The knock on the door echoed in the silent living room. The Jameson's, Mr. and Mrs., both jumped from their seats as the sound came crashing through the tranquil house. Though they had been expecting company, it was almost twenty minutes late and they'd been waiting in dead silence for at least that long.
The knock came again, this time around rattling much less than before. Mr. Jameson glanced over at his wife, who nodded to him slowly, before folding up the newspaper he was reading and setting it down upon the coffee table. He got up from the couch, taking a moment to straighten his pants and shirt, and began walking over to the door.
He opened it quickly, the door already unlocked, and was greeted by a young woman, probably in her early twenties, standing on the other side with her hand poised to knock again.
"Is this 537 Oak street?" she asked softly but confidently, her voice, though firm, barely carrying over the wind.
"Yes, you must be…"
"Claire from the Berkeley College Society for Supernatural Exploration. Yes. We spoke on the phone."
Mr. Jameson nodded his head, "Yes, we did. Come on in," he said opening the door slowly.
As he turned around to show his guests inside, he nearly crashed into his wife who had silently taken up a position behind him while he was answering the door.
From there she watched as four bodies entered the room, seemingly filling it to the brim. First there was Claire, a young woman with wild hair and a medallion around her neck that she immediately identified as a pentacle.
Second was a young man wearing a button-down shirt and glasses. Though he bore no visible markings of any variety, he carried a large brown bag, much like a gym bag that seemed to be bursting at the seams.
Third was another button-downed man. However, around his neck was a crucifix that looked to be made from sterling silver and in his hands he carried a dog-eared King James version of the Holy Bible.
Finally, another girl stepped into the room, this one dressed head to toe in black with long, raven hair to frame her delicate white face. She wore no symbols on her clothing, but the room seemed to shake when she walked in and both Mr. and Mrs. Jameson worked hard to distance themselves from her.
When they were all inside, they lined up in front of the couch, standing in a row like soldiers from a ragtag army. After looking the line up and down, Mrs. Jameson went to speak but before the words could leave her mouth Claire jumped in.
"First off, let me introduce our group. We are, as I said, the Berkeley College Society for Supernatural Exploration. What we are is a multi-religious and multi-cultural society looking for hard answers about the supernatural. We saw your ad in the paper last week and thought your house might be an excellent study for us."
"I see…" Mrs. Jameson said before being rolled over again.
"First, you have me, I'm Claire. I'm a Wiccan but I'm also an expert on folklore and legend as well as an expert on psychology.
"Second," she said motioning to the man carrying the bag, "You have Alex. Alex is an atheist and is our all-around science guru. He also does all of our filming and photographing and writes up many of our reports."
Mr. Jameson, not wanting to be rude, extended his hand to Alex and met him in a firm handshake, "Pleased to meet you."
"Third," Claire continued pointing to the man with the crucifix, "You have Jonathan. Jonathan is a Christian, Catholic to be exact, he's actually a transfer from a Jesuit school and is a renowned expert on Christian ritual and faith.
"Finally, you have Kelly," she said pointing to the girl in all black, "Kelly doesn't claim a religion herself but is an expert on the occult and is a student of many different languages. She has the ability to interpret almost any symbol she sees."
Mr. Jameson shook the hands of the remaining members and invited them to sit. Almost immediately the available seating in the living room filled up as all four of the visitors squeezed onto the plush sofa while the Jameson's moved chairs around to face them.
The entire time they were shuffling around and settling in, Mrs. Jameson couldn't take her eyes off the eclectic group sitting in her living room. A moral Christian, she found letting occultists into her home disconcerting, but realized she had no choice. Besides, she reasoned with herself, it's possible to be a good person and not be Christian and they needed good people with expertise
"If you read our ad," Mr. Jameson started once everyone was settled in, "You know that we've been having some problems."
The entire couch seemed to rock with nods of approval. All four of them, as different as they were, sat locked, fixated on Mr. Jameson as he spoke, their eyes wide open and lips slightly agape.
"When we first moved into this house, it was a steal. I mean, look at it, it's a gorgeous old house in the middle of a new development. It was cheap, so cheap we could easily afford it, and, well, it was just perfect. But then, well, things started happening."
Almost at once everyone on the couch began to lean forward, save Alex who leaned back resting his arm on the back of the sofa and tilting his head to the side, "What sort of things?" he asked calmly.
Mr. Jameson stood up from his chair and began to pace the room, his hands shaking slightly, like a flame in a gentle breeze, "Well, it started out slow at first, we'd hear noises like someone was there or see things out of the corner of our eye. We just dismissed it but, well, things got worse."
"How so," asked Alex leaning forward to join the others.
"Well," Mr. Jameson continued with a heavy sigh, "Just the other week a book flew off the shelf at me. Not fell like it slid off the edge, hurled across the room, right at my head, almost ten feet away. But then, last week, it went way too far. As my wife was getting ready to take a bath, a fire started in the bathtub."
A stifled gasp came from the room as even Alex seemed blown away by the revelation. It seemed the only one unmoved by the story was Jonathan who simply rubbed his chin and idly scratched his neck before speaking, "Are you sure that you didn't do anything to accidentally start the fire? Perhaps leave something plugged in?"
"You don't understand," Mrs. Jameson said with a quivering voice, "the tub was filled with water. The fire started on top of the water."
Jonathan's jaw dropped and the gasps were no longer stifled. A look of fear mixed with excitement flashed across the group's faces and disbelief turned slowly into teeming energy of eager anticipation. Murmurs began to rise up among the group, seemingly to double check what they'd just heard but, before things could go too far, Claire spoke up again.
"You realize that, as skeptics and scientists, though we find your story interesting and certainly don't disbelieve you, we still need to find proof to back up these claims before we can do anything about them."
Mr. Jameson nodded his approval slowly but Mrs. Jameson was visibly upset by that announcement, her nails, which were already dug into the arms of her chair, sank deeper and she closed her eyes tight, shaking slightly as the news ran through her mind.
"What we want to do, is stay here for a while and document everything that goes on. Alex, as a man of science, is our hardest skeptic but he will do everything he can to document what has happened and what goes on here. From there, we can move forward and actually eliminate the entity."
"How long will that take?" Mrs. Jameson blurted out, her nails still sinking in deeper.
The members of the group huddled, whispering to one another in an indistinct murmur that was unintelligible even a few feet away.
"The information-gathering, documenting and reporting process will take about three weeks to a month. At that time, if sufficient evidence is found, we'll take action."
"Three weeks!" Mrs. Jameson said shooting up for her chair. "Three weeks! I can't even take a bath anymore without feeling… feeling… frightened. Terrified. I hear whispers in my own house. I see shadows moving all around me and now, now something is trying to kill me and all you can tell me is maybe in three weeks you'll help me, I need something now, anything."
As the last words passed through her lips she broke down completely. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she buried her face in her hands and began sobbing uncontrollably.
Mr. Jameson stood up, as calmly as he could, and embraced her tight, whispering soothing thoughts into her ear and rocking her gently. His hands, unsteady with fear, patted her head and stroked her hair lightly.
"Sir, if you want we can…" Jonathan said before being interrupted by Mr. Jameson who, without turning around, held up his hand to silence him. Jonathan apologized under his breath and sank deep into the sofa.
After a few moments of holding, Mrs. Jameson seemed to calm down and returned to her chair. Though her cheeks were still damp with tears, she leaned back in her chair and seemed to rest comfortably.
"Now tell me," Mr. Jameson started as he settled into his chair, "What can you do if you do find there to be something here?"
Kelly, eager to speak, jumped at the question before any of the other members could collect their thoughts, "As a student of the occult, I know of many rituals designed to drive out evil spirits or trap them. We've had some success in the past with a trapping ritual that actually confines the entity, or spirit, or whatever, to a box."
Kelly leaned forward and slapped Jonathan on the knee. Jonathan, in turn, looked to Alex who, without a word being said, began rummaging through his bag until he produced a small, five inch square box with intricate carvings on all sides.
Alex wasted no time handing it over to Jonathan who held it in his outstretched hands for the Jamesons to see. "I carved this box myself," he said, "It's made from heavy wood and is covered with a variety of symbols from Christian, Native American and even Pagan faiths. We've found it to be a very powerful tool in handling these types of situations."
Mrs. Jameson, much calmer after hearing the explanation, considered reaching out to hold the box but thought better of it. Instead, she admired it at a distance, noticing the intricate carvings etched into every surface of it and admiring the obvious craftsmanship it took to create.
"So you've encountered these types of things before?" she asked still entranced.
Claire scooted to the edge of the sofa and held her hands up as if to push someone away, "We have, but, nothing this strong. What you describe, frankly, is unlike anything we've ever dealt with before. But yes, we have treated other homes with great success."
"So you're not sure if you can handle this?" Mr. Jameson said, skepticism ringing in his voice.
"Sir," Claire said, trying to be soothing, "We will try everything we can to help you and your wife sleep through the night. All we want is the truth and to know that you two are safe and sound. We're in a position to help each other, that's how I see it."
Mr. Jameson nodded solemnly and stood up, pacing the living room slowly. His brain slipped into deep thought as his expression turned from that of an astute listener to a lost soul. His eyes were wide and his feet fell heavy on the floor.
The group, for their part, watched him silently, not wanting to interrupt whatever it was that was racing through his mind.
After a few tense moments, he let out a long sigh and spun on his heels as if to speak. But before the words could come out of his mouth, the door began to rattled with an echoing knock that startled the entire room, freezing everyone in place.
A few seconds passed, the knock came again.
Mr. Jameson, frantic, looked at the crowd before him, looking up and down for answers. However, he was met with only blank stares, shaking heads and shrugged shoulders as each indicated, in their own way, they had no clue what was going.
Clearly on edge, Mr. Jameson stormed over to the door and threw it open without so much as a thought to checking the peephole or asking who it was. He flung it open with such strength that he knocked himself back and needed a moment to orient himself.
After he did so, he found the most unusual man he'd seen on his doorstep. Older than those who'd come before, he was in his thirties, perhaps early forties. He wore all black, from his unshined boots to his button-down shirt, and had a full head of slicked-back blond hair. His face, though marked with lines, was strong and a fitting frame for his piercing light blue eyes.
Taking a moment to catch his breath, Mr. Jameson looked the stranger up and down at least twice. The man stood there, unflinching and unmoved by the events going on before him.
"Can I help you?" Mr. Jameson finally brought himself to ask.
"Are you Mr. Jameson?" the stranger asked in a strong, deep voice.
"Yes, I'm Mr. Jameson."
The stranger didn't waste a moment waiting for an invite. With a firm stride he walked into the house and began looking around the living room with a determined gaze, "My name is Peter Silverton from the Shadowline society, my superiors sent me here."
Mr. Jameson was practically frozen by the stranger's arrogance. He stammered and stuttered as he tried to find an appropriate response. His wife, however, was not so stifled and shot out of her seat, "You listen here!" she said venomously, "We have guests here now and you're going to have to come back another time. Who do you think you are barging in here…"
The stranger raised a hand and even though Mrs. Jameson tried to continue her sentence, a chill came over her and her train of thoughts faded into the distance.
"Send the kids home," the stranger said flatly, "It's not safe for them here."
"Excuse me," Mr. Jameson said, finally regaining his composure, "Who did you say you were again?"
"Peter Silverton of the Shadowline society," he said as he pulled a card from his breast pocket and handed it Mr. Jameson. "I was sent here to rectify your situation."
Upon hearing that, Kelly stood up and waved her finger in the stranger's face, "You listen here, this is our find. This is a great opportunity for our research and we can more than handle whatever is here. So, I don't know who you think you are, but you need to get the Hell out!'
The stranger said nothing. His face, hard as stone, didn't move at all in the face of Kelly's broadside. Only his eyes moved as they darted around the room, taking everything in.
Finally, after several tense moments, he walked to the front of the couch and plucked the box off of the coffee table where Jonathan had set it down.
"Were you going to try and use this to trap this entity?" he asked, no emotion, not even anger, showing in his voice.
"Maybe, what of it?" Kelly shot back.
Without warning, the stranger's whole body seemed to explode with anger, every muscle tensed up and he let out a sharp yell as he crushed the hollow box within his hand.
The room was silent after the outburst. Everyone in awe that this stranger, though not particularly well built, could so easily crush such a heavy wood piece caught everyone off guard.
"You fools, you don't even know what your up against or exactly how much danger you're in right this very moment," the stranger said once his body relaxed enough to speak, "I can't protect you from your own stupidity so you need to go… now!"
The growing tension in his voice was clear and everyone was scared, frozen in their seats, almost unable to breathe.
"Hey," Alex said, swallowing hard to work up his courage, "I… I… I… worked hard on that box. That took me almost three weeks to…"
"Then consider a career in woodworking, not ghost chasing Mr. Newsted," the stranger said letting the remnants of the box fall to the floor, "You're not ready for this."
"How did you…?" Alex began to ask, too scared to complete the question.
"I have strict orders," the stranger began again, "strict orders to eliminate the entity that has taken up residence here and that is the extent of them. I have no orders regarding any of your safety, and that goes for you two as well Mr. and Mrs. Jameson, if you value your lives, you'll leave me alone to do my work."
"I'm sorry, I'm not clear here, who ordered you to come here?" Mr. Jameson asked, trying desperately not to show his fear.
"My superiors at the Shadowline society."
"But who exactly is the Shadowline society?"
"I can't tell you that," the stranger said flatly. "All that you need to know is that I'm here to help you and that, when I'm done, you'll either have your home back or, well, I'll be dead. Those are the only two options."
"I… I see," Mr. Jameson said, backing off the stranger, eventually nestling back down into his chair.
"I'm giving everyone one last chance to leave. Anyone who doesn't leave now takes their lives in their own hands, I can not and will not be held responsible for anything that happens to you."
The room was completely still, no one made as much as a motion to the door, or anywhere else for that matter. His presence was just too great and, even if they believed their lives to be in serious danger, they couldn't flee, they were too entranced, or perhaps too scared.
"Suit yourselves," the stranger said flatly. He turned to Mrs. Jameson and, sensing her fear, said, "This entity, I don't sense it yet, where does it strike most often?"
"Here… actually," she stammered. "Either here or the back bedroom, it's down the…"
The stranger raised a hand and, though no chill came over her, Mrs. Jameson knew to fall silent, "He's here," the stranger said flatly, the tone of his voice causing the others in the room to shiver where they sat.
"My name is Peter Silverton," the stranger said, his voice now booming, "I know you can hear me and I know that you're in this room. I am a representative of the Shadowline society and I hearby order you to disband your presence and leave this place. You are a danger to these people and the physical universe."
The stranger stood in the center of the room, spinning on his heels, his eyes following an invisible force as it seemed to move in circles around him. His gaze was determined and fixed, like a bouncer squaring off for a fight, he showed no fear, only determination with every motion.
Mr. Jameson began to wonder if the ad had attracted a lunatic, that perhaps this character was an escaped mental patient or just a random lunatic. He too began to brace himself, the look on his face grew more angry and focused as seconds of silence ticked by following the stranger's proclamation. His hands gripped the armrests of his chair and he began to push himself up and forward.
"No…. like… Shadow…. line…."
The voice seemed to come from nowhere. It echoed around the small, full room and left the observers speechless, their jaws agape. Mr. Jameson slid back into his chair and everyone rested motionless, except for the stranger who was still moving in slow circles, trying to follow an invisible force that, now, no one had any doubt was there.
"If you do not disband immediately, I will be forced to destroy you. I am giving you one last chance to leave peacefully or perish," the stranger said, unshaken.
He continued moving in circles but stopped for a moment facing a large bookshelf in the corner of the room. He seemed to hold there for a moment, fixated by something. The others in the room watched him eagerly, too frozen to even glance at what he was staring at, they were frozen, like wallpaper, just part of the background in the room.
With a strong burst of air, a book flew off the shelf traveling directly for the stranger's face. Without flinching, he reached up and grabbed the book, stopping it cold in it's flight, before gently placing it down on the coffee table atop of the folded newspaper.
"Is that a no?" he asked calmly.
He took a step back and paced around silently for a moment, shaking his head in a combination of frustration and disbelief, "Fine, we'll do it the hard way," he said.
He planted his feet on the ground and rolled his head about his shoulders for a moment, popping his neck. He exhaled sharply, relaxed his shoulders and extended his arm halfway out in front of him. He opened his fist slowly and held his hand almost flat, with the palm facing up, leaving just a little curl to his fingers.
He then closed his eyes, almost peacefully, like he was drifting to sleep or relaxing deeply. The air in the room turned humid and sticky. The others found it hard to breathe and it seemed as if the entire room was more dense or somehow under pressure.
The stranger didn't look up, his lips curled into a smirk, "Yes, you like that don't you?" he said under his breath, "Come and get it. You know you want it, take it. Take me."
His words didn't hang long before a blast of cold air sent the humidity scurrying into the darkness. The stranger reacted immediately, extending his arm fully and then recoiling as if he'd caught something heavy and fast in it. He wrestled with it for a moment before lifting his arm slightly above his head and slamming it down onto the coffee table, which jumped and rattled at the sudden impact.
To the amazement of the others in the room, despite the obvious signs of impact, the stranger's hand never came within three inches of the table.
The look on his face changed drastically, once relaxed and easygoing, his eyes narrowed and a grimace of sheer determination came over him. He tightened his hand, as if to squeeze the life out of an invisible neck and held whatever it was he had trapped, real or imaginary, to the table.
He began to growl a low, dark growl, like an angry dog or a struggling weightlifter. The room responded, it began to rumble slightly, shake under the feet of the others in it. The ceiling fan above them began to sway noticeably and a coffee cup left on an end table began to shift around.
Everyone in the room sat there, wide-eyed in terror, too scared to watch, too scared to turn away. The Jameson's clutched the armrest of their respective chairs and the others dug their nails into whatever they could find, skirts, pants, even each other.
The stranger brought his other hand around and placed it below his other, laying it flat with the fingers fully extended. His growl became a low yell, louder but still controlled. The rumbling and shaking became more noticeable as the ceiling fan began to leave streaking shadows across the room with every sway and the windows began to rattle in their panes.
Suddenly, there was a violent jerk in the stranger's hands, as if something had pulled them to the side. With his hand fully extended to the side, he struggled to regain his balance. After his footing took, he looked up at his hand and with a sharp yell he forced it back down to the table, knocking the book off of the newspaper and the newspaper to the floor.
He wasted no time bringing his other hand around again. As soon as he braced himself, he began to yell again and the expression on his face turned from anger to pain. This scream was different from the previous ones, it was louder, uncontrolled and more violent in nature. He was screaming as if his life depended on it, with all abandon tossed aside and all sensibility forgotten.
The room responded in kind. The rumbling grew louder and, before long, it sounded as if a train was passing within feet of the home. The ceiling fan began to knock around so hard that the blades scraped the ceiling and all around books were sliding off their shelves and paintings were slipping off their nails and crashing onto the floor.
No one in the room was breathing. terror had gripped them so tightly that their chests wouldn't expand to breathe in. Not a soul blinked, their eyes forced open by fear and no one moved an inch, they just clinched tighter and silently prayed as the very building seemed ready to fly apart, shaking harder and harder.
A pointed shriek seemed to come from nowhere, echoing over the rumbling and piercing the ears of the few who could still listen. It grew louder and louder, like a chorus of screeching metal until it almost covered up the screaming, the rumbling and the crashing of falling objects.
Just when no one thought they could take anymore, the screeching pitched up, piercingly high. No one covered their ears, still frozen in their chairs, but their ears began to ring as the shriek reached and ear-popping pitch and seemed to howl with an unbearable pain.
Then it stopped.
As quickly as it started, it was over. The shrieking, the rumbling, the yelling. The room settled back down on its moorings and the stranger began to pant wildly.
After a couple seconds of stunned silence, he dropped to his knee, pressing the palm of his hand against the ground and dropping his head. His breathing was labored and his chest rose and fell with every heave. He seemed to be inches away from passing out but no one got up to help him. It was as if they were frozen in time.
After a few moments, Mrs. Jameson shook her head violently and raced up from her chair. She knelt down beside the stranger and placed her hand upon his back, "Are you ok?" she asked in a soft voice.
The stranger slowly picked himself off the floor and stood up. He straightened his shirt and tugged at his cuffs. He did his best to put on a tough face, but the look was very different, his eyes were unfocused and relaxed, his expression seemed weak and frail, "I'm fine," he said after a few moments, "Thank you for asking."
"Is it… you know… gone?" Mrs. Jameson asked, fear still ringing in her voice.
"I, I didn't think things like that could die."
"Anything living can die," the stranger said, his voice becoming more sharp, "It's just that for some death is a much more significant event than it is for others."
"Well… thank you."
"You're welcome," he said softly, "Enjoy your home ma'am, you should find it much more inhabitable now."
The stranger turned on his heels and headed for the door, he got no more than two steps when Mr. Jameson shot up, like a cat, and said, "How will we reach you if we need you again?"
For his part, the stranger turned back around and, with a calm voice, said, "You won't need me, but if you do, the Shadowline society will find you. We did this time, we will again if needed."
"I see…" Mr. Jameson said, settling back into his chair as the shock and confusion overwhelmed him.
The stranger turned and left the home, leaving behind six agape mouths and a stunned silence that was left unbroken for what seemed like an eternity. Though he couldn't have been there for more than fifteen or twenty minutes, his impact lasted hours.
But soon, it was obvious the feeling in the house had changed. The room seemed larger, less crowded and even though tension hung in the air it was somehow more peaceful, almost calm.
"You know, I think he did," Mrs. Jameson finally said, "I don't know how I know, but it's gone. Do you feel it?" she said turning to her husband.
"Yes, I do dear, I do…"