“During the exorcism he – it – showed me something. I saw the demon. Or, at least the form it was choosing to take. A form meant to shake my faith and my foundation. But, worse…worse was the vision of Ed’s death.”
Staring at Ed for what seemed like an eternity, Lorraine finally sighed and lowered her gaze, her hand following suit as he didn’t take it when offered. Her shoulders slumped slightly and she turned away from him with a murmured. “Okay.” She was surprised and disappointed and…she felt disjointed because he had never refused her before. She had never truly been on her own in cases like this. Neither of them had. They didn’t work like that. They didn’t live like that.
The simple gesture, or lack thereof, was more crushing than she had expected it to be and her steps were heavy as she headed for the basement door on her own. She was still going to do this. She had to. She had just never really expected to be doing it like this. Her heart feeling as heavy as her steps, she paused outside the closed door. She didn’t really want to go down the steps and into the basement, but the woman she had seen had been pointing in that direction. At least she thought that was it. She didn’t understand everything she had seen, but it wasn’t unusual to have to figure things out as she went along.
Lifting her hand to the doorknob, she jumped as another – very familiar – hand reached around her to grasp it before she could. “I’ll go first.” Ed murmured as he stepped up beside her and pushed the door open. He glanced at her only long enough to see her brief nod before doing just as he had said and taking that first step that would lead them downstairs after flipping on the light. Though she hadn’t made a big deal out of it, she was grateful that he had changed his mind and she was following before she thought about it because this was how it was supposed to be.
She was only a few steps down when she froze where she stood, barely noticing that it took a moment for Ed to notice she wasn’t right behind him. “Lorraine?” His voice almost seemed hazy, heard but not heard because she couldn’t focus on anything but how bad the basement felt. Even from here, even before she was on the floor. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and tried to center herself enough to actually finish the trek down the stairs. “We don’t have to do this.” Ed’s voice was closer this time and when she opened her eyes, he was on the step right below the one she stood on, earnestly watching her with concern, biting his tongue on everything else he clearly wanted to say.
“I’m okay. Go ahead.” She thought she sounded steady and sure, but he still looked doubtful and worried as he stared at her for another moment. “Go ahead.” She repeated, not wanting to be down there longer than they had to be and grateful when he seemed to pick up on that and turned back toward the basement to continue down the stairs.
She followed silently, blinking in surprise when he reached the bottom first and offered his hand to her as she stood on the last step. She attempted an appreciative smile but shook her head as it almost immediately faded. “I can’t be focusing on you if I’m going to find out what’s down here.” Her tone was almost apologetic as she explained her reasoning for not taking that hand. He so very obviously didn’t like it, but he only nodded once curtly as he dropped his hand and stepped slightly off to one side.
She stepped down onto the concrete floor and the basement around her disappeared. A wind blew through the room causing her to shiver and wrap her arms around herself as she looked around. It was darker than it had been, though the single light hadn’t offered that much light to begin with. Taking a step forward as if she had no control, she heard the familiar clacking and crunching sound beneath her feet and squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting to look down. The wind picked up, howling as it whipped around…
Headstones. Opening her eyes she found herself back in the graveyard from her nightmare. Dirt and leaves and bones littering the ground around her feet, a mausoleum in the distance, lit by nothing but the moon hanging low in the sky above, old and crumbling tombstones popping up from the ground in what looked like no sensible order or placement at all. Her eyes widened with the recognition and the wailing of the wind turned to the wailing of people just as it had before. Or almost. It wasn’t quite as overwhelmingly loud this time, but the pleas and pain that accompanied it were almost enough to bring her to her knees.
Swallowing hard, she resisted futilely covering her ears, knowing from the previous encounters that such a thing would do no good. Taking a step forward, she cringed as the bones crunched beneath her feet, still purposely not looking down. There had to be a reason she was seeing this and she wasn’t going to freak herself out – at least not more than she already was – and lose it this time. There was a slight movement out of the corner of her eye and her head whipped around in that direction only to see that the woman from the kitchen had returned. The woman who looked a lot like her.
“What are you trying to show me?” She didn’t mean to sound desperate, but there was no hiding that was how she felt. She needed to get something this time. Something more than fear. The woman stared at her for a long moment, blue eyes sad and somehow understanding at the same time. Then she pointed down once more.
Lorraine’s gaze followed the pointing finger to the headstone it indicated. Cocking her head slightly, she knelt down in front of it. Where she couldn’t read any of the names before, she could now. “Barbara Hughes?” She looked up at the woman with a frown. “You?” The woman nodded and pointed again. Another glance showed the years of birth and death. Barbara had been almost exactly the age she was now. Still frowning, she looked up again. “I still don’t understand.”
Barbara made a wider gesture, still pointing around them and the clouds parted above leaving the moon to illuminate more headstones around the one she knelt before. Moving to see what they said, Lorraine was not overly surprised to see that they were all females and they were all around the same age. If she had to guess, she would say that they likely had the same characteristics as well, though you couldn’t really tell that from a headstone that didn’t even really exist.
Her attention was on the stones and so she didn’t look up again for a long moment. It felt like all of these revelations were leading up to something that she didn’t want to see and yet she persisted. Barbara needed her help. These other tortured souls needed her help. Stepping backward as she stood from examining one of the stones, she nearly fell over one behind her that she was positive hadn’t been there before.
Turning she found herself face to face with the man she had seen in the kitchen. The man who had been so enraged at Barbara’s presence. The man who had been stroking Janet’s hair as if challenging her to do anything about any of this. The man who looked like a man, but was not a man at all. He held a shovel in one hand and a knife dripping blood in the other. There was one of the most evil smiles she had ever seen on his face as he calmly watched her fear rise. She didn’t want to look at him, to meet his eyes, but it was almost like she was forced to do so. What she saw there was enough to chill her soul, but she was still unable to look away. Until his gaze dropped and hers followed.
He stood next to the headstone that hadn’t been there before. It looked newer, brighter. It stood out more than the others and the writing was quite clear from where she stood. For a moment it didn’t register at all. Then she began to comprehend what it said. It was her own name. Her own birth month and year. Even the simple epitaph that one would expect: ‘beloved wife and mother.’ But, what held her attention the longest was the death date. It was this year. This month. All that was missing were specific days.
She stumbled back away from the sight, unable to speak, when she felt the earth shift slightly beneath her and something reached up to grab her ankle. As soon as it made contact she saw what had happened – what the monster before her had done - to all of the women who belonged to the names she had read and that was when she began to scream.
Beloved Wife and Mother...
(Author's Note: This is part eight of a multi-part series.