Michell’s stomach felt heavy as the car sped down the interstate. She watched the guardrail whizz by and blur into a sound barrier wall then back into a guardrail, both punctuated by bright electrical energy from the street lights. The occasional sound from the wipers seemed to coincide with the changes giving the whole scene a dreary, rhythmic feel.
“I have a bad feeling about this.” She sighed and rested her head against the window.
Her mother sighed. “That’s what you said last time, and sit up. The seatbelt will not work if we were to get hit by some idiot.”
You know that Dad is a ticking time bomb.” Michell straightened up and pulled on the seatbelt to untwist it.
“That’s what I thought too, but it’s been, what, almost five years now?”
“He was pretty upset that we didn’t get too many calls. I think the only reason why he wasn’t stable before is because he didn’t have a focus. The clients are his focus when I’m there.”
“Is he still dragging you to scam people?”
“It’s not exactly a scam, mom.”
Her mother glanced over at her and scoffed.
“People scare themselves witless.” Michell could almost read her mother’s mind. “They call us, but they know it’s fake. It’s on our website. We explain everything.”
“The way your father talks about it, you would think the people who call really believe it.”
“Well some do, and I try to let them down easy. People want to believe in something.” Michell propped her feet on the dash. “I told dad the fad is fading, so maybe he will find something else. Or maybe we’ll just have a few calls, but it won’t matter anymore. I won’t have to stay at his house next summer if I don’t want to.”
“Take your feet off the dash, Michell.” Her mother’s voice wavered a little.
Michell put her feet back down and looked over at her mother. She stared straight ahead, her eyes glistened with the reflections of the passing scenery.
“I could.” Michell sighed. “I could stay home another year.”
“No!” Her mother’s stern voice surprised Michell. “I want you to go college as we planned.” She in her breath and held it for a moment. “I’ll just miss you, that’s a--” Her voice cracked.
Michell never knew what to do when someone gets emotional. So she turned towards the window in time to see her mother take the exit. She waited until the traffic light changed before speaking again.
“I decided not to dye my hair.” Michell tried to change the subject. “Well, the kids at school think I did, and they say it’s cool.”
“The other kids like the black streaks?” Her mother cleared her throat. “So you aren’t getting picked on by them anymore?”
“Well, I still get picked on for seeing ’ghosts.’” Michell used finger quotes. “I think they’re backing off. Maybe because I own it now.”
“Mental illness isn’t exactly a bragging right.”
Michell did her best not to glare at her mother. It wasn’t even a mental illness, she thought, but she knew better than to argue. Her mother didn’t believe that she could “see” energy. Instead, her mother brought her to the therapist who diagnosed her with schizophrenia. They put her on medication, but it made her depressed and angry all the time. Her therapist soon retired, and the new one took her off the pills, citing the side effects of depression and psychosis as the reason. Michell liked the new therapist who also helped her deal with the kids bullying her at school.
“Not brag, make fun of it first. They can’t make fun of me if I already joke about it myself. It kind of takes the wind out of their sails.”
“Oh,” her mother said. “I didn’t realize…”
“Never mind,” Michell muttered. “Don’t worry about it.” She pulled her fingers with her long hair and checked the ends. Her hair used to be completely pale blonde. Sometime during Christmas break, black strands started to show at her roots. By the end of the school year, she had more black hair than blonde.
The familiar surroundings took Michell out of her thoughts. She sighed as they pulled into her father’s driveway.
“Michell,” her mother said. “I know your father has his problems, but he really does love you.” She paused for a moment, still gripping the wheel. “If he had gotten the help he needed we would still be together.”
Sighing, Michell nodded. Her father never hit either one of them, but when a six-foot-six hulk of a man starts to throw things around and flip tables in a sudden rage, it was scary. Her mother insisted on therapy, but he refused, and after another seemingly random rage episode, her mother took her to a shelter and filed for divorce. Neither one of them remarried, perhaps with hopes of getting back together someday. Or at least that’s what Michell had hoped.
“I know.” Michell’s throat tightened. She got out and opened the back door to grab her stuff. “Maybe I’ll find a new scam -er - I mean way to make money legitimately to keep his focus.”
Her mother scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Just stay out of trouble.”
“I always do,” Michell said. She wanted to add “Unless Dad drags me down with him,” but she didn’t want to worry her mother more than she already had. “I’ll miss you for three months.”
Her mother’s facial expression softened. “I’ll miss you too.”
Taking her padded laptop case, duffel bag, and her sling-bag backpack, she barely made it through the front door before her Father practically ran her over.
“Back out you go,” he said, “we have two clients today.”
“Can’t I just put my stuff into my room?” Michell tried her best to not sound like she was whining. “I really don’t like going to clients before I settle…”
“Just take what you need and leave it by the door.” Her father’s voice grew deeper as he spoke.
Michell knew better than to argue with him. She groaned softly, but her father must have overheard.
“You very well know that I use the money we make to pay for you, now get your stuff and let’s get going.” He grabbed her arm and gave her a little shove.
This was the first time he grabbed her like that, and it took her by surprise. She glanced up at his hulking figure and then did what she was told.
At least I don’t have to clean right now, she thought as she grabbed her sling bag.
Her father was a little neglectful with the housework and Michell was a neat freak. Her father never told her to clean, but Michell couldn’t focus among all of the clutter. She got into the passenger seat of her father’s 2000 Ford Ranger and watched her father get into the driver’s seat. He sat back, hesitated for a moment, then started the truck.
Michell pulled out her phone. She heard her father rev the truck a few times, and looked up from her phone at him. She could see the white of his knuckles as he firmly gripped the steering wheel. He pushed himself forward, so he was over the steering wheel. He appeared to be mouthing some words, but no sound came out.
It was at that moment she realized the energy from the engine was unusually uneven. “Is there a problem?”
“Never mind,” her father muttered. He shifted the truck into reverse and backed out onto the road.
Michell stared at him until the engine’s energy returned to normal. Returning to her phone, she felt the pit in her stomach grow. She couldn’t shake the sense of foreboding.
“Are you always on that thing?” Her father asked.
“I’m reading a book,” She said. “I’m getting a jump on my required reading list for next year.” Michell almost turned her phone to show him but remembered that he was driving. “I can show you later. The school had been talking about making everything electronic, including textbooks.
Her father just shook his head. “When I was a kid…”
“Yeah, I know.” Michell straightened up on her seat and adjusted her belt. “Some kid kept cutting your lock, so you had to carry your books everywhere, including the half mile walk from the bus stop. ’Kids these days are so weak.’” Michell chuckled. “It’s cheaper for the schools to do it this way. They can update the books quickly, and they don’t have to worry about logistics. Saves taxpayer’s money in the long run.” She chuckled.
Like she had hoped, it ended the conversation. Her father didn’t like politics, but he was also very against government spending. Or it would seem like it when he did talk about it.
She set her phone on her lap and stared out of the window at the passing trees. She was about four when she started to see what she called “energy blobs.” Her parents at first thought she was cute. However, as she grew older, her mother and her maternal grandmother started to tell her that she needed to grow up, or people would think she was crazy. It wasn’t until after the divorce when her father didn’t have a say in her medical treatment, she was taken to the therapist.
By the time they got to the first client, it was almost dark.
“It’s a bit early,” Michell said. “They usually don’t come out until after midnight.
“I think this one is electromagnetic energy related.”
Looking over at her father, she became grateful that he believed her. Even though he was exploiting it a little.
She learned to meter her reaction to the sights after a while, being sure to only to tell her father when he was in a good mood. Then there was one time after her parents divorced, she saw what she could only describe as a demon. It wasn’t like the demons that Hollywood depicts them as, but rather a ball of light with a sinister feel, that can morph into anything, and it gave Michell a sense of foreboding. Most spirits and energy blobs wouldn’t say anything unless she talked to it, if at all. This one spoke to her first and tried to convince her to run away from home. Michell listened to her gut instead of the demon and just walked out of the room. When she returned, the demon was gone.
Michell stepped out of the car. She could sense that the energy was intense.
“Definitely electromagnetic.” Michell shut the door. “I wonder if there’s a lot of iron ore below the house.”
“Really? You feel that already?”
Michell nodded, and they headed towards the door. It swung open as her father raised his hand to knock.
“Oh thank God you’re here!” The owner said. “I’m Roland Appleton.”
“I’m Will Hayes, and this is my Daughter, Michell.” Her father held out his hand.
Roland nodded and shook it. He then stepped aside, “Please come in.”
The strength of the energy was so powerful, Michell could barely focus. “It’s in one place, isn’t it.” She looked down the hallway. It seemed to be coming from that direction.
“Y-yes,” Roland said. “That’s correct!”
Michell followed the energy until she reached an enormous terrarium-like room, complete with a few short trees.
“Would you like for me to get the lights?” Roland asked.
Michell held up her hand and shook her head. “There’s a lot of electromagnetic energy here, isn’t there?” She turned to Roland. “I bet you are sensitive to it.”
“W-what?” Roland stammered. “You think I-I’m crazy, I Kn-now what I saw!”
“I believe you.”
At that moment, the energy shifted, which didn’t surprise Michell. The sun was now below the horizon, and like the atmosphere, objects and the air became deionized. She watched with Roland as a figure formed in the far corner of the room, shifted as it looked like it was looking for something then moved across to another part of the far wall
“It’s there! You see--”
Michell held her hand up again and studied the figure. “Hello?” She knew that if it were a real spirit entity, it would respond.
“You know those old cassettes?” Michell asked Roland. “Oh, and Videotapes!”
“Um, yeah,” he said. “My parents had some when I was a kid.”
“It’s like that,” Michell said. “And you and I are like cassette players.”
Roland looked at her and opened his mouth as if he were about to say something, but closed it. He scratched his neck and shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
“The electromagnetic energy is high here. It ebbs and flows. When it’s high, people who are sensitive pick up a recording of sorts.” Michell watched as the figure “walked” towards them and fizzled out. “The strongest point is at the far end of the room. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually a recording of you, Mr. Appleton.” She smiled. “Although I wouldn’t be surprised if it were someone from a hundred years ago. It’s difficult to tell. Go ahead and turn on the lights.”
“I, uh, huh.” Roland put his hand on his face. “So that could have been me when I went over to check my plants?” He dropped his hands and reached behind him. The room lit up to reveal an impressive indoor garden.
“Maybe. It’s not fully defined.” Michell tipped her head to the side and studied the strange blue sunflower-like plant at the other end where the entity first appeared “I’m surprised, given how strong the energy is here.”
She turned back to her father who was looking around the room. “So what do you do exactly?” He asked.
“I’m a botanist,” Roland said, proudly. “I work on hybridizing plants.”
“That’s a pretty blue sunflower.” Michell motioned towards the plant.
“Uh, yes,” Roland said abruptly, and he stepped in between Michell and the view of the plant. “How about you follow me to the kitchen for a coffee or some tea, and I’ll write you a check.”
Michell figured it was better not to pry. She understood that some things need to be kept secret due to patent issues.
They finished up and headed towards the next house. It wasn’t as far.
“This one…” Her father pulled into the driveway. “This guy seemed to be very desperate. He said he thinks his stepson is possessed or something.”
“I don’t do exorcisms, dad.” She knew encountering a demon is dangerous enough. She certainly didn’t want to make one angry.
“You can just look though, right?”
Michell knew that it wasn’t really a question. She sighed and opened the door. She only felt the underlying energy that the Earth gave off and the electrical energy that came off the overhead wires. She could vaguely sense Wi-Fi energy.
“Are you sure they can afford to pay us?” Michell closed the car door. “They can’t seem to afford a decent router.”
“That doesn’t mean anything, and you know it.” Her father chuckled.
They headed towards the house, and her father rang the doorbell. A woman answered it.
“Can I help you?”
Michell was a bit confused, and she glanced at her father who just stared at the woman.
“Is this the Rigdon residence?”
“Well, yes, and can I help you?” she said sternly.
Michell noticed that the woman seemed to be very agitated.
“A Bobby Rigdon had called us…”
“Bobby?!” The woman called over her shoulder, “Bobby, did you call those crazies after I told you not to?!”
Michell groaned loudly. “Dad, maybe we should go.” Michell had a feeling that this was going to get bad pretty quick.
“No!” Her father said and then took a breath. “No, we’ll stay here until we figure this out.”
The woman glanced at Michell then at her father, and then back a Michell again. Her expression softened.
Michell sighed and ran her fingers through her hair.
Bobby appeared behind his wife. “They’re not crazies, Kelsey. And you know we have a problem.”
“Oh c’mon,” Kelsey said, “My son isn’t possessed.”
“Because dishes just happen to jump off the counter…” Bobby glanced at Michell and her father standing there. “Just give us a minute.” He closed the door.
Michell looked at her father and saw his veins protruding from his neck. She began to feel a pit form in her stomach. “Maybe,” she said quietly, “maybe we should…”
“Don’t.” He father stuck a finger in her face. “We only got two clients this time. No one else called.”
“Some call during the summer.” Michell knew what this meant, Only two meant that bills would barely get paid. “I really don’t need much.”
“It’s not…” Her father started just as the door opened. It was Bobby.
“I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to cancel.”
“No.” Michell’s father shouldered the door open.
“Excuse me?” Bobby now sounded indignant, and moved to block him, but froze when Michell’s father pulled out a gun.
“Dad!” The pit in her stomach was now a lump in her throat. “Dad!” Michell’s throat was too tight, and her voice sounded almost too high to be her own.
Bobby put his hands up and backed in. Michell glanced over at Kelsey who glowered at her father.
“We drove an hour and a half to get here,” Her father said. “I am not going without finishing the contract. Michell, do your thing.”
“I, uh…” Michell glanced at what she perceived to be their son, sitting on a chair.
“I, okay.” Michell took a deep breath. “I will just do a walk through the rooms just to see what’s there…”
“Not all of the rooms,” The son said.
“Yes, all of the rooms,” Michell’s father demanded.
“It’s not necessary,” Michell protested. “If it’s nearby, I’ll see it. I can just walk down the hall.” She glanced at Kelsey. She hoped the woman picked up on her fear. “Let Ms. Kelsey show me?”
“Alright, go on.” Her father nodded towards the hallway, still holding his gun on Bobby.
Kelsey motioned to follow her, and they went down the hall to the room on end.
“You have a phone back here?” Michell whispered just in case her father could still hear them.
“Why do you think I brought you here?” Kelsey grabbed her phone off the table and began dialing. “You will be arrested, too you know.”
“Maybe it’s for the best. At least maybe my father can get some help now.”
“You think he has a mental illness?”
“The therapist said that he was bi-polar, but when he was told that he refused any help. “It was about that time when my mom thought it best to get a divorce.”
Michell’s voice quavered. It all had happened years ago, but it still bothered her to this day. “Because my father never hit me, the judge thought that my mother was just trying to take me away from him. Even though I’ve said it myself that he would rage.”
Kelsey nodded with the phone to her ear, then tightened her grip on the phone. “Yes, there is an armed man with his daughter in my house.”
“Did you find anything yet?” Her father called down the hall.
“Not yet,” Michell called back. “But it’s still early.”
Kelsey hung up the phone and set it back on her nightstand as if she never had it.
“I’m sorry.” Michell avoided eye contact.
“You still try to scam people.” Kelsey crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes.
“The contract and our website say it’s for entertainment purposes only. Let’s go to the next room before my dad gets suspicious.”
They move to the next room that looked like an office. There was nothing there, too.
“But people believe this garbage, and you take advantage of it.”
“People want answers to what goes bump in the night. It’s usually electromagnetic energy, and people who are sensitive to it will sometimes hallucinate. I try to explain that to them in more… ” Michell paused, “in a not so ‘you’re just crazy’ way.”
Michell felt an energy that she recognized move past the window. She glanced uneasily at Kelsey who was looking at her intently. Michell had a story rehearsed for skeptics. She would sound crazy, without really sounding crazy.
“I’m a functioning schizophrenic. Most of us hear voices, but some of us see or feel what looks like energy balls or morphing lights. They tried to put me on medication, but it made me angry and depressed and suicidal. Since I can function somewhat normally without the meds, they took me off. My therapist is doing some research, and we both figured out that I see more ‘energy’ balls when there is a lot of electromagnetic energy. I’m supposed to keep a journal with me when we go out to these clients so that he could use them for the book he’s writing. He was going to pay me royalties for my journal entries.” Michell sighed. “Now I’ll have to use the money for bail.”
Michell glanced at Kelsey who no longer stood rigid. “I um, I can talk to the police, they might go easy on you.”
There was a commotion in the other room.
“It’s not loaded!” Michell’s father’s voice carried down the hallway. There was a loud thud. Her father cursed loudly, and she could hear the cops yelling at him to stop resisting. Michell thought she heard a taser but was too far for her to feel it.
Kelsey quickly left the room, and Michell waited with her arms to her side. She could hear the cops drag her father out and Kelsey told them that Michell was down the hall, in the second room to the left.
“You have no idea what you are up against, do you?” A voice sounded like it was next to her ear.
“You’d be right,” Michell murmured, and she could hear maniacal giggling that seemed to travel out through the window behind her.
The cops walk into the room with their guns drawn.
“She’s unarmed!” Kelsey said from around the door.
Michell put her hands up. The cop pointed his weapon away from her and towards the ground.
“Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”
Michell obeyed. She could feel the cold steel of the cuffs clamp down on her wrists.
They walked outside and immediately her father began yelling at her. “It was you! You did this!” Like a dog that was just let off the leash, he lunged in her direction. Three cops tackled him before he could get far.
“No, I didn’t,” Michell said weakly. “I just.” She began to cry. “No.”
“Come on,” another officer guided her towards one of the cruisers.
She noticed a different type of energy coming from him, and it was comforting. She sniffled as she looked up towards him, and he glanced at her with a crooked smile. As one of the cops’ flashlights passed over them, Michell caught a glimpse of his hazel-green eyes, dark Auburn hair, and noticeably pale skin that reminded her of her own.
She sat down on the back seat with her feet still on the ground.
“Just sit tight until we get this sorted out.” The cop left her field of vision.
Michell looked over at the house, and there, beside the door, stood the stepson, who stared at her with a grin. There was something about it that was unnerving. Beside him, a ball of light energy appeared and transformed into a human figure. It gave the same smile as the stepson and put its arm around the boy.
Hollywood depicts demons as grotesque looking creatures or dark shadows. In Michelle’s experience, it wasn’t the case. The first time she saw one she was twelve, he started out as a ball of light and then morphed into a humanoid blob of sorts, then into a fully human form. He tried to convince her to run away from home. He knew about the divorce.
“You can take care of yourself,” he had said. “You have a special gift. Leave, and I will help you.”
Michell remembered feeling uneasy, and she walked away. When she went back into her room, the entity was gone.
She pulled her feet in and turned away. Perhaps it will go away this time, too. At that moment Michell felt fearful, but she knew it wasn’t her fear. She looked over at the cop who brought her to the car. He was also looking in the same direction.
“You see it too?” She said without thinking.
He turned towards her. “Let’s take you to the police station, and we’ll get things sorted out there.” His voice wavered a little. He checked over his shoulder.
“What’s your name?” Michell had to ask, trying to stifle her excitement to know that someone was like her.
He glanced, again towards the house. “Ashton Kimball. You don’t talk to them, do you?”
“No, I try to avoid them when I can.” Michell brought her legs into the car.”
“Good.” He closed the door, and leaned through the open window “Good.”