“I just wanted the singing to end at first.” The patient dashed over to me and grabbed me by the lapels of my (formerly) pristine and unwrinkled coat. “I tried everything. Singing songs over top of it, distracting myself with everything, anything, something.” His voice rose desperately. “I even took to drink, but just made this body sick. It can’t even handle alcohol…at all! Really…I would never have possessed this body had I known half of the problems it has.” The patient gestured wildly, his hands vaguely describing some unknown measurement.
“Really?” I patted his hands somewhat gently and managed to dislodge them, leaving only a few minor creases in my coat.
The patient wrung his hands as if he was trying out for the lead in a Victorian tearjerker play. “Do you even think for an instant I’d possess a body that has Crohn’s disease? I mean…the whole gluten thing in the first place…but this body? I can’t even stomach a good beer and pizza! One of the greatest joys of modern civilization, and I have to eat food that’s just overpriced alchemy that doesn’t even taste right!”
I nodded at the orderly hovering nearby, gesturing him back. This patient was basically harmless. I stole a quick look at his chart. “You know Mr. Lovejoy, that you have to keep to your diet for your health…”
“Damn my diet! That’s not what’s bothering me!” He spluttered and stomped his feet. I made a note to ask the matron of the ward if we were having any kinds of plays or entertainments for Christmas.
He bounced up on his toes, his fingers curling into white knuckled fists. “I…WANT…AN…EXORCISM!” His face flushed beet red and a sheen of sweat began popping out along his receding hairline.
“An…exorcism?” I peered at him over my glasses and made a mental note that the patient’s delusions were certainly taking a new turn. I could confer with Dr. Josef about this later as some of his patients had interesting delusions about the supernatural. Perhaps a joint paper between us on supernatural delusions and paranoia was possible….
“Yes! Yes! An exorcism! I want OUT of this body!” The patient’s hands flailed again, pantomiming escape from his chest.
“Mr. Lovejoy, an exorcism is an old superstition. A ritual to drive out an evil spirit..”
“I AM an evil spirit. At least I was.” He glared at me, his hands falling to his sides and balling into fists. “I’m a demonic spirit.”
“From hell of course?” I smiled.
“Don’t be patronizing doctor.” The patient glared at me. “You think evil spirits come from Pasadena or something? Of course we come from hell.”
I made a rueful expression and shook my head. “Rude of me. Do accept my apologies.”
Mollified, the patient continued. “I took OVER this body. I rose from the depths and chose a living host so that I could help wreak harm and evil upon this world. I was to be a scourge and a punishment upon this world, a dark influence and an active agent for pain and chaos.” His face shone momentarily with joy and visions of glory. “But….I chose….badly…” He gestured towards himself. “This body….it looked fit and strong from the outside, it looked like an excellent choice to be a tool of evil.” He trailed off, his eyes losing their focus.
“Go on.” I said. “What was the problem?”
“This body…is barely holding together! It’s like an apple that is rotting from the core! Bad bowels, asthma, insomnia, delicate digestion, poor eyesight, constipation, bad teeth….and this person never stops talking!” The patient’s eyes squeezed shut tightly, and I could see a few tears beginning to spring up from the corner of his eyes.
“Why did you….choose this body then?” I smiled sympathetically and patted his shoulder comfortingly.
“Reports initially seemed to indicate that this person had a great deal of knowledge of one of hell’s favorite portals on earth.”
“I’m sorry…there’s a portal of hell on earth?” I quickly scribbled down a few notes on his medication dosages.
“Oh, that.” I crossed out a recommendation to have sedatives and anti hallucinogenic medications increased. “Well, if hell were to ever have influence upon the earth, it would only make sense for it to come from Hollywood, doesn’t it?”
“Of course.” He smiled winningly, spreading his hands out wide. “Why charge ahead all guns blazing and getting people’s backs up? Capturing souls by force is completely counter productive–I mean, you may force a few people into compliance for a while, but then….soon as you’ve turned your back or relaxed your guard for an instant….those captured souls begin to plot and scheme! They begin thinking that if they bond together and rise up, that they could overthrow you, toss you out and undo all the precious work that’s been done turning them to Hell’s’s cause in the first place!”
“But I sense you’ve got a better way?” I made a few more notes.
“Of course! That’s where the old dream factory comes in you know.” He gestured as if he was checking off items on a list. “First….distract them with all the wonderful pretty images their little minds can hold, then sell them on the Seven Deadly sins…sloth, greed, lust and all that. Then…lure them away from the paths of Righteousness with their lusts, their greed, their sins and tell them every moment of the way that it’s their right, it’s what they deserve.”
“Clever.” I nodded thoughtfully.
“To further this plan, this host was chosen. It seemed to have SUCH extensive knowledge of Hollywood, of celebrities, and of the inner workings of some very shady deals. I couldn’t wait to get into things! My very first assignment on earth, and it was going to be such a peach!”
“What was the proverbial fly in the ointment then? Why are you not ruling over all those captured souls you talked about?”
He let out a long, deep, slow sigh. “My research….was faulty.”
“What was wrong with your research?”
The patient let out a harrumphing sound. I’d had a particularly dull professor in college who’d made almost the same noise every time his bored classes had shown the least (and frequent) signs of rebellion. “I gained most of it from looking in this host’s mind.”
“He didn’t know what you thought he knew?” I leaned in conspiratorially. “Knowledge wasn’t up to snuff as it were?”
“Oh no.” The patient tapped his round, balding skull. “It’s all here. Parties, debauchery, sex, vapid fashions….all here. And…almost all gained from the Internet.”
“Does you host have no first hand knowledge then of all these fiendish topics?”
He huffed again, fat cheeks pinking. “None! All second hand!” He gestured helplessly. “He…blogs! He spends all this time in chat rooms, conspiracy boards, fashion sites! I leapt into his mind rather hastily I’m afraid as I was tempted by all the juicy sinful things he knew and found that all this person does is digest the thoughts of others and regurgitate them onto second rate sites and comment strings! If he at least generated content of his own, that at least would have use to myself and the fiends of the Pit!”
“Still…this…host isn’t of any use to you? Surely, even a minor internet..um, celebrity would be of some use…”
His chubby, baby face looked as if he’d been presented with a sour bottle of milk. “Yes, even that would be of some use, but this host is a complete shut in and has a less savory reputation that someone’s crazy aunt locked in the attic! I’m afraid that he’s got no influence, little hope of any social life, no money, no hopes of getting any means of a decent living, no looks, few skills, and is a laughingstock on any site he’s identified on!”
His face darkened alarmingly, and I scribbled a quick note to check his blood pressure medication. “This host, this entity is a loathsome fraud, a quack, a momma’s boy, and is totally without point or use to me in the slightest!”
“That must be dreadful for you.”
“It’s not the worst of it.” His lips quivered, then thinned as he bit down on some bitter truth.
“Why my dear Mr. Lovejoy, whatever can be worse than that?”
“He’s….happy to have me here, stuck with him. He’s what’s holding ON to me! I’d leap out of him, bring this useless experiment to a quick close…but I can’t get out!”
“Why does he want to keep you? Isn’t he horrified to have a spirit of hell inside of him?” I swiftly made a few more notes.
“This man is so lacking in any appeal or social graces that it’s nearly impossible for him to get people to talk to him.” The patient gestured towards himself. “Bad reputation, no looks, no money, clingy, needy, self deluded…no one talks to this man if they can! He’s so starved for attention that his behavior has gotten him locked away in this….this Bedlam!” His eyes widened at my expression of displeasure and his hands fluttered like chubby, pale butterflies. “Oh…no offense, no offense of course!”
It was my turn to sigh. “None taken Mr. Lovejoy. We understand that being in an institution…is not something one wishes to experience, even though it is to help your health and state of well-being…”
“Oh hang that! More than one successful servant of Hell has been locked away in places like this before.” His turned a pleading face to me. “There’s a worse problem. Much, much worse.”
“What is it?” I evaded his grasping little fat hands carefully. More than one nurse had told me of his little tendency to get a quick grope in while wheedling some attention from them.
The patient’s face tightened into a rictus of pain and horror. His hands shot forward, knocking mine aside and he grabbed my shoulders tightly. “He…won’t…stop…talking!” He screamed. “Twenty four hours a day this host yammers on and on! He whines about how no one ever loved him, no one ever gave him a chance, no one ever saw him for the great guy he could have been, how his parents weren’t kind enough to him, how his job was never good enough, that women forced him to be celibate against his will, that he never won the lottery like he so clearly deserved! And he just goes on and on and on and he doesn’t ever stop!” The patient’s voice rose to a whining, falsetto shriek.
One of the orderlies, an extremely large man with powerful hands yanked him back. “You know the drill Lovey-boy. You keep your hands to yourself around here.” He nodded to me. “You want I take him back to his room Doc?”
I shook my head. “Mr. Lovejoy is simply expressing what is concerning him. I’m here to listen and to try and help him.” I glanced at the patient over my glasses using the stern but benign expression I’d learned at my supervisor’s knee. “He’s not going to be a problem, are you Mr. Lovejoy?”
The patient shook his head so hard he momentarily lost his balance. “Yes…yes…hands to myself. I’m sorry–I forgot a moment.” He smiled like a kicked dog trying to cage a treat from his master. “But…you must listen to me, please!”
I nodded and picked up my clipboard again. “Go ahead, I’m listening. You said that your…host…won’t stop? Doesn’t he get tired?”
“Never.” The patient’s eyes filled with tears. “He’s not in control of the body. I am. Oh…he’s still in here,” he tapped his head vaguely. “still kicking around in here you know. But I’m afraid, that’s the problem. He knows I’m here, that I’m running his day to day life as it were…and he’s very content to stay inside…our head, just letting someone else run the show. I’m afraid he’s so seriously lazy that letting another person run his life and steal his existence is quite agreeable for him.”
“If he’s not running his life, what does he do? You said he talks?” I made a few more notes.
“If you can call it that.” Mr Lovejoy grimaced. “As I said, he whines incessantly about his life–or more accurately, his lack thereof. He snivels about how no one loves him, that he sponges off his mommy who doesn’t appreciate his kindness to her, how he’s rejected by all, loved by none and roundly denied the success he sees as his due–even though he’s never done a thing to deserve it.”
The patient tried to step forward again, but catching the look of the beefy orderly, he scurried back a half step or so. “That alone is enough to try the patience of a whole hagiography’s worth of saints, but that isn’t the worst of it.”
“Oh? What’s worse than listening to an endless litany of your host’s complaints?” I raised an eyebrow at him.
“Well…I’m not a saint I’m afraid.” The patient clasped his hands tightly, obviously resisting the urge to grasp me again. “I told him to shut up, to get used to the fact that he was no longer in control, that for the rest of his natural existence, that he’d be little more than a disembodied voice in the back of my mind, a useless ghost who only could haunt the physical confines of what was once his own temporal form.”
“Go on….what did he do?”
“I’m afraid…he began to punish me. He started to sing.”
“To sing? Why is that so awful? Isn’t music one of the great pleasures in life?”
“Not HIS singing!” The patient’s face flushed magenta. “Even in the confines of his own mind, this man cannot sing in the slightest!” The patient began to tremble. “And what he sings! TV jingles and those dreadful songs they introduce TV shows with, stupid kids’ campfire songs, novelty tunes…crass children’s songs about….things like snot, dirty little birdy feet, how the song they’re singing never ends…that one he sang for eighteen straight days and he only stopped because I promised him I’d behave well enough for him…for us…to get television privileges again! And even then do you know what he subjects me to? Daytime televison! Vapid celebrities, tiresome people squabbling over lurid problems, all the kinds of muck and drivel my infernal masters love to have us generate to lull the masses into obedience…and I’m the one subjected to it! I can’t even comment upon it or he gets angry at me talking and threatens to sing again!”
“Ahh, that is too bad indeed…” A gentle beep sounded from my pocket. “Oh dear. It looks like the time for my rounds is over Mr. Lovejoy. I’m afraid that you’ll just have to work things out with your…host.”
His pudgy face went chalk white as swiftly as the one blows out a candle. “You don’t believe me.”
I smiled at him. “I believe you are having problems that we can help you with. That’s why you’re here for treatment. We’ll do all we can to help you get better. Just run along with the nurse and be a good boy. Just change the channel if you don’t like what is on…and be firm with this inner voice of yours. I’m sure with a little mental focus you can totally overcome it. Why, I have a patient in another ward who’s making huge strides now that we’ve got him on the right medication…”
“No, no NO NO NO NO NO! You have to listen to me! I WANT an exorcism! I have to get out of this body! I can’t tolerate living this way any more!” Tears streamed freely down his face and he wheezed like my ancient neighbor’s equally ancient pug dog. “He never does anything but whine about his problems, watch inane television, and sing to punish me! He never stops, he never sleeps! You have to release me!” He threw himself at my feet. “In the name of mercy itself, show some compassion…HE NEVER EVER, EVER SHUTS UP! EVEN WHEN I SLEEP, HE’S STILL HERE…HE NEVER SHUTS UP!” Mr. Lovejoy subsided into blubbering, wheezing tears on the poorly mopped hallway floor.
I gestured to the beefy attendant and his equally large and muscled co worker. “Please take Mr. Lovejoy back to his room. I do believe his television privileges should be revoked for a few days and his sedatives should be increased a bit. That way he’ll get a nice chance for a lovely little rest.”
Mr Lovejoy hiccuped from the floor. “He goes on and on and on. He won’t let me go…please just let me go…don’t give me sedatives. That just makes me sleep and then I can’t even try to distract him…then I can’t get away from his constant talking and talking and talking…” He shuddered and wept as the orderlies hauled him to his feet and frog marched him towards his room.
“Doctor Gabriel….just let me go back to Hell” he screamed as the orderlies dragged him around the corner.
I flipped to a new page in his record. “Increase medication to new levels, patient is to be kept on suicide watch…no hope of recovery or release.” I thought for a moment and added. “Patient is best contained for the good of the general public indefinitely…”