When I was nineteen, three years ago, I was allowed to sit through Abu’s therapy session for the first time. And, I should add, I was allowed to do so only because the lady visiting abu had an eerie Mexican accent and English wasn’t her first language. So, I was told to sit there, next to her, and make sense of what she told Abu in case Abu didn’t understand her, as Jameel uncle’s replacement.
Abu used the guest room for his therapy sessions. It depended on the client too, though. At times, they preferred broad daylight. A lot of individuals, from different religions, have visited our house over the years. I remember capturing pictures from ami’s then Nokia phone, hiding behind the blue sea portrait, of a Chinese family to show to people at school. The reason that people from all cultures and traditions visited abu was because abu happens to be a certified psychologist. He did his clinical psychology degree from Punjab University back in 1993 before going abroad with Jameel uncle to study demonology and spiritual education.
Abu tells me that yes, all answers exist in the Quran, but people don’t know that, and people can’t always be told that, so being up to date with science and technology is the way to survive in this world.
So, coming back to when I was nineteen. I was a rebellious girl, then, still transitioning into my gift, and I absolutely despised interactions with the supernatural.
Unlike abu, I couldn’t cast them away and sometimes I’d go to a supermarket and bring a jinn attached to me, home.
The worst part was that their faces would get stuck in my mind, and I’d have nightmares and bukhaar for the longest time. Sitting in the guest room, with dim lighting and the ticking of the round wooden clock, across a Mexican lady who occasionally passed a toothless smile, was appalling. It was up to her, if she wanted to lay down on ami’s peach sofa bed, or if she wanted to nestle herself on the rug – but either way, she had to feel comfortable.
I have often realized this myself that people find it easier to talk to strangers than family. Though, living in Pakistan, I would highly not recommend it, because abu once told me how he had been talking to a jinn for two hours before he realized it. Anyways, we started with a brief introduction. The lady, in her mid-forties, was here because of her recurring nightmares.
She stated that when she’d wake up, she’d have these marks around her body.
The doctors told her that she must unknowingly harm herself in her slumber, and that she should sleep with someone around. But Mrs. Juan’s husband had passed away, and her only child refused to visit her. She had slept at her neighbor’s childproof room once, only to wake up with the same marks on her chest. Abu asked her about what she thought was the solution to all this. She said that everything was linked to the lucid dreams she had. Sometimes, she could even ‘astral project’ out of her body and see herself sleeping. Other times, there was sleep paralysis.
Abu made her sign an agreement, and handed her a little buzzer, which meant that if at any point she desired to stop, she could press the buzzer. Ami had tried to make enchiladas for her, and she had politely refused, and I was glad because they had tasted like dried keema and roti. After the woman was comfortable, abu began. He turned on the sound of raindrops splatting against the ground – slow at first and then it began to rain heavily.
‘Listen to the sound’, he said, ‘inhale and exhale.’
The sound reminded me of the unpredictable London rain. Within ten minutes, the woman started to speak.
‘I’m where Juan and I first met. It’s a beautiful place-’ And as she spoke in partial English, I translated it for my father.
‘I can hear the church bells. It’s a Sunday. Juan forgot to wear his red tie again. I can see Mrs. Lorenzo and her children. They’re all dressed in blue. Little darlings. I’m now entering the church with Juan. We didn’t get the first row because we are late – because Juan wanted extra butter on his toast – but from where I’m seated, I can hear Father Ronald very well.’
‘He’s – he’s talking about poor children and he’s talking about Sunday masses. Juan isn’t listening. I keep on telling Juan to listen-
Abu signaled me to place a knife close to the woman’s trembling hand. I followed his instructions and then, nervously sat back on the cushion.
‘Talk about the church walls. What color are they?’ Abu inquired, ‘and do you know, that forgetful Juan accidentally kept the butter knife in your bag?’
‘Oh, I didn’t check. Yes, he’s very forgetful. He even forgot my birthday last year. The walls are yellow. But if I look closely, they’re orange too. Mrs. Lorenzo is getting a call. She’s getting up. She’s leaving. I don’t like it when she leaves. Everyone else starts to leave too then.’
It had been fourteen minutes since the woman had started describing her surroundings. If she missed anything that she had told abu before we had started, Abu made sure that she analyzed that as well. I did not understand what abu was trying to do. But I exerted myself to listen to every detail.
‘Oh my, Mrs. Lorenzo’s children are leaving. I think something happened because I can see Father making his way out of the church. I’m afraid everyone is leaving. The walls have started to turn to a shade of gray and I think that they’ve left the doors open for too long. There are flies buzzing in everywhere. I’m telling Juan to leave too. We should leave as well. Everyone has left. Juan isn’t listening. When does he ever listen? I turn my head around to ask him to leave again. But he’s not there. I think I should leave too. I think the dark man is about to come. I think I should run – I should-’
‘I think you should stay, Mrs. Juan,’ Abu replied. ‘Stay, Mrs. Juan. I think you should stay.’
‘Stay… But, I need to go…’
Abu told me to speak to Mrs. Juan by copying him. I was hesitant at first, but then I started telling her to stay. I wondered why I had ever been excited about knowing what went down during my father’s therapy sessions.
Just as Mrs. Juan let out a little scream, I felt my head spin. My body started to get goosebumps and my mouth dried up. It was as if, I was witnessing the nightmare, and not Mrs. Juan.
Abu could sense that I was confused and scared. He kept his hand on my leg to assure me of him being there. But his hands were cold and it made me realize that he too was feeling ill. I had spent the past ten years getting used to the feeling of this ‘gift’, as abu called it, and if those ten years had taught me something, it was to not let my body turn on me when I sensed a demon. I remembered abu telling me that it is I, who has the power, not it. If I get scared, it’ll defeat me. If I scare it, I will defeat it.
‘You should have let me leave the church. The dark man is here! He’s here -’ My thoughts were disrupted by Mrs. Juan’s sudden yelling.
‘What does he look like? Where is he sitting?’ Abu inquired, ‘describe him, Mrs. Juan!’
‘Okay, okay he’s black and he doesn’t have legs. He moves like a snake. He’s moving like a snake right now. He’s got – um surgical gloves on, the kind Juan used to have in his office. His hands are covered in blood – Lord, I hope it’s not blood. He’s coming. Oh Lord, he’ll hurt me again-’
‘No one will hurt you,’ Abu answered, ‘let him come. Remember, you have the butter knife in your bag.’
My eyes had begun to water, and it was almost if I could hear voices inside my head. I wanted this session to end. I wanted the Mexican lady to press the ringer and I wanted to run outside for fresh air. I could not understand why my body temperature had started to rise.
I closed my eyes, said bismillah, and just as I opened them, I jumped back in fright. Behind the woman, who lay with her eyes closed, was a lizard-like dark-faced man with scrubs on. He looked at me and hissed. I saw his tongue slither down Mrs. Juan’s neck. The creature was real. It was in our guest room.
The creature that Mrs. Juan spoke of was very real, and it was near all this time, which is why I had started to feel awfully sick. At that point, I believe that I forgot how to breathe.
Abu put his finger against his lips and told me to not make a sound. ‘Mrs. Juan,’ Abu said, ignoring the demon that he too saw, ‘don’t let him hurt you. Remember, it’s your dream and your knife. Remember, you can kill the dark man. Stab him!’
Mrs. Juan began to tremble as the lizard creature hopped on her. I gulped and felt myself urinate on the guest room carpet. I tried my best to get a hold of myself, but the warm urine trickled down between my legs. Mrs. Juan picked up the butter knife and started to swing it in the air.
‘Kill him!’ Abu yelled, ‘you have the knife. He has nothing. Kill him!’ The creature let out a little shriek, and Mrs. Juan stopped.
‘I can’t kill him. He’s going to kill me. He hurts me daily – he’s going to hurt me more – you don’t – please help -’
‘Nonsense,’ Abu yelled, ‘only you can help yourself and I believe in you, Mrs. Juan. You can kill the creature. Close your eyes and stab him!’
‘The church door is open. Juan is waiting for me. If I try, I can make it. I can run-’
‘No, Mrs. Juan, you cannot run. If you run the creature will follow. If you kill him, he will let you be.’
With teary eyes, I saw the creature turn its head at a 360-degree angle towards abu and hiss.
With the sole of my converse, I slid the knife towards Mrs. Juan. She started swinging it in the air again. This time more furiously, and she didn’t stop and Abu didn’t stop yelling, and with shivers down my spine, I sat in the pool of urine till the creature’s shrieks faded into thin air, and a victorious Mrs. Juan sat up with a smile on her face.
‘I got no scars today!’ she pronounced with joy and quite voluntarily hugged Abu. Abu, beetroot red, suddenly broke free of embarrassment and told her that we don’t hug females here.
After that day, I only sat twice through Abu’s therapy sessions – once, when a Sikh had come for help and no paranormal evidence was found, and second, when a young lady bought her daughter for ruqya. I made sure that I stayed away from Abu’s therapy sessions as much as possible.
Mrs. Juan is in California now with her stepsister and often sends abu letters. Last month, she sent Ami the enchiladas recipe.
The description of the demon logged in Abu’s digital diary:
Today, I saw another weird species. If any scientist would have seen it, even if Sarfraz would have seen it, he would have not believed his eyes. He would have thought of it as a hallucination and would have closed his eyes. But the creature would only have been gone till his eyes would have been shut. When he would have opened them again, the creature wouldn’t have moved an inch – it would still be there, real as ever.
It was a demon. Half-lizard and half man. Its face was black as a raven’s and on it were holes. Little ones and big ones, full of boils and pus. It did not speak, and it did not walk. It hissed and hopped. Its tongue was longer than my measuring tape and hung with it was a green salivary liquid that smelled of rotten eggs. His eyes were crimson red, and when I looked into them, my body shivered to its very core. It was little because its legs were like that of a lizard and when I blinked and looked again, it had no legs, but a snake’s body with scales. When it opened its mouth, its jaw dropped to the ground, like a man getting fits – only it was not a man but a demon – a creation of sheytaan. It had no hair but tiny horns, and when its skin brushed against the guest room carpet, the color faded away.
Cover image via JacobHair/bloody-disgusting.com