Short story: Logan, plagued with bipolar disorder, is convinced by his best friends that he needs to see the Demon Whisperer who is rumored to be able to cure mental ailments.
“I heard there was this hoarder, like HOUSES of shit, and when she was done with him, he was a complete neat freak.” Kyle threw his cigarette butt into the gravel.
“Yeah, she took this schizo, like tons of personalities in his head, and he came back in a suit and tie and now is a gozillionaire.” Bryce gestured widely at the stars as if this man's money was piled that high. Soft bass hummed out of the house just beyond his silhouette.
“So.. she like, cast out demons, like Jesus?” I asked, skeptically.
“No! Well, no one knows how she does it, but like any mental thing, ANYTHING, she can cure it.” Kyle said with finality, completely convinced. Bryce nodded emphatically after spitting in the grass.
The guys and I had headed to my truck for some more smokes. They'd just removed me from a failed attempt at a keg stand. My pride hurt more than my head after I bashed it when I fell over. They were concerned that I was trying a bit too hard to impress the ladies.
I had a history of going batshit crazy at parties for weeks on end, and then crashing into deep depression afterwards. This was the third party this week and they huddled around me, waiting to predict my next move. I trusted them, they'd gotten me out of some pretty bad scrapes, but sometimes their concern grew unbearable.
I leaned on the fender of my truck. There was no way some batty old hag was gonna do some fool voodoo witchcraft on me out in the wild forests.
“Hey, it can’t hurt.” Kyle had sensed my rejection of the whole idea. He and Bryce had boxed me in with my back to my Ford. I had to agree or come out swinging. Wouldn’t be the first time we’d all had black eyes.
After that night, more than just our bruised bodies were sore. Kyle and Bryce stayed away from me, knowing that we all needed space, so I had plenty of time to think. I laid in my bed, nursing my cuts and bruises, only getting up to eat. My mom would look at me, her brows pinched together in the middle, but she would say nothing.
I don’t really know how long I stayed in my room thinking, but once when I came out to pee, she’d ninja’d my bed sheets. They must have smelled by now. I retreated to the basement. The phone rang and I heard Mom stomping around and yelling.
The next thing I knew, Kyle and Bryce were in the basement with me. I really didn’t want to see them. Mom began to blare her cleaning music, which meant she was angry. I almost welcomed the sound because I didn’t want them to start in on that witch thing again.
They didn’t. Out of concern, they said, they opened up a paper bag. At least smoking with them meant they wouldn’t talk and I wouldn’t have to listen. I took a long drag.
My thoughts flew.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up.
I hated those times when I just couldn’t find any reason to get up out of bed. Only this time, I literally couldn’t get up.
White tiles, all I could see were white ceiling tiles. Then a face leaned into my view. I blinked to clear the fuzziness. Someone shined a bright light in one eye then the other. I squinted, trying to avoid it, but my head wouldn’t turn. I began to hear things. There was a lot of activity: rustling clothes, squeaky shoes, a door opened and closed, opened and closed, machines beeped.
Then another face, this time my mother’s. She was crying. “Oh Logan! Why did you do this to yourself?!”
Do what? I don’t remember a thing. I tried to ask her, but the words wouldn't come easily. I worked and pushed and finally managed an odd moan.
“It’s those friends of yours! When I get you home, you are not to see them again, you hear me?!” She held my hand now, I could feel her, but I couldn’t squeeze back.
It took all my strength to move my head toward her. I wanted to say no; that they were the only way OUT of this. For the first time, I realized they were right.
Several weeks later, when things were much more clear, I knew 3 things; I had nearly died from a drug overdose, my mother blamed my friends for nearly killing me when it was my own choice to attempt the overdose, and those same friends had a possible cure for the mental illness I now admitted to myself that I had.
I felt giddy. Maybe it was the admission that I had a problem, or the thought that there was a solution, or the promises I made to myself and my mother and my friends that I would never do that again, but I became happy, bubbly even.
I kissed my mother on the cheek, played football with my little brother, teased my sister, and kept a smile on my face. It was all too easy to escape the house for a few small errands that grew into hours-long excursions to meet Kyle and Bryce to discuss the plan.
“We got it all covered, man.” Kyle assured me. “Just show up under the Franklin overpass at 8 tomorrow.”
“We’re in this together.” Bryce held out his fist for a knuckle bump. Smiling, I bumped them both.
I wasn’t sure I could get out of the house in time. Mom had me babysitting in an effort to derail any plans I had of leaving while she was out at her tupperware party. I finally managed to hail a passing pre-teen girl who looked eager to help.
From the overpass we took Kyle’s car to the winding road out of town. No one spoke. The radio blared out some boy band songs we all hated and no one even moved to change it.
We took a dirt road for a couple miles. My heart thudded harder with every pothole. A rustic farm soon loomed into view. Carefully tended rows of dark leafy plants were visible in the moonlight. A cat gracefully ran toward a shed. Kyle turned off the engine and we took a moment to consider leaving the comfort of the car. My heart thudded in my ears. I realized I had been gripping the back of the passenger seat so hard I left marks in the leather.
“Let’s do this.” Bryce grabbed the door handle and then next thing I knew he was knocking. A faint light shone from the front window like a small lantern or candle sat deep inside the room beyond the old wooden door. We strained to hear footsteps, but only locusts hummed and katydids chirped.
“Who’s there?” Her voice was strong. I had expected an old, crackly kind of voice from a witch, but this was a voice that challenged our knock right back, daring us to speak.
“Uh.. we heard you cured people of uh.. things, mental things.” Kyle was not so eloquent now that he was barely controlling his knocking knees.
"You heard wrong," commanded the woman.
"Kyle, she clearly wants us to leave her alone. Come on." I begged. "That was just a legend."
"No! You need serious help! She's just bluffing!" Bryce took over with amazing assurance. He was always Kyle's follower, so to hear him so passionate about my getting help almost brought me to tears. Why were my emotions so out of whack?
"Ma'am, we assure you, we mean no harm. We had heard this was where the one they call the Demon Whisperer lived. My friend Logan here needs to see her. But if you insist, we will leave."
The doorknob turned and the door opened wide enough for an eye to look us over, the chain securely fastened so as to not let a body push in past her. We stepped back to give her a good look.
"You have good friends." She shut the door and slid the chain over before reopening the door to us. "Come in. I have a few questions."
Bryce elbowed Kyle in an 'I told you so' fashion and they allowed me to enter first.