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.”