I had a demon. His name was Greg. He died when he was ten years old. His father killed him. Greg wouldn’t leave his father alone when he was playing poker, so his father killed him with a fire stoker. Greg is very inquisitive, very curious boy. He liked to annoy me, to tease me. He’d poke me at night when I was sleeping. He’d pull my hair. He’d tickle my nose with a feather so I’d wake up in a sneezing fit. The first time I saw him it was early one morning when I was in the bathroom getting ready for work. He appeared in the corner of the mirror as I was putting lipstick on. I screamed, dropped my lipstick, and spun around. He was gone. The little brat! Sometimes at night I heard him crying. He was lonely, scared. I guess I’d be too if my father had beat me to death.

I wanted a working fireplace. That’s how this whole thing started. I had this vision I couldn’t get rid of. It was of me sitting curled up on my couch with a blanket and a cup of tea and a good book in front of my crackling wood fireplace while big snowflakes fell outside my window. I loved that vision. That vision was everything right in the world. The height of happiness, comfort, safety. So when I bought my apartment (I could just barely afford it), I had to do it. I took out another loan and had the workers start the renovation for the fireplace. That’s when they found the bones.  

When they let me back into the apartment, there was a strange feel in the air. I wasn’t sure I’d wanted to come back. But this was my apartment. I’d be strong. I’d get on with it. I looked at the fireplace. Greg’s bones had been there. I’d lived my life with a murdered child a few feet from me. I fell asleep that night exhausted. I dreamed of the murder. Greg’s father sitting at a table in the living room paying poker with his friends. They are laughing, smoking, drinking, cursing. Greg is running around, peering over his father’s shoulder, asking questions about the game. The father pushes him away. Shut the hell up, he yells. His father is losing, drinking more, getting angrier. On the final hand Greg is playing and trips and bumps into his father, who drops his cards. A full house, gone to waste. He hits Greg. His poker friends leave. He’s furious and hits Greg again. He takes the fire stoker and smashes Greg’s skull. Blood covers the floor. He takes the body up to the roof and drops him in the chimney. He comes back down, lights a cigarette, and drinks the rest of the whiskey. His feet are resting in pool of blood, but he doesn’t even notice it.

I woke up. I couldn’t breathe. I felt something on my chest. It was pushing down on me, grabbing at my face and neck. I felt fingernails scraping my face, digging deep into my cheek. It’s Greg, I realized. He was scared. For a moment, when Greg is grabbing at me and scratching, I see behind him his father with the fire stoker. He’s grabbing at Greg’s legs, trying to pull him away, to beat him again. I hold onto him now. Greg, it’s okay, I say. I won’t let you go. I won’t let him hurt you. I’ll protect you. I’ll love you. It’s okay, sweetie. It’s all okay.

The next morning I make coffee. The apartment feels different, calmer. I wasn’t sure if it had all been a dream, but I have red gashes on my face and neck. Had I done it? No, it was Greg, I was sure of it. I try to drink the coffee but it is bitter, disgusting. I make another cup. The same. I add sugar until I can drink it. I drink some juice. I eat two bowls of cereal and three slices of toast. I get dressed. I put on my usual business suit and skirt, but I feel strangely uncomfortable. I wear pants instead. That feels better. I try to put makeup on but I have no patience. I feel clumsy, unsure of what I’m doing. I can’t put my eyeliner on. It’s impossible. I put on some lipstick, then wipe it off. I’ll go natural today. I don’t care. I walk to my subway stop. On the way there I see a doggy. I stop and kneel down. Hi, little doggy! I say. What’s your name? Oh, you’re so cute. Hi, little buddy. The dog licks my face. I feel so happy, kneeling there, petting the dog. The human owner is checking his phone. He looks down at me, and gives a tired little head nod. The dog would be so much happier with me, I know. Just as I am about to grab the leash and make a run for it, the dog sees a rat or a squirrel and lunges for it, pulling his miserable completely inadequate human owner along.

On the subway, I see a man with a gray beard and long gray dreadlocks. I love it. That’s what Moses looked like. Sitting next to me is a man covered in tattoos. His arms, his neck, his legs, his bald head. I’m fascinated. I trace my finger on his arm. He starts, looks over at me. Sorry, I say. I put my hands under my legs to resist temptation. But standing in front of me is a woman with the longest and most beautiful blond hair I’ve ever seen. I reach over and stroke it. It’s like silk. She turns and looks at me with complete disgust. Sorry, I say. I start to cry a little. She’s so mean for a woman with beautiful hair. As she leaves, I curse her under my breath. May your hair fall off, may you be bald, may your face be covered in scabs and scars and may you die a slow painful, death, all alone in the world. A man gets on with balloons. I’m happy again. When he sees me he gives me one. What are you doing with the balloons? I say. He says he’s taking them to his nephew in the hospital. He had an appendectomy. I think I got too many, he says and laughs. I like him. He’s nice. Thank you, I say. I love you. I miss my stop. I get off at the next one and walk to my office. I go by the Empire State Building. I can’t believe how tall it is. I’ve walked by the building a thousand times but today I look up until my neck hurts and wonder how the building doesn’t fall over. I accidentally let go of the balloon. No! I scream, and jump after it. A man stops me from running into the street. The balloon goes up and up until I can’t see it anymore. I’m devastated. I go to my office. I go up the nineteen floors on the elevator with all the other unhappy-looking people and go to my office. On my desk is a huge pile of cases and when I turn on my computer I see the hundreds of emails that came in overnight. I start to cry. I wipe my tears and go into my boss’s office. I quit, I say.
    Excuse me, she says.
    I quit, I quit, I quit, I quit, I quit, I quit, I quit, I quit.
    What are you trying to tell me? she says.

Back at my apartment, I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and take it to the park to eat. There is a small playground there. I’ve always liked the sound of children playing. Whenever I walk by a playground, or a school with children out for recess, and hear the shouts, the cries, the general happy din, I smile.
    C’mon, Plymouth, the man says. We have to go home.
    No! Plymouth says. I want to play.
    No, the man says, we have to go home to eat lunch and take a nap.
    I recognize them. They live in the apartment below me.
    No! no! no! Plymouth shouts.
    The man roughly takes the boy’s hand as Plymouth tries to run back to the slide. He picks up the boy and Plymouth is screaming and crying. I follow them back home. The man is holding Plymouth as he kicks and screams.  
    Shut up! the man says. Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!

When I get back home I listen for a while. I can hear Plymouth crying at first and then he quiets down. Maybe the man smothered him with a pillow. I go out on the fire escape and walk quietly down. The man is on his couch with a laptop. His headphones are on. He’s nodding his head to something. I walk on the fire escape to the next room. Plymouth is asleep, snot starting to crust on his nose. I manage to push open the screen. I go in. Very gently, like a good mother, I pick up Plymouth. His head is on my shoulder. He’s still asleep. I go back out the window and carry him upstairs. I put him in my bed. He’s sleeping peacefully. I can tell he’s sleeping better now that he’s at my apartment and away from his abusive father. I see bruises on Plymouth’s arms and stomach. I have to buy supplies. Diapers, food, toys. And a dog. Every boy needs a dog. I look at Plymouth sleeping. I love him. I love him so much. I didn’t know I had so much love inside of me.
    I’m going to protect you, Plymouth, I say. No matter what happens, I’ll be here for you. I won’t hurt you, ever. I’m going to love you. You’re my baby now. If anyone tries to take you away, I’ll kill them. I swear to God I’ll kill them.

It wasn’t me. I know that now. It was someone else acting, saying those words. That’s not me. I spoke to a shaman. I was possessed. I had a demon inside of me. A little demon. He’s gone now. I’m all better. Everything’s fine now. Everything’s okay. I swear.