Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NaNoWriMo day 13

Sometimes her arms were crossed, as if she was cold, other times her arms were straight at her side. She reminded Mackey of the figure at the prow of a ship, gazing, ever gazing, into some far horizon. Those were happier, it seemed. She always looked worried. And maybe that was the key to her being a ghost. Mackey theorized that ghosts were spirits who died dissatisfied, or that some kind of awful energy from the those living in the past lingered long after their bodies died. Flesh faded, but feelings had more staying power, it seemed.

Mackey called her "Steamboat Annie," in deference to one of his favorite "chick" hard rock albums, and also because the ghost's style of dress reminded Mackey of someone from the 1800s. And his only connection to and knowledge of that era in time was some exposure to the writings of Mark Twain. Mackey thought the woman was less a passenger on a steamboat than a jilted homebound spouse or lover waiting for her two-timing man to come home from a steamboat excursion.

A few months after the ghost's initial appearance, Mackey saw an ad in the newspaper classifieds. "Ghosts? We investigate. Bonneville Ghost Hunters Club." There was a number beneath the caption. Mackey hesitated to call, remembering the fickle nature of his ghost's appearances. But maybe, using whatever sensors and other electronic equipment particular to paranormal research, they could detect some "other" energies and confirm, to Mackey's own mind, at least, that the woman wasn't merely a figment of his own imagination.

He called the number and a woman answered the phone. Her name was Morgan Haka-Barnes and she was obviously distracted by some domestic concern, for Mackey could hear a television and children's voices in the background. This surprised him, for he expected the leader of a paranormal investigation group to have a deep and sultry voice. Maybe she listened to new age music. But children? It just didn't jibe with his expectations. And she spoke so matter of fact in a cheery manner. June Cleaver - ghost hunter.

Oh well, what did it matter? Maybe only east or west coast paranormal investigators had a flair for the dramatic. Bonneville's version was a soccer mom.

"Okay, so what kind of manifestation is this?" Morgan said. "Does it move other objects or interact with you in any way?"

Mackey explained what had been happening, including the failure of others to see it, hoping and praying she wouldn't have the same sneaking suspicions about Mackey's sanity. She paused for a moment, thinking, after Mackey was finished.

"I think what this is... Is a case of a time nexus." Morgan said. "She always appears in the same place and, while she moves, it isn't that much, and her outfit doesn't change. She doesn't make any notice of your presence and doesn't talk to you."

"How do I explain this? Honey... no, not you, sorry. Wait a minute. Excuse me, I'll be right back."

Mackey could hear muffled talking, more voices, interaction between parent and child, a family scene as foreign to Mackey and his sensibilities as the appearance of the ghost.

"Okay, I'm back. Sorry about that. Uh, where was I?" Morgan asked.

"Something about a time nexus," Mackey said.

"Okay, yeah. Right. Most ghosts you hear about are your basic lost souls, unhappy, usually, looking to resolve some past wrong in order to move on to the next life. They can move objects, close doors, appear and disappear, and interact with living souls in some way. Other ghosts are evil spirits, tricksters and the sort. My pet name for them is force of nature ghosts. They seem to be the undead embodiments of pure emotions, created, I believe, by traumatic events at a place, such as a murder, torture, or some long-term psychic trauma. All the energy of those emotions lingers and becomes a spirit in its own right. Poltergeists are often manifestations of this variety."

"And then there's your type of ghost, seemingly." Morgan turned away from the phone a minute and said something to a child, keeping her hand over the mouthpiece, muffling her voice.

"As you may know," Morgan continued. "Time moves in a linear fashion, past, present, future, like ducks in a row, so to speak. But who's to say this line has to lay flat and straight? Some theorize time is like a string. We can't move backwards along the string, of course, and can only move ahead at the speed that time allows. But if the timeline doesn't have to move flat, maybe it can bunch up, and different eras of time can rub against the present, giving us a ghost-like image into the past, but not allowing us to communicate with it.

"For example. The ghost haunting your room may just be a woman living her life sometime in the 1800s. The timeline from that period has somehow bunched up and touched ours. Maybe she has a glimpse to the present day and you somehow appear as a ghost to her."

Mackey was interested in what she said, but didn't quite know where she was going with this. He was amused at the idea that he, unwittingly, may be ghost to someone in the 19th century.

Was Morgan giving legitimacy to his visions? Did she believe the ghost might be real? If anybody would, he guessed, it would be a paranormal investigator.

"Does this look like something you might want to check out?" Mackey asked. "She probably won't make an appearance with you around."

"And I don't know how to explain that," Morgan said.

"But is it possible for you to detect a ghost without seeing it?" Mackey asked.

"Oh, yes. We have infrared cameras, night vision, a meter that detects subtle changes in air pressure, and another that reads electromagnetic energy. Ghosts are detectable phenomena. People don't believe in them because it presents deep philosophical questions about the nature of living and the afterlife. That's why most of organized religion condemns what we do as occult, dark magic. It's really quite the contrary. We try to be as scientific about the process as possible, in part to debunk the naysayers."

"Would you be interested in coming out to take a look at it?" Mackey asked. And when he didn't immediately hear an answer, he continued. "I don't have any money, but I can feed you and your guests. This ghost doesn't bother me. I'd just like to know if someone else can confirm that what I'm seeing is real."

"We will do our level best, Mr. McEvoy," Morgan said. "And I'm just as interested in your paranormal phenomena as you are. Possibly more. We shall see. And even if we don't, maybe our instruments will detect something."

They tentatively agreed to meet nine days later, on a Friday night, and Mackey was told to keep detailed notes on the ghost in the meantime.

The woman appeared every night leading up to the investigation. Mackey was so getting used to her that he talked to her, asked questions.

"Can you see me, Steamboat Annie? Did you live here once? How do you float like that?"

And for the two minutes she appeared each night, Mackey began to get a sense of the feelings she brought to the room. He became tuned in to the sadness her face exuded, but also a mood of peace, love and empathy. A feminine presence in Mackey's room, no matter how subtle, no matter how otherworldy, changed the space. Consciously or unconsciously, maybe in preparation for the paranormal group, whatever the reason, Mackey kept the room cleaned. He dusted for the first time since he'd moved in. He made his bed each morning, washed the windows, did his laundry, folded it and put it away in a drawer instead of pulling it out of the basket and only doing laundry again when the basket was empty.

James McEvoy, scion of trailer park neglect, a product of the world of men and violence at the hands of his father, brothers and uncles, mother a drunk, absent for years at a time, a wandering soul, her own true Steamboat Annie, never a nurturer, this very McEvoy, a drunk in his own right, was becoming domesticated. Somehow this new presence from beyond the grave commanded a dignity and respect he felt obliged, no, privileged, to live up to.

Mackey dreaded the forthcoming paranormal investigation because at the very least it meant that the woman would disappear for a night. And maybe, with all of the instruments and other people present in the attic space, it would be enough of a disturbance to knock out of whack the time nexus or whatever miracle had produced the woman in the first place. But Mackey's curiosity overrode such concerns.

When Mackey finally met Morgan, he was surprised by her appearance. Instead of being a dowdy house wife, short, squat, wide-hipped, strong-armed, Morgan was tall, waifishly thin, and wore a long, thin dress, scarves wrapped around her wrist, thick, curly hair, heavy eyeliner, metal bracelets on each wrist, and thumb rings. She looked more like a spiritualist than she sounded, but even in the absence of family distractions, she seemed determined to occupy herself with many tasks at once.

After a short introduction, she turned to one of her two assistants, Ned, a studious looking man, tall, plastic-frame glasses, big gut, the picture of a computer geek, and asked him some question about the equipment and software. The other assistant, Jayson, was friendlier, taller, more handsome, and was in charge of the camera equipment. He was a wedding photographer as well, and had the ability unconsciously manipulate people to go where they were supposed to be. After short introductions, Jayson nodded towards the door.

Morgan, otherwise preoccupied, looked to Ned and asked for some piece of equipment Mackey never heard of. It looked like an old fashioned tape recorder and was wrapped in a leather case with one end sticking out.

"This," Morgan said, as they stepped into the Augusta Inn lobby, "is the most important piece of equipment in our arsenal. It detects changes in the electromagnetic wavelength. Changes, mind you, that can only be caused by a paranormal phenomena. As it detects something, the red light on the end of the sensor will flash.

As they talked in the lobby, heads popped out of various rooms to see who was there. And, not seeing the usual class of person that usually resided or visited the Augusta Inn, they were curious. Mackey had never had a female guest. More curiosity. Suddenly, people needed to get out and use the bathroom or go to the kitchen. Mackey, sensing not the supernatural, but the increasing presence of his neighbors, ushered his guests upstairs.

Morgan continued talking as they creaked up the wide flight of stairs to the second floor, "Yes, yes. Though the EMP meter is not going off, I sense the history of this place. There is a lot of energy here. Yes. Yes."

Ned rolled his eyes. He seemed to silently tolerate Morgan's flighty nature, tacitly acknowledging whatever gifts of clairvoyance she may have had, but annoyed at the dramatic verbosity in which she presented it. Jayson was diffident, preoccupied with the cumbersome tripods and camera bags he toted. He groaned as Mackey opened the door to the attic when he saw how steep the flight of stairs were.

Mackey's room was the largest single room in the Augusta Inn. Hottest in summer and coldest in winter. A space heater and window air conditioning unit absolutely necessary for comfort during those two seasons. Spring and fall were the best times of year. Mackey kept the windows open all the time during these seasons. The room was shaped like an octagon, the ceiling coming to a peak in the center, the roofline angling down to the wall so that one had to bend over to stand against any wall or to open a window. The windows were in the center of each long wall.

When Morgan saw the shape of the room, she exclaimed, "Oh, an octagon room. This is already a spiritual energy spot. Ghosts like corners. They are the best transitions between worlds. And this room has many of them."

While Ned set up his laptop on a coffee table, Jayson placed tripods in each corner of the room and set up a different-looking camera on each one, checking batteries, lenses, and viewing through the finder to check other settings. Morgan roamed around the room with the meter. When she pointed to the peak of the roof, whose point disappeared in darkness and shadows and was, incidentally, just above where the ghost woman appeared, the meter went haywire, flashing and beeping as if in some sort of cardiac arrest.

"See, see. This is where the corners all come together. This is the power spot of the room." Morgan said.

Mackey stood near his bed, on top of the part of the floor above the stairwell. "That's where she appears," he said.

"Yes. Yes. I see," said Morgan. "There's definitely some kind of energy here. I can feel it. And when does this apparition appear?"

Mackey looked at his watch. "In about 10 minutes. She comes every night at 11:08 and leaves exactly two minutes later."

Ned and Jayson finished setting up their equipment and retired to the couch. Ned found a copy of Mackey's Rolling Stone magazine and idly thumbed through it. Jayson hunched over his cell phone, composing a text message, sticking his tongue out of the corner of his mouth. Morgan sat on the corner of Mackey's bed, leaned back and closed her eyes. Mackey stood where he was, staring at Morgan, turned on, fighting down a raging urge to go downstairs and rub one out. The last woman to sit on his bed was Left Eye Lisa. Morgan was way hotter than Lisa.

But there wasn't enough time to attend to baser urges. The ghost was scheduled to appear in three minutes. And as if to break his own spell, Mackey flipped a switch to turn off the lights. The glow of the electronic equipment cast a green light upon the walls. Mackey joined the other men on the couch. Jayson rose and turned on the cameras, then sat back down. Morgan stayed on the bed, maintaining her position, eyes closed.

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