Authors: Annette Brownlee
Tags: #Adventure, #Paranormal
“Nothing special, basic bluegrass.”
“No. Bluegrass doesn’t feel like this. This feels like…like baby hair. Fine and soft.”
He looked at her curiously. “How do you know?”
She laughed. This was all backwards. Normally people knew a bit about each other before they shared a bed. Well, at least from what she could tell that’s what they did. She hadn’t been intimate with anyone since she was seventeen and that great sixty-second pleasure had cost the guy his leg. A rattlesnake had coiled itself onto the seat of his car. He’d sat on it going home that night.
“We don’t know much about each other, do we? I’m a landscaper. I own a company that mows lawns, fertilizes, and stuff like that. About three years ago I got my design degree so I design yards now too.”
“You ever design anything like this?”
Chaos sat down at the table and looked around. It had an ethereal feel to it, like she’d stepped inside fairy land. “Not even close.”
She looked down at her sandwich and laughed. “PB&J? I haven’t had a peanut butter sandwich since I was in grade school. Cool.” She took a bite then washed it down with some lemonade. Ironically, the childish lunch was making her feel more grown up. “I have to apologize to you for last night.”
Dakota’s eyebrows raised in question.
“You’re in danger now. I should have stopped it.”
“Do you regret it?” he asked, taking a bite of his sandwich.
“I regret putting you in danger. Anyone that gets close to me dies or gets hurt. I should have stopped it. I meant to but it just got out of control quickly.” And it had felt wonderful.
“Seems like things have a way of doing that with you. So, what did you learn this morning with Sheila?”
That’s it? No, ‘It was worth the risk or I’m sorry I couldn’t keep my hands to myself?’ His nonchalance stung. She shoved it aside. It didn’t matter. She’d be gone by the end of the day. He’d be a distant memory. The thought filled her with a familiar sadness, loneliness combined with regret. She knew it well. Chaos took a deep breath and told Dakota about Sheila’s vision of her father’s mistress.
“You don’t believe it?”
“I’m struggling to. I never saw this woman and you’d think if my dad had an affair with her that there’d be pictures or I’d have seen her at some point.”
“I wouldn’t keep pictures of my mistress in the home where I was raising my child.”
“But you understand having a mistress?” A bubble of anger began to grow inside her. It was welcomed with open arms, much easier to deal with than loneliness, regret, and rejection.
“I didn’t say that.”
“Then what are you saying?” Chaos gripped her lemonade, fighting the urge to throw it in his face. “Would you have a mistress?”
“Stop trying to pick a fight with me. I’m sorry you got bad news. At least now you know what you’re up against.”
“You didn’t answer the question.”
Standing to his feet, Dakota sighed. “In a perfect world, no. Family means everything to me. If I loved my wife or at least respected her then I wouldn’t do that to her, but you can’t judge people when you don’t know the circumstances.”
He was right. She didn’t know the circumstances of her parents’ marriage. She didn’t even know what her mother was like. Maybe she was a horrible person. “It’s just so hard to wrap my brain around. How could Sheila see that? How could she know?”
“There’s going to come a time when you have to make a choice, Chaos. You either believe or you don’t.” Dakota leaned into her and placed a kiss on her forehead before turning and walking away.
She believed as much as she could and more than she used to. It had to be enough. Then again, she thought, it didn’t matter what she believed. It was clear he didn’t trust her and to be honest, he shouldn’t. It could cost him his life.
She was so deep in thought she didn’t hear Linda approach. “He doesn’t trust easily, Chaos. And until he can, you won’t get to see the best parts of him.”
“I’m not going to be around long enough to earn his trust,” she said. “Beautiful garden, by the way. I could sit out here for hours.”
“Sometimes I do and thank you. Dakota doesn’t need years of undying faith to earn his trust. He just needs to trust you. He wants to; I can see that, but something’s holding him back.”
Chaos knew about the dreams but it had to be more than a silly dream. A dream that warned him they were all in danger because of her. “Did he tell you what it was?”
“No. You’d have to ask him. He’s fiercely protective and I think he sees you as a danger. Which, you are, of course, but we’re taking care of that.”
“I messed up last night. I put him in more danger.”
“He’ll be okay. We all will. You can’t control your heart, no matter how hard you try. Now let’s teach you to quiet your mind. Are you comfortable?”
“Yes.” Sitting outside in this magical garden, she hadn’t been this comfortable in days.
“Great. Close your eyes and take deep belly breaths.”
Chaos closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Her senses picked up on the scent of marigolds.
“They keep away the bugs,” Linda said.
“So do ladybugs and you’re still hearing my thoughts,” she said, not opening her eyes.
“Yep. It takes time. Imagine a wet towel around your head. The weight of the towel quiets your thoughts. They cannot pass through the towel. Can you feel it on your head?”
Not really, she thought.
“Okay. Let’s step back a bit. Have you ever held one of those towels bakers use? They’re lightweight cotton, almost like linen. They’re big and white and soft. Visualize yourself holding one of those towels. You are standing in front of the sink. You turn the faucet on and run the towel under the water. The water is warm and it feels good on your skin. Stepping away from the sink you lean over and wrap the towel around your head like you would if you’d just gotten out of the shower. Can you see the towel on your head?”
“Sort of.” Chaos visualized the towel on her head. I look stupid, she thought.
“Can you feel the weight on your head? It’s soothing. Not too heavy.”
She nodded and in her mind’s eye the towel slipped right off of her head. Chaos pushed it back up there and the towel unraveled, slipped to the ground, and landed with a thud at her feet.
“Well that’s not working,” Linda laughed. “You respond to nature; let’s try a little imagery with nature. What’s something that could wrap around your head?”
“Sod,” Chaos laughed. She pictured a sheet of grass and dirt wrapped around her head. It was heavy and dirt was getting in her eyes.
“That’s not a very graceful image,” Linda said. “What about clouds? Can you imagine clouds around your head, dampening your thoughts? They don’t have to be storm clouds. Maybe big white puffy clouds or those beautiful wave clouds we get here in Colorado. We have some in the sky today.”
Chaos knew exactly what she meant. Colorado’s clouds were like no other place she’d been. She envisioned one of those clouds dropping down to shield her mind. It felt comfortable. Not wet but warm and protective. Like a fluffy blanket. “I think it is working.”
“Okay. Good. Send me a thought. Something that you want me to know.”
Trusting the shield, Chaos focused on an image of Dakota, naked in her bed. She sent Linda the image.
“That must be some thought. You are turning pink.”
Chaos opened her eyes. “You didn’t hear it or see it?”
“Nope. But I can see the pulse jumping in your neck and you’re blushing a beautiful crimson color, almost the color of my favorite merlot.”
It worked! She beamed. “So now I have to spend the rest of my life with clouds around my head?”
“Just meditate every morning and put it there. It’ll stay. I’ll show you how to meditate later. Right now, I think Kat has something to show us. Are you ready?”
“For what?” It wasn’t time to contact Bill yet. They were going to wait until tonight when he liked to appear.
“To see what she found on our cameras.”
Glowing Bubbles Encircled Her Head
Chaos walked into Linda’s sitting room. A long cord snaked from Kat’s computer across Linda’s living room to the back of her television.
“I hooked my laptop up to the television so we could all see without having to pass the computer around. I hope that’s okay.”
“It’s brilliant, Kat,” Linda said. She took a seat in an armchair. “What did you find?”
“Well, I’d rather show you and you guys can tell me.”
“Sounds ominous,” Chaos said. Anxiety caused her stomach to feel like it was full of ants.
“Well, let’s start with the one you took, with the video on your camera.” Kat clicked play.
Chaos saw her back on the screen. She was sitting on the bed in that dingy hotel room. Chaos heard herself ask Dead Bill if he was a ghost. She heard the one-sided conversation and saw nothing.
“Do you see it?”
Kat stopped the image. “There’s a black shadow that hovers. It’s faint, but it moves.” She moved her cursor to point out the image. “It’s here. Here, I’ll play it again.”
She rewound the image and played it again. Chaos watched, her hands clenched in her lap. Sure enough, there was a black shadow, more like a darker area in the room. It hovered over her and just beyond her reach. As they watched the video, the shadow moved down alongside the end of the bed and back. “Stop.” Kat stopped the video. “This is where I noticed the shadow. Do you see it against the wall?”
“Good eye for an amateur,” Kat said. “I noticed that too.”
A wave of pride washed over her. “I was desperate to prove I wasn’t insane,” she said. “What about the audio?”
“We caught the same thing that you did. He says, killed me. I’m sure you don’t need to hear that again. Let’s move onto the video from last night, okay?”
Chaos nodded. Kat returned to the couch and loaded the new video. Within seconds they were watching what the cameras captured inside the bakery.
“This is the video from the EVP session with the ghost box. It’s the one where you’re talking to Susan, I believe, and she warns Chaos about Bill.”
Chaos watched the EVP session and noticed something different right away. “What’s all that around my head?”
“What does it look like to you, Chaos?” Linda asked. She sat comfortably in her armchair with her hands folded in her lap as if they were watching an old black and white movie, not a ghost hunting investigation.
“It looks like there’s something wrong with the camera but they’re moving.” Chaos looked back at the screen. “Am I the only one who sees those lights?”
“No. We just wanted to be sure what you were seeing.”
“What is that?” Chaos felt sick. The things around her head weren’t normal. Why were they targeting her?
“It’s an orb. Actually, it’s about three dozen of them,” Kat said. “I spent some time trying to count and track them. Watch for a minute. You’ll see more come into the room.”
Chaos watched the video of the EVP session. As she sat there the round lights danced around her head. One appeared out of nowhere at the ceiling level and shot across the room to join the others. “What are they doing? What are they?”
“Dakota, do you want to explain?” Linda asked.
“The theory is that they’re spirits. The orb is what we see; it’s their energy. Kat, do you have a video with dust in it so she can see the difference?”
There was no judgment or condescension in his voice. She expected him to return to his unpleasant ways. He’d been nice to her in the garden but he’d also made her feel like an ignorant and small child, unwise to the ways of the world. He’d talked to her like she was a novice. Maybe she was, she thought now; out of necessity she’d avoided relationships. She’d spent her entire adult life isolating herself from others. No one had broken through that barrier. Except Dakota. She was weak. Battling with Bill had left her vulnerable. Chaos backed away from that thought and focused on what Dakota was saying.
Kat had a split screen up on the television. In one scene you could see down a long hallway. There weren’t any people, but there must have been a draft because dust was swirling around the camera. On the other side of the screen was a frozen image of the living room and the orbs around Chaos’s head.
“Do you see the difference?” Dakota asked. “There’s an illumination emanating from inside the orbs in the bakery photo. In the photo on the left they capture light when they go past the camera but they are reflecting it, not creating it. And they move differently. Orbs move across a room or swoop with purpose. These orbs are actually circling your head. Dust doesn’t do that.”
The reality crept in on her. They were circling her head. No one else’s. Why? “So those are dead people swarming my head?” Chaos was surprisingly unafraid. Sure, it was weird that they were only interested in her but there could be a million explanations, right? And it wasn’t as if she’d never experienced anything weird. This entire week had been beyond bizarre. Why would it stop today?
“There’s something else I want you to notice in the next couple of frames. Watch.” Sheila hit play. Chaos noticed more orbs joining the circus around her head and then she gasped. A large black shadow appeared behind her on the couch and the orbs scattered like frightened rabbits. “What the hell?”
Kat put a hand on her knee. “Keep watching.”
A mist floated over her head. It rested on the arm of the couch beside Chaos, remained there for a few seconds, and then vanished. “What was that?”
“I want to play just the audio now. This audio clip starts about three seconds before the shadow pops up behind Chaos.”
Chaos heard Linda’s voice beckoning Susan to talk to them. A cold chill zipped up her spine and made her head hurt. “Something’s growling.”
Kat nodded. “Keep listening.”
The growling stopped and Chaos heard a single word. “Mine.” She wanted to scream, kick something. Throw something. It was Bill’s voice.
“Let me play them both together. The growling starts when that shadow appears. The word “mine” is heard when that weird mist settles on the couch beside you. That’s Dead Bill’s voice, right?”
“It happens again in the kitchen when she’s being attacked,” said Kat. “We had an audio recorder going. You can hear the growling and you can hear the same spirit say `mine’ or ‘my’ life.’ I think they’re making coffee at the time. Then, when the attack happens, you just hear growling.”