You run a tattoo parlor. Every couple of weeks, the same customer comes in, always requesting the same tattoo: an additional tally mark on an ever growing cluster of tally marks.
“How long until he gets here?”, she thought to herself, fiddling with a pen as she waited for a certain customer to arrive. Helena put the pen down and sighed, starting to grow impatient. This customer had been coming frequently for some time and she had become somewhat familiar with him. At least, it wasn’t hard to guess what he’d be having done. It was always the same thing: a tally mark to add to his ever growing collection. Helena thought it was suspicious, but she had never gathered the courage to ask him why exactly he had them. She had decided that today would be the day she’d finally find out what they were for.
She heard the doorbell ring and saw him come in. He was a large man, quite muscular and rugged. His grey hair was slicked back and he cracked his knuckles. He then looked at Helena and grinned. She had grown used to that grin and smiled back, calling him up and leading him to the room she worked in. Getting everything ready as he followed her in, Helena reminded herself that despite his slightly intimidating appearance, she wouldn’t let it get to her and would ask about his tally marks.
“So, ace, how many tally marks does that make now?” Helena asked, prepping the tattoo gun and cleaning the spot the newest addition would be on.
“This would be number 25 now, I believe. You getting bored of this, Helena?” Frank replied, chuckling to himself as she finished cleaning the skin.
“25 already? Can’t believe we’ve already gone up to that amount, old timer.” She chuckled, starting up the gun and slowly inking his skin, “Say… I’ve been meaning to ask…”
“Don’t tell me, girly. You wanna know what all these tally marks are for, right?” he answered, starting to laugh to himself.
“Alright, yes. I admit that I’ve been curious about them for a while now. Just, you’re not a serial killer, right?” she said nervously, trying not to mess up the tattoo.
He let out an even heartier laugh, throwing his head back before answering “No, my dear Helena, I’m not a serial killer. You see, these tally marks of mine… they’re for keeping count of how many demons I’ve managed to hunt down.”
She looked at him in complete confusion and thought that maybe he had been drinking. Demons? What in the world did he mean? They weren’t real. They were just made up things created to scare people into behaving. There was no possible way that they could exist! It was just a silly idea. However, her curiosity had yet to be satisfied, so she thought she’d go along with him.
“Demons? You mean like the ones they used to tell us about as children?”
“Oh, Helena, the real thing is nothing like what they used to tell you about. See, they don’t actually have physical bodies. They need ours in order to cause mischief and do as they please in our world. Those damn bastards just relish ruining lives, and the more chaos they cause, the stronger they get.”
“Okay, fine, let’s say they actually are real and what you’re saying is true. If they need our bodies to be in our world, how can you possibly get rid of them without killing the person they’ve possessed or whatever?”
“It’s not an easy task, but it is possible to eliminate them without any harm coming to the possessed. In some cases… The demon has become so intertwined with the human that it’s impossible to exorcise them and the only choice you have left is to kill them both. You have to be quick however, because you have little time to destroy it before it finds another vessel.”
“But why would you do all this? Isn’t it up to the church to deal with things like that?”
“Church ain’t gonna help me out. They prefer to keep things quiet and act like there’s nothing going on. Not me though… Not after what that son of a b***h did to my family. 25 demons down and yet, not a single one can tell me where the hell that b*****d is.”
“Who are you talking about?” Helena asked, finishing up the last bits of the tattoo before putting a bandage on it to make sure it would stay intact.
“Astaroth, he’s called. Took a lot of research to find out his name. He and I have history, you see. Years ago, he managed to possess my boy. Drove him to madness, he did. My wife and I did everything we could to try to help our son, but nothing worked. Later on, my son had been shot by police after killing students at his school and died on the scene. We couldn’t make sense of what had lead him to do such a horrible thing. Wife and I ended up divorcing shortly after. Irreconcilable differences, she said. I decided to try to figure out the reason for what had happened and stumbled on some old writings about Astaroth. Everything about my son’s behavior fit his modus operandi, and I decided that I’d take it upon myself to hunt that b*****d down and prevent him from ever making a family suffer through that again. He’s smart though. Managed to avoid me all these years and I’ve yet to find a clue that’ll lead me to him.”
“Good God, Frank… I had no idea…”
“God is right, Helena. Gonna need His help if I’m ever going to find Astaroth. I’ll stop him, even if it costs me my life.”
“Please don’t risk your life, Frank… I’d hate to see something happen to you.” Helena whispered, leading him back to the entrance and clasping her hands together. She was doubtful at first, but after hearing his story of what had happened to his son, how he had told it, she knew there was no way he could have made up such a thing. Just the conviction in his eyes was enough to convince her. He grinned at her one last time and left, waving at her as he entered his car and drove off. She watched him drive away and sighed. She hoped nothing would happen to him in his hunt for Astaroth and prayed that he’d be alright.