Friday, August 10, 2012

Ante Mortem by Ellie Anderson

Chapter 12


“Are you familiar with EVPs?” Bruce asked.

He was the lead investigator from Ghosts-R-Us, a paranormal investigation team that Della had found on the internet.  Della absentmindedly drummed her fingers on the kitchen table and glanced sideways into the bathroom.

“Uh, they really need to do that?”


Della gestured towards two of the team members who were in the bathroom waving around what she recognized as EMF meters.  She was desperately hoping that she had closed the lid to the toilet since she hadn’t cleaned before they came.  And…if they slid the shower doors open, they would be in for quite a surprise.  They might not find a ghost in there but they might have a near death experience when they saw the disarray of shampoos, razors and loofahs.  She hadn’t cleaned the bathroom because it never occurred to her that they’d want to go in there.  Duh…pretty stupid of her to not consider that.  What did she expect when they said that they’d be there from 7:30 in the evening until 4:00 or so the next morning?  They were people, not camels. 

Della made a mental note to clean the bathroom on a regular basis so that she’d never be caught with her pants down again, so to speak.  Hhhmmmm…maybe she should hire a housekeeper.  Oh, yeah…nix that idea.  If she ever got to the point where she didn’t have to replace CJ’s lost socks all the time, she might be able to afford one.

“I haven’t had any activity in the bathroom.  And yes, I’m familiar with EVPs.  I watch Ghost Hunters. I’m their number one fan.”

She smiled and felt like a kid for a just a moment.

“They’re just going to do an EMF sweep of the entire house so that we’ve got a baseline reading.  It’s a common theory that when we find elevated electromagnetic frequency readings, that it can be a confirmation of paranormal activity, especially when accompanied by corroborating evidence, such as an EVP, an anomalous photo, a personal experience…”

“Ooh, ooh, ooh…” she interrupted.  “Can I be there for the EVP  sessions?”

There was no hiding her enthusiasm. She tried to tone it down.

EVPs or electronic voice phenomena were Della’s favorite part of Ghost Hunters.  She wasn’t exactly what you would call a skeptic, but there always seemed to be some sort of logical explanation for all of the activity except the EVPs.  Even when the investigators on TV seemed to have no explanation for a door that closed itself or a chunk of something that fell down on an ivestigator, seemingly from out of nowhere, Della always felt like there was some sort of logical explanation that must have simply remained hidden.  But EVPs, they were a different story.  There was no way she could explain the recorded ghost voices that were always included as part of a television investigation.  They were usually pretty compelling and she was hard pressed to come up with any logical explanations for most of them.

“Of course.  In fact, we would prefer that.  Especially if it’s you that the spirit or spirits are attached to.  We’ll set up some digital recorders in each room that will just stay running all night.  We’ll review them later for EVPs.  We’ll also do some EVP sessions together as a group.  Someone will ask a question and then we’ll allow a period of 15-30 seconds of silence…a window of opportunity, if you will, for the spirits to respond.”

“Can I ask questions?”

“Absolutely.  Just make sure you allowed for the period of silence so that there’s time for the spirits to speak without us talking over them.  As we conclude each group EVP session, we’ll play the recording back and see if we have any answers.  We like to think of it as our ‘instant gratification’ reward, since so much of what we do is discovered during the later review process when we analyze the footage from the IR cameras and the digital recorders.”

“Where are you going to set the cameras up?”

“Well, let’s take a look around.  Tell me where you’ve had the most activity and we’ll set them up in those areas.”

Della stood and motioned for Bruce to follow her into the master bedroom.  He fell in behind her and as he came around the corner, he almost ran into her because she had stopped to stare at the gaping hole between the two bedrooms.

“Right there.  In the doorway.  I’ve recently removed a door that was there and I’m getting ready to put up some drywall so that my son and I have a little bit more privacy, but most of what I’ve seen has started in or near this doorway.  There’s another door to his room over there on the side.  And there’s been some activity in the kitchen and the living room.”

Bruce leaned to the side and looked into CJ’s room.

“I think that my son’s room must have been a nursery at one time and some of the past owners put this door in so they could quickly access the room, if need be.”

Della explained all of the different experiences she’d had as she guided Bruce through the rest of the house.  They passed the filing cabinet and she felt a moment of disappointment as she realized that she wouldn’t have a chance to visit the porch tonight with one of her beloved smokes.  Bruce had instructed that smoking and drinking during an investigation was strictly prohibited.  Smoke could easily be misidentified as an anomaly in the environment if any of the visual recording devices picked up on it and drinking, well, it just simply contaminated any personal experiences that one might have.

Bruce instructed the other four team members to set up and focus an IR night vision camcorder and a full spectrum camera on the doorway, one in the living room and one in the kitchen. 

“You know the history of why a living room is called a living room, don’t you?”  Della asked. 

“Nope,”  Bruce adjusted his glasses as he bent over to tape down some cords.”

“Mind your step as we’re moving around tonight.  We’ve got all sorts of contraptions laid up around here that could trip you up.”

“Oh, okay.  Did you want to hear the living room story?”

“Sure.”  He stood up, put his hands on his hips, tipped his head to the side and smiled at Della.

“Well, what we now call a living room used to be called the parlor during Victorian times and a ways into the 20th century.  Even though the room had lots of other sensible uses back then…and even when this house was built in 1917, it was common practice to lay out the dead in the parlor for people to come visit and pay their respects before the body was eventually taken to the cemetery and buried.”

Bruce looked totally enthralled with the story so far.  If she’d been telling the story to Steve, he would probably just chuckle, rub her arm and kiss her on the forehead.

“Well, when taking care of the dead started to become a business of its own, and wakes and funeral services started to move into the world of capitalism, the term parlor moved out of the house and into the business world…the “funeral parlor” and people started calling these rooms living rooms.  Apparently it was to dispel the aura of death and sorrow that was attached to the houses because of this practice.  The whole business of death became more and more removed from the heart of the home and more and more engrained in the world of the sterilized modern day funeral.”

“Wow!  That’s really interesting.”

Della smiled and pointed into the corner as Bruce bent over to start fiddling with the cords again.

“That’s a real headstone.  Came out of a Civil War cemetery in Louisiana.”

She stopped for a moment and took a breath while Bruce fiddled with the connections on the cords.

“No, I didn’t steal it.  I got it from an antiques dealer that got it when they were refurbishing a cemetery with new stone markers.”

“Mmm-hmmm,” Bruce grunted absentmindedly.  “Must have been stinky.”

She’d lost his attention.  He was way behind her.

“Uh, yeah…that’s why they used flowers.”


“OK, gang.  Let’s get started.

Della and Bruce sat on the edge of the bed.  A pretty young girl named Brenda stood across from Della, “guarded”  by a young man who was obviously her boyfriend and meant for the world to know it.  Another man, Bruce called him Blackie, stood by the main door to the room.  Della wasn’t sure where the other guy was.

Bruce turned on the recorder and stated the date, the time and the address of the house.  It was dark outside by this time and Della was anxious to get going.

“Is there anyone here who would like to talk to us?”  Bruce started the session.

Della stifled a laugh. She always thought that was the stupidest question to ask.  But then, everyone’s got to start somewhere.  She intently listened to the team as they randomly asked questions and waited for an answer in the stillness.

“What is your name?”

“Why are you here?”

“Are you a man or a woman?” 

Della looked at the pattern of the shadow leaves on the bed as the muted streetlight fell in though the drapes.  She had turned towards Bruce and while still sitting on the bed, she was now facing the empty doorway between the two rooms.  About 20 minutes had passed and she hadn’t experienced anything, not even a chill.  Just irritation at the barrage of questions that never ended.

“Why do you still come here?”

This was her chance.  She’d always wanted to be involved in an EVP session and ask a decent question.  Her heart pounded as she mustered the courage to speak.

“Mary, are you here right now?”


Tick tock.  Tick tock.  Tick tock.

“Alrighty then.”  Bruce stood up. “Let’s move into another room.”



The time was 1:11 AM.  Della could still hear the clock ticking from the fireplace mantle. 

All of the recordings they’d reviewed so far revealed nothing.  Not even a gust of wind from outside that could arguably be considered as a voice.

“Hey, guys, can we have an EVP session over here by the fireplace?”  Della was feeling bolder, especially as she learned about the team members and their experiences with the paranormal.  They’d had plenty of time to get to know each other as they took time between EVP session to just sit and “be” with the house.  “ I’m no psychic, in fact, I’m as dull as a doorknob when it comes to feelings or intuition or body language and stuff  like that, but I feel really drawn to the fireplace area right now and I have some questions that I’d like to ask.”

“Um, sure.” Bruce responded.

He set up the digital recorder and got it going before he gave it to her and placed a K2 EMF meter on the parlor stove. 

“Hi,” she started.

Della’s voice sounded scratchy and she cleared her throat.

“My name is Della.  You might know me.  I live here with my son, CJ.  You probably know him, too.”

That must have sounded stupid, she thought, and imagined what the team would say about her behind her back after they left.

“I don’t know what it’s like where you live…in whatever dimension it is where you are… but here, we can’t see you all the time.  And we can’t hear you.  I don’t know if you can see us or hear us.   Right now is one of those times when we’re not sure if you’re here or not, but if you are able to make a conscious decision to respond to some questions that we have, please feel free to talk into this little device with the little red light (we don’t even know if you experience colors like we do) but if you come really close to this little machine that I’m holding and if you try to talk real loud (or maybe you don’t have to try to talk loud, maybe it’s easy for you and we’re just wrongly assuming that you have to yell or try really hard) then maybe we’ll be able to hear your answers.  Whatever it is that works for you, please try to communicate with us.  I won’t pretend that we can help you.  The guys on TV say that all the time, that they just want to help you, but really…all they’re trying to do is gather information.  Sometimes that information might help you and sometimes it might not.   So, I’ll be honest.  I’m trying to gather information.  About this house.  About Cy and Mary.  About Ivy.  And if there’s anything that might help you in the process, well then, I’ll be ecstatic!”

“I like where you’re going with this,” Bruce complimented.

"Mary, are you here?  I feel like you’ve been trying to send me a message.  Is Cy here?  Is Ivy?”  Della found herself hoping with all her heart for an answer.

“Ok, there, cowgirl.  Slow it down a little bit.   You’ve got to give them a chance to answer.”  Bruce had a huge grin on his face.

Della took a deep breath, consciously tried to slow her heartbeat and nodded affirmatively.

Tick tock.  Tick tock.  Tick tock.


Tick tock.  Tick tock.  Tick tock.


A cool breeze brushed against the side of Della’s face and sent a piece of hair to rest right in between her lips.   Della brushed it away.

The pretty young girl jumped and shouted, “Did you guys feel that wind?”

“Shh, shh, shh,” Bruce scolded her.

“Mary, is that you?  I want to talk to you so badly.”   Della brushed the hair back from her face again.

“Maaarrrr…”  Dela stopped mid-syllable.

The cool breeze had entered the room again and began to circle slowly around Della’s head.  It began to stretch and strain in an effort to spread down over her shoulders and arms.

Della could see that the swirling air was taking on substance.  Well, not really a substance, but rather it was adopting an opaque quality that made her of twinkling Christmas lights in the fog.  Or maybe it was like frosted glass.  Or maybe it was the sparkle of tiny ice crystals on an overcast day as they fell gently from the sky.  Della breathed deeply and felt her lungs fill with the beautiful , sparkly light.  She moved towards the bedroom and her thoughts returned to Christmas.  What would Cy like for a gift?  Maybe she’d hand-make him something this year.

Della continued towards the bedroom and as her eyes closed slowly and momentarily, she had a fleeting concern about whether she would run into the door frame.  She opened her eyes and looked down, forgot completely about the door and saw that she was cradling Ivy.  The mist had enveloped both of them now and in that moment, the tiny part of Della that still had a grasp on reality realized that Mary had become a part of her.  She passed the bed where Cy was sleeping.  She knew that it was the last time that Mary would make this journey, this walk with Ivy in her arms.  She smiled down on Cy as she passed and proceeded though the doorway to the nursery. 

Mary’s thoughts were pushing Della’s life to the far corners of her mind and everything that Mary had felt up until that moment flooded into Della’s heart.

She remembered the awkward struggle to sit down on the picnic blanket at the autumn picnic.  Cy’s lips were on hers as the pastor announced the newly married couple to those who had gathered to witness their wedding.  She felt the sting of shame as she recalled Cy’s repulsion about her plumping body.  There was the humiliation as Mother Anders stared at her disapprovingly.

Mary leaned over the crib and gently laid Ivy down.  She stood up, tried to extend her neck, grabbed the side rail and realized that she was at peace.  She wanted to spend a few moments gazing at Ivy and her beautiful innocence as she slept.


Della collapsed as the mist left her body.

“Della!  Are you alright?  Wake up!” Bruce was frantically tapping at her cheeks and scooping her up with his free arm so that she was reclining back on his legs.

“Della!  Della!”

She opened her eyes and saw the team huddled over her. 

“What happened?”

“Oh, my God!  I’ve never seen anything like that!”  It was the pretty young girl.

“What happened?”  she repeated.

She asked another time or two but it was more because it sounded like the thing that one might say as they awoke from that sort of experience than because she wanted to know.

“What happened?” she said again, although she knew it was pointless to ask.  The experience was etched on her heart and she would never, ever forget Mary’s desperation as she glided into the nursery for those final moments with Ivy.

1 comment:

Sabrina E. Ogden said...

Great post, Ellie! And can I just say that I'm thrilled the series has gone over 10 weeks? Awesome!