ghosts in the burbs

A blog about the people who live in Wellesley, MA and the ghosts (and monsters) who haunt them.

Welcome back to Lilith, a tale shared a few chapters at a time until her story is complete. If you’re new to the podcast, Lilith is a great place to start (you don’t need any background information to enjoy this account of demonic possession) but do go back to January 7th’s entry and begin with chapters 1-3.

Today we reach the end of Lilith’s story. I’m excited and little sad for it to end. What I thought would take just 13 chapters grew to 24. Of course, like most Ghosts in the Burbs stories nothing is ever as tied up and tidy as we’d all like it to be, but we’ll leave the Arnold family knowing as much as we can – and who knows what the future will bring. Next week we’ll have a brand new classic Ghosts in the Burbs interview. One with an empty nester who regrets allowing Alexa into her life.

And now, the end of Lilith.

 

Chapter 23

Laura arrived early and watched as mothers and nannies wrangled their charges into the small stone library. It was her first time at this the branch, in fact she hadn’t even known it existed until just days prior. Though it’d been at least two months since she’d spotted the blogger’s flier on the community board she’d only recently gathered the courage to reach out to the woman for help. Each time Laura sat down to write to the email address listed on the flier, she’d chickened out. She wasn’t yet ready to risk meeting yet another dead end.

Now that some time had passed Laura could see that Noc and her husband truly had been well-intentioned and really, who could blame them for wanting to get the hell out of her home as quickly as possible. But the fact that there was something so terrifying in her house that legitimate ghost hunters didn’t want anything to do with it drove Laura and Michael into a state of deep despair. In hindsight, Laura knew she should have listened to the professionals instead of chasing them away and ignoring their repeated attempts to contact her. Now she was too embarrassed about her reaction on the morning they left the house to even think about asking them for more help.

There had been a time, right after the ghost hunters had conducted their investigation when the house became unbearable and Lilith close to catatonic. But as days passed things began to settle down. Though Jack still slept on their bedroom floor and the girls reported the occasional footsteps in the attic, the shadows no longer lurked around the edges of their lives and the unexplained voices hadn’t been heard in weeks. But Lilith had reached new depths. On the outside she appeared to have improved slightly. She still spent an inordinate amount of time in the basement and she barely ate but, inexplicably, her grades were stronger than ever.

The psychiatrist urged Laura to give the girl time to adjust to the “major life change” brought on by their move. The pediatrician deferred to the psychiatrist and suggested it may take time to find just the right combination of antidepressants and mood stabilizers to “get the desired results.” They were on their forth therapist and this one appeared to be digging for some source of deep trauma in the girl’s history to explain away her odd behavior. Lilith began to cooperate with the doctors, she smiled and nodded and answered their questions politely. But Laura knew her daughter, and this polite cooperative, slightly vague Lilith was not that girl.

Throughout all of this the blogger’s name nagged at Laura. That same name Noc and Tyler had caught during one of their EVP sessions. When she saw it on that flier it stopped her cold though Michael scoffed at the coincidence from the start. “A blogger, Laura? What does the flier say again – she’s collecting ghost stories? She probably just wants to self publish a book.”

And yet, week after week, the name rattled around in Laura’s mind. The scribe. Finally, she gathered the nerve to look up the woman’s blog. On it were only a handful of stories and she couldn’t tell if they were actually real, they seemed too fantastic.

Neither the baristas at Starbucks nor any of the twins or Jack’s teachers had heard of Liz Sower or her blog, but Laura was shocked when a reference librarian whom she’d become friendly with replied, “Oh, Liz? Yeah, she works here. She’s a part-time children’s librarian. I think she’s the one who does toddler story time at the stone branch. I don’t really know her but she seems nice. She has a blog?”

Once Laura learned this Liz person was also a librarian she felt compelled to ask her for help in person. It felt like divine intervention or, at least some sort of mystical synchronicity. The library had been her only safe haven since moving to Wellesley, wouldn’t it be something if it were a librarian who helped her family in the end?

As Laura sat in the library parking lot still hemming and hawing about whether or not to actually meet this blogger-slash-part-time-children’s-librarian a car pulled up next to her, slightly bumping the curb before coming to a stop. A woman with shoulder length dull brown hair spilled out of the SUV lugging a canvas tote overflowing with books, papers and stuffed animals. Laura watched as the woman rushed to the side entrance then dropped the bag on the sidewalk and hurried back to her car. She pulled open the door, leaned in and retrieved her keys. Laura chuckled to herself when she realized that the woman had actually left the car running.  

Before finally leaving the safety of her own car, Laura checked her reflection in the rear view mirror and smoothed her hair. It was mid-April and muggy. Who knew it could be so damn humid up north?

Her eyes adjusted to the low lighting in the library. She could hear the commotion of a group of young children and their caregivers but she could not see any of them. She maneuvered past antique tables and chairs and approached the desk intending to inquire about the story time but as she got closer to it she saw that the library dog legged to the left. There appeared a long narrow window and bookshelf lined room. At the far wall was an actual fireplace and a group of about twenty children and caregivers sat on a colorful rug in front of it waiting for story time to begin.

Centered before the fireplace in a child-sized chair and digging through an overstuffed canvas tote while simultaneously trying to convince a toddler to return a book she intended to read to the group was the harried woman Laura had watched in the parking lot. Laura took a spot at the back of the rug and watched the woman. In her mid-to-late thirties, she wore a rather rumpled white button down shirt and capris pants that looked about a size too big. An attractive multi-strand necklace of hot pink bobbles hung around her neck and Laura could see that the humidity had gotten to the librarian’s fine hair. In fact, just before she began reading to the children, the woman pulled an elastic band from her wrist and swept her hair back into a ponytail. The kids seemed to really enjoy her storytelling and she appeared to genuinely enjoy them.

She read three books to the children, in between each story she lead the group in a round of well known songs. Wheels on the Bus, the ABCs, If you’re Happy and You Know It, and the like. Egg shakers were distributed and Laura found herself tearing up listening to the little voices sing along, it reminded her of her own children and happier times. How she desperately wished she could go back. Too quickly the story time came to a close. Laura hung back and watched as the librarian helped the kids and their handlers find books that suited their tastes. It didn’t take long, soon Liz was back at the story time rug gathering her supplies.

The librarian was bent over retrieving discarded egg shakers when Laura made her move.

“Are you Liz?” She asked.

Startled, Liz stood and turned to see the child-free woman she’d noticed sitting at the back of the group. She’d assumed the woman was a librarian from a nearby town come to scope out the competition.

“Yes, I’m Liz. Hi.” In an attempt to reclaim some personal space Liz backed up and bumped awkwardly into the library’s fireplace.

“I’m Laura Arnold, you’re story time was so sweet,” the woman said keeping her voice low. She held out her hand.

Liz shifted the egg shaker box and held her hand out in return. She noted Laura’s appearance and tugged at her own rumpled shirt, wishing she’d had more time to think before leaving the house that morning. She’d barely made it to work for the chaos.

“So, are you visiting from another library?” Liz asked.

“No, no, I used to be in finance, but I stay at home now, I -” Laura began but stopped, not wanting anyone to overhear her. She took a step closer to Liz, in turn Liz pressed her back against the fireplace mantle. Laura continued, “One of your co-workers told me that you would be here, so I came over to find you. I saw your note on the community board. We just don’t know who else will believe us.”

“Oh!” Liz said loudly, realization dawning. “You have a ghost story, great!”

Laura cringed and looked over her shoulder, wondering if anyone had heard. “Sort of,” she said, “We moved into a house not long ago and since then something has been haunting my family. Do you have time to talk?”

Laura was disappointed to hear that the librarian was due back at the main branch of the library to cover the children’s reference desk. Unwilling to give up she asked, “When does your shift end?”

Liz, sensing the woman’s anxiety and desperate to regain an ounce of personal space moved to pick up an egg shaker. “Well, my shift ends at one o’clock and I don’t have to pick the girls up from the daycare until three, so I guess I could -”

“That would be perfect. Can you meet me back here?” Laura asked. She felt the quiet library would be the perfect place to talk with this woman and she was pretty sure she could get Michael to leave work for a couple hours that afternoon.

Liz hesitated for a moment, then said, “Okay, sure. I’ll look forward to hearing your story.”

“I don’t know if you should,” Laura replied without meaning to.

It took some convincing, but Michael finally agreed to take two hours out of his afternoon to meet with the ghost blogger. He met Laura at the library at twelve forty-five, she was already seated at one of the many tables that filled the space.

“Who even knew this place was here,” he said, leaning down to give her a kiss on the cheek before taking a seat.

“I know, isn’t it charming?”

“So what’s the deal with this woman?”

“She seemed really nice. Her story time was awfully cute,” Laura began.

“Yeah, great honey, but what exactly do you think she can do for us?”

“I read her blog, we definitely aren’t the only people in this town who are dealing with this sort of thing. Maybe she’s run into a situation like ours before, maybe she’ll have an idea or I don’t know, maybe she’ll know someone who can help us.”

Michael began to respond but stopped when he saw the look on Laura’s face.

“It’s worth a shot,” Laura said.

Michael forced a smile. “It’s worth a shot,” he agreed, though he doubted very much that a mommy blogger would even know where to begin with their situation.

Laura smiled up at him gratefully and he reached out a hand to rub her back. They’d had so little time alone together since they’d moved, even less out of the house. He missed her, he missed them. “Once we sort this out let’s go to Houston for the weekend. We’ll leave the kids with your parents and stay downtown for a night.”

“That sounds like a dream,” Laura said.

The door swung open and the couple watched as Liz, squinting into the dim room, tripped slightly as she stepped inside.

“That’s her,” Laura said in a low voice. She stood and waved. “Hi, here we are,” she called.

Liz smiled brightly and strode over to the couple, holding her hand out to shake with Michael. She dropped into a chair and took a sip from her Starbucks cup.

“I didn’t get a chance to ask you,” Laura said, “How far along are you?”

“Oh, geez, um, about five months.”

“Is this your first?” Michael asked.

“God no, number three,” Liz replied with a laugh.

“We have four,” Laura said.

“Shush,” Liz replied in mock seriousness.

The couple exchanged a smile. Laura listed the kid’s names and ages.

“You have a fifteen year old daughter?” Liz declared. “Did you guys get married when you were, like, thirteen?”

Michael let out a laugh. “We got married pretty young.”

“Well, you look like spring chickens,” Liz said happily. She leaned back and rested a hand on her stomach, “I don’t want to brag, but my doctor is referring to this as a geriatric pregnancy.”

The woman had a way about her that eased Michael and Laura’s tension, they relaxed into the conversation.

“Oh!” Liz turned abruptly and began digging around in her tote bag, “Do you mind if I record our conversation? My mind is like a sieve these days.” She held up a little recording device, similar to the one they’d seen Noc’s team use on their investigation.

“No problem at all,” Laura replied. Michael just nodded.

Liz placed the device at the center of the table, “So, what’s your story?” She asked.

Laura and Michael exchanged a look. The ease they’d felt moments before drained away.

“Are you Christian?” Laura asked.

“Well, I was raised Catholic, but we go to the Congregational Church across the street because they have a daycare during Mass, I mean, what do they call it? The service! And they were so easy going about baptizing the girls, so…”

“Good. Then you’ll understand,” Laura said, cutting her off.

“Sure,” Liz agreed dumbly.

Laura glanced around to be sure there were no library patrons close by to overhear what she was about to share. “We believe our daughter is possessed,” she said in a whisper.

“Good Lord.”

“There’s something very wrong with our house.” Laura stated.

“Which daughter?”

“Our oldest,” Michael said. “Lilith.”

“I’m so sorry,” Liz said. “You mentioned this morning you recently moved but why do you think you’re daughter’s, um, issue, has to do with the new house?”

“I knew before I even stepped foot in that house that something was wrong with it,” Laura said.

Michael shook his head adamantly. “Don’t start with that, you didn’t know there was anything wrong until -”

Laura cut him off, “I did. I knew when the realtor emailed us the photos. But you got caught up in all the pressure she was putting on us. You thought it was such a ‘deal.’ I never liked having the railroad tracks behind it. And it’s on such a busy road.”

“It’s close to the middle school, you were thrilled that the kids could walk there.”

“But I didn’t want them drowning in the brook behind the house,” she countered.

“The only time that you can tell it is a stream is after we have a storm,” Michael pointed out dismissively.

“I’m just saying that I knew that house had a problem.” Laura looked to Liz pointedly, as though she would back up her opinion.

“Where did you guys move from?” Liz asked, hoping to end the disagreement.

“Houston,” the couple replied in unison.

“That’s a big move,” Liz commented, an unspoken question in the air.

“Michael was transferred,” Laura said.

“Oh, got it,” Liz replied with a small smile. “So, when did you start to suspect there was something wrong with the house?”

Laura sighed. “Well, it needed updating. The kitchen and baths for one thing, but we needed the floors done and the whole interior needed a fresh coat of paint so we hired a contractor to do the work before we moved up here. He called one day, we were still living in Houston at the time, to say that the project would be delayed. There had been a fire.”

“In the mudroom,” Michael interjected.

“Weird place for a fire,” Liz commented.

“We thought so too, and so did the contractor. He didn’t have an explanation. Just that they had left the site the evening before and when they came back, a fire had destroyed the mudroom. Burned a hole clean through the floor down through to the basement and blackened the walls. We went back and forth about it, but eventually agreed to have our insurance cover it. He swore no one on his crew would dare smoke inside one of their sites. Denied having left any power tools plugged in,” Michael explained.

“Weird,” Liz said. “None of the neighbors noticed the fire? No one called the fire department?”

“Ha. The neighbors,” Laura spat scornfully. Then, “No, none of the neighbors noticed, or if they did apparently they didn’t want to get involved. We were lucky that the fire was contained to the mudroom and it somehow put itself out. That wasn’t the only strange thing that happened when they were there. A teenage boy – who I and the girls have also seen lurking around the house – startled one of the workers and caused him to fall off a ladder and break his arm. Our contractor told me another one of his guys got into a bad car accident right in front of the house. But the strangest thing, was that one of the guys got locked in that little space between the bulkhead and the storm door that closes those stairs off from the basement.”

Michael added, “Yeah, apparently he was there for something like two hours before the other guys found him. Said he’d been yelling for them and banging on the bulkhead but no one on the crew had heard him.”

“Yikes,” Liz said, shuddering.

“Things were ok when we first moved into the house,” Laura went on. “It’s much smaller than our place in Houston, so everyone was getting used to less space. There is a bedroom in the basement, and we let Lilith take it. The move was, by far, the hardest on her,” Laura trailed off for a moment. Embarrassment at how ridiculous it all sounded causing her to edit out many of the details especially those early experiences with the teenage boy. Who in their right mind would allow their children to live in a home like theirs?

Finally, she said, “This one day I intended to take down the flowery wallpaper in Lilith’s bedroom before she got home from school. I was beginning to use the scouring tool on the walls so the remover solution could work when I heard a loud knock, a banging, really, at the door upstairs. I put down the tools and ran up the basement steps. It took me, I don’t know, thirty seconds to get up there. I looked through the window then opened the door and no one was there. I even walked to the back door, thinking maybe a neighbor was in the backyard. No one. It was unnerving, but I made sure both doors were locked and then went back down to the basement. When I walked into Lilith’s room, my scourer and spray bottle were gone. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I checked under her bed, retraced my steps, everything. It was maddening. I ended up having to go back to the hardware store.”

Liz shifted in her seat. Unable to get comfortable on the hard wooden chair. “Weird. So you had some things go missing, then what?”

“Well, soon after that, Lilith woke me up in the middle of the night. She insisted that I had called her name from the top of the basement stairs. I hadn’t. I had been sound asleep. I checked on the little kids and everyone was out cold. Michael didn’t even wake up. I convinced her that it must have been a dream and walked her back down to her room.

“But then it happened again. This time when she came upstairs she was angry and accused me of sleepwalking. Only this time she said she heard me in the utility room ‘monkeying around’ with the washer and dryer. I’d been sound asleep, in bed. I wondered if she was having stressful dreams, a sort of response to the move. So I asked her if she would feel better sleeping in our room and got her set up with a sleeping bag on the floor. I assumed she was just hearing the house settling or you know, pipes banging.”

“This is just me playing devil’s advocate – sorry, bad choice of words,” Liz said with a grimace, “But you said your daughter’s bedroom is right next to the utility room in the basement, with the electrical box and everything, did you ever have the house tested -”

“For high levels of electromagnetic fields?” Michael cut in. “A friend of ours back in Houston wondered the same thing. He told us that high EMF levels could lead to feelings of paranoia, or feeling like you’re being watched – even hallucinations. So I was all game for that. I mean, quick answer, right? We had an electrician come in to test. No luck, the entire house was within the low to normal range.”

“Shit,” Liz said, sitting back in her seat. “I was hoping that might solve everything.”

“Me too,” Michael affirmed.

“Well, I finally got around to taking down the wallpaper,” Laura said, pointedly, “And I was sorry that I did. Beneath it I found a pentagram and several inverted crosses painted on the walls. Not what you might picture, like all dripping paint, sloppily done. No, someone had taken time to paint those symbols on the wall.”

“No,” Liz said, obviously chilled.

Laura nodded meaningfully, “More strange things began to happen, quickly. I hung a few photos on the wall in the living room. When I walked by them one morning they had been turned upside down. Perfectly. Of course, I figured it was the twins, or their brother, but they all denied it. And along with all of this, Lilith became really negative, grumpy, snapping at her siblings. I chalked it up to our move, but she just wasn’t herself.

“Then this one day in the car I was having a conversation with Lilith and,” Laura stopped for a moment, seeming not to want to continue. She sighed heavily. “I was trying to get her to talk to me, to tell me what had been bothering her and when she turned to look at me, well, I mean it when I tell you that her irises were black. Black and huge. It was just for a moment, a split second that I saw it. But I know what I saw.” Laura crossed her arms and sat back in her chair.

“Wow.” Liz turned to Michael. “Did you notice anything strange about your daughter? Or see anything weird at the house?”

“Not at first,” Michael admitted. “I sleep like the dead, so whenever Lilith came upstairs in the middle of the night I never heard any of it. Laura told me about the things that happened during the day and of course I believed her but I took it with a grain of salt. Lilith is a teenage girl, and we were all under a lot of stress from the move. Then there was this Saturday. Laura took the younger kids to the movies but Lilith refused to go, so I just agreed to stay home with her. She holed up in the basement, as usual, and I sat on the couch to watch the game.

“I heard whispering, a whispered conversation. So I turned the volume down on the television and stood at the top of the basement stairs and listened. I thought maybe Lilith had a friend over. I was relieved for a minute, actually,” Michael said with a sad smile. “I thought maybe she’d snuck someone, even a boy for Christ’s sake, into the basement. I thought she might have finally made a friend.

“The honest-to-God’s truth of it is that I heard two distinct voices whispering in that basement. I gave it a minute then quietly walked down the steps. Sure, I would be glad that she’s making connections, but not connections with some horny fifteen year old boy, right? As I approached her door I heard someone whisper ‘shh, he’s coming.’ So I knocked on the door and pushed it open.

“Liz, my daughter was sitting at her desk with her back to the door. There was no one else in the room. No one. I searched. I asked her who she’d been speaking with and she just kept saying, ‘No one, daddy. There’s no one else here.’ I didn’t know what to think, but it made me lend a little more credence to what Laura had been telling me.”

“When I got home, they were both upstairs watching the game,” Laura said, placing a hand on her husband’s back.

“I made her come upstairs. I was, I don’t know, frightened. For her, for everyone. I mean, who the hell had she been talking to?” Michael demanded.

Laura rubbed his back. “We finally decided we needed to talk to the neighbors to find out if they knew anything about our home.”

“Wait, who did you buy the house from?” Liz asked.

“An older couple who were retiring to Florida, we never had any interaction with them. Our realtor and the lawyers handled everything.” Michael replied.

“Do you know anything else about them?”

“That’s where the neighbors come in,” Laura said. “We hadn’t met anyone yet, not one of them came to welcome us to the neighborhood. We live on a busy road, but still, I would have thought someone might stop by to welcome us. I made brownies and watched for a car to pull into the driveway next door, then went over and introduced myself. The woman, Barbara, was rather standoffish. But I assumed she was just a typical yankee and that I could kill her with kindness. I got her to invite me in for tea and eventually started asking her about our home’s previous owners. She got a little shifty when I brought up the subject, so I just said, ‘you know, we’ve had a couple issues and I just wonder if they ever mentioned any trouble with the house.’

“She said she didn’t want to spread gossip but told me that the people who lived in our house had a son who died as a teenager. He hung himself. In our basement.”

“Uh uh,” Liz said, shaking her head.

“Yes. And the kid had a reputation for wearing all black and being a loner and apparently there had been some kerfuffle over the neighborhood cats,” Laura continued angrily. “No one said a word about it when we were buying the house. His parents were able to put the house on the market without disclosing the death because apparently in Massachusetts unless a buyer specifically asks the seller, they have no obligation to disclose anything like that. And, please. Black clothes, a neighborhood cat, the Goddamn pentagrams. I mean, I don’t believe sellers have to disclose previous satanic worship on the property, but a head’s up would have been nice.” She slapped her free hand on the table.

“I am so sorry, that is just,” Liz stammered, “I don’t know, it is horrifying. What are you going to do?” She asked, dumbly.

“What haven’t we done?” Michael said, running a hand through his hair. “The past six months have been a revolving door of paranormal investigators, home inspectors, ministers. We have an application in at St. Paul’s, but until they agree to come document Lilith’s behavior, we have to wait to formally submit a request for an exorcism.”

“I didn’t know what to say. Did you have the house blessed?”

“Of course we did, but that fucking, hippie minister -” Michael spat.

“Michael! He did the best he could. Lilith was, well, upset that we had him come, and she gave him a hard time.”

“A doctor? Or psychiatrist?” Liz asked quietly.

“Two pediatricians. Two psychiatrists. We’re on our fourth therapist and I have an appointment with a Reiki healer next week,” Laura replied suddenly looking drained.

“Again, I am so so sorry,” Liz began, then she glanced to their right and saw that the day had darkened and a downpour had begun to pummel the windows.

She picked up the digital recorder to check the time. “Oh no!” She said. “I am so sorry, but I have to go get my girls. I’m due to pick them up at daycare in two minutes, I should have watched the time.” The couple stared at her. She rambled on, “I am really sorry for being so abrupt, I should have been paying closer attention. Thank you for telling me your story, it was -” she paused briefly as if searching for an appropriate word. She landed on, “Chilling.”

“It’s not just a story, we need help,” Laura pleaded. “Since you’re involved in the paranormal community and all, we thought that maybe you might have connections.”

“No, I am just -” Liz started to explain.

“We had an investigation team come in, but they left after only two nights and since they’ve been gone things have been-”

“Laura, wait, I’m just a writer. I’m not -”

“I convinced Michael to come here to meet with you.”

“There’s been a misunderstanding,” Liz said, firmly. “I am not any sort of expert and I am not at all plugged into the whole paranormal world or whatever. I am just looking to document area ghost stories for my blog.”

“She’s not going to fucking help us,” Michael spat. “No one can.” He pushed his chair away from the table and stood. “Laura, I’m going back to work, I’ll see you tonight.” Then he stomped over to the door and disappeared out into the storm.  

“Laura, I -”

“No,” she held up her hand, then gathered her bag from the floor, white knuckling it’s straps. “It’s not your fault. I just thought you might have an answer for us.”

“I’m a writer, I like ghost stories,” Liz began, then stopped herself and apologized again. “Laura, I am sorry. I have daughters and I can’t even imagine.”

“No, you can’t,” she said. “And I hope you never have to.”

 

 

Chapter 24

I should have told her that the ghost hunters recorded a disembodied voice saying her name, but somehow I couldn’t. When I realized she didn’t have any answers for us, that she was only there to record our story, I decided there was no reason to bring it up. She obviously didn’t have idea how to help us and I could tell that we’d frightened her. What good would it do to tell her some demon had whispered her name in my home. It was probably another one of the house’s tricks designed to get my hopes up only to have them dashed again.

More time passed. There were more specialists. The reiki healer claimed to have separated Lilith’s soul from the spirit attachment she’d developed in our home. A psychic told me she saw a dark cloud hovering just above my daughter’s head. The strangest thing was that Lilith grew more and more was more agreeable, pleasant eve. Though no one could claim that she’d made any friends at school her teachers began to report that she had started to interact with some of her classmates. She started eating more, brushed her hair, showered every morning. She answered us when we asked questions like “How was your day?” and “Would you like anymore pasta?” On the surface it appeared the worst of our nightmare had passed.

Lilith began acting like a normal fifteen going on sixteen year old girl. I ran out of things to report to her doctors. She wasn’t displaying concerning behavior anymore. Behavior aside, I knew in my heart that she wasn’t Lilith anymore. It was as if she were getting used to being a new person, or that the thing inside of her was getting the hang of acting like a teenager.

I was distraught. I began drinking a bottle of wine every night just so I could sleep. Michael agreed that Lilith still seemed off. An understatement if there ever was one. I began to resign myself to the idea that things would never change. That my daughter would be gone forever and this new girl, this new thing was the most we could hope for.

Some time later, out of the blue I got an email from Liz, the woman with the blog. She asked if she could call me. She had information and said it would be easier to talk over the phone than to try and explain through email. I gave her my number.

“I’ve thought about you and your family so much over the past few months,” she said. “How have you been?”

“Things have calmed down a bit,” I hedged.

“How is Lilith?” She asked.

I waited a long moment to answer. “She’s better, I mean it appears that she’s better, but the truth is, Lilith still isn’t herself.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Liz said and it sounded like she meant it. “Here’s the thing, I met one of the investigators from the ghost hunting team that came to your house.”

“Oh?” I said, holding my breath, not knowing where the conversation was headed.

“Yeah, it was a complete coincidence. Nocturnal Druid, Noc? She reached out to me because of the blog. She wanted to tell me about her experience investigating a home in Wellesley. Honestly we were well into the conversation before I even put two and two together.”

“We didn’t leave things on very good terms, I feel badly about that but I really don’t think they can help us, I-”

“No, no, she feels terrible about how you parted ways. But that’s not why I reached out to you. She played the EVP for me that she caught in your home.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” Liz blew out a breath. “I haven’t been able to get that voice out of my head.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t mention that to you when we spoke, I-”

“Oh, geez, no. There is no need to apologize. I don’t know why or how something in your house knew my name. Honestly, I don’t even think I want to know. But seeing Noc reminded me of your family and I might know someone who can help you now.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I didn’t know her back when I met you and your husband but she’s since become a close friend. Her name is Biddy. She used to be a paranormal investigator but now she works with the Catholic Church to evaluate cases like yours.”

“We’ve been trying to get in with the Catholic Church for months.”

“Well, she can move much faster than that. I already talked to her. She said if you were open to it, she could come over this week to do the initial evaluation and then she’ll get it right in front of the decision makers.”

 

***

 

And that brings us to where we are today. This afternoon, actually.

I sat next to Lilith on the couch flipping through a magazine while she watched a trashy reality show on the iPad and her siblings kicked around a soccer ball in the backyard. She said something in barely a whisper. I told her I didn’t catch what she’d said.

“I’m afraid to lose Jason,” she said in a low voice.

“What do you mean?” I asked, turning so I could get a look at her face.

She continued to stare at the screen in front of her. “At least now I’m not alone with her but if the priest sends him away, it’ll just be me.”

“Lilith, honey, what are you talking about?” I asked, terror rising within me.

My daughter turned and the look on her face broke my heart. It was Lilith. She looked like a terrified little girl for just one moment. And then the moment was over. She turned back to the screen propped on her knees.

“Lilith, the priest will help us, I promise.”

She didn’t reply.

“Lilith!”

My daughter sighed and turned again to face me. She was gone. I stared at the thing lurking within her. It stared back at me.

“Get out of my daughter,” I said, unable to keep my voice from shaking.

The thing inside Lilith watched me and smiled.

 

Epilogue

Lilith

I’m in between now. I’m here and I’m not. It’s safer to stay still. To hover somewhere beside her and to do as she says. If I cooperate, she says, this will be easier on everyone. Easier on my mother. All I need to do is exactly what she says when I am allowed to step forward. As long as I don’t let on that she is in here with me then we can stay with my family. She says she doesn’t want to take us away from them but if I don’t cooperate then she won’t have a choice.

I will cooperate. Because when I stay still beside her and do as I’m told I can still see them. I can still hear their voices. Once I stopped fighting I realized that it’s not so bad. She says there are more coming and if I cooperate she will protect my siblings. She says that if I continue to do as I’m told my little brother and sisters will fall under her domain and then no one can touch them. But if I try to subvert her in any way then we will leave my family and there will be no one to protect my siblings. I don’t want that do I?

Do I?

I stay still and I listen and there are times when I am allowed to step forward and I am given the chance to speak to my mother. I am allowed to ask my mom for a ride to school or a note for the attendance office. She says these mere moments are small tests and if I keep passing these little tests then she’ll know that she can trust me. I want her to know that I can be trusted. I will cooperate.

The minister my parents brought to the house hurt her and when he hurt her he hurt me. I know he didn’t mean to but it was excruciating and I will do anything to never have to feel that all-consuming burn. She says we won’t let that happen again. She says a new priest will come and when he does I will be pushed forward and that will protect us from the burning. That is why she is testing me now, to be sure I can be trusted to move forward without supervision.

She can trust me. And I will be granted moments with my mother.She will keep Jack and Carrie and Rosemary safe. Because there are others coming. Soon. She says I am lucky I was chosen for the first wave.

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