Salut, espirit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A journalist dictates his discovery ad research into the letters of a yong man who believes he is being suveilled by unseen persons.

Submitted: May 20, 2011

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Submitted: May 20, 2011

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Let me preface by saying that I don’t believe in people who don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in people who don’t believe in monsters or boogeymen or vampires or aliens. Not believing (or at the very least respecting the possibility and inevitable probability) that those things exist is just as absurd as saying that I, myself, do not exist. But I’m right here, you say; I exist? Let me do some math for you, old chap: My existence is dependant on several factors. Being myself a field Cryptozoologist as well as investigative journalist, my explanation of course begins with the facts; the biological ones. 
First of all: A long, long chain of organisms existed before me. Most of which went extinct but all of which underwent specific mutations on chromosomes that had to correspond well enough with similar mutations on the chromosomes of other organisms, who had to be of the same species, who had to find each other, mate, produce offspring that weren’t eaten, and this process had to continue over millions and millions of years to lead to my combination of nucleotides and my person, who had to have every unlikely or peculiar event that has happened in my life (the life of a field cryptozoologist, so, ponder that one and all of the extraordinary acquaintances of mine, they have to exist too) for me to be me.
If that’s not enough for you then I could go even further and go into the odds of the specific ovum and sperm cell meeting to produce me, not to mention all of my family back to the Stenian period. Not to mention every star that had to kick out a specific carbon atom that landed here on earth. I could go on forever.
That, sir, in case you are not by trade a statistician, is damn near zero; in fact, it’s so close to zero that there is not a computer in existence that could help you prove conclusively that it’s not zero. Given this you have to agree it is possible that that number is in fact zero (since you cannot tell me otherwise) and it is possible that there is no chance that I exist and therefore, as with the paranormal, there is, conclusively, a chance that I don’t exist at all. Even as I write to you now.
And I pose to you that anyone who claims that anything does not exist has not stopped to ponder their stupidity, being themselves the evidence that refutes their hypothesis: ‘something that has no possibility of existing, does not exist.’
Yes. Quite daft.
So when I got a letter from a man named Joshua, which he prefaced by saying that he does not believe in ghosts, I took a puff of my pipe, fluffed my glorious moustache and exclaimed:
“Blasted Piccadilly poppycock, what a looney bastard!”
And that is how I sort my mail. If I think something is ridiculous, I stuff it in the trash or I set it on fire or I use it to kill bugs on my desk. And I never read the bloody things, no matter how red in the face my editor gets when I ignore potential leads.
Given that, you’ll find it understandable that I am completely ignorant of everything that happened to Joshua before I read the first letter that held me in rapt attention, on March the 4th, 2010, when he wrote:
 
Allister
Doubtful as I am that you even read my mail, after three years with no reply, you are the only one left yet to mock me, and so you remain the only one I have left in whom I can squander my hope that I have someone who does believe me. You are my silent, and for all purposes completely imaginary friend.
 
This is the point at which I begin reading and I interject to say that I can’t believe he had the guile to assume that I don’t read his mail! Not to mention the fact that I feel obligated to defend myself after being called “imaginary” which I have already told you is a state I believe to be quite real, and furthermore insulting.
I hope you don’t object. I also hope that if you don’t really believe me, you never get around to writing back. Please, it’s preferable to dwell in the uncertain and hopeful than the knowing and forsaken, if that is how the world has to be then let me continue my delusion, and continue writing you like a raving madman.
I spend nearly all my time composing these letters, Allister. My study and the bedroom are the only area they haven’t been able to infiltrate for some reason. It must be some directive by whoever is having this watch put on me; not to get too close or something. I know they’ve come close, scuff marks around the edge of the door but no holes for wiretapping devices in the wall… footprints occasionally, always ending and turning around right outside the bedroom.
Familiar with my story as you are you’ll be interested to know I found more dust trails this morning on the east side of the mansion. These could be rats of course and aren’t as conclusive as the wind chimes, or the crown jewel of my investigation, the sandwich. It may only be my mind playing tricks but I think I can match the scrapings to my own toes; some of them, and others, a wide, waffle tread boot. This fits with my previous hypothesis that there are multiple individuals engaged in my surveillance.
Every night I can’t help hesitating before I walk around every corner in this place. I’m always afraid that I’ll run into something listening. Just something, at the wall, behind a desk, crouched and listening for me. I also see (in my head) the same man. I imagine him all the time. Expect him to be there. It’s the same idea, when I walk around a corner, open a door in the dark, or even at night with the lights on, there he’ll be. Quiet. No screaming or yelling or surprise attack. He knows I won’t make a sound, I’ll be paralyzed. And I’ll see him there, crouching, ready, silent…and then I don’t know.
It’s gotten worse and I’m ready to give up this mystery. I want to leave the house. I know they won’t stay behind; I just have to go. I’ve jumped at each empty room so many times the rooms themselves scare me now, devoid of anything but cobwebs and furniture and nic nacs, even so. 
How long do they stand there, outside the bedroom those nights? Are they listening or are they trying to figure a way inside? Are they directed not to enter, as I suspect or can they physically not enter the room, is that the reason for the scuff markings; attempted forced entry? Oh god what does that mean? In spite of myself I can’t help but laugh at the idea that one night I might go to the bathroom and surprise them…hhhahaha…
As I said, I’ll write again. Please don’t ever answer me. I know you don’t believe me, but let me fool myself and keep my friend: the Allister Pollan who does.
 
Joshua Creese
From 122 Stickbundle Ln
February 25th, 2009
 
Some weeks later he wrote again:
 
Allister,
 
I’ve been making an effort to get out more recently. In the last few days I’ve spent quite a bit of time around town and the incidents seem to have slowed a bit. I go out to coffee or hang out in bookshops for hours. The stress doesn’t go away completely but it does feel like I’ve left it several miles behind me at Stickbundle.
After a few days though it seems to be wearing a little thin. Perhaps they did not know what to do at first when I started spending so much time away, had to change their tactics perhaps? Previously I had only been out to dinner a few times as I told you.
I try to practice not to look sad or overly bedraggled at mealtimes in public, as a habit. I had difficulty with that this morning; every unfamiliar face appears to glance repeatedly in my direction over orange juice, around the paper, through the spyglass hole of a donut. 
Being out in public places more is an improvement in a lot of ways. More distractions here. It’s easier to tell what’s actually happening and what’s a product of my mind. For some reason the presence of other people makes it seem less…I don’t know, dramatic?
Like I’m a little kid afraid to be alone in the dark.
Allister I feel as if this is only a thin veil of wakefulness over a terrible dream that will soon latch it’s claws onto me and drag me back to sleep. 
 
Joshua Creese
122 Stickbundle Ln
March 3rd, 2009
 
As I said I have no knowledge of the events that transpired before all this. I dearly wish this man had been rather more direct about his issue and less to the effect of: “ooh nooo, I don’t believe in demons and devils, please throw my brutish gobbledygook away, Allister!” at the start, thereby enabling me to read about his experiences without throwing up my luncheon of tripe and kidney pie. He continues:
 
Allister,
 
I know it’s been a few days and I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve worried you. The events of late shook me quite badly and I’ve only just got the gall to leave the room, to get food and go out to the mailbox with this latest letter. You’d be surprised, my friend, at how much I’ve latched onto our one-sided correspondence in the wake of this mess. Writing to you is the only reason I get up in the morning sometimes, old chap. I thank you for your silent reception of my letters, and the fact that none have returned to me from the post…
 
(there was a large blot of ink here, as if he’d paused while considering what to write, or sneezed with pen to paper)
 
The hotel isn’t all that bad, old friend. I was right about getting out of the mansion, It’s done me a blessed load of good. Unfortunately I was also right about my unwelcome traveling companions. Yes it appears that they’ve followed me from the mansion here. It started just this morning actually, when I got up for the continental breakfast I stood to open the blinds and check the weather and there by the foot of the bed were the fading imprints of heavy boots in the carpet. 
More carpet prints led from the two facing the bed to the doorway. In moments they faded away as the fibers settled back into place. I didn’t even have time to get my camera out until the last two were mere shadows (see enclosed photograph). 
No idea how the bloke made it out of the door before I woke as the thing made an awful squeak when I left for coffee. When I returned I found that many of the typical shenanigans had taken place in my absence. The drawers of the room were opened and the papers I’d taken with me rifled through, and much of the other activities that frightened me so in the beginning of these long three years had likewise continued here, just as comfortably as they had proceeded at 122 Stickbundle Ln. 
 
It was around this time I stopped reading and decided to get my coat. There’s another thing I haven’t told you about my work and that’s that it gets done by a strong arm and a loud voice. In other works I like to get my research done in the open, in person, and preferably when nobody’s home. As Joshua was out for the time being, I thought a look round his property might be enlightening, maybe I’d even contact the chap to snort and chortle at him derisively over the telephone. Obviously his misguided beliefs that the supernatural was Trussed up in tweed with a long knobbled oak walking stick I made my way to the office door.
--
 
When I arrived at 122 Stickbundle Lane, the first thing I noticed was the absolute dreariness of the place. A brown, quite expansive home greeted me at the base of a shallow hill. The yard was sprawling, lacing in any character or decoration, just an expanse of land really. Nothing anyone with any sense of class would be seen farting around in. It might have been charming in the sunshine, with a well-tended garden and some landscaping, but in the grey cloud light it was like a dark tumorous growth on the hillside.
The house itself was cold and uninviting, but then I was pretty much expecting something of the sort, coming to visit the home of a haunting victim after he’s abandoned it out of frustration. Frankly I’d have been more surprised at a cheery presentation, as I’ve said, the man wrote me literally wrote me dozens of letters (I did say that didn’t I?) and I found it unlikely he would have perpetuated a ruse with such vigor and determination.
The wind proved colder than I’d expected on the car ride over. My boots squelched in the moist ground, covered in a thin sheet of brown grass that the water pooled upwards through like a grate.
In the back of the house I found a gated, dead garden and a patio, slate walking stones and a stone wall in the side and extending into the middle. I recalled from a previous letter that the man had believed on one occasion that someone was taking cover behind the wall after nearly being caught watching him through his basement door. The perpetrator had supposedly hid there while my pen-pal had stood behind the glass, breathless and paralyzed by fear, until he had fully lost his nerve and retreated up into the main house. 
The thought of that made me wonder what exactly he’d gone and done after fleeing the basement? Had he gone and turned the TV up to full volume? Hid in the bathtub or under the bed, hearing no other voices besides the chill breeze, which blustered my coat about me and crept right in to my knickers, seemingly without cease? Had he gone and calmly made a sandwich, and tried to ignore the feeling of intrusion and unease?
I decided at some length to venture inside, this proved much easier than I expected; the front door was left wide open behind the glass storm door. 
The house seemed openly undefended from the wind. The sound seemed even greater inside, as if the acoustics had some unintended amplifying effect on the shallow whooshing noise. It sounded as if every window in the place were standing ajar.
A quick glance around the first floor revealed dirt in piles on the floor, furniture in the center of every room like a child’s fortress, and little else. In the freezer I found the sandwich described to me in letters, sealed with duct tape inside three Ziploc bags that appeared to have had the air sucked out of them to the best of the preserver’s ability. It seemed odd that he should have left it but then I remembered his resolution to either leave all of this behind or learn to get on with it (that was the impression I received from his most recent letter).
There wasn’t much else in the appliance. I wondered what he had been eating the last few days he was here. Myself, I couldn’t have subsisted on the supply of crackers and random condiments here.
The stairs confronted me at last, I knew from my readings into his life that he kept his desk upstairs in his room, the one place he was so far certain that the intruders had not infiltrated. More dirt and general disarray, and a lack of decoration followed me up to the mezzanine. There were three doors on the first landing.
The first led into a bathroom that I swear to you was muddy beyond belief before I opened the door. I know what you’re thinking: how do you know it was covered in mud before you opened the door, do you mean you saw it muddy for a second and then it went back to normal? No I do not. I mean the way I remember it is that as I reached for the knob, I got a brief, vivid flash of exactly what the bathroom was going to look like, except covered in mud. When I opened the door it was just the opposite of what I expected, by which I mean no mud. Aside from that it was exactly the picture in my mind, and just as dreary and breezy as the rest of the house. It was lit in a filtered brownish light from the window. Not clean, just boring. The light seemed peculiar for some reason although I never could place it, like it should have been brighter or clearer, as the window was unobstructed.
The second door led into a guest room, ransacked as he had described his hotel room upon his awakening. The drawers in the desk were everywhere, papers all over the floor. I picked one up at random:
 
Invoice for service rendered, 02/11/2012
BugsGalore, BugsNoMore! Extermination
 
Summary of Charges
 
Home Exam…………………………………$89.00
Interior Structural Exam………………..$210.00
 
Subtotal…………………………………….$299.00
 
Total………………………………………..$299.00
 
Payment Adress
 
Clever.
The bedroom was completely overhauled, furniture tipped on its side, the bed thrown apart, the mattress up against the far wall. Windows open. This explained the breeze in here, at least.
The third door, I knew just from looking, was the bedroom. Scuff marks adorned the edging and the area around the knob, as he had described, as well as several holes in the drywall around the door, and a large dent in the sturdy wood of the door. I smacked it several times with my own walking stick (figuring the extra damage wouldn’t matter much in light of the current state of things) and it took seven tries and both hands to produce a similar mark. When I finally did the door flew open on a broken latch (previously or was that me?)
The room was in white light and in chaos. Apparently he had been proven wrong at last, if the job in here had been done by the same parties tormenting him and not Joshua himself in his haste to leave.
I wandered inside, dust motes kicking up around my feet as if the room had been deserted several months. No cleaning in any of the rooms, I reflected, the beams of sunlight just made the motes more prominent in this one.
The carpet was beige, though I don’t know why I bothered noting that. The floor seemd to be relatively clean, in spite of everything. The books on the bookshelf had been swiped to one side, the casual sweep of one arm, I assumed.
At the other end of the room I saw a door and crossed to it, picking my way through books and clothes that had apparently been tossed out of the closet, which stood on my right, nearly completely closed. When I reached the opposite door – I knew this must be the study as the bedroom was absent a desk – I took a moment to regard the outside of it with a critical eye. It was largely unmarked, except for a tropical island themed calendar hanging on the outside of it. I wondered if it had also been ransacked, and if so why the invaders hadn’t forced it like the bedroom door? 
It was unlocked, and as I turned the knob it squeaked, and then screeched horribly as I opened it. In here it wasn’t so bad. It was horrendously untidy, but that could be merely the normal appearance of the study of a bedraggled man. True to Joshua’s word there was a stack of crumpled papers overflowing out of the trash can. A glance through them confirned they were in fact all letters addressed to me. I wondered about that for a few minutes as I glossed through them.
 
Allister,
In the refrigerator this morning, when I got up to get my breakfast I reached in for the jar of pickeld eggs, and I swear they were in the door when I only keep jars and that sort in the door, you know like when you have a roommate and neither of you can agree on which items go on the shelf versus the-
 
(It surprised me very little that breakfast in this house included such amenities as pickled eggs.)
 
Allister, I’ve grown to doubt the security of my bedroom. I’ve found crumbs here from crackers that I didn’t eat…-
 
Allister,
I’ve been wondering lately if the’re interested in me, or in something else in the house? If it’s me, do you think they are bugging the place? If they were, they wouldn’t need to be around, but then again maybe they’re here installing  the bugs, that would make sense. How could I investigate without being obvious about it?-
 
(an explanation for the exterminator’s services, just as I’d thought)
 
In the corner of the room was the desk. Several forlders with pictures of footprints, crumbs in plastic bags, even a fingerprinting kit with samples and chemicals. I found my eye drawn to a solitary paper in the center of the blotter, the bottom corner dark with ink, was the man writing with an old fashioned quill?
I picked it up and examined it. It was indeed another letter to me, albeit apparently unfinished. The end of a sentence trailed off the page into the ink blot I had seen, the quill I’d suspected was in the corner of the desk where it had apparently blown in the breeze, as the open windows suggested to me. I straightened it and began to read:
 
Allister,
 
I know it’s been a few days and I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve worried you. The events of the last letter shook me quite badly and I’ve only just got the gall to decide to write and go out to the mailbox with this latest letter. You’d be surprised, my friend, at how much I’ve latched onto our one-sided correspondence in the wake of this mess. Writing to you is the only reason I get up in the morning sometimes, old chap. I thank you for your silent reception of my letters, and the fact that none have returned to me from the post…
 
I furrowed my eyebrows, it was the same letter I’d been mailed. Multiple drafts weren’t out of the question, but the one I’d received had a large ink spot on it, why hadn’t he written a third if he were going for a final draft?
 
The hotel idea isn’t all that bad, but I’m writing to tell you I’ve decided to stick it out, old friend. I was right about the mansion, “It’s” done setting up surveillance on me, and a blessed load of good the exterminator did finding the mechanisms, after all. Unfortunately I can’t get rid of them, but I was also right about the fact that my unwelcome visitors would accompany me as traveling companions. Yes it appears that they’ve determined I’m of some sort of importance to whatever, and I’d just find that they had followed me from the mansion to wherever I might run to, anyways. 
Now, you might be wondering what incident I was referring to earlier. It started just this morning actually, when I got up to eat. ‘The Mansion’ is actually a term of affection from my mother, who had affluent tastes, you see, and for all purposes ‘the mansion’ is actually a continental hotel left to the family. Every room in this huge blasted place has been ransacked, except mine. Until breakfast today anyway. Breakfast, you see, was put on hold when I stood to open the blinds and check the weather and there by the foot of the bed were the fading imprints of heavy boots in the carpet. 
 
I realized it was like the unabridged version of the letter I’d received, which was apparently some bastardized job of deleting key words to make a new message, but why go to all the effort? And was it him who’d done that or the individuals after him? And where the hell was he if he was saying he wasn’t in a hotel somewhere?
 
More carpet prints led from the two facing the bed to the doorway. In moments they faded away as the fibers settled back into place. I didn’t even have time to get my camera out until the last two were mere shadows (see enclosed photograph). 
No idea how the bloke made it out of the door before I woke as the thing made an awful squeak when I left for coffee. When I returned I found that many of the typical shenanigans had taken place in my absence. The drawers of the room were opened and the papers I’d taken out of the desk to send with my letter to you rifled through, and much of the other activities that frightened me so in the beginning of these long three years had likewise continued here in my final sanctuary, just as comfortably as they had proceeded their attack on the rest of 122 Stickbundle Ln. 
I’m going to stay and confront them my friend, for good or ill. If you don’t hear from me again then…I don’t know what will have happened to me, but wish me luck in this at least. I know they’re here now, I can hear them clearly for the first time, moving around on the first floor, Allister. So far they haven’t entered the study but I’m sure they will now, after all the bedroom didn’t hold them long, for whatever reason, it’s only a matter of time…I suppose there’s a chance I’ll never mail this…maybe it’s better if I include a P.S. to let you know I’m all right, and the end of the whole affair. 
I think that’s given me the courage, Al.
Haha. This is it, old friend, cheers.
 
Gratefully
Joshua Creese
122 Stickbundle Ln. March 1st 2009
 
(Some scrawling was evident here, as if the quill had been picked up in a hurry again
 
P.S. the BASTARDS thought I was dead, Al, but-
 
That was the end. 
I let the paper rattle in the breeze as I held it for a minute, as I thought this over. What was the purpose of the second letter? He wouldn’t have rewritten this, this man was clearly outletting his experience into his correspondence with me, he had told me so. The only explanation was that either he had changed his tactic for some reason, or the other party had written and sent the letter I’d received. That would also explain why he didn’t just write an entirely new composition instead of piecing it together meticulously from individual characters, words and phrases from this one.
They could have come up here, after believing him dead as he stated, composed their new sheet in whatever way (I am sure I have no idea how one performs that kind of handwriting surgery. That must have been why his letters were handwritten, to provide some measure of authenticity, but still the quill was a bit retro.) They would have had to make it to the mailbox and mail it, and Joshua, not realizing what they were doing, perhaps thinking they were leaving, makes it up here to continue, and then what?
He was very clearly here to write the last few words, and not here now. Was he killed after all? Dragged away? Why did they leave the letter if they were aware of it? If not for this I’d have assumed he had gone off after all. This indicated that at the end of whatever occurred, no one was in any position to do anything, Joshua to mail the letter, or his adversary (-ies?) to destroy it or take it away.
Perhaps they were stupid enough to leave it.
The door squeaked like a banshee behind me, and I froze, my breath coming quick, catching in my chest. My eyes flitted about the room, and as I raised my cane I turned slowly. I considered the windows.
“Joshua?”


© Copyright 2018 Terry. All rights reserved.

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