grounded

Corey’s stalkers found us!

They would not like to be called his stalkers. They would prefer to be called apostles. They woke us up in the middle of the night last night because they were standing in the parking lot outside his window humming. They’ve started calling him The Lazarus, which like… folks that doesn’t even make sense. He never died and came back to life, so like FACTUALLY Lazarus is not an accurate moniker but WHATEVER.

(Am I really being weirdly territorial about being the only person who’s ever died and come back to life? HA maybe)

Anyways, motel management called the police, but they can’t actually stop them from gathering in public space apparently? So they stood out on the street and hummed creepily in our general direction all night.

“Why don’t you have fucking followers?” Corey grumbled, going and flopping face down on his matress.

“Because I didn’t put my resurrection on the internet potentially,” I replied, and he groaned.

I do sorta feel for him though. Like he was just trying to get a modest internet following, not become a messiah-like character in these nut-cases fantasy.

I told Corey the full resurrections story this week Monday night when I went to go check on him. Then I told him all about how our job was to go around the country saving people from the various creeps, creatures and cryptids that populate our country. He took it… pretty well, considering. I think it’s probably sorta comforting actually, to know that you’re not the only person experiencing the madness. I didn’t tell him like… everything, either. Just like… yeah ghosts are real. Yeah, sometimes cryptids are real. Yeah, sometimes you should be scared of the dark a little. But he already sorta knew that, you know? So it was a relief to know he wasn’t crazy.

It’s been a strange week.

The Hawthornes really wanted this to be a simple case, but they’ve ripped through all the available resources and they’re coming up dry. Meanwhile I’ve just been hanging out with Corey this whole time hahahaha. We’re watching the X-Files again hahaha and like… eating microwave popcorn all day.

Yesterday his friend Roger called, and Corey sorta panicked. “What the fuck do I tell him?”

“That you went home?” I suggested.

Corey rolled his eyes. “My family lives in Southern California, that’s an entire plane ride. Also I went to class yesterday.”

“Tell him you met a girl, and you’re shacked up with her,” I said, lying on his bed, with like my pants unbuttoned and my head propped up on a bunch of pillows so I had the full double chin and popcorn scattered all around me on the bed.

“I mean technically that’s not even a lie,” Corey said and I flipped him off. I’m pretty sure Neal’s more Corey’s type than I am but he’s not confirmed that suspicion so 🤐. I sorta like him, for a frat boy. He’s super out-doorsy and like… I mean the reason we’re here is he was free running around the city and almost died, so we’re not like super compatible people, but we’re having a nice time together, trapped in a motel room eating junk food.

We didn’t see the Hawthornes all day today. They got back this evening, and I could tell by their whole vibe that they didn’t have good news.

“Have you figured out what’s wrong with me yet?” he asked.

“Nope,” Neal sort of exploded. “You’re clean as a damn whistle. I’m about to consult a fucking ouija board.”

Corey sagged in his chair.

And then Julian said, “…well —”

“Oh shut up,” Neal interrupted.

“No, hear me out,” Julian said. “This isn’t the first major haunting we’ve seen this year.”

Neal stared at him. “No,” he said.

“Do you have any better ideas?”

Neal scoffed. “Okay fine, is there anything in here that has strong feelings about whether the kid lives or dies?”

And then the TV in the corner cracked as if punched.

We all turned to stare at it.

“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” Neal said.

If you remember, the last couple of hauntings we’ve dealt with have been nightmares. The first one pushed me down the stairs and the second one murdered a girl right in front of me and would have done Neal, too, if it had it’s way. So am I thrilled about another ghost case? No, I’m not. Not remotely.

On the other hand:

“Doesn’t seem like it’s… particularly mean spirited,” Julian pointed out.

Neal turned and gave him a look. “Pun?”

“Couldn’t resist.”

“Should we call in Mercy and Zin?” I asked, because I really like the idea of letting someone who knows what she’s doing deal with it.

“You scared of ghosts, Shiloh?” Neal asked.

“Can you blame me?”

“Not really,” he admitted. “Okay. What do we know?” And when no one immediately responded, he said, “Come on! Look alive, what do we know?”

“I can’t die,” Corey said dully.

“Dear, you’re gonna want to get through your head that just because you haven’t died yet doesn’t mean you can’t die at all. Otherwise, we would have to conclude that all of us can’t die,” Neal said, and then after a moment added, “except Shiloh, but she can’t stay dead.”

Corey rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean.”

Neal took a long breath. “Yeah, I do.”

“Have you noticed anything weird with your electricity?” Julian asked. “Bad internet? Odd smells, taps turning on or off?”

Corey stared at him. “I’m in a frat.”

“Okay, good point,” Julian admitted.

“Come on, Corey, do you even want to get rid of this thing?” Neal sighed.

“Yes?” Corey said.

“You sure, because of the hauntings I’ve seen this one’s pretty sick. You’ve functionally got a guardian angel here.”

“Um, hello?” Corey snapped. “The entire reason I’m here is that the freaks won’t stop following me around?”

“Well, yeah,” Neal said. “But they’re not gonna stop doing that if you get rid of your ghost. They showed up because you put dumb shit on the internet my friend, getting rid of your spook isn’t gonna get rid of them. You’ll just be a fake messiah who can also die.”

Corey stared at him for a really long time. Then he swore loudly, punched the motel desk, yelped because it hurt, and then collapsed on my bed to pout.

We all exchanged looks. Neal made a 😬 face at Julian, who seemed to be barely keeping a straight face. Neal nudged me and pointed at Corey, and I shook my head because I didn’t know what to say to him, but Julian was on Neal’s side so I stuck my tongue out at them silently and went to sit beside him.

“Look,” I said, tentatively. “I know it’s sort of weird. And I know it’s probably a little bit… inconvenient. But this isn’t an insurmountable issue. Just take one of the interviews you’ve been avoiding, tell everyone it was a prank, laugh it off on morning television, and carry on with your life.”

“Why did it choose me?” Corey asked, and look, he was so miserable, I totally felt for him.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“There’s no way of knowing,” Julian said. “These things tend to be pretty ephemeral. 999 times out of a thousand, these ghosts aren’t consciousnesses. ”

“Honestly,” Neal sighed. “I have no idea what to expect from a spook at this point. Usually I’d tell you that this thing doesn’t have a consciousness, but to be honest, all that’s gone a bit to crap at this point. Who knows what the spooks can do these days.”

“I thought ghosts were like… always bad,” Corey said. “Or at least sad or whatever.”

Julian shrugged. “Why should they be?” he said. “People’s joy, and compassion can linger on after they’ve gone, just the same as their pain can, right?”

Corey looked up, sort of hopeful. “You think that’s what happening here?”

Julian hesitated for a moment. “Yeah, you know what? We have had a fucked up few weeks, and until we prove otherwise, I’m gonna say I believe that whatever has attached itself to you is totally benevolent.”

Neal smiled. “Let’s find out,” he said. “Come on Shiloh, you wanna learn?”

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Sure,” Neal said. “Only reason we haven’t had you training on this sooner is we were afraid you already have a foot on the other side. And don’t get me wrong, we still are. But if we’re gonna find out your mystery power is to do with the dead, I think these are the best possible circumstances to do so.”

So, when we drew the pentacle with the elements, we drew it extra big. I sat cross legged inside it, knee-to-knee with Neal. Did I have inexplicable butterflies? Yes I did.

“Mkay,” Neal said. “So, I’m just gonna take you along for the ride on this, alright?”

I nodded.

“Corey, I don’t want to internalize a single word I’m going to say, alright? We do not want you messing around in this without supervision. So you just sit there and empty your pretty head, okay?”

Poor Corey blushed. Neal is so fucking mean.

“Okay Shiloh, step one,” Neal said. He offered his hands and listen, I am so PATHETIC, I went totally blank brain. Nothing in there except !!!!!!!. “Relax, take some deep breaths.” And when I apparently failed to do that, he said, “Shiloh, if you don’t chill out here I’m gonna take it personally.”

“Neal,” Julian casually admonished from where he was reading on his bed.

Neal rolled his eyes for my benefit. “Spooks like warmth, light and stillness,” he said. “So we’re just gonna sit here surrounded by candles, and wait. Take deep breaths. Empty your mind. The quieter your mind, the better you can hear.”

“Is this magic?” I asked.

“No,” Neal said. “This is just listening.”

And at first I thought he meant literally listening. Like, with my ears.

“We’re gonna take it really slow,” Neal said. “Breathe in with me… and out…” I closed my eyes. “You’ll get much better at this,” he said. “Louie used to make us meditate for half an hour every night to practice. Though to be honest, it might have been just to get a moment’s peace.”

I didn’t really notice anything at first. It just felt like meditation.

“Okay,” Neal said after a while. “Are you feeling quiet?”

I nodded.

“Alright, I’m gonna go ahead and let this thing in,” Neal said. “It might feel a bit weird, but don’t panic, I’ve got us. You feel safe?”

“Yeah,” I said, which must have been at least mostly true, because he took a deep breath, cracked his neck once in each direction, and then everything went weird.

For starters, my ears pressurized. I felt suddenly really cold, and then really warm, and then really cold again.

“Don’t panic,” Neal said. “It means you no harm.”

But it did not feel good. It was like being super super overwhelmed, a cacophony of thoughts and feelings — but not complete thoughts of feelings. Just scraps of them with no rationality or place to go.

“Shhh,” Neal said. He turned his hands in mine to get a better grip on them, gave my hands a firm squeeze. “The reason we call it grounding,” he said, “is your goal is anchor this whole mess down and give it some clarity. Someday we’ll have Mercy do this with you because she can get right in your head and show you how to do it, but I’m not psychic, so you’re gonna have to just feel how it changes as I work with it.” He took a deep breath. “Ready?”

I nodded.

The change was like a drain was suddenly pulled and everything whirled into it. All that confusion and chaos went right through me towards this void where I couldn’t follow. I wanted to. Whatever was in there seemed very calm and quiet. Neal’s breath caught slightly.

“Okay, I have it,” Neal said, slightly strained. “Usually at this point find a way to help this energy disperse. But there’s not even a spot of malice in this thing, so instead I’m gonna focus it —” he stopped, a little breathless. “Okay, I have to let it go before I lose it, but get ready, this is gonna be a little intense.”

A LITTLE intense? A LITTLE?

It was like standing in front of a bursting damn. It was like someone shining an entire lighthouse right in my eyes. There’s no way one single person felt all that, it was too much awesome for one person to endure. It was like the cumulative unadulterated joy of every bad ass guitar solo ever, blasting my face off at once. All that chaos and confusion came out absolutely clear, radiant, true as a beam of light.

Neal dropped my hands to scrub the salt circle, and blew out the candles. I just sat there, dazed, eyes streaming. When I opened my eyes Neal was watching me, laughing.

“You okay there?” he asked.

“I might throw up,” I croaked.

“Bad?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“Throw up in a good way?”

I nodded, still just like openly weeping. He laughed at me, and planted a (totally chaste) kiss on my forehead as he bounced up to his feet, like this was nothing, just another casual Thursday. “Corey, I don’t know what the fuck you did to deserve this thing, but if it’s attached to you for some reason, I absolutely refuse to get rid of it. Just, enjoy your luck my friend. You’re in for a good one.”

“A good what?” Corey asked.

“Life, I’m guessing,” Neal said, thumping his shoulder.

Corey stared at him. “Who was it?”

“No one. That’s not how they work. My guess is someone lived a really good life in that apartment building you fell off, and their energy attracted more good energy, and it snowballed from there.” Neal shrugged. “It’s some serious good vibes, though Corey. I recommend you learn how to let some of that in, cuz just a little of that juice will put you in a good place. Shiloh just stood in the shallows, and look at her. She’s totally bonked.”

I was. Absolutely blank-brained. Too overwhelmed to even be blissed out, I was just all-out short circuiting.

Corey nodded.

Neal mussed his hair. “You can spend the night here,” he said. “We’ll make your it-was-a-hoax video tomorrow. Hopefully get those weirdos off your lawn.”

And that’s exactly what we did. To be honest, all of that is sorta blurry because I was literally in a fucking DAZE for like 12 hours after my first grounding experience. It wasn’t until literally 24 hours later, in the car back up the coast, that I finally came down.

I don’t know what to say to Neal hahahahahaha. I’ve seen him clear hauntings. But listen, I didn’t know what he actually DID!!!! That spook went in a rush of chaotic, frantic wildness, and it came back out… I mean it came out clear as a ringing bell, and the difference was NEAL HAWTHORNE???? Nope. Doesn’t track. Not chill. I feel like I don’t even know him anymore hahahahahaha. I’m writing this in the car on the way back to Cara so I can avoid having to talk to him.

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