Here is the prologue to my new book, "Under A Twisted Moon". It highlights an event early in the main character's life. Don't let her age fool you. The rest of the book is about her adult life and is very grown up.
She knelt in the cold water her knees aching from the rough concrete floor of the homemade pool in the tiny church. This was getting old, she thought facetiously. At 12 years old, she was on the cusp of womanhood as she saw it in her mind, but here she was naked under a white gown silently holding her hands out and waiting for the pastor to anoint her head with water and oil and drive her demons away in this bastardized mix of baptism, exorcism, and cleansing. It’s always the back hills churches that are the scariest.
“…And cast out these demons that have taken over the life of this innocent girl!” the pastor intoned viciously. ‘Please God,’ Amelie prayed. Even as the words took form in her mind she could smell the parishioners all watching her. She felt trapped, like a caged animal, smelling the ungodly mix of perfumes, body odors, detergent, wood polish, tobacco, even the flowers they had brought in for the service. Her head swam in the confusion of her over active nose and she could feel her arms and legs tingling in a familiar sensation.
“No. Not here, not now,” she whispered taking deep breaths and trying to stave off her demons. They would not take her over again. She had heard about the power of positive thought in school when they talked about the troops in the gulf. It was her only defense as she was trapped in the water while everyone stared at her and the pastor danced around in a parody of speaking in tongues. ‘This would work. This time it would work!’
“Hurry,” she murmured to herself feeling the change coming over her with the constant pain it wracked on her body. Surely these demons were afraid of being cast out. This was her tenth cleansing she could remember in her short life. Always it was like this; the embarrassment of her gown floating in the water showing her young form, the pastor dancing around with the bible like a sort of witch doctor she read about in school…and the people. Always the people watching like she was the local freak. No matter how many times she knelt in the water it made her nervous, put her on edge like being trapped in a crowd with no one you know to pull you out…and then the change would happen.
Her teeth grew sharp and she caught her tongue on a canine drawing blood. She clamped her mouth shut gritting her teeth against the pain, desperately trying to maintain a façade of calm. She was anything but calm with the changes coming over her small body, every nerve screaming at her this was wrong. It was the nature of her possession to change into some half beast she wasn’t even sure she knew what it was, and always…always it brought pain unless she was staring at a full moon. That had to be another sign she was infested by demons, chosen by the devil, as her father often put it.
As if in answer to her struggles the pastor grabbed her head in vice grip and the water poured over her. “In the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost! Jesus claims this child!” the pastor yelled loudly over her head. Shouts of ‘Amen!’, ‘Hallelujah!’, ‘Praise God!’, and ‘Help her Lord!’ rang through the audience. Through blurry water logged eyes Amelie could see them holding out their hands to the sky as if Jesus himself would reach out from heaven and take them away from their tired squalid life in this tiny backwater town. Vaguely she thought what a nerd she was that she knew what squalid meant.
It was over as quickly as it started and her parents reached down taking her arms and pulled her out of the water. She placed her feet on the tile floor behind the altar letting the cold shock center her again. Slowly she was able to pull her demons back in and keep them from tormenting her this time. The pastor stood behind her and declared holding the bible above her head, “Her demons have been cast out, and she has been washed in the holy waters! This child is clean! Let her be welcome among us!” The church applauded and praised God sincerely for saving her insignificant life.
There was a flash of silver light and then a simple silver cross on a fine chain appeared before her dangling from the pastor’s hands. She turned her head and pleaded silently with her mother trying to find a way to step away from the metal.
“She is allergic to silver!” her mother yelled over the commotion, her French Canadian accent blurring the words in her panic. No one heard her and Amelie’s father, standing on the other side, didn’t see what was happening. The chain was fastened around her neck and the sterling silver cross slipped inside her gown landing between where her breasts would someday grow. She screamed as the metal burned away her skin.
“It’s the demons!” someone shouted and the pastor held the cross against her skin with his bible muttering incoherently, demanding the demons let her go. All she was aware of was the burning pain like acid on her chest.
Finally someone pulled the pastor away and her parents carried her out of the little church her mother looking down her gown to inspect the burn. The cross was cast away in their hurry. She never did see it again.
After a trip to the emergency room the burn was packed with balms and gauze and she lay on her bed letting the breeze coming off the river wash over her. She closed her eyes and let the smells of the forest surround her. It was only the pain medication that kept her from running into the woods to follow the scents like an invisible map. She buried her face in her pillow and cried, terrified and ashamed. The demons were still there. But she could never tell her parents. They would lock her in the little closet down the hall with the altar and the statue of Jesus.
Again she would hide it and bury her mind in school and the youth groups from her church until the change found a way to break free unbidden. It didn’t matter that she didn’t feel evil. It didn’t matter that she was never drawn to do evil things. She turned into a beast…people had seen it. That must mean she was marked by the devil…didn’t it? She didn’t want to be a sinner.
Susan is a writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends. She walks the path of a Siedr and strives to grow day by day.