Demons of the New Year
(from Karl de Mesa’s introduction)
Publication: Demons of the New Year: Horror from the Philippines (March 24, 2010).
Since starting this anthology I have been waking up more and more at 3AM.
This seems like a gimmicky thing to say in an introduction but it also happens to be the truth. Up to the last moment when I handed in the debut episode of the web comics The Magdalene Fist I found that, again, the prevailing paradigm of a given environment has jurisdiction over your subconscious.
In our Catholic country where Good and Evil is always Christ vs. Satan the mind state that becomes wide open to demonic invasion is an easy one to slide into. They even have a term for it: “a mind full of scorpions.”
In Voodoo, Santeria, Rizalista and many occult-based religions possession is a sacred and ritualized event performed by professionals to communicate with the divine. In Christian Catholicism it is an assault by hostile forces bent on majority control that becomes a suppurating thorn in the side of reality, removable only by holy men of strength.
Guess which one I was more interested in as a teen?
In 1998, the year before I began work as a journalist I supported myself by lugging around my Tarot deck and reading the fortunes of NGO workers, bored housewives, cheating executives and the occasional college sophomore who wanted to know if her boyfriend this year was The One.
Reading fortunes was easy. Telling people a reasonably entertaining facsimile of the truth was not. Nobody wants to know they’re going to die of cancer next year. Nobody wants to know their wife doesn’t love them and never did. Nobody wants to know they’ll know much pain and failure before they know success after migrating to a cold, distant land.
Strong emotions leave a trail in the tracery of energies that is the matrix of our passage. And the future to the seer is like climbing up a ladder to view a distant procession heading your way through a veil of early morning fog. While I can see farther than you, I don’t have binoculars and the damnable mist doesn’t do anything for my short sightedness.
There’s also 50/50 that the guy in the red suit walking point might be Santa Claus or Lucifer.
Fast forward to 2002 and I am burning my two, fat notebooks of accumulated rituals, spells, chakra anatomies, herbs lists, Zen maxims, circles of summoning and abjuration and helpful apocryphal exercises. It is too much, you see: the writhing black lizard men who invade my bedroom by climbing through the window, hanging on the ceiling and sitting on my chest `til I wake up coughing. It is too much: the newly dead relative who tried to communicate by trying to possess me (the feeling not unlike drowning). Too much: omens in the smallest events, lucid dreams of being torn limb from limb by winged grotesques, precognitive visions that bring on mystery fevers, the sound of duende feet zooming around my bed, the scent of sulfur and shit that heralds their arrival.
This was classic pavor nocturnus (aka the fear at night, the shit in your pajamas terror, the cold and sweating heebie jeebies) and I had it bad. Hence: torching the spell books and an end to obsessive occult dabbling. So, burning it all was a good thing.
I confirmed this a few days later when I met the demon in the mall.
But I get ahead of myself. First, I must tell you that Joey Nacino is the kind of publisher whose vision extends to encompass an umbrella of diverse popular genres (See, Exhibit A: The Farthest Shore anthology) with a compassionate eye.
He has also been, in the course of completing this e-book, a crucial collaborator for me. The kind that serves as a good foil to my punk dreams of creating a subversive, Pinoy horror canon. Joey expanded my notions of evil beyond the souls held in infernal torture by the boys down below.
While we do have those in this collection, there’s more. From the traditional bestiary of underworld nasties literally knocking on our door (Eliza Victoria’s “Salot”) to the breed that’s bent on inciting us to sell our souls (Rommel Santos’s “Best Served Cold”), up to the very 2000s variety of whispering devils that motivate us to go walking through the urban abyss unarmed (Don Jaucian’s prosaic “Different Degrees of Night”), or the flimsy reasons that incite us to perpetrate vile things upon our kind (Marguerite Alcazaraen De Leon’s “K-10 Mushroom”). All of them, their name is demon.
Hell, after all, is any place you’re suffering an intense torment that seems forever.