Chapter Eight: Numerous Sightings of a ‘Devil-like’ Figure Were Reported

Editor’s Note: Some of this is taken from L. James Richardson—reading him, you’d think Elder Aloysius Wilkinson was some fiery, heroic figure like King David or Achilles. Sure, the Wilkinson line would continue to show a quick-tempered streak. Richardson doesn’t get at all the details, though, ones you can pick up if you buy the right old guy a beer on an uncrowded Tuesday at Gentleman Jim’s. 

It was rumored to be the cause of every rustling in the woods. It was rumored to be the hot breathy growl that cut through wind even on the coldest nights. It was rumored to be the reason for the path of entrails and maggot piles leading from Lysander Adams’ sheep pasture to the woods and it was rumored to be the cause of Robert MacHenry’s hounds getting their throats torn out and replaced with thorny stalks of blackberry brambles. 

Josiah Johnson swore he saw it making its home in the cave behind the waterfall. Dank and dripping and overrun with all manner of cave beetles. Spiders the size of house cats. Such would be the place where such a Devil made his den. Hunting parties were formed. Scythes sharpened. Torches lit. Alyosius Wilkinson brought a satchel of jars. “I should like to collect the Devil’s blood,” he said. “For purposes of scientific analysis. I shall enter my findings into records kept by the Scholars of the Church of Vine.” Lysander Adams expressed to those present his desire to ensure the devil was truly dead by opening as many wounds as the foul creature had veins to spill. His assertion was met with raucous approval from the assembled. 

Thus spoke Alyosius Wilkinson, saying: “What is known to those who have acquired such knowledge through years of Holy study is that gazing upon this Devil’s eyes would likely result in sure death; the fiery irises sealing a soul’s fate to damnation. Bleeding from nose, ears, and underneath fingernails, as well as immediate loss of bowel control, happen within seconds. The unfortunate recipient of these horrors remains alive; helpless as the Hell-wraith unfurls a chain-like jaw of ridged teeth to clamp on the victim’s nose. Heart, liver, stomach, and kidneys are then sucked through the nasal cavity and consumed. The body drained. The soul lost. This is our best assumption about the foe we face, thank you to Preacher Thomas for the research and report.”

The assembled hunting parties shivered in the fear of the night but steeled themselves with the resolve of Soldiers of The Lord. They followed the banks of the river, these brave men, through the sycamore and birch trees, boots crushing caterpillars in mud, eyes vigilant for their adversary. Stinging nettles and poison sumac brushed their exposed arms. Mosquitos attacked in unpredictable guerrilla formations. As the waterfall neared, a rushing-noise engulfed their ears. The night was humid with a blend of sulfur and honeysuckle hanging thick in the air. Banks became rockier and rockier and even the comfort of green grass was but a mask for insect-filled marsh. 

God had blessed and sanctified Vine but that did not mean there were not pockets of vileness and devilry. 

Vine was but the New Promised Land. Eden was somewhere unknowable; guarded by Flaming Sword. This was the New World. 

They came upon a clearing but it was no oasis. The waterfall emptied into a sickly green pool with floating gray-brown scum and a thousand darting water bugs. Rocks on the bank were not smooth as normal riverbanks but somehow jagged and sharp. Sulfur smell seemed to steam off the water and the waterfall roared with a warning of caution. An unnatural yellow-orange glow emitted from the cave; a color not created by God but through some perversion of light and fire. None in the party felt moved by the Spirit to approach. Here was one of the forsaken pockets of the Earth. Here was a Devil’s dwelling. Here was a place of liminality to remind them that though they are a Chosen People of the New World, there existed places beyond their comprehension. Here there was no peace to pass understanding.

“We shall seal off this place in prayer,” said Alyosius Wilkinson. His unsure voice quavered and he coughed a moment to steady his resolve. “We shall seal this unholy site and cleanse ourselves upon our return to Vine.” 

Something was shifting: it was as if the colors were changing, as subtle as a cloud drifting. Night fish could be seen playing beneath river’s surface. In darkest night, was the Light of the Lord beginning to pass understanding unto them? Was this place becoming beautiful to them? No, these feelings were demons’ tricks, and the Elders of Vine could not give into temptation.

Thus did the assembled hunting parties speak the holy words; thus was invoked orders of protection from the Most High. When they returned to Vine, they stripped their clothes and burned them in the town square. Naked they walked to the church and naked they prostrated themselves before the altar. Naked did they wail praises and adulations to the Lord their God through the night until the sun rose again in a new morning. Then did they go home to their wives and children. 

Is the devil dead? they asked. Are we safe? Is the devil dead? Are we safe? Is the devil dead? Are we safe? Is the devil dead? Are we safe? Is the devil dead? Are we safe? Is the devil dead? Are we safe? Is the devil dead? Are we safe? Seven times they asked. 

Thus was done the will of the Lord. This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. 

Editor’s Note: L. James Richardson puts these events early in Vine, around August 1801. L. James does not connect the events to the order from the Elder Council in September 1801, declaring that all historical documents of Vine shall be at least partially destroyed before being archived, “so that the people of Vine might be reminded of their humility in this consecrated land; a solemn reminder that some divine mysteries should remain secret.” Maybe it would be more accurate to say “Elders and Preachers are the sole keepers of knowledge, and you people will just have to rely on us.”

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