“The Devil D-mat”

Thanks to the brilliant person who, at an appearance at Stefen’s Books, gave me the idea for this story.

The girl was possessed, her father said. A demon had got into her when she jumped by d-mat to New York in order to see an unsanctioned boy. (Who was himself in the grip of the devil, no doubt.) With her body on the other side of the world and her soul struggling to catch up, something evil slipped inside her and poisoned her heart.

That’s the version of the story I heard, anyway. Some people believe her family weren’t religious to begin with, that it was this experience that turned them religious. Either way, the girl’s father overreacted.

You know how when you find your parents’ alcohol patterns and you get caught fabbing a bottle of vodka? And then they make you drink the whole thing until you’re as sick as a dog? Well, that’s what the girl’s parents did to drive the demon out. They put their daughter through d-mat over and over until she was so lagged she thought it was last week. Each time she’d come out screaming, which they took to mean that she was still possessed, rather than just pissed. So in she’d go again, and again, and again.

If her parents were hoping that whatever was inside her would simply go away, they were sorely disappointed.

On the end of the six hundred and sixty-sixth jump the girl wasn’t alone in the booth. Inside with her was a black statue with eyeholes drilled right through its head. There was smoke coming off of it, like it had just come out of a furnace.

Did you ever see that old movie called The Exorcist? The statue in that that looked a bit like this one. Some people think that proves that it was a fake. But maybe, you know, The Exorcist was onto something.

The statue had no mouth. When it spoke, the voice came right out of its face.

“I am the Devil D-mat,” it said. “I’ve come to destroy your family.”

You can imagine what happened next, can’t you? The father of the girl rolled the statue up in a rug, took it out back and smashed into a million pieces.

When he came back inside, the booth’s door opened and the statue was back.

“You’ll never destroy me,” it said. “Knock me down and I will rise again, stronger than ever.”

This time they smashed the booth, and as they were finishing up they heard all their fabbers open at once.

“I am Legion,” called the voice from every room in the house. “The girl is mine!”

Needless to say, the father wasn’t having any of this, and by then even the girl was spooked. The entire family fled out into the street.

Every booth disgorged another statue.

“Run all you like,” it said. “You cannot escape the Devil D-mat!”

The family took shelter in a field far from anywhere. There they called the peacekeepers, who came to investigate. One of them was a guy with a perfect record, never done anything weird in his entire life. But that day in the field, he took the father aside and said, “You shouldn’t trust anyone. Everyone who’s been through the d-mat wears a mask. I hide behind all of them.”

The father freaked. He stole a handgun and might have shot that PK if the others hadn’t shot him first. It was over in a second.

But that wasn’t the end of it. There was an investigation that dragged on for weeks. The PK who had provoked the father couldn’t explain why he’d said what he’d said. He had no memory of the incident at all. It was as though the entire scene had never existed for him, as though he had been genuinely possessed.

The inquest didn’t buy that. They ruled that a hacker was behind it, someone watching the whole “exorcism” business who decided he’d have a little fun with the family. He mocked up the statue from scratch, fabbed it a few dozen times and faked the voice. Then, the coup de grace: he swapped his mind for the PK’s and had him parrot the speech that had tipped the father over the edge.

If so, he certainly got a reaction. The family was destroyed. The girl was freed from the tyranny of her father, but she never used d-mat again. Hardly a victory for the enemies of religious fundamentalists.

Or maybe, some say, a different kind of fundamentalist was behind the stunt. An even more hardcore nutjob who wanted to make the point that d-mat itself was evil. Which is kinda what the statue was making. Any Abstainer will tell you how d-mat has screwed up the world. Its purpose is to destroy things, after all, even if it does put them back together later. People’s bodies are just the beginning. Family, society, culture . . . everything falls, like dominoes.

Or maybe we’re looking too hard for a clever solution. Maybe the truth is just what it looks like. Maybe the exorcism worked, and the hardliner who attacked the family was exactly what it said it was. After all, who’s more hardline than the devil itself?


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