“Why are you tel ing me this?” she asked, alarmed.
“Don’t be an idiot; real y, Perry.”
“Something’s happening to me. Something’s changing.”
“I’l save you from it. We’l be fine.”
“But it’s coming from inside me. Don’t you understand? I don’t think I have much time as me left. I think this might be the last night.”
Her mouth dropped open. “How can you just say that!”
“Ada,” I said, trying to find the words to make her understand the pain that was running through my heart. The heaviness of it all . “You know when you’re at that point when you’re crying too much and everything is too much and your body just...shuts down? I’m shutting down.”
“No,” she said determinedly, her eyes flickering. “No, you’re not shutting down. You’re not giving up, Perry. We’re going to fix you. Tomorrow, I’l find a way, I’l fix you.”
I tried to smile at her, to thank her for her perseverance, in her belief that everything was going to be OK. But I couldn’t. Because the smile was wiped away by fear.
Complete and absolute fear.
I wasn’t alone. The thing was back.
Back inside me. Inside my mind. Inside my soul.
It was happening again.
“Go!” I yel ed at Ada, panicking. She jumped and her eyes widened in shock. She wasn’t reacting fast enough.
“Get out of here! Get out of here, Ada, go get Mom and Dad! Go! Get out of here! Now! Go now!”
Before I could see if she listened, my mind was booted to the back seat. I was robbed of all control, relieved as host of my body. The last thing I felt were my hands curling up into hot little bal s.
Everything went black.
“She’s waking up. Get the bat.”
Not exactly the best words to wake up to.
I groaned and tried to open my eyes. They felt like they were glued shut. My throat ached from Sahara dryness and as I moved my mouth, the corners cracked painful y. My tongue tasted like blood-covered pennies.
Outside, the rain was fal ing. I could hear it on the window panes and roof. And beyond that I heard the hushed breathing of a bunch of people trying to be quiet and failing at it.
Final y, I reached over and wiped my eyes. They had been crusted shut with gross dried fluid.
They fluttered open and I took in the blurry sight of a spinning room.
It was daytime and at the foot of my bed were my mother, my father, Ada and Maximus.
Ada was holding a basebal bat in her hands, holding it like it was painful to do so. She was turned sideways and looked as if she were about to leave.
The others were watching me curiously and with bated breath, their bodies tensed as if they were about to fight. Or flee.
I wanted to raise my head to get a better look but it was too heavy. I could only lie there with my chin dipped and watch them. Watch them watch me.
Maximus was the first to speak. “Perry. Is that you?”
What kind of question was that?
I cleared my throat a few times before words came out.
“Of course, it’s me.”
Everyone relaxed visibly except Ada. She turned to face me.
She had a laceration on right side of her forehead and a band-aid on her cheek near her eye.
I immediately knew why she had the bat. Why she didn’t want to have the bat. I had done that to her. I had done it when I was something else.
“What else did I do?” I asked. No one said anything.
“Someone tel me what I did!” I screamed, then col apsed into a coughing fit.
“She needs water,” Maximus said, leaving the room.
By the time my coughing calmed down, he was approaching me with a glass of it.
“Play nice,” he said with a smile. It didn’t reach his eyes.
I nodded attentively, unable to speak. He put the cup of water on the bedside table, then quickly backed away. I frowned at him as I gulped the cool water down.
“I’m not going to bite you.”
“You tried, though,” he answered, rubbing his arm. He stood beside my parents again.
“Perry, we don’t know what’s going on with you,” my father said as if I’d just been in a foul mood the last few days. “Tomorrow we’re taking you to the hospital. To get you checked out.”
“Dad, I told you that’s not going to work,” Ada said, shifting the bat to her other hand.
My dad raised his hand at her dismissively. “Ada, I have heard just enough of this nonsense. It’s ridiculous and it’s...it’s sacrilegious. Completely sacrilegious. The church doesn’t even believe in demonic possession.”
“Yes they do!” she said. “I’ve been reading about it!”
“Oh, in that wonderful little tome that your sister brought home from the library?”
“Yes!” she yel ed. “In there, online, everywhere. Maximus agrees with me! Tel them, Maximus.”
She gestured at my parents with the bat and looked at Maximus keenly.
He wiggled his lips and shrugged. “It’s true that some people, in the church, believe that demonic possession happens. I certainly ain’t saying it’s impossible. But Ada, look at Perry. Do you think that’s what is happening?”
She rolled her eyes and slammed the bat against her palm. “Holy fuck, yes, you retard! You have some inbreeding going down there in the South? Is that what’s wrong with you?”
“Ada!” my mom admonished, stepping closer to my father.
I slowly placed my cup back down and watched it unfold.
It’s like I wasn’t even there.
Maximus glared at her. “What I’m saying is what your parents are saying. Perry is sick. She’s il . Like her shrinkaroo says. And she’s been reading a lot of books.
She’s convinced this is happening to her. It’s not her fault at all. The mind is a powerful thing. I reckon she’s as good as being possessed by her own self.”
She turned her back to him in disgust and looked pleadingly at dad. “You can’t take her to the hospital.
They’re going to think she’s crazy.”
My parents exchanged a loaded look. They thought I was crazy.
“It’s not up for discussion,” my dad eventually told her.
“Dad-” she began to say but was cut off.
I was screaming.
I had picked up the glass of water and hurled it at them.
My mother ducked and the glass smashed into a mil ion pieces against the wal .
The control was taken from me again and I was helpless.
I didn’t black out, either. I just watched myself as I leaped out of bed like a rocket and ran along the bed heading straight for my mother.
Maximus was faster. As I bounced off the bed and into the air toward my mom’s sickened face, he tackled me from the side and brought me down to the ground.
I couldn’t do anything to stop myself. My body was no longer mine. But I felt the pain from the impact. That wasn’t fair.
I wailed and moaned and made guttural noises that made my whole body arch and shudder while Maximus held me down with all his strength, his muscles twisting, his face turned red and sweaty as he looked into my eyes. But he wasn’t seeing me. He wasn’t seeing me.
“Pil s,” he cried out. He looked up at my parents while I tried to lean forward and bite his hand. “Get the pil s! Get some rope!”
My dad grabbed the rope he had used the other night from the corner of the room and my mom brought the pil bottles out from her cardigan pocket. My dad quickly tied the rope around my arms and legs like he was hog-tying in a rodeo and trying to beat his best time.
My mother leaned over me with the pil s dangling between her fingers. I snapped at her.
“Going to be a bit difficult,” Maximus said to her.
She shook her head grimly. “I learned a trick back in the day. Hold her chin.”
He went for my chin with his large hands. He had the right to look scared to death of me. I tried biting him again.
But it was a distraction. As I did that, my mother pressed down on my forehead with one hand and pinched my nose shut with the other. I clamped my mouth like a vice. I didn’t want to take the pil s and neither did the thing inside me.
But I had to breathe.
I gasped, my mouth open. I, we, couldn’t take it. My mom dropped the pil s in and kept her grip on my nose until I had no choice but to swal ow.
Next thing I knew I was slowly regaining control of my body.
“I’m sorry,” I said, trying to focus on my parents as Maximus picked me up and put me back into bed.
“We know you are,” he said to me. His drawl was so gentle that I almost forgot he thought it was all in my head.
“We’re going to have to keep you tied up, though. You understand, darling’?”
“Don’t cal me darlin’,” I managed to say.
He smiled. “Good to see you’re stil with us. But just so your, er, other self knows...your father has the police alerted to what’s going on. In case you get any more out of hand.
And, I’m afraid, that despite what your sister thinks, the hospital is going to be the best place for you. I’m just sorry I didn’t know about this sooner, Perry. I’m sorry I actual y thought you were haunted. I would have never gone along with the clearing thing; it just made things worse. It gave proof to the delusion.”
But you saw! I thought, now too weak to say anything.
You saw the beast! You’re a liar. A goddamn liar!
He stroked the hair off my forehead. I flinched and glared at him, which only made him point at my dad. “I think we might need some more rope here.”
“You guys are fucking sick,” Ada snarled from the back of the room. She shook her head and held herself tightly. “I can’t stand here and watch you do this. I won’t.”
She shot me one last look. It was a look I couldn’t read.
She left the room and my heart sank.
My dad re-did the ropes on my arms and legs so I was strapped down to the bed. There was a moment where I was free. Where I thought about shoving him off and running away. I didn’t know where, but I would leave the house and run to the river and just run and run until they couldn’t find me. I’d be safe there. I wouldn’t be dragged off to the hospital. I’d stil have this thing inside of me, Abby, a demon, whatever it was, but at least I wouldn’t be carted off to a hospital. I didn’t want to destroy myself in a sterile room. Like a dying dog, I wanted to go somewhere far away and quiet. It was the last thing left that I could control.
But I didn’t move. I didn’t make a run for it, even though I could have. My dad finished tying me up, avoiding my eyes the whole time. He left the room with my mother. Then it was just Maximus and me.
He pul ed up the chair from the desk and looked me over. His green eyes glittered apologetical y but it wasn’t enough. I had wanted more from him. I had wanted someone who would have fought to the death over me. I wanted someone who’d sacrifice for me. Someone who had my back. Someone who would save me if I couldn’t save myself.