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Pining For My Demons

Floris M. Kleijne is the author of over forty published stories, eleven of which have appeared here in Daily Science Fiction. Use the Search function on the website to find the others, and read about a sentient painting, a trans dragon, revenge upon the Four Riders, time-travel marital strife, and other figments of his imagination. In a parallel universe that actually exists, he is also the Dutch thriller novelist Floris Kleijne, and the ardent Iain (M.) Banks fan his pen names suggest. Find even more free stories on floriskleijne.com, where he also blogs about writing, Real Life, and atrocious customer service.
*****Editor's Note: Disturbing Story, Mature Issues*****
I miss my demons.
Devin says he likes the new me, the warmest L-word he's willing to employ these days. He dares to take me out now, to sit next to me in the opera house, where the merest cough is frowned upon; to treat me to a white-tablecloth restaurant where waiters whisper. We dress to the nines for these outings, he in his one smart Hugo Boss suit, me in the crimson gown that hasn't fitted me since I was twenty-four, a silver lining to my weight loss. We chat and reminisce, but skirt the edges of the recent past. We talk about things we'd like to do, but limit our plans to the next week, the next month.
We gaze into each other's eyes, but his, their deep brown lined in green as familiar to me as my own, dart across my face, and his eyebrows keep dropping in worry before he calls them to order.
Back home, we make love, but there's no abandon. He keeps watching my face, but the creases in his forehead tell me he's not looking for the smile and blush of pleasure.
He worries. Maybe he fears.
I know I do.
But we don't fear the same thing.
It's been two months since the exorcism.
I remember the cross, scorching my forehead. The holy water, lashing my exposed flesh, burning me so deeply I could hear my skin sizzle. Devin and Cheyenne flanking me, holding me against the mattress. The priest, murmuring Latin incantations as I raged against the potency of his words. Screaming "No!" in tongues I've since forgotten, shrugging off the priest's thundered "Yes!" I remember feeling my power, their power, all that focused strength pounding the priest's defenses, a lifetime of faith, millennia of saints, God Herself faltering under the onslaught of powers far more ancient.
Until Devin kissed my forehead.
I recalled loving him then, and that was all it took. God is love, isn't She? The priest rallied. Devin and Cheyenne renewed their grip on my shoulders. I struggled, but the fight had left me. Left us. As the priest completed the sacramental ritual, I felt them leave; felt their presence, their dark, fierce, enveloping energy pull back from my fingers, withdraw from my arms, leave my legs and my head and my breasts and my belly, and burst from my pelvis. I swear I heard a desperate, otherworldly scream, saw lightless shapes speed away.
I sank back on the mattress, spent. The priest, his voice weak and rasping, said,
"It's done."
The weeping hole in my core squeezed agreement.
Over the phone, Mom asks if I'm okay. I spout reassuring lies. The burn marks would have healed by now, even if they had been real.
Over margaritas, Cheyenne asks if I'm okay. I tell her what she wants to hear. She smiles, tells me she's glad, but the skin under her eyes is bruise purple. And when she tells me she heard no scream, saw nothing leave, she avoids my gaze.
In bed, Devin puts down his book, and for the hundredth time, asks if I'm okay. I snap that I am.
And I am. Okay.
I'm okay, like a banked flame is okay, an empty fireplace. I'm content, not happy; empty, without content. The priest tells me prayer will help me heal. So I pray, but the words are only that: words. My doctor tells me I should rest, and eat well, and go on walks to regain my strength.
My strength. Not my power.
They're all of them right, as they were right to perform the exorcism.
They were right, but they were wrong, too.
Because I remember who I was before. What I was before. I remember the dig, I remember them entering me, crawling into my core, and my world... changing. Or maybe it was me who changed. I remember climbing from the pit, and Professor Allister seeking me out once again, with his lewd words and lecherous hands, and feeling not the familiar fear and self-loathing, but rage. And maybe what I did to him, clawing and biting and rending, wasn't any worse that what he'd done to me a dozen times. And maybe the invisible scars he'd given me, the pain he caused me, he and others like him, before him, the pain that I now feel once again, far outweighed the agony of possession.
Because it hurt, the demons hurt, like glass under my skin and nails in my skull. But the pain meant that I was no longer weak; I was strong, and I was safe, and I could scream with terrible abandon and no one, no one could hurt me ever again.
I've locked the bedroom door. The chalked lines on the floor are complete.
I light the five candles, and open the grimoire.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 31st, 2021


One does not have to be a Christian to appreciate the truth in Matthew 7:13-14.

- Floris M. Kleijne
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