For Candace Cormier
Candace slumped back in the chair, staring up at Dr. Freeman. He pitied her, she could tell. It didn’t bother her really, she was used to it. She didn’t really understand it though. Why pity a person for acknowledging the truth?
“Tell me about yourself”, he said to her.
“How about you just look through my files, it’s all there.” Candace sighed in annoyance. She was tired of this part. She had played the role of the patient too many times. Four different doctors this year already and each one wanted her to tell them about herself.
“I want to hear it from you”, he said.
They always said that. This time, she wouldn’t argue. It never got her far anyway, always ended the same. She took a deep breath.
“My name is Candace Cormier,” she said, “and I see dead people”. She didn’t hold back on the sarcasm. Slumping further back into her chair, she began to pick at her fingers. Freeman stared at her, urging her to continue.
“Fine,” she said with an exasperated sigh. “I’ll start from the beginning”. She sat upright.
“For as along as I can remember, I’ve seen things. Ghosts, spirits, whatever you want to call them. The truth is, everyone can see them – if they really wanted to. It’s just a matter of letting them in. When we’re kids, we all see them. There’s nothing keeping them out, no reason to not believe they exist. Then our parents start telling us they aren’t real. They are shadows, or dreams, or whatever. That works for most people. Not everyone.”
“And you’re one of the chosen few?” Freeman asked.
“Chosen?” she asked with a laugh. “Who said anything about being chosen? If there is someone out there, be it God or whoever, picking people at random to carry this curse then he’s one sick son of a bitch.”
Dr. Freeman scratched a few notes down on his pad.
“I don’t have delusions of grandeur, doctor” she didn’t mask the annoyance in her voice. “I don’t believe I’m the saviour here to rescue the world from the big bad ghosts”.
“Rescue us how, exactly?” Freeman asked with a raised eyebrow and a smirk. “I was under the impression that ‘ghosts’ couldn’t hurt you”.
He was mocking her. She hated this guy already.
“Don’t patronize me, doctor”, she said.
“So what are they like?” he asked, completely ignoring her frustration. “Do they ever talk to you?”
“They are like living people” she said with a sigh of defeat. “Most are nice. They usually mind their own business, rarely interfering with the lives of the living. Others, though, are real assholes. Unfortunately for me, I tend to attract the assholes”
“Go on” he said, scratching down a few more notes.
“There was one who would visit me frequently. When I was around ten years old” she said. “This guy was bad news. He looked like the kind of guy you would find at a high-school party, hitting on the teenage girls. He terrorized me. In the beginning, he would just try and scare me. I would wake up to see him standing by my bed, or even laying next to me. Whatever he could do to make me cry. He got off on that.
“Eventually, it got physical. He would slap me, scratch me, shove me, you know – hurt me. It got more severe over time. My parents would ask me about the marks. They never believed me, of course. My mom even ended up leaving my dad. She thought it was him” she wiped a tear from her eye, forcing out a chuckle. “He was a creep anyway. Sometimes I wanted to blame it on him, just to be rid of him.”
“It kept getting worse. One night, when I was twelve, he’d decided to kick it up a notch. Apparently, the physical pain wasn’t enough.” she cleared her throat. “I could tell, as soon as he showed up that night, that something was different. It was in his eyes.
“He sat down on the bed next to me. I started to cry, for the first time in a while. He placed his hand on my thigh. That’s when everything changed”
“I don’t understand”, said Freeman. “We’re talking about a ghost here, right? The way you describe it, it’s as though he’s a solid, physical, entity”
“At that point, he was,” she said. “I’ll try to explain that soon,” she started biting the nail on her thumb. “So he’d placed his hand on me. I knew that what was about to happen would be worse than anything he’d done so far. There was nothing I could do.
“So, I closed my eyes. I started thinking about something else, you know? Pretending that nothing was happening, like I was somewhere else. Then, his hand went cold, like ice, and I felt it pass through my leg – like a cold breeze. I opened my eyes and he was gone.
“He came back every night that week, trying again and again. Each time, I would close my eyes, block him out.”
“Closing your eyes made him disappear?” Freeman asked with genuine interest.
“It was a little more than that” she said. “I don’t pretend to fully understand it, but I think I’ve figured out some of it. As far as I can tell, the more you acknowledge them, the stronger they get. It’s like they feed off of it somehow. After years of haunting me, I had practically accepted him as part of my life. I was a constant source of attention. The bastard was practically alive again when he was around me. Once I started blocking him out, pretending he wasn’t there, he lost all of that. He came back weaker and weaker. In the end, I could barely see him.”
“You still see them?” Freeman asked. “Ghosts, I mean”
“Oh yes” she said. “They’re everywhere. Some stronger than others. Sometimes they’re only shadows, other times I could swear they were living people”
“And what brought you here?” he asked.
“My mom”, she smiled. “I don’t blame her. She was just trying to help me and she didn’t know what else to do.”
“Well, is it helping?” he asked.
“Really?” Freeman couldn’t mask the surprise in his voice.
“Well, there aren’t any ghosts here to bother me. Not even they want to spend their time in a nut house”
“Mental hos..” he started.
“Mental hospital. I know, whatever.” she glanced at the clock on the wall. “I think our time is up”
Candace sat on her bed, staring through the window. She watched a small group of children playing in the hospital’s makeshift playground. Tears stained her cheeks. They were so happy. They laughed and screamed while playing on the swing-set.
“You’re getting pretty good at that,” came a voice from behind her. Candace looked back at the source. When she did, the children fell through the swings and vanished.
“It’s all about focus,” she said to her visitor, Mark. “As long as you keep feeding them, whatever it is I’m feeding them, they can interact with anything. For a short time, they get to be alive again”
“Come on,” said Mark. “We can grab a bite before your group therapy.”
Mark was a volunteer nurse there. His job usually required strapping patients down when they got out of hand. They called him “The Muscle”. He was also the only person who didn’t think Candace was crazy. She suspected he had a kind of gift. He couldn’t normally see ghosts, but if she’d fed them enough, he could. He was the only one she’d ever met who could do that.
“You know,” he said, “I watched ‘The Sixth Sense’ last night..”
“No,” she interrupted, “You haven’t been dead this whole time.”
“OK good,” he said, “but if I was dead, you’d tell me, right?”
“If you were dead,” she said with a smile, “you’d know it.”
To be continued in an upcoming untitled paranormal series..
Yes, I know nobody died.