I think that the prince of darkness needs to get himself a new agent. Here's why.
My daughter is of an age when she is beginning to experience nightmares for the first time. Several times a week, either my husband or I go into her room to comfort her and reassure her that there's nothing in the dark to be afraid of. That thump? The air conditioner kicking on. That little rattle? A piece of paper rustling in the draft. That horrible moaning sound? That's just -- honestly -- the cat snoring. There's nothing sinister behind these simple little night sounds.
Or is there?
A few years ago, when The Exorcist was re-released in theatres, I talked my husband into taking me. I was in the mood for something kind of creepy and I had never before seen the whole thing.
Well, I still haven't.
It wasn't that the movie scared me. I'm a fairly rational person. I wasn't even grossed out by the demonic use of bodily function. As a matter of fact, I was commenting through the whole film that a lot of the demonic manifestations were rather on the mundane side. I mean, for a powerful evil presence, the devil in the Exorcist spent an awful lot of time in the attic at night, moving old furniture around. I was struck with the image of a demon sitting bolt upright in bed in the wee hours of the morning, alight with inspiration. "That's it!" the demon cries. "I'll move stuff in their attic -- and they'll never be able to find anything up there ever again!" He convulses with evil laughter and then rushes off to push the ratty old sofa in front of the trunk with all your old Beatles records in it. The outdoor Christmas lights get buried underneath old baby clothes. Your old income tax statements? Forget it.
But somewhere along the line as I was chuckling into my tub of popcorn, I realized that although the movie wasn't scaring me now, I had a problem. Because although I am a rational person, I'm also a rather imaginative one. A rather imaginative person who was, at that time, in charge of closing up the facilities I worked at. With a sudden flash of premonition, I told my husband that we should leave.
"What, now?" he asked.
"Yes, now." Before my overactive imagination was given any more fuel. And because he is a saint among men, my husband picked up and left, just like that, without laughing at me.
I dread to think what would have happened if we had sat and watched the entire movie, because even that little bit was enough to give me a bad time a week later at work, when I was closing up the facilities. The alarm was buzzing angrily at me, declaring a problem with a door in the warehouse. My closing crew was staring at me with bleary-eyed irritation, and I was minutes away from people getting overtime. "Go home!" I told everyone but the unlucky soul who had to stay behind to make sure I wasn't abducted by gypsies or inspired to help myself to power tools. Then she waited in the nice, well lit store, and I went off into the warehouse to find the problem. The huge, dark, drafty warehouse. The warehouse whose lighting was controlled from the corporate offices, a hundred miles away, and that was therefore lit only by one eerie red emergency light in the back and the thin beam of my flashlight as I picked my way through pallets of bagged concrete and building materials.
No big deal. I am a rational person. There are no such things as monsters, and even if there were, they'd have better things to do than sit in a drafty old warehouse and cause faults in a door alarm...
Aw, heck. Busted!
Because that's when the silly voice in my head piped up with the fact that Satan seemed to have plenty of enthusiasm for scuffling through old BeeGees LPs in the attic in The Exorcist and that was, supposedly, based on a true story. Heck, messing with alarms and causing overtime was big league torment in comparison. The rational voice in my head was left sputtering, unable to refute that, and the silly voice was given full rein, giddily shrieking that I was probably going to be assaulted with some horrific display of demonic power, like stubbing my toe on something. But it didn't stop there, because Satan also nearly got me in trouble with my boss, who was not particularly pleased with the note explaining the alarm problem as "demonic possession of rear door". The warehouse manager, on the other hand, was very pleased. At last he had an explanation for all those torn bags of wood pellets that none of his people ever seemed to know anything about.
So these days when my daughter wakes up in the middle of the night, I try to explain to her. "That's just the Prince of Darkness in your closet, dear, because we don't have an attic. Just wait -- in the morning, there will be all sorts of dirty clothes just tossed in there and you won't be able to find any of your shoes. You see, someone keeps telling him these gigs are good ideas. I'm not sure why he agrees to it, since he's rumored to have a lot of pride, but do admit, he has a history of making rather poor decisions for himself. I think he just needs to get himself a new agent."
That's when my husband comes in and takes over and I get to go back to bed. Even if we disagree on how to soothe our daughter after a bad dream, we do agree on one thing -- I'm never allowed to watch scary movies again.
This article first appeared in the Manteca Bulletin, Manteca, CA.
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