Astronaut Exorcism

All There in the (Monster) Manual are stories based on creatures from the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, over 2022 I released a different story fitting the theme every single week! Could be fantasy, science fiction, horror, or something else entirely, check them out on the main page of the website.

This Week’s Inspiration: Horned Devil

An astronaut has been possessed by a demon on the Babel Space Station. Exorcist and priest Francis Flannagan has no choice but to brave the final frontier and confront the creature in this alien battleground, 400 kilometres above the surface of the Earth.


“An astronaut has been possessed by a demon on the Babel Space station.”

Father Flannagan looked around the table at the five men and one woman from NASA. No trace of humour showed on any of their faces. No sign that this was some kind of joke. Instead, what Flannagan saw was embarrassment and desperation.

“I see,” Father Flannagan said.

Dr Johnson adjusted his tie and cleared his throat. “We were hoping you might be able to advise us on what actions to take next. You came to us recommended as someone who might have dealt with this kind of issue before.”

“Possessed astronauts?”

“Possession, demonic possession, if that is what you call it?”

Father Flannagan took a few moments to collect his thoughts. Thirty-eight years old, Flannagan looked older. A roughshod face and greying hair ageing his appearance but estowing him with a certain gravitas. He also looked out of place in his simple black shirt and pants, white collar at his throat. The folk from NASA all appeared slightly nebbish, soft, uncomfortable, and wore suits and ties, or a ruffled blouse in the case of the solo woman.

“You’ll have to forgive me but you are men, and women, of science. All my life I have faced nothing but scepticism from your like. Given the nature of my work for the church I’ve even been called a liar, a conman, a charlatan. Now you claim you want my help?”

“Father, with all due respect, yes, you are correct,” Johnson said. “Two weeks ago if you told me I would be seriously consulting with someone in your line of work, an exorcist, I would have laughed in your face. But there is a saying you might be familiar with, that has guided me up until this point. Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, is the truth. Well, in my view, and the view of the men and women of science around this table, we have very much entered the realm of the impossible becoming merely the improbable.”

The ghost of a smile quirked the corner of Flannagan’s mouth. “Perhaps you had best illuminate me further.”

A large screen came to life at the head of the boardroom, first displaying the NASA logo as Johnson fiddled with his phone. Two astronauts in puffy suits bounced into frame as a recording started to play. They appeared to be picking their way across the exterior of some kind of space station. Huge, winglike solar panels loomed in the background against the gentle curve of the earth and a field of empty blackness. Shielded facemasks covered their features. Another NASA scientist took over the explanations. Father Flannagan had been introduced to all of them but it had happened so fast the names were all a blur.

“Twelve days ago, astronauts William Cutshaw and Natalie Applegate were in the middle of a routine systems check on the exterior of the BSS. Cutshaw was then struck by some kind of unidentified force.”

Tethers trailing behind them, magnetised boots clinging to the space station’s exterior, the astronauts looked like toddlers in little sumo suits as they tottered away from the camera. Surrounded by the unforgivingly harsh nothingness of the void, free from oxygen or gravity. Chatter over their radios relayed their movements and intentions. Naturally the scene had no sound except for those tinny voices. One of the astronauts separated from the other and continued toward an arm of the station, awkwardly kneeling by a large panel. Then suddenly, without warning, a blaze of white light looped into frame and slammed into the astronaut. With a brief flash, the light appeared to travel into his suit and be completely absorbed. The astronaut, William Cutshaw, went boneless. His magnetic boots failed and he drifted free, given a shove by the bright object’s momentum. Only the man’s tether kept his unconscious body from shooting off into the abyss, arresting his drift and snapping him back toward the space station. The radio came alive with questions and responses about what had just happened, tightly clipped panic in the speakers’ voices. Magnetised step by step, the other astronaut, Applegate, made their way over to help Cutshaw.

“Here’s the frame by frame.”

The next video showed the white projectile burn across the screen one still image at a time, until it connected with the astronaut. It blazed with mysterious energy. Shifting as it moved at impossible speed, certain features seemed to emerge. Wings, horns, a pair of clawed hands reaching for Cutshaw in the millisecond before impact. Or they could have just flares in a formless streak of light, the equivalent of a Rorschach Test.

“When Cutshaw was brought back aboard the BSS, he remained unconscious for around six hours but showed no physical signs of injury,” the single woman in the room explained. “However, as soon as he regained consciousness his whole demeanour had changed. Mood swings, sexually charged comments toward his companions, and picking at what seemed to be sore spots for them or people back at Mission Control. Shortly thereafter, he attempted to murder several of his fellow astronauts with a space-axe.”

“A space-axe?” Flannagan echoed.

“Correct, it’s like an axe but for space. Thankfully, the others managed to overpower him and strap him to a space-bed with all the space-straps they could find. And that’s where he’s been confined ever since.”

“So what exactly makes you think this is a case of possession, and not simply the result of a head injury or some kind of-, space madness? Or perhaps not demonic possession, but possession by some kind of extraterrestrial entity? That would seem to be more in your wheelhouse.”

“Well, this was our first indication.”

The next video cued up appeared to be taken from a handheld camera being used by one of the astronauts. They were inside the space station. The camera drifted through a tunnel in zero gravity into what looked like some kind of medical bay. From the perspective of the camera, William Cutshaw was secured to a bed against one ‘wall’. Thick velcro straps, space-straps, bound his chest and legs to the bed. His arms were pulled back and secured to supports on the wall to either side, crucifying him. Only his head and neck were free.

“Bill? Bill, can you understand me? Say something,” a voice said behind the camera.

Cutshaw’s gaze burned with hatred. All the blood vessels in the whites of his eyes had ruptured, turning them red, and several deep cuts marred his features. He fixed his stare right down the barrel of the camera. Presumably he was addressing whoever was holding the recording device but Flannagan couldn’t escape the feeling the man was looking right at him over a gulf of time and space.

“You’re going to die up here.”

Cutshaw continued with a series of gutternal, snarling vowels, nothing that resembled English. When he finished, his head tilted back and his jaw unhinged. A stream of black dots began to vomit from the astronaut’s mouth. They spread and scattered in the zero gravity. Buzzing filled the audio track along with the panicked voice and movements of the astronaut holding the camera. Flies, a droning cloud of flies, fountained out of the man’s mouth and filled the medical bay.

“Could you play that back, please?” Flannagan said.

“You understand it?” one of the scientists asked. “We’ve had people pouring over these recordings for answers!”

Flannagan demurred, and they rewound and replayed the recording. He focused on the syllables coming out of the mouth of the possessed astronaut before the stream of flies.

“It’s ancient Sumerian,” Flannagan eventually concluded.

“You speak it?”

“No one speaks it, but I’ve learned enough to translate some. In the vast, airless void, the dark beyond the heavens, there is no ear that will hear your cries of terror and pain.”

“There’s been more incidents since then,” Dr Johnson said. “The station has been experiencing inexplicable malfunctions. Coolant systems have broken open and leaked what appears to be, according to all available tests, human blood. There’s been the presence of other foreign creatures that have no business turning up on a space station, like the flies. And when he has chosen to communicate with the others on board or with Mission Control, well, Major Cutshaw has known things that he should have no way of knowing. Secret affairs, bad memories from people’s childhoods, things about people’s families. Embarrassing, shameful things.”

“It sounds a great deal like a possession. Entropy on their surroundings, the attraction of lowly creatures, knowledge of hidden sins. But to perform an exorcism I would have to be in the room with the afflicted soul.”

“We have a mission leaving in seven days that will connect with the Babel Space Station. We need you to instruct our astronauts how to perform an exorcism to rid Major Cutshaw of this foreign presence. In his current condition, it’s simply too dangerous to attempt to move him and return him to Earth.”

For the first time, Father Flannagan’s eyes widened in surprise. “Teach them to perform an exorcism, in seven days? No, not possible, it can’t be done!”

“Surely, the steps involved, the process-,” Johnson insisted.

“Exorcism is a science, it’s an art. I’m a third generation exorcist, I’ve been doing it all of my life and I still haven’t got it all figured out. An exorcism is a battle, a battle of wills but most importantly a battle of faith. This isn’t something you can just teach, like kidney surgery or oil drilling. It requires years of training and an absolute, unwavering faith in the Lord. If you plan to exorcise the astronaut aboard that space station then I will need to be on that rocket.”

A couple of the NASA scientists couldn’t help but scoff, but quickly smothered it. This was still new to them and their knee jerk reactions remained. No one raised a real protest.

“Well, uh, we’ll have to see what we can do,” Johnson said.


Father Flannagan sat in a light blue hospital gown, touching his throat. He felt naked without his collar. The scientists from NASA wasted no time in getting him to their training facility where they’d run him through a battery of tests, blood and heart and lungs and reflexes. The doctor, a medical doctor, sat across from him.

“Your cholesterol is a little high, as is your blood pressure. Do you drink?”

“I’m an Irish priest, doctor,” Flannagan said.

“All in all, I don’t see any red flags that would keep you from travelling into space, but this is incredibly unorthodox.”

“May I put my clothes on again then, please?”

“Of course.”

Dr Johnson met Flannagan in the hallway outside the doctor’s room. Flannagan dressed again in his white collar, black shirt and black pants. Johnson led him deeper into the facility.

“Usually it would take a year and half to get someone mentally and physically prepared for space travel. And that’s for people who know what to expect. We have to get you ready in less than a week. Our next simulator is to test your ability to stay conscious under immense g-forces. I need to warn you, father, you will pass out. The technicians need to push you all the way to your limits, and past them, to find out what those limits are. They take pride in it.”

“I’d expect no less.”

A couple of technicians strapped the exorcist into a padded chair mounted at the end of an enormous arm. The arm attached to a pillar in the centre of a perfectly round room to create a massive centrifuge. The window of a control room overlooked the simulator. Belts buckled around Flannagan’s midsection and chest. One of the techs placed a set of headphones with a mic over Flannagan’s head.

“You’re in control here, padre,” the tech said. “If you need to stop, you just say ‘stop’ as clearly as you can manage and we’ll slow it to a stop immediately. Otherwise, we see you pass out because the blood can’t get to your brain then we’ll end the test.”


Dr Johnson and the technicians retreated to the control room. Flannagan felt his heart thudding and tried to concentrate on his breathing.

“Starting you at one G,” the tech’s voice crackled through Flannagan’s headset.

The centrifuge began to turn, picking up speed until a gentle force pressed Flannagan into the seat. The effect was minor, no different really from laying down on a bed facing up. The curving wall blurred beside the arm of his chair.

“Two Gs, this is the equivalent of twice the gravitational pull of the Earth.”

The centrifuge accelerated, pushing Flannagan deeper into his chair. He could feel the weight in his body, in his bones. Raising his hand required a surprising effort.

“Three Gs, this is roughly what you would experience on takeoff.”

Neck nestled in foam padding, Flannagan could feel his head pushed against the top of the chair. Flesh rippled across the priest’s face. His eyeballs were pushed back into his skull. Flannagan had never had any desire to be an astronaut, even as a child. To blast off into the heavens at speeds unimaginable. To float, weightless, separated by only a thin skin of metal from an icy, lightless, unimaginably deadly nothing. He could only have faith that God’s plan did not intend for him to die in such a way. His thoughts had to be with the poor soul on that space station possessed by a force of terrible evil.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” Flannagan mumbled through numb lips. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters.”

“Four Gs.”

“He restoreth-, my soul. He leadeth me in the paths-, the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

“Five Gs.”

Flannagan was hammered backward in his seat. Grey spots began to crowd around the edges of his vision. His body felt extraordinarily heavy, bones lead and flesh like sacks of wet cement. Fish hooks dragged his features backward, completely distorting his face.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death-, I will fear-, no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy-, rod, and staff, they comfort me.”

“Six Gs, that’s double takeoff force. How are you feeling, padre?”

Flannagan’s vision was awash with grey. Every joint in his body hurt. He didn’t have the training for this, and bore it as long as he could only for the sake of the possessed man aboard the Babel Space Station. It felt like the blood in his brain was boiling. Before he could work up the strength to say or do anything, Flannagan passed out.


Over the next seven days, Flannagan was given a crash course in how to be an astronaut. The crew he’d be travelling with of course had far more training, and would take care of most of the mission so Flannagan could focus on the exorcism. But anyone going into space had to have some idea of what to do and what to expect.

Wearing an imitation of the kind of spacesuit they’d be using on the mission, Flannagan bobbed along the bottom of a gigantic training pool. The weight of water pressed down on him like the g-forces in the centrifuge. His oxygen hose, inflating the suit, trailed to the surface. Two divers flanked him in case he got into trouble.

“How are you fairing down there, father?” Johnson’s voice came over the headset Flannagan wore under his helmet.

Flannagan felt an almost crippling claustrophobia inside the suit. Breath fogged the visor. Through the thick gloves, he could hardly feel his hands to perform the simple mechanical tasks required to complete his training in the pool.

“I’m fine, thank you,” Flannagan said.

“Doing great, we’ll make a spaceman of you yet.”

Flannagan finished and emerged from the pool, assisted by the two divers. He had to be helped out of the suit, which didn’t help his claustrophobia. Johnson ambled over to talk.

“The launch is tomorrow, are you ready, father? Do you have all the supplies you need?”

“I believe so.”

“We have no reason to think the launch will be more dangerous than any other. But once you’re up there, over four hundred kilometres above the Earth, with that-, thing, it’s impossible to know what could happen.”

“I walk in faith, or fly as the situation dictates.”


“Ten… Nine… Eight…”

Father Flannagan lay on his back in a sealed chamber two hundred feet off the ground, pointed at the sky. A sundering roar went through the entire craft, dull and constant, unending, rattling them in their seats. Three other members of the crew, real astronauts, sat around him. All four, including Flannagan, wore bulky white suits with tinted visors

“You’re currently sitting on four million pounds of highly explosive rocket fuel, and 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder,” one of the astronauts, Tuulman, reminded him.

“270,000? That’s awfully specific,” another astronaut, Wilkins, said.

“I Googled it.”

“Seven… Six… Five…”

“What a lovely day to fly,” one of the priest’s other new companions, Kennedy, remarked.

Kennedy, leader of the mission, was a handsome, cleancut, All-American military man with the build and jawline of an action figure. Dependable as the sunrise, in spite of the strangeness of their mission and secrecy involved Kennedy hadn’t questioned a single order. His only concern was getting them there and back.

Kennedy’s second-in-command, Tuulman, by comparison, could be heard loudly scoffing when they were given their mission. That was fine, Flannagan had expected pushback even if it was their NASA masters who’d brought him on board. But Flannagan didn’t quite understand how someone as terminally unenthusiastic as Tuulman made it all the way through the astronaut program. Slouching, sullen, shifty eyed, he’d pushed back on every order and treated the trip into space the same way a moody teenager might treat a family road trip to the Grand Canyon.

The third member of their crew was Wilkins, a woman.

“Four… Three…”

“Holding in there, father?” Kennedy said.

All Flannagan could manage was a brief nod. Wooden prayer beads wound around the sausage fingers of his spacesuit gloves.

“Hope you put in a good word for us with the big guy upstairs,” Tuulman muttered.

“Two… One… Liftoff!”

Engines thundered, shattering the world open. The shuttle vibrated harder. Forty million horsepower channelled through nozzles at the base of the rocket. Flames pounded the earth and they started to lift free. Father Flannagan sank into his chair, gripping his beads and crucifix. The sky grew, opening up in front of them. At first it seemed almost ponderous, but once the rocket rose high enough it got faster and faster. They roared into the heavens, slipping the surly bonds of Earth.

Their suits and chairs cushioned the breakneck forces but all Flannagan and the astronauts could do was withstand and outwait them. They hurtled into the sky. Although Flannagan had faith in God’s plan, he figured a little extra prayer couldn’t hurt. His lips moved silently behind his visor.

Streamers of cloud streaked past the shuttle’s windows. The sky bruised and stretched, turning purple and then black. Stars sparked into hard diamond points against the velvet eternity. With a thunk they felt more so than heard, the booster rocket detached. It floated free, twisting, turning end over end as it drifted away behind them. A secondary rocket blazed, pulling them free from the last threads of Earth’s gravity. Centrifugal forces faded. Flannagan felt his body go from leaden, anchored to his chair, to weightless.

“We made it,” Kennedy said.

One by one, the astronauts unsnapped their seatbelts. Flannagan watched and followed suit. Floating free of the chair felt like a miracle. In spite of the lack of gravity, the chamber where they were all located was pumped full of air. One by one, the professional astronauts unbuckled their helmets and freed their faces. Wilkins shook out her mane of blonde hair, which clouded around her face in such a way that seemed impractical for space.

“Ah, this lack of gravity lifts things in all the right places,” Wilkins said. “Breasts, I’m talking about breasts.”

Flannagan felt a great paranoia but he removed his helmet and sucked in a trembling lungful of the crisp oxygen filling the cabin. Drifting to one of the windows, he looked down on God’s creation, the blue and green curve of the Earth foamed with clouds below. Home of all of God’s creatures and man’s innovations except for the very few, like the shuttle they were inside, that orbited over the heavens instead. The beauty, the majesty, was enough to sparkle tears in his eyes.

“Holy Father,” Flannagan whispered.

“Space shuttle, this is Houston, come in?” Dr Johnson’s voice came over the crew’s comms. “All green on our end, how are they on yours?”

“All green, Houston, just admiring the view,” Kennedy said. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

Flannagan and the others drifted back to their chairs, weightless. The sensation was immensely strange, like floating in some invisible gel that exerted no pressure in any direction. Flannagan had been taught some aspects of what to expect in his brief time in Houston but had to remember to plot his movements so he wouldn’t careen off in a random direction with the slightest exertion, unable to enforce any will on his movement as one could when walking or swimming without grabbing hold of something.

Kennedy set them on a trajectory and steered the shuttle into the great black yonder. Flannagan only got a vague sense of momentum. Intellectually, he knew they were moving at tremendous speeds but there was nothing outside the shuttle to give it context and the lack of g-forces made the trip smooth but disorientating.

Half a turn around the world and four hundred kilometres above solid ground, they approached the Babel Space Station. It hung, seemingly motionless despite travelling at almost unimaginable speeds as it was divorced of context, surrounded by nothingness.

The BSS looked like a great tangle of pipes and tubes and solar panels. Such a thing could never fly in the restricted airspace of Earth’s atmosphere where it would have to contend with such things as wind resistance and aerodynamics. Its initial shape was that of an immense, skeletonised spool. Various additions and amendments had been made over the years, growing and complicating the structure like the home of an obsessive builder who ignored all local structural codes.

“Babel Space Station, we are coming in for a rendezvous,” Kennedy announced into his mic.

“Affirmative, space shuttle, you are clear for contact.” The voice on the other end of their connection sounded tremulous with nerves and hope.

Kennedy brought the shuttle around, matching the BSS’ speed and angling the shuttle’s belly to face the station. Various systems and screens measured their position. Kennedy and the computer systems aligned the port on the shuttle’s underside with a stumpy docking arm jutting from the space station. They came into contact with a satisfying clunk, and the cockpit vibrated as interlocking motors fixed the two objects together.

“Docking complete,” Kennedy said. “We’re free to move aboard.”

A storage compartment occupied the rear of the cabin. Flannagan had insisted on keeping what he needed close. Businesslike, he drifted over to the compartment and opened it. His scuffed leather satchel floated free. Catching it, he checked the contents. A heavy, leather bound Bible with brass fixtures, the kind of book where if one could not find spiritual guidance within they could at least use it as a bludgeoning object. A hefty iron crucifix, a dagger, several bottles of holy water, and glass vials containing shavings of iron and wood, and one with what appeared to be plain dirt.

“I don’t know what to expect once we board the space station,” Flannagan said. “You must be on your guard at all times. Just because the possessed is secured does not mean they are harmless.”

“I can take care of myself, I grew up with five brothers,” Wilkins said. “Very violent household, borderline abusive.”

“I’m-, sorry to hear that.”

“This is all a bunch of primitive hooey anyway,” Tuulman said. “I don’t know how you got those at Mission Control to sign off on this but I don’t buy it for a second!”

“We’re not here to ask questions, we’re here to follow orders,” Kennedy said.

The twin doors of the airlock hissed open and a foul smell invaded the shuttle from the space station. It reeked of vomit and spoiled meat. With Kennedy leading the way, the crew crossed through the threshold carrying their helmets. Flannagan hugged his exorcism kit to his side.

Streamers of green liquid filled the air, floating free in the zero-g environment. Pea soup vomit and bile drifted through the halls of the space station, breaking apart, reforming, coming to a stop as it met the walls or floor or ceiling and splattering in slow motion. Swarms of black dots vibrated as they drifted by in miniature asteroid fields. Looking closer, Flannagan could see they were flies. Many were dead and those still alive were confused by the lack of gravity. Legs twitching, their wings buzzed as they flipped over and over, failing to propel themselves. The corridors were perfectly round, ribbed with LED lighting, pipes and conduits, junction boxes and storage and pieces of equipment.

“Please proceed to the main laboratory,” a voice crackled over the station intercom.

To Flannagan, the space station looked like a twisted maze where there was no up or down and entrances or exits could point in any direction. Kennedy, however, led the way with confidence. Grabbing rungs along the walls, he propelled himself like an otter through water. The others followed, doing their best to avoid the reefs of stinking green vomit. Flies and bile soon smeared all four of them. Tuulman and Wilkins looked disgusted, while Flannagan and Kennedy bore it stoically. Patches of rusty red liquid dried in spots along the walls. Blood which had leaked from various seams and vents.

The main laboratory looked to be one of the largest rooms aboard the Babel Space Station. A big cylinder cluttered with storage and equipment. Clear containers held insects and small animals floating in the zero gravity. Jugs of chemicals were space-strapped into place. Adding to the clutter, however, were three cocoon-shaped beds and a bunch of food packaging that looked out of place, as if people had been camping out in the lab. Three more frightened faces greeted them, the astronauts who hadn’t been possessed. They appeared to already know Kennedy and the others, and focused on Flannagan.

“You must be the priest?” One astronaut took the lead. “I’m Hu, this is Applegate, and Dodson.”

“Father Flannagan, where is the possession victim?”

“In the medical bay, William has been strapped down there ever since we captured him. But, because of everything else that’s been happening we’ve been holed up in here. The lab is shielded and has that decontamination portal.”

“I’ll go alone.”

“I don’t know if that’s safe?” Kennedy said.

“Demons are masters of manipulation, he would try to get inside your head. Mixing truth and lies, psychological attacks.”

With directions, Flannagan left the relative safety of the lab and proceeded to the medical bay. He had to travel from one end of the station’s central corridor to the other. More vomit and flies filled the air. As Flannagan got closer, the station seemed to reflect more and more of the demon’s dark presence. LEDs flickered. The station’s air was already cool but cold began to penetrate the layers of Flannagan’s suit. It became moist as if with rot. More dark patches of old blood covered the walls and a general decay set in. Doors juddered and struggled to open and close.

A pair of blazing amber eyes met Flannagan’s gaze from across the medical bay as he entered. Astronaut Willian Cutshaw was still heavily strapped into a cot against one wall, his arms extended as if crucified to either side. The room was incredibly cold and reeked of body odour and urine. Unshaven, Cutshaw’s hair and beard looked as wild as his eyes. Gouged slices marred his features.

“Father Francis Flannagan, they dragged you all the way up here to try and force me out of this vessel?” Cutshaw, or the creature possessing him, said. “Do you think you might be so kind as to loosen these straps?”

“You know of me,” Flannagan said.

“You’ve sent many companions of mine back to the fiery pits! All we wanted was to walk for a time in the sun, feel the wind in our hair! To walk in God’s grace a while, as your kind takes for granted. Should you fall, we have a whole wing of Hell dedicated to the tortures you will endure!”

“What is your name, demon?”

“The devil, now kindly undo these straps.”

The possessed man’s hands and legs were totally immobilised. Flannagan, however, kept his distance. A long, black tongue lashed behind the astronaut’s teeth, which looked as if they’d been sharpened by file into vicious points.

“Very well, we’ll do this the hard way.” Flannagan reached into his case and retrieved his largest crucifix.

The demon inside the astronaut’s body recoiled. Eyes burned, and it hissed through its pointed teeth. Struggling to control his drift and assume a suitable pose, Flannagan shoved the cross into the demon’s face. Even through his thick gloves, Flannagan felt the iron grow hot in his hands.

“Name yourself, demon!”

The demon shied away from the cross and seethed. As much as it could, its borrowed body writhed in pain and the cot, secured to the wall, bounced and heaved. Flannagan repeated his command several times, getting as close as he dared, until the demon relented.

“Rastromgn, this one’s name is Rastromgn!”

“Rastromgn, demon, spawn of Satan! Serpent and foul being, release this child of God! I command it!”

“Is that all you’ve got, padre?”

“In the name of the saviour, Jesus Christ, I command you!”

Rastromgn recoiled from the power of the cross but built a resistance by the second. “Your dead Jew has no power here!”

“Your place is in Hell, demon! You are nothing but a blight, a snake! A worm! I cast thee out, Rastromgn!”

“Stick your cock up his ass!”

“God Himself commands you to leave His loyal servant and return to Hell!” Flannagan’s breath plumed in the cold air.

“Stick his cock up your ass!”

“I command you, leave!”

“Stick your cock up your own ass!”

The two of them continued to battle without progress. Eventually, Flannagan retreated across the room and stripped out of his astronaut suit. Beneath, he wore his simple black priest outfit. Buttoning his shirt at the neck, he slipped the white collar around his throat. Goosebumps broke across his flesh. Flannagan hung the crucifix around his neck as well but he couldn’t feel its comforting weight in the zero-g environment. He retrieved the Bible and a vial of holy water from his bag as well.

“Ooh, now we look like the real thing,” Rastromgn mocked.

Flannagan flipped the book open to a series of passages from memory, and began to read. “Any kingdom divided against itself will fall into ruin. A house divided cannot stand. If Satan is driven out by Satan, then how can the forces of Hell stand against the Spirit of God?”

“You’ve come a long way, father,” Rastromgn tried to speak over him. “You know where you are? You know what’s out there? Nothing, oblivion. Behind this wall it’s less than a handspan away. No air, no atmosphere, nothing.”

“Make a tree good and it will bear the goodest of fruit, but make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. A mediocre tree could go either way. A good man will be known by his good deeds, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his evil bits.”

“Out there, you know what will happen? Your eyes burst, your skin will fry. Your blood boils and then freezes solid. It’ll suck the lungs right out of your mouth, the last thing you’ll see is them dangling in front of your face like a couple of balloons!”

Flannagan opened the vial of holy water. Looking viscous and almost alive, the water tried to escape the neck of the bottle. Still reading, Flannagan flicked the water at the possessed astronaut. He managed to control it so the droplets splattered around Rastromgn’s head and neck. Red boils broke out on the man’s face, steaming, and the demon’s amber eyes blazed.

“Whomsoever is not with me is against me, and whomever is against me shall be scattered to the four winds! Listen now to the word of the Lord God, for I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee!”

“All it would take is one little piece of space debris in the wrong spot,” the demon hissed through gnashing fangs. “There’s pieces of debris out there, whizzing around the planet at 17,500 miles per hour, I Googled it, thousands of pieces. All it takes is one bolt, one little piece of metal travelling around the Earth like a bullet, to punch through the walls of this space station like they’re not even there. And then all that nothing, it’s hungry, it’s insatiable. One little pinhole and it’ll suck every molecule of oxygen out of this room in seconds. It’ll strip the skin off your flesh, the flesh off your bones. It’ll take you apart and you’ll feel it. You’ll feel every millisecond of it happening.”

Flannagan battled to ignore the demon but of course it instinctively knew of his fears and zeroed in on them. He flicked holy water and continued reading. Eventually the creature gave up and began yelling insults and threats.

“Your mother sucks cocks in Hell!” Rastromgn snarled.

Flannagan had avoided engaging with the demon on principle, but he looked up with a small smirk. “My mother is still alive. She lives in Boca.”

“Well then, your mother sucks cocks in Boca!”

Suddenly, the astronaut went silent. Flannagan heard something almost like a whimper. The possessed astronaut’s eyes returned to normal. Tired and scared but suddenly human again. Flannagan heard a door hiss closed and realised someone else had entered the medical bay. He turned awkwardly, swivelling in the air from the hips. Wilkins, the woman, hovered in the entryway.

“Please! Please, help me, I’ve been tied up in here for over a week!” Rastromgn’s voice sounded completely different, scared and needy and human. “I don’t know what this guy is doing here, he keeps yelling crazy stuff at me!”

“Uh, the others sent me to check how you were doing,” Wilkins said.

“It’s space madness! Space madness!” Rastromgn said. “They’ve all got this shared delusion and they’ve roped you into it!”

“Don’t listen to it, they’re all liars,” Flannagan said. “They try to exploit any weakness, and plant seeds of doubt.”

“Please help me! Please, undo these straps!”

Wilkins looked uncertain but turned back on Flannagan. “How’s it going?”

“This is not a process you can rush,” Flannagan said.

“Okay, well, let us know if you need anything.”

Wilkins left, the door hissing shut again. After a few moments, Rastromgn let out a dark chuckle. When Flannagan looked back, he could see Cutshaw’s eyes and teeth had returned again to their monstrous forms.

“How did you get up here anyway? Possessing this innocent soul in orbit?” Flannagan asked.

“There are thousands of us out here, priest. Millions. More than stars in the sky. Your God has no power here, we sit outside of His light, waiting, watching. As you leave your planet in greater numbers, you’ll find us waiting for you.”


Flannagan continued to battle with the demon for another hour, until he felt himself begin to falter. He wanted to push on but knew if he made a mistake it could be disastrous. The priest packed his things into their scuffed satchel. Rastromgn jeered and mocked as he floated out of the room.

Back in the laboratory, Flannagan returned to the six astronauts. Wilkins eyed him with the same expression of doubt he’d seen when she left the medical bay earlier. Tuulman looked contemptuous while Kennedy remained just as determined as ever. They’d all taken off their suits and were wearing blue uniforms instead. The station’s astronauts remained nervous and scared.

“Is it done? What’s happening?” Hu asked.

“It is stubborn, strong, but I’m making progress,” Flannagan said.

“This is bullshit, you should be ashamed of yourselves! You’re astronauts for Christ’s sake,” Tuulman said. “You really believe this superstitious nonsense? Of all the missions I could have qualified for, I can’t believe I ended up on this clown show.”

“We have our orders,” Kennedy said.

“My father was an astronaut, when I was a little girl he used to tell me all about his missions and how to qualify you had to be the very best,” Wilkins said. “I just wanted to make him proud. That’s my reason for being here, the sole reason for my entire career.”

Flannagan looked at Wilkins. “I’m not quite certain of the relevance but I appreciate your support.”

Disgusted, Tuulman spun and propelled himself toward the main entrance of the lab. He hit the door to exit, and the door hissed open. Kennedy moved to stop him.

“Where are you going?” Kennedy said.

“I’m just going for a float around the corridors,” Tuulman said. “To clear my head.”

“Don’t go near that medical bay, that’s an order!”

Tuulman pushed himself through the tunnel and into the corridor. Exhausted, Flannagan slumped and let himself drift. In one of the lab’s animal enclosures, a puffy hamster drifted through the zero-g to a hamster wheel. Clinging upside down to the wheel, it started to run creating a low, rhythmic squeaking.

Outside, in the corridor, Tuulman grabbed at handholds and rocketed back toward their docked shuttle. He didn’t really care about clearing his head, his mind was made up. He wanted to get on the radio and complain to Mission Control about the situation up there as he saw it. Suddenly, however, something whispered inside his skull.

“Release me.”

Startled, Tuulman jerked upright. “What was that?”

“Release me.”

The voice came from the walls. It came from all around Tuulman, as if all the ambient sounds in the corridor had drawn together coincidentally for a moment to make what sounded like those words. It came from inside his head. It left a greasy residue on the inside of his skull, and a hook. A fishing lure that lodged itself in his brain.

“Fame, fortune, women, it could all be yours,” the voice whispered. “They’re stupid, crazy, you could take charge and set everything right. Be a hero when you get home, like the astronauts of yesteryear. Release me.”

Tuulman drifted, heading toward the medical bay in spite of his orders. Half-conscious of his movements, encouraged by a voice he mistook for his own thoughts, he pulled himself along on the rungs. Lights flickered outside the medical bay. Catching, the door ground open as if of its own accord.

A flicker of malice and hateful joy crossed astronaut William Cutshaw’s face before his features ironed out. As it had done when Wilkins entered, Rastromgn transformed to look human again, innocent and frightened. His arms stretched across the wall, strapped into place.

“Oh, thank-, Him,” Rastromgn said in Cutshaw’s voice. “Help me, please! Release me!”


Blaring alarms roused Flannagan from a restless nap. He’d strapped himself into one of the cocoon-shaped beds along the wall and drifted off for a short while, exhausted by the emotional intensity of the day’s events. For a few moments, he forgot where he was and thrashed against the space-straps in panic. Red lighting strobed across the room.

“Emergency, emergency,” a flat voice droned, deafeningly loud. “Course correction required.”

“What’s happening?” someone yelled.

Astronauts scrambled across the room, ricocheting off equipment and one another. Flannagan struggled with his unfamiliar buckles. His eyes swept around the room, doing a quick headcount. He saw immediately that one of the astronauts was missing.

“Where’s Tuulman?” Flannagan shouted.

Wilkins looked up with a guilty expression. “He, uh, he never came back. We were kind of enjoying the break from all his negativity.”

Flannagan freed himself and took his satchel. While the astronauts concerned themselves with the strobing lights and alarms, he flew across the lab and into the corridor. Returning the way he’d come, through clouds of drifting vomit and flies, into flickering lights and decay, he headed to the medical bay.

“Emergency, emergency. Course correction required.”

Flannagan stopped at the entrance to the medical bay. He didn’t need to go inside to confirm the situation through the clear plastic windows and door. In the strobing red light, he could see the cot where the possessed astronaut had been kept was empty. Space-straps drifted free. Other objects floated around the room and glinted in the light. Surgical tools such as scalpels, pliers, even a bonesaw. Amongst them were clouds of dark liquid that were hard to make out because their colour matched the strobing lights. Blood, wet mists of it drifting through the medical bay.

“Emergency, emergency. Course correction required.”

Sensing movement behind him, Flannagan turned. One of the astronauts scuttled across the ceiling toward him. It wasn’t Cutshaw, or Tuulman, and Flannagan was suddenly afraid that more of them had been possessed before remembering the lack of gravity. Kennedy pulled himself toward Flannagan, using what was the ceiling to Flannagan but might have been the floor to him.

“Sit rep?” Kennedy asked.

“The demon is gone,” Flannagan said. “Judging by the amount of blood, Tuulman could be in real trouble.”

The two of them returned to find the others. They gathered in some sort of control room, surrounded by screens and pieces of machinery unfamiliar to Flannagan. Alarms and that loud, flat voice continued blaring. Flannagan flinched at the noise. The lights bothered his eyes.

“Is there any way to turn that off?” Flannagan asked.

“It’s there to let us know there’s an emergency,” Applegate said.

“I feel like we are aware,” Flannagan said.

“We’re on a collision course with Earth’s atmosphere!” Hu said. “This space station isn’t designed for that! If we hit, we’re going to break up in the stratosphere and explode into a million tiny pieces! And those bits are going to rain down on whatever is below us for a hundred kilometres!”

“So, stop it!” Wilkins said.

“We can’t, Cutshaw has locked us out of the system somehow,” Dodson said. “He’s given himself administrative override, we’ll need a retinal scan from him to get back in.”

“Where is he then?” Kennedy asked.

“Can you see Tuulman?” Wilkins said.

Many of the screens showed camera feeds from around the station, inside and outside. William Cutshaw, or Rastromgn, wasn’t visible on any of them. Something on one of the feeds moved, however, and caught Flannagan’s eye.

“There he is,” Flannagan said.

Arms spread, Tuulman drifted into view and away from the camera. He was outside one of the airlocks. A tether ran from his waist but he wasn’t wearing a suit. Tuulman’s blue uniform, which he’d worn beneath his suit, was shredded. Blood boiled from dozens of slices covering his face and arms, dissipating into nothingness. His mouth was locked in a silent scream and both eye sockets were empty. His eyeballs had been scooped out, leaving the sockets red and gaping. The tether wasn’t a tether at all, Flannagan realised. A length of Tuulman’s small intestine had been pulled from a gash in his stomach and then tied off to the outside of the space station, somewhere outside the reach of the camera.

“Emergency, emergency. Course correction required.”

Hu hammered at the keyboard in front of him. “Maybe I can get through this but really we need William. We need his retinal scan to access the system and fix our trajectory.”

“What about the shuttle, couldn’t we escape on that?” Applegate asked.

“Yes, I suppose we could? But the space station would still be destroyed, and the pieces could injure or kill a lot of people on the ground.”

“If we’re going to need Cutshaw, we’ll have to get the demon out of him first,” Flannagan said.

“You work on this, we’ll find Cutshaw,” Kennedy told the other astronauts.

Kennedy led Flannagan and Wilkins, the woman, back into the corridor. The portal to the control room locked behind them.

“Where do we start?” Kennedy said.

“I don’t know, it’s not as if I can sense them,” Flannagan said. “This place cannot be that large.”

The three of them flew through the halls, checking individual rooms. Red light continued to paint the walls in lazy flashes as the alarms droned, hammering into Flannagan’s skull. They passed a massive airlock, brightly marked with a vault of a door. Spacesuits were fixed into clear pillars on either side of a well lit room before a smaller chamber that led directly outside the station. Flannagan wondered if it was the same airlock the demon used to dispose of Tuulman.

An observation window looked over the curve of the Earth. Streamers of cloud cut across the continent of Africa. A majestic sight, but Flannagan was uncomfortably sure the planet looked closer than when they’d arrived.

“He’s here!” Wilkins yelled.

The possessed astronaut had somehow, with demonic magic, concealed himself in the shadows. Its amber eyes reappeared first, followed by a grinning Chesire mouth. Taking form, the demon launched itself across the deck. It slammed into Kennedy’s midsection and the two of them rocketed down the corridor before crashing into a piece of equipment. Cutshaw stank, his clothes stiff with dried sweat and streaked in filth.

Taken momentarily by surprise, Kennedy recovered quickly and the two of them grappled. The demon, Rastromgn, fought like a wild animal. Its sharpened teeth sank into the meat of Kennedy’s arm. Kennedy cried out, and Rastromgn tore away a flap of flesh. Blood spilled out and fountained into the air, hanging there and scattering across the walls. Flannagan scrambled toward them with his crucifix and holy book. Wilkins bounded after them as well and tackled Rastromgn.

“Hold them! Hold them fast!” Flannagan yelled.

Rastromgn thrashed wildly, blood streaming from its teeth. But Kennedy and Wilkins were trained, and even with Kennedy’s injury they acted calmly and efficiently. Wilkins’ wrestling with her five borderline abusive brothers paid off. Kennedy and Wilkins both took a side, each locking up an arm and wrapping their legs around Cutshaw’s legs so that the demon couldn’t push off any walls. The three of them crashed from side to side. The two astronauts leaned away, avoiding the demon’s teeth.

“Jesus Christ!” Wilkins shouted.

“Hold him!” Flannagan crowded in, shoving his crucifix into Rastromgn’s face. “Demon, release this man! Release this innocent soul!”

“You heard him, release me,” Rastromgn said to the two astronauts.

“I cast you out, unclean spirit! In the name of Jesus Christ our saviour!”

Flannagan jammed the cross deeper into Rastromgn’s face and felt it grow hot in his hand. The demon hissed and writhed as all four of them bounced down the BSS’s corridor. Boils broke out across the demon’s face.

“In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit! in the sign of the holy cross! I compel you to release this man!”

William Cutshaw’s head wrenched back and to the side. Vertebrae crackled and popped as his head turned, and turned, until it was facing completely backward. His throat formed a new joint as he vomited more green muck into the air. Flannagan could see the spine, the pulsing arteries, all the structures of the neck moving beneath the skin.

“Holy shit, what is he doing? How is he doing that?” Wilkins said.

Bones cracking, Cutshaw’s face reached his other shoulder and came around the front again. A full three hundred and sixty degree turn. Kennedy and Wilkins looked shocked but kept holding him. Rastromgn’s black tongue snaked from Cutshaw’s mouth.

“Enough cheap tricks, demon! You’re getting desperate, I cast you out!”

Flannagan dropped his book, or rather released it and let it drift away beside him. Holding the crucifix in one hand, he fished a vial of holy water out of his satchel with the other. Flannagan jammed the vial into Rastromgn’s mouth, between those slashing teeth, and then slammed his hand into the possessed astronaut’s chin. Its jaws slammed shut, crushing the vial. Water spilled across its tongue and burned like acid. White foam frothed out of its mouth.

“Christ compels you, leave this man!” Flannagan commanded.

Rastromgn bent over backward until his spine cracked. The possessed man’s head nearly came to rest against the back of his knees. Kennedy and Wilkins continued to hold on as he jerked and thrashed like he was having an epileptic seizure. His face blurred. His jaw distended, unhinging like a snake about to swallow a pig.

“What is happening now?” Kennedy said.

Flannagan didn’t answer. Desperation lent strength to his faith. Retrieving his Bible, Flannagan shoved it against the demon’s chest. Tremors quaked its body. Cutshaw’s throat swelled, inflating. His jaw popped.

Black fingers with wicked nails appeared from inside the man’s mouth. Black as tar or asphalt. The long fingers gripped the man’s upper and lower jaws and pried them apart. Fingers were followed by hands, followed by forearms. Black skin streaked to dark red. The man’s swollen throat hitched and hitched, gagging. Water streamed from the corner of Cutshaw’s eyes, turning to globules and bubbling into the air.

“This can’t be happening,” Wilkins said.

Gangly arms with ropey muscles appeared, the skin leathery with black and red colouration. The man’s mouth stretched impossibly wide. The tips of a pair of horns emerged from the dark pit of the man’s gullet, between the reaching arms.

“Out, demon! I cast you out!”

A head appeared, bald, with two tall, thin, twisting horns. The demon’s face was burned from the holy water, covered in boils. Beneath them were strangely plain features, without hair or eyebrows but a face that would have looked anonymous and inoffensive if in human skin tones. Its amber eyes glowed, the same sharp teeth and black tongue filling its mouth. Shoulders and then a pair of batlike wings pulled free. The demon braced against Cutshaw’s shoulders. Red lights flashed and alarms blared in the background. The demon’s lower body slithered from Cutshaw’s mouth like a baby out of the birth canal. Hooved feet found purchase and pulled free, followed by the pointed tip of a snakelike tail.

“Get back!” Flannagan warned Kennedy and Wilkins.

The two astronauts obeyed but were slow about it. They couldn’t help staring at the demon. With them, weightless, they dragged the other astronaut. William Cutshaw appeared to be unconscious. Flannagan tried to be prepared for anything but even he hadn’t anticipated a full manifestation. The demon, freed from Cutshaw’s body, was about the size of a twelve-year-old, red with black extremities, with wings as long as it was tall, goatlike legs, and a whipping tail.

“Well, you’ve got me,” Rastromgn rasped. “Now what are you going to do with me?”

“Leave this place, demon!” Flannagan thrust forward with his crucifix. “Return to your home in Hell!”

Rastromgn shied away from the crucifix, which practically glowed in Flannagan’s hands. It was obvious, however, that the effort of expelling the demon from Cutshaw had weakened the priest.

“You know nothing. Hell is only a word. The reality is much, much worse,” Rastromgn gloated.

Rastromgn’s clawed hand snaked out and snatched the crucifix. It screamed in obvious agony, face contorting into something completely inhuman. For a few moments, the demon and the priest battled it out but the metal of the cross grew unbearably hot in Flannagan’s hand. He couldn’t help but release it, yanking his hand away as if from a hot stove. The crucifix warped in the demon’s hand as they cast it aside. The molten cross hit the wall of the corridor and welded itself into place, sizzling with heat.

The demon’s hooves came up and booted Flannagan in the chest. Both of them were launched away from one another. Rastromgn crashed into a wall while Flannagan flew the length of the corridor in the direction of the airlock.

“I’ve got this!” Kennedy said, apparently recovered from his shock.

“No, stay back!” Flannagan shouted.

Kennedy didn’t appear to hear him. Kicking off of one wall, he pounced. Other than its wings, Rastromgn looked small and easy to overpower. Kennedy attempted to wrap his arms around the demon in a bear hug. Before he could manage it, however, Rastromgn’s hand knifed into the astronaut’s breastbone. Vicious nails, curved into claws, sliced through Kennedy’s uniform and flesh. Ribs snapped like glass stems and Rastromgn punched its whole hand into Kennedy’s chest. Kennedy stiffened, too shocked to cry out. Rastromgn rummaged and tore, and yanked the man’s beating heart right out of his chest. Blood streamed and hung in the air, forming steaming bubbles.

“No!” Flannagan yelled.

Kennedy drifted backward, a gaping crater in his chest. His eyes were wide and frozen in surprise. The demon raised the throbbing muscle to its mouth and bit into it like an apple, fangs rending and tearing. Blood smeared the corners of its mouth.

“Better than all the dehydrated shit they serve up here!” Rastromgn said.

Flannagan scrambled but he was drifting, having bounced off a wall and then found himself with nothing in arm’s reach. He felt utterly powerless as he spun and snatched for a handhold. Anything to control his aimless drift. Wilkins, the woman, still held onto the unconscious William Cutshaw. Flapping, wings batting against the walls, Rastromgn let go of the half-eaten heart and launched itself at Wilkins. She screamed and tried to fight. It seized her by both sides of the head and suddenly wrenched her neck around. Vertebrae popped and snapped with a high, clean sound. Instantly dead, Wilkins ended up with her face aiming the wrong way over her shoulders. And unlike Cutshaw, when possessed, she couldn’t just keep turning and inexplicably recover.

“Foul demon!” Flannagan yelled.

Lashing out with a foot as he kept floating, Flannagan caught the corner of a storage container. His satchel swung against his side. Shooting forward, he looked around and saw a box against one wall. ‘Break Glass in Case of Emergency’ read the window on the front of the box. Inside was what looked like a chromed fire axe with several unnecessary implements attached to the head and gaps built into the blade and handle.

“Space-axe,” Flannagan said.

Flannagan rammed an elbow into the front of the box. Shards of floating glass immediately sprayed and filled the corridor along with the streams of green vomit and red blood. Emergency lighting and alarms continued to fill the station. Flannagan wasn’t sure how a bunch of weightless glass could help in any emergency but the space-axe would definitely aid him.

The demon pulled away from Wilkins and tried to steer itself toward Flannagan. Like the flies they’d seen when they first entered the space station, the demon struggled to control its wings in the zero gravity environment. All its time on the BSS had been spent inside William Cutshaw and before that it was without physical form. Awkwardly, Rastromgn pinballed from wall to wall in Flannagan’s direction.

Clutching the axe in one hand, Flannagan reached into his bag and pulled out another bottle of holy water. He flicked it open and, as best he could, he dumped it over the blade of the space-axe.

“Lord, I beseech thee, bless this space-axe so that it will protect your servant, and ensure this space-axe will always land true.”

Rastromgn launched itself at the priest. Flannagan cleaved around with the blessed space-axe. Its newly holy blade sliced through the demon’s unholy flesh like a hot space-knife through space butter. The creature’s arm sheared in two, burning as if cauterised by the blade as it passed through. Its wrist and hand spiralled down the corridor.

The demon shrieked and yanked its arm back. It snatched at him with its remaining hand. Calmly, Flannagan swivelled to avoid it and swung the space-axe down on the creature’s shoulder. The momentum was difficult to control. Biting, the axe sunk deeper than seemed likely given the force behind it. Rastromgn cried out again. Flannagan ripped the axe loose and then buried it right in the centre of the demon’s chest.

Squealing as if impaled, Rastromgn writhed. Flannagan used the space-axe to steer it around and through the room behind him that led to the airlock. Empty suits stared like sentinels. A set of controls rested by the airlock’s inner door. Finding purchase with his feet, Flannagan shoved Rastromgn into the controls. The inner door hissed open. Flannagan pushed the demon into the airlock. He twisted the burning axe in its chest to get it to cooperate.

“You can’t get rid of me that easily!” Rastromgn snarled.

Flannagan released the space-axe’s handle, leaving the weapon protruding obscenely from Rastromgn’s chest. He retreated to the control panel and closed the inner door again. It hissed shut, landing with a clunk. Wings flaring, the demon raged around the narrow chamber of the airlock. The controls were well labelled. Conveniently, the control to open the airlock was a huge, red button.

Flannagan slapped the button. The outer door rolled silently into the wall. Through the doorway, Flannagan could see the cold and hard pinpricks of distant stars. Air was sucked from the chamber in a second, dissipating into the vacuum. Moments later, Rastromgn was sucked out with it, spiralling end over end and disappearing into darkness. Flannagan hit the controls again and closed the outer door.


Returning to the corridor, Flannagan found Kennedy and Wilkins’ bodies drifting aimlessly. They were beyond help so Flannagan went straight to William Cutshaw. Despite the transformations while possessed, and how distended his mouth had been when releasing Rastromgn, he appeared unharmed. As the priest took hold of his shoulders, Cutshaw roused.

“Emergency, emergency. Course correction required.”

“What-, what happened? Where am I?” Cutshaw said.

“You’ve been under a demonic influence,” Flannagan said. “You need to get to the control room and help your fellow astronauts, they’re locked out of the system.”

“Demonic influence?”

Cutshaw clearly had no memory of his time possessed. With horror, he took in the blood and bodies floating in the corridor behind Flannagan. Kennedy, his chest ruptured open. Wilkins with her head on backward. Before he could ask, however, the two of them heard a scraping over the blare of alarms. Like claws raking the outside of a metal can. It vibrated through the skin of the station from directly overhead.

“What is that?” Cutshaw asked.

“Go, get to the control room,” Flannagan said. “I’ll deal with that.”

It wasn’t over. Sore and confused, Cutshaw straightened and took off down the corridor. Flannagan returned to the box where he’d retrieved the space-axe. Next to it, still surrounded by a cloud of glittering shards, was a space fire extinguisher. It looked very much like a normal fire extinguisher. Flannagan unhooked it from the wall and threw the strap over his shoulder.

More clicking and clawing came from outside the walls of the station. Flannagan remembered Rastromgn’s warnings of what one little tear in the hull could do and feared that at any moment it could become a reality. Returning to the room outside the airlock, Flannagan began to shove himself into one of the waiting spacesuits. His heart thundered. Outside, the hungry nothing waited. This was exactly the kind of position Flannagan hadn’t wanted to be in, exposed and vulnerable to the yawning vacuum.

Flannagan had been taught how to put on one of the suits but his movements were clumsy and unfamiliar. He pulled it up and sealed it around his neck and shoulders. Magnetic boots attached themselves to the decking. When he screwed the helmet on, his breath fogged the faceplate and rasped in his throat. He pulled his satchel’s strap over one shoulder and placed the strap of the space fire extinguisher over the other.

Heavy step by step, feet now against the floor again but the rest of his body floating free, Flannagan made his way to the airlock. He sealed himself inside, saying a quick prayer that he had put the suit on correctly before venting the air. There were more controls inside the chamber. He used them to open the outer door.

Eternity beckoned. Open, terribly open. Terribly, terribly open, beyond what the human mind was designed to handle. Cold wrapped around Flannagan, even through the suit. But the seals held and proved the suit had been put on correctly. Flannagan was careful about where he placed his boots as he strode out of the chamber.

There was no up, no down. No north or south. Orienting himself as best he could, Flannagan set off in the direction he’d heard Rastromgn through the hull. He tried to ignore the crushing nothingness. Eager death ready to swallow him, separated by only the thin skin of his suit. Rummaging in his satchel, he removed the ceremonial-looking dagger and held it very, very carefully in front of him, unable to really feel the handle through his glove.

A dark shape skittered across the outside of the station. Wings folded behind its back, one arm missing, it moved on three limbs. The axe appeared to be gone from its chest. Flannagan turned, painfully slow in his suit. The demon kept moving, disappearing behind the curve of the hull. Boots clunking, the priest gave chase as best he could.

“Unclean spirit, this has gone on long enough!” Flannagan said.

Flannagan made his way across the BSS when suddenly Rastromgn crashed into him. The soles of his boots were torn free and he tumbled freely across the hull. Terror gripped him. He tried to hook something, anything, with the knife, and grabbed for whatever he could with his free hand. The rings of the Babel Space Station flew by with horrible speed. Beyond them, nothing, no one could save him, there was just the curve of the Earth far below and a bajillion miles of unholy nothing.

Flannagan’s back slammed into one of the winglike protrusions of the station lined with solar panels. Solar cells shattered silently behind him. He lashed out and grabbed the edge of the panels. His gloved hand slipped before finding purchase. He jerked to a stop. The jolt dislodged the strap of his satchel from his shoulder. It flew from his arm and spiralled away into eternity.

Still holding the knife, and with the space fire extinguisher lashed to his shoulder, Flannagan pulled himself back to the surface of the Babel Space Station. His boots clamped themselves to the metal hull with a satisfying clang. Rastromgn moved quickly to meet him. Its wings were useless in the vacuum so it moved carefully, clinging with its hooves and single clawed hand. It grinned and seemed to speak but, of course, no sound travelled from its mouth.

“You should have returned to Hell when you had the chance, demon,” Flannagan said, knowing Rastromgn couldn’t hear him either.

Rastromgn launched itself across the hull but Flannagan was prepared. Movements concentrated, he turned just enough to bring the knife around. He was only too aware it would take just one swipe for the demon to open his spacesuit like a zipper. Slamming the knife forward, he skewered Rastromgn through the shoulder and let go. Rastromgn reached for the blessed blade, burning his unholy flesh. Flannagan pulled the space fire extinguisher off his shoulder. Looping its strap around the demon’s neck, he pulled it tight. Rastromgn looked confused.

“The power of Christ compels you,” Flannagan mouthed through his helmet.

Depressing the extinguisher’s trigger, he locked it into place. Foam exploded silently from the nozzle. Acting as propellant, it whipped the demon’s head backward and yanked it off the surface of the space station. A trail of white foam streaking through the nothing as the extinguisher and demon rocketed away from the BSS. They seemed to curve toward the looming Earth. Flannagan watched the propellant run out. Rastromgn continued to fall through space. Eventually, it would hit the atmosphere and burn up like a wisp of paper tossed into a bonfire. Nothing but a shooting morning star.

When Flannagan made it back inside, the alarms and warnings had stopped. He pulled off the spacesuit and made his way to the control room. Cutshaw and the other astronauts turned to him expectantly.

“What happened to the creature?” Hu asked.

“It’s gone, it won’t be bothering us, or anyone else, again,” Flannagan said. “The station?”

“Back under control, we’re reestablishing orbit now.”

“Well,” Flannagan said. “Praise be.”


Sean: Assuming this isn’t the first story you’ve read of mine, you’ll know I started releasing All There in the (Monster) Manual in January of 2022. This story would have actually been one of the first ideas I came up with when leafing through the Monster Manual, inspired, as I say, by the Horned Devil. But I had a lot of ideas in that initial run, such as it were, so I had Astronaut Exorcism jotted down for most of the year but didn’t get around to writing the first draft until around November of last year, and that by that time I already had enough ideas to see out the year.      

Apart from rewatching The Exorcist and some light Googling, I did as little research as possible in depicting the astronaut training and space shuttle. As a sort of parody of Armageddon, I think that probably works to its favour. Did you catch all the references to those two films that I managed to cram in? I even managed a sneaky little throwaway to Event Horizon.

If you haven’t done so already, make sure you check out the main page and go for a scroll for many more stories in this series! And you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit for more of what’s coming up when it’s coming up.

2 thoughts on “Astronaut Exorcism

  1. Oh this was great. And i mean this in the best way, this would male a great campy B-movie. Ian Ziering as Father Flannigan, Tara Reid as Wilkins, and Casper van Dien as Kennedy.

    While I liked a nu,ber of stories more and think they were more developed with great world building and story, this was one of the more vivid and fun stories in this collection. That I could really see brought to screen.

  2. Hahah, you very much got the vibe I was going for! Something churned out by The Asylum, no concerns about accuracy or good characterisation. Tara Reid and Casper Van Dien? Absolutely A+ casting choices!

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