J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: Both
It was a small town. Small in that way that vacationers love—quaint, quiet and lulled damn near to sleep with its old town charm. People walked to work every day. Neighbors had been neighbors for generations. There were people that could name every resident on their street—along with who they’d married, divorced and who they’d run off with after the fact. The kind of antiquated feel that Nicolas Sparks fans ate up.
But that’s not what drew me. I couldn’t give a single shit about their charm. It was their ghosts, their malevolent spirits, restless energies that mattered to me. The more unhappy the spirit, the more violent. The more violent, the bigger the paycheck.
And there was a spirit in this creaking town that screamed KA-CHING every time it rattled its death chains.
I could barely wait to strangle every last dollar out of it with its own rusted restraints.
Only problem was: most of my prowess was supported by technology. And these sort of picturesque towns had a fierce aversions to technology. Dust, mugginess, water and more dust. I nearly choked my assistant in the street when she slipped on the glassy water in the square.
If she had lost my MacBook, she would have lost a lot more than her low-paying job.
But she managed to keep her feet, and I managed to keep my temper. Together, we managed to look entirely the part of the outsiders that we were.
It was no bother. I didn’t need to fit in with the locals to do my job. So, we sloshed through the town until we found the residence in question: a blushing brick face with wooden trimmings, spilling at the windowsills with fresh ferns. Just enough of the old-world to force my gag reflex.
We found the driest room and set up. It wasn’t long before the room was a deathtrap of hot towers, glaring monitors and sensors that were just as expensive as they were sensitive.
Then, I got to work. We didn’t need to confirm that there was some big, bad spirit who wanted to stay right where it was. We already knew that. We knew it wasn’t looking to move on. We knew it was looking to hang on. I just needed to narrow down the spot to which the spirit was clinging, and essentially clean it. That way there was nothing to hold onto.
“Early 40s male left by his wife,” I rattled off, flipping through a binder. “He was poisoned, but survived several days after the poisoning. They found his body a week or so later once the papers and…milk bottles had piled up.”
“But he’s still here,” Sherry said, nibbling at her bottom lip. “Waiting on his wife?”
“More than likely,” I murmured. “But she’s long dead and if she wasn’t, she wasn’t coming back here. It’s likely she’s the one who poisoned him before she ran off.”
“So, how do we convince him to go?”
“They’ve already tried that,” I said patiently. “That’s why we’re here.”
Sherry dropped her head to her chest. “We’re going to scrub him.”
I waited until she looked up for confirmation and greeted her dawning horror with a smile. “Get the gloves.”
The gloves, of course, were not ordinary gloves. Neither was what we would be scrubbing with. The gloves were lined with iron—great for dispersing any spirits, nasty or not. And the “scrubbers” were actually ionized batons that we ran across the spots of contingency until there was nothing left. We simply had to find the hotspot and get rid of it.
Standard forced evacuation. It could get ugly--shattered glass, crumbling stone and rattling doors. An assistant or two had been thrown into a wall, but no one had ever been seriously injured. Bumps and bruises that a little time off could heal. Sherry would get over it.
The spirit wouldn’t.
Oddly enough, the dearly departed’s hotspot was in the corner of the room we’d set up in. That didn’t happen often, but it was a lucky break. We didn’t have to go far to get started.
The usual vibrations accompanied our first sweep, but nothing out of the ordinary happened. The howling was within a normal range. So, was the sourceless wind and instant chill. We bundled up and kept scrubbing.
We worked in silence until Sherry gave one of shrillest shrieks yet.
“Sherry,” I snapped. “Get it together.” I already knew what the problem was. He’d shown himself. Understandable, considering we were getting rid of him. “He has no power here.”
“You’re wrong there,” a voice whispered. Now, that was unusual. Ghosts can show, they can rattle, they can howl. But they do not speak. Ever.
I didn’t have time to turn around.
The screens around us blanked. Every beeping, whirring, whistling thing died into a silence that thundered over my stuttering heartbeat. I started to slide to the floor without giving my body permission to do so. Sherry was curled up on the floor. I couldn’t tell if she was still conscious, or even alive for that matter.
My eyelids refused, like everything else on me, to listen, and began to close.
But I caught the last message that flashed across the screen:
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J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacher, author rep'd by Gina Panettieri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.