Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Lock (03/06/06)
TITLE: Locked With the Demons
By Debora Dyess
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He opened his eyes. Chaos, confusion—the others were already loud in his head. His heart pounded and he exhaled sharply, trying to force them out before inhaling to his lungs capacity. The act was habit; he knew he couldn’t rid himself of the tormentors by his own power.
The sun had come up.
He stared directly into its light, bewilderment creasing his brow. Sometimes it wasn’t real. Sometimes he saw what wasn’t there. They made him see and hear things that only existed in his decimated soul. Until nothing was real. Until only They were real.
He grabbed his chest, pinching and tearing his skin. Pain—the only thing he could count on—was always real.
The rising sun persisted, even through the sting of new injury and the blood that splattered on the ground.
It was morning.
His belly growled. He kicked over rocks, grabbing unfortunate bugs and worms and cramming them into his mouth. He saw a lizard out of the corner of his eye and snatched at it. The creature darted away, gone instantly. The Others laughed at him and he raised his head to scream at the sky.
They urged him to charge the nearby pigs. He studied the herd, vaguely remembering through the riot in his head the last time he tried that. Flashes of pain ad horror filled his mind. He returned to grubbing.
Something hard and sharp struck him in the head. He turned, growling.
Boys stood on a small hill, yelling taunts, throwing rocks. He knew them. Their fathers had tried to bind him and, later, when he and the Others ripped the ropes away, to lock him with chain. Nothing could hold him.
Only the Others. They were locked together, his agony created by something as much a part of him now as flesh.
He shrieked at the boys, charged them. They fled. He picked up a bolder the size of a small sheep, held it above his head and threw.
The enormous stone caught one of them in the back, dropping him like death. The other boys pulled him up, dragging him by the arms and chest, looking over their shoulders in fear.
He screeched at their retreating backs and held his hands up in victory. Pieces of chain still dangled from his wrists. He waved them like banners.
The voices in his head screamed at him. “Chase them! Murder them!” He could imagine their blood oozing onto the rocks of these tombs, imagine their bodies bloating in the sun. He laughed at the vision, a hoarse, high-pitched sound, more frightening than his roars.
His hunger burned.
He started instead for the water, the thought of fish driving him forward. As he neared the lake he saw the stranger.
He watched him exit the boat, hardly aware of the other men. He didn’t know the man but the Others cried out and forced him to run the distance between them. The Others hurled him onto his knees in front of the Master.
The man looked at him, something different in his eyes. “Out,” he said in a powerful voice. “Get out of him!”
The Others groaned inside his head, screaming protests. His voice, a chorus of strangled, raspy voices, cried, “Jesus, Son of God, what do you want? In God's name don’t torture us!"
“Who are you?” Jesus asked. His disciples shrank away.
“My name is Legion. We are many.” He had never heard his voice sound like this and shuddered, even as the followers of Jesus did. “Don’t send us from this region! Please!” Legion begged. He could feel their fear. He’d never felt them venerable. It gave him hope. “We’ll go into the pigs,” they begged. ‘And then into the herders’, they thought inside his head.
Jesus nodded. Suddenly, unexplainably, They were gone from him.
He sagged weakly.
Jesus touched him. “Now what’s your name?”
The man looked up, blinking, shaking. “Michael,” he whispered.
“Michael needs clothes,” Jesus said to his men, “and food.”
As the men hurried to the boat to get the items a commotion on the hill made them stop. The pigs, shrieking, ran off a cliff into the water. The sound of their deaths was horrible.
Michael fell onto his face, breathing the scent fresh earth, tears wetting the dirt. The absence of Legion allowed thought and emotion to flood his heart.
Jesus lifted him gently and knelt beside him. “It’s over, Michael. You’re healed, my child. Welcome home.”
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