An Excerpt from Leaving Gilead
Introducing Susan Ridley who is rather too bright to be a proper Gilead girl
Yes, okay, lots of grown-ups believe in God and Jesus and angels and maybe that was all right though she couldn’t think why it was any different from fairies, but her family believed in other stuff as well like the coming of the Lord and the Great Climax before next Tuesday and demons and eschewing things and how terribly wicked other people were, especially those who believed in God but in the wrong way. And they had these phrases they were always using that made them sound like they were reciting things from silly Gilead pamphlets, which they were, of course. Phrases like, ‘in these perilous times’ and ‘the machinations of the devil.’...
The demons thing got to its absolute stupidest when Susan was thirteen. Some idiots started to put it around that things, objects, could be demon-possessed. It was the wise old men of Gilead who started it, of course, but there were plenty of others with the right sort of Gilead-mindedness to fill in the details. The most susceptible objects were things like antiques or any second hand goods which could have been owned by people who dabbled in occult arts. And children were a special target for the demons so, naturally, their toys were the obvious places for evil spirits to lurk.
She might have been able to cope with this if it had just been other people at Gilead Hall who took the hunt for hidden demons seriously. But one Friday afternoon when she got home from school Alan was in the back yard tending a bonfire which was nearly burned out. She didn’t think much about it at first but when she went up to her room she saw that Pookie, her teddy bear who always sat on her pillow, was missing. Straight away she went downstairs and into the kitchen where her mother was preparing vegetables.
‘Where is Pookie?’ she demanded. Her mother carried on peeling carrots and replied in a wearied tone, ‘Susan, you are thirteen. You ought to have grown out of playing with dolls by now.’ ‘Mother! I don’t play with dolls. I never did. Pookie isn’t a doll. He’s a teddy bear and he’s special. I’ve had him since before I can remember and I want to keep him.’ ‘Well it’s too late. It’s gone on the bonfire. You know very well that these things attract the attention of demons. Consider yourself very blessed because your dear brother had the foresight to rescue you from harm. We have to be as cautious as serpents in these perilous times.’
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