The fog in the corners of the mirror expands as the smoldering water rains down on Joshua’s face. His coarse palms, no doubt hardened like the rest of him by the years of his youth being spent in foreign lands, fighting for the cause of money and false hopes, wipe the water from his eyes. His mind wanders, scanning his surroundings without purpose. Josh stares his body up and down; he would love to be young again. He needs to clean his shower, the gristle in-between each brick has taken residency and won’t abandon house and home without a fight, but Mr. Abrams has more pressing matters to attend to. Insecurities and peeves aside, his thoughts are his own again, and work is calling.
Joshua eases himself into his work, sipping on coffee- black- and lighting up a cigarette. The nicotine induced pulse courses through his veins after the first hit and his mind and body eases just enough to open his files for the day. It hasn’t even been four months and he is already hooked, a new addition to his daily regimen. They warned him, the omniscient men who proudly adorned a balaclava of unparalleled arrogance; they offered him this “opportunity”. He was told that the work would bring him to an early grave one way or another, whether his end come by his own hand would only be told by time. Apart of him craved the excitement, the action of battle. Though his scenario has certainly changed, he still received the sweetest release in victory. His weapon was no longer a construction of metal and iron, but the malicious intent remains the same.
Five folders are in his packet today. Every package looks the same, easily mistaken for a piece of medieval memorabilia. Bound in leather and strapped together in a thick woven roping. Given all he has seen in recent months, he wouldn’t be surprised if it was some type of hair plucked from the head of some assumedly mythological creature. Honestly, who can tell anymore?
“Seriously, who designs these things?”
A sigh off begrudging acceptance to responsibility creeps between his lips. The stories are never the same, never easy to read, let alone ponder on for more than the brief obligated moment, and the feeling of optimism left his heart long ago. Regardless of the choice the outcome is the same. An irrefutable paradox of what is to come. A reminder that no matter how much good his work can bring, it will never take away the preexisting evil that caused it, and that by helping he is exposed to eve more madness. How can he keep a smile? The reality of his work has changed his own, he can’t possibly bare a smile-not whenever case is dripping blood and is garnishing the scent of decadence. With every case that transpires he falls deeper into the void, the abyssal cavern that is the realization that the nightmares of times forgotten did not fade.
The cringing rip the lining of the package makes sends a chilling wake up call into his brain, no more wondering thoughts, he must choose. Lucky Joshua, chasing the rabbit down the hole for the hundredth time, forever enticed by the appeal of a better day.
Possession, he always favored these cases. Maybe its because they remind him that outside the world he is imprisoned in, there is one of naivety, filled with its own monsters that bare far less literal teeth. The days where Josh loses sight of the things that hold him perseverant; he desires the everyday obstacles of bills, relationships, and life. Life is the long fleeting aspect of Josh’s existence; the meaning beyond the word is what Joshua lacks.
The report details her account as the only survivor to a house fire, a house fire she supposedly caused. Something about the scenario she possibly was ensnared in drew Mr. Abrams closer. She most likely did kill her family, but it was not she, or at least not her willingness that is at fault. What could her life possibly amount to now after being involved in such a nightmare? This woman caught his employer’s attention, even if the case isn’t how it appears, which it rarely is, he knows that what she went through is something she shouldn’t have to reveal in alone. Without hesitation, acting on a whim, he packed the rest of the options into the acquisitions folder.
The water drips and pools from every fiber of Joshua’s outfit, rippling in the puddle quickly amassing below him as he waits for Olivia Blakely in the lobby of the psychiatric ward. The file reads that she had been held in solitary confinement since the incident, sixth months ago. His eyes can’t hold focus on one object alone. He has learned to take whatever he can from every detail and any case report; anything that will help him connect more fluidly with the victim is priceless in its value. The offices section alone are as sterile as a freshly opened hospice, such “perfection” could drive anyone stark raving mad.
“Why are they always designed in the three varying shades of white?”
“I’ve always asked the same question, creeps me out really. Nothing is perfect, why pretend to be,” said the nurse.
Josh turned around, not expecting a response, and was obviously taken back when the redheaded worker stared back at him as if waiting for him to follow along. She wore a battered smile, no doubt from the incomparable hours worked during the weekdays, and the tone of her voice had a little hint of bitch lingering on at the end of it.
“She’s ready for you, follow me please?”
Each light that he passed underneath urged a shutter throughout his body, the symptoms of three sleepless nights. The nurse recited protocol; no doubt what she had been trained to do and what she had done for countless visits. No visit shared the gravity of this particular case. Each salvaged victim of paranormal phenomena brings us, as people, one step closer to having a future free of such torments. The nurse stopped abruptly, or at least it seemed so to Joshua who had paid her next to no attention, and opened the door for him accordingly. The room was lined with a pristine white padding and one singular hanging light above the table where a blank faced woman sat, looking back at Josh with next to know emotion. Her hands were clenched tightly yet firmly and placed in the center of the table. Each fingernail looked as tough it had been torn off and was attempting to heal, if she hadn’t bite at it like a savage animal.
“Hello Miss Blakely, I’m from the..”
He turned back towards the door and stared at the redheaded nurse who was peering in curiously. She stared back and shared a gaze of perplexity with Josh until she picked up on the annoyance in his facial expression.
“As I was saying Miss Blakely, my employees have sent me here to talk to you. Now before you say anything, I understand that many men in uniform have been here over the course of the past months, but I assure you I’m not remotely like them, and actually want to help you. You won’t be ridiculed, but in return I want complete honesty. Are we clear?”
The blank expression on her face managed to crack, if only for a moment, and showed signs of relief. Joshua slides into his chair and makes himself comfortable, but maintaining concerned eye contact with Olivia, half awaiting a response.
“Fair enough, we’ll begin in a moment.”
Miss Blakely’s behavior was not surprising to Joshua in the least bit, and was actually among the tamer that he has experienced with possession trauma. He sympathized more so with those suffering from PT than another, because what could possibly be left of their mind? Loosely tethered thoughts and memories assumedly, unable to piece together reality with all the sights and sounds birthed from the nether floating around in their mind, most likely leeching on to everything good they once held dear.
“Now I just need you to tell me what happened..”
Olivia’s eyes widen and she fidgets in her chair. Her fingers squirm between each other and look as though they’re about to break. Her teeth chatter with purpose as she shakes her head in an astounding “no”.
Calmly, Josh eases his upper body closer to her and taker her by the hand.
“I need to know what really happened, I’m not a fireman, I could care less about that. I know you’re not a murderer. You’re a victim. Let me in and I’ll help you, I swear. Help me, and assure this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s family, because nobody deserves that. Do they Olivia?”
Tears slowly pooled beneath her emerald eyes on her deceptively taught cheekbones. Small whimpers escaped her guard; she was determined not to sob. Josh could feel her fingers intertwine with hers, she trusted him.
“I remember every second of that night, and I can’t forget. Every fiber of me tried, but it’s seared behind my eyelids, hanging from each thought, and clinging for life to every breath. While I live, it lives.. The pain woke me up. I was still lying in bed when the burning sensation formed in the back of my throat and slithered like a serpent of hell through, what felt like, every portion of my body. It rendered me into a panic of pure hysteria, but only in my mind. My eyes opened as if they had been waiting, mechanical even. I could see darkness, but the rest of my senses were on hold and I couldn’t return them to me. The pain; it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was held stiff in agony between the sheets. I wanted to grip them and scream. I just wanted to have release, anything really, anything that would take the pain off of my mind for a second. I would have been happy with even less, anything to break the hold that it had over me.”
The way she spoke about the night haunted Josh. The idea that the possession takes root in the body and slowly starts to take control seemed like Hell manifested on Earth to him. He tried not to dwell and came back to reality, shaken, but not derailed.
“They came back, all of my senses, and I watched them return from the beyond. They seeped through the back of my mind, like watching a car crown over a hilltop through my rearview, and as if everything was the same, I was “awake”. It did me no kindness. The heat of the flames downstairs roamed the room like a predator, and I was its prey. Each breath in the dense air became harder to push through my lungs, and the coughing began. The voice I heard.. It wasn’t mine. It was if we were coughing in unison. I know what to do in case of a fire, but nothing felt real at that point. I felt so disconnected, like an emotional blanket had been tossed overtop of me. I didn’t care if I lived or died. Most people, if not everyone, would panic, but all of my efforts to escape were done in a cool and collected manner.”
She was starting to lose control of the fight, and to be honest; Joshua was surprised she had made it this far at all. She was just a college level professor, and judging by her records, she was barely one at that. I suppose laziness is to blame, because it takes one hell of a mind to resist a demon for this long, assuming that’s what is the culprit. Based on his assumptions thus far, it’s leaning towards that being the answer.
“The smell, that smell was a contradiction. It wrapped my thoughts. It was unmistakably potent, yet unlike anything that I ever stumbled across before. It was as if someone lit flesh on fire and threw garbage or death over the top of it. I know that sounds awful, but I can’t explain it in any other way. Instinctively I was trying to make sense of it all in my mind, but to no avail. I could explain the burning because by this point it had become apparent that the house was on fire. The smoke started to fill the room and my lungs as I plunged to the floor. As soon my face hit the floor I solved it. The children. My husband. I knew then that they were dead. Burning. That was the only way the smell could be real.
Joshua kept his cool, but underneath his calm exterior, he was chilled to his core. It’s not so much that the possession is a rare case, but that it’s the case of possessions themselves. He knew that what was to lie ahead was only death.
“Once you realized what had happened, or what you thought had happened, what did you do Mrs. Blakely?
“I know I’m not crazy- I’m not sane- but I am certainly not insane. The screams started to pierce my silence and it felt like I was bleeding from my ears. The fear of losing everyone I love and living in a world like the one I was trapped in drove me insane. I sprung to my feet and slammed against the door. Bang. Bang. Bang. Each time my fist hit, it barely phased the oak of the door, and it sent a ripple into the air. It was if my head was punishing me, and it only grew as seconds passed. The pain was immeasurable and I wanted to make it stop. I scrambled to my feet and flung myself at the door. It opened as soon as I made contact and flung me to the floor of our hallway.
The interrogation room fell silent. Olivia’s lips began to tremble.
“The kids. How couldn’t I have thought of the kids in the first place?”
“We-I understand this is hard Mrs. Blakely, but for the sake of the investigation I have to ask that you continue.”
Joshua leaned closer again and attempted to grab at Mrs. Blakely’s hand.
“I understand that you care, but I will tell you the story regardless of whether I have your sympathy or not. I tried to fight the confusion, the pain was still there but I knew it was just another illusion. I was back on my feet feeling my way through the smoke, following the screams of my, of what I thought were my children. Tony and Sarah, alone in the smoke, that’s what I followed. The image of my little girl and little boy alone in the darkness, cornered and holding each other close, surrounded by hell’s fire terrified me. The terror of what they must be seeing drove me further and further stumbling down the hall. Picture frames are all I could feel above the cheap wallpapers we had, I always despised the texture of the material. As I crept closer and closer to the kid’s room it came to my attention that the shouts were not from my little boy, my sweet little girl. The confusion started to bear heavier on my mind, questioning logic and everything I thought was going on. I started to scream in frustration and fear, I should have known, why would I be so desperate that I would ignore something so obvious? How could I have known, it’s not natural, defying everything I believe in as a teacher, as a realist, as a Human. Everything I thought to be law would be broken, how could I know to destroy logic, to cross the last threshold?”
“What did you see in the children’s room, what happened when you opened the door”
“Dead eyes. White-eyes where they were once blue, but now white. Not the blue eyes Sarah had. Dead eyes stared back at me from the body of my once perfect, lively daughter. White, the same tone of white eyes replaced the green gems that once glared with such eagerness within Tony’s beautiful face. I looked into those eyes, I could not comfort them, and I backed away as the screams from the two of them grew louder. Their mouths were not open and they did not react to my presence at first, it was if their motions and screams were repeating, like some sort of track. I began to tremble and break down, and they acknowledged me; still holding their stolen faces. They walked close to me with the same carefree, happiness my kids would have, still echoing the screams through out my skull. I couldn’t process what was happening, confusion took hold as I turned. All I can see when I close my eyes are the faces of the things that stole my babies, the smiles they carried, and the happiness they expressed. My babies would be terrified, they wouldn’t be happy, they understand danger and death; those were not my children. They needed me and I wasn’t there for them, I killed them. As soon as my back was turned to them all I could see was white. The silence from my bedroom had returned to the house as snow fell before me.”
“So you’re saying you were taken to a separate place, you left the house? When you left was it your mind or your body, please be as specific as possible Olivia, this is pivotal”
“I walked in the snow, my bare feet numb to the touch; it made no sense. I couldn’t feel the wind that blew my hair, hear the sound of the tree branches crackling as they shook up and down above me, and I couldn’t taste the salt of my tears as they streamed from my eyes, down my face, and into my mouth. I became a husk, a vessel of torment within my mind. That’s when the three beds were presented through the mist. I walked to them, they appeared to have Derrick, Tony, and Sarah sleeping beneath their sheets; but to be honest at this point I doubted any visuals, any sign of hope. I doubted any thoughts; I had given up and felt as if my body was taken from me, my mind joining it in a realm of no return. Reality had shattered and I had to give up on everything I had once lived by, the laws I had spent countless years drilling into my mind were taken from me in mere minutes. I was at last at the foot of all three beds; in them were the wide-eyed creatures that stole my babies, and one equally as foreign that took the face of my husband. I felt something, a flicker in the bowels of my soul. It was hate; I hated these creatures and what they had done to me. I hated the confusion and the lack of reality, the feeling of permanence in my scenario haunted me. I hated how I felt helpless against the tide of the nightmare I found myself in. Then a second feeling manifested itself within my palm, the cold sting of metal in the winter’s breeze. I didn’t hear a voice, or feel forced into it. It was natural, as if I had been handling guns my entire life. I lifted the cold steel from my side and faced the barrel towards the furthest bed to the left, Derrick. I didn’t hesitate, I felt as if it was the only possible way I could end this torment. Somehow my logic was that they were forcing me to it, which if their life was over that I could return to mine; I would wake up and it would all have been one terrible nightmare. The first shot was the easiest, because the sight wasn’t fully rendered; the sight of his cold eyes, cold blue eyes no longer teeming with life flashed in my sight only for a moment. The second came after the bang, a long, seemingly endless five seconds of looking at Sarah’s cold eyes, but this time they were hers once again, lively blues as the color faded from them. I came to after Tony. I was at the end of his bed with a smoking gun, and the lights from the sirens were shinning through the window. The sound of the police on the megaphone pierced the walls of our home and I could see the crowd. You know the rest.”
“And what do you believe Olivia, what is it you think happened?”
“It wasn’t me, I know it wasn’t me. That is all I know.”