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The Unlikely Paranormal Investigator

 

The Unlikely Paranormal Investigator

by Sivia and Nick

Published by Sivia and Nick at Shakespir

Copyright 2017 Sivia and Nick

 

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

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What are the Hallow Heights Chronicles?

The Hallow Heights Chronicles are a series of stories that capture the paranormal and otherwise unexplained happenings in the town of Hallow Heights. Occurring over various time periods in the town’s history, you’ll recognize some overlapping characters that can effect each other’s tale whether it be a soul sucker from the swamps or a jazzy paranormal investigator aiding a father and his new born baby. This parallel universe contains references to pop culture you’ll recognize to help place the story’s time frame with additional made up movies and songs to benefit the books’ humor. While they are written in no particular order, we hope you enjoy discovering and connecting the clues hidden within each freaky story to one another.

 

Table Of Contents

Chapter 1 Metafiction Double Feature

Chapter 2 Late Night Trash T.V

Chapter 3 An Education

Chapter 4 Guess Who’s Coming to Paranormal Diner

Chapter 5 The Showdown

Chapter 6 The Unlikely Duo

Chapter One

Metafiction Double Fiction

 

“Alright, you first.” Dennis heard whispered in a hushed youthful vigor. His tone exemplified one part abandon, two parts paranoia, one part angst, and two parts vivid enthusiasm, the perfect recipe for summertime nostalgia. The voice came from the parking lot behind the theatre. He spied the shadows of four teenage boys crouched between the driver’s side of a worn out Chevy Impala and the frayed edges of the overgrown shrubbery that laid around the perimeter of the cracked concrete. The sweet smell of marijuana wrapped in dollar store cigar leaves crept its way into to Dennis’s consciousness. It smelled bittersweet, like the first day of freshman year and graduation day combined.

“Uhhhh…ok.” Dennis mused to himself that this second speaker must be the reluctant one in the group. The kid who is overlooked for almost the entire movie until the end, where he ironically transforms into the unsung hero. “Who would win in a fight, Chucky, or stripe?”

“Stripe?” The leader of the group questioned.

“Yeah from Gremlins!”

“‘Oh shit!”

“That’s a good one” offered a third shadow.

The fourth silhouette, clearly the brains of the group began his analysis. “Well they’re both the same size, and we know that small creatures have the advantage over humans and larger animals because they can hide and catch us off guard.” The other three muttered in agreement. “But since they’re the same size their fight would lack that element. They’re both equally crafty and equally evil, so it’s hard to say…”

“I gotta give it to Chucky,” the previously silent third one stated. “Stripe died when Gizmo let the light in, and Chucky survived a fire and a gun shot to the chest.” Dennis took note of the kid’s answer and believed him to be the practical one.

He took a long, harsh drag from his Winston cigarette. The bitter aroma reminded him of childhood. He quickly grabbed the cigarette from his mouth, stretched his arm as far out as he could and positioned his body so that the direction of the wind wouldn’t blow smoke on to his clothes. On his break, he would be sure to scrub the life out of his right hand. He hoped that the theatre had exceptionally potent and fruity soap. Amidst the gentle whooshing of slowly driven cars and pedestrian small talk on the sidewalk, the four friends continued their game as Dennis slowly crept up to the Chevy.

Proudly coming off of his clever victory, the third one spoke in between coughs with the nasal tonality one is subjected to speaking in after inhaling. “Darth Vader,” he paused knowing that he would have to come up with a creative adversary for one of the most iconic villains to date. “Or Carrie.”

By this point in time, Dennis was standing by the passenger’s side of the car. A more savvy bunch would have been alerted to his presence. The naive group of four remained clueless.

“You’re talking about two different worlds,” he blurted out, “To know who the winner would be you have to decide which is more powerful, the force, or telekinesis.” He felt proud of his astute argument and his ability to connect with the youth of Hollow Heights.

This sense of community was just as quickly washed away when he met their stares of pure terror. They couldn’t see past his uniform, which was all gray and included the word Security in white letters over the left pocket of his shirt.

“Run!” One of them screamed. They sprinted in a panicked frenzy away from the parking lot towards the dark woods.

“Wait! It’s cool come back!” Dennis yelled to no avail as he picked up the blunt they had just dropped and held it up in the air for the world to see. He felt bad. He didn’t mean to scare the kids. He wanted to be cool, and tell them that smoking in a parking lot that was sure to be crowded in almost an hour was a really bad idea. That they should take their activities elsewhere, like the woods, which was ironically where they were at that moment, terrified at the thought of getting caught. Then Dennis took a hard look at himself. There he was, on the first day of the most respectable and lucrative job he has ever had, in the middle of an almost empty parking lot, holding a pungent smelling, slow burning career ender.

“Fuck!” He said aloud to an audience of glowing fireflies that were beginning to emerge from the grassy plain between the parking lot and trees. He scrambled to the nearest dumpster and started to squeeze the burnt end of the felonious cigar. He pressed it up against the edge to kill the flame and destroy any chances of burning the inside of the dumpster. He was convinced that careless action on his part could cause a fire with the potential to decimate Hallow Heights’ main drag. A soft tapping of dress shoes against the concrete startled him. Dennis looked to see the shadowy figure of a tall man, his hand trembled. He felt his world turn over as he imagined that this was how the kids must have felt. As the figure came into focus, he spoke quietly in a deep baritone.

“Don’t worry,” the stranger warmly reassured. His thin frame stood at about six and a half feet. A pastel purple sport coat adorned his form fitted black t-shirt. His loosely fitting pants of the same odd hue were held up by a jet black belt with a stunningly shiny gold buckle. He looked sharp in his own way. He wore his clothes as if they were the standard casual dress for a Friday evening, unlike others who seem intentional in their attempt to break conventions. To Dennis, he seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite place him. He was a bit too old to have gone to high school with but too young to have been a teacher, coach, or parent of a friend.

“You’re secret is safe with me,” he affirmed.

“Thanks,” Dennis surmised that he must be one of the few mysterious residents of the town. No one seemed to know who they were, what they did, if they had any family or how they ended up in Hallow Heights. They made up a segment of society that set the town apart from the nameless and faceless world of suburbia. The oddly dressed character chuckled as he opened the door to the Impala and climbed in. The engine sputtered a few times before it could fully run. He bent forward and rummaged through a pile of unknown objects until he settled on what looked to be a tape. He popped the tape in and began to back out of his spot. A screeching saxophone played on top of cascading electric piano arpeggios and thunderous percussion. As he drove toward the parking lot exit, the purple man swiftly reversed and backed to his right, the drivers’ side facing Dennis. He rolled down the window.

“By the way, it’s lavender hour,” he paused knowingly, “You never know what you might find.” With that he sped off without incident, seemingly unaware of the street traffic.

Lavender was indeed beginning to permeate the scene. Every tree, shrub, car, and person currently within Dennis’ line of sight seemed to be tinted. Even the vivid yellows emitting from the fireflies possessed that strange spiritual hue. A gust of wind greeted him as he returned to his post at the front of the theatre. An eight by eleven flyer flapped in the breeze and smacked him in the chest. He held it in front of his face to see the picture of a clean cut, middle aged man in a sharp black suit and top hat smiling and winking at him as if to say, “Ring-a-ding baby!

The flyer read: “Remember back when music was music? Come to Barney’s Best Beans to enjoy a classy evening of quality roasts with your friend Barney DeLuca a.k.a ‘Frank Sumatra’ as your musical entertainment.Tickets are $10 in advance $20 at the door.” He crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. “What a fucking cornball,” he scoffed.

“DeWitt!” The intensity at which second generation theatre owner Mark Mahoney spoke forced his body to jump a little. The stout, burly man slowly ambled over, shifting his entire body weight side to side as he traversed. What he lacked in height was compensated for in his authoritative tone and no-nonsense way of handling situations and sub-par employee performances. His tired face reeked of cheap after-shave and his breath, like any functioning alcoholic worth his salt, was an overpowering gust of arctic mint. His cousin Mike, head of theatre security (a slightly exaggerated title considering the theatre employed two security guards, Dennis included) stood next to him. “A lady complained, said she could smell pot from the parking lot. You know anything about this?” Mark peered at Dennis suspiciously.

Quick to relax his wide-eyed expression, he chose his next words very carefully. The image of himself holding the blunt played over and over in his anxious mind.

“I can’t say I do,” he began cooly. “But if there was any illicit activity going on in this parking lot, the culprits must have run off. I just did a thorough permitter search and didn’t see anyone.” Dennis was stunned by his own formality. It was as if a professional, competent, and even passionate security guard had possessed him for that brief moment.

Mr. Mahoney seemed suspicious of his well-spoken new hire, paused, and then nodded in contentment.

“That’s good. Remember that the double feature starts in almost an hour,” he reminded, “And it’s the beginning of the summer, which means we’re gonna have a rowdy high school crowd, especially the graduates who don’t give a shit about anything. And not to mention the college kids on summer break who think life is limitless. There’s gonna be some action out here as the kids enter into the theatre and during the break in between movies. Pot smoking, drinking, occasionally some tough guys might wanna duke it out over some chick. If it gets hairy out here, don’t hesitate to get us. But you’re not gonna have to do that are ya?” He taunted as he gave him a firm masculine slap on the back shoulder.

“Bunch a savages in this town,” Mike lamented as they walked off.

Dennis knew better than to take Mark’s words as gospel, despite him being the owner. It was true that a young Mark was there as a little boy when his dad bought the place in the early ’50s when it was an abandoned school house, an eye-sore on an otherwise pleasant and well-kept street. Even so, Dennis maintained that Mark was blissfully clueless and went through the motions each day with convincing vigor. The theatre survived due to its unprecedented reputation and its ability to give bored teenagers something to do before they hit the drinking age. Adults and the elderly enjoyed seeing films from their youth and liked to spice up their evenings with a movie instead of the usual dinner and drinks. Aside from the kids earlier, Dennis did not expect much action, contrary to Mark’s dramatic pep talk and Mike’s pessimism. He frequented “The Heights Theatre” as a kid, and knew that [+ they started to employ a revolving cast of outdoor security guards after loner -type chick and her dorky boyfriend tried to steal a car, but ended up crashing it and making off with the battery +]. Other than that, not much happened outside the theatre. The presence of a security guard outside functioned as a psychological benefit to the parents of kids who frequented the establishment on weekend and summer nights, the most profitable times. Two dark shadows emerged, clinging to each other as they lumbered down the street.

“I hear La Luna’s makes their own pasta,” the old woman cracked.

“Nice!” The elderly gentleman’s expression lit up as he spoke with the energy of a young man through aged vocal chords. Another gust of wind blew by. “It’s freezing” he added.

As lavender faded to dark purple and then to near black, the energy surrounding the theatre became dominated by the commotion and excitement of teens ready for their first night out of the summer. The sparse street noises, the gentle hum of the bugs and the fountain across the street were drowned out by the change in scene. Dennis could pick up all of it, the anxiety, the hopefulness, the unawareness, the awkwardness. Outside of a few tense moments between a testosterone filled college kid and his little sister’s cocky new boyfriend, the crowd was well behaved, and Dennis was able to usher them in without incident.

Without warning, he was assaulted by silence and darkness. The majestic fountain, the gateway to the river side park illuminated and grabbed his attention. In his older years, he hardly spent any time on this side of town and had until now abandoned all memories of the fountain. A curious and unexplained feeling came over Dennis, making him feel uncomfortable.Visions of his younger self on the shoulders of an elder family member wishing for a million dollars or Rockem Sockem robots before throwing in a penny attached to his mind without warning or welcome. Dennis never told any of his friends, but as he grew older, he would venture there on his own and throw a bit of his spare change in after faithfully submitting a wish. When the inevitable day arrived when he could no longer decide what to wish for, he stopped going.

He struck a match and lit another cigarette. Paranoia imposed its firm grasp upon his psyche, causing him to put the cigarette down on the ground and walk away from it after each draw. Dennis applied all the secretive smoking tactics he had learned as a young teen to his new, semi-married life. Although he could hardly call Cindy Lopez his girlfriend, let alone his wife. They were merely two townies who felt comfortable around each other, bonded by years of existing in the same place and not yet knowing who they were. To say that they were two lost souls would falsely implicate that they had found something in each other. Besides occasional Saturday late-night calls and sporadic adult excursions, Cindy would sometimes call Dennis up to talk about problems with her parents. In turn, Dennis usually turned to Cindy for money managing advice when he found rent money scarce. Their relationship existed no deeper than the surface. As a puff of smoke clouded Dennis’ view of the dark streets scape, he wondered if they were that way because there was no potential for anything more fulfilling, or if they just hadn’t considered each other relationship material. Until very recently, he hadn’t considered relationships with anyone at all.

Feelings of guilt and shame were so buried under the complex combination of years of apathy sandwiched between layers of chronic stress and trepidation he could just barely feel them. The scene grew less jovial than before. The ever pervasive blackness of the sky had penetrated into all that was left of the night. There were no longer distractions. The bullfrogs sang an ominous tune. The loudest would begin with a bellowing call as if he were the harbinger, alerting those within earshot of the lake to the defeating response of the twenty-odd others. The frogs would slowly decrescendo into silence. Just as peace and quiet set in, the leader would begin again with his imposing call, and the cacophony would begin again. In two months Dennis would become a father.

Cindy’s words echoed in his head. “I don’t wanna be that girl that tells you what to do, but you have to quit smoking.” He remembered the subtle insecurity in her tone masked by the newfound strength of becoming a mother to be. “I just can’t have our baby breathing in the smoke left on your clothes and hair.”

He stomped on his miserable cigarette butt. Soon after, the kids came out of the theatre for an intermission, and he watched as they went back in. A few lonely hours later, the movie goers exited the theatre for the final time. Dennis clocked out, vigorously scrubbed his hands with a pungent, fruity soap, and got into his car.

“I’ll tell you an interesting story from when I was in Africa.”

“Please do.”

“I saw an elderly woman, probably eighty or so. She was the oldest person in the village. Her best friend was this three-year-old kid, they weren’t related or anything, but they spent all their time together just talking and doing everything together. And it wasn’t like she was just watching the kid, they were legitimately bonding and having discussions and so on. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why so I finally asked someone. It was explained to me that the elderly woman was close to existing in the afterlife and that the child had just left there. So it’s this cycle they believe in, and because of it, the child and the woman were hardly any different. It really made me think.”

“That’s interesting….”

White noise overtook the conversation as Dennis drove down the main strip. A gentle fog ascended from the concrete, filtering his view of the darkness. Luckily for him, he was one of the few cars on the road at this time, which was usual for Hallow Heights. The shops, quaint and tacky alike, gave way to brick townhouses and row homes. The last of the night’s lightning bugs danced in the compact gardens that graced each doorstep. The right turn at the end of the road would make any visitor to the town wonder if they went in the wrong direction. Lights and comforting street signs were absent, as were any signs of life beyond the trees and shrubs on either side. In a matter of seconds, Dennis and his Buick had entered into a ghostly dimension. The bumpiness of the road signaled that he was getting closer to home. A quick left turn past an abandoned shack there was a shallow pond next to which sat a lonely nineteenth century home. The car slid into the rocky driveway of 157 West Pine Way.

Once an abandoned farm house, Dennis’s new family home was a token of Hallow Heights’ agrarian past. The box shaped dwelling had a pointed triangular roof with faded, damaged, shingles. The wooden exterior was plagued with eroding boards. The black shutters hung crooked and cracked next to the windows. The creek he heard as he opened the door echoed throughout the drafty home. The squeaky floor boards added to the symphony of decay as he stepped into the dark foyer and the adjoining living room. He could see the bulging feet of a pregnant woman hanging off the side of the living room couch. The dim light emanating from the static T.V displayed her enlarged stomach as it rose and fell with each deep breath. Dennis could barely feel himself inside his body. Every dark and unknown corner of the decrepit home seemed to surround him, shrouding him in darkness. Cindy’s jet black hair was one with the blackness of the room. A flash of light from outside the house briefly reflected off of her golden brown cheek. That and the smell of summer air alerted Dennis to the fact that the living room windows were open. Unsettled, he tip toed delicately to one of the windows, careful not to wake her.

The mysterious source of the flash remained unknown to Dennis as he shut the windows without creating a sound or stirring the mother of his unborn child. Ideas of who, what, or why were immediately blocked from entering the forefront of his mind. As they brewed in the shadows of his consciousness, his imagination took hold of the abandoned thoughts. He felt as if he were being watched.

Shuffling noises ensued. Light as ever on his feet, he ran to the kitchen, rummaged through the drawers and grabbed the largest kitchen knife. The shuffling gave way to static. Dennis suspected that the noises were coming from the second floor. He covertly stepped on to the first stair. A desperate desire to remain unheard by the intruder kept him from ever fully shifting his weight onto the usually noisy planks of wood. The static transformed into an orchestral arrangement of melancholy strings. The atmosphere within the home coupled with the tragic sounding melody stirred up the deepest and darkest, untouchable and unknowable parts of his person. At this moment he no longer knew who he was, surrendering to fear as he stood motionless on the stair.

The strings ended their phrase in an unsatisfying open-ended melody.

A voice answered in song.

“I dim all the lights, and I sink in my chair

The smoke from my cigarette climbs in the air

The walls of my room fade away in the blue

And I’m deep in a dream of you.”

The music, the voice, the song, deep inside Dennis felt his conscience tugging at his thoughts, trying to lead them to a memory. He struggled to connect. Cindy rocked back and forth on the couch that could hardly accommodate her. He clutched his knife, glanced at her and then began to march up the stairs. He was back in his body and no longer cared about gaining the element of surprise against the enemy upstairs. The music continued. Images flashed before him along with sights and sounds and smells. The warmth of the morning sun, the smell of coffee and bacon grease, the voice of a man singing along out of key.

“My cigarette burns me

I wake with a start…..“BAM!

The orchestra hit following the lyric played over and over and grew louder with each play. The lights in the whole house turned flashed off and on repeatedly. The Cindy woke from her once tranquil slumber and quickly rose to her feet. Now at the foot of the stares, Dennis ran down to her, knife at his side. The torturous loop exponentially intensified their collective feelings of terror and anxiety.

Cindy’s bloodshot eyes rested on top of dark bags that adorned her usually youthful face. “What’s happening?” She pleaded

“I-I d-don’t know,” struggled Dennis, stuttering out of fear. “I think it’s coming from our room.”

“Go there!” She demanded, gaining stability.

Dennis sprinted up the stairs and rushed through the door to the bedroom he shared with Cindy, nearly breaking it down. Next to the mattress on the floor, his record player began to shut down. The sleeve of a Frank Sinatra record lay on the ground next to his side of the mattress. The lights stopped flickering. Cindy stood beside him, rusty frying pan in hand. At ease in his home for the first time that night, Dennis breathed a sigh of relief. Frank Sinatra, the morning sun, bacon grease, the singing out of tune…..

“Dad?”

Chapter Two

Late Night Trash T.V

Dennis lay awake on his back staring at the ceiling fan above him. The rapid motion of the blades was hardly accommodated by the old relic. The way it rotated back and forth from its spot on the ceiling made the likely hood of its falling directly on his stomach uncomfortably high. Next to him, Cindy was dead asleep, breathing heavily from a hard days work of parenting and working the makeup counter at the department store, drops of sweat on her forehead. The broken down fan did little to assuage their bodies of the early September heat. Summer was enjoying its last laugh. She scrunched her face and restlessly moved back and forth a few times. Dennis looked at her with admiration. Not that it mattered much to him, but she had lost a good amount of baby weight in the short month after she returned from the hospital. Her stomach had nearly retracted back to its pre-pregnancy size. More importantly her near seamless transition from pregnancy to being a mother and working her part time job impressed him to the point where he almost felt inadequate at times. Stresses of everyday life seemed to hit him all at once like being the last one left in a game of dodge ball. The sink had a leak which he routinely treated with duck tape and bubble gum only for it to resurface the next week. Some rotted floor boards needed fixing, the window unit air conditioner downstairs blew warm air. There were some cracks in the drywall, chipped paint on the living room wall, and a spot on the ceiling in the foyer that would drip water every time it rained. Still wide awake after an hour, he figured he better check on baby Luis.

Cindy and Dennis never spoke of the paranormal events of the night nearly three months prior. To Dennis, it was such a strange occurrence that he felt crazy even talking about it and the fact that Cindy never brought it up gave him clearance to pretend it never even happened. Without any acknowledgment of that night, sometimes he wondered if it had even happened at all, or if it were simply a vivid dream, possibly inspired by latent grief. Although no such activity happened since then, Dennis was still under the unsettling writhing feeling of being watched. At night, the dark corners of the house still oppressed him with weariness and reluctance. He often wondered if Cindy felt the same way.

Not wanting to wake Cindy or Luis, he carefully snuck down the upstairs hallway, which was afflicted with a number of rickety floor boards. Luckily for everyone, a few months of coming home late from work trained him to know where the especially loud boards where. He skillfully avoided them in a delicate dance. Little Luis’s bedroom door was left open, probably intentionally by Cindy before she went to sleep. Dennis’s utmost source of purpose, pride, anxiety, and insecurity lay innocently sleeping on his stomach.

“Hey little guy,” he whispered lovingly. He had Cindy’s soft facial features and high cheek bones but had Dennis’s greenish brown eyes. Would he inherit Dennis’s wavy reddish brown hair or Cindy’s straight jet black? Only time would tell. He proceeded to run the usual baby maintenance checks that Cindy had taught him. Baby’s, he learned, aren’t always the best at keeping themselves alive. First things first, he felt Luis diaper which luckily, happened to be free of any excrements. Then, he turned him over to make sure that he hadn’t strangled himself in his own blanket and put his finger underneath his nostrils to ensure that air was indeed flowing in and out of the unknowing and blissfully ignorant life form. Not too long ago, Dennis could relate to this state of being. When around Luis, he could sometimes lose himself in being a father and pretend to see things through the eyes of someone who was experiencing everything for the first time. Other times, the mere sight of the infant would trigger worrisome thoughts about financial woes, his future, and so on. However at this moment, the child’s bedroom was a haven from the reality that lurked from every corner of the rest of the house. He sat in an old dining room chair next to the crib for about an hour. His eyelids became heavy, he felt the room softly spin, before long he was within inches of deep sleep.

A clatter coming from downstairs woke him from his unrealized slumber. The sounds of metal clanking and doors opening and shutting let him know that what ever it was, it was in the kitchen. Had someone forced themselves in through the back door? The threatening noises continued as Dennis ran to his bedroom closet to get the pistol out from his safe. 1..2..3..5! The gun was already fully loaded. Dennis was happy with the immediacy of his actions. Passionate in his pursuit to protect his own, make-shift little family, he sped down the stairs with vigor and ferocity he hadn’t utilized since freshman football. This time, he was sure that the sounds were coming from a human perpetrator. The absence of ghostly phenomena such as lights flickering and music playing made him sure of this fact. As he approached the kitchen, he felt a wave of cold air hit his torso. The refrigerator door was wide open. He crept silently through the room, aware of the possibility that the potentially deadly stranger could be concealed in the pantry or the cabinet below the leaky sink. Goose pimples began to rise on his neck as he saw out of his periphery a gaunt shadow about his height. It stretched its gangly arm out towards him. The floor let out a high pitched squeal as he pivoted on his right foot, rapidly swiveling his body around to face the unknown entity. He shot a few rounds at it instinctually and without thought. Nerves got the better of his ability to keep a steady hand.

The rusted chandelier barely hanging above the round kitchen table illuminated the room. Dennis waited in anticipation for it to flicker, but instead it stayed on and lit the area in the mundane way it was supposed to. Standing at the entrance to the kitchen was Cindy, too shocked to speak. The tips of her fingers were pressed against her open mouth. Her pallid complected face stared at the bullet holes on the wall next to her and then back at Dennis. She was nearly a foot shorter than him, and her full figured frame held a little extra weight in the legs, hips, and arms. Dennis knew that his intended target must have vanished, but how could he explain this to the traumatized mother of his child whom he had nearly killed? More concerned about their well being than Cindy’s current perception of him, he closed the refrigerator and checked the back door leading to the kitchen, gun in hand. The door was untampered with. The only noise left in the house was baby Luis. Disturbed from his slumber by the gun shots, he was screaming his head off. Cindy dropped her hands and bolted up the stairs.

“Shhhhh. It’s ok it’s ok everything’s fine now.” Dennis heard her console the awakened baby.

He put his pistol on the counter and shoved his tired face into his palms. All he could do was stay still and listen to Cindy comfort Luis as he grappled with the paradoxical nature of the night’s near deadly encounter. He listened to her hum a lullaby-like tune. He could feel her shift her weight on the unstable floor as she rocked the baby to sleep. Visions of the shadow haunted his thoughts. Minutes later she slowly tip-toed down the stairs. Moments before, the crying of her son allowed her to recover from shock and release any and all ideas of danger. Her adrenaline low, she was now forcibly in the present. Every move of hers was made with immense caution.

“I’m SO sorry,” Dennis quivered, unsure of how to properly apologize given the situation. “Are you O.K? How do you feel?” As his words continued his concern became more and more evident.

Cindy’s shadow remained at the dark foot of the stairs. Dennis switched on the overhead light.

“I’m…ok,” she said with a deep exhale. Her head nodded back and forth with the intensity of a little kid who had fallen and scraped their knee for the first time. It bothered Dennis to see her so affected.

“I-I thought someone was down here. It sounded like someone came in through the back door.”

“I heard it too. I didn’t know you came home,” they continued their conversation from opposite ends of the room.

“Oh yeah, I did. You were dead asleep. I was with Luis before I ran down here.”

Cindy’s expression remained glued to the floor, but the mention of Dennis with Luis made her feel a slight tinge in the back of her neck. It was as if her body suggested to her that it was safe to look forward. “You didn’t tell me you had a gun,” her eyes met his as she stepped forward casually, flipping her hair back.

An uneasy and jittery feeling came over him as he began to sweat a little and his head was forced to look to the side. He couldn’t tell if this was because of the weight of the question or her movements toward him, which were composed and confident, reminiscent of when they were carefree acquaintances.

“Oh yeah, I’m sorry I should have told you. It was my dad’s, and since I inherited all his shit I just thought-”

“No, it’s ok. I think it’s good that you have it. We’re kind of on our own out here.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” still coming off of almost killing her, Dennis nodded sheepishly. They both stared at the floor awkwardly. Cindy worked a nine to seven shift at the makeup counter of Freewater’s department store, and Dennis usually began his shift at the theatre around the time she got home. Between work and first time parenting, the two of them hardly spoke to each other since Luis’s birth.

“How have you been by the way?” His voice echoed to the uncomfortable stranger now standing halfway across the room.

“Pretty good I guess. Work’s ok. Boring, but ok. My dad’s been calling a lot asking about the baby and the house. He wants to come over for dinner sometime soon and maybe take a look at the sink cause it’s leaking again.”

“Oh I can take care of the sink,” Dennis cut off.

“Oh no, I know, Sorry. It’s just that he’s good with that sort of thing and we’re both so busy with work and Luis that I thought it would be a good help.”

Dennis nodded.

“But anyway yeah I’m good, especially for someone who almost got their head blown off,” she chuckled playfully.

“I know I must have fucked up bad. You look pastier than me!”

“Watch it.” A smile grew from the corner of her mouth as rose pink colored her cheeks. “I’m lucky you’re a lousy shot.”

Feeling the mood lighten, Dennis felt more comfortable than he had all night. He decided it was time to address the elephant in the room.

“Do you ever wonder what goes on in this house? Like ever since the whole record player thing it’s just been…..weird ya know what I mean? And at first I thought it was my Dad trying to talk to me especially with the music and everything, but then I thought maybe it was a dream since we never talked about it. Now I just don’t know anymore. And you looked like you haven’t slept in forever.” He refrained from telling her about the shadow as he stammered through his limited assessment of the situation.

“I don’t think it’s your Dad,” Cindy’s previously light-hearted disposition quickly became grim.

“I mean I used to I don’t know anymo-”

“I can’t sleep,” the dark tone of her voice made gave Dennis the same feeling he felt before rushing down the stairs. “Because I keep have these dreams of a dark figure looming over me.”

“Wait like a tall, dark shadow does it look-” Dennis interrupted and was stopped mid sentence by Cindy’s outstretched arm.

“I don’t know what it is, or if it’s real. I think it’s probably nothing.” She emphasized the last sentence as if to convince herself. “I just feel safer with you around, so I wait up most nights. Sometimes I watch T.V, sometimes I check on Luis, other times I just lay awake and stare at the ceiling. I just feel safer not being alone.”

Dennis hardly had time to take in the fact that the mother of his child actually liked to have him around. The warm and fuzzy celebration in his heart would have to wait.

“All I know is that if there is something here.” Her eyes widened, and she gestured with her arms as if to indirectly address whatever entity had infiltrated her safe space. “I can’t talk about it. I can’t acknowledge it. We have too much tied up in this house. We have no other options.”

The two of them sat in silence for some time. A moment of clarity revealed to Dennis that whatever was in the kitchen was also the reason for the weathered bags underneath Cindy’s eyes and her bloodshot veins.

“I’m gonna go watch T.V,” she sighed. “You can join me if you want.”

Fuzzy static sounds intermingled with the ravings of a used car salesmen trailed into the kitchen where Dennis was still standing. He reached for his gun and began to walk up the stairs to put it away. He looked down at Cindy, her eyes glued to the T.V as she sat comfortably on the couch that she could barely fit in only a month ago. It was evident to him that she didn’t want to investigate or even discuss the possibility of an entity in their home. It was her way of coping with an impossibly bizarre problem after giving birth to her first child from a man she hardly knew. Without any expression of fear or trepidation, she lived with the unknown in her own home every day. Dennis’s foot almost fell through a rotted floorboard as he returned from putting the pistol back in its safe. He could hear the downstairs sink dripping and glanced at a crack in the drywall. He vowed to take it upon himself to fix the house’s ghost problem.

Dennis plopped down next to Cindy.

“There you are,” she said.

“Here I am,” Dennis gracelessly declared like the cornball he was.

“I thought maybe I pissed you off a little when I told you I couldn’t-”

“No, your good. I totally understand.” Uncertain of what the future held, Dennis took solace in this rare time where he could be a comforting force in someone’s life. Cindy rested her head on his chest and softly closed her eyes.

“What we had was beautiful. Until that WHORE over there went ahead and ruined the whole thing!!”

“They’re cousins Benny it’s just wrong! And he wants me more than you any way you bitch!”

“Ding-ding! BEN-NY BEN-NY BEN-NY BEN-NY BEN-NY”

Neither Cindy nor Dennis paid much attention to the T.V. They couldn’t get anything good at this time of night anyway.

Cindy scrunched her face and slightly opened her eyes as the studio audience became more boisterous.“Hey, I haven’t smelled any smoke on you for a while. I guess you really quit huh?”

“Uh…Yeah!” Dennis had practically kicked his habit. When he was privy to quiet moments at work, he usually opted to chew gum. With the cost of a pack reaching a staggering cost of 1.75$, financial stress would have forced him out of his smoking habit even if it weren’t for Cindy’s request. Despite this, he felt good about not smoking. The last time he asked Mike for a quick drag of his cigarette was a week ago, and his tolerance had lowered to the point where just the brief flash of nicotine in his system made him feel like he was floating on air.

“Good.”

“Yeah, I know cuz of Luis and my clothes and everything.”

“Well..yeah,” she replied reluctantly.

“That was what it was about right?”

“Well I,” she spoke daintily, choosing her words carefully. “l kind of want you to be around. Um. Like long-term,” her tone self-consciously pointed at the end of her sentence to sound like a question.

“Cool.”

Cindy closed her eyes this time for good. Her breathing deepened more and more until she was on the verge of snoring. Dennis heard Benny give his final thoughts as he drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Three

An Education

The morning sun pierced through the bedroom window and woke Dennis from his deep slumber. Disoriented, he hadn’t the faintest idea of how he had made his way upstairs and into the bed. His foggy vision cleared to reveal a note that was left on his nightstand.

Thought you needed a break, so I dropped Luis off at my parent’s place. Enjoy your day off!

A tiny heart was scribbled next to the exclamation point. An overwhelming wave of joy spread through his body. Amidst the last night’s commotion, he completely forgot about having the day off. The time on his alarm clock read 9:15. Cindy wouldn’t be home for almost ten hours. His lower back felt the sweet relief of being released from the prison of the rock hard mattress as he stood up and let out an obnoxious yawn. This sudden change in posture made him dizzy as he stumbled into the bathroom to begin his morning routine. He noticed the stubbled, fatigue ridden face staring back at him through a slight crack in the glass. As his straight edge razor glide against his rough skin, he knew what he would do with all the free time the Lopez family had graciously given him. Today, for the first time in his life, he would willingly, and even enthusiastically go to the Hallow Heights library. Today would be the beginning of his investigation and quest to reclaim his home.

The mid morning light skimmed the tops of the trees as he drove his car along the pothole ridden road. Soon his car would glide on top of the pristine street that distinguished the Main Street of Hallow Heights. Being out and about on a weekday afternoon was surreal. The relaxed nature of those who were able to work from home was contagious, seeping into everyone still on their commute. Stay at home moms pushed babies in strollers with household dogs running playfully beside them. Senior men and women gossiped from duplexes across the street while they enjoyed their cigarettes and coffee. Lone sedans sat in near empty parking lots in anticipation for money to change hands. Business meetings were held outside of the cafes and music played from the record shop. The longer nights of early September encouraged the occasional yellow leaf to brush against his windshield. The Hallow Heights town library was tucked away at the end of the main drag. Bushes and trees obscured the brick building from people on the street. A recently paved sidewalk guided eager minds to the front door. A single, bright, mint green beach cruiser bike was chained to the rusty bike rack.

The door creaked as he opened it, disrupting the silence the few people in the library were enjoying. Each of them looked up at Dennis and glared at him as if he did something wrong. Already feeling out of place, Dennis was accosted by the smell of old books, bringing back memories of poor grades and disappointed authority figures. He began to scan the shelves for different categories of books. Overwhelmed by a number of options and the confusing library system, he paced to the front desk for guidance. A well dressed middle aged woman was standing in front of the counter making small talk with the librarian seated behind the desk in an official black swivel chair. Her voice grew to near offending levels for the library as she and the librarian began to chat about where each other’s kids were going to college. None of the voracious readers noticed.

“You can take care of him,” the woman magnanimously allowed as she extended a limp hand to gesture at Dennis. The librarian solemnly nodded.

“Hi. Um.. I need help finding what section I need to look through to get a book I need. Please.” Dennis dreaded the thought of having to directly ask for a book about expelling ghosts from his home.

“O.K,” having been ripped away from her riveting conversation, the stern faced woman elongated her words to let her displeasure be known. “What topic are you looking for.” The woman next to Dennis smirked.

“Um…ghosts,” he muttered.

“I’m sorry could ya speak up a little?”

“Ghosts,” he said, speaking more articulately.

“O.K so ghosts like what? Like myths and fables? That would be section five-”

“No, no not like that,” he interrupted.

She lowered her glasses down her nose and sighed. “Listen, I don’t know what you want. Why don’t you just sit around a campfire like everyone else?” The lady next to Dennis snickered.

“I just need some information on ghosts, like what they are and,” Dennis looked down “how to get rid of them.”

She glared at him with wide eyed suspicion. “Alright,” she replied hesitantly. “You might find something in parapsychology, section eight hundred.

“Thank you,” Dennis quickly scurried to the eight hundred section.

On the parapsychology shelves, Dennis found a plethora of topics and fields of study that he had never heard of before. Somehow, these works were of interest to enough people to warrant the existence of thick books with ant sized text. He surveyed the binding of books on astral projection, spirit channeling, tarot reading, mediumship, magic spells and potions, the law of attraction, astrology, numerology, and sacred geometry until he finally discovered a group of about ten books that seemed to be ghost centric.

He pushed through personal memoirs and a few books about ghost tales from Hallow Heights’s history until he uncovered a book entitled Everyday Psychic Dilemmas: How to solve your mundane spiritual and paranormal problems. Intrigued, he opened to the first page and saw in the table of contents that one of the chapters was named Ghosts in the Home. Full heartedly believing that it would contain at least some relevant information to help his cause, he rapidly flipped through the pages to get to his chapter.

“A lot of popular questions I’ve received throughout the coarse of doing my life’s work involve ghosts. Yes. Ghosts. Believe it or not, ghosts are not merely the psychological creations of man based on illusions, nor should ghosts be regulated to the status of myths in folk tales and urban legends. Many well adjusted and well-reputed people have reported to me in confidence their own paranormal experiences involving apparitions and entities. Even the renowned Carl Jung is said to have experienced hauntings throughout his life. You too may be experiencing ghostly phenomena and have not yet awakened to it. Or, maybe you believe in your heart of hearts that something is not quite right in your home, and you are too afraid of being ostracized and ridiculed by those around you to speak openly about it. Remember, that bump in the night may not be just a bump!”

“In this chapter, I will disclose to you, dear reader, real world tactics that can help you solve your very own ghost problem. But let us first identify the different types of ghosts there are and the kinds of hauntings they produce.”

“Terrence!”

“Hey Mrs. Costello how are you,” Dennis recognized the warm, booming voice.

“Oh my Gawd It’s so nice to see you!” The librarian spoke with such tenderness at a high volume that Dennis’s concentration was fully broken. He looked to the front desk and saw a towering, slender man in a navy blue suit. He was standing where the well-dressed woman used to be. She looked him up and down with visible aversion.

“I know what’s it been, two weeks?”

“Too long dear. How’s Duke?”

“She’s good. She still scratches at my door at night and ventures outside more than I would like her too. I can tell she has trouble with really big jumps cause she stares at me and meows like ‘help me out human’ before she does them. She’s old, but her spirit is strong.”

“That’s great!”

Having been ignored for far too long, the well-dressed woman walked briskly out the library door in a huff.

“So what are you doing here?”

“Well I was at the town hall next door doing some research on a house.”

“Oh! Is that right?” The unlikely friends continued their conversation with increased intensity at a much quieter level. Terrence leaned closer towards the librarian as she stuck her neck out as far as it could go, further concealing their words. Dennis could finally tune them out.

“First, there is the poltergeist, the most feared and popularly portrayed type of ghost. They are usually mean-spirited entities and have the ability to manipulate their physical surroundings. Usually, they like to knock things over, turn appliances on and off, throw things and cause disturbances within the home. It is important to note that a poltergeist is an intelligent spirit, meaning that the disturbances they cause are precisely calculated to instill fear in your heart. In my line of work, I have found that some poltergeists are malevolent entities that are drawn to the healing power of those they haunt. They wish to steal positive energy by scaring it out! Are you a natural healer, intuitive, or are you spiritually connected and advanced? Were you a priest or a shaman in a past life? If you don’t know, consult my other book ‘Psychic Strength: A Guide To Finding Your Place In The Spiritual Cosmos.’ If the answer is yes, then you probably have a poltergeist! In the case that you that the above doesn’t apply, it is important to note that poltergeists can also be past inhabitants of your home who want you out by any means necessary. Understand that a poltergeist haunting is very similar to the beginning stages of a demonic haunting. We will get to demons later.”

“Hey it’s the theatre cop who doesn’t play by the rules!” The mysterious stranger spoke in a humorous, mock action movie trailer tone. As he approached, Dennis’s memory finally revealed to him where he knew this man from. He could almost smell the early summer air of that pivotal night.

“Oh-uh. Hi.” Dennis awkwardly exchanged. “Actually, that wasn’t at all what it looked like.” In his attempt to save face he did little to hide his paranoia. He couldn’t help but wonder how this guy could recognize him without his uniform after only seeing him once at the beginning of summer.

The man’s smile was toothy and quirky. It was the most genuine expression of joy Dennis had ever seen. Light colored freckles underneath his green eyes contrasted his medium brown skin tone and pitch black wavy hair. “I’m just messing with you man.” He extended his hand in the friendly yet intense manner in which special agents greet each other on detective shows. “Terrence,” he stated boldly.

“I don’t mean to be too forward, but I never see anyone browsing in parapsychology. I’m usually the only one! If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your favorite field of study?”

Dennis didn’t know how to feel about being pegged as the kind of person who frequented this section of the library by the goofy, librarian befriending man. However, he didn’t want to alienate or disappoint his passionate natured new acquaintance.

“Oh I’m trying out this,” Dennis sheepishly handed over Everyday Psychic Dilemma’s.

“Cool.” Terrence was unimpressed by the book but tried his best to hide his true feelings. He didn’t want to discourage the spiritual inquiry of the reluctant man standing in front of him.

“Wanna sit,” he pointed to a table at the end of the bookshelf. Until then, it hadn’t occurred to Dennis that he could actually sit down with his book.

“Sure,” he said as the two of them made their way to the table. “What the hell language is that?” He demanded as Terrence opened his book, which displayed artful looking etchings.

“Sanskrit,” he smiled.

“It looks nuts!” Dennis gawked

“You should see Sumerian Cuneiform. Hah! It’s a trip!” He chuckled as if he had said something funny and relatable to the everyday person. Meanwhile, Dennis held a skeptical expression as he pondered where Sumeria was but was too embarrassed to ask. He continued reading.

“Another, more benign form of haunting is a haunting by a deceased loved one. Of coarse, it’s benign nature would depend on the loved one! Some spirits are earthbound due to their inability to let go of the important components of their life on earth. In many cases, this can be the inability to let go of people or a particular person. This usually includes spouses, children, and close friends. Hauntings from diseased loved ones usually occur within a year after their death. Often times they will do unusual things to get your attention, this can sometimes mean manipulating objects that were special to them. For instance, their favorite picture or record may find itself out of place or out in the open. They will often times make noises and do poltergeist-like activities.The difference is that they are merely trying to get your attention while poltergeists have much darker intentions. If the energy in your home is dark, then it is not a loved one haunting you. If you have experienced harm or near harm as a result of paranormal activity, I repeat, it is not a loved one.

“Excuse me. Can I take a look at your book?” Terrence requested politely, breaking Dennis’s conversation.

“Sure,” he replied slightly disgruntled.

“Hmm…” Terrence’s perceptive eyes scanned the pages. “Poltergeists, demonic hauntings, apparitions, deceased loved ones, possessed objects,” he muttered the categories of hauntings listed in the book. “It’s not a bad start I suppose,” he stated flatly.

“What’s that supposed to mean,” Dennis answered a bit perturbed. He didn’t expect his research trip to be so difficult and met with such resistance.

“I don’t know much about ghosts, but to put it bluntly you’re getting an oversimplified view of a much larger picture from this. It’s a bit misleading.”

“What do you mean?”

“Spirits are like people. You can’t put them into a few categories. Think about it. There aren’t just mean people, nice people, happy people, sad people, smart people, dumb people, and there’s hardly a limit to what most people can do if they put their whole mind and being into something. Spirits are like that too. They have layers. They aren’t just good or bad. They don’t want only one thing. And they are capable of a lot more than this book is suggesting.”

“You sure you don’t know much about ghosts?” A flabbergasted Dennis coughed. He couldn’t believe he was having this conversation. The enigma across the table from him was beginning to make him feel uneasy about the situation back at home.

“I’ve barely scratched the surface,” he replied gravely.

“A simple yet quite effective method of banishing unwanted spirits from your home is to send them into the light. I know what you are thinking:

‘This sounds so daunting. I’m just regular human being. I don’t have metaphysical powers!’

The truth is you are more powerful than you know. We are all souls inhabiting a body, a temporary shell. Therefore, we all have divine powers within us. Because of your divine nature, you can simply instruct the spirit to go into the light. Take a few minutes to center yourself. Focus on your breath. Repeat with each inhale ‘I am strong’ and with each exhale ‘I have no fear”. Then imagine a brilliant golden light around your home and your body and around the bodies of those you wish to protect. Gold is the color of protection. Focus on the gold light. Make sure that you really believe in it. Then imagine a white vortex. This represents the afterlife, the astral plane, heaven, hell, or whatever you believe in. Focus on the image in your mind until you can feel it in you soul. Then, instruct the entity to go into the light. Don’t ask politely, but be respectful. Keep doing this until the energy in the house feels clear. To help cultivate your powers further, consult my work ‘The Thirty Day Spiritual Boot Camp’

Dennis was baffled by what he was reading. Never in his imagination’s most wild moments could he imagine himself taking part in something so hippie, so new age. He observed Terrence as he muttered nonsensical phrases to himself whilst reading the foreign language. Was Terrence into this visualization crap too? Or did he know of something better? His pointed yet objective response to the previous section of the chapter lead Dennis to believe that his quirky new comrade might possess a deep understanding of a world Dennis knew nothing about. He found himself trusting him more and more.

“Hey what do you think about this? I don’t know to me it just seems sort of…impractical I guess.” he handed the book to Terrence, his thumb keeping the page.

“Like I said I really don’t know much about ghosts,” he warned. “You seem to know a lot more than me. I just want your take on this.” Terrence respected his new friend’s inquisitiveness. He nodded respectfully.

“Hmm…” He began by signifying a slight amount of approval.

“Some stuff in here isn’t that bad. I mean, visualization is important to do with anything in life. If you focus your mind on something and see it happening in your imagination or third eye or whatever you wanna call it, you have a better chance of whatever it is you want to manifest itself in physical reality. I do that all the time when I meditate, and it’s worked well for me in some ways, not so much in others.” The latter part of his thought held a tinge of sadness. “Do I think you can protect yourself by imagining a gold light?” he laughed slyly, “Maybe from some things but certainly not most things. Sounds like new age bullshit. And telling malevolent beings to ‘go into the light’?” he mocked with exaggerated air quotes, “No fuckin way.”

Embarrassed and discouraged, Dennis held his gaze towards the table.

“Can I ask why you’re reading this? I mean are you just into it or-’

“Yeah I’m just into it.” Dennis interrupted brashly. Terrence had answered his questions and gave his opinion without judgment or even a hint of arrogance. Dennis appreciated this. However, he felt uncomfortable disclosing the activity in his home to someone he still knew very little about, especially since he vowed to regain his dominance in the drafty period piece on his own.

Terrence leaned back and looked at him dubiously. “Alright. Well listen. If you’re really interested in things of this nature, I have much better books in my own private library, some of which I haven’t gotten around to reading so I could have what you’re looking for in there. Like I said before I don’t know a lot about ghosts. But I do know fake shit when I see it and unfortunately, there’s a lot of that in libraries and mainstream book stores.”

Dennis nodded.

Terrence stood up from his seat. “So you should check it out sometime,” He spoke with the sincere shyness of a hermit amidst the societal pressures of the modern world. His disposition appeared uncharacteristic to Dennis even though he had only known him for an hour or so.

“That sounds great,” Dennis said casually, although his usual awkwardness was impossible to hide. “Can I check it out now?” He couldn’t care less about appearing too eager. He was starved for legitimate information.

“Actually it’s a bit of a bad time,” Terrence seemed genuinely disappointed at not being able to aid a fellow adventurer, “I was just about to leave because I had a lot of important work to do. But hey! I’m sure I’ll see you again soon we’ll do it then.”

“Yeah cool. Hey thanks for all your help.”

“Don’t mention it,” Terrence walked out the library door and took off in his beach cruiser.

Dennis continued reading his book. Page by page, he grew more crestfallen. Not only did the text ceaselessly plug other books by the author but it provided little useful information and often contradicted the knowledge that Terrence had bestowed upon him. Terrence, he decided, was a much better source than any book in the library. He wondered when and how he would see him again. Defeated, he somberly left the library and got in his car.

When he arrived at his empty, desolate house, he found himself depressed and without purpose. His library trip had been pretty much a bust. He remembered, however, that Terrence agreed that visualization is important and that imagining a gold aura around himself and others could be of some use. With nothing to lose, Dennis sat in the middle of his foyer. The mid afternoon sun burned his forehead. He focused on his breath. With each inhale, he felt a part of him leave his uncertain reality. He began to lose a sense of his body. Once comfortable, he imagined Cindy at the makeup counter, surrounded gaudy advertisement pictures, impossible customers, and catty co-workers. Maybe the gold light could protect her from these more mundane forces. He saw her smile and wish a frowning middle aged woman a good day as she handed her change, the gold light surrounded her.

Next, he imagined Luis. The bean shaped bundle of life was asleep in a bassinet the in the Lopez’s garage. Why the garage? Because Mr. and Mrs. Lopez, though still technically married, hadn’t spoken more than a few words to each other after their big fight last year. Believing that divorce was improper, the two agreed to continue to stay married and live under the same roof, with Mr. Lopez setting up shop in the garage. With a desk, a home phone, his IBM computer (which he was very proud of) all his tools and enough space to hold appointments for his successful tile business, he had everything he needed. Due to Cindy’s father’s domineering nature, Dennis imagined him commandeering the baby as soon as she left for work. Saliva caked Luis’s lips as words from The Iliad fell on deaf ears.

Dennis didn’t know if his mental efforts were worth anything, but he was having fun. It brought him a sense of peace in a strange way. Feeling adventurous, he decided to try the spirit banishing method from the book. He understood that it probably wouldn’t work, but held on to the possibility that it could at least make him feel more comfortable, like imagining the gold auras did. With every breath, the vision of a swirling, heavenly vortex emerged within his imagination. He pictured the grim, gaunt black shadow that attempted to attack him the night before. Fear was no longer present. He felt stronger and more capable with every inhale and exhale. Energy flowed within him and without him.

“Go to the light,” he commanded. “Get out of my home. You will be happier if you move on. This is my home now. I am allowing you to go into the light. Someplace better.” The power of his thoughts reverberated throughout the room as they transcended from hoping that this exercise would make him feel better to truly believing that it could rid the home of its darkness. Dennis opened his eyes and throttled back in a panic as the front door unlocked.

“I got off early and look who I found,” Cindy announced in a playful sing-song, baby Luis cradled in her arms.

“Oh hi!” reacted a shocked Dennis. He clumsily struggled to get off the floor as fast as he could. “Hey Manny nice to see you!”

“Please, call me Mr. Lopez,” the discontented man sneered.

Chapter Four

Guess Who’s Coming to Paranormal Diner

“He prefers Emmanuel,” Cindy whispered as she looked around the house nervously. Her disgruntled father angrily peered at every flaw in sight. Dennis was almost certain he could see the words ‘shit hole’ forming from his lips and dreaded the thought of him exploring more of the house. For a man his age, he was in excellent shape. His sharp demeanor, flawlessly combed back hair and perfectly pressed black shirt and jeans projected a vibe or meticulousness to everyone he encountered. He prided himself on his accumulation of knowledge, impeccable work ethic, and not enjoying the finer things in life. His foremost accomplishment however, was his only daughter, who was exchanging anxious glances with a tense Dennis. Two monstrous brown paper bags filled to the brim with groceries sat in Emmanuel’s arms, indicating that the dinner would be tonight.

“Ahh, so this is the palace!”

“Yeah it’s a little rough around the edges,” Dennis fretted.

“Around the edges?” Mr. Lopez mused, “It’s rough around the whole damn thing! Cindy looked down in embarrassment. “But it’s nothing someone with a little experience like me can’t fix up!” He proudly proclaimed.

“I’m sure of that!” Dennis enthused, hoping to move on from the conversation and lighten the mood.

Mr. Lopez condescendingly slapped him on the back. “I’m hungry let’s get dinner started!”

With that, Emmanuel and Dennis swiftly made their way into the kitchen with a worn out Cindy trailing behind, carrying Luis. Dennis envied Luis’s lack of comprehension skills as he anticipated an unpleasant evening after a largely unsuccessful day of research.

Mr. Lopez dumped the groceries on the kitchen table and crawled on his hands and knees to the kitchen sink. He opened the cabinet door under it to reveal Dennis’s make-shift, duct tape and bubble gum plumbing repair. He condescended, “We’re having a salad tonight with our roasted chicken. Dennis, why don’t you help out by chopping up the lettuce, carrots, cucumbers and peppers while I take a look at this mess down here. I’m not charging you for a consultation, and I took care of the groceries, so the least you could do is prep the vegetables for me.”

“Sure thing,” he answered disingenuously. The nature of his reply was lost on a determined Emmanuel, who began mumbling plumbing jargon to himself. Cindy’s face was planted in her hands as she hoped to shrink and disappear. An unaware Luis remained in a near sleep state cradled in her arms. A white apron with pink roses hung sadly by the oven. The gift from Cindy’s mom was suspended haphazardly. It hung in shame from lack of use due to its outdated design. For a brief moment, a mischievous spark of inspiration caused Dennis to consider wearing it as a joke while Mr. Lopez inspected the sink. Crestfallen, he abandoned the idea when he saw Cindy, his only audience, leave to put Luis in his downstairs bassinet. Dennis got out a knife and a cutting board and began to chop up a carrot into little circles. Mr. Lopez shot up from the cabinet and paced towards Dennis, swaying his hips from side to side as he walked.

“You’re doing it all wrong!” He badgered in an uncharacteristically high pitch. He tied the gaudy apron around his waist and bumped Dennis to the side with his hip.“I’m taking over, move. Why would you not peel the carrot first? And these circles are improper I want shreds! You should be embarrassed.” His tone was dark and effeminate as he took the knife from Dennis and began to peel the skin. He was now chopping the carrot sideways into slices so thin they looked like confetti. A confounded Dennis watched as he tried to flip the short hair behind his ear. The chopping grew slower and the slices became thicker. His dazed gaze blankly turned forward.

“Why am I doing this? Get over here!” Emmanuel demanded as he threw the apron to the floor and sat at the kitchen table.

Dennis chalked this odd behavior up to be one of the “moods” Cindy mentioned to him a few times in the past. Someone as tightly wound as Mr. Lopez, he decided, was bound to snap into some strange patterns of behavior on occasion.

Cindy returned to the kitchen just as Dennis was finished chopping the first carrot. Her fixated expression remained glued to the flimsy kitchen table. The table itself was made of a material that couldn’t have been thicker than plywood, and the legs holding it up were so tattered and flimsy that a creative onlooker might have guessed that she was attempting to break it with her mind. Mr. Lopez tapped his fingers on the table restlessly rolled his eyes and puffed out his cheeks in disapproval. Dennis felt the temperature rising as he sliced the second carrot. Afraid that the cold sweat on his hands would cause a bloody accident, he ran them under the sink and began to dry them with a rag.

“Yes Dad,” Cindy finally broke the silence.

"What- oh nothing," he pouted.

“Dad, what is it. There’s clearly something on your mind,” she insisted with obvious irritation.

“I don’t know why you had to go ahead and do this,” his voice steadied in an unsettling way. The man who had full control the minute he walked through the door acted as if he had been holding his repressed feelings the whole time.

“The conditions here are just unnatural.”

“We’re living in it just fine,” she replied in a vigorous exhale, attempting to appear and stay calm. Dennis brought his attention away from the carrots as he regarded her. The girl who couldn’t ask him to quit smoking without fidgeting or looking down starred directly into her father’s eyes.

“Yeah well, you may be!” He pointed his bulging finger in her face. “And you!” He grimaced at Dennis. “But maybe I’m worried about MY grandson!”

Cindy closed her eyes to gather herself and addressed him softly and with poise. “Me and Dennis have been living here and taking care of our son, just fine before today, before you’ve made it abundantly clear how you feel.”

A ferocious bang rung throughout the hollow home as Emmanuel crashed his fist into the table, which formidably withstood the attack with unparalleled grace under pressure. “I thought I knew you,” he sniffled as he defeatedly walked toward the living room bassinet.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered to Dennis regretfully. “When I went back to pickup Luis he wouldn’t stop insisting. He was practically holding the baby ransom! He’s such a baby sometimes!”

The smile that grew on Dennis’s face inhabited the space between her and Cindy. It’s contagious nature poked prodded her face until it had no choice but to scrunch up in a near laugh. “It’s ok. I’ll go talk to him.” They embraced for a hot second before Dennis soldiered on into the trenches of the emotional battlefield.

“Listen. We’re just a little stressed from how busy we’ve been. We really do appreciate, ya’know…you and that you wanna help out.” Dennis ended his expertly crafted words of reconciliation when he realized that they were unheard.

You’re safe as long as I’m here. No one will harm you. I will love you if it’s the last thing I do. You’re going to grow to be a respectable young man. Yes, quite respectable and honorable, a real swell fellow indeed. And upstanding and well liked too. The envy of every mother! No harm will come to you. I will always love you.” The foreboding voice cooed from Emmanuel’s lips as he swayed gently back in forth with Luis in his arms. Dennis cautiously walked backward while staring intently at Mr. Lopez. The apparent mood swings seemed less benign. Emanuel carefully placed the baby back in its napping spot and turned around, meeting Dennis head on.

“What?” he exasperated, gesturing to a silent Dennis to speak.

“You’re so fricken weird.”

Dennis followed Emmanuel into the kitchen and heard him mumble a few words to Cindy.

“O.K” she replied in a guilt ridden whisper. She glanced towards Dennis with the solemn expression a kindergartener might exchange with their friend at the time-out corner across the school room.

“Dennis, I wanna have a talk with you,” he announced sternly.

Unsure of what was in store, Dennis hooded.

“I feel that, well, things may have gotten a little out of hand tonight. And, to be honest, I don’t think I like you very much. But, I don’t hate you.” He nodded his head and smiled with content self-assurance.

“Well, um…That’s good to hear Mr. Lopez. I, uh, don’t hate you either.” Dennis thought that if God did exist, that He might provide him a way out of this conversation.

Mr. Lopez gradually made his way to the cutting board and started to slice the second carrot.

Tisk tisk.” he chastised himself as he disapprovingly waved his pointer finger and shook his head. He gracefully bent over and strapped the abandoned apron around his waist.

“You were doing it wrong again!” He sang. Dennis’s body succumbed to eerie chills as he prepared for yet another mood swing.

“You were doing it wrong,

Doing it wrong, doing it wrong,

Look at these disgraceful carrots,

You were doing it wrong.”

Every consonant was accentuated to the point where they menacingly reverberated throughout the room. His sentiments were expressed to the juxtaposing tune of “Marry Had a Little Lamb”.

“The child’s in the living room,

Living room, living room

The child’s in the living room

Whatever will we do”

The song’s tempo grew faster as the carrot chopping grew slower and more calculating.

“The father is a nincompoop,

The mother is very loose,

The child’s in the living room

Whatever will we do?

Rightfully I’ll raise the baby

They’ll burn in hell, pray will God save me

The child’s in the living room

Whatever will we do?”

Dennis angrily marched to Mr. Lopez, whose insanity had reached an intolerable peak. “What they fuck are you say-” Out of his periphery, he caught Emanuel’s reflection off of a kettle on the stove. Except, it wasn’t Emmanuel. His rugged features, brown skin, and straight back black were absent in the mirror image. In their place, were the even pale complexion and stoic, long, gaunt features of a middle aged woman. Her long sandy blond hair was full volumed and well kept. The rosy blush on her pronounced cheeks and the mascara on her eyelashes were neither lacking nor excessive. She would have been an attractive woman, a real credit to her age group if it weren’t for a cluster of anger induced wrinkles that permeated her face, and a look in her black eyes that Dennis could only describe as pure evil. He could see her makeup bleed from the reflection as Emmanuel’s eyes welled up in rage.

Chapter Five

The Showdown

“Who the fuck are you? Why the hell are you holding my baby?! If you don’t hand him to me in five seconds, I swear I’ll-” Cindy shrieked from upstairs.

“I can explain later. Take the kid. Get him the fuck out of here. Go on down the road as fast and as far as you can.” His delivery was steady and experienced, almost to the point of being jaded.

“We’ll catch up with you soon. I’ll back him up in there nothing will happen to him. I promise.” The sincerity of which the promise was made was calming enough to alleviate Cindy of the natural stress and paranoia.

The malignant spirit inside Emmanuel caused him to viciously swipe at Dennis with the kitchen knife. Dennis instinctively caved his torso backward to evade the near fatal blow. He crept back as the spirit violently jabbed the knife toward his head and chest in rapid succession. The edge of the blade was within millimeters of striking distance each time.

“What do you mean back him up? What’s happening to my him!”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Please. Go. Everything will be cool but you have to go!” Terrence demanded with an uncharacteristic sense of urgency.

“Just hand the baby over I’ll figure it out,” the bedroom door squealed as it shut. Muffled baby hollering persisted during the chaos.

Each muted cry from the child was a coal thrown into the fire of Dennis’s soul. He crouched down and picked Emmanuel’s body up from his ankles. Before the evil entity could strike down on Dennis’s arched back, Emmanuel’s unsuspecting head and neck slammed into the upper cabinets. His wounded body hit the floor and he struggled to get up. Capitalizing on the opportune moment, Dennis swung the kettle from the stove at his head, rendering him unconscious.

“Alright!” An approving Terrence encouraged from the foyer.

The kettle vibrated from the force of the impact. “Oh my god did I just kill him?”

Terrence carefully crouched over to inspect Emmanuel’s body. He put his index finger under his nose.

“No, he’s fine, just unconscious for the moment. When did you move in here.” Terrence demanded.

“Two and a half months ago. Why? Dennis didn’t even bother to question what Terrence was doing in his house.”

“I live down the road. A few months ago I went for a walk and felt these really weird vibes coming from this house. After that, for a while, it just seemed to go away, so I didn’t look into it until last night. Last night I had these crazy dreams. I saw this house I could see this woman inside it. She was so filled with anger and hate I thought maybe I was having a vision of some kind of vengeful spirit. So I went to the town hall to do some research on the history of the property.”

“I can’t believe I didn’t think to do that and instead read that shitty book. What did you find?”

“It turns out there was a murder here back in 1955. Apparently, it was a real big deal. It was called the ‘West Pine Slaying.‘This Lady, Evelyn Rodgers, seemed to be a real Stepford type. She used to write a weekly column in the ‘Hallow Heights Post’ called ‘The Everyday with Evelyn’ about the role of a woman in the home and how to be a proper mother and wife. It was rumored that she had been trying for a baby for over a decade with no luck. People close to her said that all she ever talked about was having a child to the point where she became obsessed. She already knew what she would name the kid if it were a girl or a boy and bought a new baby doll or toy truck every week. She even bought an entire baby boy and baby girl wardrobe! The lady was nuts and wrote these really vicious things against divorce and infidelity. So, it’s theorized that rather than finding someone who could get her pregnant, she decided to kill her husband by stabbing him to death. She overdosed on sleeping pills the night she killed him.”

Terrence leaned in and spoke carefully. “I’ve lived around here my whole life. I’ve never seen anyone live here. I guess no one wanted to touch the place after the murder-suicide. I always thought that the place was in such a state of disrepair that no one wanted to buy it.

Until recently, I thought the house was abandoned. No offense.”

“None taken, I guess you get what you pay for.” Dennis mused.

“You couldn’t pay me to be roommates with this bitch,” he chuckled.

“So what do I do? How do I get her to go?”

“Normally, they say to go to the gravesite and burn the ghost’s bones, but apparently she was cremated. They also say to burn something of value to the spirit, but that won’t work because she didn’t leave anything behind in the house. I’m not sure if those tactics would work anyway. Her ability to take control of that man’s body tells me she’s more powerful than that,” he grimly concluded. That’s why I thought we would give an old family heirloom of mine a try!” Terrence reached into a black nap sack and proudly presented Dennis with what seemed like a regular mason jar.

“What’s that gonna do? He asked doubtfully. “I already knocked him out with the kettle.”

“It’s not about him. My objective is to do as little damage to him as possible. Who is he by the way?”

“Her dad.”

“Oh, that“s just great. Tell him he had a nasty spill down the stairs when he comes to,” Terrence cackled. “Anyway, my grandparents gave me this jar when I was little. They told me that if I ever were to come across an evil spirit, I could catch it in the jar. But I had to be sure the entity is really bad because the jar can only hold one spirit.”

“So you’ve never used it before? Or are we about to unleash another demon in my house when you open it?” Dennis challenged.

“I told you I don’t really work with ghosts. And it’s going to work. My grandmom and granddad would never lie about this,” he answered solemnly As his gaze lowered to a jagged crack in the floor.

“Alright, alright. Dennis responded defensively. How do I trap her in the jar?”

The two of them sat dead quietly, both were pensive in their desire to make out the faint noises floating down from the upstairs. Muffled yells persisted in between intermittent crashes of furniture against the floor. The unlikely duo turned their attention to the kitchen floor, which no longer held

Emmanuel’s unconscious body. The struggling noises continued. Luis let out a chilling, trauma induced screech.

“Where’s the girl and the baby?”

“I told her to leave the house.”

“Well, I guess she didn’t listen,” Dennis spouted angrily as he thumped up each step.

“Oh, father of the year. Father of the year? Yes. YOU. Why don’t you apply a little attentiveness towards your darling son? He’s quite upset. You wouldn’t want him to resent you later in life and develop confusing feelings for other men, would you? That would be quite unnatural and it would be all your fault!”

Her dark, casual delivery was spoken calmly over an unsettling backdrop of Cindy’s cries for help and repeated bumping against a door.

“Stop!” a persuasive jerk pulled on Dennis’s shoulder, stoping him in his tracks. “It’s a trap, don’t go in there.”

“Trap?” Dennis screamed manically. “How do you know she hasn’t killed them,?”

“I have the hussy in the bathroom and the baby is fine. Why don’t you address me with dignity and manners like a young man should? I would like to make a deal.”

Terrence and Dennis carefully approached the bedroom. Both night stands were wedged between the bathroom door and its opposing wall, rendering Cindy helpless and alone in the bathroom. Emmanuel’s arms cradled Luis as the infant monotonously hollered. The kitchen knife menacingly stuck out from his pocket.

“Ice water with a lemon,” the ghost presumptuously demanded as she scorned at Terrence. He shook his head, turned his back to her, and took a few small steps out of the room.

“Let me stay here and take care of the child the way he deserves to be cared for. I will raise him properly and in accordance with the values and virtues of this great nation and specifically the community of Hallow Heights. In return, I will expect you and your…lady friend to leave my home and never return. Think on it for a moment. If you happen to decide against it I will be forced seek other remedies for this unfortunate situation,” she sneered.

You can go back to your old life of hanky-panky and haberdashery, and will no longer have to be the reluctant and loathsome father you have become,” her voice trembled with contempt. “Oh, and don’t forget my ice water with lemon,” she scoffed as she muttered a few unintelligible on how the help wasn’t as professional as they used to be.

Terrence and Dennis tip toed into Luis’s bedroom. A mischievous smile cracked across Terrence’s face as he pulled the door shut.

“You must be doing pretty good. You got her to negotiate.”

“What do you mean?” Dennis hardly gleaned from his current situation that he had done anything right.

“If she thought you were weak, she would just kill you. End of story. She’s trying to get you to leave without a fight because she’s afraid you could actually do some damage to her. And you’re going to do some serious damage. You’re going to go external.”

“External?”

“Yeah,” he replied as if this was common knowledge. “You need to play her on her own turf.” He began rustling through his nap sack and pulled out a well-used Walkman. “When you throw a punch at you girl’s dad, all you’re doing is hurting the vessel the spirit is using to attack you. If you kill him, she’ll find another vessel in time and will keep haunting you and making your life a living hell. What if I told you you could get at her true form, and shove it into this jar if you got your mind to leave your body.”

“Under normal circumstances, I would say that you lost your mind. But considering that I have to accept the fact that a murderous housewife has taken over the body of my girlfriend’s dad, I would say that you make perfect sense.”

Ms. Rodgers!” Terrence called in mock concern. “I’m afraid we haven’t any lemons. Would a lime be satisfactory?”

“No, it certainly would not be!” She shrieked. “Ice water with a lemon! I specifically asked for ice water with lemon, a very simple request that I trust you are capable of handling. Now go do what you must. I simply won’t be satisfied if I don’t get what I ask for. Oh father of the year! That goes for you too! I hope that you are considering my offer while it is still on the table!” She lowered her voice and sang nursery rhymes as she rocked Luis back and forth. Cindy’s futile attempts at breaking out of the bathroom boomed at an erratic pace.

“Yes Ms. Rodgers. Anything for you. I’ll go to the store and get you the ripest lemons I can find,” Terrence responded unable to breathe from preventing himself from laughing.

“So here’s what we’re gonna do,” Terrence began to explain in a hushed whisper. “You’re gonna listen to this tape,” he put headphones connected to the Walkman over Dennis’s ears,” while I meditate and help guide you through the process of astral projection. You’re gonna reach through you girlfriend’s dad’s physical form and pull her out of it. When you do that, she’ll know that your physical body is vulnerable, and will jump back inside his body and try to kill you with the knife. I’ll be hiding in here,” he motioned to the closet next to Luis’s crib, “You’ll pull her out at the last second, and I’ll catch her with my jar!” Terrence spoke as if he were reading the climax of a thrilling fable to children.

“So, we’re gonna use me as bait,” Dennis responded, sounding skeptical.

“Uhh, yeah” Terrence reluctantly acknowledged with his head turned towards the ground.

“No, no I like it,“Dennis approved. “She’s trying to kill me anyway we might as well use that to our advantage. The only problem is, how am I gonna go out of body. I’ve never done anything like that before,” Dennis stressed. An arch in his back and a wondering look in his eye meant that he was growing tense.

Terrence grasped at Dennis’s shoulder and looked him directly in his eye, staring deep into his soul. “Listen, in my line of work I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to face certain things and do certain things that I thought were impossible. The thing is I willed it to happen. I saw you fight in that kitchen. I know that you’re willing to do whatever it is you have to do to protect those around you. For fuck’s sake, you didn’t even ask twice about using your own body as bait.”

Dennis nodded reluctantly and skeptically. While Terrence’s pep talk sounded nice, it lacked the concrete information he desperately needed to move forward in his metaphysical endeavor.

“Also, you are in the presence of a spirit, whose vibration is known to be much higher than ours. Being near her makes it much easier for you to raise your own vibration to the proper levels in order to successfully achieve an outer body state. You just have to tap into the energy. And you have me and Lonnie Liston to help you with that,” he chucked as he pointed to the tape. The cover featured a man with a pleasant half smile and an aura that said he had gone places with his consciousness most people would never venture. He had a rainbow colored stitched hat and a matching sweater. The angular typography above his head read “Astral Traveling Lonnie Liston Smith.”

“So this tape, and you being here, and that spirit in the other room, that’s gonna make me do this voodoo shit I’ve never done before?” Dennis snapped.

Terrence greeted his opposition with grace and understanding but with a slight tinge of impatience. “O.K, first of all, it’s not voodoo. Second of all, just think back in your life. Have you ever had a quiet moment to yourself where you just,” he stopped, his chest puffed out as he inhaled, “Took a second just to breathe and for a brief moment, lost some awareness of where you were at and what your body was doing?”

“Yeah actually,” Dennis softened.

“Just do that. You got this.”

“You boys better be back soon with that ice water with lemon! And I want to know if you’ll accept the deal!” The decorum of which she spoke with previously had devolved into shrieks akin to the wicked witch of the west.

“We don’t have a lot of time. Let’s do this now!”

Terrence flipped on the tape player. A gentle, rumbling baseline and steady percussion laid down a foundation for atmospheric electric piano chords and passionate saxophone melodies. The sounds consumed Dennis’s consciousness as he focused on his breath and began to let go. Terrence sat next to him with his legs folded while quietly chanting “Body asleep mind awake,” repeatedly. A violent vibration and a rush of energy pulled Dennis’s spirit from his body as he floated up towards the ceiling and gazed upon his physical form. He could see Terrence bob his head in satisfaction as he pushed the bedroom door open and carefully crouched into the closet, trusty jar in hand. Dennis’s sleeping body lay hunched down, vulnerable and exposed.

Without time to enjoy and experiment in this altered state, Dennis hastily flew down the hallway and through the master bedroom door. The unsuspecting entity had her back turned and let out a frantic gasp from Emmanuel’s mouth as Dennis reached inside the body to pull out the intruding soul. Enjoying brief seconds in his own body, Emmanuel struggled to stay on his feet. In the process of collapsing, he intuitively let Luis softly down on to the bed.

Dennis ripped Evelyn’s ghostly form from the body with a surprising amount of ease. He was frozen in a surreal shock as he noticed his hand was clutching the evening dress of a dead murderer. A cold slap across his face from the evil entity before him brought his attention back to the present moment. She mumbled about how improper he was for touching a lady that way as she drove back into the burly body of Mr. Lopez, fetched the knife, and made a mad dash for Dennis’s unassuming frame.

Timing was key, and Dennis didn’t know exactly when the perfect moment would be to expel the spirit from Mr. Lopez’s body. If he grabbed her too soon, Terrence wouldn’t be able to get her into the jar quick enough, and their plan would be a bust. If he waited too long, this would be the last decision he would ever have the chance to make. Emanuel’s legs straddled Dennis as his torso was forced to the floor. In a dramatic statement, the villainous ghost gripped the knife with two hands and extended Emmanuel’s arms up into the air. She shrieked as she brought the knife down with the utmost intensity. Dennis looked away from the scene as he blindly stuck his astral hand into the innocent body of a man who was about to kill him. Terrence could barely make out the figure’s shadow on the fractured wall as he opened the jar.

Chapter Six

The Unlikely Duo

“Blubbbb Bibb bup bip, bahh” babbled the jovial baby.

Terrence secured his hands underneath the child’s armpits as he swung him throughout the lush garden. “This is kale, and these are turnips.” Luis clumsily clawed at a plump, ripened tomato while his feet dangled whimsically in the air. His babbling become more intense as he drooled with excitement and wonder. I guess he really like tomatoes.” Terrence shouted to Dennis.

“That’s great maybe that means he’ll like vegetables when he gets older. I wish I did when I was little,” he answered from a lawn chair as he grazed a fresh scar on his chest. Cindy smiled at him and playfully swung her feet in his direction.

“I believe this belongs to you,” Terrence laughed gleefully as he delicately placed the baby in her arms and sat down.

“Hey I have a question,” Dennis spoke earnestly. “If the ghost was this lady who used to live in the house, then how did she know to play my dad’s favorite record. It almost made me think it was him trying to talk to me. Or maybe I hoped he was.”

“Like I’ve told you before, I don’t usually work with ghosts or spirits. But maybe you had the record on the turn table before, and she simply turned it on. Or maybe she helped herself to your record collection, and she liked that one too,” he shrugged.

“She’s really trapped right?” Questioned a concerned Dennis

“It’s been a full week. I think by now I would have noticed if she got out. No doubt she would raise hell in my house if she were able to escape.”

“I always knew it wasn’t your dad,” Cindy spoke gravely. “I’m just so relieved she’s gone, it was really started to take its toll on me,” she sighed.

“You’ve been smiling more,” Dennis hummed as he placed his hand lovingly on her thigh as she blushed.

“You two are too much,” Terrence chided.

“Fuck off!”

Soft gusts of the mid September breeze blessed all the humans, animals, and odd creatures that were enjoying the afternoon. Terrence’s dilapidated shack hid the pristine refuge of the garden he cared for. A crunchy orange leaf fluttered in the air, rapidly spinning as it made its way down into the earth. The heavy rumble of a truck riding along the rocky drive way interrupted the brief time of complete silence.

“I didn’t know you were gonna make it Dad, you do know that the game is on right?”

“Very funny,” Mr. Lopez retorted with a large cooler in his hand. “Hey Dennis you want a beer?” He reached out in a rare moment of vulnerability.

“Uhhh, sure thing Mr. Lopez.”

“Manny,” he urged. “Just, Manny.”

“Oh wow,” Cindy jeered. “Looks like your on a first name basis. That’s a pretty big deal.”

“Alright, alright,” Manny huffed.

“So, uhh Terrence right?”

“Yep”

“What is it that you do, exactly?” Manny queried.

“I investigate and in some cases handle situations involving monsters in and around Hallow Heights,” Terrence answered directly as he munched on a vivid red chili pepper he had just picked from the plant next to him.

“Interesting,” he hesitantly approved as his face turned a deep shade of rose red.“Ow!” He screeched as he slammed his foot to the ground repeatedly.

“What the hell’s wrong with you,” Cindy inquired as Luis curiously giggled.

“I saw him have one like it was nothing! I didn’t know it would be so damn hot! I need water!”

“What you need is something bread-like, if you just drink water it’ll spread the heat all over your taste buds,” Terrence informed. “Dennis lets go get something for him.”

Terrence crept quietly into the house, Dennis followed with anticipation. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you,” Terrence began as he swung the door shut. “I could use someone like you around to help me out with the things I do. You’re respectful of the unknown, good in a fight, and you seem eager to learn. The pay is non existent and you might have to risk your life on more than one occasion. It’s a thankless job too, nobody sees you, hardly anyone will ever know that you saved their life. But…..” He raised is hands in the worlds longest shrug. “It’s pretty fun.”

Dennis refrained from speaking for a second longer than he needed too. The ghost less week and a half he had been enjoying allowed him to appreciate his family in ways he hadn’t known before. He for once felt purposeful and centered, like a well respected grain of sand in an endless beach of suburbia. “As long as you let me take a look into that private library you were bragging about, absolutely!”

 

Explore the origins of the monster who killed teenager Autumn Moon in one of our books from the [+ Hallow Heights Chronicles+]

 

Also Check Out Our Other Series:

[+ Here May Appear+]

[+ Little Witch Detective+]

 

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The Unlikely Paranormal Investigator

Have you ever felt like you were being watched For Dennis Dewitt, it's as if ever dark corner of his home holds and unsettling secret, and the creeks in the rotting floor boards serve as a foreboding warning cry. Slowly but surely, the truth of the danger in his home becomes apparent. Although usually aloof and unambitious, Dennis's newfound sense of purpose to protect his family leads him to a path of an unlikely friendship and a metaphysical battle he never thought possible. The Unlikely Paranormal Investigator is Part 3 of the Hallow Heights Chronicles and is a story about renewal and rebirth in spite of the threat that lies within the unknown This book for fans of: Ghost Stories Paranormal Fiction Urban Fiction Paranormal Mysteries Supernatural Dark Fantasy

  • Author: Sivia and Nick
  • Published: 2017-09-25 22:20:14
  • Words: 16662
The Unlikely Paranormal Investigator The Unlikely Paranormal Investigator