A Ghost Story
By Sean Liddle
Bright orange shards of heat lightning silently cut through the dark bulbous clouds as they slid along the distant horizon. Above, crystal clear skies sparkled with innumerable twinkling stars sprinkled about the late summer sky. The light breeze that meandered through the town smelled of rain and ozone. To a casual observer it was obvious that this quiet Friday night would sooner than later be spoiled by a rainy start to the weekend.
I slid the just-waxed black fifty-five Plymouth around the empty streets of my neighborhood, crashing gears up and down, playing that careless game of avoiding brake use when at all possible. Papers and leaves blew about and swirled in my wake. As I approached the more populated portion of town, I slowed to a more reasonable speed, turned down the radio to a more sensible level and pulled into my driveway.
I noted a diminutive man with shaggy hair wearing goggles upon his forehead, looking my way from two houses down. He returned to making notes by the limited street light after a few moments. He stood beside a tripod upon which was affixed oddly shaped survey equipment or a camera and a low but oddly pleasant hum could be heard emitting from his general direction as I exited my car and opened the garage door.
The little voice in my head, you know, the one that tells you to not walk down that alley, the voice that says maybe you shouldn’t have that fifth drink at the bosses dinner party, it told me that this little man in black was not to be trusted. Maybe it was his hair and general appearance, maybe the fact that he was surveying my street at eleven thirty in the evening by streetlight. Whatever the reason, I decided to take the advice as sound.
I raised the garage door, watching him from the corner of my eye. He turned as the hinges creaked maddeningly, looked my way and proceeded to put pen and notebook away in the side pocket of that far too warm for the season coat. With the door fully raised, I parked my car within, shut the door solidly then slid home the latches. Peering from the small window I could no longer see the man and assuming wrongly it would prove, that he had ended his work for the day, packed his strange apparatus and gone home for the evening.
I proceeded to unlock the door between car port and house, prop it open with a sack of potting soil. Reaching into the darkened doorway, I flicked on the light that brought into view the stairwell to the basement. I emptied the contents of my trunk quickly, placing those not for immediate consumption into the basement larder, the rest on the second set of stairs leading to the kitchen. I firmly bolted the larder door to ensure a true seal against vermin.
A dusty bottle of single malt scotch from the wine racks beneath the window begged and quite readily received my attention. I stood for a while, breathing in the musty scent typical of subterranean passages, vaults, crypts and tombs, many of which I have explored over the years. Looking about I saw much that could be done to turn this room into a more habitable place, a den so to speak, popular among my colleagues, but I resigned myself to the fact that not only did I find most human companionship tedious except in short bursts but also to justify such a room one needed visitors to warrant the expense.
A muffled thump from the larder caught my attention. I waited silently for a few moments, fingering the bottle and heard nothing more. Opening the door, I reached for a nearby walking stick and turned on the light. I banged it upon the shelf loudly. Assured that nothing was amiss and no vermin were scurrying about, I pulled the chain switch, then shut and bolted the door firmly.
Replacing the walking stick against the wall outside the door, I grasped my bottle, wiped off the dust to examine the label and satisfied with my choice, proceeded to ascend the creaking wooden stairs. Closing the door to the garage I turned the basement lighting off and entered my kitchen, bolting the latch behind me.
It took only a few moments to put away my groceries, open the bottle and pour myself a drink. Removing my shoes first, I walked into the darkened living room and eased into my favorite leather easy chair. Turning on the radio, I sipped my scotch and absorbed the music for a while, awaiting the commercial break. A small late night snack was in order then I would enjoy my favorite late night comedy cavalcade and perhaps the pre-recorded mystery I was so fond of before sliding in for a well deserved sleep.
This was not to be for just as the song ended and the host’s deep voice began his scripted adoration of a brand of powdered laundry soap that I am more than sure he has never used, footfalls on my stairs rattled my repose.
Reaching to my right in the darkness, I turned the radio down to an inaudible level. Sitting still I hoped the caller was my neighbor who often would come home late and incoherent, try his key in my lock, realize his error and move along home to the awaiting verbal barrage of his wife. A polite rap on the door destroyed the fantasy followed by another followed again by a shrill slightly accented voice.
“Professor Dunst. Professor Dunst I must speak with you. I know it is very late but I am only here for one day. I wasn’t able to speak with you when you arrived home.”
That little voice told me to be cautious. I slid open the desk drawer beside my chair and removed the revolver I had purchased the year prior following a series of daytime robberies in my neighborhood. I had not yet used it but was well aware of how it functioned. It was pre-loaded with three copper jacketed rounds. I placed it into the waist pocket of my jacket as I stood.
“Professor Dunst. I am sliding my card through your mailslot. Please understand that I also am a learned man in the employ of McGill University studying the very areas of study you are so prominent in.“
Shuffling quietly to the darkened hallway I picked up the thin white card that fell to the floor and onto the small decorative oriental floor mat below. By the indirect glow of the streetlight read that he was as he claimed, at least according to the card. Senior Professor Jon Stelle, Metaphysical Studies at McGill University.
For a brief moment I paused.
“I promise you Professor Dunst that what I have to show you will be of extreme interest to a man whose funding is in question and may be looking to transfer to a more modern liberal minded place of employment.”
Again, I paused. It was truer than he spoke. That very week the fool of a Dean hit the final nail in my department’s coffin with a tirade about my work being “a tool of Beelzebub” to the board. Being a school funded primarily by the church such a high ranking opinion was a vessel that carried much water.
I placed my hand on the latch and prepared to unlock it when a dull thud from beneath my floorboards followed by a crash and then silence caused mild, brief alarm.
“Are you alright Professor Dunst?” my visitor asked through the mail slot.
“Yes, yes of course, I am well. Please excuse me for my tardiness, come in”, my response came forth as I listened intently for more noises from below.
Opening the large sturdy oaken door, I saw before me the same shabby fellow I had previously witnessed surveying my street. Hat in hand, hair jutting forth in all directions from his head as if it was trying to escape direct physical contact with his scalp. The shabby coat he wore was torn and repaired in places and strewn about with assorted bits of leaves and hairs attached as if the man had been sleeping outside if not in a yard occupied by one or more large dogs. That all being said his steel blue eyes eyes gave away a sense of wisdom and a complete lack of malice in his heart. I ignored the voice still expressing a need for concern and welcomed him in.
I held out my hand as the aged visitor entered my home. He took it with both of his and shook vigorously as he allowed a battered leather bag drop to the floor with a dull thud. Thanking me many times over, it was made obvious that he was both truly grateful and oddly cold given the warm humid environment outside. He asked if he could be allowed some time from my evening for discussions and if perhaps we could retire to a place more suited to scientific discussions. I agreed to the requests with one stipulation, that he join me in the kitchen for a quick bite to eat as I had not yet partaken of food this evening and was direfully in need of sustenance. He agreed to my counter term as my stomach growled in support.
The tripod was wooden and ancient in appearance however the box that apparently contained his survey gear was new in construction. Black carven wood with polished brass hinges and fittings. Both were placed into my living room where I directed along with the black leather duffel bag that sounded to contain a good number of smaller metallic objects.
“Can I take your coat professor?” I asked with extended hand.
He seemed reluctant though eventually my non verbal persistence paid off; he removed the massive garment and handed it to me. It was extremely heavy and the weight betrayed the fact that it had most of its pockets laden with miscellany of unknown use. I hung it up on the innermost peg inside my doorway I then led him to the kitchen as hunger was currently my overriding interest.
I indicated that Professor Stelle should make himself comfortable indicating the chairs surrounding the kitchen table and proffered a glass, ice and my bottle of scotch.
“I will be having a very late dinner Professor Stelle. Ham and eggs and toast. Would you care to join me? I missed my dinner and I find that a good breakfast selection of food mentally tricks me into awakening a bit, which will assist if you have a good deal of information to relay.”
“No thank you but I do thank you. I eat but once a day most often and have already done so today.”
He did however pour himself a large scotch, downed it when he thought I was not able to see such, and then quickly poured another. I opened the refrigerator and removed eggs, ham, butter then proceeded to prepare my meal while the good professor spoke and laid a manila envelope before me on the table as well as a typewritten document.
“To begin I ask if you are familiar with the work of one C. Tillenghast in the early part of this century?”
I turned to face him as sipped my own drink and nodded in silent agreement with furrowed brow and slightly pursed lips.
“As you know the, the gentleman in question had developed a machine that purportedly enabled one to view into the unseen realm of alternate dimensions that share our place in the universe.”
“Yes and he died for his sins” I added with emphasis on the plurality of “sins”, through a bite of toast.
“He was simply too bold and his work was far to broad scope” my visitor blurted almost angrily then quickly regained his composure. “My work is however more limited. In the way an entomologist may selectively study scarab beetles, I my friend study what you may call ghosts. “
The sip of scotch that was being used to wash down crumbs stopped for the briefest of moments mid swallow. I then smiled broadly, completed the swallow and implored for more information as I sat across from the bleary eyed old man.
He slid forward the crumpled, folded and then poorly re-flattened paper for my reading. It was not a full document though he made visible that such was available in bound form should I desire a more detailed account. Watching me intently as I ate and read, he interrupted rapidly at page turns and when I broke to sip or bite to add his own personal colour to the tale.
The good professor had apparently been, for many years, a theoretical researcher such as I, instructing a few days a week in the esoteric studies in the metaphysics, courses taken by those needing credits as filler to complete their arts and other “soft” degrees. He became aware when preparing for a holiday that was thinly disguised as a “sabbatical” in warmer climes of a rash of ghost sighting by holiday travelers and the uneducated and terribly superstitious locals, in a popular region of the Yucatan. They seemed to have begun almost immediately following a series of earthquakes and aftershocks in the region and primarily in the vicinity of a town called Yun, near the rocky coastline.
The strange thing about these sightings beyond the obvious issue surrounding the sheer numbers of people reporting such, was the large volume of spirits being reported and the odd, non-typical locations. These were not the typical shimmering clouded figures in a cemetery late at night or a specter moving up a stairwell in an old home. Instead these were both animal and human forms, silently wandering in and out of side streets, through the forest west of town and especially in rocky areas such as the overhanging bluffs near the ocean and the foothills of the uniformly shunned, silent and dead volcano ten miles from the town center.
Professor Stelle traveled to Yun by air and rental car driven by a local who peppered him with fanciful tales of “yellow spirits” crossing himself frequently and muttering a large amount Spanish that included references to his chosen career’s patron saint. The car was full of religious icons and playing card sized yellowed images, and smelled strongly of spiced food, tequila and tobacco. It creaked suspiciously at every minor and major bump or pothole, of which there were many, due most likely to heavily damaged shocks and disrepair. It slid into the parking area beside the seedy hotel where he had rented a room for the week. Registering with great difficulty due to language issues, the professor entered his room, dropped his bags and promptly fell asleep until morning.
A woman’s scream roused him with a start and he rushed to his window to see a family of well-to-do tourists across the empty adjacent street pointing at a vacant towards a fountain in the nearby market. Seeing nothing to produce such a reaction, he went outside and walked briskly towards the market, frequently looking back towards the family and the crowd gathering about them. The sun had not yet crested the adjacent roofs and the market square was enveloped in rapidly waning shadows. Built on solid rock with a sparse covering of river washed gravel, it showed signs of age and limited care but certainly nothing of note.
The yells and murmuring gained in intensity in direct proportion to the number of local persons, tourists and police arriving so Professor Stelle decided to backtrack and question the people to try to determine what exactly they were experiencing that he was not. As he walked across the square to the crowd he tripped over an unseen foothold and noted ever so mild, the scent of almonds and sulfur.
Instinctively turning abruptly to look back towards the direction from whence he came to see what he had tripped over, his heart began to race and his breath was stifled. Stalking through the fountain structure itself, and about the market area in general, were a score or more of wildly dressed, partially transparent yellowed shades of Mayan warriors, spears and stone bladed clubs in hand. They were within yards of another group of similarly dressed men, who were fixated and pointing towards something unseen in the sky in the opposite direction. As the crowd watched, the first group silently attacked the second with unmitigated ferocity. Screams erupted from the onlookers as the sun rose above the roof, blinding the watchers briefly. A gust of wind from the behind the west blew towards the market through the crowd and as vision returned, the specters vanished.
Following the event, the Professor questioned the as many members of the crowd of onlookers he could locate who would speak with him but gathered very little information apart from their insistence that they also noted an odour of almonds and sulfur prior to seeing the vision. Nothing more of value was gained, though the professor noted a significant crack in the stone walkway directly between where the onlookers stood and the market square.
Over the next few hot and dusty days, he investigated the other recent sightings by speaking with all who would discuss the issue. These including tourists, the local police and the clergy who of course insisted that the spirits were omens of future punishment to be meted on those who did not obey their fire and brimstone warnings against drug, alcohol and promiscuity. One evening, whilst reviewing his notes in a working class bar over a stew of mysterious meats and unidentifiable vegetables, he was witness to one more sighting, however brief. A ghostly mule walked down a side street beside to the dismay of the frightened drunken mineworkers also partaking of the workman’s meal. He noted again, the scent. The mule was later identified by a man in the bar as one that had been struck by a transport vehicle full of onions a week earlier during an aftershock. Its owner had collapsed at the doorway to the bar for he felt in typical superstitious way of uneducated persons that it was foreshadowing his own demise or future ill-luck.
A few days later, on his way to the airport, fully ready to accept that he would have to put forward a request to return to the area to his dean, he witnessed one further vision from the rental car that was transporting him. The rocky foothills of the dead volcano to the east along the roadway were barren and cold in the early evening, but as he approached a particularly inhospitable region, he could see yet again, a group of Mayans, yellow and partly translucent in the early morning shadow of the mountain, shimmering as they carried an elaborately carved box of sorts up the slope. He yelled until the hungover and oblivious driver stopped the car, grabbed his bag and ran through the rock and rubble and scrub brush until within fifty feet of the procession.
The smell of almonds and sulfur filled his head and he felt quite unlike himself. Looking down, he could see beneath the tumble of stone, many fissures and cracks and from them boiling forth, invisible vapours that changed the density of the sir, thereby giving it a watery consistency.
As he watched awestruck and lightheaded, the procession eventually made its long upward march through the stones in a circular path up the volcano’s lower foothills. He reached into his bag, and found a pair of large metallic syringes. Crawling on hands and knees, he proceeded to fill the syringe with the noxious vapours being emitted from the fissures. He injected the samples into a series of rubber stoppered test tubes, wrapped them in gauze and sealed them for safe keeping in a lined metal box that he slid into his carry on satchel. Lastly, he brought forth a camera from his bag, rested it on a large chest-high igneous rock and snapped a single photo of the retreating Mayans.
He gathered his belongings and ran to the waiting car and returned to the airport for a long flight back to Montreal.
As I finished the last page and looked up to meet his eyes, a spindly hand slid an envelope across and without a word, implored me to open it. He stood and walked into my living room to retrieve his wood and brass box. He opened it, setting the device on my table. It appeared to be a polished piece of elaborate survey instrument melded with a large professional camera.
I removed three photographs from the envelope. The first was a hazy black and white image of a rocky hill and as promised by the story, half way up such was a vaguely discernible cluster of white hazy human forms that appeared to be carrying a box suspended from two poles. It was not what one would say absolute evidence of much more than a theatrical cinematic still.
The second was yet another black and white photograph of a house that the professor explained was a prominent Victorian home in southeast Montreal, that has has for the past fifty seven years been utilized by the absentee owners as a convalescent home. In each window, around the front grounds, and in the side yard, wisp like, vaguely human and some non vaguely non-human forms or at best shapes could be seen. Utilizing a magnifying glass I was able to see some detail of faces, fingers and limbs and surprisingly a few cat-like faces complete with whiskers in the grassy yard. Furthermore, upon in depth review, a series of birds or more accurately, wings and beaks and puffs of mist strewn through the bushes and trees could be identified.
The third photograph was much more shall we say, clear. Taken in full colour, with extreme resolution, it was of the same home, at a much more recent time of the year given the leaf-less trees. The barely discernible shapes were now seen upon inspection to be what the previous image hinted at. Specters, spirits, what could only be defined commonly as ghosts.
Again, that little voice in my head urged concern though I was not yet sure what threat this little man was to me. I shifted the pistol in my pocket if only to reassure myself it was there.
I slid the photographs back into the envelope as I watched him remove from a small bag, a series of rubber stoppered vials as I refilled both of our glasses. He explained that after discussion with university chemists and geologists, he determined that the vapours he extracted from the vent in Mexico were a combination of gases commonly found in fissures within volcanoes and calderas. Furthermore they contained selection of rare minerals not anticipated in that part of the continent. He found that this gas acted somewhat like a filter, or more accurately an anti-filter of sorts, as it did not minimize something from view, but instead allowed one looking through such to see varying frequencies of energy that normally were invisible. Its abilities were vastly enhanced by ionizing the gas in a tube similar to the way one ionized neon or argon in lighting.
He hypothesized wildly that what we were seeing in the photographs and what the peoples of that far away town in Mexico saw after the reported seismic activity were the residual energies of living beings. That these visions were made possible by the resulting release of the chemical vapours.
“Call me crazed good friend, but I believe what I am telling you, based on what I have witnessed over the past while”, he looked about and whispered, “and based on experiments of a questionable nature that I have not documented it in such ways that my school could see, I know this to be true.”
He swallowed back the scotch and continued.
“The energy I hypothesize is released at the time of death. Under the right viewing conditions, it maintains the shape and blindly automotive qualities and actions that it did while alive within the husk of the body, blissfully unaware of the living, a non thinking specter of the formerly mobile and conscious self. Oddly, it seems higher animals last in this energy form longer than lesser beasts. A mouse, a few days, a bird a few more, a cat or dog, a few months, a human, well. who knows.” The last five words stated with considerable and obvious control.
I pondered his statement as I sipped, staring at the table.
“Perhaps” I put forward “just perhaps, the length of its existence is related to both body size and level of conscience?”
He slapped the table, shaking the glasses and bottles.
“Exactly! It explains everything! It explains our species’ continued belief in ghosts. It explains how some places are reported to be heavily haunted for ages then in modern times nothing is seen except in the fanciful imagination of those that recount tales from their ancestors.”
He stood abruptly and picked up his machine.
“Come with me. I have something to show you. One of which is of concern and dire interest to me and brings questions into my mind that I think only you and I can answer together”.
We left the kitchen and I assisted in carrying his tripod while he carried the machine, ever so carefully out into the night air.
“The gas has been replicated and refined by students at my school. I however must continuously re-inject new gas into the machine due to its strange way of losing effectiveness over a short period of time following release from the vials and exposure to electricity. You will find the formula in the envelope along with the photos. I have a proposition for you after you see what I have to show you, for joint research in this area. My field and your theoretical experience could bring us many rewards, and dare I say it, riches if we are to market this properly.”
We walked quickly to a darker section of the street. The storm almost upon us, the wind had picked up and the sky half stars, half ominous clouds that occasionally rumbled and glowed from within. He set up the tripod and affixed the machine, pointing it at a terrible vacant home that neighborhood children shunned and some adults of sensitive nature crossed the street to avoid walking past. A grotesque bulbous old man that lived there had died a few months past, a week before being convicted of crimes of cruelty to a series of pets that had gone missing over a period of a generation. After his death, an inspection of the home and surrounding yard lead to a discovery that many more animals had been tortured by the old man, and were buried as well as kept in various states of preservation in his basement. The building was slated for demolition in short order.
“Steady yourself Professor” he said with a smile, and proceeded to flick on the switch that connected the machine to a small battery pack on the side of the tripod. After a quick look, he stepped back from the machine, indicated the viewing lens, similar to that of a smallish telescope, and insisting I do the same. I stepped forward, pressing my eye to the soft rubber cup.
“Grasp the unit by the two handles on its side and turn it from side it side” he indicated with excitement as a gust of wind blew his crazed hair about his face.
I held the two polished rods and slowly swung the device from right to left until I saw something that sent me stepping back from the tripod in surprise. Upon the weather-beaten wooden porch, stood a yellow figure, the fat man who killed cats. The fat man who died in his sleep on that porch still in the filthy ripped housecoat and cap he frequently wore while sitting on the deck, screaming expletives at those who looked his way. He stared up into the sky, slowly moving from side to side, muttering silently, with black holes where the eyes should be.
“It is okay, do not worry.” He said placing a hand on my arm to calm me, not knowing that the hand attached to that arm was gripping the pistol hidden in my pocket. “They cannot see us nor are they aware of anything around them. They are not mindless husks, but truly, just the residual visions left by the husks when they fall away.”
I stepped back to the device and looked through the eyepiece again. A number of small cat shaped mists floated about the yard, on the porch and within the windows. The fat man was not to be seen. I scanned back to the right then slowly to the left until I had viewed the yard again. Still no sign of the rotund figure. I scanned further and further to the left and again stepped back with a start. The large yellow figure was seen to be standing partly hunched, walking across the yard towards us, a look of menace on his face, the eyes, still two black holes beneath furrowed brows, the mouth full of yellow gnashing teeth silently muttering.
“Professor, I suggest we move along” I said consciously toning my concern down to seem mere impatience.
“Yes, yes, let us. I have much to show you.”
He packed up and explained further his hypothesis in more detail as we walked back in the direction of my home through the ever increasing winds. I walked backward, facing the direction of the filthy abode, making the elder sign and silently mouthing words I learned in foreign lands to protect one from a spirit of evil nature and strength.
He continued, “I believe that the energy, depending on how long and large the being is, maintains its form for a relative period, slowly dissipating, but in the mean time, moving about mimicking in the same fashion which it had been used to in life, in the same general area of space that it occupied when within the containment of the body. They are unaware of us, being unthinking, mindless energy residuals, but we can under certain circumstances become aware of them, such as when in dire emotional states or when viewing through the gases emitted by the earth crust during certain seismic or other natural events.”
We set up viewing houses along the street as he further elaborated his feelings and beliefs surrounding the vapours, or as we agreed to call them for simplicities sake, ghosts. Each home had yellowish shapes, large and small, defined and completely wisp-like with no features. They were not affected by the heavy winds that came up after a while, nor the rain that began to pelt us.
Finally, we set up across from my home. He became quiet and set up the equipment, refilling the compartment within the device with more gas.
“Now I have something to show you that I have only seen in one other location. That was a very remote, abandoned and locally shunned cabin the woods of upper New York State near a cottage that I and others in my group had been retreating at to prepare our annual budgets. That and drink a bit of scotch.” he added with a small laugh.
“In that case, further examination is planned but here, here we have an issue I am hoping you and I can work on immediately”.
He swiveled the device, making a slight if not humorous misstep as a cat running home in preparation for the oncoming storm ran between his feet. He focused the eyepiece and switched on the battery pack. Stepping back a good distance, he waved me to review my own home. Rain arrived in force and soaked our clothing, wind made standing still precarious, yet this did not stop me from properly viewing my home and seeing that nothing, not a shred of yellow mist, vapour or wisp, existed within or without the envelope of my property.
Disconcerted at the discovery, I swung the eyepiece down the street, behind me and up the opposite direction seeing plainly, in the distance, vaguely yellow forms moving about, but nothing, not a shred of spectral fog, near my home.
The wind whipped and Professor flicked off the switch.
“Perhaps we should take the discussion inside, I am chilled to the bone and I think the answers may be found not on the street”.
I agreed. I assisted in the packing and carrying, and once inside I made directly for the kitchen to bring forth coffee, percolator, sugar, spoons and cream. Proceeding to meticulously construct the hot drinks I listened as the Professor rambled on; drying his device with a selection of rags I pulled forth from beneath the sink.
“The energy can be affected by one of a number of outside forces. My experiments with animals showed some minimal affect on the “ghosts” by use of electromagnetism. I am taking a wild guess in saying that gravity also has an effect else the ghosts would fly off into space as the earth moved about the sun in its orbit. I am wondering, perhaps there is something in your home that actively repels this energy?”
I poured the coffee, silently offering it, cream and sugar to the wet, tired looking old man. I was again ravenously hungry after our extended time walking about in the cold and wet but held back from preparing another meal as I was interested in what he had to say with due concern and apprehension.
He continued after taking a long sip of the warming beverage. “I suggest, we use the device to further survey your home from bottom upwards. See if there is any sign however slight of spectral mist or ghost whereupon we can arrange for other equipment to be shipped here to examine the structure for other anomalous fields that may be responsible. This is terribly interesting, fascinating is it not?” he smiled widely, showing finally his crooked yellowed teeth, impatiently awaiting an answer.
I absentmindedly nibbled at a piece of ham directly from the frying pan, nodding in acceptance as he warmed his hands with the mug. Eventually, after a few more minutes of quiet pondering, I rose, took our cups to the sink and suggesting we begin immediately.
“Be cautious” the voice told inside me.
We carried the equipment down the stairs to the basement. The tripod was set up in the middle of the basement floor and his pockets were emptied of the gas vials. Again, he set the device atop the tripod however this time he handed me a pair of leather and brass goggles to wear.
“Another way to utilize this device, though one that sadly burns through the gas very quickly, is an active survey mode. The mode we utilized outside was passive in that we were viewing the homes through special lenses and an eyepiece, but also through a clear section of glass that contained the electrically activated gas. The active mode exposes the clear section and utilized ten times the electricity to plasmatize the gas. It creates a field of light that we cannot see, but that which causes the energy to become visible.”
We donned our goggles and I stepped back from the machine, to beside the larder door. I surreptitiously grasped my walking stick, holding it behind my leg and stood silent, ready.
After a bit of recalibration, he removed the cover to the device, along with the lenses and eyepiece. Placing these on the table, he looked my way and asked if I was ready. I nodded to the affirmative. He reached to the side of the battery pack, turned a small silvered dial to a higher setting and flicked the switch. A hum slowly rose and with it the professor placed his hand on his heart and gasped, stumbling backwards into the table upon which his equipment bag and vials had been set. The small cylinders rolled to the floor following the impact and he turned to me aghast.
“What is this? Who, what are you?” He asked looking from me to the dozen or so yellow human forms that surrounded us standing, looking skyward with their terrible black eyes, not knowing which to run from and instead cowering awkwardly, backing against the wall.
The voice in my head said those precious two words i loved to hear and I obeyed instantly with glee, “Kill him”.
Walking forward with purpose and speed, I bashed in his ancient skull with the knob of my walking stick, the bones neatly imploding, the dark crimson fluid gushing forth like a fountain, his body crumpling neatly to the floor.
Muted thuds erupted from the larder. I again ignored them as I knelt over his form.
He moaned and blood stained my earthen floor. Concrete would be such a pain to clean. I nodded to myself with acquiescence that my choice to not construct a “den” was good and sound.
“My good professor, I thank you for this.” I leaned closer and covered his mouth and nose with my hand, holding tight as he shuddered and shook violently, straddling his back, knees on his flailing arms. “Sometimes, it has been so hard to catch them before I feed, but now, now, I am sure I will never hunger again.” A smile stretched across my face as I watched the yellow forms back away, against the walls, skyward gazing yet all attention on me.
Life ebbed from him as the shaking and physical protests slowly ended. He lasted quite long for a man of his age and of such apparent ill health. A fine yellow wisp eventually began to seep out between my fingers, trickling upwards. I removed my hand and leaned close, breathing in deeply, over and over until all of his energy entered me and joined the other, joined the other voices, which eventually fought his into submission, and blissful quiet.
I stood, wiped off the dust from my clothes and turned to the larder. I flung open the door, stick in hand poised for action only to see that my dean had almost but not quite managed to escape his bonds. He moaned half conscious as he had brought some crockery down upon himself form the shelving and a wound graced his forehead as a reward for his attempt.
“Oh sir, what have you done. So much to clean up this evening. Work is so much easier after a hearty breakfast.”
I stepped forth quickly with my walking stick raised as the light from the device began to wane ever so slightly.
Whispers by Sean Robert Liddle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Edited by: D. Cannons