The sense of fear he began to feel was so palpable and intense that he was all but frozen. Something he was not accustomed to at all, which only intensified the feeling. He wanted to scream but held it back. He wanted to run back up the stairs but didn’t move. Instead, he pressed a button on his watch and doused the light. And he waited.
“Hello, Baldwin,” said the voice.
It was Evy. But it was not Evy at all.
The sound of her voice sent something akin to a shockwave of fear right down to the base of his spine, and he felt his legs giving in underneath him. Baldwin sat, plopped more like it, down onto the stairs. His heart was racing, his mind was racing and he felt like his very soul was being weighed and balanced by Something. Something very, very old. He couldn’t remember why he knew the entity speaking as Evy was ancient, yet he did all the same.
“Who…” he began. He had to swallow hard and shake his head back and forth a couple of times to right himself enough to continue. “Who… who are you, really, Evy?” Baldwin had suspected her identity as several over the course of being chased. But to be hit with such old power in a dark basement seemed to have emptied his memories.
“Many,” the voice said. “One.”
For a moment, Baldwin forgot his fear in the midst of being irritated by the answer. “Oh come on, Evy. Not that, all right? You’ve made your point: I’m terrified. Are you glad to hear it?”
“More glad to feel it, smell it and even taste that fear in the air, Baldwin. But the answer remains. I am many; I am one.”
Baldwin tried to stand back up but wooziness dropped him right back into a sitting position. “Your name, Evy. That’s what I want: your real name.” Her laughter wrapped around him.
“Blood and name,” she hissed. “If you had any idea, you’d know why I will not give you my true name.”
“Why are you here?”
“To be done with you.”
Baldwin couldn’t help himself. “Then by God, get it over with, woman!”
Almost immediately Baldwin felt himself slipping away. Not death, not so much that; not as far as he knew. No, his mind, his whole essence, was slipping away. To him, it felt like dying and he panicked. That only gave Evy the room she needed to move in deeper. Suddenly, Baldwin’s head swirled with images of Hell and Death. He tried to turn on the light on his watch but found he couldn’t control his arms. He tried to stand and could not control his legs. I’m going to die, he thought, I’m going to die here on these stairs. Why can’t I move?
As he lost himself more and more, he heard Evy’s voice, a voice made of many voices. His mind thought of an old name he’d read in the Bible: Legion. But that didn’t seem right to him. Something definitively female about all of the voices. She spoke words of gibberish to him, mixed with English. But he was too panicked to make any of the words out. Pictures. All he could recognize were images in his mind. Ancient cultures, old gods; monuments and temples world wide. Many, many names—some male, some female–but so many names for each old god that he found himself lost in the sprawl of everything he was seeing. Babel, Stonehenge, altars he recognized but could not name, the Vatican, Greco-Roman structures, so many structures that had stood for eons marking the territory of these old gods who had so many names and so many worshipers.
And then he began to feel it: she, Evy, whatever or whoever she really was, trying to dig into him, into his mind. He could feel himself screaming inside, trying to fight her away, trying to maintain himself, Baldwin, his identity. My God, he thought, this kind of power, how can it be fought? Still, he held on, held on, held on as she tore at his mind and spirit. She had his body under her control, he realized that now and stopped fighting her there. He simply held onto his own personality with all of his might. In his mind, he cried out to nowhere. He cried out for help.
She fed him every fear and lie imaginable to mankind. His body had gone into shock, he could still feel his body and knew that he was in trouble. But he couldn’t let her win, couldn’t let her in, couldn’t let her take him over. Evy fed him truths mixed with lies when the lies didn’t work. She showed him all of his own treachery and deceit. Showed him all of his own evils. She chided and admonished him for every wrong he’d ever done. She gave him brilliant and detailed visions of the Hell that waited for everyone who defied her. In his mind he kept on yelling and screaming, begging for help, trying to keep her at bay but her power was truly immense and, to his mind, nearly immeasurable.
And then he heard Evy begin to scream. The visions inside his mind began to cloud. She shrieked foul words and expletives. Each word felt like a blow from a hammer to his mind. He could feel his heart about to explode. At first her anger manifested in languages he couldn’t understand. Then the English version of her words made their way slowly into his mind:
“What is this? WHAT IS THIS? I don’t understand. THIS CAN’T BE. There is no WAY. YOU. How can YOU be here?”
The fluids in his ears alerted Baldwin that he was tipping over. He slowly began to come back to reality as her screaming continued. He soon realized that she was screaming audibly into the darkness of the basement. Then he realized he was falling down the stairs. Mercifully, pain had not reentered his psyche. When he hit the hard concrete floor of the basement, there was a howling wind that came into the basement. Things were thrown all around him. Something hit him in the back, waking him more. He threw his hands over his head and rolled into a fetal position as he found a corner.
As he continued listening to Evy’s screams, slowly, mercifully, dying down, pain entered his life again. Baldwin cried out in agony. There was no telling how hurt he was physically.
As he lie in the corner, rocking back and forth in that fetal position, he found himself whispering the words “Thank you,” to the air, over and over again.
After nearly an hour of staying in the corner, Baldwin realized that Evy, whoever she really was, had left entirely. She wasn’t in the room and she was no longer trying to rip her way into his mind. But he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to get up and walk out of that basement for some time.
For the first time since escaping the city, Baldwin wondered if he’d made the right decision. He’d known she had power. But up until that point, she’d not shown it. Not really. A line from an old book popped into his mind:
“What can men do against such reckless hate?”
Baldwin lie on the floor of the dark basement and allowed himself to sob for a while. It made him feel weak and useless but the pain was more than he could bare at that moment. In the hush of the darkness, he felt a Comfort. Quiet and unassuming; a whisper, really. Yet it was enough.