Over the next week Gen Hensley became a surprisingly frequent texter. For some unknown reason the woman had taken a liking to me and I couldn’t shake her. It began when I texted her Judith Kay’s contact information and then escalated to Gen basically live texting me from the Mani Pedi. The texts were basically inane gossip; who she saw, where she went, who she saw when she was headed to wherever she going, what they were wearing, etc. It was mildly amusing at times, claustrophobia inducing at others. She didn’t ask about me or my life, thank goodness, and she never suggested that we hang out. It was as if she had simply tapped me into her stream of thought via our cell phones.
“You need boundaries,” Biddy pointed out, not for the first time.
I agreed, of course, but what was I going to do? Tell Gen to stop texting me insipid nonsense?
“Mark my words,” Biddy insisted, “You’ll be sorry you didn’t shut her down sooner.” I felt that was rather dramatic. It was just a silly text chain. Gen’s interest in me, or talking at me through text rather, would peter out eventually.
Meanwhile, I was impatiently waiting for Judith to come diagnose my paranormal problem and Biddy had someone she wanted me to meet.
“He thinks he has a demon problem,” Biddy told me over quinoa bowls at CocoBeet.
“Why does he think that?” I asked, enjoying the maple syrup drenched grains despite myself.
“Mood swings, aggression, seeing shadows, sleep paralysis, the usual,” she replied. “These are good, right?”
I nodded. “When are you meeting him?” I asked.
“Tomorrow morning, at CrepeBerry. He’s a vegetarian.”
“Hm, what time?”
“And they have crepes?”
The next morning was a complete and utter shit show. I was so turned around and lethargic that I could barely make the kids lunches for school. I hadn’t slept well the night before. Vivid dreams kept startling me awake until I finally gave up and read until the kids woke up.
Even though I was running late I stopped for a Starbucks latte before making my way over to CrepeBerry. I scanned the cozy restaurant and spotted Biddy. Her back was to me and she sat across from an Adonis. Though seated, I could tell the man was tall. He had very dark wavy brown hair which he kept a little long and it looked as though he’d spent a week or so someplace warm and sunny. I pegged him somewhere in his early-to-mid forties.
I put my hand on Biddy’s back, said hello and then introduced myself.
“Liz, hello,” the hunk said with a wide smile and heavily lashed shark’s eyes, “I’m Jason, Jason Brock. So great of you to hash this out with me.”
His handshake was way too strong and I resisted massaging my hand after I sat.
“You look like shit,” Biddy declared, concern in her voice. “Are you alright?”
I shook my head, “Yeah, just a rough night’s sleep. Sorry I’m late, what are you guys talking about?”
“Oh, I was just saying how much I like this restaurant. I was telling Biddy that I’m a one hundred percent plant fueled athlete. It’s the wave of the future for athletics. Even Tom Brady’s doing it.”
“Who’s that?” I asked.
The two of them looked at me like I’d just thrown my coffee at the wall.
“I’m joking,” I said, rolling my eyes.
Jason laughed nervously. “Yeah, well, lately I’ve been having a hard time staying on my plan. I blame it on the trouble I’ve been having.”
“Wait,” I said. “Did Biddy tell you that I write a blog about Wellesley hauntings?” I asked.
“Oh, sure, yeah. That’s great, it sounds rad,” he said, brow furrowed.
“I just mean, is it alright with you if I record your story and share it on the blog? I would change your name and everything to keep you anonymous.”
“Oh, right, yeah sure, that’s cool.” Jason had been sitting with his elbows on the table. He removed them and then his hands together in his lap then looked between the two of us with mild concern as if we were about to conduct a job interview.
“You wrote in your initial email that you feel like there’s a demon haunting you,” Biddy said, cutting to the chase.
“Yeah. I do,” Jason said, with slight embarrassment.
“Why do you think that?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve had these mood swings lately, bad mood swings. I’ll be fine, you know? And then all of a sudden it’s like I want to tear someone’s head off. And there are shadows in my house. I see them out of the corner of my eye. I was watching television the other night and one passed right in front of the screen and then darted into my kitchen. Oh, and a couple times I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and it feels like something is sitting on my chest, I can’t move at all and it’s really hard to breath. That has been the worst. Feeling trapped like that.”
“That all sounds really awful,” Biddy said sympathetically, “And those can definitely signify demonic oppression, but why do you think a demon would be haunting you?”
“I’ve thought a lot about that, you know? Like, why me? Why now, when I’m at the top of my game?” Jason looked down at his lap. “I’m not perfect, I admit I went through some rough years, you know with my ex and the kids. But I’ve worked really hard to put all of that behind me.”
“So you think that something you did attracted a demon?” I asked.
Jason looked nervously between us then leaned forward. “Look, I’m no saint, alright? I cheated on my wife a couple times and that’s why we split up, but I’m a pretty good dad. And I’m totally clean now, but in my thirties I got into supplements that enhanced the effectiveness of my workouts.”
My mind took a minute to catch up. “Oh, steroids?”
Jason looked around nervously. “Yeah, but all that is totally out of my system. I train people now and everything I teach is based on completely clean eating and living.”
“You think using steroids somehow lead to a demonic attachment?” Biddy asked.
“I’m just trying to come clean, that’s all. I just want you to know the whole story. It feels like my past has come up to bite me.”
Biddy watched him for a moment considering. She said, “You know, the symptoms you’ve mentioned, they could simply have a medical basis. Mood swings are definitely tied to steroid use. The rest might be anxiety brought on by these big life changes you mentioned-”
“No, that’s not it. That’s not what’s happening. I’m not describing everything right,” Jason became agitated. Shaking his head back and forth. Biddy and I both sat further back in our seats.
“I don’t doubt what you’re saying. You’ve obviously experienced something disturbing. When did all of this begin?” Biddy asked soothingly.
“A few weeks ago,” Jason replied.
“So what exactly happened?” I asked, wondering why he was being so vague.
Jason blew out a breath. “I went on a date with this crazy chick. That’s the night everything started.”
I glanced at Biddy, she sighed and said, “Now we’re getting somewhere. What happened that night?”
“So this girl I do CrossFit with set us up. I wasn’t totally sold on the idea, but Caroline, the woman I work out with, pushed and pushed for it. She told me her friend was really hot and into working out and she thought we’d connect. So I gave in and agreed to text the girl and ask if she wanted to grab a drink.
“She works clients out in their home, like she’s personal coach, and her last client of the day lived in Needham so we met early, around five, for a drink at Blue on Highland. I figured if it was a total bomb I could duck out saying I had dinner reservations with a friend at seven.
“Caroline wasn’t wrong, this girl, Regan, was really hot. Not my type, you know? She was pretty tatted up and had short dyed black hair with some of those purple stripes, know what I mean? Thing was she was pretty cool to hang out with, a little intense, but we talked a lot about training and she was pretty interested in hearing all about Crossfit.
“We ordered another drink and she asked if she could read my palm. I was like, yeah, whatever and kinda laughed it off but she took my hand and told me all this wack stuff about the lines on my hands.”
“What kind of stuff?” I asked.
“Oh man, I don’t know I wasn’t really paying attention until she started wigging out about my fate line. She held her hand out next to mine to get me to see some similarity that I honestly didn’t see, but she was, like one hundred percent sure that our fates were crossing for some reason. Then she goes, ‘You have to come home with me.’”
I couldn’t help it, I laughed out loud which made Jason smile and blush a little bit.
“Ha, yeah, I know it sounds like a total pick up line, but it wasn’t like that. She was, like convinced that something special was happening. And, I mean of course I wanted to go home with her. She was sort of strange, but you know, she was hot. So I agreed to follow her home.”
“Does she live in Wellesley too?” I asked.
“No but really close by, she lives in those apartments near the Woodland Country Club. Close to that T station.”
Biddy and I indicated that we knew the ones he was referring to.
“Yeah, her place was cool, it was a two bed and she lived alone so I figured she was doing pretty well for herself. She poured us a drink and then she showed me the second bedroom. It was cool, she’d converted the room into her own workout and meditation studio. In front of the windows there was a wooden table with glittery black table cloth on it and two chairs so we sat down across from each other. She was like, ‘Don’t think I’m crazy, but I’ve been waiting to meet you.’ So I go, I know, Caroline has been trying to get us together for a while I’ve just been busy or whatever and Regan was like, ‘No, I knew about you before that.’”
“Uh oh,” I said, sucking in a breath.
Jason shook his head. “At first I thought, shit is this chick some kind of a stalker or something? But then she started talking really quickly about how the table we were sitting at had told her all sorts of things that had come to pass and that it had described a tall man with black hair whose life she would change. She was all, ‘You’re that man.’ Dude, after my dad died my mom used to go to a psychic so I totally get how some people are into that stuff, but I just never put any stock in it, right? But this chick was way into it.”
“What exactly did she tell you?”
“She was positive that she’d been told all about me and that we were supposed to meet so she could change my life. The weird thing was she knew I wasn’t believing her so she started spouting things off about my life that she shouldn’t have known.”
“Like what?” I asked, nervously.
“Like my birthday for one thing.”
“She knew your exact birthday?” Biddy asked doubtfully. “Maybe your friend told her.”
“I don’t think so, maybe but there was other stuff. She knew that I’m an only child and that my dad died from a heart attack a couple years ago. She said it all made sense that the table had told her those things because she needed those facts to make me believe her.”
“Tell me you put down your drink and got out of there,” I said.
Jason shrugged. “I was weirded out, sure but…”
“But she was hot,” Biddy interjected.
“Well that, and what she was saying was nuts. Like how could she know all of that about me?”
“Then what?” I pressed.
“Well then she was like, ‘I have to show you, you’ll believe me if I show you.’ So she told me to pick up my drink, so I did, and then she pulled the shimmery cloth off of the table and I saw that there were letters painted all over the table top.”
Biddy actually slapped her hand to her forehead at that point.
“What?” Jason said nervously. “Is that bad?”
“You tell me,” Biddy replied, rubbing her hand over her eyes. “What happened next?”
Jason looked at me, as if for reassurance but I just stared at him, fascinated.
“Well,” he continued, “She grabbed a glass that was sitting on the windowsill, turned it over and put it in the middle of the table over this little painting of a star. Then she put two of her fingers on top of the glass and told me to do the same thing.”
“No, no, no,” I breathed.
“What?” He said, obviously worried.
“Did she ask the table any questions?” Biddy asked him.
“Oh yeah, she asked it a bunch of stuff and it would spell out answers by moving the cup over the letters written on the table. I thought she was moving the cup and I said so so she had me do it on my own and I don’t know how to explain it, maybe it was the three drinks I’d had, but it felt like it was really moving on its own.
“She made her own damn Ouija Board,” Biddy said, incredulous.
“What’s that?” Jason asked, looking genuinely perplexed.
Exchanging a glance with Biddy, I explained, “It’s a way to contact the dead and, well, other things.”
“Oh, okay, yeah I guess that makes sense because it got really creepy in that apartment after that.”
“Wait, you’ve never heard of a Ouija Board?” I asked in disbelief.
“No,” he replied, simply.
“Did you ask the table any questions?” Biddy asked.
“Yeah, sure, I asked if it knew my middle name. It did, it’s Michael,” Jason informed us. “So then I asked it who we were talking to and it did this crazy thing. It began arching the glass back and forth, back and forth between the O and the Z. It did it at least ten times. Finally I just let go of the cup, it weirded me out. And Regan goes, ‘It’s him! He’s here!’”
“Holy Mary, Mother of God,” I breathed.
“Does that mean something?” Jason asked.
“How much more time did you spend in that apartment?” Biddy asked, ignoring his question.
“Well, like I said, the place got real creepy and I just wasn’t digging Regan any more. I made an excuse that I had an early workout and got out of there.”
“How soon before you knew you had an attachment?” Biddy asked. Her demeanor had changed. Whereas she’d appeared to simply be humoring Jason prior to the table revelation, since the name had come up she was leaned forward over the table, serious, intent.
“Uh, I guess that night. I heard shuffling sounds at the foot of my bed around three o’clock. Like someone was walking back and forth, pacing. It was weird though, I couldn’t fully wake up. Like, I knew it was happening but couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it. And then the headaches started. They only lasted on and off for a couple days but they were brutal. I get them once and a while now, but it’s only when I’m doing something he doesn’t like. I’m actually surprised he’s letting me talk to you right now.”
“Oh shit,” I said, my hand automatically searching for the medallion around my neck. “Is he here now?”
Jason nodded. “He’s always here.”
“Where?” I asked.
Jason tilted his head to the side and cracked his neck, “Right behind my chair. He hovers behind me like that most of the time. It’s weird though, I don’t know why but he isn’t giving me trouble right now.”
“What sorts of trouble would he give you?” Biddy asked.
“Well, headaches definitely. They’re so bad I get to the point where I want to cut my head off. That’s usually how he’ll stop me from doing something he doesn’t want me to do.”
“What doesn’t he want you to do?”
“It’s hard to say, I think it’s that he might not want me to interact with certain people, or, I mean, forget about going to visit my mom or my friends anymore. It’s good though, he doesn’t really bother me when I sleep. Actually, I’m sleeping better than I have since my dad died. And I know he likes when I work out. It took some time to piece that one together but it’s like he’s given me more strength than I’ve ever had. My reps are up, I can lift more than I ever have in my life and I could run for hours.”
“He wants you strong,” Biddy commented.
“For what?” I asked. The two of them gave me a look. “What?” I said.
“From all reports, Zozo likes violence and forgive me for saying so Jason, but in you he basically has a loaded weapon.”
“Zozo?” Jason said, confused again.
“Yeah, that’s his name he was spelling out for you on the table,” Biddy said slowly.
“Oh,” Jason replied just as slowly. “Okay, I thought it was Oz.”
I stifled a nervous giggle.
“What do you mean, ‘by all reports,’ though. This thing has affected other people?”
“Yes, and he’s incredibly dangerous. The mood swings you mentioned, are they getting worse?” Biddy asked seriously.
“For sure. It actually reminds me of what I felt like on the uh, you know, the supplements. I’m pretty up one minute, feeling great and then bam! I’m about to tear someone’s head off for not putting the weights back properly at the gym. It feels out of control, like I could rage at any minute.”
“But you feel alright now, talking with us, I mean?” I asked.
“Yeah, the weird thing is that after I emailed you,” he said to Biddy, “I put my phone down on my bed and when I came back it was like someone had take a sledge hammer to it. It was in a million pieces. I went to get a new one and I was afraid to respond to your first reply. I deleted it. Then I got your next email asking if it was alright if she tagged along,” he pointed to me, “I didn’t respond to that one either. He did.”
“What do you mean?”
“I wasn’t going to write back to you. I’m not made of money. I knew he didn’t want me in touch with you so I didn’t write you back. I didn’t respond to the first email and neither did he. But then when I got the response from you confirming the meeting time and place I scrolled down and saw that someone, I mean he had responded to your second email. Saying it would be great if you brought her. Something like-”
“The more the merrier,” Biddy and Jason said in unison giving me full body chills.
“Oh, fuck,” Biddy breathed.
“I would never write something like that, it sounds like something an old lady would say,” Jason insisted. “Look, man, I don’t know what your deal is,” he continued pointing to me again, “But I need help. I’m afraid that I’m gonna to go off one of these days so bad that someone’s going to get hurt.”
“What the hell does this thing want with me?” I said defensively.
“Later,” Biddy said giving me a hard look.
“I’ll say it again, I know I’m not a saint but I’ve tried my best to leave all of that bad shit in my past. I help people now and I’m a good dad. I don’t know why this thing is obsessed with me!”
“Look,” Biddy said firmly, “The first thing you need to realize is that all that stuff from your past is not what attracted this demon. This isn’t like some sick payback from God for past sins. For whatever reason Zozo finds a way out through the talking board – or in your case, table. He attaches to people he feels he can manipulate and ruin. He’s using those memories and the guilt you carry over past mistakes to weaken and drain you. You have to let all of that go if you even have a chance of getting rid of him.”
“What about the woman, Regan?” I said.
“Have you seen her again?” Biddy asked Jason.
“Yeah, I mean not on purpose, but I keep running into her. Like I saw her yesterday at the Starbucks near my gym and a couple days before that I ran into her at the dry cleaner.”
“She’s totally following you around,” I said.
“No, wait, do you think so?” Jason asked, looking frightened.
“I have no idea what her role is in this but if you see her stay away until we can get someone to help you. The church will consider this a priority, but for the time being I’m going to give you this.” Biddy reached down into her bag for her wallet. She unzipped its coin purse and took out a St. Benedict medal. Then she put it on the table top and slid it across towards Jason.
He stared at it. “What is that.”
“It’s a St. Benedict medal that’s been blessed by a Catholic priest. Put it in your wallet and carry it with you during the day and place it under your pillow while you sleep, okay? It’s not going to solve anything, but it will shine a little bit of light into the darkness around you.”
Jason continued to stare at the religious medal on the table.
We watched him watching it.
“Take it,” I said, fighting an inexplicable panic.
Jason began shaking his head slowly and then he grabbed his forehead, his face tight.
“Is it one of the headaches?” Biddy asked quietly.
Jason didn’t respond. Biddy snatched the medal off the table. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I just had to be sure.”