Few of you, if any, will believe what you are about to read. I don't blame you; I probably wouldn't believe me either. I am conscious that what I've written doesn't really do justice to what happened, but that's my limit as a writer. I did my best. This is what happened, a few days gone...
My landlord is a nice chap. We'll call him Li. A builder by trade, he lets me do casual labour for him whenever I need some extra money. On one such occasion, after a day spent reconstructing a garden wall, he gets a call as we're driving back. He says that there is an emergency at his sister's, and asks if I mind coming with him (as it was much closer than my home). I assent. He doesn't explain the nature of the emergency beyond saying that his sister (who we'll call Sonia) has been having some health problems.
We arrive, and an elderly woman, who I presume to be his mother, tells Li that Sonia is in her bedroom. He walks towards the door, and beckons me to follow. I suggest that it might be better for me to wait outside. 'Don't be silly. She knows you.' This wasn't really true as I had only met her briefly, but reluctantly I agree, assuming the emergency to be mild. Sonia is lying in her bed, and doesn't acknowledge our presence. Their mother gives me a chair, which I sit on just away from the end of the bed; the mother sits at the edge of the room, her face gaunt. I anticipate some sort of conventional medical problem, and sit awkwardly in silence as Li leaves and re-enters, bringing a handful of items with him, water and a book among them. This strikes me as a little odd, but nothing further. He approaches the bed.
'Sonia?' he demands sternly. I begin to wonder what could be the cause of such a greeting, when I am startled by her sudden movement. She flips her body to face him, staring intently, her body tense and contorted.
'What are you doing here? I thought I told you never to come back?'
At this she smiles, a sickly smile, and her eyes gleam. I wonder what on earth I'm doing there, and glance over at her mother, face in her hands, tears in her eyes.
'Hold her legs'
'Just do it. I don’t have time to explain'
I wanted to say no, but against my better judgement I agree, taking a limp hold of her ankles. Her skin is hot.
'What are you doing here? What do you want? I told you never to come back!'
He continues with similar demands for some minutes, the cumulative effect of which is to make her growl and stare ever more intently at him. Images from a dozen movies pass through my mind. I find the situation scary, yet am not really fearful; I never realised I was so desensitised.
I notice that her irises are become green, where I remembered them brown. They remind my of snakes' eyes – cold, intent, and filled with purpose. Her stare switches to me. An icy cold sensation passes through my body, and I suddenly feel very vulnerable, there at the end of the bed holding her legs. Li sees my discomfort, and begins to chant in a language I don't understand. This pacifies her somewhat, and she becomes still, her still green eyes falling blank, almost sad. Tortured. This continues for what seems like about half an hour, with little effect. As I come to terms with the reality of the situation, I feel angry at Li for bringing me into it. I suppose I did agree, though.
For the first time her eyes close. Li tries to wake her, and she opens her eyes. They're brown. She looks scared, like a child who's just seen something terrifying, and thinks it's coming back. Her eyes beg for help. Her lips move, but no sound comes out. Her expression rapidly becomes more pained, and in a few seconds her eyes shift to green once more. I begin to do another reality check, but am interrupted by a piercing scream unlike anything I've ever heard, so loud that my ears hurt. More like the scream of a wild creature than a human, but not quite animal either. I feel my muscles fall limp, and react by taking a firmer grip of her ankles for the first time. Her skin is so hot.
I become conscious that Li has resumed chanting, and it occurs to me that it doesn't seem like he knows what he’s doing, which was the most worrying realisation up to that point. She resumes growling, as though speaking but unable to use words. I am reminded of the way cats behave when cornered.
'You don’t like that, do you? You'd better worry, because that's nothing compared to what's waiting for you. Do you not fear God?'
The growling subsides, she is silent for a while and then begins to emit a deep groan, which turns into a weird, siren-like scream. Fucking hell. When is this going to end? She begins to thrash around, and I struggle to keep her legs pinned. Li resumes chanting, louder than before, and her movement becomes increasingly violent and wild. Distracted by the force of her movements, I hear a shriek from her mother who I had forgotten about. I don’t really begin to process this when I return my sight to the bed to witness the most terrifying thing I've ever seen.
Up until that point I had been disturbed and not a little worried, but I hadn't reached a point of uncontrollable fear. There was an unnerving sense of not really being there. Everything was real enough, but I think I had suspended belief of my senses, pending further inquiry. But at that instant reality came rushing back, a sudden and violent realisation charging through every part of my body and mind, such that I felt I might lose my grip on existence.
What I saw was her body rise unaided from the bed, anchored only by my grip on her ankles. Terrified, I tightened my grip far beyond what I could have done in any other situation. Yet it was as nothing. As her body thrashed around, her flailing legs broke all my resistance to her movement, and I realised I was having no effect. I let go, the realisation of futility overriding conscious will. I dropped to the floor, sweaty and limp. Li has been chanting all the while, and I become aware of it once more. His pace and volume increase, and so do the speed and violence of her contortions. Her movements look uncontrollable, spasmodic, yet her torso hardly seems to move from its axis, like a bird in flight.
She drops to the bed, lifeless. Immediately I think her dead, and Li seems to also, as he rushes to revive her. After some minutes where I believe it all to be over, the growling resumes, her eyes open, still green yet fiery and violent. Li says a few words and presses the book he has been holding onto her face with some violence. She screams again, louder and more desperately, so angry and so unearthly that it feels like it might tear the fabric of reality. It doesn’t. It stops. He removes the book and opens her closed eyes, her body still. They are blank, but brown. She comes around, and, as though realising what has just happened, bursts into tears. After what has happened, her wailing is blissfully soothing, reassuringly human.
'It hasn’t been that bad before. I’m glad you were here'. I wasn’t.
He dropped me off, and didn't mention the event again. I didn't ask. For all that I 'know' that it happened, I'm still not sure if I believe that it did. I didn't ask Li about it because I know what his answer would be. Believing experiences should be a simple matter, with sensory perception leading to belief. But when empirical evidence contradicts your prior beliefs about the world, what do you do? You cannot dismiss one without undermining the other, and trying to reconcile them means accepting that not a single thing that you have ever believed is beyond doubt. This may be an obvious and sensible attitude from a scientific point of view, but would science admit my experience? I do believe it happened, because I witnessed it and have no substantive reason to believe that it was an illusion. Even so, it necessarily constitutes an act of 'faith'. Do we really ever have the choice of believing or disbelieving?
In cold retrospect, it doesn't seem so strange anymore. After all, if I'm sure, what does it matter if nobody believes me?