start and chose the rite “Let the Holy Cross Be My Light” that was recorded in 1415.
The quote in Latin in the story means “Let the Holy Cross be my light” and is the beginning of the Vade retro satana, a Medieval Catholic formula for exorcism, recorded in 1415.
Vade retro satana in full reads as follows:
Crux sacra sit mihi lux / Non draco sit mihi dux
Vade retro satana / Numquam suade mihi vana
Sunt mala quae libas / Ipse venena bibas
In English it reads:
Let the Holy Cross be my light / Let not the dragon be my guide
Step back Satan / Never tempt me with vain things
What you offer me is evil / You drink the poison yourself.
Depth is given to the story’s modern world not so much by the use of robots and AI, but by mentioning the year in which the “witch scare” takes place. I also needed to make sure that the reader knew without a doubt that the possession mentioned here was real and not just people overreacting because they didn’t read the manual properly. That is the reason for noting that the “witch scare” was, in fact, the doing of the demons.
(As usual) The story turned out a lot darker than I had initially thought it was going to be. In fact, I had planned on it being funny… yeah that rarely seems to work.