The Light of Life, So Sweet with Temptation
Chapter Two: When the Walls do More than Speak
It looked like something out of a Scooby Doo cartoon, I’m sure. A group of people standing outside a run-down building known for its haunted properties having a meeting before bravely entering the premises to banish the haunts back to their realm and save the building from being forever abandoned. And to be fair, in a way, it was comical. The way that Mr. Walters jumped at the tickle of the blowing breeze, the ridiculous amount of equipment that tiny Lisa had hanging from her frame, Matt playing a video game on his phone during this whole ordeal; a stranger would never guess this was a group of “professionals” in the ghost busting biz getting ready to go ten rounds with whatever haunted the building before us. But that’s what we were, and that’s what was going to happen. I took a breath as I reminded myself of that fact. As much as this job is a joke at times, I felt the need to be on alert for this occasion in particular.
“Ah, yes, we’re all together now. I thank you all for coming, and on such short notice. I am truly… honored to have you all here.” Mr. Walters’ voice shook a great amount as he stood on the front step of the building, trying to add a few inches to his height and possibly seem braver than what he truly was.
Dan stepped forward, speaking for the group as he usually did. “We’re honored to serve you in this trying time, Mr. Walters. Thank you for your trust in our capabilities.” His voice was commanding and sure, which only helped to make his 6’7” muscled frame even more intimidating than it already was. Though built like a brick house, he was incredibly kind and caring, which caused a nice case of whiplash the first time I’d met him. Truly, he was someone who was in this job to help the people, both living and dead, which was a nice change from most people involved in the paranormal who just want a voice on a recorder to show off to their friends. He made these jobs a lot better for everyone involved.
“Typically, we like to have more time to do research and understand the history of what we’re delving in to, but with these circumstances, would you mind sharing with us what you know about the property, Mr. Walters?” Dan stepped to the side of Mr. Walters, who now looked absolutely miniscule even with his added height standing on the front step.
“Ah, yes, the history! Always a good thing to know. Cannot move forward if we do not know our past! The history is a crucial part of our knowledge as a whole,” Mr. Walters’ voice trailed off as he babbled, obviously nearing an anxiety attack. We could all see it coming, and an uncomfortable silence fell over the group. Dan coughed, drawing the attention back his way so Mr. Walters could have a moment. “Laura, why don’t you share what you were able to scrounge up and maybe Mr. Walters can just fill in any extra pertinent information.”
Laura pulled out a pair of glasses and a tablet, pulling up meticulous files she’d already created in the few hours she’d had before arriving at the current location. Her long hair had been thrown into a messy bun that sat atop her head, and she had one of Dan’s oversized sweaters shielding her from the cold evening, obviously an outfit she threw together at the last minute. And yet, she still remained one of the most effortlessly gorgeous women I’d ever met. Not only was she stunning, but she had an incredible knack for holding unbelievable amounts of information in that big brain of hers, which made her an incredibly accurate walking encyclopedia. She was one to be jealous over, though she’d never understand why.
She adjusted her glasses before beginning her history lesson: “Eagle Heights Sanitarium. Opened in 1856, this building was originally used to house the county’s sick and disabled so that they would not fall into homelessness and die on the streets when family could not or would not care for them. This purpose stayed true until 1918 when the Spanish flu gripped the nation. The Sanitarium was quickly expanded to house those sick with the flu on one end of the hospital while the original patients were housed at the other end.
“Beginning in 1928, the hospital began phasing out their disabled population to continue to house those sick with serious illnesses, employing more doctors and nurses who would live at the Sanitarium full-time to care for their patients. The Sanitarium would then begin admitting those with disabilities once more in 1952, and they juggled both groups of patients until government funding slowly dried up in the late 1970’s. After reports began to surface of patients being mistreated by staff, the Sanitarium officially closed in 1980, standing abandoned now for forty years.
“The building has had nine owners within those forty years, with most owners planning on turning the building into some form of new hospital or private boarding school, but construction efforts only last about one week before all work stops and the owner sells the property. Since Mr. Walters has had the property in his possession about three weeks, I’m going to guess we’re here to ensure his efforts of renovation are more successful than his eight predecessors.” I smiled at Laura’s final remark. Another thing I love about her: she calls it like she sees it.
Mr. Walters audibly gulped at the accusation, probably because there was some significant truth to it. “I’d planned to turn it into a space for the foster children in the community. I wanted to make it a safe place for the children and the families that take them in for bonding activities, counseling, and sleeping facilities in case they’re needed. I just want everyone to be safe and feel welcome.” He looked at his shoes, his voice small and unsure.
Laura looked over the exterior of the building before glancing around the grounds, pursing her lips before giving a nod. “That would be an appropriate use of the space. Better than the deluxe shopping space the woman before you intended on opening.” Mr. Walters gave her a sheepish grin before looking back at his shoes. Laura stared at him blankly before leaning over to Matt and whispered “Was that ok? I wasn’t insensitive this time, right?” Matt gave her a small nod, which she took at face value. Her blunt comments, though funny to me, weren’t in any way meant to be hurtful. Her Autism often caused her to say the first things that popped into her head, though she’d more recently attempted to take other’s feelings into consideration before speaking, which I thought was pretty sweet of her.
“I think this old building will like some youthful spirit inside of it. It will be a great place for kids to get the help and support they need, Mr. Walters,” Dan said, giving the smaller man a broad grin. “Now, can you tell us anything about the previous owners? Perhaps one or two mentioned issues they’d been experiencing or documented occurrences?”
Mr. Walters adjusted the glasses that had slid down the bridge of his nose, now feeling a little more confident in his position, perhaps. “Unfortunately, most of the disclosures were very basic. That the building had ‘uninhabitable conditions,’ or that renovations were going to go over the projected estimate and that it was a money pit. But…” he took a deep breath, steeling himself before continuing, “I was able to have coffee with the previous owner before myself, Mrs. Davenport. I asked her why she abandoned the building, and she told me I wouldn’t believe the truth. I pressed regardless, and she relented.
“She told me the crew hired on to continue the renovations already started by the previous owners began to report they were hearing voices, feeling touches, and seeing people who weren’t supposed to be at the site. Their reports continued to escalate until one day, they all just abandoned the site and told her to sell it fast and get what she could back on the investment. They never did tell her why they left when they did, but one of the crew members ended up at the hospital, so suffice it to say, it must have been serious. I knew there was something wrong with this building when I bought it. All the owners did when they signed the line, but I’m the only one to take precautions before I allow others to work here. I truly want to see this building restored and repurposed, and I thought that you all could help me.”
Despite the scenery and upcoming task, I smiled at Mr. Walter’s genuine intentions, and noticed that the others were affected by his heart as well. Dan laid his large palm on Mr. Walters’ shoulder. “We’re happy to help you achieve your dream, Mr. Walters. Now, with that information, we can better assess what we can do for you.”
All eyes turned to Lisa, who was now knelt on the ground, shuffling through the equipment she’d been shouldering moments ago. Her equipment was laid out with exact precision for her personal organization. Each camera and device exactly where it should be. She was arranging the machines in a way that made sense to her, and would make it easy for delegation later. “Sounds like this is a grade five. I’ll need to grab additional units before we can even think of stepping foot in there.” Lisa, despite being five foot even and barely crossing a buck ten in weight, ran things like an experienced soldier. At times, she reminded me of non-buff Vasquez, the female space Marine from the second Alien movie, which just made her all the more interesting to be around. She truly did not care what others thought of her because, to her, as long as she caught the ghosts and demons, nobody had any right to talk shit.
Lisa turned her attention to Mr. Walters. “We’re going to set up some cameras around various areas of the building to see what we can get. We typically watch this footage the following day so we can better understand what or who may be in the building. Laura wasn’t able to get all the records for patients housed here over the years, but I’m sure we can get some identities for those who come out clear on footage. Same for any voices we get as well.
“We’re also all going to wear the new thermal cameras I picked up on the way here. These suckers can sense a heat signature like a poor bastard on a diet can sense the closest donut shop. Along with these new mics I got as well, it’ll be near impossible not to catch something.”
“When… When did you get this stuff, Lisa?” Dan was holding one of the new thermal cameras in his palm, looking it over with dumbfounded curiosity. Lisa looked up at him with an incredulous look.
“The shopping mall we stopped at a few hours ago to pick up dinner had a Best Buy.”
“Lisa. Lisa we were there for all of five minutes.”
“Yeah, and I only needed three to get what we needed. You think I’m going to stand around for five minutes waiting on a burger to be cooked? I have a life to live. Waiting is reserved for holding doors open for little old ladies with walkers and watching the life leave your enemy’s eyes.” I put my hand over my mouth to cover my laughter. Dammit, I love crazy chicks.
Dan gave a nervous and forced laugh before speaking through gritted teeth. “Ah, Lisa, you and your silly humor. You forget sometimes that those who don’t know you don’t realize you’re joking.”
Lisa looked over to the small man next to Dan, looking slightly horrified. “Yeah. Joking. That’s what I was doing. Ha ha?” Mr. Walters nodded, but most definitely did not look convinced.
“What I believe Lisa is trying to convey is that we will have every possible piece of equipment employed to get the results you’ll need,” Dan said, once again taking the attention from Lisa, who took that opportunity to excuse herself back to the van to get more equipment. She saw me give her a smirk and feigned wiping sweat off her brow, mouthing “nailed it,” as she walked by.
“Well, yes, that will be lovely,” Mr. Walters said, now distracted again from the task at hand. His eyes wandered to Simon, and he seemed to get his attention back. “I’ve asked Father Clark to accompany us tonight in hopes that our Heavenly Father may lend his assistance in our endeavor.” Simon smiled and nodded, looking up at the building as if assessing it.
“I’ve brought along several sets of prayers that I believe will help calm any angry spirits and, with any hope, help them to where they should be instead of stuck on our mortal plane. It’s important for the spirits to know we are here to assist them, so please help me show them this by being calm and civil, especially should any be with us that we know of.” He looked around the group, receiving solemn nods by all.
“I’ll also bless the most active areas with holy water, though I may need to return a few more times to reach every part of the building that needs it.”
“Why don’t you just put a bunch of holy water in a super soaker and go ham? Seems like that might be more effective than that tiny vial you got there,” Matt said, looking at the small bottle Simon held against his bible. Simon gave Matt a look that, from the outside, might look like mild chastisement, though I knew it to be his “If-you-want-to-meet-God-now-I-got-his-direct-line-on-standby” look. Matt returned to his candy bar, looking everywhere else but the holy man with a vengeance.
“These are the souls of lost and tortured people. People who did not have all the happiness’s deserved in life while on this Earth. Their suffering is not a joke. Nor is it something to exploit. Please alert me as soon as a spirit is confirmed so that I might give them the chance to find peace and finally rest.” Again, the group nodded, understanding Simon’s need to be serious in this moment.
“Yes, wonderful! I do hope that we may allow for rest and ascension tonight for those seeking it.” Mr. Walters gave an enthusiastic fist pump, which I found adorable for a man his age to express. “Before we do continue forward, though, I was curious to know if Ms. Williams could tell me why she was needed here tonight.”
I looked up, meeting the old man’s eyes for the first time. “Do forgive my sudden interest, Ms. Williams, but since it was conveyed the investigation would not move forward without your presence, you can hopefully understand my curiosity.”
I nodded simply, continuing to keep my eyes trained on him as I answered his question: “I’m a bit of a seer, if you will. Nothing fancy, I can just find things easier than most others. It makes investigations such as these go smoother and have less ambiguity about them. I’m no professional, though, so please be sure to talk with Dan or any of his team if you have comments or concerns, as they are the ones who can better answer you.” I gave a warm smile at the end of my explanation, and Mr. Walters looked at me quizzically.
“A… seer?” He looked between myself and Dan, obviously not pleased with this development. “I’m sorry, but I thought perhaps you were contributing some… other sort of resource.”
My smile held firm, though I could feel a slight irritation at his tone. “I’m more than happy to return your payment and leave, if you’d prefer, Mr. Walters.”
The old man blanched and looked at Dan, who crossed his arms at my proposal.
“I was very clear on the phone, Mr. Walters. We’re not going in without her.” Mr. Walters took a handkerchief and rubbed his temples nervously before nodding, waving my suggestion off as he took a step down the stairs. Dan smiled and clapped his hands together.
“Alright, well, I think we’re ready now! Mr. Walters, normally we are happy to let the owners of the establishment come with us as we investigate, but due to the state of the building and its size, I think it may be better for you to wait outside. Should you want, we can ensure you have a radio so we are in constant communication, and one of us can always come update you every half hour or so.” Dan began directing Mr. Walters to his vehicle, and the old man didn’t put up a fight to the suggestion. In truth, a look of relief seemed to pass over his face. It was for the best, in all honesty. He didn’t need to have a heart attack and become a spirit himself in his own building.
After securing Mr. Walters, Dan went over to the van to go over any last-minute notes with his team while Simon and I remained at the Sanitorium’s steps, looking up at the imposing building.
“How are you feeling, Simon?” I looked over to see the blonde man staring intently at the top of the building, a calm expression on his face.
“I’m alright. A bit tired, like I said earlier, but knowing you’re here helps ease my nerves. I know you won’t let me be devoured like I was before.”
“Most certainly not. If you don’t mind, I’m going to stick close to you while we’re in there. The others have enough equipment on them to alert them to a potential threat. You don’t have such luxuries. Besides, I can’t let you die. Who would nod along non-judgmentally while I talked crap during these investigations if you were no longer here, hmm?” A small smirk touched the corners of his mouth, and he nodded ever so slightly, making me laugh.
“That makes me feel a lot better. Thank you, Jasmine. I just… I was so scared. I thought I was dying. I felt so cold. So distant from the world.” I could see something change in his eyes as he thought back to his encounter with the black beasts not that long ago.
Although he didn’t think it, I was sure he had a small case of PTSD regarding the issue, and though he is open with me about the experience, I’m no counselor. Knowing that his thoughts could send him spiraling, I reached out and grabbed his hand, helping to ground him before he became lost. He jumped at the contact, taking a large and shaky breath as he returned to reality. Squeezing my hand, he looked down and gave me a thankful smile, which I returned before letting his hand go.
“You guys ready? We’re about to go in.” We both looked back to see Matt standing behind us, backwards baseball cap on his head and camera on his shoulder with a broad grin on his face.
“Yeah, I think we’re ready. Let’s head inside.”
Dan was the first to go up the stairs, with Lisa and Laura close behind, Simon and myself behind the women, and Matt bringing up the rear, his camera already rolling. Dan pushed the large and ornate door open, needing to put some extra force behind his action. The creaking of the door echoed against the walls of the foyer inside, creating a disturbing noise as we all stepped over the threshold. Matt kicked the door shut behind him, closing the outside world off from us, leaving us sealed within these spirit’s tomb and a seemingly endless echo.
The ceiling arched high above us in the room we all stood within, a large chandelier still dangling from above. Once grand in its design, it now hung abandoned, covered in cobwebs and missing crystals that were now lost to time. Easy to restore to its original elegance, the chandelier simply served as an early reminder of what was to come as we walked the abandoned halls and stood in the empty rooms: this building is a hollow shell of its former glory, and it would do us well to respect and understand this fact now.
The flashlights shone around the room as we all took it in bit by bit. Though many parts of the building remained unscathed, sans being covered in webs and the sands of time, other parts showed its history of being bought, abused, neglected, and resold. Areas around large pillars had the tile chipped away as workers had attempted to rip up the floor, though none seemed to make it past a few tiles before they stopped. Holes were beaten into walls where contractors had intended to open the space for various reasons, though these holes seemed to not follow any sort of plan. Plaster from the walls and ceiling was strewn about the floor at random, and trash from construction crews and vagabonds were amassed in piles in the corners. Though the Sanitarium was once a beauty to behold, it now suffered an aging process that seemed incredibly cruel and unfair to its legacy.
Slowly, the group split off between the left and right flanks of the front of the building, one area being a large library and the other being a sun room. Each space held its own decay and destruction within, though it was easy to see just how grand these spaces were for the patients and staff that once lived here. Looking up at the large bookcases in the library, books were still nestled deep within their confines, containing words and knowledge that dreamed of being learned by a hungry mind once more.
Grabbing a large red book near the end of one shelf, I pulled it from its resting place, blowing the dust from its top. Thumbing through the pages, the edges were yellowed and warped, but the rest of the pages were practically pristine, the words within clear and easy to read. Closing the book with a snap, I went to replace it when a pair of angry eyes met mine in the space the book needed to be placed.
A young and defiant girl, no more than seven or eight years old, looked up at me, her nose scrunched and signaling her displeasure at my intrusion. Her clothes were dated somewhere in the early 1900’s, I would assume, though I was no expert in fashion as one might tell from the fleece leggings and bomber jacket combo I was currently sporting. I cocked my head to the side, staring at her with the same intensity she gave me, before I crossed my eyes and stuck my tongue out.
Her giggle caused me to smile, and I uncrossed my eyes and put my tongue back in my mouth. “I’m sorry. Did I break a rule?” I looked at her softly, and she hid her smile behind her hands, nodding vigorously. A thing I’d learned about children who had passed on: they liked adhering to the rules they followed in life, and were often quite upset when they noticed you not following the rules they knew to be in place.
“You need to ask Mrs. Sampson to check out books, if you wish to take that with you.” Her voice and wording were clear and conscious. She was definitely a child who was raised in a well-educated family.
“Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to upset Mrs. Sampson. Where can I find her so I may check this book out?” The little girl started biting her thumbnail at my question, twisting her black buckle shoe in the way children do when they know they may get in trouble for saying something.
“Well…” she stared up at me, her eyes unsure.
“You don’t have to say if you don’t want to. I’m sure I can find her myself.” I smiled again at her, hoping to ease her worry.
She nodded lightly at me. “If… if you do find her, can you tell her to come back so we can talk to her again?” I felt my brows scrunch, unsure of what she meant by her question.
“It’s awful quiet! You think they know we’re here?” Lisa’s voice called out from the sun room across the way, her flashlight shining into the library.
“Oh, I think they know,” I called back, giving the girl a wink and a smirk, making her laugh again.
A scream, loud and piercing, rang through the halls, causing all of us to jump. I dropped the book to the floor, its loud smack against the ground drowned out by the scream as it died away.
A warm hand fell on my shoulder, and I jumped again, looking back to see Simon looking at me with concern. I gave him a shaky laugh, gripping his hand to let him know I was ok. I looked back in front of me, but the young girl was gone, having disappeared in the moment of mayhem. I bent down and grabbed the dropped book, replacing it on the shelf.
“Yeah, they definitely know,” I said to myself, steeling my nerves for the kind of night we were about to have.
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Cover photo credit: Pixxel_Worx