Friday, January 30, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 6

In the sixth chapter of the worst book of the 1980's, our intrepid heroine comes to the conclusion that the people abusing her were witches. Her not-so-responsible psychiatrist encourages this idea.

Then they go to church.

This is part of her treatment. Despite supposedly having no religious upbringing in her background, Michelle fears that her soul is "threatened" and compromised by the actions of her captors, and she asks to see a priest. Luckily for her, Dr. Pazder happens to know a good priest.

I'm uncomfortable with this scene, for several reasons. First off, I don't mind religion (practiced responsibly) and I have nothing against psychiatry (practiced responsibly). But combining the two? Not good. Has a long history of very unsavory practices that have ruined many an innocent person's life and have even driven some to suicide. Seriously, don't let the twain meet. Even done with the best of intentions, they can make a nasty, toxic combo.

And in case you think I'm just being a big old anti-religion meanie, Dr. Pazder even admits in-text that he knows it's such a not-done thing among reputable psychiatrists to bring "a priest into the psychiatric situation" that there's "almost a taboo against it." Then he does it anyway. Professional ethics, what's that? Sounds like something for boring people who don't scar their patients for life.

So. They go to church and Pazder's priest friend, Father Leo, says Mass for them. On the way there, Pazder gives Michelle a gift: "a small cross he had bought in Rome along with others just like it for his wife and children." I think this is supposed to paint him as an attentive and caring therapist who's really attuned to his patient's needs, but it really just comes off like he's getting way too invested in her emotionally. The church service scares Michelle a little--because the altar and fancy ceremonial trappings ostensibly remind her of Satanist rituals--but she also feels relief, because of her inexplicable inborn Jesus-dar.

After church is over, we get more therapy WTFery. Michelle remembers Malachi being angry and stressed about the possibility that the police will come and find the dead body now festering in the house (Hmm...apparently these people aren't as unknown to the police as I got the impression they were last time an officer of the law showed up. Makes you wonder how Malachi was able to get rid of the guy so easily). She's sent off to clean up and go to bed. The next day, she happens to walk in on Malachi re-dressing the corpse of the murdered "lump" woman (Why bother, Malachi? Aren't the clothes just one more identifying feature that could get the body traced back to you?) but she only gets a glimpse because her mother appears and angrily orders her to go to her room.

Then things get stupid again.

Malachi and her mother awaken her in the middle of the night and drag her along on a car ride, ordering her to "stay on the floor" of the back seat. Then Malachi carries out the dead woman, who Michelle now clarifies has been re-dressed not in her own clothes, but in clothes Michelle recognizes as her mother's. a corpse for a body-dump still seems like unnecessary effort, but I've got to give Malachi points for at least having the foresight to make sure that if she's found, the clothes she's wearing won't be the same as the ones in the "last seen wearing" section of her Missing Persons report.

Malachi puts the dead woman in the front seat--no mention of where mom is sitting; I guess she wasn't invited to come along after all. Michelle is understandably creeped out by riding in the car with a dead person, but there's nothing she can do about it. Malachi drives for quite some time. Then, just as they begin to head downhill on a steep mountain road, he jumps out with a "cruel laugh" and lets the car careen driverless down the hill:

The car gained speed, and Michelle saw that it was headed for a rock embankment. The car smashed into the rock wall. The lifeless body in the front seat shot forward, then came violently back [...] The car had burst into flames. Michelle clawed at the metal till her hands bled. The car was full of smoke and she began to cough uncontrollably.

I know gasoline is volatile stuff, but do cars really burst into flames that easily? Admittedly I don't know much about cars, and I guess 50's cars could well have had a combination of less sophisticated engineering and fewer safety measures that made engine explosions and electrical malfunctions more likely but...this still feels too convenient to me.

Anyway, police and firefighters show up, and we find out that his brilliant plan to dispose of the body involved making it look like the woman had died in a car crash accidentally caused by Michelle:

He told them...he told them I was playing in the back seat. I couldn't believe it. He told them it was because I put my hands over his eyes...that's why.

Malachi, this is an idiotic plan for a body disposal. Let me explain to you but a few of the reasons it wouldn't work in real life (or even really on a TV show):

1. That woman did not actually die in a car accident. That means she's bound to have some injuries that are inconsistent with a car crash victim's, and those will probably be discovered during the autopsy. You might have gotten lucky with the fire possibly obscuring some of those, but unless you tampered with the car somehow, you didn't even know it was going to catch fire.

2. So the car was totaled and caught fire. The woman's corpse is utterly mangled, Michelle is lying on the ground severely burned and gasping from smoke inhalation, and you're apparently standing there in perfect health and strength, without a scratch on you, telling the police that you were involved in the Epic Accident of Fiery Death too. You smell of bovine excrement, Malachi.

3. I'm sure now that you've registered on the police's radar before this happened, Malachi. If you were so worried about them coming back that night--just hours after you'd sweet-talked them into leaving--then the local PD has probably paid you quite a few visits concerning noise complaints and other minor grievances. There's probably at least one officer who has a hunch about you. Who sees you as a guy who seems to get trouble following him around everywhere he goes, and who always has way too ready a response to wriggle out of said trouble. Your extremely suspicious car accident ought to be sending up some serious red flags for more than a few officers.

4. You willingly brought a witness along. One who doesn't like you. What if someone gets Michelle alone and coaxes the real story out of her?

5. The cops are going to ask you some basic questions about your dead passenger, like who she is and why she was in the car with you. Do you even know? It really reads like you don't, and this woman was randomly kidnapped for the purpose of sacrifice. I guess you could say that she's a hitchhiker you picked up, but that only works if you actually did originally pick her up as a hitchhiker and the cops can't say, "Nice try. She was last seen gardening in her front yard, and she had a functioning car and no history of hitchhiking."

6. Seriously, why didn't you just quietly dump the body somewhere remote? Your plan attracted too much attention, and cost you a car to boot.

But since this is the Michelle Remembers world we're talking about here, of course the police totes believe Malachi's shifty-eyed explanation and even let him ride to the hospital in the ambulance with Michelle. Because this is a bleak and desolate land populated by a million people who share one brain among themselves. An old, threadbare, worn-out brain. Which I'm pretty sure one of them mistook for a moldy dish sponge and threw out about ten years ago.  

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