Some people have imaginary friends, people who they talk to in their minds.

I also have a friend I talk to in my mind.

But he's anything but imaginary.

Alone again in the Church, kneeling before the altar, staring intently at the statue of the Blessed Virgin. The pews are empty, the choir loft unoccupied, the prayer candles dimly flickering. This is the best time and place to retreat into my thoughts. I come here often, though usually there's a parishioner or two in adoration. Something isn't quite right… I'm alone, but not. Slowly, I stand. When I turn around, someone stands beside me. I jump, clutching my heart.

Don't do that! I gasp. He's familiar, though I don't know his name. He wears a black casual suit with a lieutenant's stripes pinned on. I stare at him warily. More often than not lately he hasn't been all that friendly. Not like he used to be.

I apologize, he says with a courteous nod. I see you're here again. Something on your mind? He always knows when I'm preoccupied. After all, he's watched over me since before I can remember, and began communicating with me after I was Confirmed. I know what he is, but not who. The man next to me is an angel. My guardian angel, the one sent to heed my morning prayer, "Angel of God, my guardian dear…" Whenever I forgot to say it, he would not appear, but if I ever needed him, all I need do is recite that.

I shift my feet uncomfortably. Last time we spoke, he'd yelled at me for losing faith. I just wanted to say I'm sorry for what I said last time, I told him, unable to look him in the eye. I was having a bad week.

With a wave of his hand, the angel shakes his head. I know your heart, and I know you are sincere. Don't fret, he assures me with that gentle smile of his.

I can't help but return the smile, my shoulders relaxing. He didn't seem cold today. As I open my mouth to say thank you, he suddenly tenses, and steps in front of me. We're not alone, he states, his gray eyes narrowing. Frightened, I shirk back behind him.

What's going on?

Invader, he replies. A demon.

A demon?! Here? But—

A chuckle sounds from the shadow of the church enclave. A figure steps into view. Interesting place, this, a man's voice sneers. The stranger looks up. He seems human to me, until he blinks, revealing pitch-black eyes.

My angel growls. What are you doing here? He demands.

The demon smirks. Aww, you don't recognize me? Clicking his tongue in apparent disapproval, he shakes his head. I am hurt! He pulled the collar of his shirt back, revealing some kind of symbol on his chest.

My guardian's muscles tense. Beelzebub, he snarls. I recognize the name, having researched and actually written him as a character in a horror story. Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies.

I'm sad you've forgotten about me, the demon says with mock hurt. We're brothers, after all.

We were, before you betrayed us with Lucifer and got your sorry ass handed to you by Michael, my angel retorts, shielding me with his arm.

Beelzebub tilts his head to glance at me. Ah! So this is your meatsuit! Interesting choice, though I would have gone for a bigger bust.

My bust is— I begin to retaliate, feeling the insult, but the angel silences me.

Tell me why you're here and how you got in here, my guardian angel orders. This place is under tight security.

It was easy, Beelzebub sighs, and nonchalantly examines his fingers. She should watch her company. And your protection grows weaker with the expansion of hell anyway.

The angel lifts his hand. Leave, or I'll exorcise you.

You can try, Beelzebub sneers again.

The angel's lips curled as he began to chant;

Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus
omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio
infernalis adversarii, omnis legio,
omnis congregatio et secta diabolica.
Ergo draco maledicte
et omnis legio diabolica adjuramus te.
cessa decipere humanas creaturas,
eisque aeternae Perditionis venenum propinare.
Vade, Satana, inventor et magister

omnis fallaciae, hostis humanae salutis.
Humiliare sub potenti manu dei,
contremisce et effuge, invocato a
nobis sancto et terribili nomine,
quem inferi tremunt.
Ab insidiis diaboli, libera nos, Domine.
Ut Ecclesiam tuam secura tibi facias libertate servire
te rogamus, audi nos.

Beelzebub glares at us with wild eyes, as a scream exits his lips. I'll be back, he says with a taunt. Hell will swallow purgatory, and the Great Adversary will conquer heaven. Prepare, Uziel, for we will strike through unexpected means. He turns his face to the ceiling, and black smoke erupts from his mouth, towering above us before plunging into the ground, leaving a body and scorch marks on the floor.

There's a long silence before the angel…Uziel… gazes at me. The exorcism chant, he says. Learn and memorize it. Prepare your heart, for the war is about to begin.

Fiery rain, exploding brimstone, screams of pain and terror, a burning river of pitch, and a vast expanse of horrible nothing— these images flash before my eyes and ring in my ears. Overwhelmed, I crumple to my knees, and the church dissolves into blackness.