[Media prompt] A 25-year-old woman died Tuesday after she was thrown into a fire to drive “demons” from her body, Nicaraguan authorities said, quoting witnesses as saying she was stripped naked, burned and thrown into a gully.
Vicente Chamorro, in his mid-fifties, divorced and broke, late on his rent for a room in a Managua barrio with less space and fewer amenities than a packing crate, woke up one morning with the remnants of a vision for the future swimming with dazzling clarity before his eyes. Normally a man inclined to take the road most taken, that is, the path of least resistance, Vicente lit a cigarette, lay on his back, and waited for the little voice inside his head to spell out innumerable drawbacks, like it always did, thus absolving him of responsibility to take any further action. Losing track of his divine insight, picturing instead the new girl behind a bar at which he sometimes had a drink or two, Pablo’s irritating demand for repayment, which, when he thought of it, was more than six months overdue now, and a thousand other urgencies in his life successfully shelved for another time, he was surprised by a realisation that the little voice had noted not a single stumbling block. On the contrary, it was, if he heard correctly, summoning him to, among other things, reclaim his cassock and collar from the pawn shop.
A week later, cheeks as smooth as a hot-rod paint job, hair buffed and sprayed, Vicente caught a bus to a suburb where under normal circumstances he would have been arrested. He had the address in his head, and after some inquiries was directed to a house on a hill with green lawns and a swimming pool in the back yard. A maid let him in, crossing herself, and led him to a room smelling of leather and hygiene. He stood, gazing at a statue of Mary, until a woman on the verge of tears entered, thanked him profusely for taking the time to see her, invoked the name of the Lord, and sat down next to him, a little too closely for propriety he thought, and proceeded to apprise him of the satanic horrors visited upon her daughter. Which were many, he discovered, but after an hour or so, a deposit sacked away under his cassock, he had made an appointment for the next day.
Casting out demons, he reasoned, was simply a matter of inducing hallucinogenic states under which the patient, although parishioner might be a better term he thought, later changed because it sounded more sombre to congregant, succumbed to suggestive imagery. At the appointed hour, the neighbourhood blanketed in darkness, Vicente arrived, and being led to the backyard where the light of a bonfire set the pool aflame, he began his incantations. The daughter, dressed in a flimsy white gown, which was all the better he had explained to observe the passing out of demons, stood silently near the fire, inhaling smoke from a cocktail of drugs burning in a fake thurible he had picked up cheaply in a flea market.
Things went badly awry when the girl, overwhelmed by the industrial quantity of opiates forced up her nasal passage, collapsed head first into the bonfire, her gossamer garment, alas highly inflammable, igniting in a flash. Before Vicente or the other onlookers could react, the poor girl was dead.
There is no reason to question Vicente when he says his original idea was to perform exorcisms by fire. That he has a thriving hamburger business now, with patties advertised nationwide as “to die for” was just luck. It should be noted that he always wears a hat now, hiding what one untrustworthy soul claims are nascent horns. But we shouldn’t believe everything we hear, should we?