Get your entry in by WEDNESDAY NIGHT! That's only one more day people!
The day I faced down the devil started out like any other.
It was a bright and sunny day -- a typical Tuesday: Up at 6am for family scriptures, then nag repeatedly with the occasional threat thrown in while getting kids in and out of showers, dressed, lunches packed, piano practiced, and out the door to school.
At last the house was quiet. After morning prayer and a quick read through Alma 30, I started on my perennial To-Do List. Halfway through folding a load of laundry, Caroline popped into my thoughts. Caroline was one of the young women in my ward, and as the Young Women's President, I had direct stewardship over her. At 17, she was a beautiful girl, or would have been had her lovely features not been twisted into a perpetual scowl. Caroline had strayed from the straight and narrow and was struggling. She and her friends were dabbling in drugs and alcohol and who knows what else. I had reached out to her multiple times without much luck; she was generally angry, hostile, and rude. Her parents were at their wits' end knowing what to do with her.
Go visit Caroline.
I looked at the clock. It was 9:05 am. Caroline should be in school at this hour. Was I supposed to call the school and get her out of class?
Go to her home.
This is silly, I thought. Her mother works -- I'm sure no one is home.
I returned to folding and began delivering clothes to my children's rooms (this was back when I was a nice mom -- now my kids must haul their own clean laundry to their rooms). All the while, a disturbing image of Caroline lying half clothed on her unmade bed danced behind my eyes. I sighed and set down the basket on the kitchen table, still half full of clean clothes. I can't just show up on her doorstep. I picked up the phone and dialed her number. Ring.... ring.... ring.... ring..... ring......... ring............
I hung up the phone with a little more force than necessary. I felt silly. I was glad I hadn't wasted time driving over there for no reason. Even if Caroline was there, what would I say when she opened the door? Uh... Hi! I just love you so much that I thought I'd come and see you because I had this feeling you were ditching school and I am such a wonderful caring loving leader that I am here to help you do the right thing! I could almost hear the door slamming in my face and the muffled derisive laughter as she walked away. I strode to the table and snatched up the basket to finish my task.
What is more important: what Caroline will think of you, or her soul?
I stopped short. In that moment, the laundry was forgotten. I picked up the phone again and redialed Caroline's number. This time instead of ringing I heard the buzzing of the busy signal. I slammed the phone back on the receiver, grabbed my purse, and ran for the car.
I prayed out loud during the 4 minute drive to her parent's home. Dear Lord, forgive me for being slow to hear. Please guide my mind to know what to say and do to help this girl. Please give me the courage I lack so that I may be a tool in Thy hands for whatever must be done today.
I climbed the front steps of the old brick farmhouse and rang the doorbell. Silence. I knocked loudly on the door. Bam Bam Bam BAM BAM! Still nothing. I made a tent over my eyes with my hands and pressed my face close to the front window and peered inside. The normally tidy living room was in a shocking state of disarray. Sheet music from the overturned piano bench was strewn across the room, and beside the sofa the end table was on its side. A vase of dried flowers was shattered on the entry tile.
Alarm tightened my throat, and I stepped back from the window, momentarily at a loss. Something was wrong here. What should I do? Should just I go in? Should I call for help?
Go inside. NOW.
I turned the unlocked doorknob and pushed. The door swung open easily until it bumped against the base of the broken vase.
I called out, "Caroline?"
Nothing but a faint spluttering sound coming from the kitchen. What was that smell?
I stepped over the scattered flowers and moved toward the kitchen, where shattered dishes littered the antique wood floor. Every cabinet was open and half empty, the contents scattered across the counter tops and floor. Burned tomato soup burbled in an untended saucepan on the stove, hissing and spewing acrid smoke as each bubble burst in slow motion. Broken stoneware and glass crackled under my shoes as I crossed the kitchen quickly and turned off the stove. And then I saw the old-style beige rotary phone on the floor; the phone cord had been ripped from the base and the receiver was nowhere to be found.
I made my way down the hallway toward the bedrooms, listening for any sounds.
"Hello? Anybody home?!"
An answering thud sounded somewhere below me. I tiptoed to the top of the basement stairs and called again.
"Caroline? Is that you?"
A chilling scream echoed up the stairwell and then trailed off into a low groan. I was frozen with fear and dread for a moment. I closed my eyes and murmured another brief prayer, took several deep breaths, and began to slowly descend the stairs.
I found Caroline in the back basement bedroom. She was curled up on the stripped bed wearing only her underwear and a t-shirt; her legs, arms and face were red with bleeding welts where she had scratched herself raw. The phone receiver was clutched in her right hand. A low moan escaped her lips, and her puffy eyes were closed tightly against the bright morning light that filtered in through the lacy curtains on the window. On the nightstand was a small piece of glass and a small plastic straw. On the floor, an overturned Ouija board.
I sucked in a startled breath.
Caroline's eyes opened, scanned the room dazedly, and then slowly focused on me standing in the doorway. Her eyes narrowed, and she pushed herself partway to a sitting position. My heart jumped into overdrive as I looked into bloodshot eyes that seethed pure hatred. The distorted gutteral voice that burst from her chapped and bleeding lips was not her own.
"Who are you!?"
"Caroline, you know me. It's Sister Jones from the ward."
"Caroline is gone! This body is mine now!"
Dear Father in Heaven, please help me.
I took a slow breath. "Caroline does not belong to you. I command you to leave her body now!"
Caroline's tortured face twisted into a cortorted mask of fury. The scream came with such force that I could feel the shock of it against my whole body.
"Leave now or DIE!"
And she got slowly to her feet and began to stagger toward me, the phone handset raised threateningly.
What happened next was done without any thought or plan of mine. My right arm raised firmly to the square and I heard my voice speaking calmly but forcefully, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to depart and leave this girl alone!"
The girl's eyes widened in surprise. A tortured shriek ripped from her throat, hung in the air for a long moment, and then she collapsed to the floor. My knees turned to jello, and I went and knelt next to her, gathered her in my arms, and held her tight while sobs racked her frail body and my tears of gratitude and relief mingled with hers.
I moved away a couple of months later. A few years ago I heard that Caroline had pulled her life together, gone to college, and was engaged to be married. I imagine that she's forgotten all about me. But I will never forget her, nor the day that the Lord helped me face down the devil--and win.