Knowledge is Power (A Simon Hobb Story)
Knowledge is power
The sun was blazing down and everyone agreed that you couldn’t have a better day for a wedding. The entire family had gathered for the event, new dresses had been bought and old suits had been freshly dry-cleaned. Most of the family were in the church observing the usual religious ceremonies, including Jen and her boyfriend. Outside however some of the younger less patient cousins played under the watchful eye of Simon, at heart the biggest kid of the lot. Like his little cousins he had no patience for what he saw as boring lip service for the most part and narrow-minded bigotry at the worst. Instead he chose the role of entertainer for the children of his aunt’s and uncles. It was a much more fulfilling use of his time until the wedding reception when he could get drunk with the rest of the family.
Inside the church Jen shifted uncomfortably in the pew next to Tom. There was something not right, she could feel it but she didn’t know what. Mercifully the wedding came to an end and the crowd began to file out of the church. Tom noticed her discomfort as they were walking out, “You alright?” he asked concerned. “Yeah, just have one of those bad feelings that’s all” she replied. Tom knew from experience that his girlfriend’s bad feelings usually meant that something very bad was about to happen. He didn’t understand how or why, but for some reason both Jen and her brother tended to know when something wasn’t right. As they emerged from the throng Simon could be seen next to the grass at the side of the church with one cousin over his shoulder and another wrapped around his leg. All three were laughing and smiling, but with one look from his sister Simon gently disentangled himself from the kids. “I gotta go talk to Jen for a little bit guys, go find your parent’s and drive them nuts for awhile” he said with a final smile. Jen and Tom stood slightly apart from the rest of the family in an effort to get some measure of privacy. “What’s up?” asked Simon in a tone much more serious then the one he had a heart beat before. Jen looked at Tom uncertainly then closed hers eye’s briefly as though coming to an inner decision. She looked her brother straight in the eye, “I think you should take a look around the church. Maybe even have a chat with the priest that did the wedding” Tom had a mild look of concerned confusion but decided not to comment. Simon looked through the crowd and found the priest. There was something not right, he could smell it and he began to quickly understand why Jen had looked so uncomfortable. “I’ll take care of it,” he said walking towards the rest of the family. Tom waited till Simon was amongst the family before turning to Jen. “What’s wrong? What’s Simon going to take care of?” he asked in a tone that Jen knew meant that he wanted to help as well. “Trust me,” she said taking his arm and leading him back through the crowd, “The less you know, the better off you’ll feel”.
Simon quickly arranged for a lift back to his house stating that he’d be at the reception shortly but a previous promise meant that he’d need to stay sober so as to be able to drive his bike later that night. He decided that speed was of the essence and so when he jumped on his motorbike he was still wearing his version of a suit, red shirt with black tie, black jeans and a black leather box jacket. The only potential weapon he had on him was a black Zippo lighter. But he figured that and a solid bike helmet should be all he needed. Arriving at the reception Simon quickly wasted no time in discretely locating the priest that had overseen the wedding. Without directly engaging him in conversation Simon managed to keep the priest in view for most of the night. Around nine o’clock the priest, who Simon had learned was named Father Steven Goodwin, bade his farewells to the family and left the reception. Simon made his excuses aswell before jumping back on his bike and calmly following Father Goodwin’s car. He figured the priest would head back to the house next to the church that had been set aside for the parish priest, so Simon wasn’t too worried about losing track once or twice. True to form when Simon pulled up down the street from the house he could clearly see the car he had been following. There was also a van parked outside the house with another car parked directly across the street from it.
Father Goodwin was in the kitchen of his modest home making himself some tea and sandwiches in preparation for watching whatever might be on offer for tonight’s television viewing. As the kettle came to a boil he noted, not for the first time, that he would need to get the light fixture fixed. The bulb seemed to be only partially working and caused shadows to dance around the room every so often. He cut some ham slices and jumped suddenly. For just a moment the priest had thought that someone was behind him, but the room was clearly empty apart from him. He bent down to pick up the knife, which had fallen blade first into the lino floor, just as a knock came from the front door. Shadow’s danced around the kitchen as Father Goodwin went to answer the door. He opened the door to find a vaguely familiar young man staring straight into his eyes. “Hello Father” said the man pushing past, “Don’t mind me, just need to do some pest removal”. Father Goodwin stammered after him “Um…Simon isn’t it?” he asked tentatively following his strange visitor into the kitchen. “What can I do for you at this late hour?” asked the priest in what was becoming an increasingly more worried tone. “Oh, nothing much” replied Simon casually looking around the kitchen at the shadow’s dancing franticly along the walls, “But you should stay out of this room for a second, it’s about to get very hot”. In one fluid motion the black zippo was flicked open and ignited off Simon's leg, before the flame was raised to his mouth and blown in a whirlwind of fire around the kitchen. The shadows caught fire and began to shriek in pain before dissolving to nothing more then charred bones. Father Goodwin’s expression was changing from worry through fear and into hysteria as the full horror of what he had seen came crashing into his mind. Simon moved quickly to the priest’s side and grabbed his head forcing him to make eye contact. “Relax Father” Simon said in a calmed relaxing voice, “They hacked into your psyche and now I’m gonna have to do some damage control before your mind is lost”. Father Goodwin began to feel an overwhelming sense of calm, almost healing like energy flow into him. “I don’t understand”, he said quietly. “First of all, I’m very sorry for what’s happened,” said Simon leading the entranced man back to the sitting room and placing him in an armchair. “Your mind was violated by those…people,” he said inclining his head towards the kitchen. “They did it by letting you get a glimpse of what’s really out there. And I’m afraid the only way I can stop what they did from ruining your mind is by telling you about how the world really works” As Simon spoke time seemed to slow for the priest while waves of that strange healing energy washed over his mind. “All the God’s of every religion are real. We created them and it’s our belief in them that gives them strength. The combined strength of belief in all of these different religions and spiritual ways has created an atmosphere of energy, which permeates everything on the planet. There’s two ways to tap into that energy, the first is through spells and old rituals. Fortunately this doesn’t work most of the time and even when it does, the people using this stuff only have the barest idea of what they’re doing so they’re not much of a problem” Father Goodwin took in everything and with each word he began to realise that for the first time in days his mind was slowly becoming his own again. “What’s the second way?” he asked. Simon was impressed with the strength in the priest to have regained that much of his mental capacities so soon. He sat back in his chair and began to slowly withdraw the energy he had been feeding into Goodwin’s mind. “The only other way to tap into the energy is to be a natural, like me. There’s naturals everywhere but most don’t know what they can do”. “Because they don’t believe they can do it?” ventured Goodwin. “Very good,” said Simon with a smile “For us the old adage really is true. Knowledge is power” With only slightly shaking hands, Father Goodwin took up the cup of tea that had been on the coffee table and took a sip. “You obviously have a lot of knowledge” he said, “Just how powerful are you?” Simon shrugged innocently, “I know a little about a lot. Just enough to make me dangerous”. “Not to me though” said the priest standing and walking to the window looking out towards the church. “It’s obvious you came here to stop something truly insidious from happening and I assume it has to do with the house of the lord”. “Do you mind?” asked Simon producing a steal cigarette tin from his pocket. Father Goodwin looked disapprovingly but nodded his consent. Simon took a puff before he began, “Every sacred place devoted to a God is essentially like a shielded beacon. It can be seen or sensed very easily but unless you’re inside it you have no idea what’s going on in there magically. I wasn’t inside the church today but my sister was and she can sense when magic is being used.” “And she sensed that something was wrong with me” it wasn't a question, Father Goodwin had gone to far to bother questioning any more. Simon took another drag and nodded. “Once you were out of the church I could practically see the influence at work on you. The people we’re dealing with don’t care about being subtle, which is good and bad. Sure they might’ve been easy to find but to be able to work against the natural flow of the church? Either someone very powerful is walking around right under my nose or else a deal has been made with something dark. And judging by the strength of your catholic beacon, it’d have to be one evil prick.” Father Goodwin’s calm demeanour was beginning to vanish once again so he sat back in his chair and drank some more of his tea. “What are we going to do?” he asked between sips. “Well, your going to stay here” said Simon rising from his chair, “Me, I’m gonna take a chance” As he walked past the kitchen Simon spotted the knife Father Goodwin had used for his supper, “Mind if I borrow this?” The priest looked uncomfortably at the sharp edge, “There’s going to be blood spilled in a house of the lord, isn’t there?” “It’s already been spilt there,” said Simon as he opened the front door, “You just can’t see it yet”