A Satanic Love Story
She didn’t grow up going to church. Raised in the Caribbean, by parents who went on vacation to the islands to escape “Reagan’s America” and never left, Sasha’s higher power was the sound of waves crashing against the rocks of the cliff that supported her childhood house. It was the feeling of warmth rising in her chest as the sun dried salty water off her skin. She learned to love thy neighbor at seven years old, when said neighbor dug her out from the rubble after a hurricane destroyed that house.
Classmates with both West Indian locals and expats, she’d celebrated a Bar Mitzvah in a pirate’s castle, sung Kwanzaa songs at her school’s holiday concert, and attended Catholic Mass with her friend Katie from Michigan. (She later developed a resentment towards Catholics after being told she could not join Katie to receive communion during mass, as she was not Catholic herself – a tradition that left her feeling isolated and confused).
At 26, Sasha was now a sex columnist and resident of Brooklyn. Her personal religious experiences included attending Buddhist meditation meetings and getting a tattoo of the Hindu goddess Kali holding a man’s severed head on her leg – a very expensive, impulsive decision. So when asked to participate in a reenactment of a satanic black mass (in the role of “bondage nun”) for a display of the freedom of religion at a nearby university, she thought: “why not?” A victim of the Tinder generation who had met her current boyfriend after taking him home from a bar, Sasha certainly didn’t expect to fall in love at the hands of Satan. “Angelina Jolie meeting her future husband on the set of Mr. And Mrs. Smith has nothing on me,” she would later reflect.
She was lying in bed, next to her cat, when she called her boyfriend.
“How would you feel about me playing a bondage nun in a satanic ritual?”
“Hah! I heard about that from Ben and thought of you,” he replied. With her jet black hair, porcelain skin and thin, if not emaciated, appearance that left her self-conscious (although men still seemed to find her attractive, despite her small breasts), she did indeed look the part. It also helped that her unusual upbringing and earlier struggles with depression had left her with an attraction to darkness and impulsivity that came across either as endearing or the sign of a personality disorder, depending on your point of view. She was the type of girl who found cemeteries romantic. She was unafraid to stare at a body during an open-casket funeral, although she never wanted one herself. They were far too dogmatic, and rather bad for the environment.
“OK cool, because I already said yes.” They were in an on-again/off-again relationship, currently “on”. There were glaring signs of personality differences, but he lived a mere ten minute walk from her house, and the sex was good.
She had seen YouTube videos of Marilyn Manson defending his friendship with the occultist Anton LaVey. She was a fan of Manson, but would only admit publicly that she listened to his later albums. She had a curious nature that would make her an excellent journalist and annoyance to boyfriends, and so she soon found herself falling into Wiki-holes, learning about satanism. While there would always be individual trolls and HBO series that kept the public assuming it involved ritual child sacrifice or incestuous orgies, she learned that the predominant satanic organisations were intrinsically bastions of secular humanism who embraced individualism and cried out for man to return to his true nature. Hedonistic, perhaps. Harmful, no – although she was able to see why Christians would fear them, especially Catholics, whose tradition was name-checked during black mass. And whilst it would be a reenactment for purely educational purposes, she decided to keep quiet about her involvement. She was waiting to hear on a new writing gig and felt satanism might repel an employer – as if they hadn’t already read her most recent column defining various types of group sex.
Rehearsal would take place that weekend in an unused distillery. Ben, who had gotten her involved, would be there, which calmed her nerves. She felt more comfortable exploring satanism with a friendly face around. She arrived in her best satanic nun’s outfit: a black leather dress layered over a white blouse, complete with a BDSM-inspired metal choker. While there was an abundance of black clothing worn, she was a bit embarrassed to find she was the only one who had dressed up for rehearsals. Satanists were too cool, she supposed. She asked the event organizer if her Hindu goddess tattoo should be covered up: “No, iconoclasm, that’s great.”
Rehearsal proceeded. Latin was spoken. Black cloaks were distributed. All of this directed by a documentarian who was to capture the event on camera. A pentagram was laid on the ground, first with rope, then exchanged for chain, as it held the shape better. The group was a medley of those who identified as satanists, free speech advocates and the creatives involved in the film. Practice concluded.
Afterwards, over drinks and french fries, those involved in the reenactment were just another assortment of Brooklyn kids, cracking jokes. She was seated next to Rosco, a musician who was playing the deacon. She felt comfortable around him immediately, laughing as he joked that the only drugs he truly liked were dopamine and serotonin (Satan-worship tends to remove your filters). Her laughter at his off-colour jokes would be one of his most significant memories of her. Sasha was attracted to him, particularly his shoulder-length dark hair and scruffy face, but was still wrapped up in the drama of her current relationship. Even as she told herself she was just thankful she had made a new friend, she found herself surprisingly jealous when he mentioned his girlfriend, and oddly hesitant to reveal her own relationship.
The day of the black mass arrived. Walking to the event in full-regalia, including a pentagram necklace and feathered headdress, she was shocked to see Catholic protestors outside. A woman aggressively waved rosary beads in her face. The event had been relocated several times due to outrage; from the university, to a music venue, landing eventually in a bar’s upstairs room. An abandoned zoo and a punk rock warehouse were also suggested, but shot down for their lack of security. Having grown closer to the others participating, and aware of their humanity, it was odd to realise that their intentions, however harmless in nature, could produce such strong protest in others. Only hours before had she worn a blue Katy Perry wig Ben stole for her from a Halloween super store because of his thing for blue-haired women (and Katy Perry) with far more wicked intent.
Amid the gathered supporters and handful of protesters, under dim light given off by the candles placed around the pentagram that surrounded the sacrificial virgins (a babysitter and freelance photographer), the black mass was carried out.
The event was considered a success and the players discarded their black robes, convening at a nearby pub to celebrate its conclusion, adding alcohol to the endorphins already coursing through their bloodstreams. Sasha discussed BDSM with the organiser of the event, who greeted her by caringly placing his hand around her throat. Seated next to Rosco, she tried pinches of his snuff as the night crept on. A tumbleweed, he shared his travel plans to spend a month riding a motorcycle across India later that year, which she thought would make for an excellent adventure and writing inspiration (whilst simultaneously convinced she would die if she tried such an excursion). “Do you want to come to India with me?” he asked in an endearing moment of whisky-addled childlike affection. While nothing overt happened, she found herself guiltily thankful that her boyfriend had not accompanied her. They all returned to Brooklyn the next day, feeling content that they had left the world slightly more satan-y than they had found it.
Sasha and Rosco vaguely stayed in touch whilst both returning to their respective lives. A satanic black mass is the sort of event that brings human beings together, after all. She soon received an email from him containing a photo of her he had taken in her full “bondage nun” attire. Impressed by it – and, admittedly, a little bit out of vanity – she asked to see more. When he shared his album of the event online, with a note that she had been his muse, she was shocked and flattered at the number of images solely depicting her. Many moons passed, life happened, her tumultuous relationship eventually ended, and this time Sasha didn’t go back for more.
One day, sitting with her toes in warm water, getting a pedicure (yes, black nail polish), a text appeared on her phone from Rosco, who was on tour for work but would be back in Brooklyn in a few weeks. He would like to see her. He subtly mentioned that he was now single, and she knew he was digging to see if she was as well. Mildly devilishly, she did not give out that information. Over the next few weeks, their electronic relationship escalated to a daily exchange, the flirtation balancing on a precipice, whilst neither dared to make the move into obvious interest. Eventually, a week before the traveller would return, he asked her to dinner. Sasha accepted.
In black jeans and a snake-print top, she entered the restaurant, and noticed Rosco in a corner, facing away from her. His hair had grown significantly and was now pulled back. Fantasies of pulling it out of his face as his torso thrust above her flooded her mind. She took her seat across from him at the table, noticing the head of a brand new snake tattoo emerging from the collar of his shirt, its body stretching across a chest that engaged her pre-disposed brain with perversions. He joked that he should have an apple placed next to its open jaw. The guise of feigning platonic interest lifted, and dinner was filled with laughter and the lightness of enjoying each other’s company. Both bearing a history that included infidelity and unhealthy patterns in relationships, she was grateful for the gradual build-up that preceded the date, and that they had not acted on their innate attraction while involved with others. The night concluded with a request from Rosco for a kiss, which lead to a public makeout that would have stopped the right police officer – yet they did not go home together. After a few days of intense anticipation, they had their second date. The second date lasted three days and included multiple orgasms. By the time they parted ways, she was his girlfriend.
Months later, together in bed in the middle of the night, they flip through old photos from the black mass, laughing that they shared the experience of candles, pentagrams, mocked virginal sacrifice and urination into a chalice before seeing each other naked. At dinner parties, they hold each other’s gaze with a devilish look, initiating a mental foreplay that carries into sex a drawer of ropes and creative black leather devices. When asked how they met, with a laugh Rosco will reply, “Well, do you have a minute to talk about our lord and saviour, Satan?”
Photograph by Sophie Saint Thomas