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.