Lilies on her grave

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Chapter 17

Renegotiations

Jackson took the first couple steps as slowly as he possible could, but the sound of the door slamming shut behind him, made him freeze in his tracks. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the new level of darkness. The flash light on his phone could only shed so much light on the area. On the upper levels of the house there seemed to be enough ambient light coming in from the windows that weren’t boarded up, that Jackson could make certain things out past the outer limits of the lights range, but the basement was a different story.

He stood there, standing on the stairs, frozen, listening to his own heartbeat. After what seemed like an eternity, he started down the stairs and entered a long hallway. Just like upstairs, this hallway was filled with doorways on both sides of the corridor, but these were all empty. Jackson peeked into each room as he passed, and found that not all of the rooms were vacant. Those that weren’t, had garbage, and other miscellaneous items, scattered about.

He had made it about half way down the hallway, when he realized that his heart was beating louder than ever, and that his breathing was becoming quick and short. He took a deep breath to try to steel himself, the smell of moisture and mildew filled his nose. The sound of metal clanking together made him stop, as he tried to determine where the noise had originated from. He walked into the first room on his right, and found that there was another doorway inside of that room, which led him to another room and another doorway. He heard the clanking sound again, and this time it sounded close. Maybe even in the next room.

Jackson glanced over his shoulder and could barely make out the doorway that he had just walked through. When he turned his head back toward the direction of the other doorway, he saw a light, which hadn’t been there a second ago, emanating from the other side of the doorway. It took him longer than he had thought it would to cross the room, but when he reached the doorway, he cautiously peered into the room on the other side.

The entire room was filled with lit candles. They lined the floor, and were stacked upon a four shelf high book case. The back wall was made out of gray cinder blocks, where three sets of iron shackles were bolted. Lilly was sitting on the floor to his far right. She appeared to be unconscious. Her arms were raised above her head, and her wrists where bound by the shackles. In the far left set of shackles, in the same position, was the ghost of a middle aged man, and in the middle was the ghost of a young blonde girl, who bore a striking resemblance to Lilly, who like everyone else, was also shackled to the wall. Both of the other ghosts were a dull gray in color, and in the same condition as his friend.

“Lilly!” Jackson exclaimed, as loud as he dared, rushing to her aid. He reached out and tried to touch her face, but his finger passed right through her skin. “Lilly, wake up,” he said, grabbing the iron shackles and giving them a shake, but she didn’t stir, neither did the others. Standing up, he tried to pull the shackles from the wall, but they wouldn’t budge. “I’m afraid that she’s not going anywhere,” came a deep voice from somewhere behind him. “Shit,” he cursed under his breath, turning around.

A figure appeared from the darkness. He had the body of a man, dressed in a very expensive looking three-piece suit, but his head was that of a black furred goat. A black furred goat with three horns, and a set of human eyes.

“Leonard, I presume? What are you doing to my friend?” Jackson asked.

“And you are not what I was expecting,” the goat headed Demon confessed. “Now I really am going to have to reward that pain in the ass spirit.”

“Let her go?”

“And why would I do that?” Leonard asked, walking over to Lilly and kneeling down next to her. He gracefully waved his hand in front of her face, and then moved his hand back toward his own face, pulling with it glowing white trails of the dead girl’s essence, which he quickly inhaled through his black nostrils. “Nothing tastes as good as a fresh soul.”

Jackson tried to punch Leonard in the face, but the Demon turned his head, blocking the strike with one of his horns, as Jackson felt a sharp twinge of pain in his hand, when his fist hit hard horn. An animalistic growl came forth from the Demon’s throat, and in one quick move, Leonard lunged forward, and grabbed Jackson up by his jacket, lifting him off the ground with one hand, and holding him tightly against the cinder block wall.

“I’m really going to enjoy tearing your still beating heart from your chest,” the Demon said, his breath smelling of sulfur.

“You’re trapped here like them, aren’t you?” Jackson asked, needing to buy himself some time, as he tried to remember what Melinda had told him about the Demon.

Leonard just growled louder.

“What’s it been? Twenty years?”

“Thirty-three, but who’s counting?”

“Maybe we can help each other out?” Jackson suggested. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he still hadn’t come up with any better ideas.

“I’m listening,” was all the Demon said, his human like eyes narrowing at Jackson.

“Why don’t you start by telling me how you got trapped here.”

“Hmm, sounds like your trying to stall for time, if you ask me,” Leonard replied, scratching one of his three horns. “Desperately trying to delay the inevitable?”

“No…that’s not it. It’s just that if I know how you got trapped here, maybe I can undo the trap and set you free.”

“Just like that?” Leonard inquired.

“Well, there would be a few stipulations of course.”

“Of course.”

“You let me and my friend, and the rest of the spirits you’ve trapped here, go, unharmed.”

“Oh, is that all?”

“Once you’re free you won’t need to feed off of them anymore, right, which means you’ll have no further use for them,” Jackson tried to reason.

“I suppose you’ve got a point there,” Leonard mused, setting Jackson back on the ground. “The original owner was an old bastard, by the name of Harold Woodruff. He was an under achiever in the worst of ways. Scrawny, ugly, and not gifted in other departments if you know what I mean? I’m sure you’ve known someone like that in your lifetime. Everyone does. When Harold was a boy, he came upon a group of teenagers in the woods, who had a book they weren’t supposed to have. They were so on edge, that at the sound of Harold stepping on a stick caused the boy holding he book to dropped it, and they all ran off.

“That book, was a tome on the occult and magic. Young Harold devoured the information between its covers, and while most of it was just made up gibberish, there was enough scattered information to give the boy ideas. He was twenty-five when he summoned me to his room, upstairs, in this very house. We made a deal that night. Signed in blood, and unbreakable.”

“And what did he sell his soul for?” Jackson asked.

“What do all men sell their souls for? Money and power of course,” the Demon answered. “Thanks to me, he made a fortune in the shipping industry, but when his time came, he thought that he could renegotiate the terms of our original agreement. In his old age, Harrold Woodruff, having lived on the finer side of life, didn’t want to spend an eternity in hell anymore. He had become civilized, and thought himself too good to associate with likes of Demons.

“So, on his death bed, which I do mean literally, because he was bed ridden and dying, he summoned me for a second time to plead his case. Oh, he was quite upset when I wouldn’t renegotiate, and said that if he was going to be trapped, then so was I, and then he put a gun to his head and blew his brains out. I was immediately expelled from the room, by unseen forces, and the door slammed shut behind him, and now here we are.”

“Here we are.”

“I suppose I could be inclined to leave this dreaded place, and all that remains with it, for my freedom,” the Demon said, extending his hand toward Jackson.

Jackson sealed the deal with a hand shake, and got the queerest feeling upon touching Leonard’s hand, like he had just signed his life on the dotted line. “Any idea where I should start looking?”

“The master bedroom on the third floor,” Leonard said, without a sound of doubt in his voice. “That’s the only room I can not gain entry to. It’s heavily warded.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Jackson told him, taking a long look at Lilly.

“You don’t even have a clue as to what you should be searching for, do you?”

Jackson’s silence was his answer.

“There are several types of devil traps,” Leonard began to explain. “A large pentagram, inside of a circle on the floor, accompanied by runic letters inside of the symbol is usually a summoning ward. That’s what Harold used to summon me. That one is at the foot of his bed, drawn upon the wood floor in black paint. Once summoned, the Demon is trapped inside of the pentagram, until the circle is broken. It’s effective, but not enough to keep me prisoner.”

“Then what is powerful enough to keep you trapped here?”

“There is only one spell that I can think of. It needs five separate items, each marked with its own devil trap. By themselves, there are all but worthless, but when all five are within close proximity to one another, they will trap any Demon within whatever structure he has been summoned to. Find them and destroy the symbols the best you can. It only takes a slight disruption of the overall appearance to render them harmless, but all five will need to be deactivated in order to break the spell.”

“Got it,” Jackson declared, taking one last look at Lilly. “Is she in pain?”

“She has no idea what is happening to her,” Leonard promised. “To her, it’s as if she were asleep.”

“Make sure it stays that way,” Jackson stated, not caring if he insulted the Demon or not. Nobody hurts his friends and gets away with it. He then thought it odd that he was referring to a ghost as being his friend, but Lilly had proven to be a better friend to him any of the living ones he’s had over the years.

“Oh, don’t you worry about that,” Leonard replied. “If you fail me, you’ll be sitting there, right next to her,” he promised.

* * *

Melinda met Jackson as he came up from the basement, and was quite excited upon hearing about the deal Jackson had made with Leonard. Dan appeared from out of the darkness, and Jackson felt a sudden sting of pain, where the ghost had hit him before. He kept his distance, and just glared at Jackson. “Why would you make a deal with Leonard for people that you don’t even know?” Melinda asked.

“I didn’t do it for you,” Jackson replied. “I did it for my friend. You know, the one you gave to him.”

“I’m not proud of what I did, but I’ve got friends here too.”

“Speaking of which, how’d your boyfriend hit me like that”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Melinda responded sharply. “And he’s got a lot of anger within him.”

“I need to get to the master bedroom. I think that’s where whatever it is keeping Leonard here is.”

“I’ll take you,” Melinda offered. “I know exactly where it is. It’s the only room in the house where no one can enter,…well, at least no one that’s dead.”

They made their way to the third floor of the house, and to a heavy looking solid wooden door at the end of a long hallway, made from the same wood as the door. There was an ornate iron door knob, and a keyhole that looked like it required an old skeleton key. Jackson gave the door knob a twist, but found that it was locked up tight. He had figured as much, nothing was ever easy for him. He knelt down and peeked into the keyhole, only to see that there was something blocking his view into the room.

Putting the light from his phone up to the hole, it looked as if the key was still in the lock on the other side of the door. “You wouldn’t happen to know where I could find a metal coat hanger do you?” Jackson asked.

“There are some in the closet of that room,” Melinda answered, pointing to one of the other doors in the hallway.

Jackson retrieved the coat hanger and untwisted the bend end, making it as straight as he possible could. He then pushed it into the keyhole, and after giving it a hard push, heard the sound of the metal key clanging against the hardwood floor on the other side of the door. Jackson put the side of his head to the floor, peered into the room. The smell of stale air, and dust blasted him in the face, causing him to blink a few times, but when the sensation passed, he could see the skeleton key lying about a foot from the door. Taking the coat hanger, he quickly re-bent the end, putting the hook back into place. Once he was satisfied with the overall shape of the hook, he slipped it under the door. It took him several tries, but he finally managed to get the hook around the key, in just the right position, so that he could slide it under the door.

“Wa-lah,” Jackson said, proudly displaying the key to Melinda, which he then stuck it in the keyhole. Giving it a sharp twist, he heard the sound of clicking metal, signaling that the lock had been disengaged. He turned the door knob again, and this time it opened, its old hinges crying out in protest. “You coming?” he asked.

Melinda reached a hand out toward the open doorway, and found an invisible barrier blocking her hand from passing through the threshold. “Be careful,” she told Jackson. “The old man was powerful enough to trap Leonard here, who knows what other traps he’s got lying about.”

“He’s dead,” Jackson responded, with a hint of amusement crossing his face. “I don’t think he’s got any traps in there that can hurt me.”

“Magic works on the living, just as it does the dead,” Melinda warned.

Jackson’s face became deathly serious, as he gazed into the dark room. Magic was something that he hadn’t really thought to be a viable threat, until now. “What kind of traps are we talking about here?”

Melinda just shrugged her shoulders. “I said who knows what kind of traps, meaning I have no idea.”

“I knew that,” Jackson replied, taking a deep breath and puffing out his chest a bit, before stepping into the room. The master bedroom was larger than his last apartment, and contained three separate rooms, and a master bathroom. It was filled with fancy looking furniture and light fixtures, all of which were covered in a thick layer of dust, and cobwebs. Horrific images were captured in oil paints, and hung on the walls, while piles of once expensive clothes were scattered about the floor.

Jackson made his way through the first two rooms, not really sure of what he was supposed to be looking for. He stepped through a doorway, and entered the third room. Against the wall to his left was a large king size, four post bed. One of those really fancy ones, made out of a dark wood, and covered with a canopy. There was a thick blanket stretched across the bed, with a large human size lump in the middle. Jackson’s heart started to beat faster, at the thought of what might be lying under the covers. Surly Harold Woodruff’s body had been discovered and buried a long time ago, the young man told himself, as he inched closer toward the bed.

With a trembling hand, Jackson grabbed an edge of the heavy blanket and pulled it back. The empty eyed skull of Harold Woodruff’s pajama dressed skeleton, stared up at him, causing the young man’s heart to skip a beat. “Jesus fucking Christ!” he yelled, jumping several feet backwards from the bed.

The skeleton was dressed in dark red, silk pajamas, with the letters H W, embroidered in gold lettering, with a decorative font on the shirt, right where the man’s heart had once been. The skull still had strands of white hair attached to it, and when Jackson stepped forward again, he could see a small hole in the right side of the skull. Harold’s skeletal hands were crossed across his chest, which Jackson thought was odd, given Leonard’s recounting of the events that had transpired the last time he was here.

The light on his cell phone dimmed by half its power. “Shit,” Jackson cursed, looking at the battery indicator on the screen, and seeing that it was in the red. He did a quick glance around the room, a spotted an old oil lamp on the night stand on the other side of the bed. Its base was made out of clear crystal, with a tall glass cylinder. Jackson started to make his way around the bed, but stopped at its foot, where he saw a large black pentagram, filled with runic lettering, painted on the wood floor.

Along the outer area of the pentagram, a runic symbol was drawn in between each point, for a total of five runes. The pentagram itself was drawn so that there was an empty space in the inside of each of the tips of the star, and an extra space in the middle, for a total of six empty spaces, which were all filled with a rune, for a total of eleven runes within the pentagram.

There was a large scuff mark in the upper left section of the circle, which had been made so deep that it had splintered the wood. Jackson snapped a quick picture of the symbol, with his cell phone, and rushed over to the night stand.

Picking up the lamp, he could see that it was nearly full, which brought with it a sense of relief. He lifted up the clear glass top, exposing the wick, and using his cigarette lighter, ignited the still oil soaked wick, bathing the room in its bright light. Jackson turned off the flash light app, and stuck the cell phone into his jacket pocket. “Where should I start?” he asked himself out loud. Bending down, he took a quick peek under the bed, and his eyes widened in surprise, when he found himself staring down the barrel of a small, black revolver, resting on the dust covered floor.

Jackson picked the revolver up, which seemed really heavy in his hand given the gun’s size. Placing the lamp back down on the night stand, he turned the gun over in his hands, to get a look at it from all sides. He didn’t know the first thing about guns, other than to pull the trigger to fire it. He looked for a way to open the cylinder, to see if it was still loaded, but gave up after a few minutes. He turned the revolver around in his hands, so that he could look into the front of the open-faced cylinder, making sure to not point the barrel of the gun at his face. He could see the tops of four bullets, which told him that the gun was still indeed loaded. He wasn’t sure what to do with, but putting it back where he had found it, didn’t seem like an option. He slipped it into the inside pocket of his jacket, right next to his pack of cigarettes.

Aided by the light of the oil lamp, Jackson began to scour the large suite for any sings of the devil traps. The way Leonard had described them, it sounded like they could be on virtually anything in the room, and that’s where he began looking; under rugs, underneath chair cushions, and inside of dresser drawers. He found himself being drawn to a large painting hanging on one of the walls of the second room. The scene drawn upon the old canvas depicted a medieval setting, for several of the characters were wearing armor and carrying swords. They stood atop a large wooden structure, which Jackson recognized as being a hang man’s gallows. A crowd of men, women, and children looked on, as five men hung at the end of long ropes. What parent in their right mind would take their children to see five men being hanged to death, Jackson asked himself. It seemed down right morbid, and would surly give any child witnessing the horrific event, years upon years of therapy. “Five men,” Jackson suddenly said out loud. “Like the five points of a pentagram.” He lifted the lamp up to the oil painting, and began to scour over ever inch on the paining, but the satanic symbol was nowhere to be found. When he was sure that he hadn’t missed anything, he set the lamp down and lifted the painting up off of its hooks, so that he could see the back of the canvas, and to his surprise he had found the first devil’s trap.

The symbol looked a lot like the one drawn on the floor, but after closer examination, Jackson could tell that almost all of the runic letters were different, although their placement within the symbol was identical to the large one on the floor. Jackson took out his phone and snapped a picture, before taking the painting back to the third room and placing it down within the large pentagram on the floor.

He found the second devil’s trap carved into the bottom of a bronze statue of a nude woman, which was about a foot tall, and buried under a large pile of clothes, in the bed room’s massive walk in closet.

The third was located on page four hundred and fifty in a book entitled: Complete stories and poems of Edgar Allen Poe, which had been stashed away inside of the third drawer of a tall dresser in the first room. The fourth trap was found in the bathroom, scrawled upon the thick brown paper, which lined the back of the large mirror hanging above a gold-plated sink.

After taking a picture of the other three traps, Jackson piled all four traps on top of one another, inside of the large pentagram at the foot of the bed. “One more to go,” he told himself, leaning against a small table that held a single glass vase, with dried flower stems. He set the oil lamp down and took out a cigarette. Inhaling a much needed drag of nicotine, the gears in his mind still turned. He had looked ever where he could think of, all throughout the three rooms of the master suite. “If I were a bat shit crazy old man, no offense,” he said, waving his cigarette at Harold Woodruff’s body. “Where would I have put the last devil’s trap? I’d probably keep it some place close.”

He took one last drag on his cigarette, before tossing it into the empty vase. He walked over to the bed and lifted each side of the mattress, being careful to not disturb the dead body on top. When Jackson didn’t find anything under the mattress, he turned his attention to Harold. The red silk pajama shirt didn’t have any pockets, but the pants did. He reached his hand into the pocket closest to him and came up empty. Leaning over Harold, he slipped his hand into the second pocket and felt his fingers brush against something cold and metallic.

Nestled in the pocket was a large coin, made from a dark metal. Jackson lifted the coin out of the pocket, and was surprised at its weight. “Must be made of iron,” he said out loud. One side of the coin held the devil’s trap, which he took a picture of. His cellphone had just enough power left for the one photo, as the screen went dark after the flash went off. He flipped the coin over and stared at the side profile of someone who he thought had to be Harold Woodruff.

“Now, how do I destroy these?” he began to retrace his steps through the rooms, looking for something, anything he could use. He knew that he didn’t have to deface the entire trap, given the small broken line of the pentagram on the floor, but he needed something hard enough, or sharp enough to do the trick. He found a small desk, in the corner of the middle room. A pile of old envelops, containing bills, sat on one side of the desk top. The paper of the envelopes had become yellow, from the thick layer of dust which had collected on top of them. He started to rifle through the top drawer, recalling that thought that he had seen something in there during his earlier search. He pulled out a gold colored letter opener.

Jackson placed the tip of the letter opener against the surface of the coin, containing the devil’s trap, and began to scratch vigorously. The soft lead deformed easily, as he scratched several deep lines through the symbol. When he was satisfied with his work, he headed toward the pile of remaining devil’s traps. “One down, four to go,” he said, his eyes widening in wonder as his breath became visible in the light of the oil lamp, signaling a dramatic drop in temperature.

Jackson reached the pentagram on the floor, and went to toss the coin on to the pile, but when he looked down, his mind began to sense that something was off, as he found himself holding a syringe full of heroine, instead of the lead coin.

“Here, let me,” a female’s voice said, the words echoing through the air. Jackson recognized that voice, at least he had thought that he did. It sounded a lot like Lexi Robinson, but it had been years since he had last seen her. His eyelids felt so heavy. He fought to keep them open, but it was no use. Just for a few seconds he told himself, and when he finally was able to find the strength to open them again, he was sitting on a bed, with his back resting against a wall.

“What the fuck,” he said out loud.

“You asked me to help you, remember?” Lexi said.

Jackson looked to his right, and found Lexi sitting on the bed next to him. She was into the whole goth thing, and had long, jet black dyed hair, which was in a ponytail. Her lipstick was just as black as her hair, and she had a silver loop nose ring. Lexi had been his girlfriend when he had been in college. He looked around and found that he was back in his freshman dorm room, at Northern State University, in South Dakota. There was a lamp on his night stand, which had a red piece of cloth over it, giving the room a red tint. He hadn’t had much money in college, so his room pretty much just had the bare necessities. There were two beds, each one pushed into a separate corner of the room. One was for his roommate, who was never there. There was also a table, and two chairs, two dressers, his had a mirror on top of it, and a mini fridge sat next to an old TV.

Jackson felt something being tied around his right bicep. He looked over and watched as Lexi secure a rubber tourniquet around his arm, before tapping a finger against the skin of his inner forearm. He had just turned nineteen, and she was his first real girlfriend. She had also been his first, for she was the one who had taken his virginity.

For their first date, he had taken her to this cheap Chinese restaurant, that served the best egg rolls he had ever had. After that they went to the movies. He remembered seeing the trailers for The Avengers, and really wanted to see it. The movie had been out for nearly a month, so the theater was practically deserted. They sat in the back, and all Jackson could really remember about the movie was Lexi’s tongue in his mouth, and her hand down his pants. After the movie, they went back to his dorm room and she had let him fuck her, and he swore that he had never cum so hard in his life, and that was the only thing he could think about when she had taken him to the tattoo parlor on their second date. That was where he had gotten his nipple pierced, to match hers.

Jackson felt a slight sting in his arm, as the needle punctured his skin. Lexi pushed the heroin into his vein. A feeling of euphoria washed over him, as every care in the world faded out of existence. He leaned hard against the wall, as Lexi undid his pants, and started to give him a blow job. He never wanted this night to end. He never wanted this feeling to end. After a while he came in her mouth, and it felt so unreal. Then the feeling of euphoria began to fade, as he got the feeling that there was something really important that he had to do. He felt something being tightened around his arm, and watched in confusion as Lexi tied a rubber tourniquet around his bicep. “What’s going on?” he asked. There was a slight twinge of pain in his forearm, and then there was only pleasure.

Jackson’s head felt heavy, like it was under water. The image of a young girl flashed through his mind. She had a spot of dried red blood matted in her blonde hair on the left side of her head. “Lilly,” he mumbled.

“Who?” Lexi asked, tying a rubber tourniquet around his bicep. There was a slight pain in his forearm, and then ecstasy was all he could feel. “Forget about her,” she said, undoing his pants. God, he loved her, he thought. That was the only reason he had agreed to try heroin in the first place. He had never considered himself to be a hard-core drug user. He smoked a lot of weed. Had tried cocaine a couple of times, but that was it, so he was totally caught off guard when Lexi had confided in him about her drug of choice. She told him that they would have the best sex ever, if they were both high at the same time. That was when Jackson discovered that he couldn’t say no to her. They had only been going out for couple of months now, and always spent every waking minute with one another. He began skipping classes, and his GPA took a hard nose dive, but he was in love, so he said yes, without hesitation.

The ecstasy started to fade. “I need to do something,” Jackson said, his mind filled with a thick blanket of fog.

“You need to relax,” Lexi said, tying the rubber tourniquet around Jackson’s arm.

Jackson shook his head, trying his best to clear the fog. There was something important that he had been tasked to do. “No,” he said, jumping off the bed. “I have to do something.”

“You have to sit back down silly,” Lexi said, grabbing Jackson by the hand and pulling him back toward her. He stood there, on the edge of the bed, and watch as Lexi pushed the needle into his arm. The feeling of ecstasy returned, and was then increased, when Lexi undid his pants.

The fog started to lift, and Jackson found himself sitting on his bed, and leaning heavily against the wall. Lexi was tying a rubber tourniquet around his arm. “Wait,” he said, reaching down and undoing the tourniquet, while at the same time getting out of bed. “This isn’t right,” he said to himself.

“What isn’t?” Lexi asked, reaching out to grab his hand. Jackson took a few steps back, and bumped into his dresser.

“This,” Jackson declared, waving his hands about the room. He turned around and found his reflection starring back at him from the mirror. His eyes met Lexi’s in the same reflection, and he could see the tears starting to well up. He had made her cry a couple of times during their relationship, and he hated himself for it every time. His eyes drifted down the syringe in her hand, and suddenly a feeling of dread washed over him. Scenes began to flash through his mind, and he couldn’t tell if they were real or not, but the emotional response he was experiencing sure felt real. He was sitting in the back seat of a car, and had just pushed a syringe full of heroin into his vein, and that all too familiar feeling of euphoria had entered his brain.

He had gotten himself kicked out of school a few years earlier, and Lexi said that she wasn’t going with him. That her parents would kill her if she dropped out of school. He had to move back in with his parents, and it didn’t take long for them to discover his new addiction, and the real reason he had gotten himself expelled. After they kicked him out, he surfed from couch to couch, friend to friend, city to city. It took a while, but he had finally cleaned himself up, and seemed to be back on the right track again. Then he got the news that Lexi had died from a heroin overdose. He had gone to her funeral, and met up with some old friends from school, and now he was in the back seat of one of their cars.

He looked down and saw a single french fry on the floor between his feet, and thought about how great hot, fresh french fries tasted, as a long string of drool stretched from the corner of his mouth, down to the blue carpet of the car. His head felt so heavy, and all he wanted to do was sleep. Suddenly, it felt as if something very heavy had been placed on his chest, as he found it hard to breath. He could hear himself gasping for air, hard and fast at first, then slow, and low, like a deep rumbling gurgle from somewhere in the back of his throat.

Next, came flashes of bright lights, and a lot of noise. He thought he could hear voices all around him, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. Then, he was standing at the foot of a bed, staring at his own body, which was lying very peaceful like in a hospital bed. For some reason, he had the strongest urge to look out into the hallway, where he saw a young blonde girl standing next to a short, white, bald man, who gave him the hebegebees when he looked at him.

Jackson shook his head again, and the flashes disappeared. He gazed back upon his reflection and saw the gray, ghostly image of Harold Woodruff standing behind him. The ghost’s hands were touching the sides of Jackson’s head, and its gray, ethereal fingers could be seen passing through Jackson’s skull. “Get out of my head,” Jackson struggled to say, spinning around to face Harold. During his spin, Jackson, who was still holding the iron coin in his left hand, brought it up and passed it through Harold’s body.

The ghost screamed in pain, and flickered out of existence, as did his college dorm room. Jackson knew that the spirit wouldn’t be gone for long, and needed a way to destroy all of the devil’s traps quickly. He tossed the defaced coin on to the pile, just as Harold Woodruff reappeared on the other side of the pentagram.

“I can’t let you release him,” hissed the ghost. “Not until he gives me more life.”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Jackson replied.

“Then we’ll both rot here for an eternity.”

“Listen, it’s only a matter of time before this dilapidated house of yours is torn down to make room for a parking lot, or a Dollar General, and he’s got one of my friends tied up in the basement, so you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t share your sentiment.”

“I will not let you release him.”

“Your kind of forgetting one important piece of information in all of this,” Jackson stated.

“And what would that be?”

“You dead, and I’m not,” Jackson declared, smashing the oil lamp down upon the pile of devil’s traps. The glass lamp shattered into a thousand pieces, causing the oil to ignite almost instantly on the pile, as the fire began to consume the devil’s traps. The canvas of the painting of the gallows melted without hesitation. The complete works of Edgar Allan Poe turned to ash. The brown paper on the back of the mirror didn’t put up much of a fight either, which just left the bronze statue of the naked lady.

The oil stuck to her metal skin and burned uncontrollably. Jackson didn’t know what the melting point of bronze was, but hoped that the fire would be hot enough. Embers of burning paper floated about the room, as the bed, containing the remains of Harold Woodruff erupted in flames.

Harold’s ghost screamed, as the glass of the mirror, which had started to become warped from the flames and heat of the fire, shattered. The force of the exploding mirror, sent flaming embers into the air. Before Jackson knew what was happening, it seemed like the entire room was a blaze.

Jackson rushed out of the room, and made a bee line for the basement, but was stopped by Lilly in the foyer area of the first floor. “Jackson!”

Smoke started to fill the first floor of the large house. Jackson’s eyes began to burn, and his throat became scratchy, causing him to cough uncontrollably. “How do we get out of here? I can’t see where I’m going!”

“Over here!” Lilly cried out. “Follow the sound of my voice.”

Jackson honed in on Lilly’s cries, and soon found the door. Bright sunlight poured into the abandoned house, making it even harder to see, but he was only a few steps away from being free of this seriously haunted house. A spectral hand shot out from the smoke and grabbed Jackson’s right forearm. An intense cold began to burn its way through the leather of his jacket and into his arm, and he found himself being dragged back into smoke filled foyer.

Jackson screamed in agony at the pain searing his skin. The smoke around him began to clear, as the form of Harold Woodruff materialized in front of him. “You will pay for this boy,” the ghost hissed.

“I believe your tab needs to be cleared first,” came the voice that Harold knew all too well.

“No!” Harold screamed. “You owe me more life! We were in the middle of a renegotiation!”

Leonard, the three-horned goat Demon, walked out of the smoke, and put himself between Jackson and angry spirit. “You can’t negotiate with what you don’t have,” the Demon responded, looking back at Jackson and giving him a quick wink.

Jackson started to back pedal as fast as he could, as a ring of hell fire sprang up around the Demon and vengeful ghost. The flames grew in intensity, until they reached the ceiling. Jackson heard Harold scream one last time, but the cry sounded more like one out of anguish, then anger.

The smoke began to blind him again, but he kept moving backward, and then he broke through the wall of smoke and out into the clear air of the new day. He stumbled a few times, before falling flat on his ass. “We need to get the hell out of here!” Jackson yelled, picking himself up off of the ground and high tailing it toward his car. Lilly got into the passenger seat just as Jackson put the key into the ignition. He looked up and saw the reflection of the blonde girl, who had been held captive next to Lilly, getting into the back seat.

“Jackson, this is Jessica.”

“Buckle your seat belt,” he responded, punching the accelerator, as the sound of sirens could be heard in the distance.

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