I just went to record a ghost investigation...that was all...it seemed harmless..
In the living room, the family of three sat huddled, almost clenched together on the main couch, Dad’s arm on the couch, Mom’s arm around her eight-year-old son. Those child’s eyes, bugged and stark, watched as Jack and I came through the front door, cameras in hand. His mother relayed the story of his midnight experience with an apparition, he shuddered and clung closer.
“I had heard it too. A knocking on the wall of the hallway and a mean growl to ‘get out,’” she explained. “He has not been able to sleep alone in his room since. That’s why we called you.”
A spectacled college-age woman sat on the edge of a kitchen table chair next to the couch, nodding absentmindedly while reviewing an electronic gadget in her hand. She moved it back and forth, looking up every few moments. The other member of the parapsychologist team, an older man, thick with grey beard, leaned in from another chair with rapt attention, taking notes on a yellow pad and listening intently. Neither of the team acknowledged our entrance, focused on the job at hand. Setting our gear on the kitchen table, I listened to the old man explain his research to the family.
“Before coming here tonight, Kayla and I researched the community records on this property. I admit that I was surprised by the background on this parcel of land, as I had thought this was just a quiet suburban neighborhood. What I found is that this particular area was the site of a violent tribal battle in the 19th century.”
At least he didn’t say “Indian burial ground,” but it was close enough. Dim lighting in the room added to the hokeyness of the environment, he spoke as though relaying a fireside ghost story, hushed and overly dramatic.
“While this actual house has not had any tragedy in it,” he continued, “this is not the first house on this property. At the turn of the 20th century, in the house before this one, there was a murder-suicide, committed by Arlon Cosswain,” as he slid a picture of a mustachioed man across the coffee table to the family. “There have been rumors of haunting in this house before, and judging by the history I found, it is not surprising. Why don’t you all just stay here on the couch, relax, and let us look around.”
Standing up from the intense moment, the man approached us with outstretched hand, “I’m Ron, nice to meet you.” Before either of us could respond with even polite nicety, he cut straight into seriousness. “Brian told me that you don’t get scared easily and you will take this serious, is that true? I don’t need any goofing around here, this is serious. We’re paying good money for professionals.” Accusatory eyes bristled back and for the between us.
“No, Ron, it won’t be a problem, we- ,“ I responded, only to be cut off harder.
“Good. Here is what we need. Kayla and I are going to be moving around the house during our investigation. I would like one of you to stay with us at all times and the other to go exploring on your own. You have the night-vision cameras? Good, use those, we do not want lights to come on.” Turning his back swiftly, he beckoned to Kayla to join him and did not wait for us.
“I’ll go solo,” I told Jack. He shrugged, grabbed his camera, and followed the team.
Holding my camera out in front of me, I watched the video through the side monitor. I explored the average Southern California suburbanite home with no pomp or circumstance. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a long hallway branching through, it was a quick little tour. Their voices echoed through the house, I listened to Ron call out anonymously to the “spirits inhabiting this house.” Lingering in each room for a few minutes, I did the same as well.
“Anyone in here?” My inquiry bounced around the tiny bedroom, shelved books sitting pat in silent witness. I panned the camera around the young boy’s room, toys and stuffed animals in their slumber. After witnessing nothing unusual, I returned to the kitchen.
Hours of watching horror movies and “real” ghost stories taught me that sometimes the recordings pick up more than we hear or see. In the kitchen, I plugged my ear buds into the camera, returned to the beginning of my footage, and reviewed the audio and video. Nothing. Not an unexpected glimmer, not a sound beyond my monologue, nothing. At the end of the footage, I removed my ear buds and set out to record more, when my peripheral vision noticed a door I had not seen before. From the kitchen, the door faced the front of the house and seemed to logically lead to a garage. I opened the door and walked into the darkness, closing the door behind me.
At this moment, I felt my first pinch of fear, prickly as each hair on my body bolted upright. I did not like the darkness, the lack of control, but I reminded myself that even if there were ghosts, I could not be harmed. Panning the camera around, I took slow deep breaths, letting the hair on my body calm and return to rest. A cluttered garage, obviously not used for parking cars, it was packed to the hilt. Bicycles in various stages of disrepair, a laundry station in one corner, boxes with corporate logos piled to the ceiling. Just as I was about to declare the expedition over, a gleam flashed in my monitor. Panning back, the camera focused on a mirror. A bright flash of light lit up my monitor, I blanched, heart crippled mid-beat.
Staring straight at the mirror now, nothing seemed out of place, but I had seen it. I know I had. I stopped the camera and rewound it back to the moment before and watched in slow motion as a blurred streak of light moved across the mirror in my footage. It swirled around my body and disappeared behind my reflection. Hitting record again, the camera facing the mirror, my feet could not be peeled from the spot on the cement floor. Locked and rigid, fear wrapped suffocating chains around my chest, only my eyes could move, growing wider to take in the spectacle. As I watched the monitor on my camera, finger-lines began to appear in the dust on the mirror, tracing out letters, until the message became clear, “Watch your step,” it warned.
The taste of bile flooded my mouth, the muscles in my groin twitched violently, holding my bladder tight. The light in the camera began to dim, as I heard growling, the vicious gnashing of teeth in my head, so loud. The grinding of teeth against bone, squeaking sound, piercing, my head began to pound. Darkness and silence washed over and I drifted.
“Detective! Detective, he’s awake!”
Jack’s shouting voice cut through the fog, my eyes opened, crusty with the sand of sleep, the room spun a bit before settling into a single image. A sterile hospital room, corpuscular rays of sunshine speckled through the window. Jack returned to the room, accompanied by a man in shirt and slacks, a badge affixed to his waistband. Jack looked haggard, purple pockets around his eyes and cheeks, pale, even in the sunlight.
“Mr. Constantine, do you know where you’re at?” The detective approached my bed gingerly, as though trying not to startle me.
“I am assuming a hospital, but I don’t know how I got here. What day is it?”
“It is Wednesday, Mr. Constantine. “
Wednesday?? I had lost four days??
“Tell me what you remember,” the detective instructed.
I tried to sit up to get comfortable, but everything felt numb below my waist. The detective reached and adjusted the pillow behind my back, improving my posture, I could breathe a little better. I started at the beginning with the phone call of the job offer. Covering as many details as I could, I covered my exploration of the house and reviewing my footage in the kitchen. “It was at that point that I saw the door to the garage and decided to see what was out there,” I continued.
“Garage?” Jack interrupted, looking as though he may vomit with the question. “What garage? There was no garage at that house.”
“Of course there was. They did not park their cars in it, but there was one off of the kitchen.” Next to where Jack sat, I spied my video camera on a table. “Hand me my camera, I’ll show you.”
“Oh God,” Jack jumped up from his chair, “I can’t watch that again. No way.” He scuttled from the room without looking back.
“Mr. Constantine,” the detective began, “your friend is right, there was no garage on that house.”
“That can’t be,” I replied, “give me my camera, I’ll show you.”
“I don’t know if that is such a good idea,” he warned.
“Just show him,” Jack called from the hallway.
In trepidation, the detective picked up the camera and handed it to me as if it were about to rip into his hand with gnashing snarl.
I took the camera from him, folded out the side monitor to review, rewound it to the timeline I recalled in the kitchen and hit play. The footage began, I watched as the camera moved around the kitchen and towards the wall where the door was…supposed to be…but it was not there. My face rankled in confusion, I watched what the camera saw. Instead of heading to the door that suddenly wasn’t there, the camera moved back down the hallway and entered the boy’s room, the sound of the door closed behind.
“THIS IS MY HOUSE, YOU FILTHY…” the rest of the spirit’s virulent and angry profanity melded into mumbled nonsense. The camera then sat still, perched on the dresser, facing the boy’s bed, and I watched as I came into view of the camera.
“What happened to the garage?” My voice quivered to the detective, grasping at the reigns of my mind to keep from spilling into the river of madness. I watched as the recorded image of me climbed into the boy’s bed, eyes blank and monotone, and pulled off my shoes and socks. And then it happened. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, I raised my foot to my mouth…and began to chew. Blood spurted instantly, I gorged on myself, snarling and growling.
A shriek burst from my shocked maw, as I threw the camera across the room. It was then that I noticed the bandages, thick gauze, wrapped around the stumps of where my feet used to be.
“Mr. Constantine,” the detective’s voice sounded so far away. “When we found you…”
Consciousness started to fade.
“You had devoured both of your feet...your heart rate calm…”
The room went dark.