Mama always told me about the little devils that would drive good girls and boys away from God. They were there, she said. But you couldn’t see them. You could only feel them by their temptations. I’d seen the pictures, though. The little images of red men with goat hooves, pointed tails, and curved horns on their heads.
So when the little devil appeared before me, no more than two inches high and its leathery wings humming the tune I’d known my whole life, I knew what I had to do.
“Get behind me, devil,” I said, fear and uncertainty causing my voice to tremble. “The power of Christ compels you! Begone!”
But the devil did not move. It only looked at me with an unreadable expression, its black eyes like little glass marbles in its tiny face. If I hadn’t known better, I would have said it was pity.
“I cannot go,” said the devil. “They’ll drive you mad.”
“Get behind me, devil,” I said, more sure this time. I held Mama’s rosary in a white knuckled grip. “The power of Christ compels you!”
The devil, its wings still beating with that infernal humming, alighted on a statue of Mary, and I felt fear rising up in my stomach like hot oil. Christ, save me. Guide me. If holy images and heartfelt prayers were not enough, what could I do? My eyes darted around, and they landed on the crucifix above my bed.
“Do not listen; they’ll drive you mad,” said the devil, more insistent this time. Lies. Mama wouldn’t lie. Devils were evil. They could not be trusted. I took the crucifix from the wall and brought it down in one swing, all of my strength and faith and hope behind the blow.
The devil was torn in two by the sacred object, and I gasped with shock and relief as it began to disappear, evaporating like smoke.
“Do not listen,” the devil hissed, its wings dissolving into air. “They’ll drive you mad.”
The humming, the demonic noise that had haunted me for my entire life, suddenly ceased. For a long minute, the only thing I could hear was my own ragged breathing. I began to laugh, a surprised and slightly hysterical sound. Christ had guided my hand. He had saved me.
But as my laughter died, I heard it. Whispering. A sound below the humming of the devil’s wings. I tried to listen harder, to hear what it was saying. Was this my angel? But the words…
I reeled back. I covered my ears. Taunts, insults, threats. All filled with malice and cruelty and hate, hate, hate. The words pierced my hands, drilling into my ears, my brain, my soul. Stupid, foul, evil thoughts, feelings. It was too much, too fast. Christ! Save me! Guide me! I don’t want to hear these terrible things.
But the crucifix was useless. My prayers remained unanswered. I stumbled through the house, out into the street. And the little devil’s words returned.
“They’ll drive you mad.”