jimagain

Rants & ramblings of the disaffected

Archive for the tag “paranormal”

The Devil in The Top Hat

A stranger steps out of the shadows in the night to accost a gentleman and his lady friend. The flickering glow of a street lamp casts the desperate scene in a surreal light. The intended victim is obviously a man of means and carrying a large bag, tightly grasping its handle. Apparently something valuable is inside. They are alone late at night meandering along a deserted cobble stone street near a shipyard. Not particularly smart of either of them; considering the hour is late, the fog heavy, and this is a crime-ridden area frequented by desperate men. The brute standing before them is brandishing a large caliber black powder pistol. A large knife is tucked in his waist band.

“Give me your money!” The demand, albeit lacking in eloquence, is simple and direct.

The traversing pair interrupted, immediately freeze. The lady in fear cowers behind the gentleman as he studies the menacing figure blocking their way. He grips his satchel a little more tightly. “A predictable request.” And then he adds in a more jocular tone peculiar for a man whose life is about to be cut short, “Are we to assume we are in some sort of peril?”

Not amused, the assailant points the muzzle of his weapon at them in response. “I too am a businessman,” he says. “And I propose to relieve you of that heavy bag you are carrying in exchange for sparing your life.” He points to the leather satchel in his grasp.

“It’s a viable offer but it would seem several assumptions have been made on your part, Sir. You assume because of my attire I am carrying a large sum of cash. And you assume it is we who are in peril and not yourself. Perhaps it would be naive of me to not anticipate that once I hand over my valuables, you nonetheless will kill me, leaving you at liberty to impose yourself on my fair young escort. After all she is a member of the weaker sex and with me out of the way you are at liberty to have your way with her? Is this not so?”

The man of the night grins toothily as he nods his large head, tipping his large top hat in a mocking gesture but in such a way as to not take his eyes off the prey. He is no novice to his trade.

The intended victim continues. “Now that we have established your intent let us dispense then with these assumptions. Since I may have arrived at the last hour of my life, I am curiously beset with an urge to negotiate with the devil in the top hat.” He then grinned and tipped his own top hat to his adversary. “I have a proposition to make you instead. I Sir, am a businessman, a merchant of sorts; not unlike yourself, since we both apparently deal in lost souls. Hence I have a counter offer to make you. What say you entertain my barter for your merriment? Suppose I were to offer you the objects of your desire but with one twist. In the course of this transaction, suppose we were to eliminate one integral part of your equation. I propose to give you my very large sum of cash as well as hand over my fair companion in full consent to the natural conclusion of the gratification of your urges. After all, the money is a goodly sum and she is very fair, a woman to fulfill your manly appetites. And all this is done without the commission of a crime on your part. In exchange, all I ask from you is that you to allow me to retain possession of this one paltry satchel with its …contents. Tonight, Sir, would appear to be your lucky night, would it not?”

The villain hesitates at the audacity of his victim, then counters.”And in the spirit of fair business, I propose a counter-offer; I will take your sum of cash, the girl, and the contents of that bag.” He fidgets, nervously brandishing the weapon. “It seems as if you have nothing left to barter with.”

“But I do, and with one remaining stipulation. If you allow me to retain my satchel then I will allow you to keep your soul. If you are unable, however, to carry out your transaction, then I hold your soul in default as collateral. Do you agree to my terms?”

This time the blood runs cold in the hasty assailant. “My soul?!!” For one brief moment he is seized with apprehension, as if now he is the one now being accosted. Valuable time has been lost and the thug is anxious to claim his bounty, a goodly nights haul by any means for a desperate man. He arms his weapon to broadcast the finality of his offer. “Hand them over, now!”

“Be that as it may,” he concedes. “Then may I present you with your newest acquisitions.” He slowly removes his wallet from his coat pocket and in one motion shoves it down the girl’s bodice. His mouth drops as he hands them both over in one move to the surprised thug. He grabs her, one burly hand grasping her petite wrist. That turns out to be a fatal mistake. She smiles coldly. As he reaches for the wallet, at the opportune moment, she strikes in one efficient lethal motion. A sharp knife she deftly procured from her nether garments quickly applied to his fifth rib, ends the robbery and his life. He collapses silently in a heap at their feet.

“It seems my friend, you made several assumptions tonight, all of which were wrong. It was you who needed protection …from her.” He reaches down to extract something that belongs to him from the would-be assailant. Reaching into the cadaver, he extracts a dark, shadowy object in the form of its previous owner, one that struggles to escape, like sheet in the wind. He placed the writhing entity inside the heavy bag he has been clutching. Reaching into his coat pocket, he retrieves a slip of paper which he presses into the palm of the recently deceased. He then tips his top hat to the fallen in a final gesture. “This, Sir, concludes our bargain. It has been a pleasure doing business with you.” Last seen, the pair step over the fresh corpse to continue their journey, disappearing in the shadows, reappearing at the next lamps’ dim glow.

The next morning…

… a crowd has gathered. The man leaning over the body lets out an audible gasp. “Here now, what’s this?!!

“What is it Inspector?”

“The eyes are gone from this one too! Ah! Another note,” he declares matter-of-factly as he reads out loud, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

But Write I Must…

It was all sad and funny, yet pathetic. It was all those things at once.

Sitting in my underwear writing; typing away at the keyboard, watching the letters collect across the screen. I felt compelled to write as I dawdled away the day, frivolously squandering what little time I had left. But write I must. Other things impatiently clamored for my attention but I managed to suppress them. Action demanded I do something. Yet here I sat. As I wrote, a sense of doom pervading permeated my thoughts lurked in the back of my mind poised to leap at me like some dread beast. I felt as if my fate stalked me, coiling for the final pounce.

The clock in the den struck on the hour, striking me out of my stupor. Time was running out. It was all happening now. I knew it. But I had to finish this, before the deadline came. And so I wrote, feverishly. I wrestled with the words as I typed them, carefully choosing each of them, arranging them; crafting them to say what I desperately need them to say, before it was too late.

I looked up. The minute hand announced the next event with somber efficiency as the ticks of fleeting time counted down. Any moment now.

And then, as if on cue, the door to my room swung suddenly open. My wife barged in. She cast her eyes at me. In one glance, her expression went from hurt to scorn.
“Are you going to sit around the house all day in your underwear,” she scolded me! “What’s gotten into you?”
I sat sullen, silent. There was nothing I could say. How could I explain this to her?
She paused before storming off. I knew what would happen next. Like a script in my mind, I heard the angry clack of heels across a wooden floor followed by the slam of a door. The dog sprawled out on the floor as a silent spectator lazily picked his head up to look my way before giving a sigh and slumping back to the floor, limp. Moments later I heard the distinctive sound of a car engine turn over, of wheels crunching in the gravel, and the spin of tires accelerating on the asphalt road; and then…silence. A deafening silence.

I loved her. I desperately did so. It hurt to see her leave. Her absence stung at me like salt in a wound. I so wanted to run after her, to tell her how I felt. But we were about to go our separate ways from here. The time to say I love you, as too often is, that time was past.

Desperate thoughts tugged at me as I resumed to write. I should do something, I thought. But what? What could I do to avert the impending visit? Could I run? Hide? Was there a place of refuge I could resort to? Nay. Was there some one I could call? Again, nay. No, the script was cast in stone. And yet the pathos somehow fed my desire to write, to record my fate as some detached but dreary undertaker going about his morbid task in the mortuary we call life.

I had sensed for days this sense of impending fate but felt unable to change the course of events. Postponing, deferring, prolonging the agony creeping over me, I braced for the next turn. I knew what would happen next.

And yet the pathos somehow fed my desire to write, to record my fate as some detached but dreary undertaker going about his morbid task in the mortuary we call life. I rehearsed in my mind the events as I supposed them to unfold, as if I were somehow performing my own autopsy. Grim duties of the writer, recording my life in the third person. It seemed I had chronicled my own demise, one sentence at a time.

And then the inevitable came. A knock at my door. I answered with reluctance. It was him. I knew he was coming, I was never sure when but now he stood at my door. I didn’t want to answer, I desperately wanted to deny he was there on my stoop but there are some appointments you cannot ignore. This was one of those.

This time I ceased to write. I trudged with trepidation toward the door. Into the maw I go.

The visitor called me by name. Are you he?
“You know who I am,” I stammered. A brief pause and then in quivering voice, “Have you come to do your business?”
He nodded.
A lump formed in my throat. And then silence prevailed. There was nothing more to say.

The eirie thing is two days ago, this turn of events was only a story I had written. A simple work of fiction written by my own hands that quickly became a snare of my own making. And now I found myself caught in the undertow of my own writing. I was becoming a victim of my own narrative. If only I had written this differently.

Perhaps you should also be careful how you write your own biography.

The Creaking Door

The Uninvited Come to Visit

Few sounds, so completely normal, sound so completely unnatural as a creaking door. Ominous. Foreboding. Eerie.

Here is the scenario; a man is working alone late at night when, for no apparent reason the door slowly creaks open. No one enters the room, there is no obvious physical cause that presents itself to explain how it happened. It just happened. I was that man and what happened afterward has forever blurred the distinction in my mind between the natural word and the unseen. A seemingly innocuous event would have not arrested my attention as this but this was no ordinary happening.

I suppose to a rational mind this would appear to be no conundrum, no dark sinister event but instead a simply explainable one. Before this night I thought myself to be such a person, not given to imagination or superstition but instead a possessor of a skeptical mind that investigated any apparent anomaly before flying off to a myriad of hasty conclusions. You see, I believe that in the physical universe every cause has effect, every action – reaction; but I have since learned that in the dimensionless realm of the non-physical, exist things which have no cause or explanation – only phenomenon.

I fancy myself to be a scientific man and logical. Surrounding myself with laws of physics which admittedly do not always function as I expect. I take refuge in the thoughts of men smarter than I. Tonight the theories and textbooks are no refuge. Hiding behind books and theories and a vocabulary of scientific terms, these primal fears still lurk under my bed or dwell in my closet. I thought I had evicted him a long time ago but beneath the facade of the rational, fear still resides as a tenant that refuse to leave, in some deep dark corner of my thoughts.

Only two hours before, all was bright. The world was a logical place. Then streaks of pastel hues slowly gave way to darkened skies. At first I watched as the twilight fell, the sun hung suspended between day and night. The sun locked in struggle between light and dark lay slowly dying. Struggling, it succumbed to the inevitable overwhelming, smothering blanket of night that soon will grip the planet under its cloak of blackness. Only slivers of light reflected off the moon’s surface prevent the entire earth from sinking into the empty black sea of night. The last stabs of light racing from 97 million miles away careen off the hemispherical horizon across a twilight canopy and then… darkness has fallen. Outside a dog barks in the distance. Leafless trees, like suspects apprehended in individual acts of felony; throw up their limbs as arms in surrender, against the spot light of the waning moon.

Of every sensation I’ve encountered, the sound of a door turning on un-oiled hinges as it slowly creaks open seems an invite, a portal into the unknown. I fear my door has become an unguarded passageway into the world of flesh and blood I inhabit, where visitors cross over to co-habitate my world.

Seemingly this coinciding of day and night has opened the door to a host of the dark domain to visit. Enter the denizens of the dark; under the canopy of inky blackness they are now free to flit about from shadow to shadow, stalking and lurking to their dark hearts content. These animate non-entities feed off fear, mocking the palisades of logic we hastily throw up in defense and then cower behind. Shapeless visitors roam and walk about at will. Tonight the world is their playground, we are their zoo as they stare and gawk and laugh. Most are mildly curious, content to be spectators watching, observing their pitiful counterparts of flesh and blood as we dawdle about. Some are a bit more mischievous; a thump or a bump in the night. Others unleash sheer moments of unbridled terror from random, unexplained events; knocking things over, objects falling, creaking steps, the clack of shutters banging, curtains flailing wildly from an open window. These are the physical entities they can control; the tools of their trade of terror. Outside I hear the wind moan and howl as gusts hurtle leaves wildly about as projectiles, dashing them against bricks or scraping them loudly against the concrete.

Working late at night, alone in a room with no one but a vivid imagination only elevates the feeling of dread that I am not alone; someone or something unseen has entered the room, is there with me. But who ..or what? And what is the intent of the visitor? Evil or malicious? Perhaps merely to frighten? My skin crawls, starting with a tingling up the back like a thousand tiny ants marching up my spine. Hair follicles stand at erect attention. Shallow heavy breaths flee my pounding chest… for a moment the entire universe freezes in suspense. pupils strain to see the invisible as my eyes dart rapidly back and forth… still nothing. But is it nothing …or some thing that light does not reflect? Fear grips my mind, The suspense of the unknown & the untouchable is palpable, akin to a thousand pin pricks prickling the skin, spreading from head to toe. As if an unseen visitor has entered the room; my heart stops, my ears lock-in to the faintest sound. my neck cranes, my head turns, and wide eyes stare to see …nothing. There is nothing there! Instead of providing relief, a pervading sense of indescribable fear replaces it, makes it seems all the more foreboding. A visible foe no matter how formidable is not nearly so fearful as one unseen. Has someone come to join me tonight?

I tell myself, this is not the case. Frantically, the rational mind searches for a rational answer. I too began searching but soon gave way to a desperate…groping; grasping at straws of logic. The obvious conclusion is the wind blew it open. Isn’t it? My conscious mind has a logical explanation for everything; yet my subconscious seems to perceive a different reality. On a level I am consciously unaware of, my subconscious knows a multi-faceted level of reality that my rational mind refuses to accept.

Inside my room, the opened door half ajar leaves a gaping hole of uncertainty. A long pregnant pause followed suddenly by a burst of noise; the sound of wildly flailing, thrashing, and banging erupt from inside the hallway! My heart races wildly beating in response before I recognize the sound of shutters and curtains driven by the wind. It is a long time before I return to a semblance of normality. I grin nervously, feeling infinitely foolish as I concede to myself that I’m a bit too skittish.

And then I see the intruder inside my office. How I had not noticed him sooner?!! There inside my room, a light burns but outside my reflection stops short at the window pane. A ghostly apparition that resemble my self stares back at me in dread; as if a soulless entity masquerading as me glares back at me like a sullen spectator. I stare at myself staring back at me. I cannot see out, whoever is out there can easily see inside. Perhaps even now is watching me as I slink in silent fear. Is it my reflection …or my uninvited guest?!!

What does this mean? Am I afraid of my self; a dark, inner existence of a baser, lower form of me that lurks within waiting to wrest free, as a modern day Mr. Hyde and overpower my conscious self? Or is it a fear of another creature that masquerades as me? Behind the facade of normalcy might be a malignant malovent being that maquerades much like a virus cloaks itself in the cells of it’s host? Who can tell?

I can only wait until the morning comes, when reason returns, and day prevails.

Ten-thousand Lives

History Tells

It’s a grim scene, a young man to be excecuted by hanging, charged with espionage. Such is the senseless ravage of war that so often cuts short the young life in it’s prime. Facing the gallows with resignation, he spoke of giving “Ten-thousand lives” if necessary. Before his life was taken; a dying man’s last regret somehow becomes fulfilled.

DNA: the strand of the living. A pool of common genetic material from all of humanity has been drawn, connected across the generations. One life, one event reaches out across the span of history. Perhaps the young man was granted his dying wish?

An ancient text reads, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.” ( Deuteronomy 32:7 ). History is more than dates and insignificant trivia dredged up from days long past. to be appreciated, it must be viewed from the persepctive of those who lived it. History cries out, it tells a story to those who listen.

Pascifists and Rabble-rousers

These are the times that try men’s souls.” A young man writes with passion at a wooden desk, an oil lamp flickering in the background. He pauses to reflect, then continues. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” The scene progresses to a printer busy at work, reading the words out loud as his assistant sets the type. “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Next we cut to two men standing on the street corner, one reading a pamphlet out loud to himself as the other listens intently. “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” One or two gather to listen until others crane to hear. The man reads the words out loud to a raucous but uneasy crowd, lifting up his voice. “Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

British soldiers march In the background, eying the boisterous gathering.

Two things there was no shortage of in the colonies in those days; pacifists & rabble-rousers, with the masses caught up in the middle. The climate darkens with the prospect of war. Whatever your opinion or side; the outcome seems inevitable.

The Pool of Human Experience

This thing we call, DNA: could it be more than random groups of complimentary base pairs connected by hydrogen bonds and wound about a double helix frame of phosphate and ribose? How do codons and indels and RNA primers work together to express that code? We understand the basic concept of the exchange of genetic material that takes place between parallel sets of chromosomes during meiosis, expressing unique physical traits and characteristics. But what about personalityand behavior? How little do we know? How much deeper does this current run beneath the surface in the course of humanity? Are experience and behavior, personality and pre-dispositions somehow simultaneously copied and transcribed and reproduced along with the physical traits; handed down from one generation to the next? Perhaps?

Into The Lair

A man sitting alone in the crowded tavern is a admission to the fact that he’s out of place, he doesn’t belong. In a place where men go to meet and share a drink, a man by himself attracts attention. This young man sits silent, listening. Under normal circumstances such an aberration would be politely ignored. but these times are anything but normal. The country is at war. a large force overseas is stationed in the city. This is a war of neighbor against neighbor, Whigs against the Tories and Loyalists, the pacifists and those clamoring for war. It is a civil war, a revolutionary war. This is a time of war and everyone is a suspect.

Background: New York falls to the British about mid-September, 1776 . As Howe draws the noose, Washington narrowly escapes. A young man volunteers to go behind enemy lines in order to spy on the British. He knows all too well the risk should he be caught.

One man sits and watches. “Hello? What have we here,” he asks himself. “Sitting alone, is he? And why, pray tell does a man sit alone in a tavern unless… he’s not from here.” He takes a sip from his glass. Could he be a spy? A few ales later and some idle talk from some of the regulars, eager to talk at the prospect a free draft…

“He’s a quiet man, they say.” Only recently has he begun to frequent the establishment. They talk in hushed towns against a raucous din of noisy patrons spewing out ale along with the news of the day. “Mostly he just sits and listens as people talk. Says he’s a teacher of sorts. Just recent arrived. Not from here, he is.”

“That so?” Later on he joins the lone patron.” Mind if I join you,” he asks, then sits before he can consent …or object.

“Not a bit, Sir.”

He seems a bit nervous, the young man. His new found companion appears to be more than a bit tipsy. “So what’s a man like yourself here alone in a crowded tavern. Not a good place to be alone, I think.” He grins. He watches his manners and conduct. Obviously he’s well-educated but I think naive. He’s a spy alright but not a good one. Let’s see if he’ll take the bait.

He lowers his voice in the crowded tavern to voice his displeasure at the politics of the day. Feigning his allegiance to the American colonies, he seems bitter. “Lost my business to the King. Confiscated for lack of payment…” he leans in close “…taxes,” he says! “Thugs and robbers, the lot of them. I have information,” he offers. “…troop movements and the like. How’d I’d love to share it with those rebels after what they did…” The trap is set. He arranges a hasty meeting with his contact. Later that night the stranger is apprehended by the Queen’s Rangers. Interrogated by General Howe himself, he is charged as a spy.

The Substitute

The scene cuts to a school in New York. A young man enters a classroom. The substitute teacher has arrived. It’s cold outside. He wears a scarf wrapped tightly about his neck.”Who are you,” the class demanded? “Perhaps it is I who should be doing the asking. Who are you,” he countered? “For the next two days I will be your substitute teacher. You can call me, ‘Mr. H’. I see by the lesson plan, we’re studying the Revolutionary War.” I’m going to jump in with an excert from a play by the name of, “CATO”, holding up his well-worn copy. “A play, they ask? How boring is that? “Boring.” he replies? “Have you read it?!!” Ignoring their protests he begins to read. His words rise to compete with his audience. Passion rings from his words as one by one they fall quiet. Mesmerized, caught up in the fervor of the words.

How beautiful is death, when earn’d by virtue!
Who would not be that youth? What pity is it

That we can die but once to serve our country.

This play helped serve as an ideological inspiration to the American cause during the war. These words inspired General Washington during Valley Forge; besides him, we think also inspired Patrick Henry to utter, “Give me Liberty or give me death!’ And one other, an apparent reference from the remarks of Nathan Hale in his last words as he went to the gallows.

“How do you know so much about history?”
“Mostly from reading eye-witness accounts. That’s the answer I’m going with,” he smiles. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Two days later, the regular teacher returns to class and the myterious substitute slips away as quietly as he appeared.

At The Gallows

It’s a grim scene at the gallows to watch an execution. The young man conducts himself with resolute firmness and dignity. He is resigned to his sentence, unapologetic to the end. He makes his last remark, defiant. His is not the first young life lost to war. Lives lost, interrupted are a casulty of war. Cut short by a bullet or a bayonet or in this case… a hangman’s noose. That’s what wars ultimately do.

Before he dies, he utters words that still live on. He has a regret, not that he had been caught or he had been sentenced to death so young. His regret is of a different sort. As we listen to his words we get the sense that as unpleasant as his fate may be; given the choice he would do it again if need be. His regret is that he only has one life to give. Accounts vary but something to this effect. Should he have ten thousand lives to live, he declares that he would readily give them all. “Ten thousand lives,” he said. And then he is summarily executed. Spectators witness the grisly scene. Witnesses, gripped by what they saw that day record the event for posterity. This sacrifice, given once will be told again. Rehearsed, recounted, and perhaps even …re-lived?!!

The Dictates Of The Past

Who are you?

No, really. Who are you?

Surrounded by our modern environs, besieged by mind-numbing television in a culture satiated with entertainment; operating under the pretense that science can explain all the mysteries of life. I suppose it may be easy to convince yourself you are a mere random act of chance and not something deeper, a product more of design than chance. A healthy dose of skepticism should alert us that we may know so little of what we only assume. Perhaps your roots go deeper than you comprehend, perhaps you are more closely connected -wired- to the past than you suspect. Is it possible that memories may not be inherited from one generation to the next? Just maybe the thread of DNA that runs through our genetic flow, runs deeper than we realize. Maybe an exchange of genetic material gleaned from our past progenitors, an undercurrent in the gene pool carries you along in its tow. Perhaps it dictates more than the color of our eye or the complexion of our skin? Does your past still exert an influence over you, stronger than you understand? Maybe this explains why we’re so unique and yet so similar? Do we inherit more than physical expressions of our progenitors? Maybe history does indeed repeat itself, not a script we act out verbatim as mindless drones but predispositions that run deep within, exert more power than we realize..

At one time, simple blobs of protoplasm were sufficient an explanation to satisfy a man inclined to believe that life could be so simple, or so simply explained. Some say love is merely a combination of certain hormones and the physiological interaction of the sympathetic nervous system. Is it mere chemistry? Or is there more to it than neurotransmitters and biochemical reactions? Maybe what we call science is less than the perfect knowledge we assume it to be, is instead an oversimplification of more profound truth we have yet to comprehend?

Everyday Heroes

I see them everyday. soldiers. Just ordinary people whose lives have been interrupted, preparing to deploy overseas. Most come back. Some return but not the same as they left. Some do not at all.

“Here,” she says, handing him a letter. “This came for you today, looks official,” she says. “What is it?” He reads to himself in disbelief, lips moving silently. His heart drops, he pauses. Then with somber expression looks up. “Orders,” he replies. “These are my orders. My unit”, he pauses… “were being mobilized. Afghanistan.” Winded by the news. They embrace. “I’ve got to go,” he says. She nods but doesn’t let go.

Most return, some do not.

Inconclusive

A few days later the FBI show up at the school to investigate the recent substitute teacher. “We’re not at liberty to discuss the case. A couple of agents are discussing the matter in private. “Who was he? And why would he impersonate a teacher?” The other agent replies,”Can’t say that we know just yet. Maybe he’s an idealogue of some kind. Maybe he had some agenda. We’ve got some background check information on him but not much more. The information we gathered so far indicates he was a veteran. Here’s his the file with an I.D. card. According to this, let’s see, last name…” pauses… “Hale …he was a captain,” Pausing again… “but that can’t be right?
“Why not?”
“Last year, about this time… he was killed in action in Afghanistan.”

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