65. Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”

Mark 9:25-29

*** Please see posts 62-64 before reading this post. ***

Everything changed after the exorcism. For starters, Jameson took an immediate and drastic turn for the better. The Bible, which once seemed impenetrable and foreign to him, now made sense. He would come to me over the following days excited to share what he read and offered me questions with genuine interest. He attended little studies I organized and the Sunday sermons I played from my iPod with a portable speaker. Jameson then took these new insights and, with great joy, shared them with his friends, Sinclair being gone for whom he spent considerable time with. Over the next few days I checked in with James.

“How’s the Bible reading?”

“It’s going great,” he said with a glowing smile, “I’ve read through the Gospels and now I’m in Revelation.”

“Wow Revelation?” I chuckled. “You’re diving head first into the deep end.” 

“I just think the end times stuff is super interesting. So what do you know about it?”

“I don’t understand most of it to be honest. All I know is Jesus wins in the end.”

“When I was talking to Sinclair and he said Lucifer and his angels defeat God.”

I raised one eyebrow and cocked my head. “No… that’s not right. Was he messing with you?”

“No, he was dead serious. We debated it for like half an hour.”

“That’s weird dude. I’ve never met anyone who talks like that”

“Yeah, man I don’t know.’ He paused for a moment and looked down. Lifting his head back up he said, “Oh yeah, I wanted to tell you something weird happened with him on patrol.” My ears opened. “We were walking down an alley and when it opened up, two donkeys wandered toward the patrol. They were acting normal as everyone else passed by, but when Sinclair walked up, they freaked out. Like, I’m telling you they were so scared one of ‘em smacked into a wall before it turned the corner and ran off.”

“Wow really?” I said.

“Yeah. I think something might be going on with him. I told him what happened with me and he shared a freaky story. You should talk to him. He said he wanted to meet up with you about it.”

Hearing this brought to mind other peculiar things I noticed about Sinclair. First off, his presence intimidated me. He was a bulky dude with dark eyes, and a faint, eerie aura tickled my senses whenever he drew near; the kind of guy you’d never want to encounter in a dark alley. Also, on more than one occasion, when I recited Psalm 91 over his squad, I saw him squat down in the back row, as if trying to hide from what should be a welcomed blessing. The third noteworthy memory brought to my mind occurred in our pre-deployment desert training. I remember standing up talking about some sort of Christian topic while he and a handful of others lounged on their packs. As I left, out of nowhere he said, “Jesus died like a bitch.” I halted for a second, not sure how to respond. After a short pause I walked away, thinking, He doesn’t know what he’s saying. Maybe I was more correct than I realized at that time. Maybe it wasn’t actually him who said those words, but something else. All this lingered in the back of my mind when I agreed to chat with him.

With Jameson standing nearby, Sinclair opened up.

“So when I was sixteen, I was in my basement watching a show, Top 10 Most Haunted Locations. When it finished I tried to go to sleep on the couch. I had my feet hanging off, but I was creeped out so I turned to my side with my back towards the TV. Then something lifted me up and pressed me against the couch for like four seconds and when it dropped me the lights turned on. Since then I’ve been seeing stuff like shadows and I can move them with my hand.” My eyebrow raised. He continued. “During training I followed a shadow figure to the head and it brought me to the mirror. I saw two reflections. One of myself and the other was me with black eyes and a boney, stretched out jaw with a freaky grin.”

“Yeah,” I said, “You’ve definitely got something goin on.”

“Do you think you can get rid of it?” he asked.

“I don’t know. This is still all so new to me. I might be able to help, but I don’t want to jump into things at the moment. Let’s give it a bit of time and maybe we can come up with a plan.”

Olsen too shared the story of our crazy night with his friends, one of whom also reported his experience with a strange encounter. About a week later, I met with Olsen and his buddy Graves between the two hooches after dark to hear the story. Graves hesitated to speak.

“So what happened?” I asked. 

“Well… one night… I don’t know, like four months ago, I was in the barracks and couldn’t sleep. I had the window open and I swear, I saw a shadow come through. It was like one or two in the morning. I thought I was seeing things but then I felt it on top of me, pressing me down into the bed. I tried to scream but I couldn’t. I couldn’t move or do anything. It let off after like a minute. I was so scared, man, I didn’t sleep at all that night. I told some of the guys what happened, but nobody believed me.”

“Has anything changed since then?” I asked.

“I don’t know. What do you mean?”

“Any bad dreams, or negative thoughts in the third person like someone else was talking to you in your head? Like ‘you’re worthless, you’re better off dead?’”

“I don’t think so. But sometimes I’ll be doing PT or on a company hike and it’s like something says ‘you’re a bitch,’ but it just motivates me to fight through and I end up pushing harder.”

“It’s not much,” I said glancing at Olsen, “but it sounds like you something may be harrassing you. Would you be willing to have us pray for you?”

Graves nodded. “Sure.”

“Let’s go somewhere more private.” I turned to lead them out to the courtyard, beyond the corner exit towards the latrine. Once obscured by the HESCO wall, I stopped with Graves standing between Olsen and me. Placing a hand on his shoulder, we started praying. For maybe a minute we both prayed, trying to extend our words in an attempt to do something for Graves. Beyond a few slight shrugs of his shoulders, nothing unusual happened. I opened my eyes and looked at Graves.

“How do you feel?”

He responded with trepidation. “When you were praying I felt weak, like I was going to vomit but I held it in.”

My eyebrows tightened. “Don’t hold that back, we gotta get it out.” 

Olsen turned at the sound of some Marines strutting towards the plywood toilet.

“Let’s move and try this again,” Olsen said, facing back towards us. “How bout we move over to the piss tubes?”

We agreed and slipped into the darkness at the opposite end of Panda ridge. Olsen and I flanked Graves again and began praying. I opened my eyes when I felt his shoulders drop. While still praying, I watched his eyes close and his neck twist down and to the right, as if trying to kiss his own shoulder. He grunted and fell to his knees, then lowered down to the dirt. As his body convulsed his right arm stretched out, swiping the ground erratically in a wide arc. A voice from Graves’ lips cried out in a deep growl. “Your soul is mine!” A few seconds later, as his body continued to flail, he let out a long, dry heave before going limp. Not long after, Graves woke up. 

As we brought him to his feet, I looked up to find Larry staring at us. The whites of his hovering eyes, highlighted by the backdrop of his black skin in the night, bulged as though he witnessed a horrible crime.

Crap

Wide eyed and shaken, Larry crept back and spun away.

Graves turned to me. “Is it gone?”

“Yeah we got it. Do you remember anything?”

“Not really.”

When we finished telling him what happened, Graves looked down, his eyes shifting in bewilderment. “Wow… thank you.” He said. “I do feel better, like I got lighter or something.” Olsen and I were beaming. “So, aren’t there different kinds of angels and demons, like archangels and archdemons?”

“Yeah, I suppose so,” I said.

“Well, whatever was inside me was weak,” he paused and looked up, “But I think there’s something powerful in Sinclair.”

His words of caution surprised me.

“I think you’re right,” I said with a nod. “God is more powerful though, and Sinclair asked for us to pray for him, so we’re going to try.”

“Just be careful,” Graves said. We assured him we would. 

As I strolled past the HESCOs toward the hooches, Jaggers bumped into me. Larry stood beside him. 

“The hell were you guys doin?” Jaggers said with a piercing look.

Still glowing with excitement, I said “We were praying for Graves.”

“That’s not what Larry told me. Said he saw some pretty freaky ass shit.”

I took a deep breath. After a further pause I enthusiastically told them everything. Once finished with my hasty summary, I said, “I know you guys probably won’t believe me, but that’s what happened.”

“Y’all are fuckin’ crazy,” Jaggers said. And with that, they departed. Stuffing the thought of what they might do with my confession, I readied myself to pray for Sinclair.

At 2130, I gathered Sinclair, Jameson and Olsen and headed back to the outskirts of Panda Ridge near the latrine.

“So how do you want to do this?” Sinclair said.

Sliding over a large piece of cardboard to cover the gravel, I said, “I think you should lay down, and then we will pray for you.” He lowered himself to the open box and laid on his back. I placed my hand on his chest. If indeed a spirit of otherworldly strength resided in him, I figured I’d cover my bases by starting with Psalm 91.

“Heavenly Father, if there is any unclean spirit living in Sinclair, I ask that you cast it out in Jesus’ name.” Sinclair’s eyes shut. An eerie hush fell upon us.

Nothing.

I looked up to see Jameson oddly staring at him. I glanced over to see Olsen mutter more prayers. Sincialr remained motionless, his eyes sealed. Something wasn’t right. I opened my Gideon Bible and started to read. 

Sinclair’s chest pulsed up, arching as if hit by a defibrillator. When he flattened out, he started hissing deep, elongated, raspy breaths. As we continued praying, it laughed and opened Sinclair’s eyes, his irises hidden behind retracted eyelids.

He started to rise. Though we tried to hold him down, he overpowered us, turning to his left side and propping himself up on his hands and knees. He crawled onto the gravel, straining to move each arm and leg at a snail’s pace. I wrapped my arms around his left side and continued praying. A few moments later, Sinclair’s body loosened and his pupils returned.

“Did it work?” he asked. I let go as Sinclair turned to sit and face us.

“Not yet, but we can keep trying.”

“You got any water?” James handed him a bottle. Sinclair took a gulp, swished it around and spat the rest out. 

I laid my hand on his shoulder to continue. His pupils disappeared again. Gasping like a zombie, he rose to his feet. I grabbed his waist and Olsen got his chest. We were able to pull him black down to his hands and knees. We kept praying, asking, begging for God to do something. I heard it whisper in varying hisses. It sounded like a language from another world, bringing to mind scenes of the snake language from Harry Potter. 

Still scraping Sinclair’s shins across the jagged rocks, it inched towards Jameson and locked eyes with him. I looked up to find James sitting upright on his shins, hands resting on his knees, eyes wide open, trapped in its abyssal glare.

“Yo James… James!” I said, snapping my finger in his face. “You okay? Snap out of it!” He remained motionless… hypnotized. 

Olsen let go of Sinclair, grabbed James’ shoulders and turned him away. “Wake up!” he yelled, leaning in close and tapping his cheek.  When words failed to break his trance, he prayed.

The hissing stopped. Sinclair casually took the weight off his knees and sat down.  “Still nothing?”

I sighed. “Yeah.”

James clenched his arms around himself. A tremor ran up his whole body. “What happened? I’m… s-so… cold.”

“We gotta keep you away,” Olsen said. “You were checked out. We couldn’t get you to respond.”

I felt defeated. We were in over our heads. I should have listened to Graves’. His unexplainable insight proved true. This thing was too strong. We fired bullets at some age-old dark power who swallowed them up without a flinch. 

“So what now?” Sinclair said.

“Let’s try again,” I said, readying for one final push. Though my doubts abounded at this point, a sense of empowerment came over me and wiped them away. Forgetting all my inclinations to the contrary, I pressed on and started reading Scripture. 

His head cocked back slightly and his pupils vanished once again. It laughed as I pressed my hands against Sinclair’s chest. It turned toward James and, with a harrowing gasp, collapsed to its knees as it lunged at him, grabbing his hand and staring into his eyes. James’ face lost all expression. Entranced by Medusa’s gaze, he let out an emotionless laugh.

Olsen ripped Jameson’s hand away, breaking not only its grip but its spell on him. James’ violent shiver and chattering teeth sent chills down my spine. 

With Olsen’s help, we turned it away from Jameson. We continued begging God to help him, to deliver him. It still mocked, laughed, hissed, and whispered demonic words in a serpentine tongue. My confidence waned as it continued crawling through the rocks, pulling us along with it, showing no signs of weakening. Words spoken with force and power and authority now eked out of me. There was nowhere left to go, nothing left to do, but to simply hope that this Genie would return to its bottle.

Several minutes later, Sinclair’s arms buckled and he dropped to his elbows. The whispering ceased. We let go when the tension in his body dissipated. He sat down as he turned toward us and leaned back on his hands.

“Did you get it?”

“No man, we didn’t,” I said. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Sinclair said. “My knees fuckin’ hurt though.” I glanced down. His cammies now had holes. Drops of blood oozed out and soaked the rim of the frayed fibers..

“I think we should call it a night,” I said.

“It was worth a shot,” Sinclair said as he grunted and stood up. “I gotta go.” He limped back to the hooch.

“Hey James,” Kath’s voice boomed from the dark. “You got post at 2300.”

“Roger,” he said, still dazed. “I’ll be up in a few.” Turning to me he said, “Dude, what the hell happened?”

I felt like an idiot. “We shouldn’t have brought you here. I thought since you were talking to him so much about the Bible it would be good for you to join us but something happened. It was like controlling you or something.”

“That’s what Olsen said. I got so cold… like in my dream.”

“Well I think you’re okay. We don’t have any reason to believe otherwise, so don’t worry.” I said a prayer for him before he left for post. The fact that he didn’t burst out in anger further convinced me he was okay. I was relieved.

Word spread quickly. 

A few days later, my squad returned from an overnight patrol. The next morning, while hiking up to the COC from the base of Panda, Jameson pulled me aside and leaned in close.

“He Decoup, a lot has happened.” I gave him a puzzled look. Marines shuffled past me, so he only mouthed the next phrase. “don’t mention my name.”

After our patrol debrief, Staff Sergeant Kirch called me over to sit down under the camo netting with him and Lieutenant King.

“I’m hearin’ some strange shit is going on around here. Care to fill me in?”

“Well,” I paused. “Some guys have been asking for prayer, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

“That’s it? So you’re not hovering over people in the middle of the night, praying for them while they sleep, or praying for Wilson while he was crying?”

“No Staff Sergeant, none of that happened.”

“So what were you doing?”

“Some of the guys asked me to pray for them, and so I did.”

“So that’s it? You were just… praying when Larry saw Graves have a seizure?”

“Yes. He did have an unusual response to prayer.”

“And you didn’t think to get doc?!” He looked at me with perplexed anger.

I stumbled to find my words. “Uh, no Staff Sergeant. We felt we had the situation under control.”

“Well I don’t care what the fuck you guys are doing, but its gonna stop.”

I nodded.

“Have I made myself clear?”

“Yes, Staff Sergeant.”

And with that, we ended our work as ghostbusters.

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