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Authors: William Peter Blatty

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The Exorcist

BOOK: The Exorcist
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THE EXORCIST

©1971, William Peter Blatty

 

 

THE EXORCIST

A CORGI BOOK 0 552 09156 1

 

Originally published in Great Britain

by Blond & Briggs Ltd.

 

PRINTING HISTORY

 

Blond & Briggs edition published 1972

Corgi edition published 1972

Corgi edition reprinted 1974

 

Copyright ©1971 by William Peter Blatty

 

Condition of sale--- This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

Corgi Books are published by Transworld Publishers Ltd.,

Cavendish House, 57-59 Uxbridge Road,

Ealing, London W.5.

 

Made and printed in Canada

by Rohalds Federated Graphics

 

 

 

To my brothers and sisters,

Maurice, Edward and Alyce,

and in loving memory of my parents.

 

 

 

'Now when [Jesus] stepped ashore, there met him a certain man who for a long time was possessed by a devil.... Many times it had laid hold of him and he was bound with chains.... but he would break the bonds asunder.... And Jesus asked him, saying, "What is thy name?" And he said Legion....'

Luke 8:27-30

 

James Torello: Jackson was hung up on that meat hook. He was so heavy he bent it. He was on that thing three days before he croaked.

Frank Buccieri (giggling): Jackie, you shoulda seen the guy. Like an elephant, he was, and when Jimmy hit him with that electric prod...

Torello (excitedly): He was floppin' around on that hook, Jackie. We tossed water on him to give the prod a better charge, and he's screamin'....

Excerpt from FBI wiretap of Cosa Nostra telephone conversation relating to murder of William Jackson

 

...There's no other explanation for some of the things the Communists did. Like the priest who had eight nails driven into his skull.... And there were seven little boys and their teacher. They were praying the Our Father when soldiers came upon them. One soldier whipped out his bayonet and sliced off the teacher's tongue. The other took chopsticks and drove them into the ears of the seven little boys. How do you treat cases like that?

Dr. Tom Dooley

 

Dachau

 

Auschwitz

 

Buchenwald

 

 

 

AUTHOR'S NOTE

 

 

I Have taken a few liberties with the current geography of Georgetown University, notably with respect to the present location of the Institute of Languages and Linguistics. Moreover, the house on Prospects Street does not exist, nor does the reception room of the Jesuit residence halls as I have described it.

 

The fragment of prose attributed to Lankester Merrin is not my creation, but is taken from a sermon of John Henry Newman entitled 'The Second Spring'.

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

 

My special thanks to Herbert Tanney, M.D.; Mr. Joseph E. Jeffs, Librarian, Georgetown University; Mr. William Bloom; and Mrs. Ann Harris, my editor at Harper & Row, for their invaluable assistance and generosity in the preparation of this work. I would also like to thank the Rev. Thomas V. Bermingham, S.J., Vice-Provincial for Formation of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus, for suggesting the subject matter of this novel; and Mr. Marc Jaffe of Bantam Books for his singular (and lonely) faith in its eventual worth. To these mentions I would like to add Dr. Bernard M. Wagner of Georgetown University, for teaching me to write, and the Jesuits, for teaching me to think.

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

Northern Iraq

 

 

The blaze of sun wrung pops of sweat from the old man's brow, yet he cupped his hands around the glass of hot sweet tea as if to warm them. He could not shake the premonition. It clang to his back like chill wet leaves.

 

The dig was over. The tell had been sifted, stratum by stratum, its entrails examined, tagged and shipped: the beds and pendants; glyptics; phalli; ground-stone mortars stained with ocher; burnished pots. Nothing exceptional. An Assyrian ivory toilet box. And man. The bones of man. The brittle remnants of cosmic torment that once made him wonder if matter was Lucifer upward-groping back to his God. And yet now he knew better. The fragrance of licorice plant and tamarisk tugged his gaze to poppied hills; to reeded plains; to the ragged, rock-strewn bolt of road that flung itself headlong into dread. Northwest was Mosul; east, Erbil; south was Baghdad and Kirkuk and the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar. He shifted his legs underneath the table in front of the lonely roadside chaykhana and stared at the grass stains on his boots and khaki pants. He sipped at his tea. The dig was over. What was beginning? He dusted the thought like a clay-fresh find but he could not tag it.

 

Someone wheezed from within the chaykhana: the withered proprietor shuffling toward him, kicking up dust in Russian-made shoes that he wore like slippers, groaning backs pressed under his heels. The dark of his shadow slipped over the table.

 

"Kaman chay, chawaga?"

 

The man, in khaki shook his head, staring down at the laceless, crusted shoes caked thick with debris of the pain of living. The stuff of the cosmos, he softly reflected: matter; yet somehow finally spirit. Spirit and the shoes were to him but aspects of a stuff more fundamental, a stuff that was primal and totally other.

 

The shadow shifted. The Kurd stood waiting like an ancient debt. The old man in khaki looked up into eyes that were damply bleached as if the membrane of an eggshell had been pasted over the irises. Glaucoma. Once he could not have loved this man.

 

He slipped out his wallet and probed for a coin among its tattered, crumpled tenants: a few dinars; an Iraqi driver's license; a faded plastic calendar card that was twelve years out of date. It bore an inscription on the reverse: WHAT WE GIVE TO THE POOR IS WHAT WE TAKE WITH US WHEN WE DIE. The card had been printed by the Jesuit Missions. He paid for his tea and left a tip of fifty fils on a splintered table the color of sadness.

 

He walked to his jeep. The gentle, rippling click of key sliding into ignition was crisp in the silence. For a moment he waited, feeling at the stillness. Clustered on the summit of a towering mound, the fractured rooftops of Erbil hovered far in the distance, poised in the clouds like a rubbled, mud-stained benediction. The leaves clutched tighter at the flesh of his back.

 

Something was waiting.

 

"Allah ma'ak, chawaga."

 

Rotted teeth. The Kurd was grinning, waving farewell. The man in khaki groped for a warmth in his pit of his being and came up with a wave and a mustered smile. It dimmed as he looked away. He started the engine, turned in a narrow, eccentric U and headed toward Mosul. The Kurd stood watching, puzzled by a heart-dropping sense of loss as the jeep gathered speed. What was it that was gone? What was it he had felt in the stranger's presence? Something like safety, he remembered; a sense of protection and deep well-being. Now it dwindled in the distance with the fast-moving jeep. He felt strangely alone.

 

**********

 

The painstaking inventory was finishecd by ten after six. The Mosul curator of antiquities, an Arab with sagging cheeks, was carefully penning a final entry into the ledger on his desk. For a moment he paused, looking up at his friend, as he dipped his penpoint into an inkpot. The man in khaki seemed lost in thought. He was standing by a table, hand in his pockets, staring down at some dry, tagged whisper of the past. The curator observed him, curious, unmoving; then returned to the entry, writing in a firm, very small neat script. Then at last he sighed, setting down the pen as he noted the time. The train to Baghdad left at eight. He blotted the page and offered tea.

 

The man in khaki shook his head, his eyes still fixed upon something on the table. The Arab watched him, vaguely troubled. What was in the air? There was something in the air. He stood up and moved closer; then felt a vague prickling at the base of his neck as his friend at last moved, reaching down for an amulet and cradling it pensively in his hand. It was a green stone head of the demon Pazuzu, personification of the southwest wind. Its dominion was sickness and disease. The head was pierced. The amulet's owner had worn it as a shield.

 

"Evil against evil," breathed the curator, languidly fanning himself with a French scientific periodical, an olive-oil thumbprint smudged on the cover.

 

His friend did not move; he did not comment.

 

"Is something wrong?"

 

No answer.

 

"Father?"

 

The man in khaki still appeared not to hear, absorbed in the amulet, the last of his finds. After a moment he set it down, then lifted a questioning look to the Arab. Had he said something?

 

"Nothing."

 

They murmured farewells.

 

At the door, the curator took the old man's hand with an extra firmness. "My heart has a wish, Father: that you would not go."

 

His friend answered softly in terms of tea; of times; of something to be done.

 

"No, no, no, I meant home."

 

The man in khaki fixed his gaze on a speck of boiled chick-pea nestled in a corner of the Arab's mouth; yet his eyes were distant. "Home," he repeated. The word had the sound of an ending:

 

"The States," the Arab curator added, instantly wondering why he had.

 

The man in khaki looked into the dark of the other's concern. He had never found it difficult to love this man.

 

"Good-bye;" he whispered; then quickly turned and stepped into the gathering gloom of the streets and a journey home whose length seemed somehow undetermined.

 

"I will see you in a year!" the curator called after him from the doorway. But the man in khaki never looked back. The Arab watched his dwindling form as he crossed a narrow street at an angle, almost colliding with a swiftly moving droshky. Its cab bore a corpulent old Arab woman, her face a shadow behind the black lace veil draped loosely over her like a shroud. He guessed she was rushing to some appointment. He soon lost sight of his hurrying friend.

 

The man in khaki walked, compelled.. Shrugging loose of the city, he breached the outskirts, crossing the Tigris. Nearing the ruins, he slowed his pace, for with every step the inchoate presentiment took firmer, more horrible form. Yet he had to know. He would have to prepare.

 

A wooden plank that bridged the Khosr, a muddy stream, creaked under his weight. And then he was there; he stood on the mound where once gleamed fifteen-gated Nineveh, feared nest of Assyrian hordes. Now the city lay sprawled in the bloody dust of its predestination. And yet he was here, the air was still thick with him, that Other who ravaged his dreams.

 

A Kurdish watchman, rounding a corner, unslung his rifle and began to run toward him, then abruptly stopped and grinned with a wave of recognition and proceeded on his rounds.

 

The man in khaki prowled the ruins. The Temple of Nabu. The Temple of Ishtar. He sifted vibrations. At the palace of Ashurbanipal he paused; then shifted a sidelong glance to a limestone statue hulking in situ: ragged wings; taloned feet; bulbous, jutting, stubby penis and a mouth stretched taut in a feral grin. The demon Pazuzu.

 

Abruptly he sagged.

 

He knew.

 

It was coming.

 

He stared at the dust. Quickening shadows.. He heard dim yappings of savage dog packs prowling the fringes of the city. The orb of the sun was beginning to fall below the rim of the world. He rolled his shirt sleeves down and buttoned them as a shivering breeze sprang up. Its source was southwest.

 

He hastened toward Mosul and his train, his heart encased in the icy conviction that soon he would face an ancient enemy.

 

(End of prologue * Scanned and fully proofed by nihua)

 

 

 

I: The Beginning

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Like the brief doomed flare of exploding suns that registers dimly on blind men's eyes, the beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror at all. It was difficult to judge.

 

The house was a rental. Brooding. Tight. A bride colonial gripped by ivy in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. Across the street was a fringe of campus belonging to Georgetown University; to the rear, a sheer embankment plummeting steep to busy M Street and, beyond, the muddy Potomac. Early on the morning of April 1, the house was quiet. Chris MacNeil was propped in bed, going over her lines for the neat day's filming; Regan, her daughter, was sleeping down the hall; and asleep downstairs in a room off the pantry were the middle-aged housekeepers, Willie and Karl. At approximately 12:25 A.M., Chris glanced from her script with a frown of puzzlement. She heard rapping sounds. They were odd. Muffed. Profound. Rhythmically clustered. Alien code tapped out by a dead man.

BOOK: The Exorcist
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