"So, Malika, have the girls told you about what we've been planning for tonight?" Teresa asked as they started their drive across town.
"Yeah. It sounds like fun. Well, except for the scary movies... I'm living in one, so I really don't feel like watching someone else go through that stuff." Malika said honestly.
"I'm sure that we'll be able to find something that you'll all enjoy." Teresa assured her.
"Just as long as it's not another one of Lorra's tear jerker romances." Toni said with a crinkled nose.
"Okay. If Malika can veto horror movies and Toni can veto romances, then I get to veto something, too." Lorra said firmly.
"That sounds fair to me." Teresa said with a smile.
"No movies made from comic books... or cartoons... or where there's more CGI explosions than acting." Lorra said thoughtfully.
"That's going to narrow it down." Teresa said consideringly.
"We may end up watching 'Love Boat' reruns on TV." Toni said slowly.
"What's that?" Malika asked curiously.
"Believe me, you don't want to know." Lorra told her gravely.
"Don't I get to not pick something, too?" Zoe asked loudly. Being the youngest, it was apparent that she was feeling a little bit overlooked.
"Sure, honey, what kind of movie do you not want to watch." Teresa asked her daughter indulgently.
"I don't wanna watch any stars or rings. They're boring." Zoe said firmly.
"What was that?" Teresa asked curiously.
"No movies with the words 'Star' or 'Ring' anywhere in them." Zoe said seriously.
Teresa thought about it for a moment, then broke into a smile before saying, "I think that narrows it down a lot more."
"What about Harry Potter?" Toni suggested hopefully.
"Which one?" Malika asked with interest.
"Since we're having a sleepover, let's start with the first one and see how many we can watch before we fall asleep." Toni said happily.
"Yeah. Okay. I haven't watched them for a while." Malika said consideringly.
"What about you, Lorra?" Toni asked cautiously.
"Daniel Radcliffe? Are you kidding? I'm in!" Lorra said with a grin.
"Is that okay with you, Zoe?" Teresa gently asked her youngest.
"Yeah. I like Harry Potter." Zoe said happily.
* * * * *
There were a few silent minutes as the drive continued, until Lorra finally asked, "What school do you go to?"
"The Christian Academy." Malika answered in a somewhat grim tone.
"Oh. I've heard of that place. Do they make you pray all the time, or anything like that?" Lorra asked curiously.
"No. It's just a name. I guess if they called it 'The Muslim Academy', no one would send their kids there." Malika said frankly.
"You're probably right about that." Teresa chuckled.
"So, it's just a regular school?" Lorra asked to confirm.
"Yeah. I guess. I've always gone there, so I don't know what other schools are like." Malika said honestly.
"Is there anything special that you girls would like to snack on, tonight? I can stop by the store on the way home." Teresa asked casually.
"Can we have pizza?" Toni asked hopefully.
"We just had dinner before we left the house." Teresa said cautiously.
"Yeah. So?" Toni said simply, obviously not seeing a connection.
"Let me know when everyone's hungry and I'll call for delivery." Teresa said with amusement.
* * * * *
When Teresa pulled into the driveway, the girls piled out of the SUV and rushed to the front door.
Teresa smiled at their enthusiasm to get the sleepover underway.
* * * * *
"Wow. Your house is really nice!" Malika said as they walked in the front door.
"Mom and Dad have been remodeling it since we moved in." Toni said simply as she took off her coat.
"Give me your coat." Lorra said as she hung her coat in the entry closet.
"Do you wanna see my room?" Zoe asked excitedly.
Malika looked at Toni and Lorra, not knowing if there were a right answer to the question.
"We're going to start the fire, first." Toni told her sister, then looked to her mother and asked, "Can I?"
"Go ahead. Just remember to open the flue." Teresa cautioned.
"This fireplace is really really old. It's awesome." Lorra said as she led the way into the living room.
Malika looked around the living room carefully and her gaze stopped on the Christmas tree. "It's so pretty."
"Oh, yeah. You don't have a Christmas tree at your house, do you?" Lorra asked cautiously.
"No. With everything going on this year, with everyone being sick and scared, we just... didn't." Malika said quietly.
"You can't let the bad guys win." Toni said firmly as she carefully positioned the wood in the firebox.
"Yeah. If you act all miserable, you're playing into their hands." Lorra agreed, then thought to add, "Being sad and afraid is a lot like giving up, and when you don't fight back, they win."
"So, being happy is a way of fighting... it?" Malika asked cautiously.
"Not giving up is a way of fighting them. Being happy is a way of not giving up." Toni said seriously, then lit the fireplace lighter and moved the flame to the edge of the kindling.
"What you said before, back at my house, was that true? Was your house really haunted?" Malika asked curiously.
"Yeah." Toni said easily as she kept the majority of her attention on lighting the fire.
"Well, to be honest, it still is. But now it's haunted the good way." Lorra interjected.
"The good way? Is there a good way?" Malika asked dubiously.
"Yeah. The ghosts that we have now are really nice. In fact, Benjamin helps us out around here all the time." Toni said as she looked away from the fire with a smile.
"How can a ghost help you?" Malika asked dubiously.
"When Benjamin was alive, he used to work taking care of this house, you know, cleaning and keeping things nice and neat. Now, he still does that. I mean, we still have to clean up after ourselves, but after that, Benjamin kind of follows along behind us and makes sure that everything's just right." Toni finished with a smile.
"Can I see him?" Malika asked cautiously.
"We usually see Daniel more than Benjamin, but neither one of them will show up when you call them. If you do see them, it'll be when one of them walks past the door or you'll see them out of the corner of your eye or something like that." Toni said seriously.
"They don't try to scare you or anything. They're nice." Zoe interjected.
"What about your ghost? How is it?" Toni asked cautiously.
"All I can really tell you about it is that it's not nice." Malika said quietly.
"Don't worry. My dad and the team will figure out how to make things right." Toni assured her.
"Yeah. They're really great. They even let us help them, when they were here." Lorra said happily.
"How did you help?" Malika asked curiously.
"They let me take readings when they first got here, then later, they let us help them with the evidence review." Lorra said happily.
"Yeah. It was really something. And from what they said, they might ask us to help them again if they've got a really big job to do, sometime." Toni added with a smile.
"I don't know. I think I'd be scared if I did something like that." Malika said cautiously.
"Sometimes it's scary. But I know that Alana wouldn't let anything bad happen to us, so it's okay." Lorra said honestly.
"My dad's over at your house trying to figure out what's haunting you. Can you think of anything that I could tell him that might help?" Toni asked hopefully.
"Did your dad ask you to ask me that? Is that what he said to you when we went out to the car?" Malika asked suspiciously.
"He told me to call him if there was something that he needed to know. But it's not like he's spying on you, or anything. He's just trying to help your family. So if there's something that you know that might help him, I can go ahead and tell him about it." Toni said honestly.
"All I know is that it's scary. For some reason, I feel safer when I'm in my room, so I stay in there a lot." Malika said quietly.
"Toni and I have been studying all kinds of things so that we can help if the team ever needs us to. If it wouldn't freak you out too much, we could investigate what's been happening to you." Lorra said hopefully.
"How? What do you want to do?" Malika asked cautiously.
"We just want to ask you some questions, just like the regular interviews that Alana and the team do. Maybe, if we do that, we can figure some things out that'll help." Toni explained cautiously.
"Okay. I guess." Malika said reluctantly, then asked, "What do you want to know?"
"Just tell us what it's like. How are things 'not normal' at your house." Lorra said simply.
"Well, I guess that sometimes, when I look in the mirror, there's sometimes someone else there, just for a second." Malika said anxiously, obviously disturbed by the memory.
"Yeah. That happens a lot. Mirrors are easy portals, weak spots in reality where ghosts and stuff can peek through." Lorra said with a nod.
"That's right. And usually when you see something in the mirror, it's something that's trapped on the other side. It can't hurt you. If it's showing itself to you, it's probably just to make you scared, because when you're scared, you kind of give it a boost of energy." Toni said carefully.
"If that's what it's been trying to do, it worked." Malika said quietly.
"Does it happen in all the mirrors, every now and then? Or does it happen in the same one, almost every time you look in it?" Lorra asked seriously.
"Um... all of them, I guess. I use the one in the bathroom the most, so that's where I usually see it, but it's not every time and it's happened in the others, too." Malika said thoughtfully.
"Good. Then that probably means that you don't have a haunted mirror. Sometimes, mirrors can be used as conduits, and you have to get rid of the mirror or bind it to stop the haunting. But it sounds like the mirrors in your house are just regular mirrors and the ghosts, or whatever, use them to terrorize you when they get the chance." Lorra said, then looked at Toni with question.
"Yeah. Just try to ignore them. And if you feel like they're watching you, then tell them to get out and give you some privacy or cover the mirror so that they can't watch." Toni said with a nod.
"They're always watching. I can feel them, even when I'm not anywhere close to a mirror." Malika said anxiously.
"Oh, yeah. That's normal." Toni said easily.
"That might just be the EMF." Lorra added simply.
"What's that?" Malika asked curiously.
"Electromagnetic fields. Ghosts give them off and we can track them with our K2 meters. Whenever you're around high EMFs, you get the creeps and feel like someone's watching you." Lorra said informatively.
"Is there some way to stop that?" Malika asked cautiously.
"Yeah. There's a couple ways." Toni said assuringly, then continued, "The first thing is to try and figure out where the EMF is coming from. Sometimes it's from a ghost, and there's not much you can do about that. But sometimes it's from bad wiring or an electrical transformer or junction box or something like that. If you can track it down and either move it or get it fixed right, then you can make it go away."
"There's also some kinds of paints and plants that can shield you from EMF or absorb it." Lorra added helpfully.
"What about when I'm sleeping? Sometimes it feels like there's someone else in my room, and when I feel that, I'm scared and I can't move." Malika whispered fearfully at the memory.
"That can be caused by high EMF, too." Lorra said with a nod.
"Yeah. It's called 'sleep paralysis' and it happens to lots of people. That's another one of those things that can happen even when you're not 'really' haunted. If it's a real problem, I think that you can go to a doctor and they can give you something for it. I don't know a lot about it, but it happens enough that you should be able to look it up and find out what you can do about it." Toni said consideringly.
"My mom's a doctor. Wouldn't she already know about that?" Malika asked cautiously.
"Maybe." Toni said simply, then added, "But unless your mom works with sleep disorders, she might not. Do the research and you can show her what you figured out and she might be able to help you with it."
"Yeah. I guess I never thought that there might be something that you could 'do' to stop the nightmares." Malika said thoughtfully.
"Oh, yeah. There's tons of stuff that you can do that don't have anything to do with haunting. Once you've got all that stuff out of the way, then there's a whole lot less that you have to deal with that actually 'is' from the ghosts." Toni said seriously.
"What about when I see someone moving in my closet, or under my bed, even when I'm completely awake?" Malika asked anxiously.
"That could be ghosts." Lorra said speculatively.
"Or... it could be high EMF giving you a feeling of paranoia and your mind automatically 'matrixing' to make you see something that isn't really there." Toni countered.
"What's 'matrixing'?" Malika asked curiously.
"That's a thing your mind does to fill in the blanks when something's missing. Like when your mind automatically fills in a missing letter in a word or the missing word in a sentence." Toni explained easily.
"It's also how your mind can see things in a picture that's an optical illusion. Your mind picks up on the clues and fills in the blanks to show you something that's not really there. And when you've got a lot of EMF hitting you, then your mind is hyped up looking for something creepy and weird that it's expecting to see." Lorra added thoughtfully.
"What about the smells?" Malika asked cautiously.
"What smells?" Toni asked curiously.
"In my house, sometimes... a lot of times, you smell things... like rotting... or blood." Malika said anxiously.
"I don't know. I don't think I've read anything about any smelly ghosts. But I suppose that you could matrix a smell just the same as something that you saw." Toni said consideringly.
"It's not all in my head! Look at this." Malika said, then raised up the side of her blouse to expose three separate patches of boils starting under her arm and wrapping around to cover about half of her stomach.
"No. We weren't saying that it's all in your head. We're saying that whatever's haunting your house may be using your body's natural reactions to scare you and make you think that it's a lot worse than it really is." Toni said assuringly.
"Does it hurt?" Zoe asked in a whisper.
Malika looked at the younger girl with surprise, having briefly forgotten that she was there.
"Sometimes it feels like there's something moving, right under my skin. But since my mom started putting cream on it, it doesn't hurt very much." Malika said frankly.
"Toni, can you fix it?" Zoe asked hopefully.
"Malika's mom is a doctor. I probably can't do anything that she hasn't already tried." Toni said seriously.
"But if a ghost hurt Malika like this, can't you undo what the ghost did to her?" Zoe asked cautiously, obviously trying very hard to understand.
"I guess it wouldn't hurt anything to try." Toni said uncertainly.
"What are you talking about doing?" Malika asked uneasily.
"Well, I don't know if it'll do anything. But I guess what Zoe's saying kinda makes sense. If a ghost or whatever 'marked' you or 'cursed' you with this, then maybe it would help if we did a basic protection ritual." Toni said carefully, then looked at Lorra with question.
"I've got my kit upstairs, with my things." Lorra said simply.
"Your 'kit'?" Malika asked cautiously.
"It's just the really basic things that ghost hunters and priests and people like that use to protect themselves." Lorra said assuringly.
"Are you talking about doing magic?" Malika asked anxiously.
After a moment to consider, Toni slowly said, "That's kind of hard to answer. I think that the way Alana would say it is that even though we don't know 'why' it works, this is something that was done in the past that we've seen 'does' work. So, whether you want to call it 'magic' or not, this is a proven answer to the question we're asking."
"What are you going to do?" Malika asked cautiously.
"Um, I guess we'll draw a protection circle, so nothing can get in from the outside and try to interfere with us. Then we'll do the cleansing ritual to try and get rid of any curses or marks. After that, we'll do a basic blessing to try and keep you from getting cursed or marked again." Toni said thoughtfully.
"Do you think it will help?" Malika asked in a whisper.
"I don't know. You may just have some kind of a nasty skin fungus or something. But what we're doing won't hurt you. If you want to call what we're doing 'magic', then this is 'good-guy magic'. It's all protection, cleansing and blessing. None of it will hurt you. So the worst that will happen is nothing." Toni said frankly.
Malika thought about it for a moment, then quietly asked, "What do we have to do?"
"We're going to have to draw on the floor with chalk, so we should probably do it in my old room, that's being remodeled. The carpet's been torn up and the room's cleared out." Toni said thoughtfully, then looked at Lorra to confirm that she wasn't missing anything.
"Are you girls ready for pizza?" Teresa asked as she walked into the living room.
"Yeah. We've got some stuff to do upstairs for a few minutes, but we should be done before it gets here." Toni said with a smile at her mother.
"Is pepperoni alright with everyone?" Teresa asked as she looked around.
"Yeah!" Lorra answered hungrily.
The looks of anticipation on the other girls' faces was all the answer she needed.
"Make sure you put the screen in front of the fire before you go upstairs." Teresa cautioned her oldest daughter.
"We will." Toni assured her, then quickly stood.
* * * * *
"Just stand back and let Lorra work. Even though I've read through this, I haven't memorized it like Lorra has." Toni said quietly.
"Why is this happening to me?" Malika asked anxiously.
"Probably, because you're a girl... and a teenager. For some reason, ghosts really really like us. Maybe we give them extra energy or something." Toni said honestly.
"Or maybe they're just a bunch of perverts." Lorra said without looking up from her work, drawing a chalk circle in the center of the floor.
Toni smiled at the comment, then continued, "For whatever reason, ghosts like to show up where there's a young teenage girl. Sometimes, it's like our natural psychic energy draws them. If there's already a weak spot between the worlds, we can draw them through. Of course, if it's something that's already here, then it sees us as food and starts getting stronger and acting up more."
"Then, there are poltergeists, which are spirits that latch onto just you. If what you've got is one of those, then right now Alana and my dad are probably bored out of their minds, because all the paranormal activity would have followed you here." Lorra said seriously as she continued to work.
"It's cold in here." Zoe grumbled.
"Go get a sweater. We won't start without you." Toni assured her sister.
Zoe looked at Toni dubiously for a moment, but finally hurried out of the room.
"Is it really okay for you to let her see what we're going to do?" Malika asked cautiously.
"In a few years, Zoe's going to be a teenager and might have to face something like this. And by that time, I might be away at college. So, for as long as she wants to learn about it, I'm willing to show her the things that she needs to know to protect herself." Toni said seriously.
Malika thought about that for a moment, then slowly nodded her agreement to the reasoning.
* * * * *
"You didn't start, did you?" Zoe asked as she hurried into the room.
"No. Lorra's still casting the circle." Toni said patiently.
"What's that that she's writing?" Malika asked cautiously.
"Each segment in the circle is a request for protection from a different saint, angel or deity. It's one of those things that we don't know why it works, but some or all of them do something because it's always worked in the past." Toni said carefully.
"So you don't believe in magic?" Malika asked to confirm.
"I think that some of this stuff works if you believe in it. I don't know if that's the placebo effect or the power of positive thinking. But there's other stuff that actually works no matter what you believe. It's like there's some kind of science at work, but no one knows what it really is. Because of that, we use the things that we know have worked in the past, even if we don't believe in them or completely understand them."
"Everyone, get into the circle." Lorra said as she carefully looked over her handywork.
"Is your mom going to get upset because you drew all over the floor?" Malika asked cautiously as they all relocated.
"Maybe a little. But they're going to be sanding down the floors anyway, so I don't think it'll be a big deal." Toni said frankly.
"This is Toni's room. She's just staying in her brother's room until they're done fixing this one up." Lorra said as she walked around the circle, dribbling water outside the chalk outline.
"What are you doing?" Malika asked curiously.
"Reinforcing the circle with holy water." Lorra said simply.
"Do you want me to do the salt?" Toni asked her cautiously.
"Yeah. It's in my backpack, right there." Lorra said absently.
Malika watched as Toni took a generic cylindrical container of cooking salt out and started pouring it just outside the circle.
"You just use regular salt?" Malika asked cautiously.
"Yeah. It's possible to get 'Holy Salt' that's been blessed, for when you need it. But for something like this, any salt will do." Toni said casually as she crawled around the perimeter of the circle, pouring the salt, and being careful not to smudge Lorra's chalk diagrams.
"I guess we're ready." Lorra said as she looked over the circle one more time.
"What do we have to do?" Malika asked nervously.
"Not much, really. If it's okay, I'm going to put some holy water on each spot where you're hurt, to spiritually cleanse them. Then we'll just say a really quick little prayer of protection, so that if we actually got rid of something, that it can't come back." Lorra said frankly.
Malika looked from Lorra to Toni, then cautiously asked, "So, it's not a big deal?"
"Nope. The hardest part is done. I've been studying that circle diagram forever, trying to memorize it." Lorra said frankly.
"Show us where you're hurt and we'll go ahead and bless it." Toni said seriously.
Malika once again lifted her blouse to expose the angry boils.
"Zoe, come over here and watch, so you'll know how to do this." Toni said firmly.
The expression on Zoe's face was cautious, but Malika could easily see that she was doing her best to remain calm and collected. Malika got the sense that it meant the world to Zoe that her older sister was including her and sharing this forbidden knowledge.
In a low voice, Toni quietly said, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I beg that you intercede on our behalf."
"Lord, hear our prayer." Lorra automatically said at the pause.
"Almighty God, we beg you to keep the evil spirit from further molesting this servant of yours, and to keep him far away, never to return. At your command, O Lord, may the goodness and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, take possession of Malika. May we no longer fear any evil since the Lord is with us; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever." Toni said reverently as she sprinkled holy water on the scabs and boils.
Malika gasped at the sudden cold.
"Do you have anymore spots like this? We need to get all of them." Lorra asked seriously.
"Yeah. On both my legs." Malika said as she tried to understand what she was feeling on her stomach. It was almost icy and she couldn't tell if it were spreading over her skin or moving underneath.
"Can you roll up your pants legs?" Toni asked cautiously.
"No. Not enough. I'll have to take them off." Malika said nervously.
"Go ahead. We've got to do this right now or we'll have to start over." Toni said frankly.
After a moment of hesitation, Malika wriggled out of her pants to expose two large gauze pads, taped into place. She carefully removed the bandages to reveal a horrible infected gash on one of her thighs and another patch of festering boils on the other.
"Zoe, do you want to do it?" Toni asked her sister cautiously.
After a moment to consider, Zoe firmly shook her head.
Toni smiled at her sister, then held up the holy water as she said, "Lord, we beg you to keep the evil spirit from further molesting this servant of yours."
When Toni applied the holy water to the infected gash, Malika once again felt the icy sensation moving not only over, but through the wound on her thigh.
Toni quickly applied the holy water to the patch of boils, then asked, "Zoe, would you go to the bathroom and get the first aid kit? We need to bandage these back up."
"Can I leave the circle?" Zoe asked cautiously.
"Sure. Daniel will make sure nothing happens to you." Toni assured her sister with a smile.
Zoe hurried out of the room to do as she was asked.
Malika looked around quickly and for just an instant, she saw the vague outline of a teenage boy, standing by the door with his arms folded across his chest.
She gasped and quickly grabbed her pants to cover herself as a blush rose up her cheeks.
It took a moment for Toni to understand what Malika's sudden problem was, but once she figured it out, she quietly said, "Daniel's not looking at you, I promise. He's not like that."
"Not like what?" Malika asked as she continued to try and fight down her embarrassment.
"He doesn't like girls." Lorra said frankly.
Toni glanced at Lorra disapprovingly, then carefully said, "I'm saying that he's a gentleman. He won't look. And, if he accidentally sees something he shouldn't, he will look away."
Lorra flashed Toni an incredulous 'whatever' look, then started gathering her supplies back into her backpack as she asked, "So, Malika, do you feel any different?"
"I don't know." Malika said honestly.
"Well, like we told you before, this might not help anything, but it shouldn't hurt anything, either. It was just something to try." Toni assured her.
"Thank you for doing it." Malika said quietly.
Zoe hurried back into the room with a large first aid kit.
"Let's hurry and get these bandaged. The pizza should be here any minute." Toni said with a smile of anticipation.
At the invocation of the word 'pizza', all matters ghostly, demonic or supernatural were immediately abandoned.
* * * * *
As they were walking downstairs, Toni quietly said, "If you think of anything that I need to tell my dad, just let me know."
"Yeah. I will." Malika assured her.
The sound of a knock on the front door caused all the girls to stop.
"Are you guys ready to watch some movies?" Lorra asked with a grin.
Malika suddenly realized that for the first time in longer than she could remember, she felt completely at ease. She wasn't afraid. She wasn't alone. She wasn't expecting some horrific thing to pop out and scare her at any moment.
So, as they walked down the hallway, toward the living room, Malika quietly said, "Yeah. I think I am."
As always, I found this chapter extremely interesting. I think it's cool that the youngsters interested in helping Malika get past all the vicious hateful stuff. Or at least we hope it's helping.
I can't help thinking of another one of MM's stories, where each chapter would take a strange twist. You would finish one chapter and then when the next chapter shows up, it is completely different than the previous one.
In that story, some new chapters introduced us to new people we had never seen before, and as often as not, when that chapter was finished, you could just as easily start a whole new thread, but sometimes we would find ourselves back with the ones in one other chapters.
Just when you think you have figured it out, everything changes again.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher