I turned eighteen years old yesterday. I've looked forward to this milestone for three years now, as I guess most teenagers probably do. But unlike most newly legal adults, I'm not anticipating getting into nightclubs or any sort of celebrations at all. I'm not look anticipant of my future; I'm simply able, at last, to develop a way to remember my past.

My therapist has questioned my determination to seek answers. She's asked me several times why I would choose to try to remember events that may be painful, that I can do nothing to change. Why not focus instead on building a stable future, on engaging in activities and creating new memories of things I can have control of? But although I can acknowledge the point she's making, I don't agree with it. How can I be sure it's possible to build a happier future, if I don't remember enough about my past to avoid repeating it?

I'm told it's common to have vague memories of your childhood, and for even those to fade in number and clarity over time. But I remember nothing at all of my history before I became a ward of the state at fifteen years old. Everything of my life before has been told to me, several people removed from those involved with any actual events, and I can't judge their accuracy, or just how much has been edited or left out entirely. Have you ever seen a picture and thought you understood what you were looking at, then shifted it just a little in one direction, and suddenly realized it could shift into something else entire? If a simple picture can hold that sort of ambiguity, how much more could real life events, with endlessly complex human beings involved in them?

So now, as a legal adult, I've finally gained the right to request access to what information is on file about me, about my past, and to form my own inferences about their accuracy. Maybe my quest for understanding will trigger something in my own memories, pulling up dormant files in my brain into an active status I'm assuming they used to have.

This probably isn't a good idea for me, like my therapist warned. It's likely that my brain has its reasons for burying my memories, and I'm messing with my own natural defenses, forcing myself not to feel safe. But memories are just that, memories, unable to cause any physical harm. And as for emotional harm?

Well, I've been safe for three years now. I think it's time to stir things up.


Here is what I have been told. My name is Kenna Black, and when I was fifteen, my mother, Sylvia, and her pastor, Mark Hanlon, decided that I was possessed by Satan.

It sounds very dramatic to say this, and I guess it must have been for me to experience. I'm not sure how they came to this conclusion, but once it was made, they performed a series of exorcisms on me, the end result being that I grew weak and injured enough to be hospitalized. Had I been a tougher kid, maybe I would have been with them for another few weeks or even years, until they decided Satan had been dealt with satisfactorily or gave me up as a hopeless case. But as it was, I dislocated my shoulder, and even my team of amateur exorcists thought that warranted a pause from saving my soul, to first take a detour to save my arm.

Apparently, Sylvia and Mark Hanlon presented as suspiciously odd from the beginning as they signed me into the ER, even for staff probably more than used to witnessing strange behavior. I'm told that the three of us were disheveled, our clothes so torn and stained with blood and saliva that they were asked if we had been in an accident or attacked. The staff's suspicion was flagged when they noted that the adults with me kept tight grips on me at all times. Sylvia and Mark emphasized that both of them should be with me at all times, that I must not ever be alone, even with a nurse or doctor present. Suspicion became alarm when they further insisted that I should be tied up immediately, even while sitting in the waiting room. When they were told this would not be possible or necessary, Sylvia became agitated, telling them that they did not understand the possible danger.

What was I doing, I asked my social worker once, while my mother argued with nurses and her pastor held onto my loosely dangling arm? What did I say?

"You didn't say anything, Kenna," she told me, frowning. "Your file says you didn't speak the entire time you were at the hospital, not once. Not to me, not to the police, not to anyone. The first time I knew you could speak at all was when you asked me to hand you a pen, three days after I placed you in the group home."

There was nothing wrong with my mouth or tongue. Apparently, I just chose not to use them. Maybe I had nothing to say, or maybe I couldn't remember how to speak. It wouldn't be the first of important things I've forgotten.

Along with my dislocated shoulder, hospital staff noted that my body was visibly bruised around my arms, waist, and legs, with rope burns dug deep into the skin of my ankles and wrists. Although I was fifteen, I was recorded as weighing less than 100 pounds, visibly underweight for my height, and showing fairly severe signs of dehydration and disorientation. Fresh scars resembling knife marks marred my arms, and my reflexes were seriously delayed. It was obvious I had been through some sort of physical and likely mental ordeal, and abuse was strongly suspected.

During the time I was hospitalized, Sylvia and my pastor were questioned and then arrested on suspicion of child abuse, which they continued to strongly deny. They insisted that all my injuries had occurred only in interest of helping me, of keeping me from hurting myself or others. I could not or would not confirm or deny this, but to the social workers, police officers, and hospital workers who treated me, my body and my silence seemed enough. I was placed in custody of the state, and although my mother eventually was able to plea bargain out of prolonged jail time, as was Mark Hanlon, she was denied the right to even supervised visitation with me. I have not seen my mother since she escorted me through the hospital doors. It's possible I wouldn't recognize her, even if we passed each other on the street.

Over the last three years, I've grown three inches and gained almost thirty pounds. My scars have faded so that most aren't noticeable, unless you know where to look, and I graduated high school last month with passing grades in all subjects. I had a part time job over the summer, and this fall, I'm starting classes at the community college. The mute, marred girl with no memory is so far away from who I am today that it seems impossible it's who I was, but she's still there, every time I speak to my social worker, every time I attend another appointment with my therapist or look into the mirror, wondering which parts of my mother reflect in my own appearance. She's there, and until I know what she came from, I don't think she'll ever fade away enough for me to stop feeling her lurking inside me.

There are many adults in my life now who tell me they care about me, who give me advice whether or not I ask for it. Most of them who know my plans of researching my lost history tell me that I should be careful, that I should be sure I can accept I might not find what I am looking for, or that I might not like what I learn. My therapist in particular has shown concern.

"I haven't met your mother, Kenna," she told me, the last time I spoke to her. "But I've spoken to your social worker and your caretakers, and I've read the court and hospital files on record. What do you hope to accomplish in speaking to your mother, in seeing her face to face? She does not feel that she's done anything wrong, or that her actions caused you harm. It's possible she's delusional or even mentally ill, and she may not be able to explain her reasoning or even recall it in a way that you can put logic or meaning to. You can't change the first fifteen years of your life or even the last three, and although your mother may truly love you and believe she was doing right by you, the fact remains that she did cause you harm to such an extent your mind has blocked off most of your memories of your past. Seeing your mother or even speaking to her may trigger memories that you will find very difficult to handle, and she may behave in a way that you find disturbing or bizarre. Are you sure this is something you are prepared for?"

My social worker was more blunt in sharing her opinion.

"Kenna, this is a woman that you don't remember anything about. You haven't spoken to her in three years, and before that, she called you possessed by the devil and beat you to the point of literally losing your mind. Why in the world would you want to listen to anything that crazy woman could say to you? What could she possibly say that would matter?"

I understand their concern, but I don't think it's warranted. I've seen a lot of bizarre behavior in the group home, and given my circumstances bringing me there, I probably saw a lot more before too. And I'm not looking for anything but the truth, or at least a closer shade towards it. It doesn't matter if I like or understand what I find, as long as it's real.


I ran my hands absently over the creased piece of paper in my hands, my fingers further smudging its formerly smooth surface. I had official access now to any files about myself, all with a few flicks of a pen, but the only information I had asked for today was the last known contact information for Sylvia Black. Today, if all went as planned, I would see my mother for the first time in the past three years. Today, I might be able to ask her all the questions only she could answer. Today, I might come that much closer to closing the gap between who I was and who I am.

I hadn't called Sylvia before driving the thirty minute drive to her apartment. I hadn't known what I could say over a phone call to a woman I didn't even remember, a woman more closely related to me than anyone else on earth who nevertheless was a stranger. Besides, it didn't seem wise to give her a heads up about my coming. She had once thought I was possessed by evil incarnate; what would have stopped her from refusing to open the door, or even planning out some sort of attack against me the minute I stood on her property? It seemed better to catch her by surprise, somehow more likely to yield a genuine exchange.

Still, I found myself standing on the weathered doormat of her apartment for several minutes, tracing the outlines of her address, before I finally mustered the energy and will to race my fist in a knock. Even with my new means of information, I still had not seen a picture of Sylvia in my file. What sort of woman would stand on the other side of the door?

I could hear someone inside the apartment before Sylvia responded, her footsteps heavy and slow. I was surprised to see that the woman they belonged to was small and light in frame, standing with her shoulders back, her head high. She was dressed simply in a loose dark skirt and blouse, her hair long and braided down her back in an old-fashioned style. I knew from the file that she was young, only sixteen when she gave birth to me, but even so the smooth lines of her face and the paleness of her hair, so similar in appearance to mine, startled me. Sylvia Black hardly looked old enough to be anyone's mother, and certainly not old enough to be mine.

She looked at me blankly for a few moments, as if waiting for me to explain my presence or introduce myself. Then recognition crept into her eyes, and Sylvia gasped, taking a step away from me as her hand sprung backward, pressing tightly against her chest.

"Oh my goodness…Kenna. Kenna, it's you!"

"Yeah," I said with a somewhat uncomfortable chuckle, giving her an equally awkward smile. "Yeah, it's me. And you're…Sylvia? My mom?"

"Well, yes, of course. Of course I am," she confirmed, her echoing laugh breathless, pitched higher and even more strained than mine. "But….how did you…"

She took another hurried step backward, and when I lifted a hand in a self-conscious gesture, thinking that maybe she would take hold of it or even shake it, Sylvia Black sucked in her breath, actually leaning away from making physical contact with my skin. Her eyes darted and her skin slowly paled of most of its color, her voice coming out in stammered staccato when she spoke to me again.

"But they said… they said no contact, not until…oh, goodness, your birthday's come, hasn't it? You're grown now. You're…"

"Eighteen, yeah," I finished. "A few days ago. So…I can do contact now. If I want to."

When Sylvia opened her mouth, then shut it again, dropping her eyes, I shifted my weight over my left hip, resisting my urge to cross my arms over my chest. I thought any further sudden motions might actually cause her to run past me out the door, or to leap backward, slamming the door in my face.

It was obvious she wasn't happy to see me. Sylvia Black was scared. But why? Because of what she remembered, or what memories she thought I shared? Because of her past and maybe present convictions against me? Or did she think I came not to talk, not in search, but in some sort of vengeance against her, the minute I was able to?

"I'm not angry," I said quickly. Even I heard the desperate edge in my tone. "Really, I'm not. I don't even remember living with you- not any of it. My life has been okay, really. I'm okay. I just…I just wanted to meet you. To talk to you."

Sylvia's throat worked, the muscles of her jaw growing taut. I waited for her response with my lower lip between my teeth, making myself hold still. I didn't want to spook her any further, although I didn't understand what about me was so scary to her. I didn't look any different than any other teenager, and I'd been so careful to talk to her quietly, calmly, with nothing but respect. What could have happened between us that would overshadow all my efforts?

When she finally shook her head, firmly, definitively, my heart throbbed with disappointment. I hadn't prepared for a rejection. I hadn't let myself think that far ahead with this.

"I don't want to talk to you," she said, her voice catching. "I can't."

She half turned, her hand closing around the doorknob, but I moved fast enough that even I was surprised by it, blocking her from shutting it with my foot. Sylvia gasped again, scuttling back out of my reach, but I didn't try to touch her. I knew better by now.

"Please, Sylvia," I repeated, taking hold of the other side of the doorknob and holding on with both hands. "Please…Mom."

I saw something shift in her expression when I addressed her by her title, but I wasn't sure if it was positive or not. I pushed on, hoping for the former.

"Please. I just want to understand. Please, I'm your daughter. You're my mother. I just…I want to understand. I want to remember."

Sylvia exhaled in a quivering, broken string of breaths, wetting her lips. Her hand pressed flat against her thigh, kneading at the material of her skirt before she spoke.

"It's a blessing from God if you don't remember, and one to be grateful for. Or maybe…"

She sighed again, meeting my eyes, and spoke in a harder, more urgent tone, taking one small step closer towards me.

"If you are still my daughter, Kenna…if any part of you really is Kenna, somewhere in there, if Kenna ever really existed…then listen to me. Listen to me, and believe."

I leaned towards her unconsciously; the fervency of her tone made me think she would whisper her next words. She didn't, speaking in a normal volume but rushed cadence of words.

"It's still there, Kenna. I can see it in your eyes. I feel it, watching me. Listening. It's still in you, and you have to get it out before it's in too deep, before it's been too long in control."

A chill ran through the muscles of my neck and back, and I tightened my fingers around the doorknob. I was pretty sure I knew what she was she was implying, but I had to clarify all the same.

"What is in me?"

"The devil," Sylvia whispered, her eyes open wide. "He's there, Kenna. I thought we got him out, but he's back. They wouldn't let us keep him away."

Swallowing past the lump forming in my throat, I shook my head at her, startled by the sudden tears forming in my eyes. I had expected a reaction like this- it was something I had been warned could happen, by more than one person. But it was one thing to know it was possible, and another to stand across from someone in reality who truly believed they saw evil inside of you. It was shocking, even with the expectation- and it hurt.

"Why are you saying this," I asked her quietly, still shaking my head. "I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm your daughter, Sylvia. What is it that is so bad about me you would say that?"

"This is for your safety," she insisted, leaning closer still, until I smelled her sour breath near my face. "This is for your soul. If I'm speaking to Kenna now- if any of her is left- then she needs to listen. She needs to come with me, so I can do what should have been done years ago."

Her hand shot out with surprising force, and her fingers closed around my wrist. I yelped, jumping back from her and breaking her hold, even as she leaned towards me, snatching at the hem of my sleeve to try to pull me back.

"What are you doing? Stop, don't touch me!" I blurted, pushing at her hand. I didn't want to hurt her, but I certainly wasn't about to let her hurt me, let alone pull me into her house.

"You need to come with me," she said with determination, setting her jaw. "There might still be time. I might still be able to help you. We should never have taken you to the hospital, that was our mistaken, and the devil used it against us. Our compassion was our weakness, and he knew it. Who wouldn't have compassion for their child in pain?"

"Mom- Sylvia, no," I managed, crossing my arms- it would make it harder for her to grab me with enough force to put me off balance, if I held my body more solidly. "Please, I'll just go. I'm not coming with you."

"It wasn't my fault, that you became this," she told me, genuine sorrow coloring her voice. She had stopped trying to touch me, to contain me, and stood still, looking at me with pain as much as fear filling her eyes. "It was in you from conception. Even before your birth, Kenna. Those made in evil have little choice to become more than what they are. I tried so hard to counter the way you were made, but it wasn't enough, was it?"

"The way I was….what are you talking about?"

I had not found any information about my birth or infancy in the files about myself. From what everyone else understood, Sylvia had never disclosed who had fathered me, or whether she even knew who was father was for herself. It hadn't seemed important to me until now. Was it possible that her delusions stemmed all the way back to the circumstances that had created me?

She closed her eyes briefly, her hand shaking as it rose up to partly cover her mouth. She didn't look at me, didn't take her hand away, her words emerging muffled and hidden behind her partial, ineffective shield of skin and bone.

"I never told anyone," she whispered, her voice full of tears that did not emerge. "I didn't want to get anyone in trouble, I'd rather take that on for myself. I didn't want you to be judged, I thought you were innocent, the only one innocent in all of it. That was my mistake, but I made it from love. The devil uses your best traits against you, Kenna, and that's what he's done to me."

She took a ragged breath, eyes still closed when she spoke again, swaying briefly before firming her stance.

"You were born of the worst of sins," she said, and although she didn't say the words harshly, they felt grating and raw to my ears. "I was…my half brother made me do things. I was only sixteen. I didn't…I knew it was wrong, and I didn't want it, but…I loved him, and I didn't want him punished. It was my mistake to take on his sin, but I thought I could, and spare him the consequences and suffering. I didn't tell anyone. I brought you into this world, even knowing what made you, and what you could become."

For a few seconds my body forgot how to breathe. I hugged myself until I felt the sharp points o my elbows begin to dig against the bottom of my ribs, struggling to process this new and horrific information. My words felt cold in my throat and sounded foreign to my ears when I spoke again.

"I was…I came from rape? From incest?"

She didn't answer me, or even acknowledge my questions. Sylvia's eyes were directed towards me but didn't focus on me as she continued with her story.

"I thought I could overcome your origins," she murmured, shaking her head. "I raised you even more carefully than I would another child. I brought you to church, Kenna, every time the doors were open. I worked hard to provide for you, you had everything you could need. I made sure you knew God's word. I prayed with you and I prayed for you, so many hours of your life. I kept you out of public schools, because I wanted to keep the world's ways from further influencing your genes. I tried so hard, Kenna. I named you after St Kenan, the first to make a stone cathedral to replace the pagan alters in Ireland. I really believed that I could overcome what you were."

She hissed, a noise sharp and startling enough to me that I jumped, alarmed. "I was foolish, foolish and prideful. And I didn't see until God showed me the truth."

"But how did he do that?" I asked. "What did I do that was so terrible?"

In three years, I had consistently been the student in my group home with the highest scores for my behavior, and usually the highest scores in our schoolwork too. I hadn't once done anything that could harm myself or someone else, and it was rare for me to even feel angry. And yet my mother spoke even after all this time with full conviction that I had been destined for evil, looked at me with little more than anxious contempt.

"God gave me a vision, a prophetic dream," she replied, obvious pride swelling her words. "He spoke to me plainly enough that I understood, and I knew what must be done. He showed me, Kenna, what was harbored within you, not detectable to the unenlightened eye. He showed me your evil, begotten of evil, and told me that only I could bring forth your redemption."

That was it? That was her proof- a dream? My chest felt hollow, uncertain if I should be relieved or disappointed with Sylvia's explanation. It wasn't enough, not by far- but then, she wasn't finished speaking yet.

"I sought the counsel of our priest, of course, and he agreed to pray for you. He came to you in his own time, of the holy spirit, and he saw it too," Sylvia said grimly, lips pursed together in an almost satisfied grimace of a smile. "He saw the demonic in your eyes, and he reminded me that just as angels can masquerade as human flesh, so too can demons. It is the task of God's people to force them out, and now, the task was ours. I raised you up in God's ways, and now, I would have to ignore your appearance as my child and treat you as the evil being inside you. No matter how I had to harm your presence appearance in the process, it would be for your own good, to save your very soul."

I knew what was coming- her own justifications for the abuse, documented so plainly in my files, described to me through others' memories, but no longer active in my own. The denying of food, the injuries, hours of forced prayer, of being called evil, the exorcisms- all justified, to Sylvia. All done not out of malice, but out of necessity, even out of devotion to God.

"But I hadn't done anything," I said slowly, my words hardly more than a whisper. "You dreamed this…this vision, and that was it? But I didn't do anything. I didn't threaten anyone, I didn't change? And you still…"

"I trusted God!" Sylvia snapped, eyes narrowing to slits at my challenging her. She jabbed a shaking finger towards me, waving it back and forth. "I trusted God, and he is never wrong, never off in his timing! And when I waited, I saw it! I saw you start to stumble and say the wrong words in prayers you had known for years, giggling and not paying attention when God's words were spoken! I saw your eyes go blank when I read the Bible, the flickers of pure evil that went through your eyes, fast, but not too fast for me to see. I saw it, Kenna, and I acted, as any woman of God would do. And we were successful. We forced the evil dormant, and we would have forced it out entirely, until the world got its hands on you again."

She reached for my arm again, but this time I was faster, and I jerked backward before her fingers could complete contact.

"Come with me, Kenna. Let me finish, let me help you. It's my place in God's plan. Let me-"

But I was finished. Sylvia's answers were not ones I wanted any longer, however much she might believe them to be true. Even as I turned, hurrying out of her reach, I heard her call out to me, her voice pitched high with her desperation for me to heed.

"Father Hanlon has a video of the rituals done for you, Kenna, on his theology website online! Watch it for yourself, and you will see the truth!"

I didn't turn back to her. I didn't even acknowledge her in words. She might have given birth to me, and we might share blood and genetics, but this meeting had made it clear to me that Sylvia Black was not my mother, even if she once had been. That had been taken over with her choice to become God's servant instead.


Meeting Sylvia had shaken me more than I anticipated. I had thought myself ready for the person I expected her to be. I had been warned, and she was little different than those who remembered her had described. I had read my file and felt such disconnect from all of it that it seemed unlikely she would trigger any emotions in me but curiosity. But reading other's words about her, about me, was different from standing across from someone who looked at you with full belief of evil inside you. I had always felt before that I was reading words written about someone else; hearing my past described aloud was like listening to a story rather than re-experiencing reality.

Everything felt more real, with a face now attached to my mother's name, with gestures and verbal intonations associated with her. I saw the humanity in her emotions towards me, even as she made clear how much she doubted the humanity in me, and I could not seem to push away the new and intense memory of her I now carried.

It was obvious now to me why people who remembered Sylvia had warned me I might regret meeting with her. I couldn't say that I did regret it, but neither was I pleased or satisfied with the strangeness of our exchange. It stuck with me, looping in nagging insistence in my thoughts, and I began to wonder if this was how Sylvia's mind worked, if this obsessive focus was a genetic abnormality I had inherited from her. Did this mean I, too, would eventually become as disturbed as she clearly was?

I didn't intend to watch the video she had spoken of. It didn't seem likely that it would be anything but more confusing, possibly even painful, although I couldn't identify what I was feeling after our meeting as pained so much as deeply confused and off balance. But her urgent entreaty for me to watch it kept returning to my thoughts, and hours later, I found myself searching Father Hanlon's name through google. It wasn't difficult to find the theology webpage she had described, and a few minutes of scanning its contents easily turned up the video. I noted its title- "Proof of demonic presence within young woman-" and exhaled, shaking my head. I had not met the man, but based on that title alone, I was no more impressed with him than I had been by my mother.

I hesitated, then dug through my purse, searching for the earbuds I had stashed in its bottom. I didn't need to be someone who watched a lot of horror movies to have an idea that an exorcism had the potential to get louder than would be considered okay in the quiet atmosphere of the café I was sitting in.

The background of the video took place in what looked like a small, nearly bare office of some kind, possibly a room inside Father Hanlon's church or even his personal home. It didn't look even vaguely familiar to me, but there didn't seem to be any personal items or decorative wall hangings to indicate the room was often used beyond a desk and small book shelf. I was surprised to see that Sylvia was not present on the screen. Was she not there for the exorcism, or was she simply sitting outside of the lens of the camera? Maybe she was the one filming.

The camera focused in on a man in his fifties dressed in dark robes with a golden sash draped over his shoulders. He was clean shaven, balding, and utterly average in appearance, and I felt no recognition as I looked him over. He was seated across from a teenaged girl that I recognized with a small jolt of discomfort to be myself.

I was recognizably me on the video, even three years ago, even though I still remembered nothing of the events I was viewing. But the girl I had been then looked so very different than the person I saw in the mirror now, far closer to the girl that had been described to me in my file and by the people in my life of the past three years who remembered me then. She slumped in her seat, head hanging so low that most of her tangled hair fell forward, concealing her face from the camera. Although she was dressed in a loosely fitting blouse and skirt, her bowed back emphasized the sharpness of her shoulder blades, and her elbows dug into her thighs hard enough that it looked painful. She was trembling, although it was unclear whether this was from exhaustion, emotion, or extreme effort of self control.

I stared at myself, fascinated and horrified at this live envisioning of this pivotal moment in my life. My file had not mentioned a video existing, nor had my social worker or my therapist. Was it possible that they didn't know, or hadn't seen it? Or did they think it so disturbing that they wanted to keep me from finding and viewing it myself?

The Kenna in the video certainly was disturbing to look at. Although I was well aware that I had been underweight at age fifteen, it was far more astonishing to view my thinness than to simply hear or read about it. When video Kenna lifted her head slightly, I saw that her eyes were dark and sunken in her face, that her cheekbones stuck out sharply, and bruise-like smudges carved deep crevices beneath her eyes. Her skin clung so tightly to her skull and limbs that she resembled a skeleton as much as a girl, and as I continued to observe my younger self, I wondered if part of her shaking could be due to simple lack of nutrition.

"This is Kenna Black, age fifteen, present here with her mother, Sylvia Black, and myself, Father Mark Hanlon," the priest in the video stated by way of introduction, his voice steady, almost monotone, but I noticed his eyes did not waver from Kenna's in the video. "Today is January 13, 2017, and we will be conducting a deliverance of demonic presence from Miss Black through the ritual of exorcism. Although the ritual is serious and rigorous and normally would entail steps of testing, receiving approval from the Pope, and many other admittedly sensible levels of decision making, due to the severity of Miss Black's struggle and her mother's concern for the danger she may pose to herself and others, I have made the decision to expedite her deliverance and earnestly seek out God's assistance and mercy in preserving the soul of this child of God."

Interesting, then, that the man acknowledged he had skipped several steps of the usual procedure in his decision to exorcise me without official consent. What had I done, or what had my mother told him, to persuade him this was necessary?

The Kenna in the video's head jerked forward, and she made a startled noise in her throat, then began to giggle. The sound was unsettling, jagged and loopy in its tone, and when she shook her shaggy brown hair back from her face, I saw again the severity of her exhaustion. There were bruises of various stages of healing marring her neck, staining her arms, and Father Hanlon began to pray over her again, she giggled again, her hands making loose fists in her lap.

"Listen to her, laughing at the Lord's word," I heard a woman's voice murmur on camera darkly, and I recognized it as Sylvia's, off screen. "This is not my daughter."

"Tell me your name, demon," Father Hanlon said aloud, after several more minutes of prayer. "Speak your name, in Jesus's name I command it of you."

"Kenna," the girl on the video mumbled wearily, with another snorting little laugh, but there was no real humor in the sound. "Kenna, you know my name is Kenna, what else am I supposed to say?"

I watched, stricken with equal parts horror, fascination, and pity as this continued for several minutes, with my younger self being repeatedly asked to speak the name of the demon inside her. Kenna on the video stated her name in several different ways, confused and increasingly agitated, and then began to ask for water, for sleep, to be allowed to go home. She tried to tell the relentless man questioning her that she had no other name to give him, that her mother was mistaken and she just wanted to go to sleep. She tried to tell him that she felt sick, and then just begged them to stop asking her, to stop talking to her, to leave her alone.

And then I saw the shift occur in her eyes. As the videoed Kenna's desperation reached a peak, she bowed her head, pressing her lips together firmly and shutting her eyes. When she opened them again, there was a look of defeat settling into her features, and a new flatness came into her voice when she spoke.

"Okay, you're right. You're right, okay? It's all true, I worship the devil. I invited him into me, like, ages ago. I called him to come into me, and he did. I pray to Satan, I pray to Satan right now. Hail Satan, I pray to you Satan. Satan is my master, Satan is my-"

She stopped speaking then, her features stiffening, and for a moment so brief I thought at first I had imagined it, something dark, drawn, and almost dangerous seemed to flicker through her eyes. And then it was gone, and the tired flatness of Kenna's features returned.

I frowned, leaning forward and squinting, but the strange shift of video-Kenna's features didn't reoccur. I rewound the video back several seconds and focused, seeing quickly that I had not been wrong or mistaken about what I had observed. There had been true, sinister emotion in the girl on the screen's eyes. I couldn't imagine what I must have been thinking, or how much effort it must have taken for me to force it back out of sight.

I brought the video back again, then again, and each time I watched the flash of malice in Kenna's eyes, a stronger sense of foreboding came over me, clinching up my stomach and thickening the walls of my throat. Something was going to happen, I could feel it. There was growing sense around me of a nearly tangible presence, unseen, but nevertheless thick and heavy, settling over me like a dark fog of dread.

The sixth time that I rewound the video, I saw it. This time, the odd expression Kenna showed did not quickly fade away, but instead remained firmly etched into her features, carving deep, savage lines into her skin. This time, rather than continuing to face the priest, Kenna slowly turned her face towards the camera, looking out as though she could sense me, three years into the future. This time, her eyes on the screen made direct contact with mine.

A forceful surge of adrenaline spiked through me, and my spine bolted straight, my jaw tensing up against its intensity. I remember jerking forward, my forehead lurching with dangerous speed towards making contact with the computer's screen, and then my memories blank out into nothing more.


I became alert in an abrupt cacophony of senses intermingling, clamoring for my attention. Although I stood in darkness, I could see perfectly well the outlines of the bare forest trees around, could even make out the individual traits of leaves, branches, and irregularities of their bark. I could hear every small crackle of living beings treads on the forest floor, every rustle of wings and every murmur of animalistic communication within half a mile's distance. My nose burned with the strength of hundreds of competing scents of the natural world, but strongest of all, I smelled blood.

I didn't need to look around to locate its source. I could feel it, warm and sticky against my bare arms and legs, and I could smell the difference of whether its source was still living or dead. I could taste the lingering bitterness of its dying fear against my tongue, and I knew even before I looked down at my bare feet, stained with dirt, grass, and the fear-drenched blood of Sylvia Black, that I had been the one to provoke its terror.

Just as I knew and sensed all of these things, I was aware with full clarity of the renewed presence of memories now residing in my brain, restored for my knowledge and access. I knew with no effort of recall or thought just what had happened to me in my first fifteen years, though I felt no connection of pity or sympathy for the child I had been. I knew myself at last as the quiet, obedient child Sylvia had raised me to be, devoted and dutiful to her God. I understood her confusion and fear at her mother's sudden shifted behavior towards her, at Sylvia's denouncement of her as evil, and I possessed the ironic knowledge that fifteen-year-old Kenna Black had not been evil at all. I knew of her suffering with her mother's efforts to obtain her confession and her deliverance of her supposed possession, understood then the moment of her surrender in the video, her effort at finally giving Sylvia the confession she desired in hopes she would relent, satisfied, at last.

And I felt the sharp, satisfying difference of the change that came into her, the moment she called out to Satan, even without true belief, the moment she made verbal declaration of his mastery. I understood now the flicker of change over her face- the moment that Satan claimed body sworn in his name.

He lay dormant, as Sylvia had vowed, within me, waiting for the right moment to reveal himself, patient and silent in my company. And now, at the dawn of my coming of age, he came forward, showing me what was to be in our union.

I had been given so much, at the first day of my independence. With so little belief or acknowledgement, he had given me not only answers, but vengeance. What was a momentary loss of memories and years, given what he gave me in return? What was the loss of a mother, or even a soul?

Raising my face up to the dark night sky, I breathed in deeply, savoring the exhilarating power coursing through me. Perhaps Sylvia was right; perhaps I was born with no other course but this. I might as well enjoy it.

Wiping my hands clean of my mother's blood, I turned away, leaving her body twisted and torn at my feet. Head still tilted upward, I began to walk, my senses awake and alert with the signals of living beings around me. I listened to my master's words, able to hear their soft tone with hearing unrivaled by any human being still possessing of their own soul. I understood now that even Satan gave not orders, but rather suggestions. It was my choice and my will to carry them out, and his ideas were so much better than those of my own.