Monday, 5:26 am . . .
With Hal’s help, and all the computing power at our disposal, Billtruck finally filtered all of the wireless audio from 114 Briargrove. They also got the video from the Full-Spectrum camera loaded in, and processed.
The reason that Ricky and I are here, staring at computer screens this early, is because we were both awakened by a phone call from Billtruck saying, and I quote, “You gotta get in here and see this spooky shit!”
I couldn’t sleep anyway. I felt so awful about warning Angela about her roommate’s impending doom that I didn’t get a wink in edgewise. This is the horrible, much romanticized side of dating that they use to fuel 20 or 30 romantic comedies a year. Hollywood’s got us pegged.
“I don’t know,” Billtruck says as he lays down several more glossy photos like the one I gave Angela. I want to call her and apologize, but that would probably just end up with her really hating me. On each picture there are little yellow arrows that point to things that have us perplexed.
It does look kind of like a person standing at the edge of the stairway, I say.
I’m squinting at a moment in time when I had gone back into the attic to get the two microphones that were placed under the gatherer hive. The gatherer hive that I have, thus far, not mentioned. Don’t want to spook Billtruck.
“I really didn’t expect to find anything in these,” Billtruck says, his giant hands thumbing through the photos. “ . . . I mean, you look at the screen and scroll through the video, especially with the Full-Spectrum, but you don’t think there’s going to be anything conclusive. I probably spent hours just getting it all loaded, having the programs go over and over, filtering this stuff.”
He shrugs, “But then you get the audio from the wireless microphones . . . ” He leans in as we all gather around one computer. He turns up the speakers on the sides so that we can all hear what he claims to be ‘disturbing’ audio clips. “Hal.”
“Hello, Bill . . . ”
“Can you run the long clip, marked twenty thirty-seven and five seconds.”
And then we watch as a graph comes up on the screen with several different colored squiggly lines on it. Each color represents a different type of sound—filtered and separated by the kind of computing power that will eventually takeover and exterminate humanity.
Billtruck says, “Watch the red line, that’s the one we’re looking for. That’s the EVP line.”
And so the lines start dancing. There’s the red one that dips up and down a bit, nothing spectacular. A green one seems energetic, but very low and close to the baseline white bar that goes from right to left.
“The green is mechanical, natural noises. You know, doors and hinges and stuff.”
A blue one has occasional spikes in it, but nothing consistent. “That’s your noise, Jack,” Billtruck whispers.
So, I’m a random blue spike in an otherwise boring graph. That’s about right. Even a wireless mic seems to know I’m uninteresting. I watch in a small box above the graph, the video of me walking by the cameras and heading up the steps to the attic.
They both play together, the sound and the video. I don’t see anything particularly interesting on either. I’ve disappeared into the attic. And then there’s some rattling of door handles, and then it gets quiet again.
Red line is taking a nap.
Green line seems sleepy after the rattling stops.
Blue line is a dullard. It spits all about when I’m scooping up the microphones in the attic, but then it goes flat as I switch them off.
And I’m counting in my head the time it took for me to look up and see the hive. I’m counting 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 ¾. . . 2 ½. . . 2 . . .
Then the red line goes ape shit! I mean, totally off the charts psycho. It’s like the opposite of some guy having a heart attack. It’s like a sewing machine with red thread. This thing is coloring the rest of the graph red.
And we all freeze.
Ricky, still watching at the screen, he kind of turns his head towards me, “What the hell, Jack? What happened in the attic?”
Nothing much, really. You know. The usual, I guess.
“Hal, can you run the red sound stream please, and play at one-half speed.”
The green and blue lines disappear and all we see is the red one. Door handles and hinges and me, we take a backseat to disturbing EVP sound.
The time resets and I watch myself go by on the small box above the graph, again. I’m up in the attic. I’m picking up microphones. And I’m counting 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 ¾. . . 2 ½. . . 2 . . . and . . .
This low, guttural growling sound, like an angry animal of some kind starts up. And then it seems to double and triple, until it seems like we’re hearing 20 or 30 of these things growling. The growling grows and then levels off, and then it suddenly disappears.
Coincidentally, that’s when I’m walking back down the steps leading from the attic . . . at half-speed.
We play it over and over. Each time the growling seems more and more animal in nature.
“Could there be animals stuck between the floorboards or something?” Ricky asks. He knows something is wrong here.
The attic microphones were already switched off, so there’s no explanation for the other microphones to have picked up the growling. But then, I’m looking at it from a slightly different perspective. I saw the gatherer hive.
Ricky and Billtruck turn to me, both of them with their eyes wide and questioning. “Something you want to tell us, Jack?” Billtruck asks.
I glance down at Ricky, sitting there in the black leather rolling chair. I ask him with my eyes, Yes or No?
He shrugs, then looks up at Billtruck. “You better sit down for this, Bill.” And by the way he says it, this is going to be a big pill to swallow.
I haven’t had to explain any of this to anyone, so I don’t relish the idea of letting someone else in on my living nightmares. But then, Billtruck is a part of our team now and he needs to be appraised of the situation. He needs to know why we’re really doing all of this in order to help us fight the 23 Evils.
So I wait for him to plop down in a chair. I clear my throat, and we begin. “Bill,” Ricky starts, “do you believe in ghosts?” And before Billtruck can answer he presses on, “ . . . because what we are about to tell you is far worse than any ghost story you’ve ever heard. And not because it’s necessarily scary, but because it’s absolutely, one-hundred percent true.”
“I’m listening . . . ” Billtruck says as he leans back in the chair, his arms crossed over his thick chest.
And that’s when we told the story for the first time.
Almost every detail.
We didn’t leave much out.
It took over two hours, filling in bits and pieces here and there. When I wasn’t clear on something, Ricky would jump in and clarify. We told him about the spooks, the gatherers, the Land of Sorrows, and the book. We tried to explain how I had to cross over, drowning in some hypnotic state and then climbing out of my body in that twisted place. He heard of the monsters that own the dark skies and the Angels that control them.
Ricky explained the experimental drug IK-1009 (hydrogen sulfide solution) that was used to inhibit my body’s cells from using oxygen, thereby suspending my animation until I crossed back over.
And he learned of the 23 Evils, and my connection to Kristen. I may have glossed-over the fact that I killed her here on earth, but he got the broad strokes.
And perhaps that was the first time that I was completely honest with Ricky, and with myself, about what really happened over there. I finally admitted that Kristen had used me, like some love struck fool, to go against the wishes of God, and open the doorway back to earth for the 23 condemned Evil souls.
Looking at Billtruck you couldn’t tell if he was listening to us, debunking our story, or fitting us for straight jackets. For a couple of minutes we all just sat quietly. I showed him my tattoos and explained why I needed them. And he just sat there, his stern face kind of locked somewhere between indecision and disbelief.
And then Dr. Bill Blackledge slapped his thighs with his hands and nodded. “So, were I to summarize all of your non-sequitur, seemingly incoherent rambling, I would gather that our mission is to hunt down the most evil forces in the history of history, and trolley them back to your Land of Sadness?” His eyebrows raised, “Would that be a fair estimation of the predicament we find ourselves in?”
Yes, I answered him. But it’s the Land of Sorrows, not sadness. Although that’s just as fitting, I suppose.
Ricky’s kind of biting his bottom lip, “Seriously, Bill, that’s what all this is about.” His eyes circle the large office expanse. “The purpose of all of this is to track the footprints of Evil, and get all these bastards back.”
“And what happens if we can’t find them? Can’t return them to the Land of Sorrows?” Billtruck asks as his fingers interlace and he cracks his knuckles.
Nobody has an answer for that, I tell him. The way I had it explained to me, the longer they’re here, the more powerful they grow. And the guys on the other side were adamant about that being a bad thing. A very bad thing.
“For real,” Ricky adds. “They’ll fuck the earth up in a big way. Remember that game Gears of War?”
“Yeah,” Billtruck responds, of course.
“Picture that squared, and throw in a little BIOSHOCK.”
Billtruck sighs, shaking his head. I don’t know what the hell Ricky’s talking about, but apparently the doctor understands what he’s getting himself into.
“You two realize that I’m a doctor?”
Ricky nods, Yes.
“And you’re telling me a story that goes against everything I’ve ever learned, ever?”
Ricky nods, Yeah.
“ . . . a completely unbelievable story that has no rational basis or fundamental line of reasoning that I can test using empirical data, or verify using observation?”
I could go and point out people that are about to die, I offer. After enough dead bodies you’d eventually believe me.
“It’s true,” Ricky agrees, “ . . . he can do that. It’s way creepy.”
Billtruck looks down, shaking his head. Then he starts to laugh to himself a little. The laughter gets louder and louder and his shoulders are bouncing up and down. After a minute he sits up, his face red and tired.
“What . . . I mean . . . you know that, knowing what I now know about you two, and Ms. Josephine, if I continue to work here, I’ll never be able to practice medicine again? You two realize this is career suicide, right?”
Ricky nods, Most certainly.
“No rational man would listen to you two lunatics.”
We both shrug. He’s probably right about that.
And then Billtruck half smiles, looking up at the ceiling, “I once was a promising doctor . . . ”
“But you were bored,” Ricky says.
And now you’ve found your calling, I add.
“ . . . hunting twenty-three evil escaped souls from the land of the undead,” Billtruck finishes.
And killing them, I remind him. We have to kill them.
Ricky slaps me on the shoulder.
He’s either going to walk out, or join us. There’s really no third option here.
“I don’t believe in God,” he said, still looking up at the ceiling, “ . . . but that’s only ’cause I ain’t seen him yet. And I’m damned sure scared of anyone who can build all of this, and not leave a set of instructions laying around.”
Then he lowers his head, his eyes cold and calculating, “What kind of dickhead would ignore the fickle fingers of fate as they swayed him through both fortuity or serendipity?”
Does that mean you’re with us? I asked, not quite understanding what he meant by all that. Doctors can get frustratingly wordy sometimes.
He nods his big head. “Oh, I’m in. To hell with it! Let’s hunt evil.”
Billtruck then turns to the computer, “Hal,” he orders.
“Yes, Bill . . . ”
“We’re going to need to expand the search parameters of Project: Human.”
“Of course you are, Bill.” Hal answered, giving us all a bit of a chill.
We all stood, nodding to each other. Right then and there we agreed, without words, that we would take this thing all the way. As far as it goes.
Then it’s like we’re all possessed.
The charade is over.
Now we hunt these 23 Evils down . . . and kill them.