Even in the face of the stress and anxiety he had gone to bed with, Orville fell asleep quickly, the sounds of the rain lulling him away as the storm tapered off to a soft, medium patter. The regular pattern on the tin roof of his house was as comforting and sleep-inducing to him as he remembered fondly from his great Aunt’s place when he was a kid growing up. But about three hours or so after he fell asleep, Orville was awakened. Not from any noise or other disturbance in the house but from the extra beer he had consumed after dinner. He tried mightily to ignore the call with mind over matter, but it was no use.
He exhaled in frustration and threw back the covers and staggered to the bathroom. After finishing, he tried the wall switch in the bath just out of curiosity but nothing happened. This was out of the norm for Orville in his experience in power outages in Laconia. FG&E was very good about restoring power. He figured that maybe a major transformer had gotten zapped or perhaps it was not Laconia at all, but a breaker in his house that needed to be reset. Orville made a mental note to check his fuse box when it was light out, though in his groggy and fatigued state at the moment he knew it was unlikely he would remember this when he got up.
He went to his side table in the bedroom to jot a quick note to himself to make sure he checked this out when he got up. But as he pawed through the drawer in a dazed state he stopped suddenly as he caught a glimpse of a yellowish light pulsing on and off coming down the hallway from the front of the house. Even as beat as he was Orville padded out to see what was going on, assuming FG&E was making their rounds through various neighborhoods to reconnect power lines. But when he came out of the corridor and into the living room he felt his breath become short and his heart beat faster when he saw the urn. He instinctively reached to touch the Tijax medallion hanging around his neck.
Similarly to before, the cap was off and lying on the mantle, but this time the urn was upright. And from deep inside the piece this soft yellow illumination was pulsing on and off, like the beat of his own heart when he was not as scared as he was now. Orville moved to one of the chairs in the living room and gripped the back of it to keep himself steady as he just gaped and looked on with fascination and awe. The light was growing stronger as each minute went by with the beams shining out in all directions as if the opening on the urn was not quite large enough to allow all that was inside to escape. For some reason, Orville felt his pulse slacken and he was filled with curiosity and wonder rather than fright and any sense of danger.
Once enough of the light seemed to have escaped its container, the pulsating stopped and the light coalesced into a large orb that levitated just below the ceiling before changing over to a swirling mix of orange and rose hues. Orville supposed any ordinary person would have fled the house screaming into the night, but the longer he looked on the more he felt this was perfectly safe…maybe beneficial or good even. He moved to sit on the cushion of he chair as the warm colors of the orb spread out and the entire mass began to drop slowly from the ceiling and hover just inches off the floor between him and the fireplace.
In the back of Orville’s mind he could not ignore the obvious similarities between whatever this thing was and how he had experienced the manifestation of La Mala Hora. But whereas the creature from Guatemala was filled with evil and malevolent intent, this apparition seemed friendly and welcoming…almost divine, though with Orville’s disdain of religion he really did not like that description. However, he was sure of one thing…that interaction with La Mala Hora had definitely put his mind in a place where he could accept that what he was seeing now was real…not a hallucination…not a weird side effect of another TIA.
He sat and waited as the light transformed slowly from an orb to an oval and then finally took the shape of a human-like form, though it was not like it possessed a face. There was definitely a head sitting atop a body, and projections away from the body that he assumed acted as arms. But no legs, nor any features on the head that would indicate a mouth, nose, eyes, or ears. It floated and drifted a bit back and forth before him before it spoke. It appeared quiet and calm in substance, though not of any distinct sex so that Orville might say this was a man or a woman. And the words that were uttered, though he was sure they originated from inside this vision, seemed to come to his ears from everywhere around him all at once.
“It is not too late…” the voice said to Orville as the new form now began a slow and regular pulsation in intensity again.
Orville furrowed his brow as he could see the fireplace behind the apparition. Like it was semi-transparent.
“Too late?” Orville said back wondering of the thing could even understand him or if this was to be a one-way conversation.
“Your friend, Sarah…it is not too late…”
“Sarah? What do you mean?”
“The place on Crossmont…you must go there…”
Orville fell silent having no idea what this meant. Then from out of the blue it hit him. Crossmont…that was where Joe Garrity had lived.
“The proof is on Crossmont…in the wall…”
Again Orville felt lost. But he recalled now that Alberto had told him the police reported finding the murder weapon in the wall in Joe’s apartment. Was that what this thing was trying to tell him?
“The false wall in Joe Garrity’s apartment? Is that what you mean?”
Again the apparition just spoke in short and cryptic fragments…at least to Orville, anyway.
“Left behind in the wall…it is the proof…not too late…”
It was a tad baffling, but Orville began to piece together what he assumed he was being told. That there was something in the false wall of Joe Garrity’s apartment that would reveal the true killer. That would clear Sarah. Something the police maybe missed? Maybe something even Alberto’s investigator, Harry Doyle, missed? He looked up again at the thing to try and ask another question, but he could see the intensity of the light was fading and the form was receding back into the orb it had once been. Orville did not know how he knew, but right then he did know this thing was returning to where it had come from.
“Wait!” Orville exclaimed, “Who are you? Where did you come from?”
“Who I am matters not…nor does where I come from. I am but tasked with this message for you. Hurry…time is of the essence…it is not too late…”
“No, no!!” Orville exclaimed again as he stood from his seat. “Don’t leave! Who sent you? Who gave you this task?”
But as the last words were out of his mouth, Orville saw the orb change back over again to the yellow hue he had seen earlier and watched helplessly as it floated to the window nearby and like he had seen the other night, flattened and slipped between the window frame and the sash. Orville ran outside into the light rain looking all around as he had done before, but there was nothing to see. He stood as the rain soaked his bed clothes to his skin and he began to shiver from the night chill. Then it dawned on him…this was what I saw the other night when I came out and found the urn toppled over!
Orville walked quickly back inside and went to the living room without worrying about his drenched clothing. He looked over. The lid was back on the urn. It was like he had imagined the whole episode, but in his heart, Orville knew better…
As his shivering began to get the better of him, Orville stripped off his wet pajamas and threw on a pair of workout sweats he used at the gym as he returned to the living room and lit a fire to warm himself up. As the flames kicked up and caught the thin fragments of kindling and the heat from the fireplace reached out and enveloped him, Orville looked up at the urn and again pressed his fingers across the carved images on the Tijax. There was no question in his mind as to what had to be done. Seeing La Mala Hora had made him a believer in what he had just seen, despite his slight skepticism up to this point. Had he not had that experience, he might have written this off easily.
But now he knew there was something in the wall of apartment 3G on Crossmont Lane. Something that could exonerate Sarah. Something the cops had missed or maybe if he was feeling especially cynical, they purposely ignored knowing it would complicate their investigation. What it was Orville had no clue…but he sure had the feeling now it would change everything. Which led to the big question he had been mulling over ever since the emanation or vision or apparition or ghost or whatever you wanted to call it had spoken to him: how? How in the world was he supposed to get the police, or anyone in authority for that matter, to listen to him and take another look in Joe’s apartment? What would be his explanation for knowing about this?
Orville sat and pondered all of this. At the moment he had no answers, but Sarah’s life hung in the balance…