A Ghost and the Devil's Weed

By Johnny Apocalypse
Chris turned his attention away from the television and looked at me. " We have got to do something about that noise, bro."

I had just been thinking that myself.  As my friend and I sat in the living room, a terrible moaning wail came from the basement.  If I had to describe the noise, it would be similar to stepping on the tail of a grotesquely overweight cat while wearing soccer cleats, except twice as loud.  The lights downstairs were flicking on and off.  I heard invisible feet running up and down the stairs.  It had been going for three days now.  We couldn't watch television, we had trouble sleeping.

While my mind was racing for a solution, I also tried to figure out why the ghost had followed me home.

 

***

 

When I'm not being called " bro" or " dude" by my pot-head friend, my name is Justin Taggart.  And when I'm not at home being tormented by spirits, I am a master of corporate protection.  Or as my employers call me, I'm a rent-a-cop.  Not a bad job if you don't mind walking through buildings for eight hours and rattling doors to make sure that they're locked.  And after holding the job for several months, I don't mind at all.

Especially after watching people bursting into tears when their boss tells them that the company is laying them off.  Or you see the upper management sitting up late at nights, their eyes wide and hair turning gray by the minute, as they realize that they aren't turning a profit this year, just like the last two business years of this giant conglomerate that pays me.  Now that's stress.

Walking through a building and making sure that no one is stealing anything?  Piece of cake.

I was wandering through one of these buildings when my radio crackled to life.  " Dispatch to mobile one."

We only have one mobile unit due to budget cuts, and that's me.  " Why can't you just call me mobile unit?  I'm the only one out here."   I called back over the radio.

Apparently Ray, our dispatcher, decided to ignore me.  " I need you to head down to building five, I've received a call about loud noises coming from the top floor."

" Ten-four," I answered.  " I'm on my way."

Building five gives me the jibblies.  Other things creep me out, like spiders and blood, but building five is one of my worst fears.  It was nearing the finish of construction a year ago when the company executives realized that no profits equal no new buildings.  So now we're stuck with patrolling an empty shell of a building with three floors, no carpet, unpainted walls, and worst of all, no lighting.  During the day, light pours in generously through the windows, and you can see everything.  But I work swing shift, and the call came in at nine o'clock at night.  Damn.

It was a short walk to the building.  I took my keys from my belt, and unlocked the entry door.  I took a deep breath, and stepped inside.  The darkness fell over me like a blanket, my dinky little flashlight barely illuminating anything.

I made my way to the stairs, and tried to walk up them quietly.  As I climbed to the third floor, I strained my ears, trying to detect any noise.  Nothing.  The jibblies were hitting hard.

I finally hit the third floor, and quit moving.  I held my breath and listened.  Still nothing.  The third floor was about as long and wide as the main floor of a good-sized house.  There were a few concrete pillars around, and an elevator shaft.  No walls had been erected as the building was nearing completion.  I started walking around the third floor, keeping my steps soft so I could hear any noise.

It took about four minutes to fully walk the floor.  Nobody was up here, no signs of life.  " Dispatch, this is mobile," I said, purposely omitting the 'one'.  " I'm here at the third floor of the fifth building.  No one is up here, no noise at all.  Who reported this?"

" The maintenance men told us, mobile one.  They were working on the second floor, and heard what they believed to be children running and screaming."

" I don't even see foot prints in the dust up here.  I'm going to clear from this.  Mobile out, heading for lunch break."

" Ten-four, mobile one, you are clear for lunch."

I shook my head at Ray's flat disagreement to just call me mobile.  I dropped my small, black radio back into it's plastic belt clip, and headed back towards the stairs.

As I set foot on the first step, I heard running.  Fast running, but heavier than a kid would be.  I raised my flashlight, and it stopped.  I didn't see anyone.  I took a few steps back into the empty area, and looked around.

" OOOOOAAAAAAHHHHH!" the moaning came, resonating off of the walls.  It seemed to only be a few feet away from me.   The jibblies were in full swing.

Did I keep searching for the source of the noise?  Did I try to decide if someone was up here with me, or if it possibly came through the air vents?  Nope.  I turned tail and sprinted out of the building.

***

" Are you sure that's what you heard?" Ray asked me.

I was taking my lunch break in the dispatch room as I usually do.  In between bites of my cheese sandwich, I relayed to him the noise that I had heard on the top floor.  " Absolutely, Ray.  I wouldn't lie about this."

Ray stared at me, his cold blue eyes trying to look through me and see if I was making the story up.  He shook his head, " No way, man.  Must have been something in the vents.  Maybe you and maintenance both heard one of the air handlers starting to break down."

I finished my sandwich and started to peel an orange.  " I'm telling you, it was right next to me.  It must have been a ghost or something."

" Now I definitely don't believe you, Justin."   Ray turned back to his paperwork, obviously done with the conversation.

I rolled my chair over to his radio system, and set the channel for the maintenance radios.  " Hey, maintenance, you guys hear me?"

" Radio etiquette!" Ray said in a hushed whisper.  " You say 'Maintenance, this is security'."

" Yeah, security.  What is it?"   It was Jim, who had been fixing things here longer than I had been making sure that people didn't trash them.

" Any problems with the air handlers or vents in building five?"

" You mean that noise?"   Jim's voice crackled over the radio.  " No, I checked that before I called you guys.  No problems there, that's why I thought it was kids."

" Okay, thanks."   I set the channel back to the security station.

Ray was glaring at me as I pushed my chair back to my orange.  " I'm amazed that the way you speak over the radio hasn't gotten you written up yet."

I popped a slice of the orange in my mouth.  " The big bosses don't listen in when they go home.  Once the sun sets, who cares?"                

Ray grinned, about the third time I'd seen him smile in a month.  " And you know that you smell like reefer?"

" Don't I always smell like reefer?  My friend Chris smokes that stuff like you drink coffee."

Ray's grin disappeared, glancing at the coffee pot that he had purloined from the break area at the beginning of his shift.  It was probably full when he took it and would definitely be empty by now.  Something about his caffeine addiction embarrassed him, and he didn't like people mentioning the amount of mud he poured into himself every day.  " You pass your last urinalysis test?"

It was my turn to grin.  " I never fail them.  I don't put that stuff in my body, I just happen to hang around a pot-head.  Kind of like a Buddhist, I keep myself clean, so I can be mindful to everything around me."

" Then why weren't you mindful about what was making that noise?"   Ray took the slice of orange I offered him and swallowed it in one bite.  " Besides, all those trash movies you watch should count as poisoning your body."

" What's so trashy about my movies?"

" Oh, come on!  Repo Man, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Bad Taste?  Cult films can't possibly be good for you.  I just don't think that the surgeon general has gotten around to putting a warning on those movies yet.  That also explains why you didn't see anything in building five, watching 200 Motels a few too many times has rotted your brain."

 

***

" You know, you smell like you've been puffing the ganja!"

About twenty hours had passed and I was right back at work, starting my shift by taking a meeting with Tony, the supervisor.  He wasn't angry, but didn't like his employees to smell like marijuana.  " I've told you, I have a friend who's addicted to the stuff."   I explained for the one hundredth time, irritation settling into my voice " He smokes, and the smell gets stuck to me."

" I know the reasons, but the security manager wants me to give you another urinalysis."

" What?  Oh, come on?  When have I ever failed?"

Tony handed me a clear plastic cup.  " Off to the bathroom, let's get this over with."

 

***

 

" Dispatch to mobile one."

" Listen, Ray.  There's only one mobile out here."   Taking a urinalysis had put me in a foul mood, and it showed over the radio.  I was trying to cheer myself up, but Ray was having none of it.  " Tell you what, I'll call you 'Eagle's Nest', and you can call me 'Falcon'.  We'll sound like spies!"

" Mobile one," Ray's voice came across stern.  " I have another report of noise in building five, third floor.  Please investigate."

" Ten-four."

I was driving in the parking lot when Ray called me.  In the security vehicles, white with yellow light racks on top, we drove around the parking lot to make sure that no one was breaking into cars or smashing the windows of our buildings.  Personally, I just blasted the radio and checked the bushes for dead bodies.  I turned the wheel and drove to the entrance of building five, the jibblies setting in already.

Today I had cheated, and brought a large flashlight from home with me.  I usually carry a tiny mag-lite, but this situation called for something more.  I unlocked the same door as yesterday and turned the flashlight on full blast.  The entryway was lit much better.

Now that I had a decent light, my fear calmed down a touch.  My hands quit shaking, and my heart stopped break dancing in my ribcage.  I came to the stairway, and started to climb up.

On the second floor, I could already hear the noise.  The wailing was at full pitch, and as badly out of tune as Mick Jagger.  I crept up the steps, trying to be silent.  I turned my flashlight off, so that who ever was making the noise wouldn't be aware of my presence until I wanted them to.  I could hear the running footsteps as I climbed the final few stairs to the third floor.

I could hear running behind me and to my left, but the shrieking wail was all around, echoing off the walls and ceiling.  I started creeping towards the running.  After a few short steps I heard the steps change direction, and start coming towards me.  I raised my flashlight and snapped it on.

" Security!"   I called out.  " What's going on here?"

Darkness there and nothing more, to quote Poe.

The running stopped, and so did the wailing.  Everything that had led me to believe that there was someone up here had vanished.  I had the distinct thought that this actually was a ghost.

The jibblies.  And plenty of them.

This time I didn't run from the building.  I stood my ground, thinking that maybe the mystery person had heard me, and was running for cover just before I turned my flashlight on.  There was an elevator shaft about ten feet in front of me, easily big enough to hide behind.  I started walking towards it.

" Security," I repeated.  " Who ever is running around up here, you're causing a disturbance and you need to stop.  We have security cameras at all the entrances, so we can find out who you are easily enough.  If you come talk to me, we'll just escort you out of the building, and that will be that."

I had never sounded more like a cop in my life, and I wasn't likely to sound like this again.  I was impressed with myself, but decided that the celebration was going to have to wait until I found who I was looking for.

I turned the corner around the elevator shaft, and there was no one there.  I walked around the entire shaft, and saw nothing.  I didn't hear anyone walking away, and couldn't figure out anywhere else the person would have gone.

Behind me, I heard running again.  I spun around, but saw nothing.  The running continued, seeming to get closer, off to my left, in front of a large window facing the street outside.  I tracked the movement the entire time with my flashlight, but there was nothing to see.

 

***

 

The rest of the night went without incident.  I had run from the building again, straight to the dispatch room to only get a sour look from Ray.  I quit whining about the ghost long enough to eat lunch, and spent the rest of the night driving in the parking lot.

Once the shift was over, I handed the radio off to my relief, warned him about the ghost in building five, and got laughed at again.  It didn't phase me, I was too worn out from running out of that place.  I just wanted to go home and watch some television.  If it was a perfect world, Barbarella would be on when I got there.  Looking at Jane Fonda could fix any supernatural problems.  Or at least make you forget them.

I pulled into my driveway about fifteen minutes later, and noticed that a battered old green car was sitting in front of my house.  I knew the car, it belonged to my friend Chris.  Noticing that he parked on the sidewalk, I knew he was stoned.

I climbed out of my car, and was met by Chris on the driveway.  He smelled like a rock concert, and was smiling eagerly.  " What's up, bro?"   He asked enthusiastically.

" Long day at work.  Why are you here?"

Chris laughed.  His black goatee outlined his jaw perfectly in the moonlight, making his teeth look all the brighter.  " You forgot?  Hell, I'm the smoker, and I still remembered.  Your parents are gone for a few days, like, to the mountains or something.  You said that we were going to kick it and watch TV."

I nodded.  " You're right, I did forget.  Come on in."

I opened the front door, and could tell already that my parents were indeed gone.  The house had an empty feeling to it.  We walked through the kitchen, where Chris grabbed a coke and handed me a Guinness.  Next to the kitchen was the living room, which held the world's greatest couch, the second best easy chair (the original and better chair was destroyed by the dog) and a nice, large television.  Perfect for watching They Live or The Evil Dead.

Chris took the easy chair while I flopped out onto the couch.  I flipped the television on, and as luck would have it, the remake of The Thing was just beginning.  I took a long pull of my dark, dark beer, and decided to forget my thoughts of ghosts with a movie about killer aliens.

" Dude," Chris said.  " What's that noise?"

I hit the mute button and listened.  I didn't hear anything.  " What did you hear?"

" I thought I heard foot steps in your basement.  Is it the dog?"

I looked over to the basement door, still hearing no noise.  " No, my parents always take the dog to the mountains with them."

Then I heard it.  Several bumps, just like foot steps.  I climbed up from the couch, and started walking to the door.

" Dude," Chris managed to stand up from the chair.  " You want me to go get the gun?"

" I don't have a gun," I whispered.

Chris looked confused.  " I thought you always had one, like, in your waistband."

" No, that's your dad."

" Oh.  Oh, yeah.  Well, how about a knife?'

I nodded, and he ran off to the kitchen.  I hovered next to the door, my ear up to the wood.  I heard a few more steps, quiet ones in rapid succession.

Chris came back with a large ginsu knife.  He held it ready, blade pointed down like a special forces operative, while I pulled the door open and turned the light on.

There was nothing there.  We were about to start down the stairs, when the wailing hit.

" OOOOOAAAAAHHHH!"

" Oh, you've got to kidding me!"

 

***

 

" We have got to do something about that noise, bro."   Chris said.

I nodded.  " I know, but what can I do?  I've never dealt with a ghost before."

Three days had passed since the ghost had followed me home.  I had managed to sleep only with the help of alcohol.  Chris was smoking more weed than usual, which was scary in itself.  My jibblies had grown used to the footsteps and constant wailing, but my sleep and peaceful nature was growing thin.

We had been watching Shaft in Africa for about half an hour when the ghost had started wailing even louder.  We tried to turn the volume up, but the wail kept drowning everything out.

" Maybe I should do an exorcism or something."   I started talking to myself.  " It can't be that hard.  I've seen that movie a dozen times..."

Chris spoke his opinion, staring at the television.  " You should do whatever Shaft would do in this situation!"   The eternal wisdom of a chronic pot smoker.

I gave him a sharp look.  " I'm not Shaft.  He's a black private detective who shoots people and nails a lot of women.  I don't shoot people.  Hell, I'm not even black!  Besides, Shaft's never dealt with a ghost.  He might just piss himself and start crying on the ground."

" Shaft never cries!"

I shook my head, trying to figure out why I liked to hang out with a reefer addict.  I walked to the open entrance into the basement.  " Why did he follow me home?  And for that matter, why haunt only the basement?"

Chris looked at me, his eyes wide, attentive and bloodshot.  " Maybe he's trying to keep you away from the computer so you have to stop surfing internet porn."

" Chris, the computer is upstairs!"

" Oh."

I shook my head, appalled at this severe lack of memory.  " That does it, no more weed for you!  You're cutting down for a few hours."

Chris just turned back to the television, the same zombie look in his eyes as there always was.  I looked back down the stairs, and saw that the noise and running had stopped.  I got the distinct feeling that the poltergeist was looking at me.  I couldn't think of anything to try, so I just did what I always do when the dog upsets me.

" Bad ghost!  Bad!"   I was shaking my finger at the pocket of air that I assumed the spirit was occupying.  " Do you hear me?  Bad!  Shut the hell up down there, we're trying to watch Shaft!"

I turned away from the door, proud of myself for telling an evil spirit off.  Chris grinned and clapped his hands a few times in applause.

As I strutted back to the couch, I heard the running again.  I was about to give the ghost another tongue-lashing, when I was tackled to the ground.

" What the hell?"   The wind was nearly knocked out of me, but I managed to get a short breath in.  I was pinned on my stomach, and couldn't see behind me.  " Chris, is that you?"

I felt large arms wrestling me onto my back, and could see Chris sitting in the chair, still staring that the television, oblivious to the wrestling match in front of him.

" Not me, bro," He muttered.

I felt two large hands clasp around my neck, and my airway was forced closed.  I couldn't breath in or out, the grip was immensely strong.  I gasped at air, and was surprised to grab onto two arms that I couldn't see.  I tried to throw them off of my neck, at least to get one breath, but they wouldn't budge.

" Dude," Chris laughed.  " That ghost is fucking you up!"

I threw all my body weight into my swinging elbow, which I aimed for the ghost's head.  At least, I hoped it was his head.

My elbow struck a hard surface, and the hands released from my neck.  I sucked in some much needed air, and heard the footsteps retreat back down the stairs.  The wailing started again immediately, louder than ever.

When I finally caught my breath, I struggled back to the couch and finished the beer I had sitting out.  It tasted strange, probably a side effect from almost being strangled to death.  By the time the stout lager had gone down, the fire in my throat had been cooled considerably.  I sat back, saw Shaft run a man down with a car, and tried to come up with another plan.

" That ghost is a real ass,"   Chris said, the weed still fogging his eyes over.  " He should smoke some grass, mellow out a bit."

" You know," I spoke, my voice creaking, " That's not a bad idea."

 

***

 

Chris was lighting up as I stood at the top of the stairs.  The wailing had stopped, and the poltergeist had quit running.  I took as epic a pose as I could think of, trying to embody Ash from the Evil Dead series.  I raised my voice to the strongest bravado that I could muster.

" You think that strangling did anything?  Your powers are no match for me!"   I was aiming for the height of melodrama, and I was doing pretty good.  " I haven't met a ghost more sorry than you!"

I turned and ran once I heard the first step coming up the stairs.  I didn't make it past two steps myself before I was hit by the spirit again.  I was rolled onto my back again, and the invisible hands grabbed my neck again.  I couldn't breathe, but this time I was prepared.

Security guards are rarely trained in self defense, but I had picked up a move or two from wrestling in High School.  I concentrated on getting one arm off of me, grabbing at what I prayed was a wrist and an elbow.  I twisted my body to one side, and felt one hand come loose from my neck, then the other.  Sucking in a deep breath, I kept rolling, and tried to climb on top of my adversary.  I had no idea if I was pinning him or grabbing his leg, but he wasn't moving too much.

Chris came running over, his lungs full of  THC.  He blew an entire cloud of marijuana smoke, and the ghost started to fight even harder.

" I don't know where his head is," I yelled.  " Just blow it everywhere!"

I held my breath as Chris shot a second dose of medicine out of his mouth.  The ghost was thrashing wildly, but I managed to tighten my grip.  I had hoped that the smoke would let us see the apparition, but I was wrong.  I could see the smoke moving through the hole in my arms, where I knew I had him trapped.  I had to hope that the ghost could get high by osmosis.

Chris was on his fourth lung-full of weed when the ghost finally started to relax.  Chris was smiling so much that I knew he couldn't keep this up for much longer.  I released the ghost with my right hand, started an attempt at hammering a fist into it's kidneys.  I could have been hitting his back, his chest or his groin, but he started to relax more.  I kept my grip on the ghost until he quit moving altogether.

I stood up, my arms tired and tense, trying to turn into knots.  Chris was passed out on the floor.  I reached down and shook his arm, feeling fire creeping up my worn out shoulders.  Chris woke up and smiled at me.

" Did that get him?"

I nodded.  " Yeah.  Just got to figure out what to do with him before he wakes up."

Chris struggled to his feet, a permanent grin was carved into his face.  He was swaying so badly that he had to lean against my arm.  " Once I get off this cloud, I'll help you come up with an idea."

I tried to steady him as best I could.  " I think I have one."

Chris looked up at me.  " Trash can?"

" Trash can!"

***

 

It had been a busy night.  Pissing off ghosts, wrestling with an invisible being, getting myself and the spirit blasted with weed.  Chris was still high, but had the sense enough to help me drag the sleeping or possibly dead ghost out to the trash can in the back yard.  Tomorrow morning, the city would pick the garbage up from the sidewalk, and hopefully that would be the last we would hear of the troublesome spook.

" Dude," Chris spoke, breaking my concentration from the evening's events.  " Barbarella is on!"

So maybe it was a little closer to being a perfect world.

" You should consider showering before you go to work tomorrow. You smell like Mary Jane, man."  Chris added, his mouth full of cheetos.

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