by James Essex

Jared’s medication was getting too expensive. When he picked up his next 30-day supply at the pharmacy, he had to spend the rest of his pocket money for the entire month. His wages would all go toward rent and utilities, with a little left over for groceries. He wouldn’t be able to buy anything else, not even a used book or a movie ticket. It would be a rough month.

The side effects were getting worse, too. The occultist had warned him that some patients experienced hand tremors and headaches, but she neglected to mention how severe they would be. Whenever he tried to use a pencil, his handwriting looked worse than a three-year-old’s, and after he dropped two glass tumblers in the past week, he had to start drinking out of shatterproof plastic cups. Sometimes his eye sockets ached so much he thought the pressure would crack his face open.

As he walked back to his apartment, he examined the translucent orange bottle and read the machine-printed label for the third time: “SPIRAZOTH: TAKE ONE CAPSULE BY MOUTH EACH MORNING TO WARD OFF DEMONIC POSSESSION.” Below that, it read, “Mistress Angelica, Prescriber.”

Jared’s appointment with Angelica was the first time he’d met with an occultist, even though his mother had pressured him to see one for months, if not years.

“Kids your age all think you’re invincible,” she had said on the phone, “but demonic possession is no laughing matter. It runs in our family, you know. Do you remember what happened to Uncle Albie?”

He did. Albie’s body had been taken over by an archdemon named Maelstrom, changing him from a lovable goof into an insufferable, power-hungry maniac. Maelstrom constantly bragged about his many plans to conquer the world and showed off the same stupid fire-breathing trick at every family reunion.

“I don’t know, Mom,” Jared said. “It’s expensive, I’ll have to take a whole day off from work, and honestly, I’m not sure I’ll be comfortable alone in a room with a naked woman.”

She laughed. “Don’t be silly; occultists are medical professionals. Anyway, she’ll be wearing a cloak.”

After several similar conversations, Jared finally bit the bullet and made an appointment.

He took the day off, walked to the occultist’s office, filled out ten pages of inane paperwork, stripped off his clothes, put on a flimsy disposable cloak, sat down in the candlelit consultation room, and waited. He almost wished he could see a male occultist, but they were only allowed to treat female patients. The experts said it had something to do with gender energy, but the whole thing seemed a little contrived.

Five minutes later, Mistress Angelica entered the room, carrying the clipboard. She had pitch-black hair, brown eyes, and a heart-shaped face. She looked to be in her mid-forties. Her maroon velvet cloak was very revealing, but her manner was completely professional.

“Good afternoon, Jared,” she said. “It looks like this is your first visit with us. What brings you to the office today?”

“My mom is worried that I’m going to get possessed,” he said.

Angelica smiled. “I understand the sentiment. I’m a mom, too.” She pulled a pair of blue vinyl gloves out of a dispenser on the wall. “There’s nothing wrong with a little foresight, though.”

She did several routine tests to examine his vision, hearing, pulse, and reflexes. After that, there was a lot of massaging and squeezing of his torso and limbs. She finally stood back and crossed her arms.

“You’re in excellent physical shape, Jared.”

He sighed. “That’s good to hear.” He noticed a concerned expression on her face. “Isn’t it?”

“Yes and no. As it happens, demons like to inhabit bodies that are young, healthy, and strong. They want to be comfortable.” She paused. “Before I jump to any conclusions, I need to perform one more test.” She gestured for Jacob to stand up and stood directly in front of him. “You might experience some slight discomfort.”

She gazed into his eyes for several seconds. Jared was about to laugh at the melodramatic look on her face when he realized he couldn’t inhale. He tried to look away, but his body was completely unresponsive. He had no choice but to stare into her eyes and hope he wouldn’t pass out from lack of oxygen. After another few seconds, his paralysis let up. He sat down on the examination table and gasped for breath.

Angelica patted his back. “Good. Take deep breaths, and wiggle your fingers and toes.” She sat down on the swivel chair across from him. “Well, your mother was right; you are extremely susceptible to demonic possession. What I just did is called a ‘transient somatic attack;’ it’s very similar to a real demonic attack. I can only sustain the attempt for a few seconds because I’m not a demoness, despite what my kids might tell you.”

Jared took another deep breath. “So what does that mean for me?”

“It means we’re going to have to put you on medication right away to eliminate the risk of possession. For you, the obvious choice is Spirazoth. It makes your body completely inhospitable for demons, and it’s the only drug that’s 100 percent effective given your age and overall health.” She took out a pad and started writing the prescription.

“So there’s nothing wrong with me right now, but I have to take medication anyway?”

“Right. Of course, the drug would still work if you were already possessed, but I don’t think a demon would allow you to take medication that would drive it out of your body.” She tore the prescription off the pad and handed it to him. “Get this filled as soon as you can. I’ll have my apprentice give you a one-week sample pack before you leave.”

She stood up. “By the way, this medication can sometimes cause mild side effects like headaches or hand tremors. If you have any problems at all, contact the office immediately and we’ll address them.” She shook his hand and swept out of the room as he stared at the prescription.

Angelica’s attack had convinced him that preventing possession was important, so he followed her orders and took the drugs every day as prescribed.

Now that three months had passed, the threat seemed a lot less imminent. As he walked home from the pharmacy, he remembered that he hadn’t taken today’s dose yet. He shook one of the dark yellow capsules out of the bottle and into his open palm, then watched it tumble around his trembling hand. A second later, a stab of pain flashed behind his eyes yet again.

The side effects weren’t worth it. He put the pill back in the bottle and screwed the top shut. He considered calling Angelica’s office, but that would mean more appointments, more medication, and more money. Instead, he chose to return the drugs and spend the money on things that really mattered. He turned around and walked back to the pharmacy to get a refund.

After he got home, Jared sat down on his bed and tried to decide what he would buy with his repurposed drug money. He held up his hand and smiled at its stillness, then lay down and began to relax. His headache was almost gone already.

A split second before he fell asleep, my spirit entered his flesh and began to take control. I felt his soul writhe in agony as I settled into his magnificent body.

“My name is Tempest,” I forced him to whisper. “We’re going to have a wonderful life together.”

Copyright © 2014 James Essex