Raising Father Kilpatrick

by

Terry Dartnall




"Hey, Uncle Lupus," I said. "You're back."

I thought it was Uncle Lupus but I couldn't be sure. Uncle Lupus is hard to see at the best of times and it was especially hard in the dark room. There was a smell of sulphur in the air, so it was probably Uncle Lupus.

I sprawled on the chaise longue.

"Aren't you coming in?" I said.

He moved towards me and I had a sense of unease. I swung my legs onto the floor and stood up giddily.

He was on me in no time. He grabbed me by the neck.

"My favourite nephew. How are you?"

"Let go of my neck, Uncle. I can't breathe."

"It has been so long--such a long time."

I tried to push him away but he was stronger than me. He was pushing his thumbs into my neck.

I flailed at him but he laughed.

"Jack, Jack," he said.

Then he released me.

I stood there gasping. "Why did you do that?" I said.

I could see him better now. He was a big man with a florid complexion and a red waistcoat. He was laughing.

"We have work to do," he said.

He turned and parted the curtains with both hands. He did everything theatrically.

It was pitch dark outside.

"Fenris has swallowed the moon," he said.

"How long have we got?"

"Many hours. They cannot see us."

That figgered. He had swum into focus, despite the poor light in the room, and when we can see one another we are hard to be seen. We fade away from this world and move closer to our own.

Uncle Lupus put his big face next to mine. I could see his long yellow teeth.

"I need you, Jack," he said. "I am an old man and my strength is failing." He squeezed my arm and said, "You are young and strong. Yes! Come, boy!"

I followed him into the courtyard, where his cart was waiting.

"Get up beside me and keep an old man company."

Fenris bays at the moon and the moon fades away. Few of us can hear him now and fewer still can see him. But when we do hear him, it is the saddest thing you have ever heard. Fenris bays at the moon because he remembers things we have forgotten. Sometimes he makes those things return.

We creaked through the village, past the church and the water pump, past the gibbets and up the hill, swaying and lurching and old Jeremiah farting in our faces.

"We're going to dig up Father Kilpatrick," said Uncle Lupus.

I grabbed the reins and pulled us to a halt.

"Disinter a priest?! Are you crazy?"

"I have my instructions."

"You answer to no-one," I said.

"You flatter me. But on this occasion you are wrong."

He took the reins out of my hands and said quietly, "You will see."

####

I hate digging people up. I don't mind the digging but I do mind the people. They are so bad tempered.

"Damn you, I was lying there for ages. I couldn't breathe in that bloody coffin." Father Kilpatrick stamped his foot in the soft soil. The soil gave way and he slipped back into the grave.

"Jesus Christ!" he shouted.

"Behave yourself," said Uncle Lupus. "You're a priest."

Father Kilpatrick climbed out and ran his hands over his paunch. "Damn this shroud! I feel like a girlie!"

"Keep your voice down."

"I need clothes!" boomed Father Kilpatrick.

Uncle Lupus reached into the cart and threw him a cassock. It had seen better days.

"I don't want a bloody cassock!" said Father Kilpatrick. "I'm sick of bloody cassocks!" But he put it on anyway. "I need a drink."

Uncle Lupus passed him a bottle. Father Kilpatrick put it to his nose, then threw back his head and drained it.

He belched. Then he thought for a moment.

"I'm not dead," he said.

"You've noticed," said Uncle Lupus. He leaned on his spade. "You did die. You were sent back. It seems that you're one of us, not one of them."

Father Kilpatrick was uncharacteristically quiet.

"Us? Them?" he said.

"Don't tell me you haven't noticed," said Uncle Lupus. "You were born here, weren't you?"

Father Kilpatrick nodded.

"This is a strange place," said Uncle Lupus.

"I thought it was the drinking," said Father Kilpatrick.

"We have work to do," said Uncle Lupus.

####



Father Kilpatrick held the lantern over our heads whilst we looked at the church register. "Here you are," said Uncle Lupus. "'January 15, Anno Domini 1666. To Joseph and Mary Kilpatrick, a son, William Henry.' Now let's see."

He put his right hand on the entry and held it there for a minute. Then he picked up the leather-bound volume and squinted at it. He put it down and pointed.

"The real entry," he said.

The ink where his hand had been was fading. Something else was taking its place.

"It's secret writing!" I said.

Father Kilpatrick read it out as it appeared. "To Abadon and Lilith Kiltpicker, a son, Willy." He tugged at his beard. "What does it mean?" he said.

"That you're Willy Kiltpicker," said Uncle Lupus.

"What kind of a name is that?" said Father Kilpatrick.

"It's Willy Kiltpicker's," said Uncle Lupus. He poked Father Kilpatrick in the cassock, "Your real name in this world. But not your _real_ name," he said, and winked at me. "What is it, Jack? You're good at this."

I looked at Father Kilpatrick. "There's a sympathy between words and what they stand for," I said. Father Kilpatrick stared at me, so I tried to explain. "A magical connection between words can act as a magical connection between worlds. It's a form of sympathetic magic. Your real name, your high name, is hidden. But we might be able to work it out."

"Willy Kiltpicker... William Henry Kilpatrick..." said Uncle Lupus.

We stood there umming and aahing for a long time.

Then a lump appeared in my throat.

"I think I have it," I said. "It's Ahriman."

"Ahriman?" said Uncle Lupus. "Ahriman?"

He took a step backwards.

"William Henry Kilpatrick is an anagram for Willy Kiltpicker Ahriman," I said.

I have never known Uncle Lupus to be afraid of anything. But he was frightened now.

"I'm not the Devil. Do I look like the bloody Devil?" Father Kilpatrick held up the lantern and breathed ale in our faces.

"You smell like the bloody Devil," said Uncle Lupus. He breathed a sigh of relief. "No, I suppose not, but you had me worried for a minute. But you're highborn. That's one hell of a family you belong to."

"Rubbish and balderdash and fiddlydeedee!" said Father Kilpatrick. "I don't come from the infernal regions. I'm a Catholic priest!"

Then he calmed down and said, "I always did feel I was different."

####



"The old magic is strong here," said Uncle Lupus. "This world is real but there is another world beyond it."

Uncle Lupus' cart lurched and wobbled. Jeremiah farted. Father Kilpatrick clutched at his cassock.

"What happened?" I said. "Why didn't he know?"

"My parents..." Father Kilpatrick began.

"Your parents were called to high office," said Uncle Lupus. "You were brought up by the Church."

"That would explain it," said Father Kilpatrick. "What's going to happen to me?"

"You will go back to the village," said Uncle Lupus. "You will have many friends. But as time passes you will fade away from this world and move into ours."

"I can't go back!" said Father Kilpatrick. "They buried me!"

"The old magic is strong here," I said. "They won't remember."

I seemed to hear Fenris howling. At the end of the world he will break his chains and join us in the last battle. He will be slain, the nine worlds will perish and the earth will sink into the sea. And a better world will be born.

We travelled in companionable silence until I saw that the sky was brightening and Uncle Lupus was beginning to fade.

"Have a drink!" Father Kilpatrick held out a bottle, but Uncle Lupus held up his hand.

He looked at me. "It has been a good night's work, Jack. Your mother will be proud of you."

"How is she?"

"She is well. She is waiting for you, but she will have a long time to wait. You are a good boy, Jack. I shall commend you to her."

Then he was gone.

"I'd like to get rid of this bloody cassock," said Father Kilpatrick. "I never did feel right as a priest."

"You must tend your flock," I said. "You might find it easier now."

He squinted at me. "I've spent my life in this village," he said. "But I don't remember you."

"I have been here," I said, "but I come and go. You'll be seeing a lot more of me now."

THE END



2005 by Terry Dartnall

Dr Terry Dartnall teaches Artificial Intelligence at Griffith University, Brisbane. His speculative fiction has appeared in Agog, Ideomancer, Oceans of the Mind, Planet, AlienSkin, Aphelion, Neverary, Worlds of Wonder and elsewhere. He is a 2003 AntiSF Award winner and a 2004 Glimmer Train finalist. Dr. D.'s previous Aphelion appearance was A Thousand Years in the July 2004 edition.

E-mail: Terry Dartnall

Webpage: Terry Dartnall at Griffith University

Comment on this story in the Aphelion Lettercol
Or Return to Aphelion's Index page.