“Every human is a magician, and we can either put a spell on someone with our word or we can release someone from a spell.”
–Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements”
This is a synopsis I wrote in 2006 for a proposed novel; I recovered it from a broken computer a couple of years ago. It’s based on a dream I had in the mid-1990s.
Looking back on it, there are fragments here and there that remind me of the movie Hereditary, which is why I revisited it:
It is the post-apocalypse. Humans have lapsed to a strange mix of barbarism & fledgling technology. A girl wakes up to a strong buzzing sound in her ears. She pulls a dog-tag out of her mouth and discovers that she is in a room with an entire dead family. They died of the plague. She is technically part of the family, but is not human—she is an alien intelligence that inhabited this girl’s body at the point of death. She leaves the house and visits a government outpost that regularly adopts out the orphans of the plague. It is a government mandate that healthy families adopt these orphans.
She finds herself in the family made up of a plucky mother who sells at the marketplace, a strong good-natured older son who is a top warrior at these gladiatorial events, a sullen younger brother who idolizes him, and a father who is never there but is away on business. The younger brother is immediately both attracted to this girl and anxious that there will be another mouth to feed in an already poor household. But this girl can read—and in a place where 90% of the citizens are illiterate, this is a big thing. The mother is overjoyed—now somebody can read the Bible-like holy book to the whole family.
One day the family goes to the gladiatorial event to watch the brother. The warriors wear these abstract painted plaster masks when they fight. But there is some treachery involved in this particular fight and the brother gets stabbed in the neck with a spiked instrument that wraps around the knuckles. The entire family is in a state of shock.
The younger brother is obsessed with feelings of vengeance & decides to train to become a warrior. He’s thin and a little frail but he applies himself & does it. The mother is never quite the same; she lays out a selection of beads and other items on a board and tries to contact the spirit of the dead brother, but this sets off the younger brother. The younger brother is obsessed with the idea of “demons” as put forth in the holy book, and wants nothing to do with them. The irony is that the adopted girl is, in a sense, some sort of alien/demonic/angelic presence of great power but never lets them know.
One day a man tries to kill the girl because he senses her alien origin; he calls her a “demon” and tries to strangle her. The younger brother jumps on top of this man’s back and slashes his throat. Then the boy turns to the girl and says they have to clear everything out and leave this town at once.
They find the bodies of a married couple on the road and steal their clothes & ID. It is commonplace in this world for bodies to be found all over the landscape; big government trucks that look like tanks scoop the bodies up.
They enter a small dwelling under an assumed name. The young man continues to train like mad. The girl approaches the kitchen and opens up an upper cabinet; there are jars stacked in there that have the symbol of the snake eating its own tail.
After a series of adventures the boy has become a man and a great warrior in his own right. But he runs afoul of some local government and is captured and about to be executed. Not knowing what else to do, the girl finally releases her alien powers to help him. But instead of being grateful he is shocked and angry because he has slept with what (in his mind) is the very demon as told by the holy book that he was to avoid. He freaks out and tells her to go away.
She had been pregnant by this point but didn’t tell him. Distraught, she runs away, puts her hands to her abdomen, and aborts the baby using her powers. Huge amounts of blood pour out of her womb and she lets herself faint and fall down a ravine.
She wakes up in a very lavish tent to face these glamorous people who have saved her life and consider her a goddess that has been prophesied to arrive. They are hedonists, and hate the holy book. All they do is party, have orgies, feasts, and sacrifice to the gods. They teach her to revel in her powers, stop feeling guilt or sentiment, and take her place as a goddess.
In the meantime, the young man has become a monk. The monks roam the countryside trying to convert people and tear down goddess-religion shrines. The goddess-worshippers capture & kill most of this man’s group, however, letting him live only because the powerful girl insisted.
The girl offers him anything he wants, but all he wants is to hear her recite the holy book. This annoys her because she feels the book condemns her & it is hard for her to read it. But he insists she read it, and she reads it.