It was the late 70s and we were looking for something to do.
|John Burlow. His name will probably stick in the back of my brain for the rest of my life. He wasn't a particularly memorable guy- tall, lanky, always getting into trouble with us. He blended in with the friend group we had and in all honesty, I don't remember most of them. John, however, is a different story. One small thing changed him forever, and made him a permanent fixture in my mind.
It was the late 70s and we were looking for something to do. It was too early to justify getting wasted but too late for anything to be open. Mike and Louis (whose last names I can't remember) were with us that night. John started telling us about his ouija board. We had all heard of them. They were pretty popular around our neighbourhood and Louis' little brother had used one. He said he was bullshit, but John seemed to think otherwise.
"You guys gotta come over and try this. I swear I've been talking to someone. Freaked me out at first but I love it".
We all rolled our eyes but went over to his place anyway. He took us to the basement. I tried to stifle a laugh at how much he was setting the mood to scare us. There were some candles set up in a circle on the floor and some kind of weird shape drawn with chalk. He gave us some rules; don't treat it like a joke, always say goodbye when you're done a session, etc. We sat on the floor within the chalk lines and I finally got a good look at it. It was a nice board. Not one of those ones you can buy at Walmart or something. This was solid wood with the letters etched in very carefully. I’ll admit I was kinda impressed. My dad was a carpenter and I had helped him out in the shop before so I knew the dedication and time that must have gone into making this thing.
I can't remember what questions we asked. I guess it's not important. When I felt the planchette (fancy word for the the piece we held on to) move, I tried to figure out who was pushing it. Louis maybe? Another question got asked. The candles flickered. Weird coincidence right? Another question. Every candle went out simultaneously. The second those candles went out, we hauled our asses outta there as quickly as our legs could carry us. We stopped in the front yard and started laughing at ourselves for being such wimps. Then we realized John was still inside.
"Bastard really got us huh?"
The next day at school John acted a little distant. He kept giving us these weird glares in the hallway. At lunch he finally sat with us but didn't say anything- at least not until Mike talked about the game we played. I had never seen someone as pissed as John was in that moment. I can't remember all of the expletives he used, but the sheer volume of him telling us that it "wasn't a fucking game, it's real you motherfuckers" still makes me cringe. After his tirade, he threw his lunch tray on the ground and stormed out.
I ended up moving away not too long after. My dad got in some freak accident and died. I moved in with my aunt for a while but she ended up deciding that a teenage boy was too much responsibility so she gave me up. I went from foster homes to a group home, and ultimately ended up on the streets. It was hell. I forgot all about my friends from before. I was in survival mode. That's a story for another day though.
Maybe a decade later I had the chance to go back to my hometown and visit some of the places I used to love. I was finally getting my life together and had a steady girlfriend. I had an apartment and real security for the first time in what felt like forever. Anyway, as luck would have it, I ran into John's younger sister on my nostalgia tour. She remembered my name and after an awkward pause she reminded me that her name was Kristen. We walked around talking for a good hour before I asked about John. She stopped dead in her tracks and her face turned pale. This is a conversation that plays on loop in my mind, keeping me awake every night.
"Oh, I guess you didn't hear. I mean...well how could you have, right? Do you remember that ouija board that he used all the time?"
I felt a lump in my throat. What did he get himself into with that thing?
She didn't wait for me to answer and continued, "John got pretty obsessed with it. He stopped leaving the house if the board told him to stay home. He was convinced that this thing was actually real. He wouldn't eat, sleep, or even shower unless he consulted it. Eventually our parents had enough and took it from him. Or at least, they tried to. He howled like a wild animal. Man, I had never heard something so hideous in all my life. Still haven't. It was inhuman. He started punching and kicking our mom, and our dad had to hold him down while I called the cops. He screamed and thrashed around until they gave him some kind of needle..." her voice started trailing off.
"Jesus, Kristen, I'm sorry to- " she cut me off.
"When he woke up all he talked about was needing that goddamn board. Not wanting it, needing it. They put him in some type of mental hospital and had to keep him doped up for weeks. Then he just stopped talking altogether."
"So, uh…how is he now? I mean, when did he get out?" I was completely stunned at this point.
"He didn't," she said, looking at the ground, "he says he's trapped; he didn't say goodbye.”