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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Kenneth Hastings is both plagued and blessed by nightly visitations of his deceased daughter. He is convinced that his daughter is trying to tell him something. A new girlfriend who is very intrigued by his experiences decides to not so voluntarily perform a very old medical procedure on him, in order to expand his psychic abilities, and to allow him to discover what secret his daughter had left her grave to reveal to him.

Submitted: August 20, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 20, 2016




A sudden intense cold awoke Ken from a sound sleep. He felt a light pressure on his forehead.  He knew instantly what it was.  Slowly he opened his eyes.  Standing beside his bed was his daughter’s ghost with her finger pressed against head.It was about this time, quarter before four in the morning that she usually came to him.  He wanted to just reach out and grab her, but he knew if he did that she would vanish in a wisp.  He lay still in his bed and just looked at her.Her image was translucent and unclear, but even through this blurred vision he was in awe of her loveliness. And then she was gone.

How long had it been?  How long had it been since that horrible car accident had taken his little girl and her mother from him?  It was two years ago next Thursday.  Two years ago on a cold December night when that drunk weaved his way down route 117 on a collision course with his wife’s car.  She was taking Alex, who was then 7 years old, and as it now seemed eternally seven, to her mid season dance recital.

He couldn’t make it.  It was the same old story about having to work late at the office.  No problem.  If Ken couldn’t be there, there were always other stand-ins willing to take his place.  Tonight’s surrogate father from hell was one Mr. Daniel Rourke, a man who never nurtured anything in his life other than cirrhosis of the liver.  But before he would introduce himself to Alex and Ken’s wife Cindy, he needed to loosen himself up a bit with about 12 beers.  Oh but Mr. Rourke was a good drunk.  He never broke anything; he never started any fights; he just sat in his bar stool every night and drank himself to oblivion plus or minus an inch.  He had four DUI’s, had has license suspended, even spent some time in the local adult correctional facility, but it didn’t stop him from drinking and driving.  Sometimes people would ask him how he could drive drunk without a license or registration.  It’s easy he would quip, “I just get in the car and turn the key and put her on autopilot.”

Her daddy not being able to make it disappointed Alex, but she took the news pretty well.  Her mother had reminded her that her daddy worked hard so she could have a good future.  And she actually understood.She was mature enough even at seven to get the connection between working hard, better things and a good future. And that was so sadly ironic, since her future was only minutes away from being over.

Her mom said she would have to be careful tonight because there was black ice on the road.Alex didn’t think she had even seen ice that was black.  It was always clear colored.  Maybe somebody came along and spilled some ink on the road and it froze along with the rain.  It didn’t matter to Mr. Rourke if the roads were icy or not.  He would drive the same even if the road were covered in sand paper.

Cindy drove her Camry a little fast but with caution. She didn’t want to be late.  Miss Marie, Alex’s dance instructor, was very strict and overbearing.  She treated her children’s dance troop like it was the Bolshoi.

Daniel was weaving and bobbing down the road like Cassius Clay in the ring.  After a number of near misses, his excursions into the oncoming lane finally scored a hit. His 1990’s Ford Explorer smashed head on with Cindy’s car.

The initial impact of the collision rendered Cindy and Alex unconscious, but practically uninjured.  It was the fire killed them. Despite the frequency of car explosions in the movies and on TV, it’s rare for a car to actually blow up, but this was one of those times.Daniel was also unhurt by the crash, no matter how drunk, he always managed to buckle himself up.

He could have saved Cindy and Alex; there was more than enough time, but he was too stewed.  The police found him later that night wandering around in the woods, totally unaware of what he had done.

Cindy and Alex were burned beyond recognition in the fire.  In one horrible instant the two things most precious to Ken were gone.  All he had left was Alex’s ghost.  As much as he loved seeing her even in this form, he was terrified that one night she would come to him as the charred corpse he saw in the county morgue blaming him for not being there for them that night, when they really needed him.  It made him realize how incredibly stupid he was to value his career more than time spent with wife and his daughter.  His career, his career was all he had left.  Better get some sleep he thought, so he would be able to function at work.  His sleep the remainder of the morning was restless.  There was one other thing that bothered him.  He felt as though his daughter was trying to tell him something, but he had no idea what.  He had to know, but he didn’t know how to get her to communicate with him.

After work that day he decided to swing by the local mall.  His new girlfriend had a part time job poking holes in people’s ears at one of those junk jewelry chains frequented mostly by teenage girls.It was the typical holiday mall scene with all the store windows plastered with sale signs, ubiquitous Christmas decorations and a minimum wage Santa sitting on his throne outside the food court trying to look like he gave a damn about the throngs of spoiled brats who waited not so patiently for an audience with him.

“There she is.” Ken said to himself as he caught sight of his girlfriend Mary, working in her portable kiosk outside the jewelry store.Mary was dressed in her nursing uniform.  She was in the process of searching the ear of a teenage girl with purple hair for an area that was unpunctured.  “I think your running out of ear lope?”

“What are you deaf?  I told you I wanted you to put the stud in my tragus.”She abruptly pinched the tragus portion of her ear.

“You certainly know your anatomy.”  Mary aimed the stud gun and fired.

“Ouch.” The girl sort of whined.

“Okay here are some instructions you need to follow so your ear won’t become infected.” She handed the girl a paper.  The girl snatched it. “I know what to do! It’s only like my millionth piercing.” She got up from her chair, crumpled the paper and dropped it on to the mall floor and darted away.

“Happy holidays.  Another satisfied customer.” 

Mary was attractive, twenty something and a brunette.  Observing the scene with the teen Ken had to chuckle a little.  Seeing him, Mary smiled.  He returned the smile.

“Why do you put up with this grief?”  Ken asked incredulously.

“Oh you mean the girl…She just a punk, she doesn’t bother me.”

“Not so much that.  I mean you’re a highly qualified registered nurse; you don’t need to be doing this. It can’t be for the money.”

“No, they pay me a little more because I am nurse. The store thinks the public is more at ease when a quote on quote,” She raised her hands and curled her two pointing fingers, “medical professional is performing this complicated medical procedure. But, no you’re right I don’t do it for the money.”

“You still haven’t answered my question.”  Ken said.

“I do it because I have recently developed this fascination with body modification. You know body piercing, tattooing, scarification. I have been doing a lot of research on the subject.  Working here gives me a chance to meet some people who are interested in these areas.”

Ken just shook his head. “I just don’t know what you expect to gain by doing this.”

“Ken not every thing is measured in debits and credits.” She replied. Being an accountant he didn’t really appreciate her comment. He realized some people considered accountants to be boring and dry, without any spirit of adventure.

“I guess it’s okay if you enjoy it.” He sat down in her piercing chair.  “One thing I am curious about is if you are so interested in this body modifying thing why don’t you have any piercings or tattoos, even pierced ears, anything, or at least any that I can see.” He winked at her.

“I believe that people are meant to experience body modification as either a recipient or as a modifier, or sometimes as both.  I am a strictly a modifier.”

“Come on aren’t you being a bit corny.”

“Absolutely not! Body modification has been around for thousands of years, it’s not only a ritual it’s a spiritual experience.”

“You’re telling me that you piercing the ear of that girl that looked like a Marilyn Manson clone was a spiritual experience?”

“No…No…This is my last night of doing these silly ear piercings.  I am going to get serious; I am going to start doing body piercings on my own with a needle instead of this stupid ear piercing gun and maybe some tattooing at some point. Quite Frankly, I am getting a little tired of nursing.”

“You are going to throw away 4 years of college just so you can poke holes in a bunch of freaks?”

“Kenneth Hastings, stop trying to tell me what to do. We have only been dating a little over a month.” She shook her finger at him like he was a naughty boy.

“You’re right, it’s not my place.  I have just been so cranky lately.”

“You look tired.  Are you still seeing your daughter’s ghost?”

Ken looked around to see if anybody heard what she said.  He was afraid that if anybody knew he was seeing the spirit of his deceased daughter they would think him mad.  He had only told Mary during a moment of weakness. “I wish you wouldn’t bring that up.”

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You know how many people have actually had contact with the other world?  Very few, and certainly none of those phonies you see on TV.”

“So you said some people are recipients and others are modifiers.  Which am I?” Kenneth asked trying to change the subject.

“You are definitely a recipient. Despite your straight-laced demeanor, you have a wild side.  You yearn to be free, to adorn yourself with rings and barbs, to cover your body with beautiful illustrations.”She stroked his face.

“No I don’t think so.  I yearn to be a partner at Baxter and Bixby, but I don’t think being covered with tattoos and piercings would enhance my chances.”  Kenneth remarked.  “Old B & B on the business front is a remarkable adaptive company, but its social mores stopped progressing in like 1957.  Mr. Baxter is almost ninety and is still the first one there in the morning and one of the last to leave at night.”

“There you go again, only concerned about work and money.” She paused for a few seconds as if to ponder something. “Let me see something.” She swabbed his ear with alcohol and placed the stud gun over his right ear lobe.”

“Hey, what are you doing?”  He started to squirm.

“Now hold still, I just want to see where I would put the stud.” And then she pulled the trigger.

“Ouch.” He hollered loudly cupping his ear  “You just pierced my ear.”

“Oh I’m so sorry Ken, my hand slipped.” She appeared concerned.

A few shoppers standing nearby turned to see what was happening.  A tall, clean-cut man in a gray suit started to walk towards the kiosk.“Ken…Ken Hastings is that you?” The man was carrying a bag in each hand; he shifted the bags to one hand so he could wave.

“Oh great it’s Benjamin Horowitz, my main competition from work. What a damned coincidence. A dammed coincidence” He wanted to crawl under his chair and hide.

“Getting your ears pierced Ken, I didn’t think you went in for that sort of thing.”  A shit assed grin beamed across his face.  Benjamin was a rising star in the firm and if any one was going to be made a partner instead of Ken, it was he. He was known for his ruthlessness and he was always probing for his adversary’s vulnerabilities.

“No…No…This is my girlfriend Mary.  She was trying out her new stud gun and it slipped.”  He quickly removed the stud from his ear.

Benjamin did not acknowledge Mary’s presence and continued with his needling.  “I always forget, which ear do gay men wear their earring? Is it the left or the right?”

“I would think you would be the one to know that, I hear the slight lisp you’re trying to cover up and I saw the way you pranced over her.”  Mary accused. 

“I don’t know what you are talking about.” Ben replied indignantly.

“Come on Benjie, The gig is up. In my business I deal with gay men all the time.  And you are as gay as a three dollar bill.” Mary was getting a real kick out of messing with his head.

“You can try and convolute this episode all you want, but Mr. Baxter would not approve of this at all.”  He shook his trembling finger.

“Awwww…Is Lillle Benjie gonna to go cr-why to big Mr. Baxter.”  Mary taunted and then got serious.  “I would be careful Horowitz, you know how things like this can blow up in your fucking FACE.” She shouted menacingly.

Benjamin was defeated. He retreated his face a mixture of anger and intimidation.

“Do you really think Ben is gay?” Kenneth asked.

“Nah… At the hospital I have packed gauze into the anus of more than one gay man and believe you me that man’s ass is way too tight to be gay”

Ken couldn’t help but laugh.  Mary laughed along with him.

“Hey you shouldn’t be laughing.” Ken scolded. “You poked a hole in my ear and almost got me in trouble at work.”

“Look, my hand really did slip.”

“How could it slip?” He countered.

She shrugged her shoulders, “Don’t people shoot people accidentally with guns all the time.”

“Yeah maybe with handguns, but not with earring stud guns.”

“Look let me make it up to you. I am getting off here in a little while and don’t have to work at the hospital tonight, so why don’t you swing by my house at around eight-thirty. I can whip you up something real good to eat.”

“I dunno, I usually get an upset stomach when I eat late.”  Ken whined.

“Oh come on Ken, don’t be such a big baby, besides, I have some thoughts about your situation with your daughter.”

“Okay, I will come.”  Ken thought Mary was a bit strange, but the fact was she was really hot. He hadn’t dated much since his wife died and he longed for companionship.  It would take more than an accidental pierced ear for him to stop dating her. 

He arrived at Mary’s house at about five past eight.  He was early, but after today’s incident he figured he could get away with this slight infraction.  Mary lived in a cottage out in the woods.The nearest neighbor was couple of miles away.  A little too secluded for his tastes, another difference in their personalities.

He noticed an old beat up Grand Am in the driveway next to Mary’s car.  Geez, what was the last model year of the Grand Am he thought? Was Mary collecting junk cars or did she have a visitor? Ken got out of his car and walked up to the front porch.  The front door burst open.  Standing in the entryway was a big guy with a shaved head and a ripped black leather jacket.  The porch light turned on and his face, covered in metal ring and stud piercings, glittered.

“What are you looking at?” The man asked in a challenging voice.

 Just then Mary appeared in the doorway.  “Ken you’re early… That’s okay I just finished with Chester, he’s leaving.”

Chester sneered at Ken, but continued on his way to his Grand Am.

Ken walked up to the porch and said.  “That guy better stay away from any powerful magnets or he’ll get his face ripped off.”

Mary kissed Ken on the cheek and they went inside her house.

“What were you doing with Chester?” He imagined all sorts of things and none of them were good. “And what type of name is Chester for a guy like that?”

“He’s a customer of mine; I just got through piercing his genitals.”

“You pierced his penis!”  Ken shouted.

“No actual his scrotum, but don’t get jealous, Chester only dates girls with tongue barbells.”

“You mean pierced tongues? Why would he care if his girlfriend had a pierced tongue?”  Ken asked naively.

Mary put her hands on her hips and gave him a devilish smile.  He paused for a few seconds and said. “Ohhhhhh.”

“You see piercing can be very sexual.” Mary explained.

“I am not concerned about you having an affair with Chester.”  Affair seemed to Ken to be too sophisticated a word for any possible type of interaction Chester would have with a woman. “What I am concerned about is you getting in trouble for doing this piercing stuff out of your home.  Could you lose your nursing license?”

“I don’t care Ken; I am doing what I want to.”

Ken didn’t understand how Mary could have such a cavalier attitude about jeopardizing her career, or worse, getting in trouble with law.  He would try another approach.  “Isn’t it gross to stick sharp things into people?”

“No…I will tell you what gross is. The other day I had this woman at the hospital on my floor that must have weighed four hundred pounds at least.  It took three of us just to turn her over.Since she was my patient I was stuck with the honor of having to give her a foley (catheter), I had to wade my way through layers of sweaty fat between her legs just to get to her vagina, then I had to find her urethra.  It makes me cringe just thinking about it.”

Kenneth thought the idea of a naked blob of woman rolling around in hospital bed was funny. Morbidly obese people always amused him. He hated himself for deriving some sick pleasure over the misfortunes of others. More than likely a product of his insecurities, but there was no denying these feelings existed.

“You really are sick!”  He feigned disgust, but he was actually amused by her dark humor. Maybe they did have something in common. “Where’s that meal you promised me?”

“I hope you like Chinese. I picked up some on the way home.”  She ushered him in to her small kitchen.  The table was retro fifties and the appliances and cabinets looked old enough to have actually come from that era.

“I thought you were going to cook me some homemade food.  You lured me here under false pretenses.”  He smiled.

“Hey I said I would feed you and I am feeding you.” She removed the food containers from the oven and placed them on the already set up table.

“Hey I was just kidding.” Ken raised his hands defensively.

”It wasn’t food that got you over here, it was your libido.” She spooned some chop suey into his plate.  He greedily dug in.

“Maybe so but I’m still damned hungry.  I never eat this late.”

“Actually I asked you to come over here to help you with your other problem.”

“My other problem?” He paused his eating. “You mean my need to dress up in women’s clothing?”

“No, the problem with your daughter.”

“My daughter is dead.” He said solemnly.

“Yes but she is trying to contact you.”  Mary grabbed a book off of the kitchen counter. “I have something I want to show you.”

“I never should have told you about her visitations.”

“You’re just afraid somebody down at that money changing hole you work at will find out about you seeing ghosts and they will think you are crazy. But don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody and I believe you.”

Ken slammed his fist onto the table startling Mary.  She had never seen him angry. She kind of liked it.  “It’s not that!  I loved my daughter, but…”

“I know you loved your daughter, and she is trying to tell you something.”  Mary put here hand on Ken’s. “Look at this picture.  What do you see?” She showed him the book.

“It’s a picture of an old skull that somebody bashed a hole into.”

“Not bashed.  Somebody surgically cut a hole in this person’s head.  It was an actual medical procedure.” There was excitement in her voice.

”So what, in the olden days they did all sorts of kooky things in the name of medicine like leaches and blood letting.”

She ignored him.  “The process is called trepanation.  They believed that by opening up the skull they could let out evil spirits.  I also believe this procedure lets in good spirits.”

Before a baby’s skull fuses its brain can pulsate with the beating of the heart.  All parts of its brain are infused with blood. Our adult skulls are hard and rigid.  There is no way for our brains to expand.  Cutting a hole in a person’s head gives the brain an expansion portal.  Brain blood volume is increased. Oxygen can now reach dormant parts of the brain to reactivate them.  Mental capacity is increased, psychic abilities, never before present are suddenly there.  The potential is limitless!”

This chick is a fucking lunatic Kenneth thought.As much as he lusted for her flesh, he was going to have to end this. “Do you know the phrase; I need this like I need a hole in the head.  Thanks for the meal, but I gotta go.” He wiped his face and got up from his chair.

“I’m sorry Ken but I can’t let you leave.”

“Pardon me.” Suddenly Ken felt dizzy. He sat back down in his chair.

“I put some GHB in your food, date rape drug.  It won’t hurt you but it will incapacitate while I perform the operation.”

“You crazy bitch!”  Ken tried to get up, but to no avail, the drug was taking full effect.

“I’m doing this for you Ken and your daughter.” Mary explained.  She went to the front door and opened it.  Standing there waiting, with his hands in his pocket was Chester.

“Bout fucking time, I’m freezing out here. I thought you and geeky over there were screwing.” They went into the kitchen where Ken was passed out in chair.  One of his hands had landed in the chow mein. “So the funky chicken has been prepared.”

She had had Chester hang around in case she needed him and now his brawn was going to be useful. “Put him into my operating room.”Chester dutifully obeyed dragging Ken in to a back room.

In the room was an old operating table, a stand with a tray filled with instruments, and an overhead surgical light. “Place him onto the table and strap him in.” The table was fitted with leather restraining straps for both arms and legs.

Chester strapped him to the table. “How kinky!”

“Ok Chester thanks, its time for you to leave, I am trying to maintain a sterile environment.”

“Are you saying I’m dirty?” Chester asked angrily.

“Well you do smell a little.”

“Fuck you Mary, just remember you owe me.  I will be back next week for my ampallang (penis piercing).”  Chester stuck her finger into Mary’s face. “Free of charge.”

“I have already got you down in my appointment book.”  Chester didn’t say another word as he stomped out of the house.

Mary used the kitchen sink as her make shift scrub sink. She even had faucet handles installed that she could shut off with her forearms.  Back in the OR she put on rubber gloves. She used a surgical pen to circle the area on Ken’s forehead where she would operate.  Over Ken’s head she positioned a nozzle that was attached via a Teflon tube to surgical irrigation pump.  A foot pedal on the floor turned the pump on and off.  That way Mary could flush the surgical area with a sterile saline solution when needed.  She had known that this would be necessary, because scalp wounds bled profusely.  As child her brother had blown up a mailbox with an M-80 while she was nearby.  A piece of shrapnel had lodged in her head. The wound was only superficial, but the flood of blood that covered her face had freaked out her mother.

Mary injected the surgical area with Novacain, a local anesthetic.  She picked up a scalpel that she had sterilized with an autoclave and cut a half circle of skin about the size of a quarter.  Carefully she pulled up the skin and dissected underneath such that she could lift it up like a flap.  Periodically she pushed the foot pedal releasing a stream of water clearing the area of blood.  Using the scalpel she scraped the remaining flesh until she reached bone.

Just then Mary noticed Kens eyes start to flutter.  He was regaining consciousness. Ken let out a sorrowful moan. 

“Ken I see you’re awake.  Just in time I’m down to the bone.”  She picked up a rotary drill and starting singing George Thoroughgood’s bad to the bone except she replaced bad with down.  “Ddddown to the bone.”

“Why are you doing this?” Ken pleaded. 

“I originally considered trepanning Chester.  But I decided against it.  Because like I said trepanation causes blood to infuse the brain resulting in hyperstimulation of the brain.  The problem with Chester is there is so little brain to stimulate.”  She paused for second and smiled.  “But you on other hand are highly intelligent.  Plus when you told me about your paranormal experience with your daughter I thought you could really benefit from this surgery.”

“Benefit…Benefit, How the hell am I going to benefit?”  He cried.

“I believe that the trepanation is going to increase your brain functions such that you will be able to communicate more clearly with your daughter. When I saw how depressed you were, I couldn’t not help you.”  She turned on the drill; it gave off a high-pitched whirring sound.  “The process is actually more grinding than drilling.”

Kenneth started to whip his head around frantically.

“Okay so you’re going to be difficult.” Mary took an already prepared syringe from her instrument tray and jabbed him in the arm.  She waited a few minutes for the drug to take effect. Once Ken was back in slumber land she started grinding away at his skull.  Depressing the foot pedal she washed away bits of pulverized bone and blood.  She knew she had to be extremely careful not to penetrate meninges, the membrane around the brain. She truly didn’t want to hurt Ken; she just wanted to put a hole in his head. After about a half hour she was through the skull to the meninges.  As advertised Ken’s brain pulsated with his heartbeat.  The rhythm mesmerized her.

Kenneth woke feeling a gnawing throbbing pain in his forehead.  For an instant he didn’t know where he was, but then the painful memories of what had happened to him came back with a vengeance.  The restraints had been removed from his arms and legs.  He swung his legs off of the table and tried to stand up, but he felt woozy, he sat back down on the table.

“How are you feeling?”  Mary asked.

Ken jerked his head in the direction of her voice.  Mary was sitting calmly in a chair about five feet from him.  He tried again to get to his feet.  He really wanted to kill her, but he didn’t have the strength.

“I think you should take it easy.” Mary smiled.

“I just want to get the fuck out of here.” Ken gasped.

“You’re free to go, but I would prefer that you stay here.”

Ken’s fingers cautiously probed the sutures in his head.  “I am going to call the police.  They’re going to put you away for along time you crazy bitch.”

“What do you think your accounting firm is going to think about an employee that goes out and gets a hole drilled in his head?  I don’t think it will help your chance for a promotion.” Mary crossed her legs smartly.

“It wasn’t my fault, you did this me.” Ken was almost pleading.

“I don’t know.  You came here of your own free will.  I think you demonstrated pretty poor judgment associating with the likes of me.  I’m sure Benjie would enlighten Mr. Baxter with these salient points.”

“I couldn’t help what you did to me.” Ken was shaking with anger.

“Look Ken I never intended to hurt you in any way.I did this so as to raise your level of consciousness.  I believe that when your daughter’s spirit visits you the next time you will be able to understand what she his trying to tell you.”  Mary’s voice was very soothing and reassuring. 

It could have been due to the stress he was under or his intense desire to communicate with his daughter, but somehow slowly he was starting to accept Mary’s rationale, at least a little.  She sensed this and continued to apply the pressure.  “Just see if I’m not right, give it a chance.  You will be thanking me in the end.”

“What do I tell people about this?” He pointed to his head.

“Just tell them you had a nasty fall and you cut your head and they sutured you up in the emergency room.  Tomorrow is Saturday, you be a little weak for a while until the brain fluids rebalance.  But you should be 100 percent by Monday.”  She was buoyed by his seeming acceptance.

“I just want to get out of this place.”

“Okay, but I have some meds you can take for the pain.”  She handed a bottle of Percodan. “I will call you tomorrow. You can call me anytime you need me.”

Ken stopped and felt around his head.  “You removed a chunk of my skull, won’t this leave some sort of depression in my head.

“Barely a dimple, hardly noticeable.  Nothing that would detract from your good looks.” She winked at him.

“Yeah right,” Some of his strength returned and he was able to stand.  Mary brought him is jacket.  She walked him to his car and warned him about the signs of infection, she again reassured him that she was there if he needed her and to let her know immediately if his daughter’s ghost contacts him.

 Ken drove away tired and angry.  Like many victims he felt he was somehow responsible for what had happed.  He was also a little excited.  Maybe the trepanation would enhance his extrasensory perceptions just enough so he would be able to communicate with his little girl.

When he got home he went immediately to his bedroom. He didn’t even bother to shower or brush his teeth. All he wanted to do was sleep.  He was so tired he didn’t know if anything, even his daughter’s spirit would be able to wake him. But when she arrived, during the twilight hours of the morning, he woke up.  Her finger was pressed against his head as usual, however, this time she was not standing by his bed, she was floating over it and instead of being translucent and fuzzy she appeared solid and sharp.  She was wearing the white lace dress in which she was buried.  Around her neck was the gold heart shaped locket that he had given to her on her sixth birthday. The necklace laid flat against her chest, but since her body was suspended horizontal in the air, shouldn’t the necklace be hanging down?  He realized the absurdity of this thought, if the earthly laws of physics applied to those in the afterworld; she wouldn’t be floating over his head.

What struck him the most was the clarity of her image.  She didn’t seem like a fleeting ghostly apparition, she felt real and alive.  It then dawned on him.  Was Mary right?  Did the trepanation help him to see his daughter’s spirit better?  It must be true.  Surreptitiously he positioned his hands so he could attempt to grab Alex quickly, maybe if he could get a hold of her before she vanished, he could pull back to the world of the living.  “Ahhhh!” He cried as his arms swept through empty space.  She was gone.

Ken sat up his bed, his eyes damp from tears.  He knew what has must do.  He must undergo another trepanning to see if this procedure could improve his psychic abilities further.  Maybe he was crazy, but then again.  He dressed himself and decided to call Mary.  She answered on the first ring.


“I didn’t think you would be up this early and how did you know it was me?” Ken asked surprised.

“I have been expecting your call.  You told me your daughter usually visits you in the twilight hours of the morning.”

“Oh I see.” Ken said.
“So I take it her ghost appeared to you.”  Mary said trying to conceal her excitement. Ken recounted the details of his daughters visit.

“That’s interesting.  So she touched you, so your encounter was tactile as well as visual, but nothing auditory?” Mary sounded like a doctor reviewing a patient’s symptoms.

“No, but I could see her so clearly, it was like my little girl was really here, alive and in the flesh.”  He paused for a moment to treasure this vision of his daughter. “I think you might right.  I think the trepanation may have been responsible for me seeing my daughter more clearly.”

“Of course it was.  I would recommend some additional trepanning.” Mary said.

“I never thought I would be saying this, but I want you to drill another hole in my head.” Ken didn’t know if he would change his mind later, after the spell of his daughters visit had faded, but for now it was how he felt. 

Sensing this Mary moved quickly “I could do it tonight at seven o’clock.”

“What no genital piercings scheduled for tonight?” Ken asked sarcastically.

“No, No, I will have my secretary call and cancel all my appointments.” Mary replied equally as sarcastic.

“Good then I will see you at seven.”  Ken hung up the phone still wondering if he was doing the right thing.

Ken arrived at Mary’s house on time.  The OR was clean and ready to go.  He noticed the restraints on the operating table were gone.  “I was wondering.  Do you honestly think adding another hole will increase my paranormal abilities?” Ken asked.

“I believe so.  If we add more holes the brain blood volume in your head will increase and more areas of your brain will be stimulated and reactivated, and hopefully one of those areas will be the one that controls your psychic ability. And since we have already seen some increase in psychic visual skills, I think we are on the right track. Unfortunately even though trepanation has been performed for thousands of years, most of the medical community scoffs at it.  So there isn’t a lot of scientific data, so I guess we are pioneers of sorts.”

Ken felt like a pioneer, one that was stranded on a covered wagon with a broken axle in the middle of the Great Plains.  The question was whether Mary was the Calvary or a group of hostile Indians.

“I think we will Trepan another part of you head; the area over your temporal lobe. That is the portion of your brain that controls your auditory skills.” Mary stroked Ken’s hair.  “I am afraid we are going to have shave part of your head.”

“That’s okay, I was prepared for that.” Ken sighed.  Suffering from the beginnings of male pattern baldness he felt very insecure about his hair.  He almost dreaded shaving off some of hair more that removing a piece of his skull.

“I also have taken a leave of absence from my work.” Ken again sighed.

“I’m sorry Ken, I know that won’t help your career opportunities.” Mary said softly.

“My daughter is more important than my job.  I wish the hell I had realized that while she was still alive.” Ken said softly as he sat down on Mary’s operating table.  “As far as my hair, just shave it all off.”

Mary obeyed his instructions and shaved Ken’s head.  She selected the part of the skull where she wanted to operate.  After cleaning the skin with sterile gauze she injected the area with Novocain.  She cut a flap of skin with her scalpel and peeled it back revealing bone.  This time she injected some epinephrine, which she had recently pilfered from work, into the wound.  This caused the blood vessels to constrict, reducing bleeding.  She periodically irrigated the wound with a gentle stream of saline solution released when she pumped her foot pedal.

“Okay Ken I am going to start drilling.”

Ken had not said a word since she began the procedure, not even a whimper.  As the drill ground bone he clenched his hands tightly.  He thought of the time he had his wisdom teeth removed.  The roots of his teeth were curved like hooks such that the oral surgeon couldn’t pull the tooth out as one whole piece.  This made it necessary for him to crack the tooth into sections so he could unhook each root. The surgeon broke his teeth in pieces with a hammer and chisel.  Ken hated the feeling of his teeth cracking. He wasn’t getting that sensation now, but he was feeling the vibrations of the drill reverberating through his skull.

“I am through your bone marrow down to your last layer of skull.  I’m gong to go slowly now because I want to be careful not to penetrate your meninges.”

Finally she penetrated the skull completely in just over twenty minutes, much faster than the first surgery.  Through her newly created window she watched the meninges expand and contract. “I am really getting the hang of this.”  She cleaned the wound and sutured it up.

“How do you feel?”  Mary asked.

“I feel good.” He replied and he was being truthful.  He knew once the local wore off his head wound would be sore as hell, but he could deal with that.  He was eager to go home and to wait for his daughter, so after Mary finished cleaning up, he left.

The experience of this operation was much less traumatic than the first, so he wasn’t as worn down.  When he got home he really wasn’t that tired. He lived in an old colonial built about the mid 18th century.  Like most old houses it was full of creaks and rattles, but tonight there was a cacophony of noise.  The strangest among them were the muffled voices; at least that’s what he thought they were.  He could pick out words here and there, but never an entire sentence. Was he going crazy or was hearing many of the countless words spoken in the house during its two hundred and fifty year existence? And then there was the thump.

For years now Ken would on occasion hear a loud thumping sound in the house that appeared to come from everywhere, but seemed to originate from nowhere.  His first notion was of a large branch swaying in the wind slapping the house.  But there were no trees close to the house. An unsecured door or shudder seemed a possibility, but all doors were locked and shudders nailed firmly in place.  It seemed logical that whatever was causing the noise was wind driven.But the thumping occurred even on windless days.No search of the house inside and out ever revealed the source.

Tonight was different, he was almost certain he could tell where the thumping was coming from.  He went out into his back yard and the thumping continued even louder than before.  In fact it was the loudest it ever was.  He followed the noise around the corner to the side of his house.There standing before him a man dressed in a colonial outfit, tri corner hat and all, slapping the clapboard of his house with his bare hands.  The man’s image had a blue tinge to it and was translucent, like Alex’s earlier appearance.The man seethed with anger; that was obvious.  But what was making him so mad.

 “Hey you thumper?” He called to the man.  But the man just ignored him and kept slapping the house.

“Hey you’re on private property. If you don’t stop I’m going to call the cops.”  No response.  He envisioned himself calling the cops. “Hello police department.I’m this guy who really needs to get some sleep, because you see I just got done having a hole drilled in my head and now there is this guy outside my house dressed like Paul Revere whacking the hell out of my clapboard for no apparent reason.  Oh, and by the way, I think he is a ghost.” 

No, the best course of action was just to ignore it and let ole thumper work what ever was bothering him out of his system.  Maybe he would even go out later and join him.

With the mystery of the thumping solved he decided he would go back in his house and get some rest.  The apparition was actually very unsettling, but he figured with his new expanded consciousness he was going to have to get used to some really weird stuff.

After he determined what his daughter wanted of him, he wondered if he could plug up all the holes with surgical cement and go back to his normal self.

He went into his medicine cabinet and grabbed the bottle of Percodan Mary had given him.One thing he noticed in Mary’s OR was all the drugs.  She must have been stealing them from the hospital.  Could she be selling drugs?  That Chester certainly looked like he was on something.  He decided that once he was through with his trepanation he would have nothing to do with her. He was still resentful over what she had done to him; even if did appear to have its intended results.

Time to take his pills and go to bed.  Both wounds in his head were aching. Mary had also giving him some sleeping pills, he took them along with the Percodan and washed them both down with a bottle of beer.  They took effect and soon he was asleep. 

His daughter awakened him not by her gentle touch, but by her tugging at his sutures.

“That hurts.” He hollered.  She pulled her hand back.  Her face was confused; she was nervous and appeared not to recognize him.  “Its me honey, daddy just shaved his head.” His voice calmed her.

 Her image was just as clear as before, but her skin was all red, as if she had suffered severe sunburn.  “Alex what’s wrong, what happed to your skin?”

“I hurt daddy.” she replied, her voice barely audible.

He could hear voice, as much as his heart broke over her cry of pain, he was ecstatic that he was finally communicating with her.

“Why do you hurt baby?”

She ignored his question and touched his head in the same spot she always did, and then she started to fade.

“Don’t go baby.”  Ken cried with tears welling up in his eyes.  But she disappeared without saying another word.

For about an hour he sat in his bed and stared at the ceiling.  Why was her skin red and why did she touch him in the head? Was she telling him to undergo more trepanation?  He wasn’t sure, but he was making progress; he could now hear her voice, although not very well.

He decided he would have Mary trepan him again.  He wasn’t sure if it would help, but after seeing how distressed his little girl was he was willing to do anything if it might help.  He called Mary and she more than happy to oblige.  The following day she performed the surgery very proficiently and he we was back in his home without complication.

He sat in his kitchen thinking, “Hole number three.”  It was about nine o’clock when the thumping started again.  Envisioning that ghostly creature whacking on the side of his house made him scared.  As much as he tried to ignore the thumping he couldn’t.  He didn’t know if this spirit could hurt him, but he decided he would confront him.  He wondered if the spirit was intentionally trying to provoke him.  Well as his daddy always told him the best way to attack a bully was head on.  He slammed his fists on his table, got up and rushed outside to the side of his house.  The ghost was there and clearly visible, illuminated in the darkness by an unearthly blue glow.

“Hey stop that!” He screamed as forcefully as he could and much to his surprise the ghost obeyed. “Why are you hitting my house?”

At first the ghost did not respond.

 “This is not your house, it is mine!  And I want to pummel it to pieces” The ghost wailed.

“But why?” Ken asked

“Misery, so much misery.” The ghost responded.

“Why so much misery?” Ken asked nervously.

The ghost took a step towards him; Ken started to retreat, but decided to hold his ground.  Ken noticed that the ghost had no eyes; they looked as if they had been gouged out, and this made him all the more terrified.

“My family, my entire family including my wife Prudence died in that accursed house from consumption.  They are all buried back there.” He pointed towards the backyard.

“Your family is buried in my or I mean your backyard.” The idea of corpses buried in his backyard made him both astounded and uneasy.  When he bought the house he didn’t remember any graveyards being listed in the disclosure agreement, but the prior owners might not have known, time could have erased any markers.

“That’s what I said young man.” The ghost replied sarcastically.

The ghost’s empty eye sockets had transfixed Ken.  “What happened to your eyes?” He got up the nerve to ask.

“After my family died I had nothing to live for, so I took my own life. My body laid undiscovered for many days and the crows pecked my eyes out.” The ghost explained.  “For this sin I am condemned to haunt this house forever and to never be reunited with my family.”

“That doesn’t sound fair.” Ken said sympathetically.

“Fair!  Fair!  Foolish young man I took a life.  I violated God’s commandments, my punishment was no less than I deserved.”

“I just meant,” Ken tried to explained

“Ah but what about you.” The ghost interrupted. “It must have been a very large crow that pecked the holes in your head.”

“You know about the holes in my head?” Ken said self-consciously.

“I know much young man.”

“The holes were a surgical procedure done to expand my consciousness.”

“Devilry…Witchcraft.” The ghost said disdainfully.

“No, No I had to do it so could see my daughter.” Ken pleaded.

“The little girl in the white dress?” The ghost asked.

“You know of her?” Ken asked eagerly.

“Yes.” The ghost said softly. “A man will do almost anything, even the most unholiest of act if he thinks his families welfare is at stake.”

“Can you tell me anything about Alex, my daughter?”  Ken begged.

“No I am sorry young man it is not permitted.” The ghost replied solemnly. “But beware there are many actions that a mortal can perpetrate that will result in consequences worse than death.”

The ghost returned to whacking the house and refused to acknowledge any more attempts by Ken to communicate.  Slowly the ghost faded into the night.  Ken felt frustrated.  Why was he able to talk freely with this ghost, but not with his daughter?  There was a lot he did not understand about the after world.

Looking at his watch he saw that it was ten o’clock.  Had he been outside that long?  Time to start his sleep preparation ritual.

Climbing the stairs to his bedroom he stopped and reminisced about the times he and his wife had bounded up them in eager anticipation of a night of lovemaking.  How could life go so wrong?  He needed so badly to talk to his little girl.  Remembering his Catholic upbringing he considering praying that the third hole would be the charm, but then he thought better of it.  If the ghost was right and trepanning really was evil then maybe letting god know about it wasn’t such a good idea. But didn’t god already know everything, besides people from the ghost’s time thought just about everything was evil.  So he kneeled beside his bed and prayed. Satisfied that he had done everything he could do he went to bed and fell soundly asleep.

For once his dreams took him to a place were all things were right in the world.  He, his wife and daughter strolled carefree in a pastoral setting.  But his bliss was abruptly ended when the high-pitched scream of the smoke detector woke him.  He quickly got out his bed expecting to encounter a fast spreading fire, but there was nothing.  Covering his ears he stomped into his hallway and pulled the smoke detector off of the ceiling and disconnected the battery.  Much to his amazement it still wailed.  Finally it stopped. Were his ghost-friends playing tricks on him?

Taking a deep breath he started back into his bedroom but stopped when he heard the crackling of fire.  At the foot of his bed a large flame nearly five feet high roared without any apparent source.  Emerging from the center of the fire was his daughter.  There were burn blisters on her face.  “No…. No” He cried falling to his knees.

“I hurt daddy.”  She looked at him with sad eyes.

“I know honey, daddy is going to help you. But you got to tell me what you want.” He said sobbing.

Alex said nothing.  She reached over and touched Ken’s head with her finger in the same spot she always did.  Slowly she began to vanish.

“No, no, don’t go.”  Ken tried to clutch her, but she disappeared, as did the fire.

“Gotta do something.”  Ken said frantically.  “She was touching my head…in the same spot, maybe I need to have Mary drill a hole there.  Yeah…yeah that must be it.”

Half crazed, he threw on his clothes and rushed over to Mary’s house.  Throwing open his car door he rushed up to front porch and pounded on door.  No answer. “God damn it Mary you gotta be home.” He shouted.

He went over to a window and without regard to noise or cutting himself, he smashed his fist through it. Reaching inside he unlocked the window and climbed inside.  Totally oblivious to everything, Chester laid on the couch smoking a bong.

“Chester, Chester.”  Ken shook his shoulders.

“What the fuck?”  He responded wearily.

“Chester I need to see Mary right away, where is she?”

Chester broke out laughing.  “If you wanna see that bitch, you’re gonna have to go to state pen.”

“What do mean?” Ken cried.

“They caught her stealing drugs from the hospital and they busted her.  I told that bitch she would get caught, but she didn’t listen to me and that cunt still didn’t pierce my penis.”

“Ah fuck.” Ken said plopping himself down on a recliner. “I need her to drill another hole in my head.

Chester looked curiously at Ken’s head.  “Man Mary’s poked so many holes in your head you look like Swiss cheese”

“Yeah and I need to put one more hole right here.” Ken pointed to the spot that Alex always touched.

“Why don’t you do it yourself? The pigs took the drugs, except for this stash of pot they didn’t know about.” Chester took another hit on his bong.  “But the drills and knives are still there.”

“I dunno.” Ken said tentatively.

“Yeah do it yourself.  Fuck doesn’t God help thems who help themselves.  I sure helped myself to this pot.”

Ken was desperate.  He was sure that his daughter was telling him to drill one more hole in his head.  “I will do it.  Would you watch to tell me when I’m through the skull?”

“You’re kidding, I wouldn’t miss it.” Chester smiled.

They both scrubbed up and went into Mary’s OR.  Thank god the cops didn’t take the Novocain.  Ken was surprised that Chester didn’t want to do any of the cutting. He figured him to be a psychotic slasher, but he was just a voyeur.  It was probably for the best he didn’t do any of the operation because he was pretty stoned.  Ken just hoped he would be able to tell him when he had perforated the skull.

Taking the syringe of Novocain he injected the surgical area and sliced open a flap of skin.  Chester was acting as Ken’s eyes and he periodically depressed the foot pedal to irrigate the wound.  It seemed to Ken the Chester was starting play with the water.  “Come on Chester stop playing with that pedal we only have so much God damn sterile water.”  The saline solution tank was down to a fifth. 

Ken held the flexible shaft rotary drill in his right hand and he ground bone.  He had been at it for about fifteen minutes when he said.  “Hey Chester how am I doing?”  No response.  “CHESTER!”  He shouted.

“Sorry man.  Just a case of the munchies.”  Chester laughed his mouth stuffed with a slice of pizza of indeterminate age.

Ken had been so preoccupied with the drilling he failed to notice that Chester had left the room.  “This is fucking crazy.  Chester you can’t go leaving the room like that.”

“Sorry dude, it won’t happen, seriously.”  Chester apologized spraying bits of pizza over the OR.

He continued his drilling. Another fifteen minutes past.  “Am I through yet?”  Ken asked.

This time Chester was there.  “A….no man, I don’t think. Yeah, Yeah I still see a boner, did you here that, I just said boner.”  Chester laughed giddily. “Just keep drilling and I will tell you when you strike pay dirt.”

Ken continued and then suddenly the drill plunged deeply into his head tearing into his gray matter.  Instantly for Ken everything went dark. 

“I think you’re through man. Hey dude I think you’re through the skull.”  Chester jostled Ken’s still body. “Yeah man all the way through and out the other side.”

Mary was out on bail.  She had heard about what happened to Ken from Chester and decided she would pay him a visit at Winston Memorial hospital.  It wasn’t the hospital that she worked. She wasn’t allowed to go back there, but she knew way around Winston because she had done per diem there about a half dozen times.  Ken was in room 311 and hooked up to an array of monitors and also life support.  A man in a medical coat hovered over his bed. 

“How is he Doctor?”  Mary asked.

“Are you a relative of the patient?” He asked suspiciously.

“Yes I’m his sister Julie Hastings.” Mary said wearing a very convincing face of concern.

“I am afraid Ms. Hastings that the Ken here did extensive damage to his brain when he drilled that last hole.  He had three other holes in his head.  Did you know that Ken practiced trepanation?”

“Trepanation?  What dear God is that?”  Mary looked perplexed.

The doctor explained to her what trepanation was.

“Oh no, dear God, Ken would never do anything so savage. He was a very devout Catholic you know.”  Mary dampened her eyes with her shirtsleeve. The doctor handed her a tissue.

“There’s another thing. When we did a CAT scan on Ken we discovered that he a brain tumor on his cerebellum.  If fact it’s located right about the last place that he drilled.  We will have to remove it.”

Mary was astonished. She was almost positive that the last spot he had drilled was where his daughter’s ghost used to touch him. Was she trying to tell him he had a brain tumor?  The doctor took her surprise as concern.

“I know that this is all a big shock to you.”

“Doctor, what is his prognosis?” Mary asked.

“I think we will be able to remove the brain tumor successfully, it’s a hermangioblastoma, most likely benign, but he did such extensive damage to his brain, I don’t think he will come out of his coma,”

“How long can he live?” 

“In a proper nursing care facility a young man like this could live forty or fifty years, but in a persistent vegetative state.” The doctor explained.

“A vegetable, not much of a life.”  Mary sighed.

The doctor squeezed here arms supportively.  “I’m very sorry Ms. Hastings. If you don’t need me I have some other patients I need to look in on.”

“No, no doctor. Thank you for everything.”  Mary smiled.

“Oh and I think admissions has some paper work for you to sign.”

“Oh yes doctor.” The doctor left the room.

She couldn’t leave Ken in this state.  It was horrible.  All he ever wanted to do was to be with his family.  Glancing cautiously out into the hallway she saw that nobody was near by.  She removed his respirator.  He began breathing on his own.  She picked up a pillow and pressed it over firmly over Ken’s head and held it there until he suffocated.  At the instant of his death she felt what she thought was a soul being released from his body.  It was a titillating experience.  Also the image of Ken, his daughter and wife walking hand in hand in heaven flashed in her mind.  She had done good.  It was all she ever wanted.  Taking a life was much more rewarding than poking a hole in a person’s body.  Maybe she would start taking her career as an intensive care nurse more seriously.  Lots of people died in intensive care and she could be apart of that.  Selecting those people who needed to die and assisting them with this transition was her true calling, not body modification.  She could save so much pain for both the patient and their family.

Of course she would have to leave this area and reestablish herself in a new part of the country.  This wouldn’t be a problem; she could change here identity and find another job as a nurse. Nurses were in demand just about everywhere.The future looked bright she thought as she left Ken’s room and his lifeless body.  No nurse is sight.  Hospitals nowadays were always so short staffed.



© Copyright 2018 Frank Zannini. All rights reserved.

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