The ghost hunters.

Our first night. Steve and I arrived earlier this afternoon at Galilee, the abandoned retirement community rumored to be haunted by ghosts and poltergeists. We found our way into one of the apartments, which, to our surprise, was still fully furnished. We set up our gear in the bedroom which had two beds. All that was left to do was wait until dusk and watch for any signs of paranormal activity. To help us wait, we decided to take a nap.

A few hours later, it was beginning to get dark. As the sunlight faded, we could hear noises, noises of scratching, tapping and the occasional whisper. Steve and I held our breaths, hoping we weren’t spotted by the ghosts. Suddenly Steve’s bed began to swell as if it was being inflated. He tried to hang on but the mattress took on a round shape as it became so large that it began pressing up on the ceiling. Finally, the mattress exploded with a loud bang as Steve fell to the floor. He sat up in a daze, trying to figure out what has just happened.

“Bummer with the inflatable mattress, huh Steve?” I said.

After a long pause, Steve’s reply filled me with terror.

“Ian, I don’t think my mattress was inflatable.”

One unfortunate night at the bar.

It was a very rough day at work. Instead of working 8 hours, I put in 12. Countless deadlines, aggravated clients and misguided negotiations boosted my stress levels beyond tolerable levels. By the end of the day, though, everything jelled and worked themselves out to everyone’s satisfaction. But my nerves were still shot.

On the way home I stopped at a bar for a drink. The mood here was festive as a live band played its string of contemporary hits. I sat at the counter and saw dozens of bottles on the shelf along the mirrored wall behind the counter where the bartenders worked. Curiously, there were also lit candles along the bottom of the shelf.

A bartender walked up to me and placed a coaster on the counter in front of me. “What can I get you?” she smiled.

“I’d like a Bloody Mary, please.” I replied.

The bartender leaned forward and said, “I’m sorry, it’s really loud in here. What did you say you wanted?”

“Bloody Mary,” I repeated.

“One more time?”

“Bloody Mary!” I shouted.

Suddenly the candles behind the bartender began to float as bottles began to fall off the shelf. The entire bar fell silent as the lights began flickering. All eyes were focused on the mirrored wall that was now trembling and shaking to the point where it almost looked ready to break. Suddenly a ghostly woman with deathly pale skin and long black hair leapt out from the mirror with her hands trained on my throat.

As I lay on the floor weakened by the attack, I could see the bartender take a piece of chalk and draw a diagonal line over four short vertical lines on the chalkboard behind the counter.

“That’s the fifth time tonight,” she announced. “Now taking bets for number six.”

Cleaning up ‘Salem’s Lot.

After reading Stephen King’s novel ‘Salem’s Lot, I came up with some crazy ideas to further enhance the story. I see this as a sign of a good book, one that stirs up your imagination to come up with ideas like this one.

It was well after midnight when I pulled off the road towards the woods just outside the town of Jerusalem’s Lot, a town in Maine known for its population of vampires. Many have been curious but few have dared to visit the town itself. I on the other hand was determined to rid the town of the vampires to once again make it safe and habitable.

Slowly I drove down the dirt road that ran through the woods where the vampires were known to hide and attack unsuspecting passersby. Everyone in town was a vampire anyway, so it was necessary for them to venture out of their territory in search of fresh victims.

I turned on my hazard lights and pulled off to the side near the trees. Then I opened the trunk and retrieved the tire jack and my flashlight before sitting down at the rear tire on the passenger side. The trap was set. All I had to do was wait.

Sure enough, I heard a rustling in the bushes behind me as someone approached. The stray light from my flashlight illuminated a friendly but fiendish face. The skin was deathly pale with a reddish hue around the sinister green eyes. The smile revealed sharp fangs amongst the rest of the yellowed teeth. No doubt I was in the company of a vampire.

“Can I be of assistance?” the vampire asked.

“Oh no,” I replied nonchalantly, “I’ll change this tire myself. Perhaps I’ll have more energy after a quick nap.”

With that, I reclined on the ground and closed my eyes. It was only a matter of time.

“You make this too easy,” the vampire hissed as he lunged for my throat. But instead of his fangs sinking into my flesh, they sunk into an air hose wrapped around my neck. I pressed the button on the remote control hidden in my hand and an air pump roared to life from its hiding place in the trunk. Instantly the vampire’s head began filling with air like a balloon before exploding with a loud bang seconds later, sending the lifeless body falling to the ground.

One down, who knows how many left to go.

I put everything away in my car before driving to a different spot in the woods to set up the trap once again to lure another unsuspecting vampire.

Then I was faced with a dilemma. Either I can continue this vampire trapping all night or venture to the heart of the woods to eradicate the very source of evil that has plagued Jerusalem’s Lot for centuries. Finding this source won’t be easy, let alone eliminate it, but I decided to give it a shot.

I slowly drove down the dirt road while keeping an eye out for any clues that could lead me in the right direction. Maybe an increased presence of vampires? Or perhaps a barren landscape with nonstop lightning and thunder?

Then I saw a road sign ahead.

THE SOURCE OF ALL EVIL

NEXT RIGHT

With a sigh, I turned right and there I was, at the very spot that transformed Jerusalem’s Lot from a sleepy small town into a dreadful realm of the undead. There, in front of me, was a wretched church that stood under an atmosphere of pure fear. If I am to save this town, then I must go inside.

And inside I went.

To be continued…

Never write about the room.

I took a few days off after returning from my trip to Japan to allow myself to re-adjust to my local time zone and to allow the revelation of an actual spirit room to settle deeper in my mind. Perhaps I got carried away when I posted the details of that trip in my blog despite a warning from my Japanese host not to do so. I couldn’t help but laugh. I’m thousands of miles away from Japan now. What’s the worst that can happen?

I stood in front of the bathroom sink and applied the shaving cream in preparation for shaving. As I lifted my razor to begin removing my five o’clock shadow, I was startled to see a crack suddenly appear on the mirror. Then a second crack appeared below it and connected to the first. Then a third, and a fourth, a whole series of cracks appearing across the mirror that seemed to resemble characters of some sort.

Japanese characters.

A chill ran up my spine as I backed away from the mirror. I dashed to my bedroom to retrieve my phone so I could take a picture of the strange characters and send them to No, my Japanese host who had issued me the grim warning to keep the details of the spirit room a secret. I snapped a shot of the mirror and sent it to No and sat on my bed as I awaited his response.

A few minutes later, my phone beeped. A message from No.

You wrote about the room, didn’t you.

A feeling of guilt washed over me. After recollecting my composure, I was just about to compose a response when suddenly there was an explosion of shattering glass in the bathroom. The sudden noise made me jump to my feet and there I stood, not sure of what just happened. I slowly approached the bathroom and to my horror saw mirror fragments all over the floor. The mirror on the wall was obliterated.

Then my feelings of fear turned into feelings of horror.

That feeling I was no longer alone.

I sensed there was something, someone, hiding somewhere in the bathroom, maybe in the closet, maybe standing right behind me…

I spun around but there was nothing to see but the hallway leading to my bedroom.

Huh.

That feeling I was no longer alone seemed to dissipate and I began to feel better. When I turned to the bathroom to work on picking up the mirror fragments off the floor…

A screaming figure clad in a samurai warrior costume suddenly appeared in front of me, brandishing his sword while poised to strike.

“You want shave?” the warrior bellowed. “I give you REAL close shave!”

With a slice of his sword, my head fell freely to the floor and I could remember no more.

Now I’m in some dark realm, where my fellow spirits roam, listening for the incantation for them to appear from behind the wall of a spirit room somewhere.

Maybe someone will call for me to appear.

But first someone has to notice I’m gone.

Oh well.

At least this place has Internet access.

Visiting a Japanese spirit room.

I sat at a table at the famed Myōjōien Coffee shop in downtown Hatawaka, awaiting the arrival of my host. Tonight was to be the night I would visit a Japanese spirit room, a subject of much fascination and speculation in the Western world. Many Japanese citizens deny its existence, yet there exists evidence that suggests that it does exist and in numbers far greater than anyone cares to admit.

9pm came, and in walked No, the pseudonym of my Japanese host who agreed to take me to a house with a hidden spirit room. He looked around the coffee shop and silently recognized me by my wearing a sneaker on my left foot and a dress shoe on my right. He nodded at me and then, to avoid arousing suspicion, walked up to the counter and ordered himself a coffee to go. After he left, I waited 30 seconds before I got up and went outside to meet him in his car parked just outside the coffee shop. After the initial greetings, No covered my head with a paper bag so I couldn’t see where we were going. I agreed not to remove the bag until he said I could take it off. And then we were on our way.

After what felt like 20 minutes of feeling the car moving, we arrived at our destination. No parked the car and then helped me out before we walked up the driveway. After helping me up the few steps to the front door, he rang the doorbell before I heard the front door open. After a few whispered words, I was guided inside the house, down a hallway and into a small room. At last I could take the paper bag off.

The room appeared to be a traditional Japanese tatami room with a lone chair facing a plain wall. There were small candles in each of the four corners of the room that provided just enough light. Akiba, the house’s owner, closed the door to the room before sitting down in the chair before closing her eyes as if in meditation. No and I stood behind her to watch what was about to happen.

Akiba silently muttered what sounded like an incantation in Japanese whose symphony of consonants sounded pleasing to the ear. I turned to No for a translation but he stood silently.

Suddenly, a breeze from nowhere blew out two of the candles to render the room a little darker. The only two candles still lit were at opposite sides of the wall Akiba was facing. Oddly enough, she didn’t seem concerned or even startled.

No tapped my shoulder and pointed at the wall. Something was happening. A small bulge began to form before it grew larger, taking on the shape of a head that was pressing from behind the wall. I could see details begin to emerge, such as eyes, a nose and a mouth. Again, Akiba was silent as if to expect all this.

Then the face began to speak and Akiba responded, her voice heavy with emotion. I was startled but soon realized that I had just seen for myself the existence of a Japanese spirit room. I calmed down and watched the exchange continue for a half hour before the face disappeared back into the wall. I would later learn that the face was that of Kon, Akiba’s late husband who still visits her from time to time.

After leaving the house with the paper bag back on my head, I could hear No explain that spirit rooms are indeed commonplace in Japan, not only in homes but also in office buildings where spirits are consulted for help with business decisions. Art studios also use spirit rooms to inspire artists with their work, a chance for spirits of departed artists to seal their legacy by passing along ideas of art they never had a chance to begin.

By the time No was finished with his narrative, we were back at the coffee shop. He removed the paper bag from my head before leaving me with one last piece of advice.

“Don’t write about what you saw in your blog,” No said firmly but with a smile, “Not unless you want to see what happens to those who betray a secret that’s been around for centuries. Trust me, you don’t want to know.”

Late for work.

Bedtime.

One last thing to check before I fall asleep. Time to check that alarm clock. Make sure it was set for the right time.

3:45.

Perfect.

Better check it again.

3:45.

Good.

One more time.

3:45.

Cool.

I confirmed that my alarm light was on, meaning my alarm clock will in fact go off at 3:45 tomorrow morning so I can have enough time to get ready for work and actually clock in on time.

I’m all set.

Satisfied, I turned off the light, slid between the sheets and dozed off to sleep.

Then from the darkness, from out of nowhere, came a pair of green, demonic hands, reaching for my alarm clock. One finger pressed down on the alarm button while the other finger pressed the button to change the time my alarm was set to go off. Swiftly and silently the hands worked, without my knowledge or awareness of their presence right next to my bed. Then they stopped before returning to the dark corner of my bedroom.

When my alarm finally went off, I was startled to see that the time on the clock read 9:45. In a panic I jumped out of bed, threw on my clothes and ran out the door to commence my crazed commute in hopes that my boss wasn’t waiting for me.

Well, it turned out he was.

And he didn’t buy my story about the demonic hands.