We try to explain to the priest that it’s not a demon.
He looks up from his pocket notebook filled with Latin scribble, pans his eyes between us and Greg, and says, “I respectfully disagree.”
We walk him through the whole thing: Greg had become obsessed with achieving “some real level of disconnect” between his body and mind. He didn’t eat or sleep for three days before this event. We omit the city-wide mushroom hunt.The show drew more protestors than usual, so he spent the afternoon meditating in the closet of the green room. During the show, halfway through his monologue describing the Water Visions at the Lake of Tears, Greg began to levitate. He floated over the crowd calling himself Mordak, detailing his litany of orgies in this dog-awful voice before gouging out some poor dude’s eye.
Greg hasn’t shown the priest the voice yet. For the last fifteen minutes, he’s been sitting cross-legged, spinning and sliding around the room like a hockey puck. He keeps his eyes closed, and his tongue lolls out of the corner of his mouth.
“What did you say his name was?” the priest asks.
“Mordak,” Greg says in the voice.
The priest looks at us, unfazed. “Mor-dek?”
“Ak,” I say. “Mor-dak. He claims to be Babylonian.”
The priest rolls his eyes. “They all do.”
I have questions, but Greg’s spinning speeds up and his knees knock against my shins. I lift my feet to sit cross-legged on the couch and get immediately paranoid that this is what Mordak wants, so I put them back on the floor.
Outside, the crowd keeps growing. Alice sneaks down the hall to peek out the window and comes back looking worried.
“The police are here.”
We—Alice, Davies, Marcus, and I—reflexively glance at Greg’s right hand, unsure of the legal ramifications of gouging out someone’s eye while possessed by an ancient spirit.
The priest’s phone buzzes. He answers to a frantic, distorted squelch on the other end.
Greg, now in the middle of the room, spins in a tight circle, gaining crazy speed. The phone flies out of the priest’s hand into Mordak’s vortex.
“Here’s one thing I’m confused about,” Marcus says. “Could Babylonians generally do this kind of thing?”
“This is why I’m arguing demon,” the priest says.
Alice raises her eyebrows. “What if a demon possessed Mordak, and now his possessed ghost is possessing Greg?”
The priest at least pretends to consider this.
Mordak holds the phone out in front of his face, turning it over in his hands. He screams at it and begins poking the screen with his bloody pointer finger. The priest reaches toward the phone, fending off Mordak’s swatting.
“Here,” he says, swiping the screen. “Now touch any one of those icons.”
So far, even with a creepy voice and eye-blood on his hand, Greg has maintained his essential Greg-ness. But now his mouth opens wider than it should. His teeth look yellow and craggy. His eyes go bright red.
The phone leaves his hands and begins spinning in mid-air. Alice pulls a pillow in front of her face. Marcus, Davies, and I are against the wall.
“Is this the part where he kills us?” Davies says.
The priest, crouched behind Mordak in a pounce position, says, “You’ve seen too many movies.”
The phone bursts into flames.
It hadn’t occurred to me until now that this might end with all of us in pieces.
Mordak stares at the burning phone. “Sons and daughters of Molech! You have nursed too long at the teat of prosperity. May your wheat become chaff, your house crumble to dust, and your gold turn to blood!”
I look over at Marcus, who’s already looking back at me. Those lines are part of Greg’s screed toward the end of the first session. They lead into his speech in the second-session story about the Water Visions—a narrative he wrote to really sell his character, Zordon, a once-powerful prince brought low by his fickle warlord of a father.
Greg has always argued that, even if we are faking it, we should give the crowd something real to walk away with.
“Don’t you think a three-thousand-year-old being would have something to say about the nature of life and death?”
Personally, no. But I stopped arguing with him about it because it didn’t matter.
Mordak continues quoting the speech. “As I sat above the Lake of Tears the water reached forth, entering me from below and filling my stomach….”
None of us ever cared for the supernatural colonic part, but Greg insisted this detail gave the story weight.
“My mouth spewed forth the stew, and in the air the water took life and performed for me visions from the astral plain.”
I’m eager to tell Greg, when he returns, that three-thousand-year-old beings don’t have jack shit to say. They’re about as intelligent as a tape recorder.
The priest, not familiar with the monologue, opens his notebook and starts speaking in Latin. Without warning, Greg’s body falls limp to the floor, and there, cross-legged in mid-air, is Greg’s ghost. His teeth are white again, his eyes blue, his hand unbloodied. He looks relieved.
“Unless one of you wants to loan me your body, I guess this is goodbye,” he says.
The priest looks from body to ghost to notebook, saying, “I…I…I….”
“It’s okay,” Greg says. “Now I can find what I’ve been looking for.”
Greg’s body, now owned solely by Mordak, snores away on the floor.
“That guy was a real asshole,” Greg says.
“Turns out three-thousand-year-old beings don’t know jack shit,” I say.
“Buddy,” he says. “Nobody does.”
My mind floods with memories of Greg—funny things he did, stories we used to laugh at. I have so many questions about death and transcendence, but his head is already through the ceiling. He waves goodbye, and even though he’ll never know, we all wave back.
Matt McDonald is from northeast Louisiana, where he works in higher education. His stories have appeared in publications such as Monkeybicycle, Louisiana Literature, Jellyfish Review, and Empty Sink Publishing, among others. Links to his work can be found online at mattmcdonaldwrites.wordpress.com, or on Twitter (@mattmcwrites).