You know how it is. I make a living as an exorcist. I know what you’re gonna say. And you’re right. Fake. No such thing as demonic possession or anything else that would need a genuine exorcist. And you are so right. But then again, it there were I’d be in deep shit. Because I wouldn’t have the first idea about how to handle things like that. I’ve seen all the movies, of course. One has to build on something, after all. It’s an act, and people have expectations. Imagine someone calls you in to exorcise something and you appear in jeans and sneakers, with a t-shirt on that says “Are you out of your mind? Sure, it’s dark and scary in there!” Then they show you the victim, say someone with a chronic flatulence so massive that they don’t need to use the heating in winter, but everyone has to breathe through their mouth. And you just go in and do something sensible, like maybe a massage, or some herbs, not to mention some simple medicine. See what I mean? Some things just aren’t done. If the relatives or friends of the victim believe the reasons for the stink are supernatural, which is why they called in an exorcist in the first place, you better deal with them in that way.
So, of course I have all the black outfits, complete with flowing cloaks and weird hats, and all the silver accessories, crosses, pentagrams, even i-ging yin/yang and all the stuff. You accessorize according to the clients’ expectations. And then you need the special effects, and the incantations. Fake latin for the Christians, fake Gaelic for the Druids, fake Chinese, Sanskrit, Hopi, you get the picture. Yes, it’s fake. None of it is real. No such thing as evil spirits or demons invading people and making them do things that totally ordinary germs or neuroses manage perfectly. But it’s a high art, nonetheless. Years, maybe decades of training and practice until you get it right most of the time. In some cases the psychology of it all works immediately. But most often it’s more indirect. The clients and the victims, having received a real and 100% authentic exorcism are much more open to more mundane therapies afterwards than before. The line I use most is (of course delivered sweating and seriously out of breath, it had been a life and death struggle between the demon and myself, after all) something like “The abomination is banned. The residual aftereffects will continue, though, the possession was that complete. But they should respond well to ordinary treatments now.” And then I recommend herbs or medicines or specialists, and in most cases the clients will follow my advice and things will get better.
Lately I’ve been getting fed up with the whole thing, though. It’s not that I’m not helping people in my own weird way, or that I don’t enjoy the charades anymore, although the latter has certainly getting more and more of an issue. It’s just that I’m getting tired of the waste I feel my true talents go to. I spend hours on a ritual where a single dose of aspirin would do the trick in a few minutes. Only to recommend the aspirin in the end, anyway. Know what I mean? And it’s not that I would have won a major battle against that kind of ignorance. On the contrary. I’ve reaffirmed it. Next time they have a headache they’ll call me again.
The money is good. That’s not it. And my services are in high demand, what with rationality and common sense rapidly spiraling down the drain on almost all levels of society. When I began this, actually as a prank, I was the only one far and wide. But these days people have gone around that particular bend in such numbers that it looks like a whole industry is emerging. Imagine, I even get requests for people who want to do internships with me, a few even want to apprentice themselves to me. I’ve gotten fucking famous with the whole thing. I was going to be an accountant. That’s what I’d trained for. Now I’m an exorcist. No chance in hell anyone would hire me to do sums for them. Pun intended.
I imagine myself at a job interview sometimes. When I’m depressed it’s a serious attempt and it goes as pear shaped as you can imagine. The hr person looking back and forth between my resume and myself, me dressed in an ill-fitting cheap suit with an embarrassing tie. The eventual rejection as inevitable as my spilling coffee of myself at some point during the interview. But when I’m in a more defiant or cynical mood, I imagine sitting there in my scariest exorcist getup, the hr worm crouching at my feet, the whole affair usually ending with me putting a nasty curse on the guy and the whole outfit because they are not offering me enough.
But secretly I wish I could go back and pass up that first prank. A lost bet, really. It didn’t just involve the exorcism but introducing the idea that one would be needed in the first place. That a simple nervous hiccup was something straight from hell. Secretly I would give anything if I could live a quiet life in obscurity, working nine to five in an anonymous office somewhere, dealing with numbers instead of nut-cases.
It’s not that I haven’t tried. That’s why those daydreams are so scary. They are more like memories of my futile attempts to get out of this life. Become normal again. But no matter what I tried, no other job would even stay open long enough for me to get a shot at it. And in some cases the people interviewing me actually turned out to be nutty enough to later come to me with an exorcism they or someone they knew needed. Go figure.
I’ve tried to apply for the worst jobs, way out of my comfort zone, too. Willing to do anything to get out of this hollow and fake show. But it was always the same. Overqualified, under experienced, not matching their search profile, bla, bla, bla.
In a last-ditch attempt I even tried begging. Can’t play an instrument if my life depended on it, so making noise in a subway was out. But I though how hard can begging be? Made a cardboard sign proclaiming I was hungry and would work for food, but also happily accept any donation, got into my most workout clothes, something half-burnt and vomited on too many times on the job, and put myself in the way of pedestrian traffic on a busy corner just before Christmas. Was almost beaten up by other beggars who claimed I was stealing their spot, and had to run and hide. Finally found myself a more out-of-the-way spot to set up shop, in a manner of speaking, but within five minutes a couple of former clients (the victim rather together with the guy who had hird me came up to me as if they had been searching high and low for me, and bodily pulled me away to another exorcism, completely ignoring my cardboard sign and the old hat with a few coins in them.
Believing in random incidents (which make up a rational universe as opposed to all the predestination and other superstitions my clients hang on to for dear life), I tried again the next day. And the day after. And the day after that. But each time when I had settled down somewhere, more destitute-looking with every unsuccessful day, it didn’t take more than a few minutes for someone to show up and drag me of to another bleeding exorcism.
So, I figured, I have to change tack. If I can’t go somewhere else from being a successful exorcist, maybe I need to become a failure in that job first. Analyzing the situation, this seemed to be plausible. At least I would be left in peace begging, and maybe I could then work my way up into my dream profession from down there. Again, I tried everything I could imagine. Used the wrong fake language in the ritual, combined with anachronistic and contradictory implements. Imagine being called to a stoutly catholic family and showing up with Muslim symbols and chanting the liturgy in fake Chinese. Stuff like that. You get the picture. But it didn’t work. Or rather it did. Fabulously. The exorcism, I mean. I got even more famous for being unorthodox. Not even the above-mentioned anticlimactic getup allowed me to fail. And I combined it with a complete lack of implements, chanting or any other exorcistic behavior, whatsoever. Simply showed up dressed like the neighborhood nerd and did nothing. Didn’t even look or at or talk to the victim. But as you can probably guess by now, it was absolutely no use. The victim took one look at me and went into fits, which ended after a few minutes of complete inactivity on my side with her just getting up, shrugging and leaving the room. Completely saved. Healed. Recovered. Or whatever you want to call it.
I got even more famous, more notorious, than I had ever been. No addition to the massively increasing requests for internships and apprenticeships, I actually got offered, in short order, a book deal, my own reality tv show, and venture capital to take my revolutionary approach to the next level. And when I more or less politely declined all of it, the Internet went into overdrive with rumors. And when the major networks picked up and ran the story, my mug and name on every tv screen for weeks, I knew I was done for. I would never be able to get out of this.
Desperate beyond measureI took the final step. But not even that worked. The ropes broke, the guns jammed, I threw up immediately whatever poison I tried. Not even death was accessible as an alternative career path.
And I finally understood. I am cursed. Not possessed by a demon, but possessed by the spirit of a long-dead exorcist. Whose only aim is to keep doing what he did when he was alive. Being dead didn’t seem to pose a serious problem for him. More like a temporary inconvenience. The guy I performed my first mock exorcism on, the guy I had to convince that he was even obsessed, was my bane’s previous host. And he had found a way to pass on his problem to someone else. By getting me to act like an exorcist he had offered his possessing spirit a new adventure. And I had fallen for it.
Realizing this I knew what I needed to do. I picked one of the most skeptic talk shows that had invited me and gave them my conditions. I would reveal how it was all charlatanerie by showing a random member of the audience how to do it and let them try it out on me. That should be enough for my guest to jump ship.
Tomorrow is the show. I’ve already bought myself a calculator. I’ll finally be able to do what I had been wanting for so long.