An introduction to “Demons of the New Year” or how the highway south of heaven is easy
One more bite a little closer to the bone
~ Wolfgang, “Love and Despair”
Since starting this anthology I have been waking up more and more at 3AM.
This seems like a gimmicky thing to say in an introduction but it also happens to be the truth. Up to the last moment when I handed in the debut episode of the web comics The Magdalene Fist I found that, again, the prevailing paradigm of a given environment has jurisdiction over your subconscious.
In our Catholic country where Good and Evil is always Christ vs. Satan the mind state that becomes wide open to demonic invasion is an easy one to slide into. They even have a term for it: “a mind full of scorpions.”
In Voodoo, Santeria, Rizalista and many occult-based religions possession is a sacred and ritualized event performed by professionals to communicate with the divine. In Christian Catholicism it is an assault by hostile forces bent on majority control that becomes a suppurating thorn in the side of reality, removable only by holy men of strength.
Guess which one I was more interested in as a teen?
In 1998, the year before I began work as a journalist I supported myself by lugging around my Tarot deck and reading the fortunes of NGO workers, bored housewives, cheating executives and the occasional college sophomore who wanted to know if her boyfriend this year was The One.
Reading fortunes was easy. Telling people a reasonably entertaining facsimile of the truth was not. Nobody wants to know they’re going to die of cancer next year. Nobody wants to know their wife doesn’t love them and never did. Nobody wants to know they’ll know much pain and failure before they know success after migrating to a cold, distant land.
Strong emotions leave a trail in the tracery of energies that is the matrix of our passage. And the future to the seer is like climbing up a ladder to view a distant procession heading your way through a veil of early morning fog. While I can see farther than you, I don’t have binoculars and the damnable mist doesn’t do anything for my short sightedness.
There’s also 50/50 that the guy in the red suit walking point might be Santa Claus or Lucifer.
Fast forward to 2002 and I am burning my two, fat notebooks of accumulated rituals, spells, chakra anatomies, herbs lists, Zen maxims, circles of summoning and abjuration and helpful apocryphal exercises. It is too much, you see: the writhing black lizard men who invade my bedroom by climbing through the window, hanging on the ceiling and sitting on my chest `til I wake up coughing. It is too much: the newly dead relative who tried to communicate by trying to possess me (the feeling not unlike drowning). Too much: omens in the smallest events, lucid dreams of being torn limb from limb by winged grotesques, precognitive visions that bring on mystery fevers, the sound of duende feet zooming around my bed, the scent of sulfur and shit that heralds their arrival.
This was classic pavor nocturnus (aka the fear at night, the shit in your pajamas terror, the cold and sweating heebie jeebies) and I had it bad. Hence: torching the spell books and an end to obsessive occult dabbling. So, burning it all was a good thing.
I confirmed this a few days later when I met the demon in the mall.
But I get ahead of myself. First, I must tell you that Joey Nacino is the kind of publisher whose vision extends to encompass an umbrella of diverse popular genres (See, Exhibit A: The Farthest Shore anthology) with a compassionate eye.
He has also been, in the course of completing this e-book, a crucial collaborator for me. The kind that serves as a good foil to my punk dreams of creating a subversive, Pinoy horror canon. Joey expanded my notions of evil beyond the souls held in infernal torture by the boys down below.
While we do have those in this collection, there’s more. From the traditional bestiary of underworld nasties literally knocking on our door (Eliza Victoria’s “Salot”) to the breed that’s bent on inciting us to sell our souls (Rommel Santos’s “Best Served Cold”), up to the very 2000s variety of whispering devils that motivate us to go walking through the urban abyss unarmed (Don Jaucian’s prosaic “Different Degrees of Night”), or the flimsy reasons that incite us to perpetrate vile things upon our kind (Marguerite Alcazaraen De Leon’s “K-10 Mushroom”). All of them, their name is demon.
Hell, after all, is any place you’re suffering an intense torment that seems forever.
This year being a Presidential election year — and a very hot one at that with the El Nino withering crops and shortening fuses — I’m sure His Infernal Majesty is pleased at the fine state our republic’s in right now. How this anthology helps expand local literature about hell is mainly Joey pointing me in the direction of subjugating local horror by planting the seeds of subversion we picked from the fields of the provinces to the shanties of Metro Manila in its very system.
So, this e-book is our attempt to bring you the beauty of a mind full of scorpions from as wide a net as possible. Going south of heaven should at least be entertaining.
Now then, to continue: I met the demon in the SM North EDSA mall.
It was dressed in the skin of a male Department Store, men’s clothing section employee. It had on a white polo, light brown slacks and a yellow vest embroidered with the mall logo on its left breast. Its eyes were black, irisless and glossy under the strong flourescent lights.
I asked it where the men’s room was and gaped in fear and shock at its predatory shark gaze that had no whites at all. Before this all my hauntings and preternatural encounters had been of the spiritual kind in trance or in the still hours of darkness. It was another thing entirely to see a horror in the flesh that I could reach out and touch (I didn’t), exchange actual spoken words with (I did) and study (ditto) as it pointed in the direction of the men’s room.
As I turned to leave it whispered “That was a good thing.” I didn’t understand it until I was 20 feet away. When I looked back it nodded and I walked faster before I pissed in my pants. As I write this, I find it’s too easy to recall the demon’s words.
Too easy. Which is why am 60% glad this project is finished.
We hope the stories here serve as fuel for your own pavor nocturnus; after the pyrotechnics and gunshots, feasts and reunions, inebriated videoke and splendidly loud music that is the Pinoy way of marking the end of another 365 days. Here’s to a new year in Hell.
KARL R. De MESA
Novaliches, Quezon City
Tags: Karl de Mesa
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