This One Time, 44

This one time I brought out all the house goblins and arrayed them on the table for review of the troops and a lecture. I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I knew someone was falling down on the job.

I’m really not sure what good I expected it to do, but I was willing to try whatever. I mean, they were all just a pack of cheap plastic soldiers. My friend had painted all the helmets red with fingernail polish and declared them to be “red caps,” dedicated to keeping gremlins and all of the nastier of the Wee Folk in check by a declaration of martial law.

See, the aforementioned ersatz exorcist used to live in the apartment complex that had been on this piece of property before it was all ripped down and this new complex built. Rent there was quite a bit cheaper than here, as you can imagine, popular with college students and illegal immigrants who all paid the rent in cash or money orders at the beginning of the month. He said that it wasn’t as unpopular as it ought to have been for people to get beaten or even die here, and livestock too, I guess. There was a whorehouse being run out of the upper floors of the main building. I mentioned (kinda) the livestock pens with goats and chickens. Enterprising chemistry students built an impressive PCP production facility in the unit next to his, and, well, life there was about as interesting as you could imagine.

And it was all wrapped up in a hideously decaying Oriental theme. And I use the term Oriental instead of Asian to point out that it was faux-Asian decor and landscaping as imagined by people who had no experience of or respect for the culture(s) they were ripping off. Perhaps you get my drift.

He and some of his friends mysteriously obtained hardhats and, less mysteriously, a cooler full of beer and sandwiches to sit on the sidewalk and toast the start of the destruction when they tore down the first wall. They had all previously been residents, or perhaps just frequent visitors of residents, and were all extraordinarily happy to see some earthmover-driven gentrification. They had withstood break-ins, stray rounds through walls/windows/appliances/boxes of comics, lengthy unexplained interruptions in critical utilities, roof collapses, DEA busts — indeed, lights and sirens from every make and model of emergency vehicle — the sounds of animal slaughter, indecent solicitations at every hour of the day, choking clouds of chemical and/or sewage and/or offal smells, undocumented arrivals and departures of corpses and walking wounded, and cockroaches the size of bedroom slippers with aggressive streaks on a scale usually reserved for wolverines. And a neighbor that greeted the arrival of ten AM every weekend morning with the playing of, alternately, “Thriller” and “Hotel California” on vinyl, at a volume level measured in Richters instead of the usual decibels. That was a certain sign of demonic possession, he claimed.

He was a little worried that there might be a few psychic holdovers, possibly on the Civil War battleground or Indian graveyard scale. So he came over with a broom, a sage smudge, a cardboard package of kosher salt, and some Benedictine liquor he claimed was made and blessed by monks so it must count as holy water plus also we could drink it. And he also brought over the red caps, which he arrayed on the coffee table in much the way I had them now for the duration of the main ceremony, then deployed on windowsills and in cupboards and closets and various nooks and crannies throughout the place. “On patrol,” he said. And everyone who came to visit made a big joke of moving some of them around when I wasn’t looking. For verisimilitude.

I had plenty of guests. And a cat. I got used to seeing them in unexpected places while “patrolling” and never gave it a second thought.

Other than surreptitious troop movements I never caught the slightest whiff of any supernatural phenomena, and that surprised me not at all. Because I don’t believe in it. I do believe in humoring my friends and drinking whatever liquor they care to bring by, but that’s the end of my experience and expectations regarding the occult. Until this one time.

It was maybe the fourth morning running that I had woken up in the middle of the night with some sort of fading vision of a face outside my window — a window that was three floors up, I might add, seeing as I was on the second floor and my apartment was on the backside of the building where there was a cutaway slope exposing a basement wall. Well, call it three nights of a face outside my window and one night/early morning of that face hovering above me in my bedroom.

I checked all the angles to see what kinds of reflections were possible off the glass of the window and the mirror and a piece or two of framed art I had hanging. Nothing made sense on that front, except the usual stuff your brain gets up to in that hypnagogic state that you’re in right when you’re going to sleep or waking up.

Skeptic or not, known scientific explanations or not, it’s not a very pleasant experience to feel that someone is in the room with you and is perhaps not of a mood to shake your hand and drink your health, but perhaps actually willing to kinda vampirically drink your health, if I have to spell it out. I wanted it to stop, and I didn’t exactly want to invest in therapy or antipsychotic meds.

So I collected the troops and assembled them on the table. In an old 1970’s amoebic green ash tray, I lit a small charcoal disk propped up on thin rolls of aluminum foil so air could get underneath it and sprinkled on some rosemary and a crumpled bay leaf, because I was out of sage. And I prayed soulfully to invoke To Whom It May Concern, instructing the troops to echo in their tiny plastic minds everything I was saying aloud so it would carry a little more psychic weight. Sophia, always willing to help and stand in as my temporary familiar, over in the corner and thankfully on the stone-tiled hearth, horked up her best hairball as an offering.

And then I begged the Powers That May Or May Not Be to allow me to keep my grip on my precious sanity and let me get some damn sleep because, as a skeptic, I was busy doing my damn duty convincing myself and anyone else who was inclined to listen that they didn’t exist, thereby enabling them to get up to whatever shenanigans they were compelled to enact without people taking overt action to impede them, and didn’t they appreciate that?

And then the sky suddenly went dark and the building shook like there was an earthquake and a terrible screech rent the air and every last damn one of the red caps fell over. I’m sure the screech had been mine, or at least pretty sure, but that’s beside the fact. The fact is I didn’t sleep that night, but I did the next one, and every night since then, and since then I have never felt so rested as I do now when I wake up in the morning.

I sealed up all the red caps except one (that wouldn’t fit) in one of those zip-seal baggie things and I keep the lot of them in the toilet tank. The remaining one I gave over in a small pointless ceremony to Sophia, who, although she never took an interest in them previously, promptly ate his little head off and now plays hide-and-seek with his widdle plastic corpse.

And that, ever since, has been that.


February 13, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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