All the Devil's Greed

“By trying to convince himself I was a devil by nature, my father made me a devil by nurture.”

Mary-Ann Lansfield’s outbursts cause strange happenings in their house, prayers and church visits seem to stir unbearable pain inside her, and her hunger is so insatiable she’s forced to raid the pantry every night just to keep it at bay. It’s no wonder, really, that everyone believes she’s possessed by the Devil.

The more she’s hurt and berated by those around her, the wickeder Mary-Ann feels, and the more she longs for the freedom she’s been denied all her life- the freedom to live however, love whoever, and eat whatever she chooses. Even after everything she’s been told about the evil in the world, what she really wants is to become every inch the monster she’s feared to be.

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Author's note

Hello! I'd just like to stress that this book contains a lot of blood, guts, violence, abuse, and religious themes. My protagonist is extremely morally skewed and her opinions are most definitely not my own. I never killed anyone, honest! Never!
AA

11. Obsession

Suppression. It's the fastest way to insanity. I suppress my hunger, which grows larger and larger and more and more alive inside me with every passing day. I’m not locked up, but it’s easier for me to simply stay in my room. I eat nothing more than a slice of toast and an apple per day- inhale them so fast I barely even acknowledge them. I want to seek Catty out, use her to calm me down, but I never do. Father visits me regularly. He sees what he believes is the demon growing stronger. And I want to see how strong it’ll get if I feed it the necessary agony. After a week has passed since Elias left, I feel the claws raking my stomach again for the first time in months.

They make me scream.

In my bed, I thrash till the covers are off me; I draw my legs up, pulling my nightgown back to my lap. God, it’s so hot. So… so… hot… no. So cold. The chill hits me like a gust of wind, wraps around me, sucks the breath from me. It feels, once again, like I’ve fallen through ice into the ocean. I roll onto my side, pressing my cheek into my pillow, and grind my teeth. I’ve never felt pain like this before. But it’s just starvation, isn’t it? Just lack of food. Because there’s nothing wrong with me- there’s no demon- it’s just Father-

I scream again as the claws rip up through me, embedding in the centre of my chest and seeming to sever something that leads to my heart. I grow swelteringly hot outside whilst my insides harden with cold. Solid. Chunks of ice inside my body. My hair plasters my skin. I sit upright, hearing the sudden snap of my spine, and double over my knees, pressing my forearms so hard into my stomach I swear I sever the blood flow. I can’t breathe. Can’t, and don’t want to anymore. The claws come again, and again, jerking me this way and that and rolling me over onto my stomach. They drag sickeningly though my flesh from the inside- I swear they do. Swear. Swear on my life or my death, they’re really, really there. But when I yank up my nightgown all the way and stare down at my stomach, there’s not so much as a mark.

I lie down. The claws leave me.

And then, the knocking begins.

“Mary-Ann? Are you okay?” Mother asks.

I scream again, just for dramatic effect. The door’s flung open and she runs in. I sniff, trying to rid myself of the tears before she sees how much pain I’m in- before she sees I’m still here. As she kneels by my bed and strokes the hair back from my face, I snap my eyes open and growl at her. She jumps back. The demon is an easy disguise to keep the sympathy away.

I don’t think I can bear it much longer. I barely sleep at all that night, and the next morning, after Father’s come in and made me get dressed, I sit down on my bed and weep for all the things I’ve lost. I deserved to lose them. I deserve everything Father gives me and more- I, after all, signed up for it. It’s my fault my horse is dead, my fault Elias is afraid, my fault Florrie was fired and Lula was fired and my fault my mother can’t stop crying. It’s my fault my father’s gone mad.

One night, I start to scream. I’m not sure why I do it- before, I was simply sitting up in bed, thinking. And then something inside me told me scream. Scream and don’t stop. Scream until they come in. And so I opened my mouth and obediently began. Father ran in first, and wrapped his arms around me to make me stop. I did. In the silence, he whispered to me, with a voice full of exhausted tears;

“Why must you torment me so?”

And I let him go, looked right into his eyes, and made the reply: “You know why.”

A few mornings later, the hunger has become a constant presence inside me, and so has the desire. My emotions seem to be waning and my lusts growing stronger.

I wait for the footsteps. Wait. Wait.

And then, when they come, I call for her.

“Catty?”

There’s a long silence. She’s stopped walking, but if she doesn’t come in I’ll understand why. Perhaps I’ll even be relieved. That girl deserves so much better than whatever the hell I’ve become.

But after a few more seconds, the door opens and she enters. She, like Lula the morning I first got stuck in my dress, is holding a pile of towels, on her way to Mother’s room. She stares at me, her eyes wide, and I look at her just the same. We are at opposite ends of my bedroom.

I walk towards her. Suddenly, tears are in my eyes.

“I miss you.” I say. Then, I push the towels out of her arms and pull her towards me and kiss her.

We kiss for a single second. Then, she pushes me away, hard.

“What…” she says. The shock’s ripe in her voice. “What? No! I’m not letting you do this anymore.”

I feel my cheeks flaring. “Do what?”

Use me, Mary-Ann! I’m not letting you do this to me. I’m not letting you use me. I know you don’t love me.”

Her words bring panic into my mouth. So I have, as I had feared, lost everyone. No. I can’t bear it. I can’t bear being a villain to her. She’s right, but how dare she try to refuse me? I’m hot with embarrassment and anger. Then, words start coming out of my mouth.

“Catty, I… I’m so sorry.” I say. “I didn’t mean to do that to you. It just came upon me. I won’t do it again, if you don’t want me to.”

I step back. She doesn’t say a word.

“I just…” I say. “I do love you, Catty. I love you so much I can’t even stand it. And I’m so sorry. I have treated you badly. But I’m just… I’m just so awful at expressing it. I can’t stand to be made weak in front of others. My life’s taught me to hide everything. But I’m so sorry. I need you, Catty. I beg you. I need… I want… I just want to feel w-wanted… by someone. In return for my want. I want you.”

I’m lying, trying to manipulate her. The words are so damn convincing they nearly convince me. Still, Catty stoops to pick up the towels from the ground, then bows her head and leaves without another word.

Ten minutes later, I’m sitting on my bed when she comes back in.

I stand, but she simply shoots me a warning look and says, “Your father wants to speak to you.”

“Oh.” I say. “Study?”

She nods.

I get up and walk towards her. As I walk, I consider reaching out to touch her, trying to kiss her again, but I know that isn’t the way to apologise to her. It wouldn’t be an apology at all- it’d be simply marking my property. Reminding her she was mine.

I go down to the study. Father is waiting there for me, as is Father Oakley.

“Hello.” I say, smiling a little.

“Close the door.” Father says.

He didn’t greet me as Mary-Ann. And that tells me all I need to know about what’s about to happen. I do as I’m told. As I sit down, I try to cleanse my head.

“Good morning.” Father Oakley says. “Your father wanted to sit in on today’s session.”

“Session?” I say. “Interesting choice of words.”

“Yes, well, we didn’t see fit to call it-”

“Exorcism?” I say with a smirk. “Volume twenty-two?”

“Yes.”

I try to focus my energy on playing the game, but my anger is boiling and boiling so black and hot that it spills over within a few minutes of questioning.

As I climb the stairs after the session’s over, I feel hungry. So, so hungry. But not for food; for her. How dare she turn me down? How dare she accuse me of using her? How dare she not believe the lies I feed her? God, I wish she’d just listen to me. Do as I say. She loves me. I know she does. And love should make her pliable, should it not?

I wonder what the rest of the household has been told. I wonder whether they’ve been told the demon will soon be gone. I wonder whether they believe it. Our screams, and my laughter, surely can’t sound like good triumphing over evil. I wonder what Catty thinks of it. I wonder whether she feels glad for my suffering, or worried. I wonder who she believes she was kissing a minute ago.

I push open my bedroom door, and she jumps back from the bed, holding a corner of my duvet. She drops it and sniffs; I see her eyes are red. Mine are too- not from crying, but she needs not know that.

I stare. She stares.

Then, we run and meet in the middle.

“I’m so sorry.” She mumbles into my mouth as I shut her up with a kiss. She doesn’t stop me- she doesn’t stop my aggression. She even kisses me back.

I should say I’m sorry too, but I don’t. I stop focusing and I keep kissing her. As my mind rewinds through that ridiculous meeting I just endured downstairs, I find myself smiling. I grip Catty’s waist tighter and kiss her harder, feeling her hands wandering to my hips. Father’s study is right below us. Just think of what he and the Priest would do if they knew what was happening right above their heads. Just think. I want, more than I’ve ever wanted before, to get caught. I want him to know that no matter how hard he tries, no matter how many prayers he says, he’ll never, never break me.

 

 

I don’t know why it takes her a week to agree to meet me at night again. But when she eventually does, and when we start to kiss again, I find that my heart isn’t in it. I don’t think I need her enough to make this feel dangerous. Or perhaps it’s just that the air in the kitchen corridor is still smoky and salty from the meat that was cooking this evening. Either way, I end up breaking away from her and walking over to a cupboard.

There’s no point in fiddling the locks, even though the one that’s come loose is now looser than it was. Suddenly, I think of levering it off, with some sort of implement. I get up and start to rifle through the drawers, thinking of the stash of tools in Father’s study. Before, whenever I tried to breach the cupboards, it was simply out of a growing frustration- the suspense from every previous unsuccessful night. Now, though, I’m hungry again. Ravenous. Hungrier than I’ve ever been before. This week, I swear I’ve lost more weight. I need the food in those cupboards more than I’ve ever needed, want it more than I’ve ever wanted. And I no longer care who knows it.

In the last drawer before the door, I find a huge butcher’s knife. Catty squeaks when I pull it out, but I don’t care. I run and wedge it between the loose lock and the door it’s attached to, pushing hard to prise it loose, but it doesn’t budge. I drop the knife and run to yank open another drawer.

“It won’t-” Catty hisses, running up behind me. “It won’t work, Mary-Ann! Please. Stop.”

I don’t stop. She sighs, then grabs my face with both her hands. “Look at me,” she says, but I shake her off with a growl and keep rummaging, feeling the heat rising and rising through my face. “Nothing. There’s nothing. Mary-Ann!” Catty grabs my arm, but I stubbornly refuse to look up.

She gives up and walks over to the door, announcing that she’s leaving. I don’t turn. When she’s gone, I miss her. God, I do. Wish she hadn’t given up on me.

To my shock, when I come back down the next night, she’s there again.

“Close the door.” She says softly. I do.

My eyes flick towards the cupboard. Somehow, she sees them moving in the dark.

“Mary-Ann-” She begins, but goes silent when I bring the crowbar out from behind my back.

“I found it in Father’s study.” I say, shifting its immense weight in my hand.

I need her to know I never give up. And I don’t care if she comes to know I’m obsessed. Not anymore.

Catty says my name again, but I’ve already calmly gone to the broken cupboard and begun hacking at the lock. My hits begin quietly, but grow louder. As the lock refuse to budge, and as I grit my teeth to drive the crowbar in harder and harder, irrational anger seeps through me, black and hot. I snarl. Catty, who was holding my arm, jumps back from me. I snarl louder, feeling my eyes starting to sting. Why won’t it come off? I’ve destroyed my family and my reputation and Father’s reputation and my faith and my safety and my sanity for this. As I hack harder, Catty’s pleas for my silence grow louder and more frantic. I ignore her, focusing instead on the lock. Everything on it. My life on it. My fingers start to cramp and my palms grow sore from gripping. My skin begins to chafe, my fingers seizing up. I keep hitting the lock. Loudly.

I no longer care if I’m caught. I don’t really register that till I feel Catty’s lips at my ear.

“Mary-Ann.” She says. “Mary-Ann, you’ll be caught. Please! Please! You’re too loud.”

I shake her off, but just like the cramps, she comes back. Irritated, I slap her away and grunt before moving to a different lock. I crawl across the floor, crowbar in my hand, and then start to hack again. The anger makes me hack harder. Harder. I imagine it’s Father’s head I’m attempting to break open. I imagine, as she comes back to my ear, clutching my arm and starting to sob and beg, that it’s hers.

“Mary-Ann, please! I’ll do anything to make you stop. Anything.”

I say nothing. Catty, I couldn’t stop if I tried. My cheeks grow hot.

“I’m begging you. You’re too loud. You’ll get caught. Your father will come down. Don’t you care?”

I shake her off. No, I don’t care. I’m afraid, but don’t care. He’ll beat me. I’ll laugh through it because I’m half-mad and cry later because I’m half-sane. Heat starts sinking through my chest, flooding me. Crawling, maybe. Like an animal. It crashes over me, wave after wave, and makes me giddy.

“I love you. I’m afraid. Mary-Ann, why won’t you talk to me? She sobs. Pl- pl-please! You’re scaring me! What’s wrong with you?”

I say nothing. Everything. Everything. Everything. On the surface, I’m so livid I could scream.

“This obsession of yours. It’s madness! Please- you’re going mad. You are. You are. Let me help you! Just stop. Just go to bed. Just stop, and I’ll help you! Please! Please! Please! What will this solve?”

“I’m hungry.” I say. Help me. Help me. Help me.

My hacking becomes harder, louder. Instead of worrying at the lock I begin lifting the crowbar up over my head and bringing it all the way down, driving it. I register that it misses the lock most times. I don’t stop, nor do I revert. I just can’t stop the movement now. My body floods with throbbing, aching cold, pushing every ounce of heat up into my head and squeezing it out through my eyes. I sniff, as my mouth floods too, and gasp with tears. Catty suddenly lets go of me and scrambles up.

“He’s coming!” She yelps. Footsteps reach my ears through my clanging and her crying. Panic floods my head and I suddenly turn and growl at Catty:

“The scullery.”

“Come with me.”

“If I do we’ll both be found. Go. Now!”

She runs. I hear the door slamming. Then, just as I raise the crowbar to strike the lock a final, defiant time, a hand curls into my hair and yanks upwards. I scream as I’m dragged to my feet and flung hard against the cupboards, the wind yanked clean out of me. Father’s hand wraps tight around my throat and squeezes as he forces my head back, thrusting his face close to mine.

“What are you doing?”

“What- does it- look like I’m doing?” I choke. He tightens his grip on my throat and yanks me away from the cupboards, then slams my head back again, harder. I sob.

Drop it.” He snarls. His other hand grips the wrist of the hand holding the crowbar.

I imagine bringing it up, swinging it into his head.

I don’t let go.

DROP it!” He bellows, lifting me off my feet and then spinning me and slamming me into the wall. Again. Again. Again. The pain surges up through me, bringing bile into the back of my throat. My head wails and reels. I drop the crowbar, which lands with a singing clatter on the tiles. Our sounds ring through the pots and pans in the kitchen next door. I close my eyes, wishing I had some way to hurt him. Some way to kill him- kill, kill. Kill. It’s all I can think, with this hot sting still in my head, bleeding in streams from my eyes. I squeeze my eyes shut, calling for help inside my head. It used to work. When I was younger, I used to be able to explode glass with a scream. Once, even, start a fire. I want the demon to take me again, to black me out and wake me up once the carnage is done. That’s what I want.

“What have you done? What are you doing?” He snarls, digging his fingers into my neck. I try to pry them loose, but he shakes me, knocking me against the wall again, till I let go. “What are you eating? Where? How long? How much?”

“I couldn’t break the locks.” I say simply.

He growls so hard he snorts. Even in the dark, I can see how red he is. He just stares at me, and I him. I knew this was going to happen. I knew I’d be caught. I wanted it, in fact. I want his anger. To sop it up and devour it. I stare at him, and he me.

“Why…” He says, at a loss for words. “Why… are you always so hungry?”

I smile slightly, jabbing my chin towards him.

“Because you never feed me.”  I say.

He doesn’t make a sound besides picking me up and slamming me back again. Agony shatters my head.

“WHY are you always SO HUNGRY?” he says again.

“Because you never feed me.”

He slaps me hard. WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS SO HUNGRY?”

I close my eyes, tight, and breathe in shakily. Then, I look up at him through my hair and force a smile onto my face.

“Because of the thing that lives inside me.” I say, frustrated, defeated.

“That’s better.” He sneers.

I think about Catty. I pray she doesn’t make a sound.

“Because I’ve given into the evil.” I continue. “Because I chose to give myself to the Devil.”

“Yes, Mary-Ann.” Father leans over me, nearly snarling into my hair. “You’re a servant of Satan. You’ve got none of God’s grace inside you, and all the Devil’s greed. Say it.”

“I don’t need to. You already did.” I say, and moan with pain as he slams me back again. “And Father Oakley. And Mother. And Elias. And Duncan. They all said it to me so is it any wonder, really, that I’ve gone mad? I can’t help it, Father! I need it. I need it; I can’t help it! Something inside me makes me do it!”

“You’re a liar, Mary-Ann.”

“No, I’m not!”

“Yes, you are.”

I stare at him, my lips pressed in anger.

“You’re a liar.” He hisses.This hunger may not be yours, but you could have suppressed it and yet you chose not to. You’re weak for giving in. You’ve ruined yourself forever by giving in, you weak-willed wretch.”

We stare at each other, in silence, his hand loosening around my throat, for what feels like an age. He smells bad, but I don’t know what of. I still feel angry. His face infuriates me- his words drive me mad. The fact that I used the crowbar to call him down, and yet now am at his mercy once again, makes me so furious I could scream.

Father, perhaps pleased by my silence, curls his lip in a smile. I draw up saliva and spit into his face.

Bang. He’s off. He growls, and the growl turns into a yell, and the yell turns into a tirade of nonsense words that grow and grow in volume. He lets go of me, and I stare at him, wondering if I should run. Then, I hear, amidst the rant: “We’ll see.”

He stoops, and snatches the crowbar from the ground. Cold fear lunges through me and I raise my arms to protect myself, but he doesn’t hit me with it. He turns to the cupboard I was knelt at and brings it down on the lock. SMASH. I didn’t know a sound could be that loud. Then, he grunts and brings it down again. With the third blow, to my shock, the lock comes flying off and skitters across the ground. Father rips the door from the cupboard and then, he turns and throws it at me.

“Ow!” I yell, clutching my face as the door hits me hard in the face. I imagine smashing it over his head till it turns red. Father starts rummaging through the cupboard and grabs a small plastic tub. He straightens, and then throws it at me. It blows open on the wall behind me and I look. I think I see blood, but it’s tomato sauce.

“Want to eat that, you disgusting fat pig?” Father says to me. “Huh?”

I open my mouth, but then flinch and whimper as he throws something else at me. I don’t watch it hit the wall. He says: “Or that?” Throws something else. “Or that?”

“Yes.” I murmur.

He stops. “What?”

“Yes.

“Oh, yes?” I hear him grind his teeth, his voice darkening. “Well, how about this? Or this? Go on, demon; if you’re so desperate to eat, then why don’t you eat? How about this? Not edible, but you don’t care, right? You don’t care! Do you care? Mary-Ann? Do you? Do you care what you eat?”

“No.”

“Then eat it!” he shouts, throwing yet more things at me. As he keeps throwing and I barely bother to duck as I’m occasionally hit in the face, he keeps asking me the same question over and over again. “Want to eat this?”. My answer is always “Yes.” I will not lie to him anymore. Father throws a jar of jam at me, and it explodes on the wall right next to my head. I gasp and duck as I’m spattered with crimson globules and broken glass. I feel disgusting, and it’s burning me up. I let him wear out his anger till he’s thrown the last jar, which glances my arm and cuts me open a little. I watch my blood mix with the dark brown goop of whatever was inside. Imagine drinking it. Sucking it from my sleeve. So hungry. Eat anything.

“Well?” Father growls as he stands up.

“What?” I say, raising an eyebrow.

“You know what. I gave you your food. So eat it.”

I set my mouth. “No.”

He curls his lip. “Why not?”

“Because you told me to.”

He starts to laugh. I watch him, as his mouth widens into a grin and he raises his hand like he wants to wipe away a tear, and then, I’m seized by the urge to laugh too. So I do. And once I’ve started, I cannot stop.

“Hey.” Father says. “Mary-Ann.”

I look up at him, the sadistic grin still twisting my face. “What?”

He slaps me. “Stop laughing.”

I do.

“What?” I repeat.

“Who were you talking to?”

My blood suddenly runs cold. “What- what- what do you mean?”

“I mean who-” He says slowly. “Were you talking to down here? I heard voices when I came down.”

I look at his suddenly calm face, trying to keep my gaze from flying over to the scullery door. Catty can hear all of this. The crowbar, the beating, the shouting and screaming and laughing.

“I was talking to myself.” I say.

“To yourself?”

“Yes.”

“You expect me to believe that?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

I smile slightly, rolling my eyes up as I pretend to think. “Because I’m mad?”

He growls and hits me again. Grabs me by the front of my nightgown, shakes me, throws me down to the ground. Kicks me in the stomach, making me gasp for air, when I try to get up again. Each shock of pain makes me angrier; the energy strikes my mind, once, twice, three times, four, like lightning. I jump to my feet and do my best to draw myself to his height; my speed surprises him, and he steps back. We glare at one another. My fingers itch to punch him. Throttle him. Tear his head off, let his blood out in a steaming ocean.

I want to kill him. I don’t just want him dead. I want to do it myself. I want his blood on my hands. I want to hurt. I want him to scream at me to stop.

He grabs me with both hands, pulling me close again. I snarl.

He hisses: “You’ll not leave your room from now on.”

“What?” I say.

“You heard me. You’ll not leave your room.”

“Never?”

“Never. You’ll rot in this house.”

Hunger hugs my stomach. Anger hugs my mind.

“I hate you,” I snarl.

“I hate you too.” He replies.

I curl my lip. “No matter what you do to me, Father, I will never stop humiliating you. I’m going to destroy you. You know I enjoy it. You know I live for it, breathe for it. I’m going to break apart everything you’ve built up; I’m going to ruin you till you’re as friendless and alone as you’ve made me. We are both monsters. We are both past saving. We were always destined to spend our lives bringing misery to one another, and you know it.”

His throat bulges as he swallows.

“If I can’t get rid of you, wretch,” He hisses. “Then I will keep you locked up. You’ll not so much as speak without my permission, till I know the words from your mouth are the words of my daughter.”

“I’m not your daughter.”

“Shut up. You’ll not speak. You’ll not eat until you’ve fed on every extra ounce of weight you’ve got. And you’ll not breathe, demon, till you’ve proven yourself worthy of the air humans breathe. Do you hear me?” He shakes me, and I sob with the pain. “Do you hear me? I will have control over you! I am your FATHER!”

I wait for his words to ring out into silence.

“Never.” I say softly. “Never, never. I’ll never stop fighting you. I’ll keep fighting till you rue the day I was born.”

“Oh, I already do.”

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