A Paranormal Investigator is not a career or life choice many would take. I, on the other hand, have always been a believer, since I had my first experience when I was ten years old, when I had gotten up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water and witnessed a solid figure walk by our back door. When I told my parents about it, they couldn't find any evidence of anybody who had been treading through our yard.
This memory very often revisits my mind, even after all these years. I am twenty-four now and my brother Nick is nineteen-going-on-twenty; we are both paranormal investigators and founders of our group Radical Paranormal. The group consists of seven members, most of them we've known since high-school; four boys and three girls—including myself.
Upon investigating some of our town's most famed haunted locations, we've seen and heard some pretty freaky shit; everything from full-body apparitions, crystal-clear EVPs, shadow people, and even a couple poltergeist cases. But even as we arrive, I can tell no case in our careers ever compared or will compare to this night we'll spend at LockHill Asylum.
Nick and his best friend Dan go ahead and set up digital cameras and recorders in various spots of the old building. It is abandoned with no obvious insinuations of strict laws against trespassing, so no need to worry about running into any trouble. Helping Alexis set up our tech center in the lobby of the old heap, I absorb the atmosphere. The stone walls are decayed into a dull, dusty brown; the ceilings are high and vast. A cold October chill sweeps through the broken windows and open doors; goose bumps rise on my skin even through the heavy cotton and fleece of my jacket. I've taken such signs in the past as a promise of good paranormal activity.
We split into two groups of three while the one remaining volunteer stays with the computers, monitoring what the cameras capture—if anything. Meanwhile, Nick, Dan and I quietly step over the wreckage on the floors and into the west wing of the hospital. I click my digital voice recorder on and Nick does the same, while Dan follows behind us holding his video camera. We always record our investigations through video as well as audio.
I get started. I introduce myself and my group, to get whatever is here comfortable with having us around. Next I invite it to do something—say something, move something, touch one of us. I basically offer us up as guinea pigs, but nothing happens. A half hour passes and the only thing we've caught so far is just a little bump near the morgue area; we've had Steve back at tech note it, but it will probably turn out to be something trivial—a mouse or rodent of some kind rummaging through the ruins.
"This is a bunch of bull," Nick murmurs. Clearly, he is just as frustrated as I am. "This place is supposed to be the most haunted building in Oregon. What gives?"
We move on to an empty space just beside the basement. According to legend, this long, narrow corridor was used as a body chute for deceased persons who were unclaimed. Walking down the two steps, I immediately feel claustrophobic; a good sign. Nick can feel it, too, I can tell. Although we were born a few years apart, Nick and I are as close as Siamese twins; almost every feeling is mutual between us. So much so, that our bond is almost paranormal within itself, because so few people understand it—not even our own parents full comprehend what each gesture or word or movement means between the two of us.
A soft, barely discernable breeze makes my long blonde locks wave a little; only I notice it, along with the little fact that there are no holes or windows in this stone enclosure. My eyes search intently through the darkness; I can't see anything, but I can feel someone watching us.
"Dan, anything showing up on the cameras?"
"No."
"Nick, how about the thermal?"
"It actually just dropped a few degrees in here—wait, what the hell, it keeps bouncing back and forth. It keeps going up and down in massive spikes."
Just the answer I was hoping for. This is going to be big, I know it. Most spirits can affect and alter the environment other than moving something or making noise. Since they have to draw energy from things around them, they can leave the air colder from absorbing all the energy. However, causing the room to fluctuate between cold and hot temperatures is not consistent with a human spirit haunting.
"If you're here with us, in this room, please let yourself be known. You can touch one of us, say something. Please." No response is given to my plight. At least, not yet.
A loud BANG resonates through the hall and into the corridor, making all of us jump an inch off the ground like startled cats. "Now that's what I'm talking about," Nick encouraged, pointing the thermal camera in the direction of the doorway. I keep my eyes peeled, half-expecting something to stroll through the passageway or appear out of a corner. I hear something faint, mumbled. I'm sure my recorder captured it, but I want more.
"Say it again, make another noise." An ear-splitting, grotesque snarl rips through the hollow walls. At first, I think it is some sort of animal, though I have no idea what kind could have made such a sound. The adrenaline finally begins to set in within my limbs, my muscles tight like recoiled springs, waiting for more.
"I'm over here." It's a low, breathy hiss, but somehow harsh and gruff at the same time. I slur out a couple cuss words in surprise. We've captured compelling EVPs before, but never have I heard a voice so loud and clear and threatening.
"Where are you?" I challenge it. "Show me. If you're so tough, show me where you are. Why are you hiding in the shadows?" Our EMF detectors suddenly go haywire with their irate clicking sound, then fall silent. This is the big one, I can feel it. But a little whisper and EMF spike isn't enough to convince me this thing is an inhuman entity.
"Humph. Some spirit," I lash mockingly. "Is this the way you show how big and bad you are, just a little hiss and some temperature fluctuations? Come on! If you're a mighty demon, prove it! If you're a demon, I want to see what you can do." I am about to utter another command when suddenly the air around me becomes horridly humid and hot, and before I know it, something lifts me off the ground by the collar of my sweater and chucks me down to the ground with such force, I can't even yelp in pain.
I hear Nick call my name in panic and in seconds he is beside me along with Dan. It takes me a moment to regain my breath, still sprawled onto the cold, hard floor. I didn't want to be picked up yet.
"Punk ass," Nick growls, standing above me now, "Why don't you pick on me then?" he shouts into the darkness, with potent venom and resentment as if our assailant stood right before him. "Come on, asshole, show me what you got."
"Nick," I gasp in objection, "Don't provoke it. Don't." I can tell he's objective to my command, but he listens and returns to my side, helping up on my feet. I almost stumble back down when something shoves me maliciously; Nick catches me in his arms. I can swear I see something fly by in my peripheral vision—something black and solid.
"Jo, we need to get out of here," Nick murmurs in my ear and begins to pull me towards the threshold.
"No, we have to stay; we need to get more evidence." I don't have the strength to fight against his basketball-player's physique, and he succeeds in hauling me outside, with Dan by our side. Nick opens communications through the walkies and informs Jerry, Lizzy, and Nicole to return to central and get things packed up. The thought of leaving makes me tense; I want to stay, dammit. I'm not scared of that thing; Nick's safety was the only reason I discouraged him from provoking it.
In ten minutes, the equipment is packed up, and we head home; I'm the only one with a scowl on my face. Running out of that asylum is a major defeat for me, even if that thing really was a demon and had ill intentions. It pushed me, now I want to push right back.
The drive back home is long, tedious; Nick plays soft rock music while I sit sulking in the passenger's seat; he insisted upon driving to give me a chance to recover from the blow I took back at the asylum. Arriving at our home right down at the river in Camas, Washington, our team gave me copies of the recordings and video and went their ways. It's past two in the morning, so my parents are asleep. I'm not at all tired, though. I insist to Nick that he get to work on that essay for his college class while I review the evidence.
I rewind the footage over and over, trying to see if Dan captured the black figure I saw, but no such luck. My eyes are aching; I can barely stay awake. "Screw it," I mumble to myself, closing out all the windows on my desktop and putting it in hibernate. I need sleep.
Falling asleep is easy enough, but gaining the benefits of the rest turns out to be more difficult than I imagined. Images of the asylum keep flashing in and out of my mind, reminding me of the unfinished business I left back at the asylum. It seems all too short when I hear my brother's alarm clock blare from down the hall; even on the weekends, he has that damn alarm clock on. Gotta admire that kid; he's so dedicated to his sports and schoolwork all the while managing to juggle ghost hunting on the side of it all.
Walking to the bathroom to take a shower, I can't help but feel as if I am being watched; from the very minute I lock the door and step into the shower, it's as if a pair of eyes are on me. I peek out the shower curtain a couple of times when it gets to me enough; of course, there is no one there.
I try to not let it bother me as the day goes on; it becomes difficult to do so, however, when I find myself alone in the house. My father, who is not only a pastor for our church, but also owns a little auto shop in our small town; my mother is a waitress at a local diner and Nick also occupies a job there as a busboy. I'm the only one in the family who does not work on weekends; hell, I only work three days a week with my dad at the shop.
I'm still exhausted; I did not want to wake up as early as I did, although Nick's alarm went off at nine o' clock in the morning. It was still too early for me, so I decide to lie down on the couch and take a little catnap on our living room couch. I am not sure how much time passes before I become conscious enough to realize a foreign, irate scratching noise. It isn't very loud, but enough to catch my attention. I find it odd; we have no pets—no dogs, no cats; rodents were hardly a problem around here.
When it doesn't cease, I rise to investigate. With the noise seeming to come from every direction, it is difficult to pinpoint just where the source of it is. I jog upstairs, where it seems to briefly become louder, then dimmer as I check my parents' room, then Nick's, then finally, my own. I stare into my neat and plain bedroom, clueless.
I jump about an inch off the floor at a sudden explosion of noise, yelping a little. Slowly, I inch my way closer to the railing of the open balcony above the foyer; my eyes feel like they pop out of their sockets when I see the front door ajar, some red and yellow leaves managing to tumble inside from a fall breeze.
Someone has broken into my house. I hastily rush for the telephone in my parents' room, and dial 911; I whisper raspy information and explanations to the dispatcher, who advises me to find a place to hide until the police arrive. I have every intention on following this advice, but some strange, stupid instinct tells me to protect my home from this intruder.
I'm so stupid… Ha, I hunt ghosts for a living—phantoms I cannot see, and yet I am intimidated by some stranger who is as solid and visible as myself. I skip into Nick's room, and reach for the cold, metal baseball bat he used when he was in Little League. I take step for careful step down the stairs, and it was then I begin to realize an oddity I should have noticed beforehand: There is no noise—no cluttering, no footsteps. I look over the railing, peeking down the hallway into the kitchen and living room, all visible from where I stand but are empty and undisturbed.
A police cruiser pulls into my driveway and a singular officer, gun-drawn, searches my home, to come up empty. He takes it upon himself to further note the tranquil, untouched look of the house. When he leaves, I stay outside on our front porch and sit on the rocking chair. Every instinct I have as a ghost hunter is telling me a ghost or spirit has followed me home, and I have a particular one in mind. The sudden remembrance of the entity sends an unkind shiver up my spine not caused by the nippy fall wind. It isn't until six-thirty Nick comes home along with Mom and Dad; I pull him eagerly upstairs and into his room while they make dinner.
"Wait, what? Someone broke into the house, but didn't break into the house?"
I roll my eyes at his theatrical reverse psychology. "Nick, I think something followed us home from the asylum last night; maybe that demon." The word suddenly sounds more threatening to me being spoken inside my house.
"Maybe Dad can perform a house blessing?"
I don't think a simple house blessing will rid us of this thing; I can't even be sure it is the demon, though our door swinging open so violently couldn't have been the action of a simple human entity, no matter how active they are.
I blink and next I know I hear our mother let out a horrendous yell from downstairs; Nick and I are flying down the staircase and into the kitchen, where I almost have my head taken off by a flying pan. I look for our parents to find my mother ducking behind the counters and my father is right beside her, holder her, and his mouth is moving; he must be reciting a prayer.
The kitchen is a warzone. Pots, pans, silverware, and china are being thrown with evanescent force across the kitchen and dining room, making ear-shattering collisions with the wall and floor. Everything is just shards of flying, broken pieces.
"Joanna, Nick! Get my Bible!" Dad cries to us; before I can turn around, Nick is sprinting up the stairs with his long stride; in seconds, he returns. Already, little beads of sweat are coating his forehead as he hurriedly tears through the pages of the holy book to the passage Dad told him to read. I peek over his arm and read the passage aloud with him, my voice every bit forceful and protective of my family and my home.
It only takes a minute and then everything stops, but it is probably the longest damn minute I've experienced yet. The clutter is miserable; I have to watch where I step as I'm only wearing socks but I manage to tip-toe across the minefield of glass and porcelain to my parents. I huddle next to my father, holding my mother's hand, while Nick stands above us, almost offering himself as a protective barrier.
"What in the world is going on?" Mom immediately looks at me along with Dad, and for good reason. But there is no sense in hiding it from them now; it has to be dealt with as soon as possible. The longer this demon is in this house, the more comfortable he gets, and the more comfortable he gets, the stronger he becomes.
I elaborate in a quick, simple commentary about the events of last night and tonight; my parents, being as supportive of my ghost hunting career as they have, make a plan of action. I try to keep positive when really, I am unsteady. I don't know how powerful this demon's will is; its reasons for following me home are beyond my comprehension, but I just hope chucking it out my door will be just as easy as it was for it to throw my door open and invite itself in.
We have no choice but to wait until morning to perform the house blessing; engaging in a house cleansing at night is only so effective, because darkness is a demon's realm—it is where they draw power. I grit my teeth as I walk up the stairs and into my room alone while Nick is just across the hall in his room, fetching his pillows, Bible, and PSP. My heart immediately picks up an unhealthy, rapid rate as soon as I cross the threshold to my room. I don't stay in there a second longer than I have to; I grab my pillow, my favorite ruby red blanket and dash back downstairs. Dad lights a fire and we all gather in the family room, setting up our beds of blankets and pillows.
Even as I lay here in the loving circle of my family, I feel a pressure pushing into my conscience; I can feel something watching me, just like at the asylum. I swallow and will myself to keep my eyes on the fire, to keep my mind occupied with its buoyant flames and shimmering cinders. Watching this double-edged element of nature reignites my determination and bravery. I will win my house back, even if it takes me all day; I will show this demon who's in control; I'll give it a holy kick in the ass out my door.
The fire popped and crackled almost in response to my own silent declaration. The little coincidence makes me smirk a little and I let my heavy eyes close as the red light continues to dance and flicker in my dreams.

© 2010 Jordane "Fang" Arnold

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A/N: Just one of the five short stories I wrote while in a Fiction Writing course in college. We were given the challenge to write a story based on certain various scenarios presented in our syllabus. Beings I've been writing what I want for the past ten some years (which haven't been of great variety) it was a new challenge for me. I'm just posting this story to get feedback for my writing style, not necessarily the story itself. For the heck of it, why not? Ha.