Symptoms of a Haunting: Part V

The next few seconds dragged into minutes as I fought to comprehend Edna’s words.

“What do you mean you’re seeing him, too?”

Edna’s lip quivered slightly as she took a steadying breath and her wispy white hair fluttered in some unknown breeze. Finally, she raised her orb-like eyes to meet mine.

“At first I thought I was going crazy. Just an old woman struggling with reality, you know. I’d see a shadow here, a flicker there. Then it became something else. Instead of shadows it was a definite figure. A man. A man that didn’t seem entirely friendly. He’s never said anything or even touched me, but I don’t like him, Emma. He… He frightens me.”

A heavy sense of foreboding settled over me while I listened to Edna; I knew exactly what she was talking about. But the thing that was needling at me was the question of how Edna knew I was seeing this man. Unspoken pact between us aside, Edna and I don’t generally chat. We are there for each other in times of need, not during the everyday, and I had never mentioned this man to anyone except my online friend, Katie.

“Edna,” I began carefully. “Why did you say you’re seeing him ‘too?’ How did you know I’d been seeing him?”

Edna’s face remained still. I wondered if she had been spying on me, but thought it very unlikely. Finally, Edna exhaled, saying, “Well, I guess it’s about time you know.”

I leaned toward the woman, a bundle of curiosity and anxiety, determined to have an open mind about this mysterious thing I needed to know.

“Emma, you’ve known since you moved in that I have an ability. I know a lot about a person just by touching them. As I’ve aged, it seems that my abilities have changed and grown. I am also able to discern a few things about a person by touching something of theirs. In your case, I came in contact with your mailbox. At first, it was innocent. Some of your mail ended up in my box. After I realized what was happening, I would make a few discreet trips to your mailbox a week. Creepy, I know,” Edna smiled sheepishly. “It’s not the same as when I touch an actual human; its more like I’m listening to a badly tuned radio. With enough listening and a bit of intuition, I can usually piece together what’s going on.”

Edna paused, eyes flicking over my shoulder. I glanced over my shoulder instinctively but saw nothing. I looked back and Edna, the crackling of the fire the only thing breaking the silence. She still looked over my shoulder, her expression unreadable. I stood from the couch, fully turning toward the darkened space behind me. Despite the roaring fire, I felt a chill cross my skin. Then I saw him.

He had the same dead skin, the same eerie eyes peering from within the skull. The only thing that had changed was his mouth. No longer was his jaw broken, hanging from his face as a foreign object. It was right where it should be and his lips were pulled back in a garish smile. My hair stood on end and I felt a scream building within me.

I turned back to Edna, intending to usher her out of the room, but I found she was no longer seated on the couch. She was standing before the fire, the glow of the flames outlining her fragile silhouette. Her grey eyes were clouded over and frozen on the figure of the old man. His smile had grown impossibly wide, beginning to split the decaying flesh around his mouth. He breathed in heavily with a deep rattle. Just as I realized I had never before heard him breathe, he raised his arm and pointed a long, grey finger at Edna. In a voice that oozed from nightmares and dripped from death, he whispered, “Go.”

Without a backward glance, Edna turned toward the fire and crouched down, her old knees cracking with the effort. When she was eye-to-eye with the fire, she leaned forward, as if in slow motion, pitching toward the flames.

“Edna, wait!” I whipped toward the woman, but it was too late. I reached for her and the flames reached for me, gnawing on my skin. I pulled away in horror as Edna began to scream, losing my footing and falling backward, scrambling away from the hearth with both feet until my back was against the couch. Unable to move, I watched as the fire consumed the kindly woman that had been able to see me for who I am.

Symptoms of a Haunting: Part II

Knock, knock, knock.

I groaned, rolling over in bed and pulling the covers up to my chin. I was too warm to deal with visitors. Who would be coming by this early on a Saturday?

Knock, knock, knock.

Persistent, aren’t they? I lay in bed, eyes still closed, trying to pull myself from the sleepy fog and gain my bearings. I’m a solitary creature, so going out to parties or having friends over are not my ideal Saturday activities. Saturdays are reserved for getting caught up on sleep and laundry. I pity the soul that comes between me and my sleep.

Knock, knock, kno-

My eyes snapped open and the final knock stopped short. Silence hung in the air, pressing the oxygen from the room. I reached out for my cell phone, pressing the home button to wake it and consequently temporarily blinding myself with the light from the home screen. When my eyes adjusted to the onslaught of light, I was finally able to read the time: 3:18.

I blearily rubbed my eyes, puzzled. No one would be knocking at my door in the middle of the night. Mentally saying farewell to the warmth of my blankets, I swung my legs out of the bed and onto the floor with a heavy sigh. The wood below my feet was ice cold — very odd for an early autumn night. I shivered and glanced toward the window across the room. Trees rustled in the wind, dead leaves and branches occasionally scraping the glass.

I raised my hand to my face to rub the sleep from my eyes, then froze. There. Next to the window. There was someone standing there. And they were watching me.

***

Eternities passed. Was it the man I had seen before? I couldn’t tell. Darkness staunchly impeded my vision, daring me to move to turn on a light. My breath came in short puffs before my eyes. I wanted to see who or what was next to the window. I needed to. But I couldn’t. Fear and a survival instinct held me in place, like a rabbit hiding from a predator.

Finally, there was movement in the shadows. The figure was coming toward me. My heart quickened and leapt to my throat. It sauntered across the room, footfalls making no sound. I blinked, and it was as if my movement was a cue. The figure rushed toward me, streaking across the room and no longer touching the floor. In the split second it took for this thing to reach me, I took in its features.

Mottled skin hung from a man’s skull, grey with age and rot. Jaundiced eyes bulged from their sockets, huge in the sunken face and filled with untold rage. His mouth hung open at an odd angle as if his jaw had been broken, and sharpened teeth dotted the aged gums within. As he came toward me, the air was filled with the white noise of a person who has no voice attempting to scream.

I closed my eyes tightly and braced for impact. When it came to fight or flight, my instinct was to forgo those options altogether and freeze. After a few moments, when no impact came, I cracked open my eyelids.

I sat bolt upright in bed, eyes straining against the sunlight streaming in through the window, looking frantically around the room.

The man was nowhere to be found, gone as if in a dream.

All I Ask Is That You Expire Quietly

I decided to work the graveyard shift tonight. I
spend my nights running, so it’s not as if I would
lose sleep – you took that from me months ago.

I reported to the graveyard at the witching hour.
After you left, I couldn’t bear to be away from
you – so I come here every day, under work’s guise.

The tombs are loud tonight. Piercing wails cut
through the misty air, creating swirls usually seen
in dust kicked up in harsh sunlight.

I passed by where you rest on my rounds. You
reached up from the dirt and tried to grab my
ankle – I ran away as fast as I could.

I would never be fast enough to outrun you.

In Pursuit of a Ghost

I walked for two hours trying to find you.
I tripped on cracks in the cement and
cracks in my own mind, but
I still couldn’t find you. I looked in
your office and your home and my
heart and mind, but I still couldn’t find
you. 

I passed myself in the shop windows and
only noticed how pale I had become –
you weren’t in the windows either. I
ran into a man in a dark suit. He was not
happy, and he was not
you. 

I ripped my dress climbing over
a chain-link fence, thinking the grass
might be greener on the other side, but
you never could see green or red, so
I guess you never knew whether to
stop leaving or go to me. I wonder if
I ever really knew
you.

I used to journal my feelings. It helped
find me find myself when I was lost, but
it seems that this trick doesn’t really
work when you’re looking for someone else.
I can’t stop until I find
you.