A story about a girl, a goy and a dybbuk.
|When my father in law died, my fiance covered every mirror in our house.
I asked her gently, unsure of the meaning behind it. “It is time to sit shiva.” Her response was followed with a sad smile at my confusion. “I’m sorry, my love. Just an old tradition when we sit in mourning.” After covering the bedroom mirror with a black sheet, she turned to me.
Her chocolate eyes held back tears of sorrow. I embraced her as she quietly sobbed, warmth soaking into my shirt. Out of the corner of my eye, the shroud gently fluttered. But when I turned my head, it was motionless.
Shiva is the Jewish custom of mourning, only observed by the immediate family. “It lasts a week and for the duration you must not greet me or talk unless I speak first.” She watched my face while I digested this information. The strict rules were no surprise to me even though I was a goy, an outsider.
After all, I was marrying into this kind of lifestyle. I navigated Sabbaths and Passovers with ease, helping Frema in any way I could. She loved me even though I made faces at gefilte fish and sometimes forgot certain holidays. Frema was the apple of my eye, a Jewish princess with dark hair and mysterious smile that bewitched me.
Unfortunately our feelings for each other were not enough, Frema’s father refused to grant me his blessing.
“You think you deserve my yakirati? My chamudi? My darling daughter?” I remembered that piercing look, drilling into me from beneath a fur streimel. “Feh!” He spat.
Stinging from rejection, I gritted my teeth and tried to smile. “I only want the best for her-“
“You Gentiles are all the same. You have no respect for our customs and seek only to lead our children astray.” His grayed beard shook with anger, fires burning within his eyes. As I left the room, his spiteful words followed.
“You will never be welcome in any house of mine!”
When she asked how it went, I admitted things didn’t go very well. Frema sighed and grasped my hand. “It’s been hard for him, ever since my mother passed away. He’ll come around, don’t worry.”
Now I would never get the chance.
I brushed my teeth before a black curtain, an empty void which felt as oppression as the silence pervading every inch of our home. Frema made sure to write down the customs of shiva for me so I wouldn’t have to interrupt her grieving with unbidden speech.
-No casual contact, physical or verbal.
-Meals will consist of bread, boiled eggs, lentils and a drink.
-No music, no television or anything which might be a distraction.
-I cannot leave the house, so please get any groceries we might need.
The last item made me sigh but I had anticipated something along those lines. Her footnote made me smile.
P.S. Thank you for being understanding, my love.
Even though her father might have hated the notion of me, I knew his loss hurt her. He would have been happy knowing she was following the holy laws and that I wasn’t ‘leading her astray’.
I put down the paper and felt my chin. The dark cloth hung before me as I scratched stubbly hairs. Tomorrow was the big interview, a fact that filled my stomach with nervous anticipation. It wouldn’t make a good impression if I walked in with five o’clock shadow... A quick shave wouldn’t hurt now, would it? Frema was in bed, after all.
Carefully, I pulled on the fabric until it dropped with a whisper. “Strange custom.” I muttered and opened a drawer. My groggy reflection stifled a yawn as I plugged in the electric razor.
The buzzing device wasn’t functioning right, it kept shutting off shortly after touching my grizzled cheeks. Irritated, I unplugged it and plugged it back in. This time there was no issue. Or so I thought.
A creeping coldness wafted onto my neck and back. I turned to see if the window was open, but it wasn’t. After I returned to shave the outer cheek the icy draft blew again. This time, I looked into the mirror. Only my reflection greeted me, trimming the last few hairs on my chin. The razor buzzed in my ears as my eyes searched for an explanation.
And then I found one.
A wizened hand slowly crept out from behind my back. The twisted fingers had long yellow nails, digits curling until one filthy claw remained outstretched. Too late, did I realize what it was reaching for. With a flick, the light vanished.
Darkness smothered me.
I screamed in that inky abyss, sharp nails sinking into my face, slashing my chin as coldness poured into my soul.
“What is going on?!” Blinding light washed away the terrible shadows. Frema stood in the bathroom, eyes wide with fright. I realized I was still gripping the electric razor. Blood oozed from my chin. But I scarcely felt the pain.
Somehow, the black shroud was draped over the mirror, just as she had placed it.
“Everything okay, zeeskei?” I nodded, still in shock. “Yeah… sorry. Just caught some hairs shaving.” Frema smiled at me and wiped her eyes. “Thank goodness, you frightened me quite badly.” I stammered an apology as she shook her head. “It’s okay, just come to bed.”
Frema said nothing else as I crawled into bed that night. She didn’t need to. Her puffy eyes and red nose told me all I needed to know. I wanted to hold her again and say that I was here for her, but the rules of shiva forbade it. All I could do was turn off the light.
Sleep was hard to come by, my throbbing chin and thoughts of disembodied hands made me restless. I wanted to ask her about the mirrors, the meaning behind the shrouds. Questions rattled in my skull until weariness took hold. The gentle waves of slumber had just started pulling me when Frema jolted awake with a shriek.
“Muter! Muter!” She cried, hysterical until I grasped her in my arms, rocking back and forth. “Such a horrible dream.” Her small frame shuddered at the memory. “Do you want to talk about it?” I asked, rubbing her back.
Frema began to shake her head, but thought better of it. “I was… I was pregnant. We were on our way to the hospital, you were driving like crazy and I was screaming to slow down.”
She covered her face with a tumble of auburn hair. “You… didn’t survive the crash. I gave birth in the back of an ambulance…” Gently, I brushed the soft locks away from her almond eyes. They shied away from me, frightened.
“They were showing me the baby. I was sobbing and screaming your name as they placed it in my arms. It woke up and began crying along with me. When I saw its face…”
Frema caught me in her gaze. Helplessly, I fell into those haunted pools of amber darkness. “It was my mother… Bawling like an newborn. But her cries, they sounded more like words. I think… I think it was a message. She was trying to warn me of something.”
I waited for her to continue.
“Mama kept saying soul cleaver, soul cleaver.”
“What is that?”
Frema shivered again. “It’s a dybbuk.”
When I pressed her for more all she said was that dybbuks were evil spirits. “Is that why the mirrors are covered?” She nodded and lay back down. “Death attracts all manner of wicked things. Now let’s change the subject, or we will never sleep.”
I was amazed she was able to doze off so quickly. Perhaps I did as well.
The next thing I knew, the bed was empty and sunlight was filtering through the blinds. Frema greeted me with a cup of coffee and wished me luck on the interview. “Make me proud, my love.” I promised that I would and blew her a kiss. That was how I got around the laws of shiva.
Perhaps it was the short night or maybe even the cut on my chin, but for some reason I kept spacing out when questions were directed towards me. The interviewer looked up from his clipboard, where he had been making notes. “In your own words, tell us where you see yourself in five years.” My mind blank, I struggled to come up with an answer.
That was when something else spoke.
“Nem zich a vaneh, altercocker!”
It was my voice, but they weren’t my words.
The suited man blinked and tilted his head. “Excuse me?” A string of foul insults poured forth from my mouth, an unpleasant mixture of Yiddish and English. I clapped my hands to my lips, shutting off the flood of dirty words.
But the damage had already been done.
As I trudged to the parking lot in shame, I wondered how I would explain my failure to Frema. Maybe I would just say that things didn’t go well.
It was strangely cold inside the car; I frowned and turned up the heat. While merging onto the highway, I glanced into the rear view mirror. A familiar face grimaced, features distorted and decayed yet unmistakable. The grayed beard and burning eyes which haunted my memories had returned.
Frema’s dead father grinned from the backseat.
Sunken eyes glittered, thin blue lips drawing back from rotting teeth in a sickening grimace. I watched helplessly as dirty fingers crawled over my shoulders. They clawed at my arms, stretching towards the dashboard. Struggling to stay in my lane, I fought with the dybbuk as it reached for the steering wheel.
The sharp nails slashed my arm, making me snarl in pain. I swerved towards the guide rail, barely righting the vehicle in time. Hissing furiously, the dybbuk attacked my face. Twisting away from the savage needles, I desperately tried to protect my eyes with one arm. Some driver was honking angrily, but I couldn’t look.
A glancing blow lashed my forehead, leaving behind a deep cut. I desperately tried to maintain control as blood trickled from the gash and stung my vision. In the next lane, a tractor trailer roared.
His clammy hand closed around my neck, squeezing with powerful force. Another covered my eyes as I wheezed desperately. I felt his freezing breath on my ear, whispering over strangled cries.
“Hope you have a pleasant journey, sheigetz.”
His triumphant laugh merged with blaring horns and all I could do was scream.
All I remembered was screaming.
Silently howling in the suffocating darkness. Though my aching throat strained, no words fell from these parched lips. I heard nothing but my thoughts and witnessed only the merest of shadows. There were others with me, fellow wraiths wandering this endless oblivion. Faceless specters drifted past, unable to communicate.
Sometimes I could hear a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, echoing from a great distance away. Once I imagined a musical laugh, a soul being freed of a great burden. Whether these were real or illusions, I didn’t know.
All I could do was wait. Lingering among the others, hoping for eternity to end.
“You should not be here.” A small voice declared with utter certainty. It came from a little girl in a white dress, appraising me sharply. She paced around my soul, muttering to herself as I tried to find my lost voice.
Narrowing her eyes, the mysterious girl rubbed a dainty chin thoughtfully. “I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. What makes you so special, I wonder?” If she expected a response, I was unable to give it.
“Ah well,” My visitor sighed. “One must never question their mitzvah.” The brilliant dress flowed dreamily as she drew closer, arms outstretched.
“Sheol is no place for you, eydem. Do not give up so easily.” A small hand brushed this incorporeal form. Her touch was electric, a painful jolt coursing through my body.
I gasped, sputtered, choked, heaved and finally took in one long agonizing breath. Then I opened my eyes.
Blinding, awful brilliance. People murmuring softly, the slow rumble of traffic. I gradually became aware of myself, my aching head, bruised ribs and… my voice. “I really appreciate you giving me a lift home, officer.”
The driver gave me a concerned look. “I still think you should get those injuries looked at. The EMT thinks you might have had a concussion.”
Waving a hand dismissively, I heard myself speak again. “He’s just playing it safe. I’m fine but I would feel a lot better if I could just get home first.”
What was I doing here? How did I end up in the backseat of a cop car? I tried to open my mouth but found that I couldn’t budge a muscle. Each attempt left me more frustrated than the last, pushing and pulling at an immovable force. It was as though my body had rebelled against me. MOVE! I silently roared.
As if on cue, my head swiveled to look out the window. But I wasn’t controlling it. My bandaged reflection leered at me with a smug grin. “So you’ve woken up, goy? Good. I’d hate for you to miss the fun…” The dybbuk muttered under my breath.
Why are you doing this?
My bruised face twisted into a mask of unspeakable hatred, eyes glittering with malice. “Fool! You did this to yourself.” The police officer peered into the backseat. “Everything alright back there?”
“Yes, yes. I’m just upset over the circumstances, no need to worry.” This seemed to mollify the driver and he focused his attention on the road ahead. In the window, my reflection put a finger to my lips. I thrashed inside my fleshy prison, shrieking in fury. It was no use.
I was just a passenger, along for the ride.
Dead leaves rustled across the lawn as the dybbuk stood, staring at the place Frema and I called home. He clicked his tongue disapprovingly at the unkempt grass and brown paint peeling on the porch, unimpressed with the fixer-upper. “My daughter deserves better than this… hovel.” I didn’t answer.
His words rang true in my incorporeal ears. Perhaps it was because I had similar doubts, but also because I was exhausted from fighting against his iron grip. The dybbuk strode up to the door, stroking his chin. “Giving up so easily? But the fun hasn’t even started yet!” I stirred at this, wondering his intentions.
What do you want from me? I asked warily.
He grinned unpleasantly, exuding a callous glee that made me nervous. “Just enjoy the show.” Then the dybbuk twisted the doorknob and deliberately stomped inside as if he were crushing my dreams, one by one.
Hearing the commotion, Frema rushed downstairs. “What on earth-” She began to say but stopped after seeing the bandages on my bruised face. “Zeeskei? What happened to you?!” The dybbuk swatted her hands away when she tried to touch me. “I don’t want to talk about it!” I heard him growl.
Frema stepped back, hurt at my cold indifference. “Why are you yelling at me? I just want to know what ha-” “I can’t stand your nagging! Why don’t you go upstairs and mope over your dead father?” He was enjoying the shocked expression on her face, while I was mortified.
This isn’t me! It’s him saying these horrible things! But my pleas went unheard.
She reeled as if I’d struck her. Tears brimmed in those soft brown eyes, crystal droplets that stabbed my soul. “So this is what you want to do? You want to pick a fight because my father is dead?” Frema stared at me defiantly, blinking back the liquid emotion threatening to spill down her flushed cheeks.
HE’S NOT DEAD! I desperately screamed, trying to warn her.
“I want you to stop being such a bitch.” The dybbuk spat. She rocked back a step, tears quietly flowing. Wiping her eyes, she sniffed and stood upright. “Papa was right. I never should have agreed to marry a heartless goy like you.” I winced as Frema stomped upstairs, slamming the bedroom door shut.
And just like that, I was an outcast within my own home.
Sullenly, I watched the dybbuk open a cupboard and help himself to a bottle of wine. “L’Chiam!” He chuckled and took a healthy swig. “What’s the matter? Feeling a little down? I bet you wish you were dead!” I gritted my nonexistent teeth and rattled the bars of my proverbial cage. This only made him laugh even more. “You’ll never get free. Soon I will expel your spirit like a worthless tick, leaving you squirming in the dirt.”
He walked into the bathroom and pulled down the shroud, revealing the bathroom mirror. In it, I saw yellowing teeth and sunken eyes. A graying beard was growing on those gaunt cheeks, but as the dybbuk stroked my chin I felt nothing there, no hairs or stubble.
She’ll know it’s not me. I felt a surge of hope. Frema will see your reflection and then she’ll figure it all out. He slapped his sides and chortled. “By then it will be too late for you!”
I knew he was telling the truth. I could feel my fragile hold growing fainter by the hour, filling me with dread. What would happen when it vanished altogether? Would I be doomed to wander the earth, unable to communicate?
After gorging himself on food and drink, the dybbuk splayed himself out on the couch and mumbled something about being tired. That was something we could agree on - my spirit was equally as weary. I could feel the waves of sleep lapping at us, pulling me down into oblivion.
I was back in the abyss, among the faceless specters. But I wasn’t alone. A young woman in a white dress drifted before me, offering a comforting smile. “Welcome back, eydem.” She led me through the endless gloom and I followed.
“What is this place?” I asked, shocked that I could hear my voice again.
“This is Sheol, a waiting place. Many who come here wait to be judged.” Her voice was pure and sweet, like a silver bell chiming. My spirits were lifted by those musical tones. My guide moved gracefully, her raven hair rippling, melting into the gloom as if she was a part of it.
“Who are you?” I wondered, half afraid of the answer.
“One who will help you defeat the demon.” She turned, her beatific face stern but not unkind. “You cannot give up hope, there is little time left.”
“How am I supposed to do that?” I protested.
The young woman placed a gentle hand on my nebulous shoulder. “Do not doubt yourself. You will know what to do when the time is right.”
Her touch jolted me awake, shaking me back to consciousness.
Someone was talking, voice insistent. I blinked as my vision cleared. A familar figure took shape while the remnants of that strange dream faded away.
“Wake up! I don’t care how much you had to drink.” Frema stood over the couch, lips tightly pressed. I blearily noted that she had her purse and keys in her hand. “What is it?” The dybbuk grunted, half awake himself.
She straightened and put her hands on her hips. “We are going to the synagogue to call the whole thing off. I spoke with Rabbi Abelson and he wants both of us present to hear it out.”
My heart sank even further.
The finality of my situation reared its head as the evil spirit tried to restrain his delight. “Are you sure about this? Maybe we should sleep on it.” Frema gave me an icy stare and pointed at the door. “Get in the car before I really lose it. I can barely look at you, so don’t test my patience.”
She said nothing to me during the drive, her countenance grimly focused on the road ahead. I felt sick, nauseous that my life with her was rapidly coming undone. The demon, however, was buzzing with excitement. He met my eyes in the window, grinning with unrestrained elation. I knew what he was thinking, I could almost hear those wicked thoughts tumbling inside my former head.
I was shocked to realize that I was no longer seeing through my eyes. The tenuous hold I had on my body was gradually sliding, pulling away as though I was grasping a greased rope. Now I hovered slightly above my head, invisible to all but the dybbuk.
He lay back, coyly relaxing against my weak struggles. It won’t be long now, his smirk seemed to say.
Frema glanced at him with disgust. That look made me shrivel in shame, wondering if I should just give up and resign myself to whatever fate had in store for my soul.
Do not give up hope, eydem.
The mysterious woman’s words came back to me, filling my spirit with resolve. Perhaps I could hold on for just a few hours more… My invisible fingers slipped as the tether pulled several inches away. I held on desperately, doubting if I could even last minutes.
Now I floated above the car, watching the sun slowly dip below the horizon. The dying rays cast long shadows over urban surroundings. A cold breeze gusted, sending a plastic bag into the air. I observed as it sashayed in the sky, a ghostly symbol of my impending fate. Soon I too would be tumbling helplessly, going wherever the wind took me.
The car slowed, turning down a street. In the distance I saw the dome of the synagogue looming against the darkening sky. We approached the stone edifice, wreathed in shadow. An ominous feeling crept over me as I saw a shape detach itself from the stone pillars beside the entrance.
Headlights illuminated Rabbi Abelson, his usually cheery face now stern and foreboding. Arms crossed, he watched Frema park the car and then gestured for everyone to come inside. “I don’t usually see congregants at this hour but I want to understand you two have some… differences that need addressing.”
The dybbuk rolled his eyes and sighed. “Let’s get this over with.” The rabbi stroked his beard and nodded thoughtfully. “Indeed. We will must pray before the Shekinah before I hear you two out.” I looked down at myself, seeing an unpleasant expression flit across the dybbuk’s face.
Rabbi Abelson raised an eyebrow. “Any objection?”
Shifting his weight between my feet, the dybbuk grunted. “I’m not a very religious man.” I could feel his unease in entering a holy place.
“Ah, I understand. You aren’t required to participate, just to observe. It will be a very brief ceremony.” The rabbi placed a hand on my shoulder and smiled encouragingly.
Shrugging off his touch, the dybbuk sighed and took a deep breath. “Yeah sure, whatever.”
It was very dim inside the synagogue. Candle flames winked in the distance, the menorahs lit on either side of the hekhal. There was a faint whispering from people I couldn’t locate. I peered around, pews and stone pillars coming into focus. “Rabbi?” The demon called out. “Where did you go?”
A horn blared to life, the echoing cacophony bouncing from the walls. I heard screaming and realized that it was me, the dybbuk and I writhing on the ground at the painful sounds. As the noise faded away, I witnessed people walking out from behind the stone pillars.
They filed out from behind me, ten figures clad in white burial shrouds slowly shuffling across the floor. Moaning prayers, the minyan encircled the dybbuk. Hands and heads bound with sacred parchment, the group muttered in unison. “His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is mischief and iniquity...”
Two shrouded men held thuribles, ornate metal censers suspended from chains. A foul smelling incense billowed out as the silver canisters swung back and forth, clouding the air as the group chanted. “...in secret places doth he slay the innocent; his eyes are on the watch for the helpless...”
I felt my lungs burning, coughing out the sulfur as it clouded my vision. “LET ME GO!” The dybbuk screamed and darted towards the exit. Another musical blast drove him away from the door with a shriek of agony. Rabbi Abelson stood there defiantly, holding a rams’ horn to his lips. “Bastard!” The dybbuk roared as he twisted on the ground.
The minyan drew their circle closer, whispering as they shuffled. “...He croucheth, he boweth down, and the helpless fall into his mighty claws...”
I felt my connection tighten and loosen as the demon crawled on the floor, spewing obscenities at everyone present. His mouth opened wide, a black tongue snaking out. Yellow eyes grew sunken, fingernails became long and gnarled, a filthy beard bubbling from his chin like a hairy fungus.
“...break Thou the arm of the wicked; and as for the evil man, search out his wickedness, till none be found.”
Twisting his head around, the hideous dybbuk coughed and spat at the rabbi. “I’ll kill him if you don’t let me go! I’ll rip his soul out like a festering boil!” He cackled, long tongue slithering.
The minyan swung the smoking thuribles, boxing him in. I choked on the gusts of sulfur, he gasped for breath, we scowled and hissed in displeasure. I was back inside my body, fragmented thoughts roiling in our crowded mind as the exorcism continued. I squirmed in his grasp, worming my way back in control. But the demon refuse to relinquish control.
We rolled on the tiled floor, fighting each other as the shrouded men hoarsely whispered.
“...Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flieth by day...” Voices intoned mournfully, a solemn backdrop to our desperate battle. He gave no ground, yet neither did I. Putrid tears streamed from our burning eyes as we wrestled savagely. Snarling and scurrying, the clash of wills manifested in a grotesque display of contorted limbs and twisted features.
I was tired and he was strong, far stronger than he’d been before. The dybbuk pinned me in his fury, trapping my essence inside a corner of our mind. Howling in triumph, the victor took back the reins and scrambled on all fours toward a gap in the procession.
They stood in his way; the faithful minyan. White robes blocked the path to freedom, forcing him back.
He clawed at my ears, the holy psalms ringing a painful echo. “Stop stop STOP!” But they would not listen. Weakly, I observed as the featureless men closed in, leaning over us as they continued.
“...of the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor of the destruction that wasteth at noonday...”
The rotten smell of sulfur was now overpowering, making us feel violently ill. We curled into a ball, stomach heaving. I… I was losing my sense of identity, forgetting where I ended and he began. Our vision swam, thoughts merging, combining as his essence enveloped mine.
“...thou shalt tread upon the lion and asp; the young lion and the serpent shalt thou trample under feet...”
Rabbi Abelson lifted a hand and the minyan ceased chanting. There was no sound in the synagogue, except for our strained breathing. We turned a yellowed eye toward the holy man and grinned humorlessly. The rabbi pointed toward me and spoke in a commanding voice.
“Shebaq! Leave, forsake this body!”
We wheezed out a laugh, mocking his attempt to force us out. “It’s too late, our fates are intertwined. Force me out if you wish, I’ll drag his soul to Sheol with me!”
Someone spoke up, surprising the Rabbi. “You’ll do no such thing.”
We lifted our head from the cold floor. That voice, we knew that voice - like a half remembered dream. It was Frema… yet somehow it wasn’t.
The minyan parted, revealing a radiant woman wearing a brilliant white dress. Her gentle face was lined, black hair streaked with gray, but those chocolate eyes matched the beauty of her smile. “Abba…” She whispered sadly. “Why are you doing this.”
“Chava?” I gasped, slowly getting to unsteady feet. My tongue curled back between my teeth, scraggly beard became neat, long nails retreating as my wife approached.
She came to me, feet scarcely seeming to touch the floor. I took a shaky step towards her and my legs crumpled beneath me. I winced, preparing for a fall that never came. Chava caught me in her slender arms, softly guiding me to the ground.
“It’s alright, my love. I’m here now.” She murmured, brushing my cheek. I shied away from her touch.
“I failed you... I-I tried to raise our daughter without you there, but she is so stubborn...” Chava quietly listened to my shameful laments.
“Fail me? You did no such thing, zeeskei. Frema is strong and faithful because of you.” My chest twinged, old bones aching yet my heart felt lighter than before. She held out her hand. “Come with me. Let me show you the gates of paradise.”
I hesitated. “What about the boy?” He and I were of one mind, one body. I felt all of his emotions, thoughts and… memories.
One image floated before my mind’s eye; Frema laughing beneath a flowering tree, pink cherry blossoms caught in her raven hair. She fixed me with a twinkling gaze of pure joy. I had never seen her so happy and carefree since she was a little girl. It filled me with a sensation I scarcely remembered. For the first time in years, I felt hope.
“He is a good match for her. Let go of this earthly realm, my love.” Chava smiled encouragingly. Her dark hair was now silver, deep wrinkles on her brow, but the sparkling eyes never lost their luster. “Our time approaches… Come, darling.”
I drew in a shaky breath, then took her aged hand in mine.
Something was hunting me. I panted as I ran, not daring to look over my shoulder. Only when I was cornered did I have the courage to turn around. It slowly approached, a creature with long nails and a snaking tongue. Yellow eyes burned beneath a battered fur hat, glittering with unspeakable malice. Opening a mouth full of fangs, the monster pounced and-
I screamed, sitting upright in bed. My ribs and chest twinged in agony, forcing out a gasp. It felt as though I’d been run over by a bus. The memory of the car crash came back, along with other jumbled fragments. Holding my woozy head, I tried to make sense of it all.
Frema lay beside me, rubbing her eyes. “I thought you’d never wake up!” She wrapped her arms around me and kissed me fiercely. Somehow, I didn’t mind the painful hug.
“The dybbuk-” I started to say, but she put a finger on my lips. “I know,” Frema smiled sadly. “My mother told me everything. She came to me in a dream after our fight, saying that her mitzvah was to save you.” I lay back as she told me how the ibbur laid out the plan to call the rabbi and perform an exorcism at the synagogue. “Rabbi Abelson said he had never seen a case so severe. If it wasn’t for the intervention of my mother, you might not have come back with your sanity intact.”
I shuddered, recalling the slimy sensation of having my mind invaded. “Is he… gone then?” She nodded, softly resting her head on my chest. “Yes, thank heavens.”
“So what is an ibbur, exactly?” I asked, still burning with curiosity. “It’s a holy spirit, a positive force. My mother took hold of me much like how my father cleaved to you. But I allowed her to, we worked together you see.”
Her response only raised further questions until she waved a hand and said that I should focus on recovering. “There will be plenty of time for answers later, zeeskei. Are you hungry?” My stomach growled at the thought of food, making Frema laugh.
In the weeks to come, life gradually became normal and the harrowing events of shiva became an unpleasant memory, losing vividness with each passing day. I made a full recovery and even managed to secure a second interview. The temporary possession was explained away as a mental breakdown due to problems of a personal nature and it was accepted without any further troubles with the stipulation that it wouldn’t happen again.
Frema and I grew even closer and had never been happier. But on certain nights, I wake up in a cold sweat. Perhaps it’s just my imagination or the echoes of memory, but for a few moments I can still hear his raspy laugh and feel a hairy beard tickling the back of my neck.