“Here and here.”
The clerk handed out forms and he signed them without much attention.
“The head wishes for the project to be completed before October.”
Great. Only a week away.
Patrick muttered a weak thank you and rushed out. The room always gave him the creeps. But in his job, you would expect him to be accustomed to even the ghastliest of screams. The VIA spirit hunting management was pretty new, having set up at a time when the number of complaints from humans about ghosts and spirits had been increasing.
In his career as a spirit hunter, Patrick had had his fair share of eerie projects, but nothing yet, as compared to Blueberry Enclave.
Blueberry Enclave was known for its routine tales of screams and wails. So much so that, the residents of Blueberry Enclave were used to freaky sightings and sounds. There was an entire shelf, full of pending complaints from the building. Many teams had been sent before, all disguised as people with different occupations. In fact, the situation got so worse that the management ran out of ideas and one lady, dressed as a crystal dealer had been sent at six in the morning. Unfortunately, not one of them had been successful.
With a Styrofoam cup of coffee in his hand, seated in his office, Patrick wondered of the many reasons he was given this project.
One-He was being given this project as a test. He was being given one last chance to prove his abilities (if any) at spirit hunting. If he failed, he knew he would be present again at the head’s office receiving his relieving letter.
Two-He was useless and given this job because the other employees were busy, involved in actual, important cases.
The Blueberry case was time consuming to the point where it wasn’t considered an actual case. There had been many instances when the case was ignored due to “complications”, because the firm didn’t want to send out a report stating that it was “beyond their abilities”.
He assumed it was probably the first, as he crunched the now empty Styrofoam cup in his hand. He had been tired all day. Just a few days ago, he had signed the finishing report for the Flamingo complex case. That had been a real hassle. That case had him up four nights a week, planning, exhausting time on intense two-hour meetings. Another stressful project this month. Whatever was the reason for his decreasing hairline?
As he pulled up the driveway, something struck him: The complexity of the case. Exactly six times before, the employees returned from the project, having failed the basic task of eliminating the ghost. However, each time a team was sent, they couldn’t record anything and they returned, furious.
Seeing the success of the management in this project, he was sure to return the next day, again, having failed. Just how many times was he ever successful? How many times could he ever do anything? Not many, he thought as he got out of the vehicle. He knew this was going to be a very short trip. At least this time he was alone. Instances of past group projects haunted him to this day. He would always be an inconvenience, always messing up and delaying the project.
Patrick had seen Blueberry Enclave only in reports. Now that he was standing in front of it, he felt no wave of terror or no adrenaline rush as he had expected. It looked like any ordinary apartment, just like the one next to it. Except, it was partially demolished. The second floor had two broken windows, with poison ivy climbing up to the fourth floor. He stared up at the apartment, knew little of the history, only the name. The top floor was in ruins, as the place was being broken down as he had heard.
He had heard many stories about the spirits in the building. The residents had accustomed themselves to the shrieks of an eleven-year-old girl, when this had been an old age home for years. There had also been complaints of the singing of an old woman. Now standing in broad daylight, the enclave looked nothing like he had ever heard. But whatever occupied this fifty-year old building in front, he couldn’t escape now. The contract had been signed and here he was, climbing the stairs to meet the owner of the building.
A minute later he knocked on the plastic-disguised wooden door. A balding man in his sixties opened the door, welcoming him. Matthew? He didn’t look like a Matthew. As he was seated among stacks of books and trash, he once again wondered human’s need for questionable items. To his right, there was a small yellow rubber duck.
“The ground floor has been receiving irregular supply of electricity all last week.” Matthew spoke curtly with a few glares thrown in between the words. “The switchboards in the basement were checked but it appears to be working fine.” Patrick distantly wondered what the actual problem might be.
He was an electrician this time. This would give him a chance to explore even the depths of the building. The agency always picked jobs that weren’t too suspicious to the residents. Each employee would be sent a short video giving a brief description about the job they were supposed to be doing. As Matthew went on rambling about circuits and broken batteries, Patrick recalled only the names of a few wires, as he had slept through most parts of the video.
“You can start from the basement and then check out the first floor.” Matthew said with a look of disapproval.
“Mind you” he paused for a few seconds and continued, “There have been many reports from the residents here, about some strange appearances that have been caught on cameras. And at night, we’ve been hearing some peculiar noises too.”
“In my opinion, the devil wants the place.” he said this with assurance. This was always the fun part of the job. Patrick had been in various situations where the residents narrated great legends and tales of different devils and monsters, where as it turned out to be just a troubled spirit who just wanted to see her family for one last time.
“Thank you then… It would be my honor to start…” Patrick knew he had to make himself familiar with at least a few the human’s conversation starters. He half-bowed and walked swiftly out the door.
It had been two hours since the meeting with Matthew. Now Patrick was making his way down to the basement of Blueberry Enclave. The whole place reeked of tobacco. Everything was going smoothly, almost too perfect for this project. Patrick had envisioned terror-stricken residents and ghoulish creatures all over the place. But unlike its previous reports, Blueberry Enclave seemed to be just as mundane as the next building.
Through the musty windows on either side, one could make out the outlines of the furniture and a few human figures inside these homes. He felt his anticipation rise, but quickly tried to shut it down. In his career, he had learnt that even just a single orb could lead to a world of hidden spirits. With a screw driver in hand, he aimlessly kept nudging the switch board. A few taps and a few jerks here. Always, only a few minutes of pretending to work was enough to convince the residents. Though, on one unfortunate incident, a spirit-hunter had to be medaling with pipes or electronic devises for hours.
He could already hear it. He wasn’t sure if the dim light in the basement was playing with his mind, or if it was the spirit of the old woman. Lady Elizabeth, she was called. She was heard the most at nights when the moon was almost out.
It first began with a faint hum. The hazy noise then grew into a deep vibration which seemed to be reverberating off the walls. There was an abandoned crib with dirty brown lace to the edges at the far end of the basement. The intoxicating smell of tobacco was now almost unbearable. Cobwebs lined all four falls, with the sound of the dripping water slowing down every second.
Fumbling with his torchlight, he gripped the screw driver in his hand and meddled with it for a few minutes. He knew he did a great job picking up a black torchlight to use at night. He dropped the screw driver, furiously searching for the gauge and the sensor in his bag.
This was it.
Just a few steps more and he could solve the case that had been pending since years. Patrick was just a few steps away from considering himself worthy of the title “Head Spirit Hunter of the Year”, that he had been awarded (by mistake he had always assumed). He tried not to get his hopes too high as he switched on the sensors, plugged in the gauge and connected it to the power bank. It always took a few minutes before any frequency was recorded.
There. He was picking up something.
This was new. Every time, the sensor beeped three high-pitched sounds just after a few minutes of setting up. Without looking at his watch, Patrick new it had been at least fifteen. Was this it? Then what was the deep humming? Patrick dropped the gauge from his hand and rushed to the crib, as he felt his huge truck-load of self-hatred return. What little hopes of succeeding he had in mind, they were now crumbling to ashes.
From where he was standing, there was a crevice in the wall opposite him. Beyond it, he suspected, was the back of another house. The deep humming sound of the woman was now stronger than ever before. He swore he could almost feel her presence around him. His body was covered in goosebumps and he felt his heart rate rising. A blue plastic sheet was covering most part of what was beyond the gap in the wall. The sound was almost ear-piercing here.
A few seconds later, Patrick found himself aggressively yanking the sheet behind. But instead of finding the place empty as he had hoped, a middle-aged woman, seated on the ground, was illuminated by the lights from house on the left. On seeing Patrick, she abruptly closed her mouth, which was previously opened. With it stopped the eerie, deep hum and the supposed tightness in his stomach. She had wisps of thick, matted hair and her giant eyes were piercing into his.
“The humming sound, that was you?” he asked apprehensively.
“Yeah. And?” Her words were even cruder than her voice.
“Are you Lady Elizabeth?”
“Who?”, she asked. “My name’s Jane.”
“This whole time, it was you making that sound?”
“And if I did?” She raised her eyes questioningly at a puzzled Patrick.
Suddenly the place felt more open even though there was probably only a foot’s distance on either side. A huge boulder, which was wedged deeply inside his mind, seemed to have been lifted out.
“But why?” he asked after a few seconds of silence.
“Why do they demolish the place?”
“That’s my home” she said, pointing to the small shed, far behind. “For fifteen years, I have lived there. Few months before, they break down the wall in front.” The debris of a broken wall was lying not farther than ten feet from them. “Now I don’t know where to go. No money to search for new place.”
“So, you sang every day to stop the demolition?” He asked, his face a mix of incredulousness and shock.
“Yes.” Her voice had softened and she looked away. Patrick thought he saw her eyes glisten.
“This is definitely wrong. You could have talked to the authorities. The residents were worried.”
His voice was rising and he could barely stop himself from shouting.
“You have breached the code of-”
Thankfully, he caught himself before he gave away his whole identity. In all their projects, all spirit-hunters were strictly ordered not to reveal any details about the management.
“The what?” The woman said, stretching her legs out. She wore a faded white dress and muddy boots.
“So, every day you came down here and sang for how long?” The disbelief was plainly visible in his voice.
“Don’t squint so hard. For four hours.” She said and turned her head to the left, not bothering to be confronted.
“But this is wrong.”
“Okay I agree.” She replied. “Now my time is almost up, Valerie will be on her way, please let me complete my shift.”
“There’s more of you?” he asked, astonished. At this the woman turned, looked at him, smiled and started humming.
Patrick could feel the tightness in his stomach return. The place felt more suffocating than before. The plastic sheet behind him lifted up, almost urging him to get out. He ran, leaving behind his electrician “tools”, grabbed his sensor and gauge and took off, skidding on the wet floor. After a few minutes of good running, he was out on the road, in front of Blueberry Enclave. So, the beeping was probably from his Nokia 3310.In the moonlight, the building looked very convincing as a ghost house. The hum of the woman was now faint but the tightness in his stomach was far from gone. He sat down on the cement floor, letting his legs dangle off the broken steps.
Had he done it?
Was this it?
Was this all, Blueberry Enclave, all about?
No need of the fifteen-step plan he had come up with so meticulously, during the shower. No need of the quartz crystals, stuffed in his back pocket. Had he just solved the case that was pending from almost ten years? Despite the feeling in his stomach that still lingered, he felt a sense of victory. Suddenly the huge truck load of self-hatred halved in him. He wasn’t so useless, like he had thought, after all. Something in him, was set free at the thought of completing a case so difficult.
Maybe he was a little human after all. Maybe all the difficult projects just needed to be seen from the human eye.
There wasn’t any streetlight at this hour and the moon appeared a light shade of blue. The chill of the night made the goosebumps return. He pondered over the fact that all paranormal things may not be so strange after all. Many are only because of the human nature.