Subcutaneous Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 33

“Oh darling, I’m right here! Certainly I’ll help! Anything you need. I’ve wanted so long to talk with you again.” “My memories of the living world are faint. It’s all like a dream now. I remember a man sitting at my sickbed comforting me. Was it my father?” “No, dear, that was your brother Horace. Your father was away when you passed, remember?” “Mamma, I think I can see Horace now. He’s in a uniform, someplace far away. Is that right?” “That’s exactly right. He’s serving his country in Hawaii. I’ll tell him that you’re watching over him. It’ll mean so much to him.” “And I sense – I sense that you’ve brought one of my belongings with you. A piece of jewelry, perhaps . . . no, a toy . . . a doll! You brought my favorite doll!” Mrs. Donohue opened the purse she’d been clutching and retrieved an ancient baby doll with a cracked skull. “Yes I did, baby,” she said. “I brought your Annabelle. I thought you might want to see her again.” “Mamma, I know our relationship was not always easy,” the spirit said. “But we had some wonderful moments of love and tenderness.” “Oh, Lucy, I’ve been thinking those exact thoughts all these years,” Mrs. Donohue said, now close to bawling. That’s when my dread froze into mortal terror. You see, at that point I realized that the spirit was doing a cold reading of its own. It was using exactly the same techniques that I used - the techniques that Charlie had taught me. It started its routine with an appeal for Mrs. Donohue’s help, to quell her suspicions if it flubbed any details. It spoke vaguely, not giving any specifics until the old lady had confirmed them with her words or her looks. It asked questions that sounded like statements. Sure, it had guessed that Lucy had died suddenly with a man at her bedside and that her brother was in uniform, but neither of those guesses were all that impressive given the information it had to work with. All sorts of people work in uniforms, Horace could have been a milkman in Maine and it still would have been right. And it wasn’t hard at all to figure out that there was something special in Mrs. Donohue’s purse, just from seeing how tight she was gripping it. Whatever this spirit was, it wasn’t Lucy Donohue. It didn’t even know anything about Lucy Donohue. It was something else entirely. Now, you might say it was cowardly of me not towarn Mrs. Donohue that she was dealing with an impostor. Personally, I call it good sense. Try and put yourself in my shoes. There I was with an apparition from the beyond in my parlor. I didn’t know what it was or what it was after. I certainly didn’t want it to turn its attention from Mrs. Donohue to myself. So I stayed silent, and let the game play out to its ending. “Mamma,” the spirit said. “I can’t stay much longer. Will you please give me a kiss before I go?” “Of course, my darling!” poor old Mrs. Donohue said. “Nothing would make me happier!” The apparition leaned in towards Mrs. Donohue and as it did it changed. The ectoplasm collapsed in on itself with a wet, sloshing sound. It transformed from the head of a young girl into something kind of like a jellyfish, a flabby, shapeless mass strung with stingers and tentacles. It slid its ghastly, slithering appendages deep inside Mrs. Donohue’s eyes and ears and nose and mouth, and then slouched forward and enveloped her entire head within its gelatinous body, muffling her shrieks. It pulsed and swelled in size as it engulfed her. From the way it shuddered, I got the distinct impression that it was in ecstasy. The worst part was, since the ectoplasm was transparent, I had a direct view of Mrs. Donohue’s face the whole time. I watched her eyes widen with horror and her face slacken like it was turning liquid, and while there was no trauma on the outside I saw that inside she was shriveling like a moth in a candle flame. Not only have I tasted death, I’ve seen the torments of Hell. Mrs. Donohue collapsed stone dead onto the table, knocking over the candles as she toppled. The ectoplasm dissolved into the air like a mist. I was alone. A few seconds later, the lights flickered and came back on. The metronome went tap-tap-tap be