December 17, 2012
[…] “I was throwing up demons,” she informed me with hollow eyes. “I thought I was done, but they just kept coming.”
I glanced behind her at the shimmering fresh bowl, and wondered if they were down in the camp’s septic system.
Earlier that afternoon, we had been enjoying turkey sandwiches in the cafeteria. We never had our expectations set very high for the food at church camp. We were under no illusions that Rachael Ray was hard at work behind the closed doors to the kitchen. As such, we had made the best we could of what we were given. Now, however, I was wishing that I had passed on lunch.
I had sat next to Megan in the lunchroom because there was something about her that intrigued me. She was part of the classification of teenager we called “New Wave,” which would later be called “Goth” and sometimes “Emo” in its millennial reiterations. She wore all black clothing, dark eye makeup and lipstick, and had by her own admission done a fair amount of experimentation in the arena of hallucinogens—information that might have proven useful had I been aware of what that really meant during the time I was sharing a cabin with her.
In retrospect, I am not entirely certain what would have inspired me to keep such company back then in my “über-Christian” state, but I believe I was trying to convert her. It was no secret that she was a troubled youth, if ever there was one. And still, she had a sweet personality. She was always friendly to Scott and me. When she set down her half-eaten sandwich and whispered to me that she was having flashbacks, I was on it. I asked her if she wanted to go lie down. She murmured something about spiders crawling on her hands and nodded emphatically. Seeing my chance to be a good friend, I let her hold onto my arm as we walked back alone through the woods to our cabin, all the while becoming more and more freaked out as she narrated what she was seeing around her. That tree was a dog a second ago. There was an old man peeking at us from behind that tree. And behind the next, another man stood with an axe.
By the time we got to the empty cabin, I was ready. I knew about this sort of thing. I had heard about a girl who had been through an exorcism. She, sadly, had been inhabited by a “Laughing Demon” right in the middle of Youth Group—and there was nothing funny about it.
“Megan, I think we should pray,” I told her, leaning up against a ladder to a top bunk. She stood facing me from a couple of feet away, blinking. Since she didn’t argue, I started right in. I had just gotten to the part where I asked God in Jesus’ name to protect Megan, when I felt like I was being watched. I looked up.
“Stop praying,” the voice told me.
It was Megan’s voice, only not. Lower. Louder. Likewise, her face was her own, only not. Something weird about her eyes. Bigger, more piercing. They were staring hatred clean through me. In truth, they almost looked…reptilian. I stammered a little. I had not exactly expected this. Or maybe I had. At any rate, I attempted to rise to the occasion with Me vs. The Demon, round one.
“In Jesus’ name, leave Megan alone,” I told it.
She closed her eyes. Whimpered a little. I began to pray harder.
“Don’t stop praying,” she whimpered at me. “It hurts, but don’t stop.”
“You have no business here,” I told the demon. “I order you back to Hell where you belong.”
“Shut up,” it told me firmly, her cold eyes glaring at me once again. Another shock went through my body as I stared back at her.
“In Jesus’ name come out of her and leave her alone,” I repeated, to which it replied by shaking Megan’s body violently before throwing her like a ragdoll onto one of the lower beds, where she proceeded to pass out.
I stood there, staring at her, unsure of what to do next. Had the demon left? Does one touch a person when they are passed out due to demon infestation? Is it contagious? I was not given the chance to find out. That was when she jumped up and ran to the bathroom, where she began puking up demons along with her turkey sandwich.
I stood there at the stall door contemplating whether what I had just witnessed was real. I had heard about things like this happening. Since then, I have watched The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and I can honestly say that it was nothing like that. There were no simultaneous voices jeering at me in German, Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic. The only thing I heard was in plain English ordering me to stop praying. There were no amazing feats of contortion. Megan ran on her own two feet in a balanced manner without the bizarre compulsion to defy the bounds of human joints or the laws of gravity. I did not witness a Cirque de Soleil demon. But I must also say that at the time, it felt just as real as if I had.
And, I had no idea whether I had just won or lost. Unlike the Catholics, there are not exactly any commonly known exorcism rites in the Evangelical church. It’s more or less a matter of ordering a demon out of somebody in Jesus’ name and sitting back and letting the unseen powers battle it out amongst themselves. The guys in white versus the guys in red. And now, I knew I had to take the responsibility to lead her to Christ—so the demon didn’t come back with friends (or “Legion”, as the Bible puts it). But as it was, I had no assurance that what I had done was adequate.
I decided that there was only one thing left to do. Take her to King Richard for Round 2. He would know what to do. His primary occupation outside of the church was dealing with the heathens around town; he would surely recognize what was going on. I was just sure he had seen more than his fair share of demon-infested people during his bar ministry.
When she was done hacking up demons, we made our way gingerly back toward the cabin with her holding on to my arm for support. Fortunately, people were coming back from lunch and I spotted Richard’s blond strands bouncing in the wind like glory. Clearly, God had positioned him right where he needed to be. I called out to him. He turned almost as if he had been expecting me. I felt a sense of relief wash over me. Everything was going to be OK.
But everything was not going to be OK. That was when it all fell apart. […]
Excerpted from Devangelical: Why I Left to Save My Soul
ERIKA RAE is the author of Devangelical: Why I Left to Save My Soul, a humor memoir about growing up Evangelical (Emergency Press, December 2012). She is editor-in-chief at Scree Magazine and nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. Erika earned her MA in Literature and Linguistics from the University of Hong Kong and to this day can ask where the bathroom is in Cantonese, although it is likely that she will not understand the answer. In her dream world, she fancies herself a kung fu master cleverly disguised as a gentle mountain dweller, eagerly anticipating danger at the bottom of every latte. When she is not whipping one of her 3 children and denying them bread with their broth, she runs an ISP with her husband from their home in the Colorado Rockies.