Author’s Note: In the interest of timeliness, I have compressed my serialization to five parts. I want you to read all of this before Halloween. 3:)
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My eyes tried to focus on the unearthly visage of the beast, but my brain either failed or refused to fully comprehend its features. The inky mass moved rapidly. Tucking the heart in close to its own rotten excuse for one, it sprung toward the far wall. The shadow thing reminded me of a running back on the move and the open window appeared its end zone.
I rushed to the windowsill but moved too slowly to intercept the shadow. To this day, I’m not sure what I’d have done had I caught the tiger by the tail. Truth be told, I was woefully unprepared for the challenge, mind, body, and soul.
The shadowy devil leapt from the second story of the plantation house. It landed on its feet in the dense foliage below the window and fled into the forest. Stuck in a mind bound by conventional physics, I didn’t see how I could follow without injuring myself.
So I gave chase with my mind’s eye. Turtle took my hand there in the dimly lit bedroom. He had entered quietly; ignoring the dying girl, he’d moved to my side. As he took my hand, my metaphysical self flowed forth like a river, pursuing my prey.
Through the eyes of the beast, I saw the twisted foliage and dense woods beyond the edge of the college property. The shadow fled through all of it with ease, even grace, pulling our senses along with its own. As its malevolent thoughts intruded upon my own, I realized I’d come to share more than its senses. I shared its mind and accessed its awful alien thoughts. But as I peered into its abyssal depths, it looked back.
I had no sooner locked eyes with this devil, when I was suddenly pulled back into Klaus’s living room. Across from me, Turtle convulsed, frothed at the mouth, and then flopped onto his rounded back. As our flailing friend let go of our hands, Klaus flew backwards as if he’d been struck.
Feeling as if I’d French-kissed an open circuit, I slumped back on the overstuffed couch, exhausted yet exhilarated by the whole strange experience. The universe would never look the same to me again. And I knew my courage and curiosity would always see me through the trials and tribulations to come.
However, my fear returned in full force as our friend continued to convulse on Klaus’s carpet. The bewildered dreamer and I removed any items and furniture from harm’s way but knew enough not to interfere with Turtle’s seizure. Klaus was on the phone dialing emergency services when the spasms ceased abruptly.
Turtle sat bolt upright in the floor. His head turned to Klaus stiffly. And he said, “No police. No ambulance. I’m fine.”
Klaus looked at me instead of Turtle. I shrugged. After all, who was I to tell Turtle how he was supposed to feel after dragging all three of us into some dream hell created by Klaus’s diseased mind. Reluctantly, he set the phone back into the cradle.
“Are you sure, man?” Klaus asked.
“Yesss…” Turtle hissed, exhaling deeply. As he did so, his breath misted as it would outside on a cold winter’s morning. And with that he fainted dead away.
Goosebumps raced down my arms as frosty breath escaped from my pursed lips. Across the room, Klaus the human skeleton shook like an anorexic in the arctic, but at least he was conscious. Unable to process the reality of the situation around me, I hauled my ass over to where Turtle snoozed on the carpet. He slept so soundly that he snored.
“Holy shit! What the hell just happened?” Klaus cried, springing from the couch with renewed vigor. “Did we get dosed or something at the party?”
“Dosed? I doubt it.” And I did. Ritually or recreationally, I’d ingested acid, absinthe, peyote, psilocybin, and, on occasion, mescaline; but none of those had ever produced such a pronounced effect. The immersive three-dimensional mass hallucination we’d experienced had appealed to all five senses. The only real life equivalent involved acute mental illnesses, for the technological equivalent required bulky hardware and expensive equipment to create so-called virtual reality. And the best on the market couldn’t fool all of our senses. So the scene played out like fiction, bad horror fiction.
“Gotta hit the head, boys,” Klaus said as he leapt from barefoot to barefoot. “Whatever it was caused me to damn near piss myself. Thanks, Turtle.”
“Yeah,” I added, “he nearly got me with that act too.”
As Klaus passed through the single bedroom into the solitary bathroom, Turtle leaned toward me and grinned. “It’s no act, boy-o. It’s all real.”
His eyes held my gaze levelly, soberly. If he was lying, Turtle had one helluva poker face. But the biting cold, the vivid vision, and the scream echoing from the bathroom lent credence to his dire assertion. One half of the door knob thunked to the carpeted floor. Someone, something clawed, then beat on the bathroom door. Klaus’s screams continued until he shattered the doorframe and burst into the bedroom.
“What the hell’s wrong with you, man?” I asked as I stood beside Turtle in the open doorway.
Klaus rose from the floor. He shivered all over, his coal black eyes riveted on the dark interior of the bathroom. The crotch of his black denim jeans was soaked through with what, judging by its pungent odor, could only be piss.
“It, it tried to get, get me,” he stuttered.
“Told you, dude,” Turtle said, shrugging his shoulders.
“Knock it off!” I shouted. “You’re not making this any easier.”
“No, he’s right,” Klaus said as he advanced on Turtle. Grabbing him by his collar, my enraged friend shook the grinning fool. “What did you turn loose in my apartment, you stupid sonuva–”
Stepping in between them, I wrenched Klaus’s hands out from around Turtle’s fat neck. “Knock it off. He’s screwing with you.”
Both men fell back as I filled the space between them. They huffed, puffed, and glared at each other. Klaus had berated Turtle before but looked ready to throttle him at a moment’s notice. But I couldn’t ignore the pain in my own bladder any longer, especially with the smell of urine permeating the stale air around me.
Drawn toward the bathroom, I said, “Big bad or no big bad, I’ve gotta piss.”
“Don’t go in there!” Both men cautioned.
“At least ya’ll agree on something.”
My smartass comment hung in the air, like the foul reminder of Klaus’s piddle party in the potty, as I entered the freezing confines of the tiny bathroom. My breath turned to frost before me; the cold caused my bloated bladder to cramp tighter. Ignoring the mirror over the sink, I stood over the urine-soaked toilet and shook my head.
I sighed with relief as the hot stream burst forth and splattered against the inside of the porcelain bowl. As release turned to relief, I groaned and closed my eyes.
“How do you ever expect to pleasure a woman with that wee little piggy, piggy?” An eerily familiar voice asked before chuckling at my expense.
Startled, I flinched and felt warm liquid coat my fingers, crotch, and inner thigh. Looking around, I saw no one but me and my reflection.
“Were you sick bastards watching me pee?” I called out to my friends.
Before either of them could answer, my image in the looking glass replied, “Nope. That was all me, piggy.” And then it waggled its tongue and a single pinkie.
I’d made faces in the mirror before but never with piss dribbling down my leg. As I backed toward the door, I restored my modesty to its damp shelter. But I didn’t dare divert my eyes from my doppelganger. Though the image didn’t say anything else, it stood stock still until I lost sight of it upon egress from the noxious bathroom.
Klaus said, “Not so easy to piss while taunting yourself is it?”
Shaking my head, I mumbled, “Felt like gym class.”
“Whatever it is, we have to get rid of this thing.”
“Get rid of it? Let’s get the hell out of here?”
“We could always call Ghostbusters?” Turtle interjected.
“Shut it, Turtle.” Klaus snapped. Turning to me, he added, “I don’t have the luxury of leaving; I live here.”
“Pull back and nuke the site from orbit. Only way to be sure.”
“Stop quoting movies, Turtle,” Klaus fumed. “You did this. Now fix it.”
“Me? I didn’t do anything. I merely facilitated. That thing was in your dreams already; you were carrying it around with you before you met either of us. For all I know, you were born with it. Or maybe it was Maybelline.”
“You think this is funny!” Klaus snatched Turtle by the collar of his work shirt and shook him. “You unleash some pissed off demon in my house and it’s my fault.”
“Better pissed off than pissed on,” Turtle quipped.
“Enough!” I shouted. First one and then the other squabbling man-child fell silent. “We’re going to my house, getting my pipe, and coming back to kick some spiritual ass.”
“Dude, now is not the time to get high.”
I slapped Klaus then. Hard. He stared at me, mouth agape for a long moment. I thought he might swing on me, but shock and slight damage had silenced him.
“What’d you do that for?” Klaus stammered as he held his jaw. From the way his bottom lip jutted out from its companion, you’d think I’d punched him in the mouth.
“Clearly, you were hysterical. Don’t let me ever hear you say that anything like that again. It’s always the right time to get high. But I wasn’t talking about that kind of pipe. Come with me, I’ll explain later.”
The trip over curvy country roads through the north end of the county passed in silence. I left the Turtle and Klaus in my silver, rust, and primer Hell Camino as I went inside the century old farmhouse atop the hill. Returning minutes later clad in a fresh pair of jeans, I placed the bulky doe skin medicine bundle in the trunk of the pickup car.
“What’s that?” Klaus asked as I crowded in beside him.
“A spiritual hammer,” Turtle answered for me.
“Let’s hope it’s big enough for the big bad,” I said, slinging gravel behind us.
I broke down the plan for them on the way back to town. In the process, I revealed some of my past, including my spiritual upbringing. Parts of my life I’d kept locked away from my college friends. I told them about my summers on the reservation, visiting distant relatives, and reconnecting with my roots through my medicine father, a close friend of my Lakota family.
The mixed blood Oglala man had taught me the rites and rituals associated with the chanupa wakan, the Sacred Pipe. Though most of them involved prayers of gratitude and offerings to the universe’s mysteries, both great and small, one of them involved a ceremony designed to cleanse people, places, and objects of corrupting energies. But would it cleanse a home of an unwanted intruder from my friend’s dreamscape? Time would tell, but I didn’t tell that to either of my companions. I needed them to believe not doubt the efficacy of the ceremony.
We reentered the apartment cautiously. Holding a smoldering sage wand aloft, I lead the way into the occupied dwelling. Though I could not see it, I felt it watching us, waiting for us.
I inhaled the sweet aroma of the burning leaves. My native forefathers believed sage repelled negative energy, especially spirits. As it turned out, it agitated them as well.
The door slammed shut behind us. As we turned toward the sound, the doors of the kitchen cabinets opened wide and then shut hard enough to rattle the dishes inside. Drawers shot out into the floor and scattered silverware, dish towels, and drug paraphernalia all over the linoleum.
Undeterred by the spiritual tantrum, we cleared the coffee table from the center of the room. I sat on the floor in the north after placing Klaus and the Turtle in the east and south respectively. The position in the west remained open until I filled it with a seashell.
Ignoring the cacophony in the kitchen, I used the sage wand to light a braid of sweet grass, another herb known to affect spiritual beings. Then I left the wand to burn in the shell alongside the sweet grass. Reaching into my medicine bundle, I took out another smaller bundle, this one wrapped in the soft silver-and-black pelt of a wolf.
I unraveled the fur and revealed a chanupa wakan in two segments, stone bowl and wooden stem. Murmuring my thanks to Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery at the center of all things, as well as to Father Sky and Mother Earth, I joined the pieces of the pipe together. Once secured to the stem, I filled the blood red catlinite bowl with a smoking mixture of tobacco and other herbs known collectively as kinnikinnick and then touched a lit match to it. Inhaling the acrid mix, calm and tranquility fell over me despite the storm encircling me. But my peace was not to last.
As soon as I involved the others, the ceremony went awry. I’m not sure what happened, or who to blame for that matter, but the pipe made one pass and went out. I tried time and again to light it but failed. Disassembling the pipe and clearing it with a straightened coat hanger didn’t help the situation either.
The room felt different, however. The temperature had risen. And the cabinets had ceased to clatter. But the relative stillness lulled us into a false sense of security, for the unmistakable feeling of being stared at by something other than my friends remained.
“Do you think it worked?” Klaus asked.
“I dunno, man,” I answered, shaking my head in bewilderment. “But I can tell you one thing. I can see light through this pipe stem and it won’t draw air. What the hell?”
Turtle dispelled any hope that the cleansing had been successful when he said, “It’s still here. And it’s not happy. I think it might be sulking, like an angry, hurt child.”
As if in response to his warning, the door to the closet in the bedroom slammed shut with enough force to rattle its frame. Something thudded, thrashed, and then thundered inside the tiny space. But soon enough it stopped and left the apartment quiet.
We crept into the bedroom as a group. Something wet and dark covered the carpet near the closet. At first, I mistook it for urine that had run out of the tile floor of the bathroom to puddle onto the carpet. As Klaus switched on the overhead light, the single bulb revealed the fluid to be thick and viscous with the color and consistency of plasma.
As we watched in mute horror, the sanguine substance seeped from under the door of the closet. The illusion held us until I grabbed its handle and flung it open. The bloody imagery vanished, replaced by a biting cold and foul smell that wafted forth from the possessed space. The door closed in my face with enough force to rattle my teeth.
“Told you,” Turtle said with a smug expression on his fat face.
“Stop it!” Klaus cried. “Ya’ll are making it worse. And I’m stuck living here.”
“My advice is move,” Turtle replied, “for your sake, for your soul’s sake.”
“I’ll second that,” I added. “It’s a crummy college apartment in a town filled with crummy college apartments. Pick up and move ASAP.”
“Are you kidding me?” Klaus said. “Can’t we get a priest or something?”
“How many clergymen are we gonna find in Alabama who know how to perform an exorcism, much less who’ll perform one for a Satanist, a Gypsy, and an Indian?”
“Jay’s got a point there,” Turtle replied. “And they’ll blame it on us anyway.”
“You’re right,” Klaus said, “especially since it’s your fault.”
Turtle glowered at him and finally snapped, “Don’t blame me for the demons you carry around inside your head! I might have facilitated its escape. But you’re the conduit. It’s your darkness, not mine!”
Klaus huffed and puffed but did not speak. He looked crestfallen as he struggled to accept the maddening reality of our situation, a situation created by the hobgoblins haunting his mind. Sadly, neither Turtle nor I could do anything other than help him pack. So my friend moved that very night.
A few weeks later, our friend Luke moved into the possessed place despite our warning. A spiritualist like me, he prided himself on his connection to the natural world as well as the unseen world around us. But most of his occult knowledge had been distorted, along with his sense of reality, by a steady regimen of hallucinogens and psychedelics. For Luke, the prospect of a haunted apartment appealed to his esoteric, eccentric nature.
Our friend lasted less than two weeks before he fled in the middle of the night too. He refused to return to the apartment and moved into a tent in the dense woods behind his parent’s farm. We resolved to visit him, to hear the whole story, but that set in motion a chain of events that damned us all.
In our case, our road to hell was paved with good intentions.
### TO BE CONTINUED — Part IV Coming Next Week ###
This story was written by Jeremy Hicks. It is his original content and cannot be used anywhere else without his expressed written consent. However, this blog may be shared, reblogged, etc. on social media for the purposes of promoting the author, his blog, and his other creative works.
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