This Present Darkness: Chapter 15


Kate is making dinner, as we all know women love to do, when the phone rings. It is Marshall. She is exasperated because he has been calling a lot this week. Now I am… this is all weird to me because considering where we last left Marshall and a new pattern of him coming home late most nights, I feel like in most stories he would be about to have an affair. Or having an affair. That might even be true in real life. But that doesn’t even seem to have come up. Because we know that it’s not true, Kate also doesn’t seem concerned but that is… crazy. Why wouldn’t she be worried about that? It’s not like they have such a spectacular relationship that she could be perfectly secure. Anyway.

She has an exasperating wife talk with Marshall and he tries to defend himself that it’s not as bad as she thinks, he’s totally coming home this time, he’ll just be an hour or so late. Kate is disgusted but decides that since he is never, ever home anymore, she has to say this now. She tells him she is worried about Sandy.

“What’s wrong with her now?”
Oh, she could just punch him for that tone of voice! 

Go Kate! You have just become my favorite main character by having the only logical reaction to another character that we have seen so far. Hooray for you!

She proceeds to tell him that if he would show up once in a while maybe he would notice. She cannot explain what is wrong but Sandy is just not the same and also Kate is afraid about what Shawn is doing to her. Marshall clearly thinks this is insane. She says she can’t talk about it over the phone.

Now Marshall sighed. “All right, all right. We’ll talk about it.”
“When, Marshall?”
“Oh, tonight, when I get home.”
“We can’t talk right in front of them – “
“I mean… oh you know what I mean!” Marshall was tiring of this conversation.
Well, just get home, Marshall, please!”
“All right, all right!”
Marshall hung up the phone with hardly a loving gentleness. For a split second he regretted the act and thought about how it must have made Kate feel, but he forced his thoughts onward to the next, very pressing project: interviewing Professor Juleen Langstrat.

See, if this book were more subtle, I would think maybe the demons were actually doing their job with Marshall. Distracting him from his family and the people he is actually supposed to care about and love by making him obsess over the plot is a semi-decent scheme. Hell, along the way they could throw in some adultery. It’s still gross to me to think of this as something that is like… demons tricking you instead of just humans making poor choices but since that’s the world we’re presented with. But I don’t think that’s true? We haven’t seen any sign that that’s true. Because if it’s not true, then he’s just also a terrible person. That is seeming more likely.

So he dials the phone again and this time she answers the phone because of how she’s not busy hypnotizing anyone. He begins his “interview” by telling her that his daughter has been in some of her classes, because Marshall has zero idea of what professional and personal things are. She is delighted to hear that, I guess pretending she doesn’t know, even though obviously Sandy is a Target. Basically he presses for an interview with her and she keeps putting him off and talking about him contacting TA’s and such and he says maybe they could talk about her super secret college classes and she says some insane thing about how that was “part of an experimental college idea they were trying” making it sound as though it is in the past I guess.

And then Marshall, showing his really fantastic interviewing skills again, is like “So you’re not willing to discuss the very influential people you have among your circle of friends?” as if that would be a normal thing that she might do. She says, in what I feel is a super reasonable response, that she doesn’t understand the question. He starts listing people and she tells him she has no comment and he, as usual, does not seem to understand that people getting angry with him is not always a sign that he’s on the right track (although I suppose in this case it is) but perhaps a sign that he is an asshole.

So then he decides that the only other thing he can ask her about is why she booted him from her class a few weeks ago, which is also insane because, weird hypnotism bullshit aside, a professor completely has a right to decide who they want in their classroom. She really should have gone with that but of course instead she is Evil and insists she doesn’t remember him at all, that he must be mixing her up with someone else. Then she hangs up on him, which is what she should have done ten minutes ago (or possibly when she picked up the phone and wondered to herself how on earth he stalked down her private number).

Marshall comes out into the office and is super upset and angry, apparently his face is very red. Bernice gives him some crap about it and he says he has been “talking to too many temperamental women in one night” which… I can’t. I just can’t. Picture my angry meltdown and a lot of profanity. He tells Bernice about getting Langstrat on the phone for a few seconds but he couldn’t get anything out of her and they’re very frustrated, they make stupid jokes about how no one ever remembers them and they must be invisible

Then she’s going over paperwork and a wad of paper bounces off her head and Marshall is looking very serious like he could not have done it. And then Marshall is doing something and the same wad of paper bounces off of his ear. Somewhere in between there Marshall remembers that Harmel said something about OTHER people having been kicked out of town so I guess they’ll be looking up who else has left this town, which to be honest, seems like it should take them a year. They continue this musing while throwing paper at each other and Marshall says he has to go home to his wife but he and Bernice “finish the war first and then have to clean up before they can go home.” Okay this is… flirting, right? THIS HAS TO BE FLIRTING? Do I not understand anything about the world? I’m so fucking confused right now. I mean, I don’t even necessarily think it has to be in real life but in THESE stories this can’t be innocent? Is this supposed to make us like them? I really don’t understand. Nothing will make sense to me if Marshall doesn’t almost sleep with Bernice.


So Rafar is having a temper tantrum. He’s pacing and tearing apart imaginary enemies with his claws and pounding his fists together. You know, a temper tantrum, but from a demon.

Lucius is just hanging out watching and enjoying himself because obviously Rafar got cut down to size. The great thing about this is that he apparently called a meeting and is now throwing a temper tantrum in front of the demons he called into a meeting. I admit I do not know a lot about leading people (or demons) but this seems like a bad strategy.

Basically Lucius is making fun of Rafar because Triskal didn’t tell him where Tal is. And it just hurt my soul to type all those names in one sentence. Good lord. When he does that, Rafar proves he is obviously wrong by grabbing Lucius by the throat and screaming at him about mocking him.

There’s a lot about how they have to find Tal, no matter what find Tal. Lucius in a not so humble way asks if Rafar is actually going to be able to defeat Tal this time since it didn’t go so well last time. He will, he totally will. Rafar will murder the shit out of Lucius once he does. It’s all very blustery.

Then his big plan is awesome, which is literally to just fly all over the town really openly so that everyone can see him. The angels are confused because angels are stupid but Tal points out that Rafar is trying to draw him out, or else he’s just on a bender. But I don’t think demons are allowed to get drunk or have fun or anything. Just encourage people to. Once again, the angels have intelligence on demons, which is an insane thing that I cannot understand. One of them tells the rest that Rafar has “offered great honors to whatever demon can find Captain Tal and report his whereabouts.” How could he possibly know that? Who is feeding them demon intel? Is GOD feeding them demon intel?

Also, Scion notes that he would have trouble being taunted by someone like Rafar. Seriously? It would be hard for you to not rush out after something like that? I guess that’s why you’re not the man in charge then. Tal calmly explains he’d lose if he fought now. “Not enough prayer cover” and Rafar has all the backing he needs. What do demons get power from? Do they feed off of bad feelings like in some mythologies? Does SIN make them stronger? While I can kind-of see where they get the prayer cover bullshit from, I’m not sure what he’d use for demons. Considering that Peretti has not bothered to provide us with an explanation, I think maybe he is not sure either.


Hank is wandering through the town praying again. He feels certain that God has a very specific purpose for the “jaunt” he’s on. He’s being guarded by Krioni and Triskal and they’ve left reinforcements at the house for Mary. They’re apparently leading Hank someplace, which is why he takes a turn he’s never taken before. Which is hilarious because again, tiniest town supposedly. How often has he walked around it? He stops outside a business he had “only heard bad stories about but could never find.” Was he trying to find the business before? How many seedy places are there in this town? He is amazed that there are so many kids going in and out of it. “Like bees” apparently.

Anyway. It’s called the Cave. It’s… it’s a videogame arcade. This center of evil is a videogame arcade. I wonder if this is where my adolescent hatred of arcades came from. No lights except all of the games and stuff. Apparently kids come here to play games and then do drugs and have the sex and things. It has a “pungent spiritual stench.” Probably other kinds of stenches too if it’s just full of kids doing drugs and having sex constantly. It is also apparently chock full of demons. None of them are super happy to see the angels, especially Triskal, now that he’s been all frisky with them. The angels explain they’re just protecting Hank and the demons all get super upset that Hank is there.

So Hank is praying for the kids and that they can reach them and touch their lives or whatever. And the Angel Seth brings this kid who is… under the INFLUENCE of three demons but not possessed, I guess. Key differences, although the specifics seem a little dodgy to me. But they’re all “clinging to him like leeches” and trying to avoid Seth’s giant sword so they’re making him like stagger back and forth, which is a little awkward and I wonder if he wonders why he is suddenly feeling so drunk? Anyway. His name is Ron. He is not happy.

Hank sees him and totally wants to run away but decides God must want him to meet this kid so he hangs out. Demons are baring swords and shit. Hank introduces himself and Ron’s eyes widen and LO AND BEHOLD he is the drug addled child of the new couple at church. Sigh. Hank says “Well, God bless you Ron, I’m glad to meet you.” Apparently two of the demons on Ron are Divination and Rebellion. One of those makes more sense than the other. Oh, also we have Sorcery. So I guess he’s into the freaky magics along with everyone else around here.

So Hank leads him out to a bench and sits him down and looks into his very “dazed eyes” and wonders where to start. I’m just saying, Hank. This may not be the best time for a sermon.

One of the angels confronts Sorcery and Sorcery “laughs drunkenly” and shrieks “all the time, more and more. He’ll never give it up!” Yeah, okay. You guys are all such fucking drama queens.

So Hank feels a super dark presence just like before in his house and he’s all weirded out that this very young kid (we aren’t really sure… how young?) might have evil spirits in him but then he gets a flash of inspiration and asks Ron if he can pray for him. So Ron is very schizophrenic about it, begging the pastor to pray and then being like no, no, no I don’t want you to, don’t do it (because demons are screaming at him) so Hank takes charge like men do and goes ahead and does that. God is even so kind as to give him the names of the demons so he can order them to go away. Ron is apparently on board. He says things like “Spirit, please go, I’ve had it with you!” Which I imagine is how any teenager would talk to his evil spirits.

Okay but like that was an exorcism and afterwards Ron says they’re OUT so he was possessed then? Not just under the influence of? Sigh. Terminology is confusing.

So Ron is changing into a more normal and nice person right in front of Hank’s eyes and apparently he was just thinking today how he totally needed someone to pray for him because he couldn’t keep going with all the stuff he was doing (and obviously prayer was the pragmatic answer to that). Ron notes that Hank is much younger than he thought (which, yeah, 26 is quite young) and they talk for a long time about a lot of things. “Ron began to notice that no matter what the subject or the issue, Hank had a way of bringing Jesus into it. Ron didn’t mind.. This wasn’t like a phony sales pitch; Hank Busche really believed that Jesus was the answer to everything.” Everyone raise your hands if this sounds like the worst imaginable conversation.

“So, after taking about everything else with Jesus brought into it, Ron let Hank talk about Jesus, just Jesus. It wasn’t dull. Hank could really get excited about Him.” I… Oh, shut up Peretti. Just shut up.


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