Authors: Melanie James
The Dark Side
“Don’t panic, Gertie. I’m sure we can change Clarice back. I think Marie is getting used to our little problem.” I looked around the art display and there was no sign of Gertie’s golem. “I wonder what happened to Charlie.”
“Well, well. If it isn’t the wicked witches, East and West,” said a familiar voice. We turned around and saw that Esmeralda had joined us.
“You scared the hell out of me, Esmeralda!”
“You two have really surprised me. I never would have suspected that you and Gertie had gone to the Dark Side.”
Gertie shot right back. “We’ve done no such thing! How could you even think that?”
“Let me see.” Esmeralda crossed her arms, tapped one foot, and very theatrically gazed upwards. “Hmm. Where to start? It’s just so juicy! If the rumors are correct, Leigh pummeled her boyfriend into a coma during a raging tantrum. ‘Not quite enough’ said she. Like a truly wicked witch, she spitefully cast away his soul through the astral plane like she was throwing away a used tissue. Then there is the seemingly sweet, cat hoarding seamstress, Gertie. She coerced the innocent hands of little children into creating an evil golem. Yes, a golem, a hideous abomination that she plans to use on her monster filled farm, deep in the swamps of Louisiana. Not to be outdone by her wicked sister, Gertie confronted a little old librarian and blew her to smithereens, just to even up the body count.” Gertie and I had nothing to say.
Esmeralda put her hands behind her and quickly sat on the library’s checkout counter. “I’m just here to see what’s next. I haven’t seen a scourge of witches like this since 1720. That’s saying something. If you look back at everything you two did so far this year, it’s obvious. You two are really wicked. Oh, well. Like they say, hindsight is 20/20.”
“You’re wrong, Esmeralda. Gertie and I are just victims of circumstance. Really.”
Gertie reached into her purse and lifted the mouse out by its tail. “See, I didn’t blow up Clarice, I just turned her into a mouse.” The mouse wiggled and squeaked. “And the golem thing didn’t actually work out.”
“Oh? That’s some consolation to Clarice I’m sure. As for the golem, I have to give you an A for effort, but are you absolutely sure you
succeed, Gertie?” Esmeralda asked.
“You’re just blowing this way out of proportion, Esmeralda.”
“Oh? Then turn around and show me how you handle another visitor.” She pointed to the door. We turned to see what she meant. Bill had returned from his search for Clarice.
“Hi, Bill. Say, do you know where the big white snowman looking art project was moved to?”
“Oh, that thing. Yep, Clarice dragged it out to the trash bins out behind the loading area. She probably had to tear it apart to get it to fit. I hope you didn’t want it.” Just then, the mouse squirmed and freed itself from Gertie’s grasp. It ran right between Bill’s feet and into the corridor.
“Ah hah! Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” Bill stormed out into the hallway. We could hear his heavy feet hitting the tiles as he apparently tried to stomp on it.
“No! No!” Gertie screamed and ran out to stop him when she realized what was happening. Before I could follow her, the hallway lit up with a blue flash.
“Damn it, Gertie. Not again.” I knew something bad happened. Gertie returned to the library after recapturing the mouse. “Gertie? Where’s Bill?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I was trying to stop him and now I think he may be a mouse, too. I really don’t know, but he’s gone!” Gertie slipped the mouse into her purse and sat down on the floor. I joined her.
My head throbbed. “I’m not feeling too good. I think I must be coming down sick on top of everything else. Now we have to fix Bill also…wherever and whatever he is now.”
Esmeralda pointed out that she had been right about our lack of self-control. “See? That’s what I’m talking about. You witches are on quite a streak now. I should ring a bell every time you take someone out.”
The room seemed to shudder and a green cloud of smoke drifted from between rows of bookcases. “Marie? What are you doing here?” I asked. Her face was stern and she walked with a quick, deliberate gait directly towards Gertie and me. She took her hands and held them above our heads. “Marie? Marie? What’s going on?”
“Shush.” Her hands moved in circles. “That’s what I was worried about.”
“What? What?” Now I was worried.
“The two of you are P W U I.”
“P W U I? What the hell does that mean?”
Esmeralda cackled from her perch on the counter. “It means practicing witchcraft under the influence. Under the influence of a supernatural force.”
Marie stood up. “Gather ‘round witches. We have to get you out of here. Now!” Gertie and I joined her. Esmeralda hopped down and we formed a small circle. Marie whipped her broom in a circle and we were transported back to my apartment.
Marie had obviously taken charge of our situation. “Gertie and Leigh, follow me.” She walked back to my bedroom and I was shocked at what I saw. Hunter was still unconscious, but now he was levitating about a foot above the bed. Millie was still there watching over him.
“Millie, meet Marie Laveau. Marie, this is Hunter’s mom.”
Millie became a gushing fangirl. “Marie Laveau? I am such a big fan! I just love your work, and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to meet you in person! I am a bit of a medium myself and I’ve dabbled in Voodoo.”
“Nice to meet you, Millie. Right now we have a pretty serious problem. It seems like the spirits that have your son’s ghost were following him and when he came here, they realized that Leigh was a witch. That’s a very dangerous thing for us. Malevolent spirits can sometimes exert a strong influence on inexperienced witches like these two.” She nodded towards me and Gertie. “I’d say that is exactly how they used Leigh’s magic to drive Hunter’s ghost out of him, among other things they’ve probably done recently.”
When Marie said that, it was like a weight had been taken from my shoulders. “Woohoo! Gertie, did you hear that? We aren’t wicked after all.”
Gertie gave Marie a bear hug. “Thank God! You have no idea what a relief it is to hear that.”
Luna was on the bed and joined in on the celebration. “Meow.”
“Listen girl, don’t get too excited. If you stay close to me, nothing bad will happen. But until we get this nasty ass spirit off your backs, you two may as well be the devil’s handmaidens.”
Millie looked me over as if she were judging my character. I was hoping it wasn’t anything I’d see on a regular basis. After all, she was potentially my future mother-in-law. “Handmaidens? That sounds creepy.” She said.
“I was going to say they may as well be the devil’s bitches, but it lacked the necessary melodramatic zing I was shooting for.” Marie explained.
Gertie reached into her purse, gently plucking the mouse from its cozy nest. She dangled it unceremoniously in front of Marie. “Can you fix this?”
Marie screeched and karate chopped the mouse right out of Gertie’s hand. “Fuck! A Mouse! Ha YAH!” It bounced off the wall and onto the bed, right into Luna’s waiting claws. The mouse disappeared under Luna’s long black fur, then we heard what sounded like the telltale crunch of Luna delivering her death bite. “Now that’s a good kitty. I hate goddamn mice. Good riddance.”
“No!” Gertie screamed and then…she fainted.
“Oh my God! Luna just killed Clarice!” I yelled. I was feeling a little dizzy myself.
“Who?” Marie was confused.
“The librarian. Gertie changed her into that mouse today.”
Luna rolled over and the mouse scampered across the bed. I should have known that Luna wouldn’t kill a mouse. She would starve if she had to live on the streets. She had no skills and was much too fussy to dine on anything but her gourmet cat food. Millie jumped on the bed and captured Clarice.
“Let me take a look.” Marie cautiously held her hands out towards the mouse. “Oh, I hate mice. No. That is just a plain mouse. Either you two were hallucinating or you have the wrong mouse.”
“Really?” Gertie said as she recovered. “It’s just an ordinary mouse? Not a Clarice mouse?”
“Yes. It’s nothing more than a nasty little rodent. You should feed that damn thing to the cat.” Marie shivered at the sight of it. “Eww.”
“No! I just can’t. I’ll let it go outside.” Millie took the mouse out of the room.
“Now we’ll have to figure out what happened to Clarice and Bill.” I reminded Gertie. My thoughts were torn away by the commotion coming from my living room. Kelly and Lindsey had returned and were talking to Esmeralda. Soon everyone was crowding the bedroom.
Marie kept us focused. “Let’s get back to business, ladies. Tell me, do you know of anything Hunter could have done to piss off a ghost?”
This was another first for me. I’ve never been asked a question like that before. “I don’t even think Hunter believes in ghosts.”
“He must have done something. What was he bringing you when you blasted him?”
“Some papers that showed he bought a house on an auction. Why?”
“That’s our first clue. We need to go to that house and find out if anything happened to him there.”
I picked up the documents that Hunter had on him and looked at the address. “It’s on West Draper. That’s not far from here. I think there are some older single family homes on that street. I’m really shocked he came across this deal. That’s almost unheard of anymore in this area.”
Gertie added some useful insight. “Maybe that in itself is a clue, also. How did Hunter find out about that place?”
“I guess we’ll have to just go visit it.” Kelly said. “We just need the key.” She knelt on the bed and started digging in Hunter’s pockets. “Well, there’s some change. A gum wrapper.” She switched to the other front pocket. Her hand stopped and she seemed to be down in there pretty deep. “Oh, wow. You’ve got your hands full with this one!”
“Kelly! If anyone’s going to fondle him it might as well be me.” I had forgotten that Millie was standing behind me. “I mean I should check his pockets.” I quickly retrieved a single key. “Here we are. One key. I bet it belongs to that house.” I looked at the key and I started to cry. I didn’t expect to, but that little key suddenly meant so much to me. It was a key to so much more than a house. I just knew that Hunter meant it to be a key to our lives together. Ghosts and golems be damned. I wasn’t going to give up on him. Luna walked across the bed toward me. She put a paw on my arm as if she was expressing her solidarity. “Meow.”
Marie noticed that I was sobbing and she could also tell when I had stiffened my resolve and vowed to get him back. I remembered that Marie could read my thoughts. She gave me an approving nod. “You’re right, Leigh. We’ll kick some ghost ass tonight. Don’t doubt it.” She made an announcement to the others. “We may as well try our séance while we are at the house. As soon as Max returns with the Ouija board, we’ll go and set it up.”
“Gertie? Would you please call Randy? I want him to be there, too.” I wanted everyone to be there. If nothing else, I needed the support in case this didn’t go well.
Ghost of a Chance
Darkness had overtaken the sunny fall day. We stood on the sidewalk and looked at the old house that Hunter had found. It was no mansion, just a typical two story white house that was probably built in the early years of the twentieth century. I guessed that it had three bedrooms at the most. My mind was already estimating how much work it needed. The wood siding could use a fresh coat of paint. The porch was covered and enclosed by a rail. I could imagine Hunter and me spending a summer evening on it.
My fantasies came to an end with a cold breeze. It carried the dry leaves up into a swirling vortex near the stairs. More leaves danced down the street behind us. I thought it was strange how beautiful fall seemed in the light of day, but at night it was transformed into the most ominous and sinister of the seasons. I took a deep breath as I glanced at our team of misfit paranormal soul searchers. Brad had joined Gertie and they stood together holding hands. Max and Millie each carried some of the supplies we’d need. In front of us stood Marie Laveau, dressed to the nines in all of her creole inspired Voodoo regalia. Her loose silk robe was a dark gold with trim of scarlet and black. Her hair was wrapped in silk as well. She had more costume jewelry than a well-stocked kiosk shop at the mall.
I was more than a little curious that Esmeralda, Kelly, and Luke looked like they had just returned from a trip to that leather fetish shop I saw down in New Orleans. I’ve never been convinced that guys should wear pleather pants in public, at least not on a residential street that I hoped would someday be my address. Behind me, Lindsey and Derek looked more conventional. For all of the talk she did to keep up with Kelly, she was a sweetheart. She and Derek could have been plucked from a Norman Rockwell painting of a malt shop.
“Let’s do this.” Marie said in a commanding voice and led us up the little stairs to the front door. There was a resounding smack as Kelly and Esmeralda simultaneously slapped Luke’s ass cheeks.
Randy put his
Vlad the Vampire
sleeved arm on my shoulder. “It’s going to be fine. We’ll get him back.”
I fumbled in my bag for the key and felt Luna’s familiar silky warm coat. “Meow. Meow.”
“When did you jump in there?” I asked out loud. I figured it was no accident. She wanted to be part of the team. I found the key and unlocked the door. I stood back and let Marie lead us in.
Max flicked a light switch he had found. “The electric is off. Millie, would you please light some of those candles?”
“Didn’t you bring a flashlight? Did anyone?” Millie asked.
Everyone shook their heads. Max responded. “No way, Baby. You can’t use a flashlight at a séance. Everyone knows you have to have candles for the ghosts to blow out. I’ve seen it in a hundred movies.”
Thump…Thump. An eerie hollow sound came from the dark space ahead of me.
“Uh! Fuck! That’s going to leave a mark.” Kelly called out. “I can’t see anything.”
Brad was more cautious. “It’s too dangerous for all of us to fumble around in the dark with candles as our only light in this place. Marie, can we set up a spot in this big room?”
Max, Millie, and Marie managed to get five lit candles together. The little flames created splashes of light and shadows that danced across the bare walls. I looked around to see what the place looked like, but I was unable to get a clear view. “Everyone come over here. Sit on the floor and form a circle around the candles.” Soon we were in position. Millie set out the Ouija board so that she and Marie could both use it. “Hold hands with the person next to you.” Marie and Millie put their fingertips on the heart shaped planchette. “Everyone remain completely silent. I am going to see if there are any spirits in this house.”
Marie called out into the air above us. “Spirit! Let us know your presence!” We silently waited and Marie repeated her command. Finally the planchette moved. It pointed to the word
and then to
“Good. Now tell us your name.” The pointer moved over the letters O W E M. “Owem. Tell us if you know where the spirit of Hunter Kovacs is located.” The planchette repeated its last communication, O W E M. “Owem, tell us yes or no.” One more time the spirit spelled OW E M.
“For Christ’s sake, Marie. This stupid ghost just doesn’t get it.” Esmeralda barked. Her words apparently upset the spirit and the planchette flew across the room. Luna hopped out of my purse and stood on the board. She took her paw and slowly touched the letters. M E O W. She cried out a loud “Meow.”
Max looked at the remains of his planchette strewn across the floor. “Aw, come on man! That was a vintage 1974 limited edition.”
“I think the ghost speaks in cat language. I don’t understand this at all.” Marie said.
“I think the ghost
a cat. It had a hard time with spelling and cats are notorious for being lousy at spelling.” Gertie observed.
“Oh, of course. Cats can’t spell, that’s why you never see them enter spelling bees.” Kelly said.
My heart sank. “I guess this is a dead end. None of us can speak cat.”
Marie pointed at my cat. “Luna can. Let’s watch her for a minute.” Luna paced around the Ouija board making a variety of cat sounds. Several peculiar hums erupted from her tiny fanged mouth that I didn’t even know she was capable of making. Then she sat down and raised her front paws up. She swatted her paws in the air, looking just like a Japanese Lucky Cat figurine. A huge wobbling transparent orb appeared above us. It reminded me a lot of those giant soap bubbles the kids at school made during a science experiment. Only this thing glowed a spooky greenish hue. Faint images began to rapidly flash inside of it. Within a minute they grew more clear and vivid.
Kelly rubbed her forehead. “Is there a gas leak in here or something? Because we are all watching a cat conduct a séance with a dyslexic ghost cat who has obvious attention deficit issues. This is just nuts.”
“Shush! Don’t interrupt her. Just watch that orb.” We were finally onto something and I didn’t want anything to interrupt Luna. The images quickly flashed from one to the next. It was like a compilation of video clips made from disjointed subjects. There was a scene with a ping pong ball bouncing down stairs. Then a porn-like scene of two cats engaged in vigorous sex. Images of bowls of food, cat toys, and more copulating cats spun around before our eyes. It seemed like it was being played in fast forward.
“I don’t see anything useful here. It’s like this ghost cat is sharing video memories with Luna. And more cat sex than she’s ever thought about.” I was beginning to think that this was a wild goose chase. Luna pawed the air. I saw a flash of a very ornate wooden box. It looked quite a bit like a miniature treasure chest. “Wait! Can you rewind that or something?” The random pictures of a cat’s life kept going forward. “Please, ghost cat?”
“Let me give it a try.” Kelly raised her arms up. “Oh great spirit cat of the cat-astral plane, please rewind your feline porno to the treasure chest scene.” The video filled orb went into freeze frame mode and the images skipped back to the little box. It began to play again at a much slower speed. “It worked! I can’t believe it. Really, I was just joking around.”
The shoe box sized chest was closed and I recognized Hunter’s hands picking it up. He set it on a countertop and opened it. There were a few sheets of paper inside. He looked them over briefly and set them aside. “We have to find that box and those papers.” Luna became agitated and the orb jiggled frantically.
A ghostly image of a woman appeared behind the orb. Her expression was one of anger as she swatted at the orb until it broke into little pieces. The crystal shards clung in the atmosphere and then suddenly began to fall in slow motion. Just as it looked like they would hit the floor, they disappeared. Luna leapt into the air and landed right back into my tote bag. We all scooted back from the frightening apparition.
All except for Marie. She took a defiant stand and challenged the spirit. “Just so we’re clear. I’m not some amateur medium you can push around. And I’m sure as hell not one of those rookie witches you like to bully.” Marie produced a little black bottle from somewhere in the folds of her robe. She smashed the bottle on the floor, releasing a thick dark liquid. Out of the ooze, two spectral giants rose up. They immediately restrained the angry female ghost by seizing her on each side. “Now, tell me the location of the spirit you have taken!”
The ghost seemed to be trying to break free from her captors, but soon submitted to their power. It spoke, but the voice came from all around us. “Why would you want him? That two faced scum! His ghost is locked away.”
“Two faced scum? How can you call Hunter that? You don’t even know him.” I couldn’t let some ghost talk like that and get away with it.
“You’re right. I don’t know that name.”
“Then why the hell would you keep him prisoner? You must have the wrong guy! Can you show him to us?”
The ghost wriggled and broke free. She disappeared and then Marie’s two giant spirits faded away.
“Damn! Well, at least we know Hunter’s spirit is hidden here someplace. We’ll find it.” Marie looked weary, but she was far from ready to quit.
Lindsey spoke up. “I think we need to find that box. Didn’t it look like it was on a kitchen counter?”
“I was thinking the same thing. Let’s go look around.” Lindsey picked up a candle and we wandered off to find the kitchen.