Della awoke with a start and found CJ standing next to the bed, shaking her shoulder.
“Mom, I heard something.”
“I think I heard a baby cry, or a hurt animal or something and it woke me up and I’m scared.”
“You scared the crap out of me.”
Della lifted her head and saw the journal splayed across her belly. She sat up and twisted towards the nightstand to turn a light on. It had grown dark and CJ must have gone to bed on his own after she fell asleep reading because she had no memory of the usual verbal struggle she had to endure every night to get him to go to bed.
“Can’t you at least knock when you come through that door? Give me some kind of advance notice or something. At least when you use the other door and come through the kitchen I hear you coming and I can prepare to stave off having a stroke.”
“Duh. There’s no door. It was the fastest way in and if you think I’m going to walk all the way around when I can just pop through, you’re crazy.”
She groggily recalled working on the doorway before becoming lost in the pages of the journal and lying down on her bed to read. It seemed ages ago that she’d found it, but it had to have been hours ago because it was dark outside.
“Yeah. Yeah. I forgot. What’s going on?”
“Well—I thought I heard voices and I thought maybe it was coming from next door or something but every time I fall asleep I hear the sounds again and then when I started hearing the baby cry, I got scared because I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Even when I opened my window to see if I could figure it out, it sounded like it was coming from inside the house. Can I sleep in here?”
“Yeah. Go grab a sleeping bag and you can lay down here on the floor."
“Seriously? I can’t sleep in the bed?
“No. You’re way too tall and you kick all the covers off and you’re 13 years old now. Do you want your friends to tease you and call you the ‘sissy boy?’”
CJ grabbed a sleeping bag from Della’s closet, threw it down on the floor and ran to his bedroom to get his pillow. Della swung her legs off of the bed and grabbed her nightshirt on the way to the bathroom. By the time she came back, CJ had settled on the floor and was already starting to breath heavily. She stepped over him and pulled down her covers.
The flashlight hanging from the hook on the side of the nightstand gave her an idea. She switched off the light, grabbed the flashlight and settled on her side with the flash light tucked in and shining from under the crook of her neck as she opened the journal.
Most of the entries so far had been unremarkable, but now that she was awake, her interest was piqued, and she figured she wouldn’t be able to sleep so she may as well read again.
January 17, 1917
Ivy was terribly fussy today. She’s finally gone down for the night, but the day wasn’t easy. We stayed in because the weather was so nasty. Mother Anders came by and we shared sandwiches while she talked about Cy and told me stupid stories about when he was young and how the only way she could ease his colic was if she sang him some silly song and bounce him around in some manner that seemed completely nonsensical to me. She sang a couple of lines but I didn’t recognize the song. She wanted to teach it to me. Said it might work with Ivy since it had worked on her daddy, but I was too preoccupied worrying about Cy’s “ homecoming” tomorrow. I know he’s going to be grumpy and I just don’t think I have the energy to appease him. I think Mother Anders could tell that I wasn’t paying attention to her. She left abruptly and I honestly don’t remember much about our goodbyes other than watching her as she made her way through the snow. I’ve got to do something and I feel the desperation growing in the pit of my stomach.
Della imagined Mary slipping the book back in its hiding place. There were no other entries for a few days and then several entries all at once, followed by more empty days when she imagined that Cy must have been home and Mary found herself unable to write of her growing unhappiness over Cy’s neglect for her and the child.
A pattern was becoming clear and Della could see that Mary was becoming increasingly restless with her life. There was more talk of Mother Anders, and Mary had begun to write more freely about her dislike for her mother-in-law. She was an overbearing woman who obviously adored her son and thought he could do no wrong. It wasn’t that she seemed to dislike Mary, but it was clear that she disapproved of Mary’s parenting skills and didn’t believe that Mary was making her son happy.
March 28, 1917
Why did he bother to marry me? I am so angry and he just doesn’t understand why I am so distraught over my inability to never be able to please him. When he comes home, he hates being here. He’d rather be with his parents than with me. I probably shouldn’t complain, because it frees me from his constant moaning about the baby and me. He shows me no affection at all and is repulsed when I try to catch his attention. I imagine it’s why he won’t take a job at the smelter or why he won’t work on the family farm. It would cause him to be home on a regular basis and he certainly doesn’t want that. The rail keeps him away from us and only God knows who must be keeping him company when he’s away. His mother has asked that I let Ivy come stay with her. She must think that since I can’t please my husband, that I’m not a fit mother. I think she’s trying to take my baby away. And the more pleasant I try to be with Cy, the more he distances himself and expresses his distaste with me. I’ve got to do something soon and I’ll be damned if I let him or his mother or his limp piece-of-flesh father of his take my child.
God knows that I try to dismiss the thoughts that overcome me in my most desperate of time but I fear this all is coming to a head. Soon.
A soft child-like cry wafted into the bedroom and Della’s struggled to open her eyes. Had she really heard that? She was laying on her right side, looking towards the digital clock with its big red numbers. She glanced around the room into the darkness and tried to get her bearings. The journal was on the nightstand and the flashlight was hanging on its hook.
She was at home. Check. In bed. Check. Time--3:04 AM. Check. CJ’s on the floor. Check.
She looked over the side of the bed just to make sure.
Soft moonlight shone through the blinds and left beams of light on the bed, interrupted by the softly swaying shadows of the branches and leaves outside the window. It made her think of an architecture design class from college where the teacher showed slides of different styles of pillars. One in particular she recalled still remained with her to this day. A strong Grecian pillar with softly flowing vines winding their way up and around. She always loved the beauty of the vine’s curves contrasting with the strong architectural lines.
She lifted herself up onto one of her elbows. One of her dogs was lying on its side next to her in the bed, his paws softly paddling and the side of his mouth puffing puffing up from his gently labored breathing; she imagined him dreaming of chasing a squirrel or stray cat. The air escaping his mouth made his cheek pop against his teeth and gums as he quietly dream-barked. Was that what she had heard? His oral flatulence? Or maybe a neighbor was up with a fussy baby and the sound had carried across the silence of the heavy night air.
Her pillow wrapped around her face as she laid back down on her right side and shook it off as her imagination.
Della pushed the button on her clock to turn the radio on. She was in the habit of listening to George Noory on Coast to Coast AM when she woke up in the middle of the night and the soothing sound of his voice would always lull her back into sleep. She always chuckled to herself, imagining that if she ever met him, she would introduce herself by telling him that although he didn’t realize it, she slept with him every night. She imagined him laughing admiringly at her great wit and then realized that she was probably the only one that thought it was really funny. OK, Della. Back to reality, she told herself.
The program tonight was about EVPs. Some ghost /paranormal group out of Langdon was on the program every once in a while (when it wasn’t promoting the latest government conspiracy theorists or UFO abductees—she usually turned the radio off immediately when they had those crackpots on) and tonight was one of those nights. Della was totally creeped out within the first five minutes and she hoped she wouldn’t fall asleep and miss a single minute of the interview.
She liked being creeped out. It was a good thing. Anytime she could listen to or read something about life after death, she was the first in line. She couldn’t get enough of it.
The group’s leader, Jeannie Bixom, explained to George that her team had recently investigated an abandoned and allegedly haunted train station and captured several audio phenomena that she wanted to share.
“I come for vengeance,” a metallic and mechanical voice from the recording broadcast through the airwaves.
Della’s eyes started to water and the hair on the back of her neck bristled. She thought it may have sounded more like “I come for
,” but Jeannie’s explanation was
“This next EVP was captured during a group EVP session. An EVP or electronic voice phenomena may not be audible to the human ear. It is a voice that is captured either in a silent room, as the one you have just heard, or in a recording during a “question and answer” session conducted by a paranormal investigator,” Jeannie continued. “The investigator doesn’t hear the responses until the playback. We tend to think of voices that can be heard with the human ear as disembodied voices and yes, sometimes those voices get recorded, but we classify them differently than EVPs.
“Some skeptics try to explain EVPs as stray radio transmissions, static, or simply the fabrication of an overly imaginative mind…especially given the quality of some EVPs which are very mechanical and electronic sounding” Jeannie continued. “George, when you hear this next clip, you’ll see that the answers are intelligent and are in direct response to our questions. And these particular clips have a natural verbal cadence to them. These EVPs were captured in an upstairs residential area of the station where a manager and his young bride resided in 1888. Records show that this young man, Archibald Rasmussen, strangled his pregnant wife and then shot himself due to overwhelming gambling debts.
First, you’ll hear one of our investigators ask a question, followed by a period of silence where entities are asked to respond. These are the holy grail of EVPs because it’s pretty hard to write off an EVP as a radio transmission when you get a direct answer to a question.”
“Is there anyone here who would like to talk to us?” a male voice asked.
“Yes.” The voice was scratchy and hesitant but there was a definite response. And it sounded male.
“Is Archie here?”
“G-o-o-o a-waaaay.” The response sounded like a man.
Della chuckled quietly at the most predictable ghost quote of all times. She wiggled around a bit and noticed that she was getting stiff from waking up in the same position that she’d fallen asleep in. She counted the red glowing lines that made up the digital numbers on the clock. Wow! The number six has six red lines in it. Go figure. Must be some OCD setting in, she thought.
“We’d like to help,” the male investigator continued. “Do you need help?”
Della heard the sound of a door creaking and latching as he spoke. What a bunch of losers, she thought. They’ve just contaminated their own investigation by not controlling their environment and making sure that their people were not moving around making extra noise.
“Geeeeeetttt oooouuuuuut of myyy space.
“Did you kill your wife and unborn child?”
“She had a lover,” the male voice responded, crisply this time.
Honestly, some of the interpretations of the responses sounded like they could have been different than what Jeannie was saying they were, but they were pretty clear and they were definitely bone-chilling as they broadcast into the darkness of the bedroom.
“Archie, if you are here, please tell us why you did it.”
“It huuuuurrrrrttt,” Archie explained.
Jeannie started to talk again and spoke excitedly of how she and her team were ecstatic when they reviewed this tape, due to the intelligent responses they received. Della could hear the squeak and latch of the door again.
Wait…just a minute…where was that coming from? It sounded like the door between her and CJ’s room but that was impossible. It wasn’t even there anymore. Had that sound been from the house, rather than the investigator’s recording?
Della was scared to lift her head off the pillow to look towards the doorway. Instead, looked over the edge of the bed at CJ. He was big-eyed and awake but very still. She could see the fear in his eyes as he carefully rotated his gaze upwards towards her.
She slowly reached over and turned the radio off. CJs eyes met hers and the silent communication was undeniable. Remain calm. Remain quiet. Della could swear she saw her breath when she reached over. She put her finger to her lips to make sure CJ stayed quiet.
Creeeeaaaaaakkkkk. Click. Click.
Della rolled onto her back and sat up. She instinctively put her hand out her side as if she was driving a car and wanted to keep her passenger from going through the windshield during a sudden stop but her hand made contact with CJ’s face as he sat up, too.
Mary. Mary and Ivy. At the foot of the bed. Ivy was nestled into Mary’s arms with her head buried in the curve of Mary’s neck. Their skin glistened in the waning moonlight and Della could see the hazy lines of her dresser and mirror behind the two. Well, actually, she could see it through them.
Della’s hand dropped as CJ’s hand came up and grabbed hers.
Could this really be happening? She had so been hoping for Mary to show up again, but she hadn’t factored CJ into the mix and she was frightened for him. She wanted to protect him.
The air in the room started to move. Slowly at first, but it gathered speed as it took on a quickly darkening hue and travelled counter clockwise through the room. Della could feel her hair responding to the motion and she brushed it out of her mouth with her left hand while never taking her eyes off Mary’s face.
The darkness moved through Mary and Ivy and she could see Mary respond by arching her shoulders forward so as to further shield Ivy from the spinning darkness.
The darkness had adopted a comet-like appearance and as it gained momentum, it began to make an odd noise. It was a whoosh with a squeal of metal against metal and as it gained speed, so did it gain volume.
Mary’s loose hair around her face flew out as the head of the comet passed through her each time it circled. She slowly and deliberately lifted her eyes and met Della’s.
Della could feel CJ pulling down on her right hand, trying to bring it closer to his chest and she was afraid she was going to fall out of the bed and onto him.
Mary began to open her mouth as if to speak, but her lips continued past the point of normal speech and her mouth became a giant, dark cave of teeth and tongue as her head tipped slowly back and an inhuman scream crawled its way forth from the depths of her soul and into the world.