"I got an e-mail...from my mom...yesterday," stoned Garrison told me during yet another party on Saturday night, this time in McLean's house. Led Zeppelin's 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' was playing on McLean's CD player. All the usual guys were with us, passing around a joint and drinking beer.
"What did she say?" I asked.
"She said...the devils she'd thought...were influencing...my thoughts...are the wrong ones," Garrison explained.
Looking around the room at the other five men, I added, "I think that the devils you imagine having an evil influence on you are not the ones who really have that influence."
"She always used to say...the leader of those devils...about five or six in number...was one called Ose, who gives you divine knowledge...the secrets of the universe, that kind of thing."
Sneering, I asked, "Do you think you have 'divine knowledge'?"
"I've always wanted...to know what...God knows...Mom says that's dangerous...it leads to insantiy...she says Ose...deluded me, making me see...people and things...that aren't there...She's told me that...I always see and hear...what isn't really there...she's said so...over and over again...ever since I was a kid...That's why I...hallucinate...so much."
"What an awful thing for a mother to say to her son. You shouldn't listen to her, Garrison."
"Well, now she says...she was wrong about...which devils are...manipulating me," he said.
"Garrison, she is manipulating you," I said. "As these guys here are."
"She says...it's a totally different group...of devils now. About five or six of them."
Again, looking around the room, I said, "Yeah. Five devils influenced you in Canada. Now five new devils influence you here."
"The leader...of these devils...isn't Ose...It's Azazel."
"Ridiculous." I did a facepalm.
"Azazel...is a scapegoat demon."
"Great," I said. "The family can blame you for all their problems now. How convenient."
"They always used to," Garrison said. "Azazel is...an impure demon."
"Are demons ever pure?"
"Azazel teaches...forbidden knowledge."
"Right," I said. "The family forbids you to learn things. That way, they can control you better."
"He and his demons...have only...a foothold...on my soul," Garrison continued. "Not the complete power...Mom thought they had...over me when...I was a kid...That's why I...was able to go...to school and...find work here."
"You don't really believe all this bullshit, do you?"
"No, no," he said, not so much because he really didn't, but more just to satisfy me. "But it annoys me...that my mom still.. talks that crap."
"Look at Garrison," Lee said. "Talking to himself again." The others sneered and chuckled, then went back to their political debates.
"I recommend," I said to Garrison, "instead of listening to your mom's mere modification of her original nonsense, spend more time with Jan...and less with these guys. That should really drive the devils out of you."
The night came to an end, and I took Garrison home. He fell on his bed with his clothes still on, and soon fell asleep.
This was his dream.
I, Garrison, am in Hell. I'm surrounded in caverns with columns of fire. Smoke fogs my eyes, and sparks dart at me, stinging my skin.
Ose is standing before me, with four other demons behind him--sometimes five behind him. They all have the cliché devil look: horns, hooves, hairy goat legs, and bright red skin. Their faces, however, are what's most interesting.
Ose has my mother's face. She says, in a thundering voice, "You were wrong, Garrison, to think that I, your mother, was the one with the malignant influence on you. What a terrible thing to think about your own mother! I've always loved you and cared for you."
"Yes, Mother," I say meekly. "I'm sorry for doubting you."
Ose and the other demons, bearing the faces of my father, Reynold, Fred, and Julia, all turn around and begin to walk away. As they leave, I can hear Julia's voice bark at me: "Thinking your own family were devils! Really, Garrison!"
A new group of demons approach to replace the original quintet. They are led by Azazel, and have the same stereotypical devil appearance.
Azazel, with Lee's face, says, in the same thundering voice, "Now, Garrison, do you know who the real demons are? Who truly torments you?"
"It's been you, McLean, Steven, Gérard, and Corin all along?" I ask. (Indeed, theirs are the faces of the demons I see with Azazel.)
"No!" Azazel says. "You're wrong again! Don't you see a sixth demon amng us?" That demon approaches from behind the others, his face obscured in the shadows.
"Who is it?" I ask fearfully.
The face of the devil comes to the light: it has my face.
"Yes, Garrison, it's you!" Azazel shouts. "You are the real leader of your devils! For it's you who choose to listen to us. You could resist temptation, temptation to do drugs, to drink, to hate your family, to feel hostility toward the world, but you don't resist. You're sufficient to stand, but free to fall! Nobody's fault but yours!"
The other devils laugh at Garrison, including the one with his face.
"No! It isn't me!" I shout in terror. "It can't be me!"
"No, it isn't, actually," Azazel says with an evil smile. My face on the sixth devil changes to a familiar, female one. "It's really her."
I see Jan's face on the demon now. Instead of giving one of her usual sweet smiles, she grins wickedly.
"No!" I scream.
Garrison woke up with a shock, his upper half shooting up from the bed like a catapult. He was bathed in sweat. It was about 3:30 AM.
After having slept poorly for the rest of the morning, he got up, showered, and put on some nice clothes for church. He arrived for Mass at about 10:50 AM.
Gérard and Corin were already there, sitting at the front pew as usual, waiting for Father Delacroix. Garrison joined them, sitting next to Corin.
"Hi, guys," he said nervously to them.
"Hi," Gérard said.
"So, you can actually talk to people other than yourself, eh?" Corin asked.
Mass soon began, and Father Delacroix went up to the altar. As everyone chanted, "Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy," Garrison chanted with much more of a tense urgency than, well, most would consider necessary. Corin, hearing that tension up close, looked worriedly at Garrison out of the corner of his eye.
Not too long after, the priest began his homily.
"Jesus teaches us to forgive others so God will forgive us," he began. "Why? Because it's hypocritical of us to carry grudges against others while expecting others not to have grudges against us. It's also proud and arrogant to do so: what makes us so superior to others that our sins should be forgiven, while we don't have to forgive those of other people?"
Garrison hung his head in shame over his anger with his family.
"Another good reason to forgive others is to make peace in our own hearts," Delacroix went on. "Even if we insist that those sinning against us aren't worthy of forgiveness, and even if we're right to think so, the anger we hold on to causes pain only to ourselves; we punish ourselves with our lingering resentment. Let God judge those unworthy of forgiveness. Give yourself peace, and let go of your anger."
Leaving the church with Gérard and Corin, Garrison felt refreshed spiritually. From then on, he would try not to be so angry with the Five in Canada...or with the five he always partied with.
The three men went straight to the café l'Oiseau, sitting with me at an outdoor table. Everyone had coffee and cakes, and began chatting.
"So, forgiving your family will get rid of those devils, eh?" Corin asked with a smart-ass smirk.
"It'll calm the rage that's inside me," Garrison said, nonetheless annoyed at Corin's taunts.
"You do need to forget about your family," I added. "Forgiving them, however, might simply encourage more abuse from them."
"That's true," Garrison said.
"What's true?" Gérard, having not heard me (none of Garrison's five 'friends' ever hear me), asked with a sneer.
"Oh, uh, nothing," Garrison said, embarrassed. "Just thinking out loud, I guess."
Then he saw Jan walking by the café...or did he?
First, he saw her as a pretty blonde-haired, blue-eyed European, then as a cute Chinese girl. The two versions of her alternated every five or six seconds.
She waved at him, smiling sweetly as she always did. He waved back nervously, with a pained, fake, and obviously forced grin on his face. Her smile changed almost to a frown. She walked away.
"Who are you waving at, Garrison?" Corin asked.
"Oh, uh, nobody," Garrison said.
"Apparently," Corin said, sneering.