This Present Darkness: Chapter 8

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Sandy Hogan is super sad. Actually she is “sitting dismally.” I would like to suggest that perhaps those feelings are a natural emotional response to finding yourself in this story, but perhaps that is not the point that Peretti is trying to make. She had gone to classes this morning but hadn’t been able to really pay attention. “Her mind was too much on herself, her family, and her belligerent father.” I’m trying to figure out if they’re calling her self-absorbed here, by saying she was thinking of herself first. But like… her father is belligerent and kind-of awful and it makes a lot of sense she is upset. Also, as she next points out, she had a really horrible night. Because she walked across town and sat all night in the bus depot reading her psychology book. Satan gets to you in the weirdest ways. You know what I have never, ever felt like doing while emotionally traumatized? Reading my homework.

Anyway, after her last class she tried to nap on the lawn but only slept for a little bit and when she woke up “her world was no better and she had only two impressions: hunger and loneliness.” Um. Has Frank Peretti ever gone a night without sleep? Because even at 18, I think the overwhelming impression would be of exhaustion, personally. Hunger and loneliness are further down the pyramid of needs. Hunger probably only slightly.

Anyway, now she’s not eating her “slowly cooling, microwaved, packaged hamburger and a slowly warming half-pint carton of milk.” This man is amazing at making food sound repulsive. She’s almost crying. She whispers to herself “in very soft tones” which is a weird phrase “Why, Daddy? (and seriously I am NOT BUYING that she calls him daddy and would love it if they would stop doing that because it is so creepy) Why can’t you just love me for what I am?” She wonders how he can hold so much against her when he hardly knows her, how can he be so sure she’s wrong about her philosophies when he doesn’t understand them? “They were living in two different worlds, and each disdained the other’s.” That made me laugh because it was a super melodramatic teenager thing to think and I wish that Peretti had meant it that way… but I think he did not.

So last night she and her father didn’t speak and she couldn’t eat so she went to bed feeling really depressed and hungry. She really wanted to call both her parents into her bedroom but she knew that they wouldn’t be able to just love her, that there would be demands and conditions and she just couldn’t handle it. And then in the middle of the night she woke up terrified for some reason she couldn’t explain and even though she knew it was ridiculous she got up and got dressed and ran away to a bus depot. “Now she felt very much like some poor animal shot into space with no means of returning, floating listlessly, waiting for nothing in particular and with nothing to look forward to.” Does it say something that his writing seems a lot more sensible when it’s coming from an 18 year old? Like yes, this seems like a plausible way a distressed teenager might think. Although I love the idea that she’s comparing herself to space geckos or whatever.

She let her red hair fall like soft blinds on either side of her face so she could cry.

I have never seen hair look like blinds but sure. She’s trying to cry softly but it’s not working so well and then a young man comes up and interrupts, a young, blond, thin man, “with eyes full of compassion.” So either he’s from Satan or God. Oddly IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SAY. He asks if he can help.

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

Professor Juleen Langstrat’s apartment. Great villain name. It’s all dark and quiet and there are candles. You know bad business is happening. There are strange, oriental masks on the walls (notracistnotracistnotracist). Two people are facing each other, one of them is the professor, which makes sense since it is her office. She has her head leaned back against the chair and her arms are making gentle wave motions like she is treading water. This is a hilarious image to me for some reason. The other person is Brummel who is sitting with his eyes closed but looks super uncomfortable and keeps peeking to see what is going on.

At some point she begins to moan, which sounds exciting but probably isn’t because her face registers pain and displeasure so I guess it’s the wrong kind of moaning. She looks at him and is like so you’re not feeling great, are you? And he’s like nope, I’m fine, just tired. And she says you are totally a liar, I am feeling very disturbed energy and feeling energy is the thing that I do because I am a witch and all of middle America should be on the edge of their seat in terror now. Okay, maybe I’m extrapolating a little.

She asks him if he went to talk to Oliver today and I had to read ahead a bit to see who the hell Oliver was, but that’s Pastor Young. And apparently he went there to talk to Pastor Young about “their relationship?” by which I don’t know if he means his relationship with her or Pastor Young’s relationship with her. I think maybe he means his with her. He denies it at first and she gets all dominatrix-y and DON’T LIE TO ME to him. And then she tells him he feels controlled, which is hilarious, because obviously he feels controlled, you are clearly controlling him. He says he’s not and she laughs and says he does because she just read it.

He looks at the phone and asks if Oliver called her and she smiles and says “There was no need to. Oliver is very close to the Universal Mind. I’m beginning to meld with his thoughts now.” She then tells Alf that she is not pleased that he is not ALSO melding his ass into the Universal Mind, as if that sounds like an appealing thing to anyone and not like a set up for a pod person movie.

Alf whines that there’s too much to learn and he just can’t do everything at once and she comforts him and says he’s scared and that’s okay and what is scaring him? He gets all grumpy and childlike and is basically like you’re so smart, you tell me. And she says well, I prefer to let you speak first (because this is what psychology people do, they read your mind but kindly let you speak first) and he’s like well fuck you, I’m not afraid then. And she gets all “stern” on him and tells him he is definitely lying and he is definitely frightened and the REASON is because they were photographed by the reporter from the paper.

And then he’s like YOU TOTALLY LIED TO ME because I talked to Young about exactly that thing so he MUST have called you! And she’s like yeah, all right, he called. We don’t hide anything from each other, so what? Which like… okay? Why admit he called? Why not stick to the Universal Mind story? I don’t understand anything. But she is “unabashed.”

So Brummel somehow from this realizes there’s no point in hiding anything, which is a weird conclusion to draw, and admits he is nervous about the plan, says they’re taking too big of risks, that Hogan is poking his nose around in lots of places and asking delicate questions to Young. She says he’s seeing the glass as half empty when it’s totally half full. That Hogan opened up to Pastor Young about things that were going on at home (for reasons unknown) and his daughter has run away, didn’t want to be at home but still wanted to be in her classes and how great was that? She feels certain they can use it in good time.

Brummel says he thinks Hogan is different from the last guy, he may not stop. She says he’s an idiot, he got access to the film and destroyed it, what is he so worried about? He very accurately points out that before that happened they really weren’t asking many questions and now they’re asking a lot of questions so maybe that actually wasn’t the best idea. That they’re “not that gullible” which is an insane thing to say because who is so gullible that they’re going to be like “well, I guess my camera pulled its OWN film out of itself and replaced it?” Anyway. They’re not that gullible but evil professor assures him, while “putting her arms around him like the tendrils of a vine” (ew, ew, ew) that they certainly “are vulnerable, first to you, and ultimately to me.” “Just like everybody” he muttered.

Um. K. Did that seem like insanely gross sexy to you?

Oh, apparently it is. She gets all cold and pissed off and says he also talks about THAT with Oliver when apparently he should not and he’s upset that he tells her everything (yeah, no confidentiality here apparently) but she assures him that “the Masters would tell her even if he didn’t” and apparently her beauty is “immense and hideous” and she insists he looks at her and threatens to terminate the relationship if he’s not happy and he whimpers and insists he’s happy, super happy, so happy, has never been happier, needs to make her let go of him so much. And she gives him a “slow, vampirish kiss” (everything Peretti knows about sex is gross) and is apparently cutting him to pieces (inside, we assume, not in a literal way) and other dramatic phrases.

They talk more about enemies, how many there are, how they keep coming. He says that Hank has more people on his side than she thinks and she gets super outraged because he seems to be afraid of Hank and wtf is wrong with him? “Somebody’s on his side. I don’t know who. And what if he finds out about the Plan?” I love that he capitalized Plan. No seriously. That is my favorite thing. She responds in the most campy way possible.

“He will never find out anything!” If she had fangs, they would have been showing. “He will be destroyed as a minister long before then. You will see to that, won’t you?” He says he’s working on it and she says “Do not bow to this Henry Buschel! He bows to you, and you bow to me!”

Okay, so like… query. Does Frank Peretti believe that real people talk this way? Does he think this is how real New Age people or real witches or real… whoever these people are, talk? Or is this artistic license for the story? I honestly can’t tell.

Anyway. She makes an appointment with him for next Tuesday and I legitimately can’t even tell what their relationship is supposed to be. What kind of appointment? Is it a shrink thing? Is this what he thinks Satanic shrinks do? I seriously don’t understand, cause she was like sexy and all over him. Anyway. After she makes him go away she arranges on her desk all of the life histories, personality traits and recent photographs of Marshall, Kate and Sandy. Her eyes fall on the photo of Sandy and “glint maliciously. Hovering invisibly over Langstrat’s shoulder was a huge black hand adorned with jeweled rings and bracelets of gold. A deep and seductive voice spoke thoughts into her mind.”

Okay, like I’m seriously lost and baffled because this woman is not even recognizable as having anything to do with psychology. Like it’s one thing to twist ideas around but it’s a bit more confusing to be like “this woman is a psychologist! You can tell by how she acts exactly like a supervillain in a terrible B movie! This is psychology!” I mean, it’s just… not very convincing. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a satanic messenger.

**********

MEANWHILE back at the Clarion. It’s Tuesday and the once a week paper has come out so everyone is apparently just chilling or not there. Seriously, how big is this town?

Edie, the secretary/reporter/ad girl, she had resigned and walked off the job last night. Marshall had not known that she once was happily married, but gradually became unhappily married, and finally got a little thing going with a trucker that resulted in a very recent blow-up at home, with pieces of marriage flying everywhere and spouses fleeing abruptly in opposite directions. Now she was gone, and Marshall could feel the sudden void.

I’m so… sad for you, Marshall? Also, that is the weirdest fucking description of a divorce I have ever read. Pieces of marriage flying everywhere? What do pieces look like? Whatever

He and Bernice are sitting in the back of the office, wishing Edie had told them anything before they quit. Like where the cord to the coffee maker is. Hey! I know where you can find one! The chief of police has a suspicious extra one hanging out of his wall for no reason. Or apparently they look like phone cords so maybe you can plug it into the phone. Also they don’t know where the books are. Or the phones and addresses. Basically they are completely fucked.

“I guess it was a bad blow-up. She’s leaving town for good, before her husband’s black eyes heal up and he can see to find her.”

“Affairs. Nothing good ever comes of ’em.”

I… wait, what? Did Edie beat her husband in the face? Did the trucker she was sleeping with beat her husband in the face? Was there physical assault? Also, is Edie in physical danger from her husband once his black eyes heal because if so, maybe she was in physical danger before? We’ll never know. That is the extent of this conversation.

Bernice asks if he’s heard about Alf Brummel and says she’s been talking to his secretary, that he’s been sneaking out every Tuesday afternoon and never says where he’s going but he must have a girlfriend. Marshall points out that it must be Langstrat (which is weird and makes no sense because he KNOWS that Brummel is going to see Pastor Young during the afternoons on Tuesdays, we’ve already covered this. Like, he may be going to see Langstrat too but how would Marshall know that?) But Marshall is magic and determines this because “the blond woman you saw that night, remember? The day after one of my reporters gets busted for taking the wrong pictures at the carnival, Langstrat kicks me out of her class. Add to that Oliver Young’s ears getting all red when he told me he didn’t know her.” 

“You’re brilliant, Hogan.”

“Just a good guesser.”

No, you’re fucking insane, Hogan. The fact that you’re right doesn’t make you less insane, it makes the world you live in insane. Because that was not solid logic. This is followed up with this grossness from Bernice. “She and Brummel do have something going. He calls it therapy but I think he enjoys it, if you get my drift.” Yeah. We do. And you are a disgusting fucking human. We know something is wrong with the picture, in a bizarre nonsensical way but they don’t, not really. What if the man was just going to therapy, for god’s sake? What, because she’s hot she must be fucking her clients? Fuck all of you. Bernice is also sad he wasn’t married so she could do more with it. Bernice is an awesome human, like everyone else.

Marshall points out that maybe it’s more important that these three people are connected somehow and they don’t know how. The fingerprints didn’t match anyone. Bernice has an uncle who is very close to the county prosecutor, which for some reason might come in handy, although there’s literally no evidence of anything at this point.

Marshall starts to try and casually explain to Bernice how maybe one thing that connects these people are that Brummel and Langstrat both super love to hypnotize you and make you do shit you didn’t know you were into doing. Bernice understandably thinks this is insane and laughs at him. He feels Brummel is not as good as Langstrat and that maybe Young does it too but that he uses a lot of words. Bernice tries to be cute and offer him a stiff drink of hot chocolate.

Bernice suggests maybe the guy getting kicked out of the church for shacking up (shacking up! so not cheating then?) might be useful in some completely mysterious way and Marshall gets really offended and says she’s dealing in gossip or something. So then she suggests maybe she could call her friend on the faculty (didn’t she just get to town like a minute ago? Why does she have friends?) who could tell her about the professor. Marshall says it would be nice if she didn’t make more trouble for him and she somehow magically knows it’s about his daughter and why doesn’t Peretti have warning lights about the dangers of emotional affairs here? Doesn’t discussing deeply personal matters like the fear of your runaway daughter with a woman count? I don’t understand the rules. Anyway. He’s sure they’ll get her back and yes, she’s been in SEVERAL of Langstrat’s classes and suddenly he’s worried he’s blurring the line between personal vendetta and professional journalism (Marshall, you left that line behind miles ago) but she is going to go for it anyway and he’s not going to stop her. Because that’s what ethics looks like. And I guess what God must want him to do.

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