I’m a horror movie fan 365 days of the year. But Halloween is extra special to me because of the larger availability of horror movies. I watch serial killer films to relax. Monster movies get me in the mood. And if I can get a little hipster for a moment, I was way into zombies before The Walking Dead consumed all of America’s brains.
So, while I watch horror movies regularly, I made an effort to squeeze in an extra evisceration or two back in October, Netflixing and Youtubing Z-grade films with ketchup blood and cardboard brains, catching mid-afternoon scary flicks on television and Halloween-themed episodes of my favorite shows. And as I watched nude girls getting nailed to a wall or jocks jogging to their death in a haunted gym, I started to realize how easy it seems to summon evil spirits. Naturally, ouijia boards are a clear violation of soul safety. But other harbingers of evil might seem more innocuous at first, like puzzle boxes, a child’s doll, or a suspiciously inexpensive house for a new family.
No one seems to be able to invoke good spirits with such effortlessness. Why is it that most houses seem to inhabit horrible things? Why is it that spirit boards almost always summon the sinister? Why can’t we call upon God and good energy with the same simplicity that dials up the devil? Why is it that when the Holy Ghost possesses someone, he eventually pulls up stakes in their soul while demons wanna settle? And why are exorcisms so exhausting? Why can’t we just pull those bad spirits out of the skin of innocent victims?
If tales of supernatural serial killers are all fake, I suppose watching teens being pummeled by pissed off poltergeists is more entertaining than being visited by great aunt Sue in your dreams to tell you true love will come your way. But when it’s real, having a real demon on your ass is really scary. It’s no longer about the yuck yuck but the yikes. It’s not entertaining. It’s devastating. And a lot of people would say it is real.
I’m not sure how I feel about it. I can’t say what’s real and what’s not. I can only speak for my own experiences and throughout my life, I do feel I’ve had more than my fair share of bad luck. There have been many times I’ve actually thought I was cursed or that something bad had latched itself onto me. It’s never been anything huge, mostly just circumstances that converge into a crippling disappointment time and time again. But those little heartbreaks weigh heavy over time.
And I’ve called on God to remove the dulling residue of past demons. But instead of feeling cleansed, I’ve only ever felt crushed. What’s it gonna take to tackle the terrifying, to bandage to the bad juju?
I wonder if there’s anything that can be done at all. What if God doesn’t have anything to do with lethargy, larceny, or lunacy? What if, by design or negligence, we are all just hurdling toward implosion? What if our lives are all examples of entropy playing out in real time?
It’s so hard to be nice. We have to constantly bite our tongues, keep our fists at our sides, and step away from the line of fire. We have to talk ourselves up every day and concentrate on keeping the good vibes going. And as soon as we let up on the affirmations, we atrophy all over again. We gotta keep flipping those light switches on less we be surrounded by darkness again.
I don’t know why possessions are prevalent while good spirits are scarce. The only thing I know for sure is nothing is ever going to change. It’s never going to be easy. And when it all comes down to it, who’s to say our lives aren’t someone else’s entertainment? This is why we have reality shows and horror movies based on true events. And there just might be a higher power that gets a kick out of watching us overcome our curses. Maybe things that are really scary can be really educating.
And although we have to fight to be friendly, it’s worth the effort. Instead of adding to the agony, we can help patch up other people. Even if it’s just for a bit, even if it’s just a temporary bandage, isn’t that enough to make a difference? In a world laid to waste, it still matters that we hold out our hands rather than hold up a gun, use our tongues to prepare praises instead of slinging insults, and make moves to slowly kill the hate that’s been jammed into the hearts of others. Maybe only then will the demons dig their way out on their own.
I’ve always tried to tell people that my workplace is haunted. The building turns perfectly lovely people into cold-hearted jerks. Docile children suddenly spring into tears and fits of discomfort. I, myself, have been infected. I used to be a good kid. Now, I’m grizzled and grumpy. I see new associates come and go and few escape unscathed. They start out sweet as pie but end up leaving at least a little bit bitter.
Well, my haunted hypothesis was proven correct the other day.
A mother and child walked into my department and wanted to check out. As I scanned her items, I noticed the little boy was punching himself in the face. He wasn’t drawing blood or anything, more like playful knuckle bumps to his forehead. But he did look odd. He stood there, his chubby little hand formed into a biscuit dough fist, rapping his forehead and flushed cheeks in rapid succession. The mother gave me a glance as if to say, “Yeah, that’s weird behavior.” She asked him to stop and he looked at her and replied, “But the ghost is making me do it.”
I know kids have active imaginations. They have imaginary friends and the like. But he didn’t mention it was his invisible pal Henry egging him on. No, this little Haley Joel Osment-looking mofo said ghost.
A few seconds later, as I was bagging the lady’s items, the boy crawled underneath one of the fixtures. The lady told him to get off the floor and the boy said, “But he’s chasing me.”
I handed the lady her bag and she told the boy they had to go. He got onto his feet, turned around and said, “Okay, we have to leave you here now.”
I started to say, “Oh, no, no! Take it with you, please!”
I’ve watched enough of these haunted house shows to know sometimes places are haunted by more than one spirit. And a lot of the time, there’s a healthy mix of merry and malevolent ghosts. Sometimes the good ghosts help keep the humans safe. Did that kid encounter one of the good ones? If so, I suppose it’s a relief that he found it in my department. The kid didn’t seem scared. He seemed like he was having fun, or as much fun as you can have hitting yourself in the face.
Although, with my luck and the consistent stream of crappy customers I have to encounter each day, I’m likely to find more Amityville than amiable around my area. And that makes me suspect that Casper was Catfishing this kid. You know, luring him in with play and gaining his trust before convincing him to take the butcher knife out of the kitchen drawer and murder his parents.
Or maybe the encounter with the kid was an example of my active imagination. I’m not sure I even believe in ghosts. But I definitely believe in energy. Something has to be making us all feel so miserable all the time. While declining hours and increasing workloads are a contributing factor, things were always tense even when the store was doing well.
You ever have a bad feeling around a place or a person? We must all have vibes that we project onto the environment around us. It’s entirely possible that those vibes can linger long after we’ve left. Maybe they get trapped in the air or wood or cement. In the most extreme cases, maybe they even get trapped inside us. Maybe they manifest or maybe they don’t even need to in order to affect someone.
That leaves me to wonder how I’m supposed to tackle this negative energy (or long-deceased douche bag, whichever you prefer). I certainly can’t light up some sage and waft it around the walls without getting the wonky eye from the Christian customers. They’ll just call me a devil worshiper, which will effectively bring more negative energy to the place and undo all my hard work.
And if it’s all about attitude, I’m afraid I’m out of luck on that one as well. It’s hard to combat negative energy when you’re cynical yourself. I have my own demons I’ve got to exorcise before I can get in line with lifting everyone’s spirits by clearing away the bad ones. So for now, until I can figure out how to field the front line of foul souls, I’ll just keep folding my shirts while keeping an eye out for possessed tots flogging themselves in the face.
Several weeks (months?) ago, I spoke with a fellow blogger about some of the things going on in my life and in my head. After giving him a couple of my symptoms, he mentioned a lot of them correlated to the dreaded DIABEETUS. He has it and knows the adverse affects of the disease.
I never thought even thought about having it but it’s always a possibility.
You know, I walk around and do my thing and feel these crazy thoughts and wonder about the source of my psychosis. For the longest time, I thought I was depressed. But I never felt comfortable with that label because it feels like an “easy” diagnosis. Someone has a bad day and they have depression. I have bad days every day. I don’t feel good about anything. I float through life, my nerves pinched to numbness. But I can also get out of bed each day and don’t feel those aches and pains associated with depression.
Diabetes can make you feel bad, too.
So, what’s the deal? Is it diabetes or depression that makes me feel like such a basket case?
Or what if I really do just play the victim? Or what if things are a bit heavier? What if theres’ a third “D” swimming around my gut? What if I really do have a demon inside? Holy crap. I just want to know what’s wrong with me.
How does anyone know what’s wrong with them? Does anyone ever get to the heart of the hurt? Or do we flail around and fudge our way through our frustrations? Depression is an easy answer. Diabetes can be a catchy conclusion. Even possession, while not as practical, is possible.
Writing has been one of the most effective ways of trying to figure myself out, to organize my thoughts and fears and lay them out in an organized manner so I can identify and try to solve my problems. So far, all I’ve managed to do is express how I feel without getting to the heart of why I feel the way I do. I’ve got to figure out the cause before I get to the cure. Is it a creature or is it chemical?
How do we ever know? How do we find out? And how do we go about solving the strain of sugar and spirits?
Happy Halloween, boils and ghouls. I carved a pumpkin on Sunday…or I attempted to. It turned out crap ’cause I tried to get fancy with it by shading and highlighting and…no. Carving isn’t as easy as it might seem at first. Maybe if I had a couple of pumpkins to practice with, I could have gotten the hang of it but my hand started cramping so I just gave up. Anyway, here’s some pictures of the gutting process.
|Our stray cat who adopted us wanted to help. “Here, gimme that knife. Let me show you how to do it.”|
“All I want is to feel alive, but I’m dying on the inside
And I’ve wasted all my time just waiting…“
–Attack! Attack!, Honesty
“They’re not dead exactly. They’re just…sort of rotting.”
Does anyone ever become completely hollow? Who ever reaches that point and what becomes of them afterward? I often wonder what has become of me and if I still have some emptying out to do. It feels like every time I have nothing left to lose, something comes around and takes more from me, whether it be my job situation, losing my looks and my faith or struggling to just feel good enough to mean something to someone. Have I finally been hollowed out and if not, how much farther until I fall?
Lately, I’ve been vaguely away of something stirring inside me. It’s not quite a heartbeat but perhaps the hope for one. It’s a residual pumping of blood and better times that echo inside the wasteland of my ribcage. It’s a feeling of skin splitting from sinew, a separation of flesh. It’s an aching in the bones like something gestating.
Have you ever felt simultaneously dead and alive, like your heart is pumping mud and your lungs are housing stale air? That’s where I am. There are days when I want nothing more than to complete my macabre metamorphosis and rest in the dirt and then there are days when I feel it’s possible to come alive again.
And there are days I actually want to.
But all of this back and forth between bereavement and breathing makes me feel bipolar. I’m tired of my body being blurred between the black and the brightness. It’s annoying and another testament to my indecisiveness. I can’t even decide if I’m dead or just depressed.
When I came out as a cadaver, I felt like I needed to make a statement, like I needed to do something drastic to make a proclamation of some sort, to let the world know my pain. After I graduated and realized my post college plans weren’t going to pan out, I gained sixty pounds and felt like garbage about myself and my life. And so I said I was dead because it felt good to at least define my depression. It was something I could label, something I could own and put away in a nice little box. It wasn’t messy like my situation was, like my head was. Going undercover as a cadaver felt clean and sanitized like an embalming. It was almost like a catch all clarification for my condition.
I thought if I declared myself dead, it would help me get a handle on all the pain, that I could make some sense of it and possibly come to terms with it. But that just wasn’t the case. I’ve been under the guise of a ghoul for about three years now and nothing has really changed. If anything, prematurely declaring my demise has put a pause to any progression or putrification I might have otherwise endured. Maybe in an effort to help myself, I only made things worse. It’s entirely possible. I tend to do that often.
But the pain persisted so how dead could I have been? As closed off as I was and as comfortable as I thought I was with it, there was the smallest part of me that still longed for life, for laughter, for feeling something else other than atrophy. And I still felt pain, still felt the ache of life crumbling me through and through.
But there was something else. When I looked inside myself, I could see past the collapsed veins and lethargic ligaments. There was potential there. There was good inside. There was a boy who had taken the brunt of the world’s beatings to protect a heart he felt was special enough to see the light of day once more.
I’m a mess and I’m often selfish and lazy and judgmental. I’m stuck in a dead-end job and have to put up with people with bad attitudes and body odor on an almost daily basis. I long for better people and places and they are all out of my reach. I’m trapped by money restrictions and bad decisions. But I have a different perspective on things and a mind that works uniquely from the people who surround me. And that doesn’t make me better. It just let’s me know I don’t belong. And it’s frustrating because I feel like such an outcast but it’s also encouraging because it reminds me that I am not like the closed-minded people who live here.
As bitter as I am and as much as I dislike people in general, I still wish everyone would just get along. I don’t understand why people have to fight and be violent and feel the need to be right all the time. Why is there racism and homophobia? Why does one person need to have power over another, whether it be the power to tell someone else who to love or how to worship or that they have to worship at all?
Although I mostly limped around lifeless, being dead did have its advantages. I was able to step back from the living and observe them in all their idiocy. I saw all the hatred and politics and bloodshed over oil and money and once again, power. I saw the bullying and the self-harm and the cruelty to animals and the neglected children and the abused families. I saw the rich and famous and indulgent throw away money while their neighbors starved. I saw the addiction to sex and money and drugs and food. I saw the inner pain that projected outward and manifested in violence toward anything. I saw how people made themselves feel better by hurting others. I saw synthetic solutions and temporary relief before suffering set in again.
I saw the people who used God as an excuse to hate and kill and oppress. I saw the people who blamed the devil for their devious actions and I noticed they never once took any personal accountability for anything. It was always another force or feeling that called them to action. I saw God shake his head in sadness over those who perverted his teachings. And I shook my head wondering how so many people could have gotten God’s message so mixed up: love every one, every where, all the time. It wasn’t that hard of a concept.
And that lack of love was partly how I ended up dead and floating outside the fringe of the world. I have to also take credit for taking my life as well. I prepared the noose and the world pushed me off the chair and consequently, I snapped.
But I’m close to coming back.
I always thought I’d resuscitate at some point. I just wasn’t sure how it would happen. I always envisioned this grand epiphany, that suddenly I’d feel a surge of blood as my body was brought back from the brink of eternal entropy. I thought I’d find a great job or a special someone who would help the heart beat again. I thought I’d gain valuable knowledge or find an inner peace that would propel me back from expiration.
Instead, it feels like I’ve quietly stepped back inside myself. I always thought there would be more fanfare and less humming of a fan. I always thought the moment would be bigger, special, joyous. And it’s not. And I wonder if that’s because I’m not entirely enthused to be back in the world of the living. Maybe I wasn’t ready to be bodily again. In fact, there were days when I reveled in my rotting, days when I ran the gamut from believing I could breath again to wanting to finalize my death.
But for whatever reason, I’m mostly alive again, mostly because being dead just wasn’t all that beneficial to me. I think it’s also because of everything I’ve witnessed and everything I’ve thought about and everything I’ve endured. I’m no genius and I’m not even special but I have something to say, damn it, and more than ever, I have the tools to say those things and to share them with a wide variety of people.
And maybe the only reason I came back is to share what I’ve seen and learned, to point out not only other people’s flaws and ineptitude but my own as well, in hopes that calling it out will cause change. I don’t know if it’s true but I’d like to believe I’m not so insignificant as to just burn out without leaving some kind of black mark somewhere.
But I’m not ready to give up my ghost just yet. I might be mostly alive but there’s still a part of me that lingers near the limestone graveyard. There’s still a part of me that seeks to finalize my death. There’s still a part of me that feels meaningless. There’s still a part of me that’s rotting.
And I wonder if I’m any better off being alive. I don’t feel much different. I don’t feel connected to the world or people and I don’t feel like I’ve learned much. But maybe this is just the first step in a long process of integrating back into a population with a pulse. Maybe that good job and/or good person will come around who will set off those sparks or maybe I’ll be my own flint. Maybe it’ll take some recognition or accolades. Maybe it’ll just take someone telling me they love me.
I am not entirely here and I am not entirely there. I just am.
“I am. I am. I am.”
But I am not out of the woods just yet.
The heart is still too dark to beat.
“Most of the men and women in whom Momoulian had placed his trust had betrayed him. The pattern had repeated itself so often down the decades that he was sure he would one day become hardened to the pain such betrayals caused. But he never achieved such precious indifference. The cruelty of other people- their callous usage of him- never failed to wound him, and though he had extended his charitable hand to all manner of crippled psyches, such ingratitude was unforgivable.”
– Clive Barker, The Damnation Game
When I put off writing, the pressure builds up inside me until I feel like my brain is going to explode. The world is knotted up inside my head, pulsing to try to untangle itself but it only manages to strengthen the stranglehold on me. It feels a lot like going on a diet. When I can’t eat, I get irritable, angry and confused. After a period of deprivation, the cravings become too much for me to handle and I want to eat everything in sight.
It’s the same way with writing. I crave writing. It’s another form of nourishment for me. Writing is another feel good food. But when I can’t write (or am too lazy), I start feeling deprived again and just like I want to eat everything I can get my hands on, I want to write about whatever pops into my head, from the mundane (which toothpaste is best?) to the profound (what, who, and where is God?).
And when I’m actually able to write, the world finds a way to uncoil itself, it’s tendrils stretching out in all directions like inky black octopus arms, writhing to get my attention, yearning to be written about. All the small stuff, all the large stuff gets trapped inside and I feel like I can’t properly let it go unless I get it all out.
It’s usually not too bad when I’m good about writing but lately, I haven’t been doing well at all. I’m exhausted from work and when I get home, I just want to watch a dumb horror movie, eat a pizza and then go to sleep. When I’m at work, frustrated with customers and fellow associates, my mind buzzes with subject matter. The words flow freely from a cut sliced open in my brain but by the time I reach the safety of my bedroom, the cut has sealed itself shut for another day. The tendrils collect themselves into a tangled ball again and I can’t get anything to come out properly. But, I’ve noticed there have been a few limbs that have managed to remain free from the swirling mess inside my mind, recurring themes in my thought process that continue to hang down around my heart and squeeze: food, work, my aspirations and people, specifically the broken connections with people that are still scabbing over.
I can’t seem to let go of all the people who let go of me. Especially those who made me feel good. I don’t get many people who can do that for me so when they do come around, I get attached to them, probably too quickly. They made me feel good, like I mattered. And then they quite literally vanished. Gone and away without a word of warning. The worst part is it wouldn’t even hurt that much if these people had not specifically told me they would be the ones to stick around.
I don’t think anyone left me on purpose. I don’t think anyone meant to hurt me. But they still did. They hurt me more than they will ever know, especially because I’ll never tell them. The reason being is because, as I mentioned, they didn’t mean to hurt me so why should I hurt them by telling them that they basically destroyed me? I’m not sure that would benefit anyone. It might benefit me in the short-term, to let all the anger out on them, to tell them how much they screwed me up. It feels unfair to let these people go unaware of the pain they caused.
But it also feels vindictive, like I’m being spiteful to tell them such things. I’d like to think I’d want to know if I hurt someone, especially if it was unintentional so I could first apologize and then correct my actions in the future but I’m not sure I’d be able to live with myself if I knew the depth to which I hurt someone like how I was hurt. To know that I got right to the core of that person and cracked it would devastate me. And no matter how broken I felt, I wouldn’t want to do that to anyone else. There are enough broken people in the world without me adding to the crowd.
The difference between the ones who left me and other people I’ve lost contact with is the people I just lost contact with never said they would keep in touch or stick around or never leave me. People come and go and I can accept that. With the regular people who slip in and out of my life, we all knew it was ending and there was a mutual interest in keeping in touch but no one made these grand claims or promises they couldn’t keep. And I wonder why the ones who did make these grand claims couldn’t keep their promises, why they would even make them in the first place if they wouldn’t put in the effort to keep them.
The worst part is it wasn’t even just one person. One person would be hard enough but I’d like to think I’d move on eventually. No, this wasn’t just one good friend who got up and walked away. It wasn’t even two people but a slew of individuals who abandoned me. Individuals I truly thought cared about me. And they left me, one after the other, taking turns crushing my heart. By the end of it all, I found myself on the floor, trying to collect what was left, scooping up the sinew and and smearing blood on my cheeks, amazed by the rapid succession of stealing away and leaving me alone to atrophy.
And it isn’t just a simple case of breaking a promise. When these people left me, it made me feel inadequate, like I wasn’t not good enough to keep up with, like my friendship wasn’t valuable enough for them to want to hold onto. It has really messed me up because these were not just acquaintances to me. They were beyond friends. They were special. And I thought I was special to them. Maybe at one time I was. Something somewhere changed, however. I don’t know what I was to them before but now I know I’m nothing more than a ghost to them.
When I died, I always wondered what kind of dead I was. I sifted through the different ghouls and goblins and tried to categorize my corpse. I wasn’t a poltergeist because I didn’t haunt or harm others. I wasn’t a vampire because I didn’t feed on other people for sustenance. I wasn’t a zombie because I wasn’t quite mindless, or cool, enough. Plus, I was a vegetarian at the time. Nothing seemed to fit. Finally, I realized I was just another restless spirit, an unsettled spectre with unfinished business bolted down to Earth.
And through it all, these people are the ones who still haunt me. They are not completely gone, occasionally popping in to say hello but it feels more like a seance than a salutation, a greeting over the grave that means nothing to anyone. They swoop in to say they are thinking of me without actually thinking of me, a shallow connection as a way to soothe their own souls and feel good that they at least made contact before blowing out the candles and slipping back into silence again, breaking the bond of the spirit board and sending me back to dissolve into death one more time. But if they really cared, they would have done more than summoned my spirit. They would have conversed with my corpse, no matter how buried I may have felt.
What’s it feel like to be a ghost? It’s not great. I float around, seeing people but never feeling them, hearing people but never being heard. Transparent as glass and just as cold. I want to shout and scream but my voice carries no weight. I am nothing of substance.
It’s the duality of the ruse of red cheeks and pumping blood that I show to the world while inside myself, I am dead, cold and incapable of feeling anything but insecurity and hopelessness. The emptiness is as far reaching as the tentacles of my messy mental faculties. It’s the wanting vs being, the heartbeat vs blood loss, the sadist vs the soother. It’s a constant battle of expectations and realizations, what people think I am and succumbing to what I’ve become. It’s trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy, trying to fight off the hatred and fear that bubbles up inside me every day, trying to put on the face of the boy I used to be, pure and innocent and loving. It’s pushing down everything that everyone thought I was going to be, everything everyone thinks I am now.
The appendages not only hold tight to my head but who I am as a whole. Pull back the layers of limbs and you’ll find a blank space where only emptiness resides. There is no core because I am anything and everything. Therefore, I am nothing. I am potential and possibility and failure and freedom. I am breathing and broken bones. I am writer, artist, storyteller, maniac, restless, actor, mediator and yet I am really none of those things. I have nothing to hold onto. I have no identity. I am not defined by my job or position within my family or passion. I cannot follow through with anything or align myself with a movement, idea, or belief. I do not move within this world. This world moves within me. I am pinned in place as it all rushes through me. I can hear, smell, feel, and taste a sample of it all: the joy, the sorrow, the hope and disappointment but the only thing that’s truly palatable is pain.
I suppose I wouldn’t be so heartbroken over these people if I cared more about myself. I wouldn’t need them to make me feel special and wouldn’t be so distraught over their disappearance. But the truth of the matter is I needed them to feel good about myself and because of them, now I can’t feel good about anyone else. I am trapped inside myself with no solace, no one to turn to in times of need. The ones I used to be able to count on are unavailable. I want to reach out and touch them so bad, to grab them and absorb them into me, to recapture that good feeling but it’s gone, pulled apart and burned away. Never to be mended.
All I ever wanted was to show love, to love everyone and eventually find someone I could love in a special way and hope that they would want to love me in that same way. And the very thing I wanted is the very thing that destroyed me. It was that love that lynched my capacity to care for anyone else. I see now it’s not possible for me to love or be loved but that doesn’t mean I don’t crave it every once in a while. It’s that duality again. It won’t even let me give up on the ghost of a good thing.
The tendrils constrict.
“‘And it’s not just obvious things,’ he said. ‘It’s not all possessions and hauntings and black shadows by the bed. Satan can come knocking wearing a more mundane coat. The Ouija abuser could have health or personal problems, or their luck could just turn rotten. Most often, the afflicted simply find that their faith in God mysteriously drains away. The invisible world of the undead, the world of ghosts and spirits, is the world where the devil lives,’ he told me calmly. ‘And if you go looking for the devil, the devil will find you.’”
-Will Storr vs the Supernatural by Will Storr
When I was a little boy, I used to hang out with my gay cousin, his sister and their dead relative in their haunted mobile home. Well, at least they told me there was a dead relative that lived with them. Although I was around ten-years-old and naive, I was still skeptical of the trailer’s transparent tenant. It was hard for me to imagine there was an actual presence, a ghost, that walked (floated?) among them.
I’m pretty open minded so it wasn’t that I didn’t believe in ghosts but I was also the type of person that needed to see things with my own eyes in order to truly believe. Also, my cousins had tried to trick me with unbelievable stories before.
My uncle had a pond across from his trailer and the eldest cousin, J, once told me it contained a gigantic fish as large as the pond itself. His name was Chester. I was probably about seven at the time and dumb and knew nothing about fish. If wales could get huge, could some species of fish as well? Although I had never heard of a gigantic catfish before, maybe Chester was a freak accident of nature.
My little brain spun with the possibilities but there was never any physical evidence, never any indication of a fin skimming the surface of the shimmery gray pond. I wasn’t sure what to make of J’s claim but his sister, K, backed him up. J liked to be dramatic and spin salacious stories but K was more down to earth and so if she agreed with him, maybe it was really true. Maybe there was a fish as big as a house floating around in the murky water.
Eventually, I came to my senses and realized my cousins were just screwing with me. Chester the catfish was a hoax, unless some toxic waste had somehow spilled into the water, genetically altering the scaly creature’s DNA, turning it into the Godzilla of redneck cuisine. But if that was the case, how come they never told the press and made heaps of cash off their freak-sized pond monster?
The ghost thing was a bit trickier. J said it was one of their relatives, Vernon, who used to live in the trailer before his father moved in. Vernon might have even possibly died there, which would have bolstered the validity of the story and also made it somewhat more believable and spooky. To me, at least, it was more logical there was a ghost in their house rather than an enormous fish with a pituitary problem. It didn’t help matters that the trailer was pretty creepy as it was.
The whole trailer was small and cramped. The interior wasn’t well lit or ventilated and was always hazy with cigarette smoke. My uncle and both cousins smoked so there were ample amounts of ash smeared on the tables and cracked ashtrays among the coffee-stained copies of Cosmopolitan. The smokiness could have easily been misinterpreted as an unnerving fog that had just rolled in to announce the presence of something unholy.
There weren’t many sources of light, either. And what little light they had was dull and mustard yellow in color. There were also rooms in the house I never entered, such as their bathroom and father’s room. Knowing there were unseen rooms within the tiny confines of the place prodded my imagination. Those rooms were mysterious. What was the mobile home hiding in those rooms?
That other half of the house where the unexplored rooms were located was connected to the den and kitchen by a short, narrow hall. A door leading outside was on the right of the hall and was covered by a makeshift drape made from what looked and felt like a burlap sack. It was the only light source in the hall. It filtered the sunlight into jagged brown shafts that splintered off and dissolved into the darkness, leaving an inky black hole…or wall…or entrance to another dimension that floated ten feet in front of me. I had never gone past the inky darkness so I had no idea what was back there. Technically, it was my uncle’s bedroom but for all I knew, that might have been were Vernon died.
And then dwelled.
As with most haunted houses, there was the occasional door swinging open or closed by itself. I rationalized it, like any good skeptic would, as a circulation of air moving the door. That was really the only evidence I ever encountered and it wasn’t much to convince me of an other-worldly entity. But J insisted it was Vernon coming and going. No one ever acted scared about it, possibly because they were making up the whole thing, or maybe because they knew Vernon was family and wouldn’t hurt them.
I, however, thought the idea of a ghost gallivanting in my home was creepy.
Things got creepier when K’s friend, Fallon, came over one day. She was staying the night with K and brought an overnight bag filled with what I assumed was makeup and clothing. A storm was brewing outside and everyone was confined to the small space of the trailer. So, to pass the time inside, Fallon reached over to her bag but instead of pulling out a pot of lip gloss, she took out a Ouija board.
Fallon was another one who had extra occupants in her house.
“I swear,” she told us one day, “if you put your head under water in our tub, you can hear the dead talking to each other.”
Ever since hearing that, I have always been hesitant to stick my head in any body of water large enough to submerge my entire skull. Once again, my imagination took her small sentence and ran wild with it. I envisioned the warm water filling my ears and amplifying the sounds of the dead. What did they talk about? What did they sound like? I definitely did not want to know. This caused many problems during bath time.
So, when Fallon suggested the Ouija, I opted out.
“Come on,” they all said in unison. I didn’t want to be a buzz kill but even at ten-years-old, I had been fed a healthy diet of horror movies and had seen enough to know Ouija boards were not catalysts for contacting Casper. Nothing ever good happened when those things came out to play.
We were in J’s room at the time, an incredibly small space with just enough room for a bed and dresser. His walls were filled with taped up images of the slain pop singer Selena and magazine cutouts of models and clothing. The aforementioned Cosmopolitan belonged to him. The room smelled heavily of JOOP! cologne and hair product.
It was cramped enough with the four of us in the tiny room, not to mention the dozens of models eyes on the walls following every move I made. I was feeling claustrophobic. I needed some fresh, fragrance free air. As Fallon set up the board, I got out and sat in the den.
There wasn’t anything good on during that Saturday afternoon besides football. I looked through J’s small collection of VHS movies. To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar and Hellraiser 3. I put in the latter as the group in the next room put their hands on the planchette.
After about half an hour, they all came out looking thoroughly satisfied. At this point, my memory fails me. I’m not sure if they told me they actually contacted a spirit. I suspect if they did, J probably had a hand (literally) in hitting up some dead folks.
It wasn’t until fifteen years later when I read Will Storr vs the Supernatural that I almost fully recalled the incident with my cousins and the Ouija board. To summarize the book, Will Storr is a skeptical journalist who went tagged along with demonologists, witches and exorcists as they investigated paranormal activity, all to see if he could find evidence of real ghosts. Interestingly, many of the cases he took part in involved the use of a Ouija board.
And after reading the excerpt found at the beginning of this entry, I realized the description basically fits my life and subsequent death. I’ve had health and personal problems. My luck is rotten. My faith has drained away. Is it possible that I my cousins contacted a demon and consequently I contracted a demon disease?
Far fetched? Maybe. But sometimes I get so bummed I look for answers anywhere. What’s the solution to the ever looming sadness? Is it pills? Is it exercise? Or do I need an exorcism?
It seems a little unfair. I didn’t participate in the Ouija session. I shouldn’t be the one afflicted with any kind of supernatural sickness. I’m not saying that any of the others should have fallen into a funk instead of me but I was an innocent bystander struck by a hit and run raising of the dead. Maybe they talked to a real ghost, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they simply opened the door for something to slide through the seams of the board, a presence that pushed its way into reality.
And then maybe that presence latched itself on to me.
I wonder if that explains this nagging duality that I feel within myself. I’ve always felt like two people: a fat guy and a fractured fool. Maybe there aren’t two of me after all, just two presences in one body. There’s the Brannon and then there’s the demon, mimicking me but with a sadistic slant. It’s the part of me that doesn’t want to care, the part that wants to believe in nothing but chaos and indulgence. It’s the part of me that’s been coming out more and more over the years. It’s the part of me that’s been killing who I was before that day in a haunted trailer.
The question is, how am I supposed to know if I’m possessed? What if I have an STD (Supernaturally Transmitted Demon)? It’s not like I can visit the doctor and ask him to run some tests. There are no physical symptoms to speak of. Well, nothing that would stand out as being paranormal in nature. Sure, at twenty-five years old, there’s still the delightful combination of wrinkles and pimples, the premature balding, the crooked eyes, nose and teeth. There’s the fifteen year struggle with my weight, which I still haven’t managed to control. Even the lump in my throat isn’t so abnormal that it would lead a medical professional to diagnose me with the devil.
Then there’s the internal factors of no meaningful relationships or goals. There’s the emptiness that scrapes at my stomach, a fading joy in things that used to make me happy, like drawing and writing. Even the destructive behavior of overeating and shopping doesn’t do the trick like it used to. But what would a psychiatrist say to that? That’s not necessarily supernatural, just super lame.
So, where does this leave me? If I’m not possessed, then I’m just screwed. And if I am possessed, then I guess I’m still screwed but at least I’d have an explanation for the everyday entropy. What’s going on with me? Is there a phantom floating inside? Is there a demon driving my depression? Is it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or simply an error in judgment or choice?