Friday, January 23, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapters 4 & 5

(Note: Chapter 5 is quite short and pointless, so you're getting 2 chapters for the price of 1 this week. Aren't you lucky? SPOILER: No, you're not. This book continues to be terrible.)

Chapter 4

Dr. Pazder sat in his office, staring out the window and thinking of Michelle.

Inappropriately romantic vibes and it's only the fourth chapter! Of course, it doesn't help that the cover of the edition I'm reading looks like the cover of a bad 70's romance novel.

Dr. Pazder felt sure, somehow, that in future sessions, that "warm spot" would always be there...It was critical for a therapist to have that when working with someone. If you could find that place and touch it, then everything else would melt away.

Call me immature, but I giggled like a maniac at this. While simultaneously squirming with discomfort. I've got to wonder if either of them had any idea how...orgasmic...this comes across when they were writing this book.

It was also critical, he knew, that he maintain his objectivity. Had he accepted her story unquestioningly, it would have been impossible for him to give her accurate help.

Unintentionally ironic statement is unintentionally ironic.

So Michelle arrives for her appointment, and she and Dr. Pazder end up cuddling on the sofa with her head resting on his shoulder for the session. For "closeness and security." Welp, that got intimate fast.

Then Michelle starts "remembering" again.

She picks up where the last memory "fragment" left off: With the cultists finishing their ceremony and abruptly exiting the room, leaving Michelle behind. Without cleaning her up, dressing her, or even--as the book will make clear in a moment--locking the door behind them so the traumatized, panicked six-year-old can't get out and tear through the house breaking stuff and getting greasy ointment all over everything. They honestly strike me as sloppy and careless and very likely to get caught, although the book will insist over and over again that they're untouchable evil masterminds.

In fact, they don't even close the door. We know because Michelle peers through it and sees Malachi at the front door talking to a policeman who has apparently come to investigate a noise complaint. Michelle has a brief moment of hope that the policeman has come to save her:

But Malachi, talking smoothly, persuaded the officer that there was nothing amiss, just a party that had become a little boisterous; he would have the guests quiet down. The door shut.

Fair enough; of all the things police are called upon to investigate every day, I get the feeling that noisy parties are pretty low on the list of priorities, and they're more likely to let you off with a warning for a minor noise complaint. Especially if you're polite and apologetic about it.

Predictably, Michelle foils the Satanists' brilliant plan of imprisoning her in an unlocked room and leaving the door open. She sneaks down the stairs, in search of someplace to hide, but becomes transfixed by the sight of a wild orgy the Satanists are having in the living room. She describes the men's dangly bits as "knives" protruding from their bodies and the actual act as people "thrashing against each other as if they were animals" and groaning as if in pain, which I guess is also fair enough considering that enthusiastic sex between adults probably would, in fact, look antagonistic and scary to a little kid who doesn't understand what's going on. Still, it's another unfortunate addition to the pattern of "sex = evil, painful, deviant grossness" that permeates this book.

Instead of running away from the scary sex party, Michelle plunges in looking for her mom. Not sure what it says about her that she just immediately assumed her mom was somewhere in the violent orgy, but there you go.

Then we get a few paragraphs of imagery that I think could actually be distorted from a real memory:

I've got to find my mother....Where's my mother? I don't understand. I don't understand! I want my mom. I want my mom! [...] Because I knew...when I found my'd be okay.

...I thought one of them [the women at the orgy] was my mom, because she had hair like my mom...but she turned around and it wasn't my mom. Her eyes were funny. I hated them! I didn't know what to do.   

Michelle tried to wave at her mother without attracting the attention of the others, to get her mother to see her. She couldn't. She tried and she tried, her heart breaking, desperate for her mother.

Ever get separated from your parents in a public place as a little kid?

I know I did once. I have no clear memory of where we were, or how long I was "lost." I just remember the terrible, crushing feeling of perfect alone-ness, and the panic that just kept growing as I gazed up at stranger after stranger and realized they weren't mom or dad.

That's the kind of experience that stays with you. Even if your mind wasn't quite mature enough to make fully formed memories of the event, you still hold onto the fear. And I could see fear like that manifesting later in life as an element of nightmares brought on by stressful events.

Like, say, losing a parent to cancer.

You know, I'm just gonna call it. This part of the fantasy is a symbolic representation of Michelle watching her mother die of cancer and feeling powerless to stop it, and Dr. Pazder did her a huge disservice by just sitting back and letting her take it literally.

Then we come to one of the most WTF images in the book.

Michelle finally finds her mother slumped half-conscious in a chair, wearing a familiar "black and dressy" skirt. She doesn't respond to Michelle's greetings. Meanwhile, Michelle notices a mysterious moving "lump" (actual size unknown) bulging under her mother's skirt. Thinking that the lump is a snake and is probably hurting her mother, Michelle grabs a bottle from a nearby table and hits it.

For some reason, this gesture makes all the Satanists in the room go ballistic. They converge on Michelle's mother and start viciously battering the lump with their fists while Michelle screams in terror. Soon the lump is a wet mass of blood, and Michelle starts singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" because why the hell not. (Wait, you wanted to know what Michelle's mom was doing while a couple dozen people were using her as a punching bag? Why, she just sitting there and not reacting at all. The book says diddly squat about her reaction.)

And then we get the big reveal.

Are you ready for this, you guys? This might just knock you right out of your seat!

Michelle gets a look at the "lump" and notices that it's wearing...

Red shoes! And is in fact a grown-ass human being, who was still inexplicably small enough to be a small unrecognizable lump when hidden under Michelle's (as far as we know, not a 700-pound gargantuan she-beast) mother's skirt!

Book, I feel like I actually got a little stupider just reading that.

Chapter 5

This chapter feels like it was hacked off of the previous one so the whole ZOMG THE LUMP HAD RED SHOES DUN DUN DUNNNN dramatic twist could serve as a chapter ending. There's not a whole lot to say about it. Pazder reassures Michelle once more that she's not crazy, that she simply split those memories off from the rest of her consciousness in order to keep her sanity. Yeah, reports of that actually happening in real life are greatly exaggerated. No thanks to you two for popularizing the idea.

Then there's a bit where Michelle describes the Satanists getting upset with her because she smeared blood from the "lump" on them. The blood made her feel clean somehow and she thought it might "wash" the adults too.

And of course she smeared the blood in the shape of a cross.

Because, despite never going to church or having any education in the Christian faith whatsoever, Michelle instinctively knew the power of the cross!

Yeah, no. Religion doesn't work that way. Religious symbols only have the power we assign to them, and faith/devoutness is a learned behavior, not an innate one. I call bullshit on Michelle's never-exposed-to-Christianity-before routine. She wasn't born with the impulse to wash away evil people's sins with the Blood of the Lamb and the inherently magical cross symbol. Those are theological concepts that kids have to be taught.

Oh, and Michelle says that cleansing these people with the blood was an intensely happy experience for her, so much so that it "felt like a birthday party." It's meant to show how cutesy and innocent she was.

So the serial killer-y vibe I picked up from that phrasing was probably completely unintended.


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