Being Quiverfull

[a short story by Joel Nickel]

People scurried around her in the shadows of the television set. Rupert Jones was sitting at his desk in front of the backdrop, taking a sip from his On Winnipeg with Rupert Jones coffee cup. He was speaking quietly to the panel of three women sitting opposite him. Their mics weren’t on and Phoenix couldn’t make out what they were saying.

She was on right after the next segment.

A woman came by and made some last minute touch ups to her make-up job.

“I should put a little bit more here to hide the bags under your eyes.”

Oh thanks.

The make-up woman finished up and then retreated back into the chaoic set.

Rupert Jones turned to face the camera, “I wish we had more time, but we’ve got to go to a commercial break. I’d like to thank Sandra Jensen, Kate Smith, and Janet Morris for joining me tonight. You can pick up Janet’s book Being Quiverfull and Kate Smith’s God’s Mighty Warriors, which are available online and in bookstores now. And catch Sandra Jensen, Wednesday nights at 7pm on TLC for the new reality show, Quiverfull. Next my guest, soap star Phoenix Eversong, talks to me about her return to the Winnipeg filmed, daytime soap, Alls Faire, and what brought her back to reprise the role of her award winning character, after this.”

“And we’re clear,” The man by the main camera yelled, “Back in 5.”

The make-up woman came around again, “Okay, we’re gonna set you up in that chair over there just as soon as the Quiverfull ladies get un-mic’d and then we’ll plop you up there,” She swatted Phoenix’s face with a soft brush.

She saw the three ladies stand up and walk off the set to the green room.

The stage manager motioned for Phoenix to come up on stage and sit down to be wired up for a mic.

“How are you doing tonight?” Rupert asked her and she turned to see the man she’d watched so many nights on television, sitting right in front of her.

“A little jetlagged,” she said. “And I have to fly back to Winnipeg as soon as I get outta here.”

Rupert didn’t laugh.

“We’re live in 5 . . . 4 . . .”

The music bed rolled and the cameras moved in closer.

“Welcome back, I’m here with actress and soap star Phoenix Eversong, best known for her role as Elizabeth Alls on the Winnipeg filmed, daytime drama Alls Faire.”

Inside, Phoenix was rolling her eyes. Best known for . . .

“I understand you had been killed off on the show earlier last year, why did you decide to leave Alls Faire and what was it that brought you back?” Rupert looked over at her with shrugged shoulders, his arms on the table.

Lie or tell the truth? No one wanted me as Phoenix Eversong. All my offered roles were just Elizabeth Alls clones.

“I . . .”

“Yes.”

“Actually, before we get into those questions,” she thought of something brilliant. “I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on your previous guests.”

“Really?”

“Yah.”

She heard a muffled voice behind the cameras sternly call her name. It was the studio publicist, Maxime. She’d briefed her only moments before on exactly what to say. She would not happy about this diversion.

She ignored the voice.

“I have to say that listening off stage . . . it was kind of frightening.”

“Frightening, really?” Rupert gave his signature eyebrow raise again.

“Phoenix!” This time the voice was a little louder and she was sure that people watching at home would’ve heard it.

      This is perfect. She thought. A scandal, maybe they’ll fire me and I can sue ’em.

“I was thinking that, as it is the Christian right has an inordinately large amount of power in politics today. And if this Quiverfull thing actually takes off we would see an even higher percentage of the population perpetuating archaic ideals which throughout the centuries have proved to be antagonistic towards free thought, to women, and to anyone else who doesn’t fit their esoteric mold.”

“You’re saying Christianity is a bad thing.”

“Not at all, Rupert. I’m saying that following biblical Christianity too literally is a bad thing,” Phoenix shifted in her chair and brought her elbows down on the table to look more relaxed. “Listen, the basic views of Jesus are ones that I wholly agree we should all adhere to or at least aspire to. But somehow in translation it gets wonky. ‘Treat others as you would have them treat you’. ‘Love your enemies’. But where are those teachings when it comes to passing legislation banning homosexuals the opportunity to live in loving, committed, legal relationships?” Phoenix asked.

Rupert just nodded, knowingly.

“I also believe that a religious mindset only escalates this ideological conflict between us and them. Listen, I’m the first to admit that I don’t really know a whole lot about the wars; but from the way it’s being presented to me in the media and through conversations with people I meet, it seems to me as though it’s being promoted as a war between Christianity and Islam rather than a war between America and Afghanistan or America and Iraq.”

“Phoenix.” The voice was louder.

“So if it were up to you, would let religion continue?” Rupert asked.

“Of course, Rupert,” she smirked. “I’m not saying that we should abolish religion. Religion has a huge place in history and in art and in personal development. But I think that when we start drafting legislation based on religious views, it can be very harmful to the general population. Think about the witch trials!”

“You’re equating the Quiverfull movement with witch burnings?”

“PHOENIX!”

“Well, of course not directly. But I don’t think you can argue against the fact that it was Christians that went seeking out freethinking, outspoken women and executing them as witches. When any group of people is allowed to exercise extreme prejudice on another group of people, unchallenged, it’s never good. That’s all I’m saying.”

“That’s a little alarmist don’t you think. You’re making it sound like having a majority of Christians in power will somehow bring about an apocalypse.”

“Well, of course Christians wouldn’t think that because they’d be the ones in power; but what about people of other religions, and for that matter what about homosexuals? What about women?”

“I really don’t think that Christians are against women,” Rupert said.

“The woman in your last segment said it herself that it’s a Patriarchal system. And maybe right now there’s the illusion of equality, but if you’re saying that it’s a Patriarchal system there’s the idea that the male is somehow superior to the woman and they must be subservient towards the male gender. When more and more people subscribe to that ideology, that illusion will wear away and we’ll be left reverting back to the 50s.”

“I think that might be a little over exaggerated, but I’ve got to go for a break. Ms. Eversong, it was interesting to say the least, to have you on the show. Not at all what I thought we’d talk about,” he smiled. “You can catch Ms. Phoenix Eversong on the daytime drama Alls’ Faire, everyday at 2pm.”

*                 *                 *

“What the fuck were you thinking?” Maxime, the publicist, exploded into Phoenix’s changing room.

“What?”

“What?” The woman’s voice grew shrill. “What?”

“Calm down,” Phoenix tried to hide a smile, “It’s not that bad.”

“Not that bad?” She shouted. “Not that bad? Do you even know who your fucking target audience is?”

Phoenix rolled her eyes.

“Christian, stay-at-home wives,” Maxime shook her head, disbelievingly, “Fuck, I’m going to be fired.”

“You’re not going to be fired,” Phoenix said, reapplying her lipstick in front of the mirror.

“Yes I am. You were supposed to talk about your return to the show. About how happy you were to rejoin the cast and . . . Jesus, we’re fucked.”

“Calm down. We’re not fucked. Do you realize how much media attention this is going to win us?”

“What? Are you crazy? No one cares about some stupid fucking soap actress except for the stupid fucking Christian, stay-at-home wives who watch her everyday at 2pm.”

“Hey,” Phoenix shot him an angry glare.

“Am I fucking lying?” she scoffed and began pacing, angrily, back and forth, “This is bad! This is really bad. I have to call the network.”

The woman took out her phone and began dialing. She realized that there was no reception in the room and abruptly left.

Phoenix sighed.

      Fucking finally.

I hope I am fired from that shitty soap. Maxime was right. No one cares about me as an actress except for stay-at-home wives. But hopefully now I might find a larger appreciation for Phoenix Eversong the person and not, Phoenix Eversong the actress who plays Elizabeth Alls.

The Puppet Shaman – An Ouroboros Short Story

“Einstein proved that time is relative and that there’s no reason why time should always be moving forward. There’s the time’s arrow thing; that something happened before and it caused this. But, what if they’re not sequential moments in time but are momentary snapshots that we, because we have memory, phase into and out of in a linear way,” Alex said excitedly.

“Okay, maybe I’m just high, but I didn’t understand any of that, Alex,” Greg giggled. After the service, those of the Mokeyists who indulged in hallucinogens stayed behind for a kind of second service. Usually, it was only Alex, his girlfriend Faith, and Greg. Nathan and Laura usually attended the second service but he hadn’t heard from Laura since the breakup and Nathan would only just be arriving in Korea.

“Okay,” Alex paused. “What if every moment in time exists simultaneously however we can only experience one snapshot at any one time and after we phase through that one snapshot it goes back to the whole where every snapshot in time exists simultaneously.”

“Sweet!” Greg’s unfocused eyes were almost completely dilated. Alex knew Greg had grey eyes. But the three of them had just taken mushrooms so now the colour was swallowed by pupil. Part of Alex wanted to check the mirror to see if his eyes looked like Greg’s but he knew that mirrors were often unfriendly on psychedelics. While all that was going on inside his head, he’d forgotten that he had a body outside of his thoughts and just sat there with a slack spine, staring into Greg’s eyes.

“Posture!” Faith reminded him sweetly, stroking his shoulder lovingly. Continue reading

Are We The Creator Gods of the Gods We Believe Created Us?

I wonder, are the gods we credit with creating the universe actually the result of our shared human tendency to anthropomorphize good and evil? We have intent and motivation behind our actions and reactions and so feel the need to extend that awareness of choice, morality, and consequences onto the intangible, giving it form.

God. The Devil. Horus. Set. Ahura Mazda. Angra Mainyu.

Again and again in our collective religious history we see the duality of “good” and “evil”; “light” and “darkness”. We assign our gods a polarity, an alignment, and we concede our own responsibility to the influence of either of those sides. “The devil made me do it.” “I feel the spirit of the Lord.” But what if we’re just grouping together actions and ideals, separating them into benevolent and malevolent, and then attributing to them an identity, an intelligence that we can interact with. We are social beings and crave the connection with one another and again and again in history we find humans granting religious beings a sort of hyper-humanity; something we can understand and somewhat identify with while still being the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent beings we need them to be to serve the purpose we created them for.

What is good but the desire to extend kindness, love, protection, inclusiveness and understanding to others when one is given the opportunity to do so and to do so without the expectation that your actions will be reciprocated?

What is evil but the denial of those actions in favor of those that would see others impoverished, persecuted, injured, ostracized, and willfully ignorant of the feelings and wellbeing of others, while at the same time striving only for the benefit of the ego at the expense of others?

What would the world look like if we looked past our imagined personifications of good and evil and viewed them instead as metaphors. Rather than attributing their alignment with a spiritual entity that can be contacted, bartered with, or enticed to throw its weight behind a partisan agenda, we saw them as archetypes modeled to aid us while we shape our own perception of morality.

What does it matter which name or human personification we give: good? (or evil)

Why not consciously strive to conduct yourself in a way that benefits those around you? Does an injured person care what creed their rescuer aligns themselves with? Would allegiance trump the need for the injured to be healed?

Evil separates. Evil sows prejudice and distrust.

Good binds together and connects. Good radiates understanding and acceptance.

Good is.

Evil is.

You ARE.

Take responsibility for the actions, inaction, and injury you are responsible for and don’t attribute the source of that decision to any other being than yourself.

Show love. Live Love. Be Love.

*for more reading check out the wikipedia entry for: Good and Evil

Just Sex

Over the last 29 years I’ve experienced, been witness to, and unfortunately drank the kool-aid (though, thankfully only momentarily) and once aligned myself with both ideological extremes regarding sex, relationships, and love. The one side wants to make you believe that it’s sinful, and evil, and something to stay away from entirely (until you get married and then it’s magically beautiful and a gift from God) while the secular side is feeding us this rhetoric of almost benign and meaningless activity that humans engage in whenever they feel horny and (at 29, to me, in my life) I feel as though both sides are misrepresenting what intimacy and sex and love should be. I was engaged very early and the experience left me disillusioned and bitter and cynical. (While not fully committing in my mind, if I’m honest with my self) I really wanted to believe in the “love and sex are imagined concepts to sell products” idea, (and in hindsight I realize that was because I WANTED it to be the case so I could numb myself from future hurt) so I leapt onto the pendulum bob and I swung across to the other side where I experienced the other side of hurt; disconnectedness. In my mind (though I tried to remain outwardly disinterested and aloof) I was still attaching myself to my sexual partner. I was trying to surpress the need in myself for a meaningful connection and in a lot of cases I projected onto my sexual partners a connection and love that wasn’t real but I’d convinced myself it was. (And I tried to convince others that that’s the way that I felt in a kind of feigned macho disregard that I’d felt obligated as a 20-something male was expected to react) And then, when the physical relationship ran it’s course and I finally did learn that the other end of the connection experienced sex with so little emotion and attachment, that too hurt me. I rode the oscillation of the pendulum to both extremes and both had left me hurt and disconnected. At 29, where I’m at now (and of course this may grow, alter, and shift with more experience and maturity) but I think there needs to be a more moderate concept of sex and love. Keep the love, intimacy, vulnerability, and connection that the religious end supports, but drop the negativity, guilt, and sinful connotations that surround sex. We should drop the idea that one person has one kind of love for someone and then you must never have that feeling for anyone else and if you do that’s cheating. Although, that being said, we should also drop the idea that sex is meaningless and if it feels good do it. In my opinion, sex should not be a disconnected, recreational thing that you engage in with people you’ll never see again. In my life, I want sex to be meaningful, respectful, and desired equally for both partners. I’ve learned in my experience, that I want someone to have sex with ME, I don’t want someone who wants to have sex. Now I may be generalizing and saying that because I think this this is a good idea. But I’m just one person. You can agree or you can disagree, but to me, I no longer want to feel disconnected from such a spiritual, interconnected, and emotional experience and disregard it as “just sex”. What do you think?

Re-Purposed Puzzle Pieces

I feel like I’m not allowed to be. I think of all the others not allowed to be:
the artists, the philosophers, the scientists, the healers, all dismissively abandoned.
Imprisoned in our corporate purgatory, waiting for the coveted big break we are
so regularly promised. Pacified. Encouraged. Enticed. Maybe the lottery. Maybe the internet. If you fail it’s only because you didn’t try hard enough. That flaccid promise of
happiness slaps us in the face. Just keep your head down. Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t rock the boat. Someday your big break will come. Saturday morning cartoons told you how special and important you are. Television wouldn’t lie to you. You will all be rich. You will all be famous. Just be patient. And buy this product. Not that one! No, really. If you buy that one they’ll know you’re poor. Know you’re inferior. Can’t afford it? Hmmm. We have something for you. If you can’t buy this piece of hard plastic will work. Great! Now that you’ve purchased that superior product, from that superior corporation, you’re now on this rung of the ladder. (Almost there!) You don’t wanna go back down the ladder, right? So you’ll need this product! No NO!! Not that one. Jesus. That sends the totally wrong message that you want other to see!! Do you want people to see just how inferior you actually are? No one will love you. No one will accept you. You need this!! From THIS company! Have we taught you nothing? God, you’re stupid! Hmmm, still can’t pay? Oh, you only have a part-time job ’cause your employer discovered that if you have lots of part-time workers instead of fewer full-time workers it works out better for the people at the top? Hmmm, well, you still have that card right? Good. Oh, rent … utilities …. oh yah, food. Well, hey, that card works for all those places. And they have lots of places you can just drive up to and they just give you a full meal. You don’t even have to learn how to cook! How convenient is that! AND most of them are open 24 hours! Hmmm, unhappy? … let’s see …. take two of these in the morning. One of these at lunch. Oh, and don’t mix this with this. Drink this! We like when you drink it. You like when you drink it. It’s the way everyone relaxes on the weekend after a hard week of 9-5. (Oh, wait, yah, you’re part-time) well, whatever, more time for you to drink. Oh, but don’t smoke that. We’ll arrest you if you do! We don’t make any money when you smoke that. So drink this! This is better anyway. And people will have sex with you and you’ll have more friends and do amazing fun and adventurous things. You should know this already? I thought you watch TV? Speaking of which you’re missing your favourite show! You like that one? How about this one? This one is like the one you like! And this one too. It really keeps your attention (and keeps you watching which products you need to buy if you want to be accepted) Oh, you’re sick … hmmm, well, try a little harder. You’re almost at the top rung. Happiness is right there. Don’t quit while you’re so close!! Oh, um, by the way, you haven’t been making minimum payments on that card. The balance is getting pretty high… what? Um, well then you shouldn’t have bought so many things if you didn’t have the money. That’s your fault for being so bad with managing your money. You loser. Jeez, you’re the reason the economy is in such bad shape. You’re ruining it for the rest of us. God! Still sick? Hmmm, yah, I’m sorry but that not really my problem. You’re gonna have to sort that out yourself. Okay, this is too much you pathetic loser. We’re coming to take back the stuff you can’t afford. Why did you get it if you couldn’t afford it. Man, you’re just the worst kind of person. Wanna have a drink? We have light now so that you don’t become fat. Fat AND poor and unemployed? Wow, dude, you’re useless to me now. Fuck off.

Think of all the works of art, all the profound thoughts, all the scientific breakthroughs, all the connectedness, and love, and growth that we are missing out on. They are deprived of flowering into being by the choking tendrils of poorly constructed, disjointed and unfairly balanced machine who incongruous parts are mashed into place like mismatched puzzle pieces, stolen from many vastly different images that cheat the other from experiencing their own completeness.

But how do we construct a complete image with incompatible parts? The void of dissonance could be filled but is instead being improperly repurposed in a malformed mosaic erected by self-interested architects who short-sightedly beat the misfit pieces into place. Afterward, they pull a tight tarp of propaganda over the jagged and porous surface of the puzzle to deny the awareness of the mosaic’s truth; jagged and discordant. The new image, the one that benefits the architects, lavishes upon itself a narrative of ego masturbation. Through architect approved media, through required acceptance of specific philosophy, they continue to tug, re-shape, and re-tighten their degenerating tarp across the fragmented puzzle pieces. We are all the same! They say. Just keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll all be okay. There’s a new car that the girls are getting wet for! Why not go buy it! You’ll feel better. I promise. The fabricated image stretched out along the skin of the tarp furiously tries to obscure the individual puzzle pieces beneath from seeing their true image. It lures them into believing that they are contributing to an image with an entirely different meaning than the one that exists. Our re-purposed puzzle pieces bend and crack together into an image that benefits only the architects. It leaves the pieces impoverished, waiting for their big break.

Taking Stock: an awareness of the path I could take, and deciding which path I want to follow

As I approach the end of the first year of my fifth self, I strive to be a more loving, kind, patient, and understanding person. I want to be aware of my strengths and my weaknesses that I’ve acquired through my last four selves. I want to work at the things I need to improve on and nurture the traits that are my strengths. I want to be the change I wish for the world instead of wallowing in my cynicism and negativity. I want to listen more than speak. I want to understand instead of alter. I want to love instead of judge. I want to be myself. And I want others to be free to be themselves. Looking back on my journey over the past 28 years, I see clearly my own past hypocrisy. I openly mocked others for their narrow-minded, judgmental, stubborn faith in their ideals and now see that we are oscillating back and forth between extremes and I was only on the other end when I should’ve been working at equilibrium. Rather than homogenize thought where it becomes a firm consensus as to what is and what isn’t, we should freely embrace (albeit critically) all possible views as being equally valid and important in expanding the possible ways of experiencing what is ultimately unknowable as we journey through the 100 or so years of conscious awareness we are afforded in the Universe. In my past, I also see my own lack of ownership over the consequences of choices and rather than growing and learning I had felt victimized by the world. I would blame others when the responsibility is with me and expect that the world owed me. I will not demand that the world change to fit me. I will let my choices reflect my desires and allows others that same courtesy. I apologize to those who have felt attacked by the things I have posted in the past or by things I have said. I still want to try and make people think of concepts outside of their comfort zone, but I will go about it in a much less aggressive and more respectful manner. The ideas of others should be expressed and entertained but ultimately only you, the individual, should have a say in what you personally believe, what choices you make for yourself. I won’t speak for anyone else, but my focus is to be a positive force. *thank you for listening to my rant. You don’t have to agree with me, but I’m really glad you listened.

Collapse – Exerpt (NaNoWriMo Novel)

Only 7 more days until the end. Current word count is at 41,347. Only a little more to go to hit 50,000! Let me know what you think.

——-

Synopsis

A couple uncovers a burial chamber while spelunking in one of the many unexplored caves in China. The chamber is filled with skeletons that have large fungal cones pressing out from their skulls. They don’t realize they’re already infected by spores of a cordyceps fungus. When they get back home to Winnipeg, it’s already too late. The infection spreads. The novel follows various people: two struggling musicians, an army vet returning to Winnipeg for his estranged father’s funeral, a disgruntled daytime soap actress, a first-grade teacher and his 4 year old daughter, and a no-nonsense religiously inclined data entry clerk, a womanizing general practitioner, and a voluntarily homeless person living in the a tent in the Assinaboine Forest. The story follows the characters as each tries to get out of the city to the wilderness while attempting to avoid the infection, the infected, and the most dangerous of all, other human beings.

“Collapse” Excerpt

Tressa felt really warm. It was an uncomfortable, bright heat that radiated out from inside of her. She could feel the waves of heat wobbling away as they left her body. She’d finished the slurpee and had sat down to watch the television but she never turned it on. She was focused on the feeling of the buttons in her sweaty hands. The buttons shone with a glistening oily sheen that made Tressa feel sick. When she looked up, the room had taken on new and frightening properties that she wasn’t before aware of. The walls were emitting subtle sparks that burst soundlessly into existence and then out again. She found herself breathing rapidly and she could feel her heart thudding against her ribs. They seemed to ring out every time her heart slapped against them. It was a weird amalgamation of sound and texture. She could feel some of the sound waves as they reverberated back into her body. Though not all of the waves reflected back. No. She could see some of the waves drift away from her, diluting into the sparks popping in and out of reality.

She stood up but instantly became aware that her consciousness was a few seconds ahead of her body. In her mind she was already standing, but her body was sluggishly following afterward.

Her mouth was dry and she could feel her rough tongue scraping against her frighteningly porous teeth. There were large holes in her teeth that seemed to snag her dry tongue. She didn’t stop doing it though. Instead, it made her to want to do it more. And the more her tongue scraped along her teeth the more anxious she became. She leaped up off her chair. She wanted to run to the bathroom to check her mouth to see what the fuck was wrong. Her legs wouldn’t move. She stared down at them and saw them waving back and forth at odd angles.

She screamed.

Tressa collapsed back down.

Her limbs felt heavy against the armrest. Their colour was bleeding into the colour of her shirtsleeves.

She screamed again. Tears were racing down her flushed cheeks.

“What’s going on?” she was sobbing. “Jesus, what’s . . . what’s happening?”

There was a light radiating from her middle dresser drawer. The one she kept the Bible in.

Her tears felt like candle wax against her cheeks. Her whole body shook. She stared impotently at her kneecaps, trying to will her legs to move. It was her left hand, though, that finally pushed her off the armrest and up into a standing position. Her body seemed to move on its own. She watched it lurch toward the dresser and pull open the drawer. Her arms looked unrealistically long and thin as they reached out to open the Bible. The light continued to bleed out from the book. She could feel the weight of the light against her face and neck. The feeling was accompanied by a dull warmth that pressed against her.

The sound of the pages grating against one another attacked the insides of her head as she flipped through the Bible. Her hand stopped at Luke and she began reading:

14 Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed.

15 But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” 16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.

23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”

28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

 

 

“What are you doing?”

The voice was bright but forceful and seemed to be coming from inside her head. She looked around the room to see where the voice was but all she saw was Boodle.

“Boodle, sweetie. Stay away. Mommy’s sick.”

Tressa could sense the presence of someone else in the room but there wasn’t. Not anything that she could see.

And then her whole body tensed.

There were suddenly thoughts in her head. But foreign thoughts. Thoughts that seemed to be coming from somewhere else. They blended with the chatter of anxiety in her own mind and kind of harmonized; two distinct and separate columns of thought that ran parallel to one another. Hers were expressed in worried words that dribbled onto her brain but the other, the other seemed to be expressed as disconnected, rudimentary cognition, as if it were just only now discovering that it could think and that it could reason.

Her legs began to move again and she found she was heading over to the bathroom. Her hand flicked on the light and she stared into her reflection in the mirror.

The other in her head laughed.

She laughed.

For a while it seemed like they were trying to one-up each other with the intensity of their laughter. One ringing out in the tight confines of the bathroom, the other reverberating about inside her skull. Tressa’s throat tightened as she stared into her reflection and saw a large Cheshire cat-like smile growing on her face.

Growing and growing.

It wasn’t stopping. Her smile just kept getting large and larger, and curling up the sides of her face, maniacally.

Kit jumped up on to the counter and stared at her.

“You must resist, Tressa.”

She could feel the other in her head poking around inside her brain.

<<Cat>> It thought. <<Kit>>

Tressa screamed.

Beelzubul!