Moving On, a Short Story

Jackson knew better than to just throw open the door without laying down a barrier.  From the messenger bag on his hip he pulled a round bottle about the size of his palm.  On both sides of the glass a pentacle had been etched with care.  Pulling the cork, Jackson poured a good line across the threshold, using up a third of the bottle’s contents.  Salt against spirits, iron against fey, brick dust against those with ill intent, grave dirt against the dead and vervain against things of the underworld.  Potent stuff.

With a careful hand, Jackson pushed on the door, letting it swing open on loose hinges to reveal the room beyond.  Nothing.  At least, nothing visible to his eyes.  But there was an oily aura about the place.  It settled on his skin like a cold, wet sheet, raising hairs up and down his arms.  A sure sign that something wasn’t right.  Unconsciously, Jackson brought his hand to his throat, massaging a tightness that had no physical cause.  This was definitely the right room, the source of the off-putting aura that had made the house so hard to sell.

The broker had hired Jackson to take care of the problem.  Jackson knew the broker wasn’t a believer, that he’d hired Jackson only so he could tell everyone that the house was no longer haunted.  The broker had initially expected Jackson to just accept the check and sign a form indicating that the house had been exorcised, cleaned, or whatever, something he could show the New Age types who often went for Victorian fixer-uppers.  Of course, Jackson had declined, telling the broker that he wouldn’t sign off on the property until he’d actually done his job.

“Come on,” pleaded the broker.  “I’m busy, too damn busy to drive out there just to let you stink up the place with sage and light some candles.  Save the show for someone who cares.  Just take the check and sign the certificate.  Easy money.”  But Jackson had not been moved.  In the end, the broker had given Jackson the code to the key box, making sure to let him know that the combination would be changed soon after.

Jackson felt the first twinge of unease the moment he’d pulled up to the house.  The porch boards gave a little under his weight.  Years of North Carolina humidity had taken its toll on the untreated wood.  The box code worked, releasing the house key and letting Jackson make his way inside.  Mold and dust assaulted him.  His asthma flared and he paused to take a puff of Albuterol.  Breath in, hold, breath out, repeat.  His lungs started working again and he continued into the house.

From his pocket, he pulled out his stone, a teardrop of lapis he’d bought years ago at his favorite shop.  Holding the lapis in his hand, rubbing it with his thumb, Jackson let his eyes blur but not close.  Just blurry enough to take the detail out of the world, to let shapes bleed into each other.  He felt his sense of touch come to life.  This was how his ability worked.  He felt auras as a tactile sensation.

The oily aura of the house gained and lessened as he wandered from room to room.  Like a childhood game of hot and cold, his skin told him when he moved closer or further from the source of the aura.  In his younger days, Jackson had sometimes wished his ability would manifest in a way that was, well, more magical.  Glowing light or angelic voices or something like that.  He’d tried it all, Wicca, Enochian, Asatru, Shamanism, Reiki and more.  In the end he’d focused not on making his ability grander, but rather on better understanding its subtleties.  He’d learned, for example, that an oily feeling indicated the presence of a mournful spirit.  Made sense.  It hadn’t taken much effort to discover the suicide by hanging of Kevin Preston in the summer of 1996.

“I’m speaking now to the spirit of Kevin Preston.  Are you there, Kevin?”


“I am speaking to the spirit of Kevin Preston, son of Marie and Jacob Preston, brother to Carl Preston.  If you hear me, let me know.”  Jackson shivered as the oily sensation intensified.

“Kevin, you are no longer part of this world.  It is time for you to go.”  Jackson continued to rub the lapis in his hand.  He’d closed his eyes completely and was focused entirely on the touch of Kevin’s aura on his skin.  Without prompting a memory blossomed in his mind.  When he’d been a child his dog had run away, only to be discovered days later having been hit by a car.  His world had fallen apart.  He’d never felt so sad.  In later years he would come to experience grief many times, but that had been his first encounter with real sadness.

Tears welled in his eyes.  The memory was his, but he knew the grief wasn’t.  It was Kevin’s.  The spirit was sharing its pain with him.  Jackson’s own physical brain was providing context for the intense emotion.

“I feel your pain, Kevin.  Know that someone understands.  You took your own life in this room many years ago.  Now, it’s time to go.”

Jackson felt the oily aura depart.  There was no flash of light, no heavenly door appeared.  Kevin Preston had simply gone from the place, onto whatever came next.  Jackson took a moment to let his emotions settle, to let the memory of his lost dog recede to its proper place in his mind.  

His breathing had quickened as he’d experienced Kevin’s sorrow.  Combined with the mold and dust in the old house, Jackson needed another puff on his inhaler before the sense of dizziness left him.  He opened his eyes, turned on his heel and left the scene of Kevin Preston’s suicide behind him.  This job was done.  Sometimes a spirit just needed someone to acknowledge it, that it existed, that it had, at one point, been a life and that it had mattered.  Some needs are common to all beings, living and dead.

The End

All Rights Reserved.  Josh Leone.  2017


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s