Authors: Annette Brownlee
Tags: #Adventure, #Paranormal
Several hours later, the sound of a passing car woke her up. Chaos rubbed her face to rouse herself from sleep. She fished the keys out from under the front seat and slipped them into the ignition. She turned it just far enough that the auxiliary power came on. Two a.m. She got out of the car and walked around it a few times to check her awareness. She felt fine. She stopped and took a deep cleansing breath. She felt clear and safe. “Time to go home,” she mumbled, not really sure if she was ready to face the memories.
Chaos stepped onto her front porch and stopped. It was covered with smashed pumpkins. The bale of hay they’d been perched on was decimated. “Damn kids,” she groaned. It was the week before Halloween. Children were out causing trouble and wreaking havoc. Avoiding the pumpkin bits, Chaos opened her front door and stepped inside. The house was eerily quiet but after tonight she’d have to find a way to manage her discomfort. Clearly going out with friends and coworkers wasn’t going to happen again anytime soon. It had been a bad, desperate idea.
Locking the front door behind her, Chaos made her way into the dining room. She dropped her keys on the table and looked around. Her home felt foreign, as if it no longer belonged to her. She’d bought this home on her own and was proud of it. Sitting on three acres and backing up to the National Park, it was her sanctuary. She could sit on her back porch and stare for hours at the rolling hills covered with sage, statuesque Aspens, and spruce.
Mid-summer and the field behind her house was covered with a rainbow of color. Flowers, thistles, bee plants and even a few rare flowers like the Holy Ghost could be spotted during her hikes. Late fall and the area around her home was dry and dead. Shades of brown no longer welcomed her. Looking out her window at the hillside left her feeling empty. Maybe it was time to get out of town for a while. The business would be dormant for at least three months, until March. She could go skiing in Colorado or maybe head south to the Baja coastline and enjoy some sun and surf.
Making her way to her bedroom, Chaos toed off her work boots, stripped her jeans and sweater off and tossed them into her hamper. She needed to make amends to Jones. He was a bit of a jerk but he didn’t deserve to be punched in the face. He didn’t deserve the rage she’d unleashed on him. “Maybe I can buy him a beer of the month club membership and a gift card for the local deli. You’re buying his forgiveness,” she mumbled. “First Paolo, now Jones. This is getting expensive.” Chaos stepped into her bathroom and doubled over. The stench of cologne surrounded her like a gas cloud. She gagged. Tears filed her eyes. Her stomach clenched, heaved, and she vomited into the sink. Shaking, she turned on the faucet. Chaos splashed her face with cold water and rinsed out her mouth. When she straightened, the face of Dead Bill stared back at her in the mirror. He smiled his hideous toothy grin.
Make it Right
“Wake up, bitch.”
She smelled him at the same time she heard the venomous words. Bill was in her room. Chaos opened her eyes and gasped. A cold chill scraped her spine. No way, no way, no damned way, she thought. Bill stood directly across from her at the foot of her bed. "I’m dreaming." She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and opened them again. He smiled at her with that horrible toothy smile.
Heart pounding, Chaos froze. A fist of fear lodged in her throat and silenced her. She wanted to pull the covers over her head like a child. She wanted to blot him out but the fear of not being able to see him was worse. If she couldn’t see him, she wouldn’t know what he was doing. Chaos jumped out of bed. Maybe getting on her own two feet would help clear her head. Maybe she was still asleep. Bracing her hand on the wall next to the bed she stared at the image of Bill. He wasn't solid. The light of the moon seeped between her blinds. It lit the room enough that she could see her chest of drawers behind him. But he was there. She shook her head and clenched her fists. He wore the same grey t-shirt and jeans he'd worn the night he attacked her. “He’s dead,” she said. “He can't hurt me.” This is just my imagination. Just my stupid imagination. Last night she’d imagined him in her bathroom mirror. Tonight he was waking her from a sound sleep. She was losing her mind.
“Go away!”She could have sworn he shook his head no. Confusion and fear enveloped her. How could she be seeing Bill? He was dead. This had to stop. “I demand that you go away.”He didn’t budget. A hint of a gleeful sneer touched his lips. Chaos clenched her fists. “Get the fuck out!” Again, he shook his head no. This time she saw it more clearly.
Her heart, already pounding like a steel drum, kicked it up a notch. Damn him for making her feel like this. Damn him for attacking and terrorizing her. It was enough for her to decide she was done with this experience. Keeping her eyes on Bill, she leaned over and flipped the lamp switch by the bed. One side of the room illuminated in a warm glow. Bill didn't go away. He stood there in the same spot at the foot of the bed still grinning at her.
Chaos shivered. It was freezing in her bedroom. How was she going to make this stop? She started shaking a bit for fear she was going crazy. You’re not crazy, she reminded herself. You’ve been through worse and you didn't go crazy then. "If you're real then do something to convince me. Because I don't believe in ghosts."
Nothing happened. Dead Bill just stood there. It was as if he was trying to drive her crazy. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction. “Fine, if you're too weak or chicken to do anything, I'm out of here.” It took everything she had to turn her back on him. Stiff, terrified, and still shivering, Chaos grabbed her robe from the bed and started for the door.
She put her hand on the doorknob. It was icy cold. She turned the knob slowly, not wanting to show Bill her fear. Chaos pulled the door open. Seconds ticked by and she waited for something to happen. She waited for him to attack her or to say something, anything. Nothing happened. Chaos stepped through the door and into the hallway. Behind her, Bill laughed. The chilling sound felt as if it were inside her head. It echoed down the hallway and bounced off the walls around her. Chaos whipped around to face him. Anger filled her. He had no right to make her feel afraid. No right. It pissed her off. "Stop it!" She stepped back in the room and slammed the door behind her. No escape.
Dead Bill moved toward the side of the bed and sat down. He spoke, she saw his mouth move but his voice felt as if he were whispering in her ear. She could feel the breath on her cheek and neck.
“Make it right,” he said.
Goosebumps raised on her arms. Chaos crossed them over her chest and held herself. She held her chin up high and spoke. “Make what right?”
The smell of whisky on his rancid breath wafted under her nose. It was the only thing that gave her hope that she wasn’t going crazy. Surely crazy people didn’t smell things too. “Turn myself in? Go to hell. I killed you in self-defense, asshole.” She was seething now. The image of Dead Bill intensified. He became denser as if he was feeding off her anger and coming to life in her room. It was enough to make her put her hand back on the doorknob.
“No,” she shook her head. “Not going to happen.”
Pointing to the clock on the table, he vanished.
Chaos exhaled. He was gone, for now. She stared at the clock, two-thirty in the morning - going back to sleep was impossible. Chaos headed for the kitchen. Opening the fridge, the bottle of Tequila beckoned to her. It’d be nice to feel numb instead of furious and afraid. One quick drink and the anger would melt away. Reaching in, Chaos grabbed the milk instead. She poured a bowl of chocolate cereal and sat down at the table. Something about eating right now helped her calm down. It was certainly better than getting drunk. She needed to think rationally. She’d just seen a ghost but she didn't believe in ghosts so she wasn't quite sure what to do with the whole experience. If it was her guilt or anger causing the hallucination then that was worrisome. And Dead Bill had told her if she didn't turn herself in he’d haunt her. Guilt, she figured. It had to be her guilt causing this. Post-traumatic stress? That seemed logical. She was creating the image because of the stress from the incident. And maybe, just maybe, she felt a tiny bit guilty about killing him and having someone else dump his body. Still. It was his life or hers. She chose hers. This meant she had to deal with the consequences - even if they were self-inflicted.
Okay, she thought. Now what? It was clearly time to take a break and follow through on her plan to take a vacation. Surely, her imaginary ghost wouldn't follow her. She could take a well needed vacation and try to regain her sanity.
Decision made, Chaos left a voicemail for Paolo letting him know she was heading out of town immediately. Tonight. Now she had to go back into her bedroom to pack. She didn't want to. Maybe she could just buy what she needed when she got where she was going. Don’t be stupid, she thought. She didn’t have the budget to spend frivolously. Grabbing a knife from the block on her counter, she took a deep breath and headed back into her bedroom. There was no doubt that she felt ridiculous both in the fact that she saw Bill when he clearly was no longer on this planet but also that she was protecting herself with a knife - against a dead guy, or a hallucination. Both were ludicrous. Nonetheless, she clenched it in her fist and held her breath as she stepped back into her bedroom.
Her room was empty. Loosening her grip on the knife, she quickly headed for the closet, grabbed her suitcase and threw handfuls of clothing into it. Jeans, t-shirts, and thermals in case she decided to go skiing. She grabbed a bathing suit and tossed in a bunch of underwear. She didn't care if she grabbed everything she needed. She’d get by. She just wanted to get out of here immediately. Dragging her suitcase in her good hand and holding the knife in her bad hand she ignored the ache in her wrist and scuttled to the bathroom. She set down the suitcase, stuffed her toothbrush and toiletries in her bag. Still wearing her pajamas, which were fortunately a t-shirt and sweats, she grabbed her coat, keys and wallet from the table, stuffed her feet into her work boots and headed out the door. Chaos locked the door behind her and didn't look back. She didn’t know where she was going but if it was free from phantom hallucinations, it was good enough for her.
No Souls to Save
There were no souls to save. At least not here and not tonight, Dakota was almost sure of it.
"I’m heading into the basement," Sheila announced. Watching her on the monitor in the van, he didn’t understand her perkiness in these situations. Pitch black and waiting for ghosts to show themselves, she bounced around the house like a cheerleader.
He saw Linda nod. “Crap.” He hated it when he couldn't see everyone at once. Depending on where she went in the basement, Sheila might be off camera. He couldn't protect her if he couldn't see her. Still, they'd been here for hours and nothing had happened. Not even explainable noises, let alone any unexplainable ones. It was quiet as a tomb. The family that lived here must have vivid imaginations.
“If you think that's best,” Linda said in her calm, cool manner. The lady was unflappable and he’d seen her in some pretty serious situations. He could tell she was focusing on something though. Her eyes had a familiar faraway look in them.
“Linda, do you sense anything?” Dakota asked from his walkie.
“Not yet,” Linda said.
Dakota opened one of the van doors to let in some fresh air. He fought a shiver as the cold air rushed in. The last day of October, Halloween, and some areas had already experienced snow. This high in the mountains it was barely twenty degrees and everything had a fine sheen of ice on it. Of course it was also two o'clock in the morning. Dead time. The time when the spirits came out to play. Actually, they didn't just come out to play at night. He’d experienced plenty of activity during the bright sunny hours of the day. It was just that humans were more sensitive to their surroundings when everything was dark and still. After two in the morning, everything was most definitely dark and still.
Dakota closed the van door and again peered at the monitors to see if Sheila had found her way into the basement. They had three cameras wired to the monitors and several hand held cameras positioned in key locations throughout the home to record any movement or activity in the house. Fortunately, Sheila had chosen the side of the basement where Kat had placed a wired video camera. He could see her. Linda remained in the parlor so he could see her, too.
“Dakota, Sheila, I’m going to do an EVP session,” Linda said, through her walkie.
Dakota saw Sheila moving around in the basement with a flashlight and her recorder. "Sheila, will you go up and join Linda? I don't want her communicating without someone else present.”He’d seen spirits take advantage of one investigator. If they were outnumbered, they tended to be better behaved.
“She went on a coffee run.”
“Cool. I’m on my way back up.”
“Linda, Sheila’s coming up. Don’t start without her.”
“Always the worrier.”
“It’s my job.”
“We’re so blessed to have you. You know you can't protect us from everything, Dakota. Some things are meant to happen.”
What was that supposed to mean? He watched as Sheila entered the room. She crossed the small space and sat by Linda on the sofa. Kat entered the room and handed the women their coffees. Taking a sip of her own coffee, Kat took a seat across the room. Good. He was relieved they were all present and accounted for. Now he could relax a bit. True, he never really relaxed until they declared a space clean. Tonight, he didn't think it would be a big deal.
Linda placed her recording device and EMF monitor on the table. They’d found electromagnetic frequencies in all the expected places - around the television, near the outlets, and it had presented a small blip around the rocking chair. Nothing too notable but worthy of attention. From the positioning of their bodies, he could tell Linda was directing her attention on the rocking chair. She must have sensed something. The family that lived here said the chair moved by itself sometimes. They also said the house smelled like cigar smoke occasionally and that the doors opened and closed on their own. He’d debunked the doors closing. The house was old. Simply standing in the right place caused the floor boards to bend and pop. This fluctuation made the doors close and open. It might not be the explanation but it was one possibility. The cigar smoke had been easy to find a logical cause for as well. The next door neighbor was a grizzly old man who smoked when he couldn’t sleep. He smoked outside so the smell and a well-timed breeze brought the smoke up into the attic. It then vented through the house. Dakota was pretty sure all of the family’s paranormal events were explainable. The rocking chair was probably just being activated by floorboards again or a draft. If the women didn’t find anything, he’d check it out when he went back inside.