This Present Darkness: Chapter 11

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So, when the vote is announced, apparently there is an explosion of demons that all the angels see. They tell each other that those little rascals are going to wreak havoc on the town tonight but you know. It’s not like they will do anything about that. Just observe. Two votes and one of them was Lou Stanley and “I see the Spirit has been working!” So I guess… whatever. I don’t even know. They escort Duster home and post sentries around her house because of all the chaos that will erupt. I don’t know how much chaos it will really be. Apparently the police are busy with fights and spray painting and cars being stolen, so it doesn’t exactly sound horrific but I just don’t understand anything about their strategy or why it’s totally cool to just stand by and let people get hurt. Except Duster, I guess. I know her name is Edith but I stubbornly will insist on calling her Duster from here on out.

**********

Juleen Langstrat is being tortured. As if she were not already a confusing enough character as far as motivation and such go, we now learn that the demons aren’t even being nice to her, which really doesn’t make any sense at all. There are threatening voices, flames, her head is killing her, she can feel claws, etc. “The Masters were angry!” They keep telling her that she has “failed, failed, failed” or rather that Brummel has and now they’re both going to die for it. She has a knife in her hand maybe or maybe she’s just hallucinating. She wants to kill herself or really she wants to “break loose from the prison of flesh that binds her.’

The phone keeps ringing which brings her back a little but she doesn’t answer it. She’s on her knees on the bedroom floor and her finger is cut and the phone is still ringing. “She called out hello, but it still rang” which cracked me up even though I know it’s not nice to laugh at people having psychotic breaks. Meanwhile, on the other end of the phone, Brummel hangs up, super relieved she didn’t answer and knowing she won’t be happy when she finds out. “Another delay, still another delay in the Plan.” He knows she’ll find out eventually and he can’t avoid that or her.

“He flopped down on his bed and contemplated resigning, escape, suicide.” Okay, so my question here is are the demons the ones pushing the suicidal thoughts on them? Because again, this is a terrible strategy they have going on here. Like what good will it do them if all their main people kill themselves? If anyone should be being pressed to suicide, it should be the GOOD guys, right? Not the villains? I just don’t understand this fancy demon science.

******

And then it’s Saturday morning and we’re with Marshall. He’s struggling cause they still have no secretary and also Kate just came in with groceries. He yells out to Sandy that they need help because “over the years the family had developed a pretty good system of grocery separating, handling and stashing.” I’m not sure what to do with that. It’s the first positive thing we’ve ever heard about their family and it’s extremely difficult to reconcile with everything else we’ve heard. That suddenly they have this movie style tossing of groceries around while Marshall is temporarily not verbally abusing his daughter…? I just don’t get it. Like is the only time they’re ever happy when they have food to put away?

Incidentally the next several paragraphs are filled with obnoxious asides of Kate passing vegetables to him or holding celery or whatever. Marshall asks her how Joe is and apparently Joe is gone. We’re very sad for this Joe. Joe, we knew ye so little. Actually we knew ye not at all. And apparently he sold his store and moved away. How did Marshall make all these friends in no time at all? Is this that small town thing again? Also Kate doesn’t like the new store owner, which is hilarious. Is even the new grocery owner a suspicious character? He wasn’t friendly, I guess. Marshall asked if he knew English, which could have been sarcastic in asking why he didn’t answer all of Kate’s many questions about good ol’ Joe leaving town or could have been racist. I honestly do not know. And also he may have all new people working in the store. Seriously… is the grocery store important?

Sandy says she feels something weird is going on in the town, it’s a feeling she has, she makes a pod person reference but without actually doing that. She says she thinks the town is being invaded by aliens, presumably jokingly. Marshall lets it go.

Everyone wanders back to what they were doing but Marshall has a phone call to make. “Talk about weird aliens invading the town jarred his memory and also his reporter’s nose. Maybe Langstrat wasn’t an alien, but she was certainly weird.” …. really Marshall? I’m beginning to understand why you don’t have that job in the big city anymore. Also, seriously, nothing about these family dynamics or talk about the town make any sense from a family that transplanted a few MONTHS ago from a big city to this tiny ass town and suddenly they know everyone and everything and I just… it doesn’t make sense.

So he calls Ted Harmell, who I thought was the obnoxious and nosy college professor who is obsessed with Langstrat but is actually the former editor of the paper. The conversation made only slightly more sense when I realized that. Marshall is the clumsiest person ever in getting around to what he wants to get around to. They talk about the paper for a while, then they talk about his daughter and her work at the college, then finally he is like ‘so she has this crazy teacher….’ and finally Harmel is like ‘okay, yeah, what exactly do you want to know?’ Marshall wants to know where she’s getting her ideas, I guess and Harmel has a hard time coming up with an answer, which is understandable. I would struggle coming up with an answer too.

“It’s…. uh…. Eastern mysticism, ancient religious craft. She’s just into, you know, meditation, higher consciousness… uh… the oneness of the universe. I don’t know if any of that makes sense to you.” I like how Peretti seriously couldn’t be bothered to find a single person who actually writes about any of this stuff. I mean people do, you know. Write. About all of this stuff. Some of them in crazier ways than others. And you DO know that. Obviously. And yet Peretti who was writing a book involving this could not be bothered to research a damn thing. Sigh. I know that wasn’t the point but it’s obnoxious to me. I suppose it’s better really. Probably don’t want anyone real showing up in a book like this.

So he starts bringing up her regular sessions with people and then finally tells Harmel that they just found out that he has had sessions with her himself.  But Harmel doesn’t deny it. Instead he “sighs through his nose.” I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. He doesn’t understand why it matters, Marshall says he thinks there might be a story here, which is pretty damn thin to put it mildly. “You know what it’s like,” he tells him.

Harmel was struggling, fuming, groping for words. “Yes, I know what it’s like. But you’re wrong this time, you’re really wrong!” Another pause, another struggle. “Oh brother, I wish you hadn’t called me.”

He tells him he still has respect for the profession and he doesn’t want to see him (Marshall) ruined. He can’t talk about it. Forget everything, I know you’re going to ignore me but forget everything. That sort of talk. Hogan asks how he can possibly leave it alone NOW and Harmel is like “You have a wife, a daughter? Think of them. Think of yourself.” It’s all super dramatic. But, you know. It’s just like when Hank called the former pastor. It’s basically just a dare to keep going.

Marshall asks if he’s in trouble and he yells at him to leave it alone and slams down the phone in his ear.

“Leave it alone,” Harmel said. “Leave it alone.”
In a pig’s eye.”

These phrases man. These phrases. I don’t even really understand what it means. I have heard it before but it is so weird and… idk. He’s just such an old man.

******

Oh look. We are now at Duster’s house. She is a wise old matron of the church. She used to be a missionary to China for 30 years. She is in her 80’s and is lonely and loves company. Hank and Mary are visiting her and I guess she’s happy to see even them so she must be really lonely. She is pouring them tea from a very old and charming teapot into equally charming teacups and she is telling them about how God’s purposes aren’t thwarted for long and he figures shit out in his own way, basically. Hank agrees but pretty thinly.

She informs him that he is not a mistake, he is a plan from God and she knows it. Mary explains that Hank is feeling a bit down about the vote, which is pretty appropriate, because if pretty much half of your very tiny church wants you to go, that is not great and you should not feel good about that. But Duster explains that the Lord is forcing a revival and the tide takes time to come around. I love it when the Lord forces himself on people. It’s the best. She explains that nothing could have stopped her from coming last night and she knows she was probably sick because of Satan but she knows that it was the Lord who helped her down the road to church. So she didn’t see Tal/aka little old lady helping her then. Good to know.

They’re all curious about the other vote and surely it couldn’t have been Lou Stanley and she says you may never know but God worked it out either way. Hank points out (in some of his first reasonable insight) that the church will obviously collapse if half of the congregation stops supporting it and why would they support a pastor they didn’t want? Duster explains that it’s okay because she’s dreamed of angels lately and that doesn’t happen often but when it does it is always significant.

Hank ends up telling her about his battle with darkness and she listens closely and tells him she also had an experience the other night. She stood up and got dizzy. Which is a little less dramatic, coming from a woman in her 80’s. But apparently she just never ever gets dizzy except this one other time in China when they visited a medium and she tried to put a curse on them and she had the same dizzy sensation just outside her door.

Then she says that they have to keep praying and fasting because that is what will help and also what the demons keep telling her. She sees them standing behind Hank too. She tells Mary they look just like people but bigger with swords and giant wings. And apparently after this conversation it seemed totally natural to do what they always do and start praising God and praying and thanking him for encouraging them so much. Hank could barely get through all his emotions while he was being thankful. Duster rebukes some spirits.

I feel like prayer never ever came that naturally. Like sometimes it was habit or whatever but it never felt like “oh, this is obviously the only thing we can possibly do in this moment” or whatever. I don’t know.

**********

Sigh. We’re back to the demons. Apparently two swords just fell out of demons hands, right there, right now. Rafar just watched it happen and the demons are freaking out and upset because he may kill them (or whatever they do to demons) but he’s not going to freak out yet because he’s pondering. Seriously, do demons never drop their swords? Do they have supernatural stickiness or magnetism on their hands? Is that a thing? Do angels have that too? Who knows. Somehow from looking at the swords for a while he knows that Tal is here. I cannot imagine how he could know that but he does. It’s pretty magical.

Also he is super pissed about it. He throws the sword several miles away and throws the demon after it. Some of the demons have no idea who he’s talking about, which is literally impossible to believe. Like I still cannot believe that every angel and demon doesn’t probably have some idea who each other is but the idea that they wouldn’t all know who the fucking head of the angelic hosts is is just not at all possible. But some of them are a lot more upset. And someone asks who he is and Rafar freaks out and starts screeching about it for a while.

So at some point he totally loses it and cuts open a rift in space and tells Complacency he’s totally failed at everything and he’s done with his shit and Complacency is terrified but down he goes into the abyss. So hooray for humans! No more complacency for them! How nice! Everyone will be super productive now, I guess. Then Rafar “wipes the rift shut with his sword” (what other super powers do swords have? can any demon sword do this? Is there a cut off point?) and starts yelling and grabbing more demons. Tells them all that Tal knows his shit and respects the power of the Saints of God and they’re all fucking idiots. Tal is responsible for everything.

“All because of this… Tal! This is Tal’s manner. His strength is not in his own sword, but in the saints of God. Somewhere somebody is praying!” Those words brought a chill over the group.

Also they need to keep trying to destroy Hogan in any way that they can. And last but not least, Deception assures Rafar that Sandy is “already in their hands.”

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