Monday, March 16, 2020
Catherine was getting ready for her first zoom meeting for remote workers at Enrichment Health Inc. Trying to get comfortable in a new home and nothing seemed to be where she left it. She was afraid she was going to be late, trying to track down her coffee, pen, and writing pad which she could have sworn she left on the coffee table next to her laptop but then ended up scattered throughout the living room when she went to get her notes.
Her boss, Blayne started the meeting, “How’s everyone doing? Can we all hear? It looks like Megan doesn’t have her video on. If you can hear me, try clicking on the camera at the bottom.”
“There you go,” Blayne said, “Now, due to COVID-19 and in the interest of keeping everyone healthy, we are going to be working like this for awhile. You all have your assignments and I thought it would be good to check in on each other periodically and stay connected. So, how is everyone doing?”
“I think I’ll be okay once I understand zoom better,” Megan said, “Catherine, have you already figured out the background settings? You look like you’re at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.”
The screen was a group of faces moving for a closer look with random murmurs of approval.
Catherine felt awkward over the attention, “Um, no, the news said that the Corona virus was dangerous for the elderly. I moved in with my Grandma Jane to help her out. This is her house.”
Catherine was sitting on an antique couch with exquisite wood molding that framed black and white upholstery. Behind her was a picture window with embroidered drapery that seemed to need some love and upkeep.
Vianna, another one of Catherine’s coworkers said, “That’s so kind of you. Where does your grandmother live, in Maine, Vermont?”
“No, Lake Forest,” Catherine answered.
“California?” Curtis of the accounting department asked.
“Yes, Lake Forest, California,” she answered.
“But it’s a sunny day here and there’s fog outside your window,” Curtis pointed out.
“Well we are near a lake,” Catherine said.
“It’s 80 degrees outside. Shouldn’t the fog have burnt off by now?” Vianna mentioned.
“The trees keep everything pretty cool, so maybe…” Catherine started rationalizing and then got distracted by a cat snuggling up to her lap. “Grandma,” she called out to the other room, “can you keep your cats with you right now? I’m in a meeting.”
“I only have one cat and she’s with me,” her grandma called back.
Another cat joined Catherine and the original cat and another was balancing on the back of the couch with only it’s tail in view of the camera. Catherine pointed to her lap, “Does this look like just one cat?” she asked the group.
“I don’t think the cats are a problem,” Blayne said, “Vianna’s son has been waving at us for about two minutes now.”
“Sorry,” Vianna said, “He’s only two.”
Blayne chuckled, “It’s fine. He’s cute.”
Catherine looked at Vianna’s square and expressed an “aw” before picking up one of the cats and placing it on the floor.
The cat on the couch frame began to walk into view. Everyone on Catherine’s screen became silent as they tried to make out what they were seeing. The cat’s fur seemed matted as if it had started to deteriorate. It was sniffing around and then lifted its head showing a clearer view of its face which had deteriorated so much that its skull was showing.
Everyone let out disgusted sounds and screams which caused Catherine to pop up, only noticing that the cats had scattered. “Well that worked. Now back to the meeting?”
“Catherine, I think your cat needs a doctor,” Megan said.
“Or a priest,” Curtis said.
“Um, today was mainly to check up and see how we all are doing,” Blayne said.
The lights flickered around Catherine. “I think the house needs some work too,” she said.
“Let’s stop there,” Blayne said, “You can always email me with any questions you have.” He eagerly ends the meeting.
Catherine got a text from Megan, “Video chat me when you get a chance.”
Catherine called Megan after she finished her work.
“What’s shakin’ bacon?” was Catherine’s greeting.
“I was curious about the house,” Megan said, “Is the whole place like that or only the living room?”
“I guess the whole house. It just looks like a collection of old stuff to me. I’ll show you,” Catherine said and started down the hallway which was covered in family photos. The oldest of portraits were in black and white showing a personalized history of her family.
“What are the oldest portraits?” Megan asked.
“My family was originally from England but I don’t know much about our history. I should take this time to have Grandma Jane tell me about it,” Catherine said.
“Are those photos of you?” Megan asked as Catherine went further down the hallway.
Catherine held the phone so Megan could get a closer look, “Here I am mountain climbing and this is me getting my black belt.”
“Wow, impressive,” Megan said.
“Here, my favorite room is the library,” Catherine said and passed her grandma watching television. “Henry?” she asked.
“No, it’s Catherine.”
“If you see Henry, tell him I’m ready for tea,” she said.
“Aw, she misses your grandpa,” Megan said.
Catherine thought it was odd but shrugged it off to her grandma being old, “My grandpa’s name was Joseph.”
They entered the library which housed even more photos, tons of books, some antique dolls in glass cases, and a few antique boxes with locks on them.
“Do you live in a house or a museum?” Megan joked.
“These boxes are my favorite. Look at all of the intricate designs. There were four of them but I only see three.” Catherine scanned the room, “Wait, I think one fell off the shelf.”
“Fell? They look heavy, how…” Megan started.
“Got it,” Catherine paused, “that’s weird.”
“It’s open. These have key locks on them. How?” Catherine continued to study the box, “Oh look,” she turned the phone so Megan could see. It had three cats engraved on the lid with the date, October 31, 1842. Catherine continued, “The box has an inscription, ‘Leave sealed and contain the evil inside. All will suffer if Henry walks free.’”
A loud chime went off and the lights went out causing Catherine to drop her phone and the box.
“Are you alright?” Megan called out.
Catherine laughed, “I didn’t show you the grandfather clock yet.”
The phone landed facing up. Megan saw a shadow fly by. It had no distinct shape, “Why is it so dark?”
“The lights went out. I mentioned that the house needed work,” Catherine answered and picked up the phone.
“But it’s only 5 P.M.,” Megan said.
“Yes, but the fog has made it dark outside,” Catherine answered.
“There is no fog in Orange County at this time of day,” Megan protested.
Catherine looked into the phone, “I’m not claiming to have all of the answers. I’m just doing my best.”
“Are you sure there’s nothing wrong with the house?”
“I spent a summer here ten years ago after I graduated from high school and the house was quiet.”
Megan saw movement over Catherine’s shoulder, “I think there’s something behind you.”
Catherine turned and held the phone at her side, “What did you see?”
“Something moved. Now I just see a pair of historic shoes under the drapes,” Megan said.
“I’m not near the drapes,” Catherine froze.
One shoe shifted an inch. Megan stared, thinking, “not possible.” She stared harder. Are those drapes? Are they pants? The shoes walked out of frame and Megan yelled, “You’re not alone! There’s someone there!”
Loud stomping was getting louder, running towards them. Catherine tried to make sense of where everything was. The door flew open and a figure stood in the doorway drenched in light.
“There you are,” said a friendly, elderly voice.
Catherine took a deep breath of relief, “Hi Grandma.”
“What are you doing in the dark?” she asked.
“The lights went out.”
Grandma Jane played with the light switch, flicking it on and off, “The lights are fine.”
She approached Catherine with a pretty metal box with intricate details on it. Catherine let Megan see since she was still on the call.
“I finally found the right box,” Grandma Jane showed them, “I wanted to share my collection of teas with you.”
“Ask her about the wrong box,” Megan added.
Catherine nodded, “Grandma, what do you mean by the right box? What other boxes did you check?”
“Oh, you know, being old, I misplace things. Come. Say goodbye to your friend and have some tea with me.”
“I’ll call you later this week,” Catherine said.
Megan became serious and wanted to reach through the phone, “Be careful.”
“It’ll be fine. It’s just a bunch of old stuff,” Catherine said.
Monday, March 23,2020
The zoom meeting was beginning and it looked like Catherine had her camera off. "Catherine, are you here? I think you have your camera off," Blayne said.
"No, I'm here," Catherine said. Her voice sounded drained and exhausted, "I'm just getting ready so you can see me."
"Ready?" Vianna asked.
"Yes, I haven't been able to fix the lights and they have gotten worse," a flame flickered on Catherine's screen and they could see a silhouette of her lighting a candle, "Ah, it's working," she lit two more candles sitting on antique candle holders with the finger rings to hold them. She placed them around her computer and sat on the floor. It looked like she was going to ask the zoom meeting to join her in a séance.
"Candles," Curtis said, "What about flashlights or desk lights?"
"Every light around me seems to go out," Catherine showed a bit of irritation as she continued, "and just around me too. The rest of the rooms are fine. Look," she turned her laptop to show out the door of the living room. The hallway light was on and they could see a glow from a television in the family room. The door slammed shut as Catherine was showing them. She turned her computer back to her, "I guess it realized that I liked that little bit of light," she said as she looked into the void of the room. The zoom meeting could see the window behind her. The weather had gotten worse and lightning flashed through what seemed to be rain.
"Is it raining in Lake Forest?" Blayne asked.
"Haha, I know the answer to this. No, it is probably not raining in Lake Forest. It is just raining around this house, right? Because we are in Southern California and the weather has been great this past week except for me! And I have no idea what is going on because of COVID, I was told to stay inside, so I have no idea what is happening in the rest of the world! I just know that I am living in a house where everything moves and flickers and I don't know if I am safe but at least I'm not catching COVID, right!" thunder cracked, making everyone jump. A draft of air came from nowhere causing the candles to go out.
Everyone was silent. A tiny whimper came from the screen as Catherine whined, "Well, that's just great."
"We should get you out of there," Megan said.
"I still have to take care of my grandma and she seems fine. None of this is touching her," Catherine said.
"What do you need? I'm sure we can help," Blayne said.
Catherine took a deep breath. She had reached her limit. She knew how to fight. She just had no idea how to fight something she couldn’t see. "I don't need anything but something here needs a good ass kicking!" She yelled a primal scream. The zoom meeting could barely see what was happening. The lightning from the window helped them see shapes. Catherine threw a book that went crashing into a shelf knocking over some glass. She threw some pillows which did not seem threatening at all. She finally seemed focused on the edge of the couch as she yelled, "You! Are you doing all of this?" She picked up a candle holder and lunged for the edge of the couch. Everyone in the meeting was frantically trying to see around the edges of their screen. Who was she yelling at?
A deep mournful groan filled the room and a blast of wind hit Catherine as if she was caught in the storm outside. "Come on!" she dared the entity at the end of the couch and the zoom meeting finally saw who she was yelling at. A blurred figure ran towards her, through the couch and went through her. Catherine had prepared herself for the hit and was jarred by the feeling of icy air entering and leaving her body. Her coworkers could make out two large hands behind her and started yelling for her to turn around. Catherine felt strong hands grab her shoulders and knock her onto the couch.
Finally, something solid, she thought as she pushed the couch away and stood in a ready position. "You want to fight? Let's see what fighting in the 19th century was like," she said and tried to focus on the blurred image that at least seemed to have a head and a chest by now. It came at her and with her best guess as to where it would be, she gave a roundhouse kick and hit something. An even deeper groan filled the room and sent her flying towards the wall, causing the laptop to tip over onto the floor, facing the door.
Everyone played with their computers, trying to find a way to see her. Catherine let out an angry scream. They were relieved to hear that she was still alive. "You can do this, keep fighting," Megan called out.
Another blast of wind knocked the laptop closed and they lost the connection with Catherine.
Thursday March 26, 2020
Everyone was getting onto the zoom meeting, anxiously waiting to see if Catherine was okay. "Let's get started," Blayne said, "Vianna, are you have trouble with your video? All I see is a screen saver of your son. Wait. He blinked. I guess your son is just standing in front of the screen right now."
"Sorry, I was getting my tea," Vianna said as she moved her son away, "Go play with your sharks."
Blayne looked around. "It looks like we are all here. Catherine, are you having trouble with your video and audio? We can't see you yet."
Her screen came on and Catherine was sitting on the couch, calm, with her coffee comforting her. The lights were dim, but they were on. "Catherine, how are you doing? We've been having a tough time getting a hold of you," Blayne said.
"Yes, I'm sorry about that. I had to sort out some family matters. Let me introduce you to my great, great, great uncle Henry," she said and turned the screen so the camera could see the other side of the couch. He looked pale and ghostly but also solid. He was dressed in a proper Victorian suit, reading a book and eating cheese puffs out of a bag. When he was able to see the zoom meeting, he made sure to keep a safe distance, “You captured all of those people in that tiny device?”
“Not exactly,” Catherine answered, “Uncle Henry was alive in 1842 and apparently my great, great, great aunt trapped him in this box,” she showed everyone the box from the library, “Her description of evil seems more like basically being a jackass these days.”
“Why are you practicing your dark magic now?” Uncle Henry asked.
“No magic right now. I’m working,” Catherine said.
“If you are working then ought you be in the kitchen?” he asked.
“Crossing a line,” Catherine warned him,” Why don’t you read in the library?”
“I feel no need to take orders from a woman,” he said.
Catherine picked up the box marked Henry. Uncle Henry cringed and said, “I like the library. I will finish my book there.”
Catherine watched him exit the door and then addressed the zoom meeting, “It turns out my great aunt dabbled in dark magic. He’s convinced that I learned it through the family because of all the magical devices I have like this laptop.”
“But what about all of the crazy, horror movie stuff happening this past week?” Megan asked
“I think that was a process he was going through to become human again. He’s not a ghost. He eats and moves things like a human. I don’t think he was dead when my great aunt put him in that box,” Catherine said.
“But how did you survive that attack?” Curtis asked.
“Yeah, 19th century men are not used to women fighting back or knowing martial arts. He eventually crumbled,” Catherine said.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” Blayne said.
“Are you kidding? I’m better than okay. I survived a haunting and I’m learning to survive during a pandemic. I feel like the worst is behind me and the rest of this year is going to be great.”