I was raised to believe in God. My father was Catholic, my mother was Protestant. It was a very confusing childhood. On TV, evolution was taught to be the factual truth, while every city my family brought me to had an a occult to follow. Buddhism was soothing, while Taoism was economical, the Jewish were rich, while the Hindi were loving – so many faiths surrounded me, and it seemed we all had a problem with our parents thrusting their preferred beliefs on their children, as if we were compensating for their doubt in being in the wrong religion.
Placed in private school since kindergarten, I’ve dealt with the overzealous “I am holier than thou” Christians to the creepy bible thumpers who troll you online. But going to Village Christian High at the turn of the century, I met a completely different religion – one that didn’t need a faith. They called themselves Atheists. Much like most kids, they had problems with their parents too, but unlike us they’re parents put them through therapy. Rather than demon possession or accusations of ungodly sins, these kids were blamed for having personal problems with themselves – relieving their parents from the responsibility of actual parenting. When religious parents needed this same fix, they would turn to priests, pastors, rabbis, and monks. We would say that there was a reason for the problem, much like a Therapist, and give a verbal remedy, much like Psychologists. The only funny thing that differentiated us though were the drugs. When we were told to pray, these kids would come to class with a pill to make them happy: anti-depressants. In a way, this made me jealous. On the other hand, it made me reconsider religion. The point is, I started to think about enduring the living, rather than fearing death.
I mean, put yourself in the shoes of a Psychiatrist. Now imagine what would happen when your client was the devil himself. Can you imagine how hard it must be to tell Satan that Hell isn’t bad, and that God made a mistake? That’s how I felt about my experience with Atheists, and the Christians who then turned Agnostic after these Atheists moved into our school. I don’t know who’s bright idea it was to mix these kids in with guilt-convicting self-righteous Jesus freaks without learning or living as one, but thanks to it, I began to ask better questions than “What does God sound like?”
So then, I began to write personal sessions by myself, and would talk to everyone about believing in an invisible Deity and their purpose in life. Its incredible how many people couldn’t live with themselves, and how the practice of worship and fellowship is universal in being human. Even knowing a certain movie with a certain clique gave people a peace of mind. It felt as though anything could be a religion. And during my high school years, I felt that mine was writing. And so I wrote.
The pages of self reflection I collected in my journal turned into a script, and soon I turned it into a character. In mafia movies, they would turn to the Church for forgiveness, but in this case, I had the Black Shade turn to Dr. Gentry – an ex-exorcist turned paranormal therapist. At first, the character was just a side role for the Black Shade to develop through the story, but after a few short stories and a couple of Plays, Dr. Gentry grew into the keystone of the whole story. The more we wrote, the larger our cast of characters grew, and when each character became a complex creature, the main person to tame these beasts became the modern soothsayer: Dr. Gentry.