You’re my cult leader. I love you forever, I love you forever.

She tossed a rose onto the casket as it was lowered with marked indelicacy by the funeral parlor employees. Apart from these two men and the obligated-to-speak priest, Leslie was the only one who showed up. How could she not? They’d been through too much together, she’d done too much for him–committed her life to his every order. And she wasn’t embarrassed to admit it. Not now that she had gained her freedom, or some semblance of it via parole. He was, after all, her father, her brother, her sister, her mother. Everything. The sun, the light, the moon, the darkness. Most of all that. But it was a dark time when they met. Both in the world and for her. Like us all, she started out as an innocent. Was even born to one of those churchgoing families of the California variety (look into Katy Perry’s background for a concrete account of what happens to girls subjected to this). She was very much a good girl. Even after all the trauma. Parents divorced at fourteen, drug addiction formed at fifteen, “induced miscarriage” by her own mother at seventeen. It was all enough to create the makings of a being highly susceptible to charm and any modicum of something resembling love or affection. Enter Charles at just the right moment. Or rather, the wrong one.

She was just disconnected enough from her feelings to go along with a few friends of hers, including Bobby Beausoleil and Catherine Share (an ironic last name considering how jealous she got during orgies). Plus, the commune in NorCal was starting to feel pretty stale. Literally. She wanted a change. A new group of people to interact with while under the influence of LSD. Freshly turned nineteen on August 23rd of the volatile year that was 1968, Leslie informed her mother that she would be “dropping out” of life, headed to Spahn Ranch with no return ticket, so to speak. A part of her wanted to be controlled, to be told what to do. It was so much easier than making decisions. It’s not as though any of her choices thus far had resulted in anything other than a dead baby and an irrepressible contempt for her own mother. She herself would never be a mother now. The pain of losing her first was too great to even consider “replacing” it. So she would fill the void with Charles-sanctioned dick and vast amounts of drugs. It worked for a while, she was barely there–mentally–and that’s just what she wanted.

But Charles was getting antsy, itching to do something if he couldn’t become a pop star. That’s why he had to latch onto others who were greater than himself instead. Why he had to attach The Beatles to his cockamamie manifesto about escaping to a bottomless pit during the inevitable race war and coming out the other side as rulers one hundred and fifty years from then. Leslie should have seen through his lines, but the LSD. It was mind-compromising. That, and she was barely twenty. And even if things felt sinister sometimes, Leslie had never known a family as devoted and loving as this. She didn’t want to lose it. So she had to do everything she could to impress Charles. Especially since Linda had just arrived. Untouched (to him) snatch was always hard to compete with when it came to Charles’ attentions.

“I want to go,” Leslie declared the night after the Tate murders on that heat-drenched August 9th night in ’69. She didn’t want to lose his favor. Couldn’t. He was the only one who really listened to her, who had ever paid her the kind of attention she never received in her childhood because of her damned adopted Korean brother and sister. That’s why she beat her sister every now and again, as she eventually confessed to one of the psychiatrists assigned to her. It wasn’t fair. And even if the shrink in question saw fit to call her a “psychologically loaded gun” and a “spoiled little princess” because of it, she didn’t care. Charlie knew what she went through–what she was still going through. Even if she had to sell him down the river a little bit as a defense, she telepathically concluded that he sanctioned her comportment. Did what she had to do to survive. Isn’t that how everyone in the Manson Family came together, after all? Society’s rejects can coalesce to style an unstoppable superpower: shared ire.

She never saw Charlie after the trials, never needed to. He was in her. Forever and always. The rose tossed onto his casket would be a piece of her he could take with him, wherever he was going. Maybe to that bottomless pit he had spoken of so often, where he would return another one hundred and fifty years from now to be the true and rightful ruler of mankind. Of womankind. In her heart, he already was. And she didn’t regret stabbing that corpse over a dozen times. Rosemary LaBianca was no one to her. Was made into someone because of her. Without Charlie, this woman would have died without anyone ever knowing her name. She couldn’t feel guilty about that. Charlie had done Rosemary a service. The way he always did favors for women. As far as Leslie was concerned, he was the greatest feminist of the twentieth century, plucking all of these girls out of their useless little existence to furnish each of them with a higher purpose. The other girls didn’t see it that way, as Leslie gauged by her lone presence at that Northern California graveyard. All of Northern California was a graveyard. That’s why Charlie brought them to the south, where rebirth was a given.

Leslie didn’t shed any tears until she walked away from the hole in the ground. Just like the hole in the ground she had imagined they would all crawl thought to get to the bottomless pit. She looked back longingly one last time before running up to the plot, her flowing black dress trailing behind her. She screamed, “You’re my cult leader. I love you forever, I love you forever!” as she dove in right as the gravedigger was sprinkling the rectangular opening with his initial mounds of dirt.

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