Friday, May 8, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 34

Full disclosure: I read to the ending of the worst book of the 1980's two weeks ago. What I read pissed me off so much that I had to force myself to finish this deconstruction. You've been warned.

The second-to-last chapter opens with Michelle at yet another therapy appointment, complaining that she doesn't feel like saying anything this time. This got my hopes up, but then Dr. Pazder convinces her to start describing her nasty, sordid, pointless ordeals again. Bastard.

Back in the impossibly gigantic round room, Michelle is still pinned to the floor in front of a very angry Satan because she refused to give his stupid bone back. The Satanists have tortured her by stuffing paper into her mouth (where'd they get paper from? I thought they burned all the Bibles.), poking some unidentified object into her ears (Um...say what?) and tearing out one of her fingernails and one of her toenails (I appreciate that having even one nail torn out* hurts like hell, but shouldn't they want to finish the job? They're eeeeeeeeevil villains who live to torture children, after all).

After an indeterminate amount of time, after which Michelle is explicitly described as being "on the verge of death"--though honestly with the way she's been treated throughout the bulk of this book, I'm amazed it took her this long to get to that verge--the Satanists remove the paper from her mouth and the stabby implements--chopsticks? Their fingers? Particularly sharp carrots? Seriously, what were they poking her with?--and let Michelle see how battered and bloody she is so she'll freak out. That's the wrong way to get her to spill the beans on where she put the bone, y'all. Has anyone tried just asking nicely instead of yelling at her and fucking her shit up? But of course you haven't, because Michelle Remembers Satanists are irredeemably stupid evil, the whole lot of them.

But apparently the cult isn't even going to look for the bone anymore, because her "sin" in taking it was somehow so unforgivable that she's to be cast out of Satanism forever. After the lovely way they've treated her, I'm sure she's crushed. Anyway, Satan begins the expulsion process by ordering Michelle to state her name and having her trace an X in the dirt to signify that she's been "crossed out" and no longer has an identity or personhood. Michelle mentions that the X doesn't look like an X from where she's lying, but like a Christian cross, and takes delight in her small act of rebellion. Which is a nice touch, though if she's in as bad shape as she claims to have been, I'm not sure she'd have enough energy or even be conscious enough to care.

     "I've been crossed out," Michelle cried. "He's telling my mom she has to take me back."
                You have to live with this ugly little one!
                Until you can bring me a dutiful son.
                It's your mistake, you'll have to pay.
                I give her back. You can't give her away.

     "I don't want to live at home!" Michelle said, wailing. "I don't want to." Dr. Pazder put her head on his shoulder and let her cry.

...Wait, living at home is worse than living with the Satanists? I mean, Michelle's mom evidently sold her/turned her over to them for whatever reason, so I could see Michelle having resentment and trust issues toward her. On the other hand, the people she was living with sexually assaulted her, hacked her up with knives, killed other children in front of her, and force-fed her dead babies on a regular basis. You'd think that a normal kid would just be so enormously relieved to be finally getting away from those people that the relief would at least temporarily obliterate any negative feelings for the person she was going to live with.

Having finished this very important boo-you-suck ceremony, Satan starts demanding his bone back again. Which is rather unfortunate, since Jesus chooses this moment to pop up and put the formerly safely buried bone back in Michelle's hand.

     Then she felt a hand on her head, and the touch was ineffably comforting.
     "Look," said a voice. "Just look there." It was Ma Mere's son. Lying on the ground, Michelle turned her head painfully and saw the crosses she had drawn in the dirt when Satan had asked her name. "Keep your eyes right there," said the voice, "and hang onto this."
     There was something in her hand. She opened it. It was the fragment of bone. Very small, very old, very fragile. She closed her fist about it again and held it safe...

And then Satan stopped farting around and forcibly took the bone out of the hand of the dying girl like any villain with half an ounce of common sense would have done long before now, because it was obvious from the very start that repeatedly shouting at her to give it back wasn't going to do shit.

Ha ha, just kidding. The Satanic rites end.


She looked over at the Beast. He was watching from the fire, supervising as his attendants packed the altar implements. Satan himself gathered the bones and wrapped them in the altar cloth. Then he turned. The ranks of high priests and worshipers filed toward him, and as each person approached he received a hissing shard of fire from Satan's hands. With that the hordes turned their backs to the altar and began to trudge away. The Satanic phantasmagoria had begun again, and through uncomprehending eyes Michelle saw the marchers pouring from the round room, some legions flowing out over the horizon like flocks of tattered vultures, some sinking into the earth itself.

And...that's it. Satan doesn't demand the oh-so-important bone again. He just finishes the rites, his followers--some of whom are apparently mole people--get his blessing and leave. Like high schoolers when the end-of-class bell rings. There's no explanation that Satan only has so much time that he's allowed to be in physical form and he's just run out, that the rituals are only effective if they're completed at a certain time, whatever. Everything just abruptly stops for no reason except--I strongly suspect--Michelle was sick of talking about her scary Satanic past but couldn't figure out how to end the story.

Does anyone else feel cheated?

And believe it or not, this wasn't even the chapter that made me want to throw the book across the room in fury. That dubious honor is reserved for the next (last) chapter, which I'll get to next week. Brace yourselves for expletives.

*PSA: If your car is ever stuck in the snow, and you're wearing a combo of boots that are slightly too big + slippery socks + toenails that have gotten juuuust long enough to catch on things? No matter how angry and stressed out the situation leaves you, for the love of God don't haul off and kick the car in frustration. It really does hurt like hell. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 33

In the next chapter of the worst book of the 1980's, we get to see the initiation of some new Satanic high priests.

Satan was announcing the initiation of new members into the high priesthood. Thirteen men left the second circle and, threading through the first, approached the altar. The thirteen men had removed their robes and now stood naked.

Wait, all I have to do to make hot dudes take off their clothes for me is start a religion based around myself and operate on insane troll logic all the time?! Why didn't someone tell me sooner? 

Hey, you know what? We haven't seen many naked men in this book at all. There's the orgy scene towards the beginning, and I think maybe a couple of other scenes where the whole cult, male and female, dances around naked, but this is the first scene that explicitly features only naked men, and it happens 33 chapters into a 35-chapter book.

Also? The book just sort of...mentions they're naked, like it's just another minor, neutral detail. I haven't really thought about it until now, but the only "characters" Michelle has described in any way that suggests sensuality were women. A woman character does most of the inappropriate touching she's subjected to, and she notices right away when a woman is pretty whereas she only seems to notice what men look like if they have some sort of unusual or grotesque feature, like the pointy-nosed doctor. I can imagine what the nurse looks like from her (admittedly vague) descriptions. I can't picture Malachi at all.

What does this mean? Did Dr. Pazder dominate the writing process, and make sure parts where women do freaky sex stuff got left in while men doing freaky sex stuff got left out because he was grossed out/afraid of catching TEH GHEY from/made jealous by the latter, while he found the former kinda titillating? Was Michelle struggling with some urges that would have been VERY much not socially acceptable in what seems like a fairly conservative community in the 1970's and she tried to explain them away by coming up with this fantasy where the Devil literally made her do it? Both those possibilities would add yet more unfortunate implications to this book's already overflowing unfortunate implications barrel. it just plain developmentally normal for a kid that age to pay way more attention to grown-up members of their own sex than to members of the other? I don't even know, you guys. Children aren't exactly my area of expertise.

ANYWAY. These thirteen guys go through the traditional Satanic initiation, which means it's time for some finger-choppin':

At [Satan's] command, the man picked up the altar knife. He placed his hand along the rim of the altar, the middle finger lined up on the edge. Then he brought the knife down just above the main knuckle. Incredibly sharp, the knife cut through effortlessly, and the entire finger fell to the ground. From the other side of the altar, Satan handed him a white cloth to stanch the blood: The cloth turned instantly red.

Yay, a specific and highly visible mutilation to signal to the whole world that something is amiss in your life! How strong and fearless must that guy be to chop off the whole digit, probably having to shear through bone, in one go, with no hesitation? Also, unless that cloth is really, really small and gauzy, if he's bleeding profusely enough that he's managed to turn the thing entirely red "instantly?" Yeah, he's gonna die of blood loss right there at the altar, and this whole display was pointless.

The other initiates repeat the process and the cultists gather up the fingers, presumably stepping over the exsanguinated corpses of the priest-initiates to do so, and give the fingers to Satan.

Satan, counted them, and put them in a leather box.

OH HAI EXTRANEOUS COMMAS. Professional proofreaders, what are those?

Then, apropos of nothing, Satan stops what he's doing, glares at Michelle, and demands she give back the bone she stole at the end of last chapter. Michelle is terrified by his angry reaction, but she can't bring herself to obey him:

Michelle felt certain that Satan would kill her now. But something made her determined to hold onto the bone. It was all she had to protect her. She clenched her fist more tightly. She was as scared as she had ever been.

Why does Satan even care? He has lots of bones to choose from--hell, he's just been handed thirteen fingers' worth more!--and it took him a whole pointless ritual to notice that this one was missing, it can't have been vitally important to the ceremony or anything. I guess you could argue that he realizes that she's deriving some comfort from holding it, and he doesn't want her to be comforted, therefore he wants the bone back. But that just makes me wonder why it doesn't occur to Satan that he's big and strong and mean enough to physically pry it out of her hand by force, or even choke her until she passes out and pick it up when she involuntarily relaxes her grip and lets it fall. Were all angels created without the ability to use basic common sense and the initiative to do stuff for themselves, or just Satan?

Then Michael shows up to tantalize Michelle with the promise of security at some point in the future and bless the bone she's holding, though I have no idea why because it won't turn out to have any significance or use whatsoever except making Satan irrationally mad. Then he buggers off and leaves Michelle to the mercy of the advancing Satanists. She runs around to confuse them, manages to bury the bone in the ensuing chaos, and runs around some more:

The black robes were everywhere now. She attempted to run by them--and saw Malachi.

You know, I'd been wondering what became of him since Michelle thought up better villains on the fly was handed over to the cult's higher-ups.

The cult drags her back to Satan, who yells at her and threatens to harm her mother if she doesn't give up the bone; Michelle insists that she doesn't have it anymore and offers to let him take one of hers instead. Unfortunately, instead of being a proper villain and gorily taking her up on her offer, Satan has his minions torture her for her transgression by...

Painting her up like a skeleton.

Whatever, book.    

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 32

Once the weird out-of-place chapter is over, we open the next one with the observation that Michelle has been reliving that part of the ceremony--the weird performance-arty crucifix-whittling part--for a week now.

I initially took this to mean that the memory was so fragmentary that it took her a week to assemble it into any coherent form. Which would go a long way toward explaining why the last chapter felt so incomplete and unconnected to the chapter before it.

Then I read on and, nope, that memory wasn't fragmentary:

     ...She had listened as carefully as she could, day after day, while he ponderously declaimed and harangued, laying out a vast scheme of evil intention, concealed within the drivel of the rhymes. 

So Satan's little absurdist theater routine literally took a whole week? While his followers just stood there like lumps and stared? Seriously, book, do they ever break to eat and sleep and poop during this ceremony? And what happened to the angelic armies that appeared at the end of chapter 30 and then were inexplicably gone in 31? Were they just standing there like lumps too this whole time? Why aren't they doing anything?

Satan suddenly looks upset and starts sniffing the air. (Hey, ever notice how everybody automatically ascribes regular mundane senses like smell, sight, touch, etc. to supernatural beings like Satan? Why does no one ever depict angels as having an entirely different set of senses too alien for us to comprehend?) He's apparently realized that there's someone hiding in the crowd "who was not one of Satan's own." Satan must be phenomenally unobservant if he's only just noticing this now after the weeks he's spent hanging out with these folks.

The high priests started rubbing against each other in a studied, formal sequence. They were watching for someone to make a mistake, someone who did not know the routine, the way to rub, the steps to take.

Ya know, if this group gets infiltrated often enough that they've developed a specific protocol to weed out moles, you'd think we'd have records of their existence from other sources than Michelle. Especially if Lucifer the Clueless routinely lets spies go unnoticed for days on end like this.

The cultists find the spy, who turns out to be one of the high priests. He gets stabbed in the back, the real high priests chuck his body into the fire, everybody's happy. Well, except for Michelle, who freaks out so hard she starts trying to dig her way to freedom through the dirt floor. (Predictably, Satan kicks the dirt back into the hole while she digs like that one asshole kid on the beach who goes around knocking down everyone's sandcastle.)

     The fire was growing bigger. As [Michelle] watched, the flames parted around a blazing chasm. From deep within, she could hear childish voices, the crying of infants:
     "Mommy! Mommy! Help!" a little voice called. There was the sound of running footsteps. A woman rushed up and pushed her way through to the center.

     "Mommy! Mommy!" The small voice was full of fright.

     "My baby!" the woman cried. "I've got to get my baby!" The fire grew higher and the black hole wider. Satan laughed.

Are you not even listening to the overused Admiral Ackbar meme, lady?    

     The woman ran over to the black hole and reached down. As she fell, there was a scream, an undulating howl. It stopped abruptly. And that was all.
     Satan laughed again.

              People will do anything for a child. 
              They will kill and steal and run wild,
              Fall into my pit.

He slammed his tail on the ground. It was like a thunderclap. The hole closed up.

So, book, are you going to use this incident to explain my long-standing question of why the Satanists don't use their own children for these rituals? Is it because even they, the evilest of the evil, feel love and attachment to their kids, and therefore wrangling reluctant strangers' children who weren't brought up in their ways is worth it to them, because it means their own offspring won't suffer? Are you going to *gasp* humanize your villains a little?

Nope. This nameless Satanist lady who cares about her kid is just another big-lipped alligator moment in a book that's already chock-full of them, and we motor right on into the next bit of the ritual.

The cultists start bringing loads of bones into the room. A footnote assures us that most of this supply of bones comes from church reliquaries that the Satanists broke into. It's okay, Satanists, a lot of those relics were probably counterfeits anyway. Then Satan spreads some bones on the altar and goes through some sort of numerology-style rite with them, in a long, boring scene where Satan seems to ignore his followers completely and focus all his attention on his bone-counting for an uncomfortably long stretch of time. Say it with me: Why does anybody worship this guy again?

We do get a brief indication that the heavenly forces are still watching, though. Michelle starts pretending to be a puppy during the bone-counting ritual, and the archangel Michael essentially steps in to tell her to straighten up, fly right, and pay some goddamn attention. Nice.

We end with Michelle attempting to escape once more, getting herded back by the Satanists, and swiping a small bone that falls from the altar after she knocks into it. Good for her. Maybe if she tries really hard, she can keep this moment from becoming one of the complete non-sequitur vignettes that make up a good third of this chapter.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 31

I think I have a post somewhere where I referred to the Satanic rituals in this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad book as "bad performance art."

Well, welcome to the most bad-performance-artsy chapter yet.

We start with Satan delivering a long, rhyming speech about "his intentions and his wishes for the next twenty-eight years" while whittling away at a wooden crucifix. Which means that this chapter is going to be much heavier on the bad poetry than usual. Shit.

Oh, and there's also a footnote explaining that the Satanic counting system is "inclusive," which somehow means that what would be 27 years for us is 28 years for them. Sounds like an attempt to plug up mathematical holes in their precious "the Satanic calendar is perfectly attuned to the Christian calendar!" theory to me. Also that Michelle's remembering was probably triggered by "Satan's return to earth in 1977." There's something I find hilarious in the way the book just casually mentions this and takes it for granted that it actually happened. I wonder what the Lord of Lies made of disco and bellbottoms?

Anyway, on to the crap poetry:

              I write a Master Plan
              Of the destiny of man. . . .

Aaaannnd already I wish he'd shut up. Just stop, Satan. Nobody likes pretension.

Satan then picked up a large, wooden crucifix. During the course of the ceremony, he would whittle away at the carved statue of the crucified Christ until there was nothing left. Symbolically of the way he works in the world--undercutting--he would start his whittling at the foot of the cross and proceed upward.

So what exactly are the Satanist masses doing while Satan does this? Just standing there watching him? Whittling away at even a small scrap of wood until it's entirely reduced to chips takes a non-zero amount of time. Whittling away a "large" wooden crucifix (and some large crucifixes can be very, very large indeed) probably takes forever. And there's already been hours, maybe days, of ritual before we even got to this point. I hope Satan at least lets his followers sit down once in a while. Seriously, when do we ever see them doing the normal non-Satanic-ritual activities they'd need to function, like breaking for lunch or going to the bathroom? We don't, because they're all just walking, talking stage props. 

              First, cut away the feet;
              Make a man feel incomplete.
              Lose his footing, lose his ground;
              Lose the way to walk around.

              Pretty soon you have no knees;
              Then you can't bend, can't say please.

I give up. Satan's not even trying with these rhymes anymore.

We get three more pages of this. Three pages of the worst rhymes imaginable, describing childish "symbolism" that a kindergartner would be embarrassed to come up with. The most interesting thing I can point out about it is that the part where the hands and arms are whittled away comes well before the part where the head is whittled away--which makes sense in theory, but must have been a little clumsy in practice since crucifixes usually show Jesus with his arms stretched out against the crossbeam and his head hung low in sorrow, putting arms and head at roughly the same level. Some particularly melodramatic examples have Jesus hanging his head so low that the arms are noticeably above the head.

So if Satan follows the exact path the song takes (feet > knees > hands? WTF? That's an awfully big jump. > loins > stomach > arms > heart > head) then he can't whittle continuously. He'll have to change positions several times, probably losing his rhythm each time he does.

He'll also have to either stretch out each verse to accommodate the amount of time it takes him to whittle away the body part it correlates to, or have uncomfortable silences between verses.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Why does anybody worship this fool again? He makes them stand and literally watch him chip wood for three hours while he drones his inane ideas at them, and he doesn't even provide lunch. At least boring Christian churches usually treat you to coffee and doughnuts after the service.

On and on went Satan, reeling off his seemingly absurd, twisted, malign rhymes. Syllable by syllable he droned them out, until Michelle thought her brain would explode and her heart would stop.   

And...that's it. That's the end of the chapter. Five pages of Satan giving a weird pretentious rhyming sermon with a bizarre, impractical visual aid, a few mentions of Michelle being scared and sad and helpless, and the chapter ends.

Say, did this chapter leave you feeling like something was...missing?

Like there was something important that went un-addressed?

Something like, oh, maybe a shining legion of angels?

Remember the end of last chapter, when the heavenly forces showed up to save Michelle from the powers of darkness? I sure do; the text made a big fucking deal of what an epic, cosmically significant moment this was. Satan made a big deal of it too; remember how he went into challenge mode and shook his fist in anger at the intruders, and it all seemed like a setup for some sort of big exciting action scene?

Welp, that big exciting action scene didn't happen. Michelle didn't get saved. Satan jumped straight from angrily bellowing a challenge at the heavens to dry, boring sermonizing without any hint that he's aware of the intruders in the room. If the forces of light are still present, they're being awfully quiet; Michelle never notices or mentions them either.

So what gives?

Was this chapter supposed to come earlier in the book, and somebody at the publishers messed up and put it here instead? Were Michelle and Dr. Pazder just so damn proud of Satan's "clever" rhymes (God, that's the saddest thought I've had all day) that they just had to include this exchange in the book somehow, and failed to notice that they'd stuck it in a really awkward place?

Or maybe this iteration of Satan is just so close to an elementary school student on the developmental scale that having these uninvited angels crash his party has pushed him into "I'm not talking to you! Lalalalala I caaaan't heeeaar yooou!" mode? And now he's determined to continue the ritual as if they weren't there and look like he's having a grand old time with his followers, so those stupid party-crashing angels know exactly how hard he's snubbing them? Even if it requires, you know, discussing his battle plans in detail right in front of the arrayed forces of his enemy?

*sigh* To protect my faith in people's basic competence and ability to be recognize and be ashamed of bad poetry, I'm picking option C. Michelle Remembers Satan, you are hands-down the worst Satan ever.

Well, two can play your little game.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 30

The next chapter of the worst book of the 1980's is just as short as the previous two. Somehow, though, it manages to be more full of fail and creepiness than both of them put together, so it gets its own post.

From the present-day weirdness of last chapter, the narrative jumps back to where it left off in the interminable Feast of the Beast flashback, and Christmas must have come early this year, because the text starts dumping stuff that I can nitpick into my lap right off the bat:

     The circles grew quiet. They knelt on the ground. Satan took a large book and opened it but did not read. Instead he began to recite:

               Listen with attentive ears.
              All the evil ones must hear,
              How to gather at this darkest hour;
              How to multiply our power.

The wording here is pretty clunky. How does Michelle know that Satan is not reading from the book? How he's holding it isn't specified, but I would guess, since he doesn't seem to be the fatherly type who'd stoop down and let the little kid follow along as he reads, that he's standing up and holding the book open in his palms and Michelle isn't tall enough to see the pages. In which case I guess she assumes that what Satan is saying is not what's in the book because the words are in rhyme and that's how he normally talks. Or does she mean he's reading aloud to his followers, which is somehow different enough from "regular" reading that a different word is needed to describe it? And if he's not actually reading these words from the book, why does he need the book at all? Where did he even get it from? Did someone hand it to him, or was it already there? Editors are your friend, book.

We learn that the ritual has gone on so long that Michelle has just sort of resigned herself to Satan's presence:

She scarcely noticed now as a new vision began; she had grown used to the amazing fact that, whenever the Beast spoke, he also was able to project colossal three-dimensional images illustrating what he was saying, in the center of which were his listeners, and that his voice came from all four directions at once. Earlier, she had been baffled as well as frightened by his facility for issuing four different messages in opposite directions simultaneously. She had learned that one must listen to one message or to the other, but never to all, or one would go mad trying to make sense of the gibberish.

OH HAI THAR, NOT-MENTIONED-BEFORE SUPERPOWER. The image-projection thing is familiar, but I don't remember any mention of the voice-from-all-directions thing until right now. Which seems awfully weird, because if these events progressed at all realistically (i.e. if Michelle wasn't making them up as she went along) you'd think that she would have made note of something as unique and freaky as Satan being able to say four different things at once and told us about it earlier.

Also, Michelle understood what Satan was saying as soon as he appeared on the scene. If he were talking in stereo from the beginning, we should have seen her go through a period of not understanding what the hell he's saying and wondering if it is actually human speech at all. Learning to understand him should have been a possibly-lengthy trial-and-error process for her, especially while she's still too scared to think straight.

Oh, and this particular superpower strikes me as a pretty useless one. What good is being able to say four things at once if your listeners have to focus on only one thing you're saying, thus missing three out of four messages, or receive none of the messages at all? Does Satan have to divide his followers into groups and have each group listen to one specific speech at once? How are these groups divvied up? Or is his image-projection trick something he came up with to provide visual aids for human followers who can't understand him when he speaks? These are questions that would actually be interesting if the book cared enough to explore them, damn it.

Anyway, the ritual goes on, Satan recites some more shitty poetry that I think I'd personally rather go insane hearing the all-directions-at-once gibberish than listen to, and the cult welcomes a new initiate, a young woman in white who begins her initiation by standing before Satan and slashing her clothes off with a knife. A bit weird, but not too bad compared to a lot of the stupid, impractical rituals we've seen so far...until the book takes it to the next level:

She raised her arms and, holding her long black hair with one hand, sawed at it with the knife held in the other, sawing and hacking until the hair was gone. Then she lay on the ground--face down first and then on her back. She swung the knife over her head, around and around, and then, smiling lovingly, she began to slash her face, mutilating at random.

Oh, goody, another extravagant blood ritual that'll leave obvious physical marks! Seriously, how does all the finger-chopping and face-mutilating and likely zoonotic disease-contracting not make it super-duper easy to tell at a glance who in your community belongs to the Satanic cult? Unless Satan magically erases all scars afterwards, which doesn't seem like something he'd bother to do.

The tail uncoiled from Michelle's legs and writhed freely. It was a snake again now, a tail, a snake, a tail again. And then Michelle saw that it was not one tail but two. One of the tails began to slither into the circles, weaving along the ground among the feet of the worshipers. The figures would break rank and approach the tail, engaging it in an obscene, ritualistic dance. The Beast stood by the fire, watching his own tail perform with the celebrants. Now the fire shot up toward the ceiling; the dancing became more frenzied.

Because there's nothing creepy at all about a dude who a) obviously doesn't give a crap about boundaries and consent and b) has a semi-sentient, detachable schlong-like appendage that he can send out to violate, er, dance with anyone he pleases.

Then a mysterious light appears in the room and Michelle hears an unidentified heavenly voice (it's described as sounding a lot like Michelle's own voice, so maybe it's her imaginary friend who only exists when the plot demands it? Or the girl the cult murdered to make her think they were killing said friend? I don't even know anymore.) tells Michelle that Mary told her to say she was doing a good job with her poorly-defined mission because "The Beast doesn't usually talk so much." Yes, really.

First off, Michelle isn't doing much of anything. She's just standing there and being terrorized. Second, I wouldn't consider it a victory if I got this version of Satan to talk more than he usually does. If I had to listen to him, even for just five minutes, I'd probably give my left arm to make him shut up. Third, are you finally going to tell us why the forces of Heaven have been slacking off and allowing the poor kid's suffering to be prolonged?

Nope. The voice from the light tells her she must "stay--and then see and then find" and fades out. Then this happens.

The noise increased immensely--the NYUNG, NYUNGG, NNYUNGG below in conflict with the WHOOSSHH WHOOSSHH from above. The forces of light had come to save Michelle from the forces of darkness.

YAY! Finally they're doing their job!

She had become a trophy of sorts in the cosmic strife. Victory would be determined by whether or not she could withstand.

*face falls*

Sure, let's put all the weight and responsibility of this cosmic battle on a little six-year-old girl. Sure, we have the scary-ass monster-beasts that guard the Tree of Life with flaming swords and terrifying living wheels of fire and Jesus freakin' Christ on our team, but of course she doesn't need our help to defeat the angry rogue angel who's been dragging her around the room while she flails helplessly for days now and could easily kill her by accident even if he didn't actually mean to. She really seems like she's got everything under control.

You know those cutesy little winged babies from Renaissance
art? This is what they *ought* to look like. (via Fanpop)

Seriously, though, it's just really, really awful and shameful when adults drag children into their petty little quarrels. And it's even worse when one of those adults is God. I imagine Michelle and Pazder thought they were adding great dramatic tension to the story with this scene. I doubt they sat down to examine it and realized what a negative light that last line casts the ultimate forces of goodness in.

The chapter ends with Satan getting pissed that the forces of light interrupted him again, which I'm sure totally won't result in him violently taking his anger out on Michelle again while the "good guys" dither around just a little longer:

     Satan was furious. He roared so loud the sky seemed to crack, and he threw flame from his fingers.
     "How dare you interrupt the Feast of the Beast?"

I'm pleasantly surprised that Satan managed one more instance of saying something without making a trite little rhyme of it. Also, in my head, I couldn't resist imagining him saying this last line in a whiny teenage girl voice. "MOOOO-OOOM, how could you invite Chrystal to my party?! We haven't been friends since last month! GAWD!" Like I've said before, when you're stuck reading an irredeemably bad book, you take whatever small opportunities for amusement come your way.     

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapters 28 and 29

These two chapters are pretty short and pretty pointless, but I'll give you a quick summary anyway:

Chapter 28

Satan makes his face look like a pig's face, because he can, I guess. Then he forces Michelle to watch while an unspecified number of cultists approach the altar. These cultists are all carrying pitchfork-like implements--I don't know why, since they don't actually use them--and a dead baby. They offer the babies to Satan, who tears the bodies to pieces and smears his followers with the blood. Then, since Satan's apparently a greedy bastard who isn't satisfied with just one blood sacrifice, the cultists cart in a teenage girl tied to a large cross, whom he also hacks to bits. Then thirteen women in black come in and offer up "little black bundles," which Satan consumes with fire. We're not told what's in the bundles, and I think we're meant to conclude that they're also dead babies, but I'd like to think that these thirteen women were the only sane, practical Satanists in the group and their offerings were something useful. Maybe a honey-baked ham. I'd demand sacrifices of honey-baked hams if I were a monstrous god of darkness.

This whole baby business, by the way, shows just how unsustainable Satanism as Michelle Remembers describes it would be as a real-life religion. I doubt you can buy dead babies in bulk. Particularly not ones so freshly dead that their blood is still flowing. People who believed in baby-murdering cults seemed to recognize what a big plot hole this was and tried to explain it away with everything from wild stories about Satanic "baby breeders" to scaremongering about abortion, but none of these explanations can possibly account for the sheer number of babies you'd need to keep a giant cult for which a dead baby is an "object as necessary to the proper performance of the Black Mass as bread and wine are to the Catholic Mass" well-supplied enough to operate as we see them operate on the pages. Especially not abortion, since the majority of those are performed well before the "baby" is even recognizable as human.

Chapter 29

This chapter shows Dr. Pazder and Michelle taking up progressively more of each others' time (he only sees his other, non-special patients in the mornings now, and she sees him pretty much every day) and then Dr. Pazder has her take an EEG while "remembering" to detect possible anomalies in her brain waves. The neurologist reports that there's nothing at all unusual about the results. Dr. Pazder doesn't quite believe him and sends Michelle to have her skull x-rayed. The x-rays come back negative too.

Then Pazder and Michelle talk about her rash, which hasn't gone away. Michelle says that her dermatologist was surprised she hasn't been treating said rash with anything, which strikes me as a pretty good explanation for why it's not going away. Then there's this:

     "Contact dermatitis, mmh? That's what he said?" Dr. Pazder asked. She nodded.
     "Well, he's right, of course. It is a contact rash--but how could we ever make him understand that the contact was made twenty-two years ago?"
     Michelle smiled. "Or," she said, "that it wasn't a plant I contacted but the tail of Satan."

Two things:

One, Michelle's making awfully light of her experience here. I know humor can be helpful in coping with trauma, and far be it from me to tell abuse victims how to "properly" react to their abuse, but...well, if I was in her place, I know I wouldn't be acting all cutesy and "tee hee hee, he thinks I got poison ivy when I was actually molested by the Lord of Lies! Isn't that just precious?"

Two, Satan's tail is...pretty sensual. The way it's described and used in the book makes it seem really, really phallic. So a dude rubs his tail all over you, and you then break out in a livid, scabby rash...seriously, Michelle, you're doing no one any favors by leaving your hell-clap untreated. Go and get some penicillin before you pass it on to Dr. Pazder.

Like I said, pointless. Don't worry, things will get exciting (well, about as exciting as you can expect from this book) next chapter.          

Monday, April 13, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 27


Sorry, sorry. Tax week + trying to force myself to read more of the worst book of the 1980's for future blog posts = frustration, inaction, and deep, terrible, pitch-black hatred for all living things.

But my taxes are done and turned in and we've only got a few chapters to go, so let's just plow ahead and finish this shitheap. I've got a major treat in store for after we've finished it, I promise.

So. On to the nonsense. As the chapter opens, Dr. Pazder is setting up various video cameras to record Michelle's next session. He also thinks he's got the whole Satanic calendar figured out based on a combination of the incredibly vague, shaky details Michelle fed him and "facts" that Father Guy and "other authorities experienced in these unusual areas" apparently pulled out of nowhere. The calendar of Satanic festivals mirrors the Christian liturgical calendar, because of course it does; just like those sneaky, evil Satanists to appropriate other people's religious holidays, the bastards. He explains that the events Michelle describes in this book are part of something called "the Feast of the Beast" (you know, cultists, just because your loser god has a rhyming fetish, it doesn't mean you have to as well), a special "Black Mass" that takes place once every twenty-seven years. This special rite lasts for eighty-one days, and--

*record scratch*

Wait, run that by me again--eighty-one days?

I thought you just said that Satanists copied the Christian calendar for their devil-y devilish devil-worshiping calendar, book. What weirdo Christian holiday haven't I heard of that lasts for eighty-frickin-one days? Or only takes place every twenty-seven years, for that matter? Lent is the closest possibility I can think of, but it only lasts for forty days. And it happens every year.

Plus, the book tells us that Michelle's "Feast of the Beast" went on from September 7 to November 27 of 1955, which comes nowhere near to corresponding to the dates for Lent.

And that's not even getting into the hassle and disruption of work and everyday life and--for non-Canadian Satanists--complex travel plans and paperwork that taking part in a religious festival that eats up nearly three months would generate. No wonder they don't do it every year.

Anyway, before we get down to the nitty-gritty of Michelle's disturbingly sexualized hallucinations flashbacks, we're given a brief description of what the Black Mass entails: Satan leads a procession around the room, stopping periodically to give his followers mystical visions of Hell and deliver a speech about "the current status of evil" in the world, whittle away a crucifix and throw the pieces into the fire, and watch as new priest-initiates cut off fingers to prove their loyalty. And in case this is all starting to sound suspiciously like bad performance art to you, fear not--it's also strictly, pretentiously choreographed:

That's the Horns of Death, "the Satanic emblem used on the altar cloths and the backs of cloaks" which I distinctly remember being described as a thirteen-pointed star--which this thing looks nothing like--in earlier chapters, but whatever. The procession moves along a path that suggests this very sacred, ancient, and suddenly-appearing-for-plot-purposes shape. It makes me wonder, yet again, just how enormous this room would have to be for the vast multitudes of Satanists Michelle describes in previous chapters to be concentrated into those tiny circles in between the "horns" and still have acres of space to move about in. Also a shit-ton of unused space, if we're following Michelle's admittedly rather shaky continuity and assuming the room is still round.

Anyway, flashback time.

Michelle, weak and unsteady on her feet from pain, notices that the circles of Satanists are starting to form into lines, making a path for Satan who is now emerging from the fire. Which, of course, means bad news for Michelle:

Coiling his tail around her waist, he paraded along on monstrous legs, dragging her up one of the paths defined by the rows of priests. Gasping, Michelle saw that, wherever he stepped, his footprints were burned into the ground.

The more I read about Michelle Remembers Satan, the more I wonder why the Satanists ever bother to summon him into the physical world at all. People don't tend to like it when huge terrifying monsters roar at them and create storms in their houses and burn their property, no matter how evil and delusional said people are. Also, why isn't it within Satan's capability to take on a form where he wouldn't be wrecking everyone's shit without even trying, or scaring the crap out of the little girl whose cooperation is apparently very important to the ritual? Is it just that he can, but won't be bothered to? Remind me again why anyone puts up with this braying jerk long enough to worship him for eighty-one straight days?

Then Satan does something that is actually cool, which is rather out of character for him, but I'll take it anyway. He conjures up visions of his plan for the future, so real and vivid that Michelle feels as if she's right in the middle of them.

And you know what? I actually like those visions:

     Looking down, Michelle saw a city, in minute detail. There was a man standing at a window high in a skyscraper. Behind him she saw a luxurious office. The man was looking out over the city, but his vision was turned inward. He was in despair. That was all she saw. A glimpse of a man, of an emotion.
     The skyscraper and the man disappeared. Now she saw a nice-looking man, a good man who had made a mistake or come to the end of his rope...The man went to a telephone booth on the corner, and dialed a number. The telephone rang, but no one answered...He leaned his head against the glass side of the booth for a moment, and then he walked away into the night. He had given up. It was too late.
     Another scene was summoned up. A woman was sitting on a sofa in front of the fire. There was an empty glass in her hand. She was listening to a phonograph record. The music came to an end, but the record kept going around and around, wup, wup, wup...The woman did not move. She sat there holding the glass, staring into loneliness. The child felt her despair.

Wow. Wow. That is the setup for an evil plan far, far too complex and mature to have come from the villains of this book. Remember the banal evil fail in the last chapter? This is believable as the aftermath of an actual, viable banal evil villain's actions. How real and scary would this book feel if the "Satanists" were actually some sort of bland, suited-and-tied think tank or special interest group constantly coming up with ideas for breaking down institutions and social structures that encourage human connections, while perpetuating the ones that break down communities and relationships and push people into lives of isolation and depression? Not out of over-the-top, cackling, I'M A CARE BEAR VILLAIN WHO HATES FEELINGS evilluls, but out of some misguided sense that the "old ways" are somehow holding back progress. Or even just not fully understanding the importance of those ways, due to stunted empathy and a lack of imagination.

Ah, but it's hard to write a villain like this (and the book flushed the possibility down the toilet long ago when it started cramming insane troll villains and over-the-top supernatural events down our throats anyway), so our authors don't even try. Instead, Michelle closes out the chapter by informing us that all high priests of Satan cut off the middle finger of their left hand as part of their initiation into the cult. Given what a treacherous sea of impossible images and conveniently-suddenly-existing-for-plot-purposes characters, rites, buildings, and logic this book is, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the Satanists have morphed into the Yakuza. Or maybe Satan just got sick and tired of being flipped off. Given his lovely personality, I bet it happens to him a lot.