Authors: Jackie Barrett
Everything was starting to make sense to me, and it was very frightening. I saw Joanne communicating with a powerful force who was able to appear only to her. Was it an earthbound evil spirit? Was it just a person who had passed on? Was it a demon trying to infect and infest? I had to figure it out to combat it. If it was the same man in black who had been stalking me, it was now trying to broaden its hunt to include my child. And I would not allow that to happen.
Joanne and I kept working in the months that followed, even though it was more and more difficult for me to push Patricia aside. But my clients needed me. One day, a beautiful woman in her thirties called and begged Joanne for an immediate appointment. She had seen me many times before with issues related to buying and selling property and other times just to help keep herself on a spiritual path. She seemed to be in great distress, so Joanne squeezed her into my schedule.
This lady had been living with her boyfriend for years, and they had been completely happy. But now her parents were pressuring her to get married. I, as usual, have definite opinions about that. I say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Marriage can destroy relationshipsâI've seen it happen many times. That one piece of paper can change people and make them think they need to fill a role outside of just making sure the other person is happy. Marriage doesn't necessarily keep people faithful or keep them from being lonely. It's all about what works for the individual couple.
So my pretty lady comes to see me. She was absolutely frantic, which was completely out of character for her. We got her some water and laid her down on the couch in my office. I noticed perspiration on her bare feet as I sat in a chair next to her and waited for her to speak. She told me she was possessed and needed an exorcism. No sooner had she gotten the words out than she started thrashing around and babbling.
Now I admit this looked like some wild shit. It was possible the devil could have snuck in without me noticing, but highly unlikelyâespecially in a client I knew well. I concentrated as she convulsed on my couch. There was no demon there.
“What is this? Stop that head shaking! You're going to work up a good headache, not to mention break my prized couch,” I said. “Enough!”
She kept at it, growling and crying. I went into the bathroom, reached into the toilet, and scooped out a handful of water. I returned to the office and threw it right in her face. She arched her back and screamed that it was burning her. I wiped my hands on her dress and sat back down.
“Hey, sweets, that wasn't holy water,” I said. She opened one eye and peeked at me. “That was toilet water, and the bowl hasn't been cleaned in a good week.”
She sat up and wiped her face off. “Yuck, Jackie, that's gross.”
“Yup, it is,” I said.
She stared at me and sighed. Then she explained. Her mother wanted her to get married and was laying on the guilt about it. She thought that if she was “possessed,” it would give her parents something else to focus on and worry about, and they would lay off the marriage pressure. She couldn't just tell her mother how she felt.
I shook my head. The things that people come up with. But now it was my turn. “You scrub the bowl and wash the bathroom floor,” I told her. That was the penalty for trying to pull a fast one on me. “And I'm calling your mother.” That was so I could sort out this mess.
I got the lady on the phone and explained who I was and that her daughter was so worried about disappointing her parents that she would rather act like she was possessed by a demon. Her mother kept asking if the whole thing was some kind of joke. “Nope. I got your daughter right next to me. She can call you back after the bathroom is clean,” I said.
I ended the conversation and waited for my client to finish her scrubbing. “So, what's up?” I asked with gentle amusement in my voice. “Did you see
She got a sheepish look on her face. “Yeah, it was on last night.”
I gave her the phone and listened to her talk to her mother. They laughed and cried, and her mother turned out to be very understanding. Except about the demon possession. “Why would you say you were possessed? How awful! You're going to church every Sunday with me. You need God!” her mother said.
My client hung up the phone and looked at me. As I walked her out, I gave her a hug.
“Go to church, girl,” I said, “and leave the devil alone.”
*Â *Â *
I burst out of the drugstore, letting the door go so that it almost hit Will as he followed me outside. Let him get his own damn door. I was sick of his questions. Tired of him telling me he no longer recognized me. Sick ofâ
The store alarm beeped as I stepped over the threshold, piercing my mental tirade. It certainly didn't shut Will up, though.
“Did youâor whoever is living in youâsteal something?” he yelled at me.
I turned on him with such anger. “Get off my shit, Will. There isn't anyone in me. Maybe it's you. Or maybe I should just be alone. I'm warning you, Will. Don't push me. I don't shoplift.”
I closed in on him as this thing inside of me emerged. I could tell she was defending me from him, but she also was shoving me aside, coming forward in an uncontrollable rage. I couldn't stop her.
“Don't you ever push her around.” I kept at him, poking against his chest, this massive six-foot-two bodybuilder with a chest like a rock. I had no trouble backing him up. But the strength was not mine. “Who the fuck needs you?”
With the small shred of me that was left, I knew that if he started to react negatively, it would get dangerous for both of us. Somehow, my beloved man sensed the same thing. He gently pulled me into him as he whispered in my ear. “It's okay. You're okay, Jackie. I love you. Just listen to my voice. Don't let go of yourselfÂ .Â .Â .”
He took my hand and softly said that he was going to take me home. I felt tears running down my cheeks as our hands locked tightly. “Please don't let this take me,” I managed to say.
“Never.” He started to lead me home. “You're mine forever, Jackie.”
As we walked down the peaceful leafy side streets, the other woman inside me began to relax. I could feel her slowly start to slip aside, as though Will's tender heart and whatever meager strength I had left had been able to subdue her for the moment. Maybe she'd felt our love for each other and had run away. Maybe she'd seen something she'd never had for herself. Maybe she had some unfinished businessÂ .Â .Â .
These thoughts rattled around in my head as we walked the few blocks home. I went inside and sat down on the couch. I knew I owed him an explanation, but I didn't have one.
“I know it isn't easy for you,” he said as he sat beside me, his tone clearly communicating that it wasn't easy for him, either. “I don't know where you go. You don't answer your phone. I feel like I'm dealing with a stranger sometimes. Tell me, Jackie, if you're working on something.”
“Something is happening to me,” I said slowly. “I look in the mirror and see this woman standing beside me. She lives in me. She follows meÂ .Â .Â . I'm scared that one day we are going to switch places. I'll be lost in her dimension, and she'll be living my life with my familyÂ .Â .Â .”
Had my work done this to me? I had kept all of my clients throughout this whole ordeal, but it was getting more and more difficult to concentrate on them. Did the more I interacted with the other sideâthe deadâmean that I slipped further into that side? Had part of myself been left behind? Maybe the underworld was fighting over the half of me I had managed to keep. Maybe the devil was competing to win the whole of me. Maybe I was like my mother, a prize he would win.
I buried my head in my hands, but I couldn't block out Will's words.
“On these long night strolls, where do you go? Your feet are covered in dirt in the morning. Look at the sheets! Do I have to start following you?”
He had every right to ask for answers. I had none, but there was somethingÂ .Â .Â . I went into our bedroom, with its Southern Gothic furniture and my beloved painting of the wolf whose spirit protects me, and pulled everything out of my closet. There, in the back, was my journal.
This was my very first journalâI had never kept one before. Some people keep diaries or journals and pour out their deepest thoughts and fears. Not me. I had always been afraid that if I wrote down things that I had felt or experiencedâas opposed to writing down the thoughts of the dead who speak through meâand someone found it, they would find the key to things that needed to stay in hell. Some things did not need to be written down. Some secrets you need to hide. The dark images in my mind, the thoughts I could never escapeâI always carefully tucked all of these things into the most inaccessible parts of my mind. I kept them away from the dangerously curious. Writing them down would have made them easier for others to find, and to use. It was safer to keep them buried. I knew this better than anyone.
I slid down to the floor, and Will joined me. Fear came over his face as I opened the pages.
I'm writing this to my family. I'm becoming a victim. My days are full, and my nights, I stalk. I've been pulled back into a time I don't remember. I'm living a life that isn't mineÂ .Â .Â .
I flipped through the journal, showing Will drawings I had done of a masked man and other pages that were ripped and shreddedâPatricia's doing, not mine. Pages written as if by a child, with drawings in red crayon. There was one of a red ball and another of the little girl, who would often visit me, and a man taking her.
Will closed the book, and I put it back in the depths of the closet, like I was hiding it from myself.
“Send her back, Jackie. I'll help you.”
Something inside me fell into place, something I think I had really been hiding from myself. In my desperation to get rid of this woman, I had not seen it. But now it clicked, like the snap of a lamp being turned on in the dark.
“I can't,” I said slowly, as the light began to penetrate just a little into my black-as-night brain. “If she doesn't complete her task, I will become herÂ .Â .Â . She's showing me somethingÂ .Â .Â . while something else is hunting her like an animalÂ .Â .Â .”
If I could just stay in my full body and mind, I could figure it out. If only I couldÂ .Â .Â . The phone in the kitchen rang and jolted me up from my seat on the floor. I was heading for it when Will yelled, “You can't run from me, Jackie.” I looked back in surpriseâwhy would he say that?âand where Will had been was the tall man in black.
I bolted into the kitchen and went straight for my trusty knife. With it in one hand, I ripped the phone off the hook with the other. The caller ID said it was Will's cell phone. I whispered into the receiver, “He's in the house. Please help me.”
“Call the cops. I'm on my way.”
I fumbled with the phone and dropped it as I turned. The tall man in black stood in the kitchen doorway, turning from the vague hologram I sometimes see into a solid mass of a human being.
“Jackie, why aren't you playing nice? Put the knife down before it goes into you a hundred times over.”
He gripped the edges of the door frame and then sprang toward me, like a snake uncoiling.
“Thank you for sharing your little drawings and haunting journal with me. We have no secrets, Jackie.” He was behind me now, so close I could feel his body, his breath, his voice. I could smell the rot. “You're brave, but I'm the punisher. No one will believe you, Jackie. You're acting irrational. And anyway, I'm in prison. Yep, now you know my secret. Who am I, Jackie?
“I can come and go. I am the grim of the night. You're learning from the best.” He pulled me by my hair back toward him. “I want my soul backÂ .Â .Â .”
The door burst open and the alarm went off as Will ran in, knocking things over in his rush to get the intruder. But there was no longer anyone behind me. I threw the knife into the sinkâdangerous in my crazy handsâand listened as Will explained that after he told me he was going to start following me, I had gone berserk. He'd needed some time alone, so he had gotten our muddy bedding and taken it to the Laundromat.
I stood at my kitchen sink with the smell of rot still in my nose as my wonderful, protective husband kept running around, trying to find something that was impossible to catch, something that slid in and out of a portal, something that transported itself anywhere and forced me into the depths of hell.
But this time I emerged with more than just fear and confusion. I had managed to find two small rays of light in the darkness. He was in prison, and he wanted a soul returned. Whose soul? His soul, or someone else's? It wasn't much to go on, but it was a start.
*Â *Â *
This time, I knew I was dreaming. Because I had dreamed of this before. It was the little girl with a raincoat, the one who always seemed to be trying to lead me somewhere in my dreams. But I could never figure out where.
I had seen herâoff and onâfor most of my life. It was like she was a memory and a ghost all at once. And I knew she would appear again this time because the short man shrouded in mist had come for me. Even though he always escorted me through these dreams, I had never been able to see him completely. I did know that he meant me no harm and would guide me where I needed to go and show me what I needed to see. It was as though you were not allowed to see your angel while you were still among the living.