Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Specter of Death- Part 13

        “No way!” Marie screamed. “There’s no freaking way! That board was inside my bag, zippered up, and behind the closed door of my closet.”
Across the room, her closet door remained closed. Panic seized her heart as she padded across the room in her bare feet. Gasping for air, she reached out for the door handle, almost expecting something to reach back. The inside of her closet looked much like it had when she’d thrown her bag in there— except the bag was open. The board and planchette were gone.
            “Okay, there has to be a reasonable explanation for this,” Marie rationalized. “I must have been sleep-walking. That’s gotta be it!”
     Her words held more confidence in the sentiment than her heart. She cleaned her wound and applied a bandage with antibacterial cream, baffled by the depth of the laceration by a blunted object. Unnerved, she shuffled to her kitchen in search of coffee. Gone were the ‘Narnia Cabinets’, this time she could reach in, touch, and feel the wood at the back of the wall. She grabbed the box of K-Cups and popped one into her coffee maker. Ninety seconds later she was inhaling the steamy, slightly-bitter aroma and feeling a sense of normalcy despite of being fully awake at 3am. After her second cup of coffee, she dressed quickly and headed over to the station to get an early start. 
Kim, Angela, and Gillian had stayed up only for a short while after Bill’s call. They sipped warm mugs of ‘sleepy-time tea’ laced with honey and talked. Unsettled by what Bill had said after she’d turned off speaker-phone, Kim steered the conversation far away from what had happened at the morgue. Instead, they talked about old times, the crappy apartment they’d shared in college, and their insanely hot English Lit professor. When they finally trudged off to their rooms, each hoped—rather than believed—that they’d have better luck finding clues to Seth’s killer in the morning.
     Gillian flopped onto the bed in Kim’s second guest room and sighed. I should have listened and stayed far away from that stupid Ouija board. Me and my bright ideas are always getting us into trouble. Drowsy, she flicked off the light and curled up under the covers. Hovering on the delicious plane between sleep and consciousness, Gillian’s troubles melted. Her body relaxed until she floated in weightless slumber, warm and safe. In a distant memory, she heard the singing of a lullaby and she drifted deeper. Just then, an icy cold claw wrapped its talons around her foot and pulled. Bolting upright, Gillian reached for the light switch but it was too far away.
            “Shit! Who’s in here?” she barked into the darkness. “Angela, if that’s you, it isn’t funny!” A shadowy form skulked across the room making Gillian fume. “You’re such a jerk! I can see you; now get out and go to bed before I kick your bony butt all the way down the hall.”
Gillian’s eyes laser-beamed at the silhouette and she wished she has something to throw at Angela. Preferably something hard … like an anvil. I’ll go all Bugs Bunny on you and see how funny that is, Gillian scoffed silently. Some friend! She could hear footfalls coming down the hall. You’re busted now. Kim’s gonna see what you’ve been up to and she’ll be pissed too. The door opened and light from the hallway filled the room.
            “Did you call me?” Angela asked from the hallway.
Kim’s head poked over Angela’s shoulder making Gillian’s jaw dropped. Across the room, there was nothing, no one stood in the spot where the shadowy figure had been. Angela flipped on the lights chasing away every hint of shadow.
            “Sorry, I-I, um …” Gillian paused to think up a reasonable explanation. “I sometimes talk in my sleep. I’m sorry I woke you. Man, that was one weird dream though.”
Laughing, Gillian tried to smooth over her lie. Her friends chuckled along to show they weren’t angry—also to hide their concern.
            “You’re sure you’re okay?” Kim asked. “Do you need anything? Wanna talk about it?”
            “No,” Gillian insisted. “No, I’m fine, really. I’m going right back to bed; you should too.”
Worry creased lines between Kim’s eyebrows and around her mouth. She shrugged and offered up a weak smile to her friend.
            “Okay, if you’re sure. Good night then,” Kim murmured as she reached out for the light switch.
            “NO!” Gillian cried out, sending a burning red flush across her cheeks. “Um, I mean, you don’t have to turn off the light right now. I think I’m going to read a little and try to make myself sleepy again.”
Kim nodded and pulled the door closed behind her. As much as she wanted to comfort her friend, she needed to sleep. In a few hours she would have to go to the morgue and sort out whatever mess remained.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Specter of Death-Part 12

           “Billy, what’s going on,” Kim whispered into the phone. “You told Gillian she’d be fine.”
            “Well, there’s a couple things she said that could be … well, it could be a concern. One, she said the planchette was erratic and made repetitive figure eights. That can be a sign of a malevolent spirit. Two, she took her hands off the planchette and they never said goodbye. Some people believe those things can open the gate for the spirit to cross over into our world. I’m not sure I believe all that but Gillian is pretty freaked out right now. If she decides to search the internet, her fears could manifest … even if they aren’t real, if you know what I mean. For example, if you break a mirror, you’ll be looking for signs of bad luck. When we look for bad omens, we usually find them or create them.”
            “Yeah, you’re right.” Kim murmured. “People who believe Friday the thirteenth is bad luck usually have a really bad day. I’ll keep an eye on her just to be sure.”
     Across town, Kenj sat in the emergency room. She waited for two hours before a doctor came to remove the Hagadorn Needle from her palm. With the help of morphine, not only did she not care how long it took, Kenj did feel a thing when the instrument was removed. When she finally staggered out to the waiting room, she found Marie waiting for her.
            “Hey, can you give me a ride home?” Kenj slurred. “The doc said I shouldn’t drive.”
            “Of course,” the detective answered through a yawn. “I’ve been waiting for you the whole time.”
     Once Kenj was settled into her apartment, Marie drove home. She was anxious to get out of her damp, mildew-smelling clothes and into a hot shower. The stink of stagnant sprinkler water had made her queasy. After hauling in the bag with the Ouija board into her room, she kicked it into her closet and slammed the door.
     The warmth of a steamy shower beckoned her aching muscles and Marie hurried to heed the call. Enveloped in the heat of its embrace, she let the shower-spray massage her chilled, stiff neck and shoulders. Only when the warmth seeped into her core did Marie turn off the water, towel herself dry, and pull on a pair of warm pajamas. Exhausted and achy, she shuffled to her bed and crawled under the covers. Sleep came moments later.
     A dull thud forced Marie to pry open her bleary eyes. Seemingly of their own accord, her legs swung off the bed, plunging her feet onto the cool, wood floor. The shock of cold pulsated through her nerve endings like a thousand needle-pricks stabbing into her brain. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and found herself in her kitchen. Damn, I must really be tired. I don’t remember walking in here. Too weary to retrace her steps, every cell in Marie’s body screamed for coffee. Even with an IV drip, I wouldn’t be able to get enough caffeine into my body, she thought while rooting through her cabinets for the magic beans that made her feel human. The shelves stretched out into oblivion but not even a measly ground remained.
     Caffeine withdrawal jackhammered through the concrete-like shell protecting her brain, shattered fragments scattered deep inside never ending shelves and cabinets. She stretched her arm until her shoulder threatened to separate and still she couldn’t reach the back.
            “Lucky me, I’ve got the cabinets to Narnia,” she scoffed. “Where’s the freaking coffee?”
Behind her, a garbled voice repeated her words. When Marie turned around, she was no longer in her kitchen but inside the morgue. Her Ouija board sat on a table surrounded by flickering candles. Am I dreaming? The words never passed her lips but the shadowy figures seated across from her at the table cackled as if she’d said it aloud.  
     Pulled by a force stronger than her, Marie’s fingertips settled onto the planchette. Rapid, jittery figure-eights pulled her arms along with the rhythm until the tiny plastic triangle slipped from her hands. In mid-air, the planchette froze, spun in the opposite direction, and embedded itself into Marie’s eye.
     Screaming, she sat up, clutching her face. Warm, salty tears trickled down her cheeks but there was no blood. Her eye was fine and when the cries of terror ended. Marie was sitting in her bed, clutching her blankets. It was just a dream, her inner voice soothed. Laughing at her own silliness, her toes reached out for the coolness of her hardwood floors and stood. Her foot slipped, sending her sprawling head-first into the bed frame. Blackness overtook her before she hit the floor. Seconds later, she blinked hard to stop the room from spinning. Stabbing pain ripped through her left shoulder. Still face down on the floor, she reached over to feel for damages.
            “That lump on my head is going to throb later,” she muttered to herself. “And damn, it feels like I’ve got an ice pick stabbing through my shoulder.”
Warm, sticky blood smeared the tips of her fingers but still Marie’s fingers probed the source of pain  
            “What the hell is this?” She muttered.
She plucked the offending piece from just below her collar bone and stood. In one hand she clung to the sharp piece that had pierced her and with the other she reached for the lamp on her nightstand. With one click, the room was bathed in a soft glow. She held the planchette in her hand. Blood dripped from the plastic triangle onto the floor. When Marie looked down, she was standing on top of the Ouija Board. A blood-curdling scream of profanities bubbled out from her core and she threw the planchette across the room. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Specter of Death- Part 11

            “Bill, are you sure it’ll be okay with the university if you head straight here?” Kim asked. “I don’t want you to lose your job.”
            “No, it’s fine. I worked it all out. Right now, let’s just focus on finding the killer before anyone else is hurt. Anyway, I’m dying to find out what happened at the morgue so let’s have it, Jilly. How did it go?”
Gillian groaned. Her evening had been complete chaos and she hated the thought of rehashing it, especially since the feelings of dread hadn’t dissipated since she left the morgue. Knowing Kim would hear all about it anyway, Gillian told her friends everything. She had expected laughing or even a few good natured jokes at her expense but Kim, Angela, and Bill remained silent until she ended her story with sloshing to her car and cranking up the heat. For a few seconds, the silence hung heavy in the air, each waiting for someone else to speak. Then they all spoke at once, words jumbling together in confusion.
            “Oh my God! Is Kenj okay?” Kim gasped.
            “Wait, you took your hands off the planchette before saying goodbye?” Bill asked.
            “So who touched your shoulder if it wasn’t Marie or Kenj?” Angela wondered.
Nervous giggles rippled through the group when they all blurted their questions out at the same time. Gillian wasted no time allaying Kim’s fears. Kenj would be fine after a few stitches. It was the other questions that made her squirm.
            “Honestly,” Gillian said, “I have no clue who touched me. I was nowhere near the door so it wasn’t one of the firemen, either. I’ve been trying to convince myself that it was just stress and I imagined it but …”
Gillian paused as she stared out the window. A shadowy figure had caught her eye and the feeling of being watched made her skin crawl. It wasn’t until Kim and Angela turned to look out the window that she redirected.
            “Bill, what were you asking me about the planchette?” She said, trying to cover up her concerns.
            “You said you pulled your hands off but you said goodbye first, right?” Bill’s voice was thick with concern. “You didn’t just pull away, did you?”
            “Um, yeah … I was a little thrown off when he said the devil and my hands came up. That’s when the planchette flew out and hit Detective McDonald. What do you mean say goodbye? What’s that all about?”
            “There’s a spot at the bottom of the board that says goodbye. It’s just good manners to say goodbye to the spirit,” he replied but Bill’s voice changed pitch as he attempted to lighten his tone. “Don’t worry, Jilly. We both know Seth was never the type to stand on ceremony. Look, I need to get a few things then I’ll be on the road so I’ll see you all soon.”
Kim took her phone off speaker to say goodbye but Bill urged her to go into another room before hanging up the phone.
            “Kim, listen, you need to keep an eye on Gillian. Make sure she stays close. She might not be safe.” 
           “Oh my God! Why?”