Haunted

This was written for a school assignment. The parameters of the assignment were as follows:

Descriptive writing about a chapel in a desert.

Descriptions have to include all 5 senses.

Descriptions must be given from three vantage points.

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Haunted

I spied down on the structure bleached white in the full moon’s glow. Peering from my cumulus cloak high above, I drank it in. The searing brightness of the lonely church made me wince, protecting my eyes from the glare. There was no green grass below, no jeweled blooms, only the crusty desert floor surrounding my chapel. Black, silver, white and gray puzzled the monochrome image together before me. The church is merely a simple cube from here. I decide to get closer.

Slowly, I glide down to outside the front door. The desert floor was a lake thousands of years ago. Now parched, the lake silt has baked into dusty scabs. When my feet land on the ground, the desert rind crunches to a fine powder under my slight weight. From above, there was nothing able to prepare me for the slamming wind that was whipping the church. I was caught by surprise. A gust filled my mouth with alkaline dust, leaving the taste of dirty old pennies behind. I would have spit if I could.

I approached the towering doors, fraught with memories. They had been painted a bright turquoise many years before. The wind and silt had worked together to grind most of the color away. A glance at the ground revealed greenish paint specks peppering the dry lake bed. Boards peeking from under the vanishing paint were scraped smooth as glass. The hinges were massive, ornate and rusted. When I trace them with my fingers, my fingers are smeared with the gritty, red powder. I wipe a scarlet stripe on my alabaster-hued gown. Unable to open the hulking doors with my limited strength, I hold my breath, close my eyes and float through to go back to the room where I transformed.

Drifting across the humble, cracked adobe tiled floor, I take a deep breath. I expect to smell the putrid pomade that he always caked on until his hair shined preternaturally. He was allowed vanities. The white oak pews looked exactly the same, no cushions for the pious. I could hear whispers from long ago of us giggling as kids, settling down into our sleeping bags for a church slumber party. I had gotten scared in the night and fallen off the pew. Tangled in my mummy bag, I rolled underneath and saw a naughty word for the first time in my life. Was it still under there? I kneeled down under the bench and searched for it. Sure enough, it was there. Scratched deeply by an unknown delinquent with a pocket knife. With a chuckle, I whispered it. “Dang you!” I remembered how I had blushed down to my elbows and then showed every child the fiendish phrase. It was our secret.

There was no art on the walls; they were just dull, dingy, scuffed, blanched. I had spent years of my life staring at them. Using them as a canvas on which I projected the adventures of my mind. A crucifix on the wall behind the pulpit was the only thing that hung. The church had one focal point, the figure on that cross. It dominated everything. The podium seemed left untouched. I approached it and put my hands on it like he used to. I wondered how many couples had been married here. How many caskets displayed? How many choruses raised up to my heavens? The pulpit pulsed with the power that had possessed him. The cupboard within the pulpit was locked. This would have stopped me before, but now I could reach through the oak panel. I pulled a book out. His bible, engraved with his initials CRH. I leafed through it and the thin pages made a shush sound when they turned. Notes were scribbled on every page. Some pages fell out, and they had all of our names and tally marks next to them.

Reaching through the cabinet again, I fished around and felt something cold. My fingers naturally looped into the eyerings of the scissors. I closed my eyes remembered standing at the pulpit in front of everyone. He grabbed my hair, and I felt the scissors scrape onto my scalp, grasping strands. A long, slow snip rang in my ear as the first lock fell onto the ground. He clipped and clipped until all of my hair was on the floor at my feet.

My visit turned sour; nostalgia followed by nightmare. I breeze through the back door. This door was utilitarian; it didn’t try to seduce people in like the garish front door did. Behind the church was where we kids would fail at playing hide and seek in the flat desert. We could only hide behind the tombstones of our loved ones. The ground crunched into dust at my feet. I counted the chipped, homemade concrete headstones. “Hi, Jim. Hi, Gigi, how have you been gramma?” Finally, I stopped at mine.

Suzi

March 8, 1978 – Nov 8, 1992

Daughter, Sister, Disappointment, Sinner

My annual self-imposed flagellation pilgrimage complete, I rise to go back home. I allow the hot wind to carry me back into the clouds. I rest.

 

 

Demons from the past, literally

I had chronic stomach pain while growing up, and when I complained about it I was told one of three things.  1) You’re faking it, and trying to get attention or 2) You have hidden sin that you need to confess or 3) You’re spiritually weak and have been possessed by demons, again.

This instilled in me the belief that I can will my way out of any physical ailment, if I search my heart and soul for impurities or if I just put my nose back on the grindstone, shut the hell up and be a good girl.

At least seven times in my life (that I can remember) my sinful, troublemaking nature made a “deliverance” necessary.  A “deliverance” is of course a good, old-fashioned, exorcism.  The elders of the church, along with a few others if necessary, anoint your head with olive oil and pray in tongues and lay hands on you while waiting for the Holy Spirits direction on which demons or spirits in particular need to be cast out.

I noticed that with the onset of puberty, hormones and curves that the deliverances became more necessary.  I think it’s because people in transition upset the expectation of the way things should be.  I think puberty made me evil in some way (I was once beaten for having erect nipples, so I was obviously asking for it.)

The funny thing about it is that the demons were believed to have left the body if something came out of you.  Tears were easy, so there was a lot of crying.  It’s easy to cry when you are 12 and there are people touching you and yelling at you in a spirit language and your head is greasy from all of the anointing.  But demons also can come out through a yell, a burp, a cough, sneeze or fart.  I chose to do a lot of coughing because I can’t fart on command.

At every deliverance, they cast out the “Spirit of Jezebel”.  And I remember from my very first one at about eight that she would come in handy.  I remember as I was burping, coughing and crying that I hope she stayed in me.  Because she sounded strong and I knew that I needed strength.

I, of course, am completely now addicted to the Jezebel lingerie line.  And I think my hair is so shiny from all of that olive oil.

To the nice man with a cane to whom I gave a dirty look at Kinko’s

I’m sorry; I know it came off as a dirty look. But I was really scared of you on a primal level. You triggered a memory in me. In my peripheral vision I saw a man carrying a stick down low, walking a little too close into my personal space. I was startled. You see, once when I was 16, I was falsely accused of something by an elder in my church. I told the truth and said it wasn’t true. The elder’s wife ordered that my hair be cut off as punishment. My hair was past my elbows and I loved it. It was grabbed and cut off by my father, truly one of the longest and scariest nights of my life. A 16 year old life that had already had many long and scary nights. When your family hurts you, who is left to comfort you?

The elders decided I was also “dead” to the church until I confessed. I was ordered to stand against a wall every week day from 8-5 while my mom was at work in the church office, They put me in view of her desk. She would pointedly not stare at me while she cried and worked. I could feel her telling to give in, I tried to beam psychic messages to her saying I was innocent. 80 hours I stood, not all in a row, but it’s a lot. Just who were they trying to punish? Kids from the church cleaned up after school, they vacuumed around me like I was a lamp. Nobody spoke to me for two weeks, naked without the long hair I’d had my entire life. Every once in a while the pastor of my church would sneak up behind me while holding a PVC Pipe down really low so it was out of my peripheral vision and he would strike me multiple times on the butt and thighs. At least I existed while he was hitting me; I was visible until the sting died down.

I didn’t confess, Jesus doesn’t like it when we lie. Those two weeks started the worst year of my life. It got a little easier, it’s exhausting to keep up that level of creativity in punishment. In the end, I won.

So I’m sorry. I wonder what pain makes you walk with a cane. I wanted to tell you why I flinched it had nothing to do with you, but then it would be weird to have a girl give you a dirty look and then tell you a trauma. It was hard enough to shed a few tears while pointedly not staring at you. I think I also freaked out the cashier.

Best of luck,

One of this planet’s many walking wounded.