Monday, May 15, 2017

RELIC

Genre: Horror


Note to readers: This story features Aaron Chase and Brent Gage, two characters I first introduced in a short story titled EVOCATION. If you wish to read the first story featuring Aaron and Brent, here's the link:  http://warpedtongues.blogspot.com/2016/02/evocation.html





RELIC
By Daniel Skye


           


            Aaron Chase and Brent Gage had developed quite the online following. They even had their own Facebook fan page.

            But don’t let their pseudo-celebrity status intimidate you. They still live at home with their parents. And they’re still manning the register at Quick Stop Convenience for minimum wage.

Their second occupation kept them busy outside of the store, but not busy enough to quit their day job. Being a real life Ghost Buster doesn’t exactly pay the rent.

            They had their own business line, which was really just Aaron’s cell phone number. He checked his voicemail that afternoon. Three messages.

            Two were from telemarketers. The other was a woman with a shrill, nasal voice who pleaded with the boys to exorcise a malevolent spirit from her Shish Tzu. The saddest part was Aaron couldn’t tell if the caller was sincere or pulling their leg.

            “Want to check it out after work?” Aaron asked, jotting down the woman’s address on a blank piece of stationary.

            “Sure, I love dogs,” Brent said indifferently, flipping through a magazine he swiped from the rack. “Hey, you know what grinds my gears? Those celebrities who buy their own private islands. We get it, you’re rich. Stop showing off.”

            “You have the strangest pet peeves.”

            “I have strange pet peeves? You hate people who drink Diet Coke.”

            “I don’t hate people who drink Diet Coke. I hate people who order a ridiculous amount of food and then order a Diet Coke to go with it. You know, those people who order a triple cheeseburger, fries, onion rings, a bucket of fried chicken, and then a Diet Coke to wash it all down. Who are they trying to fool? That’s my biggest pet peeve.”

            “You know what my biggest pet peeve is?” Aaron looked up and saw a man waiting impatiently at the counter. He had long, frizzy hair that looked like an effect brought on by static electricity. “Poor customer service. Can you ring me up for this milk so I can get on with my day?”

            “Sorry about that,” Aaron said. “Got carried away there.” He scanned the barcode on the milk, accepted the man’s cash, and gave him his change.

            “Teenagers,” the man said, rolling his eyes.

            “I think we just lost a customer,” Brent quipped. “How do you think he gets his hair so frizzy?”

            “I think that hairdo is called one foot in the bathtub, one hand on the blow dryer.”

Brent chucked and set the magazine aside as an overweight man approached the counter, breathing laboriously as he clutched at his stomach.

            “Hey, you guys sell any of those chocolate flavored laxatives?”

            “Aisle three, middle shelf,” Aaron said.

            “Great. Hey, do you guys have a bathroom I could use?”

            “No,” Brent said emphatically, having nightmarish flashbacks of the last time he let a customer use the bathroom.

            As the man waddled off in search of chocolate laxatives, a young man with long dark hair and bloodshot eyes stumbled up to the counter. He looked like Rory Cochrane in Dazed and Confused to Brent, though he associated most strangers with movie or television characters. The smell of pot was fused to his clothes. “Uh, hey man,” the stoner started, but trailed off for a second. “I was gonna buy this burrito, but it’s frozen. How am I supposed to eat this thing?”

            “There’s a microwave over by the coffee machine,” Aaron pointed.

            “Oh, yeah, right,” the stoner mumbled. “I saw the microwave. But I couldn’t get it open.”

            “There’s a button on the front that says ‘Open’. Just press it and the door will pop open.”

            “Oh, right on. Thanks, man. You’re a lifesaver.”

            As the stoner wandered off with his burrito, Aaron shouted out, “Make sure you take the plastic wrap off before you put it in the microwave.”

            “Oh, yeah, good call, man,” the stoner yelled back.

“People like him are the reason they invented warning labels,” Brent whispered.

For Brent and Aaron, time seemed to stop for a moment as a young woman strolled in, her cornflower blue eyes set directly on them. She was a fair skinned girl with dimpled cheeks, shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair and a slim, hourglass figure.

“Please tell me you’re here to see me,” Brent said.

“That depends. Are you Aaron Chase?”

“No, that would be me,” Aaron said, introducing himself.

“Oh, thank God I found you,” she said, relief washing over her. “Someone told me I’d find you here. They said you’re the only one who could help me.”

“You know, we work together, right?” Brent interjected. “I could help you too.”

“It’s my boyfriend,” she explained. “He won’t leave me alone. He harasses me day and night. He throws things around the house. Sometimes…” she paused briefly. “Sometimes he even strikes me.”

“He hits you?” Brent repeated. “What an asshole. What’s his name?”

“Shane Cartwright.”

“As much as I’d like to help you, you really need to go the police,” Aaron advised her. “You can press charges against him and they can help you take out a restraining order against him.”

“I’m afraid the police won’t be able to help me.”

“How come?”

“My boyfriend has been dead for two months.”



* * *



Brent and Aaron punched out at five o’clock and drove straight over to Dawn’s place. She apologized profusely for the mess. The living room had been vandalized, or so it appeared. Shattered fixtures, broken lamps, a cracked TV screen, books knocked off of shelves, an overturned couch and coffee table. Dawn didn’t even want to show them the rest of the house.

“Your boyfriend did all this?” Aaron asked.

“Yes, Shane always had a vile temper,” Dawn said, a hint of regret in her voice. “I guess not even death can change that part of him.”

“How exactly did Shane die?” Brent inquired.

“It was a drug overdose. He’d been sober for over a year. Then he relapsed. I guess it was too much for his system to handle after being clean for so long. For the record, I never touched the stuff. Never have, never will.”

“We’re not here to make judgments about you or your personal life. We just want to help. Now when you’re boyfriend appears, does he appear physically? Can you see and hear him?”

“Yes. And he usually appears at night. But his appearances are sporadic, hard to predict. He’s been known to appear earlier in the evening, if…”

“If?” Aaron repeated.

“If I have guests over. Specifically other men. Shane was the jealous type.”

“Great,” Brent said, crossing his arms. “A violent, overprotective poltergeist. Just what we need.”

“Ignore him,” Aaron said, talking directly to Dawn. “Listen, most ghosts are easy to deal with. They’re just lost souls that need help finding the light. They just need someone to guide them into the afterlife. All you have to do is use a firm tone of voice and simply ask them to leave. Explain to them that they need to move on and find peace.”

“I don’t know if that’ll work with Shane.”

“Dawn!” a voice shouted from the kitchen. All three of them heard it. “Who the hell are you talking to in there? Did I hear another man’s voice?”

Shane stomped into the living room and stared at them with unblinking eyes.

“Who in the hell are you two? And what are you doing in my house?”

“Relax, we come in peace,” Brent assured him.

“He’s a ghost, Brent. Not an alien.”

“Ghost?” Shane chortled. “The only ghosts around here are the two soon-to-be dead men I’m looking at. You got about three seconds to hit the bricks.”

“I know what this is,” Aaron said under his breath. “He’s in the denial stage.”

“The what?” Dawn asked.

“Some ghosts don’t know that they’re ghosts. They’re not fully aware that they’ve passed on. They haven’t come to terms with it yet.”

“Can you help him?”

“I’ll try. But he could get violent. Stay behind us at all times.”

Brent, who was raised Catholic, whispered a short prayer to begin. He’d been told that prayer often worked as a seal of protection against angry or malevolent spirits. Then Aaron spoke.

“Shane, my name is Aaron Chase. This is Brent Gage. We’re paranormal investigators. Now this may be difficult to accept, but you’re no longer among the living. You died two months ago of a drug overdose. But you’re in denial. That’s why you’re still here. It’s why you haven’t been able to move on. Shane, don’t fear death. Embrace it and let the bright light take you in.”

“Let the bright light take you in?” Brent whispered.

“I don’t know, it sounded good in my head.”

“Look, you guys, I’ve had enough of this crap. It’s time to put an end to–” Shane stopped. Aaron’s word had sparked a recent memory. The last memory Shane truly had. The memory of lying on the bathroom floor, shaking, twitching, foam dripping from his mouth as the heroin coursed through his veins.

            “I-I’m so sorry, Dawn. I didn’t mean to cause all this damage.”

            “It’s okay. I forgive you, Shane. I hope that helps you move on from this world.”

            “I wasn’t myself. I was angry and confused. And I kept hearing the voice.”

            “Voice?” Aaron froze. “What voice, Shane?”

            “The one that told me to do this. The voice I’ve been hearing since I passed on.”

            “And does this voice have a name?” Aaron asked.

            “Yeah. It calls itself Relic.”

            “Oh, dear God…”

            “What is it?” Dawn asked.

“A Relic is a malicious spirit. They’ve existed for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. It searches for other spirits that are easily corruptible. It attaches itself to a ghost like a parasite attaches itself to a host. It’s how they survived in our world for so long without crossing over to the other side. They exist only to fuck shit up. And they have powers beyond your wildest imaginations.”

“How do you know all this?”

“Wikipedia.”

“I don’t think a séance or a spiritual cleansing is going to do the trick here,” Brent assessed.

“Can you hear it?” Shane asked. “The voice? I can. It’s close.”

“Brent, tell me you brought the kit.”

“I brought the kit.”

“Good. We’re going to need everything inside of it.”

The lights flickered on and off, the pipes in the ceilings rattled, the hardwood floor quaked underfoot. The lights cut out momentarily, and when they blinked on again, Shane was gone. But the living room was filled with an ominous presence. It enveloped the air around them. It took Aaron a few second to notice that Dawn was gripping his forearm, and trembling from head to toe. She was squeezing him so tight, her acrylic nails were practically digging into his flesh.

“Dawn, make a run for the door. Go out to your car and drive down the road and wait there. I have your number. I’ll call you when this is over.”

“You want me to leave my own house?”

“It’s for your own safety. Trust us. We sort of know what we’re doing here.”

            Dawn made a break for it, slamming the front door behind her. Aaron heard her car peeling out of the driveway, tires screeching as she raced down the block.

            Brent held a large kit at his side. He set it down and opened it. It was a First Aid kit that had been stripped of its medical supplies to make room for crucifixes, two ounce bottles of holy water, and Aaron’s personal favorite, a reconfiguration of Pandora’s Box. In Greek mythology, the box was actually a large jar given to Pandora. A jar which contained all the evils in the world.

            However, Aaron’s reconstruction was not a box or a jar, but a tiny wooden chest. The chest worked as a reverse Pandora’s Box. Instead of unleashing the evil spirits housed inside, the chest acted as a vacuum, sucking in the evil spirits and keeping them trapped inside forever.

            Brent used the holy water to form a perfect circle around the living room floor. The water worked as a force field, an invisible barrier to separate them from the unseen evil that lurked within. They both stood inside the circle and Aaron, clutching the tiny chest at his side, addressed the Relic.

            “You are not welcome here,” Aaron said, speaking with a sharp, steady tone of voice. “You can go peacefully, without a fight. Or we can make you go.”

            “Yeah, you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here, pal,” Brent added.

            The light flickered again, cutting in and out.

            The front door snapped open and shut, open and shut.

            The alarm system–which wasn’t even activated–blared, a high pitched squeal that permeated the house.

           “I don’t think he liked that,” Brent shouted over the earsplitting alarm.

            “No more games!” Aaron screamed. “No more tricks! No more bells and whistles! Show yourself, you coward!”

            A faceless, shapeless black mass appeared in front of them, drifting across the living room without ever touching the floor. Brent held out a crucifix to keep the spirit at bay. But this ambling shadow kept drifting closer and closer until it was mere inches from the protective circle.

            Then it drifted upward, hovering overhead before it dissolved into the ceiling, disappearing out of sight.

            “Is that it?” Brent asked. “Is it gone?”

            “I don’t know. I don’t hear anything. I don’t feel anything. Maybe it took the hint and moved on.”

            Brent sighed with relief and lowered the crucifix to his side. They remained in the circle, waiting for some sign that the house was clear.

            Aaron gasped for air as an invisible force struck him in the chest, cracking three of his ribs. He went crashing into the wall behind him and sunk to the floor, the tiny chest falling from his grasp.

            Brent felt the crucifix being ripped from his hand as it went flying across the living room. The crucifixes, the holy water, it had no effect on this entity. He tried to move, but something had grabbed hold of his ankle.

It pulled Brent down to the floor with disturbing strength, his head smacking the hardwood floor. It dragged Brent on his belly outside of the circle and hoisted him up in the air by one leg, flinging him against the wall with ease.

            Brent rolled on his side, writhing in pain, unable to make it back to his feet. Aaron watched as the Relic reappeared, manifesting before his very eyes. This black, pulsating cloud slowly drifted across the room. Aaron, still struggling to breath from the explosive pain in his chest, crawled and scratched his way across the floor, towards the reverse Pandora’s Box.

            For the first time, the entity spoke directly to them. It had no mouth, but they could hear its thoughts clearly as it communicated through some form of telepathy. “You can’t defeat me. I have existed for countless centuries. I am the ultimate incarnation of evil. Nothing can stop me. Nothing.”

            “You shouldn’t have talked so much,” Aaron said, clutching the tiny wooden chest in both hands. He opened the chest and a glowing light emanated from within. Aaron closed his eyes as this blinding golden light enveloped the entire room and pulled the Relic in like a tractor beam. Aaron felt its essence enter the chest and he snapped the lid shut and opened his eyes again.

            Aaron stood up slowly, one arm wrapped around his aching ribs. “Brent, you alright?”

            Brent was slow to get to his feet and his spine was all twisted up, his back feeling like someone had wailed on him with a sledgehammer. But he’d live. And Aaron’s ribs would heal with time.

            “Shane?” Aaron called out. But Shane was finally at peace. Aaron took out his cell phone. The screen was as cracked as his tender ribs, but he could still dial. He called Dawn and told her the job was done.



* * *



            “I’m sorry about your place,” Aaron said as he and Brent stood on the porch outside. It was getting dark and the colors of twilight bled into the night sky.

            “Don’t sweat it,” Dawn told him. “It can’t look any worse than it did before. I’m going to have to do a lot of remodeling. I’m sorry about your ribs.”

            “They’ll heal,” he shrugged.

            “How much do I owe you?”

            “The price varies depending on the job. This would usually cost a considerable amount. But seeing as how the renovations are going to cost you a ton, we’ll cut you a break.”

            “We will?” Brent asked. Aaron wanted to smack him upside the head, but he kept his cool.

            “We’ll send you a bill when we settle on a price,” Aaron told her.

            “That’s fine,” she said.

             Brent nudged Aaron gently with his elbow, as if to say, “Make a move.”

            “Can I…can I call you sometime?”

            “Sure, why not?” Dawn said, blushing. They exchanged goodbyes and the boys walked to Aaron’s car, where they were approached by a woman walking her dog.

            “Are you Brent and Aaron?” the woman asked. She had a shrill, nasal voice that took Aaron a few seconds to recognize.

            “That’s us,” Brent said.

            “I’ve been looking all over for you guys. I went to your job. I called your number a dozen times. You need to help me with my dog.”

            Aaron and Brent looked down at the woman’s Shih Tzu. Its eyes were as red as the color of rage. It frothed at the mouth as it bared all its teeth. But it wasn’t snarling. Its mouth was spread open and the dog appeared to be grinning malevolently.

            “Oh, hell no,” Brent shouted. “I’ve had enough for one night. Call a priest or an exorcist. I’m not touching this one.”

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