My mother had enough of ghosts about the same time she heard someone walking around my little brother's bedroom. The spirit kept her up all night with its pacing and when she went to clean the room, he rewarded her with thousands of bees on the carpet floor. Though Dennis, her husband, has tried to explain the Yellow Jackets away by any other means available, my mother was convinced that something weird was going on.
I know now that all of these happenings began after my brothers and me went to a cemetery on the edge of a cliff, in the middle of the woods. She merely understood that whatever happened was not something she wanted in her house out in the middle of Corn-ville, USA.
She did what any good Catholic would do (she is a much better Catholic than I am). She called a priest.
When you call a priest you know what you are going to get. You are going to get someone over the age of sixty. You are going to get a house full of incense, some palm crucifixes, and a "blessing" in the house. If all goes well, you kick out the spirits too.
This guy didn't fit the bill at all. Father John was a man in his mid thirties. He had some holy water, and he was armed with a head full of doubt. Ghosts don't exist, I suppose. Angels, demons, saints, all good. Ghosts though, "Eh." But Father John was dutiful, and he sprinkled some water, went room to room, and said a blessing. My mom made him do my little brother's room twice.
Then Father John gathered up his robes and left.
And IT was pissed.
We didn't know it was pissed. So we went to my mom's house like we did every summer.
Outside of my mother's hundreds-of-years-old house is a detached garage. It is dilapidated and made of wood and cinder block. The bottom part is all cinder block, but the top part is a loft that looks almost like the top half of a barn. In fact a small barn door at the top is accessible by ladder, and this part is made of all wood. Wood that became a pile of rot after decades of harsh winters. We were forbidden to go up and into it.
Naturally, my older brother Chris, fearless leader that he is (along with my instigator cousin Joey) convinces us that on this particular day, this is the adventure of a lifetime.
So the four of us make our way into this hot, rotted, loft above the garage. Cobwebs stick to our sweaty faces. Our breathing comes out in rasps as the sense of adventure creeps into our bones. I am the third one up and in. We always seem to do things like this in the order of our births. Chris climbs in, Joey, then me. As I poke my head through the door and Rob climbs up the ladder at my feet, I see that part of the floor has rot away, and I can see into the garage. Chris grabs my hand and pulls me up and says, "Watch out for the hole."
The place hasn't been touched in years. Dust lines the wooden floor, old leaves have blown through a broken window at the base of the roof. But next to the window is an old desk. Next to that desk is a box piled with papers and what from this distance looks like magazines. Someone has lived in this loft.
Forgetting about the bugs and cobweb and dust, we continue forward in single file. Joey and Chris lead us along a beam, just in case any more floor boards are rotting through. "I don't need to get in trouble because you guys hurt yourselves," he whispers.
I don't know why people whisper in these types of moments. We weren't sneaking up on anyone.
Joey pretends to push me through the hole in the floor as we turn to go. I slam my foot on the ground to brace and he gives a tiny laugh. "I wouldn't push you."
I punch him in the arm and we continue onward until we reach the desk. Somehow, at this moment, we turn into experienced pilferers. The desk drawers slide out, several hands go into the box where we find hand written journals and the first porno magazine I have ever seen. I pick it up, curious. "Give me that," Chris says. "You're too young."
"I've seen those before," I lie.
"No you haven't," Rob whispers.
But very fast, we lose interest in the magazine. Joey starts to read from the hand written journals out loud.
The words come out and sear into my brain, "My horned father, give me strength to vanquish those who oppose me. Bless me with your eternal heat so that the coolness of death can not touch me."
We stumble on the journals, the rantings and ravings of a Satanic worshiper. At that age I don't know much about religion other than what Catholic school taught me. But I know, that this is creepy.
"Let's go," I say. I look at the faces of those gathered around me. Wrinkling brows and darting eyes greet me.
For once, Chris doesn't oppose my idea. "Yeah we better go. Let's bring this to the fire pit and burn it."
We all agree and Joey and Chris slide the box towards the entrance while Rob and I climb down.
In a mad dash we assemble gasoline, lighters, and the notes from the loft. We pile them in the fire pit, with at least one glance at the magazine, and douse it all in gas. The flames jump high and the scent of burning gas meets my nose with a certain satisfaction.
Just as the flames leap into the sky, we hear a crash and yell from inside the house. We all look at each other, our faces streaked with dirt, soot, and sweat. But cutting through it all is the unmistakable look of fear. We run inside.
There on the floor is Dennis' grandfather clock. Shattered to bits. My mom is starring at it. Her lip trembles.
"What happened," Rob asks.
"Something threw it down." My mother throws the words out flat and succinct.
"Could it just fall?" Chris asks. We all know better.
That clock stood in that room for more than five years. Nothing short of an earthquake should have knocked it down.
As the fire burns outside, the four of us help my mom clean up the mess. We exchange nervous glances the whole time.
I went to bed that night. I was scared because that was the first time I encountered something I believed to be pure evil. Sure the swinging light was freaky. But this, this was evil. I felt it in my bones.
Time would bear witness to the nature of the events as well.
That night, I would have the most curious of dreams. That summer, was when the dead animals began to appear.
[The Things That Follow Part VI: Monday]