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Jan 30, 2021

American Horror Fiction

“Parapsychology and Christianity are basically the same thing. Well, parapsychology and any religion are more alike than you could imagine. This might even be why they call it the “Holy Ghost’.”

Cullen was energetic in his delivery of his newest hobby. He swore that this was more than a hobby. It was a passion. A passion that he spent six hundred dollars and the better part of a year to get a supposed degree from Thomas Francis University, including a certification in Paranormal Investigations. And he had been my best friend since second grade.

“That’s why I think you would make a great partner in my newest business,” handing me a card before finishing his delivery, “as paranormal investigators.” Cullen maintained the most enthusiastic smile and froze like a statue. I was also frozen but with much less enthusiasm on my face, none.

I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Joseph Flannagan, and I am a seminarian. I am training to become a priest. Cullen has always been a friend and has stood for me when God was not able to protect me. Being a logical thinker with a lack of social skills, makes me a target for anger. It also makes me repulsive to most women. Being short and skinny doesn’t help either. These things all combined helped push me to becoming a priest.

Cullen was almost the complete opposite. He played several sports, dated several ladies, and failed several classes. All while in his senior year of high school. Tall, good-looking, and rich helped him with any deficit which he might have had. That was until his dad died suddenly.

His father’s latest wife was endowed with all his father’s belongings except one, Cullen. And she made a point to make sure he knew that he was not welcomed any longer. The only place that Cullen had left was my family’s house. Ironically, he moved in as I moved out. My mother thought it was great that the house was not going to be empty. She regretted that decision after the first weekend, when Cullen brought home a date.

Now here we are, two years later. Cullen, trying to gain stability and his independence, and I was trying to gain some faith. I don’t think he really wants to find ghosts; I think he only wants to come to terms with his dad’s death. And I’m sure he wants my connection with God to help in some way. How could I say no; I owe him my life.

“So,” I stretched the word out and followed it with a sigh, “do I get cards with my name on it?”

“I could do that,” Cullen’s excitement increased as he grabbed my shoulders and squeezed. “But I was waiting until you became a priest. The name ‘Father Flannagan’ has some power to it. Maybe I could do both. Give me a day to get them.”

I gave him a smile of reassurance. If I didn’t know him better, I would have sworn that there was a tear in his eye.

“Since you’re on board now, we can go and meet our first client together?” Cullen adjusted the bag on his back and began to pull me down the sidewalk.

“I really have to get back to the seminary,” I pointed in the opposite direction.

“This should only take a few minutes and then you can decide when we can help.”

Hesitantly, I agreed to help. “Okay, but only this one time.”

We walked down to a shadier part of town. Then we went a little farther. If I was going to be honest, I had never been even half this close to where I was now. But several of these buildings were boldly presented on the evening news, mostly for a drug deal gone bad, a hooker found dead, or a car chase that turned into a foot chase. The Lord must have sent me here for a reason. Maybe it was so I could go to his home sooner rather than later. I would rather it be much later.

We made it to an impressive, thirty story building and started to go inside, but before we did, a tall lanky fellow grabbed Cullen by the arm and stopped his progress. Now, Cullen was easily the strongest person that I know, but this guy had a hold like a crab’s claw.

“Where you goin’?” His voice was rough, but not as rough as his face and arms. Both had patches of torn up skin that glistened in the waning light. His clothes which may have been colors were now just blurs of greys. Before we had a chance to respond, a deep voice came from a window above us.

“Jimmy, let them through!” and Jimmy let go of Cullen’s arm so he could catch something that fell from above. As soon as Jimmy caught it, he dashed away.  “Come on up, fourth floor!”

As we rode the elevator to the fourth floor, I began to wonder how we would know what room number was our destination, but as the door opened I got my answer. All around me was the bones of the apartments that used to be on the fourth floor. There was black, plastic sheeting attached to a couple of the bare studs, allowing a strip of light to illuminate the walk from the elevator.

“Ghosthunter man, Ghosthunter man. I wasn’t sure if you’d show up.” The man’s voice echoed through the empty floor. “I’ll tell you where to look for your ghost. If you find her, you get rid of her, you get paid.” A large man made his way out of the visqueen room and smiled as he walked towards us. “Now the important thing is you get to the roof. You’ll see her there. Good luck.” And with a giggle, he headed back into the plastic cave.

When we made it to the roof, there was a definite chill in the air. But in the middle of October and at three hundred plus feet, it’s going to be cool. Cullen flipped the bag off of his shoulder and immediately began digging around. When his hand came out, there was tool that looked almost like a gun and Cullen attached his phone to it. He pressed a couple times on the screen and slowly moved the tool left and right as he started walking around the roof.

“This way!” There was a beep that went off as Cullen spoke. Then another and another. I followed him to the edge of the building. We both carefully looked down the side of the building. What happened next made my stomach drop. I could see what could only have been a woman falling. She must have fallen from the floor below us, obviously to set us up.

“There! There!” Cullen was giddy with excitement. “That’s the girl!”

We both watched as the girl was about to hit the ground, but she never did.

I took a step back and looked over at Cullen. He was smiling from ear to ear and continued to watch as if he could still see her. I was sure that he couldn’t, because materializing behind him was the shadowy mass which became the woman. In a flash, the apparition darted for Cullen and I watched as she passed right through him. At least I thought it was through him, but something caught hold of Cullen’s chest and pull him with such force that his head snapped up towards the sky. In pure reaction, I grabbed at Cullen and pulled with what little strength and weight that I had. For a brief second, I could feel both of us being victims of gravity and tipping over the edge of the building. But as I was about to let go of my best friend to save myself, I felt someone pull on my shoulder and return me and Cullen to the rooftop. I turned to see who saved me, and only saw an outline of a girl. Then she was gone.

“Oh my god! I almost died!” The words came out as Cullen pushed himself up and off of the ground. He peeked over the ledge of the roof. “Did you see her?” And as he was looking towards the ground, I was looking behind us.

“Yeah, I think I did.” After making a stop at the fourth floor, we decided that we would come back the next day.

We said that we would be there at noon, but I didn’t hear from Cullen. As a worker for the Lord, I felt obliged to keep the promise, and with it being the daytime, it seemed safe to traverse there alone. I was sure that Cullen probably would already be there digging around for a ghost.

When I made it to the building, Cullen was not yet there. While walking around the lobby, waiting for him, there was a airy noise that came from the elevator. The closer I moved to the elevator, the softer the sound became. I moved around a few times and the sound was coming from the elevator. As soon as the button was pushed, the sound disappeared. I watched the door open and let it close. The door stopped before closing all the way and through the crack of the door stood the ethereal form of the woman.

I took a step away but kept my focus on the door. Before it had a chance to travel to another floor, my finger pressed the button again. The chime rang and a cold breeze rushed from the seam between the two doors. There was a bead of sweat that made its way down the ridge of my nose. The sweat glistened and caught my attention just as the doors opened. I stepped forward on the empty elevator and waited for the doors to close behind me. As soon as they closed, the lights went out. When they came back on, I was no longer alone.

Every hair on my body stood on end the second the lift started to go up. I took a step back and tried to close my eyes, but I couldn’t. I turned my head to one side but still couldn’t look away.

“I-I-I won’t hu-r-r-r-rt you,” she said with hissing breath, if one could even call it that. “I-I-I ne-e-e-e-d your h-h-help.” Her lips moved at a rhythm which was different from the words. “Lo-o-o-ok at me-e-e. I am Tr-a-a-a-ped in this pla-a-a-ce.”  Her lip curled upwards in a poor attempt at a smile.

“Wha-what can I do?”

“You-u-u-u  are a man of the cl-o-o-oth, are you not?”

“Y-y-yes,” my words started to come out chunky, like they did when I was first starting school.

“Lis-s-s-sten to my ple-e-e-ea and help break me-e-e-e from this cur-r-rse.”

“I can listen, but I am not a priest,” I responded, gaining some strength through my words. “But I don’t know how to help.”

“Al-l-l-l-ll you have to do-o-o is lis-s-s-sten.”

As she ended her last word, the door to the last floor. The doors parted and before I could take a step, the apparition moved right through me, sending shivers up and down my entire body. Her steps overexaggerated like a person on a treadmill as she floated through the door to the stairs. I followed her up to the roof.

When I walked through the door, I was sure that I was on the roof all by myself. The sun was so bright that I didn’t see the woman anymore. There may have been a gas leak that might have caused me to hallucinate. As my eyes began to adjust to the brightness of the rooftop. I could see a pale haze in front of me. This pale haze was the woman.

“My name is Charlotte, sometimes,” she began. The extended hiss of her speech was less obvious. “At other times, I went by whatever name I could get.” And her story continued for the better part of the day and into the start of the night. “When I jumped, I did it for selfish reasons. It was my life that past before my eyes that gave me regret and once it was done, I was trapped in this building. You were the first to truly see me and the only one to truly hear me. I need dispensation from this building, you can do that.”

“I don’t know how.”

“Just use my name and offer the dispensation.”

“Charlotte, I offer you dispensation.” As the last syllable left my lips, I could see Charlotte make her way to the ledge, but before she was supposed to jump, she turned and smiled.

“Surprise!” and she scattered herself into pieces with the remnants of laughter fading away with her.

When I started my way back down on the elevator, I waited to see if the ghost of Charlotte would return. There were no chills, flickers, or sounds that showed that she was there. As I headed down to the lobby, the car began to stop before getting there. The door opened on the fourth floor.

“The Boss says ‘thank you’ and our arrangement is complete.” The mammoth worker for the boss handed over a thick envelope. Once his job was done he turned and walked back to the plastic hide-away.

“Tell him ‘our pleasure’,” I replied as the doors began to close.

The rest of the ride was smooth. Before the doors opened to the lobby, I stuffed the envelope into my pocket. On the other side of the door was a familiar face. Cullen face went through several expressions that ranged from happy to confusion to relief. A smile shot up on my face as I stepped into the lobby and guided Cullen back towards the street. “Have I got a story for you.”

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