A Ghost Story Part 6

Another segment of the ongoing ghost story written by Revis and myself. Dig in.

33 Grams of Blog

Here we are again, my friends. It’s time for another chapter in the latest Matticus/Revis collaboration. Hope you enjoy!

“Fight it?” Jake asked incredulously. “How in the hell are we supposed to fight it? The only thing we have that’s had any effect on it is this book,” he held it out for her to see, “and we have no idea why.”

“There must be something in there that explains it,” she returned. “Have you even read it?”

“Not the whole thing, no, but I’ve read half of it.”

“Then the answer must be in the second half somewhere.”

“You’re probably right, but…” Jake’s sentence was cut off by a loud pounding coming from upstairs. It had to be the physical hand trying to break out of the bathroom. “We’ll find out later, when we’re far away from here.”

“It won’t matter where we are. It’ll follow.”

Jake took a…

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On being eight

My dear Little Prince,

Not so little anymore, huh? 

I say, “You can’t be eight, you look twelve,” not as a joke but because some days I have no idea how you ARE only eight.  You are amazingly good with your little brothers.  You are more self-sufficient than I remember being at eight.  Admittedly, that was a long time ago but still…

You are still amazing on your bike.  And your ability and my trust in you has grown so much that we’ve started going on longer rides, including running some errands that take us on busy city streets.  You are fearless and confident on your bike.  And in most aspects of your life, actually.  That is going to take you far.

You are so inquisitive about everything.  EVERYTHING.  You ask more questions in a day than I ask in a month it seems.  I’m glad I still have the answers to most of those questions.  One of these days though we’ll be looking up the answers together.  Learning, the adventure that never ends. 

I probably don’t tell you enough how proud I am of you.  And I know I’m too hard on you at times, and I’m sorry about that.  I forget that despite how you act most days, you aren’t actually twelve.  I’m trying to curb my expectations and when I push too hard I do always eventually catch myself and apologize.  I hope you can forgive me. 

Given your insatiable inquisitive nature, your confidence, and your determination in all things, it isn’t a joke when I say, “you are going to rule the world some day.”  Perhaps that isn’t quite right?  You aren’t going to rule the world.  You are going to change it.  You are going to shape it, mold it, pound it into something better.  I can’t wait to see what that is.

Love you kiddo,

Daddy/Matticus/The Jester

Rhythm

This space, other than my letters to the princes, has been about fiction for so long, it feels weird to be writing about life in the kingdom.  So much has changed since I first started.  That was before the first prince had even shown up.  He was on the way, yes, but not yet here.  How can eight years feel like a lifetime ago?

I keep having this conversation with a colleague, about how time is always funny but pandemic time has been outright “hilarious.”  (For today’s post, hilarious = ridiculous.)  Blink once and the day is over.  Blink twice and you’ve lost a month.  Blink three times and suddenly time has slowed to the point where it feels like it might just be going backwards, and what a horror that would be…  Blink four times and the cycle repeats, except maybe they’ll be in a different order.  Or maybe it will be completely different because nothing is certain at the moment, not even the steady march of time.  It slips.  It slides.  It stops and sprints.  It does a jig and then stands against the wall to catch its breath.

–Side note: fellow author and blogger, Arthur, has a podcast where he delves into the mystery and inevitability of time. He has some great word play in the podcast that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I’ve spent the last 14 months working from home.  It’s been an adventure.  I’ll likely be home for a few more months as well.  That information is just a tangent on how the normal rhythm of my days has been different during the pandemic and is definitely a factor on how weird time has felt.  And while you may ask how come I haven’t gotten into a new rhythm, a new routine, in those 14 months, my response would be laugh and gesture broadly towards my surroundings.

In the kingdom, the rhythm to every day is different.  Sometimes the rhythm of the morning is different from the afternoon.  Sometimes it changes suddenly.  Sometimes it changes so subtly that you don’t even notice until something goes wrong and you realize the song changed to a waltz and the cha-cha steps you were doing no longer make sense.  Not sure why I threw in a dance metaphor there.  It works though.  This has all been like a dance.

Some days are salsa: fast tempo, fun, quick steps.  Some days are waltz: slow, beautiful, smooth.  Some are the “high school hang:” I have no idea what I’m doing but gosh darn it I’m going to get out there and be seen anyway.

Not sure where I was headed when I started writing, but here we are.  Songs over, another is about to start.  I wonder what will come on next.  A swing?  Hustle?  Whatever it is, I’ll pick up the rhythm as best I can.

And you?  How has time felt for you during these 14 months?

A Ghost Story part 5

Here we are again. Another segment in the new story Revis and I are working on. We hope you are having a ghoully good time.

….

Jake’s mom snatched her hand back.  Jake, startled, hadn’t realized he had never moved his hand off hers when he’d tried to get her attention.  He was slightly embarrassed but pleased to see her eyes had returned to normal all the same.  Coughing, Jake looked back to the screen.

His mother asked, “Did you read any of that?”

“Yes.  I got a little bit of it before I blinked and it went back to being blurry.”

“This is so strange.”

“You’re telling me.”

Frowning, Jake’s mother looked at him.  “Is there anything else you haven’t told me?”

“Not that I can think of, no.  Why?”

She was taking all of this far more calmly than he ever could have imagined.  It wasn’t that he didn’t think she loved and trusted him, she was always just very strict and meticulous about how things were supposed to be done.  But, her behavior since he’d first told her about his encounters made it seem like she’d had experiences like this before.

“We’re missing something.”

Jake was confused.  “What?”

“Hauntings happen for a reason.  We need to figure out why you are being haunted.”  Jake thought about mentioning that she had very nearly been attacked too but kept his mouth shut.  His mom continued, “I need to remember where I’ve seen that man before.”

“I don’t know, Mom,” he replied. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him before. He doesn’t look familiar to me.”

“It’s going to annoy me until I figure it out,” she sighed. “Plus, I’ve worked all night. I’m tired and my brain isn’t functioning correctly right now. I need coffee if I’m going to figure this out.”

The two of them went down the stairs and into the kitchen. His mom poured water into the coffee maker, put new grounds into a new filter, and turned it on. They waited in silence, both lost in their thoughts. Jake was staring straight ahead at the wall until the sound of coffee dripping into the pot pulled him out of it. He turned his head from side to side in an attempt to pop his neck. It didn’t work, but he noticed something as he did it. 

“What’s that?” Jake asked as he pointed to the package sitting on the counter next to the fridge. 

“I don’t know. The guy dropped it off last night when I was trying to talk to you before I left,” she told him. Jake was about to ask a follow-up question, but his mother’s face suddenly changed. “That’s where I’ve seen him before,” she cried. “He was the delivery driver!”

“What?”  But even as he asked the question Jake knew it was no more absurd than the man showing up in his bedroom last night.

Without waiting for his mom to respond, Jake went over to the counter and began to unwrap the package.  Whatever it is, it must be important.  Hopefully it will at least give us a clue as to what in the world is going on.

He’d ripped the seal off the package but hadn’t yet pulled the contents out.  It felt like a book.  Why is everything circling back to books?

“Stop!” His mom screamed, her voice firm but unsteady.

He turned to her and saw a look of terror on her face.  He was going to ask what was wrong when he felt the room suddenly go cold.  His arms erupted in gooseflesh.  A shiver ran up his spine.  His next breath was visible as a puff of warm air in the freezing room.

“Run,” he said.  It was all he could think to say as a pair of hands emerged from the shadows next to the counter and reached for his mom.

She didn’t though.  She was frozen in place.  Her eyes were the only part of her moving as they flicked between the package delivered by a ghost and the phantom that had followed its hands into their kitchen and was gliding swiftly towards her.

Jake’s head was telling him to run away, as far away from this situation as he could possibly get. His heart was telling him to rush over and save his mother. While the two body parts fought with each other, another of his body parts began acting of its own accord. Mindlessly, his hand reached inside the box he’d just opened and pulled out the contents. Then, it positioned the object directly in his line of sight.

It was not a book as he originally thought it would be, though it was the same shape as one. Inside the box had been a clear hard plastic case containing a severed human hand. Wanting only to get it far away from him, Jake instinctively threw it as quickly as he could. Without taking the time to aim, it ended up flying straight at his mother. 

Seeing a severed hand coming at her snapped Jake’s mother out of her stupor. She ducked out of the way, causing the case to hit the cabinet behind her head. With a loud crack, the plastic shattered. While the pieces of the case went flying in every direction, the hand floated down gently, like a leaf, until it landed on her shoulder. 

Just as her son had, she grabbed the hand and flung it away from herself. The unattached appendage only made it a few feet before it stopped, caught in the air by the spectral hands.

“Run!” Jake yelled again but his mom still didn’t heed his advice.  His own feet refused to budge either.  For good or ill he wanted to see what happened next.

The decapitated hand seemed to shift of its own accord, moving from the hand that had caught it into becoming the hand that had caught it.  The sight was so disturbing that Jake wanted to look away but he couldn’t.  He was fascinated.

Once the decapitated hand had completely fused with the ghost there was a piercing shriek of laughter and the rest of the spirit seemed to swell forward.  Where there had only been a shadow beyond the arms there was not a full body.  And a face. 

Its eyes glowed with a malice that Jake could feel crawling on his skin and its lips were twisted into a snarl that made Jake immediately think of one thing and one thing only.  This thing hates us.

The ghost took a step forward, now reaching out with one spectral hand and one very real hand, and was nearly in reach of his mother.  Jake knew that shouting for her to run again would be useless.  He needed to do something though.  Another step and the thing would have his mother in its grasp.

Time stood still for Jake at that moment. For his whole life, whenever he was scared, or in trouble, it was his mother who was there to help him out of it. He had no siblings. His dad had long ago left the picture. He had friends, sure, but he knew that none of them would ever be there for him as much as his mother was. And now, now she needed him.

As much as he wanted to be there for her as she had been for him, he had no idea what to do. He didn’t have a Ghostbusters backpack. He didn’t have a Bible. The only clue he had about what this ghost wanted was a book about preparing for college, and, as a clue, it went right over his head. What did preparing for college have to do with hanging around in the afterlife? And what did the book’s author, someone neither he or his mother had ever met, have to do with any of this? 

Time snapped back into being when he remembered what he’d just read about running away from the ghost. Then something else came to mind. “Over here,” he yelled at the spectral hands. “It’s me you want, remember?”

Jake was sure of it. He was the one who was warned. He was the one who was choked. Whatever this was, it wasn’t until his mother started helping him that she was targeted. This ghost, for whatever reason, wanted him. 

The ghost turned slowly towards Jake.  It seemed like it was taking time for the message to get to it.  Maybe it takes time for sounds to cross through the barrier between worlds.  Or maybe he’s just not very smart.  Jake hoped it was the latter but felt certain it was the former.

The burning eyes locked onto his own and Jake felt panic grip his heart as he saw recognition behind the ghost’s eyes.  The spirit flew at him.  It moved faster than he’d seen it move up to that point.

Run! Jake screamed internally and this time he listened to himself.

Nearly tripping over his own feet, Jake turned, stumbled, and fled towards his room.  He wasn’t sure why but perhaps the answer was there, in his bookcase, or in the college prep book.  He could feel wisps of icy air brushing against the back of his neck.  The touch burned and a scream escaped his lip. 

The ghost was nearly on top of him.

He threw himself up the stairs two and three at a time.  His heart pounded.  He could hear his mom shrieking somewhere behind him.  Another brush of ice on his neck nearly made him stumble but he reached the landing and hurtled down the hallway to his room.  His eyes spotted the college prep book, Unprepared, he grabbed it and whirled around holding the book in front of him like a shield.

Without thinking, he closed his eyes and waited for whatever was coming next. Something hit the book hard, almost making him lose his grip. The sound the impact made reminded him of a baseball hitting a bat. He opened his eyes right after and saw the unattached hand go flying away from the book, also like a baseball. It flew out into the hallway, into the bathroom directly across from his room, and smacked against the wall.

Jake held the book out in front of him as he rushed out of his room. The hand had made a hole in the drywall when it hit and it appeared to be having difficulty extracting itself from the damage. He closed the door to the bathroom and ran back downstairs to the kitchen. When he arrived, his mother was shaking her head slowly from side to side. Her rhythm was interrupted when he grabbed her shoulders and got right in her face.

“Mom!” Jake shouted. “We’ve got to get out of here!”

Recognition came back to her eyes when she looked at him. “No,” she returned calmly. “We have to fight it.”

So this is six months

My dear Littlest Prince,

Okay, okay, this is a little late.  I’m sorry.  You are seven months now.  Nearly eight, actually.  So it goes in our return to the toddlerocracy….

Okay, okay.  You aren’t a toddler yet.  But, maybe I wasn’t talking about you?

Oh…  It is so much fun watching you learn every day.  Sometimes you seem to have grown an inch or two after every nap.  And you always seem to have learned something new after each nap.  From crawling everywhere.  To watching your big brothers play and then doing your best to follow after them to join in their fun.  To being determined to figure out the stairs.  To pulling yourself up on every surface you possibly can.  To all the amazing babblying and bubble blowing noises and faces you make.  To the sheer joy on recognizing someone as they enter the room you are in.  You smile so big, so amazingly, so full of life and love.  It’s infectious.

Just as you are bound and determined to keep up with your big brothers in every other aspect, you are breaking their records by already having ten teeth and working on some more it seems, given the drool and the fussing.  Everything goes in your mouth.  Every  single thing you can get your hands on.  So it goes. 

I wonder what tricks you’ll learn in the next six months?  You seem like you are already working on walking.  You seem like you are just bursting to say words.  Okay, not yet.   But it is only a matter of time.

Time…  It is something there just doesn’t seem to be enough of most days.  But, your time will come.  You will learn all the things and conquer all the things to be conquered.

Your brothers will set the example there.

I can’t wait to see it.

Love you,

Daddy/Matticus/The Jester