It had been a quiet night at Vista County Sheriff’s Department. The secretary typing memo after memo and the clang of the holding cells downstairs echoed through the dark halls. Sgt. Martinez had been admiring the stars out his office window when he saw a young man in his mid-thirties run into the building. He was intrigued, of course. Not that many people required the help of the police in a quaint town like this. He didn’t recognize this person from his daily patrols and hadn’t seen him around town. After a stroll downstairs to check it out, he saw two officers trying to calm him down.

“I can’t find her, I lost her!” said the scared man between huge breaths of air.

“Relax, sir. Just explain what happened and we’ll take care of it.”

This only scared the man further. After four more loud moments of exhaling, he passed out and fell to the ground.

The man woke up in the holding cell downstairs with a wet towel on his head an hour later. He looked as if death passed over. After some heavy breaths, he began to collect himself. I had been doing the Sudoku and waiting for him to come to so I could question him about “her”. He said that he had decided to take his four year old daughter to a nearby playground. His eyes were glued to her ever since the day he said he lost her in a department store.

“When we got there, she ran towards the slide and began to play around with the woodchips. It was cloudy when we got there, and I felt a bad presence. I ain’t no voodoo worshiper, but I could sense some weird feeling in my stomach. I turned around to light a smoke, I didn’t want her seeing it. I’ve been trying to quit for a year now, but no dice. When I turned around, she was gone. I combed that playground to high heavens.”

“OK sir, I’ll put out a missing person’s report. Don’t worry; we’ve got a 90% success rate in these kinds of things.”

Yambol daily picture 22 3 10 A Yambol School - Closed Down

The next day, I decided to go look around that playground. The school adjacent to it had long been shut down and the children of the area had been relocated to Burroughs school district. When I got there, some hooded guys were sitting in a circle and saying some weird thing in Latin or something. This town had been a center of strange religious sects because of our secluded location. Some cults find it better to be away from society. They never do much harm, just some performances downtown. I shooed them away and got my flashlight out. One of them threw me a pamphlet. I thanked him and stuck it in my pocket. After looking around the place I deemed it a lost cause to look here and went back to my cruiser. That night, I put the pamphlet on my nightstand and went to bed.

After a night’s sleep I decided, for whatever reason, I should read that pamphlet. It had an eerie mystique to it, probably just my imagination, but I read it, and when I did I knew I shouldn’t have. It read at the top:

"Vista 'County Church' of Harris."

I had investigated the Church of Harris in a case a while back involving some animal sacrifice ritual. It never had any conclusive evidence to convict the cult leader, Jonathan Harris. There had been rumors and stories about them capturing people for sacrifices under the guidance of Harris. The cult always had some Satanic connection, saying the only difference between God and Satan is a name.

I was raised Catholic, so I didn’t get this cult stuff. After reading more, I began to think more and more that maybe this little girl wasn’t just lost or kidnapped. After some careful self-protesting, I went back to the playground to find the same people there. One of them was chanting some strange words out of some big book and a pungent smell held around the slide. I asked them a few questions about what they were doing and if they had seen a little girl. They remained silent and didn’t say the smallest thing. I pushed them away as I tried to find the source of the smell, eventually seeing a small brown thing buried in woodchips. I looked around, only one cult member remained.

He was mumbling some indistinct words to himself when I asked him about the playground.

“What are you guys doing here?” I questioned.

“I am summoning the evil of the world to avenge our soul.”

I never understood the kind of cult-speak in this town, what with demons and spirits and stuff, but I knew that wasn’t good. Just then, a huge wave of what I would call energy, not good, but dark energy. For lack of a better word, I’ll call it dark. It pulsed throughout the vicinity of the playground, bringing me to my knees.

The cultist started to yell “He is coming!” and “Yes”! I could hear the cries of a little girl in the huge cloud of smoke that had risen above the slide, 10 yards away from me. I looked up and could see some horrible creature holding a girl in its arms. I grabbed my pistol and aimed down the sights, knowing that I couldn’t shoot with that little girl. The cult member yelled it would be no use, bullets cannot harm a demon. As a last resort, I ran over to the slide, blinded with fear. I climbed up the ladder seeing the dark cloud that had risen over the small dark playground.

Before I had made this act of bravery, I remembered a small crucifix I held around my neck, on a small chain. With one sweep, I plunged the demon in its putrid neck with the cross, sending me flying off the slide and into the woodchips. I don’t remember anything after that. When I woke up on a bed of splinters, I looked around. The cult member was gone. The clouds were gone. No evidence of the demon remained. The only thing out of place at the playground was a small girl’s coat.

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