Anyone who knows me understands that I tend to attract high strangeness, as those who’ve read my prior post “The Picnic Poltergeist” might suspect. Though actually, I don’t think anyone has read it, but anyway.
The thing is, anomalies keep following me around. Back in my university days, for a couple of years, streetlights would routinely go out when I walked under them, and come back to life after I’d passed. I’ve seen UFOs – I make no claims about spaceships or aliens, just things that definitely fit the term “unidentified flying object” – on several occasions. On two of those Kathy, my wife, saw them with me – she’s mentally compartmentalized the incidents, but I note that now she always makes sure to positively ID any airborne light she sees – and twice, once with Kathy standing right next to me, I’ve had close encounters, I mean really close, from-home-plate-to-first-base close. For those there are only two explanations: unknown phenomena, or delusional breaks with reality.
I’ve also attracted the mischievous attentions of something that likes shiny objects, especially my wedding ring. The ring has literally evaporated under the pressure of my thumb, while I was playing with it, twice. Once it showed up after it had been lost, sitting in the geometric center of the cushion I’d just been sitting on. The second time it vanished – and again I could actually feel it go – it never came back. However, a day or two later, Kathy found a silver key placed prominently on a shelf in one of the bookcases in the upstairs study, where I spend a lot of time. I hadn’t put it there. Neither of us had any recollection of it, or what it was for. We tried it in every lock we had, drawers, cupboards, everything, and it wasn’t for anything we owned. Kathy was able to trace the key online to a make and model of padlock we had never owned. It was like it was being left in trade for my ring.
There have been other things. Late one night, I distinctly heard someone thump up our wooden front steps, like he was running in work boots, and the doorbell rang. Nobody there. Doorbells do malfunction sometimes, and ring spontaneously, it happens, but they don’t pound up the front steps, and it never rang on its own again.
Things like TV remotes will move around on their own, only to wind up in highly unlikely places where you’d have been hard pressed to put them on purpose.
For years, Kathy would find long thin streaks of mysterious powder forming on the sleeves of blouses and jackets in our closet, like drywall dust, always on the arms facing out, never anywhere else, and never having been there when she’d last hung them up. It was like they were being marked with tailor’s chalk.
There are more stories I could relate, and you can pooh-pooh them as you please, because that’s not the point. What matters is that all things considered, Kathy had long since decided that I attracted weird energies, and that our place was probably haunted. My anecdotes speak not to the reality of paranormal phenomena, your honour, but to Kathy’s state of mind on the night in question.
What night in question? It was one when I must have been out somewhere alone, that’s unusual for us after dark, but she was alone in the living room and night had fallen. There were the usual unexplainable bumps and sounds, we live in a semi, whaddaya gonna do, but when you’re alone at night some of them can be a little unnerving. We often hear what sound like footsteps directly over our heads, which I’m assuming are just resonances travelling through the beams that straddle our party wall. You can hear the kids running up and down the stairs next door, but sometimes, the same sort of thumping seems to be coming from the wrong side of the building, from behind the detached exterior wall. Oh well. Sound is funny.
What she heard now wasn’t that kind of thing. As clear as a bell, quite loudly, a feminine voice suddenly barked “Excuse me!” Pause. “Excuse Me!” Pause. “Excuse me!” – then something she couldn’t quite make out, in a cadence that reminded her of an authority figure instructing you to do something, like “Please proceed to the exits in an orderly fashion”, it had that tone to it. It was definitely a human voice. It was definitely female. It was definitely coming from our dark and unoccupied third floor study.
What would you have done? I’ll tell what I would have done – I would have gone downstairs, called a cab, and checked into a hotel. I’ve seen lots of horror movies. If I’m out in my front yard, look up, and see the head of a demonic pig with glowing red eyes staring at me from my bedroom window, I don’t go in to find out what it is. I know what it is. It’s a demonic pig. There being no scenario involving a demonic pig in my frigging bedroom that winds up with something good happening, my next move, instead of barreling into the house to investigate, is to drop my rake, jog down the street, get on the subway, and travel to the Holiday Inn that’s closest to the end of the line. Later, the next day, say, I’ll pay some neighbourhood kid fifty bucks to go in and take a look around, and if he doesn’t see anything, I’ll put a listing on Airbnb and have somebody I don’t care about stay there for a couple of weeks, and see what happens.
So what does Kathy do? Yup. She creeps upstairs, the unknown woman nattering all the while. I don’t know how she summoned up the nerve. My heart would have pounded right out of my chest, I mean this isn’t a perhaps explainable thing like a doorbell ringing itself, this was right up there in Demon Porker territory, it was unmistakably, unequivocally, a human voice, coming from where no human could possibly be. She didn’t even grab a kitchen knife or anything, she just crept up the stairs, as stealthily as she could, and ever-so-slowly peeked around the corner into the study. Nobody there, no form silhouetted against the bright glow of my deluxe new computer, which I’d left on.
The voice, closer, louder, and perfectly intelligible now, exclaimed again from out of nowhere: “Excuse me!”
“Excuse me! iPhoto needs your attention.”
Hunh? The ghost wanted her to pay attention to frigging iPhoto?
Then she noticed a little icon at the foot of my computer screen, jumping up and down as if it was trying to be noticed. We’d never owned a Mac before, you see. She didn’t know the goddam thing talked. A home computer that barks at you when it wants something was outside her experience. What, was this Star Trek or something? There it was again, now, insisting she pay attention to goddam iPhoto. Was she supposed to talk back? Or what?
She went over to the desk, clicked on the jumping icon – it took a couple of tries, the frickin’ thing wouldn’t sit still – and it turned out that iPhoto needed a patch or update of some sort.
It’s a top of the line Mac, with a screen as big as a small TV, equipped with the fastest chips, and greatest RAM and storage capability available when it was bought. It cost a small fortune. I could almost have bought a used car instead. So I’m grateful that Kathy, at that point, didn’t go get a hammer and send it back to Hell, from whence, apparently, it had come.