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Evidence of Possession

December 1, 2010

As my Pazuzu Trilogy headlines a demon, of course, possession is a big aspect of the story. Pazuzu spends half the trilogy seeking a human host. Even though the demon rode into the Promised Land on the shoulder of a fake priest, Pazuzu looks for another body. In Chapter 7 Leviathan of the first book in the trilogy, Pazuzu – Manifestation, the demon manifests in Dil Cortras. The excerpt below provides evidence of possession. Hen Cortras, the younger of the Cortras brothers has returned to Saint Erasmus with dinner for the three trespassers.

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Hen opened the pizza boxes. Sausage and mushrooms topped both pies, heavy with sauce and stingy with cheese. Ben washed his bloodied hands in the sink. He lathered with a crusted bottle of dish soap he found in the cupboard below. Ben left the water running so he could take another long drink without the copper flavor. While waiting, he unsuccessfully shook his hands dry. Dil didn’t bother washing. He wiped his hands on his clothes, staining his denim shirt and the crotch of his jeans. The sweat from Dil’s arms liquefied the jellied blood again. Long red pin stripes were drawn down the front of his shirt. Hen did not notice as he busied himself making a selection among the irregular pizza slices.

“Yeah, and I even parked the truck down the street with a couple other wrecks.”

Dil shoved half a slice into his mouth and his eyes rolled back. The Cortras brothers had gone without pizza for a long time, but Hen couldn’t imagine the pie tasted as good as Dil expressed. His older brother was never much of a connoisseur of anything. The smell of pizza drove home Hen’s hunger more than the promise of a fine culinary experience. Ben also ate greedily, so creating dinner conversation fell to Hen. The burden could not be more light. Hen always felt compelled to talk.

“I know where those bugs came from, I heard it on the radio.” Hen’s audience continued eating, but did not protest the attempt at discourse. “There were some prehistoric squids that washed up on the beach. But they weren’t really squids; they had the arms, but their bodies were like snakes.”

“You said you knew where the bugs came from,” Dil mumbled. A huge, mushy wad of pizza muffled his speech.

“I was getting to that. They were huge. The biggest squids ever found.”

“So the military news talks about events other than heathens and body counts. This must be their golden age of radio,” Dil observed.

“Dil? Are you on something?” Hen asked. “Cuz’ I wouldn’t mind…”

Dil laughed with his mouth wide open. Chewed crust spilled out and bounced off the edge of the table on a trajectory to the floor.

“Ben, have I told you that my brother is a crack-up?” Dil spat crumbs as he spoke. He reached for a bottle of wine. “Where did the flies come from, Hen? My money is on the ass of Beelzebub. Any wager, Ben?”

Hen didn’t know what his brother talked about and Ben didn’t seem to care. The faux-priest sat eating, preoccupied. The sunbaked stranger the Cortras brothers found in the desert betrayed no interest in Dil’s rhetorical gamble.

“They were on the dead squids, swarms of them. The flies started biting people on the beach and the military brought flame throwers to fry ’em out of the sky.”

Dil took a huge gulp of wine straight from the bottle. The next moment, he bowed over the table and jutted out his tongue. Dil’s arms spread wide as one fist gripped the bottle. The other hand wielded a folded slice of pizza. Dil was going to retch. Hen rescued the uneaten portions of pizza, but the food was never in real danger. Dil recovered.

“Damn!” Dil exclaimed.

“Plague,” Ben said backing away from the table.

“Damn, right!” Dil added. “And fire in the sky!”

Hen sat cemented to his seat. His goose flesh went cold. Something more seemed different about his brother, as if somebody else slipped into his skin. The other Dil took a couple big swigs of wine. This time, he swallowed hard and clenched his teeth.

“Well,” Dil said. “Did it work?”

“What?” Hen already forgot the dinner conversation.

“The flame throwers? Did they kill all the bugs?”

“I suppose so.”

Dil turned around to recover the chair that skidded back when he abruptly stood. Hen leaned toward Ben.

“Hey, Ben,” Hen said in a low voice, impossible to hide from anyone around the table. “What did you guys do when I was gone?”

“By the wiggling toes of the Mortal God!” Dil exclaimed the interruption. “Let’s talk about something else. I have shoveled dead bugs all day.”

Silence swelled within the kitchen, except for the constant prattle of the refrigerator. Neither Dil nor Ben seemed to notice. Ben ate and Dil drank. The older Cortras claimed one bottle of wine for himself alone and quickly drained half the contents of the bottle.

“Where did you get this?” Dil asked. “Can you get some more?”

“It’s the same stuff we always get,” Hen answered. “There’s a store on the corner. We still got tickets.”

“Then we need some more.”

“There’s a curfew, Dil. The shop is closed, too.”

“Not tonight, my good friend. Tomorrow.”

Hen thought twice about telling Dil to take it easy with the wine. Even though Dil would suffer in the morning, Hen knew better than making attempts to curb his brother’s drinking. A younger sibling had no place telling an elder what to do; a lesson once reinforced in a drunken brawl. Hen could never get the better of his brother in any condition.

Pent-up viciousness clawed Dil on the inside. Hen avoided tapping into it. Exposing that anger was easy to do when Dil was drunk, especially if obviously rude attempts were made to ignore him. Even though Hen also enjoyed tipping the bottle, he usually encouraged his older brother to stay sober. Hen could have lied about the tickets, but he already spoiled the chance. That is how his ideas came, just in time, or a little too late. Hen hoped the impending hangover would dissuade Dil from drinking again for a while.

“Ben.” Dil put down his squashed pizza and favored the wine. “I think we’re going to be great friends. You, me, and him.” Dil thrust the neck of the bottle toward Hen. Ben couldn’t help notice that Dil acted as if he recently met his younger brother. Still, Ben didn’t know much about either of them to say the behavior was out of the ordinary. Last night, Ben noticed drinking transformed Dil. The change was obvious, even in Ben’s debilitated state. More alcohol must let loose more of that alternate personality.

Ben appreciated that nobody asked more questions about his identity or where he came from. He already personally focused on those mysteries with as much diligence he could summon. The effort to recall made his head throb. He knew his memories were almost within sight. Seeing the images was like staring at a blank piece of paper with words printed on the opposite side. The backward ghosts of letters were perceived, but still illegible. Eventually, focus would drift through the white portions of the paper, but focus on the blankness promoted meditation. To avoid pangs of thought, Ben droned away at his immediate task. Mindlessly scraping congealed blood from the floor in the nave passed a few hours of that afternoon.

During the work, Ben partly listened to Dil’s light-hearted comments and morbid quips. The talk reminded Ben somewhat of the voice that haunted him. He could not conclude that Dil and the voice were the same. Ben realized he tried to find an external source for the voice, but the uninvited guest arrived before the Cortras brothers came along. Ben mapped out the order of events on his recent timeline. The encounter with the dead priest, whose identity Ben assumed or shared, was also pinned into his shadowy history.

Ben and the Cortras brothers now hid in Capital. They appropriated a parish church, with little oversight, as a base of operations. Everything happened thus far according to the plan. But whose plan? The brothers thought things out only as far as getting past the Wall and finding a place to stay. They were hiding. Ben picked that up instinctively. He didn’t care what they were hiding from, and Ben didn’t believe he had his own plan quietly unfolding in his subconscious. A large gap in his memory needed to be filled, but he felt the blankness was bigger than his amnesia. There was a reason Ben came to Saint Erasmus, more solid than some metaphysical purpose.

A large chunk of pizza grew soggy and tasteless in his mouth. A good chunk of time had passed between taking the bite and beginning to chew. Ben eventually became aware of the unsavory fact. Thinking spoiled his dinner.

“Here we are in a church,” Dil announced, spinning his free hand in a grand circle. “What better place to make a difference. Do some great things.” Dil laughed loud and hard. Being the only reveler, the lack of participation could not escape his notice. “Oh, come now. Here we are, together. Let’s make a pact. We have plenty of blood for use to sign our names.”

“What are you talking about?” Ben asked.

Hen was glad Ben asked. His petrified state returned as he prayed Dil merely drank too fast. Hen was grateful Ben picked this moment to shake off his mute daze.

“This world is coming to an end, Ben.” Dil suddenly grew solemn. “Soon, only zombies, vampires and Cain will walk the face of the earth.”

Darkness filled the room. No one noticed the light growing orange and dim as the three men ate, but now that the sun dipped behind the low mountains beyond the Wall, all illumination retreated. Hen stood, stiff with momentary paralysis. He found a switch near the refrigerator and flipped it up. A bare bulb over the sink cast soft light and fuzzy shadows into the room. Dil’s seat faced away from the light. His face hovered in complete shadow except for the beads of sweat clinging to his cheeks. They glistened like diamonds embedded in his skin.

“Do you think the Mortal God wants any part of this place – constantly nagged and bullied?”

“You’re talking like a heathen, Dil,” Hen cautioned his older brother.

“That has nothing to do with it!” Dil shouted. He rose from his seat, then sat back down with a thud, causing the legs of his chair to creak in complaint. “There is not going to be a messiah, either. God is gone, my friend. Took a vacation and decided he liked the other side of the galaxy, or wherever he built his summer place. A little birdie told me.”

“You know we’re not heathens, right, Ben?” Hen asked the stranger. His high-pitched voice trembled. Ben remembered the younger Cortras mentioned that fact to the dying priest. Hen believed the clarification important.

“It doesn’t make any difference,” Ben replied. He didn’t care either way. He decided to stay unconvinced, if not completely unconcerned, about the existence of a god – Mortal, Living or something other.

“But we can,” Dil pronounced happily. He smiled again and stood up wavering. “That’s what I’m saying. How about we start a new religion? How about a cult? Virgins and drugs and not-so-virgins.” Dil’s chuckle echoed hollow in the bottle as he raised the wine to his lips. One more mouthful would finish the meager amount of liquor in the bottle. Dil took the gulp after an exhalation in which he pretended to breathe fire.

“Let’s not talk about this anymore. We’re in a church, Dil. We believe in the Mortal God.” Hen begged to change the subject.

“What better place to bid him bon voyage? Just don’t expect any miracles. He’s not even writing postcards.”

“What do you say, Ben?” Dil staggered. He still held the empty bottle in his fist. “We need to make our own miracle. Get ourselves a flock.”

Dil’s audience wholly dismissed his drunken rambling. Ben avoided being struck by the bottle as Dil swayed. Ben stood up and established a safe distance between Dil and himself.

“I think I need some sleep,” Ben said.

“Yeah,” Hen eagerly agreed. He welcomed any suggestion retreating from the current topic. Hen darted behind Ben. “Let’s go to sleep.”

“I was just playing around. Don’t get upset,” Dil begged. “We can talk about something else. Sit down. We need more wine… but I’m not feeling so good.”

Dil pitched forward into the open boxes of pizza crust and partially eaten slices. Hen didn’t get a chance to save the leftovers this time. The table slid forward with the momentum of Dil’s fall. Its tubular metal legs creaked and screeched as they strained against the unexpected weight and motion. Dil passed out. His body draped over the table, with his knees bent, and his arms dangling over the sides. The bottle slipped from his grip and landed with a cavernous thud. The empty bottle rolled leisurely toward the splintered doorway. Hen watched as it bumped and rested against the wooden door that could never be fully closed.

“That hit him pretty fast,” Ben noted.

“I haven’t seen him like this before,” Hen swore. “Are you sure he didn’t take anything?”

Ben shook his head, but Hen did not see.

“Those things he said,” Hen started. “You know he didn’t mean it. He never talks like that.”

“Are you going to leave him there?” Ben asked, disregarding the disclaimer. He still held a sliver of crust that he now casually chewed.

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Matthew Sawyer's Pazuzu Trilogy

Purchase Pazuzu Trilogy Pocket books and Hardcovers at LULU.

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