they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.
And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain
man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in
any house, but in the tombs"
Luke 8: 26-27
Drenched in sweat, Darius
Swift awoke in terror, glanced frantically at the woman next to him
in bed, wondered for an instant if she were dead. A drummed chanting
echoed through him, and he heard a voice muttering unintelligible
words that struck him as obscene and profane.
His thoughts were crazy; he knew that. But he listened, eyes open, feeling as if he'd just been fired from a cannon into darkest hell, heard the chant, searched his dark room for the source of the profane voice. His heart pounding furiously, he realized that the words--the Lord's Prayer said backwards; he knew this intuitively--were pouring from his mouth like vomit. He commanded himself to stop.
Again, he glanced at the woman next to him, a gorgeous light skinned black named Rhea to whom he had given himself five years ago. Pretty as an angel, she sighed, turned her back to him, assuring him that she was alive. It was then that he began to crave her flesh.
For the seventh night in a row, Darius had had the same terrifying dream. In the nightmare, he was an insane man chained to stones in a graveyard and possessed by devils. The dream always ended with the same man, dressed in white robes and blazing like the sun, trying to
cast the devils out of him and into the swine feeding nearby. In the dream, there was always another man--tall? pale? thin?--that Darius could not quite see. Just before the dream ended, Darius would
invariably begin reciting the Lord's Prayer backwards.
Now, heart beating insanely, Darius Swift forced himself to sit upright in bed and stared out the window at the full moon. He wondered if he actually were possessed by a devil. Or devils. His sister Agnes, a Catholic nun who lived in a neighboring city, said so. She had said so, ever since he had spent the night with Rhea Knight, the beautiful black stripper who had invited him years ago to give his soul to the devil.
Teeth chattering in
the chilling darkness of his room, Darius had to wonder about himself.
He knew he wasn't normal. For instance, two nights ago out front
of Beaming Benny's family restaurant, where he regularly met Agnes at 5:30
PM every Thursday for chicken and dumplings, he had beaten a man into a
The red-headed guy with the beard was a biker, around 6'4", tattoos up and down his meaty arms, and he had made an obscene gesture with his tongue in Agnes' direction as Darius had escorted his sister into the restaurant. In public, his sister wore a nun's habit.
Darius had exploded like a powder keg and had seized the biker by the throat, bearing the man to the gravel with ease, then pounding the man's head against the earth until the man had lost consciousness. Darius had stopped only at the pleadings of his sister, who had fallen to her
knees, right there in the parking lot, to pray for him. The police came shortly, but the spectator--a tall, pale, thin man, who smoked incessantly and had actually enjoyed the fight--had claimed that Darius had fought in self defense. Darius was released instantly.
Jesus, it never used to be
this way, thought Darius as he now stretched out on his bed, speculating
on the condition of his muddied soul. His head was propped up by
two foam pillows, the golden light from the full moon spilling into the
room as he struggled with his darkthoughts. It was 2:33 in the morning, and he knew he wouldn't
sleep. Again craving flesh, he thought about waking Rhea, having
furious sex with her, and then....
Forcing himself to calm down, he wondered if he had merely imagined himself saying the Lord's Prayer backwards. In Puritan New England, he remembered reading somewhere, this phenomenon was a sure sign of demonic possession. The thought that he may be inhabited by demons sent a cold
electric chill through his body.
Then Darius thought again of what Agnes had said two nights ago as he had driven her home from the restaurant (Agnes hadn't been able to eat after that.). Agnes had said, "Darius, I'm concerned about you, really quite concerned. I think, dear brother, that you have a distinctly evil
side." Agnes was not joking as she normally did when she talked about "the dark planet."
For some reason, Darius had smiled hugely at what he had taken as a compliment. "Evil?" he had said, wondering if he were the same Darius Swift who had graduated from high school with a 4.00 and gone on to study biophysics at one of the best universities in the West. Then, turning up the volume on the radio, now playing an AC/DC classic, he had chuckled, "I am not evil, Agnes. No one's evil. That's just shit they teach you in your church. I just got carried away is all."
Agnes had quickly, gently replied to that remark. "Carried away? Carried away? Yes, you certainly did. You were like a pit bull tearing into a cocker spaniel. It was, well, Satanic, clearly Satanic. Your actions, Darius, were evil. Even your words are profane." She had tried to pound the last words into his head as with a sledge hammer.
His head spinning euphorically from statements that he should have perceived as a reprimand but took as compliments, Darius had sighed, "Guess so," ran his long bony fingers though his wavy brown hair, then added, "I did lose control. But, hell's bells, who doesn't?" He had remembered that in high school, his class mates had considered him a wimp.
Staring ahead at the road stretching out west of Las Vegas and into the dark desert sky, he had felt Agnes studying him, thinking about her next response, looking into his soul. And in that interval, it had occurred to Darius that he had gone viciously haywire that night, inflicting inconceivable damage on another human being. Agnes was right. There was something satanic in his savagery. But Darius felt no shame at this realization.
"Lose control, you say?" Agnes continued. "That's more than just 'I lose control.' If you had a knife, you would have chopped up the big fellow and eaten him for snacks. I saw the look on your face. It wasn't you. You looked for an instant like some hideous beast, like one of those gargoyles they used to put on medieval churches to ward off demons. " Darius had felt stunned and amused by his sister's words. Agnes usually was not so blunt, he thought to himself, another part of
his mind entertaining an oddly appealing image of eating human flesh.
"Darius," Agnes had concluded, "you have a demon. Or I think you do. You need a priest. You need something. Until you find one, I shall pray for you constantly." At this, Darius had turned the radio on full blast, hoping that the sound would blast his sister into oblivion.
Angrily clearing her throat, Agnes had turned off the radio and followed up her statement with what she had referred to as an accurate account of the way things are: life is really an ongoing battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil.
Now, at this moment, in his own room with his girl beside him, having woken up reciting the Lord's prayer backwards, Darius had to admit that Agnes possibly knew what she was taking about, though Agnes' views seemed hopelessly out of date. (In fact, a part of him hated the
religion Agnes stood for.) Then Darius now thought back to the time in his life when he had actually asked a dark spirit to enter him. He had not told Agnes about it at the time, for he feared and respected her.
It was in '87, six years
out of Gadarenes high school in Connecticut, when he'd gone with
his friends Mark and David to a nightclub in the industrial section of
Las Vegas. He'd never been to the
place, called Netherworld, but in the reddish glow of the lights he had had the time of his life. The girls were sexy and spectacular.
Around eleven, sitting alone at a table in the rear of the room, watching the girls dressed in black leathers pass by, and drinking a bloody Mary, he'd been approached by a tall, thin, young black woman with hair cascading sensuously down her back. It was the woman Darius had been studying all evening. He had never seen anyone so beautiful and secretly had prayed in his heart that he might have that girl before the evening was over.
Now his prayer was to be answered. Even in the dark, as he stood to welcome her, he could see that she had green eyes and a beautiful mouth. Her blouse was a flimsy white net that revealed perfectly shaped tits and gorgeous, pierced nipples. When the woman, Rhea, had put her mouth
over his mouth and had gently placed her hands between his legs and massaged his hardness, he had given way.
Filled with passion, he had sat down and motioned her to sit on his lap, her back towards him. When she lowered herself onto him, he realized she had nothing on under her small black dress and, pushing a finger inside her, that she was wet; and thus, asking her to lift up for a minute, he had unzipped his pants and shoved inside of her as far as he could , again and again, a piston throbbing in delicious darkness.
Indifferent to the reactions of others, she had squealed with delight, and he had nearly passed out. Later, after they left the club, he had driven her home (She lived on the east side of town), spent most of the night having incredible sex with this woman. She had let him do anything to her, and he had responded. Then, just before dawn, a crazy look in her eyes as she faced him, she had suggested that they make a pact with the devil and ask a spirit to enter their souls, making the two of them one. While it was an absolutely crazy idea, it appealed to Darius.
"C'mon, Darius, honey," she had pleaded in a musical voice, "let's go all the fuckin' way. Let the dark spirit of the night bloodily bind us into one."
Overcome by the haunting melody of her words, by his insatiable desire for her, Darius had agreed, and thus following steps outlined in some book on black magic that she pulled off the bookshelf over her bed, Rhea had lit some candles, the apartment glowing a hideous dark red.
Next, after she had place the candles around them in a circle on the floor, Darius had taken the huge kitchen knife she had given him, slit his palm with a kitchen knife, just as she slit her palm. Then, his bloodied hand clutching her bloodied hand they had pledged themselves to the prince of the underworld, asking that a dark spirit into be allowed to enter and bind them. Aside from a glass shattering in the bathroom and the light bulb in the kitchen exploding, the ceremony went without
Of course, as frequently occurs in these encounters, Darius had felt nothing even when he was saying the words with Rhea, even as the two of them recited the Lord's Prayer backwards, and when he left Rhea's apartment Darius felt merely drained of energy.
It was only a few days later, however, that he noticed a change in himself. He'd gone to a Spud's Irish Green Tavern with Mark and Dave to talk about the weekend and sports. When Dave had asked, "Who was that witch you were with the other night, the bitch with the white net
blouse?" Darius had sensed insult, and without thinking, he had leapt across the table like a rabid dog, grabbed Dave by the throat, and thrown his larger friend onto the saw-dust covered floor. Fury building to fiery frenzy, he had kicked Dave in the head and side several time before jumping on him and taking his adversary's throat in both bony hands. Darius was in the process of squeezing the life out of his friend when a bouncer, a huge muscular man with gold rings in both ears and a shaven head, had hit him over the head with a beer mug. At that, the lights went out.
Minutes later, dazed, rolling on the floor, hearing the incessant chanting from the spirit world (It was always there, the chanting, just beyond the veil), imagining Rhea naked and dancing beautifully,
sensuously in front of him, Darius began to sense that he was seriously, darkly flawed.
This was only the first such incident. Darius experienced outbursts of rage time and again-- at a baseball game, while driving on the street, in a grocery store, you name it. At times, Darius had growled and howled like a beast as he attacked victim after victim. Once, in a department store elevator and with his sister Agnes at his side, he had done some kind of savage prowling dance around the bloodied, broken body of a middle-aged man, whose only crime was to ask him the time. He had stopped, once again, in answer to the prayers and pleadings of his sister. He had never received the expected call from the police. Perhaps, Darius imagine, he was protected.
Worried about his violent disposition, he finally told Agnes one evening a short time ago that he had been living with Rhea for five years and that he and Rhea, in a moment of passion, had made perfect love as well as a pact with the devil. Agnes had blanched, leaned over in the car, and nearly wretched onto the floor. "You're a fool, Darius," she had wept, choking the words out. "You're a fool, my brother. You should have nothing to do with that woman. A day of evil will come
upon you, brother, yes, it surely will. Amen." At the time, Darius had laughed at his sister and simply turned on the radio to drown out her sobs.
A week and a half later, he had beaten the biker into a coma, and tonight, in bed, the sheets sticky to his body, fear freezing him, he was certain that the pit of hell had opened directly beneath him and was ready to swallow him whole, body, soul, and spirit.
It was of his immanent damnation that Darius thought of now as he lay in his bed next to Rhea. No fuckin' doubt about it, he concluded, something is definitely wrong with me. He felt sick, sick, sick at heart, as if gray clouds suffocated him.
For the first time in many years, he tried to pray to the God that Agnes prayed to. As he did, attempting to begin with the Lord's prayer, he felt dark pressure growing within; he realized that he
could not remember the words, and panic seized him. He then struggled to remember the words to Agnes' favorite Psalm, fought with himself, strained, and then began to whisper, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...." As he fought to mouth the words, he felt the tempest within his heart explode into a storm, and he became aware that the battle inside of him did not proceed from his own heart.
For the next thirty minutes, his heart racing towards bursting, Darius' mind flooded with dark images of decapitation, dismemberment, drinking blood, eating Rhea's flesh. The last thought stuck in his mind. He smelled a foul, dark odor, knew it came from nothing in the room, and
realized that he was losing his mind and soul.
Struggling to keep hold of himself, he prayed. "Oh, God, God, God, help me, help me, please," he sobbed , soaked in sweat, engulfed by a dark unmentionable presence, and suddenly the image of the man in the graveyard, the one in white flowing robes who blazed like the sun,
appeared vividly in his conscious mind.
But as he relaxed, thinking the worst was past, a more disturbing image presented itself appealingly to his mind. He saw himself, huge knife in hand, butchering and dismembering Rhea as she lay in bed, saw the sheets and floor around the bed turn crimson, saw blood dripping
down the walls of his bedroom, saw himself consuming her flesh. Feeling it was useless to fight the image or its source, he gave in, darkness flowing over and into him like waves pounding the crumbling boulders along the rocky shore.
And suddenly, as if he had been sucked into a cosmic dark hole, he began to become one with the demonic thing that sat on his soul.
Now, wondering where Rhea had put the butcher knife in the kitchen, feeling a lust for the woman, craving her flesh, he knew also at that moment that some dark ravenous creature, crawling within the dark cage of his own soul, had suddenly sprung free, unleashing dark poison throughout his body. And he knew he had to find the knife. Finding the knife was the most important thing in his life.
Thus, thoughts and actions willed by a power beyond his control, he found himself rapidly skipping across the cold hardwood towards the kitchen, obsessed with a bloody deed . In the kitchen, wanting to stop himself but unable to resist the darkness, he had gone through all the
drawers, unable for some reason to remember where Rhea kept the knives, and finally found what he was looking for on the counter next to the refrigerator. It was an entire set of Chicago cutlery, most of the knives large and sharp. Quickly, he grabbed the largest, holding it vertical to him, running his finger down the sharp blade, steel easily slicing his flesh. The knife, rarely used for
anything besides roast pork, trembled in his grasp. Unable to resist, the blood from his own cut finger running down his hand and arm, he turned, growled deeply, and spotted Rhea, turning restlessly in her sleep, innocent as a lamb fit for slaughter.
He had just started to walk to the bed, knife in hand, when his phone rang, and suddenly he stopped, frozen in place. It was as if a gigantic hand was holding him back from doing the evil deed. He could not move forward, and as he stood he felt the obsession to slice and dice Rhea into a thousand little pieces decreasing in size like a deflated balloon and the sense of his old self returning. He dropped the knife at his feet and picked up the phone, his heart still thundering in his ears. Darius listened, saying nothing.
Minutes later he heard, "Darius?" It was Agnes, and he nearly cried as the heard her still, small voice.
"Darius?" came the voice again, and as Darius dropped to his knees on the floor, he could see in his mind's eye his sister, praying for him, surrounded by a glow, the white robed man from his dream standing over her, and he felt for the first time in a long time that he was moving in
the right direction.
"Darius?" came the voice a third time, and this time it was like a knocking at the door of his heart.
"Hey, sis," he breathed, gasping a bit for breath. His voice sounded guttural. "It's sure good to hear from you."
"Are you all right, Darius?" she asked, the tenderness in her voice making him wonder why he had ever gone to the night club years ago, why he had ever made the pact with Rhea, why he had stayed with the woman.
"Yeah. No. Hell, I dunno," Darius responded. Taking several deep breaths, he then told Agnes about the dream, about waking up saying the Lord's prayer backwards, about rushing to the kitchen to find a butcher knife. "Agnes, I been goin' crazy. Goin' totally fuckin' nuts. I don't
want this shit anymore."
He paused, waited, became aware that she was patiently listening. "I want outa this, Agnes," he said, desperate beyond measure. Then, after a long pause, he asked, "By the way, why'd you call? You been prayin' for me, sister?"
He could hear Agnes' breathing, could hear her gently crying, probably from joy, and then she told him. In her sleep, she had had a dream in which she saw Darius as the demonic of the Gadarenes, the possessed man who was chained to stones and whom Jesus had delivered by casting demons out of him and into a herd of swine. She stated that, somewhere in the
dream, there was another man-- "a tall, pale, evil man"--that she couldn't quite see. At the moment of deliverance in this dream, Agnes had awakened, terrified, knowing the significance of the dream, had gotten out of bed, dropped to her knees and began praying. And after a period of time, she had reached over to the table at the side of her bed, picked up the phone and called.
Darius was stunned by the story. Suddenly, a dark light exploding in his conscious mind, he knew that darkness was not a metaphor, and if the devil was no fiction, then the texts out of which the devil was supposedly born were true. Everything was true, at least possible, certainly the continual spiritual warfare that his sister had warned him about, and he knew that his day of evil had come.
As he waited, his eyes closed, he could see his sister kneeling, a sun blazing around her. He thought he heard the singing of angels, and he hoped the horrible darkness would not return.
"What the hell do I do now?" he asked her, his voice almost calm, his mind wondering where darkness had fled.
"I think you know what to do, Darius. You must renounce the works of the Devil," she softly intoned, the last remark briefly bringing forth an image of a tall thin, very pale man standing at the end of a hallway in the midst of flames. He now recognized the man immediately as the other person in his nightmare. Thankfully, Darius knew Agnes was drawing him out of his present darkness into the light in which she had lived for years.
"I'm comin' to see you. Now. Gotta do, Sister Agnes," he said, knowing that while the gates to the convent closed at nine they could be opened any time by one of the sisters. He knew if he could just reach his sister, then they could renounce Satan together, his soul would be saved, and the evil that had absorbed him kept permanently at bay.
"I'll be waiting inside the church," she said, joy evident in her voice, and he knew she was referring to the old cathedral that had stood next to the convent for at least two hundred years, the interior decorated in a fashion reminiscent of the medieval European churches. "Come quickly."
Rising, he set the phone in its cradle, gave one look to the sleeping Rhea, who hadn't moved during the whole ordeal. Then, silently, he dressed, packed his clothes and other belongings in an old black battered suitcase that his parents had given him when he graduated from high school, and walked to the door. Time to renounce the devil, he thought; time to renounce Satan.
He opened the door and felt the dark presence immediately. A black panther in hiding, it had been waiting for him. He knew it wanted to gut him.
As he stepped trembling out of the apartment, he saw a tall, thin, very pallid man standing alone at the end of the hallway, smoking a cigarette, looking right at him, flames leaping about him. Then, on cue, the dimly glowing light bulbs placed over the entrance of each apartment burst, one by one, and Darius found himself immersed in total terrifying darkness. He couldn't see the hand in front of his face; but he could see the tall man standing at the end of the hallway, smoking furiously, and he suddenly knew the man's identity.
Madness and evil had returned, a gigantic black tidal wave that he couldn't avoid, and the devil--tall, pale, thin intruder--was not going to be denied. As he stood in the thick darkness of the hallway, Darius heard the shattering of glass, obviously the windows inside each apartment, beginning at the far end of the hall and working towards him, and he felt the howling of the damned from some recess deep, deep inside his own soul. He looked at the tall thin man, who smiled and took another drag on his cigarette. Then, the darkness whirling around him as tangible as ice, Darius turned and, as if on command, stepped back into his own apartment.
Rhea was sitting up in bed, yawning, her breasts lovely and irresistible. Darius looked at the woman he had been living with for the past few years, thought of Agnes, and then saw the butcher knife that he had dropped on the floor. His heart jumped.
In his mind, the dark thoughts again became a huge black balloon inside of him, and he was seized by a furious, insatiable craving for Rhea's flesh. Images of slicing and dicing this woman danced deliciously in his mind, and wrapped in the dark euphoria that would never leave him again, he strode to the middle of the room and picked up the knife.
His sister Agnes now a blur in his memory, Darius looked at Rhea, awake, sitting up, staring numbly at him. Terror was immanent in her expression. She had expected nothing like this to come from their relationship. But he knew that she now knew what he must do.
He smiled hugely, savagely, and slowly walked toward her, a demoniac with a knife gleaming in his right hand. Rhea opened her mouth in a silent scream, and he knew she was terrified. He knew she'd be fun. He couldn't wait to begin.
Copyright 1999 rich logsdon