• Robert L. Giron

Issue 142

In this issue, work by

Jason Harris

Lilith Doesn’t Like Happy Endings

Three days after his uncelebrated fifty-fifth birthday, when Ben Rollins went to the Get Out of Your Body and Become a Living Ghost workshop, he didn’t expect the techniques would work. The class wasn’t just a lark, though he enjoyed the idea of meeting someone special to meld with astrally, as the brochure teased. His attendance was primarily a last-ditch effort to defy the horror of pulling the plug on his comatose eleven-year-old daughter, Kaillie.

Ben’s ex-wife, Debra, had already given up. He couldn’t blame her. But even before Debra’s pancreatic cancer, they’d argued about Kaillie’s coma. Debra thought death would free her. Ben couldn’t stop searching for other paths, secrets medical science might have missed.

The idea of an out-of-body experience had always intrigued him. To soar free. Glide as an unimpeded silver form of pure spirit. Delicious.

And he had done just that.

He was actually experiencing the shimmering truth of an astral body.

By this marvel his hope had renewed.

Before Ben’s silvery ascendance, the instructor—Charlotte—had guided the class through a radical launching meditation to open chakras and free everyone’s etheric spirit.

The class’s participants included young and old. Most were what Ben expected: ungainly shapes, pierced and tattooed flesh, uncritical enthusiasm.

Yet, Ben’s etheric spirit seemed alone as he drifted past these earthbound dreamers. Only he had got out of himself, despite the group’s naïve optimism. And on his first try!

He hovered above the moped-riding showoffy gal. During the out-of-body launching meditation, she’d insisted on maintaining the splits with her eyes shut. Her frizzy hair looked pink as the dogwood tree blooming in the parking lot. She seemed vaguely familiar. Perhaps a photograph from one of those date-a-millionaire personal ads or a swank bar in downtown Seattle? Ben might have tried talking to her if he were ten—no, maybe fifteen—years younger, and he hadn’t already had sex once upon a time with at least five other women he thought were like her. Wild unconventional women. Except they hadn’t had those cheekbones. Nor been so buxom. Older. But pretty much the same. Ah, who was he fooling? Had those women ever appreciated him? Or just his money? Well, they must have at least enjoyed a bit of that Ben Rollins charm.

Before Ben floated onward, the moped rider’s eyes fluttered and her cheeks shifted like she was chewing. Did she smirk? No, her eyes had closed again. Maybe for a moment she’d struggled with concentration. Now you stay focused, tiger-man!

Ben trembled with the triple thrill of freedom, guilt, and mystery. He wondered why he was the only one who pulled off this trick to become a weightless wraith. Perhaps the others didn’t want it enough. He certainly had plenty of reason to crave the astral mode of transport.

He wasn’t due to visit Kaillie till tomorrow. Maybe he could arrive a little early . . . .

Staring at his silvery hands outlined by an aura of almost imperceptible white sparks, like a force field of TV static, Ben wondered how his state of being might transcend physics. Could he reach through walls? Could he extend translucent fingers past Kaillie’s frozen body into her living mind? Or would her psyche of numb synapses be a dead thing, a television station blaring a monotone note gone off air forever?

Even if Kaillie’s brain stayed silent in its impenetrable gray slate, perhaps her spirit would rise to meet his? What a relief it would be to find little Kaillie waiting for him in the hospital room, aglow with a glittery aura hovering over her hospital bed while her body lay in a comatose clump of tubes. Or was the astral body limited to only an active mind? Did braindead mean you were out of luck? What about the truly dead? His parents, his cousins, the friends that were dropping one by one, whether from too much fast living or the swiftness of a stroke or heart attack, or the slow creeping horror of terminal disease. Did they live on in etheric bodies? Could he visit all of them, clasp them in a silvery embrace?

What about Debra? Last year they’d walked past pieces of the old train wreck memorialized in bricks along the Burke-Gilman bike trail. She preferred meeting him outdoors rather than confined in a café or one of their homes. Debra had told Ben that he’d been selfishly keeping their girl alive. She’d humored him in his hope, but enough was enough.

Five years of hell. This must end. Give her peace without putting your ego in the way.

He protested. She gave the ultimatum that if he didn’t pull the plug on Kaillie in one year by May 25th, Kaillie’s twelfth birthday, then Debra would sue to force the hospital to end it all.

Deb, sometimes people wake up. It’s called life support for a reason.

It’s not life support. It’s living death. It’s time to stop the lie.

He took a deep breath, felt the burden of the moment. I can’t do that to her. Ben scraped the pavement with the leather sole of his Mephisto walking shoe. He stared at the twisted pieces of train-wreck metal— sinuous insects embedded in amber at the base of the steps that led back to the parking lot. And not on her birthday.

It’s the best thing you could do for her birthday.

Why this year?

Ben! Debra spoke furiously with her tears. Stared daggers into his stricken face. I’ve got terminal pancreatic cancer. If there’s one thing I want before I die, it’s letting our little girl go free. Promise me you’ll do it.

Who can refuse a dying woman? Debra’s physicians had little doubt of the fatal outcome despite months of treatment that Ben insisted on. While his wife plunged into odd morbid hobbies like taxidermy of birds and collecting carnivorous plants, Ben’s desperate rush into mysticism followed Debra’s ultimatum and bad news. Faith healers. Shamans. Seances. This out-of-body seminar where thoughts crowded Ben’s brain in a flush of realization as he ghosted about. If he were to help Debra and save Kaillie, he had mere days left.

Could a visit in the pureness of his astral being somehow offer healing to both his daughter and ex-wife that no doctor or couples’ counseling had ever provided? Before Debra passed away into the ash-dark universe, might his suave etheric-self melt down her sharp tongue and years of resentment after little Kaillie had submerged into the coma?

Reconciling with Debra could be one of many silvery-bodied reunions of spiritual healing Ben would have before Debra succumbed to the Pancreatic cancer that curdled her innards. But even if she emerged from the narcotic fog that enveloped her, another man held her hand. Debra had started dating months after the divorce. She’d urged Ben to do the same.

With both Debra and Kaillie in limbo, Ben could not bear these pains alone. He hungered for a new companion to share life’s pains. He longed for a clear path free from frustration and grief. Yet his shimmering etheric eyes did not reveal the way forward. He had neither guide nor map. After death Debra might not be reconcilable— a dumb phantom drifting in circles like some dirty stain of smoke in a corner. Nothing but outrage and hate. An effluvia of unassuageable remorse. Kaillie might lack the power to transcend her crushed skull and sightless eyes. Despite such doubts, Ben still hoped.

As he floated to the Seattle Spiritual Center’s ceiling, cottage cheese texture tickling his glistening forehead, Ben envisioned future reunions. Maybe this out-of-body thing meant Ben could see all his lost people. Maybe Kaillie would be wearing the same monster costume, rug of hair hanging over her eyes. Fake horns curving towards sky.

Bobbing like a balloon against that ceiling, Ben didn’t want to fool himself. If he were only dreaming, better to test things more before a longer trip. Don’t be a gullible fool, Debra had said, whenever he’d blab about the latest big change. A flying car? Are you flying out of your mind, Ben? Are you going to waste Kaillie’s college money with your pie-in-the-sky?

Ben won more than he lost when it came to investments. He was a multi-millionaire real estate mogul because of calculated risks. However, as with any new prospect, he understood the need for evidence before pulling the trigger. Don’t buy a house before you check for mold in the garage, dry rot in the baseboards. Trouble is the renewable resource that never runs out.

If he traveled outside, noted down someone’s license plate—like from that pink-haired chick’s moped—that would be proof this astral travel stuff worked.

Ben floated down from the ceiling towards his resting body, peering at the ridges of skull looming behind fleshy folds at the back of his bald head, which he kept shaved ever since his hair got so thin he’d been sunburned badly on top.

As he got closer to his body, he thought he saw the pink-haired woman’s startlingly blue eyes flick open, stare at him, then shut her eyes again. He felt the buzzing start that he’d experienced when he first got into astral form. To avoid buzzing back to his body, he turned to the window, sailed forward, pressed against—then through the glass! His fingers cooled with the rush of air outside. The glass had admitted and released him like he were nothing more than the invisible wave of light that painted the dogwood flowers their remarkable pink color.

Rotating in midair, Ben stared at Mt. Rainier. It loomed in the southern horizon— a wreath of disc-shaped lenticular clouds orbited the glaciated summit. After several decades of staring up at that sleeping volcano, Ben had finally climbed it when he was fifty.

The reality hadn’t been as enthralling as the idea of a beautiful summer climb. After hours of sweating and deep breathing in face-numbing cold on a forced march before dawn by the drill-sergeant mountaineers who organized the climb at 4—yes 4—fucking AM, Ben had stepped his right foot through crunchy snow straight into a crevasse. Weightless space yawned beneath his right boot. Fear hollowed his chest. He shifted to his left foot, and with the help of the climbing rope—and the mountaineering guides—he’d withdrawn his right foot from disaster.

Strange to find weightlessness now a relief.

He sunk down to the moped—a spiffy fifteen-grand Vespa mode. He read the digits and committed them to memory.

Excitement fluttered through his belly. He couldn’t wait for confirmation on this test.

Now was the time to try to go visit Kaillie in the hospital. Dream or not.

While his etheric body whisked over power lines, Ben’s body of flesh stirred too, an itch twitched his nostrils. He scratched himself and discovered dual consciousness did not distract.

Once at the hospital, he drifted past nursing stations. Ah, there was Kaillie’s room. Her curls intermeshed with a tangle of breathing tubes. Her cheeks looked bloated like somebody holding their breath underwater. Something to do with the drugs that kept her body working. He reached to touch her forehead. Her dry skin warmed his silvery hand, but she gave no sign she knew he was there. Not even a flutter of eyelids. No intimation that her own etheric body might spark and levitate up to join him.

Back to us. Wake up.

Ben’s etheric body jerked as he hovered over his daughter at Northwest Hospital.

Ben’s astral form was reeled in—a tape-measure retracting. Buzzing rush. Dizziness. Back to being plain old Ben. He blinked his eyes. Charlotte had switched on fluorescent lights to encourage the class to come out of their meditative states. Ben rested his face in his hands and gave a long sigh. The astral wannabees were chattering like querulous seabirds.

The Goth couple blabbed about entering an underworld of multi-colored ice crystals where they picked fruit hanging from a frozen waterfall. Hippie gal talked about sitting on top of the building with her grandmother’s ghost, catching up on the last twenty years. Old fart insisted he’d hightailed it to the Himalayas to see a Tibetan monk who told him he would be the first man to prove to medical science that we were energy beings that happened to inhabit fleshly shells for an arbitrary time.

The only one besides Ben who didn’t claim anything about some amazing astral expedition was the pink-haired woman who put back on her yellow cowboy boots and said, I hadn’t felt ready, when Charlotte asked her about her spiritual odyssey.

And how about you? Charlotte asked Ben, whose face sagged as he looked away.

He took a big breath. Determined not to curse. I was floating around here. I thought that was cool enough. Then I went to the hospital, and. . . it didn’t make a damn bit of difference to my daughter. I don’t see why all you people spout that bull—that mumbo-jumbo— when I didn’t see a single one of your ’etheric bodies’ floating around.

Except for the pink-haired woman, the class gave a collective hiss and joined Charlotte in lecturing Ben about irreverence. They said they were sorry he had a sick daughter, but that was no excuse to be a negative force in the universe. No doubt that held him back from astral freedom. His negative energy would not be welcome in future sessions.

Charlotte suggested he meditate alone for two months before even considering working with any group again and surely not theirs again unless he was prepared to apologize and atone.

When he shook his head at Charlotte and walked out, Ben stopped to speak to the pink-haired woman.

Your moped license plate PRK9333?

Her blue eyes widened, and he got a whiff of Jasmine as she looked up at him and brushed back her pink hair. Yes.

I saw it in my astral body. Ben nodded and left the woman smiling as he walked away.

Ben got in his Tesla X 2021 and adjusted his belongings. He glimpsed the pink-haired woman astride her purple moped, which did indeed have the numbers he remembered. Did he impress her with knowing her license plate? Or had she thought he was creepy? Or was it because he drove a one-hundred-and-forty-thousand-dollar car? Whatever her reasons, she waved and smiled as he drove away.

Embittered by his astral projection class, Ben considered going in person right away to visit Kaillie, but realized that would just have sent him even deeper into a depression. Maybe just stick to tomorrow like usual. He went every Sunday. And he’d keep going till May 25th— Kaillie’s birthday and day of doom decreed by Deborah.

Instead of the hospital, he parked near the Third Door, an eclectic bar that was a forum for artists and musicians. And wealthy donors. He chose the collector’s specialty of the month—a $450 jewel bottled by Domaine Dujac in 2012. A Vosne-Romanee red from Flagey-Échezeaux to be precise. He drank two glasses without stopping to savor this delight of Burgundy until the third glass. He sighed and sank back into the anonymity of his corner booth.

Ben swished the wine around his mouth. Drinking alone, he often wished he could link up his mind with a companion and share his feelings, thoughts, and experiences—a mutual transfusion, where woman and man could know each other totally. To strike the same chord at the same time. It would make things much more meaningful.

As the wine’s warmth suffused his cheeks, Ben recalled John Donne’s poem, A Valediction Forbidding Mourning. He wished he too might run his soul into some golden twine, to aery thinness beat and tangle up like two serpents slithered around each other in a perfect braided union—that had, after all, been one of his motivations for trying the astral projection class. Pure soul-mate intimacy without miscommunication. God, he was a naïve romantic despite everything.

But he’d been the only one to get out of his body. Maybe he should practice more by himself, and explore this astral business some more.

Screw Charlotte for kicking him out. Charlotte the Charlatan.

Having started his fourth glass, the wine’s heat hummed in the back of his head. He stared at the mirror across from his booth. He smiled at how somber he looked, glowering as though he’d been plotting the apocalypse.

And then, as if he’d magically transferred to some late-night B-movie, he saw the sardonic smile of that pink-haired woman reflected back at him. And she was truly beautiful.

Whether the wine or residual belief that he’d experienced something paranormal at the astral-travel class, Ben thought at first that he saw the spiritual form of this omnipresent stranger—perhaps she had lifted from her moped and floated through the foggy night, honing in on his irascible vulnerability while he sulked alone with the juice of dead grapes.

When he turned his head, he caught the whiff of Jasmine perfume. Not an astral floating vision. Her bright yellow cowboy boots were firmly planted on the pub’s stone floor.

Mind if I join you, astral-traveler?

How’d you find me? Ben took another sip of wine.

Old-fashioned stalking. Followed your fancy car.

Gotcha. Go ahead and sit down. Ben spread his arms in a welcoming gesture. Care for a glass of Vosne-Romanee? I highly recommend it.

Definitely. She slid beside him. The soil and fruit of Burgundy is always a great comfort. If I’m not drinking blood to keep me young, this is the next best thing.

Ben raised a glass in mock-toast of her dry humor. The broad knew her wine. But how crazy was she? Bat-shit bonkers or just enough to be adventurous?

Glad you’re not really one of those vampire gals. I’m open-minded, but I draw the line at the jugular. Ben tapped the side of his throat.

Don’t worry. She smiled, crossed her legs, and the edge of her boot’s sole nudged his calf. You’re not going to end up a dried husk on the side of the road.

That’s reassuring. The Seattle Times won’t have this headline then: ’Man Walks into Bar, Meets Pretty Astral-Traveling Vampire With a Taste for Expensive Wine.’

That’s a complicated headline. Perhaps you have trouble being direct?

No one has told me that before, but I’m open to any criticism from a qualified vampire.

I’m qualified, but I’m not a vampire. I’m channeling the original succubus.

Aha, so it’s an even more complicated story then. Maybe more fun too?

You like complications. She brushed the tip of her thumb over her red lips.

Ben gave a half-smile and made air quotes. ’Man Meets Pretty Succubus: Gets Sucked Dry.’

Wouldn’t you be so lucky? She didn’t look offended.

Luck be a lady, right? Ben wished the wine had an infusion of wit to help him along.

Of course. Your headline should be “Man Walks Into Bar, Meets Demoness of His Dreams.”

Something about her eyebrows raising at opposing angles stimulated Ben’s memory. Had he met her before? No, but perhaps he’d seen her around before the astral class? Maybe it really was a portfolio picture from the millionaire dating service?

Demoness? Which one?


So . . . go by ’Lilly?’

No. Lilith.

The gal who wanted to be on top of Adam? Your Mom some sort of feminist?

I am motherless. Begotten of earth, stars, fire, and the great void beyond.

Intense upbringing, huh?

Lilith merely stared unblinkingly into his eyes.

He looked for the waiter. Hey, another glass over here?

The waiter poured her what remained of the bottle.

Lilith leaned forward as she sipped her wine.

Ben congratulated himself for great discipline because he avoided looking at her cleavage. Instead, he focused on the freckled tip of her nose as she smirked at him.

Do you have the balls to go back out of your body? Or was peeking at my license plate as far as you dare go?

Ben almost coughed out his wine.

Lilith explained she’d indeed noticed Ben drifting about the room. He asked her why she didn’t also astral project. She didn’t want to scare him. She’d done it so many times before, and she knew he was an astral virgin. She saw his longing, the child-like wonder of emerging from that clod of earth without the burden of flesh. He understood. He was grateful.

Who reached out first? He felt her searching fingertips. They held hands under the table.

I know this sounds like a cliché, but have we met before? I can’t help feel that way.

I am the original companion. All men hunger for me in the night.

Would he like to go to her place and work on more astral projection? He would.

He brought over a forty-year-old bottle of Glenlivet, his wallet, and a change of clothes.

Upon the skin of her back, Ben discovered pictures and glyphs—strung together like guitar tablature—constellations of red and black ink whose significance looked occult. Ben ran his thumb from the top of her spine, where the picture of a red-eyed owl stared from between her shoulder blades, down to the base of her spine where within a nine-pointed star was an overlapping sign of male and female, except this female sign had horns poking from the oval.

After an hour of sex to clear the air, as Lilith put it—and during which she asserted the dominant position preferred by her legendary namesake— Ben was amazed how the world contracted to a single moment. Perhaps the concentration and release of the sexual act itself, or the sheer comfort of lying in the middle of Lilith’s deluxe swan bed. Ben’s mind hummed at a cycle that produced a feeling of universal harmony he’d never fully believed in.

Ben lay with Lilith. And it was damn good.

On their backs, they stared at the skylight that glowered darkly with only a subdued sparkle of blurry stars beyond.

It was as though he’d never before been at peace. His memories receded till they were faded flickers of stars. In shadowy nebulae, he forgot briefly he had a daughter on life support.

If we were only away from the city lights. Algol is brightest tonight. Lilith told Ben how Algol was named after her divine namesake in the Talmud. Told him too that her mother had evoked the demoness Lilith on both the night of her conception and her birth. The weird tattoos, Lilith had obtained for herself.

I thought you said you didn’t have a mother.

She drew in her breath. Almost a hiss. The true Lilith inside me has no mother. But speaking for myself, the human Lilith, yeah, sure I had a mother.

Sorry for your loss. Ben stroked the glossy thickness of Lilith’s pink hair.

We lived in the black forest of Germany. Two witches among many others.

Lilith switched on a tall scarlet lamp and opened up her crimson purse. She picked out a picture of a long-haired woman with a sharp nose. Ben noted this woman’s earrings, one of the same designs that decorated Lilith’s back: The female sign with horns on the oval.

My mother’s name was Susan. She blew her head off.

That’s horrible. Ben’s hand caressed the recess of Lilith’s upper arm.

No, it’s wonderful. Lilith put away the photo. She chose her death. How many can?

Ben thought of Kaillie. He sucked in his cheeks and pulled his hand back.

Lilith looked at Ben. Tell me more about your daughter.

Ben opened his wallet to show Lilith pictures of Kaillie and Debra. He explained the dilemma of his ex-wife and his only child—he talked of life and death, despair and hope.

Lilith nodded. These are things I can actually help you with. But you have to let go of your preconceptions about what life is or is meant to be, and what death is as well.

I’m ready to believe anything if it will help.

Lilith widened her blue eyes and for a moment the thought struck Ben that her eyelashes were stretched as wide as the vigilant gorgeous nectar-laden tentacles of a sundew plant. Debra had one of those on her kitchen table to catch house flies. I know you are. Your hungry hope is a bright star I could follow through a dark abyss.

You a poet?

A mystic. You’ve heard of the great chain-of-being?

Yes. Old school medieval. God on top, then angels, humans, animals.

There’s a more literal chain too. A connecting cord, greater than that which ties your material body to your etheric one. A bond which braids together spirits of the living and dead.

One big happy quilt of souls, huh?

You joke since you’ve never experienced it. But I can tell you that the one inside me has linked countless lonely wanderers in happy communion. No one of value drifts off into the void without being tethered, anchored, and braided together with the others. Lilith the Mighty has redeemed the spirit world. She was once a lonely shadow, betwixt and between heaven and hell, mortal and angel. But now there’s no loneliness on the other side, when you’re on the side with Lilith. Lilith’s face grew bright like a waxing moon, and Ben wondered how.

I thought the legendary Lilith was supposed to be this awful child-killer and man-hater.

Lilith leaned over and kissed Ben on the throat. Aren’t we lucky she’s not so bad?

He scented beyond her jasmine the aroma of roses and honey. Ben embraced Lilith and smiled. It’s one big happy party after death, huh? I could deal.

But you’re afraid of letting the girl die when she may be already dead inside?

I’m afraid of giving her up to hopelessness too soon. It’s a cold universe.

You can find warmth in other people. Lilith smiled sweetly. Or the right demon.

That’s always been my hope. He tensed, feeling uncomfortable with Lilith for the first time. Was she sincere or some lunatic? Both? Did she truly have powers to help?

Surely you don’t subscribe to the nonsense about euthanasia as a sin?

No way. I don’t believe in the damnation of suicides. He poured himself a glass of the Scotch and looked at the grandfather clock in the corner by the window, the slow swaying pendulum. Lilith watched Ben as he drank down the full glass.

Speaking of damnation, you’d better watch that drinking, or you’ll be damned before your allotted time. She rolled onto her stomach.

A hot pull in Ben’s gut drew him closer to her warm body.

Fair enough. Ben traced his fingers over the nine-pointed star on her smooth firm back.

Ben told Lilith his ideal of romantic parity. How he wished he could pour like sunlight into the mind and heart of another, fill and be filled with pure being and joy. He hummed an ommm before Lilith responded with bubbling laughter.

You can dress it up with flowery language, but it all comes down to cocks and pussies, doesn’t it? Maybe if we had one of each, you’d have your ideal equality.

Ben grunted. He had hoped for something beyond cynical speech from her.

Ah, you want a meeting of the minds, don’t you Ben? Hey, breathe more slowly and relax, Lilith said, as her own breaths grew deeper.

Don’t worry, I consider myself a true sapiasexual. But you have to open up more than you have ever done. So, let’s get on out of bodies and wind our minds through the astral world. You’ll see colors you’ve never seen, fill your mind with shapes unimagined. I will show you hidden ways by which a spirit can commune with a trapped soul. Even one caged in a sick body. This shit will blow your mind.

Last time I heard that I ended up on a bad trip. Ben laughed, but Lilith merely continued the deep breathing. But to be honest yeah, I’m all about sharing our hearts and souls. I’d love that.

Ben felt her warm body and breath fill the room as he too tried to relax despite his heated desire. He concentrated on astral projection.

Whether it were Lilith’s confidence or something about the paralytic feeling in Ben’s limbs from the combination of wine, Scotch, and fatigue, after a mere minute of concentration, the back of Ben’s head buzzed. He knew he would shortly lift out from his body.

And then he did, nestled up against the glass while below he saw a flashing shape rise from Lilith’s body.

A shower of gold coalesced into her face and body and rose towards him.

Sparks of colors—it was true, some he could not describe—danced around them.

Startled not to see her as an exact duplicate of her human form, Ben reasoned she’s done this so many times before she had funky tricks.

As he was enveloped in this sparkling essence—the miasma of gold—a gentle whisper assured him that he must first empty his pain to be ready to receive pleasure and secret wisdom.

Just let go. You don’t need that pain. Let it all go, Ben.

But what would he be without his painful past?

After a moment’ agony of hesitation, he poured forth his memories.

He began with the worst. Halloween 2000. Trollaween— the Fremont Arts Council dubbed the holiday, which began with trick-or-treaters at the bulky troll sculpture beneath the Aurora bridge. The year marked where millennial fever had begun to fade: Neither a miraculous nor mechanical apocalypse reduced the horizon to a pale horse or blood-eyed robot of doom. Debra, brown hair dyed red, dressed as Laura Bush, while Ben cloaked himself in black and carried a scythe. Death was always in style.

Kaillie was five and frisking about in her monster costume, the three-horned orange hood of faux fur pulled over her curly brown bangs.

Raarg! She bared gap-teeth at strangers who laughed and begged her not to eat them.

Walking up 36th Street to the Aurora bridge, as Debra paused to straighten her hair, Kaillie broke away from her father’s right hand as she saw the great troll looming ahead under the bridge. She was so eager to meet this big-nosed fellow monster.

Debra’s warning yell did not stop the black SUV zooming out from Winslow Street. Just as Kaillie was growling and roaring into the middle of the asphalt. Ben dropped his scythe, jumped ahead to try to grab his daughter, but metal had already mangled her body and sent what was left of her soaring fifteen-feet into a cluster of plastic bins for recyclables and tumbling down to the concrete driveway below.

The blame that they exchanged injected viciousness into the grief that consumed them. The tormented accusations of who was at fault and what might have been lacerated their guts.

But above all, over the months that followed, it was the burden of the coma.

Always the coma. Would it ever end? Could she heal? Or was she a vegetable forever?

And Ben always showing up in a dark blue blazer on Sundays. Wearing what Kaillie had called his money tie because of the green dollar signs that stacked up along its satiny length.

Debra had called him stupid and selfish when he’d insisted they absolutely must not take Kaillie off life-support. There were always those cases you read about. Miracle recoveries. Miracles of body. Miracles of mind. Wonders of medical science if not God.

The world would invent more cures. Why not wait?

When the doctor said on more than one occasion, she’s not coming back,

Ben had shook his head.

Maybe not just yet. But one day my little girl will open her eyes again.

After the divorce came Debra’s pancreatic cancer. Unlike Steve Jobs, they couldn’t arrange a transplant to give her more time. She didn’t want to fight, but Ben insisted she did.

Even though they were divorced, she listened to him this last year, and it pulled her deeper into hell.

He recalled those winter months. Bile bursting from her mouth. Wails in the bathroom.

Misery dwelt in her hollowed arid eyes until she refused more treatment.

Those dry eyes of agony and accusation that stared out from skin wrapped like wax paper around her boney face.

Ben regretted he had made others suffer for his sense of goodness in the world. He couldn’t make amends to Debra. If he kept his word and pulled the plug on Kaillie by May 25th, Debra might not even hear him tell the truth through her perpetual morphine haze.

He shouldn’t have his essence mixed in with anyone. This soulmate stuff wouldn’t work.

As his astral self cringed in chagrin, new images formed that came not from his life and times but from Lilith’s brightness whose essence he now partly shared.

With these images also came the deep knowing. As if he had dreamed her life.

A forest appeared. The Schwarzwald, the Black Forest. But in Switzerland not Germany. A campsite with women and girls—Lilith and her mother, Susan, among them.

Moss-crusted hut amid trees. Magic done in this hut. Years ago, men had imprisoned spirits in clay. Compelled wild succubi to enter dolls.

What the men had raised then razed the flesh from their reckless bones.

But that was all more than a century ago.

Mother and daughter do their adept work. Deer flesh and bloody skins hang from hooks. Susan’s skin pale, her limbs worn from physical and spiritual labors.

Lilith—fuller and vital—bites into raw venison.

Susan scrapes two chalk circles upon the black floor. A nine-pointed-star in one circle and a pentagram in the other, Susan and Lilith sit in the circle with the pentagram.

Lilith marks the back of her own neck with charcoal, though her mother does not see.

Lilith knows full well what power she seeks.

Despite the overcast sky, something darkens and congeals in the circle of the nine-pointed-star.

A ropey shadow reaches out.

Susan’s terror stretches her face and shakes her arms, but she stays seated in the circle.

Lilith stands. A grand desire paints her face.

She leaves the circle.

Her mother shrieks.

The shadow twines around Lilith legs until it finds the charcoal mark.

Then it enters her.

And it has remained.

Susan had sought in this hut to receive the guidance and power of her daughter’s namesake, not for the daughter to become fully filled with the essence of Lilith, the demoness.

The hut is veiled by a spell except for brief moments when Lilith wants others to see.

Susan becomes a slave to the daughter.

The daughter becomes a slave to the demoness in her mind.