E.M.Kaplan is a Chicago-based writer focusing on horror, humor, music, sports and the skeletons in your closet. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @emk14k
“ You know your mother is here. She’s been around lately,” Mrs. Dean said. In the corner of the basement she saw Mrs. Belamy’s mother standing against the wall rubbing her old fingers across the cracks that let the water in when the thunderstorms came through.
“Thank you. I know,” Mrs. Belamy said. She smiled as she watched the woman who raised her and taught her everything waiting to be called upon.
Yet there was a more prescient matter to deal with. James Redding had called them all to his basement for a séance, which they haven’t done in over a year. The last time was in October a day before Halloween. That occasion was called for when he stumbled upon his dead brother who wanted to apologize for breaking his promise and not leaving the Lodi Community the bulk of his money in his will. Feelings were hurt all around and James thought it only right that his fellow neighbors hear his brother’s apology. This occasion was much different however. This was about murder.
“Last week I was giving a reading to some out-of-towners when I saw Mrs. Estes crying underneath my coffee table. She kept saying ‘he killed me and he’s going to kill you all.’ As you would expect, I am deeply distraught over this and have called us all together to reach Mrs. Estes and find out more,” James Redding said as he passed the soft tan coffee pot to the others sitting at the table.
“She died from natural causes. That’s what the doctor said. She was older than all of us,” Mr. Emerson said.
“I remember, Monroe. I was there in the room when she passed. It doesn’t add up but I thought it begged our attention none the less,” James said trying to disguise the annoyance in his voice, which Monroe Emerson always seemed to brew up in him with ease. They have shared a common, almost respectful disdain for each other ever since the two men unsuccessfully used their abilities to try and court the woman back in the seventies.
“Well I have to say that yesterday I was meditating and saw a figure running towards me. It was a dark figure. It ran up to me and then circled me for a minute or two before it vanished,” Mrs. Dean said.
“ I saw a figure too… a few days ago. It was dark, but in the shape of a man, only fuzzy,” Mrs. Belamy said. “It was staring at me while I did a reading for that girl who’s been hanging around lately. That redhead, the one who wants us to bring her husband back.”
“Let’s join hands and see what we can fin,” James Redding said. The four individual’s sitting around the table placed their fingers on the planchette in the middle of the board as the navigation tool began to sway back and forth. The pointer swirled about before it rested on the letter K.
“Are you the one who has been trying to get our attention?” Mrs. Dean asked.
The pointer moved up and to the left before resting on the Yes marked on the board.
“ Is there something you would like us to know?” Mrs. Dean continued.
The pointer moved about the board as the participant’s followed it’s every move. It zigzagged amongst the letters before settling on the letter K again. Moments later it made a b-line towards the letter I. The letter L was rested upon twice in a row before Y, O, and U finished the message.
“And why do you want to kill me?” Mrs. Dean said. Mrs. Belamy began to sweat and Mr. Emerson fingers began shaking.
The pointer began to move faster, crisscrossing the alphabet with determination. The message it conveyed was clear and no longer singular in it’s intent.
“ So you want to kill us all? May I ask why?” Mrs. Dean said.
The pointer began to shake violently, making it difficult for the participants to hold on. The pointer jumped to the NO at the top left hand side of the board before flinging itself off the table and into a darkened corner of the basement occupied by spiders and Mrs. Belamy’s mother.
“Get out of there, Mom!” Mrs. Belamy shouted as the group tried to keep its wit together.
“What the hell was that all about?” Mr. Emerson said.
The look on the faces of his fellow mediums was a portrait of confusion and fear. Each person scanning his or her memory to make sense of why something from the other side would be so interested in killing them.
“We have to find Gladys now,” James Redding said aloud. “She knows something we don’t.”
“ Everyone join hands. I will lead,” Mr. Emerson said. “Gladys Estes. Our dear friend who has recently passed, meet us here in the middle and help us understand what we cannot know ourselves.”
A silence surrounded the room. An ice cream truck playing its medley of chimes was heard passing down the street. And then they heard the sniffling. Mrs. Gladys Estes was sitting on the basement stairs, blood dripping down from her eyes, her breasts lacerated and hanging by thin threads of skin.
“My god. Look at her!” Mrs. Dean cried out. “How did this happen Gladys?”
“She didn’t look like that when she passed,” James Monroe said. “This has happened to her after death.”
“What is happening here? What is going on?” Mr. Emerson whispered to himself.
Gladys Estes stood up and walked towards her old friends gathered at the table. Her eyes were devoid of the once sparkling blue diamonds that always made a stranger take a second glance at this once distinguished looking woman. In fact, there were no eyes at all left in her sockets. Just empty holes where tears of blood flowed off in constant streams. She reached her hand out and laid it wrist up on the table. Mr. Emerson stared at it, searching for a clue, but nothing on her arm was a cause for investigation.
“What is it Gladys? What are you trying to tell us?” Mrs. Dean said.
“There has to be something there,” James Redding added.
Gladys took her other arm and pinched her nose. As she did a nest of spiders crawled out of her dead throat. Mrs. Belamy suddenly brought her hand up to cover her open mouth. Her memory cast an image in her mind. The horror on her face made it seem as if everything was becoming clearer and worse simultaneously.
“ My god, could it be?” She said to herself in hushed tones.
“What is it?” James Redding said.
“The child. When we were young. I’ve blocked it out of my memory for so long,” Mrs. Belamy said amidst her voice breaking into sobs.
The others at the table knew what she meant. They have all buried the memory deep into their unconscious and now it was reemerging clear as the cloudless sky that hung over their quiet community. They were all between ten and thirteen years old when it happened. A new boy had come to Lodi and the other children were deeply resentful of his capabilities. He was only eight years old and his mother dropped him off in the middle of the night in a basket that laid outside Gladys Estes home.
“ Damn it! You know I always knew this would come back to haunt us. We were so young and stupid back then,” Mr. Emerson said as his hands shook in an agitated rhythm. “We’ve all buried it in the past, but the past has not forgotten us. We were foolish to think it ever would.”
“So what can we do?” Mrs. Belamy asked as her hands shook in an agitated rhythm.
“We have to gather all the facts first and see where they lead,” James Emerson said to his friends.
“I’ve done quite a good job of blocking it out. I don’t know if I can recapture the details very well,” Mr. Dean said.
“I remember he was wearing a blue and white stripped shirt and he had on black shorts. It was warm outside, school had just let out. We were scared of him, don’t you remember?” Mr. Emerson said.
“He was much more powerful than us. We were all jealous. Remember when he asked why Lisa Roberts was wearing white? It was the day she got her period. He whispered in my ear that my mother was going to leave my father, which she did that fall.” James Redding reminisced.
“I didn’t like him at all,” Mrs. Dean said. “He was evil. Pure evil.”
“Are you sure it was that?” Mrs. Belamy asked. “ We were just kids and if I remember correctly we thought we were the hottest things on the block. Not every kid in America was growing up psychic.”
“Well nonetheless it does not change what we did,” Redding said aloud.
“ I didn’t want to push his head under the water,” Mrs. Belamy said in a shaking voice.
“Yet you were the one who made sure he didn’t come back up. If I remember you said something along the lines of ‘keep him under until he isn’t fighting anymore’,” Mr. Emerson said to his longtime friend.
“But why is he coming to haunt us now?” Mrs. Dean asked. “ Why now? So many decades later. We are not evil people for crying out loud. We help people. Why are we being punished?”
“No evil deed goes unnoticed I suppose,” James Redding said. “ The bottom line is that we killed a young and very talented child out of bitter jealousy because he possessed more power and could see more clearly than all of us combined. We drowned him because we couldn’t take knowing that there was someone else better than us. Privileged little devils we were. We must try and reach him.”
“Oh no!” Mrs. Dean cried aloud. “ How would we be able to face him?”
“It’s our only choice. He’s on the other side now and we have the ability to reach him. It would be foolish of us to ignore the possibility of contact,” James Redding said.
The group held hands and called upon the name they had dreaded in their most private and dark moments for over six decades. When James Redding said the name John Dowery a sudden and erratic gust of wind enveloped the participants sitting around the table. Tears flowed down the face of Mrs. Belamy as Mr. Emerson bit down hard on his lip as if he was waiting for some terrible event to unfold in his face.
“ John Dowery. We have come to ask you for forgiveness for our troubled and irresponsible ways. We are sorry for ending your life. We ask why after all this time do you torture us now?”
A quiet whisper slithered into the ears of each participant. I’ve waited for you for so long. I can wait forever and when forever comes you will be mine just like your old friend is mine. I’ll be waiting for all of you as I have always been.
A sound similar to water being sucked down into a small drain erupted after the spirit’s final words. The palms of each participant were drenched in sweat as were their brows. The room was silent again as each person realized what was waiting for them maybe not today or next year, but waiting for them nonetheless in death.
“ No! No!” James Redding cried. “ I cannot take an existence of torture once my body is gone. I…. I … my god we will all pay in eternity.”
Mrs. Belamy fainted at the prospect, her head hitting the edge of the wood table that they have anchored themselves around for over sixty years. Her spirit left her body as James Redding tried to revive her.
“ The shock of it all killed her,” Redding said.
“Oh my god! Look!” Mr. Emerson yelled out.
From across the basement her still living friends could see Mrs. Belamy. She emerged from the damp opaque corner of the room underneath the stairs. She approached them with eyes wide open and mouth ajar. The remaining living souls moved towards one end of the table as their deceased friend began screaming, although not a sound could be heard. Her hair was being ripped out of her scalp in different directions at once as dirty black seawater rushed out of all her orifices. Worms and crustations crept out of her eyes as the others looked on in horror.
“Stop! Stop this insane punishment! We were only kids!” James Redding shouted.
The dead body of Mrs. Belamy paused from it’s silent screaming and stared at Redding before dropping to its knees in convulsions of silent laughter. Mrs. Belamy kept shaking her head from east to west realizing that her extraordinary ability was showing her an awaiting future of damnation. The powerful spirit of John Dowery had decided to wait until each member died his or her natural death to exact his revenge in a timeless landscape of eternity. Moments later, the body of Mrs. Belamy was dragged across the floor before disappearing down the storm drain.
“ How can life go on?” Mr. Emerson asked himself as much as anyone else in the room.
“ I feel very ill. I need to go home and rest. I will come back tonight and we can talk about this,“ Mrs. Dean said.
“What is there to talk about? We know what the score is. We did something terrible and no amount of time will ever forget that. I will be closing shop. I don’t have it in me to do anymore readings,” James Redding said.
“ Neither do I,” Mr. Emerson said.
The three remaining killers of a young child many years before walked upstairs and departed the house. Mrs. Dean killed herself later that night unable to cope with knowing what was waiting for her in the next world. She slashed the word Dowery in her sixty-eight year old wrists. James Redding never returned to his home. He walked until his arthritic legs gave out from exhaustion on Highway 14 east of Boston. He was found dead along the shoulder of the highway with the planchette from a Ouija board clenched in his dead hands. Mr. Emerson lived another twelve years before his heart gave out. He spent the last twelve years of his life working with children in the Lodi community on how to deal with adversity and violence. He wrote in his diary that he could often hear the screams of his dead friends every time he turned on a faucet or bathed himself. He wrote of the many nights he had dinner while his old acquaintances screamed in agony from across the table. When he died he left all his money to pay for an empty casket funeral for one John Dowery.