Friday, November 15, 2013

Short Story: Persecution

When I was 15 years old, I awoke one morning to the vision of a tall, horned, upright creature, with huge talons, a huge erect penis, and sharp teeth dripping black saliva.  This, I knew, was what some people imagined a demon to look like.  I was so tired I didn’t care what happened to me as long as I didn’t have fully awaken, so I turned to face the wall, like que sera sera, and I just went back to sleep.   There were no unexplained wounds on my body when I woke up later that morning, and I didn’t feel any differently than I had the day before – I didn’t feel haunted or hunted or sick, so while I never forgot the visitation, I reconciled the experience to an upsetting experience that made me feel sorry for myself and scared of dying young.  Something else weird happened later that same year.  I was playing Ouija Board with two of my friends during one of our gin-and-Pepsi slumber parties.  I was not scared of the Ouija Board, because it was a mass-marketed toy.  What happened when we asked our first question, though, which was “Is there a spirit in this room?,” is truly unexplainable through fact or objectivity.  Without waiting for us to put any of the pressure of our fingertips all the way on the plastic tool that’s supposed to laboriously creep towards the letters printed on the board, the device scooted quickly with the revolting, mysterious insistence of a Mexican Jumping Bean, and we read as the spirit in the room communicated the sentence, “Yes, Sandy.”  That’s my name, Sandy.  “Ask it why it only spoke to me,” I uncomfortably insisted.  I didn’t put my fingers anywhere near the plastic pointer this time, and the other two girls just barely did.  “Why did you say Sandy’s name?” they asked aloud, and then we watched the pointer spell out, “Hell,” and then it circled around the entire board before spelling “Hell,” again, and then “Pussy.”  I knew my friends, who were both sweet and rather unimaginative girls, weren’t playing a trick on me because I saw it with my own eyes, I saw that they barely touched that little plastic device, and why would one of them, Chris, have started crying and said “You guys, we shouldn’t do this anymore,” if she’d been playing a trick on me? 

When I think about it, which I do sometimes, usually after watching a horror movie or overhearing a conversation between Christians, I can’t believe that I go on living a normal life, considering the vision I had of the demon and the foul-mouthed spirit who singled me out on the Ouija Board.  Why “Pussy?”  Why would the spirit spell out “hell, hell, pussy?”  As I type it out like this, I see how funny it seems, but in truth it’s the irreverence of this curse that most disturbs me.  I’ve read about astral projections a little bit, and there’s a theory that people who are able to control their ability to project their spirits out of their bodies play tricks on those who play with Ouija Boards, using the board as a conduit to spook people who could physically be as far away from an astral projector as, as across the world, across the country.  This is one explanation.

The thing that bothers me the most about these little interludes of evil is something I learned in a course I took during my Master’s program, about the power of myth.  We read a lot about the power of suggestion, and I was particularly interested in some of the compelling proof some people have that Near Death Experiences (NDE’S) are real.  Sometimes a person whose heart has momentarily stopped beating while on the operating table describes the experience of floating over their body, and in great detail, they can often describe the medical procedures the surgeon is performing on them, with surprising accuracy for a person who has no medical training.  As proof of a genuine NDE, these descriptions of the medical procedures their floating souls witness aren’t altogether successful, because there are so many graphic medical dramas on tv these days.  A person can watch a show that takes place in a hospital and see a fairly realistic portrayal of excess fluid being suctioned from a lung or the suture of a torn aorta, so a patient who feels they are experiencing a NDE could in fact simply be recollecting a scene from tv when they return to consciousness and think they have returned from an out of body experience.  There have been tests done, however, to test the veracity of NDE’s, thought up by scientists who supposedly have no belief in the supernatural, only the objective curiosity to understand an experience they don’t believe in.  There have been certain surgery rooms, for instance, where patterns have been painted on the floor that a patient is unable to see when they are being wheeled into the room on a gurney, often already under anesthesia.  In a case where a patient nearly didn’t survive her surgery, losing her heartbeat for a full two minutes, she claimed to have floated above her body, and, compellingly, she described in perfect detail the patterns she saw painted on the floor when she was floating above her own surgery.
It was interesting to read how similarly these NDE’s were described; the patient felt a comforting warmth radiate from an unearthly beautiful white light.  In more than one interview with a person who felt they’d had a genuine NDE, they explained that they hadn’t been religious before the experience, and that, as peaceful as they have felt since basking in that beautiful light, they have not taken the experience as a sign of the existence of God; instead, the  beauty and happiness they felt while temporarily dead was a reassurance that the need for religion is unnecessary.   Just being alive, without placing life in any narrative or moral framework, is enough.  That is what I liked most in the reading we did in this course. 

However, there was also something I read that I don’t like to remember.  In some cases, a person, a person with no sign of unkindness or belief in heaven or hell, would die for a few moments on the operating table and feel that they’d transcended their bodies, but instead of the warmth and the comfort, they were bombarded with terror and visions of viciousness more perverse than these victims thought they could ever dream up.  For these poor few, they would feel an unending uneasiness afterwards.  

I wonder why this would happen to some people.  Why would one person be treated to a transformative vision of peace, and another person be singled out for a first-hand knowledge of true ugliness?  I think there is a bottomless pit of horror.  I don’t know why this would be, and who, if not a god, would possess such an omnipotent disgust with humanity.  We are just flesh and blood, like a steak or a cat who dies under the tire of an SUV.  We swim like fish, unaware of how expansive is the ocean, how heavy the weight of the water.  I just walk and breathe and work and love my family and sleep and sometimes cry or go out somewhere new.  
Why me?  

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