The movie ended at around 10:30. Larry’s Mother ushered the four of us into the basement. She told us to get some sleep with a smile and a wink. She was well aware that the shenanigans of this sleepover would continue well after she went up the stairs, but didn’t seem to care. She was such a nice woman.
After about twenty minutes or so of aimless banter, we decided we would tell each other some ghost stories to liven things up. I had a really good one, but before I could speak, Ray exclaimed, “Oooh! I KNOW! Let’s do Bloody Mary!”
We were all in agreement except Larry. He objected but was quickly vetoed by the rest of us. We slowly slinked up the stairs and silently crept into the first floor bathroom.
“Are you sure you want to do this guys?” Larry asked sheepishly. “We could get in a lot of trouble if my Mom comes down.”
“Shut up. You know damn well she doesn’t care. Stop being a pussy,” Ray said with gusto.
“Don’t worry about it Larry. Shit isn’t going to work anyway,” I said confidently in an attempt to reassure him.
We turned off the lights and on the count of three spoke in concert.
I stared intently into the mirror and didn’t see anything. Ray whispered, “oh my God. Do you see it?” His voice began to shake. “Right there. Don’t you see it?” I looked at where he was pointing. For a moment I thought I saw a figure begin to swirl in the reflection.
Suddenly an arm clasped onto my shoulder. Before I could react, I heard something resembling a whimper escape Larry’s lips as he fell to the floor. Ray laughed hysterically. I turned on the lights. Larry did not look the least bit amused.
“What the fuck, man?”
“Stop whining. Thomas didn’t freak out, and I grabbed his shoulder too. You’ve got to knock this shit off. Not having a father in your life has turned you into such a goddamn pussy.”
Ray had gone too far with that comment. Larry and I were extremely close, and since the divorce, our friendship had only grown stronger. I know that Ray was just being a hard ass, but I had grown very protective of Larry over the course of that year.
“Ray! Shut the fuck up! Now!” I inched towards him, and he wisely closed his mouth.
After everyone settled down, we retreated to the basement.
Jason was the first to speak.
“Have you guys heard about Agatha White?”
We all shook our heads no. He launched into the tale as if possessed no doubt repeating it verbatim from whatever source he had gleaned it.
“Agatha White started out life as a saint. They say her last name wasn’t given to her at birth but earned through her many good deeds. However, there is one thing that she would have traded her reputation and all of her Earthly possessions for. You see, all of her children died in childbirth. More than anything in the World, she wanted to be a Mother. This made her extremely jealous of every parent in the village. This hate festered over the years and followed her into her old age, driving her insane with rage and jealousy. Since God had not answered her prayers and left her barren, she aligned herself with Satan and became one of the most powerful witches ever. She was transformed by the dark forces she employed. Over time, she became more demon than human. Her face grew hideous. Her eyes shined with the light of Lucifer himself. It was said that one look at them was enough to drive a person mad. She called upon the Devil nightly to curse all of the parents of the village. When they approached her hovel in the woods to burn her at the stake, she had already hanged herself. When they found her body swaying in the breeze, mercifully her eyes were closed, but her gnarled, green toenails scratched upon the floorboards of her dilapidated house. Reports of the scratching sound continued throughout the village coupled with sightings of her ghost. This was followed by the suicide of every parent in the village, proving that the grave was not enough to contain an evil such as hers.”
Growing up in the area around Salem, MA, I thought I had heard it all, but this one was new to me and honestly reeked of bullshit. Always the skeptical one, I opened my mouth to call Jason on this, but ultimately decided to keep mum. I didn’t want to spoil the fun.
“If we follow the ritual correctly, we can summon her,” Jason added.
“What’s supposed to happen?” Larry inquired while swallowing a lump in his throat.
“I don’t know exactly. She’s supposed to appear. I know that much.”
“That sounds amazing. I’m in!” Ray exclaimed.
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After some convincing, Larry was anxious about the whole endeavor to say the least, we were all in agreement that we would attempt the ritual.
We gathered in a semicircle and sat on the floor. The person on the far left was to cradle an upside down cross in their hand. The person on the far right was supposed to hold a burning candle in their right hand. A pentagram was to be placed in the center of the grouping. After finding the objects and crudely drawing a pentagram on a sheet of paper, we were about to begin the chant when Jason interjected.
“Oh, I almost forgot, and this is the most important part. We need to add a drop of our blood to both the candle and the cross.”
I knew Larry would want to back out (to be honest I was beginning to have my own doubts at this point). To preempt this, I pulled him to the side and assured him that nothing would happen.
“I swear. Let’s just let these two idiots have their fun.”
After pricking our fingers, we gathered once again on the ground. Ray held the cross in his left hand. I sat next to him. On my right was Larry and next to him was Jason with the candle in hand. We spoke just as we rehearsed.
Bride of Satan, Agatha White
We call to you out of spite
For God in Heaven and the Devil below
Visit us this night we beseech you to know
We renounce the Lord and his protection. Stalk the land of the living once more
We summon thee this evening, and with these words, open the door
We repeated the incantation twice more for good measure. As we spoke, I could feel Larry tremble at my side.
Silence filled the stale air of the basement.
Then the candle blew out. A penetrating darkness engulfed us.
“Ray! This isn’t funny. Why did you blow the candle out?” I asked with ire.
“Dude, I’m way over here. I swear it wasn’t me.”
I turned to Jason.
“Jason, that shit is really not cool. You’re going to scare Larry to death.” I was merely projecting at that point as I was scared shitless.
“Tom, it wasn’t me either.”
We argued about this in the dark for a few moments. Larry did the sensible thing and flipped the switch. Maybe it was my eyes adjusting to the change in light in the dingy basement, but it wasn’t as if the darkness disappeared. It seemed to slowly retreat and make its way up the stairs.
As the clock struck one, we decided to finally get some rest. The fear still coursed through me. Something definitely felt… off now.
One by one the others fell asleep. I eventually closed my eyes as well.
The footsteps woke me up. I looked at the clock, 2:46. Confusion washed over me. The sound increased in volume as the feet made their way across the living room. They swiftly moved down the stairs. A figure glowered at the four of us. I stared back still half asleep, confused, and scared out of my mind.
The light came on and revealed Larry’s Mother. Her eyes were wide and unblinking. She held her head in her right hand as she shouted.
“Okay boys! Stop faking! I know you’re up!”
The others stirred awake.
“Look. I didn’t care that you stayed up past bedtime or whatever, but whatever you are doing that is making that scratching noise, needs to stop immediately. It’s almost three in the morning, and it’s driving me insane.” She barked this in an angry tone that I had never heard escape her lips before that point. I looked at my friends and they stared back at me wordlessly.
After a moment of silence, I finally spoke up.
“We promise we’ll stop Ms. M.”
“Thanks. Now go to sleep!” She yelled this as she ran back up the stairs.
I could feel the fear engulf the room as we continued to blankly stare at one another. I spoke up first doing my best to rationalize what had happened.
“Your Mom is a really great actor. Who’d have guessed she was listening in while we were doing the ritual? Can’t wait to laugh with her about it tomorrow.” I said this so forcefully that the others just nodded their heads. Eventually, we all fell back asleep.
The next morning we gathered in the kitchen. Larry went upstairs to wake his mother. He came back down with a solemn look on his face.
“She isn’t feeling… well. We’re going to have to make our own breakfast.” We poured ourselves cereal and sat in silence. For the first time, this ten year old couldn’t wait to get home. Living down the street, I decided to walk home early. Larry tried to ply me with promises of videogames and chocolate milk but that wasn’t nearly enough for me to stay in that house for another minute that morning.
The next day I received a call from Larry. He begged me to come over. Through tears he spoke.
“Please come over. I’m so scared. I just need a friend right now. You promised nothing would happen… you promised…”
I felt terrible. The guilt brought my feet to his door. How I wish I had just stayed home.
As I entered, Larry spoke to me with tear-stained eyes.
“I think I’m going to call the cops. My Mom is really starting to freak me out.”
Suddenly she descended the stairs. A wild and crazed look was plastered on her formerly magnanimous face. She stared daggers at me and a crooked smile formed on her lips.
“Hi! Thomas! Her face. Her face!. Oh God! You know that. The scratching makes you look. It’s in the eyes. You know? Its in there. Her eyes. You’ll see. You’ll see.” Her speech had an intensity unlike anything I had ever heard before. In addition to this, I had never seen a face so haggard and deranged in my entire life. I was petrified. Without warning, she produced a handgun and brought it to her temple.
The night after the funeral. I entered my bedroom. I sobbed quietly and buried my face into my sheets. Larry’s voice played over and over again in my head.
“You promised Thomas. You promised.”
When I lifted my head, I saw her.
Agatha’s back faced me. The specter was covered in a red shroud. The back of her head was matted with grimy silver hair. As she floated towards me, I looked down at her feet. Long green nails swayed back and forth on the hardwood of my bedroom floor. Seized with panic, one thought consumed me. Why isn’t it making any noise? As if reading my mind, her raspy voice responded.
You can’t hear it now, but you will someday.
Don’t you worry. You’ll hear it.
A cackle escaped her mouth. She began to turn her head towards me. I shut my eyes before I could see her face. When I opened them, she was gone.
I screamed and cried the entire way to my parent’s room. I held my Mom tight and sobbed into her arms.
“Promise me you won’t leave me like Larry’s Mother! Promise me!!!”
“Aww, of course honey.” My Mother said in a soothing voice while stroking my hair. “We love you too much.” She held me tighter. “I’m never going to let you go sweetie.”
Within a year I was an orphan.
The birth of your first born is supposed to be the most joyous day in a man’s life. There was a moment of elation when I held him in my arms for the first time, but it was fleeting.
I had spent the better part of my adult life trying to forget the events that had molded my adolescence. Prior to and after the death of our parents, we spent the remainder of our childhood researching any sort of incantation, spell, or prayer to ward off her spirit. With time, we lost touch and I fought with every fiber of my being to just forget and move on.
Though I remained optimistic that the same end wouldn’t befall me as did my parents, I didn’t dare tempt fate. I had a vasectomy in my early 20s. Still Thomas Jr. was conceived. Maria called it our miracle baby. I agreed. It was as if some supernatural force had determined that I would become a parent whether I wanted to or not.
We brought him home from the hospital. As we entered the bedroom, I kissed him on the forehead. Happiness began to bubble up inside once more. This time I let the feeling remain. I lay in bed and kissed my wife goodnight. Two minutes later I shot up and turned to her.
“Honey… do you hear that?”
The sound is deafening. My head feels as if it’s going to explode. The scratching is no longer external but scraping away at the insides of my skull.
And her face, oh Jesus, her face…
I’m so sorry. I held out as long as I could.
In my final moments questions swirl around in my brain. Is Maria next? What about Tom Jr.? Will the proverbial sins of the father be visited upon the son? I guess I’ll never know.
Or maybe I will. Make no mistake, there is an afterlife.
Well, at the very least, Hell exists. There isn’t a shred of doubt in my mind about that.
I can see it in her eyes.