Conquering Demons

Dear Professor Keslic,

As you know I've been living here in Hila River Crossing for nearly a year now. I've had the joy of saving twenty-three children and the Gens they might have killed by serving their First Need, with God's help. People here believe in God, but they don't believe that changeover is a special curse. They believe that God has given us herbs to cure diseases, but expects us to figure out how to use them. So they see my ability to serve these children as if I had brought them a new treatment for the choking fever, or a new method for preventing women from bleeding to death after childbirth.

People from some distance away have started sending their changeover-age children to live with relatives within a few hours travel of this village so I will be able to serve their First Need should it become necessary. They often bring children to me when I have a young Sime living here waiting to go in-T so the Sime can tell them if the child has established. In addition to the obvious benefit of knowing a child has turned Gen, it allows adults and children both to meet and talk to a harmless nonjunct Sime, of their own culture, and see how changeover has not taken away any human trait. I already see the benefit of this when a child comes to me in changeover -- the reduction in fear and despair from the first children I served here is remarkable.

The local healer and midwife has asked if I can teach her to serve transfer, but after I explained to her how I was trained she understands why this is not possible. She has a wonderful knowledge of health and disease and there was nothing I could tell her about early diagnosis of changeover that she didn't already know. She knew of channel premonitory dreams from her long-dead teacher, but had never encountered a child who manifested them, to her knowledge. We agreed that if we found such a child we would try to arrange for him to board with a Church member in a city with a Sime Center, or perhaps send him in-T if possible. So I may not have to use what I was taught in the last phase of my training, but I am ready to do so if it is ever required.

Population is very sparse here and most people live in valleys like this one where maize, beans and squash can be grown with irrigation. Back in the mountains there are many very small isolated communities, all Gen of course, with strange customs. Some of those people live entirely by hunting, and trade with the farmers here for maize and beans.

Two weeks ago a young man named Atlir came into the village asking for the magician who could touch Simes. People sent him to me, and after he had washed, eaten and rested he told me his story.

His people believe that Simes are possessed by demons, but that a man of power can conquer the demon, drawing it out of the Sime, freeing the Sime's spirit and taking the demon's power for his own. If there is a Sime preying on their community, the man of power will go out, slay him with his bare hands, and bring the body back as proof. Atlir was the apprentice of a man of power, and had learned most of the ritual for preparing to conquer a demon. His teacher had not yet told him the last secret, the 'great mystery', when he died unexpectedly in his sleep. When a child went into changeover a few days later, the community was divided whether they should murder the child before breakout or allow Atlir to prove his power by contending with the demon. If the child is murdered, or dies of attrition, they believe the demon is freed to later possess another child. They had manacled the child with leg irons in the traditional place while they debated.

Atlir knew the community required a man of power to protect them from predatory Simes, and agreed to prove himself despite not knowing the 'great mystery', which we can guess is the lateral nerve crush technique. He went to the child, who was in stage five by then, I think, and from what I can interpret from his descriptions, began to experience selyur nager. He described everything in terms of his own belief system, of course. He said he felt the power within him yearning to take the power of the demon and free the child. The child begged him for help and he said he would help her, drawing out the demon and freeing her to go to the ancestors 'pure', without killing. He held the child's hands, spoke the ritual words and sang the ritual chants. With the community watching from a safe distance, he comforted the child, purified his heart and waited for the great test. At breakout, he took the child's arms as his teacher had demonstrated on his own arms, as he had seen him do in other changeovers, and met her lips for the fifth contact.

This part is very strange. Because he believed that what he would do was draw out the demon, conquer it and take its power for his own, he experienced transfer as if it were going in the other direction. His teacher had told him about 'the dark abyss', the metaphysical nothingness demonic possession creates in the possessed Sime, so he experienced transfer as healing or closing that void in the Sime as he drew the demon from it. He experienced slilbliss as the demon's power, purified in the demon's destruction by his own metaphysical strength, flowing into him, confirming his status as a proven man of power. He believed he had somehow learned the 'great mystery' himself, perhaps with the assistance of the spirit of his teacher, helping him from the world of the ancestors.

In this state of transcendent joy he opened his eyes to meet the living eyes of a new Sime. This was unprecedented. The child herself went from the joy of First Transfer to utter confusion. Could this be the afterlife? Just like the village? Where were the ancestors? No, everybody here was alive! The villagers were as confused as the pair clinging to each other before them. The village head woman, who had brought the pistol used only for this purpose, in case the child killed Atlir, approached them bravely but uncertainly. The new Sime raised her hand, unfortunately displaying spread tentacles, and the head woman shot her in the heart. Everyone screamed. Atlir and the head woman looked into each other's eyes. What had happened? Where was the demon? Had it possessed Atlir? The pistol wavered. Atlir displayed his open hands and untentacled arms and told the woman he had drawn out and conquered the demon and taken its power.

He got up and slowly approached the villagers. He told them that the spirit of his teacher had helped him conquer the demon. He had felt himself take up the purified power of the demon, and the child had been freed of the possession. He didn't understand why the child had lived, but he would ask his teacher. He gathered some supplies and went into the mountains. He fasted and took herbal preparations for several days, trying to contact the spirit of his teacher to ask for guidance. Finally, in a dream or vision, his teacher's spirit told him to go to the maize people. He returned to the village, told them of his vision, got directions from people who had been to the lowlands, and walked for a week to reach a farming settlement over the pass to the north of us. They told him about me, and he came here.

He has been staying with me and we have had many long talks. I told him about our understanding of Simes and changeover, without disturbing his own beliefs as well as I could. I told him how Simes in Nivet can live good lives without ever killing. I told him what I suspect is the 'great mystery' his teacher did not live to impart to him. He now believes that the ancestors called his teacher to them early, so he could learn the new way of drawing out demons, one which leaves the child alive to live as a true human being without killing.

Professor, I can't imagine this man walking the streets of Konawa or doing shifts in a Tecton changeover ward, or I would consider sending him to you. I wish Sectuib Yilli could meet him and zlin him. Is he a 'natural Donor' or is it his spiritual strength and beliefs that enabled him to serve a child in First Need? I received a letter a few months ago from some of the local children I served who are now at the Newcomers House in Konawa. They say that they plan to go to Mountain City and help rebuild it. They hope that there can be a reunion in southwest Nivet someday, so their families can travel to visit them. Perhaps you and Sectuib can meet Atlir at such a reunion.

Atlir has gone back into the mountains to serve changeovers with his new method. He will bring the new Simes to me, and I will send them to Konawa. I hope the flexibility of First Year will make it possible for Simes from such isolated areas, with such unusual world views, to adapt to life in Nivet. I hope his people will accept his new way, so he won't find himself again drenched in the blood of a child whose life he has just saved, or worse, in his own blood.

Professor, I want to thank you for being my teacher of anthropology. It's hard to remember the young Gen I was when I came to the Seminary, with such simplistic views of what is 'natural' in human behavior and belief. You truly opened my eyes to the breadth of human experience and ways of perceiving the world, Sime, Gen and Ancient. Not only has it enriched my life, but it has made it possible for me to live comfortably among these "maize people" of the desert, and to understand and communicate with Atlir, a man whose reality is permeated with the spirits of the living and the dead, and of the supernatural.

Grenel (Pinehill) ambrov Teiu

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