I was doing nothing special when the conjuration began to come through from the old church of St James the Least, so I popped over to see what was going on. Sure enough, there was the pastor all dressed up in a long white robe, standing inside a pentacle and intoning the usual El + Elohim + Sabaoth + Adonay + Tetragrammaton + Saday ...
And Blah Blah Fishcakes, I thought, letting him get on with it while I prowled round checking the set-up. An accurate pentacle carefully fitted into a circle, saucers of holy water, and little heaps of salt where the lines crossed. All spotlessly clean. Bunches of fresh herbs, good quality altar candles -- no getting away from it, he was safe inside that lot.
... Tetra + Pagiel + Salmia + Azimor + ... he chanted.
Well, there's a limit to how much of that anyone can take, so I materialised and made my presence known by stepping into the light of the candles. He switched into Latin, the way they always do.
"---- An adsis, daemone? Adiuro et coniuro te, in nomine ... "
"No need for the old yadda yadda," I said, "I do spikka da English you know. Loquor anglice, OK?"
"---- You do? What fiend are you then? I demand that you answer, by Athanatos, Paracletos, Agla ..." He was off again.
"Enough, already!" I said, "It's really not necessary."
"---- You equivocate, fiend. Answer, I command you: are you Asmodeus? Belphegor? Beelzebub himself?"
"No, pal, none of the above, and definitely not Beelzebub. Come on, be realistic, these are the princes of pandaemonium, the biggest names in town, the A-List. They have the entire multiverse to misrule. You can't expect demons of that calibre to manifest themselves for a mere conjuration."
"---- But Abra-Melin says ..."
"Way out of date, your Abra-Melin. It's like inflation, see? There was a time, I grant you, back in the Middle Ages, you might have raised a cacodemon if you did your conjuration right; maybe even one of the big boys if you sacrificed a virgin or two. But nowadays ... no chance."
"---- You are then merely an imp, a familiar spirit?"
"One of Satan's little helpers? Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not actually a demon of any kind. I'm more of a ghost." I gave him the old apologetic shrug, turning my hands and wrists up to show how harmless I was.
The pastor looked disappointed for a moment. Then he brightened.
"---- Ah, an earth-bound spirit, unable to leave this material plane because something is holding you back. Some hidden crime, perhaps, which you wish to have exposed? Some message for one who yet lives on earth? Perhaps I can help to free you? I have a Master's in exorcism."
"That's decent of you," I said, "and I really do appreciate it. Only, it's not quite like that. Look pastor, the fact is I have already been -- as you might put it -- to my reward. I've been to heaven, seen the archangels, hymned the Godhead. The thing is, though, I've got a bit of an attention deficit problem. It's not my scene, okay? Plenty of souls there, ecstatically happy singing Holy! Holy! Holy! for all eternity."
"---- Joy ineffable!" murmured the pastor.
"Only personally speaking, I found it worse than sitting through one of those operas where they repeat everything about six times. I would have been bored to death, if I wasn't dead already."
"---- So you came back to join the spirits who remain on earth? You are a revenant?"
"Well yes, sort of, but to be honest I wasn't impressed by the other ghosts. They're not exactly a bundle of laughs, you know. Sensitive souls who hang about some gloomy place moaning and groaning and feeling sorry for themselves until they eventually fade away. So that just left the devils and imps and whatnot. I mean they're vicious bastards, but you do get a laugh. And it's quite interesting watching them dealing with the sinners."
"---- You have then been to the -- er -- Inferno?"
"Course I've been to the -- er -- Inferno. That's where I was when you started this conjuration. I was watching some imps pulling the hairs out the nostrils of Pol Pot. Did you know he was a freemason, by the way?"
"---- No, was he really? How extraordinary."
"No of course he wasn't! You can't believe anything you hear around the demons." Gave him fair warning there, I think. "So anyway, I generally hang out with the lesser demons and imps and watch them at their mischief."
"---- I can hardly believe that compares with bliss eternal."
"Well, different strokes... Speaking of which, I guess you prepared for your conjuration in the traditional way?"
"---- Well, I followed Abra-Melin..."
"Right, so that would be -- what? -- thirty days of total chastity, a week of abstention from all meat and booze, and the final three days on nothing but water drawn from a spring by moonlight?"
"---- Yes, and the spiritual exercises."
"Sure, sure, but it's basically no sex and a full detox, yes?"
The pastor nodded.
"Load of rubbish. It has absolutely nothing to do with the efficacy of the conjuration. You could have been screwing somebody senseless for the past month, and you would still have raised me. You could have been slicing into a juicy steak last night, a nice thick filet mignon say, oozing pink on to the plate, and served with a garlic mustard ..."
"---- Stop it! Desist, tempter!"
"Hey, lighten up! Who's tempting? That's not what ghosts do, we're more information-givers. Okay? For example, here's a thing. This chastity business -- it's been a while, eh? Leaves you with a bit of an edge, eh? Balls filled and overflowing, eh? Well I can tell you, one of the women in your church thinks you are really sexy."
"---- Surely not." the pastor purred. He drew himself up slightly, sucked in his stomach. I could see he was interested.
"Straight up, choking for it, she is. She has amazing fantasies about the things you would do together. Only I can't tell you her name, me being a ghost."
"At least not directly. I could spell it out by knocking, if you like: one for A, two knocks for B, and so on. It takes forever, though." I paused to let that sink in, and then said: "Tell you what, if you've got a bit of virgin parchment handy I could make her name appear on it in letters of fire."
I didn't think he would fall for it, but he reached out from the safety of his pentacle to pick up a sheet from the altar and I had him fast!
"---- Let go!" he cried, pulling helplessly against my claws. Then as I reeled him in "Curse you, you are a demon!"
So I gave him a whiff of the old brimstone and said: "Damn' right, I'm a demon. Son of the Father of Lies, I am!"