A Deal with the Devil
My heart was thundering in my chest as I continued to stare at our unwelcome guests. As my mouth went dry, my hands gripped the armrests on my chair, my knuckles whitening.
“You’re so tense,” Sebastian whispered out as he began to knead the knots in my shoulders.
I immediately tensed up, even more, not wanting him to touch me right now.
“Who are they?” I finally spoke, nodding my head towards the growing crowd hiding in the shadows of the trees. As the sun continued to descend behind the horizon, the more they became dark shadows, no features to be seen.
“Who is who?” Sebastian’s tone was light and nonchalant.
Was he seriously telling me that he couldn’t see them? Maybe he wasn’t even looking in that direction, but how could he not? Their prying eyes were so unsettling that it would be impossible to ignore them.
“There-” I slowly pointed with a shaking hand, “in the trees.”
I saw Sebastian turn his head out the corner of my eye but he just shrugged and hummed a disapproving sound.
“I don’t see anything, Emersyn. Maybe it’s just shadowing from the trees. This home is known to play tricks on people.” He continued rubbing my shoulders but I shrugged away from him. His touch was extremely unwelcome at the moment.
“I know the difference between shadows and people, Sebastian,” I snapped. How dare he question my sanity! I wasn’t going crazy. Well, at least I hoped I wasn’t. The events from the last several days would say otherwise. I was heading straight for the looney bin anytime now. Hell, maybe I’ll drive myself there and admit myself.
He finally stepped away from me, rounding the table to sit in his own chair once again, his eyes following mine into the trees.
“What do you see?”
My eyes continued to move from one shadowed figure to the next.
“I’m not entirely sure,” I stated, a cold chill running up my arms and into my hair. “There are several people standing among the trees just staring up at us.”
Sebastian continued to stare with me, but when I looked over at him I knew he wasn’t seeing what I was seeing. There was a blankness in his eyes and I couldn’t help but notice that he looked bored.
Okay, maybe I am losing it. It’s finally happening, but I hated that it was happening in the middle of nowhere at an abandoned plantation with a complete stranger sitting across from me.
“Emersyn,” Sebastian began, turning his attention back to me. His eyes pinned me with a sympathetic gleam to them. What’s that about? I wondered. “This might be a surprise to you, but you’re seeing ghosts.”
I subconsciously guffawed, the sound of my crazed laugh echoed around us.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I whispered, turning to look back towards the “ghosts” among the trees. But when I looked over, they were all gone.
I quickly jumped up from my chair, knocking it hard to the ground, as my eyes searched this way and that. There wasn’t a single shadow found near any of the trees. It was as if the ground swallowed them up. Or, perhaps I was actually seeing ghosts and they disappeared into thin air.
“Where’d they go?!” I exclaimed, jumping from the porch and landing in a heap of overgrown weeds. I didn’t care that they were tugging on my pants, holding me hostage.
“They’re ghosts, Emersyn. They come and go as they please.”
I spun around to glare at Sebastian, feeling a bit angry.
“I think I’d like to go home now. I can’t do this right now.” Fear gripped my chest at the realization that maybe all of this was real. The ghosts, the magic, the metaphysical gifts. All of it.
And I wasn’t ready for any of it.
I climbed back onto the porch, heading back inside the dark and decrepit plantation, trying to make my way back to the front door. But I barely made it through the kitchen when I tripped on something, landing hard to my knees.
A hiss sucked through my teeth as I leaned back on my ass and grabbed my knee. It was stinging from the impact of falling but I knew it wasn’t broken or badly injured.
“Emersyn!” Sebastian cried as he ran in after me, kneeling down on the floor in front of me. “Are you alright?”
I searched his wild eyes, having a hard time really seeing him in the darkness of the house before I burst out into half sobs and laughter. All the emotions from the last several days were pounding down on me at this particular moment and I didn’t know what to say or do. I didn’t have a single soul to talk to about any of this and because I knew so little myself, I was overwhelmed beyond belief. And it was all coming out right now.
Sebastian sat silently in front of me, just watching me.
“Hey, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. This is a lot to take in,” he whispered, inching closer to me. “I know it’s terrifying and you have no idea what to do. Let me help you, Emersyn. Let me help you control your gifts. I can help…”
I held my finger up. “Shut up. Just. Shut. Up.” I didn’t want to hear any of this right now. Although, I was going to take him up on his offer because frankly, I couldn’t do this alone anymore, right now I just wanted to sit in the silence, figuring it all out.
He remained silent, just watching me. This stranger was turning out to be much more useful than I ever imagined. It was as if he came out of thin air when I needed him the most.
“I’d like to go home now, Sebastian,” I finally muttered, breaking the dead silence of the house.
He nodded, slowly getting to his feet before he helped me up.
As we walked towards the front door, his arm around my waist to support me, he sighed. “I meant what I said, Emersyn. I’ll help you through this.”
“I know. I accept, but right now, I need to get the hell out of here.” The front door was in sight and I tried to pick up the pace.
The energy this place gave off was making my head foggy and a buzzing sound to fill my hearing. That, or my adrenaline was pumping. Either way, I want to leave.
Sebastian got me to the old Model T and helped me in the passenger side. It wasn’t until we were nearing the end of the hidden driveway that I remembered the man who served us dinner. I was in such a hurry to get out of there that I didn’t thank him. It also made me wonder how he was getting out of there because there wasn’t another vehicle in sight.
“I forgot to thank that gentleman. What was his name? Sylvester?”
Sebastian looked over at me, grinning. “I’ll make sure to tell him.”
“How will he get home?” I inquired, genuinely concerned about him. Even though I wanted to get the hell out of here, I thought of making him turn around to pick him up.
“He’ll walk home. He doesn’t live far from here,” Sebastian explained but said nothing more.
Strange, I thought. The man lived close by? As far as I could see, there wasn’t civilization for several miles from the plantation. And he’d have to walk home in the dark? What about the ghosts in the trees? Surely they’d leave the poor man alone as he “walked” home. I still didn’t like it.
“Don’t worry about old Sylvester. He’s stronger than most.” Sebastian seemed to be reading my mind again and it made me squirm in my seat. How do I get him to stop that?
Ignoring the Sylvester subject at the moment, I turned to look at Sebastian.
“How do I get you to stop reading my mind?” I blurted out.
He chuckled. “I can assure you that I’m not reading your mind. But, if you honestly think that, then I’d tell you to block yourself with a white bubble.”
A white bubble? Was he joking right now?
“A white bubble?” I asked in a mocking tone. “Seriously? Yeah, let me just pull that right out of my back pocket here and blanket myself with one.” Rolling my eyes, I turned my eyes back to the passing vegetation as Sebastian pulled back onto the main road. I seemed to relax a bit once he did so.
He let out a genuine laugh. “That’s not at all what I meant. I meant to picture yourself surrounded by a white bubble, like a white light. Do that every day for a week and it should be permanent.”
I rolled my eyes again, thinking he was messing around with me and I wouldn’t be a sucker to fall for it.
“Emersyn,” he commanded, “You agreed to take my help. So take it.”
My head whipped back in his direction, glaring a hole into the side of his head.
“I did agree, but I didn’t think you’d give such shitty advice. Perhaps I’ll go back to Bayou Briar.” I crossed my arms over my chest, feeling like a spoiled little brat at the moment as my anger seethed from me. How can I go from being calm, afraid, and straight to angry in a matter of minutes? I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
I saw Sebastian grip the steering wheel as he replied in a stone-like tone, “Stay away from The Mystic. It’s nothing but a tourist trap.”
Confusion enveloped me as I turned my full attention to him. “It didn’t seem like a tourist trap. And if I remember correctly, you were there taking her class as well.”
“I was there strictly to see what she was all about. But, don’t you think that little stunt she pulled in the basement was a little dramatic?” He laughed, shaking his head. “I mean, come on… candles being blown out and people whispering behind us?”
He had heard them, too? His displeasure of the experience was making me second guess everything now. Maybe she was a joke and that was all just a show. It would make sense. If people believed something supernatural happened last night then they might come back, paying her more money. Damn, she’s smart and I’m a sucker.
“It can’t all be a joke, though,” I stated, remembering the revelations of the psychometry readings.
Sebastian shook his head. “No, it wasn’t all a joke. You were amazing. There are people with natural talents for this stuff. I’ve noticed that most places that hold these classes are strictly doing so to see what people have. After they reveal themselves, the shop owners befriend the gifted and offer them a job and more revenue into their own pockets. I’m surprised she hasn’t tried to contact you yet.”
I laughed. “Contact me? Why would she do that? I mean, sure, my reading was obviously dead-on, but that doesn’t mean I’m special. It could have been entirely coincidental, don’t you think?”
Shrugging, he replied, “I mean, it could be coincidental, but is that what you really believe?”
No, I guess it wasn’t. I believe a lot of that stuff involving psychics and the like are coincidental, but what I saw in my head last night… there’s no way that was coincidental.
When I didn’t say another word, Sebastian decided to say his piece. “I’m not trying to insult Bayou Briar or her business, but I think you’re better than that. I can see in your eyes that you have lots of questions and I don’t think a shop like hers is going to give them to you.”
All the strange letters I found over the last few days came to my memory and I wondered if my thoughts of going to Bayou Briar were null and void now. I thought she might be able to help me with them but Sebastian was making it seem like she wouldn’t be able to. But, would he be able to? Could I even open up that much to him? Could I tell him everything I’ve experienced lately without him judging me? Would he even know what was going on? I had so many unanswered questions and only one way to find out.
“Say I listened to your advice and let you help me like I said I would. How much do you actually know about this kind of stuff?” I didn’t know him at all and genuinely wondered if he was knowledgeable enough or not.
“More than you would expect. I grew up around this kind of stuff, Emersyn. I’m probably the only one who can help you.”
His words made me believe him almost immediately. I don’t know how to explain it but I trusted and believed him more than anyone right now.
“So, then help me,” I ordered, wanting to get this show on the road. I had so many questions that needed answers and I couldn’t stand waiting any longer.
“Are you sure you want this? I can’t entirely help you if you’re doubting any of this. If you don’t fully believe, it won’t work. There’s a saying in the paranormal field: When it comes to the belief of the paranormal, seeing is believing. However, believing equals seeing, and without both adages, you can never see or believe.” He paused, probably waiting for a reply from me but I had none. Those words didn’t make sense to me. “Let me explain,” he added, glancing over at me, “When you see something paranormal, you can’t help but believe. But, if you don’t believe, the chances of you seeing anything paranormal are slim to none. So, believing means you’ll see and once you see, you’ll believe.”
I let out a strangled laugh, shaking my head. “So, let me get this straight… If I believe I’ll see and if I see, I’ll believe? That literally means the same thing, does it not?”
He was the one to laugh this time. “Basically. Let me ask you this: When did you start to see? Were you a believer after that?”
I thought long and hard about the first thing I saw that made me start believing and my memories brought me back to the Autumn Equinox Fair. I was lying on the ground while Brad and the two strange brothers cited the light as a feather mantra around me. Once I had lifted clear off the ground, there was no way I wasn’t going to believe. After that happened, strange things continued to happen. Maybe Sebastian’s right and the two go hand in hand. A cold chill ran through my body as I stayed silent, not wanting to reveal my first experience to him just yet. It would make me have to do a lot of explaining and I didn’t have an explanation for any of it.
When I looked over at Sebastian, he was grinning.
“I think you understand now. If you want, we can take a detour heading back into the city. I know of a place that never fails to hand out a paranormal experience. If you really want my help, you’ll first have to understand the feeling of being in the presence of a spirit versus not.”
I swallowed, wondering if I should agree to this crazy plan or not. If I wanted to start understanding everything, I have a feeling I’m going to have to put myself into some weird situations until I fully understand. I might as well get it over with.
“Alright, let’s do it,” I beamed, feeling a tiny ounce of excitement running through my veins.
“Okay, let’s do this,” he replied in a repetitive manner before we both went silent and he continued driving down the highway.
As we approached the city, the skyscrapers coming into view, Sebastian took an unfamiliar exit.
“Where are we going?” I asked, looking around at our surroundings. We were entering the old part of town, near the French Quarter and our homes, but not quite either. It was obvious that we were in the rough part of town.
“I’m taking you to your first lesson. Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” His tone was joking but I knew he was being serious.
I continued to stare out the window as he drove several miles away from the main freeway before he turned into a dark street. There was no sign of life anywhere and the homes on my side of the street all looked abandoned. But when I looked towards him, I noticed a large cemetery. All the graves were above ground in the infamous stone tombs of the south. Being below sea level this was a common practice.
“What are we doing at a cemetery?”
“We’re going to contact a spirit from one of these tombs,” Sebastian stated so nonchalantly that you’d think he did this every day.
He got out of the truck and I followed suit, not wanting to sit in the dark truck all alone. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t creeped out because I totally was. I quickly made my way up to Sebastian, staying close behind him.
The large metal gate entering the cemetery creaked and groaned as Sebastian opened it. I looked around to make sure someone wasn’t watching us. I didn’t know if it was illegal to be here right now or not and I definitely didn’t want to get caught sneaking into a cemetery after dark. How would I explain that to the cops? Sorry, sir, but we were coming here to contact the dead. Even I rolled my eyes at that excuse.
“Are we even allowed to be here right now?” I whispered loudly, still peeking over my shoulder every now and then.
Sebastian laughed, looking over his own shoulder down at me. “It’s a public cemetery, Em. If they didn’t want us in here they would lock the gate, no?”
I mean, he had a point, but that didn’t make it any less illegal. If he thinks it’s okay to be here then I’ll follow along but if we get caught, I’m totally throwing him under the bus.
As we walked by several tombs, I couldn’t help but notice how most of them were in desperate need of repair. That seemed to be a repeating occurrence around this part of town. The crumbling stones didn’t help the nervousness racing through my veins or how I wanted to leave.
“Here, let’s try contacting someone.” Sebastian stopped us, pointing towards an empty bench among the tombs towering over it. “I’m going to set up a protective bubble around us and then we’ll start, okay?”
I shrugged. “Whatever you say.” This guy must be bat-shit crazy. A protective bubble? Seriously? I don’t think a bubble of any kind is going to protect us from anything. Living or dead.
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a stick of dried herbs tied by string and a lighter. It caught my full attention as I watched him light the end. Once it caught fire, he blew out the end and began waving the smoke around us. It smelled much like the same stuff Bayou Briar waved in our faces last night. If she was a joke, then what was he, I wondered to myself.
“I call upon my spirit guides to protect me during this contact. I only allow those who wish to communicate harmlessly through speaking.” He waved the smoke over himself before he turned the burning stick towards me. “Guides, I ask that you protect my friend. Cover her with your protective veil and only allow those who are good to communicate with her.” He smudged out the stick on the bench next to me before he stared directly into my eyes. “Are you ready?”
I swallowed, not at all sure what I’m supposed to be ready for. I imagined that once he called for a spirit that they would float out from behind a tomb and start conversing with us like it was an everyday occurrence. But that’s crazy, right?
When I didn’t answer him, he simply nodded and turned towards the cemetery.
“Spiritbus me vocare ad te. Accedant et tunc loquantur in nobis.”
What the hell did he just say?! It honestly sounded like a creepy line from a horror movie and he was possessed by something not of this world. Cold chills ran up my spine as I slowly stood to my feet, not wanting to sit by myself anymore.
“What did you just say?” I whispered, almost too afraid to speak.
He didn’t reply right away and I noticed his eyes were closed and his head tilted this way and that.
“I asked for the spirits to come forward and speak with us.”
The words he spoke sounded much fancier than that and I couldn’t help but wonder if he had summoned something that shouldn’t be here, but I wasn’t about to ask him. Instead, I turned away from him and looked among the tombs, wondering how much longer this was going to take. I hadn’t eaten much back at the plantation due to watching eyes and now my stomach was growling.
But one look towards the darkest corner of the cemetery and I swear I saw something move.
“Over there!” I exclaimed.
Sebastian whipped around, looking in the direction I was pointing and narrowed his eyes.
“I don’t see anything.”
I know I’m not crazy, well, okay, maybe I am, but still! There was definitely something moving over there and I couldn’t tell if it was living or dead just yet. I do, however, know that it’s a person. The height and shape of the shadow was the same size as an adult person. Who else could be out in this creepy cemetery at night? And what were they doing? Looking for ghosts?
“It was there. I swear.”
“Great. Now try to hone in on their energy. See what you pick up.”
I rolled my eyes at his statement. “Yeah, because I can just shut my eyes and talk to a ghost.” Even I laughed at that one.
“Trust me, Emersyn.” His voice had changed a bit. It was more serious and as if he really wanted me to trust him.
“Fine. What do I do?”
He stepped up behind me, grabbing my biceps. “Close your eyes and try to clear your mind. Once you think it’s clear, start asking questions. Not out loud, but in your head.”
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, thinking this was all bullshit but going with it anyways. He said he wanted to help me and this was my first lesson so I might as well do what he says.
After I closed my eyes, a picture of a man came into my mind just for a moment. It was very brief so I couldn’t get a good look at him but I knew in my heart that I had never seen this man in real life before. It would be impossible as he wore clothes from an entirely different century.
I tried to clear my mind again, getting the vision of that man back, when I remembered what Sebastian had said: ask them questions in your mind.
What did I ask, though?
Hello? Are you there?
When no answer came, I tried again.
Hello? Is anybody there? I just want to talk to you. Can you hear me?
A cold chill ran over my arms as I felt Sebastian release my biceps. Once he stopped touching me, the strange man’s face came back in my mind. His lips were moving but I couldn’t hear what he was saying.
Hey, I can’t hear you.
His lips continued to move, frustration evident on his features and when he grew tired of me not being able to hear him, his face faded out of my head once again. But it wasn’t long after that when I began seeing images of other things.
A ship with enormous white sails and several men aboard came into my mind. They were all working, pulling lines and twisting wooden wheels. I had no idea what I was looking at but it was really amazing.
The scene quickly changed in my mind and now I was looking at a room inside the ship. Or, that’s what I assumed anyway. I’ve never been inside of an old ship like this so I couldn’t say for sure, but I’d seen enough movies to have an idea.
I then saw the man who was trying to speak to me earlier, walking around in the room. He was waving his hands this way and that, clearly yelling at someone sitting behind an old desk. They were looking at a map and pointing out the windows.
When my visions turned to peer out the window, I saw huge storm clouds moving in on the ship and the sea below them that looked monstrous. The waves were huge and slamming into the ship, making it groan.
Immediately, my vision turned again to the same man, except we were no longer on the ship. Instead, I saw him wading in the ocean with several other men struggling near him. The ship could be seen in the distance, sinking below the angry waves.
I watched as the men struggled for some time before I saw the main man sink below the surface. It felt as if my lungs were tightening in my chest and I immediately whipped my eyes open, sucking in a huge breath.
My lungs stung and I instantly felt a wave of sadness and despair slam into me as I let out a gut-wrenching sob. It felt like I was really there, feeling the fear and panic of the men as they perished in their watery graves.
“Emersyn, are you alright? What did you see?” Sebastian turned me towards him, searching my face.
“It was awful, Sebastian,” I sobbed out, feeling the remnants of their emotions.
I had never felt anything like that in my life and I never wanted to feel that way again. It was awful. I knew they weren’t my own emotions but for a second I couldn’t decipher what was. It felt incredibly real, the feelings still running through me like a shock wave.
When I finally gained my composure I told Sebastian what I had seen and felt as a smile spread across his face.
“That’s incredible, Emersyn. Do you realize how special you are?” His grin was still plastered to his face as he grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the stone bench. He was pulling me towards the dark corner of the cemetery, where I had seen the shadow man.
My heart was pounding in my chest and I really didn’t want to come over here but once I had seen there wasn’t anything there, I relaxed. Why was he bringing me over here?
He began looking at each tomb marker, scanning over faceless names, one by one. What was he looking for?
We looked at probably twenty tomb markers when he froze, pointing at a particular one.
I couldn’t see shit in this darkness and wondered how he even did.
“Sebastian, I can’t see…” I stopped when he held up his phone to the tomb marker, the screen illuminating the words. “Here lies Thomas North. Captain of the Black Royal. Died at sea. 1865.” When I spoke that information out loud another cold chill ran over me. I knew in my soul that who I had seen in my head was Captain Thomas North and I watched him die at sea.
I stepped away from the tomb marker and from Sebastian. This was all too freaky and I didn’t know what to say or do.
He must have noticed my wariness because he turned and slowly stepped towards me.
“I know the first time can be terrifying, Emersyn, but over time it will become like second nature to you. With my help, you’ll be able to control everything you see and feel.” When I didn’t say a thing and moved away from him, he stopped, holding his hands up in surrender. “Let me help you, Emersyn.”
Even though I was completely freaked out by the entire situation, I also couldn’t believe that what I saw was real. I also couldn’t believe what I was about to say.
“Teach me more. I want to know everything.”