Ugh. The alarm clock is ringing. It’s that time of day. Slowly I squirm out of bed. I’ve laid the phone on the shelf all the way across the room as usual, knowing that’s the only way to wake myself up properly. In my tired state, however, instead of going to the phone I end up opening the window and giving nobody in particular the finger. This is weird even for tired old me, but I’m not quite awake enough to register that. It’s not until I hear an angry voice from the balcony across the street that I realize what I’ve done. Mrs. Marsh, out watering her flowers as usual, is complaining about the finger still sticking proudly in the air.
Confused, I look at my hand. Then I hurriedly put it away, apologizing hastily, making up some excuse about sleepwalking. She appears to understand, but still casts a dirty look at me as she turns back into her own home. Once her window is closed, I take my hand back out and look at it, wondering. The middle finger is still sticking out. I put it down and turn back into my room in turn.
Then the sound of the still ringing alarm hits me full force. This time, I purposefully walk straight to it and swipe the screen angrily to shut it up. My sudden bout of anger confuses me. I’m never usually one to lose my temper, not even when I wake up. I’m usually too dead to feel much at all at this point.
I prepare for my day as usual. Mechanically I eat my breakfast of butter and jam on that morning’s newspaper. The toaster didn’t seem to work well, so I had to give up toasting it. I then go brush my teeth and take a shower. I come out minutes later with my mouth stinging and burning and my skin smelling minty fresh.
Then I grab the car keys and go down to get my bike to go to work. I don’t notice anything wrong until I’ve spent five minutes looking for the ignition switch on the bicycle. Suddenly my mind and senses are clear. I’m feeling funny and smelling weird. My mouth is still stinging with the shampoo I used to brush my teeth, and my skin and hair smell of spearmint toothpaste. Worse, I distinctly remember everything that morning. Mrs. Marsh comes out of her building and, seeing me, throws a dirty look my way and walks off in a huff.
Suddenly, without fully realizing it, I put the car key in my jacket pocket and get on the bike. I start heading toward the office. At one point during the ride I regain full consciousness of my actions and find myself on a bridge. That bridge is nowhere near my usual road to work. I’m starting to notice something’s wrong by now. I stop for a while, trying to collect my scattered thoughts. I’m starting to wonder whether one of my drinks of the previous evening might have been spiked. Just in case, I decide to head back home, call in sick and relax.
Somehow the trip back goes just fine. There’s only one weird thing, when I start barking back at the neighbor’s dog. Thankfully, his owner’s at the office and nowhere in the building. I reach my own apartment, lock the door and lean back against it. Then I figure if I’m subject to some sort of Tourette, I might as well stay away from that door, and go sit on the living room couch instead. I call my boss and tell him I’m feeling a bit ill and won’t be coming in today, but I might connect from home later and get some work done.
Then I start thinking about what I remember of that morning. It’s still confused and fuzzy. I decide to inspect the apartment for traces of any other weird stuff I might have done. In the kitchen, the toaster is smoking and there’s a distinct smell of burnt paper. There are two fresh slices of bread lying on top of the mail. What the… I go to the bathroom and just as I enter, I do a double take. There’s a giant pentagram drawn on the mirror in what looks like toothpaste. A bit worried now, I rush to the bedroom.
Everything seems more or less normal there. That is, ntil I get to the desk, where I find my computer on, with a text file containing the text “him suffer first, then when he begs for relief I’ll”. A random piece of a middle of a sentence that means nothing at all. I’m a writer, sure, but I know how to start and end sentences. I make to delete the meaningless words, but instead find myself confusedly typing something. Seconds later my senses are back and I see the result. Immediately after the previous words I added, without intending to: “until he loses his mind.”
I stare at the words, dumbfounded. What the hell is going on? After thinking for a few seconds, I open a new file and start summarizing everything I remember from this morning so far. I type for about five minutes, then sit back to reread my work. But it’s not my work looking back at me. Clearly as I was typing I fell back into whatever the hell is going on, and instead of the entire middle of my summary I find: “Geez, lay off, it’s my first time possessing a human! Cut me some slack! Do you really expect me to… oh, wait, the thing’s…”
Suddenly I jump out of my seat and my arms start flailing, first as if I were punching some invisible enemy, then as if someone were strangling me and I were reaching up to get their hands off. My neck is clear but I still feel myself suffocating. Then I fall to the floor and hit my knee on the corner of the dresser. The pain jerks me back to reality. Well, at least partly. My body’s back under control but now my mind is having some sort of weird fit. I’m seeing another room. I’m looking into the eyes of a terrifying creature, furious and violent. There’s some kind of zap and I see the creature being thrown off me.
At that moment my own mind comes back. What the… I decide to get back to my summary, to fix it and add this latest bit to it. Ignoring the still throbbing knee, I start typing. At first it makes sense, but then I get fuzzy again. Another throb of pain from the knee strikes and I seem to regain some degree of consciousness. I watch dumbfounded as my own fingers are typing someone else’s words: “I swear! The plan is just to drive him crazy. That’s the test, isn’t it? Well, that’s what I’m doing!”
I decide to try to communicate back to ask what’s happening. But before I can start acting, it seems, this latest phase stops. I sit there, out of breath now and fully conscious. My knee is still killing me. I check it briefly. It’s not bleeding, it’ll be okay. I get back to my summary, ready to add yet another experience to it.
This time I manage to finish it and edit it to remove whatever random junk got inserted by whatever strange impulses I just had. As I reread my summary, I start putting two and two together… well, one and one for now, but that’s already something. Thinking about it (and adding my live reflections to the summary), I come to a number of possible conclusions. One of the most fanciful – but apparently more likely than I’d like – is that I’m being possessed by some kind of demon, who’s making me do all these weird things.
I have an idea. I’ll just wait right here until the next time it happens, and see what else I can learn from that. After all, what else can I do? If I’m going to have to be exorcised, the least I can do is understand this a bit better. I sit waiting for ten minutes, then open my work in progress to work on it.
No, I copy the text into a new file instead. Just in case. I type for an hour and nothing more happens. I get up to help myself to a cup of steaming tea. I get back to my desk and sit down, staring at my file. I pick up the tea and take a small sip. Ouch! It’s still way too hot. Tongue still burning, I start typing but immediately see the text isn’t what I have in mind. I let it happen for a bit. Some meaningless-looking junk, maybe a foreign language or a spell of some sort.
I notice something different now though. It seems maybe the pain of the tea, like the pain of my knee earlier, is allowing me to keep my mind clear and focus on what’s going on. I even feel like I still have muscular control, and whatever is going on is just some sort of passive control. With a bit of effort and after five tries, I manage to regain control of my own hands and type, “What’s going on?”
No sooner is the question typed than I feel my hands stop. But whatever is going on is still there. I need to make sure it sticks around if I want to find out more. Every other time so far today got switched off before I could find anything out. Not getting any answers, I type again: “Hello? Is anyone there?”
An urge to type sweeps over me, and this time I let it. “Wait… You know I’m here?”
I think for a second, then type, “Well, I don’t know. My morning’s gone all out of whack, and just now I had a vision of some demon-looking dude strangling me.”
“Oh crap, this… This wasn’t supposed to happen. I don’t… I mean, I’m new here. I haven’t had any practice on real humans yet. You’re my first.”
I’m worried now. Regaining control of my own hands, I type, “First? What do you mean?”
“Just… Just that you’re the first human I’ve ever… ever possessed.”
“Oh great, that makes me feel loads better. Now is there any way you could leave me the fuck alone and let me live my own life in peace, please?”
“No, I… I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”
“So… what? Am I doomed to have you butting in all the time and making me do crazy shit?”
“Well… yeah, obviously. But… But this wasn’t supposed to happen. You’re never supposed to know about it, let alone butt in and communicate back. What’s wrong?”
I think for a few seconds. My mind seems to be fuzzing over again. Following an intuition, I take another sip of hot tea. The burning sensation brings me back to my senses. I think I’m starting to see what’s going on. If I’m feeling pain, I’m so alert and aware of my senses that I can feel and know it all. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell them that, whoever they are.
“Beats me. Look, dude, I can’t hang around all day. And I can’t have some sort of demon possessing me. So this is what you’re going to do. You’re going to give up on me and ask for another case, you hear me?”
“No buts, buddy. Now that I’m aware of this and I know how to foil you, this isn’t going to work for you ever again. Get it?”
“I… This’ll finish me…”
“Yeah well from where I’m standing, you’re in trouble either way.”
“No unless, dude.”
“Please! Hear me out! I really need this job. Here’s what I suggest.” Suddenly the font size shrinks as he keeps saying, “How about we just pretend, at least until I pass my test?”
“No! Forget it!”
“Come on, you know how to block me out now, you said it yourself, so if I make you do anything you don’t want to do, you can skip out of it. It happens all the time to even the best of us. We’re not sure why.”
“I can make your life hell, you know. Catch you by surprise in your happiest times, for example. You’d never be able to resist then.”
“Whoa, I’ve already told you, you’re the one who stands to lose in both scenarios here.”
“You… What… Oh, hell, you’re right… But… Maybe there’s a way… Please hear me out.”
“Oh, what the hell, what do you suggest?”
Three weeks later, I wake up, still as dead as ever. My fingers are aching for some reason. I get up to turn the alarm off, go straight to the kitchen for a proper bread-based breakfast, then enter the bathroom to shower and do a double take. I see a toothpaste message on the mirror. “I’ve passed, thanks! And I’ve left a token of my appreciation on your computer.”
This seems to have worked rather well after all, I’d managed to keep him in check. Our agreement had been that he’d let me know before possessing me, so that I’d have time to tell him it was a bad time or at most hurt myself in order to stay conscious thanks to the pain. Then I’d be able to just do some small inconsequential things to help him sell his success to his bosses, while at the same time protecting myself from the bigger things that came to his mind. This morning was the end of that test period, and this message told me he’d succeeded. As per our agreement he’d never be in my mind again.
I go back to my room and turn on the computer. Right there on the desktop, I find a new file I hadn’t seen before. I open it and read:
“Look, I just wanted to apologize for any inconvenience I caused you over the past few weeks and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your help during my test. And I have one confession to make: In order to prepare your thank you gift, I broke our agreement for a couple of hours last night. I possessed you completely while you slept, made you sit at your desk. I’ve had good practice now, and this seems to have gone without a hitch. You’ll find below an entire demon novel I wrote for you. You don’t need to credit me for it, it’s yours. I wish it all the success in the world.
“And now our time together ends. As agreed, I will never possess you again. And I’ve managed to find out how to remove you from our systems altogether, so none of us will ever possess you again. Good-bye, friend, sorry, and best of luck for the future.”
I skimmed through the text below that. Three hundred pages of an amazing, perfect, detailed and intricate horror demon novel. Wow. Over the next few weeks I read through the whole story, editing it, fine-tuning it, making it a bit more my own. But there really wasn’t much to change beyond the writing style. And that, believe it or not, is the story behind my most popular work.