Anna Cates

The Possession

               When Grandpa died, along with his ghost, the demon finally left him. The unclean spirit, mute and unnamable, needing a new host, first visited his grandchild’s crib. But prayers and a christening protected the infant, emitted a little pulsation of light, an intense aggravation. Unable to find an entry point into the child, or anyone else in the household, the demon lingered in a dusty corner for a day or two, then, frustrated and hungry, followed an UPS carrier home.
               The UPS carrier tasted promising. The demon bit into her abdomen, soaking into the skin a little at the blue cobra tattoo. Lounging on the couch half asleep, she only groaned, oblivious. But the demon couldn’t enter all the way. Again, some wetness confronted him, confounded him—the lingering effects of a childhood baptism. He moved on.
               At a marijuana dispensary, he chanced upon a young priest, out of uniform, and followed him back to the parish. But that escapade lasted only three weeks. If only he’d stuck with futile prayers to Saint Veronica. But he snapped back and recited an Our Father. He invoked Him! Then, without judging, he prayed with a conflicted youth, who saw a glimmer of hope and turned aside from suicide. The demon fled with a soundless shriek.
               All jaws and fangs, yet voiceless, the demon’s smokey darkness floated freely, prospecting. But he preferred a particular kind of weakness, a particular kind of flawed person he could work through, someone like Grandpa. Wild and wanting, he followed winds of greater spirits to many a dry place: Saudi Arabia, the Gobi, a drought-struck Utah ranch. He loitered with unseen congregants among the tumbleweed and cacti, causing quite a haunting.
               The Ukraine wasn’t the driest place on Earth by any means, but he wound up there, rabid yet unable to drink, for drinking was unthinkable. He sulked and skulked with his ilk, leftovers from the last world war, still looking for new homes. He waited with compulsory patience for someone like Grandpa, a person with that type of hole he could burrow into, that type of weakness he could wreak havoc through.
               The unnamable one specialized in a particular kind of birth defect. But all babies have some level of God-given protection. It took a strong ancestral curse for him to do his worst.
               The Russian invasion was the big break he’d longed for! In Chernobyl, he spied a Russian soldier, digging a ditch in radioactive soil. The unnamable one observed the dark, dry hole in the soldier’s soul but no signs of water or anointing oil, no protective seal from communion. That big, gaping hole was virtually screaming, “Come and fill me!” like the open mouth of a wretched lover. The fissure seemed just his size—a perfect fit!
               The unnamable one turned inside out. He flipped upside down on all his legs. Like a spider, walking backwards, he crept closer, closer, closer. He slunk down into the pit, the soil itself delightful. He nuzzled the soldier’s cheek, ruddy from the sting of sleet as drizzle slowly filled the muddy hole. He waited for him to speak. At the next round of profanity, he dove through the mouth. The soldier gulped. The demon spiraled down, bypassing various organs, worming into the loins to await the next sexual encounter, a bridge to his final destination. The soldier shot up, glanced askance at his comrades with new cunning, and scratched his left testicle. But he didn’t suspect a thing!

a spirit rising
from withered Jimson weeds . . .
winter bird call

Anna Cates is a graduate of Asbury University (B.A. English), Indiana State University (M.A. English and Ph.D. Curriculum & Instruction/English), and National University (M.F.A. Creative Writing). She teaches online college writing and literature for Southern New Hampshire University and American Public University and graduate education for Liberty University. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Dwarf Stars, Elgin, and Rhysling awards. Her books include: The Meaning of Life (Cyberwit Press), The Frog King (Cyberwit Press), The Darkroom (Prolific Press), The Golem & the Nazi (Red Moon Press), The Journey (Wipf & Stock), Love in the Time of Covid (Wipf & Stock), and The Poison Tree: A Peace Play (Wipf & Stock). She resides in Wilmington, Ohio with her cats, Freddie and Fifi.
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