Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cozy Dark

           My fingers had been crossed that some sort of excuse would come up for not going. A broken car, a pounding head, anything to allow me to call them up and say “I just can’t make it.

           The interview began normal enough. I sat at a desk. Across from me sat a short, fat man with glasses that had such heavy rims they looked like he’d stolen them from a 3D movie. He kept wiping his nose with his hand, and then, as if that weren’t gross enough, pushing his glasses up with the same hand. On the desk sat a name plate that read Harrison Lett. He asked standard questions at first, but soon, things got weird.

            “Any relatives die recently?” he wiped his nose.


            “Relatives, family, any die within the last month or so?” he pushed up his glasses.

            “N- well, no but, I don’t see what-” he cut me off in such a confident manner like he’d gotten my response a lot.

            “How do you cope with death?” he wiped his nose.

            “How-” I stopped myself. Did I really want to ruin my chances for another job? I tried to think about the question but only ended up thinking of when my mom died. I was sixteen and I tried and tried to pretend it was no biggy. I tried and tried to tell myself that by crying I was being defeated and being beaten from the inside out. I cried anyways, I still don’t think I’ve come to copes with the idea that I’ll never talk to her again.

            “I sit and drink the night of the funeral. Then, I get up the next morning and move on,” I lied.

            “And your mother’s death: is that how you went about coping with that?” My heart jolted, the world tilted for a quick second and my chair slid with it. I was on the ground. The forced back tears of a sixteen year old me came rushing into my face, ready to burst. Then, everything went back to normal. I didn’t fall, or cry or move the world.

            “Yes,” I answered.      

            Next thing I know the guy is shaking my hand with his snot-coated hand and dragging me to a different room. The building looked like one huge moss covered brick from the outside. On the inside it was nothing but four offices, all like Harrison’s but with different names on the desks. But, if you walked far enough into the hallway you’d run into a bigger room with more desks, old looking computers with huge blocky monitors and no lights. The desks had candles, a couple per each desk, the only sources of light in the room.

            “I’m gonna go ahead and introduce you to the rest of the group. You got the job Jacob, relax.” I tried to but I remained tense. The dark, the ad, the way Harrison seemed to know my past before I said a thing, it felt uncomfortable, and it felt great. Next thing I knew the room seemed to get light as we approached a desk. The name plate said Stephen Roscoe.

            “This the new guy?” the presumed to be Stephen Roscoe sitting at the desk said. He had pictures up on the blocky monitor. Dark pictures where there seemed to be faces where faces couldn’t possibly be.

            “Yup. Jacob this is Roscoe. Expert on everything afterlife, ghouls, ghosts, spirits, whatever you wanna call it, he knows about it.”

            “Uh, hi,” I said reaching my hand out.

            “Sorry,” Roscoe smirked a bit as if I had done something worth laughing at, “I don’t shake hands with the living.” I looked at Harrison, puzzled but he seemed to be laughing to. Without an explanation we moved on. As we moved back into the darkness I heard a small shout. I looked at Harrison, again awaiting an explanation.

            “Oh,” Harrison suddenly turned towards me as if forgetting to tell me something, “I forgot you weren’t used to the screams yet. It’s the darkness, they can’t stand it. There aren’t much in here but the few that are can’t do much harm. They just hang around the desks.” I finally built up the courage to speak.

            “Who are they?”

            “Huh? You seemed more prepared in the interview. The ghosts Jacob, that’s why you’re here after all.” The conversation ended when we arrived at the next desk. A tall African American man leaned on it. He was smoking a large cigar that puffed bright smoke into the darkness.

            “This is Leonard Price, our… investigator,” Harrison explained.

            “Its’ Leo,” he said through a cloud of smoke, “and you Jacob have quite the past. Frankly, I figured you’d get the job. You and death oughta be good buddies by now, eh?” I prepared an answer, something rude, something to show this frighteningly tall man I wasn’t going to be the ‘new guy’. Instead, I was interrupted with a thick laugh that tore into the darkness with a huge cloud of smoke.

            “Harrison’s been giving the same tour for years now,” Leo said, his face wrinkling with a faint smile, “the same suddenly terrifying questions, and then, that one personal one at the end. Catch the new guy off guard and see how well he takes it. That’s my part; it’s my job to get that tiny piece of info. My real job is to look at death certificates, know what kinda ghost we’re up against. Did they drown? Were they hanged? Heh, I’m the guy who’ll tell you. Then, Harrison brings you to Roscoe. A scary guy, says he’s dead, says he’s a ghost.”

            “Is he?” I suddenly found myself blurting out.

            “No. He’s supposed to have died and then,” he snapped, a loud snap that rang like an alarm clock, “come back just like that. Died and lived to tell the tale,” he laughed again, blowing more smoke, “Then, for the finale, you get to me. Big, scary ole’ Leo who knows everything about you before you know what he looks like. To me that’s scarier than some of the ghosts we hunt.” I felt like Leo wasn’t done, and I know I wasn’t done with my questions, but Harrison shoved his way into the conversation.

            “The last desk is yours. You’ll start as soon as there’s a job to be done. But for now, you can leave.” And just like that I found myself leaving the darkness and, defying everything my past had taught me, I suddenly feared the light more than that cozy darkness of my new office.

            Then, I was here. In the car, in a similar darkness, but less comfortable. It was somewhere around two in the morning and Harrison had called me. Only a couple words made it clear why, “We’ve got a job.” He gave me an address and hung up. Now, I was on my way. I’d only slipped into the clothes I’d worn earlier that day, left on my slippers and began the drive. I arrived at the house, there was a car already there. When I got up I realized Leo was standing outside the house. He looked ridiculous with sunglasses on this early in the morning, his hair and beard scruffy looking like he’d just waken up and a huge smile on his face.

            “Jacob, you look surprised to see me,” Leo said through the smile.

            “Uh, yeah. I kinda thought Harrison would be here.”

            “Well, I’m offended Jacob,” he said as he began walking up to the door, I followed close behind, “You could see him hunting ghosts before me? Nah, I’ma be teaching you. Harry and Roscoe hunt too, but they’re not good for teaching newcomers like you.”

            “Why aren’t they good?” I asked as we reached the door. Leo took a gun from somewhere and turned sideways.

            “They’re too nice,” he said as he kicked the door down and pointed the gun around. “Clear,” he said as if checking for criminals. He turned to me, smile gone. His breath still smelled of cigar smoke.

            “Okay, we gotta go around and make sure all the lights are off, ignore any screams you might hear, if they’re in the dark they aren’t gonna do anything to you. If you do find a light, turn it off,” he explained it fast and handed me a gun. Then, he became the man I’d met again, he laughed, “Get ready,” he said walking away. Confused and still drowsy I began walking around. My eyes had yet to adjust to the darkness inside the house. I held the gun tight in my sweating hand. I could picture my beat white knuckles, and my red fingers gripping the gun as if it was trying to get away, as if-

a scream. I shot. It was right in my ear, I jumped and shot again. I still couldn’t see, I didn’t want to see anymore. The darkness became groggy as if I was standing in black jello. I couldn’t breathe. Was it a result of panic? No, hands, around my neck. I pulled away. Screaming, this time louder, this time not that of a human but that of a monster. That of my mom getting shot as I lay, quiet, in my bed. Then the room was lit and my eyes burned. Before I noticed Leo in the doorway to the room pointing a flashlight and a gun I saw the face in front of me. That of a little girl, screaming, coughing out blood, blood running down her dress. The hands around me were hers but the scream was not. She was screaming for help, she was being stabbed over and over. Her blood got on my shirt when she flew forward and fell to the ground, the result of Leo shooting. He then ran over to me, turning the flashlight off. The dark became comfortable again.

            “You alright Jacob?”

            “Yeah, uh, what was that?” I asked as I began to breathe again.

            “That Jacob was Penelope, died just last year. Stabbed to death.”

            “She was being stabbed when she was attacking me, her eyes, they were still the eyes of a little girl, they weren’t the eyes to the scream or the hands that strangled me…” I trailed off, wanting to just fall to the floor.

            “They appear the way they died. Note that I said appear, Jacob, not act. It’s the kids you gotta be careful of; they’re the ones who’ll make you feel like you’re the badguy.”

            “Are we?” I asked.

            Leo laughed.

            “Let’s go back to the office and report our success.”

No comments:

Post a Comment