Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 14

So in the decon of an earlier chapter of the worst book of the 1980's, I touched on the idea that the Satanists tormenting the unwilling Michelle could have gotten better results by just raising a kid in their faith and thus making a willing sacrificial victim out of said kid. But that's not the story we got (sigh. That would have been a much more interesting and suspenseful story) and the next chapter focuses on the cult's attempts to systematically break down Michelle's will after she ruined the last ritual with her non-compliance, so let's take this opportunity to examine their brainwashing techniques:  

1. Intimidation

In the days following the ceremony in the round room, [the nurse] never left the tiny girl alone. Her training was unremitting. Sometimes they would sit together and look at photographs--but they were all pictures of corpses, and all the people had died violent deaths...The nurse never said, but Michelle had the feeling that it was these dead people who had provided them with blood for their ceremonies with the white thing.

Pros: Scares the kid into silence, maybe.

Cons: So you've done a little body snatching--and maybe also a little ineptly disguised murder--to obtain human body parts for your Satanic blood rituals. Both these activities are crimes. Photos of the victims' bodies are evidence of those crimes. Which means that to use this intimidation tactic, you have to 1) hang onto a big stack of evidence which could incriminate you and 2) show all of said evidence to a witness who could incriminate you.

2. Emotional abuse

     Every day the nurse would take Michelle out in the car...They drove directly to a street where Mrs. Harding [Michelle's mother] lived, and the nurse parked and let Michelle watch. She saw her mother leave the house and walk down the street, but the nurse kept Michelle from jumping out of the car and running after her mother...After a few days, Michelle began to wonder whether maybe her mother knew that she was there.
     One day, after they had been parked for a while, she saw her mother coming down the street, walking with another little girl. The girl was holding Mrs. Harding's hand. Michelle wanted to chase after them, to take her mother back from the other little girl, but the nurse smacked Michelle and forbade it.

Pros: Breaks the bond between mother and daughter and makes Michelle more pliable and submissive to her "new mother" the nurse, I guess.

Cons: Where'd they get another little girl? And even when they had her...Look, I've lived in suburban areas for most of my life, and I can tell you from experience that suburban neighborhoods--and I am getting the feeling that Michelle's mom is a suburb dweller--often have certain residents who drive all the other residents crazy by being nosy and paranoid as fuck. You're telling me Michelle's mom's neighborhood doesn't have even one old biddy who eats, drinks, and breathes neighborhood gossip? Because someone like that is totally going to notice that a neighbor of his/hers has suddenly started walking around with some strange kid who's not their real daughter--not to mention that strange car that's taken to hanging about the curb for hours every day. Also, kids are pretty damn unpredictable little critters. I'm sure the nurse thinks she has everything under control, but my parents also thought they had everything under control up until about half a second before my then-five-year-old brother started trying to kill my younger sisters by pushing them off the top of a McDonald's Playland slide.* With just one moment of distraction on the nurse's part, Michelle could slip out of the car and cause the whole plan to devolve into chaos.

3. Messing with her sense of food safety

The nurse would give her a bowl of soup for lunch, but the bowl would have a mass of bugs or worms at the bottom. Michelle would eat a few mouthfuls before she saw them, then vomit up what she had already swallowed. Eventually she just refused to eat at all.

Pros: Um...boosts your evil cred, I guess?

Cons: This seems like a pretty counterproductive breaking technique. I guess it's meant to scare Michelle into obedience, but what good is obedience if your prisoner is too weak from hunger to do your bidding? Also you'd have to make the soup, obtain bugs and worms to put in it, and make sure the bugs and worms are hidden exactly right, so the victim will take a few bites--but no more than a few bites!--without seeing them. In soup, which is kind of hard to hide solid things in on account of it usually being either opaque-but-smooth creamy goop or veggies and meat chunks floating in slightly cloudy water. All in all, this seems like not a terribly good return for all the work you'd have to put in.

4. Imprisoning her in a grave and pelting her with dead kittens (seriously).

Pros: Same as #1, I suppose.

Cons: So according to Google Earth, Victoria has some cemeteries (and some things which aren't cemeteries, but which Google Earth helpfully tagged anyway), and none of them are at all far away from human habitation. Michelle says that upon realizing that the things being thrown down on her were dead kittens, she burst into "high, uncontrolled shrieks that in her terror she hardly heard." I bet the people who live near the graveyard would hear, though. For a group that's supposedly been a clandestine secret society for hundreds of years, these people sure do suck at being inconspicuous.

5. Sleep deprivation

She was exhausted, but there seemed to be no regular time when everyone would sleep...The nurse tormented her all day, but the nights were even more frightening. Every night the women came into the round room, and every night they would "point" with Michelle.

Pros: Well, some people do put a lot of stock into sleep deprivation as a torture, I'm sorry, "interrogation" technique.

Cons: So, nurse, it's all very well and good that you're depriving Michelle of sleep, but how are you staying awake for these long, irregular periods of time? Are you stealing amphetamines at your nursing job--which you apparently don't show up to anyway because you're spending all your time torturing Michelle?

I'm sure you've figured out by now that these methods don't seem so hot to me. They require a lot of time, a lot of resources, a lot of risk in settings where one wouldn't necessarily have a whole lot of control, and also they're cartoonishly stupid evil.

But maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe the Satanists have finally managed to scare Michelle into submission with their regimen of torment. As luck would have it, another ritual takes place at the beginning of the chapter, so we can read through and see whether Michelle shuts up and plays nice this time.

So the Satanists do their "pointing" ceremony with Michelle (why are cardinal directions evil again? If you don't explain this to me, Michelle Remembers Satanists, I'm going to be quite perturbed with you) and force Michelle to lie down on a stone slab so they can perform some sort of mock birthing ceremony with a dead baby (Nope. Once again, no idea why. Sorry). She is terrified, but cooperative. So far, so uninterruptedly profane.

But then Michelle flips out over being so close to a dead baby, and this happens:

     Frantic with fear, she ran across the room, through the chanting circle, and made it to the round bed. The cross [which she stole in an earlier scene] was still under the mattress, and now she brought it out for the first time. She had to help the baby. She knew they didn't like crosses.
     She held it up high, and the room went wild. Everyone was shouting angrily; again she was disrupting their ceremony.


Well, that was a whole lot of work for absolutely nothing. Next time, Michelle Remembers Satanists, you should really just squeeze out some kids of your own for your creepy rituals. You'll save yourselves a lot of bother.   

*This was the same McDonald's where I, as a three-year-old, punched another little girl in the face because my parents applauded her for going down the slide by herself and I was jealous. I think it was also the same one where my brother got his head stuck in the men's room door. My family doesn't go to that particular McDonald's anymore.

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