Authors: Aiden James
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Fantasy
Nothing yet,” he replied. “At least not readily apparent. We’ll see after Tom develops all of the photographs tomorrow.”
Hey, Jimmy! Tom’s got something on the infrared!”
Tony motioned excitedly for us to come join him and Tom, standing in the middle of the front lawn, beneath a towering oak. Once we arrived, Tom carefully positioned the LCD screen on the camera, keeping it in video mode. He replayed the captured infrared images from the past few minutes, when the camera was aimed at the second floor.
Now, it might be somebody up there who actually lives here,” Tom explained. “But check this out.”
At first, it looked just like the images in Justin and my camera lenses, albeit in green, yellow, and reddish hues. But then something appeared in the window…and it didn’t seem like a child or the ‘villainess’ who rules this castle. Doubtful any of the Thompson’s could materialize as just a face with a partial torso…at least not any
Thompson. Besides, the dark ringlets framing the face didn’t fit the current fashion, or any popular style for like the past hundred years.
That’s so frigging cool! Just wait until Fiona and the girls see this!!”
I could barely contain my enthusiasm, and neither could the others. Even Tom was excited, and his trembling hands told me this was one of the most significant ‘captures’ he’d witnessed in years. He almost dropped his prized camera, having caught it before it hit the ground. The camera’s lens now faced the woods next to the house on the east side. Another figure appeared on the screen, this one even more solid than the image in the window.
What in the hell?” Tom whispered, warily looking toward the woods.
The rest of us looked toward that direction as well, but didn’t see anyone. Too damned dark. Justin and I snapped a flurry of photographs, the flashes bright enough to illuminate the immediate area on the wooded edge of the Thompson property. There was nobody there, and nothing out of place. Whatever had been there a moment ago had since vanished.
Tom pointed the camera again toward the area, but nothing unusual reappeared. The dark figure witnessed a moment ago was gone.
Well doesn’t that beat all!” he fumed.
What are ya’ll talking about?”
Justin was the only one who missed seeing it the first time, and now waited impatiently for Tom to hurry up and replay the segment. When he did, Justin’s mouth dropped open.
Is that a shadow person?” he asked, alluding to a phenomenon on the rise in which only a dark figure is present, instead of more common wispy ‘light’ spirits. Found in various locations throughout the south, these more menacing phantoms are especially prevalent in Tennessee.
He could scarcely contain his nervous anticipation, since it’s so rare to catch full apparitions of this kind.
I don’t know,” said Tom, his voice again a mere whisper. “The body looks too defined, I think. But the face is featureless, and that would be consistent with reported sightings. There are not many pictures of shadow men to compare this to.”
Or shadow women,” I added, keen on equal opportunity in the spirit world and always ready with a smartass comment whenever possible.
I’m not sure if it’s
one,” said Tony, wearing a wry grin while quietly observing the video as Tom replayed it again. “What if it’s someone like us? I mean, a
Good point. If it wasn’t a nocturnal wraith, then it likely was a person. But a person doing what? Some burglar clad in dark clothing, scoping out one of the surrounding homes to hit? Or, perhaps it was someone watching us while we searched for flitting spirits in Charlain Thompson’s front yard. If that were the case, did this individual do so out of mere curiosity, or did they have something else in mind?
With the horrific scene from earlier that evening still fresh in my mind, I entertained a fleeting thought that somehow the two events could be related. How? I hadn’t a clue, and it was a far-fetched notion. Just a thought for now, and one that I assumed would disappear before the night ended, like the fleeting phantoms we sought evidence of in our nighttime investigations.
So, how did things go tonight?”
Busy in the kitchen, Fiona finished the dishes from earlier. Justin had just dropped me off at our log home in Arrington, just south of Nashville, since Jackie had driven my wife home in our car. It used to be my car, my Camaro, until the engine in her Subaru blew up. We now share one vehicle, unless the weather’s nice enough for me to take my Harley.
Well, other than dealing with Mother Theresa, it went all right,” I replied, setting my briefcase down next to my cherished recliner. All my ghost hunting equipment and journals are inside and I never go on an investigation without them.
Fiona snickered and turned off the faucet and then joined me in the living room. Her eyes were still red from tears, but she seemed much more herself. Still, she needed comfort, and right away, from me.
I’m here for you, babe,” I told her, motioning for her to come to me, my arms open. “I’m always here for you.”
Even before she reached me she started crying. I wrapped my arms around her, holding her tight while her body trembled from terrible grief.
Gently, I guided her over to the sofa, and from there comfort and closeness led to arousal, and then passion. Profound sorrow and loss, as they say, is a powerful aphrodisiac.
I awoke with a start just after midnight. Not sure why…it could’ve been a sound, but I believe it was more a feeling. Something unsettled, something not right.
Still in that quasi-state when it’s easy enough to fall back asleep, Fiona pulled the blanket I brought down earlier from upstairs up to her neck, snuggling against the back of the sofa. She would be snoring soon, and believe it or not, that’s a good thing. The best sign that all was well with her at the moment.
But something else seemed amiss, and not just because Gypsy, our two-year old terrier mix, growled while facing the front door. I believe I felt it before the dog did, where often she’s the first to alert us when danger’s in the air. Or, at least her interpretation of danger, whether that’s a possum, skunk, or the mail carrier.
My first instinct was to check the doors on the main floor. All were locked, and the porch and security lights were turned on. Peering through the curtains, I didn’t see anything amiss…at least nothing obviously out of place.
Next, I checked upstairs to make sure the kids were okay. We’ve got two strapping young boys. Ryan is six, and his younger brother, Alex, is four. Ryan looks a lot like me, and probably will be almost a dead ringer for his dad when he grows up. Alex takes after Fiona, with the same eyes that morph depending on his mood or the colors he wears. He also has shown signs of having the same gifts as his mom, poor kid. Seriously, Fiona often refers to her abilities as a curse, and never has she called any of them ‘gifts’. She just wonders what she did to piss God off so badly.
Okay, with two little ones upstairs while we were in the throes of love making downstairs, I imagine some folks would wonder how two grown-ups could behave so irresponsibly. After all, many an adult has pointed to the trauma inflicted on their tender minds by catching their parents getting it on.... Well, that’s what pillows are for, I’ve always said. Scream as loud as you want, honey, and the world will be none the wiser. That includes my mother-in-law, Joanna Simms, who also slept upstairs. I found her sawing logs louder than her daughter downstairs. Maybe it’s what woke me up.
I headed back downstairs, pausing for a moment at the top of the gallery overlooking the living room. In the past, sometimes we’ve had visitations from things on the ‘other side’. Entities have followed us home from investigations, and not so much on account of me as Fiona. Somehow she attracts them. I’m convinced restless spirits are always on the lookout for somebody who can see, hear, or at least sense them. The last option applies to me, and my limited extrasensory perception.
There’s nothing like that going on tonight. No weird feelings, like being watched from all directions, and no cold spots. Just the beautiful glow of polished pine logs under the dimmed accent lights in the ceiling’s apex above. Fiona looks so peaceful. But the dog looks on edge, and I can hear her growls from up here, dwarfed only by the air conditioner and the collective snores from both floors.
What’s up, girl?” I asked her, sweetly, once I returned to the main level.
Gypsy’s a smart dog. A breed that understands several hundred words from the English language. According to my wife, our pooch really only responds to
we say something. Correctly interpreting the words is more hit and miss, depending on tone, like my sugared approach a moment ago.
Gypsy trotted over to the back door and whined. Maybe she needed to go out. Just the same, I grabbed the .44 magnum we have registered with the local Sheriff’s Department from the top shelf in the kitchen cupboard and a couple of rounds from the utility drawer. The gun loaded and ready, we stepped out onto the back porch together.
A great view in the daytime, our property sits on six wooded acres. My dream home, I truly believe I could live here forever, as long as I can pay the bills. I love the quiet solitude. Unlike me, Fiona dreams of an old home in historic Franklin, where the essence of the Civil War and a world long forgotten in much of America still thrives. No, it’s not redneck racist. Not at all. But the quaint shops and restaurants near the downtown square make most anyone think of Mayberry or any of the other quaint towns that defined the 1950s golden age of middle class America. Not to mention the stately mansions and smaller Victorian homes near the square.
Maybe someday she’ll get her wish...though I’m not a neighborly guy. Hence the preference for our cabin in the woods. I’m not into sharing my pad with any ghosts, either, which is almost an assured reality if you own an older home in Franklin. Most owners of a place that predates 1900 are proud of their spirit buddies and can readily provide the departed entity’s earthly name.
Anyway, after sniffing the air and checking the deck’s perimeter, Gypsy ran down the steps to do her business. On alert for her barks that could flush out a prowler’s location, I held the pistol in front of me, loaded and ready to go.
But all she offered was a low grunt before coming up the stairs. Enough to make me linger on the deck for a moment, I tried picturing the layout of the brush and shorter trees closer to our home, since I couldn’t make out a damned thing beyond the back security lights’ reach.
I gave the dog her treat once back inside and took one last stroll around the main floor. Still nothing amiss...I wondered if it was just a coincidence I woke up when I did, and that my overactive imagination had gotten the better of me.
Then I heard footsteps on the front driveway, pressing softly against the gravel, and moving away from the house. I thought about running outside and waving the gun...maybe even firing a warning shot. Then I’d demand whoever was out there to reveal themselves before I….
?” I wondered aloud.
Before I got myself killed? Lord knows I have a good enough aim to hit something dead on from a hundred feet in daylight. But at night? Hell no. I’d be lucky to hit anything from thirty feet. Damned lucky.
So I peered through the front curtain instead, pulling it back ever so carefully. I couldn’t be sure, but it looked like a dark silhouette was crouched, backing up slowly toward the street. Of course, now the dog figured out what I was up to and let out a shrill yelp. Loud enough to wake Fiona again.
What’s going on, hon?” she asked, groggily, half asleep.
Nothing, babe,” I told her, while giving Gypsy a threatening
to make sure she shut the hell up.
I had to be careful and quick, or else my wife might catch on to what I was doing. Thank God she hadn’t noticed the pistol in my hand.
I peered though the curtain again. I couldn’t be sure if the figure heard my dog, but that’d be my assumption. Whoever it was now stood at the edge of our driveway, in the street, and probably saw me too, despite my efforts to remain concealed. Right before they disappeared for good, the sucker shot me a bird.
Definitely not the Good Humor Man.
A minute or so later I heard an engine start up down the road. I waited nearly half an hour—long after it faded away—before going back to bed, which tonight remained the sofa. Snuggled up against Fiona with Gypsy curled near our feet and the gun tucked safely under a pillow, I kept my ears open for anything else…for our dark-clad visitor to return. It would be the last thing I remembered from that night, other than the dawn’s light creeping in through our living room window, announcing its promise of a long and weary Thursday.
About the Author
Aiden James resides in Tennessee with his lovely wife, Fiona, their two sons, Christopher and Tyler, and a feisty terrier named Gypsy. An avid researcher of all things paranormal, he spends much of his time investigating haunted locales throughout the Deep South. Please visit his website: www.aidenjamesfiction.com