(Note: This is a retelling of my other story, Barbwire Stitches which is still around here somewhere. (Basically, I am retinkering with the vampire plot once again.) I am planning to publish this once it is done but I would love to hear your feedback. If you like this story come and visit my comic, Paris is Burning. It's an Irish ghost story The link is located in my profile.)

Sympathy for the Devil

chapter one: part one

Max had been a mistake. Simple as that.

He understood this because his parents made sure that he did. They had been too stupid to have used a condom, too Catholic to have had an abortion and too proud to give him up. You weren't meant to be, they would quietly whisper to him in a lullaby at end of every night as they tucked him into bed. A straight, You're an error, began the next day. And the next. And the next. And the next.

However to say that they were genuinely cruel would have been wrong.

They never raised a hand to the boy though people still wondered about the constant fresh Band-Aids on his hands. Every day a new one graced his tiny pink fingers. They never starved him despite his thin as bone frame and the ever-living stare of hunger to his face. And they never allowed him to go unkempt despite his questionable desire to do so anyway. As religious as they were, they would never do this to begin with.

To say that they were scared of the boy now that would have been closer to the truth. They were afraid of their little mistake. Terrified of whatever that had sent him to them.

It wasn't God who sent you to us. We never asked for you.

And with these words and they abused him.

They did not dare to say that the Devil sent him. But Max knew what curses lined their hearts.

You are a monster.

The only way Max could answer to this was to cry. Sob until his body trembled and his head screamed to stop. He reached out over and over to them but they refused his touch out of fear that he would contaminate him. Instead they hid away in their bedroom praying for someone to take this burden off of their hands.

The answer came in the form of Sylvia, a hippie with blue streaks in her long knotted black hair and wooden sandals on her tattooed feet. She knew the Finns well from church. Went over to their house at parish gatherings with Bibles in her arms. Prayed over Max for his cursed soul when he was just an infant. Sylvia by all Christian measures performed like a good Catholic only she was not one. The woman was an atheist. She only went to church because she loved the routine of Mass, the beauty of prayer and garishness of the priests' garments. An order tied everything together. There was strictness to it. A place for everything and everything in its place. Something she desperately needed in her chaotic life. With Catholicism she could do without the multicolored pills and the burning absinthe need that once held a noose around her neck. But only the orderliness of the church appealed to her and nothing else. She had no need for their overbearing God or avenging Angels. And she especially didn't have the need for their Devil, no matter how tempting he was to her.

In this clarity she heeded the real abuse of Max where as others observed discipline in the holy works of the Finns on their boy. Her first real witnessing was at a monthly church meeting held in their warm bright living room. People filled the place, drinks in hand and ideas waiting. A discussion about the church's stand on homosexuality gave her cause to her excuse herself to use the bathroom. She loathed the church's policy but knew she couldn't speak her opinion if she wanted to stay in the parish's favor. Down the hallway she went, she knew the house well, stopping only when her ears picked up something faint. Crying.

Max was crying. There he was with his mother in the guest bathroom. With the door slightly open, Sylvia watched as Mrs. Finn loomed over her boy and cup his delicate face firmly in her rough hands.

"Please, mother," sobbed Max. The child's hands slowly crept out to touch her face for sympathy but a low punishing hiss told him to keep them to his sides. He obeyed and let his sour tears race down his cheeks instead.

"No, you are not going out there. You are going back upstairs to your room and you are going back to bed," Her hands pressed even harder against his pale cheeks. They were beginning to turn a hot red under her harsh touch. "Do you hear me?"

"I just want to see the people."

Bending over to get closer to the boy's face until they were almost nose to nose, the woman breathed; "You don't deserve to see the people. We are having this meeting to pray for God to undo the damage you do to our lives everyday."

That's a lie, Sylvia almost caught herself sneering. Biting her lip, she held her breath and hushed the fuming rage that was beginning to boil under her skin. She waited for what other lies that the boy's mother had to say.

Mrs. Finn stared directly at the boy with eyes unblinking. The glare choked with hatred and repulsion. Her voice was a low growl like a stray dog's. Vicious. "You are poisoning us. You are killing us with your unnatural touch. Do you understand this?"

The boy closed his eyes tightly and held in his stinging tears. His hands were balled up into fists so severe that his knuckles were the color of ghosts. On any other person Sylvia would have guessed that those hands were ready to fight, to beat and tear and cause nothing other then searing pain. But on the Max, on this boy, this child, she saw only two small hands being held like that to steady his emotions.

"Yes," he answered in a forced whimper like wounded puppy, "I do."

Sylvia could feel her own hands ball up in anger. Her nails were digging their way into the meat of her palm. She wanted to rush in there and gather up the child in her arms and away from his mother. This was abuse that she could not fathom against a little boy who had been declared unnatural. Unnatural against what? Nature doesn't create monsters. She stormed back into the living room, grabbed her coat in disgust and left without mentioning a word to anyone. She kept what she had witnessed to herself for she was sure that some of the others of her parish knew about it and agreed with the abuse. You beat the sin out of the child. She once over heard at a meeting. Until then she scoffed that such a thing ever existed. But she now had seen the violence first hand.

She loathed it. But without a real bruise or a scar she could not prove anything. These were injuries by words not by hand. And charges would be her voice against his parents'. Instead she waited for her time to snatch the boy from his home. The moment came one crisp afternoon in March as she volunteered to pick him up from school.

Max was sixteen at the time. Younger in looks though, with his wavy brown hair dangling in his sad brown eyes. He had piled into Sylvia's beaten up station wagon when she asked him to move in with her. But before Sylvia could warned Max that living with her meant that he would be staying in a small flat in the inner workings of Queens versus his spacious house in the burbs, the boy said yes. He did not even think about. The answer came out in a quiet eruption emotion.

"Just go," Max whispered as he began to cry. "Don't take me back home. I can live with only the clothes on my back."

Sylvia understood though for a second she was afraid that the Finns might come after her for their boy if she didn't talk to them first about the arrangement. But they didn't chase after them even after they had figured out what had happened to Max once Sylvia stopped going to church. They didn't even call to see if Max was indeed with her. They did not care. All they hoped for now was that Max, where ever he was, would now change his last name. Wipe clean of any clue to that they were once related. The demon was gone. Their prayers had been answered. Amen.