There’s a therapy I have been asked to try. You write down a lie and its truth on a piece of paper, read it out loud then burn the pages. This ridiculous activity is supposed to help people who keep secrets for a living find peace. For the record burning something so charged with energy is a terrible idea. A part of me wants the help, another part of me wants to be left alone.
I want to be reinstated for fieldwork. Most of all, I want to be paid so I will play along. But ink and fire alone won’t do anything. You would need blood. Nothing is free. Besides my life is built upon solidified layers of fiction. Choosing one lie to start with is not that simple.
I’m not an evil person. I don’t hunt people for sport or light puppies on fire to keep warm, but there is real darkness in my life. In short, I do what I am told, and I’m paid well for it. But the work takes it toll. Early on I was encouraged to embrace my talents, use the darkness for a higher purpose. This well-intended path led me straight to Hell. Eventually, disgusted with myself and tired of the constant depravity I orchestrated my escape. I intended this exit to be permanent. I didn’t leave myself a way back. For God and Country, I have done unspeakable things that I wanted to forget. My escape from Hell cost me the memories of my past. I willingly agreed to have my brain sliced apart in favor of a fresh start. There would have been no ignorant bliss for me if I knew any part of my truth. You can’t deny your true nature regardless of what you have cut away.
One event does stand out to me the most. It neatly separates what came before from what happened after. Everything was hectic. A tall shadow blocked the light and grabbed me off my feet. A sharp sting spread across my face. I remember the feeling of falling and the smell of the carpet once I dropped. The pain was overwhelming. This sequence unlocked the vault in my mind where I keep the mother. That piece of my original self that taints every lie I tell and everything I touch. The part you can’t change.
The beating was a tragedy according to my family, but it was really a second birthday. Instead of cake and gifts, I received a key. Fate manipulated the wind and slapped one metal object against another. The clang of metal chain on metal pipe whispered to me while I lay bleeding out on the floor. Rhythmic sounds transported me to a schoolyard that at that time I had no memory of.
The tetherball chains sing the same lonely tune when the breeze brushes them against their metal poles. The tires of my red Schwinn bike zipped and hummed as I peddled across the hot blacktop. I could smell the tar and dirty sand melting in the California sun. I rode around the swings, alongside the monkey bars, and through the concrete hallways. By the time I reached the big grassy field my threadbare memories had stitched themselves back together. The sights and smells of this place were tattooed on my brain for a good reason. This place was where I first disobeyed the rules.
Never tell what you can do, never show anyone proof, and for God sake, Caly never hurt anyone.
I mastered a new set of multiplication tables. The trick to the 9’s had been revealed to me by my grandmother the night before. One times nine is nine, two times nine is eighteen, three times nine is twenty-seven. Zero plus nine is nine, one plus eight is nine, two plus seven is nine. The pattern clicked inside my adolescent brain, and the world was beautiful and full of possibilities again.
That next morning, standing at the edge of the teacher’s desk, with the whole class watching, I rattled off the nines like I was reciting the alphabet. The smiling teacher offered me a reward from her pirate’s chest of trinkets. I selected a fragile spinning butterfly made of balsa wood. It was purple with blue and gold accents painted on its wings as the toy spun the bright colors melted into a mesmerizing blur. I felt so relieved to be rid of the torture this one multiplication table held. I sat at my desk, twirled the toy and stared at the beautiful colors.
The recess bell rang, and the room full of children were let loose. I carefully placed my new prize on the corner of my desk, next to my perfectly sharpened number 2 pencil and waited for my turn to exit the aisle. Charity charged past my desk, grabbed my prize, and ran out the door towards the big field. Startled, shocked and furious my tight grip on civility let loose.
We called them mist buddies. I suppose my first poltergeist manifestation was eager to stretch its legs. I was not allowed to play with it away from home, but my home had recently changed. I was living with my grandmother now. I was trying so hard to be calm and quiet and keep every thought right where it should be. The mist slipped out of me like a loud burp in a silent room.
Honestly, I was so angry with Charity that I could have wrung her fat neck with my own hands. But I sent my invisible enforcer after her instead. I could have stopped myself, but I wanted to hurt her. I didn’t want to meditate. I didn’t want to recite affirmations or envision her bathed in brilliant white light. I didn’t want to forgive her. I wanted to kill her and pry my butterfly from her cold, sticky fingers.
I ran after the dark shadow that chased Charity terrified that someone would figure out what I had done. Era, was one of my invisible friends. I had four of them, but only Era and Boo Boo traveled with me to school and dance class.
Era bolted ahead and stood between the nasty child and my dark manifestation. “Run faster baby girl. It’s going to hurt her.” Era’s voice boomed in the air. I was sure everyone on the playground could hear her.
Boo Boo, was by my side watching the situation unfold. If Era was an imaginary friend, then Boo Boo was an attachment. He stayed close, watched everything, and grew with me as I aged.
Several children watched Charity snatch the toy from my desk; they followed behind me like strings on a kite. Charity and my dark mist were twirling in circles out in farthest part of the big field. Beads of sweat formed on her freckled forehead sticking her thick blond hair to her face and neck. The dark mist was forcing her to twirl faster and faster. Her chubby legs pounded her feet into the ground. She began to cry from pain, and the deep sorrow possession creates.
“Stop now!” I pleaded in my mind.
My mist buddy floated close to my chest releasing Charity in mid-twirl. The mist was ready to return to where ever it lived. I asked it to go home. That was my second mistake. I should have commanded that it leave.
The plump girl tossed my toy to the ground, breaking the butterfly’s wooden wings in half. I hate you shot out from the pit of my stomach as I retrieved the pieces from the grass.
Charity was crying and gasping for air as she stumbled away from the gathering of frenzied children. She looked terrified and confused. I imagine she couldn’t put a name to the cruelty she experienced but the way she looked at me. I never wanted to see that look from anyone again.
A gray dove flew overhead and dropped out of the sky as if it had hit a pane of glass in the air above us. The yelling and twirling children started kicking the dove. Then they stomped on the dying animal. There was a frenzy of screaming and running and jumping. My mist buddy was enjoying the feast of energy. It was no longer going to be controlled by me.
Era pulled me back from the mob of tiny screaming bodies. We stood together watching the carnage. This mist was mine, not like a pet I loved or a toy I owned. It was of me, for me and made by me. I would have to kill it. Suffocate the thing with my energy. The terror I felt at that moment was so hot and nauseating I thought I might faint. Someone was going to find out what I had done, and I would be taken away just like my mother had warned me.
The children’s shoes were smeared with blood and covered with dirt and grass. The dove’s wings had cracked off its body, and the feathers were trying to escape in the wind. The bird’s mass mixed with the dirt leaving behind a red pile of mud, bones, and feathers in the center of the screaming children. Two girls yanked the bows off their pretty braids and tossed them in the pile of bird and dirt. With their hair wild and long they looked like banshees screaming to usher in the next gruesome death.
A yard duty came running up to the mob of children. She pulled the two unhinged girls aside by their little arms, and they began to sob and point at the pile of bloody bird confetti. Several of the boys stopped to look at the ground and their shoes. They slowly backed away from the mess as if they were waking from a dream. The woman asked me what happened, pointing to the pile of feathers.
“I don’t know Miss Evans, but it’s awful. Look at that poor bird.” Boo Boo pulled at my arm.
“Cry, look at the sun and make your eyes tear.” I looked at the sun and made my eyes water.
“Good, she bought it. We will come back later and kill this thing, Cal. You can’t do it now. Somebody will see.” Boo Boo was right. I had no choice but to wait.
We returned later that night after dinner and homework we took a short bike ride before dark. I named the mist Fluff when I was five. I thought it lived in my purple stuffed kitty that bore the same name, but it didn’t. It lived in the thin space between my rage and compassion. Fluff was lonely, surrounded by trash and hiding in the shadow of the big oak tree by the time I got back to end him. It didn’t take me long, but he suffered.
This fiasco was my doing. I couldn’t tell anyone about it, not even my increasingly accepting mother could know what I had done. She blamed my unique talents on interference from past lives, imbalanced chakras, and sugary breakfast cereals. I’m sure she hoped my peculiar talents would vanish once I hit puberty, but instead, they became more refined. Energy was something I could see and eventually it became something I could manipulate.
This was my first solitary lie of omission. The one burden I have kept to myself all these years. It feels strangely freeing to write these things down. I think this ridiculous idea might help me. Decades of my life were spent learning how to control my abilities and hide them, so I appeared normal. I willingly shredded all that knowledge and tossed it behind me. Then I prayed it would never find me again.
On this second birthday, I left my ignorant bliss behind. I had fought hard and paid dearly for my normal life. If I'm honest, I was content, but I was bored out of my mind. My first journey towards Hell was easy. One quick step was followed by another until I found myself cozy in the middle of the flames, but the road back, that trip was entirely different.