~ONE YEAR LATER~
"You need to get out of the house." Faine's mother said, pushing open her son's bedroom door. His room was a mess, and he was sprawled out on his bed, sleeping at two o'clock in the afternoon on a weekday. She let out a loud sigh and sat down on his bed. "I spoke with one of the leaders of the local group therapy meeting. He said--"
"I don't care about your damn therapy." Faine replied. The paramedics had had to amputate his right arm all the way at the shoulder to free him from the rubble and save his life. Part of Faine wished that the paramedics had left him there to die. He grabbed his hollow sleeve. "No amount of therapy is going to fix this."
"I'm not saying that it will. What I am saying is that it's not healthy to lay around all day feeling sorry for yourself." His mother argued. "I mean, it's almost been a year Faine. Don't you think it's time to at least try to move on with your life?"
"And do what, mom? Huh? Because last I checked, the Olympics isn't looking to hire any crippled gymnasts."
"There are other things in life besides gymnastics."
Faine shook his head in disgust. "Once again, you don't understand."
"At least go for a walk or something." His mother pleaded. "I'll even give you money to get dinner if you want. You've been in your room for four days straight. I'm worried about you."
Deep down, Faine knew how much his mother loved him. One of Faine's favorite stories was how his mother had decided to adopt him. She was on a work trip to Estonia of all places when she spotted a toddler who had escaped from the local orphanage. As soon as she looked into the toddler's blue eyes, she knew the boy was meant to be her son. Thus, Faine was adopted and taken to live in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with his new mother.
Growing up, Faine's mother had done nothing but support his dream of being a gymnast. That didn't mean things were always easy. Since Faine was white and his mother was African-American, the duo was not immune to the occasional stare when they were out in public. Some people were prejudiced against his mother for adopting a white child. Faine, on the other hand, couldn't have been more grateful for the life his mother had given to him. Who cared what color her skin was?
"Henry called the other day." His mother continued in a desperate attempt to liven Faine's mood. "He said he's going to be in town next month and wants to hang out with you."
"I don't need his pity."
Faine didn't hate Henry. After all, the demon attack wasn't Henry's fault. But Henry had made the Olympic team and was now competing in college on a full scholarship. Henry was living Faine's dream. And now he wanted to hang out with Faine like nothing had happened? No thanks.
"I'll go out tonight if you promise to leave me alone for a week." Faine said. "Also, I need twenty bucks."
Begrudgingly, his mother granted his request as long as Faine promised not to spend the money on booze or cigarettes. When his mother had retreated to the living room, Faine stood up and turned on the lights. He glanced at his reflection in the mirror. He'd lost a ton of weight. That muscular, in-shape athlete from a year ago no longer existed. Faine's matted blond hair had grown out to his shoulders, and his facial hair was stubbly due to a few days of not shaving. He opened his closet door and pulled out his prosthetic arm.
As far as Faine was concerned, prosthetic arm was a useless hunk of plastic. If he'd had his arm amputated at a lower area, say, below the elbow, a prosthetic arm may have actually been helpful. Alas, Faine wasn't so fortunate. He put on an undershirt and began strapping the arm around his shoulder area. The arm made it difficult to move around freely, but Faine was too self-conscious to leave the house without it. Once the arm was on, he put on a t-shirt and a hoodie. He hadn't bothered to learn how to tie his shoes with one hand. Instead, he wore flip-flops wherever he went.
By the time he left his room, his mother had fallen asleep on the couch. The TV was turned onto a news station. The news anchor gave a daily report of all the demon attacks that had taken place over the past twenty-four hours. There was a large one in Bucharest, and three minor ones in Osaka, Albuquerque, and Sao Paulo respectively. In order to make the news, there had to be at least a dozen casualties. Faine couldn't begin to imagine how many other attacks there'd been that weren't big enough to make the news.
Demons had been around since the 1950s. For a long time, they weren't much of a threat. But as the years rolled on, demons grew in power and began terrorizing nearly every corner of the globe. It was the Exorcist Committee's job to train new exorcists, but not many people wanted to risk their life to fight demons--Faine included. Because of this, there were more demons than ever, and not enough exorcists to keep them at bay.
Faine stared blankly at the TV screen. Images of demon attacks flashed across the screen. His stomach felt queasy. He could remember every moment of his own encounter with a demon attack. He remembered the emergency crew being surprised that he had survived. He remembered begging the paramedics not to take his arm. He remembered waking up in the hospital to a new life. Faine turned off the TV. His mother was right. He had to take his mind off his problems, if only for a few hours.
He stepped outside and wandered aimlessly to the local park. The sun was going down, but there were still people out and about. There was a happy couple giggling as they held hands, an elderly man feeding the ducks in the lake, and a few children playing tag in a field. Faine sat down on one of the swings at the empty swing set and stared up at the colorful sunset.. How could a world capable of such beauty also be filled with so much pain?
Faine was so lost in thought that he didn't notice the rustling of the trees behind him. When he turned around, he was greeted by a pair of piercing red eyes.
It was much smaller than the demon that had been at the gymnastics stadium, yet it was terrifying nonetheless. It's see-through body was filled with black ooze, and it's teeth were sharper than a pitchfork.
'No' Faine thought. 'I won't let this happen again.'
Faine jumped off the swing and ran as far away as he could from the demon. He pulled out his trusty pocket knife and hid behind a tree, praying the demon wouldn't see him. When he mustered up the courage to turn his head and look behind him, he saw that the demon had cornered one of the children that was playing tag. The little boy screamed and spotted Faine standing behind the tree. "Help me!" The boy begged.
Without allowing himself to think, Faine ran out to face the demon. He charged forward with his pocket knife. The demon laughed and tried to grab Faine. Faine did a one handed cartwheel and evaded the creature's grasp.
'Think Faine, Think!' He thought, circling the demon. 'There has to be a way to fight this thing...No. Maybe instead of fighting it, I should trick it.'
Faine purposefully tripped, allowing his prosthetic arm to land in the demon's mouth. The demon crunched on the arm, expecting Faine to fall back in pain. Faine grinned when the demon realized that the arm was fake. In that single moment, Faine used his knife to slit the demon's throat.
Black ooze began to pour onto the field. In a matter of seconds, the demon collapsed and disintegrated into a pile of ash. Faine fell to his knees. It was the first time he noticed he was shaking. He felt someone tap his shoulder. It was the child he'd saved from the demon.
"Thank you mister." The child said. He was missing his two front teeth. "You saved my life."
Faine simply nodded. "Hurry home. Your parents are probably worried about you."
The child walked away, leaving Faine alone in the field. He sat there for a long time until he spotted an emergency exorcist van approaching. A group of young men and women poured out of the van. "Sir, you need to evacuate the area." A young woman said. "We have reports of a demon in the area."
"I took care of it."
"I-I slayed the demon."
The young woman couldn't hide her surprise. She looked on the ground and spotted the familiar pile of ash that was always left behind by slayed demons. "Are you an exorcist?"
"Then why'd you risk your life?"
"It was the right thing to do."
She handed Faine a business card. "You should consider a career as an exorcist."
The group hurried off in their van before Faine could ask any other questions. He looked down at the card. It read: 'CAPITAL EXORCIST ACADEMY--CLASSES NOW FORMING.'
Faine wanted nothing more than to rip up the business card, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. For the first time since the attack at the stadium, he'd found something that might give his life meaning.
What more could he ask for?
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