Over the Hedge
29 october 2004
There was no ritual this time, no blood, no candles. I laid in the water for a long time, enjoying the privacy, the time to think. There was a shift in the air recently, I could feel it, but for the life of me I couldn't see what to do about it. I was out and dry and putting my toothbrush back when I finally looked into the mirror and saw her standing behind me.
"You're going to help me."
"You promised. You said you were going to help me."
"Yes. I'm going to help you."
"It's almost time."
"Time for what?"
"It's almost time. After all these years."
"What are you-" I asked, turning around, only to find the room empty. I looked in the mirror again and didn't see her. "Time for what?" No answer came, and after a few minutes of waiting, I got dressed and returned to the living room where everyone else was playing cards.
27 october 2004
Jacob had told us a little while earlier that a friend of his from out of town would be staying with us for a week, so I shouldn't have been surprised when I awoke to find a new man sleeping on the other couch. Still, it had been a rough night, and it took me a moment to remember what was happening and calm down. Matt and Judy came to the living room while I was calming down, and I had to assure them that I was just surprised and that nothing was actually wrong.
I learned that his name is John Matteson, and we talked a fair bit over shared smoke breaks on the fire escape. The conversation that stands out the most to me, however, happened later that night. We had been watching some new ghost hunters show, and while we were smoking after an episode I decided to ask what his views on the matter were. I wasn't sure what to expect; I knew everyone else in the apartment was some form of pagan, and held to views fairly similar to mine on the existence of ghosts and the means to contact them. John had been fairly open so far about who he was, but there had been little discussed about his beliefs except that he was not in any of our communities.
"How would you take the idea that not everyone needs rituals or special devices to see ghosts?" he suggested. I took a long drag and thought about it.
"I...would be interested to hear more of that." When I turned to look at him, he was staring up at the few stars visible in the city.
"I don't normally advertise it, I got a lot of crap for it growing up, but I can see spirits."
"What. Just like, all the time?" He nodded. "Are you sure?"
"Yes." I looked up at the sky with him for a minute in silence.
"What do you see now?"
"Stars, mostly. The things that tend to be up there are really far away. There's also a pretty pissed off ghost going down the street yelling about all the buildings, but I'd rather he not know I can see him. I'll never hear the end of it if he knows someone is listening." I wanted to know if he was telling the truth, but knew I probably didn't have time to run inside and grab supplies, so I bit my arm to draw just a little blood and tried to open my eyes to the spiritual realm. What I got instead was a sudden, painful static in my mind that felt like it was physically pushing me away from John. I must have winced because he turned to check on me and then sighed, touching my arm next to the bite. "Right. Sorry, I should've probably mentioned."
"Mentioned what?" I just managed to hiss as the static got worse.
"Stop trying to cast the spell." I opened my eyes and focused on the physical world. The fire escape, my cigarette, the man trying to clean the spot of blood off my arm, the light breeze coming off the lake a few blocks over. The static died down and I took a deep breath. He let go of my arm and turned back to the sky.
"What the hell was that? How did you know how to stop it?"
"I break magic. That's what happens when you try to do it too close to me." I flicked my cigarette into the alley and tried to gather my bearings.
"I, uh...I think I'm gonna go back in." He just nodded. As I went to grab the doorknob, though, I stopped and turned back. "Have you seen her?"
"The ghost in the bathroom. She's why everyone else uses the downstairs one."
"Everyone except you."
"Not yet, but thanks for the tip. Who is she?"
"I-I don't know yet." He made a 'hm' sound and turned to me.
"Are you asking for help?"
"Okay. I'll be in in a minute." I nodded and went inside. I'll have to look into this. Who the hell breaks magic?
24 october 2004
The last candle was lit, the lights were off, and I softly dropped my robe to the floor and slipped into the bathtub.
I had been living in this apartment for two months, and learned early on that I was the only resident willing to use this bathroom. At first, it seemed odd, as this one was closest to the kitchen and the living room, but aside from emergencies everyone else went downstairs.
Then I started to notice her presence.
The first time, I had just finished a period of meditation and was still highly sensitive to the spiritual realm surrounding me. I walked into the bathroom and knew immediately that something was off, and briefly caught a glimpse of her in the mirror. I asked around, and the others explained that the bathroom seemed to be haunted and they saw no need to disturb her. I decided it would be best to try and help her instead.
I spent time in that bathroom frequently, carefully introducing myself and working to gain her trust. She had finally spoken to me. It was a simple answer, nothing more, but it gave me permission to go deeper. To find out who she was. I began making arrangements.
The chicken blood mixed with the bathwater as I muttered the phrases I had learned from Abuela. I no longer practice quite what she taught me on other matters, at least not without some alterations from my mentor, but no one else was offering a better system for speaking with the dead. Sometimes the most effective ways are the ones that stick around. The smell stung my nose and I closed my eyes, taking it in. I asked her to show herself. I requested an audience.
The sudden change in light as the candles flickered forced my eyes open and there she was, sitting in the other end of the bathtub, leaning against the wall with the spout deeply embedded in her back. Her knees were drawn up close to her chest, and she hugged her shins like they were the last things holding her to this world. I pulled upright as much as possible to give her space.
"Alethea," I whispered. "Are you ready?"
"What do you want?" She stared at me, her eyes reflecting years of pain and hiding.
"To help you. Please," I reached out my hand, "you deserve better than this bathroom. Let me help you." She buried her face against her legs, peeking at me over her kneecaps. We stared at each other for a long moment.
"Do you promise?"
"You will help me?"
"Yes. I promise, I will help you. Please, tell me what happened."
She closed her eyes, then took a deep breath, and nodded. She let go of her legs and drifted over, turning around in the bathtub until her back was to me, and then fell into me. I inhaled sharply and stared at the wall. I saw it. I saw everything. She showed me her story, and I felt every pain that had left her here. I don't know how long it was before I could breathe again, and half the candles had blown out at some point in the vision. I sat alone in the near darkness, pulled my knees to my chest, and cried.
The blog of Jackie Veracruz.