Absalom sits on the white floor and looks at a bubbling puddle of bronze in the middle of the room. The walls, like the floor, are harsh and white and lined with grey rivets. The room is small. The wall opposite Absalom has a door with a single keyhole in it. The key to the door is a bubbling puddle of bronze in the middle of the room.
He rocks back and forth without rhythm, hugs his knees to his chest and trembles. He trembles because the room is cold and because his clothes are ripped. He carries a paperclip and a hairpin in the pocket of the ripped shirt. His right leg twitches and kicks, flies out from behind his forearms and pounds into the floor. The leg is black. Lacerated. A web of tendons and mottled flesh hang from it. It smells like vinegar and rotted meat. The leg ends in three hooked toes whose black talons scrape against the linoleum. The sharp echoes pierce the back of Absalom’s eyes like sewing needles. Screeching and pounding, like lightning and thunder.
It is to this unholy chorus that Absalom begins. His voice, like his body, trembles.
Hot smoke rolls out of Absalom’s mouth. A fistful of coals smolder in his throat. He coughs violently, but it does not pass. Doubled over, Absalom pushes his good leg into the floor and slides until he feels his back press against the wall. The talons on the other leg crush together on the empty air between them, gnashing like hungry teeth.
Then – a quiet moment.
Absalom, no longer trembling, forces the words out, rakes them over the fire. They crackle like embers against the frozen air.
“I command thee, unclean spirit, that thou tell me by some sign thy name.”
Another moment of silence in the room. The screeching and the burning stop. Then Absalom’s right hand torques backwards further and further until his fingernails push into his forearm. The skin breaks. Four thin brooks of blood trickle out. He hears his wrist snap. Hears, not feels. He watches on in a anesthetized, horrified numbness. A black dagger twists out of his wrist. His skin rips and there, just under the surface, is a strange system of muscles, black and atrophied. That dagger at his wrist blossoms now into a huge claw whose outer edges curve around to sharp, black points.
Under this new weight, the arm engages. Black sinews flex and drive the pincers into the floor. A dark purple serum oozes from the muscles, drips and seeps into the cracks in the tile. Absalom slumps over from the force of impact. The arm scrapes its impaled blades across the ground, dragging Absalom along behind it. It stops. Absalom pulls himself up from the floor and as the first waves of pain start to wash over him, he reads. There, carved into the white linoleum, he can make out a single word, a cruel name written in a harsh, unbroken script:
[Begin Recording: 13th November, 1959]
They call me Father Absalom. Those from the town in which I live and preach know me only by that name, and it is a name for which I have, over the course of long years, developed a cold resentment. My name is not Father Absalom. It is Absalom. I am an actor who stands at the pulpit and speaks his grand soliloquies not as my own self, but as that dread orator known as Pastor; I become something other, something more, than myself. Absalom becomes Father Absalom. And for my own part, I feel that I have done well to maintain this show. Preaching, like acting, is a craft which requires a learned and exacting hand. To my parish, if I may borrow the language of a favorite author of mine, I am a man of rugged countenance seldom lighted by a smile, backward in sentiment, lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow lovable. I am a gentleman, good-natured yet austere in dress, in drink, in speech. But more than these (over and above our poor Utterson), I am a man of faith. I am a man of God, we say. Yet it is only we, inhumed in these purple robes, we so-called men of God, who know with ironclad certainty that men of God do not exist. I believe in God — of course I believe — but that I should be a pastor? That I should teach? No. No one exists who can teach such things.
This is a recording of the voice of Absalom. Absalom, that terrified boy who hid from the war inside the blood-born cloisters of the seminary. Absalom who put love aside for fear of happiness, of finding happiness outside of a God who’d shown him none. But I was shown mercy. I have a large house and a kind wife. I have kids — kids that I hav left behind and whose lives I will not get to see and whose names I cannot even say here because of this goddamn demon!
[There is a long pause filled with staggered breathing]
For fifteen years I have played the man of God for this town. Amesbury, she is called, and she is another creature buried beneath her name. Her maple trees and picket fences are her robes, and like the devotion and passionless sobriety required of her pastor, she is expected to perform a calculated routine. Yet the residents of Amesbury — folks, we say – are prophets of easy laughter and bright songs. These people are a subject of great curiosity for me. Folks are permitted one not-too-tragic flaw, and on some occasions I find myself plagued by a deep thread of jealousy for their relaxed liberality. At my best I feel as a wise old shepherd tending a charmingly insubordinate flock, best, of course, because there can be no mistake that Father Absalom is a better man than Absalom. And sometimes, though of course a time to which Father Absalom could never admit, I feel for them what I can only call a hatred of the most evil kind: undirected, ill-justified, yet all-consuming.
This is the view, a polymorphous, tripartite view, that I suspect is the culprit behind so many perturbations of my soul. We believe in The Holy Trinity, the three-in-one. Therefore I find it difficult to clearly separate out this relationship to the people of Amesbury. Is Absalom jealous and Father Absalom wise and an unnamed something filled with hate? To separate is to discard what is essential: that they all locate themselves in me. In I. In Absalom. And yet to say this, to collapse and blend, brings contradiction and ruin.
I have strayed from my point. I was going to say that the folks of Amesbury are not entirely lovable. It is their curse and their drink, let us say their nature, to talk. In some sense they would cease to be a small town or good folks if they kept quiet. It is the profound idea of a necessary evil. So I ask you, before I continue, to keep these recordings hidden from the good folks of Amesbury.
“The power of Christ compels thee, evil spirit, evil Mammon, to leave my body.”
His right side itches; the black arm and the black leg itch. Absalom looks down at them, afraid he will see beetles and worms chewing through the flesh, but he is wrong. Absalom watches as black fibers fuse with the pink, tattered remains of his skin and muscle. The numbness in his arms dissolves, and the dormant pain shoots through is body as if that merciful anesthesia had angered it. It passes out of his body as quickly and intensely as it came. The leg and the arm slump to the floor. Then carefully, cautiously, Absalom raises his right arm.
He can almost touch the ceiling. The arm and the claw are long and unwieldy. The elbow is at his hip. With it suspended above him, the claw reminds him of a guillotine blade. Executioner and condemned, he thinks. Gently now, quietly, he closes the pincers together. He hears their dark crescent points tap one another, then pulls them apart. He does the same with his leg, closes the talons together, bends the knee, flexes and unflexes the sickening calf. Convinced yet unbelieving — profound opposite of the faithful – Absalom lowers his right arm and rises to his feet. He leans to one side as he stands and walks delicately upon the clawed foot, but this difficulty is his proof. Though evil and misshapen, his appendages are once more his own.
Absalom moves around the room. His arm is heavy and soon he drags it behind him on the floor. He can feel the linoleum break under its weight, feel the rock snap around his hard hand. The ground is thin and brittle.
The room rolls out of focus, then back in. Absalom turns towards the bubbling puddle of bronze, takes another step towards it, then drops his black arm into it like a sledgehammer. Liquid heat sears a hand that will not burn. But Absalom feels it all. The fire streaks up his arm and tries to erupt from his mouth in a scream, but when he opens it, his beetles and his worms crawl out and fall into the juice metal. He hears them sizzle and pop.
The insects leave a firestorm in his throat that forms an unbroken line from his hand to his neck. There is something like a dragon in there. He can feel claws puncture the sides and pull downwards, contorting the folds to make the low, rumbling sound that pours now, like the beetles and the worms, over Absalom’s tongue. The demon, so long dormant, plays at his vocal cords while its puppet stumbles around the room and speaks. The words are gurgling sludge and green bile.
There is a god in us by whose movement we are inflamed.
Mammon, through Absalom, laughs.
[Begin Recording: 14th November, 1959]
I have been having the strangest dreams, brothers and sisters. For weeks now, on and off, I would lay my glasses on top of whatever book I’d been reading, then steal a kiss from my wife who breathed steadily beside me, shut off the reading light, and sleep. In my life I have never had difficulty falling asleep. I cannot recall a single night where the sights and sounds, much less the troubles of this weary world, kept me from an honest night’s rest. Prayers, I said in the morning. Back pain or restlessness, I had none. And not even in the face of these dreams, dreams which I shall discuss presently, did I have difficulty in sleeping. They did not torment me. Rather, through this ordeal I slept soundly, even peacefully, and let the dreams come.
I say again that they were strange dreams. Some I do not hesitate to call nightmares, for there can be no doubt that on several nights the images of these dreams were of the most merciless class of evil. I saw, on some nights I wish I could forget, wicked things, things that I believe have done nothing short of desecrate my soul. On these occasions, I would force myself awake, but the power of such images is in their ability to sear themselves into memory in but an instant. The worst dreams were the shortest, an image or a simple motion repeating itself over and over until I could shake it from my mind.
I do not hide that I am ashamed of these nightmares and that I cannot speak them here.
There were other dreams too, not good dreams by any stretch, but intriguing, interesting. They aroused a curiosity that I cannot describe and hold for me even still a strangeness which I cannot entirely explain. If you have learned another tongue, recall the first time you looked upon its strange symbols and meditate on the electricity that you knew was locked therein. I could not stop myself from translating, brothers and sisters; I could not close the book and walk away.
Soon, through some power I did not yet understand, I began to translate. What was once a swirl of color or an empty void morphed, unlocked, into a wave or the sound of a coin flipping. Sometimes I would see the smell of old coffee, see it wrap around a fork and plunge into a pile of leaves. There was a woman sometimes, a young woman who would be more and more vivid every time I saw her. I watched her unfold from a sweep of darkness into a curving creature, and though I knew it to be a woman I understood her as blood and heat and red.
As I said, I was able to understand more and more of these dreams with each night and I might have even developed a pleasure from the nightly puzzles if not for the rise of what I think of now as a stinging or slicing feeling, something very visceral and very sharp. At some point, I do not remember precisely when, each new discovery came with a feeling like a papercut or a razor drawn across all points of my body. This, and another sensation like heaviness pressing upon me (the unembodied me of dream), thwarted any pleasure I might have derived. I decided, crucially, that I would prefer these dreams to end.
To this purpose, I made contact with various specialists in the field of dreams: psychologists, neurologists, people of this sort. I described to them my dreams, my curious problem, and allowed myself to be submitted to their tests and their machines. They found nothing wrong with me and, after lending to me a kind word of support, sent me away no wiser than before.
After I made these visits, the nightmares began to dominate, and the cuts and foreboding crescendoed each night until I could stand it no more. I returned to those professionals, said surely there must be something wrong, and again they found nothing. I slept for a few nights in their labs, slept with ridiculous things stuck to my skull. Still they found nothing.
But on those nights, there were no nightmares, and there was a moment of epiphany at my home wherein I discovered what the neurologists could not. In the face of those mighty machines, the dreams were hiding. The nightmares and, I would soon discover, the architect of those nightmares, were hiding. Once I discovered this, it seemed to me as if I had angered this hidden beast with my prodding and my resistance. Regardless, he (for I do not yet know his name) would not stay hidden much longer.
Absalom drops to his hands and knees and discovers that they are once more under his control. A deep breath, then Absalom stands again. Some iron has cooled on the black arm. Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. He drags the black arm through the sign of the cross. He looks down and sees that he has no crucifix, but if had a crucifix, he would clutch it in his left hand. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now at – His voice is once again his own. It is rich and lyrical, the voice of a pastor. But he pauses for a moment, weighing these words perhaps for the first time in fifteen years — at the hour of our death.
Death. Death is his crucifix; he grasps the word in his mind and holds it there. Focuses on it. Death. Absalom lets it sound in his head and echo in his soul, mulling it, digesting it. He thinks of what it might mean. He thinks of Amesbury and of the good folks at his parish. He thinks about his research, about his stacks of books and his bed.
He thinks about the last time he saw his family. There was a dinner with roast beef and all of his women wore blue dresses. The mayor of Amesbury was hosting, that fat and arrogant fool. Liar. Adulterer. Sinner.
Then he feels it, lurking a step behind his thoughts tailing and cataloguing. He is there, hiding again, watching from the dark recesses as Absalom leads him into where he should not be. But Absalom refuses to feel powerless, fights back against the waves that he feels the demon spreading over him. He cannot. Powerlessness is death and death, death cannot happen. He will not let it happen.
“Mammon, thing of evil, before the Lord our God I command you now. Depart. The power of God compels thee, Mammon. Leave. Leave this man of God and torment him no more. You have no power here. In the name of the Father and of the son Jesus Christ, I command you now. Depart.”
Absalom feels his mind release, feels the sanctuary of it return as dark fingers retract. His voice grows stronger, and the words flow from him faster than he can organize them. He is not even sure that he is speaking aloud.
Then the throat fires, the demon’s voice. It rips Absalom’s head towards the floor, and he stares agape as he feels his mouth obey some unseen master.
“The power – of flesh – compels thee – my Absalom.”
Now the words come like venom and hiss. They are razors. They are emerald serpents.
The iron puddle in the middle of the room rises up like a vortex and runs down the walls. It swallows them up, erases them and itself until Absalom is in a black expanse lit only by bursts of color; reds and greens and blues explode and fizzle out, or drip up and down the spaceless walls. A violin sustains a high, sharp wail.
“Behold – the power – of – flesh.”
[Begin Recording: 15th November, 1959]
I am accumulating quite a pile of recordings on this desk; I can barely find room to prepare my sermon notes. It seems strange too, perhaps telling, that a pastor may lock himself in his office for a week and it appears as nothing more than a matter of course.
I thought I might say something about my early work in possession before moving to my main project. As I’ve said, I entered the seminary around the time of the Second World War because yes, I believed in God, and no, I did not want to meet him quite yet. The process was simple enough, though I did perfom a bit of theatricality to convince the recruiters that I was a unfit for their service. Perhaps one really is born with a talent for the priesthood.
Let me pause. If for some reason you are listening to this series of tapes, you will hear — and I can confirm — that I sound enlivened and even playful today. Giving reasons for emotions is usually such a contrived endeavor, but today the path from stimulus to reaction is quite clear. My youngest daughter called me today. True, it was against the wishes of me and my wife and true, I do not know what this demon can do to people with whom I come in contact, but despite this and with what my justly be called an unforgivable surrender of my sweet daughter’s eternal soul, I cannot keep myself from smiling. It is like some pudgy cherub keeps poking at my mouth whenever I try to get to work. And I am aware — of course I’m aware — of that devilish irony. [Laughs]
Seminary. Yes. I studied for five years in seminary under the tutelage of some of the most devout men of our time. And there I learned the intricacies of the dogmas that you simply do not learn as a child; indeed, religious or not, one must admit that it takes the mind of a scholar just to keep two millennia of theology straight. There is heaven and earth, body and soul, and then a young man from Nazareth combines them. God made flesh. A religion built on the collapse of its entire cosmic architecture.
This absolutely fascinated me because—Well, how might one articulate why something fascinates him? It is simply the case that I was fascinated. There in my Catholic hideaway I found a phenomenon that I was passionate about. My tepid studies, slowed intentionally so that I might not become eligible for service, intensified. I studied Pentecost, speaking in tongues, spiritual healing, resurrection, the plagues on Egypt, miracles worked by early disciples, fights with angels, divine revelation. Yet all of these collapses of earthly and heavenly, so deeply interesting, paled in complexity, significance, and sheer romance to the phenomena of possession.
Think of it. Dwell on the formula of its problem. A demon attaches like a parasite to a human soul and, through that divine leap, to his body. This demon must be driven form the limbs of its victim by name and at the command of as close to a man of God as we may ever see — a temporary emissary of the Father himself. The human is caught between two eternal forces, himself subsumed under the magnitude of their struggle. He becomes the staging ground of Armageddon itself, demon against angel against human.
After seminary I was sent to Amesbury. I married (with the blessing of a more progressive post-War church) and had a family. And I preached. For a long time, this was enough. I went through periods of growth like any man — I was admitted to psychiatry once or twice for various stress or family issues — nothing serious. It was those visits, in fact, that brought my studies of possession to a new level.
After a few years as active pastor, I went through the process of becoming a trained exorcist. Not certified, mind you, but trained. The official process is still viciously complex, and, at the risk of foreshadowing hubris, I didn’t have time for their bureaucracy. I had a family and a parish. I had all the same books they had, as well as contacts and colleagues from the seminary, so in this way — in this very room, no less — I cultivated an amateur yet quite thorough talent in exorcism.
I’m not simply boasting, here. A woman in my church, ignorant of the Catholic hierarchies, came to me and asked that I perform an exorcism on her daughter, which, unknown as this was to any official church body, I agreed to do. Reckless, perhaps, but effective. The girl was indeed possessed by an evil spirit of no particular horror, and, since exorcism is naught but tired recitation spiced with a dash of faith, I expelled the demon without incident. And the girl is fine; she played one of the wise men at last year’s Christmas pageant and is, I think, slated to play Mary this year.
So there I was, 1957, an older pastor of a quiet town, happy (though strained under “Father”), married, with a (fabricated) history of psychiatric help. I was a successful exorcist — for that spread through Amesbury like wildfire — and on top of that, a rare gentleman of station who had not seen combat. I was recommended by my psychiatric consultant to a group of his superiors, men who, through various connections in the government, formed a —
[Absalom screams. There is banging, and a crash. It sounds as if another man enters the room, a heavy man who speaks in a deep voice. He is difficult to understand but says something like “You…failed – Absalom.” There is another scream, followed by quiet weeping, then the recording ends.]
“Cancerous pig-stabbing bloodgut whore!”
Spit drops out of Absalom’s mouth because its master forgets to swallow. He is a prisoner drunk on that first taste of freedom.
“You cannot imagine how easy it is to make you say that.” Mammon digs into the body, but anchors himself in Absalom’s mind; He does not let him control even there. He will listen to Mammon. He will listen. “I can—feel you pushing back, worm fuck, I can feel you trying. I am your mind. You think what I let you think. But – ah – let me let you think – poor wretched Absalom.” He does. The doors of his mind unlock, and Absalom enters one.
“Oh no, pus spawn, no. Do not – insult – ME!” Mammon hammers Absalom’s head into the floor. His nose shatters. “Do NOT betray. You will not hide from me. Betrayer. Coward. NOT FROM ME!” Again and again Mammon bounces Absalom’s bloody head, percussing his speech with the hard thuds “DO – NOT – HIDE – FROM – ME!
Do not – do not reduce me to you. Do not think that I am you. Such arrogance to think that, what, that the good pastor – ha! – that the noble Father Absalom locked me away, that you forced me into the dark recesses of your rotting mind? Putrid rot shit. I am a demon prince of hell, my concubine, I am an archon of the vast legions. Mammon. Oh ecstasy; How that word rolls in your mouth and rumbles in this little throat. “Ha Mmmmmaaaammmmoooooon. Mmmmmm- No!” Mammon slams Abasalom’s head again. “No! Arrogant cockroach. Say it. Say it! Speak.”
Absalom sputters out but one word. “Greed.”
“No!” Another blow. “No. Ha! Noooo. No!” Another. “No!” Another. “Stop it, puke, do not constrain me. If you cannot understand, then so be it, wretchrat. Do not make me human. I am not a symbol for you to teach. This is not a morality tale, bloated corpse and carrion.”
How can you possess me? Absalom thinks.
“Hahaha! There! There you are my filthy – my filthy – there. Absalom. You think that your questions are greed and that I am punishing you. You think that this is justice. Tough love. HA! Stupid. Insulting. Accept that you cannot know your master, Absalom. You have lost to me.”
“No! Stop – this – game.” On that last word, Mammon breaks floor tiles with Absalom’s face.
Please, just tell me-
Are my children-
Slam. Slam. Slam.
Stop! Please. Oh God, please. Please stop’¦
“Only the damned ask things of demons, my Absalom.”
Absalom’s body rushes back to him. He pulls out the remains of broken teeth because the pain, like Mammon, is gone. And though he does not hurt, Absalom collapses on the floor and weeps.
[Begin Recording: 17th November, 1959]
It took everything I had not to burn that last tape. It is proof that I am still capable of happiness, and so it remains. That has never happened before. Yes there was a feeling or a slight prodding, but never have I lost control. I fear now that I cannot waste time. Let me trace my steps up to this horrible manifestation.
Almost a week ago, I awoke for the first time from one of these dreams not from my own willing, but from a stinging pain in my right leg. As the haze of sleep faded, I noticed too a warm, stickiness beneath the covers. I threw them back and – thank God my wife slept soundly – saw there a constellation of black daggers sticking through maybe two dozen holes in my skin. My blood soaked into the sheets.
I left immediately, without goodbyes, and have not been home since. I drove as far and as fast as I could, drove until I felt the shock start to wear off. After perhaps an hour, I pulled the car over and hobbled on my butchered leg through a ditch and far into a snowy wood. It was dark and cold and quiet when I finally felt the waves of pain. I screamed as loud and as long as I could, screamed until I passed out. I woke up at dawn in a ring of red snow with a disgusting, almost insect-like black leg.
I spent a great deal of time – I know not how long – in sickness and delirium. I’d get dizzy and vomit, then pass out, wake up parched and starving, dry heave, and sob into the snow until the cold numbed my leg again and I could fall asleep. I’d lost a lot of blood. Somehow or another I ended up in my study at the church – the room where I am now. I drank two bottles of Communion wine in an attempt – a pathetic, clawing attempt – to numb the pain and bury the demon under a drunken stupor. I did all of this, then stumbled back into my office and slept.
How did I come to know that a demon was inside me, that (I may finally let it stain my lips) I was possessed? I come now to the purpose of these recordings. This possession did not catch me unaware. I was ready. I believe I was more ready than any person ever has been. Possession, as I’ve said, absolutely fascinates me, and much of my independent study was devoted it. I read everything I could find. But as I was saying before I was cut off, in 1957 I was approached by men from a government program called MK-ULTRA. I was immediately bound to an agreement of non-disclosure, but since these tapes are for my own records, I see no problem with disclosure here. This program was (and is) doing experimental work in hallucinogenic drugs for the purposes of mind-control and chemical interrogation. I was selected to be a test subject because, I was told, I was one of the few men untouched by war, one of the few who still believed.
It was in the process of this secret project that I became acquainted with research into a cure for possession. The government, of course, has no interest in something so crude, but I was able to pull together emerging concepts and, with the access granted by fostering friendships with various scientists, experimenters, technicians, used a limited but significant array of tools. Coming now to the purpose of these recordings, I hope to record the first fruits of this research.
As you well know, the precise relationship between the body and the soul is unknown. It is also known that possession requires a leap from this soul to the body. That is, the demon actually takes control of it. It is clear too that possession, like many forms of religious experience, includes specific physical, that is, biological, reactions. For centuries, members of the church worked as alchemists and physicians to find a way to block possession on this biological level. Our brothers not only wanted to force the demons out, but to, as it were, inhibit the receptors that made what we might call the possession virus, and perhaps even religious experience itself, possible. And these were all things that I studied at seminary and on my own. This history, this methodology, it was what I did.
Such a discovery is absurd, but I have discovered something that is not entirely unrelated, in essence, to the works of these early church members. Those researchers from MK-ULTRA tracked what happened to a person’s brain when he was under the effects of, say, mescaline or sodium pentothal. And they could isolate those neurological functions. If this area and this area and this area were lit up, then the subject must be under the effects of such and such a drug. A similar thing happened with possession: a very specific, very unique, and very observable set of neurological activations occurs. My research, after discovering this fact, centered around creating a serum specially formulated to react only to that unique set of neuro-activations, or more clearly, when and only when a possession is occurring.
I have conducted this quite outside of my own possession, in my spare time and as a sort of obsessive hobby but, given my situation, I plan to inject a controlled amount of what I believe to be a working prototype serum, specifically, a semisynthetic ergoline-based neurotoxin, into a specific area of my cerebellum so that while possessed, the toxin will shut down that area.
Tomorrow, I will inject this serum. For the rest of today I will reinforce the windows and doors of my study under the pretense of renovations. I will lock myself inside. Once in the room, I will melt the key to that door a Bunsen burner and keep on my person nothing but a paperclip and hairpin. The cerebellum, as you may know, is the locus of fine motor skills. If the serum holds, those areas will be inaccessible any time the demon has control of me. In short, he will lack the precise coordination necessary to pick the lock on the door. Either I will self-exorcise this demon in here, or he will subsume me entirely locked for a brief but harmless time in this study.
Absalom blinks. He is back in the room standing. Another itch. He turns and watches as the pale flesh on his shoulder wraps down around the black arm, surrounds it and shrinks it. Absalom blinks. His arm is as it was before. Human again. His leg is still demonic. Absalom raises two fingers and begins again to recite a command. He can feel them welling again, the fires and the pain, but he is immune. He fears them no more. Absalom strings commands and prayers and hymns together. It is a symphony. Absalom feels the fires leave his throat, feels them retreat. They move to his chest, where he pushes again, still reciting, now almost channeling. He is close to speaking in tongues he speaks so rapidly. The heat spreads to his biceps, his arms, to his fingers, the human fingers on either hand and he can feel it start.
He feels the hot flames wrap around his wrists and take control of them. He feels the right arm dig into his pocket and pull out the paperclip and the hairpin. He feels the hands start to tremble, to shake faster and faster, now almost violently. He feels the fiery tendrils try to control the hands, to rein them in. He feels the frustration brewing from within, and he can feel that it is not his own. He feels the luminous syllables that dance out of his mouth, that swirl and pirouette around the little room as if on clouds. He feels his voice rise higher and louder until at last he feels that he is no longer saying anything at all, but laughing. His hands grip their useless instruments and convulse while Absalom tosses his head back in rapture.
The left hand, the empty one, curls around Absalom’s exposed neck. The right hand rears back and drives the paperclip and the hairpin deep into the base of Absalom’s skull. There are two laughs now, one over the other: Absalom’s light, victorious laughter and Mammon’s dark, heavy, victorious laughter, intertwined, harmonized, and played on a single vibrating string.
Everything goes dark as Absalom falls to the ground. They’re still laughing.
A pulsation amid twinkling stars. Black crows pop out of the ground like corn. Swarm into a long snake, then *knife*. Lungs. The smell of young girl to the smell of boiling blood. Oscillating. Motorcade sounds like a flipping coin. Teeth rise up and devour the face, devour and swallow. Tastes like reds and greens and blues – silent explosion. Absalom falls through this whirling infinity, leaving everything to rush by faster and faster until they reach singularity. Then a final sightsound: “Absalom? Absalom!?”
Absalom is lying on his back looking now at the ceiling of his office at the church. Sweat cakes his face, and blood from his shattered nose.
“O God!” I screamed, and “O God!” again and again; for there before my eyes–pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death–there stood Henry Jekyll!
“Mammon! I command thee now by name! Depart!”
A surge of electricity seizes Absalom, courses over his skull and makes him writhe on the floor. It trickles down like a hot shower, like a spiderweb creeping outwards, but a spiderweb of poison. Of—
And the spiders bite.
Ten thousand lysergic fangs bury themselves into Absalom’s brain.
Then flash of white light.
Then reds and greens and blues.
[Begin Recording: 18th November, 1959 – CIA Internal Note: The final twenty minutes of this recording are quite disturbing. In the end, the victim died of a combination of severe drug overdose and a stab wound to the back of his head. At the request of his widow, these events were edited out. The following is a transcript of the moments leading up to his death. These are the final words of subject #343302]
You think that I am insane. To what dizzying heights of conceit and arrogance must I have ascended to inject a serum into my brain? The question is wrongly formed. It is a matter of what lows. For there is and always has been a terror in me, a dark and suffocating fear of death. What is death if not silence? Yes, I have plucked up that clover of madness, hallucination, possession, and dream – but none of these are silent. Father Absalom. That is silence. Anger and hatred. That is silence. And Absalom – Absalom the Pastor and Absalom the Demon and Absalom separate from these, never reducible to but always constituted by – to be Absalom is to be silent.
The reason that I am still a pastor, that I studied possession, that I became a husband and a father, that I joined MK-ULTRA, and that I am going to inject a serum into my cerebellum is one and one alone: In these things, however fleeting they may be, there are moments of transcendental lucidity where silence is broken, where heaven and earth dissipate like smoke and what is left are not humans and demons and angels, but miracles. There is beauty in miracles, and pain, but always noise – loud, clangorous, jubilant noise. Life is the miraculous sounding of that holiest of choruses.