I’m exhausted. I’m so exhausted I fell asleep in literally half my classes, and took a nap in Tilly’s car at lunch.
It was my birthday yesterday. I’m officially an adult.
My poor mom got called into work, and she literally HAD to go, like one of the nurses had a seizure, and the hospital is like… weirdly full right now, and they were desperate.
She felt terrible. My poor mother. She felt so bad.
I did my best to tell her that truly, TRULY I don’t mind — I want nothing more than to forget the day exists tbh having a birthday without Madelyn is WRONG and BAD and the last thing I wanted to do yesterday was sit in my super haunted house eating cake while my poor mom watched me nervously and tried to simultaneously be super attentive to my needs and feelings and also distract me from my inevitable misery, so genuinely, her getting called in was the absolute best case scenario.
Because see, the apartment is haunted af, and I really needed a night with her not in the house so I could get it fixed.
I called the Hawthornes literally the moment she was out the door.
Tilly came over too. We spent the afternoon cuddling on the couch pretending we didn’t hear the cupboards clattering on their own in the kitchen.
No, I did not tell ANYONE it was my birthday.
The Hawthornes arrived just after 8. Tilly and I raced down the hall. I think we were both holding our breaths waiting for them, trying to keep it together.
I opened the door and there they were, looking huge and hilariously male in our hilariously female apartment.
“Hey,” Neal said, barely looking at either of us and brushing by into the apartment. It was brusque and sort of rude, and I must have made a face because Julian gave me an apologetic smile.
“Sorry,” he said. “It’s been a really long week.”
“Why?” Tilly asked, following Julian eagerly down the hall. “It’s only Wednesday.”
“Whatever Madelyn was into, there’s some pretty serious juice behind it,” Julian said, pausing in the doorway to the kitchen. Neal was rummaging shamelessly through our cupboards. “We’ve been settling spirits and chasing creatures for days.”
Neal brought out a rotten apple from off our counter and I made a face.
“These old?” he asked, holding it gingerly.
“We bought them two days ago,” I said.
He sighed and dropped it in the garbage. “Yeah, I’d say a stage two haunting,” he said to Julian. “Nothing too serious, but definitely heading towards a three already.”
Apparently there’s ghost stages. Who knew. (I wish I’d asked more about it, but I’m not a journalist okay I’m like barely blogger)
“That’s good news,” Julian translated. “It means we can handle it tonight.”
Julian went out to the car to retrieve supplies — a sack of what turned out to be salt, several handfuls of dry herbs, and four roughly hewn black stones, each engraved with a rune. Neal took a tour of the apartment.
I showed him the different places I woke up unexpectedly, showed him where the spiders came out of the cupboard, and told him about the nightmares.
“Yeah,” he said. “Sounds about right.” He didn’t look at me when he said, “you’re pretty sensitive to this stuff?”
Tilly and I exchanged a glance. Obviously I wanted to say yes but I don’t know, it also seemed annoying to say out loud like ah yes, me, so sensitive to the other side. Like yeah I want to be a delicate Victorian governess who can see beyond the veil but I don’t want to admit it out loud.
In the pause it took me to respond Neal said, “it would make sense for you to be sensitive right now. Loss can have that affect on people.” And that was that. Apparently I’m not that special after all.
“You ready?” Julian asked.
When Neal said yes, Julian tossed him one of the rocks and he caught it easily.
Julian must have seen my bewilderment because he smiled. “In a stage 2 haunting the environment might react to paranormal presences, but the spirits cannot take direct action. For example, lights might flicker, faucets might turn on and kettles might shriek, but nothing’s going to flick on a light switch or turn on the stove or grab you. Your nightmares are most likely just another reaction to being exposed to ghosts.”
“Do we know who they are?” Tilly asked.
Julian shrugged. “Hauntings don’t really work like that. What we call ghosts is just energy, attracted to high energy places. It’s a bit like dust. We’ll just clear the air so you’ll be able to sleep.”
“And so this doesn’t develop into something worse,” Neal grumbled, more to himself than to us.
Julian lit the herbs until it was giving off a good smoke. They filled a few bowls with water and floated tea lights in them. They set the rune stones in every room in the house.
“Alright,” Julian said. “There probably won’t be anything particularly flashy or scary, so don’t be nervous. Nervousness won’t help us much.” He turned to Neal, and what he saw must have concerned him because his brow creased and he frowned. “You want me to ground us?” he asked.
Neal shook his head. “I got it.”
I thought maybe Julian might not approve of that answer, but he didn’t say anything else. Instead he helped pour a circle of salt on the floor. “Ready?” he asked. Neal nodded and stepped into the circle. He held out his hands and Julian poured salt into them. “If this get’s rough —”
“I got it,” Neal repeated, maybe a little severely.
“Alright,” he said. “Come on girls let’s get this done.”
He called us girls like he was worlds older than us, like he was someone’s dad.
I thought we might chant or something, but we didn’t. We just walked around the house with the smoking herbs until it looked like an opium den and it smelled like hippies. He instructed us to touch the rocks as we went through to each room.
Honestly it was totally anticlimactic. When we’d gone through every room of the house we blew out the candles and poured the bowls out in hedges outside. Then we poured a line of salt in front of the door and each window.
“Good?” Julian asked Neal, still standing in his salt circle. He opened his eyes and seemed dazed for a minute by the surroundings.
“Yeah,” he said after a moment. “I think we’re good.”
“Alright,” Julian said to us. “That should do it.” Then he paused.
“We went to speak to Serena,” he said. “But she didn’t want to talk.” He hesitated. “I think we scared her.”
“I doubt it takes much to scare her,” I said. “If what she said is true.”
Julian sighed. “I guess not.” He scrubbed his face with his hands. “We need to see the old coven site. Do you know where it is?”
Tilly and I exchanged a glance.
“I mean everyone technically knows where it is,” Tilly said. “But I’ve never been there.”
“I have,” I said. “I went with Madelyn. Years ago. When we were kids.”
“You think you could find it again?” Julian asked.
I think I can. We agreed to go on Friday.
“This case,” Julian sighed. “It’s been a long time since we got a case that kept going down into the rabbit hole like this.”
That made me feel good. Special, I guess. In a twisted way. I would hate for Madelyn to fall victim to a boring supernatural occurrence.
They made their way back to the door. “Go ahead and fix the salt line in front of the door after we go. Leave the lines for at least a few hours, or as long as you want, and that should about do it.”
“It doesn’t feel any different,” I said.
Julian smiled. “It’s hard to tell the difference between ghosts and plain old nerves. You’ll sleep alright tonight.”
And then they left and it was just Tilly and I again. We poured the line in front of the door again and then we looked at each other.
“X-Files?” Tilly suggested.
So we ordered pizza and bunkered down on the couch. I don’t even know what we talked about. It was just an evening. We ate pizza. Sculls and Mulder did some sick detecting. I don’t know. I guess after the ghost hunters were in my house everything else was just sorta surreal.