This is the start of a 5 piece Halloween series I thought of a few years ago, one chapter set to be released every Saturday leading up to the finale on Halloween. I honestly can't remember how I got started with this story, but I do believe the Buzzfeed Unsolved: Supernatural series has helped to feed the idea! (Watch a few episodes if you have the time. Even if you don't believe in the supernatural, the hosts, Ryan and Shane, are more than entertaining to watch!) I'm no Stephen King, but I do enjoy writing stories like these! Hopefully you enjoy it too, and I hope you have a happy spooky season!
The Light of Life, So Sweet with Temptation
Chapter 1: What Lies at the End of Sanitarium Road
The spell of midnight works as deception on our eyes. The fact that we, the top of the food chain, having advanced through the years without arming ourselves with defenses against this force of nature still puzzles the conscious. We think that just because we shut ourselves away at the start of her rule every evening, we are immune to her; to her charms, her magic’s, her lures. Though, it is not her that we should be privy to, per say, but those who use her cover as a means to an end. They, the ones who seek holders of life, are the ones that should be feared.
While she only works to trick us, they seek to steal our lives. Unlike trapped spirits and miserable ghouls, they live only to eat. Their lone sustenance is found within the living, and so they maintain a constant pursuit of those living to continue their existence. They hunt alone and lack the intellect to bring down anything that holds strength or power, and so the moment they find themselves at the foot of opportunity, they seize it.
They, too mindless to form a coherent thought, wander through their days hoping to find their next meal floundering before them, giving them enough life to slog along until their next meal drops before them. These daemons, despite having roamed this earth for millions of years, are the equivalent of bottom feeders who line the ocean’s floors. Their lives are simply pathetic, and for that, I almost feel something akin to pity for them. Almost.
Everyone has come across them at some point or another, though those without “the sight” cannot see them. Fun fact: those chills you get out of nowhere? That’s a near encounter with one. When you’re suddenly feeling lethargic and want to just lie down? They’re taking your life for themselves. They’re attracted to the light living things produce, and once they find a light, they latch on for as long as possible.
They can be found just about anywhere, as they feed on nearly every life they can, though they are usually smart enough to stay out of the way in most cases. Lining dark alleys, hiding in corners, only brave enough to come out at night where they cannot be trampled by those unaware of their presence. Common sightings, though, happen whilst on a late-night drive where the road is lined with trees or shrubs. Amongst the foliage they sit and wait, debating whether or not to hurl themselves at the oncoming vehicle to get to whomever is inside, too desperate and hungry to fully consider all of the consequences of such a ludicrous scheme and too tempted by the most satisfying of all lights. If only they were faster, such a plan might work, yet fate would have it that they are slow, and so they are foiled, those who try such a plot at least, by their own nature. Truly, these creatures are what go “bump” in the night.
“In twenty five miles, turn right.” The robotic voice of the GPS brought me back from my thoughts, reminding me of what I was doing tonight. I sighed as I ran my hand through my hair, the typical nerves setting in before arriving at a job. They weren’t anything that I couldn’t handle, but still, they were nerves all the same. I turned my high beams on to help illuminate the way since I was far past the point of street lamps, and I felt a scowl settle onto my lips.
The light from my headlamps illuminated the sides of the country highway, bringing a few dark creatures into focus, their inky blackness and beady eyes on full display for me to size up. They leered from behind their plants, stretching their necks as far as they could towards the road, their mouths surely watering. I could see their thoughts as though they were written in ink, their only instinct filling their small brains endlessly. I clicked my tongue, finding myself becoming agitated at the number of them I’d seen tonight, though they were starting to be less and less as I continued on my way.
I sometimes wished I could live a life of ignorance, just as so many around me do. That I didn’t know what was waiting in the dark. These people can go through life with only an occasional encounter with the haunts of this world. Myself, though…
The light I cast in the world is like that of a lighthouse: too bright to look at, so rather, it’s used as a guide. I can see what most can’t, and those things that can’t be seen are drawn to me and the light I cast, so my existence is an odd balancing act of telling those who hire me what I see while subsequently living my day-to-day life pretending that I don’t see anything out of the ordinary at all times. Having “the sight” makes you an oddity on both the human and supernatural plane, I suppose, so, my presence is wanted everywhere by everyone and everything, human and non-human alike.
It’s not a terrible life, I’ve told myself. My sight allows me to create demented art that more and more people seem to adore and seek seriously for collections and aesthetic purposes. An odd life it may be, I am at least blessed to be profitable in what I love, while having a lucrative side business to boot. Again, things could be worse.
At least, that’s what I’ve convinced myself.
My GPS beeped at me, once again tearing me away from my thoughts by letting me know my turn was finally coming. Even from the road, the old sanitarium stood as an intimidating and towering force, one of which I was not looking forward to exploring, even with this group of investigators. Places like this often mean angry spirits that want to cause mayhem while we visit, and those were always upsetting to everyone involved. There was, though, a small victory tonight: the inky leeches seemed to have completely dropped out of sight about twenty minutes ago, so we may just be rid of them for the evening.
My car made its way up the slowly disappearing road, the overgrowth encompassing the path more and more every day the building sat abandoned. There were talks about having the sanatorium become a private school, but no one had been interested in buying until recently, so it sat, falling apart at the seams.
At the front of the building, slowly brought into focus by my headlights, were the cast of characters preparing for the night ahead: Dan, the lead investigator for the “local” paranormal chapter; Lisa, the expert in EVP’s and responsible for audio recordings; Matt, the cameraman; Laura, the historian; Mr. Walters, the current owner of the building and the hiring party for tonight; and Father Clark, or Simon as I called him, one of the priests from the town church. They all turned as my car came into view, stopping only for a moment to see who approached the scene before falling back into their preparations.
“Jasmine!” Simon came over as I got out of my car, smiling largely at me. I smiled back and give a small wave, feeling genuinely happy to see the tall man. Over the span of a year we had performed multiple investigations together, surviving at the hands of angry spirits and idiotic customers. Unsurprisingly, enduring such events make two people rather close, and so his presence at this investigation was more than welcome.
“Hi Simon. How are you?” I peered up at the holy man, his blonde hair blowing around lightly with the wind. His youth was surprising for a priest, especially in this town since all the other priests in the local church were about a wrinkle short from the grave. He had a kind smile and an even kinder spirit, and while he was a priest, he didn’t mind shooting the breeze whenever we ran into each other, something of which I’d never felt comfortable doing around the other priests. It was one of the reasons we became as close as we were, in all honesty. We were comfortable with each other, and sometimes, that’s all you need in a friend.
“I’m well. Just sacrificing another night for people who have too much money.” His smile never wavered, but the message was clear.
“Simon, is that sarcasm I’m hearing?” My voice was chastising, but my face was anything but disappointed.
“I know, I know. What a terrible priest. It’s just been many long nights in a row for me, so the timing for this leaves something to be desired.” He began to rub the back of his neck in frustration, clearly not entirely happy with the situation.
“Yeah, this was a last-minute booking for me too. Do you know what’s going on?” I glanced at the group before us, nearly all of them looking as stumped as we felt.
“Well, I was called here specifically to do a cleansing and blessing on the building, not just to provide holy water, so I have a feeling this may be more serious than our normal group adventures.” I nodded, mentally preparing myself for the potential shit storm behind the decrepit building’s doors.
“Hey Jasmine, what’s the word?” Matt had bounded up to stand by Simon, nodding at the taller blonde man in acknowledgement. I gave Matt a sideways smile. He reminded me of a puppy at times: full of excitement and always wanting to be included in everything, even if it got him in trouble. Though he thought the paranormal was all just fiction, he decided that working as a cameraman alongside his childhood best friend, Dan, was just too good to pass up, and so here he was, traveling the Midwest exploring haunted houses and abandoned buildings. He was the only one in these investigations to not take anything too seriously, and rather just did his job of “point and shoot,” as he put it.
“Figuring that out now, Matt. How are you all here tonight? I thought you guys left for a possession in Alabama?”
“We did, but then we got a call that we needed to come back to investigate this place. That Walters guy cut us a check for three times our quoted price, so, it was hard to say no. As luck would have it, the possession was an open and shut case, so we made it back here with a few hours to spare.”
“Huh. Well, that explains you. I still don’t know why I’m here. You guys are the professionals, you don’t need me meddling about.”
“What?! Do an investigation without our favorite starving artist? I don’t think so. After the Edward’s house, Dan won’t go anywhere this weird without you. We need those beautiful eyes of yours, you know.” He gave me a wink, and I gave him a raised eyebrow in return, a smirk creeping onto my face despite my efforts.
“Stop trying to butter me up. Besides, you know I don’t go for white guys.” Matt clutched his chest at my comment, hanging on to Simon in a feigned need of support, much to Simon’s chagrin.
“Ah, Jasmine, that hurts, but I understand.” Matt stood back up, shaking his fist at the sky. “Let this moment go down in history in which another white man wishes he was black!”
“Ok, that’s too much.” I shook my head at him, knowing his over the top declaration was meant for my benefit.
“You shouldn’t say such things, you know,” Simon chastised, fixing Matt with a disapproving look.
“Ah, cheer up, Father. I only said it ‘cause it’s Jasmine. I don’t get fresh with anyone except my gambling buddies and her.” Matt put his hand up, and I high fived it immediately. Simon just closed his eyes, obviously just… done.
“By the way,” Matt stepped closer, slipping a paper into my hand, “that’s your cut.”
I looked at him, confused, before looking down at the check in my hand. “You know I’m getting paid my own rate, right?”
He smiled. “Yeah, but we got paid so much that we wanted to share some of the bounty.” He took another check and stuffed it into Simon’s collar before getting on his tip toes, kissing the holy man on the cheek, and running away. Simon pulled the check from his collar and put it in his bible, closing it with a snap.
“I hate that man.”
I laughed at his reaction. “Yeah, but he loves you.”
“He only likes having me around in case he needs his last rites read to him.” He mumbled, rolling his eyes before looking at the dark roadway behind me. “By the way, did you happen to see any… friends on your way here?”
“Nothing the last 15 miles, so I think we’ll be ok this time around.” Simon exhaled and smiled, looking relieved, which made me smile as well. About six months ago while on a basic priest’s call, he’d been preyed upon by, in my opinion, a few inky creatures, and their feast upon him affected him more than I’d seen it affect anyone else. He was on bed rest for a week, and since then, he’s been extremely cautious about these late-night adventures.
“Excuse me, everyone?”
We all looked over to see Mr. Walters, waving a dimly lit flashlight around, his comb-over a mess from how many times he’d run his hand through it. “Might we come together for a bit of a meeting before we begin?” The tone in Mr. Walter’s voice made it clear that his nerves were firing left and right, and his wrinkled and jumbled appearance only enforced such perceptions. The man was a wreck, and probably had been for a while. It probably didn’t help that tonight was a new moon, making the atmosphere even more ominous.
Simon and I exchanged one last look before making our way to the front steps of the building, hoping to get this night over with.
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