Gerald entered the bedroom with Father John. Both wore their
ceremonial robes. All, including Richard/Rita, knelt down as they
recited a prayer to the Holy Spirit. Then, with Richard/Rita still
kneeling, the assistants arranged themselves around Gerald. He
opened the exorcism with a prayer from the official ritual.
Richard/Rita interrupted gently and boyishly. “Father Gerald, don’t
you think we could hurry all this up? What I really need now is a
blessing and everybody’s prayers and good-will wishes.”
He stood up and shot a radiant, embarrassed smile of charm and
gratitude at each one present. Bert’s heart was torn at the sight of
his baby brother. Most of them felt embarrassed, much as if-it was
Jasper, Richard/Rita’s older brother, who made the remark later-as
if they had come to arrest someone for murder and found the supposed
murderer and his victim making love instead. Richard/Rita looked
very feminine that morning.
Gerald too was taken aback. His mind raced. Had he made a mistake?
Either they had made fools of themselves and of Richard/ Rita, or
they were victims of a deeper deceit than he had anticipated. But
there was no time for reflection or pause. He had to make a
decision. The police captain and the teacher were looking at him as
if to say: “Let’s get out of here, Father. Let’s leave well enough
alone.” But Gerald knew he had to make certain.
“Fine, Rita,” he said, surprised at his own acting, but smiling
nonchalantly. “Let’s do just that. Here, John, give me the
holy-water flask. Jasper! Take my prayer book and put it in my
briefcase. Bert, please make more coffee. Someone go and telephone
the rectory and tell them I shall be back for lunch. Rita, hand me
the crucifix from the table beside you, and let’s get on with the
Afterward, when discussing the events of that morning, all agreed
that the moment Gerald finished his request to Richard/Rita some
sharp change took place in the room. It was a qualitative change, as
effective and as abrupt as a complete, instantaneous change in the
perfume of the air or in the room temperature. Some of them, not
guessing Gerald’s ulterior motive, had started automatically to do
what he had asked them before he made his request to Richard/Rita.
But the mysterious change in the room as Gerald spoke to
Richard/Rita brought them all up sharply. “Like red lights all
around me,” said one. “Like a warning bell,” commented another. “An
eerie feeling in the nape of my neck,” was the teacher’s
“We knew that suddenly another presence had become palpable to us.
We knew it was bad, bad, bad,” declared Bert afterwards.
They all turned around and looked at Gerald and Richard/Rita. Gerald
was standing almost on tiptoe, his request had been so barbed with
intent and its impact on Richard/Rita so tangible for him.
Richard/Rita had sat down on the couch, a picture of puzzlement. His
forehead was a field of furrows. His eyebrows were almost touching
in quizzical expression. His mouth was tightly closed, the lower lip
clamped over the upper one. All color had drained from his cheeks.
They couldn’t see his eyes. He was looking at his lap, where both
his hands closed and opened, from fist to open palm, then from open
palm to fist, continually, jerkingly, and slowly. Gerald held his
own hand up for silence and attention.
“Rita,” he said softly, “hand me the crucifix.” Tears started to
glitter on Richard/Rita’s eyelashes and then ran silently down his
“I want to be left alone. Please”-the voice was feminine and husky
and agonizing. Another burst of tears. He sobbed. “It’s all too
much-I know none of you understand what has happened to me. Moira
does-ask her. But this is all a charade-I need only to be left
alone.” More sobbing.
Gerald looked at Bert. Bert shrugged as if to say: Your decision!
Gerald opened his ritual: “In the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we are here today to pray and ask that
in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, whatever
evil spirit may have entered and possessed this creature of Almighty
God’s, Rita O., will obey . . .”
The rest was drowned in Richard/Rita’s sobbing. He had turned gently
as if wounded or struck, and lay down on the couch, his back to
Gerald. They all listened to Richard/Rita, not hearing any more the
words Gerald was reading. They could only hear that sobbing, crying
voice, wailing and groaning with uncontrollable sorrow, his whole
body shaking with each sob, every sound of his voice filtering
through his throat and mouth as a terrible reproach to all present.
“. . . and that whatever ill-effects the evil spirit has caused in
Rita,” Gerald wound up, “may be cleansed and purified by the Grace
of the Lord, Jesus.” Gerald concluded the first prayer.
At this mention of the name of Jesus, Richard/Rita stiffened and
turned flat on his back. His face was not a picture of tears and
sorrow as they all had expected, but a writhing mass of hate, fear,
“Take your Jesus and his filthy crucifix and his stinking holy water
and his withered priest and get out of my house.” Both his arms were
stretched out at this point, the palms toward Gerald, warding off
his stare. “Take ‘em out of here. I want to be alone.”
Gerald saw Bert starting to go forward. “Bert!” he said sharply,
“stay where you are-just one moment.” Bert stopped.
“Bert, save me from this lousy Catholic priest and his hocus-pocus.
Bert! Bert! Help me!” Bert started forward again. This time, John,
the younger priest, touched Bert on the arm: “Give Gerald one more
moment, Bert,” he whispered, “just one more moment. We’ve got to be
“Bert!” continued Richard/Rita sobbingly, “I was supremely happy
until he started at me. It’s all a mistake. I’m a woman, Bert. I’m a
woman. Like your Marcia [Bert’s wife]. Like Moira. Like Mummy. Like
Julie [Bert’s secretary]. See!”-and Richard/Rita tore down the
zipper of his slacks and opened the top button: “See! I’ve got pubic
hair and a cunt just like Marcia. Look, Bert! Come and feel it! It’s
hot and wet. I can hold you, Bert, I can hold you now better than
Julie. Remember we used to masturbate together in bed as kids? Now
you can enter me. Help me, Bert. I’ll be yours if you do!”
Bert fell back ashen-faced. Gerald reached forward, took the
crucifix, held it up in front of Richard/Rita.
“Rita, all will be well. We will leave you alone. Only now you have
to do what you did a few days ago in the rectory.” When Richard/Rita
had come with Bert and Jasper to see him, he had laid his right hand
on a crucifix Gerald always kept on his desk and said: “By this, I
swear, Father Gerald: I want to be whole and entire and right with
God.” All the time this ability of Richard/Rita to touch the
crucifix had given great encouragement to Gerald. It meant that the
possession of Richard/Rita was an incomplete process as yet. Except
in its advanced stages, possession varies in its effects and
But now Richard/Rita lay down on the couch, legs spread, hands
resting on his groin. They waited. His chest rose and fell as if he
were sleeping. Outside, the weather had turned dark. The wind was
rising, shaking the trees around the house with an irregular whining
Then Richard/Rita’s mouth opened and after what seemed minutes they
heard him speak, but with another voice. It was throaty, rasping,
slow, indistinguishable as to
sex-it could have been female or male. It was like the voice of some
very elderly people-a hint of falsetto, a trace of bass, but weary
and ponderous, requiring effort.
“I know you’re supposed to be a virgin, Father Gerald. What would
you know of woman-or of man, for that matter?”
Gerald decided to break in. “Tell us who you are.”
Richard/Rita was silent a moment; then he spoke as if in a joke.
“Who I am? Why, Rita, of course. Who else? Stupid!”
“If you are Rita whom we know, sit up, and take this crucifix.”
“Rita doesn’t want to. Nah!”
“Why then, are you sulking, Rita? Why not sit up and talk like an
ordinary human being with us?”
“Because . . . because . . . because I am not ordinary. Listen!”
Richard/Rita’s head turned toward the shuttered windows. His eyes
fluttered as if looking at a passing scene. His head turned back. “I
am not ordinary.”
Gerald had his ritual book opened again and was about to start the
next part of the exorcism when a new thought suddenly occurred to
him: if he was merely speaking to Richard/Rita, wouldn’t he be
missing the point of the exorcism? And couldn’t Richard/Rita, or
whatever evil spirit possessed him at that moment, carry off a
magnificent deception-pretend, in fact, to cooperate? No! He had to
break down the facade, if facade there was. Gerald was groping
blindly to the truth of Father Conor’s analysis without having had
the benefit of Conor’s instruction. Cold experience was his hard
teacher that day.
He closed the book slowly, grasped the crucifix between his palms,
and started to question Richard/Rita. Now the exchange between them
settled down to a rather calm question-and-answer exchange. And it
lasted that whole day. At one stage Rita fell silent. After
fruitless attempts to get answers from him, Gerald went outside,
washed, took some food, and returned. The day was already advanced.
The doctor had monitored Richard/Rita’s breathing and pulse. All was
normal. As Gerald returned, they all began to feel the biting cold
in the room. James attended to the radiator, even went down to the
boiler in the cellar. The cold still persisted.
Gerald started again to question Richard/Rita. This time Richard/
Rita started to answer. Gerald probed, provoked, queried, objected,
interrupted, set traps, and tried in every way to break down the
resistance he felt in Richard/Rita. But whatever he did, Richard/
Rita turned it aside with long, rambling answers, descriptions of
sexual acts, analysis of the male and female, small insults and
jeers, an occasional snide remark. So it went through the night and
the small hours of the morning.
We will never know now, but that procedure might have lasted
indefinitely until common sense and the limits of endurance
indicated to all that the exorcism was a failure-or, alternatively,
that Richard/ Rita had never been possessed, but was just very
abnormal in quite an ordinary sense of the word. After many hours,
however, Gerald began to sense that at times he almost touched
something, then it would escape his grasp. At times, also, the
others in the room would have a strong sense of something alien,
pressing on them. Then it would lighten and disappear. All were
becoming fidgety. All were tired.
The end of their waiting came unexpectedly with one blanket
statement of Gerald’s in answer to a protest of Richard/Rita.
“But any ordinary woman wants to be held and cherished by her man,”
Gerald was saying, “and, after that, to lead him where he could not
otherwise go. Hand in hand. And in truth. And in love. Not in power
or in superiority. They walk in God’s smile.
They reproduce his beauty.” Gerald was touching the very chord that
had obsessed Richard/Rita since his operation.
Richard/Rita stiffened. “Why the hell don’t you leave me alone? You
and your God!
Who needs his smile or his beauty?”
Gerald was alerted by a new note in Richard/Rita’s voice. He could
not recognize it, but he knew it as a new note. And he had an idea.
“Why? Because I know you are not Rita. I know you are not Richard. I
know that Rita-Richard-loves God, his smile and his beauty. But
you-whatever or whoever you are-why don’t you come out from your
lies and your deceptions and face us?”
AH hell-as the police captain said later-broke loose. Richard/Rita
doubled up, his head resting on his feet, his body pumping
spasmodically. The assistants held him and tried to straighten him
out. They could not move him; he was as heavy as pig iron. The couch
shook and trembled. The wallpaper above the bed peeled off, starting
in one corner, as if invisible fingers had yanked it violently. The
shutters shook and rattled. Richard/Rita started to break wind and
scream at the same time.
Everybody there began to feel a peculiar
pressure of threat and fear. They started to perspire. Nothing had
prepared them for this feeling of incalculable danger.
“Let everybody hold! Stay calm!” It was Gerald warning them. He was
now aware that he had touched the essential core of their problem.
But he was still in the dark. He drew near the couch and bent over
Richard/Rita, who was quite still; but his body was doubled up as
before, his head resting on his feet.
“Rita,” he said in a clear, loud voice. “I tell you: we will keep on
struggling for you.
So, you, you keep on fighting and resisting.”
Richard/Rita jerked and shook for a few seconds, then his teeth sank
into the instep of one foot.
Gerald straightened up. He changed his tone to a sharp,
inquisitorial, and imperious note: “You, Evil Spirit, you will obey
Again, the rasping voice: “You do not know what you’re getting into,
cannot pay the price. It’s not your virginity merely that you’ll
lose. And not merely
your life. You’ll lose it all-“
“As Jesus, Our Lord, bore sufferings, so I am willing to bear what
it costs to expel you and send you back to where you came from.”
This was Gerald’s first error. Without realizing it, and in what
looked like heroism, he had fallen into an old trap. They were now
on a personal plane: he versus the evil spirit. No exorcist can
function in a personal way, in his own right, offering his strength
or his will alone to counter and challenge the possessing spirit. He
never should try to function in place of Jesus, but merely speak and
act in concert with him as his representative.
For Gerald the cost of that mistake was high. He had never dreamed
that physical punishment could be so intense. It was a full three
weeks before he could get up and hobble around his room in great
pain; that violent attack on him would eventually prove lethal for
Gerald. But these were not his deepest sufferings. In those few
seconds of storm when he was hurled across the room and slammed
against the wall, it was a sense of violation that shook and tore
Only then did he realize that, up to that moment, indeed all his
life, he had enjoyed an immunity. An inner bastion of his very self,
the core of his person, had never been touched. Sorrow had never
reached it. Regret had never pained it. Nor had any twinge of
weakness or guilt ever ached there.
The strength of that private self had been its immunity. His
professional celibacy and
physical virginity had been merely outward expressions of the
condition of spirit in which he had always existed. In a sense, sin
or wrongdoing had never touched him there, not because he had so
decided, but because the choice had never presented itself.
But, in a twist of egotism, that immune part of him had been the
source of his pride as it was of his independence. And friends who
marveled at his constancy as a priest and ascribed it to a genuine
sort of holiness could never have known-no more than Gerald himself-
that Gerald’s ultimate strength was tainted with a great weakness:
the self-reliance of pride. The physical pain and injury that
afflicted his body during and after the attack was as much a symbol
as it was tangible expression of an inescapable weakness and
fragility to which he was heir merely by being human.
He recovered sufficiently from the attack, but he never again had
that old sense of immunity. Instead, there was born in him a
heightened feeling of helplessness. And, for the first time in his
life, he acknowledged his total dependence on God. And his outlook
was now permeated with that poignant sense which Christians
traditionally had described by a much misunderstood word: humility.
It was a grateful realization that love, not simply a great love,
but love itself, had chosen him and loved him for no other reason
but love. “Only love could love me” had been a saying of an ancient
English saint, Juliana of Norwich.
In the meanwhile, Gerald had to make a decision: to proceed with the
exorcism or declare it officially over. Richard/Rita was now in an
abnormal stage even for him. He needed round-the-clock surveillance.
Usually he lay on the couch awake or asleep, or he stood by the
window apparently looking and listening. He was docile to any
suggestions of his brothers, but no one else could influence him. He
ate sparingly, had to be washed like a baby, lapsed periodically
into a strange, babbling incoherence, and could not bear any mention
of Gerald, of religion, or of Exorcism. Nor would he allow any
religious object near him or in his house. He always seemed to know
when any such object was brought in. His cleaning woman, for
instance, used to wear a medal around her neck; she had to leave it
at home. If his brothers had spoken to Gerald, Richard/Rita would
know it when they entered his presence. A scene would ensue, never
violent, always heart-rending and full of pleas to them that they
save him from further bother.
Gerald’s health, meanwhile, was precarious and his friends became
worried. The doctor told him that he had developed a damaged heart,
and his physical lacerations had been very severe. The doctors had
patched him up to the best of their ability.
Besides his physical sufferings, Gerald was the subject of an odd
change in his sensations. He could not, for very long, see or touch
any material object without this change taking place. As he told me
later: “I seemed to be looking through it and around it-not beyond
it. For in some peculiar sense it was no longer there. Instead, with
some sight other than that of my eyes, I was held by the perception
of a condition or dimension or state for which I have no words.
It-that condition- seemed to be the real world. The material
object-table, chair, wall, food, whatever it was-seemed utterly
unreal, to be nothing in fact. And even my own body was for me an
imagined shell permeated with and held up by that other condition.”
The effect of all this was very disturbing, especially when he met
others. What they
saw was a thin, pale-faced man crooked in his stance, leaning on a
cane, who seemed
to be looking at them with the impersonal scrutiny of a stargazer or
a map reader. He
was still kind, affable, even jocular, and always good-humored. In
seemed to be very interested in people, not so much in themselves,
as in what they
signified or where they stood spiritually. This was a novel attitude
for Gerald. What
Gerald himself now found was that every man and woman he met
underwent the same
“conditioning” in his eyes as material objects. But, differently
from objects, once the underlying and invisible condition of a
person became clear to him, he sensed a new element.
He found it hard to express in one word or one phrase this new
element. When he went to great lengths to describe it, he ended
up-with constant assertions that he was only using images and
metaphors-talking about “light,” “blackness,” “presence,” “absence,”
“a web of yesses.” His description of someone might be: “He’s been
saying, ‘No, no,’ all his life.” Or: “She has never really said,
‘Yes,’ to the ‘presence.’ “ Or: “They’re in a very black context.”
Practically speaking, he found, this new way of looking at people
placed him at a distance from everyone, no matter how well he knew
them or liked them. Any knowledge of them through his mind and any
attachment to them by his will was only possible in this new
The pastor of his rectory went so far as to consult one of the
psychiatrists whom Gerald had originally consulted about Richard/
Rita. When Gerald left the hospital and was convalescing at the
rectory, Dr. Hammond together with a colleague turned up at the
rectory to see him one afternoon. He had run a complete check on
Gerald’s background, he told Gerald, from his childhood to that
moment in time. He and his colleagues were convinced that Gerald
himself had been severely traumatized, and-more seriously-that,
because Gerald could not really understand sexuality and its
complexities, he had unwittingly evoked an alienated condition in
Richard/ Rita. In their opinion, and for the sake of their
professional integrity as well as Gerald’s own sake, they would ask
Gerald to place himself voluntarily under their controlled
observation at the clinic. Richard/ Rita, they thought, would
respond to normal therapy.
For different reasons, the pastor was equally adamant in this point
of view. Rumors of the exorcism’s strange result had filtered to the
bishop of the diocese. And he sent word to the pastor that he
expected him to arrange everything so that there would be no more
trouble and no fresh rash of rumors and scandal. One report had it
that Richard/Rita had raped Gerald. And this was not the ugliest of
the rumors floating around the parish.
Gerald, at first very angry with the psychiatrists, finally began to
see it their way. Or at least that was what he said. He added,
however, that they should not oppose his finishing the exorcism. If
he could only do this, he assured them, then he would be satisfied.
The final decision, of course, rested with Richard/Rita’s family and
with Bert in particular. Bert was convinced that Richard/Rita’s
condition was the work of the devil, and that Gerald or another
Catholic priest should be allowed to complete the exorcism.
It was all very trying for Gerald. He felt “like a museum specimen
or a medical case,” as he remarked to the pastor. Besides, something
in him told him that Richard/Rita could not go on and survive as he
was, nor could he himself leave the exorcism unfinished as it was.
“I have no death wish, Doctor,” he said to the senior psychiatrist.
“But neither have I any illusions about myself or about you. I
cannot have long to live-even my own doctors agree on that. You have
no religious beliefs whatsoever, on your own admission. Unless we
strike a compromise, we will go on talking while Richard/Rita
vegetates and I die. So let’s make a deal.”
The deal was made. With conditions. Dr. Hammond was to be present at
exorcism. If he and the doctor, independently of Gerald, decided the
Exorcism ritual should be aborted at any particular point, Gerald
would abort it. The
exorcism would not be allowed to go beyond two days at maximum. On
the other hand, Gerald would be in complete control as the exorcism
proceeded. Dr. Hammond would behave exactly as one of Gerald’s
assistants. There were one or two other conditions, mainly to help
the professional assessment and examination by the psychiatrist. But
Gerald was satisfied. He had gained an opportunity to finish the
It was clear to Gerald now that only when he had attempted to
uncover and separate the evil spirit’s identity from Richard/Rita’s,
only then had he been attacked. He would take up at that very point
where the process had left off and proceed with great caution, not
drawing attention to himself in any way and endeavoring to rely on
the power of the official ritual and the symbolism of his function.
Early one morning, then, four and a half weeks after the violent
interruption of the exorcism, Dr. Hammond drove Gerald down to Lake
House to resume the exorcism of Richard/Rita. The assistants were
there already, together with Father John. It was a somber day. A
strong wind again bent the trees around the house. It started
raining shortly after they arrived and continued all day and into
Lake House itself was still and quiet. Richard/Rita was lying on the
couch quietly dozing when Gerald arrived. Then, as if on signal, he
doubled up and sank his teeth into his instep, opened his eyes and
fixed them silently on the door through which Gerald and John would
enter. Bert and Jasper, both carrying signs of the last few weeks in
drawn looks and low voices, stood with the police captain and the
teacher. Nobody spoke very much. As Gerald entered, Richard/Rita’s
eyes blazed with a fresh light. He moaned hungrily as a dog would
for more food. His hands were opening and closing. Gerald gathered
up his strength as he took his place beside the couch. He had
carefully prepared his opening statement. But before he could speak,
Richard/ Rita beat him to it. Loosening the teeth hold on his
instep, and still glaring at Gerald, he said: “Gerald, darling, why
all the trouble? Look what you have brought on yourself. You needn’t
bear all this pain. You have no need to pay such a price.” It was
the same trap. This time Gerald was ready.
“The price-whatever price is necessary-has already been paid. You
will obey the authority of Jesus and of his Church. Announce your
Even as Gerald spoke, the pain ran quickly through new lanes in his
flesh and bones. The lower part of his body, from his navel to his
toes, grew rigid. The assistants saw the veins bulging on his
forehead. He was fighting for control, struggling not to lose
consciousness, straining to hear. Waiting and straining.
Richard/Rita sank back flat on the couch in a deflated fashion, eyes
closed, arms and hands thrown across his chest.
After a dull pause, when he had almost given up hope of evoking
obedience from the spirit, Gerald began to hear something that
resembled a voice but that was totally unintelligible to him. At
first, he thought that a group of people had arrived unannounced on
the front lawn of Lake House and were congregating close to the
front windows. But when he concentrated on that direction, the sound
seemed to be coming from Richard/Rita, then again from the back of
the house. He distinctly heard several voices talking at the same
time, breaking off, starting, laughing, occasionally grunting, even
yelling in a mock fashion. They seemed to be both male and female,
but the female voices seemed to dominate. Then the chatter died away
as if they had all moved away from the house.
Gerald stared at Richard/Rita: he was silent and motionless. Gerald
was about to
speak when the voices started again. This time they were in the
room, but tantalizing
him: when he concentrated on Richard/ Rita, they seemed to come from
when he turned around, they seemed to come from Richard/Rita. He
began to feel as
if fragments of voices were free-floating and moving around the
room. The assistants had not been prepared for eerie happenings such
as this because Gerald did not have enough experience or knowledge
of Exorcism to give them very detailed warnings. The strain they
were undergoing showed in their constant perspiration and trembling.
Dr. Hammond’s reaction would have been comical under any other
circumstances but these. As Father John told it afterwards, the
psychiatrist started off with a professional expression of “business
as usual”-grave, expressionless, watchful eyes, steadily taking
notes. After a few minutes, his note-taking stopped, the expression
on his face changed from the bland professional to incredulity, then
a touch of impatience (as if he were being subjected to a practical
joke), and finally the slightly ashen look of a man catching up for
the first time with something unintelligible and alien to his
opinion, threatening to his sanity and self-control.
Gerald’s puzzlement and dismay increased, because now he thought he
could distinguish single words and phrases of one voice in
particular; but every time, other words and phrases broke in and
cluttered his hearing. It all ended up as abstract gibberish.
Then the various strands of female voices seemed to quicken in pace
and to start blending into one pitch and timbre, as if, syllable by
syllable, all were catching up on a lead voice. And the male voices
began to slow down in attack and amplitude, until they became a
series of squeaks and sonorities more or less parallel but never
coinciding. The two levels, male and female, began to mingle and
sound as one in various syllables, but there were always overtones
and annoying echoes muddying his efforts to understand. Gerald
decided to intervene.
“Whatever or whoever you are, you are commanded in the name of Jesus
to state your name, to answer our questions.”
With that, the volume of noise started to increase and with it an
uncontrollable dismay and fear in Gerald. He felt himself the target
of some leviathan voice croaking from bloated lungs, cavernous
throat and mouth, a voice of curses, abuse, blasphemy, in which his
secret sins, ill will, obscenities all echoed and rolled and issued
as a malignant challenge.
Young Father John found the sounds in the room almost unbearably
disturbing. He sprinkled holy water around Gerald and then around
the couch. The noise rose to a fresh crescendo, then started to fall
away. Richard/Rita, all this while, remained stretched out flat on
As the babel died away in a mumbling and choking sound, Gerald
received the first onslaught of the Clash. Nobody had prepared him
for it, and nobody had told him what to do. The old Dominican friar
in Chicago had merely said that at some point “the old fella” would
have to come out as himself. He warned Gerald to take care at that
point-“It’s worse than I can ever hope to tell you.” It was.
Gerald’s greatest quality-stubbornness-now became the source of his
torture. For he could not, would not let go. He had locked his will
into that of the evil spirit. Even if in some exorcists the Clash
starts in the mind, the imagination, or in a powerful intuitive
sense of theirs, it finally comes home in full force to the will.
From the start it was in Gerald’s will that the struggle took place.
Up to that moment he had felt his will pushing against a steel wall
of resistance and
attack. Now the wall seemed to melt and flow all around, while his
will plunged into
the molten heart of liquid heat that scorched and sizzled and
frittered away every thew
and sinew of his will, searing through every trace of padding and
protection a human
will employs-hopefulness, anticipation, remembrance of pleasure,
fidelity, conscious ability to change or not to change, surety,
persuasion that one is doing the right thing.
It was not a darkness of mind, but a nudity of will. It was the
place of deepest poignancy and sharpest sorrowing that any human
being can reach while in a mortal condition. Dante had described it
as the pathos of the soul which is not condemned to Hell (and knows
that), but has no means of knowing if Heaven exists and yet must
persevere in hope that apparent hopelessness is a prelude to
happiness and reward.
Then the Clash materialized in his physical self. One by one, his
hearing, his sight, his senses of touch, smell, and taste were
affected. His vision became blurred-almost the same as when one
videotape is played over another; both are clear enough to be seen,
neither is clear enough to eliminate doubt. In his eardrums there
began the sort of ache produced by a sudden burst of a jackhammer;
and the ache continued. Whatever he touched gave him the funny
shiver through the small of his back and spine he used to get when
somebody rubbed a pane of glass with a dry thumb. His mouth tasted
as if he had been chewing sour milk and flour. And a wild odor he
could not define lodged in his nostrils. Not of rottenness or
putrefaction or sewage, but a sharp odor that his sense of smell
could not take without a stinging recoil seizing his sinuses and the
back of his mouth and throat in revulsion.
His assistants saw Gerald as he began to jackknife over. Two held
him, one on either side; but, faithful to his instructions, they did
not attempt to lead him out of the room. “Can you make it, Father?”
asked Dr. Hammond. Gerald’s only answer was to jerk his head in a
The uncanny pressure was climaxing inside in his will and outside in
his body. He felt the recently healed wounds in his back and belly
loosening and flowing, the scabs giving way, and a salty sting in
the opening flesh. He felt the wetness of his own blood and sweat.
And Gerald knew he now had to make a supreme effort.
“Your name! You who torment this creature of God. In the name of
Jesus, and because of his power, your name! Now! Your name!”
He heard the last rumbling traces of that attacking voice fading
away. Richard/Rita stirred as if prodded with a sharp knife,
writhing his head, neck, and back. He groaned. Then all in the room
heard a little gravelly whisper, not faltering, just deliberate and
“Girl-Fixer. The Girl-Fixer. Girl-Fixer. We fix ‘em. All sorts of
girls. Young, old, married, unmarried, lesbians, neuters, girls who
want to be fixed. Those who want to be fixed like girls. Anyone. We
fix ‘em. Oeeeeeeeeeeeh!” It was a larynx-shaking yelp. “We fix ‘em
Gerald’s weight on the arm of his assistants grew heavy. The
pressure on him was increasing again. But he knew the name now.
Girl-Fixer. He had broken through the deadly charade and he knew
with every instinct that he must pursue hard before his advantage
could slip away.
“You will tell us: how many of you are there? Who are you? What do
you do? Why do you hold this creature of God in slavery? You will
tell us. Speak!”
Gerald would have gone on repeating the same commands, but the
younger priest made a small gesture reminding him he was falling
into a repetitive pattern. They both waited. Gerald was still
fighting the poison inside him. All his pain was with him.
“Take you, for example, Priest!” The contempt and hate in the tone
was chilling. “We
fixed you, didn’t we? Just feel, kiddo. Or just try to do something
with your end, fore
or aft. Oh, yes! We fixed you. Oeeeeeeeeeeeh!”
Gerald steadied himself and tried to wet his lips; his mouth was dry
and furry. His sight was getting blurred again. He had to keep at
it. The teacher lifted a cup of water to his lips. He had to keep at
it. He moistened his tongue and started again.
“Tell us, in the name of Jesus ...”
He was interrupted by a low groan from Richard/Rita. Its agony
paralyzed everyone; joined to the volume of pain and suffering in
his own body, it struck Gerald dumb. Each of the others was affected
by that groan: each one’s imagination and memory went out of
control. The police captain was back in the Korean prison camp where
he had languished for two years; his buddy was groaning his life
away in pain, as a grinning interrogator scraped the flesh off his
ribs. The teacher was back in Surrey, England, in 1941, beside a
German plane that had crashlanded, bursting into flames; the trapped
German pilot was screaming, “Mutti! Mutti!” as he burned inside the
plane. Richard’s brothers were standing beside a shuddering, dying
wolf they had shot over ten years ago during a hunting trip in
Canada with their father; the wolf was groaning defiance and
coughing up blood and staring at them. The doctor was back on a
house call of the previous winter when he had watched a father,
bending over the still-warm body of his dead three-month-old baby
son, choke in hoarse, dry sobs. Everyone felt guilty, as of murder
or willful torture. Someone or something was suffering untold pain
and blaming them all.
Only John, the younger priest, had no horror image or dreadful
memory. He tried to finish Gerald’s command. And it was a painful
“Answer,” he said loudly, his voice cracking with nervousness. “In
the name of Jesus, answer our questions . . .”
“Don’t, John,” Gerald interrupted thickly. But it was too late. The
damage was done. The groaning stopped. Richard/Rita rolled over on
his back, then sat up. There was a sudden, dreadful lull. The others
were jerked back to the present. They tensed, ready to jump and hold
Richard/Rita down. But all Richard/Rita did was to open one eye. It
appeared luminous, slitted, evilly joyous, focusing on John.
“Ah! The lily-white cur!” Each word came out like paste squeezed
slowly from a tube. Everyone present and listening waited on every
syllable. “We’ll fix you. In time.” Gerald was filled with pity for
John: now he was in for it.
“You’ll lose some of your hair. And you’ll sit in a confessional and
secretly wonder why they do the things they confess to you. And the
wonder will change to curiosity. And the curiosity to desire. You
won’t admit it, but you will end with desire. To murder. To steal.
To fuck. Whatever they tell you. And you’ll feel the prick in you
and you’ll fudge on the monies. And you’ll tilt the bottle. Then
you’ll let her hot hands soothe your fever”-the sarcasm was
biting-“and when you get up, she’ll drive you to the sea for your
health and you’ll have a quickie in the back of the car-all for the
love of your sugar-coated Jesus. And she’ll need more and more of
your love of God. And more. And more. And more.
And”-the voice was
now at a screaming crescendo-“you’ll take several wives of several
men, just to console them. You’ll be a whoremaster on the altar, you
lily-white cur. And you’ll be afraid to confess it.” Richard/Rita
started to screech and howl with laughter, rolling around the couch.
“Maybe”-he stopped laughing and fixed John again with the one eye
speculatively- “maybe, you’ll come even into my box.”
The captain laid two strong hands on Richard/Rita’s shoulders,
restraining him firmly but gently. He was suddenly quiet. Then he
turned the one eye on the captain and wrinkled his nose in mock
disgust: “He’ll screw your wife. Yours! She wants him already. A
nice clean young man no woman ever had.”
“Frank, hold it,” Gerald said hurriedly to the captain. He squeezed
John’s hand to reassure the young priest. He was now standing erect
by himself. He reassured them all with a glance. Then slowly and in
a solemn tone of voice to Richard/Rita: “Your name is Girl-Fixer.
You will answer our questions.” Painstakingly he listed them:
“How many of you are there? Who are you? What do you do? Why do you
hold this person whom Jesus saved?”
Each question acted like a hammer blow on Richard/Rita. With each
one Richard/Rita sank back further on the couch. He seemed to shrink
and diminish as if being flattened. A look of trapped horror spread
over his face like a film.
Gerald continued: “I ask these questions in the name of Jesus. You
Richard/Rita’s body relaxed and went limp; he lay on his back, eyes
closed. The captain loosened his hold finally and stood back. Gerald
motioned to the assistants; they moved away from the bed. Richard/
Rita’s two brothers looked at each other for a brief instant. They
recollected later: their horror was almost equaled by their
curiosity. What malign and dark forces had seized their brother?
Why? Could he be freed of them? Would they give up?
The pressure on Gerald was lightening inch by inch, he felt. He
could feel little pockets of relief throughout his body. His vision
started to clear up again. His ears stopped aching. He was no longer
bleeding. He still had the inexorable gnawing around his middle, but
now it was a dully insistent pain, steady, unwavering, predictable.
For a few minutes Richard/Rita’s mouth opened and shut alternately.
They could see his tongue moving inside, his cheeks tautening and
loosening, his Adam’s apple jerking up and down. He seemed to be
forming words soundlessly.
Then they began to hear him, at first faintly as a distant whisper,
then in half words, then broken phrases, finally in whole sentences
punctuated by trailing pauses and delivered in that gravelly tone
which not even his brothers recognized as that of the Richard they
had known all their lives. Dr. Hammond, too, had recovered his
composure, and was once more engaged in clinical observation of what
“How many of you are there?” Gerald repeated. Then he leaned forward
listening intently. Bit by bit, he began to pick up the middle of
words, the beginnings of phrases.
“. . . numbers ... no bodies, fool . . . can you can’t . . .
numerality . . . spr-- . . . negative math . . . count only in power
. . . unbroken will each and eve-- . . . stick together . . .
gargantuan push on little pygmies ... no one solitary . . . off on
their . nothing . . . any one of us alone is nothing, has nothing .
among us, a single spirit is merely a few fibers-will, mind-strung
out on a measly being forever headed to an eternal absence, an
endless vacuum ... a belly on two legs stumbling aimlessly across
the dry bed of confirmed hopelessness . . . that’s each one alone .
. . impossible . . . nothing, a real nothing . . . hating, loathing,
loving unlove and unloving . . . together around a human or hating
the High Enemy . . . oaaaaaaaaaah . . . the push and shove and dent
we make, the Kingdom, the Kingdom, there High Enemy never rules,
dense, indistinguishable, one mass, one will, one complete beast,
one brilliance pouring from the Daring One to all the others. So
that humans back into the corner . . . take darkness as their lot,
disease and pain and death and darkness ... on all sides scratched,
bitter, stung, deadened, maddened by the crawling members of the
Kingdom, the Kingdom ...”
“Have you all various names?” Gerald interjected. “Are you all
equal? What are your identities?”
The voice coming from Richard/Rita had sunk to a stage whisper.
“Brilliant! Brilliant!” the psychologist breathed wonderingly to
Gerald. “Just the question to be asked!”
“Must you go further on this line, Father?” Bert asked Gerald,
watching his brother in dismay.
“Kindly wait, my dear man.” Dr. Hammond’s eyes were bulging with
interest, his face flushed with anger at the interruption. “This may
be a landmark case of multiple personality.”
Gerald looked sideways at the psychiatrist. It was a look more of
pity than surprise.
But there was no time for more.
“. . . round and fat and red and black and male and female and what
they do or smell like or walk like or do like, pygmy humans. . .
names, what names? ... a breath of little lungs. . . it’s what we
do, we are ... millions if you count the wills, the minds, infinite
if you weigh the hatings, the living hatings . . . one above the
other, no one is all, all are under one, some so near the Daring One
they have intelligence only the High Enemy can match, some so low
they are turds, the shards, the lumps beneath his heel, the dust
between his toes . . . and loving it all, all the degradation . . .
anything to disfigure beauty.”
A fit of crackling, cackling laughter seemed to grip Richard/Rita.
Whatever or whoever was amused, it was a frightening look Richard/
Rita now wore: his mouth drawn back, all his teeth bared, his cheeks
lined from the stretching of the lips, chin bobbing up and down,
nostrils flaring and distended-and the ugly horror of that
amusement. This was no belly laugh or dry, subtle joke, no reaction
to fine wit or deep humor. Just a triumphal screeching sound
undulating out on felt waves of satisfaction for hate, of
acquiescence in unhappiness, of refusal to envisage any existence
but that of living in death, of mercilessness, of perpetual banality
exalted into a way of existence.
Gerald spoke again. “What do you do, you of the Kingdom? Girl-Fixer?
All of you?
What do you do?”
Richard/Rita was now covered with perspiration. His clothes and the
top of the couch were sodden. The temperature of the room had become
stifling in the last hour. A stale odor hung in the air. Each one
present had a throbbing headache. Bert and Jasper had begun again to
support Gerald on either side. Both the brothers looked like men
wounded and bled dry of any feeling. They had been numbed by
compassion for their brother and by fear for his well-being. Father
John was saying his rosary beads. The teacher and the police captain
stood on either side of the couch. Listening to Richard/Rita’s
rambling talk, they seemed to have shrunk to shadows of their former
selves, their burly forms drooping and listless.
The only one still spry, coldly thoughtful, active, still moving
around and in apparent control of himself, was the psychiatrist. In
spite of his apparent stress, there was a gleam in his eyes, picked
up by his steel-rimmed spectacles, that bespoke the professional
behaving predictably in the teeth of invaluable experience. Dear
God, Gerald prayed silently, let him be spared the price of any
further stupidity he may yet commit.
Dr. Hammond, however, concentrated on Richard/Rita’s reply as his
body stiffened on the couch. The police captain and the teacher held
Richard/Rita down. Jasper left Gerald’s side and placed his hands on
Richard/Rita’s ankles. They could all “feel” the resistance coming.
“Why should we reply? The High . . .”
“Because Jesus commands you. And his cross protects us. And you were
defeated by his sacrifice. And you will obey. Answer.”
Again Richard/Rita went limp. The groaning started and lasted a
minute or two. James could feel his brother’s whole body vibrating
as if electric waves were being shot through it in quick, successive
“We ... we ... leave us to the Kingdom. You hear! Rita is one of us
now. Forever. You cannot have Rita.”
“Rita is baptized. And saved. And forgiven. You do not anymore have
the freedom of Rita’s body and Rita’s soul,” Gerald shot with a
savagery he never had felt before. “You will tell us what you do,
how you fix. Answer. In the name of Jesus.”
For a few minutes, Gerald had the impression that the confused babel
of voices was starting again, but it came to nothing. In that tiny,
limping, unknown voice, Richard/Rita spoke again. It was the weird
and unaccustomed voice that made him a stranger to his brothers.
“Oh, it starts with the box and ends with the box. So long as we
make them think the box is all, we fix them. We can make a whore of
the grandest-all legal, all secure, if once ... if once they think
the box is woman, woman a box ... the greatest insult to the High
Enemy, because woman is likest to the High Enemy. A man is a thing.
A woman is being. We fix them so they think . . . it’s nothing but a
big, fat dick in a sea of hormones, and smellings and screams, and
all the shouting and jabbing and pulling and jerking. Tie them to
the dickybird tight in his cage. Tie them to that. Don’t let them
see beyond. And she will make the man in her image. Tie him too . .
.” Richard/Rita broke off, turning on the couch and gasping as if
We’ve fixed you for . . .”
“No, Girl-Fixer. Jesus has defeated you. In his name you will
answer: why do you hold this creature, Rita, in slavery? Why?”
Gerald in his inexperience was following a dangerous yet apparently
elementary line of reasoning. It seemed logical to him to insist on
finding out why or how Richard/Rita had come to be possessed. But
there was always the danger that his own mental curiosity would
conquer his better judgment. He might, in that case, advance so far
as to tamper with the innards of evil and get injured beyond repair.
As it turned out before the end of the exorcism, it was not Gerald
who suffered the consequences of such tampering.
“We do as we are bidden by the Daring One. Rita was our prey, our
soul. Rita chose to be a box, to be a box, to be a box, to be a box.
Even when the High One spoke, he chose to be a box, to be a box, to
be a box.”
Gerald, by some inner sense, felt that one single, personal strand
of evil and resistance had faded or was fading from the scene; it
felt as if a lesser intelligence was now coping with his questions.
Richard/Rita began to struggle and gasp again. Gerald reflected for
a moment. What next? Should he keep silent and let all things quiet
down? Should he press forward and extract more information? He
remembered the old Dominican saying with a shake of the head: “If
you get a chance to squeeze them dry of words, do so. If you can,
press them to tell what exactly happened. But don’t get into a
give-and-take of a normal argument. They will always beat you. And a
beating can be more than you can take.”
Gerald looked again at Richard/Rita; his body was thrashing back and
forth jerkily; the assistants were looking at Gerald for some
direction. He decided to ask one more question.
“Evil Spirit, in the name of Jesus, announce the trap in which you
caught Richard/Rita. I ask this by the authority of the Church and
in the name of Jesus.”
Richard/Rita’s horrible voice answered: “We start with self-growth,
self-discovery. We tell ‘em, we told Rita: First, you must be
yourself, find yourself, know who you are. They stick their noses in
their own navels and say: I like my own smell! Then, that woman
alone, woman alone, is the thing to be. She has it all within her,
but man has it all hanging out.”
The assistants had moved away from the couch and stood in almost
unbelieving fright near Gerald. Bert no longer supported Gerald, but
leaned on the night table.
“To be a woman is to be completely independent, we tell them. No
guilt. Not masculine. Not feminine. Complete in herself. Cunt and
clit in one. Androgynous. Free of guilt feelings, of all
responsibility to a man. Biologicaaaaaaaaaaal!”
Richard/Rita’s voice stretched out, caressing the last syllable. At
a sign from Gerald,
the assistants moved back and laid hands on Richard/Rita. A pause.
Then: “To be
freed from any need of other. Let them think that they are past
ambition of ecstasy on
a prick, but totally sensual because they can laugh at love and all
its makings; that
they are developing their own self-contained skills; that her own
intimacy with herself
is the whole world, without the intrusion of the male; that she is
full of internal spaces
in herself, infinite spaces, infinite enough to contain all she
could ever wish to have or
be; that she can be tranquil, full of personalities, many-sided, all
of man, without his tomfoolery, all of woman without the alley-cat
Richard/Rita stopped. Only the four pairs of hands restrained him
from getting up. His legs and arms wrestled for a few moments, then
ceased. He groaned again and began to mutter inaudibly.
“Speak, Girl-Fixer! Speak! Let us hear your voice clearly!”
“Then . . . then . . . the same old trap. The same old trap we’ve
taken many in-we still catch them in. That they fuck as necessarily
as birds sing, as water flows, as the fire burns. Merely to show how
independent they are. How superior they are. That if they don’t
breathe for fucking, live for fucking, sing in fucking, they can’t
breathe, cry, sing, love, or do anything. Be liberated. That’s what
they begin to say. Man, woman, or goat, little boy, or if it comes
to that, little girl. And then, when Rita got there-Oeeeeeeeeeeeh!”
It was a yelp of triumph as before.
Gerald was in command. There was not even a vestige of the Pretense
now. But Richard/Rita was still caught in the teeth of this wild,
evil thing and was virtually flung about on the couch as the
Girl-Fixer cackled on.
“And, after that . . . one penis. Then another penis. Then a third.
A fourth. A fifty-fourth. A forest of ‘em. Sharp stakes. All the same. Oeeeee! And
then the hate at being
loved so. And the disgust at hating. And the hating of so loving.
And the loving of
hate. And the lying in wait for the penis. And the laughter at its
nonsense. And the
slavery. Many of us are the rump of the Daring One. Every Rita is a
piece of his shit
It was enough. Gerald broke in brusquely. There was only one
question more. “At what point in time did Rita give over possession
to you? When was it consummated?”
“In the snow. In the wind. We knew then we could find a place in
him. Bend him to our will. But he had invited years before . . .”
Gerald decided that all he wanted to know had been told. The evil
spirit had been sufficiently subdued and humiliated, Now it could be
“”Lord God of Heaven, in the name of Jesus Christ, your only
begotten son, and in the name of your Holy Spirit, we pray that you
will grant us our prayer and free this your servant, Richard, from
the toils of slavery and the foul possession of this evil spirit.”
Gerald had been looking up at the ceiling during this prayer. Now he
looked down at Richard/Rita, held up the crucifix, and prepared to
begin the final exorcising prayer.
Dr. Hammond broke in, whispering urgently in his ear: “Father, don’t
let it stop here.
Let me put a few professionally oriented questions.”
In spite of his dislike of psychiatrists and his general annoyance
with this one, Gerald remained afraid for him. He whirled around
painfully, urgently pleading in a cracked voice: “For the love of
Jesus, Dr. Hammond, for your own sake, keep your mouth shut. Stay
out of this. You don’t know what you . . .”
But it was too late. Dr. Hammond had gone over beside Richard/ Rita.
He sat down on the edge of the couch and began to speak calmly,
“Now, Rita, we have nearly finished. This is almost at its close.
You will be calm. There’s nothing to be fearful of. Answer my
questions. And after that, you will wake up.”
Richard/Rita stopped turning and twisting. He lay utterly still. His
face relaxed. The expression around his lips softened. Dr. Hammond,
rather tense in the beginning, now began to relax. It was a mistake
on Gerald’s part to allow the psychiatrist to do this. No
experienced exorcist would have permitted such blatant and dangerous
interference. It was dangerous not only because the whole exorcism
might break down and be completely lost, but it could be possibly
fatal for the person so unwary as to reach out in ignorance and
touch summary evil. So it proved in one sense for Dr. Hammond.
A sudden, dull silence fell in the wake of his opening words to
Richard/Rita. After all the pain and noise and groaning and strain,
that silence was surprisingly alien to them all. One by one, each
head lifted. Hammond’s professional air-his blue business suit, his
spectacles, his knowing tone, his very confidence in moving to
Richard/Rita’s couch and sitting down to speak, overruling Gerald’s
warnings by his behavior-all this made them think, as the policeman
recalled, “After all, this may be more normal than I thought.”
But what Gerald sensed was not the lifting of an evil presence, but
a shift. Dr. Hammond had fallen into the same trap as Gerald had
done four and a half weeks before, and with infinitely poorer
defenses than even Gerald had had. Only Gerald and the teacher grew
tense with the fear of understanding.
But suddenly, almost in unison and as if their unwinding had been
something you could see and hear, they all stopped unwinding. You
could almost see and hear the sudden cessation of flooding relief.
In that silence they were listening. A change was taking place. They
all sensed now what Gerald and the teacher had sensed. A change in
something or somewhere near them or connected with them, with that
room, with Gerald, and with Richard/Rita.
Finally even the psychiatrist stopped, his professional calm
ruptured. He had the half-annoyed, half-hurt look of someone
interrupted in the middle of a sentence. He looked quickly at Gerald
and the others, alarm spreading across his features. For the first
time in his professional life, Dr. Hammond was face to face with
something he knew was far beyond his reach to categorize as a
verifiable known or unknown. What he was then beginning to perceive,
he felt, he had always known but never acknowledged, even in the
deepest moments of the eight years of analysis through which he had
But his scientific mind was his only ready defense, and he kept up
the protest in his mind: Verify! Get the facts! Test them!
knew. There was no verifiable fact.
There was a reality made transparent to him. Before this moment, he
labeled this a product of the irrational. But it now appeared to be
real beyond all reason. And he had always known it.
Slowly they all began to hear sound. It was, at the beginning, like
the sound of a crowd or mob-feet pounding faintly, voices shouting,
screaming, yelling, jeering, talking, distant whistling and
grunting. They could not fix from what direction it came.
teacher glanced out the windows at the pond. The trees were moving
gently in the wind; a few ducks paddled around in the water; the
evening was still bright. Then the noise sounded nearer, just as
confused as ever, but now with one overall mood or note: mourning
for an ineluctable sorrow. Listening to that sound on the tape
recording of the exorcism, and as it grows louder and louder, one
begins to get the conviction of listening to the tortured murmurs
and helpless protests of a mob in agony, keening and wailing for
deeps of regret, screaming and groaning for the ache of punishment
and unremitting penalty, yelling impotently in condemnation,
vibrating as a whole beast of suffering, as some protean heart
thumping in the mud and squalor that history never recorded and
human mercy had never penetrated.
Over and above all the voices but constantly weaving in and out
among them, there was the full scream of a woman orchestrating all
the other noises and voices around itself as their theme. It came in
great rising and falling curves, louder and fainter, still louder
and then fainter, regular, upbeat, jarring, resounding with a
passion of pain and lost hope.
Gerald noticed that everyone in the room seemed to be bending,
lowering his height as if afraid of something moving in the upper
part of the room. Nothing was visible up there.
Dr. Hammond sat as if unable to move from the edge of the couch.
Richard/Rita’s lips turned blue, his eyes open and staring vacantly.
The attending doctor moved to his side to take his pulse and found
his body very cold, the pulse steady but weak.
“Father, this cannot go on much longer,” Father John managed to
shout to Gerald.
“He’s taken enough already.”
“Not very much more! Not very long, now!” Gerald shouted back. But
the remainder of what he wanted to say went unsaid. It was the
psychiatrist who now claimed his attention. Dr. Hammond had slipped
off the couch and stood in an askew way looking halfway around over
his shoulder at Richard/Rita, his eyes narrowed with apprehension,
his notebook fallen and forgotten. No one, the psychiatrist
included, could shake his mind loose from the web of pain and regret
pervading the atmosphere.
The noise and the din of sobbing and mourning rose finally to an
undulating pitch. Richard/Rita’s face suffused with color; red
patches and streaks discolored his arms and neck. Even his eyes
deepened in color. He was trying to speak.
Gerald was alerted: something was coming, and he felt he must make
his final challenge very fast.
“In the name of Jesus, you are commanded to leave this creature of
God. You will go out of Rita and leave him whole and entire . . .”
Richard/Rita’s sudden scream split their eardrums. “We go, Priest.
We go.” It was a million turbulent voices as one, full of eternal
ache and pain. “We go in hate. And no one will change our hate. And
we will wait for you. When you come to die, we’ll be there. We go.
But”-Gerald heard the sharp injection of hate hissing through the
sorrow-“we take him.” Richard/Rita’s hands suddenly swept up in a
wide arc toward Dr. Hammond. It was a quick but clumsy movement.
Hammond jumped backward. And Richard/Rita fell off the couch to the
floor as the assistants jumped forward and held him down.
“We already have his soul. We claim him. He is ours. And you cannot
do anything about that. We already have him. He is ours. We needn’t
fight for him.”
Richard/Rita was wheezing like someone being asphyxiated, eyes
bulging, neck muscles standing out, his long hair falling back, his
chest heaving, as he half-rose in his effort. “You can’t get him
back. He is ours. He does our work. He doesn’t need a box. He puts
everybody else into it.”
All calm was gone from Dr. Hammond; his face was a picture of black
“Here . . . we can’t stay here any longer.” It was still the voice
from Richard/Rita, and it was full of inflexible pain and
bitterness. “There is too much to suffer here. Where will we . . .”
The voice trailed off.
Richard/Rita kicked and scratched at the straining assistants. Then
he started to scream until at last he fainted, and above and around
them the last syllables of his words trailed off into the din of
voices. They spiraled up to a thin, high note, then sank to a
thumping resonance like the bellowing of a gored bull. Slowly they
faded into the distance. Those many tortuous voices, those myriad
footfalls with decreasing rhythm and ever fainter sound all began to
withdraw farther and farther from their presence, like a funeral
procession plodding its way inch by inch, swaying and twisting, out
of the city of man, swallowed by the great, unknown wilderness of
the surrounding night. That single beating scream of the woman still
rang dolefully but more and more faintly above the dying echoes of
the withdrawing multitude, until finally there was only a little
swatch of sound rising and sinking, rising and sinking, and in the
end never rising again out of the silence.
As the sound had receded, Richard/Rita’s struggling had
progressively ceased. The
tension holding everyone had lessened and lessened until they
realized one by one, as
they lifted their heads, moved uneasily, then looked at each other’s
faces, that they
were standing alone with each other in a small bedroom, that there
was a curious
silence, and that their world was still right-side up. It was over.
All was well.
Gerald glanced at the psychiatrist. He was leaning back against the
wall, spectacles in one hand, while he cried unreservedly into his
other hand. “Bert, see to him, will you?” Gerald said gently.
“Leave me. Leave me be,” muttered Dr. Hammond, in between his tears.
Then he drew a deep breath: “I’m all right. Leave me be.” He walked
slowly to the door, pulled it open, then half-turned and looked back
at Richard/Rita and at Gerald. He had the look of someone unjustly
hurt; and his eyes held a puzzlement and appeal. Then, without a
word, he turned and went out. He would have conversations with
Gerald later. But now he had no words. And he was tired beyond
After about 20 minutes, they lifted Richard/Rita on to the couch. He
was coming to. He motioned with his hand to Gerald. He was obviously
very weak but quite self-possessed and aware. Gerald saw the smile
in his eyes and faintly at the corners of his mouth.
“Father, I have not felt so restful and so light in ten years. I
“No need to say much now, Rita,” said Gerald.
“But, Father Gerald, I ... I am happy for the first time for a long
“We’ll talk about it later,” Gerald said, smiling through his pain;
he was bleeding again and his pelvis was riven with an aching
soreness. He straightened up as much as he could, and turned to go.
“Father Gerald!” Richard/Rita struggled up and leaned on one elbow.
He was looking
out the window. “I am ... I ... please . . . call me Richard.
Richard I was born. Richard
I will die.” He glanced up at Gerald. “The rest of it”-his gaze
traveled down over his
body-“for the rest of it, let’s rely on God and-and Jesus.” He
paused and looked away
as if remembering or trying to remember something. Then, looking
again at Gerald, “Father, they told me ... or I heard them say-I
don’t know which-there isn’t much time . . . you know . . .” He
broke off lamely.
“I know, Richard,” Gerald said trying to smile, but feeling the lead
weight inside him. Somewhere deep in his belly a gray slug was
eating his vitals. And somewhere in his heart, a lump of coldness
had taken up residence. “I know. I have known for quite a while. I
know. It’s all right. It was my own choice.”
Outside on the driveway, Dr. Hammond was sitting in the driver’s
seat of his car waiting. The engine was already started.
“Going to be a very wet night, Father Gerald,” he said. Despite the
strain, there was a note of cordiality and respect Gerald had not
noticed before. “Let me drop you on my way to the office. I must get
my report on tape tonight before I forget anything. They can type it
Gerald slid in painfully beside him and waved goodbye to Jasper, who
had been helping him.
“Tell me, Dr. Hammond,” he said chattily as they swung out on to the
main road, “do you believe in the Devil?”
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