Monday, November 29, 2010

The Possession of Earl Benningfield

Earl opened up the Oxford unabridged dictionary and laid it beside his bible. It was going to be today. He could feel it. This was the very last day on earth and by this time tomorrow he would be in heaven. The End Of Days was nigh, and he was the only person on earth who knew it. He opened the notebook that held yesterday’s list, and began working backward through the past lists. He couldn’t use any of the words he had used before, he knew that, and he had to make sure there were no repeats. Earl recited the Lord’s Prayer five times, and then started looking for The Five Words.
He didn’t remember ever using “anvil” but there it was, used on the Fourth of July in 1988. Earl suppressed the urge to curse. Anvil was a good word, and one God might use as one of the five. But he couldn’t use it again, no, that was against the rules. Earl looked up at the clock and realized it was almost dawn. He had to hurry. Oh no! “Semaphore” had been used back on the third of April in 2007. Earl had to find the two words in a hurry now. He recited the Lord’s Prayer again, and for the one millionth time wonder if The Five were contained in the prayer.
Dachshund, Entotic, Heavy, Milestone, and Porcelain.
Earl went through the previous lists as quickly as he could. He had glued each list to a piece of paper, and put all the pieces of paper in a notebook, and then started stacking the notebooks on shelves. Each notebook contained one hundred pages each. Earl would update the master list of words he had already used later, he kept telling himself that, but each day the list got longer and Earl despaired of beginning such a task. And after all, this would be the last day of earth as many people knew it. There was no sense in beginning something so near the end.
Earl took the list and hurried to the Cathedral. If the list was accepted the Cathedral would burst into flames at dawn. He stood in the darkness and waited as the sky lightened. The priest inside would be saying Mass, and the parishioners would be bowing and scraping and… There was smoke! Smoke! Smoke was rising from one of the windows in the second floor of the Cathedral. Earl felt warmth spreading down his legs but didn’t care. The sun was coming up, there was smoke, he could see it clearly now, there was smoke!
“PRAISE GOD!” Earl shouted. “THE END IS HERE! BURN! BURN! BURN!”
People began to run around and shout. The people on the inside of the Cathedral came rushing out and Earl looked up at the sky and felt himself being pulled upwards. His feet left the ground and Earl screamed in ecstasy, “THANK YOU JESUS! BURN! BURN! BURN!”
Earl fell to the ground with someone on top of him. It was a policeman. “No!” Earl cried, “Let me ascend! I have to ascend!” But the cop was putting handcuffs on Earl and treating him most harshly. Worse yet, he could hear fire trucks coming, their sirens wailing. Earl fought against the policeman but another arrived and they drug him away. “No, no!” Earl shouted. “It has to burn! You have to let it burn!”
Earl sat crying at the table with a court appointed lawyer. This woman they had assigned as his attorney wasn’t saying anything about The Five, or The End Of Days, or anything he had told her. She kept talking about treatment and using words he had never heard before. The people were thwarting the will of God! They wouldn’t give him his dictionary and they wouldn’t let him cross reference his lists. Dawn had come and gone and for the first time in twenty-seven years he had no made his list. The judge was asking him a question but Earl couldn’t stop crying. The whole world depended on his list and these people were preventing The End Of Days on purpose.
“YOU’RE PUPPETS OF SATAN!” Earl screamed at the judge. “YOU’RE KEEPING THE END AWAY!”

“So why the hell would you do that to someone?” Colleen asked.
“You are inattentive.” Regal replied. “I never said that I did this; I merely related to you this story as a means of example.”
“What city was this?” Colleen asked.
“Atlanta.”
“So if I look this man up I will find records of him?” Colleen sat up suddenly.
“Assuredly,” Regal replied, “if your police force keeps their records up.”
“So if this man is possessed, and you know about it, does this mean you know the demon who possessed him?” Colleen wanted to rush out of the room and call Harvey.
“No, Colleen, this means I killed the demon who possessed this man.”
“Why?” Colleen demanded. “Was it related to what the man was doing?”
“Don’t be silly!” Regal replied but he looked at Colleen intently. He fell silent and Colleen realized this was his way of ending the conversation, but it also might mean he was thinking about something he had said, or thinking about what he was going to say. Colleen watched him, and she realized this was different. Regal was watching her, not staring off into space as he usually did when he came to the end of a conversation, or when he was between thoughts. What was different? Colleen suppressed the urge to ask. Did Regal realize he had given her the name of someone she could look up before he had done it?
“I suggest you look this person up, Colleen.” Regal told her. “He should be very easy to find.”
“Okay.” Colleen said. She got up to leave and still Regal watched her. Colleen knew something had happened but she didn’t understand what it was, or why it was important. She would get Toby to run through the tapes on this one.

Colleen walked through the two room house and stared in awe at the notebooks. The shelves were full of them. Earl Benningfield had spent nearly thirty years of his life making five word a day lists, and taking them down to the Cathedral at dawn, hoping it would burst into flames. The day there was a fire there he had gone into some sort of fit. Colleen had read the file on Benningfield and it was nearly exactly as Regal had told her. Ben Johnson wouldn’t have known about Benningfield. How could he? Yet Colleen knew as long as Johnson had an internet connection there might have been a way for him to have read about this. Regal had to know this too, so why the weird look? Colleen took a notebook down from the shelf and opened it. “Dachshund, Entotic , Heavy, Milestone, and Porcelain. “ All this lists in the notebook contained the same five words. She took another down and discovered it too had the same words in every list.
“Son of a bitch” Colleen swore.

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