It was approaching dusk by the time I finally got the chance to sit down and write that day. This didn't create any amount of stress in me, though, because I can write anytime, anywhere. I still remember walking down the hallway that day and hearing the faint sound of my bare feet padding on the cool hardwood floor. That silence, more than anything else, made me feel quite alone. The Chef was working the evening shift and wouldn't be home until late so I had the place to myself. I thought I would do some writing before worrying about scrounging up some dinner.
I walked into the "office" -- that name really doesn't work, but I don't know what else to call it -- which used to be our daughter's room. When she had left home we redecorated it: new paint, new carpet, new lighting, a small desk, a chair or two, the works. It was now a very inviting room for getting some work done. I use it for writing. I walked in, set my large cup of white tea down, and fell into the chair. Staring out the window into the back yard, I watched the shadows lengthen while I sipped at the tea.
When the tea was gone I lit a candle that was at the edge of the desk. I would sometimes refer to it as my candle of inspiration. The truth is that it was part of an elaborate ritual that put me into the frame of mind where I write. I'm barely conscious of much of this and I try not to think too much about it because, well, it works. Finally I opened my MacBook and brought up my word processor. It was a blank white screen, with nothing getting in the way of writing, no icons, no widgets, no buttons, nothing. Then I sat.
Hemingway called it the white bull. If you let it, it could be imposing so I always try not to and just start typing the first thing that comes into my mind. The white screen bathed me in light and the flickering candle cast wild shadows across the walls. They were the only lights in the room and did little to hide the darkness that had gathered all around me.
For some reason this reminded me of the house I grew up in. I would laughingly refer to it as the haunted house and to be perfectly honest I hadn't thought about it in years. This evening, though, it made me smile and so I began to type, painting a picture with words of the house and the yard it sat in. As I typed, the memories flooded in and I completely lost track of time. You know how that is, right? You just get in the zone and you type. I was approaching the tenth page and over five thousand words when I sat back and blinked. Wow, that was intense; my eyes were watering from staring at the bright screen in the dark room and I was breathing heavily.
Breathing in slowly, I relaxed, trying to let go, and disengage from my writing. They had been such dark times and the memories were so powerful that letting go was difficult. Practicing Zen meditation helps in times like this. I notice the texture of the air as I breathe in and out. The coolness of the air on my arms surprised me. After all it was August and the AC was set at a warm seventy five degrees. Goose bumps were actually forming. Staring out the window I saw only dark shapes. Slowly I wheeled my chair around looking into the small room, towards the papa-san chair, into the open closet, and to the side, the hallway beyond. That's when I saw him.
It sent a chill through me because it was just the sort of thing you would expect to happen in a Made For TV movie. I knew I was alone, and yet there was a shape in the papa-san. It was a shape, wasn't it? I laughed nervously, knowing that it was likely just the shadows that created the illusion. Part of me wanted to leap for the light switch at the door and flick it on and banish the fear that was already creeping into my mind. I was older than that, though, so I sat facing it down. I felt that sickening adrenaline rush of paralyzing fear when I heard a whisper, barely audible, coming from the chair.
"Leave the lights off."
Strangely the voice calmed me and I sat back in my chair and nodded my head in assent. "Who are you?," I asked. It was interesting to note that while I felt a sense of calm, I also felt no small amount of fear building within. If you would have asked me even moments before I would have said the two emotions could not have existed at the same time in a person. Still, my heart beat calmly as I struggled to make out the outlines of a man who shouldn't be sitting not three feet from me.
"You know who I am," the voice said.
And suddenly I did. It was him. The one who had haunted the house and Dad for those many years, the one I had heard referenced in the stories Dad had told. The stories that had caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand straight up. These weren't just ghost stories, they were stories about evil, about beings that wanted nothing less than the destruction of our bodies and souls. If the lights were to come on, and they wouldn't, I knew I would be looking at a man that looked very much like Dennis Day. I knew this because that is how dad had described him.
Calmness was starting to be replaced by terror. I was frozen in my chair and the tongue that wanted to call out to God for rescue wouldn't move in that fashion any more. I forced out words, "Why are you here?" They came in gasps bordering on shrieks.
"Come now," the voice replied. "Why are you only asking questions you already know the answers to? I'm here because you invited me." Then laughing at the joke he was making finished, "Hell, with all the writing you just did it was practically a summoning."
As the voice spoke, I searched my mind frantically for something I could do to make this person leave. Terror was screaming inside my head, opening up all the doors, going down all the long forgotten hallways that I had long ago walled off. If this went on for much longer I was sure I would go quite mad.
"How can I make you go away?"
"Now that's the question you should be asking," the voice said with more than a trace of enthusiasm. As he leaned forward in the papa-san chair I could almost make out the features of his face. "You see," he continued, sitting back and once more moving deeper into the shadows, "I am assigned to dear old dad, or as you refer to him, 'The Overlord.'" At this he laughed again. "I can't tell you how that name pleased us. You made all of us laugh and we practically held a lottery right on the spot to see who would get assigned to you. You're quite a catch, if you must know. You will be interested to know that there is a moratorium on anyone taking any action towards you until the death of The Overlord. I'm rather proud of that stipulation. I fought for it because I want this assignment. Oh yes," he said his voice trailing off, and again it was pure evil. I was really amazed anyone could put such darkness into a simple sentence.
I could feel the malevolence in his voice. It wasn't anger, either, it was pure hatred and it scared me to the core.
"How can I make you go away?"
Laughter, the kind that would make your skin crawl.
"You and I are going to have such good times," he replied. "Better than The Overlord and I even."
"I'm nothing like him," I replied. I was surprised that I could speak at all, and calmly at that. I don't think I've ever been quite so terrified in my life.
"No you're not," he said somewhat contemptuously. "But," he continued, "I'll take what I can get." Here he said something that left my heart pounding in my chest, "Still, I've been haunting your family for well over four hundred years. We go back a good eight or nine generations. I can tell you when this long line of evil bastards got its start. Wouldn't you like to know that?" he asked seductively.
I could feel his presence growing stronger and I felt powerless to stop it. I spun slightly in my chair and out of the corner of my eye caught the sight of a picture that one of the old, kind, and very strange people that come to our church gave me. It is of the resurrected Christ returning triumphantly to earth.
Feeling genuine physical resistance I used all my strength and forced myself to turn more towards it and away from this evil spirit. As it came into my view I forced the words out in a whisper, "Blessed Jesus save me from this evil I beg."
A long scream of unadulterated hatred rose from behind me. It was followed by a whisper right in my ear, "You and I have much more to talk about," and then, once again, I was alone in the room.