Will Graham had only three books left to shelve before he could leave for the night, yet he kept losing his place. Usually, his work ethic was the stuff of legends, but tonight…tonight, there were more pressing matters on his mind. He sniffed and squinted, willing himself to focus on the call letters before him. This distraction wasn’t only the fatiguing strain of the fluorescent lights, or even the periodic cacophony of the woman coughing five rows over in the nonfiction section, but something else entirely…something of his own creation.
No matter how he tried, he couldn’t stop thinking about him.
Though Will could not help the tingling heat that flooded his body and colored his cheeks, he had recently forgiven himself for thinking about Father Hannibal in a way that was decidedly inappropriate for a parishioner…especially the church choir lead. It was wildly inappropriate for anyone, really—Hannibal was a man of the cloth, sworn to celibacy in his life of divine servitude! He was also Will’s mentor, confidant, friend...and the main subject of nearly all of Will’s confessions.
Will always hoped that he wasn’t being too obvious, hanging his head and averting his eyes from the thin partition that separated him from the good Father as he spoke of impure thoughts geared towards an unnamed man in his life.
“Have you spoken to him of this?” asked the priest. Will lifted his eyes, biting his lip at the sight of the silhouette before him, strong chin poised attentively. “Is there a chance that your feelings could be mutual?”
Will dropped his eyes to his lap. “He is…unavailable, to say the least.”
“So…speaking to him of this would only cause pain?”
Will yearned to wrest the barrier from between them, plunge his fingers into the priest’s soft, grey hair, and kiss all words of pain from his full lips until the fiery chasm of hell cracked the church floor and swallowed them whole. Instead, he responded affirmatively, and received his penance.
“And Will,” Father Hannibal said softly as Will shifted to exit the confessional. Will paused, brimming with the impossible hope that came with forging a somewhat intimate relationship with the agonizingly unattainable object of his desire. “I’ll see you at choir practice for Christmas mass on Saturday morning.”
Shuddering, Will pulled himself from his thoughts. Shelving the final book, he wiped his sweaty palms on legs of his olive drab cargo pants. He knew what he had to do, the only hope he had of getting what he wanted, and he was going to do it tonight.
Will considered paying a visit to the church, Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering, as he passed it on his short but frigid walk home. His breath hung, hot and wet, in the loose knit of his scarf (a Christmas gift from his roommate and best friend Beverly) as he beheld the stone edifice, lit from within. His heart ached in his chest as he thought about Father Hannibal—was he alone tonight? What was he doing? Was he writing his Sunday sermon, brow slightly furrowed as his pencil flew across the paper, never at a loss for poignant, beautifully constructed allegories? Or was he was standing before the mirror in his room in the rectory, removing his collar before beginning the lengthy process of unbuttoning his black shirt, revealing bits of tantalizing flesh with each button loosed by long, dexterous fingers, flesh that was usually hidden to all but Hannibal and God?
Will shivered. Clutching the heavy hardback book to his chest, he picked up his pace and hurried home, the icy winter wind gusting conspiratorially at his back.
Once inside, Will slammed his door shut and quickly slid the two deadbolts into place before allowing himself a brief moment of respite. Resting his back against the solid door behind him, Will inhaled deeply through his nose, trying to slow the frenzied beating of his heart.
Once he’d managed to slightly quell the deafening rush of blood in his ears, Will bent to set the book on the hall table before unwinding his scarf, shivering as the air hit his sweat-damp neck. Millions of tiny voices screamed different reasons to reconsider what he was about to do in his mind as he blinked, rapidly adjusting to the darkness of his empty apartment. The faint, slightly damp scent of a recent shower hung in the air. Beverly had just left for her shift at the bar an hour ago and would not return for hours yet. He was utterly alone.
But maybe not for much longer.
Suddenly, Will’s mouth was far too dry. He ambled unsteadily into the kitchen and flung the cabinet above the sink open to grab a glass. With trembling fingers, he filled his cup from the faucet until it overflowed and chugged, gagging as his throat squeezed painfully around a gulp that was far too large.
Once he’d emptied three additional glasses, he pulled the largest kitchen knife he owned from the block on the counter. Gathering the book and empty glass, he headed to his room and slammed the door. His focus narrowed to a precise pinpoint as he flipped through the book, a somewhat weighty tome written specifically to address the topic of conjuring forces beyond this plane of existence, searching until he found…ah. There it was: altar preparation.
Though raised a devout Catholic boy, Will had an insatiable thirst for knowledge, to the point that it could not be slaked by the consumption of every book in the library’s substantial occult section—not to worry, he had confessed this aspect of his unyielding curiosity to Father Hannibal, who always encouraged such pursuits.
“Alternative perspectives and readings outside of the Christian faith can be beneficial to your mental and spiritual growth,” he’d replied behind the partition, a warm smile obvious in his voice. Another thing that Will loved about him was this unwavering willingness to accept Will entirely for who he was as a person.
None before him had managed to do this, certainly no one in the faith. Nobody in his family, none of the kids in school growing up. Well…except for Beverly.
Will couldn’t help the smirk that crept across his face. He was still frightened, but he moved with renewed purpose. A large part of him remained skeptical, doubting that anything would even happen, but the rest of him was too curious not to try. He placed four candles around the open book—North, South, East, and West--and grabbed the water glass. Rolling up the sleeves of his plaid flannel shirt, he swallowed. This, he imagined, would be the least pleasant part, but necessary for the most potent spell.
The knife glinted in the firelight as Will held the razor sharp blade to his wrist. Swallowing thickly, he counted down from three before dragging it across the sensitive flesh horizontally, crying out in pain when the delicate, thin skin parted easily to allow blood to spill forth—his head swam as he realized that he’d cut much deeper than he’d intended, hazily watching as sticky vermilion rivulets flowed in abundance from the mouth-like wound, slowly filling the cup.
Once the glass was half full, Will squeezed his wrist between his fingers, forcing more blood to the surface. Wincing, he cleared his throat before declaring shakily, “With this blood offering, o demon, I summon you forth--rise from Hell, so mote it be!”
He waited, grimacing. Nothing returned to him, save a silence so deadly still that the flickering of the candles’ flames was audible.
Will breathed in and repeated the spell more confidently as he reached for the antibiotic ointment for his wound. “With this blood offering, o demon, I summon you forth--rise from Hell, so mote it be!”
Again, nothing. Wrapping the treated gash in gauze, he shrank back and repeated the invocation for a third and final time. “With this blood offering, o demon, I summon you forth--rise from Hell, so mote it be!”
Once again, he was greeted by naught more than silence. He furrowed his brow, staring at his candlelit room, utterly devoid of change. Maybe he had to wait longer for it to “settle.” He looked down at his wrist, which he’d dressed sloppily in his haste.
“Guess it didn’t work, then,” he said aloud, shrugging and closing the book. It took him a moment to realize that relief outweighed disappointment as he leant forward to blow out the candle.
As his breath left his lips and the wick was enveloped in smoke, a coldness profound enough to be tangible settled into Will’s being, penetrating his flesh straight to his bones, sending icy waves of trepidation coursing through his veins. He froze over the ceremonial candle, his lips still forming an O, momentarily paralyzed.
His heart battered against his ribcage and he broke out in a fresh layer of cold sweat as he systematically blew out the remaining candles one by one until finally he sat, trembling in an unprecedented darkness amidst a makeshift altar.
“Will,” whispered a voice, both achingly familiar and completely foreign all at once. It was not just one voice, but many that emanated from all sides of the thick obscurity that had settled in Will’s room.
Will squinted through his glasses, frenetic with an entirely unique, excited terror. What he experienced next was surely an out of body experience as he gaped openly at the figure that emerged from the darkness to stand before him with open arms.
“F-Father Hannibal?!” Will managed to choke out incredulously, his voice cracking as he scooted back across the floor, knocking extinguished candles over in the process. His mind raced as the figure stepped forward, looking every bit the part of his beloved priest: grey hair combed back neatly, kind smile, stole draped across his cassock….yet all resemblance ended at his eyes. They were not Hannibal’s eyes; Will would guess that they were not of this world: the irises and whites of his eyes were consumed entirely by the deepest obsidian that managed to be both radiant and draining as they raked over Will’s body hungrily.
“I am known by many names,” the conjured spirit replied, his voice changing slowly from indescribably superhuman to Hannibal’s soft, accented timbre. Smoke poured from his long outstretched fingers and billowed behind his cassock, filling the room. “You know me as Father Hannibal, which you may continue to call me.”
“C-continue?” Anxiety clenched around Will’s heart like a vise. Could it be that Father Hannibal had never been a man of God, but instead this dark, twisted being, just lurking in plain sight, waiting to victimize the next lost soul?
The spirit’s eyes flashed and a sinister grin split his handsome face in two. “My true name is Ashmedai, and I am accustomed to appear as that which the one who summons me desires the most. Tell me,” he said, stepping close enough that the hem of his soft cassock brushed Will’s fingertips on the floor. “Is it I that you desire above all others?”
Any words Will found to utter in response died in his throat. The beast masquerading as Hannibal crouched down, the voids of his eyes brimming with malevolence as he tipped Will’s chin upwards. Will arched his back involuntarily when their gazes met, leaning his face towards the creature as he was suddenly ravaged by every moment he’d lusted over Father Hannibal washing over him all at once—stolen, one-sided glances on the risers during choir, shared smiles over weak black coffee, every wildly graphic, sexually charged scenario that Will had fantasized as he feverishly pulled on his cock under the covers before he fell asleep…it was so overwhelming that Will brought his hands up to cover his face, but the spirit gripped him by the freshly wounded wrist before he could hide his shame.
Hannibal leaned close; he smelled of incense and a vague rot, like neglected lilies decaying in their vase: an odd fragrance that induced anxiety and comfort in equal measures. “Well?” he asked, his breath hot against Will’s face. “Do you want me?”
Will nodded, intoxicated by the otherworldly smell and warm presence just before him. His fear ebbed as Hannibal’s eyes returned to their usual color: a wonderfully rich, deep brown that triggered happy, safe warmth to pool in his belly.
“I need you hear you say it, Will,” murmured the demon, his lips hovering mere millimeters over Will’s. His heart twisted in his chest: he had wanted this for so long, and now it was dangling just in front of him, well within his grasp to just reach out and take. “Let me in.”
“Is it truly you, Father?” whispered Will, closing his eyes and brushing his nose against Hannibal’s, too far gone to care if it was truly his beloved or a demon’s trompe l’oeil.
“Will, it is truly I, Ashmedai,” replied Hannibal’s lovely accent. “Come, let me give you all that you’ve ever wanted and more.”
“But…Hannibal…” murmured Will, tipping his head back to expose his neck to hot, plundering lips.
“I will give you your precious priest,” promised the creature as he trailed hot, wet, kisses across Will’s flesh, sending a heady cocktail of fearful arousal thrumming through his veins. “Just let me in.”
“How do I know that you’ll keep your word?” Will bit his lip and whimpered as Hannibal pressed his hand against the growing bulge in his pants.
“I am here to deliver you your utmost desires, I promise you this,” replied Hannibal, turning every question and doubt Will had on its head and forcing rational thought from his mind.
“Yes,” groaned Will, clutching at Hannibal’s shoulders. “Do it. Take me.”
The spirit grinned and pulled Will forward to crush their lips together in a binding, passionate kiss. Ineffable joy suffused Will’s brain and body as he surrendered himself to the entity—and the fantasy--before him, parting his lips to receive Hannibal’s tongue like the Eucharist, forfeiting his autonomy and his soul in one inexorable, binding motion.