Doc Prancer, a good-for-nothing two-timing troublemaker, known by many as a devil of a man, had been banished from the friendly town of CrickleWood five years ago. If rumors were to be believed from the neighboring town, he was on his way back once again. The bad news had leaked to Sheriff Kane who decided to put his foot down and take action, with the help of Father Adams, by calming the panic-stricken townsfolk by making a public announcement outside the town church itself. Father Adams was the first to speak. He clasped his hands and looked at all the worried faces.
“Children, may I please request you to calm down and hear my words of comfort?”
One angry resident protested, “Father, we don’t want your comfort; we want our safety! Some of us have wives and small children you know and we don’t want that evil man interfering in our lives again.”
The crowds backed him up, raising their voices and fists. “Yeah! Here here!”
Sheriff Kane raised his long pistol up in the air and fired two shots.
“Silence! Shame on you all! I hope you all realize this is no ordinary man who I have by my side. Why this is Father Adams! Now, I don’t like to throw my weight around, but I must warn you that I am the sheriff and, by God, I won’t tolerate any man arguing with the good Father Adams. You’re all going to have to get past me first if there’s going to be any more trouble. Isn’t it upsetting enough that that devil of a man is already rumored to be on his way? Now just be silent and listen to what the good Father has to say.”
The townsfolk settled down, some of whom were still muttering in the background but at least the Father was able to speak.
“My children, I know how troubled you are. I am only too aware that this man whose name, even I, am afraid to utter, especially after learning from Sheriff Kane that he’s rumored to be on his way back here. All I ask you is to go home and pray that he does not show up again.”
“That’s silly. Praying alone won’t make him disappear and besides, that’s exactly what you said the last time we threw him out of town, five years ago, Father,” yelled an elderly lady in the forefront. Father Adams could only lower his head in deep thought.
“See? You have no reply to that one. Bah!” She spat on the ground and headed off to her home.
Father Adams coughed. “My children, I plead with you once again to calm down. I assure you that you will all be safe. Now, let us close our eyes and meditate.”
“Oh, he’s useless,” another man in the crowd said. “Come on, let’s go back home and lock our windows and doors before Prancer comes.”
“Yeah!” replied the townsfolk and they all made off to their homes. A saddened Father Adams turned to Sheriff Kane.
“I’m sorry, Sheriff Kane, but I’m afraid it’s in the Lord’s hands now. I can only go back to my church and pray the evil soul does not enter our town again.”
“I’m with you all the way, Father Adams. Amen to that!” And as the two of them headed back to their respective abodes they failed to notice the sound of approaching footsteps in the far distance.
That night, the autumn wind was howling and whistling, pushing and blowing dried and fallen leaves in all directions. Father Adams took refuge in the safety of his church. He spent most of his time in solitude in his study room with the exception of his assistant, Tom Berry, who also played the church organ at gatherings. “Tom, could you be kind enough to fix me a tall glass of Horlicks in warm water please?”
There was no reply.
It was 9.30 pm and this was a fixed time for Tom to prepare a hot meal or cup of Horlicks or Ovaltine for Father Adams, but there was no reply. Father Adams looked around.
“Tom, have you left the church? That’s most unusual at this time.” “He normally leaves by 10.00 pm at the latest.”
Suddenly, he felt a cold and wet sensation on his hair and then on his left cheek. As he drew his hand upwards to feel it, there was blood on his fingers.
“Oh my God!” Father Adams brushed his hair with both his hands and they too were covered in blood. At first he though he may have injured himself rushing into the church, but this was not his blood. He grew worried and called out to Tom once again.
“Tom; are you there? Please answer me.”
Just then, he heard loud flapping sounds and a cold hand placed itself over his right shoulder. Father Adams turned in shock. There before him stood none other than Doc Prancer. This time, he had metamorphosed into something ghastly that could only be described as nonhuman. Some kind of monstrosity which he could not put a name to. He had grown a pair of wings. Father Adams could barely recognize his facial features. That was the only part of him that was seemingly human.
“What in the devil’s name have you become?”
Doc Prancer flexed his body to his full height of six-foot-six. “Father Adams, ah, it’s been a long time,” he replied in a hissing voice. “In reply to your question, I cannot say what I’ve become so far, but I’m changing every time I taste blood and it feels wonderful.”
It dawned on Father Adams that Tom may have fallen victim to Doc Prancer. He began to perspire and backed away; but as he did, Doc Prancer followed him. Father Adams tried to divert his attention.
“Y…you’ve changed for the worse. The last time you were here, you had the physical appearance of a normal man, but now…now you’re not even human. D..did you drink Tom’s blood? Where is he?”
Doc Prancer hissed and let out a roar of laughter that echoed in every corner of the church. As his mouth opened, Father Adam saw traces of blood coated in his tongue and around his teeth and gums.
“Oh, he’s just hanging around, but I have my set of principals too. I never kill. I merely…feast and this is for my own survival.”
Father Adams produced a silver coin from his side pocket. It was baptized and he tossed it at Doc Prancer’s face. The coin sizzled upon touching his left cheek and left an impression on his face, branding it.
“Aaah!” “You are a brave man, Father Adams, but also foolish. You shouldn’t have done that; but I won’t rid of you yet. This time, I tasted Tom’s blood. Next time, I’m coming back for yours. Hah, hah, hah ha hah!”
Father Adams replied, “Look for God’s sake, can you not see what you’re becoming? You weren’t so bad before. There’s time for you to repent and then, you will change back into a good man. I plead with you.”
There was a moment’s silence which seemed to last for eternity as Doc Prancer’s human side tried to relate to what Father Adams was saying. But the power of evil had poisoned his mind. He looked upwards to find a way out and then raised his arms upwards, flapped his large wings and took off, smashing the upper church windows, and headed off into the dense woodland to find a haven. As Father Adams gazed up, he was quick to notice Tom, who was suspended from the chandeliers.
“Look out!” Tom came crashing down from the church chandeliers straight onto Father Adams. Both fell to the concrete floor.
The loud noises had drawn attention and the church doors burst open. Sheriff Kane rushed in and saw the two men lying on the floor. Fortunately there was no serious injury. He helped them to their feet.
“I know it’s a lame question, but are you both alright?”
“The Lord has been merciful tonight. I have blind faith in Him. To be honest with you, Sheriff Kane, I was not worried for myself; my thoughts were with Tom.”
Sheriff Kane noticed blood trickling down the left side of Tom’s neck. “I’m really glad my office is just a few yards away from your church. I’m going to get you some bandages to clear up those wounds.
“Oh and by the way, I managed to catch a glimpse of some large bat-like figure taking flight from this church. It was heading for the woods.” Father Adams and Tom turned to one another.
“Sheriff Kane, that was no bat. That was Doc Prancer!” Father Adams told him.
“What! No, but it can’t be. You mean to tell me he’s…changed into that creature?”
“It’s true,” Tom said. “It grabbed me by my neck from behind as I was preparing horlicks for Father Adams and carried me up and drank my blood, perched up there on the chandelier.”
“Boy, he must be strong,” said Sheriff Kane.
“Yes, he is, considering that he used his large fangs or whatever they were. They felt like fangs at least. I could feel the points on the scruff of my neck.”
“We’ll talk about this when I get those bandages. Don’t go anywhere.” Sheriff Kane rushed off. Tom took out a handkerchief from his left side coat pocket and wiped away the blood, but this time as he looked, he noticed that it was a mixture of yellow and red. His rubbed his eyes in disbelief and looked at Father Adams.
“Father Adams, is it late or am I imagining this?”
Father Adams replied, “Perhaps it’s contaminated with some infection or disease. Or maybe it’s mucus from your injuries.”
“I guess you must be right, Father Adams. You know it’s strange but I don’t feel anything. To be honest, I feel very agile. Look at what I can do.” Tom stood up and walked up to one of the walls of the church. He placed his hands on the wall and hauled himself up with his legs. He was literally perched on the wall. He turned to Father Adams and smiled.
“Oh my God! Tom, get down! This is far more serious than just a wound. I believe that when Doc Prancer bit you and drank your blood, a part of his bodily fluids contaminated yours.”
Tom jumped off the wall and returned to the Father. His face saddened. “Does that mean that I too am going to change, Father?”
Father Adams lowered his head. “I shall pray for you, my child. Bless you.”
“Oh, and please don’t mention this to Sheriff Kane.”
Father Adams nodded in agreement, just in time as Sheriff Kane returned with a medical kit.
“Come crack of dawn, we’re going to the woods to find Doc Prancer and drive him out of here and this time, for good.” They all placed their hands onto each other’s in agreement.
At 5.00 am, Father Adams was the first to awaken. Tom was lying on the chair beside him, wrapped inside a warm blanket, his neck bandaged, although the infection was spreading inside him. This became apparent when Father Adams tapped his chair and spoke softly.
“Tom, it’s time for us to start our journey.”
Tom’s eyes burst open and they had changed color.
“Oh, Holy Father, Tom, your eyes. What happened to your eyes?”
Tom sat up and tossed the blanket aside. “Father, I can assure you, I have never felt so good in my entire life. I can see through you!” Tom got up and looked upwards. His eyes could penetrate through the ceiling and he saw the sky. He smirked. “This is incredible, Father.”
Just then, it occurred to Father Adams that now they would have to make the journey without Sheriff Kane so as not to alarm him or the townsfolk. He turned to Tom.
“Tom, are you going to help me track down and destroy Doc Prancer or not?”
“Father, I’m still more human than most people. I’m feeling strong and intend to use these powers to get the job done.”
Father Adams smiled and took along a few sacred items which he placed in his backpack. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to walk,” he said. “If we make a move now, we should reach the woods within five hours. I know a shortcut. Come on.”
“Correction, Father,” Tom said. “Thirty minutes to be precise, but I’ll have to hold you in my arms, if that is all right with you.” Father Adams was surprised at this dialogue and wasn’t sure how to react, but he offered himself. Tom lifted Father Adams in his arms. He ran out the church and straight for the woods at an amazing speed, like a Cheetah. At times, he took long leaps and was clearly enjoying his newly acquired powers, but these “powers” were part of a genesis that would change him into an evil man like Doc Prancer within a few days. It was after all his evil side that had told Father Adams not to mention it to Sheriff Kane.
Within thirty minutes, as predicted by Tom, they had reached the woods. Tom tossed the Father to the ground abruptly. It was the slow poison spreading in his blood.
“I…I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did that. Look, you must be hungry. You rest here, Father while I get something for us to eat.”
“There’s absolutely no need for that, Tom. I have a cling film wrapped bowl of sweet banana pudding inside my backpack. Do help yourself.”
Father Adams undid his backpack. Tom grabbed it and began tearing it to shreds with what appeared to be large fangs. Father Adams’ eyes widened.
Tom was, without a doubt, changing at a rapid pace and Father Adams was now well aware of this. He decided to “play along” by keeping quiet and turning a blind eye to his peculiar behavior and keeping his face as calm as possible. He watched as Tom binged down the sweet banana pudding. When he wiped it away, the Father noticed that the flesh on Tom’s hands were more scaly and he had black talons.
“Hssss…that was delicious!!” As he stood up, it became apparent that he had grown a long tail. It was like he was part man-part dinosaur.
“Tom; how are you feeling now, my child?” asked Father Adams.
Tom laughed out loud. “I feel…I feel like I’ve been re-born. My body is changing and I’m feeling stronger and stronger. Look!”
He looked around at the tall elm trees and scuttled up one to the top. His movements were reminiscent of a man-lizard, as his body twisted left and right upon each step. Once up, he was barely noticeable due to the height.
“Watch out, here I come!” Tom jumped down and landed beside Father Adams. “There’s no need to fear me, Father Adams. I’m going to help you find Doc Prancer. You see, I have my own reasons for wanting to.”
“Oh really? And what, may I ask, are they?”
“I want to match my skills up against his.”
“And what about the other reasons?”
“I’m going to punish him for changing me.”
Father Adams could sense there was a conflict going on in Tom’s mind. If only there was an antidote to bring him back to his human self once again. He wondered what Sheriff Kane must be doing at this moment.
“Sheriff Kane must be thinking we abandoned him. Perhaps even betrayed him.”
“Nonsense, Father Adams. You know why we set off without him. We don’t want to alarm the townsfolk, remember?” He pointed a talon at Father Adams from his right hand.
“Tom, can you use your powers to tell me where Doc Prancer is at this moment in time? We must find him.”
Tom smiled and looked around, and then stopped. He was facing northwest and pointed in its direction.
“Aah, so that’s where you are!” Tom laughed out loud.
“You know where he is?” questioned Father Adams.
“Yessss! He’s hanging on a tree Branch, having a rest.”
“Yes! Well done! Oh, wait, before we head off, I’m really thirsty. I need to drink from my water pack.” Father Adams searched in his torn back pack that lay on the ground but Tom got to it first. He lifted the water pack.
“You mean this?”
Father Adams smiled. “Yes, my child.”
As he reached out for it, Tom backed away, as if teasing him and opened the lid. “What’s so special about this, anyway?” he asked, raising it to his lips.
“No! Please, Tom. I need that water. There’s very little left inside.”
Tom laughed and pursed it to him lips and fished some down. “Aaahh. It’s good.”
Father Adams could only nod him head and feel repulsion. Just then, something very unusual happened. Tom held his throat and his eyes widened. He then collapsed to the ground. Father Adams rushed up to him, kneeling down to examine him. Before his eyes, Tom began changing slowly back into his human self. Father Adams was overjoyed but still wondering if that was Tom still alive.
“Tom. Tom!” Father Adams took out some smelling salt from his coat pocket and placed it against Tom’s nose.
Tom shot up. “Ewwww! Father, I absolutely detest smelling salt!”
Father Adams was so happy that he hugged Tom and gave him a long hug. “I have never been so happy in my entire life. I cannot express, my child, how happy I am to see you again. The Lord has been merciful and answered my prayers. Now, I believe we have a chance to fight Doc Prancer. I’m no longer afraid to take his name anymore.”
“You’re not going anywhere, you two,” called a familiar voice. They turned and saw Sheriff Kane on a white horse. He was aiming a long rifle at them.
“Oh my God, Father, look at his head!” Tom cried.
Father Adams looked and gasped at the sight. Sheriff Kane had grown a pair of horns.
“Tom, quickly my child, pass me my water pack.” Father Adams said, but as Tom dashed to the ground to get it, Sheriff Kane fired a rifle shot in his direction.
“There’s no need for that. Save it for Doc Prancer. Every drop of it.” They stared in confusion at Sheriff Kane and he smirked at them and then removed the horns from his head.
“I was faking it to teach you both a lesson. I must admit, you let me down back there in town. Perhaps you didn’t trust me and done a runner.” Sheriff Kane got off his horse and placed the rifle on the ground.
“Sheriff Kane, I am lost for words,” Father Adams told him. “I’m…I’m really sorry.”
Sheriff Kane gave a wry smile. “No Father, I’m not as gullible as I used to be. I’m certain it was not your idea.” He looked at Tom who diverted his eyes.
“Tom, I can’t express to you how lucky you are to be alive. You have no idea how dangerous Doc Prancer is. Now, I’m sure the good Father Adams came prepared but nonetheless, I’ve also done my dues and brought along some items to rid of that monster.”
“You mean you’re going to destroy him?” asked Tom.
“Not I. We are going to free him of the evil within, once and forever.”
“Yes, but I thought you said earlier that we’re just going to drive him out of town.”
Sheriff Kane could not believe his ears and his mind grew suspicious. “You know, Tom, I think I preferred you as that monstrosity. At least you were siding with Father Adams. You seem to be shielding Doc Prancer. Tell me now before we go any further because I need all the support I can get.”
There was a moment’s silence. Even Father Adams was astounded by the long pause.
“For heavens sake, my child, why are you lost in thought?” he asked.
Tom began to retreat backwards towards Sheriff Kane’s horse, mounted on it and rode off towards the direction of Doc Prancer’s abode.
“It’s alright, Father, we’ll let him go. I think we know where he’s heading.”
Father Adams nodded in disbelief. “He’s a lost soul, Sheriff Kane. A confused one.”
“Yup; and it looks like we’re up against the two of them. It looks like the holy water you baptized managed to change Tom back physically but internally, some of the infection has set in. It’s just my guess, of course.”
Father Adams nodded and stared to the sky. It was growing darker and they had some way to go. They continued forwards for the next hour and then decided to rest. Sheriff Kane had brought along some sleeping rugs on his backpack which he unloaded. There was also some chilled mineral water and a loaf of white bread, cheese, a tin of crackers and a jar of horlicks for Father Adams.
“Ah! You remembered! Thank you so much, Sheriff Kane.”
And so the two of them unloaded their bedding and settled down to eat and drink. Sheriff Kane placed a cracker in his mouth and said. “Father Adams, you don’t realize how much of a comfort you are to me. I feel so safe just knowing that you’re sitting there right before me.”
Father Adams, who was mixing his powdered horlicks with water in a mug, smiled and took a sip. “Why thank you, Sheriff Kane. You’re most kind.”
High up in the pitch black sky, stars shimmered and the full moon revealed itself from amidst the trees. Father Adams’ eyes were growing heavy and he felt sleepy but Sheriff Kane was very alert.
“Aww, poor Father Adams. You must be so tired,” said Sheriff Kane, staring at him. Father Adams pressed his eyelids and reopened them to stay conscious but when he looked back at Sheriff Adams, he wasn’t there. He stood up and looked around.
“Where did you go, Sheriff Kane?” he whispered to himself. “That’s odd; he was here just a moment ago.” There was pin-drop silence all around him. He only heard the crispy leaves under his boots as he trod through the forest searching wide-eyed for Sheriff Kane. His heart beat fast and for the first time, he began to feel fear. He decided to chant sacred words to give him strength and he whispered,
“Sheriff Kane, please come out, wherever you are. We need to be up early in the morning to continue with our mission.” He shook for a moment as the hooting of an owl rang out. Father Kane held his heart with his hands and as he turned back, he realized he was lost. Nothing could be seen in the dead of night. He could only feel his way.
“Oh, God, I’m supposed to give others strength. That was not a wise move. I should have waited back where we were.” And as he knelt down to sit, he brushed against something.
“Sheriff Kane?” he asked, wide-eyed in total fear. He made out the outline of a tall figure staring down at him.
“Ah, Father Kane, we meet again, as I promised we would. There’s no need to fear; the dark prince is now here!” Father Adams pushed himself forwards and began to run as fast as he could for his life.
The circumstances were now reaching a climatic conclusion as the search was apparently over. A chase was on as Doc Prancer, who now called himself “the dark prince”, had come himself to Father Adams who was still running. However, there came a point when he had to stop to catch his breath. He had no idea which part of the forest he was in and was surrounded by trees.
“Psst! Over here, Father Adams!” whispered a familiar voice. It was Tom and he ushered the Father into a thicket of forestry.
“You don’t need to say a word. I know that Doc Prancer’s on our trail.” Tom added. He was carrying a large flask inside his backpack containing baptized water and showed it to the Father.
“Father Adams, I don’t know if this will be of any help, but it worked on me; I’m aware that Doc Prancer is much stronger than all of us.”
Father Adams had now composed himself. “That’s our only hope. The rest is in God’s hands.”
Seconds later, Doc Prancer appeared before Tom and Father Adams. There was now enough light to get a clearer view of his appearance. Once again, he had morphed into a different being. He was built like a tank, covered in reptilian scales from head to toe. Around his head was a crest, and a horn on his nose. Father Adams wasn’t sure whether to admire or despise him, for he had changed into some kind of dinosaur that walked on hind legs. There was nothing at all that was reminiscent of his former being.
“What in heaven’s name have you become?” asked Father Adams.
“I don’t know, but I feel invincible. I can lift trees and run around the earth in a matter of a few hours. When I look up at the sky, I can see planets so out of range, Earth will never discover them.” As Doc Prancer spoke, Tom edged his way out of sight, undid his backpack, and brought out the large flask.
“Y..you’ve become some kind of dinosaur,” Father Adams said. “I could have never imagined it would lead to this. It’s like a new genesis of life on Earth. Is that what you are?”
“Yessss,” Doc Prance replied with a hiss. “You are indeed a wise man. So wise in fact that I’m going to tell you a secret that nobody knows. The majority of dinosaurs became extinct sixty-five million years ago, but a few of us are more advanced, like triceratops.” He pointed to himself. “We had developed the intelligence to travel into space.” He paused to allow it to sink in and then continued. “You see, I was one of them.”
“Oh my God! This is a real miracle. Please go on!”
Before Doc Prance could continue, Tom splashed the entire water over him.
“Aaahhh!” Within seconds, Doc Prancer, like Tom, held his throat and his eyes protruded in agony. He began to wriggle and fall to the ground. Father Adams was crossed at Tom.
“Why in God’s name did you do that, Tom?” he asked.
Tom shrugged. “We have to change him back, remember, Father Adams?”
“Yes, but he was telling me something that could change the entire pattern of our earth’s history. Don’t you see? The dinosaurs, well some of them, developed the ability to travel to space to planets, perhaps like Mars and beyond. They migrated to space!”
Tom nodded and shrugged.
“Hey look, Father.” They stared down at Doc Prancer as he changed back into his former self; a respectable and good man. He used to be the town Doctor. As he lay on the ground, they realized he was naked and Father Adams placed a blanket around him.
“Thanks, Father Adams, and thank you too, Tom. You saved my life, but you know something? I can’t remember a thing.”
Father Adams and Tom helped him to his feet. Father Adams smiled and replied, “Don’t worry, my child. It’s a long way back to town and we can explain it as we walk, right, Tom?” They turned to Tom who replied:
“Right; and I can hardly wait to tell the townsfolk that, hey guess what? Doc Prancer is back in town!”
They all laughed and continued back to Town and Doc Prancer momentarily looked up into the sky and winked with his right eye.