The rain had stopped and the black, paved road had a reflective sheen that showed off the lights from the street lamps. Water dripped from trees making a staccato plopping sound as it hit the pavement while tree frogs sang their summer song. The area was completely deserted at this time of the morning, save for one lone man who staggered down the sidewalk, swaying here and there as he made his way to a destination he was unsure of. His surroundings looked vaguely familiar to him and he squinted, as if that lone action would make everything come into focus and he would know where he was.
This wasn’t the first time Marvin had drank too much. In fact, it was a common occurrence. Too many disappointments in a life gone wrong, his bitterness was only assuaged by drinking until he forgot. He was a local at the downtown bar and well known by the patrons of that particular establishment. Usually the barkeep, Joshua, a big burly man with a bald head and so many tattoos his arms were one big swash of color, made sure Marvin got home somehow. But tonight was different. Marvin had blacked out. As a result, he had just got up and walked out without so much as a fond farewell.
Marvin tripped on a jagged edge of sidewalk, but he caught himself in the practiced manner of one used to stumbling along in the dark. He wished he knew where he was and how he got here. Thinking back on the nightly visitation to the Oakland Bar, Marvin could only recall having three drinks. That would never cause a blackout in someone so accustomed to alcohol. He sat at the bar on his usual stool and laughed and joked with the other locals. One minute he was making a jest to Tommy, his drinking buddy, the next minute he was stumbling down an unfamiliar street. Maybe someone had drugged him and was playing a practical joke on him. It would be just like those assholes he called friends to do something stupid like this.
A nearby rustling in the leaves of a hedge caught his attention. Marvin stopped walking and stood stock still. “Great, probably a dog. Just what I need,” thought Marvin. He waited for the alleged canine to come bounding out from behind the hedge to attack him, but nothing happened. His own stillness and instant semi-alertness, made him realize that the street wasn’t just deserted, it was eerily quiet. No birds, no crickets, and the tree frogs had stopped singing. Even the light breeze that had been gently blowing across his face was gone. It was like being caught in a vacuum, devoid of any living thing.
Marvin didn’t like this at all and his spine began to tingle with fear, as the shaggy hairs on his poorly groomed neck stood up. He staggered a bit, righted himself and decided it was time to get the heck out of there. He moved forward cautiously, not really wanting to go past the hedge but knowing he didn’t want to go back the way he came either. Marvin was tired and right now all he wanted was to be home in his own bed, safe and sound. Across the street seemed a better option. He moved gingerly in that direction, constantly looking over his shoulder at the hedge, trying to be quiet and not alert whatever it was to his presence.
Upon reaching the other side of the street, Marvin turned to look at the hedge once more. No movement, no sound. He shrugged his shoulders and decided it was just the effect of the alcohol messing with his senses and he laughed at himself for getting so worked up. He turned to continue down the street and lurched forward as something slammed into his back. Regaining his balance, Marvin stood up straight and turned his face up to the night sky. The street lights obliterated the stars and only inky blackness shone in the vast space above him. No longer feeling drunk, the new Marvin reveled at the feeling of possessing flesh again. A stranger stared out from his eyes with a hunger for experience in this corporeal form.
Taking possession of a drunk man was easy, and the spirit had done so at the bar. But the possession wasn’t as complete as it was now, and the idiot had regained consciousness forcing her out for a time. But not now. She took him by surprise and her hold on him was stronger than it had been before. She didn’t like his smell, but still, she could use this ill fit body for her purposes. Yes, it would do nicely. She itched to travel along to her destination, so close she could almost smell the inside of her old home. There was something there she wanted to retrieve, something she needed to have and Marvin was going to help her get it. She knew her own family didn’t live there anymore, strangers took up occupancy in the house she grew up in. But the item she was after was stashed in the basement, in a hole in the wall behind a loose brick. She knew exactly where it was because she had placed it there herself, a couple of years ago.
She walked down the street at a hurried pace, anxious to retrieve her prize. The man’s body was unaccustomed to physical exertion and even though she was willing him to move faster, he started to breathe heavily. She had to slow down a bit, she couldn’t have him huffing and puffing and making a bunch of racket while breaking into the house. She felt a slight frustration and utter contempt for this wasted piece of flesh. Should have picked someone healthier but a drunk is always the easiest to use like this.
She rounded a corner and headed up a few houses to the one she was seeking. There it stood, her old home. Newly painted, it looked different, but this was definitely the place. When she lived here the yard was ill kept, the grass always dead looking with bare patches of dirt showing through. Old children’s toys and broken pieces of fence littered the place making it look desolate and cheap. Now the yard was a vibrant green and clean, with flowers and bushes planted along the front. She moved as silently as she could around the back of the house, taking care to not alert anyone to her presence. She paused, scanning around to look for any outdoor pets, but nothing showed itself. She opened the gate to the backyard and stepped inside, not bothering to close it behind her.
Along the house, close to the ground, were the basement windows. The people here had been busy fixing things up, but did they discover the loose window near the west corner of the house? She made her way across the yard and knelt to test the window. Pushing along the outer edge, she found her purchase, a dimple that told her the window was still probably loose. She worked her fingers into the spot pushing harder, now grateful that she had chosen a man and not a woman, for his strength such as it was, benefited her. The window was stiff but did eventually give way and push upward. She stuck her head inside, letting her eyes adjust to the newer depth of darkness.
She listened. No sound emanated from the house and no one stirred. She backed out and turned to lower herself into the basement, feet first. As she lowered herself down she realized the man was too short and there was going to be a drop. Clutching the edge of the window sill she looked below her to see that there was nothing beneath her but the floor as she descended. Luck was on her side. She dropped, landing somewhat noisily anyway, but the floor was cement and her feet landed solidly. She held still, listening once again for any sounds from the house. Nothing.
Her eyes adjusted quickly and she saw the familiar basement spread out before her. She wished she had a light, but wouldn’t risk turning anything on, not now that she was so close. Moving slowly she made her way across the basement. Being a larger, older home, the basement was broken up into three sections separated by cement walls. She needed to go to the farthest, darkest room, all the way in the back. The usual clutter one would expect to find in a basement was not present, in fact, it was fairly sparse. The new owners must not have lived here long. Of course, the house was probably hard to sell since a murder had taken place here. No one wants to buy a home where such violence had occurred, especially not a triple homicide where the father went berserk and killed off his family. At least, that is what everyone thought had happened.
The basement was easy to walk through. She knew this place well and had spent many hours down here rummaging through old stuff, seeing what treasures she could find. Her mother had boxes upon boxes of stuff packed away and for a child, it was a goldmine of curiosity. She made her way walking ever so carefully in the increasing darkness. As she reached the back room, she placed her right hand upon the wall and let it guide her deeper and deeper in. She reached the end, and knew what she sought was right in front of her. The loose brick should be three bricks up from the bottom. She knelt down, feeling in the darkness, clawing at the brick to force it from the wall.
Sticking her hand inside, at first she felt confusion, patting around looking for her necklace. It must be here. How could it not be? No one knew of her secret hiding place. She stuck her hand deeper in, frantically searching for her lost treasure. Where was it? WHERE WAS IT? Rage began to move inside her as realization dawned that all her efforts were for naught. Her beloved necklace was gone! Stolen by some thief! How dare they! Her anger was intense, her frustration complete. No longer caring about being quiet, no longer needing the man whose body she inhabited, she howled with rage as she forcefully left his body and moved through the basement at lightning speed. The force of her exit left Marvin crumpled on the basement floor, passed out in the dark.
The spirit quickly approached the door at the top of the stairs and swished through it as if it were vapor. Inside the house she moved from room to room, searching for her necklace, wailing out loud, venting her pain and her anger. The house began to stir. Husband and wife sat up in bed listening to the ghostly sounds throughout the house. In her rage, she began to knock things over, breaking a vase of flowers, throwing books around the living room, slamming doors. The spirit moved to the upper floors, never caring about who she might scare. They were thieves, all of them and they would know her anger.
A child began to cry out from one of the bedrooms and the mother rushed from her own room to comfort him. The father stood in the hallway, armed with a baseball bat, as if that would stop a ghost. She smiled wickedly, wishing all the horrors of the night upon his head as she flew towards him in her wrath. She passed though him, letting all of her rage and anger seep into his very bones as she exited into the master bedroom. The father stood quaking in his slippers, ready to pass out from the fear he felt, but wishing to stay alert and protect his family. He roused himself out of his own shock and moved quickly into his son’s room, white as a sheet, to stand near his wife and child.
There in master bedroom, upon the dresser, her necklace glinted in the moonlight. A breeze blew about the trees outside and the branches rattled on the window, an echo of her own pain. She glided longingly toward the treasured item, reaching out with useless hands that would never be able to grasp and carry her necklace to safety. She floated there in front of the dresser, her anguish complete. That necklace was hers, and hers alone, the one thing that she had kept hidden from her greedy, intemperate father, the one thing he could never take from her, and it was now in the possession of another.
A floor board creaked behind her and she tore her eyes from her beloved necklace to face the husband, shaken and bewildered by what he was seeing. She did not care. It was not his, it was not his wife’s, it was hers. “Thieves!” she screamed. “Thieves!” And in her rage she flew through the window and out into the night, no solace for her in her death, no treasure to keep her company as she walked the lonely graveyard at night, the victim of a life bereft of happiness save that necklace which had always comforted her. Proof that someone had once loved her.
The man stood staring at the window, unable to blink. He felt as if he were in some alternate universe because ghosts didn’t exist in his. His wife returned to the bedroom, still carrying their son, eyes wide with fear, pleading for an answer as to what just happened. Her husband had none.
In the basement, Marvin still lay unconscious. In the morning, there would be hell to pay as he would have a devil of a time explaining to the police how he got there and that he really hadn’t broken in to the house and had no recollection of the nights events. Later on, when the police let him go, he would return to the bar to tell his drinking buddies of the strange things that had taken place in the wee hours of that summer night. His friends will pat him on the back and jeer at him for getting that drunk, even though they have been just as drunk themselves and done inexplicable things they can’t explain either.