This Present Darkness: Chapter 6

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So I don’t know about you but I’m very excited. After all, we have been promised some crazy antics. IMPORTANT TESTING OF GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE and all. Also, when this chapter is done, we will be…. 1/7 of the way through the book. So that’s nice. Isn’t that nice? I think that’s nice. Okay. Let’s get started!

It was a dark, rainy night, and the raindrops pelting against the old single-pane windows made sleep difficult for Hank and Mary. She dropped off eventually, but Hank, already troubled in spirit, found it much harder to relax. 

Well. I mean, all right. Demon princes come to town and make it rain a lot. Does that mean there’s a lot of demons in western Washington? Also I have like no real understanding or empathy with this because there is basically nothing I love more than falling asleep to the sound of rain and wind, and it is one of the things I seriously miss while living in a basement as I do now. But I know some people seem to struggle with it so you know. Not judging. Just commenting. And Hank, shut up with your troubled spirit already.

Hank whines in his troubled spirit a lot about what a crappy day he’s had. He spent the day painting that message off the house (is that the way you handle that? I mean, wouldn’t you have to paint the whole house in that case? It was black paint. You can’t paint over that easily) and moping about “who in the world” would write something so mean about him. Which, frankly, seems weird because I feel like we’ve established that he has basically an entire town hating him. He’s still upset about the conversation with Brummel and also about the board meeting. And he’s upset about the upcoming meeting, which he totally should be because they are going to crucify  him. Probably not literally.

He spends 2 hours this way, looks at the clock and is upset about it, thinks about how his mattress is lumpy, and finally drifts off. And then he is attacked by mean dreams, increasingly scary and angry, blood and terror, STARK terror to be precise. He half wakes up and sees a demon. Well, he’s not sure he sees it. But I suppose we’re pretty sure.

It was an eerie projection in midair, a glowing painting on black velvet. Right above the bed, so close he could smell sulfurous breath, a hideous mask of a face hovered, contorting in grotesque movements as it spit out vicious words he couldn’t understand.

So he springs awake, totally freaked out and he can’t make himself not be scared. And you know, this sucks because nightmares are the worst, even when demons are not involved. He thinks he hears a rustling in the living room (who the fuck hears a RUSTLING from another room? That is some super hearing right there) and then definitely hears a clatter in the kitchen. He freaks out and starts praying. Useful.

**************

Poor Marshall is having the same sorts of dreams and the same total terror. So, bad night for everyone really. He thinks he hears voices so he gets out of bed with a baseball bat from his closet to deal with this. “Just like back home,” he thought. “Now somebody’s gonna have mush for brains.” Is he implying that in the big city he had to constantly do this? Or did he brain a lot of people? Is there a trail of comatose individuals in Marshall’s wake?

So he’s kind-of relieved at the idea of a real enemy, which makes sense until he gets the genuinely insane idea that the professor lady must be in his house in the dead of night, at which point it begins to seem more like something he must be fantasizing about than anything else. He goes to check on Sandy, her door is open, she’s not in her room. He’s very freaked out. He walks outside and actually feels a little better. But when he goes back inside “locking the door behind him was just like shutting himself in a dark closet with a couple of hundred vipers.” Every light seems dim, everything seems terrifying, someone definitely seems to be in the house.

Angels are watching, Tal is with them. They don’t see Rafar but there are at least 40 demons in the house wreaking havoc on things. A demon is on Marshall’s shoulders, beating his head and shrieking into his ear that he’s going to die and his daughter is dead. Guilo is flipping out because he’s never just hung out and watched someone be tortured before and he’s not totally on board with the plan but Tal, though “severely pained” by it tells him to “Forbear. Forbear. He must go through it.”

So you know. Being with God IS THE BEST.

Okay, but seriously, if you are Marshall right now, do you not kind-of assume you must have gone crazy? Like in the last 24 hours you have had two experiences where it seems like two completely unconnected people hypnotized you into doing things for no reason, your world has basically lost all sense of reason and right now you’re in your living room, the lights are too dim, you’re holding a baseball bat, certain for no reason that your daughter is dead and presumably on the edge of a complete nervous breakdown. At this point I do not think demon. I think hey, so. I am very afraid I’ve lost my mind.

***********

Back to Hank! The house is ALSO very dark here because demons fucking love presentation and they just cannot get themselves behind a good lightbulb. Whatever. He thinks he smells horrible breath and he finally walks into the living room and DOWN HE GOES and he’s being crushed and suffocated and he’s probably dying and finally he thinks to ask Jesus to help him and Jesus does so by sending him the thought “Rebuke it! You have the authority!” Because Jesus needs the right spell.

So he rebukes it in Jesus’ name and he feels it jump off of him and then he commands it out of the house and Mary awakens with a jerk to the sound of “a multitude screaming in anguish and pain.” So that’s cool.

***********

Meanwhile Marshall “roars like a savage,” which is awesome and more than a little offensive, and raises a bat to destroy his attacker who it turns out is his wife so he doesn’t do that. He snaps at her and asks if she’s trying to get herself killed by walking through her own home in the middle of the night, as if that is a normal thing to ask someone. She is busy staring at the baseball bat, because it means something is up. Which apparently means this has happened before. “She clung to him in fear.” I’m just gonna leave that.

“What happened? Who was it?”
“Nobody, I said.”
“But I thought you were talking to someone.”
He looked at her with the utmost impatience and said with steadily building volume, “Do I look like I’ve been having a friendly chat with someone?”
Kate shook her head. “I must have been dreaming. But it was the voices that woke me up.”

I just… he’s such a DICK. And I know he’s scared but this whole conversation does not need to go this way. And I hate how she backs down right away because he’s yelling at her, which to me implies that him yelling at her is a thing that happens and she is used to dealing with that. Anyway. They do not resolve the voices because Marshall tells her Sandy is gone and when they go to check they realize some of her things are gone and that she has actually left home. Marshall admits grudgingly things didn’t go to well today and Kate points out that he came home without her so that’s not exactly shocking news (score one for Kate!).

He asks how she got home, her girlfriend Terry (I would love it if they meant that in the lesbian way but I think they mean it in the way that old people say girlfriend) brought her home and maybe she went over there? But Marshall says not to call because it’s too late and it won’t help now. Kate wants to but he says no and she is distracted from her freaking out when she realizes that he’s all pale and whimpery and weird and he admits that he’s super freaked out and he has no idea why. She asks if there’s anything she can do and he says “Just be tough, that’s all.” She considers this for a moment and tells him to go get his robe and she’ll warm him some milk. As tough women do. I guess?

*********

So the angels are all super impressed with Hank’s first demon rebuking performance; apparently the demons all got their asses handed to them. Which I feel like is one of those things that never makes much sense or comes across very well because one recitation of the spell sounds much like another, which means it must just come down to inner fortitude or belief or something and that’s hard to capture on a page. But whatever. They note that he is not very insignificant, that in fact he is made of stern stuff indeed.

********

Hank and Mary are not feeling very stern. They are super freaked out. She is making an icepack for the giant welt on his forehead and he has a lot of scrapes. “Hank was thankful to have escaped with his life, and Mary was still in a mild state of shock and disbelief.” I feel like it would be more than mild personally but whatever.

They both feel awkward about it but Hank finally concludes demons (genius) and feels sorry for himself because maybe he flunked his first lesson on the front lines, which I think is maybe supposed to teach us about humility, because then he prays “Lord God, help be to be ready next time. Give me the wisdom, the sensitivity to know what they’re up to.” I think he sounds like a prick but then I always think that.

Mary says maybe God already did that and maybe he did just what he needed to do and he cheers right up and muses that he’s a veteran! Mary doesn’t know what to do so Hank suggests they pray and god, living with this guy must be the worst. So they have “a conference with the Lord” and for over an hour they talk to him and then start praying for other things as their perspective grows and it sounds awful.

*******

Marshall and Kate drink warm milk (which even thinking about is enough to make me gag) and eat toast and Marshall feels a little better and Marshall asks if Kate thinks it’s his fault what’s happening with Sandy and Kate says absolutely not, which whatever. She feels Sandy has made many choices too, which fuck this book and everything about it. She suggests talking to Pastor Young and… well. Here we go.

“Case in point.”
“Hmmmm?”
Hogan shook his head despondently. “Maybe… maybe Young’s just a little too cush, you know? He’s into all this family of man stuff, discovering yourself, saving the whales….”
(Oh god. He believes in people and yourself and the planet. He is a satanist. It’s the only explanation.)
Kate was a little surprised. “I thought you liked Pastor Young.”
“Well…. I guess I do. But sometimes – no, a lot of the time, I don’t even feel like I’m going to church. I may as well be sitting at a lodge meeting or in one of Sandy’s weird classes.”
(Okay, this is like an imaginary church that people in the 80’s made up. Unless you’re actually going to a humanitarian church, I don’t think these places ever actually existed. Even Joel Osteen’s church talks about more than what they’re implying here… slightly)
He checked her eyes. They were still steady. She was listening. “Kate, don’t you ever get the feeling that God’s got to be, you know, a little… bigger? Tougher? The God we get at that church, I feel like He isn’t even a real person, and if He is, He’s dumber than we are. I can’t expect Sandy to buy that stuff. I don’t even go for it myself.”
(How funny you should say that. I would say that the LAST part feels true for me of many churches. God doesn’t feel like a real person or he feels stupid. But not the lacking in toughness part)

Anyway, she never knew he felt that way and he starts telling her of all his stuff that’s been happening, like how everywhere he turns he’s being hypnotized and scared and now his daughter is gone and something just isn’t working. Also he does not want to talk to Pastor Young because “he’s a turkey” which is an insult I have never heard someone who is not my parents say.

Then Bernie calls and temporarily makes them all excited that maybe it’s Sandy but of course it’s not but Bernie is going to develop her film. All her other pictures came out fine but the ones of Brummell and Young and the three unknowns were totally blacked out and there’s nothing wrong with the camera and it is MYSTERIOUS.

So Marshall gets livid and when Kate timidly brings up talking to Young again he is like YOU BET I WILL TALK TO HIM. I WILL TALK HIS ASS RIGHT INTO HELL, I WILL TALK TO HIM. Or something like that. And Kate cunningly realizes something is up with her husband and she doesn’t know what but it’s late as hell and she’s exhausted and she is just not up to this bullshit tonight. So she says it is time for bed and Marshall tells her maybe he can’t sleep and she’s like I know.

And the angels are delighted! Because Marshall Hogan (I thought it was Hogan Marshall because those two things seem exactly identically possible to me but apparently it is not) is finally awake. And he is going to kick some demon ass and put up with no guff from liberal, namby pamby bullshit pastors and stuff. Hooray!

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