TW: Suicide, Child violence / pedophillia mention.
You’d be surprised how many suicides occur on Halloween night.
I can’t take credit for all of them—by that I mean Vatzio and I can’t. Some kill themselves without meeting us. I cannot speak to their guilt or innocence.
What appears to be a huge bull mastiff with me is a Sin Hound. They sense the sins within people, and their physical contact draws it out of them. I’m not what I appear to be either. Humans don’t adopt Sin Hounds from local rescue groups and use them like discarded hunting dogs, though the hunting metaphor is apt. I am one of the Comediti, the Sin Eaters. We partner with Sin Hounds to work.
Vatzio’s fur shimmers, undulates, and morphs from color to color as my neighbor pets his broad muscular back, pats the top of his massive head, rubs his droopy jowls. Sitting on the porch beside the man, the Sin Hound is almost as tall as the rocking chair. The man doesn’t see the changes, doesn’t know Vatzio and I know his secret. This meeting is not a coincidence. I arrange them when I need to.
This is a nice neighborhood, and this man looks like any other non-descript white male in his early forties. But in real life, monsters look just like everyone else. Too bad they don’t glow in the dark—it would make things easier.
I watch my neighbor—whose name I do not know, but whose sins I do—as his aura changes. Black, grey, indigo. Vatzio’s fur sucks the sin out, devouring and recycling it for the next step. The man’s aura sticks at indigo-- an indication of the depth and breadth of his sins. Vatzio and I wait patiently. This is why we’re here. This man is a high priority target.
Violent, pulsating, angry crimson radiates from the man’s head. It throbs vigorously in the air around us.
Vatzio has recycled the sin, taken the darkness this man inflicts on others into himself. Sin Hounds can, absorb evil. Sometimes they remove it from the person, but Vatzio and I give it back, turned inward, forcing self-destruction. This predator deserves this reaping of his own making.
Vatzio stands, his cue. “We should go. Doggies need their walks, don’t they, baby?” I rub Vatzio’s mastiff-sized head and flop his ears like he’s a real dog. “Who’s a good boy?” The baby talk is part of the act. Vatzio indulges me.
“Sure is a good dog,” says my neighbor, standing up from his rocking chair. “Never heard him bark.”
“He doesn’t need to bark—look at him. He looks like The Hound of the Baskervilles.” I smile. Vatzio’s fur shifts again, indignant at the suggestion he’s a dog, and impatient to move on.
The man laughs, a raspy smoker’s rattle. “Sure that’s right.”
I wave as we continue our walk, Vatzio calm beside me.
The next morning, Vatzio and I watch from the window as the coroner wheels the body bag by the rocking chair, down the sidewalk, and into the van.
No more children will go missing from this area. The police will find the bodies.
His suicide spares everyone a trial. It’s an efficient system.
“So, Vatzio, whose sin would you like to fix today?”
Vatzio stretches his floppy lips into a wide, predatory grin.
Halloween is one of our busiest nights of the year. The Summer and Winter Solstices also yield immense energy. On the Samhain, the Veil between the Realm of the Living and the Realm of the Dead is at its thinnest. Potent malevolent entities can jump into the bodies of willing hosts. Dark spirits rarely inhabit the innocent, preferring to share a body with those who long for the power this co-presence will bring to their natural sinful state.
On Halloween, these monsters actually do glow in the dark— though Vatzio and I are the only ones who see it.
Everyone is out on Halloween: parents taking young children Trick or Treating, older groups of children without adults, rebellious teenagers sneaking into graveyards to smoke, drink, get high, have sex, homeowners from Millennials to Baby Boomers on the front porch giving out candy, athletes with or without canine companions running, walking, biking, and those who stand shadowed to watch, oblivious that they are watched by predators more dangerous than themselves.
Rarely, but more commonly on Halloween, Vatzio and I cannot process, recycle, and redirect the guilty’s sin back upon himself. These people simply “vanish.” Vatzio’s mastiff-like size and his Sin Hound strength can silently kill anyone, and I can process the remains. It’s riskier than inflicting the suicides but necessary.
We walk through the crowds. I smile at the candy-crazed children with once pristine costumes disheveled by their merriment, wave to the candy bowl holders, and greet other dogs who pull along their humans. Vatzio despises dogs, but projects amenable energy. He sits grudgingly patient as sticky-handed children assault him with overly-excited, clumsy affection. I answer the questions about him, explaining he’s a rescue dog, a mix of several mastiff breeds. People suggest Halloween costumes for him. Vatzio sends me an unequivocal signal that he will rip my throat out if I even try to tie a bandanna around his neck. He disdains the requirements of collar and leash. I see his point—roles reversed in an alternate universe, I might be on the other end of the leash.
We find a father of three young girls whose aura explodes around him, its ethereal soot already covering his daughters. A pedophile who has defiled his own children. Vatzio’s hackles stiffen, and I can see that in his true form they are as long and sharp as a porcupine’s quills. He is ready to savage this man, ripping him to pieces, eating his heart, crushing his sins. I long to castrate and emasculate him with my Comediti blade, but we contain our rage for the sake of his children, who have lived too much horror already.
Vatzio and I insert ourselves into the family, forcing the man to pet him and compelling him to remain in contact with the Sin Hound’s fur until Vatzio’s completes his task. I admire the costumes, hair, and make-up of a young fuzzy ladybug, a rainbow fairy princess, and a furry grey kitten with eyeliner whiskers, a large pink bow, and a jingling bell of her collar. My casual contact eats the damage their father’s sin has caused them, erases the memories, and restores their innocence. When Vatzio finishes feeding the man his own sins, directed viciously inward, I get a vision of his painful, grisly suicide—one his daughters will not have to witness.
We move from neighborhood to neighborhood for four hours, pushing dozens of guilty souls to their imminent suicides. I think we have made sufficient progress and are ready to head home. Then Vatzio snarls, lips pulled back over distinctly non-canine teeth which pulsate, alternating black and red. His nose twitches around the airborne scent I cannot smell. His mouth froths blood red, his eyes now transformed from “average boring brown” to flaming orange embers.
I stiffen and hold my breath, allowing Vatzio to focus. His tail, as long and as big around as my am, rises flagpole straight. His violent claws grow, digging viciously into the dirt beneath. His fur ripples madly, colors rolling from his nose to his tail at a speed I have never seen before. A snarling rumble within his broad chest builds ferocity as it bellows from his mouth.
Vatzio looks toward me. I release his leash--- permission to pursue on his own, not that he couldn’t pull a dozen people behind him.
The trail snakes through bushes into a thickly forested easement between two houses, and then into a drainage tunnel running with foul, muddied water and copious litter. Hunters, our footsteps are soundless, as always.
Emerging from the drainpipe, we enter another dense forest. Vatzio is able to leap over many of the obstacles I have to maneuver around. Finally, Vatzio stops.
I see what looks like a shack for hunting or fishing. It appears deserted. Vatzio stops long enough for a confirmatory sniff before bounding to the structure and leaping against the door, which splinters under his attack. By the time I catch up, Vatzio has his teeth in a large man’s throat. The shed is more than a storage area. A large hook hangs from the ceiling, enormous bloodstains on the floor below. Shelves on the walls hold knives, pliers, restraints, and syringes. A torture chamber. A well-used one.
The man in the plaid flannel shirt, dirty jeans, and work boots ceases to struggle with Vatzio’s full weight planted on him. Sin Hound teeth puncture his neck.
Vatzio’s fur ripples with grotesque colors of bodily fluids and decomposition. The odors of each ripple explode into the air. Though I have seen many things, killed many people in the last century, and smelled an untold number of fetid things, this fetor overwhelms me. I step outside to vomit in the mud.
When I return, the man is dead. Vatzio is shredding his body with his otherworldly teeth. Vatzio finishes, leaving the shed decorated with blood, grey matter, viscera, and gore. I’m glad I was outside for most of it.
Vatzio shakes off the physical remnants of flesh. I watch as he struggles to process the man’s mammoth sins—body quivering, his fur undulating, thrashing his head and flinging his tail wildly. He vomits repeatedly. When he’s finished, I assume he’s exhausted from recycling and releasing that much evil, finished hunting for tonight. But he looks at me with his distortedly wide grin.
Time to return to the hunt.
After ten o’clock, when children are in bed with stomachaches, we enter a dark neighborhood with few streetlights, no Halloween decorations, and no porch lights. Vatzio and I feel the vibrations, formidable and overpowering, but cannot find the source. We walk through the shadowy recesses in search of lurkers and voyeurs—making quick work of three. The horrendous unseen energy remains. We walk in circles, around the streets, the sidewalks, the path to the cemetery, still unable to locate what we sense. Vatzio begins to whine in frustration, becoming more frantic, pulling ahead, swinging his massive head as he searches.
Emerging from the far side of a house festooned with toilet paper and marked with dozens of eggs splattered onto windows, doors, shutters, and an old station wagon, is the source of the appalling, pungent emanation.
A child. The black kaleidoscope of his aura is three times the size of the usual target. An approximately twelve year old blonde boy in a cheap vampire costume, complete with fangs and blood staining his face, hands and white shirt under the thin polyester black cape. Except the blood is real—Vatzio can smell it, and I can see the aura of the innocent animal slain to have its blood used as a costume accessory.
I have to hold Vatzio back with the leash—which is just a nod to leash laws. He lunges, and I have to use my mental connection with him to dissuade him from the aggressive impulses overwhelming him. I cannot send him charging into a crowd of young teenagers, tearing them apart. I have to find a way to lure him away from the others—whose auras are stained, corrupted by the blonde boy’s association. We can focus on them later.
It doesn’t take a Sin Eater to know how to lure a teenage boy away from his friends. It does, however, come in handy that Comediti are shape-shifters.
I choose the form of a fourteen year old girl with more make-up than clothing. Vatzio sits is the shadows close to the boys, content—for now—to switch from Hunter to Protector.
I circle around the group of laughing boys, paying them no attention, pretending to look for someone. I check my cell phone impatiently before sticking it in my back pocket and lighting up a joint. The boys fall silent. I turn around slowly, as if just noticing their presence. They stare.
“Oh, hey.” I blow puffs of perfect smoke rings in their direction, starting to hate myself for playing on this stereotype. “You guys seen a couple older girls and a guy around? We’re supposed to meet here, and they’re totally ghosting me.” If I hadn’t thrown up everything I ate in the last century at the shed, I might have vomited from hearing the complete rubbish coming out of my mouth.
They shake their heads. The blonde takes advantage of the opportunity to impress his friends. “You can hang with us,” he offers.
“What are you guys, like ten?” I do my best awful teenage girl impression.
“I’m fourteen,” he lies.
Feigning a sigh, I approach the group and look them over. I step in front of the boy as his friends move aside. “Cool blood. Is it real?” I dip my finger in it and take it slowly to my mouth, sucking it off my finger. “It’s real, isn’t it?”
He nods so hard his glue-on fangs fall out. I pretend not to notice as I tug on his cape. “Wanna share?” I press the joint to his mouth as I lead him away into the darkness.
Vatzio joins us. The joint drops from the boy’s bloodied lips, and he opens his mouth to scream. With a touch, I silence him and remove his ability to move on his own. He struggles futilely under the unseen restraints. His face, no longer an imitation of a nocturnal predator, wears the frantic pallor of those who know what is to come.
Away from the group and hearing distance of any residents, I remove the silence charm from the boy who is unaccustomed to being the prey.
Bare branched trees cast skeletal shadows in the weak moonlight.
No owls add their predatory voices to the silence. No birds move in the tress or fly overhead. All is still, nature holding its breath.
Vatzio’s weakening restraint is tangible. The boy wets himself.
In my Comediti form—skeletal, wraithlike with the quality of smoky darkness, I stand in front of him. Frost crackles from my feet to the boy, and the iciness I emit buffets him visibly. “What did you kill to decorate your costume, little boy?”
“N-n-nothing. It’s fake, I swear, from one of those tubes with the make-up kit.” His body shudders as his dilated eyes dart between Vatzio and me, trying to decide who is more dangerous.
“Liar. I tasted it. It’s animal blood. What did you slaughter merely to adorn your costume?”
He shakes his head violently, his cut lips bloodied with fresh indentations from biting them closed.
I place my hand on the blood. “Cat. Let me guess, the neighbor’s?”
His terror renders him mute.
I sever the flimsy vampire cloak from his bony shoulders with my hands’ serrated barbs. He shrieks, his voice cracking.
I inhale the putrid panic of his breath. I hear the hammering of his heart, see the throbbing of his jugular vein. His face begins to drip with rank perspiration and acerbic tears. His breath comes rapidly, belabored.
The craving for his blood howls within me. Vatzio’s hunger radiates around the three of us, his growls intensify-- powerful, strident.
The boy whimpers. His frenzied agitation and pathetic straining to escape his unseen bonds amplifies our overpowering cravings.
“Let’s see what Vatzio can do.”
He doesn’t have a moment to scream before Vatzio charges, knocking him onto his back and pinning him down with his long, muscular front legs. Vatzio’s fur explodes into vaporous cobalt flames—something I’ve never seen. He holds contact with the boy, but his fur does not ripple or morph. The boy’s aura does not change. Vatzio holds him there as minutes pass, unchanged.
Blue-hot evil in one so young is unprecedented. What he would grow up to be… cannot be allowed.
I consider the options. We could kill him here, leaving his body intact or in dismembered shreds like the bloody shed. We could kill him and take his body where it would never be found, but that seems crueler to his family and too merciful for him.
Vatzio cannot recycle his sin, and I cannot absorb it or replace it with decency. One option remains.
We have to expunge the boy’s brain completely, of everything and everyone, obliterate every experience, negate every preference, excise every past act, every skill, every talent, delete every mental and emotional remnant of who he is now. Tabla Rosa. A lobotomized newborn who will never function normally. He will carry innocence and lack of worldly corruption, while still haunted by ghastly, gruesome nightmares he does not understand—of his victims and of the brutality of tonight’s terror. He will be unable to explain the horrors of his existence.
I rip out his tongue and toss it to Vatzio, who snaps it out of the air, gobbling it like bacon-flavored Pupperoni treat.
Blood cascades from the boy’s mouth, covering the blood of the murdered cat.
“Now, that’s an impressive costume,” I whisper in his ear.