unnamed-2And then, I was back to myself.

Instead of easing my way into things I decided to jump in with abandon. I threw a house party for thirty people. Right before I sent the Paperless Post I added bring friends! in the “note to guests” box.

I immediately felt overwhelmed and tired before anyone had even replied. But what was done was done. I needed to clean the house, buy booze and order Anna’s.

The party was epic.

***

I woke up the morning after with the familiar anxious feeling of doom that a hangover delivers. While waiting for the coffee to brew I felt stabs of embarrassment as hazy memories peeked through the dehydration and amnesia. Clips of conversations, too loud laughter, cringe-worthy over-sharing and images of what must have been absurd dancing filled my mind.

I found my phone on the floor in the living room.

I opened the camera both hoping photos might jog my foggy mind and praying there was no documentation of the night’s hijinks. There were several selfie shots of me with friends. A cute photo of Chris with his cousin and some dark blurry shots from the back porch, though I had absolutely no recollection of being outside.

I checked my text messages, a couple had come through around two ‘o clock sending thanks for a fun party. One message was from a number I didn’t recognize. It had been sent at six-twenty a.m.

Hey Liz, it read, thx for an awesome party. So gr8 2 meet u and chat. Looking forward 2 talking more about the stuff I’ve seen in the swells. Does tmrw morning still work? I can meet up after 9. Talk soon – Molly.

Molly?

I sipped my coffee and texted Leigh.

Morning! She replied immediately. SO fun last night! Molly’s that cute girl who lives on Woodland. Wavy red hair… she had on that button back sweater. 18 mo old little girl. U guys were talking 4 a while! Ha ha!

Shit. Maybe I did remember her.

I did. We talked about moving out of the city, she’d lived in the North End before coming to Wellesley. But what else had we talked about?

Ghosts. We’d talked about ghosts and Wellesley and something about her childhood. It was fuzzy, but I had the feeling it had been really interesting.

Ugh. How humiliating. I couldn’t even really remember what she looked like and I’d apparently made a date to meet up with this woman. Another round of embarrassment washed over me.

I couldn’t bail, that would be rude and weird and apparently she lived just around the corner. Something nagged at me too, something we’d discussed, I remember wanting to know more, but for some reason we were interrupted or she had to leave or – that was it! She had to go home to relieve the babysitter!  

That’s why we decided to meet for coffee Monday morning. Got it.

I texted Molly back, Tomorrow morning works for me! Cafe Nero?

Done! Be there at 9. Came the quick reply.

 

*******

 

I walked into the cafe and scanned the packed dining area. I had a rough idea of the person I was looking for, Leigh had filled in the blanks in my memory. Shoulder length, wavy red hair, tall and thin, freckled nose and dark eyes. As stand out as that sounded, I was afraid I wouldn’t recognize Molly Vail (Leigh had reminded me of her last name too).

Luckily, she spotted me first.

“Liz! Over here!” She called from a cozy corner at the front of the cafe.

“Hey,” I called with a little wave.

“Grab your coffee,” she said with a smile. “I’ll hold our seats.”

I dropped my jacket onto the cushy arm chair across from Molly and ordered a soy latte and a big blueberry muffin. I needed the carbs. I was still shaky from the weekend.

When I returned to the table Molly and I shared a laugh over the party and sitting the kids in front of the television in order to nurse our hangovers Sunday morning. Though my embarrassment over being blackout drunk at the party lingered, I felt somewhat relieved that she’d had a booze-soaked night as well.

“You have an eighteen month old, right?” I asked, breaking off a piece of muffin.

“Yes, Eliza,” she replied. “How old are your girls again? I can’t even fathom managing three kids.”

“Me either,” I said with a laugh. We chatted a bit more about the neighborhood and kid-related stuff, then Molly sighed and placed her coffee cup on the table.

“I was super nervous about talking with you this morning. But I have to tell someone and I don’t know anyone else who will understand.”

“Shoot,” I replied with a smile.

Molly pushed her gorgeous hair behind her ears and asked, “How does this work? Like, are the interviews really anonymous?”

I looked into her worried eyes and said, “They are, I mean other than the fact that this is a small town so people might put the pieces together if the story is familiar to them. But I’ve never had anyone tell me they’ve run into that problem.”

She looked out the window and said, “Well, I really want to tell you but maybe I-”

“I’ve interviewed a bunch people who didn’t want me to publish their story,” I said quickly.  “Actually, I feel like I get cornered everywhere I go now. Everyone has a ghost story, even if they say they don’t believe in ghosts. Then there are people that just wanted to talk and unload what happened to them. Some of those stories I’ve even recorded, but I won’t publish them.”

“Oh, really?”

“I don’t even know why I hold onto them,” I replied.

“That makes me feel better. But,” she said, nodding her head emphatically, “I think you should record my story and publish it. People here should know what’s happening and anyone else should know before they make the mistake of moving to this town.”

“Ruh roh,” I said with a smile.

Molly laughed, “Sorry, I don’t mean to be dramatic, I just, well, I regret moving here. There’s no chance of getting out now though. We overstretched for the house, we were so in love with it, and I thought for sure it would be our forever home.”

“Is there something in your house?”

“No, I mean, yes, sometimes. But it’s the town that’s saturated,” she said quietly. “I’m sorry, this is hard to explain. Look, I told you the other night that I’ve seen things in Wellesley, but I didn’t tell you why I see them.”

I shoved a huge bite of muffin in my mouth trying not to look too excited.

Molly sipped her coffee then said, “I grew up in Weston. When I was seven we had this huge summer storm that left about ten inches of water in our basement and I wanted to go down there to splash around even though my mother told me not to. I stepped of the basement steps into the water and immediately my entire body began to buzz. The last thing I remember was trying to let go of the stairway banister but my hand had such a death grip on it that I couldn’t. Next thing I knew I was in ambulance, a paramedic over me yelling ‘Come on, Molly. You got this girl. Come on back to us.’”

“Jesus,” I whispered.

“I know. It was a miracle,” Molly said, almost sarcastically. “I’d managed to fall backwards onto the steps. If I had gone forwards into the water that would have been the end of it. Luckily my older brother heard something that made him look down into the basement. He was smart enough to use a broom handle to lift my leg out of the water before dragging me up the steps.”

“How did he even think to do that?” I asked, imagining that I would have just grabbed someone immediately if I’d encountered the same scene.

“My pant leg was smoking,” Molly replied, raising an eyebrow. “My poor mother called the police while my brother did CPR on me on the kitchen floor. The physical recovery wasn’t that bad. I had a few broken ribs from the chest compressions and dealt with the worst headaches for a while. The doctors said that things could have been a lot worse since I’d been dead for over five minutes. They insisted that I didn’t have any brain damage, but I did, they just couldn’t see it.

“Hell, I mean, I didn’t realize it for a while. There were some, like, weird things that happened in the hospital, though I didn’t realize they were strange until later. A really kind nurse brought me a blanket when I was cold and some crayons and paper during the day. Then a sweet old woman read me a fairy tale book one night when I couldn’t sleep. I’m sure you can guess the ending to this one.”

“There was no kind nurse or sweet old lady,” I said, chilled.

“Bingo,” Molly said with a little laugh, “Over my life I’ve learned that spirits are totally harmless. They hang around and watch, they’re usually here because they are waiting for a loved one to pass so they can move on together. They keep an eye on people and help when they can, kind of like junior angels’”

“Are any of these well-meaning dead people with us now?” I asked forcing myself not to walk out of the cafe and away from this dead person magnet.

Molly smiled and looked at the long farmhouse table next to us. It could seat about ten people, but only two of the chairs were taken. She gave a small nod towards the elderly woman reading the newspaper at the far end of the table.  

“Her husband, Joe, is sitting next to her. He died about three and a half years ago of, um, eesh,” she drew in a sharp breath and grabbed her left shoulder then said, “heart failure.”

Her attention turned to the bar and she said, “There’s a guy in a black suit over there, I don’t know who he’s here with. Um,” she scrunched her forehead, then said, “Oh. He’s passed within maybe the last year, he just wants to stay.”

“And when I was in the bathroom-”

“Stop, please,” I said, laughing nervously. “I know I’ll have to go in soon and I don’t want to know if a dead person is lurking in there.”

Molly smiled and said, “Sorry, I just don’t usually get to tell anyone about the things I see. You know, you have a few spaces around you.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, completely freaked out.

“That you have some dead people around you a lot, when that happens they sort of leave this little area that I can see, I don’t know how to describe it, I call it spaces. None of them are with you right now though.”

“Thank God,” I said.

Molly scrunched her forehead again, “It’s weird though, usually if they know a medium will be around dead friends of friends of friends show up trying to get a message through. It’s odd that they aren’t with us.”

What I wanted to say was, Oh my God, am I going to die? But what I asked was, “Is that really bad that they aren’t here?”

Molly shook her head, “No, it’s just new to me. I’m used to the dead trying to get my attention when I am open like this, that’s all.

“This town is so strange,” she said, shaking her head, “I swear I see something new every day.”

I didn’t feel reassured at all, but I asked, “So you’ve seen ghosts ever since you were electrocuted in your basement?”

“Yup,” Molly replied, scrunching up her nose as though she were confessing an embarrassing habit. “Either the electricity or the fact that I was dead for a good amount of time, or the combination of the two, threw the door in my mind way open. It took me forever to learn how to close it when I needed to.

“I sort of got lucky and flew under the radar for a time. I don’t know why, but only a few of the spirits sensed that I could see them, you know? Those two women in the hospital were fine, comforting, even, but then I went home and saw a little girl in the crawl space under our basement stairs.”

“Oh, Lord,” I sighed.

“Yeah, we had a storage space under there where we kept winter gear, you know, like, hats and gloves and stuff. The space was only about four feet high at it’s highest point and it slanted downwards.

“I was rifling through a bin of hats and mismatched mittens when I heard someone quietly humming Santa Claus is Coming to Town. A jolt went through my body. It was much less painful, but it felt a lot like the jolt that electrocuted me. It started at my feet then travelled up and out through my hands. When I’d recovered I turned my head to the side and there she was, crouched in the corner, looking just as scared as I was.

“I screamed and ran upstairs. I scared the hell out of my mom which totally pissed her off. She insisted that I go back down and get my hat and mittens. I couldn’t, so she dragged me down there by the arm and made a big fuss of pushing things around in the little closet to prove there wasn’t anyone in there.

“She said something like, ‘See, I told you, go ahead, look for yourself.’ I didn’t want to but I did.

“The girl was still there, crouched in the corner. Only now she was crying.”

“I’m never opening our coat closet again,” I said.

“Yeah, I had the same plan,” Molly replied with a sad smile. “Denial didn’t work, though. Once that little girl saw that I could see her she began shadowing me all over the house. By the third time I woke up to her sitting at the foot of my bed humming a lullaby I begged my mother to bring me back to the doctor.”

“What did you tell her?” I asked.

“I told her I was having trouble with my vision, that I was seeing things that weren’t there – I said it was spots, not ghosts. I was convinced that I had major brain damage and that I was losing my mind.

“But all the scans and the tests came back normal. While I was having my blood pressure taken I did confess to this one nurse what I was actually seeing and that got me diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress, which landed me with a very kind and very ineffective therapist. I figured out how to deal with him, but I had no idea what to do about the ghost in my house.

“It was killing me, I was a nervous wreck, I’d see her scurry across the hallway from one room to the next or I’d get that electrical jolt and be too terrified to open the shower curtain.

“In a way it was lucky, really. I could have seen something really bad as my first experience, but, at the time, she was enough to drive me to the edge of sanity. Finally, out of desperation I opened up to her. I went into my basement one afternoon when my parents and brother were out and called to her.”

“How?” I asked. “Like, in your mind?”

Molly laughed, “No, no. I just stood in front of that crawlspace and said, ‘Come out and tell me what you want.’ I nearly wet my pants when I heard her answer directly behind me. She said, ‘I’ll help you if you help me.’”

“Hell no,” I said, shaking my head.

Molly laughed again, “It wasn’t like the horror movies, not that time anyway. She used to live in my house and she wanted me to find this Swiss Army knife she’d hidden in a corner of the basement and mail it to her brother. Apparently, it was her father’s and she’d snuck it out of his tool box and her brother had taken the blame. The girl, Ainsley, had died suddenly of a fever before she could confess.”

“That is so sad,” I said.

“Totally,” Molly agreed. “I did what she asked and then she helped me by explaining how ghosts work. She also told me to never go in our attic. I didn’t ask why, I just listened to her advice. A few days after I had mailed the knife to her brother she was gone.”

“So it really was just a dead little girl. I thought that was always a red flag that something sinister was trying to get your sympathy to trick you.”

“Oh yeah, I mean, that can totally happen too. It’s one of their favorite disguises. But they can’t do that with me, they can’t trick me. I see them for what they are. If I see a dead person, then it’s a dead person. If it’s something else, then I’ll see it’s true form.”

“I’m afraid to even ask,” I said, groaning.

“Yeah,” she said, slowly, “I’ve seen weird things over the years, but it was, like, once in a blue moon. Not here, Wellesley’s different.”

“How so?” I asked, tales of lay lines, demon nests, exorcisms and black eyed kids flitting through my mind.

“Well, that’s really why I wanted to talk to you. This town is a supernatural mess, something blocked me from seeing it when we were looking at houses, but once we bought the house, I just knew.

“I’m not telling you anything new, you’ve interviewed plenty of haunted people. The thing is,” Molly paused, looking uneasy, “There’s something following me. I mean, I’ve been followed by things before, ghosts and otherwise, but I can usually help them or at least shut them out completely. This thing is different. It’s tricky. It’s evil.

“The reason I had such a hard time recognizing it was because it looks human. At first I figured he was a neighbor and we were just on the same grocery shopping and school drop off schedule, you know?

“The first time I saw him was this past fall on the playground at Sprague. I was pushing Eliza on the swings and I noticed him sitting at one of the picnic tables under that little, like, permanent tent thing, you know?”

I nodded my head, picturing the structure.

“He was watching a group of boys climbing the old jungle gym, I figured he was one of their dads. It was early on a Saturday morning, like seven-thirty, and he was wearing a light grey suit with a black dress shirt and tie. He had on this straw boater hat and it was tipped down over his eyes. Not a look you see very often, you know?

“I kept an eye on him and eventually he got up and walked past the boys to the trail around the side of the school. It was odd enough that I decided to stick around until either another adult showed up or the kids left. I even considered following the boys home if they did head out just to be sure they made it safely, you know?”

“Good instincts,” I said.

“Yeah, well, they’re hard won. I lived in Baltimore for a while and I learned quickly that if you feel like something is off, then it is. The boys parents showed up about twenty minutes later so Eliza and I headed to Starbucks and I didn’t really give the guy another thought.

“That’s not true,” she said quickly, interrupting herself, “I did mention the guy to Patrick after I got home. He brushed it off and said it was probably some guy just out for a walk. I didn’t agree, but I dropped it. A couple weeks later I saw him when I parked the car at the Dunkin Donuts across from Roche Bros. It was a Wednesday around noon and the middle school kids were swarming.

“As I parked I saw him standing towards the back of the lot, staring at a group of kids messing around outside of Dunks. He had on that same damn suit and hat. No expression on his face, he was just observing them, you know? So I sat there and watched him. There was something off but I couldn’t figure out what, honestly I thought he was probably a pedafile. I actually picked up my phone to call the police when he turned and walked back behind the building.

“I know it’s stupid, but I got out of the car and followed him. I thought maybe there were kids back there and I wanted to intervene immediately knowing the cops wouldn’t be there fast enough if he was after them.

“But when I walked back there he was gone. Completely gone. I even went and looked both ways on the railroad tracks thinking maybe he’d scooted down the bank quickly, but there was just no sign of him.

“The third time I saw him I really saw him, and unfortunately he saw me too. Eliza and I were with some neighbors at the Bates playground one Saturday morning in early December. It was cold, not too cold to run the kids a bit, but we were still the only ones there, or so I thought.

“You know the fenced in part of the playground that backs up to Boulder Brook Reservation?” She asked.

I nodded my head and immediately thought of Gwen’s cryptid.

“Well, the other mom and I got talking and her kids had been on the jungle gym, but then we sort of realized at the same time that they had wandered back to that little fenced in cove in the woods. Eliza was sitting in the stroller then, thank God, having a snack.

“Karen and I – do you know Karen Howell? She’s over on Elmwood, she has girls, um, three and a half and six I think,”

I shook my head, I hadn’t met her yet.

“Oh, well, I’ll have to introduce you, she’s really funny. Anyway, Karen and I followed the little path back into the cove watching her daughters climb on the big rocks. I’d rolled Eliza over with us and was bending down to grab her a juice box when I stood and happened to look back into the woods.

He was there.”

“Oh shit,” I said.

“Yeah. He was standing, motionless next to a tree, about, maybe, I don’t know, I am terrible at gauging distances, but like fifteen or twenty feet back in the woods and he was staring at Karen’s kids playing on the rocks. Just observing again. Expressionless, that is until he saw me watching him,” Molly gave an involuntary shiver.

“When he saw me, when he made eye contact I got that old electrical jolt and then he-” she sighed then said quietly, “He smiled. It was unnatural. This sounds absolutely impossible, but his smile stretched from ear to ear, literally. His lips just kept stretching wider and wider until he had this huge thin smile, but, not a smile really, it was more like a leer. And his teeth,” Molly shivered again, “Even though he was pretty far away I could see how dirty they were. All yellow and grey.”

“What the hell did you do?”

“I froze for a moment and we just stared at each other. I wasn’t getting anything off him, like, information, you know? Usually when I see something weird I can pick up a little bit about the thing, like a sense of their intentions.

“I couldn’t sense anything from this guy psychically, but the look on his face told me everything. He was excited in a really bad way. I realized that Karen was standing right next to me looking into the trees. ‘Whatcha looking at?’ she asked.

“I glanced over at her then back at the guy and he gave this tiny little head shake and began walking, or really, like gliding backwards into the woods until he disappeared out of sight.

“I told Karen we had to get out of there immediately, that there was a man lurking in the woods. We grabbed her girls and walked right to the front of the school. Karen called 9-1-1 and I pretended like reporting the guy would matter. I knew they wouldn’t find him and I really didn’t think it was a good idea for anyone to be traipsing around in the reservation. I had no idea what that thing was capable of.”

“How can you stand seeing something like that when no one else can see it? How do you close your eyes at night?” I demanded.

“It’s taken a lifetime of practice,” she replied, picking at some of the blueberry muffin crumbs on my plate.

“So this creepy grinning man is just lurking around town spying on kids?” I said.

“He was, I mean he might still be watching them sometimes, but he has a new obsession,” Molly sat back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest, “Me.”

“Oh, no,” I said.

“I don’t think he’d ever been seen before, which makes me think that he’s new-ish, you know?”

I shook my head not understanding what she meant.

“Sorry, yeah,” she sighed, “I didn’t really get the concept until we moved to this God-forsaken town either. So, like, dead people, ghosts, whatever, the longer they stay here on this plane the more they learn to interact in a way that the living can understand or at least sense.

“At first they just sort of hang out near us and lose the time a lot and kind of pop in and out of consciousness. But then they get the hang of things and if they want to get someone’s attention they can usually figure out a way to do it. If they are experiencing a really strong emotion, like grief or anger they might even do something by accident that gets noticed.

“Like those things that ghost hunters call ‘residual hauntings?’ They are trapped souls reliving their lives over and over until a medium can get through to them to tell them that they are dead and that they don’t have to experience trauma over and over again. Otherwise, they could continue going through it indefinitely.”

“Have you done that for dead people?”

“Yeah, a few times,” she said simply.

“How the hell did they react?” I asked.

Molly laughed, “Oh, just about as you would imagine. Completely freaked out, one dead woman thought that I was the ghost. It can take some time to get through to them, the reality they’ve created for themselves has been so traumatic and so, well, real to them that it takes time for them to accept that it was all in their minds.”

“But they don’t have minds anymore,” I reasoned.

“Well, yeah, but you sort of do after you die. That’s all that you take with you, your thoughts and your memories and your grudges and grief. That’s why things like Civil War reenactments on battlefields make me sick. There are spirits trapped there, reliving the worst moments in their lives and then these yahoos come in trying to romanticize war and death and it is pure torture for the dead people there.

“If nothing else it further entrenches their false reality. If those so called ‘reenactors’ could feel for even five minutes the pure hell in those battles, they would be so ashamed.”

“Have you seen what war was really like?” I asked, fascinated.

“Senior year my dad loaded us into the car and drove to Gettysburg. We were supposed to stay for a week but I lasted only two nights. I couldn’t take it. I moved on as many as I could, but it was like an endless sea of misery.”

“Oh my God, Molly,” I said.

“Don’t get me wrong, it was really hard at the time, but it is fine now. I’ve learned to close myself off and open up if someone needs my help. It had become second nature, until we moved here. This place is saturated. Dead coming and going and the things, I mean, every monster you’ve ever heard of and then some, I’ve seen them here. The energy here, it’s calling it all in.”

“The ley lines,” I said quietly.

“Oh my God, really? Oh geez, no wonder! OK, that makes perfect sense then, I thought maybe it was the people, you know how everyone here is such a do-er? I thought maybe their energy was combining and, like, taking on a life of it’s own. Opening portals by itself.”

“Portals?”

“Yeah,” she said, scrunching her nose, “I know of three but there have to be more. The weird thing is that they are usually a way for the dead to remain, like stuck in their own reality. Like they deliver them back to the places they fixate on. In New York City I saw one in the subway. There were dead people streaming through and I glimpsed a shadow figure which is super rare, but that was New York. The energy there is extreme.

“So sure, in a big city enough energy could be generated to power a being from another dimension through a portal but it would take a lot. I mean, monsters can’t just come through willy nilly without a big push. So I guess the ley lines make sense combined with fact that the people here overflow with energy. The portals here are wide open. Anything can go in or come out.”

“Like the grinning man,” I said.

“Yeah, that freak. I don’t even know what he is, I mean his vibe reminds me a little bit of the shadow men but he’s more actualized or something. He’s hard to read but he has let some stuff slip through. Flashes of intention and I think some images of the future. I think I’ve even picked up a little bit about their plan.”

“Whose plan?”

“The demon’s,” she said simply.

I groaned.

“Sorry, but all that heaven and hell, devil and demon stuff, it’s real. Not exactly the way religions describe it, like, you’re never doomed unless you want to be or, I mean, let yourself become so deceived that you believe you are, but, yeah. It’s real.”

“Well shit,” I said. “Then how does it all work?”

“Well, the creatures we fear, all the little monsters and the things that go bump, they are the agents of the devil. Demons are there to put bad thoughts in your mind and to command the lesser beings, the monsters. The demon’s intention is to distract and deceive, they work for the devil and support him in his ultimate goal. The monsters are farther down on the totem pole. They are nuisance creatures, sort of gathering the scraps of negativity, feeding off of it.

“Some even believe that they are dead people that have become so warped in their own deception that the devil convinces them that they are monsters capable of only existing on the scraps of evil. Like an alcoholic that is so far into their addiction they can’t imagine a life without drinking, you know? They are so turned around in their dependence that they give up on the idea that they could have any other life, or death really.

“But those things have no real power, only the power we give them. So, it’s hard to explain, but they have no business being on our plane. Unless something powerful pushes them through, which the demons do when they find it beneficial for tipping a living person over the edge. But here, in this town, these monsters are sneaking in by themselves.”

“Cut it out,” I said.

“No, really, it’s not like a totally steady wave. I think they are so used to not being able to cross over unless they are pushed through that most of them don’t know they can do it on their own. But word is spreading and that is how this creeper got through.”

“So what the hell does he want?” I asked, truly frightened.

“Really bad things,” she replied, leaning forward in her seat.

“The next time I saw him, after Bates, I was in Whole Foods-”

“Stop it,” I said, loudly.

“Yeah,” she replied, wide-eyed. “I was picking out avocados and I looked up and he was right across from me, on the other side of the bin. We stared at one another for a moment and then he,” she closed her eyes tight and shook her head as if to shake off the memory, “He smiled at me. Up close it was appalling. His teeth aren’t just discolored, they are too long and perfectly straight across the tips. Cartoonish.”

“Gross,” I said.

“He followed me through the entire store. Actually, that’s not right, he walked in front of me, backwards so that he could watch me the whole time. I tried to communicate with him, tried to tell him to either tell me what he wanted or get the hell away from me. He was blocking me, a blank slate for the most part, but I cracked through a little bit. I got some images. Of creatures congregating around a portal. Things that I’ve never seen before, tiny ones and huge insects with wings and, like a million legs, and other creatures that were so tall I couldn’t see their faces. It was like a perverted Dr. Seuss book.

“He eventually disappeared, he went around the corner to the dairy aisle and when I turned to follow he was gone. It left me, sort of raw. Before that I’d noticed a much higher number of dead people in this town but this encounter made it sink in that something bigger was happening.

“I caught glimpses of him randomly a few times after that, lurking off in the distance, watching. But the next time I saw him I was in the community garden over by the golf course and that’s when he attached to me.”

“What community garden?” I asked.

“Brookside,” she said. “It’s a little plot of land for people who need gardening space. Our yard is tiny and I love growing my own vegetables in the summer so I signed up for a plot.”

“Cool,” I said, meaning it.

“The plots are set in rows and they’re each surrounded by wire fences. It’s not the most attractive set up, but once I get going tending the garden I sort of lose myself in it. Anyway, in that warm spell we had a couple weeks ago I went over there thinking that I might be able to get a jump on raking or at least straighten up a bit.

“My plot is just about dead center in the garden. It’s fussy to get in there, you know? The rows between the plots are narrow and muddy and lined on each side by the tall wire fences that surround each individual garden. Since it was so nice out I thought I’d might see some other people there, but it was just me.

“So I was pulling up some old weeds when I got the feeling I was being watched. I looked over at the storage shed at the corner of the garden and there he was.

“I felt trapped. He began gliding towards me so I scrambled out of my plot and ran down my row away from him. I felt, I mean I knew he was coming for me.

“I ended up running onto the golf course there, I had no plan for where the hell I was going, I just wanted to be out in the open. I should have run out onto Oakland Street, but I was terrified.

“Once I was in the middle of the green I spun around to confront him but he wasn’t there. At least, he wasn’t where I could see him. I screamed for him to come out, to just do whatever the fuck he was going to do already.”

Molly sighed and stared off towards the bar, her eyes sad and unfocused. She continued, “That’s when it happened.”

“What?” I said after waiting a too long moment for Molly to explain.

“Honestly, I don’t know, I passed out and woke up two hours later next to the garden shed. He was standing over me, grinning. He hasn’t left me since.”

I shook my head, speechless.

“The worst part is that I know things now.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I don’t know things he does and he puts people’s skeletons in my head.”

“What the fuck are you saying?” I asked, picturing a horror show.

“Their secrets,” she said, looking down.

My mind raced. Oh shit, I thought, realizing what she meant. What freaking skeletons did I have? What the hell did she know about me.

“It’s a nightmare,” she said. “I know things that I shouldn’t. I’ll run into a neighbor at the grocery store and as I’m talking to them I all of a sudden know that they snuck money out of the offering plate on Sunday. The little boy that lives across the street from us watched his parents have sex last Tuesday night. My OBGYN wants to get a divorce and she’s spreading rumors that her husband had an affair so it doesn’t look like it’s her fault. One of the baristas at Starbucks keeps a knife in her apron and is just waiting for someone to give her an excuse to use it.”

Molly stopped, catching her breath. I just stared at her, in shock.

“Don’t worry, I don’t know anything about you,” she said with a forced laugh.

I gave my own little nervous laugh and said, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It’s like, this information he puts in my head, it’s not to embarrass the person I’m talking to, it’s meant to embarrass me, you know? He’s trying to make me feel uncomfortable around people.

“He gets me when my guard is down. I don’t always have my shield up when I’m just running errands.”

“Is he’s here now?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she replied.

I waited for her to explain and when she didn’t I demanded, “Well where the hell is he?”

“At the back door,” she said, nodding towards the coffee bar. “Something about the train tracks intrigues him.”

I peeked over my shoulder towards the back corner of the cafe but I didn’t see anything unusual.

“He’s with you all the time?”

“Yeah. I suppose it’s better that he’s attached to me and not lurking around playgrounds and kids, for now anyway. I just have to figure out how to get rid of him.

“He’s a pest, but from what I can tell, he doesn’t really have the power to do anything too terrible. But he’s just one of the monsters in this town.

“How many people read you blog?” She asked abruptly.

“I don’t know, a few hundred give or take,” I replied.

“It’s not enough,” she whispered, then looked at her watch. “Shit. I have to go meet with our contractor in ten minutes, but, there’s something else I wanted to tell you.

“I don’t want to freak you out,” she said, wrapping a chunky scarf around her neck.

“Too late,” I said with a laugh.

“Listen, I’m sorry, but I have to tell you something, about you. It’s important.”

“Like a reading?” I asked nervously.

“More like a message, I don’t get them often but when I have I’ve regretted not passing them on.”

“Ok, shoot,” I said with a sigh.

Molly looked down at her hands, “That thing that’s been bothering you lately, the thing you think might be a problem? It is. I mean, not yet, but it will be if you don’t stop. You’re at, like, a crossroads. You can still choose, but you don’t have many more chances to take the right path. The bad path appears relatively harmless, but it’s not, it’s a trap, a really bad one.”

I opened my mouth to respond, but I couldn’t.

“You don’t have to tell me, really, but I just had to warn you. I had a vision of you at a fork in the road. One path was really narrow but it was bright and calm, the other course was like a wide alleyway, overhead was a storm. A dark, windy storm.”

I nodded my head and began to explain when I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Liz! I’ve been meaning to text you! Hi!” the woman said, reaching out a hand to Molly.

Molly stood and took her hand but didn’t say anything.

I stood to hug Jenn, “Hey Jenn, this is my neighbor, Molly,” I said by way of introduction.  

“Good to meet you! We have to get together soon,” Jenn said to me. “I’ve been reading the blog, but I want to hear everything from the horse’s mouth. I’ve got to grab a coffee quick, but let’s get together soon, OK? Nice to meet you Molly!”

Molly and I sat back down and stared at one another.

I was about to ask her a question about her message for me when she said, “Who was that?”

“Jenn McAuley,” I answered.

Molly was pale.

“What is it?” I demanded. “Did you get a vision about her or something?”

“No,” she said quietly. “Not a vision. She, well, she has something with her. Damn it, I shouldn’t have opened up this morning. I just thought it would help me to be more upfront with you. Fuck.”

“Is she alright?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like that before. It’s huge, and it’s dark. It’s right over her shoulder. She has to get rid of it.”

“Have you read all the stories on the blog?” I asked, panicked.

Molly nodded her head.

I leaned forward and whispered, “That’s Jenn, poltergeist Jenn.”

Molly shook her head, “That thing isn’t a poltergeist.”

6 thoughts on “Whenever I See Your Smiling Face, I Have To… Run Away Screaming

  1. Kristy SP says:

    Liz! I love it. Well done, you. Well done. I am so scared right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lizsower13 says:

      Excellent! That is the BEST compliment 🙂

      Like

  2. I read your blog in its entirety after your cryptids post– they just keep getting better! The only thing scarier than this blog is the state of the American political system. Thanks for the much needed distraction.

    Like

    1. lizsower13 says:

      Thank you so very much! I agree with you, real life is much more terrifying right now. I’ll take the ghosts and black eyed kids any day!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cindy says:

    I wait all month for new blog posts from you, and you never disappoint! Absolutely love this latest installment, I’m so glad I found Ghosts in the Burbs! Can’t wait til the next one 🙂

    Like

    1. lizsower13 says:

      Thank you so very much!!

      Like

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