This Present Darkness: Chapter 14

Standard

So Marshall has decided he has to do what he’s been dreading – call that super hot and powerful professor who scares the ever-loving daylights out of him. After all, he totally just told Young he was going to do that and he can’t not do that now because that would make him not just a liar but probably would prove that he is scared (which he definitely is) but he is not going to be scared of a woman. Okay, most of that is subtext but I feel like it’s there. Anyway. He goes through a lot of effort once he makes his decision. He tries a bunch of numbers at the college before finding out that Langstrat isn’t in today and her home number is unlisted. Seriously, this is the least helpful college ever. They never call you back, you apparently have to call multiple numbers just to find out a professor isn’t in… I’m pretty sure you could probably just call the main office at my college to find that out. Or look at the website. OH. Again. The world without internet. What a terrible thing.

But eventually he thinks of that terrible professor who is obsessed with Langstrat and he wonders to himself if maybe that guy would have her home number and would help him out with his stalking mission. So he calls him and leaves a message and the professor calls him back and does have her phone number and is more than happy to give this totally private information to him.

So apparently Christian fiction really is just totally obsessed with phone calls? Slacktivist has noted on basically hundreds of occasions how nothing is ever more exciting in the Left Behind books than when the characters get to make phone calls. And this was literally half a page of him playing phone tag. Phone tag in order to stalk someone. I’m just saying. Is it because of how important phones were before the internet? Is that why this seems weird now? Was phone tag more exciting then? I cannot believe that is true but maybe.

*********

And you know what really sucks about phones? So easy to outsmart them. Because after all of that effort, we go to Juleen Langstrat’s apartment (I am still trying to get over the name Juleen. Does anyone know anyone named Juleen?) and find that “the living room was dimly lit by one small lamp on the mantel. The room was quiet, warm, and comfortable. The shades were drawn to block out distractions, bright light, and any other disturbances.” And you know what else? “The phone was off the hook.” So we just went through all that to…. Okay. I’m taking a deep breath and moving forward.

Because Juleen is hypnotizing Sandy! In the most confusing plot ever! No really, I’m so fucking confused. I honestly have no idea what she’s doing. She does a normal hypnotism thing, listen to the sound of my voice, etc and then she like stretches her hands over her face and tells her that she should release her true self and asks her if she’s feeling her (Juleen’s) energy return to her and Sandy says she does…. and Juleen tells Sandy she feels her body falling away from her and she’s free of her body and that her “life force is expanding” and then she brings her back from the trance.

So… I don’t actually have any idea what that was supposed to be. I don’t really know a lot about hypnotism, it’s something I’m pretty skeptical of in general. But as far as evil plots go, this seems like the most confusing one ever. Is Langstrat draining her life force? Is she a vampire? Can demons help her do that? And if that is what she’s doing then why does Sandy wake up feeling so amazing. Well, I guess it doesn’t say how she feels. Peretti’s imagination doesn’t go that far. All we know is that she says “wow” and that this was Wonder Boy’s idea and she was skeptical but she’s sure glad she did it now. Langstrat tells her to not tell anyone about it because it’s a very personal and intimate experience and it’s important to have other people tell you who you can tell your personal experiences to, as all good psychologists know.

******

It is Friday again and Hank is very concerned about how Mary isn’t here. He does not seem concerned that something may have happened to Mary, but he does seem extremely concerned because that harlot Carmen is coming to the house again and he has “no idea if there may be any spies watching the house, but he could never be sure.” Could he not? Ever be sure? Really? Is that not a thing he could be sure of? Don’t the 20 people left from the church who voted against him have jobs? Or something else to do other than trick him and catch him with this bizarre con? Hank has a weird ego. “Hank’s fearful side could envision all kinds of plots his enemies might be forming against him, such as sending some strange and seductive woman to compromise and ruin him.” I… I cannot imagine what to do with this. It goes back to that disgusting idea that has been brought up in other parts of this book. Men of God who are accused of horrible sexual crimes or misconduct probably didn’t actually do those things, those are just attacks of Satan. It’s really, really disgusting.

So. As he’s sitting there working himself into a tortured man frenzy, there is one thing he does know! “If Carmen didn’t show a genuine responsiveness to the counseling and begin to apply real solutions to a real problem, that would be the end of it as far as he was concerned.” You are such a piece of shit, Hank. You have met her for an hour. A whole fucking hour. But if she doesn’t start applying solutions to problems right fucking now then she is just a whore who needs to get away from your holy self. Obviously this woman is probably a minion of Satan sent to get you because this book is disgusting but I still feel bad for her.

Oh look. She’s at the door. “The way she was dressed made Hank figure he’d better let her in quickly if only to get her out of sight.” I think I just threw up in my mouth. Mary has still not arrived.

******

Mary is at the store and upset about the new owners again. Seriously, can this grocery store really be that important? Apparently they “become secretive” every time she asks about Joe and his family. It is insane to me that this is a plot they keep bringing up.

So after pondering all of that she takes her groceries out to the car and spiritual warfare ensues. SEE, CHRISTIANS? You might just be getting groceries and things of INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE COULD BE HAPPENING. Sigh. So she all of a sudden feels incredibly depressed and overwhelmed and unhappy, which would actually be really understandable, honestly. I mean, she’s had all this stuff going on lately, the church battles have got to be wearing on her and her husband is so overwhelmed and they presumably never have sex and it’s… it’s a lot.

One of the things that is so awful about this theology and the books like these that teach it is that it teaches you that your emotions are bad and evil and from demons. You feel depressed? That is an evil emotion. You feel overwhelmed, sad, fearful? Those are evil emotions and you need to fight them. Except that doesn’t work. Even if you don’t have clinical or chemical reasons for those feelings, in which case more drastic measures may need to be taken, fighting them and saying they don’t exist or they don’t “come from you” or they are an “attack on you” is a horrible viewpoint and incredibly destructive. Acceptance and love and all that is what is going to be able to allow you to move forward and deal with those feelings in healthy ways, not trying to exorcise them. Sigh. Okay. So that was a tangent and I’m sure it won’t be the first one on this.

So apparently Triskal was attacked from behind and demons are like all on top of him and they’re drooling and smell of sulfur and it’s gross. He’s being held down and he can’t move and he knows Mary is in danger and THEN Rafar picks him up by the scruff of the neck and calls him “little angel” and tells him he should feel lucky to be the first one to see him. So Rafar is like that much bigger than giant Triskal? Huh.

******

Flash over to Hank who has led Carmen into his office. She “sinks back into the chair with a coo and a sigh” and I feel gross about everything. Hank is recording the session because although HE knows he is innocent (oh you are a lot of things, Hank but innocent is certainly not on the list) he wants proof and she tells him she hasn’t heard voices all week and he remembers oh yeah, that’s what we were talking about.

I want to hit him.

*********

Triskal looks at Mary who is putting away her groceries (SO SUSPENSFUL) and Rafar talks more shit for no reason and Mary gets into the car and a demon pierces the hood of her car with his sword… what now? Okay seriously. What can they do? The engine won’t start. There’s a young man in front of the laundromat out there and he’s possessed by several demons apparently and he’s heading towards her car. He’s trying to talk to her and Mary is freaking out and keeping the window closed all but a crack and he’s trying to convince her to open up so he can see what he can do.

******

LOT of flashing back and forth here. Sigh. So Hank feels upset about everything because where is Mary? And again I don’t feel a lot of concern from him about her as much as concern that she’s not here to help him with this mess. But Carmen is making more sense and “seems to be dealing with her problems intelligently and with a genuine desire to change things.” Every time I think he cannot say a worse thing, he says a worse thing. I really don’t know how he does that. It is a magical skill that I wish he did not possess.

So she explains that she’s just stopped listening to the voices and that she’s realized it was just her loneliness talking to her and that he helped her realize that (this is obviously why he thinks she’s being more rational this time around) and then she tells him he’s so strong and she wishes she could be like that and he throws out the “all things through Christ who strengthens me” verse and she asks where his wife is and he tells her grocery shopping and she tells him she is super drawing so much strength from his presence and he has started running circles around the room and getting ready to throw up. But it’s cool, I’m pretty sure I already have like three times now.

*******

Mary is terrified because this guy is harassing her and honestly I don’t understand this at all because she’s at a grocery store in the middle of the day in their lovely tiny town and how is no one seeing what’s happening? Like it isn’t the middle of the night or anything, why is there so much danger, how far from the store was she? I mean, it is totally legit that she is frightened of this man but why haven’t people noticed and intervened from even inside the store?

Also Rafar has his sword up to Triskal’s throat and is demanding that he tell him where the captain is and obviously Triskal is not saying shit. Mary keeps trying the horn but apparently the demon has disabled that too somehow.

*****

“Carmen was still telling Hank how much good this counseling was doing her, how he reminded her of her former husband (the one who ran off and abandoned her? A+), and how she was looking for a man with his qualities. Hank had to put a lid on this stuff.” Even though he is loving every second of it.

So he asks her the first decent thing he has EVER asked her as a counselor, which is basically does she have any other support systems in her life that she can turn to. She basically tells him no, she has casual friendships “at the tavern” (at the what now?) but nothing serious. And then she wants to know if he “thinks she’s attractive.”

I assume this constant flipflopping is supposed to build tension but I am not tense. Well, I am. But for different reasons than he wants.

*******

The guy is now screaming obscenities at Mary and beating on the glass with a giant metal buckle. How is no one seeing this? Are demons blinding people? Also, is the implication here that he is going to sexually assault her? Or are they just trying to scare her into thinking that? Either way, it is disgusting how often they use sexual stuff as a scare tactic in this story.

They’re about to get the doors open, a demon is going to open the lock. Triskal manages to mutter “the brake” and Mary hears it (although the demons can’t understand what he said, weirdly) and has a “flash of inspiration” because the car is parked on an incline. So is she on a… street? Not a parking lot? Why would that be? So it starts rolling faster and the guy’s “efforts to stop the car were becoming too obvious to passersby.” And him banging on the window with a buckle and screaming obscenities was not??? A truck driver slows down and yells at him.

Rafar is super pissed but gives up. He also lets Triskal go, which doesn’t make any sense at all to me but maybe there is a Plan. A demon slashes his back deeply as he flies up. Rafar stomps on his neck and tells him to tell Tal that Rafar is LOOKING FOR HIM. Which I feel like Tal probably already knew. Triskal is all beat up and sad but he still flies after the car. How long does it take angels to heal, I wonder?

*****

Hank lifts Carmen’s hand off of his own and looks into her eyes with “compassion yet firmness” (yeah, whatever helps you sleep at night, hun) and proceeds to tell her that he is glad she’s impressed with all his “masculine qualities” and that he has no doubt a woman of her “particular qualities” will have no trouble finding a good man. But he’s a pastor and a counselor and they can’t continue doing this because it seems to be causing emotional conflict for her.

Which is so gross and frustrating on so many levels because it’s a fucking lie. The real reason they can’t keep doing this is because it’s causing conflict for him. Which you know. He’s not actually trained to do this but therapists do actually deal with clients who fall for them. It’s not uncommon. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop treatment, although it might. It wouldn’t look like this. Whatever. Carmen is pissed. Hank feels like he has won a battle which is horrific and “from the icy look in Carmen’s eyes, he figured she had lost.”

*****

Mary is still terrified and praying that god will protect her and that guy won’t come after her. The car was slowing down and no one is following that she can see but she is understandably not really that comforted. Triskal is all wobbly and upset but he is only concerned about her. Mary is sobbing and wailing and “jerking her body in attempts to make the car move” which I won’t mock because that seems legit. Triskal puts a hand on her shoulder to help calm her down, which I guess helps a little although all that still seems creepy to me. Then he reaches into the hood of the car and “found whatever it was he was looking for.” What WAS he looking for, Peretti? You’re writing the book, perhaps you could tell me these things.

He manages to convince Mary to try and start it again (seriously, the messing with people’s minds and subtle messages, I know it’s supposed to be all different from demons but objectively it does not seem that different from the demons) and she does and it starts and Triskal rides home on the roof, which is still my favorite image this book has offered me.

Hank jumps up when he hears the car and Carmen says she should go “maybe even out the back door” which I think is supposed to mean she’s trying to imply there’s something to feel ashamed of and that she was horrible but I mostly take to mean that she feels desperately ashamed because she has just been shamed.

So the next section is a little confusing. Hank opens the door and tells Mary he was getting worried and is asking her what’s wrong because she’s crying when suddenly Carmen starts screaming and shrieking and waving her arms as if someone is attacking her. But actually I guess Triskal is attacking Lust who is… possessing her possibly? Many of the things Lust says, she says. Lust keeps telling Triskal to leave him alone, Krioni is trying to hold him back, eventually Carmen echoes Lust and says she was just leaving anyway. She says there’s “a bad energy in this place” (you are not kidding, hun) and goes running out the door. Mary tries to call out after her but Hank stops her because he is Hank.

Krioni starts scolding Triskal because he was here the whole time and Hank was “totally fine” which is disgusting because apparently this is totally fine and there was no need to attack Lust (never mind that poor fucking girl who is literally going crazy)… and then he sees that he’s covered in wounds and is like omg, what happened? And Triskal says he just couldn’t do it again, couldn’t let it happen again. So maybe he has at least temporary angel PTSD.

And Hank asks what on earth is going on and she tells him to stfu and hold her.

Ye gods, that one was long.

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