So Michelle has remembered once again, and is understandably disturbed by her memories. She is initially convinced that she must be crazy, and struggles to come up with a way to make sense of it all:
"I must have just made it up," she said firmly.
YES. Someone get this woman a gold star!
But of course Dr. Pazder talks her out of believing this, and we're right back to babbling about the Creepy Coven of Confabulation again.
Michelle goes on to tell us more about the cult's rituals. She recalls that Malachi would sometimes magically appear from a cloud of smoke at the height of the ceremony. She was impressed by this until she made a fateful discovery:
One afternoon while the nurse was busy elsewhere, Michelle was playing under the stage when she discovered a hole in the floor. She crawled up and found herself inside the white statue...Looking back, now, she realized it was a gimmick Malachi had used to impress the others, Malachi and the nurse believed in the Devil, but they needed the others to believe as well.
This isn't a bad detail, considering the long and proud history of phony trickery-produced "miracles" as a religious conversion/follower-controlling technique. So it is at least somewhat realistic. The only problem is that it doesn't really make sense in the context of the book's world, where we will soon be shown (spoiler!) that Satan is a really real being--and not just in an "abstract negative spiritual force" sort of way, but in a solid, visible, "often appears to his followers in human form" way. Oh, and he can be summoned. Malachi shouldn't need to resort to stage magician shenanigans to make his followers believe in the Devil. Just give the Horned One a ring and say, "Hey, Lucifer, I've got a gaggle of newbies coming to our meeting tonight. Would you mind popping in for a minute or two, with the fire and the brimstone and all? Gotta make a good first impression."
Granted, Michelle Remembers Satan is kind of a shithead. I can see him getting pissy for some stupid little reason and refusing to appear, just to make Malachi look foolish in front of everyone. Though that begs the question of why anyone worships him at all.
Then Michelle talks some about a ritual the coven practiced every night, in which they would rub the blood from a severed finger or arm on the idol. All these body parts came from different people because the cult couldn't go the more efficient route of just "kill[ing] one person and pour[ing] all the blood on that thing in the round room." Then, for one shining, glorious moment, it looks like we might finally get a more in-depth explanation of the cult's beliefs and the meaning behind their rituals.
"Somehow that wouldn't be evil enough."
That sad, squeaky noise you hear is my hopes and dreams deflating.
Also, there's this:
"...Where would they get them [the victims]?
"I'm not sure, but I think...that they got them from accidents and hospitals. It seemed better for them if the person who died had been bad--like a drunk driver or something."
That's it. That's all the explanation we're given. The Satanists in this book don't have theologies. They don't have personalities or fears or wants or superstitions or concrete, comprehensible motivations. They torture Michelle because EVIL. They kill kittens and eat babies because EVIL. They don't even seem to be getting anything worth having out of their worship of Satan, which they only seem to do at all because EVIL. They're not people. They're part of the scenery. They're stiff, shadowy cardboard cutouts looming in the background to provide local color for Michelle, the only "real" person in the flashback scenes.
That's not how you write a proper villain. Or a proper anything. Book, you fail at world-building forever.
By the way, this is the chapter where Michelle and Dr. Pazder finally figure out what we've known all along: The people abusing Michelle are devil worshipers. This is the actual dialogue from that scene. I swear I didn't make it up, it actually appears this way on the actual pages of the actual book:
"The only group I know that fits your description is the Church of Satan."
"My God. You mean, like Satanists?"
1. The Church of Satan didn't even exist until 1966, well after Michelle's "childhood abuse" took place.
2. BWAH?! The people who worship a statue of Satan, told a kid to denounce God, and spent most of the book up to this point doing conspicuously diabolical things turn out to be Satanists? What a tweest! I can't believe it only took you thirteen chapters to come to this conclusion!
3. No, Michelle. He means, like Unitarians. Seriously, who else would belong to the Church of Satan but Satanists?