Set Lasers to Exorcize

A Sci-Fi Short Story written by Isabel Yacura

Set Lasers to Exorcise

by Isabel Yacura


Isabel Yacura is a writer and editor in Brooklyn, New York. She has been featured in Kelp Journal, Apricity Magazine, National Flash Fiction Day Anthology, and other publications. She’s currently represented by Haley Casey at CMA Literary, and can be found @isabelyacura on Twitter. 


You know, the funny thing is that they don’t put priests on space ships.

Chaplains, yeah, sometimes, or non-denominational ministers of some vague Christian mythos— space, still a smiling cold colonist-imperialist-hegemonic expanse, as if it would ever be anything else— but not priests.

Catholics still weren’t popular, even now.

Of course, she could only really speak for the Americas and their spacecraft— perhaps the Eastern European Board allowed on deck their orthodox clergy. That is, if you could get them into the black in the first place. Did priests even want to go to space? Was interstellar travel against religion in general?

Presumably not, Jari thought morosely. After all, there were demons up here.

Maybe space was hell, she mused. Cold and dark and airless, something closer to Dante’s ninth circle than the traditional fire and brimstone of long midwestern highway billboards.

Could be, could be. She crossed her arms and stared down at the body of Captain Colin Cathaway— a really unfortunate case of alliteration, Jari unironically hoped for his promotion out of it soon— who was shackled to the bed.

“Whaddya think?” Felicia asked, tilted her head to the side like an intelligent bird. She sort of resembled one, behind her affectation of round spectacles and the ever present stethoscope around her neck, like a bright mark of plumage on the breast of an otherwise monotone bird.

They had an all human crew aboard. Had to, on these territory governmental licensed crafts. Felicia sort of resembled an Acrylicse anyway, all magnified eyes and craned neck.

“Well, Doctor—“ that was the other doctor, fucking Larry, Jari thought fondly, the psychiatrist.

Spaceships didn’t have priests, but they certainly had shrinks. At least three, so they could all analyze each other if they got bored.

“I would normally term it a psychotic break,” Larry said. Scratches at his ear, embarrassed. “There are, however, the physiological elements—“

The body of Captain Cathaway stuck out a long, forked tongue. Like a peeved, snake-like kindergartener.

It must be made clear— for the record— that this was not usual for the Captain. All human crew, remember?

“— that make me more inclined to believe the original reports that the captain is possessed,” Larry finishes, with more aplomb than Jari originally believed he was capable of.

“Hm,” Felicia said, tapping her stethoscope with an acrylic nail. It made a bright pinging noise in the room, rather pleasant.

“You could ask me,” the thing inside the captain’s body suggested. It had a slight slur to the esses, something Jari severely marked as stereotypical, too bad movie-esque, and therefore to be harshly criticized.

The three crew members in the room ignored it.

“So what?” Jari said. “Do we just leave it in there till we make landfall on some planet that hopefully ascribes to Catholicism?”

A pause.

Jari wasn’t sure that there were any planets in the system they were currently cruising through that had Abrahamic colonists, let alone Catholics.

“Well,” Felicia said, “to be fair, we don’t know if it is a Catholic demon.”

“There are other types of demons?”

“I believe most cultures originating from Earth Prime have a mythology involving demons, or creatures that are capable of possession— spirits, shaitani in Africa, misaki in Japan,” Larry offered.

“Damn,” Jari said, impressed. “I didn’t know you were interested in this stuff, Larry.”

He sighed. “My wife is an amateur occultist,” he admitted. “We end up watching a lot of documentaries.”

“Alright,” Felicia said. As one, they turned to the body of the captain. “What kind of demon are you?”

“Not telling,” said the demon in the captain’s body. It turned up its nose.

This was particularly distressing in the captain’s sort of rugged, blandly handsome face.

“You were just saying we should ask you a moment ago,” Jari said, exasperated.

“And then you ignored me!”

“I’m sorry,” Felicia said, with all appearances of sincerity. “Are you a Catholic flavored demon, or something else?”

“Why should I tell you? You’ll just try and get rid of me,” the demon said.

A beat.

“The presumably Catholic demon has a point,” Jari said.

“How far away are we from planet fall?” Larry asked.

Jari checked her comm, heavy on her wrist and becoming increasingly laden with notifications. Such was the burden of responsibility. She blithely ignored them to look at the map. “About two weeks. Supply runs are slow, ship’s heavier. Ovida has a pretty large colony, though. Pretty diverse, Ma’ikima system. Could call ahead and get a coterie of religious officials ready to meet us on planet fall.”

“But what do we do about the captain?”

They turn back and look at the demon, shackled by wrists and ankles with the electro-magnetic cuffs that people always assumed you could get out of by shorting them out. Like they’d just fall open for some reason. You couldn’t, for the record. It just made them very heavy dead weights. And you were still shackled.

“We can’t leave him shackled here the whole time,” Felicia argued. “He’ll get bedsores. And it’s really not good for your joints to be stretched out like this.”

“I could pretend to be the mortal,” the demon says hopefully. “I could be good.”

“Could you?” Jari says skeptically. “You were freaking people out earlier, what with the—“

“The claws,” Larry said.

“And the levitation.”

“And the blood oozing out of the walls.”

“Oh shit, did we get a private to clean that up yet?” Jari said.

“I told Evans to do it,” Felicia said. “Though he’s a—“

“That’s fine, he needs some character building, those ROTC kids always do,” Jari said, and returned her attention to the demon. “The point is, you were kind of fucking things up before.”

“I promise,” the demon says. “I’ll swear on— well, maybe not your religious texts, but perhaps you have a handbook of rules? Some sort of bureaucratic text?”

“I mean, we could put regs on a USB or something,” Jari said. “Pretty sure it’s less than five gigs though, so it’d fit on one of those little sticks. I might have one back in my quarters.”

“Your regulations go into the gigabytes?” Larry said. “Aren’t regulations a text file?”

“Yeah,” Jari said, morosely.

“Why do you have that on hand?” Felicia said.

Jari scowled. “Captain’s a dick about,” she made air quotes with her fingers, “‘grooming standards’ because my hair–” she paused and looked back down at the demon. “He can’t hear me, can he?”

“Nope,” the demon said cheerfully.

“Excellent,” Jari said. “Keep that up, cadet, and we’ll get you out of those cuffs in no time. Anyway, I don’t want to talk about it. Should I get the stick or not?”

“I really don’t think it would hold up in a court of law,” Felicia said.

“Well, actually, they let you swear in on anything you want to in the court,” Larry said. “There was a guy who swore in to his elected office on the Silmarillion–”

“Listen,” the demon interrupted. “I swear. Space is not really where I want to be, either.”

“Well, alright,” Felicia says, doubt clear on her face behind her wide flashing glasses. “But listen, you know how easily we got you shackled to this bed before, yeah? So don’t act out. I really don’t want to deal with the Captain whining about losing muscle mass when we get him back out here. In there. Whatever the prepositional case may be.”

“I won’t,” the demon in the captain’s body says. “I really do swear. I’ll be good and just take medical leave till planet-fall.”

“Well, alright,” Jari said. “Just till planet-fall.”

Two weeks later, a rather motley group of higher up and officials from the smattering of religions present on Ovida were at the shipyard docks, waiting on The Diamond’s crew to disembark.

Jari walked off first, whistling, her hands in her pockets. She had a sort of bouncing, almost jaunty gait that was typical of spacers who spent long periods in low gravity.

“Well?” One of the— priests?— said. “Where is the demon?”

“Oh!” Captain Jari North, formerly First Officer and recently field promoted after the psychotic break and subsequent medical leave of one Colin Cathaway, said. “Sorry, yeah. Not a demon. We were totally wrong. Laypeople, you know? What do they know of the lord, amiright?”

She spun on one shining bootheel, one of her braids, heavily weighted with beads, nearly whacking the clergyman in the face. Waved up the gangplank. “C’mon, now.”

The former Captain Colin Cathaway stepped gingerly down the walkway, staring up at the bright lights of the shipyard with wide eyes.

“I am sorry, uh— your— your honors?” Jari said, one side of her mouth twitching down. “I didn’t mean for you all to come out for nothing. Now,” she said in obvious dismissal, talking to the man at her side, “Let’s get you set up in your apartment, yeah? Honorable discharge is a pretty sweet set up after all.”

“Sure,” the captain— former— said obediently, walking past the group of priests. He flashed a forked-tongue smile at them, and followed Jari into the mass of humanity that was Earth’s Ovida colony.

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