In our actions against paranormal undesirables we try not to clash with religious bodies; but sometimes it can't be avoided, or happens inadvertently. For example, we annoyed a parish priest by ridding a wayside shrine of a class 4 gremlin that was claiming falsely to be his parish's patron saint's ghost; we stopped a promising profitable new sect by ridding its founding 'prophet' of the class 6 possessor that gave him his powers.
In the latter incident, while he, or his hangers-on, were raking in the usual fortune in an undiscriminatingly devout rural area, we quietly joined the congregation, in plain clothes. Padding gave Egon a false fat belly which hid a PKE (= Psycho-Kinetic Energy) meter (this time signalling silently via a skin contact vibrator; usually they bleep. Later he and Ray made flattened silent PKE meters easily worn under clothes, but we hadn't got them then.). The one PKE source was the 'prophet'; we were thankful that he had a genuine possessor and was not yet another schizophrenic such as we often have to turn away when they arrive at our headquarters hoping in vain that we can remove whatever is in their heads pestering them. We approached quietly that night, in dark blue overalls and helmets instead of our usual uniforms. When the 'prophet' went out into bushes, whether to commune with the Beyond or for a cruder reason, Winston grabbed and chloroformed him from behind and I ectoflamethrowered the possessing ghost out of him. He and we were unhurt, for ecto matter (= ghost matter) and normal matter usually go through each other without affecting each other; the anaesthesia stopped him from feeling the pain that the nasty lying ecto-creature in him tried to pass onto him as the hot jet of sticky ecto-fire burnt it up. When a dog heard the noise and barked, his hangers-on came out in a body, too late to stop us; they gathered a crowd and started a sermon, calling us every sort of demon in the demonology; but the ex-'prophet' stopped them and said that he was glad to be rid of the creature in his head that had been giving him no peace by day or by night, and thanked us for letting him go back to ordinary quiet secular life. So that unremarkable petty matter ended.
The Jacksonville case was more serious, and took longer to sort out. In late winter Janine (our receptionist) took a call to investigate and eliminate an ordinary-sounding visible haunting in a remote rural area upstate. Jacksonville. One of several villages in a Church-dominated area that kept itself largely to itself. Much of the land was owned by St.Etheldreda's monastery and nunnery, which had a heavy influence over local laws and customs; an apparent sacred power and bad roads protected their church and its valuables. On the way we had to open at least twelve farm gates across the road, one of which had such a strong spring self-closer and no way to fasten it open while we drove through that Ray blowtorched it off its hinges with his proton gun. Another was wreathed in barbed wire and had only binder twine for hinges; as Egon was opening it, it nearly fell on him. We swore and shot it to firewood before it could seriously injure someone. We left all those gates open. To emergency services, which includes us, people's lives and getting to site and back quickly matter more than a few livestock getting in wrong fields. It is time some people heard of cattle grids and fencing alongside roads. Long ago I lost patience with gated roads; so have others, for I have seen lorries and rural area ambulances and fire engines with reinforced steel gate-breaker bars on their front ends.
There were patches of half-melted snow in the hills. Valley floors were strewn with flood debris. It looked like rain soon. We got there. The village and its inhabitants were in a poor state. Nothing seemed to have been repainted or renewed for a long time. I asked for and found the complainant, a Mr.Stephens.
"You're lucky I could ring. The phone here hardly ever works. I heard about you in town when I sold sheep there last fall. The priest's no help." he said, and described the hauntings, and led us to his house, or more accurately hut, where some of them had happened. The villagers were anxious for us to finish the job quietly and leave quickly and unseen. We searched the village with a PKE meter each, but found nothing. They had no alcoholic drink, so that wasn't the cause. I blamed "moon-shadows or stray animals plus imagination, it happens sometimes", logged the event as yet another NPF (Nothing Paranormal Found), and was about to call us back to the Ecto-1 and leave, when from inside his hut I heard Mr.Stephens's wife arguing with Egon.
"Some interesting species of fungi you've got in these baskets. Where did you find them?" he asked.
"Please don't take any of them. They're our next two dinners and breakfasts. We need them." she pleaded.
"Sorry, but I must." he said, "These that I'm taking out, they're poisonous - drug in them - hallucinogenic - make you see things that aren't there! Like some modern illegal drugs that that you may have heard of. I should know: fungi are my hobby. No wonder you've been seeing ghosts! I'll mail you a good book on identifying fungi, and until you've studied it, don't collect fungi again! Some sorts can kill! Let me finish sorting them.". He came out and called to me: "NX [= Natural eXplanation]. Complainant and others had eaten hallucinogenic fungi in mistake for edible. Advice given re safe fungus collecting. Lets go back.".
"Please leave them." she pleaded, "If you make us short, I'll have to get more from the woods, if there are any more there yet, and then go all the way to the [nunnery's] office with the tithe of them. If I skip tithing them and just use them all, and they hear, they'll want the whole lot or its value as atonement. They're hard. Like when next door's sow had eleven piglets, and at weaning he gave one instead of two, since eleven won't tithe exactly; they took the whole litter as 'atonement for the sin', not just the missed one. I can't put a bit over one time against a bit under next time: they say 'God won't be bargained with: any amount over is an extra free offering each time.'. When another man spoke out for him, they took five of his sheep for 'helping another to sin'.".
"What is this!" I interrupted angrily, "Tithes this day and age? What nonsense is this!? They've no right to demand such a thing. Where's that 'office'?, so we can give them a piece of our mind.".
"Please no." she pleaded, "God knows what they'll do if they find we've been ringing for people and complaining to town instead of calling them to pray about it. They say it's sin. Just take what you want and go.". Those last seven words were too often on their lips, for they had learned not to refuse demands.
"Yes, we will tell them what we think of them. You have your legal rights. They've told you lies all over the place. They're just living off you and bullying you. Their idea of God is just their God and not yours. Tithe's an ancient Hebrew law and not yours, any more than that stuff about not eating pork or rabbit. How come that only seven months after a good harvest you're having to scavenge in the woods for fungi and roots, anyway!?".
"They say we must 'give to the poor' and 'not resist but turn the other cheek', so we can't take anything back from thieves: there's a lot of tramps camped up the road, that the monks and nuns use as enforcers and say can live off us. They keep coming round. That's as well as tithe. And all firstfruits are 'for God', which means 'for them': last year after months on bread and water after the year before's vegetables were finished, my broad beans were half gone before they stopped being firstfruits, on top of tithe for the whole crop, before they let me eat any. And they keep coming round wanting meals.".
While I was in shock at finding such mental backwardness and acceptance of oppression and priest-ridden fear of authority, and isolation caused by restricted education and false teaching that the rest of the world was Satan's den, near the end of the 20th century, I heard voices from another hut.
"Please God take this fire out of this thy servant's belly." said a woman in there, and other voices repeated this in unison.
"Please God: thy eternal help and not the passing temporal help of Man.".
"Forgive him his sins, and heal him, even as thy ...", and so it went on.
I called the rest of us. I went in. Inside, a man was in bed, and the rest of the family with four nuns and three monks were gathered round praying. An appealing scene, and it seemed blasphemous to intrude or spoil it: but it had to be done. "Excuse, but from what I overheard, it sounds like he's got an 'acute abdomen'. We're the Ghostbusters: we were passing on the way from a job somewhere else. We better take him to hospital with us.". Our vehicle the Ecto-1 is a converted Cadillac ambulance; for once it could do its old job again.
Their reply shocked me completely, even after what I had heard from the villagers. I had expected them to thank God for our arrival and let us take the patient away; but instead a nun stood in my way and said: "No! You would deny him the eternal help of God and instead give him the failing help of man!? He lives or dies by God's will! If you heal him in defiance of God, he will be healed in body but damaged in his faith, and in the Beyond (where you lot have been in person and back so you know what it's like!) it may not go good with his soul after his life is over. But kneel with us and pray with us.".
"No!" I replied sharply. "We take him to town to hospital. After that you can pray for him if you wish - in your own place, and not in here living off them - and pay them for that fat dinner that you've helped yourselves to out of their scanty stores and garden, on top of them being short because their breadwinner's ill. Stand aside.".
"No!" she exclaimed, "You come here into one of the few places where the Bible is followed and not thrown aside for every sort of worldly book such as we have burnt thousands of in the course of cleaning these villages of temptations: you who have a familiar spirit (what else is that dirty green ghost thing called 'Slimer' that you harbour?): coming in here with an ecto-weapon on like a demon-lord: underminer of faith like all the science and technology that's about nowadays, so men call on other men and not on God: ...".
"Imposing cramped superstition and ignorant fear!" I replied angrily, "Illegal taxes of all sorts! Ordering fussy tithes of everything including a few fungi from the woods! Censoring their reading and their mail! Making shortages on purpose to keep the people low! Being judge and jury and prosecution in your own cases! Tricking children into telling you what their parents do! Scaring people about their 'afterlife' so they'll bequeath land to you to try to 'bribe God for their souls', although other times you say 'God won't be bargained with'! You change your rules each time to suit yourselves! It's you keep cutting phone wires so they can't ring 999 instead of paying you through the nose for your $%* useless sanctimonious praying and blessings! He belongs in hospital and not in a dirty hut being mumbled over! Let us in, you lying $%#'s!".
I dodged; she dodged with me and tried to preach at me again.
"Meaning you'd rather let him die than let them get the idea that you aren't the only source of everything! They aren't your property! This isn't an ecto weapon, anyway, just atomic." I said and dodged the other way; so did she, and her fellows stood with her. I dodged again and reset controls on my proton gun.
"Apage Satanas!" [= Begone, Satan!] she yelled in superstitious fright as the proton pack on my back buzzed briefly and started its steady humming, "Stand firm, sisters! Their weapons will not hurt us. There is one right help, even as when at ...".
She reached inside her habit for something, whether a real or an imagined weapon I did not wait to find out. "Switch 'em on!" I ordered, and said a code word. Amid the rising unharmonic chorus of prayers and arguing, and proton pack startup noises, and the startled fevered patient's groans wondering what was happening, I jabbed the nun with my proton gun, which, like the rest of us, I had set to electric shock prod mode. She screamed and backed off. We advanced, driving the seven monks and nuns before us into a corner, and then out of the hut and away down the road, despite their curses and threats of supernatural reprisals. "Now #@~ off and keep off, you scrounging charlatans!" I said, snatching off them a sackful of the household's scarce food which they had taken 'as a thank-offering'. As I felt about clergy then, not even the Pope could have stopped us. "That's your stuff back off those %$@'s. Collect the people in this area together, and I'll give them a different sort of sermon, namely about what those priests can do and what they can't, and about your rights under law which they make sure you don't hear of, them controlling the local school so they make sure your children don't get an unbiased picture of the world at large." I said putting the sack down on the hut floor as we picked the patient up and slung him in the back of the Ecto-1.
"That stuff's for the nuns. They were praying for him. He's ill and needs their blessings." said an old woman.
"Praying and blessings are no %$# use for anything at all! He belongs in hospital!" I replied, angry in our need for haste, "Like in that TB [= tuberculosis] outbreak here, when the National Guard had to come to make Etheldreda's stop interfering with getting the people here mass-X-ray screened and infected people isolated.".
"Like I said before, why can't he go to hospital? Lots of people are made better in hospitals. In other places they don't have to do all sorts of things that priests say." a small boy asked.
We were clearly aggravating a local generation gap, but it couldn't be helped. Before they argued any more, we sped away back to town. We left the patient at the hospital and warned the staff there not to let St.Etheldreda's clergy tell lies and take him away. (He had a neglected appendicitis which had burst and turned into raging peritonitis. He nearly died, but recovered after three weeks and much antibiotic in intensive care. I still don't know what sanctimonious mumbling over him in a hut was supposed to do for him instead.)
While in town I filled the Ecto-1 with all the cheap basic bulk food that it could carry and took it back to Jacksonville. Slimer dived open-mouthed at it, but I warned him off. Every road gate was shut again and had to be opened, and in the delay a message reached the monastery and the nunnery. As we were starting to distribute the food and I was telling the assembled villagers some of their basic rights under law, Winston saw a crowd coming down the road from the direction of the monastery. It was a large crowd of the tramps, led by some of the monks. They approached.
"In thankfulness for all the good food that these kind outsiders have brought you, surely you won't keep it all for yourself instead of showing to God and men your thankfulness, by giving some of it to the poor? You have houses and land: these have none. Always put others before yourself. I take it that you've remembered good teaching and not selfishly eaten your fill of the best items first." a monk said to the villagers.
"Oh no, again!" said Mr.Stephens, "That many won't leave us much to have been thankful for.", and then to us: "You should have kept your money. This keeps on happening. They won't let us keep anything nice. I inherited a ring from a great-aunt. It had been a family wedding ring at least 3 times. But the monks took it and said 'It's a hoarded treasure, it must be sold for the poor.'. I and my wife had to be married with an old steel washer for a ring. We'd made and scratched together a few bits to eat afterwards - and while we were in the church someone from 'the office' let the tramps in to eat it all, including a cake that we'd spent such a lot on ingredients for.".
"Do I hear complaints?" said the monk, "Remember: he who holds stuff back on earth, in heaven his portion will be held back from him. And don't try to sneak it back from in the church: a holy power protects it, as you should know.".
"That's right, c'mon, givvus, we're hungry." said a tramp, and others similarly.
"No, and we're not tithing it either! The people in the village look quite poor themselves!" I replied, "Leave them alone! Half their land idle because you keep taking tools and livestock and seed so they can't cultivate it properly, and won't let them afford sprays and fertilizer, telling them that it's sinful to plan ahead, 'give no thought for the morrow' as you say. 'Thou shalt not steal': obey your own rules! Work for your living like we and they do!".
"'Hora novissima tempora pessima sunt: vigilemus':" the monk quoted sharply from an old hymn, "'The worst times are the present hour: let us guard': against all creepings in of sin: marrying is enough happiness in itself without wanting a lot of unnecessary extra feasting on top of it rather than celebrating it by giving to the poor. Greed and Pride creep in, seeming small and harmless at first, but they gradually grow big. But keep them right out from the start. Like when the National Guard came, as you mentioned: us shut up in our buildings and not allowed out, town medics and armed men everywhere, too generous with the wrong sorts of books and toys to the children, God's laws contradicted openly. The children are the next generation and our and God's hope for the future: it took years to undo the harm done then, the mass dosing with the 'fruit of the forbidden tree', and bad influences still remain. Only the start of it was the huge job needed to stop them from playing cops and robbers with bits of wood as guns learning to solve things by their own force. Before all that, when tempted to refuse their responsibilies to God and God's poor, they grumbled but paid up; afterwards they often refused and waved Men's laws at us, and it took a great effort to get them back to obeying God's laws first.".
"You mean that you vermin intended to let them keep giving each other and everyone else around TB ruining their lungs and finally killing them rather then let them learn a bit of healthy mental independence instead of taking everything you say as the only possible way of looking at life." I said.
"Aren't we allowed anything?" another villager pleaded, "That would have been their first decent meal for a long time, and you just took it all, same as you want to take all this that the Ghostbusters've brought us. I'm sick of you saying that anything different we do is the start of this and that sin. We keep it. Five months to go to harvest and our grain's finished already. Every year there's more of those scruffs living off us. 'Feed the poor', you go on about: at least let us alone to grow it and plan properly for the year.".
"Look at all the good food that these kind outsiders have brought you. Take it. Never mind that greedy lot with their own houses and fields keeping it all and saying that they need this and that item for this and that plan ahead. If we let people refuse the poor now for plans ahead, they make that excuse every time and never give anything. I'm sick of seeing poor wanderers chased out of everywhere all the time." said the monk to the tramps, sounding less and less like a clergyman and more and more like an action leader calling men to battle. It was time to do my own ordering to action: we switched our proton packs on, in normal mode.
"I managed to get a big apple crop to town market intact and sell it there one year." a villager replied, "Thank @#$ the curate's dog in the corner house didn't bark, else I'd have had it taken off me on the road and nothing to show for a year's work on my apple trees, me sneaking it past at midnight with the horse's hoofs padded, and untithed and all. Tithing stuff tells them we've got the rest and they keep coming round for bits of it. @#$ knows how they manage to send messages so quickly. There's no phone wires between: they keep cutting them so we can't ring 999 or talk to people out of the area. Anyway, I started in poultry with the money from it. Instead of just taking a cut of the income from it, they kept pinching hens and feed and tools, and breaking huts up for firewood and to build dossing shelters, letting the hens out and the foxes and coyotes in, and so on, until the place was ruined, and out of all of it I was down to one hen and her clutch of eggs - and nuns came round again. I said I'd got nothing for them, which was true.
'God forgive you for lying! You've got eggs here!' one of them accused.
'No good. They're ten days incubated.' I said.
'Poor food, eggs with embryos in, but enough. That'll be enough.' she said.
Which was just stupid, anything to stop me keeping anything of my own planning. They took the sitting hen off her eggs rather than admit defeat. My wife tried to finish incubating the eggs with her body heat, but it was no good, and I've had no poultry since. And to rub it in, next Sunday the sermon was about 'How are the mighty fallen', including about my poultry and how it ended. They say we must go to church every Sunday, whatever the weather or work to do, the amount of stuff they take for 'atonement for breaking the Sabbath' when there's a work rush and even for milking the cows on Sunday even though we must 'cos cows can't wait that long unmilked else they'd get mastitis. Next door have to stretcher their old father to church and back with his rheumatics five miles each way all weathers since they can't afford the atonement for him not going. Not much like Sunday being a 'day of rest'. 'Keep forgiving', you say, but you lot don't forgive much! Obey your own rules! And another time when the tramps had cleaned this area out and tried further away where the farmers aren't afraid of them, the tramps got a bad beating and we were ordered to help run field hospital for them, 'caring for the sick' you called it. I don't care what you think your God says: it's only your spite and jealousy.".
"Ditto my wheat crop that year." said another, "I put the money from it in a deposit account in a bank in town to earn a bit of interest; but they heard of it: 'Lending money on usury! Bank in town: temple of Pride and Mammon!' and suchlike, and I had to give them the lot: nothing left for a year's work. And whenever we hold a meeting about anything, and they hear of it, they turn up singing hymns to drown out whatever we're saying, and turn it into yet another church service, and take whatever they can 'as offerings', like once we tried to have a vegetable show and they came and took all the exhibits and prizes. They tried that sort of thing on outsiders also, until they got badly knocked about when they tried to take stuff from a big group of backpackers [= hikers] that they found in the woods. And that time we had a bad epidemic in the cattle and sheep: every time we met to try to plan what to do, such as not to move any livestock till the epidemic stopped, they took over the meeting and turned it into a church service and told us to send tithes etc as usual, moving animals all over the place spreading the disease, saying that 'we must rely on God only and not on the plans of men', but the disease just kept spreading. We'd bought disinfectant as part of this, and they stole it for themselves and the tramps.".
"Again they turned from prayer and faith to careful self-willed plans giving the glory to science and not to God. We must watch and guide." the monk said.
"&%# your precious glory, I don't care even if the coyotes eat it." a villager said enraged, "All I know is, your silly rules wouldn't let us isolate our stock till the plague passed, and half of them died. I don't want your %$@ guidance.".
"Come and take the good food which they're sharing with you!" the monk urged on the tramps, who were holding back from our humming proton packs, "They are only four! You are far too many for them to jab you all off at once with their lightning sticks like the riotsquad like they did to the nuns here!". The tramps encouraged each other and advanced again, alarmingly well fed and led.
This had gone far enough. What we did next was correctly the police's work, but the police were far away, and we were there. I had brought a loudhailer with me: through it I ordered the tramps to disperse. They came on.
I said a code word. We fired over their heads. They hesitated and started to retreat.
"Ignore it!" a monk called, quickly recovering from surprise, "Their devil-fire can't hurt the righteous.", and started to lead them in one of the more aggressively-tuned marching hymns. They advanced again. We fired over their heads again. Having nearly reached the food, they ran at it, thinking that they had called our bluff.
We fired into them.
Dirty rags were charred half off. Loutish aggression turned into shocked yells of pain as our proton beams inflicted branching tangles of third-degree burns on tramps and monks alike. Assorted sticks and stones were dropped in the road. The tramps fled in shock, carrying their casualties, their spirit broken. One defeat was enough.
The area was lucky there. Under different rule, guns, identical thick overalls as uniforms, crash helmets, heavy boots, wickerwork shields made from the plentiful local willow, any burning or chemical or projectile or other weapons that ingenuity could make from household and garage stuff, and an ex-army trainer sergeant, financed by the money and supplies extorted down the years from the local farmers, might have turned many of those tramps into a dangerously efficient riotsquad-style outlaw gang. But that did not happen there: the monks were unwilling to go too far in letting humble thankfulness turn into organized pride of display, or more likely did not want them to either leave the area or turn on their masters.
This victory had to be followed up, else it would have been wasted. I had the few rideable local horses mounted (bareback: horseriding harness was yet another 'proud display' that the villagers were not allowed to have) to call the rest of the local population together; over that day they assembled. A V-formation of wild geese flew over.
"There's more of those $%&'s that settle and eat and foul our winter wheat and grazing, and we aren't allowed to do anything about it." said Mr.Stephens.
We set our proton guns to a powerful straight-beam mode and swept them along the line of the wild geese, charring flight feathers to useless vaneless quills. One and all they fell with a series of solid thumps. The few that got up and ran were soon chased and killed with sticks. We did this six times more before all the people had assembled. They now had no lack of roasting meat to celebrate their victory over their old oppressors.
I told the people of their legal rights. Many did not even know they they were entitled to vote in local elections. This was my turn to call a horde to advance. First we reached the tramps' camp. In it we found much that had been taken from people, mixed with countless empty drink bottles and cans and refuse and unburied sewage. Few of the tramps had tried to grow food for themselves, even a few vegetables, only to plot trouble and fight among themselves. They had sinned, and play-acted repentance, and been forgiven, and allowed to continue as before, endlessly, until we and those with us put their camp to the torch. It burnt and its occupants fled in many ways.
Some older men objected to 'acting against church teaching', but the younger men overruled them; the outside world could not be altogether kept out, and the old religious bonds on their minds were now broken wide open. Tramps in numbers can plague an area and take a lot of shifting, as we found more than once in the city, and had to electric shock prod them out of the way to get past. It is no hope trying to turn them into steady workers, except by force under guard, they just sell or waste the tools and materials and go back to wandering.
Having seen the tramps off, I intended the rest of the affair to be a peaceful demonstration, but events overtook me. I led the crowd to the church (used by both the monastery and the nunnery), to confront its authorities in their own den. In the tax law issues that would arise. Louis Tully would likely be of use later, although he is a nerd in many other ways. The monks and nuns locked themselves in and stood siege, and we got nothing out of them but "We have nothing to give you. God's laws hold." shouted through the door as it was being slammed in our faces. They sang hymns loudly inside so they wouldn't hear us. Some time we would have to go home to our work, leaving them and the area to continue as they had, unless publicity gathered other sympathizers to help in a long vicious legal battle to break up the priest-rule there. The crowd with us muttered, and tried doors and windows, and shouted at its occupants to come out and face fair argument, but found no way in, although they had brought ladders. The church stood before us, and further away the monastery and nunnery, solid-walled, strong-doored, fortified both physically and by general local feelings of reverence, for the quarrel was with the monks and nuns and their interpretation of religion rather than against religion as a whole. It looked like that the eruption of popular anger would fade to nothing and that force of habit would drive 'the course of events back to its old regulated drove-roads'. Janine at base radioed me that she had two more calls for us. Our proton packs hummed on our backs, and their shoulder straps bore heavily on our shoulders. 'God's house' stood secure and inviolate. Birds sang.
Mr.Stephens grabbed Ray's proton gun and shot the church's East Window out.
The hot proton beam was soon followed by the tops of several ladders as shattered stained glass and melted lead fell to the floor inside. People swarmed inside. We did not try to stop them: we could not have stopped them without causing mass casualties by firing into them. All that we could do was to prevent accidents by giving them an easier way in: in 20 seconds of blast firing we shot the south transept door open, and ran in over splintered charred massive oak and fused steel bands. "Thieves! Thieves!" they yelled, following me.
"From now on we won't give you one in ten any more!" one of them shouted at the abbot when he got inside, "Nor firstfruits nor sin-offerings nor any more of your excuses to extort scavenged from odd corners of Leviticus and Numbers! And those idle thieving tramps can go hungry or %$# off or work for a living, and we'll skip church or work Sunday if we wish, and we'll buy or read or listen to what we want to! For a start I'll have that fancy silver bowl and use it to buy a good tractor instead of work oxen, to pay for all you've had off me or not let me grow or earn at all.". This he said with a shudder, for it is often not easy to suddenly throw off a lifetime's fears.
"That's for the Mass! Sacred powers protect it!" a monk started, looking with a dawning suspicion at Egon's flamethrower's two backpack fuel-tanks and bulky gun-part, but then dismissed that fear, and realized that we would not use it antipersonnel there because of the legal consequences.
"You bought it with a mass of loot got from us!" Mrs.Stephens replied.
"There's my great-aunt's ring!" Mr.Stephens exclaimed, putting a ladder against a tall statue and throwing down jewellery off its head and neck and hands. "Not sold for 'the poor' after all, but used to bedizen your @#& idol! Thieves! The most 'praying' you do is to 'p.r.e.y.' on us!".
"Don't you call the Holy Virgin's image that! You can't bust the Holy Ghost! Its power defends this place. Begone, servants of evil!" the abbot exclaimed.
I indeed began to feel a special atmosphere in there, and a reluctance to continue. It could have been ordinary feeling of reverence towards church matters, or perhaps not; but I replied: "'Thou shalt not make graven images, etc, and worship them', you say, and certainly not then adorn them with stolen stuff! Obey your own rules! That ring had been in Mr.Stephens's family for at least five generations! *&^ you trying to force tight monastic life rules on the whole lay population!".
"To the sacristy!" someone shouted. As they rushed at it, some held back, but could not understand or explain why, although by now I could; but I and the rest ran on. Axes and hammers beat against its even stronger door, until the village blacksmith, who ran in late towing a blowtorch-trolley, ordered them aside and torched the locks out. They ran in - and stopped, unwilling to go further. Everything that they had done, suddenly seemed wrong. They started to back out and to abandon loot and to apologize. A quiet power seemed to enter them and start to guide them away. "I told you that this room is sacred! The power of St.Etheldreda and of the Holy Ghost defends this place." said the abbot, but then in fright and horror started a Latin exorcism. Egon's flamethrower's tanks (which on a closer look were semi-transparent and glowed with an unnatural light) and a doorframe had gone through each other without damaging or obstructing either.
Egon turned and fired a jet of hot sticky flame, which did no harm to anyone or anything normal that it touched. But from among the valuables and documents and vestments with a horrible weird cry the half-burnt remains of a large blue semitransparent cloudy shape with fangs and a hideous face and several too many limbs appeared and fled down an aisle with Egon and Winston after it. The spell was broken, the crowd rushed in again, and it was I who had to call a halt, before papers valuable or useful as evidence could be destroyed or scattered. The special atmosphere was gone, leaving only cold draughtiness, and mustiness imperfectly hidden by stale incense smoke.
"The power of a scruffy-minded class 5 servitor type defended this place! We've busted hundreds of them in our time. It's you who 'had a familiar spirit' here!" said Winston returning with a full ghost trap which smelt of charring, "I bet it thought we daren't fire in case proton beams set fire to the stuff in here, if we came. Good old ecto-burner!".
"And it wasn't your Saint Ethel-Judge-Dread's ghost either!" Ray added.
"I thought so!" I said, "I knew that feeling as soon as I got near! I didn't need a PKE meter to tell what was going on!".
The abbot and the abbess looked in shock, not liking having to add themselves to the long list of those deceived by paranormal beings. "Ectoflamethrower!" she said in horror, "I use your name for it, for I refuse to pronounce Infernal words unnecessarily while alive. Not made by man or on earth, made of Infernal matter (which you call 'ecto matter') for Infernal beings to use! I hoped never to see a living man wearing and firing one of those!, whether you got it off a demon when you 'busted' him, or whether you raided it from the Beyond, going where no living man has any right to go. When you are a ghost, you won't be immune to its fire any more! Well, that's the end of what brought so many to worship and make offerings here! One more routine ghost bust for you to log.".
"Ecto-fire's as good or bad as its user, bozo!" Egon replied, "You - are - thieves - and - deceivers - and - bullies. I'm not stopping you from worshipping as you will, but don't force it on others. If they want to plan ahead, they can! If they want to hold things back to safeguard the means of production, they can! In this side room off inside here: all the modern things that you say people mustn't have as they're a 'symbol of Mammon and usury': personal computers; two-way radio (now I know now you lot got messages about so quickly without phone wires); files and accounts and records; plenty of evidence that you've been playing the stock market etc, 'lending on usury, great sin' as you call it; this great long list of stuff you've taken off people for 'atonements': what's this one!? 'From John Allenheimer, 5 hens, for blasphemous prayer (praying for success in sinning)': what the hell's that bit of schizo-talk mean!?".
"'Hell''s the right word for your mouth, you blasting literal hellfire about in here from that ecto-matter thing you've got on!" she replied angrily, "If you must know, he was overheard saying 'Please God don't let them find that deer that I trapped, or I'll have next to none left.' wanting He Who tithe is owed to and Who protects the poor, to help him evade tithe and his duty to the poor!".
"As well as the hens he lost the eggs they'd've laid." he replied, "How come only 4 months after harvest he was so short of stuff he had to trap a deer in the first place!? And 'trap', not 'shoot', won't let them keep guns, so they can't defend stock and crops against wild animals! 'The poor': the farmers that you live off are poor enough themselves! You and your tramps had no right to take a &*# cent off them ever under any name. You're the sort of bigoted bozo that gives religion a bad name.".
"But they have houses and fields. The wanderers, driven abroad on the face of the earth, have no land, and no shelter but us. Hear ye the word of the Lord: 'Give ye first unto those poorer than yourself'; 'judge not lest ye be judged' as to whether you think you are poor enough to be excused paying." she replied.
Something snapped in my brain. I try not to directly contradict religion, but I was weary of her and her fellows' blindly followed emotional rules and handy replies to everything, and I exclaimed: "Hear ye the word of Peter Venkman! Give ye first unto the means of safeguarding production and distribution! Even if you've got to thrash thieves to get necessary kit items back! Forget merely hoping they'll get ashamed: that hardly ever works! Then verily ye will be able to supply everybody easily including your precious tramps, when they've been made, by force if necessary, to do an honest job of work (which most of them are quite strong and fit enough to) instead of thieving about and spoiling stuff! In the 'old days' that you hark back to, at least there were local feudal secular lords to counterbalance the priests and bring some practicality into local government. Leave people alone!".
There is no need to record in detail the rest of what happened in there. We stayed the night there, checking for any more ghosts and to discourage the villagers from turning too violently on their oppressors in the first heat of their anger. But the spoil that the villagers took from the place was great. At first light many of them left. As we put our kit back in the Ecto-1 it was all too clear that axe and sledgehammer and blowtorch were doing their work again, for we heard smashing and shouting from the monastery and the nunnery, and as we drove away, smoke and flames went up. St.Etheldreda's was no more and was never rebuilt. The matter was in the newspapers for two days. Police questioned us but did not charge us with anything. We received the expected flood of letters from the public, some praising us and some blaming us. Four of the monks and half the nuns tore up their vows and went back to secular life. The legal aftereffects went on for some time but did not involve us: the monks and nuns did not sue or prosecute us, fearing revealed financial scandal and general bad publicity and public sympathy against them. Normal life resumed.
"You caused no serious injury." the abbot said to us later when he ventured to call at our base, "but what you set off did, later after you left!, and you'd probably claim 'Not guilty, we were elsewhere'. So they fattened themselves, and bought livestock, and machinery, and seed, and read and watched all the public media full of everything full of temptation and the secular that we'd kept away from them, and built bigger houses and barns, confident in themselves and no longer needing to appeal humbly to anyone or anything. Many have repeated their wedding ceremonies, this time with all the worldly display and feasting and honeymoon that we put a stop to. And the state's set up a secular state school there. All those 'rights' that you told them they had: they aren't rights, they're wrongs! letting them arrogantly demand this and that from the state instead of humbly appealing. That's why I don't like people voting: if they can vote the worldly government out of power instead of humbly appealing to it, they'll think they can vote the heavenly government out of power!
So they did, and we knew in person the likeness of That Day, Assumption of the Virgin 1566, Flashpoint Antwerp, a Lutheran riot against Catholic authorities which blew up into the Dutch War of Independence, and what is now Belgium ruined by the passage of armies! People came to the religious retreat that we ran, and found nothing but ransack and burn, and the ordinary secular bed and breakfast trade with well-off local farmers glutted with loot. Nothing but St.Etheldreda's statue in the churchyard now equipped with a cardboard and rope and wood imitation proton pack glued on and Ghostbuster badges drawn in felt-tip on her shoulders. Nothing but such carved religious texts as survive now defaced by mocking graffiti. Nothing but people taking the fallen sacred stones to build secular farm buildings and suchlike. Nothing but people buying stuff only for themselves and planning ahead, and the poor are turned empty away.
And what else did they buy with the money that we had collected to feed the poor? Guns! Like when King Henry the 8th of England seized the Church's lands and used their revenues for naval gunnery research! Guns, guns, including too many of the sort of rifle which regardless of its quality I would have chosen the least even if we absolutely needed rifles, the accursed-named Kalashnikov, weapon of the land of atheism! Once more the poor wanderers came to their only place of shelter, but found burnt roofless walls. They humbly approached the villagers for food, as they had before and had been unstintingly fed ...".
"They came in a large aggressive horde at night with many sticks and stones, 'Givvus! Givvus! C'mon, we're 'ungry, or me an' my mates ...', and suchlike, and ran at a barn to take stuff." I said, correcting him.
"So what if their manners weren't perfect drawing-room style! Many of them had repented of their sins and ..." he said.
"They knew how to play-act to your preaching at them." I replied.
"They were let nearly up to the abundance of good food, and just as they were opening their bags to take a share of it that could quite well have been spared, BLAM!! Not proton beam burns, but bullets, in close-range volley like a firing squad. Instead of bread, lead; instead of cooking fire fuel, flamethrower fire, not your ghost-burning ecto-fire but the real thing; instead of a bite of food each, the bites of huge savage guard-dogs ...".
"That case has been tried, and properly reported in newspapers. They came as a well-armed horde at night to rob, but dogs barked and they were seen off. They ignored warnings and had to be fired at to disperse them." I replied, "I'm not letting things go back to big gangs of aggressive thieving beggars everywhere like it was before there were police.".
"OK. OK. The great god Production comes first now. Excuses that this item is
needed for this, multiply till everything's needed and nothing can be spared.
Thanks to the trouble that you started, those villagers will never obey us
again. We can't even collect our legal rents there because they're so well armed
and defiant. But they are letting in other roughs that can perfectly well take
care of themselves: coalminers! now that someone found coal when digging out the
foundation stones of the nunnery, and the site of the home of the Poor Sisters
of Etheldreda is filled with mine-dirt and ugly mine-jargon. Oh yes, oh yes, I
know, one digs coal and the other grows food, for each other instead of for
money, excuse not to pay tax on it. Practicality rules all. OK. I'll go. The
area that we ruled becomes fast like everywhere else: all that stuff that they
grow and earn, and they can and do spare plenty of it for the: scubadiving
centres, television shops, holiday agents, and all the time-wastings of modern
life. And we daren't sue or charge you or them with anything: one of their sons
who had absconded to town earlier had become a fancy slick lawyer, and he's
offered his services free to them to charge us with theft of every offering and
penance and tithe that we've ever had from them, and whatever else he can find
to accuse us of. OK, it's like you say: feeding people needs security for the
means of production, not idealisms and principles. Our time has passed. We're
'last year's model'. No point trying to explain. I'll go.". He left tiredly.