The Dreadens live on Cherry Hill Lane in a very average brick rambler. Don Dreaden is a mason. Charlotte is a ‘domestic engineer’ - house wife to the rest of us. Damen is their first child and , if he had his wish, their last.
Charlotte spent most of her day chasing Damen. The moment he was up he'd run through the house messing up what Charlotte had put right the night before. At meal times he took the food on his plate and mashed it into one glob of multicolored mush. He always ate a small portion of the mixture, realizing he had to eat something to hold off starvation. The rest of the food was used projectiles - fired from the end of his spoon. If you left him alone, even for a minute, you’d find his food splattered on the walls, ceiling, floor, carpet, fish tank, and the cat.
Dressing him was nearly impossible. He hated anything that matched. Damen’s favorite pay back, if he lost a clothing battle, was to strip his clothes off in the van and toss them out the window.
Damen’s attitude nearly drove Charlotte into insanity. She clung to this world through a combination of therapy and Prosaic. Her counselor taught her to ignore most of Damen’s tantrums. She learned to think happy thoughts as he erupted, spewing lava on the poor souls caught in the pyroplastic flow.
Now that Charlotte found a way to cope with her situation she had to find help for Damen. Every therapist introduced to Damen either left the practice after attempting to treat him, or quit treating him and took up a deeper religious life. Their reasoning was understandable. For every action in the universe there was an equal and opposite reaction. If there was a Damen then there must be a God. And if God was completely opposite of Damen then he must be a truly loving and caring deity.
Charlotte turned to religion. She took Damen to the local churches to see if a good dose of Sunday School would change his behavior. The Baptist gave up after two Sundays and asked her not to come back. The Christian Scientists said he couldn't be healed. The Jehovah's Witnesses asked for their magazines back. The Mormons offered a willing and helping hand but Charlotte politely turned them down after sitting through one Primary. She saw they had their hands full with their own problems.
Charlotte had one hand she hadn't played. It was held in reserve if therapy failed - Exorcism. Two months ago she took Damen to St. Bartholomew’s in hopes of convincing the Parish Priest to examine the boy. A careful religious examination, leading to an exorcism, could be the only thing to save Damen.
The examination took place in the Church garden. Father O’Brian sat with Charlotte and Damen near the birdbath and the flower beds. The examination started with a short blessing and then an attempt at saying the Rosary. Damen broke free of his mother’s interlocked arms by using his teeth as a key. He lashed out at the Rosary. The string broke, sending the beads flying in all directions. His voice suddenly deepened. His language transitioned from English into what Father O’Brian described as some form of gutteral Latin. He jumped from the bench and darted toward the flower beds - the pride and joy of the Sisters of the Ever Increasing Hope Convent. The flowers represented beauty and had to be destroyed. He plowed through the first bed leaving a trail of destruction. The last time something like this was documented was General Sherman’s torch and burn march through Georgia during the Civil War. Father O’Brian began the exorcism, Charlotte was on her cell phone calling the animal catcher. Cloverdale’s constables refused to deal with Damen. They didn’t have the right tools to capture a rabid dog. The animal catcher did.
Sister Mary Edna Celebrating her 100th Birthday.Suddenly everything grew still. Not a sound was heard. The wind paused and the sun stopped moving in the sky. Evil had come in contact with a power greater than itself - Sister Mary Edna of the Sisters of Ever Increasing Hope. One hundred year old Sister Mary Edna towered over the 'nasty child' who was destroying her flowers. Damen was laid flat out on his back. Mary Edna’s cane was square in his chest pinning him down.
“Shut Up!” she said to Damen in the raspy voice of an old chain smoking woman when he tried to speak. Damen closed his mouth. Charlotte was stunned. Damen never did anything he was told. Was Sister Mary Edna the only force on the planet capable of truly confronting evil? Damen was a light weight compared to some of the people Sister Mary Edna dealt with in her years working as a matron in a special home for the possibly possessed outside of Rome. Sister Mary Edna understood this kind of boy all too well.
Damen started squirming. Sister Mary Edna slowly knelt down and put her wrinkled lips next to Damen's ear. She whispered something. His eyes grew large and then - a miricle. Damen slowly stood up, apologized, and began cleaning the mess he had created. Just then, the animal catcher arrived with his net and cage. He took one look at Sister Mary Edna and turned to run. They had a history over a disagreement on what to do with stray cats.
Today, Damen is much better although he still has his bad days. And on those bad days Charlotte puts him in the car and they drive straight to St. Bartholomew's so Damen can once again experience the one force more powerful than him. Damen throws a fit all the way there but is a changed boy on the way back. All it takes is a little time with someone that seems to know what to whisper into a naughty boy’s ear.