“Goodbye Alice, have a good weekend.”
Alice smiled at her coworkers and exchanged pleasantries while she fumbled for her purse and keys. Her smile kept until she pulled out of the lot. Safe and alone at last, the smile faded and her eyes were permitted to show their agony.
Two weeks and a day before, her younger brother snapped. It was a sudden occasion and one that the family had not expected. Half the family decided it was diabolical the way he had completely changed from the gentle mentally impaired young guy to the obscene and cruel person they’d been forced to live day and night with. He did not sleep at nights, and by day he tormented the family members. He cursed and tricked them, pushed them to the limits of their tolerance and understanding.
That believing portion of the family spent every day calling every priest they knew to come exorcise Andy of his demons. Demons—plural. There were four demons inside of his head. He gave them names—Alex, Max, Trex, and Tex. Stupid names, and proof he was making things up for attention.
Alice stood with the family members who wanted him sent to a home where he could be medically treated and controlled until such a time when he was ready to be himself again.
When she pulled up the driveway, her eyes automatically drew upwards towards the second story window to her brother’s room. The blinds still hung, but were bent and twisted out of form after the night he tore them down and swung them at their mother. Alice thought as she did every time she saw those blinds, “He has to go.”
She pulled into her usual spot in front of the garage and slowly made her way into the house to review the fallen pieces.
“He’s having a good day,” said her mother in passing. She had come out of the kitchen with an overfilled cup of coffee, on her way back to the ’room of the damned’ as Uncle Joey called it. Uncle Joey held the opinion that once demons got you, there was no getting away—especially when all priests in creation refused to do an exorcism for fear of liability.
She stepped into the room after her mother and looked towards her brother’s bed. The hint of urine caught Alice’s nose, as it always did now. Her brother wet his bed when he had to go now.
Andy did not writhe like always before. He lay still and peaceful—a tortured soul at rest, at least temporarily.
Her mother sat down on the futon across from Andy’s bed. She too looked like a tortured soul at rest, maybe one that was too hopeful that heaven there to stay. “As long as you don’t tell your father. Because he won’t like it.”
“Mom, you didn’t send for some kind of cuckoo bird shaman...”
Her mother then confessed that an acquaintance of an old friend had certain abilities to see auras and judge whether people had demons or not. This woman sat with Andy for a short while, listened to him rant, and then gently ordered his demons to leave him alone. It seemed simple, but worked. At least for the time being.
“What exactly did this woman want in return?” Alice asked, imagining the worst, and not just sacrilege from her mother going outside the family religion for help.
“Just your brother’s firstborn.”
They exchanged puzzled smiles over that revelation, and Alice could only assume the woman didn’t have her eyes screwed in right. Her brother was mentally disabled and likely would never have any children.
Days passed, and Andy continued to regain his strength, and more. He still didn’t seem to be himself, because suddenly he was clever, outgoing, and friendly.
Alice tried not to think of specifics when Andy started dating a girl and talking marriage. The one time she suggested to the girl that she might want to get her tubes tied, it was taken the wrong way. So was her explanation she was thinking about some weird lady coming to claim Andy’s firstborn.
Andy told Alice to back off and mind her nose elsewhere. He married Claire, and they set up house in a small town a short distance away from grandma’s. Yes, grandmas. Claire became pregnant on the wedding night. Everyone was pleased—except for Alice.
By now, she was the only one who seemed to recall the deal her mother made with that woman. Though she had yet to make an appearance since that day she released Andy from diabolic hold, Alice dreaded phone calls and door visits.
On the day the baby was due, Alice paced a worn path in the hallway outside the room. Andy was in the room with his wife, as well as the crowd of nurses, interns, and the doctor, counting breaths and heartbeats. The baby wasted no time coming into the world, and was a beautiful baby girl.
“I told you nothing would happen,” said Alice’s mother later, after visiting hours were over and they were driving home together.
Nothing happened. No woman showed up.
Alice risked a sigh of relief—the first in nearly two years since Andy was cured.
That sigh was premature.
That night they were awakened by a strange call from the hospital concerning Andy. He’d taken ill after they left and was rushed into emergency. They said he was passing a kidney stone, only that wasn’t what came out.
The creature was taken away by a tall woman in dark glasses. While the hospital administrators were distracted by her strangely writhing white hair, she talked them into giving her ‘the mistake’ and forgetting everything.
She also left a note for Andy for after he recovered.
“Thought you might like to know—I’ve named him Alex. You can sort out the three others when they come.”