Of Exorcism and Bottle-brew

by Kansas Barker

The ship was busy. Soldiers of this type and that milled around with various businesses and purposes, the lower ranking no-duty soldiers either lying around the bunks or hanging over the railing. I didn't have much interest in lazing or retching one way or the other, so I struck up a conversation with someone who appeared to be at the same status I was; Idle. We talked for a few minutes about the weather and conditions on deck, and girls we'd left back home. Soon our attentions turned to previous occupations, and that's where I later wished I had broken contact with the man.

"I myself used to be of two positions...brewer of beer, and exorcist."

"Exorcist?" I probed, intrigued.

"Yes, sir. Demons of all types. Wonderful work."

"And how would you go about...exorcising?"

"Well, being that you look the type to keep a secret...I wouldn't!"

"Pray continue."

"Demons are...well, you see they're mental problems, not spiritual, leastaways in my believing."

"Mental problems..."

"Yes, you see, a demon is something I consider to be capable of management by simply making a lot of to-do and hooplah about it, then announcing that the patient is cured. Nine times out of ten, the patient will walk away with no abnormality save from their currency miraculously sleightened."

"Incredible. And the one out of ten uncured?"

"They simply wish their money back, and I can usually arrange for them to be institutionalized."

"What a position. And the brewing is an occupational activity as well?"

"No, admittedly more recreational, though I have been known to peddle my special brew here and there."

"I'd be delighted to sample."

"So would I, mate. You'd have to be a true magician to slip alcohol of any type aboard this ship. Even the chaplain was denied communion wine."

"Pity for my thirst then, friend."

Me and my new acquaintance walked the deck, past the bustling crew and other soldiers.

"So what was your business?"

"I was a writer, for journals and magazines."

"Ah, a creative profession. Much more, eh, enjoyable than other professions I was forced to labour under at your age."

"Creative, yes, enjoyable, not always. It definitely becomes mental labor at times."

"I understand. But try latrine duty on a ship like this age of twenty. Twenty! I should have been at university or at least apprenticed. But I was quite a drinker. Lost every job I landed, until this, which was easily accomidating to my habits, me being alone all the time."

"Not pleasurable, I imagine."

"No indeed; was hard enough trying to break into the mental exercise of exorcism, if you'll pardon the poor humor."

"Forgiven and appreciated."

"Indeed, once that was discovered, I was bolstered up from a latrine swabber drinking cheap alcohol to a respected exorcist with the brew of my own design."

"What a leap!"

My fellow soldier smiled and gave a sly glance.

"So you would really delight in a sample of my liquor?"

"Most definitely! It's been eigth days since dock, and even then I had only the farewell champagne I was provided by my relatives. But surely and in the words of your own tongue, one must be a magician to bear alcohol aboard."

"Then you must come witness magic, my friend."

"I believe I cannot resist."

My comrade led me to his bunk. After thrusting his hand into the straw tick mattress, he withdrew an unmarked flask and handed it to me, then took another for himself.

"Drink, my friend!"

I did so and enjoyed the cool quell the drink provided. But that was the last sense I remember before collapsing onto a nearby bunk.

That night I was tormented by nightmares and horrific visions of faces within faces, wide mouths housing huge, all-seeing eyes. I recalled my catholic upbringing and feared demons were plaguing me.

A familiar face made itself visible to me and asked whether I wished relief. I consented in a horrifying scream, and thus woke, in my own bunk, with a massive headache, and relived of a total twenty and five pounds sterling. I could not remember the bunk of my dear friend, the scheming scoundrel brewer and exorcist, and was unable to locate him for the duration of my time in the Company. Thus, I left the ship with only this narrative.

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