by Len Kuntz
They were happy then. Summer in full bloom. Feathered hair, parted down the middle. All joy and surprise. A year from being wed.
The paperback was given to her from a friend who’d seen the movie with the daughter whose head spun around, the daughter who puked split-pea soup like a gushing fire hydrant, the daughter who made the mattress levitate, called her mother disgusting things.
The book became an obsession. She needed to know if such things were real or even slightly possible, so she joined a group who believed they were.
At the gatherings, there were Ouija Boards and tarot cards, séances with blood smeared on the walls. They sat on a tattered rug in a circle, engaged in gurgled chanting, trying to raise evil out of the floorboards. Incense burned. Lights out. The sheer drapes danced by themselves, like see-through wraiths.
She found it riveting, but she never told her fiancé any of this.
She wanted to be possessed like the young girl, Regan, in ‘The Exorcist’ book. In real life, the two shared the same name—Linda—and there were things Linda’s uncle had long ago done to her that she wanted erased.
It happened when she was least expecting it. The demon entered like a vapor, a warm mist. She felt it sizzle across her skin, then prick her heart, as if with an ice pick.
It was the night of her honeymoon. Linda’s fiancé thought her reaction was simply symptomatic of a nervous virgin. He told her it was okay, that he’d be gentle, go slow.
That evening they made love over and over. He had no idea. He wondered what had gotten into her, this mild-mannered girl now turned into a torrid minx. It scared him, yet he found this other side of her enthralling.
But then the next day came, and weeks and months after that.
She terrorized the cat, chasing and swatting it with a broom.
She started pulling her hair out, making Hair People out of the tufts and giving them impossible-to-pronounce names.
Sometimes he’d come home from work and she’d be outside, standing on the roof with her arms stretched out as if crucified by the air.
She wrote gibberish on the bathroom mirror with black lipstick.
She claimed to be possessed, and seemed happy about it.
She said she would kill her unborn baby before she’d ever let it live.
She broke a drinking glass and swallowed the shards.
In the hospital there were complications. The baby came then, eight weeks early.
Linda died on a gurney, being whisked away to a different section of the hospital. There was a strange grin on her face.
I never saw it. I wasn’t there, of course, and have only heard the stories.
I just have this picture.
People say my mother and I look a lot alike, that we could practically be twins.
They also say I should be a good girl and stay away from books about possession.
published 18 June 2016