1 November 2005
Everything around us melted back into a normal sort of silence and it was just the two of us, sitting in the aftermath of a poltergeist's rage on the only scrap of undamaged ground in the clearing. I barely noticed Alethea changing as she continued to weep and softly protest the way things turned out, pressed against me, my arms wrapped around her and lightly rubbing her back. It had been so long since I saw her in that bathtub that I didn't even register how different she had looked, the decades of death and isolation and obsessive pain warping her into something larger, angrier, more wild and inhuman. When she finally pulled back a little and I saw her again, I was nearly startled by the forgotten realization that this was just a sixteen-year-old girl with soft cheeks and warm eyes and a button nose whose life had been destroyed before it had ever really had a chance to be enjoyed.
"I'm so sorry," I said, wiping her hair out of her eyes and behind her ear. It was the first time I'd ever seen it obey gravity. She wiped spectral tears from her cheeks.
"What do I do now? I don't know how else to fix this."
"There...Alethea, I was never going to be able to fix this. No one can." She sniffled a bit and looked at me with pleading eyes. "What happened to you was terrible, it was unjust, it was horrendous; and nothing I or anyone else can do will change that. You have to decide what to do with it." I took my hoodie off and slipped it onto her, and her acceptance of it let it stay as she slipped her arms into the sleeves and wrapped them around herself.
"I don't know how to move on from this."
"I don't think you ever really do. It just becomes a part of you that you have to give a healthy outlet. You were robbed of the chance to get the help you needed, and the metaphysical realm isn't kind to souls that linger long. But you've seen where this path leads, right?" She teared up again, but nodded. "Lori, and Jackie, they deserved better. But so did you. You didn't deserve any of what happened to you, do you know that?" Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she nodded again. I stood, took her hand, and helped her to her feet.
"I don't want to become that again. I don't...I can't stay here, can I?" Once she said that, a white door appeared about ten feet away, glowing bright. We both looked at it. "Is that...is this when I go?"
"I think that's up to you."
"What's over there?"
"I don't know, kid. But I like to think it's better than this. Maybe you'll find healing there." She pulled close, wrapping her arms around my arm and squeezing it against her.
"I think you've already been through the worst of it." We stood in silence for a moment, before she nodded.
"Tell them I'm sorry?"
"Can you...will you come with me?"
"As far as I can." She let go of my arm and pressed herself against my side, and I wrapped my arm around her as we started to walk forward. The door swung itself open as we approached, and on the other side I saw only bright white light. It was silent for me, but she smiled like she saw or heard something familiar. When we reached the threshold we stopped, and she turned her face toward me.
"I guess you were what I needed, after all." I smiled, let go of her, and rustled her hair a bit.
"What you needed was to remember who you are. Good bye, Alethea." She gave me a quick peck on the cheek, took a determined breath, and stepped forward.
1 November 2005
I had never taken the time to do anything about my rib from my previous encounter with Alethea, and I definitely felt it when I started trying to dodge her. She was coming at me with far greater fury than before, but she was limited in space. As soon as she entered the area Jackie had laid out with that powder of hers, she was unable to leave it, but didn't seem to have any restriction on height as she continued trying to fly and strike me as she passed. This seemed worse to me, as the lag between Alethea's actions and Lori's was increasing and their conflicting desires were becoming more pronounced. If she lost control of Lori while in the air, I wasn't sure I would be able to catch her safely, especially with everything flying around us. I had to make my move.
She was diving at me again. Nearly every time, she would aim to curve up again either just before or just after she hit me; this one looked like it would be just before. I timed it as best I could and took a single step forward, catching her right before she expected me to be there. My hands hit and clamped down on her shoulders and her momentum pushed me backward until my feet made contact with the wall of stones and branches that had been gathering around me. I braced myself against that and stopped us both, pushed against her until her legs were on the ground, then pressed my right hand against her forehead. She screamed, both voices screaming, loud and shrill and painful. The powder in the grass was suddenly glowing, and all of the wind beyond it suddenly stopped and sent everything it was carrying flying to the ground. All of the energy she had been spending gathered at the edges of the circle, whipping into a wind storm that sounded like a hurricane. I held her in place for a few moments, focusing on bringing order to the metaphysical realm just like Jackie had said, and then pushed forward with my right hand. It passed directly through Lori, who slumped to the side. In my hand was the top of Alethea's head; she was scared, crying, on her knees and staring up at me. The wind broke and sent out a shockwave that shattered the wall around us and put out all the fires.
I let go, and Alethea rocked back and forth, her head in her hands. I looked down at Lori, half conscious, bleeding from the small cuts and abrasions she'd picked up in the two encounters today. I knelt down and suddenly there was someone else, a park guard, running into view. I was still catching my breath and didn't manage to ask him what he was doing before he picked up Lori and ran in the direction of Jackie and Alpha. I watched them go for a moment, then turned back to Alethea.
"You...you were supposed to fix this," she said, softly and between sobs. I told Jackie I'd had a plan for what to do once Alethea was out of Lori's body, but that was at least partly a lie. I was planning to find something in my notebook, but I realized shortly after this started that I'd forgotten it in the car. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to say.
I wrapped my arms around her, pulled her close, closed my eyes, and sat in silence as she wept on my chest.
1 November 2005
Jackie went to the hospital to get her burn and cuts cleaned up, which was enough of an excuse to get her out of work, and she left her backpack of supplies in Alpha's trunk. While she was there, I slipped over to Lori's apartment, hoping that whatever Alethea had her doing would keep her busy elsewhere. I had to slightly break in, but no one seemed to notice, and I had time to look around for something useful. It didn't take long; in her broom closet I found a whole shrine to me, with some paraphernalia that was probably tied to some mystical origin or another. Deciding I should quit while I was ahead, I grabbed whatever I could carry and slipped out the fire escape without looking elsewhere.
We arrived at Buhl Park shortly before it was scheduled to close, and pulled Alpha behind some trees to hide in the dark. After we saw the patrol go through to check for people and lock up, we slipped out and made our way to one of the lesser-used fields and got to work. She had a pouch of something she had gotten from a friend in Chicago, and spent some time spreading it in a specific shape, hidden in the grass. I kept watch as she spent time in preparation, using various things from her backpack. She said she'd been burned by magical backlash too much recently, and wanted to make sure she had everything she would need in place to do what we came to do and then clean up with as little risk to herself as possible. We only had to dip back into the trees to hide once, but the need to be constantly ready for it slowed her down enough that we weren't ready until after midnight.
Once everything was ready, Jackie went over to the car and began her rites as I walked to the center of the ritual. She had told me specific places to set the things I had taken from Lori's apartment, and seemed very interested in some of it; she said we would need to talk about that later, though. I laid the things out, stood in the spot she told me to stand, and prepared to wait. It did not take long.
Near the perimeter of the ritual area, the air started to crackle shoot lightning into the grass. I watched as reality warped and bent at a spot about six feet off the ground, the source of the lightning, until Lori appeared with a loud crack. She was floating above the ground, her eyes glowing, her hair flowing out as though she was underwater. Her arm raised to point at me, first Alethea's spectral arm and then Lori's physical one. The lag told me Alethea was losing her hold on Lori, and the look on her face told me that battle was incredibly painful for her.
"Matteson!" both of their voiced cried out, as they floated closer. At the same time, Alethea cried out threats against me while Lori begged for help. I stayed in place and waited as they continued to approach. The wind around them picked up, quickly becoming a whirlwind that was lifting rocks and branches and tearing apart the blackberry bushes nearby. The edge of the whirlwind reached and then passed me, but everything within about five meet of me remained unaffected.
"Come on!" I yelled. "Is that all you've come to do?" She screamed, both of them screamed. The whirlwind picked up, ripping up dirt and cracking the trunks of the closest trees. Lightning shot out in every direction, setting small fires in the dry grass; and then she stopped floating and instead flew at me like a dart.
31 October 2005
"You couldn't request the night off?" I asked, setting the bags of liquor on the counter to begin unpacking from our run to the brew thru.
"It's Halloween, and I work at a haunted house," Jackie answered. She was setting up various sized glasses on a table we'd set up in my study, leaving room for the pizzas I had ordered for tonight. "Besides, if what I hear of your house parties is true, there will be plenty for me to enjoy when I get back." I agreed that was fair, and went to dig the paper plates out of the cabinet when I heard the front door open. I went out and found Lori, who looked like hell. She had clearly not slept, her makeup was smeared as though she'd been crying, her hair was wild and tangled, and she was barefoot. She snapped her attention to me with crazed eyes, then lunged forward.
The first punch caught me off guard, and I heard a rib crack as she made contact with my side. I started trying to dodge as she continued punching and kicking; I was slower than usual as the pain spread from my side and having trouble catching my breath, but she was obviously unskilled at what she was doing and I mostly avoided further contact as I tried to back away.
"You son of a bitch!" she yelled as she continued her onslaught. "You were supposed to fix this!"
"What are you on about?" I demanded. Jackie came out of the study and froze in the doorway, clearly unsure how to handle the situation. Lori's eyes started to glow, and then she buckled over and grabbed her gut as she stumbled backwards. I saw Alethea's head rise out of her back and scream, cracking the windows and forcing me to cover my ears. Lori's face tilted up slightly, tears streaming down her face, as she mouthed, "help me."
"Alethea!" I yelled. Lori snapped back upright and fell backwards against the wall as Alethea vanished back into her. Jackie stepped forward, calling out something in another language, and sent a bolt of energy at Lori. Lori ripped the front door off the hinges and blocked the shot with it, shattering the door. Her arms her shaking under the strain, and I saw cuts open in her clothes and skin as the pieces of the door flew against her. I ran toward her, not really thinking of what I would do when I got to her; but before I got very far she rose off the ground, screamed one more time, and sent out a shockwave through the room. My tv was destroyed, the windows blew out, and Jackie was thrown backwards into the study. I didn't feel it, and it didn't slow me down, so when she suddenly vanished from in front of me I was going too fast to stop. I slammed into the wall and blacked out.
17 May 2005
I woke to a phone call from Lori, who was crying as she told me about the police coming by. I could barely make out what she was saying, except that it had to do with Mark and she felt terrible. I told her I'd be right over.
When I got to her place she was sitting in the living room, still crying, and holding a VHS tape. I held her for a while until she was ready to talk, and she began to explain that the tape was from a school play in second grade where she and Mark had met after being given parts that mostly appeared in the same scenes. I didn't understand why that was important enough to be bringing up at this point, and she freaked out at me when I asked. She got up and stormed to the middle of the room, where she started pacing. Something really weird was happening with the ripples she left in the world, but I couldn't quite place them. It wasn't like anything I'd really seen before, almost like multiple very strong emotions were trying to cancel each other out.
I explained that I couldn't understand what she was saying on the phone, and she finally calmed down enough to tell me that Mark had died the night before. It seems he had arrived drunk at her place some time after I dropped her off, got inside the apartment, and started some fight with her. She said she saw him run off, and didn't hear anything else until the police came by to ask about a noise complaint from a neighbor. She told them what she knew, and when they realized she was talking about him they informed her that he had been in a fatal crash just a couple blocks away, and she broke down again while telling me about it.
I comforted her for a while, then let her go clean up and change so we could go to his mom's house. While she was in her room, I noticed a cup on the floor that had apparently spilled a while ago and put it in the kitchen for her. I offered to clean up the apartment for her, but she said it could wait, so instead I just waited for her and we headed out.
Mark's mom and stepdad already knew, as the police had called shortly after finding him. Lori spent some time talking with them while I tried to just be supportive and made phone calls to people she told me should know, and we left when they were due to go talk to the funeral director about plans for the ceremony. She was reluctant to go home, saying that all she could think about there was the fight they had as their last interaction. I brought her to my house, made sure she got some rest, and once she was asleep I went back to her place to grab some things she would need for the week. Jackie called while I was there, to talk about Alethea, but I didn't really have time for that. I suspect I won't have time for much of anything for a bit.
12 January 2005
I was pretty distracted when Jackie called to talk to me about Alethea. Dad had spent the last week explaining to me, on and off, who Jeremiah is, and I had spent most of my down time occupied with my own stuff or thinking about what I had been told. There was also time spent helping Dad around the house, since he was still a little sore and not yet ready to handle snow shoveling or other manual labor. I also wasn't entirely at my best at this exact moment and she seemed to pick up on my hesitation.
"Have you been working on this at all?" she asked. I was sitting on the side of my tub, having just turned off the shower I was about to climb into when the phone rang. I took a swig from the bottle of whiskey in my hand, set it down, and reached for my pack of smokes sitting on the side of the sink.
"I mean, kinda. I've had other problems, too."
"Look, I'm just saying. A guy named Matteson and his wife die under mysterious circumstances, and immediately afterward Alethea's dad goes crazy and drowns himself? This is all pretty scary stuff! What the hell do you have going on?"
"A half-spirit guy who's been murdering people since at least the 30s and has a particular distaste for my family."
"You almost got the name right," I said, then lit my cigarette.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Mostly just learning about him. But my dad had some kinda brush with death and still hasn't told me what happened or if this guy was involved."
"Is this just normal for you?"
"Not yet. But what did you have?"
"Well. Okay, see, I was possessed by Alethea, right? Because I had kinda bound myself to help her. I don't think that bond is completely gone." I groaned and grabbed the whiskey before climbing into the tub and taking another drink.
"Are your spider-senses tingling?"
"No, ass. But also no, and that's the problem. She isn't in Chicago anymore."
"How specific is this sense of yours?"
"Not very. I don't think I could pinpoint her with it, and I'm a bit fuzzy on when she even left the city. But I can tell that she isn't close anymore; and John, the point is, if she isn't here, I think she's on her way there."
"I'll be sure to watch for sex-crazed possessed women."
"This is serious!"
"Look, I don't know what you want me to do, okay? I can probably deal with her if she shows up, but I don't know shit about whatever it is you've been doing to track her. If she wants me, she'll have to come here eventually, and I'll figure that out when it comes."
"And how many people are gonna get hurt while you wait around?" I went to take another drink and found the bottle empty, so I dropped the butt of my cigarette in the bottle and set it on the floor outside the tub.
"I don't know! None, hopefully! But I can't exactly drive all over Indiana and Ohio with, I dunno, a neon sign or something telling her to come faster!"
"I just feel like you could do something."
"You have any ideas on what that would be that don't involve magic which, I would remind you, I absolutely cannot do?" I heard her pause, then sigh. "Look. I'm down to deal with this. I really am. But waiting is about all I got until I unlock some new power or find something in a book I never noticed before or get a better idea from you. Okay?"
"You promise you're serious about this? You're going to do something about it as soon as you know where she is?"
"I promise, Jackie."
"Fine. Look, I gotta start getting ready for work. Just...be safe, okay?"
"Yeah. You, too," I said, before hanging up. I dropped the phone onto the floor and laid there for a minute, before finally getting up and turning the water back on.
1 november 2004
Jackie and I hadn't spoken since she went to get dressed, and most everyone living at the apartment was home within an hour of the incident. We'd all spent the evening playing games over pizza, but Jackie kept to herself. I was out on the fire escape at dusk, smoking and sending a text when she came outside.
"Hey," she said, leaning on the railing next to me. I offered her my lighter and she gave a weak smile before taking it and lighting her cigarette.
"Is there anything I can do?" I asked after she blew out the first line of smoke.
"I don't know. But thanks."
"I hope you haven't just been dwelling on it. I'm no expert but that sounds unhelpful."
"I haven't." I nodded and we both stared off at the alley. We watched as one cat entered the alley and caught the attention of another, and after a brief and tense standoff, the newcomer was driven out. I flicked my butt down and the other cat scurried away from it back into the shadows from whence it came. The sky was growing dark, or at least as dark as it gets in a neighborhood this packed. I squeezed the railing and rocked back and forth for a moment.
"So." She took the last drag from her cigarette and flicked it into the alley.
"We did it wrong." She didn't even look at me as she said it. I took a deep breath and looked up at the clouds.
"The exorcism. The rest was...appropriately awkward." I coughed out half a laugh before catching myself and putting my hand up to my mouth. I looked down at the alley again and leaned on the railing.
"Hm. Yes. Okay. Well, I haven't done very many of those."
"This was my first, yes." She nodded and wrung her hands on the railing.
"Yeah," she said, "me too."
"So, well, admittedly, the only thing I had on hand was for driving out a demon, and if I'm completely honest I've never actually tested it for that purpose either, so I'm not sure it would even work properly for that, it's just-"
"That's not what I mean. It did what the ritual was intended to do. Probably what we needed to do, given the circumstances."
"So...what's wrong?" I turned to her, but she was still staring off into space. When she didn't answer, I pulled out my pack and lit another cigarette before offering her one.
"Thanks," she said, finally turning to accept it and a light. Once we were both smoking again, she looked me in the eye for the first time all evening. "We didn't help her, John. She's just been kicked out of me, and this house. She's untethered, out there somewhere," she waved her arm to indicate the city beyond the alley, "with no resolution and probably insanely angry and I don't know if we'll even be able to find her again, let alone help her cross over." She said it all so fast that it took her a moment to catch her breath afterward, and as soon as she had she took another drag and looked out toward the buildings outside of the alley, turning her back to me. "She's lost and hurt and we promised to do better than that, and I...I don't know how to fix this." I went to put my hand on her shoulder, but stopped short and, deciding she'd probably touched me enough for one day, pulled my hand back.
"I mean, we could...go, or something, if you think we could find her?"
"And do what?"
"I don't know." I stared at the back of her head for a moment, as if I would find some clarity in her hair or something, and then turned and leaned on the railing again to take a drag. "I just know I'm flying home tomorrow," I said, softly. "Can't imagine I'll be of much use after that." After a moment, she turned back, and rested her hand on mine.
"That's fine. I'm not sure what your presence would do to her right now. But I...do have a favor to ask of you." I looked at her hand, then let my gaze follow up her arm and neck until I was looking into her face.
"What is it?"
"Look, I. I don't even know if it'll work."
"I need just one good night's sleep. But, between Alethea and my mentor, it's just been..." She straightened up and inhaled sharply before staring at me. "I want to sleep on your couch with you tonight. I don't know if your...thing extends to other people, but when I tried to hop into your dream I was stopped a good distance from you, so I suspect that there's a proximity effect and I think it's worth a shot." I went to speak, then exhaled, and looked away, then turned back to her.
"I have to say, I didn't really see that coming."
"Neither did I, but, I really just want to be left alone. I can't deal with it all tonight. Not tonight."
"Okay. I just...the couch isn't very big, you know."
"Are you against cuddling now?" I straightened up and raised my hands defensively.
"I never said I was against any of it. I'm just concerned with your comfort being so intimate with me right now."
"You've shown yourself trustworthy. And besides, I wonder if you aren't asexual."
"I...what? That's not a thing."
"It is a thing. There's nothing wrong with it." I leaned in closer.
"I've had sex."
"Okay." She leaned on the railing and gave me a side-eye look. "Have you ever had sexual desire?"
"I've...found people attractive."
"In what way?"
"I don't know! Like, art, I guess?" She chuckled and took a drag from her cigarette.
"You should look into asexuality."
"Maybe later. Look, about tonight, though."
"Do you want me to ask formally or something?"
"No. I'm fine with it if you are." She nodded.
"Good." She smashed her cigarette against the wall of the building and then chucked the butt over her shoulder into the alley as she walked back to the door. "I'll see you inside, John." I watched her until the door closed behind her, then checked my phone. One new text message from my dad.
"I have a couple books about possession. I'll bring them to the airport tomorrow." I thanked him, finished my cigarette, and went back in.
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.
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."
The blog of John Matteson.