Heat Level: 1 Flame
Each passing day Aretha experiences a new level of stress from the evil sensations in her body. Her skin begins to itch and burn and she can feel it tightening. Worms keep wriggling over her scalp; but each time she runs to the mirror everything looks normal. But she knows nothing is normal. She is terrified. What is happening to her? She has long gotten over fear of the dead, but this is another realization of evil. “How can you fight something you can’t see!” She screams. Aretha has to find help, but who, where?
Aretha has faced down evil in her life before, but never anything as vicious as this attack. She tries desperately to cling to her faith in God, to the love of her daughters, but will this be enough to save her? She feels the power of the evil spirits slowly growing, the noose tightening around her neck, and she still doesn’t know who is attacking her or why. Is this how her life will end? Or will faith and love be enough to defeat the darkness and bring Aretha back into the light?
From the author of “A Place for Ida” and “A Time for Jonathan,” comes this compelling thriller about a woman’s struggle for her very soul. Patricia Richardson is noted for her intricate portraits of psychological distress, but in “Where Is God When Satan Is Knocking On My Door?” she raises the stakes even higher and puts the reader inside the mind and heart of a woman who is fighting for her life, her sanity, and her soul, against demonic forces. This is Patricia Richardson at her finest.
Aretha was awakened from a fitful sleep by the annoying sound of her telephone. Long, black, slithering snakes had been attacking her in her dreams. She could still feel their dry scaly skin, and the sharp bite of their pointed teeth. By the time she was fully awake and focused, the piercing sound had stopped. “Just as well.” She told herself. She was not in the mood to speak to anyone, not after being attacked by such vicious looking snakes. Dream or not, it seemed all too real to her. She lay still, staring at the ceiling, trying to make sense of what she dreamt. Her entire body shivered as she recalled the elders of her family warning each other to be very careful when they dreamt about snakes, especially black ones.
“You better be careful, girl, you‟ve been dreaming about too many black snakes lately. Don‟t leave your underwear on the clothesline outside-don‟t want your body fluids to get into the wrong hands – and don‟t let anyone get strands of your hair, they‟ll work roots on you. Yeah, work that evil voodoo and sometimes it‟ll kill you and the doctors will never find out what caused your death.”
Aretha remembered her seven year old self asking, seriously alarmed, “How can they do that, Aunt Missy, and why, why would someone want to do that to another person?”
“Child, you‟ll be surprised at how much evil lurks amongst us. People are selfish and greedy, and when those two things are the head of their life instead of God, they‟ll do anything to get what they want.”
Aretha lay still a while longer, her eyes drifting around her bedroom. Her thoughts raced from the old tales she heard the elders recount to whose call she had just missed. And most importantly, what about the strange sounds she had been hearing around her apartment lately? At night, just before drifting off, she often heard what sounded like rocks or balls ricocheting off all sides of the room. There were other times her hardwood floors would crack and pop as though the weight of a person was navigating the halls leading to her bedroom.
Aretha‟s body always alerted her to the supernatural presence when it invaded her bedroom. Every hair on her body stood erect, her limbs and eyes repeatedly failed her after several attempts to move. She remembered just lying there, just calling out to Jesus in her mind, “Jesus, Jesus,” trying with all of her might to move one limb, or even just her foot. Even when she was working into the wee hours of the morning on her computer, she could feel the presence of someone standing behind her and the hair on the nape of her neck would rise. She was sure someone‟s spirit was breathing on her neck as well.
At one time she would have been scared out of her mind. When she was growing up everyone in the household was afraid of the spirits of the dead. After a funeral lights stayed on all night for weeks, no one went into another room alone.
“Come go with me to the kitchen?” Her mother used to ask.
Aretha could even remember being very terrified in her own apartment with her children when a loved one died. The most dangerous time was after the funeral, “That‟s when the spirits start roaming the earth and visiting those who were special to them.” The elders used to say, and that thought stuck with Aretha.
She'd cover her head tightly with the blankets at night, regardless of whether it was summer or winter, remembering how the body looked lying in the coffin. Her then husband would lie next to her snoring. She used to wish she were sound asleep like him. If only she had been raised differently and not taught to be afraid of spirits. She had made sure her children didn‟t grow up fearing the dead. Her daughters could sleep through anything and she thanked God for that blessing.
Aretha knew she should get up and check her messages. She kept the answering machine on at all times because of telemarketers, and at night she would turn the volume very low. There would sometimes be an echo or just noise in the background from the telemarketer‟s office and she didn‟t want her rest interrupted by it.