Ghost Story: Four Point Two

Ghost Story 4.2

 “You must be August O’Neill.” The rotund man said to me.

I had re-integrated in a fighting crouch, fists clenched, ready to strike when I was greeted by a college professor. At least my imagination’s version of the stereotype. Short, plump, light hair, would be gray if it had any color in this world. Round, thin rimmed spectacles, tweed jacket with dark squares on the shoulders and elbows.

‘What the hell were those for anyway?’ I thought.

“Yeah, I’m Auggie, who the fuck are you?” I asked, not breaking my stance.

“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I have you at a disadvantage.” He said holding out his hand. “I’ve seen photos of you and your lovely wife Suzanne but you have no idea what I’d look like. I’m Dr. Jordan Bukowski, we’ve met. Metaphysically, you could say.”

As I reached to take his hand, fully expecting mine to pass right through, and quite surprised when it didn’t, he added, “And this is Roger and Lucy.” He pointed with his opposite thumb over his shoulder behind him.

I’m not sure how I missed Roger, he was huge. I am, or was anyway, six foot two. Roger was at least half a foot taller, this dude was a mountain. He was wearing a black leather jacket with pins of various shapes and sizes stuck on the front lapels. It also had several small patches sewn onto the lower band of the coat. His thick beard was streaked with white, his long hair braided into a ponytail that wrapped around his neck and hung over his left shoulder. I was dumbstruck at the sight of the biker behind the much shorter Doctor.

In a voice so deep it had a natural echo, he said, “Don’t forgot to say hello to Lucy; we wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings after all she’s been through.” His enormous head tilted downward to his right arm where a scantily clad, petite young woman was clutching his forearm in a way that made me think she was afraid a gust of wind might blow her away. She couldn’t have been more than five feet tall, maybe less. She could easily fit inside the giant Roger if she had to. Like Luke in Star Wars into the gutted Tauntaun to keep warm, she’d be able to curl right up in there.

“Hola, “she said in a tiny high pitched voice. The accent was Spanish. I’m no linguist so I would be guessing what her country of origin was, but the way she said it was excruciatingly sexy to me.

“Hello Lucy, and Roger.” I wasn’t sure what was happening and I was still upset about what my wife was going through in the bubble. Releasing his hand, I began to ask a question but was interrupted, “Doctor Bewcow…”

“Just Doc is fine August. I know my last name is difficult even if it is well known for the writer and the illustrator, both unrelated. Just call me Doc or Doctor if you don’t mind.”

“Well then just call me Auggie.” I replied. “Only my mom used my full name and that was just when I was in trouble. I’ve got to ask you what’s going on. Why can I see you now and who are your two friends?”

“Very good questions Auggie.” He began. “Let me start at how I came to find you when I was alive and why I’m here…”

“When you were alive?” My turn to cut him off. “You’re like me now?”

“Not exactly like you. Let me tell the whole story and then if you have any questions, we’ll see if between the three of us we can answer them.”

I nodded in agreement and he started by telling me about himself.

Dr. Jordan Bukowski, who liked to be called Doc, was a world renowned medium when he was alive. He told me that he wasn’t able to talk to ghosts like it’s portrayed in the movies.

He said, “That’s bullshit, nobody can do that. At least not directly like two similarly life afflicted people can. The living can talk to the living, and the dead can talk to the dead. And never the planes shall meet.” And he laughed. He had to tell me that it was a play on a famous quote. I didn’t get it.

I said, “Doc, if you’ve got to explain a joke, it didn’t work. Second rule of comedy.” The first being the rule of threes but I didn’t get into a whole philosophical discussion of humor with him. “Oh, and before you get too far and then just stop talking, what the fuck was your problem with saying goodbye or thanks for your time? It’s was very rude to just stop talking when you were done asking me questions. And what was with that phony cheesy movie accent you talked in?” I must have started getting worked up because Roger, with Lucy in tow, stepped up next to the Doc.

I immediately shut up.

“That’s OK Roger.” Doc said holding a hand up to halt the biker. “I understand your frustration. I’m sorry about not gracefully ending our meetings. I didn’t know at the time what the world was like here. I had no idea you, we, spirits existed in these little pieces of our own realities. I’ve learned quite a bit from my friends here and I hope to learn more from you. Concerning the ‘phony accent’.” He made air quotes at the phrase. “I had to put on a bit of a show in order for the people who now live in your house to allow me to talk to you. I was working with the Police trying to gather clues to your murders and those of the others and I needed the home owners to buy in that I wasn’t a charlatan.”

“Others?” I asked.

“Yes Auggie.” He spoke slowly, “you and your wife, Roger and the pretty Lucy here of course, and at least a half dozen others were all killed in the same gruesome way.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. A person doesn’t commit such atrocities just once and stop unless they’re caught. My wife and I watched a lot of fictional and true life serial killer shows to know that. But this knowledge didn’t prevent me from feeling disturbed that such people existed.

“So who is he? Why is he doing this?” I asked quietly, afraid I’d somehow attract him by talking about him.

“Simply speaking,” Doc said, “he’s a demon inside a person. No different than hundreds of others over thousands of years of human history. Some famous, some you’ve never heard of. Tell me, have you had any visits from him? Any unusual occurrences?”

I told him about the birds, and the vision. How I had revisited my bedroom on the night of my wife’s death and how I felt that his pinpoint red eyes had seen my spirit self before I came back to the murder of crows around me. I choked up when telling them about how my reality here had changed when I returned into it just before Roger thumped on my door. They nodded as I spoke; tiny Lucy seemed to grip her protector a little harder.

“So you’re here to try to stop him?” I asked the Doctor, and then added, “When you arrived, how did you know to leave your bubble?”

“Bubble, what bubble?” He asked in return.

“That.” I said as I turned and pointed at my blue home behind me. I shuddered as I thought of what was going on inside of it, my wife ignorant of the fact that she was knitting her own intestine together.

“That’s what you call it?” He turned to his companions. “Roger, what do you two call it?”

Roger looked down at Lucy, still holding his giant forearm in her tiny hands. “We just call it the bar.” He said with Lucy nodding in agreement.

The Dr. turned back to me. “Those are your realities.” He said. “As far as we can fathom, it’s where you feel most comfortable, and more importantly for my work, where you were murdered.”

He went on to explain everything up until the point Roger knocked on my ‘home.’ How he found the others at a Go-Go bar where Lucy was working the night they joined our exclusive party. How they were locked in an eternal lap dance after their deaths. The Doc wasn’t completely sure why he didn’t have a ‘bubble’ of his own. He speculated that while alive he was most comfortable spending his time communicating with the dead, maybe his eternal comfort zone was in the nether space between our spirit realities.

He also explained that since he failed to stop the killer while on the side of the living, he thought he knew how to get to him from the side of the dead.

“Lucy figured it out actually.” He explained. “All the dead have a unique astrological sign. I believe with that knowledge and what I’ve learned from my interviews, we can corner him and drive him out.” He looked at Lucy next to Roger and she smiled as she demurely hid behind his enormous, well, behind.

‘A shy stripper?’ Odd I thought.

“It’s OK Lucy,” Roger said to her. He won’t hurt you.”

“He’s right about that,” I said to her quietly. “I’m a friend. Thank you for helping the Doc.” I meant it, that and being a little afraid of what Roger could do, even if I wasn’t sure what that was exactly, helped me sound sincere.

“Look Doc,” I said turning my attention away from the half-naked dancer. “I want to help but I’m not sure how I can. What do you want with me? Surely Roger gives you all the muscle you’ll need.”

“It isn’t just brawn we need Auggie,” he said. “We need some special skills and I think you’re the man, or spirit, for the job.”

“How’s that?” I asked. “If I’m just another in a long string of victims, why am I needed?”

“Because August,” he said puffing himself up trying to look official, “you were the first he killed. You said it yourself. He saw you while you were here. There’s a connection. These murders he’s committing aren’t random. You all mean something to him. ”

“So you think the four of us are enough of a team to stop him?” I asked skeptically.”

“No Auggie,” he answered. “We need to find others. Your wife for example.”

“Absolutely not Doc.” I fell back into the position I had when I stepped out of my living room. “She’s content. Suzie’s not aware we’re dead. I’m not having her relive that memory. For God’s sake she doesn’t even know what’s she’s doing to herself in there. I’m not taking her out.”

Roger didn’t move as he had the last time I had become fired up, I looked him square in the eyes and he knew I was just protecting my own.

“OK Auggie,” the Doc conceded. “We’ll figure it out.”

“But you still haven’t told me why you’re here?” I said. “What happened to you?”

“Oh I thought that was obvious Auggie.” He said with a chuckle. “I figured him out. I don’t fit his pattern but I left him no choice, I know who he is and he got me too.”

Ghost Story: Chapter Four point One

Ghost Story 4.1
“Coming to you from Warner Brother’s Studios. It’s Conan!”

Andy Richter’s distinctive voice announced the start of our favorite late night talk show. And I felt déjà vu.

“Is this a repeat?” I said out loud, not really asking my wife, just verbalizing my thought.

“No dear.” She said without lifting her gaze from her knitting.

“Where are the pets?” Again more to myself than her.

“Probably just up in the bedroom, waiting for sleepy time.” Again with no break from her work.

I looked over at the yarn in her hands; it was a deep red. I tried to remember if I had ever looked at it before, but no recollection of ever actually seeing her handiwork came to mind.
I watched her fingers deftly moving the thread from one long silver needle to the other.

That’s when I noticed something else new; the instruments of her craft were curved and very short. As I looked closer I saw they weren’t needles at all, they were extensions of her fingers.

Those soft caring hands I had held uncountable times over the years were gone. Replaced with a thin shiny hook. A single claw that she was using to knit what I thought was wool but to my disgust wasn’t. The thick cord was coming from within her; from the gaping hole that monster tore into her when I was bound to…

It came back; it all came back in a rush of terror and pain. I remembered it all.
That night, the man, the drinks from a bottle of wine he produced from… Where? I hadn’t seen him carrying anything in when he asked to use our phone on that dark night.
It was Suzie’s birthday; we were celebrating with lobster and a tiramisu cake I had made myself.

I also remembered that I shouldn’t know any of this; I should be ignorant of all of it.

<THUMP-THUMP-THUMP>

I jumped at the sound of banging on my door. But I knew it wasn’t really my door. I was in a bubble. I was dead and so was Suzie. I…, WE should be happy here. Protected from that memory and what was outside.

<THUMP-THUMP-THUMP>

“I’m not coming out. Leave me alone.” I shouted at the fake door, at the ceiling at all the walls around me.

“Then you don’t need to go out dear.” Suzie said without looking up from her claw-hands tearing her own flesh out, making a blanket that never got any bigger.

‘She doesn’t know.’ I realized. She has no idea what’s happening, she’s still content here. I didn’t know what to do. Wake her from her ignorance and let her share this horror with me for eternity or leave her. Tell her that I need to step out and then never come back.

<THUMP-THUMP-THUMP>

  “Dear are you going to answer the door?” Again with no attempt to look up.

“Yes my love.” The decision having been made for me, “I’ll be just a moment.”

I walked to the door, studied the room trying to memorize every inch. I didn’t know what would be out there. Was the banging meant to call me out or was the unknown knocker trying to get in? The only way I could find out was to leave the sanctity of this place and go look.

“I love you my love.” I said to Suzie. And I meant it more than I ever had the thousand times I had said it before.

“Me, you too dear. Have fun.” Was this to be the last thing she ever said to me? I would have to leave to find out.

Without even feigning an exit through the door that I knew wasn’t real, I walked out the wall to meet the unknown.

Ghost Story: Chapter Three

                                                          Ghost Story 3
  Each visit to the outside brought with it the memories of previous encounters with the Dr.; and with them the realization it would all be forgotten upon my return.

  I was equally heartsick and grateful that I couldn’t share with my wife what I knew from beyond our perfectly comfortable world. I wanted to tell her about hearing the Dr.’s voice, and his questions, and the thumping of replies. I wanted her to come with me to see for herself, but I knew what that would bring. The shared knowledge of what our talks had brought back. The questions would bring with them our common answers. She’d remember too about our blood, our screaming, our death. Recollections of the caped man who came to our door asking for help on a dark night. The red eyes and claws that we didn’t notice until it was too late. 

  If I must weigh the two, gratitude does outweigh the heartbreak. On the bright side I don’t know about any of it either when I’m with her. I’m just happy to be there with her and our rescued animals. Those simple souls who never wanted anything but love and a safe home. Except for maybe Ignatz the iguana, I have no idea what made him happy. Some kale, a heat lamp, and an occasional swim in the bathtub were all he ever really needed. Now that I think about it, I guess that’s a pretty good definition of happiness; food, shelter and periodically getting your dick wet. Kind of works for me too. Don’t think I’ll ever look at our pet reptile the same way again, that secretly content little bastard.

  After our third meeting, I started exploring the territory around our house before returning. I had learned that I’d remember it all if I came back out, and if I didn’t ever return at least I’d get to look around a bit. I knew I’d be grumpy when I returned to Suzie, my wife of 30 years, but that feeling would fade. Eventually the uneasiness passed and I was content again. At least it had twice before; I had no reason to believe it would be any different this time.

  Our sphere was blue; the shimmering orb was barely taller than I was. How everything fit was a mystical conundrum. The seemingly disparate thoughts, ‘It’s bigger on the inside’ and me having to deal with a mysterious ‘Doctor’ came to mind. I couldn’t quite place why those two facts together struck me as funny. I disregarded the notion and assumed the connection would come to me in time.

  I studied the bubble, staring intently at its quivering sheen. I noticed moving streaks of white and dark green mixed with the bright blue on the surface. It looked a little like those photos I had seen of Earth from space.

  ‘Fitting,’ I thought, ‘that my home globe shimmered like my home planet.’ It occurred to me that this was the only real color I could see as I looked around. Although I could make out the outlines of recognizable landmarks, focusing on any item or location was impossible. Standing in what would be my backyard, I knew there should have been a large wood-framed tool shed, barely perceptible to me was the dim skeleton of the slope roofed frame. I walked close to it, then through and out the other side. I felt no resistance at all to my passing. On my first trip I noticed the shadows of blooming tulips in the front yard, I thought of how happy my wife would be to hear her beloved garden was still growing. Sadly she’d never know.

  On future excursions I saw the tulips were gone, replaced with annuals to signify summer, and eventually everything was covered in a light gray blanket. I assumed this was snow during winter. I had no way to know how much time was passing between the Dr.’s calls for me.

  As my walks became further from home, always cognizant to keep that blue marble in sight, I learned more about the world on death’s side of the coin. In the distance I saw several other orbs similar to mine. Although there were none close to me I could see them in the distance in all directions. Dull silver almost pewter colored balls, bronze and dark gold. None that were blue like mine but they stood out against the brown, black, and gray that were the predominant hues in this forsaken landscape.

  Most surprisingly, I discovered that there was life here. Living creatures that seemed to move effortlessly between dimensions. I was startled when a crow landed next to me. At first it appeared to have perched at waist height in mid-air an arm’s length away. I could clearly see the bluish sheen on its black wings. In its mouth was a lifeless mouse. Reaching up with his left claw he deftly grasped the small carcass and held upon his unseen perch. Carefully, with the intricate care I was familiar with from watching our rescued parrot eat sunflower seeds, he began ripping it apart. When the bird’s thick ebony beak pierced the mouse’s tiny body, I was surprised to see the first solid color outside of my bubble; deep red tears of blood dripped from the chest cavity. Using his tongue and beak with surgical precision, the bird easily gutted the small creature.

  Everything suddenly went white; a vision appeared of my bed room. For a moment I thought I had returned to my home in the afterlife but something was different, I couldn’t move. I felt that I was being restrained by something around my body. I tried to look down, then left or right but I was just a voyeur; I had no control.

  To my horror I realized, what I was seeing. In the place of the Raven’s meal of a field mouse, I was watching my own wife being cut apart by the stranger we allowed into our home. I was reliving the nightmare that had brought us here.

  I tried to close my eyes and look away but just as I was unable to at the time, I was forced to watch my lover, my friend, my soul mate being brutally murdered. Why did he tape my eyes open, why did he force me to watch. Did he enjoy my suffering, my tears, my muffled screams?

  Now, in this memory, as I had during the real event, I looked into her face and tried to connect with her. I tried to convey how sorry I was that I couldn’t protect her as I had promised on our wedding day three decades earlier. Painfully I could tell that she was already gone, I prayed to a better place; away from this brutal savagery, away from the agony and terror.

  I looked back at him, those red eyes, the thin, almost imperceptible lips, he was enjoying my pain. What sadistic pleasure was he getting from his act? What motive could a person have for brutalizing perfect strangers? He said nothing, made no sound. Pausing his ghastly work, he turned towards me.

  This differed from the record that what was seared for eternity into my memory. He hadn’t looked at me that dreadful night.

  His gaze locked into mine, he rose and stared at me. Not at the duct-taped, gagged, tortured former me, he looked at the me that was merely occupying this moment; the me that was standing next to a jet black crow feasting upon a rodent. He saw me watching and started to laugh.

  It was a guttural sound. As a child I remembered hearing the hogs at my uncle’s farm make the same noise when then fed or screwed. I felt the deep rooting throb of it shake my soul. It terrified me.

  I snapped back into my eternal reality; I felt as if I was sweating. I know that was impossible, ‘I’m unable to feel anything I’m dead, how could that be?’

  I looked at the bird next to me and noticed that he was indeed standing on something. I moved closer and saw through the murky haze that his claws were grasping the top bar of a fence line. A chain link fence that I recognized as being around the ball field at the edge of town. I was at least two miles from home but I thought I had only walked a few steps away when I saw the crow land next to me.

  I looked in the direction I had come and was surprised to see my home bubble far in the distance.Turning back I saw the crow’s mouth open as his chest pumped out, then in, repeating at a rapid pace. He was cawing; I had heard these birds piercing call in the wild yet now I heard no sound. Leaning closer towards its open mouth I concentrated, tried to hear any sound emanating from him. I half expected to hear him calling, ‘Nevermore.’ But heard nothing.

 I was startled by the arrival of another crow, then another. A dozen eventually lit upon the invisible pole that ran along the edge of a field. The thought occurred to me that it was somehow poetic that a flock of crows would come to sit near me. ‘A murder of crows to accompany a murder victim.’ There was something in that, something dark and sad.

  I walked back to my blue home; I needed to return to the eternal bliss of ignorance. I had to erase the memory that had been replayed in my mind. Once I entered I knew I’d forget what I saw, and hopefully, he’d forget me too.

  One thought went through my mind, actually two. One voluntary, I promised myself that I would never leave my living room again. The other I had no control over. As my spirit disintegrated back into the surface of the bubble, the demonic laughter he made when those crimson eyes pierced my soul echoed all around me.