Leonard’s First Possession
Leonard sat in the great hall with the rest of the young demons, his eyes tightly shut. He was concentrated. Focused.
“Ever this day, I am at your side, your light now gone, your soul now mine,” he whispered to himself. He repeated it, like a weird, demonic mantra. He would open his eyes occasionally to study the other young demons, wondering if they were as nervous as he was. No one looked at each other. All eyes were on the ground, probably focused on remembering all there was about possessing a human body.
“You nervous?” asked another young demon sitting next to him.
“I’m just glad they’re starting us out on old ladies and children.”
“Yeah, yeah… still though.”
Finally, the door at the end of the hallway blasted open, destroying the silence and breaking everyones’ concentration. Everyone sprung up to their feet, but maintained their fixation on the floor. Leonard could hear cloven footsteps approach, closer and closer. He finally felt a scaly, but gentle, and even inviting, hand fall lightly on his shoulder. Leonard gulped down and took a step forward. The hand guided him to the center of the hallway and gently pushed him forward through the door leading in to Xaphan hall. The hand slipped away, and moments later he could hear the doors shut with a boom.
Inside, Leonard kept his eyes to the floor, but could feel the way the hall opened up. It was cooler. There were legends and rumors about the glory of Xaphan Hall; that it didn’t have the majesty of Cocytus, Satan’s lair, but as far as demonic lairs could go, Xaphan was perhaps the best any young demon could aspire to. That’s why Leonard didn’t look around; he felt unworthy of the grandeur.
“You can look up, young one. It is safe,” the booming, deep voice could only belong to the great Xaphan himself. Leonard worried this might be a test, so he kept his eyes glued to the ground. He heard a deep chuckle, then felt the same scaly hand from earlier slip under his chin and gently push upward. His eyes finally took in Xaphan’s horrible face; his blistering red scales, bubbling and oozing with puss. Leonard was overcome with a feeling of ease, and Xaphan smiled.
“See? It’s not so bad.”
Leonard smiled back, “I guess not.”
Xaphan, touchy old thing, clasped a hand on Leonard’s back, laughing, and together, they walked deeper into the great hall. Leonard laughed along, sinking in to the comforting presence of Xaphan.
“Are you nervous? Possession is a pretty intense act, so I can only imagine the nerves,” Xaphan said.
“Do you remember your first time?” Leonard asked.
“My first time…”
Xaphan got very quiet and stared out into the hall. He stopped, and in his nostalgic daze he began to chuckle.
“It was so, so long ago. My first possession was right after we were exiled. We were still getting Hell established, figuring out who we were and who wanted to be.”
Leonard nodded silently. He critiqued his own question. Xaphan had such a long and storied life that the mere notion of him feeling nervous suddenly seemed silly to Leonard. Of course he was nervous the first time! He wasn’t always the great, horrible Xaphan he knew and loved. Nevertheless, Xaphan continued.
“My first possession was a mess. My host was a full grown adult, and this guy was a king, and his faith in God was far too strong for me to overtake. His will was iron clad and overtook me far too easily. It also helped that a Catholic priest was in his employ. I thought I was being smart and figured a king would be perfect because he had access to riches, power, and influence that would be used give Hell a better start. I was such a young fool. Lucifer’s was even worse! We were kids, Leonard. We had no clue what we were doing.”
Xaphan stood for a moment longer, overtaken by this memory. Leonard saw that those years mattered to him, but Xaphan shook it off before too long and they continued deeper into the hall.
Xaphan momentarily abandoned the pleasantries to go over the brief ins and outs of possession, “You remember the incantation, don’t you?”
The incantation. The inversion of the prayer.
“Yes,” said Leonard, “I have it down.”
“What do you do if there’s an exorcist?”
“Well,” Leonard replied, “you challenge the exorcist, break his will, as well as the will of whom you’ve possessed, and commit the soul to Satan.”
Xaphan nodded, understanding Leonard’s attempt to impress him, “yes, yes. But, in this case, for your first time, what will you do if there’s an exorcist.”
“Unbind and leave?” said Leonard, uncertain.
Xaphan gave him a hard pat on the back, hiding his relief. Leonard, like many other young demons before him, would want to impress Xaphan with their possessive skills. They’d extend themselves beyond what their own souls could handle and would not only put themselves in danger, but the kingdom of Hell in danger as well. One young demon tried to fight an exorcist, and another tried to hold dominance over a soul as it was entering a church.
“I don’t expect you to collect a soul on your first try,” Xaphan said.
There was a silence that filled the hall as the two approached a large, red pentagram carved into the marble floor. They stopped before the pentagram.
“It would impress you if I did, though, right?” asked Leonard.
Xaphan laughed, and that was good enough. Leonard stepped into the pentagram and carefully stepped his way toward the middle.
“Focus now,” Xaphan said in a low growl, setting the mood and putting Leonard in the proper head space. A darkness fell over the hall, and a multitude of souls came into view; transparent and empty, outlined by a glowing red light. There were so many that filled the hall, but Leonard stayed focused. Finally, Leonard’s eyes burst open, and in front of him was the perfect soul. Old, frail, and seemed to be alone. The old and the frail were easy to possess, and Leonard thought it might even be possible to possess her without her even realizing it. This old soul was just what Leonard was looking for.
“Now, Leonard!” shouted Xaphan.
“Ever this day, I am by your side! Your light now gone, your soul now mine!”
“What the fuck!” A new voice from the darkness screamed. “Holy shit! Someone! Anyone! What the fuck!” The soul wrestled hard for its control, but Leonard focused and forced his way into the same space. It was almost like some kind of mental thumb war.
“Be still!” Leonard shouted, more as a desperate yell than an intimidating command, but it got the job done.
“What? Who is that? Oh God… oh god…”
“No!” screamed Leonard, “ Not God!”
“Oh God… oh god… dammit! I’m finally hearing voices. I’m finally becoming senile. Oh, Rosemary, you’re definitely off to the home now.”
“Be still, soul!” Leonard commanded.
“The voices aren’t real, Rosemary. Old Janet warned you about the voices, but old Janet was old and dumb. Are you old and dumb, Rosemary?”
“The voices aren’t real,” Rosemary repeated to herself in a mantra like fashion.
“Lady, please! You need to settle down,” said Leonard, a little more gentle. Even still, he felt the weight of defeat in her soul, which he supposed was something.
“I really am going to a home, aren’t I? Maybe I should be in a home. Oh Rosemary, you old thing.”
Leonard could hear the defeat in her voice as her soul got weaker and weaker. He was still in utter darkness until, LIGHT! Too bright to see through at first, but as the light settled, Leonard found himself on the floor, breathing in the fumes of a fabreezed carpet. He looked up and tried to get a sense of where he was. The walls were lined with shelves filled with homey trinkets and ceramic dolls and models that had probably been collected over the years. He could feel with her foot the smooth wood of the coffee table, and realized that he needed to stand up. As he got motions going in her limbs, he tried to hoist himself up, when BLAM! Darkness.
“I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but I need you out of my fucking head before my daughter shows up with her daughter,” Rosemary demanded. Leonard felt his soul almost pinned down; Rosemary had come back with a vengeance.
“I can’t do that,” Leonard tried to explain.
“I swear to all that I find holy, if I end up in some old folks’ home because of you, I will personally see to it that you become met bitch. You wanna be a personality all of a sudden? You want to just come out of nowhere and be ‘other Rosemary’? I am the dominant personality here! You hear me! I am the dominant personality!”
“I’m not a personality, lady! I’m not just some figment of your imagination! I am a demon and I’ve come to take your soul! Now submit, or be killed!”
Leonard regretted that immediately. There was a long pause in the darkness.
“I’m sorry. This is my first…” another huge force of pressure interrupted him. This woman’s soul was awfully strong.
“Won’t I die anyway? If you truly are more than just a voice in my head, won’t you just take my soul to hell anyway? That’s the worst ultimatum I’ve ever been offered!” Rosemary started laughing, and mockingly said, “Give me your soul and die, or die! Whoever heard such a stupid thing?”
Leonard felt even more self-conscious. How was he going to explain all of this to Xaphan? Could he hear all of this? Did Xaphan know he was getting smacked down by a frail old lady? ‘What’s wrong with me?’ Leonard thought. ‘What kind of demon am I?’
“Frail my ass! Who’s Xaphan?”
Leonard suddenly remembered that since they were sharing the same body and mind, they could hear what each others’ thoughts were. More importantly, she could hear his insecurities making themselves known.
“Is Xaphan your demon boss?”
Unsure of how to react or what to say, Leonard responded truthfully, “He’s our teacher. I’m…,” he let a moment pass, deciding whether or not he wanted to be honest with this person. Then, “This is my first possession.”
In that moment, he could see again, but not as before. He could only see out of his left eye. He could feel the will of her head look in a new direction, and all he could do was follow suit. In his line of sight he saw a mirror. He could barely make her out, but stopped trying after he heard her speak.
“We’re gonna go to that mirror over there.”
He felt a vibration through his side of the throat when he spoke. He heard his own voice emerge from her mouth. The sensation would have thrilled him if he weren’t so weirded out by it, not to mention still not in control of the situation.
“You know how to walk in someone’s body?” she asked.
“Good enough. I’m gonna take a step, then you do the same, and we’re gonna walk to the mirror.”
Leonard saw her foot kick out for a step. It seemed so easy. He looked over at his leg and concentrated. All of a sudden, he felt a surge of brain synapses go off, causing some crazy muscle spasms in the leg he was trying to move. He kicked the leg way, way up, knocking the coffee table over into the bookcase, knocking some of the trinkets onto the floor.
“God damn, now I have to clean that mess up,” shouted Rosemary.
Leonard brought the leg forward and took a MASSIVE lunge toward the mirror. She took another step, this time taking a little more effort as she had to push against the outstretched leg to bring herself back up. She rebalanced herself, and took a step, like any normal functioning human would take a step.
“Okay,” she said, “Let’s try that aga-SHIIIIIIIIT!”
Leonard swung out the leg for another lunge toward the mirror, trying to maintain control of his half of the body. He looked into the mirror as Rosemary struggled to close the distance between her feet. Leonard studied the foot as it she took a breath and stepped forward. Before she could say anything, he lunged yet again. The two struggled to maintain their balance as some pictures fell off of the wall.
“Do demons not have legs?” she asked.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! We’re anatomically similar, this is just weird is all!”
They eventually made it to the mirror after a couple more spasms. Leonard could tell that all she wanted to do was just get this whole thing over with. He heard it in her thoughts, screaming, ‘OOOW! Ow ow ow ow ow! What the hell! What the HELL!!”
Leonard took a good, long look at this old woman he possessed. Well, half possessed. He could see the partner body that belonged to her, and saw the comparison to the side he possessed: it looked as though she aged 30–40 years. It dropped and sagged, and he had trouble seeing out of his socket. It looked like half of her was completely healthy, and the other half had a horrible cold.
“I’m Rosemary,” said Rosemary, peculiarly as she could only use her side of the mouth.
“Leonard,” he replied, much the same way.
She heaved over the sink, facing the mirror, sweaty and tired.
“Well, Leonard, was the frail body of an 84-year-old woman everything you hoped to possess?”
“New demons are told to go for the elderly. The process seems pretty easy, and we can usually inhabit the body without too much detection from the outside world,” Leonard said.
“Right. So, I’m not letting you take my body or soul, so what should we do?”
“I didn’t plan on doing either! It’s too risky to just take a soul as a newbie. This is just a test to see if I can inhabit a body,” Leonard said. At that moment, his line of vision darkened as he felt a pressure overwhelm his soul. What little of Rosemary’s face he could see regained some color.
“How do you possess a body?” she asked.
“I, I can’t… I can’t tell…”
The pressure increased, but she held on to him. He felt the urge to escape, but it was almost as if her soul had overcome his, and he felt pinned. There was no way for him to escape.
“Leonard. You want to go home, right? You want to go back to Hell and impress your demon school teacher?”
“Then,” Rosemary said, putting the pressure on even more. The pressure was so great he could barely even speak. He started going through his studies in his mind. The binding of souls, the breaking of wills, the concept of forcing a soul so far out of its own body that the only option they have left is to turn to Satan. He remembered the pentagrams and the incantation.
“Your light now gone, your soul now mine?” Rosemary asked. “Pretty declarative for not knowing what you’re getting yourself in to.”
The pressure released, and Leonard suddenly had full vision and full control, except for a small pinch he felt. He looked up to the mirror and found Rosemary’s horrible demon face staring at him. Her clammy skin almost resembled a poorly made clay mask that was basking in the hot sun. Her face was literally melting. He heard Rosemary’s kind voice in the back of his head.
“Okay, Leonard. What do you want to do?”
The pinch maintained, reminding him that he will never be allowed to have full control. Still, he went with it and stood up straight. He waved one hand, and then the other. He jumped, and he jumped again.
“Is this normally what happens during a possession?” asked Rosemary from the back of his head.
“Just… I don’t know… I’m savoring it. It’s not every day you get to be someone else.”
Leonard performed a couple of dance moves in the mirror. This was much easier now that he could control each body part. Well, not everything, obviously as he felt Rosemary pinch down on him a little bit. He noticed the mess he left when they were trying to walk. He bent down and started cleaning up. He picked up some photos on the wall and studied them. They were very nice. One of her with a young child, and another with —
“Just put the damn photos up, Leonard. I’m not gonna let you be in here all day. Thank you, though, for putting them back.”
“I guess it’s the least I can do for letting me complete my test,” Leonard said as he hung the last picture up. Before Rosemary could say anything back, there was a loud knock on the door, followed by a “Mom?” Then, woosh! Leonard’s line of vision went dark, and he felt himself forced out and slammed back into Xaphan’s hall. The force pushed him back on his ass and he slid out of the pentagram. He opened his eyes, and saw Xaphan standing over him, smiling.
“Look who made it back!” He shouted with glee.
“How’d it go?” Xaphan asked.
“I couldn’t get her soul. She ended up being really strong and I almost wasn’t able to hold on to her.”
Leonard tried to hide just how exasperated he was, but really it was clear to Xaphan. Xaphan put a hand around Leonard and guided him to the hall entrance.
“I was able to move her around and control her limbs and everything. She… she kinda had to let me do it though.”
Xaphan chuckled warmly and clasped Leonard on the back.
“She gave you the pinch, eh? It happens to the best of us, Leonard. I’m proud of you, big guy. It’s a big step you just took, and you’ll get plenty of chances to try again.
The pair made it to the door of the great hall. Xaphan opened to door to let Leonard through. All the young, waiting demons stared at the floor. Leonard watched as Xaphan laid a friendly, gentle hand on the next pupil, and they walked back into the hall. Leonard left the demon’s lair feeling good about the possession. He looked forward to when he could try again. He thought about Xaphan and how kind he was to his students. He felt very lucky to be a demon, and felt hopeful for his future. He returned to his much smaller, but really comfortable lair.
“Wake up, Leonard!” A familiar voice shouted. Leonard jumped awake, only to find one eye working, and that he could only control the right side of his body. He felt that familiar pinch, and that voice… that voice!
“This is pretty exhilarating! I feel like a whole new woman!”
“In the flesh!” she exclaimed, then paused, “wait…”
Leonard tried to wrestle control back from her, but Rosemary used her side of his body to slap him across the face. She did it again and again.
“Stop hittin’ yourself!” Slap! “Stop hittin’ yourself!” Slap, slap!
“How — “ slap “How did you find me? How are you doing this?” Leonard cried out.
“You didn’t clean up my living room, and my daughter thought I fell. So we talked for four hours about proper nursing homes, and I thought, ‘You know, I’d rather just die.’ Then I remembered, I know how possession works because I had such a good teacher!”
Leonard felt his side of his young demon body dragging across the room. This old lady really, truly had the strongest will of anyone he’d ever met, considering that most everyone he knew were demons. Rosemary lifted his limp side up on to a table to face a mirror. Leonard saw her side, younger, more vibrant, his scales smoothed out to into a skin like texture. It was gross.
“Man,” said Rosemary, “I haven’t seen that face in over 50 years. I sure was a looker, wasn’t I?”
Leonard said nothing. His should just grew too overwhelmed to handle hers. She was… just… so… strong… and he felt a push. Before he knew it, he was overcome by darkness. He couldn’t fight back. All he could do was wallow.
“What are you going to do?” he asked.
“I’m gonna go talk to your guy Xaphan and pledge to him in some way. I wanna do this. I wanna be a demon!”
Leonard panicked at the mention of Xaphan, and tried to dig up some strength to push her out, but Rosemary kept him down.
“No! Xaphan will never respect me!” cried Leonard.
“I’m afraid that’s your problem, kiddo!” she cackled, and they were moving. Although Leonard couldn’t see what was happening, he could hear all of Rosemary’t thoughts, and the sheer exhilaration as her thoughts came out. There was a lot of “Woos” and “Hell yeahs” and “wows”. Rosemary was so impressed with the kingdom of Hell that Leonard couldn’t help but feel a little bit of pride. People fear Hell so desperately the they don’t even consider the possibility of Hell being nothing like the painful, godless, hopeless pit God made it out to be.
“I’ve never felt so free and alive! Hell is great!”
If Leonard had a body with which he could smile, he absolutely would have.
It felt like hours before Leonard sensed Rosemary suddenly stop and become overwhelmed with awe. Since Rosemary was searching for Xaphan, he could only assume that she was about to enter the hall. Then, suddenly, a thought: “It sees me.”
“Can I help you?” asked a meek voice. It was a voice that couldn’t have been Xaphan, for his was one of power and authority. Before Leonard could even express a thought, a wave of fear burst through him. He heard Rosemary’s thoughts.
“He’s gonna eat me!”
In that moment of fear, Leonard retained part of his body back and immediately noticed a deep, horrible, freezing cold overtake him. He looked at the ground. Ice. In his line of sight came a foot with small streaks of blood running through the toes. As Rosemary motioned his head up, he saw him; bite marks across his stomach, his head drenched in some awful smelling mucus. This could only be one person.
“I said, can I help you?” asked Judas Iscariot.
“Judas!” Leonard cried out of his side of the mouth. A look of amusement crossed Judas’s face, and he looked up behind him.
“Can you guys believe this?”
Leonard heard cackles fall down from either side of Judas. He followed Rosemary’s impulse to look up and the behemoth towering over them; A three headed giant, the middle with a sad face with a gaping mouth flanked by two other heads gnawing on their own men resting upon their teeth. In that moment, he realized where they were: the frozen lake, the freezing empty cavern, the monster in front of them. Cocytus.
“You really shouldn’t fear this old lug,” Judas said, turning back, “he’s as gentle as anyone you’ve ever met.”
“He doesn’t say shit either,” chimed in one of the voices from way up.
“Nope. He just gnaws on us for all of eternity,” said another.
Judas chimed in, “Satan is all reputation. But you, jeez kid, you got yourself into some trouble there, huh?”
“Teach me how to be a demon!” screamed Rosemary. Judas laughed out as the doors to Cocytus opened. Leonard heard the deep voice of Xaphan echo through halls.
“Lord Satan! There seems to be a ton of ruckus happening… oh…”
Leonard felt Xaphan’s eyes on him. He followed Rosemary’s impulse to look over to him. Leonard tried to summon everything within him to look away, but Rosemary maintained.
“Leonard? What happened?” Xaphan asked.
“She was… just so much stronger than me.”
Judas broke out laughing, “Oh shit! A reversed possession! Our old lord of darkness here would know plenty about that, right Xaphan?”
The two from above cackled along with Judas. Leonard returned to Satan’s middle face as a look of consternation crossed over it. Satan leaned down to Judas and bit down against him, and Judas’s belly laughs turned to terrified, painful shrieks. The other two laughed even louder.
“I’m sorry!” Judas’s muffled screamed escaped through Satan’s clenched teeth, “Really, Satan! It was a joke!”
Xaphan approached Leonard while all this commotion was happening. Leonard was so embarrassed that he forced his eye to look to the ground.
“Leonard, did you tell this woman who to possess? Be honest with me.”
Leonard kept his gaze to the ground, too ashamed to look up, “Yes.” Just then, he felt a gentle hand push up against his chin, and he saw Xaphan, as friendly and as welcoming as ever.
“Not a great move,” he said, “but you know who else did the exact same thing?” Xaphan nodded over Leonard’s shoulder. Both he and Rosemary looked over to the big, ugly devil, holding a screaming, begging Judas in his mouth. Leonard and Rosemary turned back to Xaphan, who also began laughing. Rosemary’s half started laughing nervously along. Xaphan laid a strong hand on her side and invitingly asked, “and who now possesses young Leonard here?”
Leonard pushed himself down completely into darkness, and he heard Rosemary’s chipper voice, “Make mea demon!” A moment passed before Rosemary allowed Leonard half agency again. Satan had appeared to let Judas free and he spoke with Xaphan.
“You clearly have a strong will,” Xaphan said, “strong enough to subdue one of my best students.”
“I know who I am, and I know what I want. I don’t want to be whisked away to some home to live a couple more useless years. I’m 84. I’ve lived a whole life. I’ve seen the world, I’ve loved great men and women, and I’ve fought off shit men and women. It’ll take WAY more than a young demon to steal away my soul.”
Xaphan smiled, “A strong will makes for a great demon. A strong demon. But a demon must swear fealty to our dark lord. Is that something you’re okay with?”
“Honestly, up until now, I thought this was all a bunch of bullshit,” Rosemary said.
“Great!” said Judas, “It’s settled, then! We’ll just, y’know, orchestrate your arrival when you die and do the whole demon creation thing. Right big guy?” Judas gave a couple of jolly pats on Satan’s massive torso. He came back to Leonard and held out his hand. Rosemary used Leonard’s hands to reach out and clasp it.
“I’m Brutus over here,” screamed the man from the left head.
“Cassius up here!” screamed the man from the right.
They all turned to Satan, who seemed to be zoning out. Satan realized he was being watched, and gave a kind, but pretty awkward, wave of his huge hand.
“I’m Rosemary. I’m so excited.”
Whoosh! Leonard resumed control over his body. Judas turned back and began his crawl back up into the middle head.
“We’ll talk soon, Xaphan,” Judas said.
“Apologies for the disturbance,” Xaphan said, patting Leonard shoulder and motioning him to the entrance of the grand cave. He looked around, admiring it’s horrible, hostile, soul sucking isolation. This Satan guy really does know how to hole up.
As Xaphan and Leonard reached the cave exit, Judas called out to them.
“Leonard, was it?”
“Yes,” Leonard replied, and turned to see Judas resting on Satan’s open mouth.
“Next time, don’t tell your possessed how you did it. No shame in just getting out of there,” he said.
“I’ve learned my lesson,” Leonard said. Judas gave a nod, turned head first into Satan’s mouth, and slowly eased himself over his tooth, screaming on the way down.
“God damn! I will never get used to that,” he said.
“Why?” asked Cassius.
“Really, it’s only been 2000 years,” Brutus tacked on.
With that, Xaphan and Leonard walked out.
Leonard still felt the weight of his mistake as the approached his own, small lair.
“Xaphan, I’m really sorry.”
“Relax, Leonard. You are far from the first and you won’t be the last. Everyone makes mistakes, Leonard. Sometimes, those mistakes are huge. Sometimes they cost you, and believe me, I’ve made plenty. I still make them sometimes,” said Xaphan.
“Still,” Leonard insisted.
“I appreciate that. Truly, I do. But tomorrow, you’re going to wake up and prepare for the next test. And now, I’m going home. You get some rest, and instead of kicking yourself, use this as a learning experience.”
Xaphan left Leonard feeling inspired and with a new resolve. Leonard returned to his home, excited for the future. As he laid down, he felt a small pinch in his soul, very light, almost like an affectionate, gentle squeeze.
“Good night, my new demon friend,” the familiar voice said.
Leonard laughed. “Goodnight, Rosemary. See you soon.”