Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Clay Tuesday: Harmonious Tantrum
Part 01: Allow No Evil
Lawrence Caldwell had lived in five-thirty-two West End Road in Massachusetts for well over two hundred years. In the year 1801 he had suffered a fracture in his hip that he received from a terrible fall down a flight of stairs in his house and, unable to call for help, he died on the steps. Nobody found his body for weeks, and his spirit simply decided not to leave. His house, which he had built himself, was four stories tall and overshadowed many other residences that had once stood alongside his. Over the years, however, those other houses were torn down and new ones built up; new residents moved in to Lawrence’s house as well, and did all sorts of nonsensical things to it that Lawrence did not approve of. So he tried to put a stop to it.
There wasn’t much he could do at first; he could make the windows shake, and cause smaller objects to move a couple of inches any which way he desired. But as the years grew longer, his anger towards new residents, and thusly his powers as a ghost, grew much stronger. He made loud noises, caused objects disappear, shattered glass, and even gave residents a brief viewing of his rotting spiritual body. And, once, in 1986, he killed a mother of two because she had wanted to put up wallpaper in his house. Wallpaper. Lawrence was disgusted with the changes people made to his home over the years, and that, for some peculiar reason, was the last straw. The house remained abandoned for decades after that.
Until two young men moved in.
In the months prior to those two young men taking up residence, crews and come and gone tidying up the place, something that made Lawrence uneasy after having his house to himself again. A priest came and blessed the house, too, which made Lawrence scoff. By the time the two young men came around, he had built up more than enough rage to, he hoped, exile them from his house and prevent anyone from ever wanting to return.
The first day, he made the windows shake. The two men ignored it. The second day, Lawrence smashed windows. They covered them with bags and had the glass cleaned up and replaced that day. On the third day, deciding to go further, Lawrence made himself visible to the shorter of the two men; the brown-haired one who always wore sweats and a white tee. Lawrence’s spirit, by then, bore very little resemblance to the man when he had first died. His face was gaunter, chunks of what would have been skin peeling away to show bits of skull and large chunks of hair had vanished as well. His left eye even hung limply along his cheek stretching down to his chin. The young man, not surprised in the least by the vision of the spirit, actually smiled a little and walked closer to Lawrence, holding out his hand. He stepped forward once. Twice. Three times. Lawrence felt uneasy, stunned by the young man’s boldness, and vanished in a wisp of smoke.
For the next week Lawrence took to observing the two new residents of the house. They were very much an odd couple; Lawrence learned that Adam, the boy he had tried to frighten, was very cleanly and made sure everything in the house was in its proper place. When he wasn’t picking up after Sebastian, the taller man, he was watching sports and soap operas on the television.
Sebastian always wore three-piece suits, even while lounging around the house. He would explore every room thoroughly; taking notes every time Lawrence made any sort of noise- even the noises Lawrence didn’t make he took note of. Whenever Sebastian would undress, Lawrence would take note of the medallion he kept close to himself at all times and the bizarre tattoo on his forearm. Both made Lawrence feel uneasy, which in turn made him angrier. He had to get the men out of there. The house was Lawrence’s, and he would not share with anyone else. He would channel his anger and do something amazing.
One evening at three A.M. Lawrence made the walls bleed.
Full of two hundred years’ worth of bitter emotion, Lawrence cause each wall in the house to ooze out blood. He moaned and howled, shaking his house’s foundation. Sebastian the open the door to his room and stepped out. It was then that Lawrence made himself manifest once more, his eyes glowing a vile green. He started at the end of the hallway, cutting out and reappearing closer Sebastian over and over. Sebastian backed into a corner, afraid to touch the walls covered in blood. He shook violently and tried grabbing for the medallion around his neck, but he had taken it off before bed and forgotten to grab it when he left the room. He shrank down to the ground. Lawrence, now only a few feet from Sebastian, lowered his rotting face. He was about to open his mouth when from the corner of his good eye he saw little flowers, live flowers, covering the wall, his wall. Taking his time, Lawrence turned and focused on Adam at the end of the hallway, the flowers starting from where his hand was placed on the wall. Lawrence cut out and phased to stand in front of Adam, towering over him.
“I think Sebastian and I are going to have to leave,” he started. “Your hospitality has been lacking.”
With both hands Adam grabbed the aged jacket of the apparition’s form, spider lilies consuming Lawrence. Lawrence saw several lights, and he started following them, quickly, because they were getting away. In his mind he followed, and followed, and then, but misfortune or happenstance, the lights were gone and all Lawrence saw was a cracked ivory mask with a single eye painted on it. It belonged to a reddish man-looking creature with black spines erupting from its back and feathers in his hair. He, or it, stood a good two yards from Lawrence, a spear in its hand, the point piercing Lawrence. On the spear hung an antique metal, the tiny door of which creaked open, sucking Lawrence inside. The next thing he knew, they were gone.
Part 02: Think No Evil
“Have you heard about the Cult of No One, Wellington?”
Wellington Bradshaw, by nature always a little tense and withdrawn, visibly grew even tenser at the question. Rachel had no idea this was even possible, and was somewhat amused.
Smoothing down his unkempt bedhead hair, he replied “yes,” and continued placing tests on the desks in the empty room for Rachel’s next class. He felt the air grow colder, but thought nothing of it; he probably only had the chills thinking about the entity that had once possessed his body.
“Then you probably know why I took the job at this school.” Rachel looked up at Wellington, but he kept his back turned. She smiled warmly, and looked down at the notes she was shuffling through.
Roughly a year ago the residents of the creepy little house had helped Wellington, his cousin Isaac Bradshaw, Renee Engleking and Charles Taffner Yonts. They were dream walkers, able to enter the dreamscape, the world of dreams, every Wednesday at 11:11. However, they ran into rare demons that lived in and ate dreams- The Empties, former dreamers who had sold their souls to No One, king of The Empties. That was how they lost Charles.
“It’s, well, it’s not like, well, you know. I mean it’s a cult. I don’t see how I can be found. I hate large crowds, I teach piano, and I just barely started college at the age of twenty-two.” Wellington stood near the entrance of the room now, placing the last paper on the desk. He exhaled, and for a brief second he felt as though he could see his breath. Softly, he added, “I don’t even go into the dreamscape anymore.”
“Do you know where Isaac is?” Rachel waited for a reply, but all she got was silence. “Wellington, we’re here to make sure nothing happens to you.”
Wellington couldn’t deal with the stress. His whole life he couldn’t deal with it- he loathed being around large groups of people and could barely handle the dynamic of having Isaac, Renee and Charles around. He had finally gotten used to that, and then everything went to hell- Charles, in a moment of weakness, considered selling his soul and got killed. Wellington himself became possessed by an evil entity who only wished to devour and used Wellington’s body to strangle and nearly kill Isaac, who then became a new person altogether in the dreamscape. Renee had to deal with it all and save the day with the help of Kristjan, Rachel and Adam. Wellington still struggled with the thoughts of everything that happened, everything haunted him. Had he been able to dream the entire fiasco with No One and the Empties would have given him nightmares for life, but instead the thoughts alone kept him awake late into the night. He didn’t want help now; he just wanted to be left alone, to not have any of it brought up ever again. He wanted to move on, like he had promised the comatose Isaac before he had woken up and vanished.
Wellington focused his clear blue eyes on Rachel, his eyes that had changed to green then gray before his possession a year earlier. He opened his mouth to say, well, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to say but he knew he wanted to say something. Before he got the chance he visibly saw his breath before his eyes, and the lights flickered. He winced. “I wasn’t the only reason you came, was I?”
A shriek reverberated through the now low-lit room, accompanied by a desk that was thrown too close to Wellington’s head for comfort but he stood his ground. This didn’t scare him a bit, he had been in truly terrifying situations in the dreamscape, inside of literal nightmares.
“This was the prize in the crackerjack box. I’m teaching folklore at a haunted school. A haunted school, Wellington. A lot of students plan on taking my class this semester.”
“I wouldn’t bother taking this prize to Tiffany’s and having it engraved.” Wellington walked towards Rachel, and the screaming stopped. As soon as it did, however, a pale, sunken-eyed young woman in black stood in Wellington’s path.
“She’s been trying to break me these past few days, scare me off, you know. I keep on saying that I can’t be broken. She can tell how negative you are, so she’s going to try and break you next.” Rachel sat down in her swivel chair, continuing to flip through papers.
“You haven’t gotten rid of her yet?” Wellington said with a twinge of sulphurousness to his tone.
“Why? She makes a great visual aid.”
“Now you’re just messing with me.”
“Is it working?”
Wellington’s fingers twitched at his side. He may have been special like Rachel, but she dealt with magic, the supernatural. All he could do was invade people’s dreams. He couldn’t even dream for himself.
Rachel finally looked up at Wellington and noticed his frown. “Alright, I’ll take care of it.”
She never got a chance to take care of it. Wellington saw her tense up, her eyes growing large like dollar coins. She pointed behind Wellington. He turned, a spear, wielded by a red-colored man in a mask, shot past his ear. Wellington’s head turned, he felt so dizzy now. The spear pierced the poltergeist girl, who hung from the ceiling. The birdcage attached to the spear opened up, and a thin mist rose from it, entangling the spirit and drawing her into the cage itself.
Wellington knew Rachel well enough to figure out that when her voice was that commanding, she was serious and he should obey. He fell back onto a desk, while a knife zoomed past where he had been, making its mark, sinking into the white mask that covered the red man’s face. It cracked, and the red man ripped out the blade, tossing it aside and vanishing.
“Wellington, are you-” Rachel started. Wellington interrupted.
“No. No. Don’t want to deal with this right now. This is why I hate being around people, crap like this happens. I’m going home.” Wellington walked out the door and came back in a few minutes later, grumbling. “You’re my ride.”
Part 03: Foretell No Evil
The first rule of any good stakeout was to always bring junk food. Kristjan Callier and Renee Engleking were not on a stakeout per-se, but Renee still craved something delicious and all around bad for her like a pizza or a burger. Renee felt she knew the enigmatic Kristjan well enough to assume he would even do something silly like try to coerce Renee into buying snacks for their outing once they had gotten there, and as such had even brought a little extra money with her just so they could get something good. But it was just not meant to be.
Renee crossed her ankles elegantly and smoothed out her white, layered skirt that went a little past her knees. She was sure the island of Plumfield had some wonderful places to eat or grab snacks; she honestly would have settled for a nice, healthy meal before they went out, or even requested Adam to make them a sack lunch. Instead, she was ultimately famished and bored just sitting on the bench across from Lady Barkhurst’s palm reading salon.
“You good?” Kristjan asked, not really bothering to look over at Renee. He sat leaning forward, resting his elbows on his knees and chewing on a toothpick. Renee thought they looked so shady, she and him, just sitting there, loitering. She, of course, was wearing light colors, mostly whites and crèmes, while Kristjan wore his signature black that brought out his bright, styled hair.
“Dandy like a lion,” she replied, brushing a hand through her wavy rust-colored hair. She laughed a little on the inside; she had used Isaac’s favorite phrase. “I’d be dandier with some stakeout food.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right. You have to eat. Crazy kid.” Kristjan sat up and stretched out his arms. “I should’ve had Adam make us something to go.”
“So you can’t eat, either? That’s horrible.” Renee ignored the fact that Kristjan hadn’t thought of asking Adam. She’d save that for later and guilt him out of a much larger, fancier meal than they could have had waiting for Lady Barkhurst to open her shop. She figured she could even get a snack out of him right now as well if she played her cards right.
“Nah, I can still eat. I just don’t need to in order to survive. I thoroughly enjoy making Adam cook fancy meals for me.” He slouched back against the bench and moved his mouth back and forth along his face while shaking his knee. It looked like he was getting antsy. “Most people would call me lucky, you know. I have some aunts who would kill to never have to eat. They wouldn’t have to pay ridiculous amounts of money for personal trainers and for fancy diet plans. It’s not like they even need any of that. People in my family are just too focused on looks.”
Renee wondered how true that was for Kristjan, too. He always dressed very nicely and he was naturally handsome, objectively speaking of course. “No, definitely not lucky. You can’t sleep either. It’s not like you’re King Midas, but still.”
“Hey now, Midas had an awesome ability.” Kristjan and Renee both laughed, but she wondered how he kept from going crazy. Then she realized the answer was easy; he put all of his time into this job. He knew five languages, two of which he had learned since living in the creepy little house. He read grimoires, studied them really, and made sure he was rarely idle. This was probably the most idle he had been in a long while.
“I think I’d be dandier if I had a snack.”
“I’ll go grab us something tasty.” As soon as Kristjan stood up, the lights went on in Lady Barkhurst’s shop. Renee cursed her luck. “Rain check. Stakeout’s over.”
They crossed the street and entered the shop, the door chiming eerily and echoing in the empty room. Everything felt drab, soulless- it felt like a nightmare to Renee.
From behind a curtain emerged Lady Barkhurst, robed in a rouge gown that clung to her frame and jewels adorned her neck and fingers. Her raven hair full of curls was done up neatly, and her lips shone the same color as her dress. Renee thought it a bit much.
“Come, sit. You must want your fortune read, no? Would you like the tarot, a Ouija, or perhaps you would like me to tell your future through automatic writing?” Lady Barkhurst’s Eastern European accent came off as comically thick, Renee tried not to laugh. Lady Barkhurst signaled Kristjan and Renee to sit down before doing so herself.
“You’re playing the accent a little thick. It’s unprofessional, and a little insulting if you ask me. Thoughts, Renee?” Kristjan took his seat and rolled his shoulders back, loosening up.
“Honest to goodness I had to keep myself from giggling the moment you opened your mouth.” Renee remained standing, choosing instead to move around the room and examine all of the trinkets.
Lady Barkhurst paused, staring coldly at Kristjan. Slowly, she opened a drawer and brought out a deck of Tarot cards.
“Oh, I see. You plan on bringing out The Death without actually knowing what it means and saying something creepy about my upcoming demise,” Kristjan teased, folding his arms.
“No no, these are special cards, Kristjan Callier.” Lady Barkhurst’s accent became a natural French one as she shuffled the deck, dealing out five cards on the table. “You don’t even need to touch the cards- one of the gifts of being psychic, you see, much like Phillip Darwin Yeates. Now, let us see what we have here.”
Kristjan sat upright in a flash, grabbing Lady Barkhurst’s hand before she could flip over the first card.
“Kristjan, that’s rude.” Renee walked over to her blond-haired companion, placing a hand on his shoulder to calm him down. “I don’t believe we’ll have anything to worry about.”
“Thank you, Renee,” Lady Barkhurst replied softly, smoothly, slyly. She gave off an aura that made Renee feel insecure. Kristjan let go of her hand, and she flipped over the first card. It was a scarecrow; Renee wondered if it had anything to do with Kristjan’s nickname. She flipped over a second, and on it was a picture of a moon insignia, the card reading ‘The Dream Walker.’ Renee recognized it instantly as the symbol she saw every time she entered a dream; the symbol she would have to return to in order to exit from most dreams. Her grip tightened on Kristjan’s shoulder.
“Who are you, Madame Sosostris? These aren’t normal tarot cards,” Kristjan said, eyeing Lady Barkhurst carefully.
“I do not come from Ectabana, dear Scarecrow, but one day I shall reside in Astoria. Now let us continue.” She flipped over with a white crow on it, then another with a crude drawing of a man in brown on it. It read ‘The Listener.’ “Ah, yes. The Listener, your man in brown. It all makes sense, yes, I know who you are looking for, how you came to be.”
Kristjan grabbed Lady Barkhurst’s arm. “Who are you?”
“Kristjan, that’s not polite,” Renee grabbed Kristjan’s arm and tried forcing him to let go. She had never seen him so angry. He eventually did, allowing Lady Barkhurst to continue.
“You shouldn’t have let me finish.” Lady Barkhurst flipped over the final card; it was inversed, containing a crude drawing of a man in glasses with a scythe. It read ‘The Reaper.’
Gusts of wind picked up in the store, forcing Renee and Kristjan to brace themselves. The wind gathered itself in a small whirlwind next to Lady Barkhurst, culminating into the form of a large red man in a white mask carrying a spear. Two feathers were strung to his ragged black hair, and a birdcage hung from his weapon. On his chest was a small black heart.
Renee stared at the single eye drawn on the mask, mesmerized by it. It reminded her of the masks the Empties wore in the Dreamscape.
“This is my pet, Grimshaw. He was a Reaper once in the Afterlife, he may have even known your man in brown,” Lady Barkhurst explained coyly, her voice seeping into the air around them like smoke. It felt so omnipotent to Renee, it reminded her of the first time she had met Kristjan.
“So you do belong to the cult of No One,” Kristjan accused, standing up and pushing back his chair. Grimshaw’s wasted no time in thrusting his spear at Kristjan, cutting his arm. Kristjan shrunk back, holding his arm. Renee was curious to see if he could actually bleed, but before she could catch a real glance Kristjan had already grabbed her wrist and spun her around. “We’ve got to get out of here. I wasn’t prepared for a demon and a French harlot.”
Renee was sure Lady Barkhurst had allowed them to escape because Grimshaw did not chase after them as they went through the door a final time, down the street, around a corner and down yet another street. Before they had stopped they were near the campus of Plumfield University.
“I liked your T.S. Eliot reference,” Renee said after an awkward silence between her and Kristjan. She was in good enough shape to where the escape handed winded her, but Kristjan was still panting. This surprised her, and she inhaled sharply when she saw the bleeding wound on his arm.
“It ruined my favorite shirt,” Kristjan said through his light, hurried breathing.
“Didn’t you say that about the shirt you wore yesterday?” Renee tried touching Kristjan’s arm, but he only withdrew.
“That was new favorite, this is good ol’ favorite.” Kristjan finally allowed Renee to touch his injured arm. Blood got on her white clothes, but she barely noticed. “You know, when I was a kid I went to a palm reader with my aunt- The French Canadian one, of course- and I don’t remember her having a familiar spirit, or whatever that thing was. Ah-h-h, maybe you shouldn’t touch that. Why isn’t it healing?”
“Do you heal quickly?” Renee asked, tearing off a piece of her blood-stained skirt and wrapping it around the wound. Kristjan nodded in response.
“Very quickly. Almost instantly. I forgot I could bleed.” Kristjan slumped down on the curb of the sidewalk, underneath a street lamp, controlling his breathing so it would return to normal.
Renee joined him on the curb. “Sitting on the curb is a lost art,” She said. Kristjan laughed, and Renee slid her arm through his. “Well, before we head back to the house I think you should be a gentleman and escort me to a pizzeria, then we can discuss what happened. One should never discuss important things on an empty stomach.”
“As a Canadian gentleman king, I insist that my personal chef, dear Adam, cook you a homemade pizza instead.” Kristjan stood up, lifting Renee with him, and tried to look as dignified as he could.
“You had me at Canadian,” Renee said teasingly. Before they turned the corner she thought she heard someone call her name, and, turning around she caught a brief glimpse of a dog’s shadow receding from the glow of the old street lamp. She shrugged it off and walked with Kristjan down the street into the night.
Part 04: Fears That Come in Three
The creepy little house on the hill stared longingly at the blue-roofed duplex down the way. It had the perfect view of the building that looked like it had been crafted with such love and the creepy house wanted ever so terribly to meet it, for it got lonely from time to time while its residents were away. But the creepy little house knew better; the duplex could not love it back, for as far as the creepy house new, it was the only house in the world with a soul.
The house laughed silently at the thought; it, a creepy little house, had a soul that it had gained through a spell Joel Moomaw had cast when the house turned one hundred. It had heard Rachel talk of this before, how some cultures believed objects gained souls after a hundred years, but it made little sense to the creepy little house. The house wasn’t even sure Rachel, or anyone else for that matter, knew it had a soul. The things the house chose to pay attention to were the tender moments where the residents thought they were alone.
Some days the house would catch Rachel sitting on the porch playing guitar, just like Joel had taught her, pretending she was Holly Golightly. She sang the most beautiful songs, but they always left the house feeling sad; it was only when Adam joined in singing the harmony that Rachel seemed happy, and it made the house happy, too, reminding it of when they were children and their mother, Esther, would play guitar for them, teaching them how to harmonize. When she died Rachel didn’t touch the guitar for years, but Adam, usually in his underwear, would practice in secret in his room. When he got good enough he would sit in his windowsill and play for Rachel whenever she was down. It was his way of thanking her for always leading him by the hand when he was a child, keeping him safe from the crumbling world.
The house witnessed Adam knitting, cooking, cleaning, gardening, and recently the house even saw him studying grimoires so he could help Kristjan and Rachel. Adam took such good care of the house, and the house thought that if it could, it would do something kind for the boy. But, alas, all the house could do was to give him a place to live. It wanted to do so much more. The house was so happy when Adam had met Sebastian; Adam had gradually become stronger, less depressed. Sebastian was an answer to the house’s prayers for Adam.
When Kristjan arrived at the house, during those first few weeks, the house would hear him cry, and see him hugging his knees. He was so insecure, and still was, but would never let on how terrible his trials were to the Rachel and Adam, no matter how close he got to them. As time went on he cried less and less, but the house would still catch him swinging, deep in thought, looking rather melancholy. He would always lighten up when he saw Rachel.
The house chuckled silently, breaking away from its flirty glances to the duplex with its swimming pool and neatly trimmed garden. The house didn’t need the love of another building. No, the house was happy with what it had, and rest assured with the thought that it would never be lonely so long as it was blessed with its residents.
But perhaps it wouldn’t hurt if at least once the house could meet another building with a soul. It would have very much appreciated being able to talk to something- the squirrels that lived in the tree made terrible company while everyone was away.