Wednesday, November 14, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 14

Mackey checked his watch at 11:08 and, just as he predicted, the apparation of the woman made no appearance. The men sat in silence on the couch. Morgan stayed silent as well, staying on the bed, as far as Mackey could tell. The electronic equipment whirred, recording. The EMP meter remained silent. The moment was as anticlimactic as Mackey feared.

Mackey stood and went to the wall and turned on the light. He turned to the men. "I'm guessing you won't find shit," he said. But when he looked to Morgan on the bed, she was gone, having slipped, still sitting on the floor, eyes cast to the far wall, vacant, seemingly unaware of her surroundings. Mackey stepped towards her, but then Jayson moved into action.

"Are you all right?" Jayson asked, placing a hand on her shoulder. The contact seemed to awaken her from a riveting daydream.

"Oooh, delicious," Morgan moaned, and then broke out into a wide grin.

"What happened?" Jayson asked.

"It was like... how do you put it... I was HER for a moment, or something," she said. "I felt the presence of an alien force, and then it disappeared, replaced by a feeling of familiarity, but in a totally different surrounding where I knew all the details of a new life."

"Do you remember any of it?"

"No. That's the frustrating thing. It had all the fleeting all-encompassing nature of a vivid dream," Morgan said. "I'm left with an impression, to be sure, one of domesticity, of living in the country, of a quainter, quieter age, and an aching longing and loneliness. But no details.

"Haunting... haunting, indeed," she said.

She rose to her feet and swept at her legs as if to clear away some psychic debris of the experience.

Mackey seemed pleased. Though no vision appeared, he seemed validated that the apparition was real.

"So, is this place haunted, or what? Is she real?" Mackey asked.

"There are definitely some paranormal energies floating around this place. We will have to analyze the data from our instruments, but there's, yes, to be sure, we've got a bona fide otherworldy presence here," Morgan said.

"I still can't figure out why she only appears to me." Mackey said.

"Do you have any other psychic gifts?" Morgan asked. "Do you experience moments of deja vu often?"


"Do you experience moments of having lived or seen something before it happens? It's also called clairvoyance."

Mackey shook his head, frowning. "No. I'm just a normal, boring guy. None of this stuff makes sense to me. But I kind of like it."

"What do you like about it?" Morgan asked.

"I don't know. And this may sound corny. Maybe not to you, I guess. But I just get a good vibe from this ghost or whatever you want to call it." Mackey said.

Morgan grasped Mackey by the hands. He recoiled an instant from the unfamiliar intimacy of the gesture, but held her gaze as she stared intently into his eyes. She was so close Mackey could smell the detergent in her hair. It smelled sweet and minty.

"You are not corny," Morgan said. "Consider your vision a wonderful gift. Use it wisely. Consider yourself blessed to have this rare contact with another world, another time."

Mackey didn't know what to say. Morgan released her grip, but kept her eyes locked with Mackey's a moment longer. Then the spell between them was broken. The gear was broken down and the ghost hunters clattered down the stairs and out the door.

Mackey retired to bed with a roll of toilet paper under his arms. The attic room seemed quieter and darker in the absence of the company. He lay in bed, eyes open, staring at the peak of the roof where all the corners joined together. It took him a long time to finally get to sleep.

Chapter Seven

Gerald Luce was lost in concentration, standing, arms crossed, hand on his chin, looking, unbeknownst to him, the picture of the ostentatious art critic, when a voice broke him out of his reverie.

"I much prefer his Ophelia," she said. "'Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May.'"

Gerald looked on in surprise. It was the young woman he'd spied a week or two earlier in the campus quad, the one reading Dostoyevsky's "Notes From Underground." They were standing before a print of J.W. Waterhouse's Ulysses and the Sirens. They were at an exhibition of Waterhouse paintings at the ISNU student center, just north of the quad where Gerald originally spied the woman.

"I agree that his later versions of Ophelia are the best," Gerald said. "She is most wanton, most full of anguish. But I can't seem to get past this one. How does he get the ecstasy of the siren's song onto canvas?"

"He doesn't," she said. "That's the problem."

"Maybe not. But I love the cliffs, the sunlit massif past the perilous rocks, the terror and beauty of the birds with the heads of women. This risk is entirely unnecessary."

"How so?" she asked.

"Well, you know the story. Ulysses is returning home, and he risks the life of his crew just so he can hear the siren song. It's pure Ulysses. Experience for its own sake, damn the costs." Gerald stopped talking. She was looking again at the painting.

"No doubt I've said too much. By the way, my name is Gerald," he extended the hand formerly holding his chin, stepping back to complete the gesture.

She took it lightly, her touch cold. Gerald noticed the ends of her fingers were raw and red, and no length of fingernail could be seen.

"Nice to meet you, Gerald. I'm Stella. Stella Charles," she said.

They returned their gaze to the painting for a few moments before Gerald broke the silence.

"My favorite Waterhouse painting, though, is Diogenes," he said.

"Do you only like the few works of Waterhouse with men as central figures?" Stella asked.

"Forgive my supposed misogyny. If it makes you feel better, it's the female figures in Diogenes that make the painting so special. Diogenes seems so indifferent, in the shadows, in his barrel, a scroll pursed tightly in his hands. The three women, I think, represent luxuries he has had to transcend. Each woman has something. One has flowers, another a feather fan, and another a parasol that gives a very eastern feel to the Roman scene. They represent comfort and an aesthetic sensibility that Diogenes has rejected."

"So...." Stella said, pausing as a grin passed over her face. "Do you think the women are being frivolous? Are they foolish to be tied to the supposed materialism Diogenes has rejected?"

"Yes, but gender has nothing to do with it. Men can be equally as frivolous. I just try to be inspired by the singularity of focus of the man. That, and his vow of poverty. As a graduate student, I can relate to that."

"What major are you studying?" Stella asked. "If you tell me Art I'll believe you've taken a vow of poverty."

"Not quite, but close," Gerald said. "Anthropology. My status is still a student-at-large. That's why I'm here, you know, fulfilling that at-large aspect. I'd ask you your major, but I'd rather have a chance to guess."

"Sure, I'll give you three guesses."

Gerald turned away from facing the painting and gave his full concentration to Stella. She made eye contact with Gerald and then looked down demurely, self-consciously, and swiped away a bang from her forehead. The gesture enraptured Gerald.

"I'd say, considering the heavy backpack you have and that you're wearing glasses, that you're an English literature major," Gerald said, remembering that he caught her reading a book the previous week.

"Close, you're in the liberal arts ballpark," she said.

"Okay, second guess. Liberal arts, eh?"

Stella nodded.

Gerald rubbed his chin and scrunched his face in concentration, then relaxed, feeling self-conscious of his age, this wave of vanity, of worry that she'd see the crow's feet around his eyes.


Stella shook her head, rocking back and forth on her heels. "Last chance," she said.

"I really just don't have a clue, so I'll take one last stab in the dark. And just because we're at a gallery exhibit, I'll say Art History." Gerald said.

"Strike three. Game over. But we do have lovely door prizes. Want to know?" Stella asked.

"Of course," Gerald said. "The suspense is killing me."

"Communications!" she said, tilting her head forward a bit.

"What year are you? Oh, wait, let me guess again." Gerald said.

"You only get one guess this time," Stella said.

"This is your senior year."


"And you're going to graduate in four years. I don't know you too well, but you seem a determined, focused sort of person."

"Bingo again. That's very perceptive of you. And let's see if I can guess a few things correctly."

"Go ahead," Gerald said. "I'm not a difficult nut to crack. Nutty, to be sure, but not difficult."

"Okay," Stella said. "First of all, you are a nontraditional student, and it took you longer than four years to complete your bachelor's degree."

"So far, so good," Gerald said. "Yes. I'm old and lazy."

"You stinker." Stella smiled. "I didn't mean it that way. Do you want me to continue? I don't want to hurt your feelings or anything."

"No. I mean, yes, continue, this guessing game is fun." Gerald said.

"You also had a liberal arts major as an undergraduate, either in English or history, and you've done work with social justice issues at some point in your life," Stella said.

"Bravo. You're very perceptive. I was the one who majored in English literature and, typically, not being able to get a job when I graduated, I joined the Peace Corps and served two years in Uzbekistan. This was in the late 90s, ancient history, I guess. Please tell me how you came to these conclusions," Gerald said.

"Just educated guesses," Stella said. "I figured, since you liked Diogenes so much, that would explain the social justice angle, and I guessed English simply because that was one of your guesses for me. That, and you have a decent vocabulary and speak with grammatical correctness."

"Ah, thank you," Gerald said. "So do you."

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