Rachel is like any other girl. Nothing looks strange if you notice her from afar. In reality, only those who really know her understand what makes her so … “different”. Rachel, you see, is blessed with a very unique and amusing gift.
She can see ghosts. All of them.
To Rachel, ghosts are spirits who choose to remain on Earth rather than ascend to heaven. Usually because they have unresolved issues in the mortal universe. Eventually they do realize they have no choice but to go forward and be resurrected. Until then they look a lot like other people, really. She even has difficulty distinguishing between them, at times.
So while there sipping her coffee one, summer evening, a very attractive man approaches her. He pulls a chair over to her table, and sits without invite. He is dressed very well in a plaid button-down shirt and some kind of blended trousers. Rachel notices he has rolled up his sleeves, lighting a quiet fire in her heart, which enrages her self styled Victorian qualities.
At a loss for how to begin, Rachel asks him why he is here with a grin and lifts her eyebrows.
The gentleman is visibly stunned, but then he chuckles; stealing completely Rachel’s ability to breath with his zaddy swag.
“Coffee?” Rachel asks.
Young son just shakes his head ever so slightly, with a shadow under those eyes.
Although off to a halting start, their conversation eventually picks up with “How about those Cubs?” Like all those from Chicago understand to do, they quickly find as many connections as they can between their likes. Eventually one would assume they had known one another for years.
Passing by so often, the waiter begins to give her strange looks. At first she doesn’t understand, then finally it hits her like a hand palm to the forehead. Suddenly his spell over her seems to be broken. His words sound like quiet murmuring at the Adler Planetarium. Even his face takes on a blurred quality. Rachel can only focus on his hands, which seem dirty around the nails. Almost like he had clawed his way out of the ground. How could she not notice before?
“Are you dead?” she suddenly asks her visitor.
He pauses with a half smile on his face, his eyes no longer sparkling with wonder as they had been until that moment, but with sadness instead. “I was expecting you to realize by now. I guess it’s time for me to leave.” With that he stood up hesitantly, scratching the back of his head.
“No, it’s fine. It’s just that I had been taken off guard.” Rachel pauses to signal the waiter, who walks over with the bill. Far around what is for her an imaginary friend, careful not to offend the obviously crazy guest before she can pay. Rachel continues, “We’ve conversed mostly about me since you arrived, how about you?”
“How about me?” He asks grinning, and Rachel’s heart goes bump once again.
If only she’d met him sooner. Part of her cried out of selfishness. “What’s your backstory? How did you end up here?” Rachel wondered aloud.
“My name is Jason, and I came around since my twin brother is here also. He hasn’t moved on, and I won’t be able to until he does. I don’t know how it works, but that’s what it is.” Jason seems to be apologizing while sticking his hand in his pocket. He bashfully looks down at the marble blocks beneath their feet. “Even if I could I wouldn’t be able to leave him alone.”
He laughs sardonically while shaking his head and wiping his face with his hand. “We were doing really great; we were enjoying the American dream. However, my brother and I were involved in a car accident. I passed right away but he did not. I tried to let him know I was okay.” He pauses his sad tale to look over Rachel’s shoulder as she now stands before him.
“I don’t understand, you said he has also passed”, Rachel replies.
“He has. You see he … took something he shouldn’t have. It was too strong.”
Both stand in silence as the noise around them audibly dims. They could be standing in a church, it’s so quiet.
Jason continues with a trembling voice. “Although sad. I did not understand what was happening, to be honest. We seemed to be standing at a bright airport. Mom and Dad were standing there looking angry. I thought they were angry at me. Then I realized they were angry at Justin. My brother. I tried to tell him to ignore them, and stood between them so he couldn’t see their angry faces… Some people came for us, but he would not go. He would not talk to me. I got on a plane and everything became dark, but suddenly find myself to still be here.”
Rachel nods slowly and turns ever slightly to stare at his Rolex watch just barely tucked into his pants pocket. Something he must have been very proud to own. More of a fashion statement these days, it always continues to speak well of a man to bother himself to wear a watch. It also says something about his personality. He was careful in life, and full of care. Too bad his brother did not seem to be. The dichotomy of twins always rings true. Rachel can almost imagine without being told who is responsible for the reckless behavior which cut short their fancy lives.
A drop of water spills on the smooth, patio floor. He is crying, or thinks he is. Rachel finishes her turn to face the same direction as he, and extends her arm around him. To which the staff covers her face and turns away to manage the salad bar. “There now, soon you will forget all of this. Perhaps next time, we can be friends. Promise to look for me?” Rachel asks Jason.
Jason nods solemnly. “I can’t leave without him, though. And he’s not the same. He won’t even acknowledge me. Some, malicious thing has entangled him.
Rachel nods again as she deliberates this new information. “I just might be able to assist you. You see the foul entity now feeding on him will ensure you never do that, for it would mean the end of its existence.”
Jason sighs while shaking his head.
“We should at least try to dislodge this apparition from your tormented brother,” Rachel says while lifting her purse strap around her shoulder. “Please allow me to grab some things from my home. I will leave right now. It isn’t too late.”
Jason wants to believe her claim, but has doubts. “Are you going to be okay?” Jason inquires in a worried tone. He wants to make sure that Rachel doesn’t get into any trouble. She must be aware of the big picture clearly, as she is able to communicate with Jason, but he is not sure she truly understands the scenario. He really didn’t even mean to drag her into this mess, but had only spoken to her because much time passed since he last spoke to someone, and it felt good to be understood and acknowledged as a person again.
Rachel insists that she is going to be fine and then leaves, asking Jason to remain there and enjoy the view for awhile before joining her. She has no idea Jason’s twin Justin is already present there, overhearing the entire exchange. Judging her flesh and hating her for it. Feeling his very essence ebb and flow away, but enjoying the lightheaded sensation that comes with it. It’s a little bit like being high, as he had enjoyed to do in life. And just the same as in life, he is slowly fading away in a second death. Dying a little more each day, only now more permanently. And when he is gone so too will be his stupid brother. His chapped lips peel back into a fierce grin at the thought.
After calling a taxi Rachel asks for her flat’s address downtown. Repurposed from an office building made in the 1980s, it’s formerly drab interior is now a posh example of the new Chicago. Stepping off the elevator onto her floor, she ignores the calm, prerecorded message announcing her floor. “You two have a nice day”, the female tone says. This lady also probably worked for NASA at some point, Rachel thinks to herself as she begins to remove her jacket. She admires the flower arrangement on the iron wrought and granite table in the center of the miniature rotunda, only unconsciously noticing the more terrible face of Jason’s twin still standing in the elevator through the mirror hanging on the wall. Still she rubs her forearm with her other hand while unlocking the door. She cannot seem to shake the bitter cold from outside, though she doesn’t even remember it being so just now. Just moments ago she sat on a patio enjoying the Summer…
The door swings away from her like it’s trying to fall into a hole. Rachel notices how dark it is in her flat even with the outside light coming in through the open drapes, and leans into the doorway trying to reach for the lights. Upon contact with the switch, she realizes they do not seem to be working. Still not getting it, yes the reader must also be realizing by now exactly how inattentive she can be, Rachel shivers while fumbling with her mobile phone’s flashlight app. She steps forward cautiously with her phone, aiming it’s beam into her private space, realizing she must look silly; like a saint holding a cross up at a vampire or some other demon.
Like before, she is now suddenly aware of what is happening. She was of course well aware before of what she got involved in. Like a proud goose she reared her chin at the empty room and shakes her head slightly, causing her hair to fall back over her shoulders. She’d been brought up to believe her hair is like a shield from evil, and she takes that advise seriously. With this in mind, she courageously steps further inside, minding not the strong charge of the air, raising the hairs on her skin from top to bottom in waves and counter waves. She knows she is protected, and beside has authority over the earth while alive. “I am the image of God” she mutters only to herself, she hopes. Turning to her room the flashlight app catches a sudden motion, and Rachel fights hard the urge to die of a stroke.
To her side she hears footsteps. As unlikely and unreasonable as it seems, real footsteps. Like someone lifting heavy weights, and dropping them. A step, then a count to five or six, then another step. If she didn’t know any better, she’d guess someone was playing a trick on her, like when she was a child playing hide and seek. And someone tried to scare her by sneaking up on her. But when she’d turned to scare them back, there was no one there. So instead of turning around, she rushed forward like she did as a girl. “This is fun!” she convinced herself long ago. “Being scared is exhilarating” her mind screamed while she bolts to her dresser, reaching for the little drawer on the one side.
Much to the chagrin of her religious parents, she’d begun drawing sigils as a child. She didn’t know what they were, and for that matter neither did her parents, but she eventually began incorporating them into objects. She kept all of the talismans in this drawer. She doesn’t use them all the time, but she does need them for the ghosts that bother her. They are her prayers personified. Like clicking an icon on a computer screen.
Rachel accidentally knocks something over while yanking open the drawer. Someone’s forearm. She jumps, instinctively sending her improvised, electric torch at the intrusion. She stifles a cry as the phone slides to a doorway, revealing just beyond the shape of a person lingering there in the darkness. The phone begins to flicker as the battery drains from it, causing the light app to switch off and the phone to go into energy saving mode. In the fading light of the phone’s screen facing the floor, Rachel can see the figure begin to move forward. It’s feet seem to tip toe to, no… nudge aside the phone as the feet are dragged across the floor.
Rachel stumbles backward doing what her brain is programmed to; look for a face.
It had to be Jason. No, it’s not. No, it isn’t Jason. It is his identical twin. He is surrounded by shadows in the shape of smoke.
The darkness he carries floats about like inky cobwebs bloated with filth and deranged will. If cancer could have a ghost, this would be it. And it is that which ate him in life. So careless and greedy it became, that it ended him before even it could enjoy his life. Rachel imagines now with new insight that she can see such entities manifesting physically in others as they become weak or damaged by some means, and these mindless entities try to use them to return to the land of the living by some unintended means. Perhaps this entity had lived too long this side and had learned to manipulate the very decisions of others to feed itself.
Justin enters the room, and his feet lose touch with the floor as he seems to levitate upward. Almost indescribably the inky mass transitions into the room behind him, bellowing upward like smoke from a steam engine to fill the room completely on the one side. Just as her phone’s battery dies, Rachel can see Justin does not carry this ill will, it carries him, and he is being held up like a trophy by one of the beast’s tendrils. It hisses at her, filling her with despair.
After what seems like an eternity in horrified wonder of this creature, which Jason’s brother Justin dangles by the neck from, Rachel has no choice but to act. And it has to be done quickly.
Jason appears beside her, to which she almost yells “What took you so long,” but doesn’t. There is no time for stupid banter.
Justin shakes his head as Jason approaches him, ordering his brother to move out of the way. Or was that actually Justin? His lips did not seem to move.
Jason in return shakes his own head, finally refusing to let him get his way.
Rachel hurries to her closet. She pulls out her prized Super Soaker CPS 2000 and pulls the loading feature three times, making an almost comical sound like that from a dog’s chewy toy. The other two in the room violently turn back to see this new development, to which Jason instinctively raises his hands in surrender and backs away.
Somewhere else in the room, a deeply maniacal yet guttural laugh echoes through the room. Someone can be heard whispering, to which Justin weakly smiles.
Below her feet, Rachel feels the thud of a broomstick. Then someone begins to shout, “You be quiet up there, I pay good money for this stack of bricks. You hear me?”
Rachel’s Super Soaker drips on the floor, causing the thing dangling Justin to gasp audibly. You see the contents are, as you have already guessed, holy water. Holy water doesn’t have a vintage per se. It’s the same dose every time. This batch is from the Cathedral Basilica of St Louis all the same. A gift from an old friend, actually. Right now it was gonna do a spiritual cleansing. It would dispel the bad associated with Justin, if for no other reason than her faith. Rachel gritted her teeth and set her jaw before uttering the only appropriate command she could think of. “Prepare to meet the Maker of all things, you twisted spaghetti monster.”
The thing choking Justin squeezed extra hard, trying to finish him quickly before it made it’s getaway. Justin’s eyes became extra large, and he was either very angry at her or desperately pleading for his eternal life. The thing shoved him in her face trying to distract her, but rather than back away she jumped forward and shot him in the face.
Death makes a terrible sound. One time during a fast, while getting this very supply of holy water in fact, Rachel had awakened while staying behind a mission at Warren and Blair. Something outside was passing the alley, and it sounded like every wounded and terrified being who ever died. A roaring lion or an injured bear, a barking dog. A man crying out in terror of his final moment. A crying baby. This thing made that sound, too.
Rather than hide on her knees as she did that very early morning in St Louis, she declares the Name of God and shot at it again with her trusty water cannon. As ridiculous as it must have seemed to the neighbor again pounding on their ceiling from below, this exchange sent waves of prickly sensations throughout the room.
Rachel imagines she’s standing at the back of that mission sanctuary one hot Sunday night as the choir switched from “I’m so happy since my burden rolled away” to “It feels like fire shut up in my bones”.
Super Soakers hold a lot of holy water, and she was probably going to have a water damage claim levied against her, but it wasn’t every day you do battle with such wickedness. And so looking back one day, Rachel already believes she will feel it was worth the mess and the complaints.
Before fleeing out of the window, which bursts outward with a sound similar similar to a crashing piano, the evil behind Justin also roars a final time.
In the sudden silence beneath the gasping air from the high rise window, Rachel hears the neighbor below. “That’s it. I’m calling the super, and I’m tellin’ him you got critters up there!”
Justin steadily opens his eyes and reaches out for his brother.
Rachel sits back and watches them chat for a bit. They exchange stories, remembering their life together. Then they both look over at the side of the room, and fade from sight.
Rachel wipes her nose and begins to find towels. Pushing in her dresser drawer as she walks by toward the bathroom. It seems she can hear the song of angels, or perhaps a favorite song she has since forgotten. The melody sounds familiar, but she can’t fit the words. It does sound pretty anyway.
This short story was written by request from a supporter (Amy Parsa). I hope you enjoyed it, and bookmark my page. Thank You!