You Don't Always Need Protection

Unintelligible scribbles around the doorknob read “Circles and Squares of Basalt, the Sign of Metatron” in a dead European language. A mixture of salt and ash encircled the bed, the north defined with a stone crucifix and southwest by a bundle of incense sticks Eli bought from an Indian (she can’t remember which kind).

Before going to bed, Eli would coat the windows with the oil of iron, to keep the bugs away from her dreams. Saran wrap to suffocate the ghosts, saguaro twigs to drown the aquifer, tin foil to deflect the cosmic rays. Before going to bed, Eli would say nothing for five hours, so the spirits would forget how to speak in her dreams.

When the seals and talismans worked, Eli dreamed a horizon of whiteness (or sometimes blackness), nothing there to hurt her.

But there is one that always breaks through. The demon was painful, evil. It wore the face of her mother. It would say

“I’m sorry. I still love you.”

When it appeared, Eli screamed—and the demon would go away. She would feel better.

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