1 november 2004
I'd never actually bothered figuring out how to exorcise a ghost from a location before. As I flipped through the book I'd been compiling since high school, I ranted a bit to myself about the fact that it hadn't occurred to me to research what seemed now to be an obvious concern that would have come up eventually. At least I'd thought to bring my book at all, I figured, and maybe I could cobble something together from what notes I did have. Especially with the help of someone who actually understands magic.
Jackie and I were alone in the apartment, and she had agreed to see what we could work up after she had a bath. It had apparently been an exhausting few days for her, I was convinced she wasn't getting enough sleep and was concerned her mentor had something to do with it, but she wasn't telling me anything to confirm any of that. At any rate, she wasn't sure she'd be up for it after her bath, but she knew she wouldn't be able to focus before it, and off she went some time ago. I was trying to figure out what all was involved in the runic circle I did have in my book for exorcising a demon from a possessed person, something I hadn't encountered but had assumed I would some day, so I kept flipping back to that page and then over to others. I was hoping enough of the pieces were universal that we could extract a ritual for kicking a ghost out of a bathroom from it. So far, I'd been completely unsuccessful. The bathroom door opened and Jackie stepped out, and I glanced up to see her walking toward me in just her towel.
"Oh," I said, setting the book down on the floor and looking around. "Did you forget your clothes? I know you had them right over here somewhere before you went in-"
"I don't need them right now," she replied, continuing straight toward me. "I need your help, Matteson."
"You...with what? You have trouble getting some of the paint off or something? I thought it was water-based and would just come right off." She stopped about a foot away from me and dropped the towel. "I, uh...no, it looks like it all came off?"
"I see how the two of you are. I know you like what you see." She stepped closer, then slid down and sat on my lap. She pushed my chest until I was reclined to the back of the couch, and brought her face close to mine. "Will you help me?" She asked softly, bringing her mouth to my ear and then moving down to kiss my neck.
"Oh, well, with what, exactly?" She reached down and pulled my shirt up over my head and tossed it aside, then began exploring my chest and stomach with her hands and mouth.
"Don't play coy with me," she breathed out between kisses. She slid her body up mine until she was looking me in the eyes. "You know what was taken from me." She gently ran one hand down the side of my face and along my jaw. "I've known since I saw you that you could give it back." She kissed me deeply on the lips and began to grind herself against me. In the midst of everything, it took me a little longer than I'd expect to piece together what she was saying. I pulled away from the kiss and took a deep breath.
"Wait...Jackie?" She sat up and pushed me to the side as she turned, until I was flat on my back on the couch.
"She agreed to help me," she replied, rubbing her hands down my stomach until she reached my pants, which she slowly began to open. "Won't you?"
"You...oh God, you were pregnant when you died."
"Now you're getting it. It's time, Matteson. Don't worry, I know how to make sure you enjoy this."
"I don't...your experience wasn't...exactly healthy," I offered between breaths as she pulled my pants down and began to rub against my boxers.
"What's health? I'm dead. But it seems to have been effective so far."
"I'm not sure...that's better." She slid back up my body and kissed me again, grabbing my left hand and pulling it to her breast.
"You're trying too hard. I know how men are, and she gave me license. Just enjoy this. Her body is." I let my right arm dangle off the couch as she nibbled at my neck, and felt my hand brush against the book. The book! What page was I open to? Given the way I was going before she emerged, there was probably a 50/50 shot. I don't know what arrangements Alethea made with Jackie, but I knew she'd never bothered to tell me anything about it. That seemed like too much of an oversight to ignore.
I grabbed her by the waist and rolled us over so I was on top of her. She gasped, and smiled, and spread herself invitingly. I ran my right hand into her hair and glanced over. The book was on the right page. I leaned down and kissed her with as much passion as I could muster, and felt her fully embrace the moment. I slowly reached down and grabbed the book with my left hand. Once I had it, I lifted her head slightly with my right hand and moved my head to kiss her neck. She moaned, completely oblivious. Good. I quickly lifted the book and placed it under her head, then let go of her and sat up. I grabbed her jaw and looked into her suddenly wide-open eyes, and saw the runes on the page begin to glow.
"Leave her!" I shouted. "Come out of this body and leave this place!" She screamed and the air grew cold.
"Matteson!" Some of the runes began to blink. I remembered that the circle was specifically for casting out demons. Maybe it would still work, but it wasn't going to be easy. "I've waited fifty years for you!" she cried, Jackie's voice and her own in unison. She grabbed my boxers and tore them off me, ripping them in half. "Don't deny me now!"
"Not like this," I muttered, "I can't do this to her." The runes around the circle flickered wildly and a cold wind began to whip around us. I could feel her hands on me, working toward her goal.
"She promised to help! Please, Matteson, I need to finish this!" I leaned down and pressed my forehead against hers and closed my eyes. It would be so easy, and she did want to help...
"Jackie," I whispered, "I need your help. The runes are wrong."
"My child won't be taken from me! Not again!" She grabbed my hips and pulled me closer until I could feel her under me. She gasped, and her eyes began to glow. The two voices suddenly began speaking from her mouth again, but they were saying different things. I couldn't understand either of them, but when I lifted my head and looked, I saw that the runes on the page were changing. As they settled, they started to glow solid.
"You changed the ritual." I braced myself against the couch with my left arm to pull away and grabbed her face again with my right. "Alethea Bilson, I'm sorry for what you've lost. I'm so sorry, but not like this. Leave this body now!" There was a flash and a strong wind with a sound like a distant scream mixed with a train, and then the room went back to normal and the book stopped glowing.
31 october 2004
I helped clean up the apartment and run to the store with Jacob to grab drinks for the party before vanishing into the restroom to change into my costume. My options were limited, since I had to pack everything I'd need in my regular luggage for the trip, and I decided to go as an android. A pretty simple shirt I made at home with a couple drawn panels and buttons, gray pants, some stage makeup. I shaved off my facial hair alone, but Jackie helped me shave my arms and apply the makeup to look as plastic as I could. I agreed to help her in exchange, and once I was ready, I relinquished the room to her. After about ten minutes she called me in, and I found her sitting on the side of the tub with fabric bunched at her waist and laying over her lap, holding up a towel to cover her chest and her bare back turned toward me. I closed the door.
"I can't apply the paint on my back," she said, indicating with her free hand to the water-based paints on the sink. "Just a solid color is fine, if you want." I looked at the four colors on the sink, three different blues and an off-white.
"Are you doing solid color everywhere else?"
"No, I was going for a water effect. See?" She switched hands and showed me the other one, and I saw that she had figured out the design on the back of her hand. I pulled up the little step stool and grabbed the brush.
"Then I'll go for that." She nodded, returned her hand to her towel, and straightened up. I opened the first blue, then stopped. "This seems an awful lot like you've decided to trust me, after all."
"I'm considering it." I chuckled and began to paint. It took me almost twenty minutes to do her design, with occasional feedback when she'd turn to look at the mirror beside us, and then I was kicked out again so she could finish the rest. By the time she emerged a half hour or so after that, I was helping set up drinks in the kitchen. She was a nymph, a white gown standing out against the watery look of her painted skin. I stopped as I watched her walk toward us. "You alright, there?" she finally asked, stopped in front of me.
"Sorry, I...water-themed things catch my attention."
"Maybe it's that bit of river in your blood," she offered, absently poking the buttons on the chest of my costume.
"Well. Just don't blow a circuit over it," she said, pushing me back slightly and then walking away. Jacob sidled up to me as she left earshot.
"So you two seem to be getting rather close," he said.
"She's playing a nymph, Jacob." I turned back to the drinks and resumed my duties. "It's part of the shtick."
"Yeah, well. I guess we'll see if she plays one for anyone else," he said, laughing as he turned back to his task.
30 october 2004
Jackie had to run to the restaurant to pick up her paycheck, and had invited me to come along. So I got ready, and went to wait near the door to the fire escape, and found myself growing bored when she was taking longer than expected to grab things downstairs. I went to lean on the wall, and the only open space I could find was the slender patch of wall between the haunted bathroom and Jacob's bedroom. Neither was occupied, so I took it. While leaning my head back against the wall, I closed my eyes.
Instead of the normal black, it looked like I was staring at a wall of water. Just beneath, or behind, the surface was a young woman. Her green eyes were locked on mine, her blond hair floating out in every direction. Between some shadows falling on the water, and the rippling surface, and the fact that I couldn't quite look away from her eyes, it was hard to make out the rest of her form. I could feel, more than hear, her calling out for help.
I snapped my eyes open and stood for a moment, looking around. The apartment looked normal, though no one was on this floor, so I turned and went into the bathroom without bothering to turn on the lights. I left the door open so Jackie could find me if she came by while I was there. I walked slowly around the little space that was available, looking for some sign of the ghost, or anything out of place. What caught my eye were some of the tiles on the wall near the ceiling. I stepped up onto the side of the tub and looked at a small patch of them, a different color and faded less than the ones around them. When I looked across I saw a matching set of tiles on the other wall. I reached up to touch the tiles next to me, and when I did I found my hand suddenly inside a shower curtain bar that hadn't existed a moment earlier.
The room was brightly lit, the tiles on the wall looked much more new, and the shower curtain was passing through my body. I turned and saw the young woman from the hall, sitting naked in the full bathtub and crying. She was leaning forward a bit, her face nearly on her knees, and I could just barely see that her stomach was interfering ever so little. She sniffled and looked up, her eyes locking onto mine. I suddenly knew what was happening, why she was crying, who put that baby in her. A shadow appeared, looming in the shower curtain, and she reached out to me. I returned the gesture, my hand passing through hers just before the curtain closed on her.
It was her father, using the curtain to muffle her as he shoved her backwards under the water. I screamed and took a swing at him, which accomplished nothing. She struggled, and as he fought her, the shower curtain bar tore out of the wall. I lunged at him, trying my hardest to be felt, to do something, and crashed headfirst onto the floor.
I rolled onto my back, holding my head and groaning. When I opened my eyes, I found I was laying in the middle of the bathroom floor, the lights off, alone. I slowly got to my feet and looked at the empty bathtub, before turning and leaving the room.
"You alright?" Jacob asked, standing in front of the couch. "I heard a crash."
"I'm fine, yeah, where's Jackie?"
"She went outside looking for you," he said, pointing to the fire escape door. I nodded and headed out as fast as I could manage. Jackie was there, smoking a cigarette and checking her watch.
"There you are!" she said, turning at the sound of the door. I walked over and grabbed her shoulders, staring her in the eye.
"I know what happened to Alethea."
29 october 2004
"So, what do we know about this ghost?" I asked, putting a cigarette to my mouth and offering her one. We were on the fire escape before Jackie had to leave for work, and I knew she was planning to pick up a new pack on her way.
"Why do you ask?" I flicked at my lighter until she reached over with hers and lit my cigarette.
"Thanks. I like to look into these things, I guess."
"If you're stuck with it anyway?" I shrugged.
"Pretty much. It's that or be afraid of it all, or be crazy, you know?"
"Who says you're not crazy?" she asked with a chuckle. I smiled and nudged her with my elbow.
"Okay, maybe they're more like venn diagrams; but you're in here with me, Sabrina."
"Oh! Oh I see how it is. Okay." I laughed and leaned forward onto the railing.
"You haven't answered my question, though. What do we know about this ghost?"
"Well, 'we' know basically nothing. I know...a little bit. But not enough."
"I gather you don't want to tell me about it."
"Look, the thing is, it took a lot of effort to get what little I have. She isn't trusting. I don't want to sabotage that work by bringing in someone she hasn't invited."
"They're all like that," I muttered, before standing up fully and looking to her. "How many ghosts have you dealt with so far?"
"She'll be my second, actually. I don't generally try to mess with that...particular brand of magic. Why, how about you?"
"I don't bother counting. But they're everywhere. And there's something about being a ghost, for a long time, that changes them. They're all obsessive about something, I don't know if that's due to being a ghost or why they become ghosts or what, but it's been true of all of them."
"Even your grandmother?"
"Great-grandmother. And yeah. She was bitter, old enough that she was starting to seem less like a ghost and more like a spirit of bitterness. That seems to be what happens, they latch onto something about their deaths, or their lives leading up to it, and that becomes what they are. And when you spend decades, centuries, fully wrapped up in just one obsession, it warps you. Makes you something...else."
"What was she bitter about?"
"Who knows?" I offered, waving my hand dismissively. "Certainly not her. She only remembered parts of the story, or at least only told me a few parts, and they seemed exaggerated by her own anger and distance from them. Most of what I know for certain are from notes she scribbled in books we have at home, or records my dad managed to gather. The only thing one can really be certain a ghost will remember clearly is their death, and she never bothered telling me about that."
"She said nothing about it?"
"Nothing specific." She stared off into the alley thoughtfully for a moment, before checking her watch.
"Oh! My bus will be here soon!" And with that the cigarettes were in the alley and she was gone. On my way inside, I stopped at the door of the bathroom, glancing in. Satisfied the ghost wasn't there at the moment, I continued on to the living room.
The blog of John Matteson.