The True Meaning of Demoniacks
Eyes bulged in futile fright. Damp hands tremblingly coerced a stack of papers into order, which collected—surely—certain truth, composed with rigor and across the span of months. He paused, now, in his endeavor, having sensed it: subject of inquiry, object of his mortal terror.
We watched Francis as he sat within the dingy walls that constituted his home and read. He was reading of the man possessed, so it is said, by Legion, who are many. They who are many filled his thoughts as he read in utter silence and his mind labored fiercely; it was constructing a vast edifice of logic, complex latticework held together mainly by its own internal strength, shaky but sufficient for now. Linguistic and textual evidence, let alone truth, served as architectural flourishes rather than necessary fortifications. The truth, a weathercock, with shaky purchase rested on the structure’s peak, dancing in the wind, drawing the eye. It drew ours. He had come to believe that his edifice was unassailable. The keystone: that we were visitors from elsewhere. Not from the infernal realms or those of the dead, but regions more distant and obscure. He reasoned it an error to unite two unassailable facts: first, that death grants passage to parts unknown, and, second, that those not yet departed are under watch, if not care, by certain invisible beings: us. One fact need not produce the other, he claimed. Perhaps we could be seen only through a special keenness of perception, which might match his beautiful logic and which, he observed with trepidation and satisfaction both, he himself possessed.
This much is true and known to history: In 1737, one T.P.A.P.O.A.B.I.T.C.O.S. released into the world a new volume: An Enquiry into the Meaning of Demoniacks in the New Testament. The author—given name, Arthur—opted for a pseudonym to disguise his revelations, plumbing exegetical depths to explain that so-called demons are truly ghosts; and demoniacs, claiming possession, are possessed in fact of the symptoms of madness. Madness, in fact, that the threats we posed did not seem real enough; that one had to interpret us into reality.
Unknown, perhaps untrue: Among dozens of replies, another was brewing, The True Meaning of Demoniacks, to be released likewise pseudonymously by T.M.C.I.A.I.O.T.F.A.A.S. —that is, by our Francis. As Francis sat and read and thought and built his edifice of words, he soon sensed sudden movement in the corner of his eye: movement and color. Something stirred or shimmered there, in his room, and he flinched before he craned his head to catch it—catch us. He thought it must be the shifting of the light, the curtain that hung between him and the day’s dull shining. He stood up, glanced sidewise, toward stirring or shimmering’s source, and paused. Nothing real ensnared his senses, and what he thought he saw was simply that: delusion, cooked up into a stew of conviction. But wasn’t that always the way? As for us, we felt enraptured by his dizzying claims, compelled by him as he by us. We had always been nothing if not lurking figments of new and startling interpretations. By such arcane practice, one found oneself possessed. Francis succumbed in the manner that we loved, eyes weary, mind and soul afire with doubt and a species of desire that we craved: desire to know. It would lead him down a road, traveling which he would love and fear every minute, convinced that invisible companions would soon appear. But that road we did not travel. There was no need: he had constructed for us an edifice in which we could not just live but roam and rove and even settle down for years.
Convinced by his own perceptive powers, Francis returned to the table. He gathered in his hands the stack of papers, noble, dingy manuscript that may one day travel a road of its own. It would never come to pass, but the pretty thought diverted him. As for us, we danced about him unseen, reveling in the pretty thing, whatever it was, that he called truth.
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