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Monday, 4 February 2013

Comment and judge on this short story: Lurking Demons

**The winner of WWBB's short story competition will win a review and an author spotlight. Your comments will help me decide the winner.**
Robert Crompton

It was getting silly. It doesn’t matter when you’re a little kid and there are lots of people around who believe in fairies and ghosts and giants and things. But when you get to grammar school and nobody believes in fairies or Santa Claus or Gulliver’s Travels, that’s when it can be embarrassing to think of the sorts of things your family believe.
Okay, lots of grown-ups believe in God and Jesus and angels and maybe that was all right though Susan couldn’t think why it was any different from fairies, but her family believed in other stuff as well like the coming of the Lord and the Great Climax before next Tuesday and demons and eschewing things and how terribly wicked other people were, especially those who believed in God but in the wrong way. And they had these phrases they were always using that made them sound like they were reciting things from silly Gilead pamphlets, which they were, of course. Phrases like, ‘in these perilous times’ and ‘the machinations of the devil.’ If she heard her mother say either of those once more she would fling her bedroom window wide open and scream all the rudest swear words she could think of and hope they got picked up by the radio masts on Alvanley Hill so they could echo round and round the forest for ever and always. And afterwards, even when she was lots older, when she went walking in the forest on a windy day she thought they were doing just that.
The demons thing got to its absolute stupidest when she was thirteen. Some idiots started to put it around that things, objects, could be demon-possessed. The Wise Old Men of Gilead started it but there were plenty of others with the right sort of Gilead-mindedness to fill in the details. The most susceptible objects were things like antiques or any second-hand goods which could have been owned by people who dabbled in occult arts. And children were a special target for the demons so, naturally, toys were the obvious places for evil spirits to lurk.
She might have been able to cope with this if it had just been other people at Gilead Hall who took the hunt for hidden demons seriously. But one Friday afternoon when she got home from school Alan was in the back yard tending a bonfire. When she went up to her room she saw that Pookie, her teddy bear who always sat on her pillow, was missing. She went downstairs and into the kitchen where her mother was preparing vegetables.
‘Where is Pookie?’ she demanded.
Her mother carried on peeling carrots and replied in a wearied tone, ‘Susan, you are thirteen. You ought to have grown out of playing with dolls by now.’
‘Mother! I don’t play with dolls. I never did. Pookie isn’t a doll. He’s a teddy bear and he’s special. I’ve had him since before I can remember and I want to keep him.’
‘Well it’s too late. It’s gone on the bonfire. You know very well that these things attract the attention of demons.  We have to be as cautious as serpents in these perilous times.’
She went back up to her room and flung the window open and sent the swear words out. ‘Damn, bugger, piss, bloody hell.’ And in a whisper, she added, ‘fuck.’
She might have forgotten about the teddy bear ¨C well, eventually she might ¨C but what really needled her was the pressure to behave as if she was always on the look-out for lurking demons. They get everywhere in these perilous times.

Leaving Gilead

When Tom Sparrow falls in love with Susan Ridley his dad insists that no good will come of it. Her family belongs to a strict religious sect and they disapprove of all outsiders. Against the odds their friendship develops until the time when Tom is all set to go to university and Susan is free at last to escape from her family’s religion and move to Manchester with Tom. What stopped her? Why was she no longer around?

Thirty years later when he is contemplating a change of career, the Ridley’s old house, tucked away in the forest, comes up for sale. It is just what he wants – though he isn’t sure about Melanie, a young woman who also has an interest in the house. Otherwise it is perfect for his plans for a new life back where he has his roots. As he prepares to move in he discovers something hidden away in an outbuilding and at last he begins to learn the truth of what happened all those years before.

Leaving Gilead is the story of two women’s struggles to build new lives after growing up in a religion that promotes irrational belief and conformity with arbitrary rules above above personal development.

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