Personal Demons Excerpt: To go, or not to go?
Saturday, August 19, 2023

Mira's avoided going home for over a decade, but she can't hide from her past (and her family) forever.


Mira lifted the lid of her laptop and pressed the power button. The ancient device hummed to life. A small icon pulsed at the bottom of the desktop, indicating she had a new email. She opened the browser and found a message from Father Bembe, a priest she’d known as a child. She’d helped him with a demon that had targeted his congregation. Her hand dropped to her thigh. One of those lines, the very first one in fact, was for a blue-eyed girl who’d killed eleven churchgoers before Mira put her down. She shuddered. That one still gave her nightmares. Not the demon, or the eleven victims, but the eyes of that little girl staring up at her as she drained her life. The girl had been almost the same age Mira was when the demon first possessed her—a vision of what she might have become had her demon followed the usual pattern.

She cleared the lump from her throat and opened the email.


I hope this message finds you. I got this address from your abuela, though she says you don’t respond. I fear the problem you helped me with before may be back. There is no one else to ask. Please come.


Mira stared at the handful of words on her screen. Her mouth had gone dry. It wasn’t impossible for a demon to pop up where she’d already taken one out, but natural rifters—those not created through necromantic interference—were relatively rare. What were the odds a second one would turn up not just in her hometown, but in her childhood church?

<Looks like we found our lead. That’s got to be some kind of record.>

Mira licked her lips and forced a laugh. “I thought you wanted to go to California.”

<Florida’s okay. At least there’s a beach.>

Mira took a shaky breath and exhaled. Florida. She hadn’t been back there in years. She hadn’t intended ever to go back. Not after what had happened the last time.

“Do you really think he’s found another?”

The demon gave the mental equivalent of a shrug. <We could ask for more details, see if he’s jumping at shadows.>

Mira closed the laptop then tipped her head back so her skull rested against the metal wall. She closed her eyes. Swirls of anxiety twisted like a thunderstorm inside her, threatening to break loose and drown her in a torrent of memories she’d done her best to forget. “Why did it have to be Florida?”

<We don’t have to go.>

“Father Bembe isn’t a fool. He saw what happened to the child we weeded out last time, and he knows about my past. He wouldn’t have contacted me without good reason.”

There is no one else to ask. The words floated against the darkness of her eyelids.

<So you want to go?>

“Of course I don’t want to go,” Mira shouted at the ceiling. “What are the odds I can investigate a rifter in my old neighborhood without stumbling across anyone I know? And if abuela finds out. . . .” She shook her head, trying to rein in her rampant emotions.

<So you don’t want to go.>

Mira pressed her fingertips to her temples. “I can’t just ignore him. Even if it isn’t a rifter, he’s clearly in some kind of trouble.”

<Okay, how about you just tell me when you make up your mind.>

Shoving her laptop aside, Mira stood up and paced the tiny space, barely two steps in either direction. She worried at her lower lip and thought of all the reasons she’d avoided visiting Florida for nearly a decade. Could she slip in and talk to Father Bembe without anyone else finding out? Did she have a choice? If there really was a rifter loose in her old neighborhood. . . . It was a vision of her abuela—her grandmother—becoming some rifter’s victim, like the poor souls decomposing at the train yard, that finally decided her.

She stopped her pacing and blew out a deep breath. “This is going to suck.”