The Paranormal Life Of Jonathan Young: A Grieving Whisper
There! Under the glowing fluorescents, Jonathan spotted it. A damned ugly little thing, a bony distorted creature with damp dark brown skin stretched over bone and sinewy muscle. The creature perched upon the woman’s shoulder, bent with vertebrae pressing against taught skin and its protruded beak-like mouth on a skeletal face breathing against her ear. She didn’t see it, she didn’t feel it, but based on her request to his office for help, she heard it. A young man, barely in his twenties and dressed in a cheap black and white striped suit sat across from her at the wood grain dining table. Neither saw the creature, nor did they see the man who stood at the opening of the kitchen with an outreached arm.
Sonia Talbert was not used to the company of strange men these days, not since her late husband had left. He hadn’t passed away, he had simply been late coming home from work. A year, a month, and three days late to be exact. It was safe to say, he had left.
Sonia didn’t miss him. Their daughter had died and she had needed someone strong. A descriptor that would not suit him and in turn, he found her grief confronting. Sonia didn’t miss much of anything these days, an ever growing problem she had promised herself she would work on. She felt pathetic, she felt tired, she felt extremely self conscious with two men rooting through her things.
“When did you start noticing something was off inside the house, Ms. Talbert?” The young man in the ill-fitted cheap suit asked.
“Last year sometime, before Jayda had passed away.” Sonia sipped at the last bit of tea in the cup she was nesting in her hands.
“Could have worked less, been with Jayda more.” A raspy high-pitched voice said in her head.
“Enough of that,” Jonathan said, grabbing the creature around its neck and wrenching it free of Sonia’s shoulder.
“Hey, put me down you oaf!” were the last words Sonia heard from the voice. The protest had directed her attention away from the condolences offered by the young man across from her. She thanked him all the same, having grown accustomed to the routine of doing so.
The creature thrashed around in Jonathan’s grip, long bony fingers clawing at the hand around its neck. With a smack to its forehead, the creature froze in place. A small cut of paper with a snowflake drawn on it stuck to its sticky, wet flesh. It didn’t understand what had happened, but its limbs felt heavy, so very heavy. It was as if they could be ripped off by the gravity pressing on them.
“What is this? What did you do?” Its eyes crossed in an attempt to bring the strip into view, “a circle of leafless trees?”
“It is a snowflake, don’t make fun of the drawing.” Jonathan scolded, self conscious about his lack of artistic talents.
“A drawing? How is this working?” The creature wanted so badly to scratch and rip flesh, but nothing responded.
“It is not the drawing, it is the intent.”
The all white business card with black text and a black cartoon ghost stared at Sonia from the table.
Jonathan Young’s Paranormal Investigations
The young man across from her was Parker. A youthful freckled face with long curly brown hair that piled on top of his head like a cotton ball. He looked at her with walnut colored eyes and his best impression of a professional’s close-lipped earnestness.
The other young man, with his brown faded and old looking leather jacket, black pocket tee, and short unkempt dark hair must have been Jonathan Young.
Jonathan was the investigator her hairdresser had recommended. She had said her house had been haunted too. She heard doors opening and closing on their own, dishes being flung about, and felt something pressing against her chest at night. She would wake up choking, feeling like her life had been sucked out of her. After Jonathan had arrived, the events all stopped.
Despite Sonia’s apathy, she had felt desperate when the voice kept interrupting her shows with whispers criticizing the vapid girls on her beloved trashy reality TV. How dumb they were, how sad it was they seemed to have so much money while Sonia was barely keeping up on her two-bedroom manufactured home at the edge of town. It was the type of criticism she would give herself, but she knew her own voice, this voice was not that voice. It was too… too male. In hindsight, the incident was minor compared to many others, but the last straw usually is.
She made the call and instantly regretted the appointment. It meant she would have to clean. Something she had been putting off for months in her attempt to amalgamate with the furniture in her home. She regretted it again when the barely twenty somethings had shown up. Parker with his trying to come off as presentable and Jonathan with his barely trying at all.
“What is he doing, anyway?” Sonia asked, looking behind her toward the hallway of bedrooms.
“Jonathan?” Parker followed her gaze, “He is doing what he does. He is going to find what has been causing all this and get rid of it.”
Sonia nodded, accepting it mostly out of a lack of energy than actual acceptance. It felt strange having a man near half her age rooting around in her bedroom. She would later tell her hairdresser how much work she had put into cleaning the room before Jonathan had immediately ruined it by moving furniture around to leave a big open space in the middle. He didn’t even ask for permission, he had Parker do that for him.
“Jayda was your daughter, right?” Parker asked, clicking the top of the pen in his hand, making the tip jump in and out of its shell.
“Yes. She had heard the voice before I did and had talked to me about it a number of times. I had just thought its was her imagination.” She winced at the memory of her dismissals to her daughter, “I started hearing it after she died.”
“I’m sorry for…” Parker stopped himself when he realized he had already said his condolences, “would you like more tea, Ms. Talbert?”
Sonia peered at her empty teacup.“Yes, please.”
The creature fell onto its back with a thud as it was tossed in a glowing circle in the middle of the bedroom Jonathan had been led into earlier to do his work. He had asked Parker to talk with Sonia, a practice he used not to attain information, but mainly to keep his clients out of his hair.
A faded image of himself sat cross-legged in the circle, multiple strips of paper with various drawings lay around him. The translucent Jonathan had his eyes closed and was deep in meditation. The more solid Jonathan stood at the outside edge of the circle with arms crossed over his chest. He frowned at the creature that pushed itself into a sitting position, seemingly regaining control of its limbs.
Johnathan was always curious about the motivations of otherworldly entities. The motivation of a ghost he could understand, they were in the in-between for a reason. The things that existed and thrived there? Their motivations for the acts of malevolence they enacted were more nebulous.
“Why do you do it?” Jonathan asked.
“Did you have to toss me? It hurt…” The creature rubbed its lower back, pure black eyes wincing under the dark brown veiny flesh of its eyelids.
“Could be worse.” Jonathan held up a slip of paper between his fingers. The drawing of a bee with an exaggerated stinger drawn on it.
“Knife stuck into a cat’s butt?”
“A cat? Seriously?” Jonathan pointed at the drawing’s head, “Those are antenna, not ears.”
“I guess they are…” The creature squinted at it, “Kind of ear-like though.”
Parker gawked at the sugar cubes in the little white bowl on the kitchen counter. He had never seen them in person. Always considered them something of an old-timey option.
“Is it just the voice?” Parker asked, watching with a scientist’s interest as the cubes dissolved in the hot tea.
“Mainly, but I’ve heard and seen quite a bit of other things too.”
“What types of things?”
“Someone running down the hall at night. I had a chair topple over on its own a few nights ago, scared me half to death. That was about the time I started thinking it wasn’t all in my head.” Sonia considered the young man, his childish features rough around the edges, making him something akin to handsome. “The voice is the most constant though, always around to keep me company. My daughter described it as a small shadow man the size of a parrot or a cat.”
“You ever see what she described?” Parker returned to the table, two fresh cups of tea in his hand.
“No, can’t say I have. Should I have?” She took the cup when offered, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Parker sat down, “I don’t think so, Jonathan sees things, all kinds of things. Me, well, I’m like you, I’ve only heard them. We are all sensitive to it in different ways.”
“Makes sense, I guess.” She brought the cup to her lips.
The creature stood and stalked on thin bent legs, its back folded over to allow it to support itself on all fours. It reached out with long stick-like fingers to poke at the boundary of the circle.
“Ow!” it exclaimed in a small animal like pitch as the skin sizzled and sparked as if it had touched an electric fence.
“That was dumb,” Jonathan commented with a grin. The creature snapped its gaze to him, hissing in reply.
“Why do you do it?” Jonathan repeated, taking a seat on the floor.
“Do wha’, wha’ yah ‘ean?” It replied with a long stick thin like finger in its distorted mouth.
“Torture this family, whisper things in their ear to keep them down and make them feel horrible.”
The creature's eyes opened wide as if it had been reminded of something important. They were silent a moment and then it shrugged, plucking the finger from its mouth “I don’t know. I didn’t mean to. Just bored and lonely, I guess.”
“Bored and lonely?” Jonathan leaned forward, glowering at the creature.
“Well, yeah. You try and be alone here all the time. I sit around, wondering why I’m here. Why this house? Sure, people pass through, but they don’t hear me, they don’t see me.”
“So, when someone finally can, you continuously tell them how worthless and sad life is!?” Jonathan glowered at it.
“I don’t know what else to talk about!” The creature snapped back.
Jonathan was taken aback by the reply, “What?” was all he could muster.
“The child talked back, but I didn’t know what to say. Sad like she was, sad like I was.” It traced its claw-like nails in the carpet, the fibers fading through its flesh as if he was invisible to it “Her Mom couldn’t see me and didn’t talk back, all I had were my own thoughts. The dark, sad, angry thoughts.”
Parker took a sip of the tea, finding it earthy, but more water than flavor. He wasn’t much for tea, had more of a preference toward coffee. He enjoyed a flavor that punched him in the mouth, it was how he knew it was doing its job.
“You said your daughter heard the voice, was this the first time she had an experience like that?” Parker set the teacup to the side and folded his hands together on the table.
“No…” Sonia breathed in deeply and turned her gaze toward the living room. The sadness caused by the memories rooted up pulling at her face in a way that aged her. Parker felt his stomach sink at the site.
“Jayda was always an imaginative little girl, she loved her dolls and her stuffed animals, she called them her friends.” she smiled weakly, the edges of her lips quivering and eyes glistening under the lights, “she was sick from the time she was born, school was hardly an option. Her best friend was this teddy bear she received from my Grandmother, named him George. Jayda must have been five at the time, the bear was as big as she was. She loved that bear and took it everywhere with her. I had to wash it by hand at least once a week. Jayda would help, she wanted to make sure George was clean, like any good kid should be. Became something of a ritual.”
Parker smiled at the thought of the ritual and how something so simple could become impactful on people, “That sounds adorable.”
A tear rolled down Sonia’s cheek onto the tip of smiling lips, she wiped it away, “It was, but we lost George sometime after moving here. The move was a mess and Jayda was so upset. I was as well, to be honest. She never appeared to bond with a toy or stuffed animal after that. I kept promising we would find him, but one thing led to another and well… rather then new toys, Jayda made friends with the things in her mind.”
“Sounds a lot like Jonathan,” Parker said. The two of them had known each other since childhood and helped each other through some substantially dark times,“He had imaginary friends as a kid. They had names and deep complex histories. Come to find out, not all of them were imaginary.”
“Oh…” Sonia replied, reconnecting her eyes with his for a moment before returning to the corner beyond the TV set, “Not really reassuring is it? Hard to imagine her talking to ghosts. She saw a lot of things, things that could have been more than her imagination. She didn’t talk about the shadow thing until a year or so before she passed. She was excited to have someone to talk to. She said he was sad though, so sad, and she wanted to help him. I thought maybe he was her way of dealing with grief. I think a part of her knew she wasn’t getting better this time.”
“She sounds like a wonderful little girl.” He paused and watched her wipe at her cheeks. He leaned forward, letting out a long exhale of nervous energy, “I hate to ask, but I believe it to be an important question. Do you think something supernatural was the cause of Jayda’s death?”
Sonia thought about it, considering the evidence and wanting something to blame, finally, she sighed and answered, “No, I don’t believe so.”
Jonathan scratched at his stubbled chin, the scratchiness reminding him he had been meaning to shave for a few days now. He wasn't sure what to make of the creature but still dug for a reason to stay mad at it. If he didn't like the thing, it made what came next easier. “Was it the same with the little girl? Just your thoughts being spewed out to a child on her sickbed?”
“No!” It shot back, standing as straight as it could manage before the thin legs wobbled under its weight forcing it to return to its natural hunched over state, “We were friends. She helped me.”
“She helped you?” Jonathan pried.
“Yes, I mean,” the creature stared at the ground, “I talked of sad things at first. The world being a harsh and cruel thing, life not being worth the pain of living, how lonely our existence must be, those types of things. She would have none of it. The world was not harsh, the pain was worth the world’s beauty, and she wasn’t lonely, she had her Mom and her Dad, and... “ the creature flopped onto its rear end, “She had me.”
“Sounds like a very wise kid.” Jonathan was impressed and conflicted, “Was she was always happy and positive?”
“Oh no, not all the time. She wanted so badly to be strong, but she couldn’t always. She got sad and angry. Why couldn’t she get better? Why did she deserve to die? She would ask that a lot. Not to her Mom or Dad, they got so sad when she would ask.”
“What would you say?”
“I said I don’t know, life is harsh, it is unfair, but I said she’s got her Mom, she’s got her Dad, and she’s got me. So, it isn’t ruthless.”
“Surprised to hear you gave encouragement, she must have grown on you.”
“She did. She saw me, she wasn’t scared, and she was nice to me. I didn’t want her to die. She may not stay here if she died. Most don’t, they go on to wherever the dead really belong.”
“Can we go back to something you said earlier?” Parker asked, the details and how they all came together bothered him, “You said you heard footsteps at night. Can you describe them?”
“Well…” Sonia returned her attention to the young man, finding his question intriguing, “They didn’t always happen at night, I’d hear them go down the hallway, heading towards my room at the end, but stop short.”
“What did they sound like?”
There was a pause as she considered how to describe something so ambiguous, “Like footsteps, like normal footsteps, audible and consistent. It is how I knew it wasn’t just the house making house noises.”
“You described the entity your daughter saw as small or cat-like in size.” he leaned forward.
“We are calling it an entity now?” she leaned back in her chair, recoiling away from him and his words.
“Seems right, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, but it's a bit frightening, honestly.”
“It is, makes it real.” Parker’s hands clasped together while rested on the table, “You said it was small. Did those footsteps sound cat-like small?”
Sonia looked off at the space beyond him, “No… no they didn’t.”
Jonathan paced at the edge of the circle, arms folded behind his back and mind deep in thought. It felt harder to think when he was tired, problem was, he was always tired these days. The bony little dark brown creature sat on its bony little butt watching the man pace anxiously.
“When did you start talking to the mother?” Jonathan asked.
“After Jayda died,” the creature responded.
“Did she hear you before the girl died?”
“Hmmm…” the creature’s fangs pressed on its bottom lip and it shrugged, “No, I don’t believe so.”
“You had never tried before?” Jonathan stopped pacing and made eye contact with the thing.
“Sure, but she didn’t respond before.”
“Why did she respond now?” His eyes narrowed and brow creased, the pieces were coming into view.
“I don’t know. Jayda’s mother cried so much, she was so lonely, so lost. I was lost too, maybe she felt we needed each other. She asked me to do it, so I did.”
“Who asked you to?”
“Before she died?” He knew the answer.
Sonia was perplexed by the ah-ha expression painted on Parker’s face. She was in the process of asking him what he had Sherlocked but was interrupted by a live demonstration of their previous topic.
From behind Sonia, the thud of rhythmic fast-paced steps on thin carpet made their way across the hall and toward the bedrooms.
They froze in their seat, staring of toward the direction of the noise. The hurried steps continued down the hall toward Sonia’s room, but unlike her description of events, they didn’t stop before reaching it.
Jonathan halted in place, eyes wide and focused on the little girl standing at the bedroom door. She appeared in much the same way many spirits did, sickly and barely there. She had a shaved head and pale face, the bags under her eyes far beyond what a child her age should ever have. Her body was wrapped in a hospital gown. White and blue, never stylish, never flattering. He felt immediately sick to his stomach with grief at the site of her.
She stared at him, wide eyed and desperate. Her mouth moved rapidly, her hands waved wildly, but no words formed. No sound, no voice.
Jonathan sighed and knelt to be at her level, his expression a deep frown with saddened eyes. He had seen this before, a human spirit didn’t always have the ability to speak or interact in the in-between, they didn't belong and it rejected them. They were trapped all the same and often, a human spirit was at its most comfortable when it fell into a routine that simulated their life before death. To deviate from it took great will, to deviate further took that and time.
“Slow down, I can’t hear you, but I want to help you.” Jonathan tried to be gentle in his scolding. It got the effect he was hoping for. She stopped flailing and she stopped trying to talk. If her gaping mouth and wide eyes were anything to go by, it was more the shock that someone responded to her than it was his words.
“Do you know what is keeping you here?” he asked, “Is it this thing?” He tilted his head towards the creature that had crawled its way over to the edge of the circle closest to Jonathan and the ghost of Jayda. It was the first time it had bothered to be anywhere but as far from Jonathan as it could. Jayda fixated on it, it waved to her with small opening and closings of its hand. She nodded to Jonathan, answering his question.
“You’ve bound her here?” Jonathan stood, reaching into his jacket to remove a slip of paper, the creature recognized the power in the gesture and recoiled to the other side of the circle’s boundary.
“No, I can’t do that,” it responded, a quiver in its voice.
“Can’t take that chance,” Jonathan’s foot hovered over the line, ready to cross the border but froze mid-stride when he felt a pull on his arm. Jayda had both arms wrapped around his, trying to pull him away. Her brow furrowed, her muscles strained, her head shook. It was obvious it was taking a lot from her. He backed away from the creature, “You’re protecting it?”
“We are friends, we only have each other,” the creature said.
“Then what do you need?” Jonathan asked, at a loss with the easy answer being taken from him.
Jayda shivered and fixated on the floor, pale eyes sweeping back and forth in thought. She looked at him and mouthed a single word. Her mouth formed an ‘O’ shape and closed slowly to press the single syllable word out. Jonathan got nothing from it but a reminder he needed to practice reading lips.
He continued to stare, squinting in intense focus as she repeated the ‘O’ shaped word. His mind raced to connect each movement with a sound. Letters appeared, taking form in his mind.
She smiled wide and clapped her hands together. She formed the word once more and pointed at the creature that had slowly approached them again.
“Home? She said home?” It asked.
“She did.” Jonathan wasn’t sure what to do with the revelation.
“Oh… “ It replied. It chuckled to itself, an unpracticed sound which reminded Jonathan of a coughing old man, “She is keeping promises.”
“What do you mean?”
“I had been in this place for many years by the time she arrived. Those days were lonely and sad. She saw me, was lively and curious were it mattered,” he poked at his head with a claw, ”We talked. I talked of sadness, she didn’t like it, so I talked about me, I talked about home. I missed being somewhere that wanted me. She promised to help me find a way. She got sicker, it stopped mattering, I wanted to be with my friend.”
“Promises can be a powerful thing if someone believes they are.” Jonathan watched as Jayda approached the little thing, kneeling next to it, not being able to touch or interact pass the border of the circle, “So, this isn’t your home?” Jonathan asked, knowing the answer.
“No, this is no one’s home. This is the where the lost things go,” it explained, gazing at Jayda with its black round eyes, “I can’t go home, I need to be here with you and your Mom. You need me.”
Jayda shook her head, mouthed the word again.
“I believe she is saying it is time to move on.” Jonathan said.
“Oh…” the creature backed away and sat inside the image of the real Jonathan, who was cross-legged and in a trance in the real world, “I don’t know how.”
“I do. It’s part of my job after all.” Jonathan crossed over the glowing threshold. They both looked at him, “You said nothing belongs here. As far as I know, that is true. Some call what I do banishment, but that means making things return from where they came from or move on to where they should be.”
The creature did not seem happy, it had a downward gaze and a sunken expression, “Okay,” it said, seemingly coming to terms with a change it had no way of knowing the outcome of.
“Time to move on,” Jonathan said as he knelt and pressed the piece of paper on the creatures head.
The creature crossed its eyes to look at the drawing of a circle with a line through it, “I understand this one...” It vanished with a pop like someone plucking their finger against the inside of their mouth.
Jonathan let out a sigh, a release of tension from a job well done. The internal celebration was quickly interrupted by a tug on his arm. He looked toward it and saw Jayda, still there, still a ghost.
“Why are you still here?”
Jayda held up a single finger.
Parker and Sonia pressed their ears against the wooden door.
“I don’t hear anything, should we check on him?” Sonia asked hand gripped around the doorknob. It occurred to her it was her home and her bedroom, she shouldn’t have to ask, but she still didn’t make a move.
“I don’t know, he would be upset if he wasn’t actually in trouble.” Parker replied.
“We heard it, it ran down the hall and right into the room. It is too quiet. I’m worried, I’m going in.” Sonia stayed steady on the doorknob getting ready to turn it, Parker tensed up. The doorknob twisted on its own. Sonia jumped away, Parker followed suit.
The door was thrown open with Jonathan on the other side of it, he looked between them with a confused expression. He shook his head at them before rushing past.
“Hey, what’s going on. Where are you going?” Parker asked while Sonia was busy trying not to let her fear and surprise get the best of her. Jonathan didn’t reply, he turned opposite the kitchen towards the entrance of the home, stopping at a side door, pulling on it. It didn’t give.
“Keys to the basement,” he commanded.
Sonia glared after the unkempt paranormal detective that had rushed past her without an apology or even a hello, “for what? What is in the basement.”
“I’ll explain later. Get me the key.” He paused, considered his tone, and added, “Please.”
Sonia huffed under her breath and went after him. She retrieved a ring of keys from the wall hung teddy bear key holder with hooks on its feet. She fidgeted around until the right key appeared after the second scan through and unlocked the door. With the click of the lock Jonathan opened the door and bolted down the stairs without flicking on a light.
Parker shrugged, Sonia turned on the light. They went down the old wooden steps and upon coming into the basement they saw Jonathan moving stacked boxes and plastic crates from the corner.
“Even for him, this is pretty intense…” Parker said, “You need help, buddy?”
“No, found it.” Jonathan slid out a green plastic crate from deep in the recesses of the dark corner. The others continued to be confused as they cautiously approached him. He popped off the lid and started digging through it.
“Hey! You can’t just dig through people’s stuff.” Sonia scolded after coming to her senses. Then his statement sunk in, “What do you mean you found it?”
Jonathan didn’t bother to verbalize a reply, instead he pulled out a large brown fluffy and well-aged teddy bear.
“Oh my God... “ Sonia said meekly before exclaiming, “Oh my God! George!” She ran over to Jonathan, taking the bear that was held out to her. She wrapped her arms around it like an old friend she hadn’t seen in ages.
“She promised she would help you find him.” Jonathan knelt as Sonia collapsed to the dusty ground, tears welling up in her eyes.
“She talked to you?” She said, voice cracking.
“Yes, she wanted you to have him.”
Sonia began crying deeply, messily, releasing the pent up emotions that had kept her sedentary in its gravity for so long. Her pain and grief lay bare as she buried her face in the stuffed animal her daughter had called George.
Jonathan and Parker stayed with her until she was ready and led her back into the kitchen where Jonathan would explain what had happened and all the things Jayda had needed to do.
A little girl had wanted to take care of her Mom and her friend that had gotten stuck and unable to move on. That’s the thing with haunted places, they are full of lost longing things frozen in time. Jonathan’s job was to free them.
#ghosts #paranormal #shortstories #JonathanYoung #loss #grief