Many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it. Song of Solomon, 8:7
When I was seven, we visited Camp Agape. One of my brother’s friends told me that the story of The Exorcist was based on a true story. I didn’t understand much of it, except that the devil could possess you and take you over. After that, you were bound for hell forever. A wind could rush in and take your soul. And after the possession, there was a dying curse where people died in the houses around the possessed child’s house.
I laid awake that night in the dark, creating a picture of how a demon worked in my mind. I conceptualized a malignant telepathic presence monitoring my thoughts intermittently, and if the words, “I will sell my soul” came into my head, I would be done for, committed to hell forever and death for my entire family. For weeks I couldn’t sleep.
The darkness in me comes in part from this idea of vulnerability. That somehow my thoughts would betray me, and that I would need to redouble my vigilance. Darkness meant that people could hurt me and my family. Anything could come out of the night.
When I would go to the bathroom at night at that age, I’d look down the dark staircase and think I saw a gorilla, all black, coming for me. I wrote this scene for a story about a fraternity pledge left in the dark as a sacrifice for “the Goat,” a dark entity, a residue of the murdered innocents the evil frat had sacrificed.
“Ram woke up with his hands strapped down, his legs tied down, on a raised platform. The whole place stunk like meat.”
“There were candles lit around him, and he could see curses scrawled on the walls in spray paint, some with blood.”
“From the ceiling dangled multiple cameras, with views of everywhere in the room. He knew that would Daniel was watching.”
“He tried the straps, but they were secure. His shoulder ached every time he breathed. He didn’t know how long he would have to wait for death, but he was sure that was coming.”
“He heard heavy breathing before he did anything else. The breathing reminded him of a large dog, as did the wet smell. They sent a dog to attack him?”
“What came into view was no dog. Black and brown, upright, covered in hair, snout, no eyes. A huge mouth with white fangs and a red tongue, slathering with foam.”
“‘This is where my story ends,’ he thought, and he felt more sad than terrified.’
“He took a breath and began to sing, the song that came from his heart, the one that his mother sang to him when he was very young. Ram’s voice filled the room, and the advancing beast paused.”
“Ram continued his song, and the monster brought his claw-filled paws to the altar where he was tied. The labored breathing became sobs. The beast brought his shaggy head to Ram’s shoulder and rested it. Ram can see that it was crying. Ram continued his song, and brought it to a close. The beast raised its claws and sliced open the straps. Ram looked more closely at the beast, he wasn’t sure what it was, perhaps some kind of deformed animal, but he was sure that it had been badly mistreated. He reached up and stroked the animals’ fur, and the beast moved its head to the side.”