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Latter Day Demons
“Do you live alone?” It’s a question I get a lot, but am never quite sure how to answer. I suppose the sanest response would be “Yes, I do live alone.” But such an answer, no matter how logical, doesn’t fully explain my living arrangements. What does one call a houseguest that does not use utilities, pays no rent, and simply wanders from room to room, occasionally making you aware of its presence through footsteps and the gentle closing of a closet or cabinet door. A houseguest that I have grown a fondness to over the years but is completely invisible.
When the house has settled down at night and all is quiet, I hear the soft footsteps on the floor above. The floorboards creak and a door might gently open, only to softly close again. At first these events disturbed me, but it seemed to have little interest in harming me. Perhaps it was the previous owner of the home that just didn’t want to let go, or maybe it found comfort in meeting a living soul that didn’t cower in fear of it. Whatever the reason, I came to enjoy the spiritual presence of my stubborn new friend.
Not everyone has taken to it as I have, unfortunately. Every girl I ever brought back home has left screaming into the night hysterically crying about how the faucets turned themselves on and the lights shut themselves off. I liken it to the way a dog gets to know a new person. The canine sniffs the person and does a few laps around them to assess the threat, and eventually eases into them and becomes comfortable around them. The trouble is, not everyone is a dog person, let alone a ghost person. I never cared for that word anyway, I always thought it had too much of a negative connotation. Ghost was too much like demon, and I feel as though I’ve earned my right to judge the two accordingly.
“Jim, I gotta ask. Why do you stay in that damn house all alone with all those f*****’ demons stomping around?” In all its varying forms, is another question I’m frequently asked. The best answer I can give is that it’s better than living alone. Marriage, for all its perks, has never been much of a priority to me. I love making music and sharing it with the world, and I believe that that is my calling. Even so, however, I must admit that things can get lonely all by myself. The idea of having someone else there all the time is somewhat comforting, especially when your career allows you to live rather luxuriously. Without sounding conceited, I admittedly do well for myself with my different creations. While this has its benefits, there are of course risks associated with it. Robbery is one of these risks.
One night I came home to find a police cruiser parked outside my house. “Are you James McDonaugh?” One officer asked me. “Yes, what’s happened here?” “My name is Detective Thomas Gibson. Mr. McDonaugh it appears as though you’ve been the victim of an attempted robbery. Your neighbors called to report a suspicious looking man trying to break through your back door.” He explained. “Did he get away?” I asked. “No, we got him. He’s at the station, but if you’re free we’d like to ask you a few questions regarding your living arrangements.” He said. “That is, if you don’t mind.” I didn’t see why not. The thief hadn’t made off with anything and I thought I at least owed it to the cops to give them whatever information I could. “Sure, I’d be happy to.” I told him.
I welcomed Gibson into my living room. “Can I get you anything to drink?” I asked. He politely declined. “I’ve actually got to be going rather quickly Mr. McDonaugh. We’re sure you’re a busy man as well. My son is a huge fan of your’s.” They said. I sat down with them. “Alright, shoot.” I said. “Horatio Vasquez, the man we apprehended at your house this evening, was found sitting on the front steps of your house with his knees to his chin, rocking back and forth while repeating the our father in Spanish. He was…distraught, anxious, sweating. He seemed to have witnessed something very traumatic. Something that he may not have…expected to find at a house like your’s if you know what I mean.” Gibson said. “I’m not sure I’m following you.” I said. “Do you live alone, Mr. McDonaugh? Do you have any exotic pets such as, maybe, a snake or a rat that may have triggered some sort of phobia in the perpetrator’s mind?” Gibson asked. “No sir. I live alone, I’m afraid.” I told him. “If you don’t mind, Mr. McDonaugh, I’d like to take a look around the house. I’m not looking to incriminate you, I just feel as though it’ll help the investigation.” He said. “By all means sir! I’ll give you the tour.” I said.
I showed Detective Gibson my living room, bedroom, kitchen, and both bathrooms. There was nothing noticeably out of place or strange about them. Things went well until he asked to see the basement. “You wouldn’t mind, would you?” He asked. I decided to let him look, bracing myself for the unexplainable. I had recently had the basement turned into a composition room, with soundproof walls and plenty of space to experiment and practice with the varying instruments I had strewn about the room. There were notebooks full of lyrics, notes, and anything else that had inspired me. Gibson shrugged. “I don’t see anything too out of the ordinary, I’m sorry to have wasted your time Mr. McDona- “ he was interrupted by a loud SLAM! From upstairs. “The Hell was that?” He asked me. “I don’t know.” I lied.
Gibson motioned for me to follow him up the basement stairs. He withdrew his gun from its holster and pointed it defensively, waving it around the sides of the door as we came up the stairs. “Wait here.” He whispered. The swinging door linking my kitchen to my dining room slowly creaked back and forth. Gibson kicked it open and frantically pointed his gun every which way, but found no one. “This is the police, come out with your hands up!” I heard him yell. As his footsteps went further away I slowly inched away from the corner I was ordered to wait in. I slowly pushed the swinging door open to the dining room, where I saw that my chandelier had begun to sway back and forth, despite every window in the house being shut. I thought little of it and crept onward.
By this time Gibson was already making his way up the stairs to the second floor. “You alright down there Mr. McDonaugh?” He called down. “I’m fine.” I squeaked back to him. Gibson slowly opened the bedroom door, poking the barrel of his pistol between the threshold and the door itself. No one was in there. He walked to the center of the room, baffled, and opened my standing wardrobe, a textbook hiding spot for a thief. His hand slowly floated to the nub of a handle, only to whip it open in a swift, fluid motion. SLAM! The bedroom door violently shut behind him, followed by four quick, heavy footsteps darting off into the guest room across the hall: BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM! Gibson sprinted through the doorway and kicked open the guest room door to find nothing. Not so much as an open window and a set of footprints. Frustrated, he marched down the stairs to deliver the news.
“I must be hearing things. Upstairs is all set Mr. McDonaugh.” Gibson said. “Please don’t hesitate to call us if you need anything or hear anything tonight. I appreciate your cooperation.” “Thank you Detective. I’m glad I could help.” I said as I brought him to the door. Just before he left, Gibson turned to me. “Could you do me a big favor?” He asked. He seemed embarrassed. “Sure, what do you need?” I asked. “Well, as I said, my son is a big fan of yours, and you must get this a lot, but…could I get an autograph just to bring home to the kid?” He asked. Slightly relieved, I signed a mini-poster I had gotten from my basement and bid Gibson’s son my best wishes in his future endeavors. Gibson looked at the autograph and smirked. “He’s gonna f*****’ flip over this. If you need anything, like I said, don’t hesitate to ask.” Gibson said as he walked back to his car. I bid him goodnight and headed back inside, taking one last look around the house to see if anything had been damaged. Aside from the back door being mostly beat to Hell, everything seemed to be just where I had left it. Retreating to my basement sanctuary, I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and began to unwind by revising some lyrics I had written up the night before. I opened my once pristine white laptop, which now sported a thin coat of grease from those sudden inspirations that just couldn’t wait for a napkin of handy-wipe. My media player jumped to a random song in my library, this time choosing Neil Young’s Ohio. The hissing of my headphones along with the wiry, distorted guitar whining blocked out any unwanted interruption, and I was in my own world once again. As I toiled away at what I would hope to be a worthy successor to my last single, I failed to notice the door to my studio slowly creak open.
SLAM! The door flung itself shut, and I jumped in my seat. Tearing my headphones off my head, I quickly paused my music and looked around. The studio door was closed, and the entire house was once again draped in eerie silence. I looked around nervously. A cold sweat overtook me. Whatever was here now was different than the spirit that had occupied my house all these years before. I could feel it. My heart began to race and my breaths grew heavier. I began to see my breath appear before me as the temperature seemed to drop ten degrees with each passing second. Aside from the hissing of my headphones, the room remained completely silent. Gathering up all the courage I had left, I slid out of my office chair and slowly tiptoed my way to the studio door. I called out to it, as I sometimes do, hoping that it was still here and not replaced by a more sinister force. “Hello? You’ve got my attention. What do you want?” I called out to it. At first, the silence continued, but then the knob to the studio door slowly began to turn. The door slowly creaked halfway open before resting. My headphones continued to hiss, but this time there was something different about them. I slowly put them back on, without resuming my music, and listened. I heard heavy, sickly, breathing, and a raspy voice that whispered: “Get…Out…” between those long, sickly breaths.
My eyes widened as I slid the headphones off my head and let them fall to the floor. “How have I upset you?” I called out again. “I mean you no harm. You know that.” I said, my voice growing increasingly nervous. In over five years of living with it, I had never experienced anything like this. It had closed doors before, but always playfully and in good spirits. Whatever had taken its place was much more violent, more deliberate. More menacing. I shuffled towards the studio door, but stop just before my hand reached the handle, I heard footsteps, heavy ones exactly like what Gibson had heard just an hour before. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. Shuffling on the floor above me. They were getting closer. I closed the studio door, locking it as the footsteps advanced to the stairs just outside the door. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. Down each and every step until it reached the outside of the door. The screen on my laptop flickered before ultimately fading to black. The footsteps had stopped and silence came over the room once again. There was a 9-millimeter pistol I kept in a safe in the studio, and while it would do little good against an apparition, I had been told it was quite effective against the typical psychotic fan (which at that point I was still trying to desperately convince myself it was). I nervously fumbled with the lock to the safe before finally opening it and flicking the safety off of the gun. Keeping the gun pointed at the doorway, I took my cell phone from my pocket and frantically dialed 911.
The phone rang slowly twice before mysteriously clicking off. I pulled the cell phone away from my ear to find a message on the screen simply reading “CALL FAILED.” Frustrated, I tried to redial the number dismissing my troubles as a product of spotty basement reception. This time it didn’t even ring, but rather, I was treated to the hissing noise of my headphones. I heard the heavy breathing on the other end, and nothing else. Suddenly, there was a knock at the studio door. “The whole room is sound proof. Nobody even knows you’re in here. Relax.” I thought to myself, but whatever was on the other side was reluctant to leave so soon. There was another knock, this time more persistent. I prepped my weapon, aiming it towards the door, lining up my shot. My hands quivered, as the knocking became a violent thrashing. Whatever was behind the door was throwing some serious weight around, as the door struggled to stay closed, let alone locked. The knob rattled threatened to break, a snapping sound was heard from the other side, followed by yet another stretch of silence.
The footsteps started up again, this time slowly marching up the basement stairs yet again. I could hear them stomping up to the second floor. The fear that had gripped me before briefly dissolved, and I rushed out of the room and began to run up the basement steps. I felt a cold, wet, and yet incredibly strong hand grip my ankle tightly, forcefully pulling me off balance and sending me flailing down chin-first into the step below me. I felt my teeth pierce through my lower lip as warm blood gushed down my chin. I screamed and looked behind me to see no one behind me. Still, it continued to pull as my chin, nose, and forehead slammed against the steps repeatedly as it dragged me down. As I hit the final step, it let me go. Desperately I struggled to push myself up to my feet, and as I did so I heard the footsteps going up the stairs in front of me. My nose and lip were bleeding badly, but at this point I was far too enraged to care.
Adrenaline took hold as I sprinted up the basement stairs. Night was in full effect and the entire house was dark. I flicked the switch in the dining room to no avail. Whatever this thing was, it had managed to cut the power. The chandelier swung loosely in the moonlight. I abandoned the gun; it wouldn’t help me against this thing. Making my way to the second floor, I heard nothing, saw nothing, but felt something. I felt its presence circling me as my eyes nervously darted to every corner of the hallways leading to the bedroom. Gripping the glass doorknob tightly I braced myself for whatever horrors might await me in the bedroom. Nothing. I began to feel the full extent of my wounds as I sat down on my bed. My torn-up lower lip throbbed with pain while my forehead sent crippling cracks of agony across my skull every five seconds. Dizziness began to overtake me as I struggled to retain consciousness.
Blood had saturated my clothes. Out of fear, I didn’t want to move, but the tattered state of my lip worried me. It was still bleeding profusely, and would more than likely need medical attention. There was a towel in the bathroom. Staggering to my feet I attempted to slowly shuffle my way to the bathroom. I made sure the door was shut and locked tightly behind me. The small amount of moonlight didn’t help me find the towel in the pitch-black washroom. I nearly tripped and fell into the tub before finally stumbling upon the long white bath towel. The lights suddenly flashed back on, and in that split second, the mirror above my sink seemed to explode into a thousand deadly shards, all of which fell to the floor. “It’s toying with me.” I thought as I struggled to rid my face of the dried blood that had undoubtedly caked it at this point.
With no light and broken glass blocking my only way out, I became overwhelmed. Tears began to form and streak down my face, merging with the blood that covered my chin. “What do you want from me?” I cried out to it. “What do you want?!” The bathroom light flickered back on, exposing the gleaming road of Hell that lay before me. I looked behind me to the bathroom window and tried to determine if the fall would kill me. No dice. The lights went out again. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. Shuffling toward me. I could hear its feet crunching on the glass, I smelled its foul, hot, breath as it made its way towards me. I did the only thing I could: I stood still, eyes tightly closed, teeth clenched. The lights came back on, but I refused to open my eyes. A loud roar ripped through the house, I lost all control. “Please.” I whimpered. “Please don’t.” The heavy breathing ceased, but I still felt it behind me. It was growing impatient. An unseen force pushed me down into the glass-covered floor. I screamed as the shards cut into my stomach, face, arms, and legs. It pulled me by my greasy, sweat-matted hair as my body scraped against the shards.
I screamed out for help as it dragged me into the guest room. I grabbed the threshold to the door but it only pulled harder, two of my fingernails snapped off and lodged themselves into the wooden frame. In one last pull, it tossed me into the wall as I shifted in and out of consciousness and the room spun around me. The closet and main door, along with both windows, slammed open and shut repeatedly. The lights came back on one last time, revealing the cryptic message of “OUT” carved into the wall above the guest bed. The door opened again, and in my dying breaths, it took on its physical form. I couldn’t scream, but could only look as it advanced toward me, its yellowed, decaying teeth warped into a sick smile.
The body of James McDonaugh sailed out of the second floor guest room of his Boston home on December 17, 2008. It is believed that he died of blood loss before hitting the hood of his Ford Escape. A neighbor’s account of the events is detailed in the following report:
“I heard him screaming out to someone. The doors kept slamming, along with the windows. What caught my attention were the damn lights, they kept going on and off again, every one of them. The night was clear as day, no bad weather or anything like that to f*** with the power. They kept waking up my kids, so I took a look outside. I caught him at the right time I guess, or the wrong one, ‘cause his body went flying out of his second floor window. I kept an eye out on both the back and front doors and didn’t see anything, though. No one left. And the weird thing is, when he hit the hood of his car, all the lights just flickered back on, and everything got real quiet. This is the second time that s*** has happened over there. I don’t know when they’ll start to smarten up.”
A fan-led vigil for the fallen musician was held two days later on Boston Common. Horatio Vasquez was judged too hysterical and distraught to stand trial, and has since been committed to a mental institution. Three friends of Vasquez who were allegedly connected to the robbery just hours prior were acquitted due to a lack of evidence. The case was then handed over to Detective Thomas Gibson of the Boston Police Department, where it still has yet to be resolved.