Our Daughter was only a little thing at the time, maybe two years old at most.
I had picked her up from daycare and brought her home to start the evening routine of bath and dinner before My Lovely Wife returned from her long day at work. Picking her up out of our four-door sedan, I balanced Our Daughter in the crook of one arm and grabbed her dirty daycare clothes with my right hand. Our Dalmation, Pepper, barked happily in the backyard.
"Pepper," Our Daughter said in a sing-song voice.
"Is that Pepper? Do you hear Pepper?" I asked.
"Pepper," she said. "Pepper, Pepper, Pepper, Pepper, Pepper..."
As dusk turned slowly to night, the interior of our small home was cast in shadows not thick enough to leave one groping for the walls but just enough to obscure details in hazy darkness. I passed through the garage, through the kitchen, and into the center of the house where I could unload the dirty clothes in the laundry closet without switching on any lights for fear of losing my grip on the little girl who continued to sing the name of her much adored dog as we advanced.
"Pepper, Pepper, Pepper, Pepper, Pepper," she chimed.
Somewhere in the kitchen, as the ambient light diminished, Our Daughter's soft tones began to morph into something cartoonishly frog-like. A croakiness crept into her throat and her voice dropped an octave. She continued to repeat "Pepper, Pepper, Pepper." By the time we reached the dark, windowless hallway that housed our laundry closet, she no longer sounded anything like my sweet little girl. It sounded instead as if I were carrying a thing possessed, a demon child maniacally calling out for its pet hellhound.
I did the only thing any rational adult would do under the circumstances. I dropped the laundry on the floor where I stood, walked through the house turning on every light I could find, and brought Our Daughter into the kitchen to feed her dinner. Thankfully, whatever demon had temporarily possessed her vanished under the glare of the bright lights. That, or demons don't like rice cereal mixed with pureed apples.
© 2011 Mark Feggeler