Authors: Dara Joy
Tyber had to agree with the psi-cog on that one. Like Hubble, he had a hard time accepting mysterious equipment failure. He would want an answer, preferably one rooted in the scientific method.
"Do you have any possible theories as to why these failures occur so often?" he inquired seriously.
Calendula studied him. "None that you would be inclined to accept, Doctor. We just know what we have experienced."
"Would you say that these failures most often happen at peak occurrence?"
"As a matter of fact, yes."
"That is too coincidental for my taste," Tyber stated. Hubble nodded in curt agreement with him.
"We also agree, Dr. Evans. The Society for Fantastical Research believes that these two factors are linked in a very definite way."
"You're saying that the more energy is manifested during an occurrence, the greater the chance that—whatever it is—knocks out the equipment." It seemed reasonable to Zanita.
"That's what we think happens, yes."
"Nonsense! It's all nonsense. If the equipment always fails at the optimum time, it is so that there will be no tangible evidence! The Society for Cognitive Reasoning has posted a ten-thousand-dollar prize for the first person who can prove a genuine ghost exists! Do I need to tell you that not one subject—living or dead—has come forward to collect this money? Not one." Hubble gestured with his hand in the air. "You'd think with all this hullabaloo over seeing spirits in every relatives attic, we would have at least one incident authenticated!"
Calendula straightened the back of her hair, her only outward gesture of irritation. "The reason no one will come forward, as you say, Hubble, is that your group sets out to make a mockery of believers. Proof can be subject to interpretation. What's more, there is always a way to disprove something, if one is so inclined. And your group does this with a glee bordering on the maniacal."
"How so, Calendula?" Zanita took out her pad and pen and began jotting down notes.
"Let's say someone comes to his group, the psi-cogs, and says they have experienced genuine poltergeist activity—dishes flying about, doors slamming on their own, that sort of thing. The next thing you know, the psi-cogs are out there showing scientifically that the house was built in such a way that when a truck—which is over a certain weight limit—passes by the road when the temperature is eighty-six degrees, it will cause a vibration to occur in the wood struts that support the foundation of this so-called haunted house, which in turn will cause the door to slam and make the dishes leap off the shelves."
Tyber stretched out his legs and crossed his arms behind his head. "So what's wrong with that?" he said. "It's real. It's a fact. It's proven. And it certainly seems more logical an explanation than spirits doing the rumba in your living room."
"It's one explanation, but it might not be the right explanation. Those types of solutions can always be found if one wants to search hard enough for them… and stretch credulity far enough."
"Whoa!" Tyber sat up. "You're saying that believing in poltergeist activity is not stretching credulity?"
"I'm saying that mysteries can be explained away by any number of remedies in this life, Dr. Evans. That doesn't mean they have been truly solved."
Tyber thought about it, choosing not to respond. Calendula had a point. He always kept an open mind. Governed by reason.
"We also know what some of us have seen with our own eyes," Calendula added softly. "For some, that is all the proof we need."
"The eye is easy to fool. Seeing is often not believing, as has been shown countless times."
"Perhaps. But the eye of the heart is not easily fooled. And that is why when someone has what I believe to be a genuine experience, it is undeniable. The truth is seen with the heart." She turned and stared straight at Zanita.
Zanita looked at her, lips parting slightly. Does the woman know of my experience? Zanita wondered. Calendula was a famous medium. What talents did she truly possess?
Hubble's guffaws of ridicule drew her attention away from that line of thought. "So we will let our hearts govern our reason? Ms. Brite, what can you be thinking?" He snickered. "Are you telling us that what you personally have witnessed has led you to believe in ghosts?" His wily question was designed to discredit her before Tyber.
Calendula did not even flinch. "Unequivocally. Of course, what a 'ghost' is, is a matter of speculation as well."
"What do you mean?" Puzzled, Zanita stopped jotting notes.
"Some say they are living entities from another dimension. Others believe them to be spirits bound to the earth after death for various reasons, or they may be an echo of a strong event, emotion, or memory that occurred in the past— like an imprint—that only certain people can see. Still others subscribe to the theory that ghosts actually are manifestations from the living."
"From the living?" Zanita tapped her pencil against her lips.
"Yes. Especially in the case of poltergeist activity. Such manifestations could be occurrences of psi-activity from an adept living in the house. Studies have shown that there are often children present in the home that experiences poltergeist activity."
"That kind of narrows your experimental field, doesn't it?" Tyber joked.
"Well, experiments in the paranormal are, by their very nature, difficult. How do we know what tools to use to 'observe' an unknown entity? And what inferences can we attach to the data we do obtain? Many students of parapsychology believe that we cannot measure these things using standard experimental techniques."
"That makes sense," Zanita agreed.
"I have to disagree." Tyber contradicted his wife, earning him a glare and—he was sure—a cold patch in the bed that night.
"Why is that, Dr. Evans?"
"Because the laws of physics must be valid in all realms to be valid in any realm. And because we are experiencing this phenomenon in this realm of being. Therefore, the same laws of cause and effect must apply to the frames of reference, namely the observer, and the apparition in question within the spatial coordinates of our plane."
"Excellently put, Doctor." Hubble nodded concisely once.
"Not necessarily, Tyber. There have been many case studies where an apparition appeared but not everyone present observed it. If what you say is true, how do you explain that?"
"If this was a physical manifestation, and by that I mean an entity capable of reflecting light, then all those capable of seeing it would see it. Period."
"Unless the apparition is selectively choosing who sees it and who doesn't," Zanita put in.
"Exactly!" Calendula readily agreed. "That is one reason we think it is so difficult to photograph a spirit. It aligns itself to certain psychic energies."
A small groan escaped Tyber's lips. "The physics," he muttered mournfully.
"The physics must be wrong." Zanita raised her brow at her husband.
Tyber's brows lowered. "I don't think so, baby."
"Or…" Blooey suddenly spoke, surprising every one. "A new theory is needed to explain these quantum states!"
Everyone gaped at the little pirate. Occasionally, the old Arthur Bloomberg came shining through in spades.
"Quantum states, Blooey?" Tyber barked as he leaned toward him.
Blooey rubbed his bristly chin. "Aye. Might be from such an alternate state, don't ya think, Captain? Depending on the subatomic levels, perhaps. In which case the physics to explain the phenomenon would fit neatly with the physics we already know…
Tyber's eyes squinted. "Anything is possible. But then so is a Unified Field Theory, and we have yet to see it raise its eventful head."
Blooey guffawed. "They're waiting for you, Captain, hey?"
A sudden loud clanging from the other room made everyone jump.
Blooey spoke in a hushed whisper. "There 'tis now, I'll wager… dragging itself about the house like some misbegotten beastie." Clearly all traces of the old Arthur Bloomberg were gone.
They all were utterly silent until the strange noises stopped.
"D-does that happen often, Todd?" Zanita's face was slightly pale from the experience.
"Damn, did anyone think to record that?" Calendula snapped her fingers.
"I did." Tyber pulled a small recorder out of his pocket and replayed the sounds in all their laggardly, rumbling glory.
He clicked off the player. "All this proves is that these sounds did occur. In no way does it prove a paranormal event… unless a wave analysis shows differently, which I doubt."
"That is right, Doctor." Hubble walked over to the sideboard and poured himself a hefty glass of Todd's finest cognac.
"But what else could be causing them?" Zanita wondered.
"Any number of things, baby."
"Doctor, may I ask what else you brought for experimental equipment?" Hubble sat down with his drink and nonchalantly pulled out a pipe. He lit the bowl, puffing small clouds of smoke into the air. The blend was not the most aromatic Zanita had sniffed.
"Just this small tape recorder, some night vision scopes, and a Possineg 55."
"A Possineg 55?" Zanita had never heard of it.
Calendulas brows rose. "I'm impressed, Tyber. A Possineg 55 is a professional photographer's instant camera. It takes black-and-white positives. Impossible to tamper with."
Zanita glanced her husband's way. She was always impressed by him, but when he surprised her with some little brilliance like this, in an area she had no idea he knew anything about, he absolutely turned her on.
He returned her interested stare with a steady, simmering look that clearly said "Later baby."
"But do we really need all this?" Todd shrugged. "All I'm interested in is getting rid of the blighter."
"It's important because we have to be sure who your 'blighter' is, Todd, and we have to know what is going on here."
"Tybers right. Because of Mark, I have a great respect for you, Todd. We owe you the truth." Calendula patted his hand.
Todd sighed. "Does this kind of—of haunting happen often?"
"You'd be surprised. As has been pointed out, physical proof is very hard to obtain; and even if it is, it is always in question. Many of us feel that it will never be obtained in such a manner. I, myself, feel that if someone is inclined to depend on gauges and dials for answers, then maybe the paranormal is just not for them. The founder of our organization said, 'You either believe it or you don't'—which is not a very scientific approach, but makes perfect sense to those of us who do believe and know."
Tyber looked distressed, and Zanita knew that Calendula's statement did not sit well with him. She, on the other hand, understood very well what Calendula was saying. Once, when she was about ten, she saw her Aunt Louise walk across the front lawn of her grandmother's house and wave to her as she sat on the porch swing. The fact that Aunt Louise had been dead for seven years at the time made the event a bit of a shock.
Zanita had waved back rather stuporously, blinked, and come to her senses—only to discover that Aunt Louise was gone. The remnants of her presence seemed to be everywhere, though.
As Maurice Chevalier was fond of singing, every little breeze seemed to whisper Louise.
Zanita never forgot the experience, but she never told anyone. Yet it was that incident that made her want to explore the paranormal and write about it.
Gramercy Hubble, however, was not inclined to let Calendula off the hook. "It seems to me too convenient that you people always have some ambiguous answer when asked a direct question."
"You people?" Mark started to get up again when a great thudding noise shook the house.
Zanita gasped and clutched the arms of her chair. The chandelier began to sway as the pounding noises got louder, vibrating through the entire parlor and causing several crystal glasses on the sideboard to tinkle.
Calendula jumped up. "My god, Mark, quick! We have activity! Get the seismo—"
"Ah, that won't be necessary." Todd scratched his ear. The pounding got louder and louder as it approached the side door to the parlor.
"Why not?" gasped Zanita.
Hambone's head lifted and he sniffed the air. His ragged ears flattened to the back of his head. Like all animals, he seemed to be sensitive to the paranormal.
A huge black shadow drifted across the parlor carpet from the doorway.
Zanita squeaked in alarm.
Then the room began shaking again as the unknown entity lumbered forward. It eyeballed each person present with a dull brown stare.
Then it sat down right in the middle of the floor with a loud thump.
It was a massive thing. Grossly obese. And it carried with it the laconic look of the dangerously dull-witted.
"By Captains Morgan's rum chest! Wot in the name of the Brethern is that?" Blooey's eyes bugged out.
Todd frowned sheepishly. "Allow me to introduce Hippolito. My, ah, cat."