“Dad, why do all my friends have haunted houses and we don’t?”
“You seem upset kiddo.” Dad turns down the TV. “Isn’t it a good thing that we don’t have monsters?”
“No.” I shake my head arms crossed. “They make fun of me at school. It’s not fair.”
“Well bud,” He takes off his glasses and sets them on the coffee table next to the TV Guide with Mork & Mindy on the cover. “I don’t know about fair or unfair, but being able to sleep through the night is a plus on my list. Let everybody else on the block take the Oogley Boogley Man and his see through friends. They can have ‘em.”
“It’s so boring here.” I stomp my foot.
“Deal with it pal.” He switches the TV back on pressing the remote buttons, clicking back and forth through the channels. “I enjoy boring. Boring is what I want. Boring is good.”
After breakfast, I skip school. I’m sick and tired of listening to all the stories. “My sister got possessed last night. We had a exorcist come over and everything…” “The water turned to fire in our pool. The flames reached up and took my dog. That’s why most of my hair is gone. I got burned…” “You think that’s cool? The doctor said I can’t sit down for two weeks. Did you guys see those flashing lights over my house? Yup. I got probed…”
What am I going to say? "After I finished my homework Dad let me watch Happy Days and then stay up an extra half hour for Laverne and Shirley?" Lame. My life sucks.
I walk through Licorice Pizza and flip through some records. I already have the newest Van Halen. Iron Maiden covers are always the coolest. Next to the opera section, past the punk and classical, I see the spoken word stuff. Mostly comedy albums. I like Richard Pryor and Dad has a bunch of George Carlin that we listen to sometimes. Funny stuff. All the bad words crack me up.
I find it hidden in the back row behind the religious records. The cover doesn’t have any color. Not black or white or gray. It’s empty. No label on the vinyl either. It’s weird looking at a record with no grooves too. Almost like a mirror. My face looks all warbly in it.
I’m not a thief. I don’t remember ever stealing anything in my life before this. I can’t help it. My fingernail rips the plastic sleeve open on the Iron Maiden album. The record slides in easy enough. Nobody will be able to tell.
At the register, the guy charges me $7.56. I give him a $10 and walk away. My heart beating so fast I’m dizzy. My hands and feet go cold when he shouts.
“You forgot your record.”
“Oh.” I turn back stumbling to the counter. “Thanks.”
“Sure thing.” He hands me the bag and smiles. I stand in place and stare through him to the posters covering the wall in back of him. “Don’t you want it kid? You paid for it already.”
“Yeah.” I feel my legs moving fast to the door again.
“You want your change?” He shouts after me.
The weight of the bag in my hand pulls me lopsided all the way home. By the time I get in the house, I’m dragging the bag up the stairs. Thump thump thumping on each one.
The door locked behind me, I light five candles on the floor in the shape of a star. I lay a small mirror down in the center. The turntable on my lap, I'm sitting cross legged. The needle hovers just above the record surface. Despite the powerless plug on the floor in front of me, it's spinning really fast. Static dances around and through me filling the room, motes of dust in razor thin beams of light. The speaker cables writhing, snakes free from tethering speakers. A woman's voice crawls under the white noise.
Did you know that you don't have to speak Latin or Mesopotamian or even R'lyeh to cast a summoning spell? Sure it sounds real mysterious and works great in movies or on tv. It's not the words themselves that have that power. It's the intent. Demons and spirits don't have to hear fancy sounds to answer you. All they require is the need.
“Morax, delight in the invitation. The gate is open and welcoming you.”
Clouds form in the mirror. Hoof beats thunder.
“Come to your children and live in this world again.”
The shadows become a bull raging toward me. A golden ring pierces his septum. Pale flesh in the shape of a human face smiles at me from between his enormous shoulders. Pounding like a thousand drums, the bull charges through its reflection and disappears leaping my head.
“He is come.”
The floor falls away. Nothing above below ahead behind. The high pitched ringing in my ears is the only sound. Eyelids open and close making no change to the blankness. My chest squeezes tight as a fist. Fingers brush gently across my chin. A sharpened nail traces the curve of my bottom lip pulling it down.
Flaccid, sickly wet, the icy extension pushes into my mouth. It swirls the inside of my cheeks absorbing the saliva and pulsing while twisting down my throat. It spreads into my lungs, filling strange new marrow into my bones. I am left here alone.
When I wake up, the room is black. I reach a hand into the emptiness. Fingers strain to wiggle in the cold, thickness of it. My mouth opens and a sour taste coats my tongue. I shout for my Dad. The sound of my voice echoes back at me from all directions in staggered times. Some quick, whispered and overlapped, others shouting delayed by seconds.
The candles remain in place as puddles of wax. The needle sits still at the center of the record. One long scratch, slightly less black than the rest of the vinyl, strikes out in oblong ovals over the surface. My legs are asleep from sitting in this position for so long. It’s too difficult to stand without holding on to things. There are drops and drags of the melted wax between the candles. The shape of the star burned into the carpet.
My door leans against the wall having come unhinged. The bolts are on the floor standing straight up covered by a thick, brownish-gray substance. They reflect light coming through the window that hurts my eyes. All the pictures along the hallway are on the floor. None of the frames are broken. There is no glass anywhere.
I don’t smell Dad’s morning cup of coffee or toast heating up in the oven. I don’t hear the talk radio or his electric shaver chipping away at his daily beard. The lingering scent of Old Spice doesn’t fill the air next to his bedroom door. His bed is made, not slept in. Looking out the front window, his yellow VW rests quiet and still in the driveway.
“Dad?” Other than my voice the house is quiet. He isn’t in the kitchen, living room or his office at the back of the house. The surface of the pool is crystal pure and inviting. My towel from yesterday afternoon crumpled in a pile on the back of the chair where I left it.
There is no note on the fridge. I shrug my shoulders and make myself a bowl of corn flakes with a spoonful of sugar dumped over the top. The TV doesn’t work. I smack the side. The screen is nothing but static. I hit it again.
Submerged in the grains of gray and black, I see the shape of a person with their arms and legs spread wide. I sit on the edge of the couch squinting my eyes. The dots and lines crawl in and out of each other. The image begins solidifying. More details grow clearer with every bite I chew.
“Good morning.” The voice crackles from the tiny speaker on the lower right corner of the set. “We are so pleased you invited us here.” She laughs from the wall behind me. My head swivels around seeing nothing but tan painted plaster. “It’s so warm and lovely. We had grown so tired of the cold.”
The shape is a man. His face drawn in lines raggedly illustrating a scream. His mouth is an oval filled with white. His entire body writhes. The static lines pull at his fingers and toes unraveling him one pixel at a time. Dad cries out but all I hear is hissing static. Then a crash. The cereal bowl tumbles from my useless hands through our glass coffee table. Shards fly into the television screen piercing his body. The static he bleeds pours from the bottom of the screen to the thick carpet. I lift my feet while it spreads. I don’t want it to touch me.
I am silent at school. I don’t raise my hand in class. I sit alone at recess. I don’t tell any stories about summoning the demon. I don’t share how Dad is slowly dying inside our TV. I walk past the bus and take the long way home looking at my feet step after step.
I sleep in his bed trying to find his smell on the sheets. I sometimes watch the TV and watch him. It’s hard to see him like that though. There is less and less of him in there every day. I talk to him. I don’t know if he can hear me. His arms and legs were gone yesterday. Today it's his ears. Maybe tomorrow there won't be any of him left.
The ghosts are here all the time now. I think I liked it better before.