Growing Up In Satan's Backyard (Part 1)
“They were going to steal children from the hospital”
...the investigation continues into the car crash story from last year. But in the meantime, Satan is calling. I hope you enjoy this small diversion before we return to our regularly scheduled programming. If you like what you see, consider becoming a subscriber and sharing this story with a friend.
“Has anyone told you about that Satan woman and her doctor?”
Everything about Gigi in that moment was blue: the coffee mug, her bathrobe and matching slippers, the vinyl siding on her house. Even her skin was infused with the colour, so pale in the shade along her garage that she was practically glowing. She had slipped out of her garage door while my mother was hunched over the strip of lawn that separated our two houses, prying up the grass on our side of the property line with a shovel. No how-are-yous. No good morning either. Getting straight to the point was Gigi’s way of saying hello.
My mother kept digging, for so long that I wondered if she had even heard Gigi, but then she stepped hard into the shovel’s blade and finally asked: "Satan woman?"
“Jim Gibson did a whole thing about them for his gossip column. He’s been writing about them for years. Everyone in town was talking about it.”
My mother leaned into the shovel handle and another section of grass lifted upwards, thick roots crunching loose from wet dirt. “Everyone in town was talking about what?”
Gigi craned her neck around to make sure no one else was listening. From where I stood on the driveway, leaning against the front bumper of the family minivan, I thought for sure she’d spot me. I held my breath until her eyes swept past me. Satisfied, she stepped closer to my mother and lowered her voice. “Well, apparently she grew up here and was part of some sort of cult. And then wrote a book with her doctor about it.”
My mother stabbed halfheartedly at the ground a few more times. It was early October and the temperatures had plummeted overnight. She was racing to get the rest of her planting done before the first frost and there was a lot of digging left to do before the flower bulbs went in. Wild tulips, crocus, snowdrops, grape hyacinth—my job was to ferry them back and forth from the driveway, but that was before Gigi suddenly appeared.
“Anyway, when Jim Gibson found out they had married each other this summer, I couldn't believe it." Gigi studied my mother's face and dropped her voice even lower. “She was his patient.”
"She married her doctor?" my mother asked.
Gigi nodded and took a sip of her coffee. "And that's not even the shocking part."
My mother tried to clean her hands on the front of her sweatpants, but when she went to wipe the sweat from her forehead, mud still streaked across her face. I could tell that she wanted to keep working, but my family had only been living in Victoria for a few months by that point and Gigi was the closest thing my mother had to a friend.
They had spent the entire summer huddled together in a perpetual half-whisper: on the driveway, over the back fence, in the shade by Gigi’s garage while all the neighbourhood kids ran around the cul-de-sac, screaming in the hot sun. Which parents had marriage problems. Whose kids were doing poorly in school. Gigi knew exactly how to get my mother’s attention and she fell for it every time.
“Well, her name is Michelle,” Gigi said. “And when she was five years old, her mother gave her away to Satan.”
My mother’s shoulders tensed. “Where did you say this happened?”
“What do you mean here? In our neighbourhood?”
My mother put her full weight on the blade of the shovel, sunk it so deep into the ground that the handle stood straight in the air like an exclamation point. Seeing her react this way made the skin on the back of my neck prickle. Gigi had her full attention now—and mine too. All summer long I had wanted to be part of this world: adults and their secrets. Even if I didn’t understand what this secret was yet, here was my chance.
“They had ceremonies in a cemetery downtown,” Gigi said. She tapped her fingernails against her coffee mug, staring at my mother. “The book says that Victoria is one of their headquarters, that they could be anyone. The mayor. The police. The teachers at school.”
This was too much for my mother. She shook her head and started working the shovel handle again to loosen the blade from the ground. “I don’t know, Gigi,” she said. “This all sounds too crazy to be true.”
“But it was in the newspaper,” Gigi insisted. “That they were going to steal children from the hospital. They even did a piece on CHEK news.”
My mother shook her head again, but she had a coy look on her face. “Do you think they'd consider stealing a couple of mine?”
My mother and Gigi looked at each other and burst into laughter, but I could tell that something had shifted in the air. Gigi studied my mother’s face and then tightened the sash to her robe.
“It’s easy to laugh at this stuff, but as a mother with young children, it’s something I thought you should know,” Gigi said. “Every Halloween, it’s the same thing here. Graveyards. Babies. Satanists. You’ll see.”
This is the first story in a series that will jump back and forth between the 1980s and the present. The next post will be about the book, the patient and her doctor, and the podcaster who can’t stop thinking about this story. Thanks for reading.
You can read the other posts in this series here:
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