13 september 2005
Apparently one of the search engines has satellite maps now, and I was able to track down where we’d been the night before. I had difficulty finding the quarry, or whatever it was, where we saw the standing stones; but I did manage to retrace our steps enough to find the strange field. There was what appeared to be a service road running alongside the railroad at one end of the field, on the side opposite the lights, but what caught my attention were the two large black circles in the grain next to the service road.
I grabbed a notebook and wrote down the coordinates so I could find it again, and went to meet up with Rick and Charles. We cruised around, hung out at the park, basically just killed the day, until Jackie got off work. When we picked her up, I told them what I’d found, and they wanted to see for themselves. We went back to the house and I found the location again. The field, however, looked normal, or at least only slightly altered, with no sign of the marks.
“Are you sure it was here?” Rick asked.
“Yes! They were right there! Look, it even looks a little...off, in the picture.”
“I’m not seeing it.” We argued for a few minutes until I offered to just drive us there so we could check. Having nothing better to do, everyone else agreed, and we piled back into my car and headed out. It took about forty-five minutes, with us stopping for drinks on the way, before we got back to the field. It was after dark, and the fall fog was laying thick on the road. Thick enough that we actually missed the service road and had to turn around and head back. Once we found it, however, we pulled in slowly and watched out the side for any opening in the grain. It didn’t take long before we saw a dark space on the passenger side, and I pulled over.
“Shit, man,” Charles whined. “I dunno about this.”
“You’re gonna do this now?” Rick asked.
“I’m just...it looks pretty dark. Did anyone bring a flashlight?”
“I think I have one in the glove compartment,” I offered, looking to Jackie. She sighed and opened it, pulling out a small maglite. “Yeah, here we go.”
“Great. What do the rest of us use?”
“Are you guys always so prepared for these things?” Jackie asked.
“No, no,” I said, opening my door, “usually we’re also drunk.”
“How you’ve managed to pull this shit off for so long is beyond me. Matteson, you keep your distance.” With that, she stepped out of the car and pulled something out of her pocket. Holding it tight in her hand, she whispered something, and then blew on it. It was then I could see it was a crystal, and it was now glowing like some kind of torch.
“You gotta teach me how to do that!” Rick said, sidling up to her.
“You don’t have half the will for magic.”
“She’s not wrong,” Charles said, hugging close to her. I pushed the button on my flashlight a couple times, then smacked it until it turned on. When I caught up to the others, they were standing in the middle of a perfect circle, probably about thirty feet across, which had been burned into the field.
“So they...have a fire pit?” Rick offered. “Maybe they burn garbage here?”
“There’s no garbage here. Usually there’d be remnants of something.”
“Maybe they burned, I dunno, paper? Only?”
“Why would they have two of them?” I asked, pointing my flashlight at one side of the circle where it overlapped briefly with another, equally large and equally empty circle.
“Do you guys think this was aliens?” Charles asked. We all turned to look at him, and then Rick began to pinch the bridge of his nose. Jackie lowered her crystal and knelt down to touch the ground.
“No,” Jackie said, flatly. “There was magic here. I can feel it.”
“Would that be better?!” Rick yelled, throwing his arms in the air. “Would you sleep better at night thinking there were alien wizards visiting our farms?”
“At least they’d leave when they’re done,” Charles muttered.
“Can you tell us anything else about it?” I asked Jackie.
“No. Not really. It feels...the magic was recently performed, but it was very, very ancient magic.”
“Awesome. Love ancient magic. Nothing sinister about ancient magic burning giant holes in fields and then having them vanish from satellite pictures. You guys wanna see where this road leads? Maybe it’s related”
“Can I vote no?” Charles asked.
“You can vote whatever you want, but I’m driving.” He groaned and followed me back to the car alongside the others. Once Jackie’s light was out and the car was started, we pulled off into the fog. Once again, the radio went dead. We drove for a few minutes, slowly watching for anything else of note, until we came to a paved road. Ahead, the service road seemed to vanish into a garage. As there seemed little more to find that way, I turned and we followed the paved road around in a wide loop, riding along the edge of the farm, until we got back to where we’d entered the service road. I stopped and looked, and we saw the service road head off in the other direction.
“Please do!” Rick countered, leaning forward and patting my shoulder. I looked to Jackie.
“I’m off tomorrow,” she said with a shrug. I smiled and cut the wheel to head off down the dirt path.
12 September 2005
Rick, Charles, Jackie, and I were playing Rock Band at the house and talking about something better to do. Nothing good was happening at the local bars, there were no shows scheduled for the night, and none of us were due to be in early for any reason. We were an hour and a half in before Rick mentioned a lake he'd heard about down in Lawrence County that used to be a quarry. It wasn't safe to swim in, of course, but none of us had ever seen a quarry lake and decided looking for it was better than sitting around. Well, most of us decided that.
"This sounds like a terrible idea," Jackie said, putting on her jacket. "Someone is going to die."
"And yet, you're getting ready to go," I replied, tying my boots.
"Excuse me, I would remind you that I'm the hot girl that makes it to the end of the movie, and you're the token black guy." I put my hand to my chest in mock offense.
"Token?! This story is clearly about me."
"Yes, you're both very important people of color," Rick said, crossing his arms by the door, "can we go now?" As we all made our way to the car, Jackie leaned over to me.
"Why are all your friends white, anyway?" she whispered.
"Black folks have enough trouble with dead white people," I whispered back. "It's very hard to find any that want to go looking for them." She snorted and tried to stifle a laugh, and we all loaded into Alpha and set off.
We stopped in West Middlesex for smokes, drinks, and snacks, then turned down 551 and tried to make sense of Rick's vague, half-remembered directions. When that shallow well ran dry, I decided to just start looking for places where a quarry might be. By this time it was dark, and there was a light fog rolling in, so we took it slower on the unlit side roads to look for anything interesting. We were wandering for a little while before I noticed we were driving alongside a low ridge with a fence over it, that went on a good ways. I stopped and pointed it out, and we decided to try and find an entrance.
We followed the fence until it cut abruptly into the trees, but there was no road to take the same turn. I had to go on a bit further to find a road that went in that direction, then look for anything that may lead back to the fence. We finally found an abandoned dirt road, and I took it. As soon as I turned onto the road, the radio cut out, and I started fiddling with the volume to see what was going on with it. As we rounded a curve with low branches hanging over the road, we found ourselves confronted by two standing stones. I stopped the car and pulled my hand back from the radio as we all looked the stones over.
They were dark, probably ten feet tall and five feet wide, each with a red spiral engraved into it near the top. There were no other markings, no words or signs or anything to tell us what that spiral was supposed to mean. We discussed the possibility that it was some kind of corporate logo, but had to admit that those are usually paired with more information. There was no fence between the stones, but there was also no visibility as the fog was much thicker ahead than it was around us. With Charles balking and Jackie suggesting she was very uncomfortable going forward, I hesitantly agreed to turn around and head back.
Unfortunately, by this point we weren't entirely sure how to actually get back, and ended up driving around aimlessly for a little while longer until we spotted an access road next to some train tracks. Out of curiosity we turned down the road, and found ourselves quickly surrounded by a corn field. There were a couple openings in the grain near the beginning of the path, but it was too dark to see anything in them, and we kept on going. When we reached another road, we turned off and drove around to the front of the field where a large farmhouse stood. It looked empty, with broken Halloween decorations hanging in the trees and a single illuminated cross in the back yard. There were tombstones, not decorative ones but clearly real, near the cross, and a rusted and half-collapsed swing set nearby. It was clearly the house that went with the field, we'd all seen enough farms to recognize that, but the corn was perfectly maintained while the house didn't look like anyone had been there for decades and there was no sign of farm equipment. We stopped and stared at the house, and the radio kicked back on. The volume was all the way up, and the local rock station was just getting to the chorus for Metallica's "Enter Sandman."
I punched the gas as Jackie turned the volume down. Charles screamed. We found our way home, debating the whole way about whether or not to go back and check out that house or possibly the site of the standing stones. We hadn't come to a decision before I dropped the guys off at their places.
"You're going to do it, aren't you?" Jackie asked as we pulled up to the house.
"Yeah. You in?" She sat for a moment, then sighed.
"Tell me tomorrow what you have planned. I'll think about it."
10 August 2005
"You do this every day, huh?" Jackie asked over the music. "Two months, and I don't think I've seen you miss it more than once." I was beating up on the heavy punching bag hanging in the basement, and she was laying on my weight bench, reading.
"Mostly every day, yeah. Though people don't tend to hang out down here while I do."
"I can't imagine Lori would miss it on days she's here. Not if you always do it shirtless."
"She...doesn't like the idea that I hit things," I said, taking a step back and grabbing my water bottle. She hummed and nodded.
"I honestly hadn't taken you for a fitness nut when you were in Chicago."
"I'm not into fitness. I'm into fighting. It was something very important to my dad, and he made sure it was important to me."
"Well, mostly because of Grandpa, you know. Just in case he ever showed up at the house or something, we had to be ready. But given that I can touch spirits and they can touch me, he was pretty concerned about my well-being."
"Is this grandpa of yours really so bad?" I waved my hand for her to move, and she slid her legs off the side of the bench and sat up. I sat down next to her.
"He...I don't know, really. I've never met him. But the stories I've heard paint quite the picture. He's a nephil, son of a human woman and river spirit, and believes he's entitled to a better life than mere mortals. Apparently he's very willing to cause all kinds of problems, including murder, to get what he wants."
"But why you guys?"
"Dad says it's partly because he was a disappointment. You know, someone whose identity is built on power, who values power above all else, might have problems with his only child having no power at all."
"Your dad isn't like you?"
"No. But then, on top of that, my dad has taken it upon himself to oppose his dad, you know, the idea that if you know who the monster is you don't just let someone else handle it. That it's a family affair."
"So your dad made a very powerful enemy by opposing his father, and now you get to deal with it? I mean, not for much longer, right? How old is this guy?"
"Oh, he's about 100 now, but remember that he's a nephil. He doesn't age like normal humans. He might look younger than my dad, for all I know."
"So he shows up, and what? You just punch him a lot?"
"And kick. I think the biggest thing is that he relies on his power, and I take that option away from him. Dad told me that if either of us had a real chance of stopping him, it would be me, because I can actually stand up to him in ways he can't." I took a drink of my water and we both sat in silence for a minute, staring off into space.
"Well. I need to get ready for work, but if there's some way I can help with this family affair, let me know, okay?" I nodded and she left, and I returned to my routine.
4 July 2005
Lori, Beth, and Bob were getting back to normal, but clearly still in mourning. I was running through ideas on how to cheer them up while Jackie and I were going through my books the other day, and suggested hosting a cookout for the Fourth of July. When I suggested it, Jackie put her book down and rested her hand on my shoulder.
"John," she said, then waited until I was looking at her. "Listen, I don't know what it's like for you, but you need to understand that for most of us, death is permanent."
"No, I get that, I just--"
"Do you? I mean, you've clearly been trying to comfort Lori through a difficult loss, and that's great, but you just seem like you expect it to go faster than it really should. They have had to grapple with saying goodbye to their close friend for the last time, and under particularly difficult circumstances. There are no ghosts in their daily experience, no conversations they can have with those they've lost. Death is the end." I set my book down and stared at it for a little while.
"Not everyone sticks around, you know," I finally said. "They have to have a reason. Otherwise, it's just...echoes, scraps, little bits of them laying around in the aether. My...I've lost people, too."
"We don't even get that, you know. Those memories, those echoes, those little pieces of them in the metaphysical realm. We have only what's in our own heads, and the objects they leave behind. It's not the same."
"So you think the cookout is a bad idea?"
"No, no, not really. It's just, make sure you're mindful of where they are while you do it, okay? It'll be nice for things to feel normal, but some cookout isn't going to fix things. And if this Mark was fond of the holiday, it may be extra difficult for them. Just...be careful, yeah?" I nodded, and we went back to what we were doing.
We did end up hosting the cookout today, and it went really well. Lori, Bob, and Beth all seemed to appreciate it, and I tried to give them space when they needed it. Rick insisted on working the grill, which was fine for burgers and hot dogs, but I made certain I knew exactly how the barbecue chicken was seasoned and cooked. The whole band was there, and we ended up playing a few songs when it was getting dark. It was fun, and by the end everyone seemed to leave in a good mood. Lori kept a little distance from Jackie, but she stayed over for the first time in weeks. I really think things are starting to turn around for all of us.
15 June 2005
"I just think you need to give her a chance," I said, before lighting my cigarette. Lori and I were laying on Alpha's hood, looking up at the stars. It had been almost a week since Jackie moved in, and Lori had barely spent even ten minutes at the house the whole time.
"I'm not comfortable with her," she answered, rolling off my chest and laying on her back beside me. "I mean, you have this attractive woman move in with you, you don't even tell me about it until it's all settled and she's practically on the plane, and you guys have this history--" I scoffed.
"What history? I've known her, in person, two weeks now."
"Yeah well it was a hell of a week, wasn't it? Cavorting about Chicago, doing all that ghost hunting you love so much--which I can't exactly help you with, you know--and then you almost fucked her, and then you did sleep with her, which you swear was nothing, but really? I'm supposed to just be okay with her having this kind of access to you?"
"Okay, so, the worst of that was a ghost using her body, and neither of us was actually into it."
"Not like that, anyway. How do you know she wouldn't have been otherwise?"
"What's that matter? There was no otherwise!"
"But there is now, Matteson!" She rolled onto her side, propping her head up with her elbow. "Don't you get it? She wants to be close to you, and now she's sleeping right across the hall from you, and she says she has this magic which scares the hell out of me and the only thing standing between her and anything she may want from you is me!"
"She's not after me or you, babe. Look, just, try to give her a chance, please? Talk to her? You guys might get along if you give it a shot." She sighed.
"Why is this so important to you?"
"I made a promise."
"To watch out for this ghost?" I nodded. "And you haven't seen any evidence of her?"
"No, at least nothing I know how to work with. My books on hauntings and possession went missing a little while ago."
"She's not going anywhere any time soon, is she?"
"I have no idea." She slid over and laid her head on my chest, looking up at the stars again.
"Okay. I'll try, if only because I don't want her to stick around longer than me." I chuckled and stroked her hair gently as a wisp of a cloud slowly drifted across the moon.
29 May 2005
Lori had finally agreed to move back into her apartment when I offered to let her keep the key she'd been using. She chose a number of things to leave behind for when she was spending the night, and I helped her carry the rest of her stuff home this morning. I'd been home, staring at the tv with Rick, for about an hour when I decided to start putting things back to normal. There was food I would never eat to check on, supplies in the bathroom to find homes for, a room I needed to make sure was clear for Jackie, books I had rearranged to make room for-
"Rick?" I called, looking at the books. "Have you seen my books on possession?"
"Why the hell would I have seen your books on possession. Are they exciting?"
"I guess that depends on what you want out of them."
"That's a no, man. Just say no when people ask you something like that."
"They're all gone! The ones on possession, a couple on ghosts, one that wasn't really about either but had a relevant chapter, everything!"
"Are they important?"
"Well, they're mine. But also I figured I should brush up on the topic, you know, since Jackie is gonna wanna talk about it."
"Oh, right! Hey, weren't you doing some of that research at your dad's place? Maybe you left them there?" I had been carrying stuff back and forth, I had to admit to myself, and it wasn't a completely unreasonable suggestion.
"Yeah, alright. I guess I'll check there."
"Speaking of, how's Lori handling the idea of you living with a woman?"
"I haven't really mentioned it yet." I heard the tv turn off, and then Rick walked into the room.
"Run that one by me again."
"Well, she isn't living here, it was hardly her decision."
"Are you fucking kidding me? You invited some hot Latina chick-"
"I never said she was hot."
"You showed me pics from that Halloween party. And you invited her to live here, in your house, where you live, and it never occurred to you that your actual real-life girlfriend might like to know about that?"
"What's your issue here?"
"She...you...you're so dense sometimes! You spend too much time worrying about what dead people think about you and not enough dealing with the living ones! Look, she's gonna feel threatened, and she's gonna feel hurt when she finds out, and only you can stop this particular forest fire."
"He's right," Kastor said, sitting on my armchair. I pointed at him.
"You stay out of this!"
"Yeah!" Rick yelled to, what I assume to him was, an empty armchair. "Unless you're agreeing with me!" He turned to me. "Is it agreeing with me?"
"Is there any good way for me to answer this?"
"Probably not," they both said. I put my face in my hands for a moment, then looked between them.
"Okay, okay! I'll talk to her later. I just, you know, she was pretty occupied with everything going on, and Jackie isn't going to be here for a bit yet, I figured I had a little time to wait for an opening."
"Do what you want, man," Rick said, leaving the room, "just know none of us you leave behind can talk to you after she kills you."
"I can," Kastor said.
"Greeeaaaaat," I muttered as I returned to my work.
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 May 2005
Tony was tuning his guitar and Courtney was adjusting her amp while Mandy was doing her warm ups and we brass were running scales. Tony had finished clearing out his garage and we could finally hold practices somewhere larger than my living room, which I'm confident my neighbors and roommate appreciate. With all the noise, I didn't hear Lori enter, and was startled when she wrapped her arms around me from behind. She had started coming to our practices about a month earlier, to be an encouragement and to hang out. It was weird at first, having someone there that wasn't really involved, but people seemed to have gotten used to it. The question was whether that was because they were fine with her being there or because we were practicing at my place.
"Lori!" Mandy yelled, setting down her sticks and running over. The rest of the brass set their instruments down and started talking among themselves about a new song we were working on. When she got close enough, Mandy stopped and rested her hands on her hips in a mock show of authority. "I heard this bum finally asked you out for real."
"That he did," Lori answered, laughing. She pinched my side and rested her head on my shoulder. "Took him long enough."
"I'm right here," I said, "and I thought you had plans with Mark and Beth today."
"Yes," Mandy replied, before pointing to the rest of the brass, "but instead of here, you should be over there working on 'Fly.'" Lori kissed me on the cheek and then let go of me, walking around toward Mandy. "Come on, I wanna hear all about it."
"They'll live without me. You have fun," Lori said, rubbing my arm. "I'll be right back." I smiled and watched them scamper off toward the drums, then picked up my trombone and went to join the others.
1 May 2005
"So you guys just do this, on a regular basis?" Bob asked, giving the hallway a sweep with his flashlight. He was with Rick, Charles, and me exploring an abandoned house in Brookfield that Tony said he'd heard ghost stories about. Bob was, admittedly, not part of the plan, but he and Charles had been hanging out a lot lately and when we called Charles to come along they showed up together. We were walking around the first floor, having only just started.
"Well, we do it when we feel like it," I said, before lighting my cigarette. Once I'd taken a drag and put my lighter away, I checked my own flashlight and walked forward. "It's usually pretty unplanned, like this."
"So what're we looking for, anyway?"
"Trouble," Charles muttered. Bob rested his hand on Charles' shoulder and rubbed it a bit.
"Yes, okay, but what kind of trouble?" Bob asked with a big smile. Charles sighed.
"Ghosts!" Rick called out, pumping a fist in the air. "Or demons, or whatever's here."
"So far neither," I said, "and hopefully not demons."
"Aw come on, man. You talk real big about ghosts and spirits and gods and everything, but demons? That's where you draw the line?"
"Demons are the kind of trouble that follows you home."
"Are...are you guys being serious right now?" Bob asked, looking between us.
"Yes," Charles said. "See, Matteson believes he can see the spiritual realm, and has this masochistic interest in exploring it, and somehow we always get roped into coming along."
"Roped in? That's one of my favorite things about him!" Rick said, elbowing me in the side. "Though it's still weird hearing everyone call you that."
"Well, okay, but...can he see the spiritual realm?" Bob asked. We all stopped at the bottom of the stairs, and I turned and looked at him.
"Yes, I can. Whether I want to or not," I answered. "And being that it's an unavoidable part of my life, it seemed sensible I should know how to handle it."
"Has this been, you know, tested in some way?"
"Well, okay, so, we obviously can't really confirm what he says is going on with spirits we can't see," Charles said, wringing his hands together. "But, there are a lot of strange things that happen around him we don't really know how to explain, and he does tend to know things he shouldn't have any way of knowing."
"And the behemoth," Rick offered, pointing. "You and I both saw things get knocked over by something very large and very invisible when he said that thing was following him around."
"Well, the size is a guess, but..." Charles paused.
"But it was invisible?" Bob asked. Charles hesitantly nodded. Rick enthusiastically nodded.
"Not to me," I said.
"Well okay then. That certainly sounds like a start."
"I'm sorry to drag you into this," Charles said.
"Oh, no! No, no, this sounds fascinating! I'd kinda like to know more!" Charles looked at him with pleading eyes.
"Alright, then," I said pointing my flashlight up the stairs, "shall we?" Bob and Rick nodded and we started up the stairs. Charles groaned and followed, hanging close to Bob.
10 April 2005
Despite everything I have come to know about Charles and his ideas, by the end of the week I had to admit that things were starting to seem like they were getting serious with Lori and I decided I had to tell her what was going on. We picked up a pizza and went to my place for a movie but, before turning the tv on, I went ahead and tested out the idea by asking her if she believed in spirits and ghosts. She nearly choked on her drink when I asked.
"What, like, in general?" she asked. "Or is there something you need to tell me?"
"Uh...yes," I said. "I mean, in general, but also, I'm asking because I want to talk about them."
"Okay, uh, yeah. I believe in ghosts. I mean, everything just seems so bleak if death is just the end." I nodded.
"I guess that's one way to look at it."
"But why? What do you wanna talk about?" She paused, holding a piece of pizza just outside of her mouth for a moment, before setting it down and leaning forward to look me directly in the eyes. "Is this that thing Charles was on about?"
"Yeah, okay, so about that." I started to explain the basics; how I've always been able to see spirits and ghosts, answered her questions about how those are different things, tried to answer her questions about what the world looks like to me.
I always hate that question. What am I supposed to do with it? I don't know, what's it look like to you? People act like it's some thing I just turn on like a power up in a video game, where I see everything the way they do until I activate Anchor Vision or whatever, so they think it's easy for me to say "well here is what you see, and then this is the graphic overlay that I get to add." But it isn't like that! I legitimately have no idea what everyone else does or doesn't see. It took the first twelve years of my life to piece together that other people don't see any sentient beings except humans. It was just a series of eliminations, oh, wait, you don't see elves either? Nothing? When I was in first grade I still thought everyone's imaginary friend was just the same thing as the beings I saw and talked to. That everyone saw the world the same way I did. No one was telling me anything different! They thought it was cute little kid games! Only my parents really picked up on the fact that it was different, and while my dad could accurately identify some of them from his own experiences and studies, he didn't know how to explain to me that no one else was seeing them until later. Until after Mom left. I suppose that forced the issue in a way.
So I stumbled over that for a bit, explaining that I don't really know how to explain it without making reference to an experience I've never had, and she just sat and listened attentively. I explained how I see something I call ripples, that are probably the same things as auras but I don't really know, where people impact the world around them through emotional states or thoughts or whatever, and she got all concerned that I could read minds, but I assured her it was way more vague than that. I can mostly read intensity of a person's impact, and if I really pay attention I can pick out individual differences between the trails different people leave in their wake, but I have to really know their mark. But I haven't pieced together any system for knowing what specific emotional or mental state leaves a specific impact. She seemed relieved at that and I cracked a joke about how it must be disappointing that she hasn't met a guy who can read her mind. She laughed but smacked at my arm.
"So, those nymphs," she finally said, after we'd sat for a minute silently eating. I almost choked. "Tell me about this." I coughed for a couple moments, then took a long drink, leaned forward to recover, then nodded.
"Alright so look. I know this guy, he's a faun." She looked at me with confusion in her eyes and shrugged. "A satyr." She furrowed her brow.
"The...goat men? With the pan flutes?"
"Yes. Pan is a faun, or a god who looks like a faun? It's never really been clear to me. Anyway, I know one, he's been hanging around a long time. And fauns, they hang out with nymphs."
"Like. Real nymphs."
"Naked women in the water, keen on sleeping with lost people?" She leaned back and crossed her arms.
"That is...not entirely inaccurate..."
"So anyway, he knew you and I were hanging out, and thought maybe I was just lonely or something, so he brought a few around one day to occupy my time."
"I see. And what happened?"
"Nothing. I sent them away. Which didn't go over terribly well, if I'm honest."
"Because they were just so eager to occupy your time?"
"Well. Okay, so, I may have a certain affinity with water and water beings, since my great-grandpa was a river god, and so they-"
"A river god?!" She leaned forward, her hands resting on her knees. "Wait, how much is this spiritual stuff involved in just, like, your daily life?"
"Nearly constantly. Look, I don't often talk about it until I can trust someone, so it didn't come up right away; but spirits know I can see them, and they have a certain interest in human affairs, so they kick around. And ghosts, you know, they tend to think I can deal with their unfinished business, which is rarely true. Especially things related to water. Like, there was this ghost I met last year, she'd been drowned, and she took this really intense interest in me-" Lori stood up and started pacing the room while she spoke, her back to me.
"And you think that's why she was...interested in you? Because she was drowned and you're some kind of magnet for water beings?"
"I mean. I don't know, I didn't really get the chance to ask her. As far as I know, the only thing she knew about me was that I was there, you know? I'm grasping at straws here, but it certainly seemed to be a factor for the nymphs." She stopped and stood still for a bit, looking at the blank tv. "Hey, are you okay?"
"You know what I think?" she finally asked.
"Not yet," I offered, with a smile. I guess I hoped she could hear it, as her back was still to me. She pulled her arms tight around herself.
"I think you're a very attractive young man, with a kind heart and a fascinating story. I think you live your whole life with the knowledge that you're on display to unseen forces, always held accountable, never really operating in secret, and you don't realize what that means to people with the kind of trauma that makes ghosts of them." I slowly stood and started walking over toward her as she spoke. "I think you live a life of depth and adventure that the rest of us can only read about, know amazing creatures personally, walk through a vibrant world of connection and wonder." She turned around as I stopped, placing her hand on my chest and looking into my eyes. "I think you felt a real connection with a person who needed you and didn't have the arrogance to assume it was something special or amazing about you, but maybe it was."
"Lori, I-" she brought her other hand up to rest it on my cheek.
"And I think that that, well, parts of it anyway, are very hot." She moved forward and kissed me deeply. I wrapped my arms around her, and felt her press in closer as she pulled her hand off my chest and reached around my neck with it.
We never did get around to putting the movie on.
The blog of John Matteson.