What happens when we die?
Is there an afterlife? Yes, yes there is. And I discovered this during my brief time as a tour guide in Philadelphia.
I live in a small bedroom in a three-story house in Springfield, just down the road a bit from where I used to work. The room has a bed and a closet, a TV and a couple of tables. I share a bathroom on the second floor with a housemate named Max, nice enough guy, and I share a kitchen with five other people. Lucky for me I don’t cook much.
Before I moved here I lived in an apartment around three years ago this month. It wasn’t much better than this. But I had my own bathroom and I was outside of Media, Pennsylvania. Media is a nearby town with a lot of shops in walking distance. The rent at my old place had been affordable for a time.
By day I worked at an office in Collingdale, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. I was in sales, and I use the word sales very loosely. It really depends on which client we answered the phone for but it was usually some piece of shit product that airs on an infomercial at 3am. Or, I marketed simple As Seen on TV crap, the gimmicky stuff that airs on those old, late 80s to early 90s-formatted commercials that run on daytime television. If that isn’t degrading enough, I also sold magazine subscriptions, car warranties, and whatever else we could trick some poor sap into spending good, hard-earned money on. It’s a terrible job for people like me who never wanted too much out of life.
And somehow, some way, me wanting to simply eat and watch TV every day was apparently too much for my then landlord and not enough for my then employer.
I had wifi then, so I watched a Roku box that I bought and I rode to work on this awesome, two-stroke, gas-powered bicycle. That little beauty was a DelCo special. I paid $300 for it at a back alley garage, I filled the tank twice a week spending about $7 dollars total on gas, and I didn’t need to register it with PennDOT, the cops never ever bothered with me.
As the song goes, I’m a man of means, by no means.
I don’t date. I haven’t had a girlfriend in years, and that’s fine. I might not even be straight for all I know. It doesn’t concern me. I doubt anyone would have me anyway. I barely existed as it is, and my only forms of entertainment were my TV, Laptop, and my Xbox 360. I never really felt the need to upgrade to a PS4 or anything…isn’t there a PS5 now? Even so, I got hit with a double-whammy a few years ago. First, my sales were down for two straight months so I wasn’t banging as many commissions through. This in itself wouldn’t be bad, after all I had a savings account, but I just wasn’t feeling it at work. I couldn’t close anymore. I was in a funk. And then I got called into my manager’s office one Monday.
Matt, you’ve got two weeks to close five calls, or you’re out.
The timing on my dramatic rent increase couldn’t have been better.
It doesn’t seem right, and it probably wasn’t. But the owner of the house wanted to sell the place and as such he jacked the rent on my place for the next year right as my lease was due for renewal. The new rent was double the old rent, as a matter of fact. I was panicking at that point, and I had to find a second job that could either supplement my income or transition into my first job.
It was actually becoming difficult to find a second job in the greater Philadelphia area, at least for someone who doesn’t have a car, or ambition. I thought about delivering food on my bike but I had problems with Doordash early on. I didn’t want to work at a restaurant because I’ve worked at restaurants and they suck to work at. Then one day in particular and interesting Craigslist post caught my eye.
Looking for something…Spooktacular?
HauntedPhilly is currently searching for our next tour guide! October is naturally our busiest season so we’re training early. Are you good at talking to people? Can you remember a basic script? Each tour pays $30 dollars for an hour, plus tips! Tours are nightly and the schedule is somewhat flexible. If you think you’re our next tour guide send an email to the CL relay!
I’d never thought about being a tour guide before. I stared at the ad for a few moments and took a good, hard look at myself internally. Maybe I have been in a bit of a rut for a while, and my life could stand some excitement, I thought to myself. Plus, I’d get to see the city! Maybe I would meet some fun people and find a way to get more out of life, after all. I wasn’t looking for anything special out of the job, but if it came along I wouldn’t say no.
Maybe this simple little tour guide gig could help me figure stuff out.
The more I thought about it the more I loved the idea. I’d be walking about a mile and a half through Old City when I had a tour and I could use the cardio. I’d eaten nothing but fast food the past six years and I was horribly out of shape and overweight. I thought about joining a Planet Fitness but I had to cut back until hopefully, this new job got things going. And the tips were just a bonus! I sent them an email with my resume and a cover letter that went over how good I was at talking to people and how excited I would be to get started.
I was desperate, and I was scared. But at least I was determined.
I’d never seen a ghost up to that point, but my mind was open and I wanted to believe.
I just thought it would be a fun, simple job where I could exert very little effort and if I faked it hard enough, I would make good money in tips. I wanted to believe, I really did. Maybe I’d see a ghost at this job. I figured it could make the thought of the afterlife fun for me. God knows I wasn’t having fun in this life. I did believe in my sales skills, or what was left of them, and that they could translate into good money for a couple of hours work a night and some bigger tips.
No sales quotas, no Sword of Damocles hanging over my head.
It beats working for Doordash, right?
I followed the link to the company and sent them an email. Later that night, about one in the morning, a response got back to me and it asked me where I was from and if I could work the entirety of October. I mentioned Philly and at the time they only had one other tour guide. I had to film two auditions of myself based on scripts they sent me.
That was fun, too! I got to pretend that the Zac’s Hamburger stand near my place was some haunted house in Washington DC, and the park down in Darby was Gettysburg. Nevertheless, I got my auditions done and they loved them. They sent me on-boarding paperwork and booked me for a tour in Old City Philadelphia so I shadow the guide. A tour script is like a sales pitch for the most part. The key to not sounding like I’m reading off of a paper is to stick with the bullet points in memorizing the script and allowing myself to improv when I need it.
I was booked to shadow a Sunday night tour in August about two weeks before my start date. The guide’s name was Arthur. It was an okay tour, but the scripts and the company’s goal made it out to be more than it actually was. I thought we were going to have investigations like I used to see on TV when I was in high school. Arthur led us on a walking tour, a historical walking tour for that matter, that lasted about an hour and didn’t take us inside of any of these supposed haunted buildings. We just walked around the 3rd to 5th street sections, around Market and Walnut, and got a history lesson on some old Philly buildings.
All the while, Arthur did his best. He wore his company t-shirt, the same kind that I had received in the mail, and he held a lantern, the same kind I still had to buy from Amazon. We went through 12 stops apparently because of me. The company gave me the extended tour, free of charge, which included an additional four stops.
And to be honest the tour was exciting except for one stop. One of the counted stops, one that I myself had to learn, was the Liberty Bell. The Liberty Bell isn’t even rumored to be haunted! We did it because it’s a big tourist trap in the city and every other tour agency does the Liberty Bell, so we tried to sell people on how it may be cursed. What is probably worse is that there’s no bathroom on the entire tour.
We had started in Washington Square and ended up at St. Peter’s cemetery. It turns out that before it was a park, Washington Square was actually a potters field, a mass graveyard for the poor. Conditions were awful in potter’s fields. Some poor souls were lucky to get a coffin, a grave marker, or even their own grave. Many were just tossed into mass graves and left for the Earth to reclaim. I had chills for most of the night. I got a lot of feelings outside of the home of former Bishop William White as well as the First Bank of the United States.
I felt something in Washington Square, too. My first supernatural feeling came right there on the first stop of my first tour.
I had this uneasy feeling of being watched. And when we walked, when we crossed towards Independence Square on the way to Independence Hall, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being followed even though there were others with me.
That’s something I felt that night, besides the desperate need to go to the bathroom.
“And we conclude our tour in Saint Peter’s Cemetery,” Arthur bellowed with a grandiose flair. “It’s said that this graveyard is haunted by the likes of five native spirits, an African American slave, and even a headless horse rides on nights of a full moon in this landmark. This is one of the most haunted spots on our tour, so take all of the pictures and audio you need before I walk us back to Washington Square. Are there any questions for me?”
Three people were on this tour including myself. It was only September, though. A middle-aged woman next to me and there with her husband raised her hand.
“Yes?” Arthur asked.
“Have you ever seen a ghost in one of these places?” she replied.
He scratched his chin and weighed his answer for a moment.
“Me personally, no,” Arthur replied. “But I haven’t really looked, to be fair. I get a lot of guests who bring their own little ghost hunting equipment or rent ours. Often they pick things up be it on camera or in audio recordings.
“Which is the most haunted stop on the tour, according to them?” she followed up.
“They get results at The US Bank Building, Bishop White’s House, right here at Saint Peter’s church, and even in Washington Square, where we started,” Arthur replied with a devilish smile. “And I get return guests all the time that show me photos of orbs and apparitions in this little graveyard and the park.”
The woman appeared satisfied.
“Now,” Arthur began. “If there are no more questions, I’m not allowed to demand tips from any of you however I am allowed to strongly imply that I would like them! I take cash and Venmo.”
The other three laughed and gave him ten dollars each. Damn, $60 dollars for an hour of work I thought as I dug in and pulled a five out of my pocket.
We walked back to Washington Square and Arthur conversed with the other guests until we reached the park.
The other three said goodbye to Arthur as I stayed to ask about the route.
“Matt, right?” he asked. “How was it?”
“It was fun,” I said. I was trying to make a good impression as I figured he had some clout. “I liked the Bishop’s house the best. Is that a normal-sized group?”
“Yup,” he said. “At least until we really get going in October. That’s when the tips really come in.”
“Cool,” I said to him. “I know you were asked if you ever saw a ghost on the tour. Is any of this stuff really haunted in your opinion?” I felt kind of stupid for asking.
He laughed and shrugged.
“I doubt it,” he replied. “I’ve done this for two years now and I’ve never seen anything. Just show up and act spooky or funny and you’ll do fine. There is this app you can download on your phone, however, if you really want to get them into it.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket and pressed an app button on the main screen.
“It’s called Ghost Sense,” he told me as he showed me his phone. “I’m not really sure if it works right or not. What it’s supposed to do is create high-sensitivity white noise which doubles as a spirit box. Do you know what a spirit box is or how it works, Matt?”
I shook my head no, with my gaze still fixed to his phone screen.
He turned it on and his phone made an odd sound as a bunch of frequency’s cycled rapidly on the app. It was a quick and repetitive sound of white noise.
“So, all this is,” he started again. “It’s a quick-frequency radio tuner. That’s it. These things cost about $90 dollars in online ghosts stores but your phone will do it for free.”
As the radio tuner in the app cycled, I asked a question out loud to Arthur.
“Well,” I started. “How do you know it works?”
And at that question, the tuner stopped cycling, there was static, and a voice came through because of course it did!
*crackle* I’m here now *crackle*
And suddenly, Arthur shut up and stared at the phone, which went back to cycling through frequencies.
“Huh,” he simply said, puzzled. “That’s…that’s never done that before,” was all he could reply.
Arthur reached into his pocket and grabbed a small device. It looked like a yellow gun. He turned it on and started waving it around in the air.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s an infrared temperature detector,” he replied, checking the LED screen. “It’s supposed to measure changes in temperature and how quickly they rise or fall.”
He gave it a few minutes, and then put it down.
“Must have been interference,” he said. He stuck it out and handed it to me. “Here, you keep it.”
“Wait, really?” I asked, excitedly. “How does it work?”
“Yeah, they’re cheap on Amazon. I’ll get another one,” he said to me. “Basically, the temperature will rise and fall dramatically, and if it’s too dramatic, it’ll play a tone. The tone tells you that a ghost is nearby.”
“Awesome,” I said back. “Thanks so much, Arthur!”
He waved me off.
“Think nothing of it,” he said. “Enjoy! Welcome to the team and good luck with the tours!”
I said goodnight to Arthur and walked to the bus stop off seventh street. As I left the park, the temperature gun started to beep wildly in my pocket. I had forgotten to turn it off. Even though it was a balmy 80 degrees in Washington Square park the display was reading cold. I looked around but didn’t see anything, so I put the temperature gun away. I swear I heard laughing behind me that night. But nothing was behind me by the time I got on the SEPTA bus.
After that I got my on-boarding paperwork, schedule, and my first bookings. I spent the week studying the route and hitting on bullet points, and I tried to fashion myself a character but with little luck. I figured I would just go out and do the tours as I would approach any call on the phone and build on it from there. At worst, I could just copy Arthur.
My first tour was in September and I took 12 people through Old City. The tips were amazing! The following week went well and things were looking great. I started hunting for apartments, both in nearby DelCo and in the city.
My productivity at my day job picked up as well. I closed three the first week of my performance ultimatum and I was back in the fight!
Then I got fired from my day job.
They gave me a bullshit, completely out of left field reason. It was something about me stealing time on the clock or whatever. It didn’t matter much at that point, but now I had to depend on the tour guide gig a bit more.
Naturally the crowds got smaller and smaller and the tips got worse and worse. I had to be out of my apartment by the end of October and I couldn’t seem to find another day job in the area. What’s worse the tour company hadn’t paid me yet. I wasn’t sleeping well, if at all, and every other night this tour was a mile and a half walk. I was rationing food to get by while I hoped something would break.
Until that point we hadn’t actually experienced anything supernatural on one of my tours. I tried using equipment, I’d even downloaded the spirit box app on my phone. I tried using the temperature gauge that Arthur gave me but it never beeped one time. Not only was it a letdown for me, I convinced myself that the lack of anything spooky occurring was causing my dwindling tour numbers and subsequent tips. I also got two or three bad reviews on Tripadvisor which wasn’t helping things.
One of my tours had three people on it and was just a mess. They hated me, and when I got back to Washington Square Park that night, sans-tip, I unloaded on whatever spirits may exist in the old potter’s field.
I turned on the spirit box and and the thermometer and I danced around the park with one in each hand, yelling at the place. I was begging something, anything, to make its presence known. People were staring at me as they walked their dogs but I didn’t care. I was getting fed up with the tours, my landlord, and my life in general.
“Well,” I yelled to no one in particular. “Are you going to say anything or not? I’ve been doing this for weeks and pretty soon I might end up joining you if things keep going the way they’re going for me!”
Nothing. I moved back to the tomb of the unknown soldier.
“Come on then,” I yelled out again. “Who’s here? There’s three-to-five hundred people in this hole, right? One of you can talk to me!”
Still nothing, so I ran towards seventh street.
“I’m asking,” I started, then I back pedaled. “No, I’m demanding that you make your presence known to me right now!”
And then, the thermometer beeped.
I looked down at it and sure enough, the temperature was dropping. The spirit box stopped cycling, and a voice came through. It was a deep, throaty voice.
What do you want to know?
I just stared down at my phone. The FM cycle started again. I turned the thermometer gun off and shoved it into my pocket. I looked at my phone, which just kept cycling.
“Hello?” I asked it, but no voice came through this time.
I turned the app off and put the phone back in my other pocket, and then I ran from Washington Square to catch a SEPTA bus.
And as I left the park, I swear I heard that laughter again.
Something broke near the end of September, during my last tour as a matter of fact.
I stood in Washington Square by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and its mighty eternal flame, waiting for my group. It was only a four spot but I was early, nevertheless. It was my first tour after that bad showing which led me to freak out in the park and finally get a response on the spirit box. I had a notebook and my backpack with me and I used my tour lantern to try and write out a budget while sitting on a bench in the square. After that I checked Craigslist on my phone to try and find a job to shoot my resume to. With what time I had left in waiting for the group of four, two parties of two, I looked for rooms for rent in the city.
That’s right, I downgraded my search from apartments to rooms. I was willing to give up having a bathroom for the sake of staying alive with a roof over my head.
The first group of two, a young couple, arrived and walked up to the lantern. Their names were Melanie and Dillon, respectively. They were followed by an older couple. His name was Caleb*,* and her name was Cecilia. A child, whose age must’ve been ten or eleven, showed up behind the older couple. The company hated that, when a group snuck an extra person or two into the tour group under the guise of the website failing during signup or not understanding the signup form, or a litany of other excuses these people usually had. I was supposed to make a stink about it or something with the couple, but I figured I had a better chance at tip money if I pretended the kid was supposed to be there.
“Okay everyone,” I started, doing my best to feign enthusiasm under pressure. “I’ve got Melanie for two?”
And Melanie nodded.
“And,” I looked at the roster on my phone. “I’ve got Caleb for…three?”
“Yes,” the kid yelled out.
“Uh, yeah,” Caleb responded soon after. He gave a look to Cecilia and she gave him a look back.
He was a funny-looking kid, kind of tall for his age and very skinny, lanky even. He had this goofy, curly red hair under an Eagles baseball cap. It was the old logo and colors though, Kelly green. He must be wearing the throwback I thought to myself. Otherwise he worse these funky, neon green shorts that didn’t quite fit him and a Ghostbusters t-shirt.
He looked at me with this big, goofy smile. I tried to smile back but I felt uncomfortable.
I checked in the families on the app and started my routine. I opened by talking about Eastern State, the Philadelphia Experiment, and even the sports curse that plagued all the teams in the city. I talked about the nearby Jersey Devil and Pennhurst Asylum, and then I introduced them to the first graveyard on our tour, Washington Square Park and how it was a potter’s field. I mentioned all the bodies buried there and the deaths that took place. I talked about Leah Carpenter and the ghost of the soldier and how he followed those park denizens who stayed after dark.
“Boring,” the kid said, right in front of me. “That’s not scary at all!”
He rattled me a little bit, but I’m DelCo, remember? I can handle a little heckling.
“Fair enough,” I started. They all gave me a look as I pulled my temp gun and my phone from my pocket.
“What are those?” Dillon asked.
I held up the temperature gun and my phone.
“Well,” I said sheepishly. “The object in my left hand is my phone. But there’s an app on it that I’m going to use to have a small little seance for us.”
And I turned on the spirit box app. It began to cycle through radio stations and I put it down on a bench near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“And this,” I said, holding up the temperature gun. “Is a laser thermometer. Its goal is to let us know when we have a hot spot or a cold spot.”
And I pulled the trigger and after a moment, off went a beep.
The temperature had dropped four degrees out of nowhere.
I stared at the temperature gun for a moment until Cecilia broke my train of thought.
“What’s it doing?” she asked, but I didn’t register the question for a second.
And then something came over the spirit box.
*crackle* I’m here *crackle*
“Oh hell,” Dillon said.
“Did you hear that?” Caleb replied.
‘Well,” I responded. “Let’s continue our journey, shall we?”
I walked us down to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and I tried to be coy about things. I didn’t want to let on that I was now terrified. I especially didn’t want that kid to know it. The tour continued. I went over the ghosts of Benjamin Franklin and Benedict Arnold. I covered the alleged curse of the bell even though I didn’t want to.
The other four were really into it, and I was hoping for a good tip night, but that kid…that kid wasn’t giving me anything. It didn’t matter that the temperature gun was still beeping like it was transmitting morse code.
“Boring,” he kept saying. Thankfully the other four didn’t give him any attention, and normally I wouldn’t have cared. But my ass was really in the fire and I needed this tour to go well.
By the time we got to the Bishop White house I brought out the big guns again. I turned on the thermometer and the spirit box app. I placed them both down on the bishop’s doorstep but as I spoke about him, only the thermometer went off. Nothing came through the box.
I could see them losing interest, damn that kid.
“Is it possible,” Cecilia asked. “That the bishop may have caused, at least partly, the yellow fever epidemic?”
I nodded. I hadn’t thought about that before.
“As a matter of fact,” I replied. “That may be true. The bishop himself hasn’t ever told me, but it’s a possibility.”
That got a laugh out of them, thank God.
“When do we see any ghosts?”
That voice was that damn kid again. I didn’t even know his name, the little shit. But when I looked at the group, the kid wasn’t there.
My head darted around trying to find him nearby somewhere past the group.
Shit! When did he run, when did he get by me?
I looked over at Caleb and Cecilia but they didn’t seem to notice him gone either. How did their own son get past them?
And then I looked to the side garden of the bishop’s house and there he was, looking out from behind a hedge, giving me that mocking, shit-eating grin.
“Um,” I heard Melanie say. “Are we going to move on to Old Saint Josephs?”
“Yeah Yeah,” I shot back, dismissing her as I moved toward the bishop’s house. I made it to the hedge but now the little prick was in the backyard, running towards the house.
“Hey,” I heard from the street. It was Dillon. “Where are you going? You can’t go back there!”
And as I looked around the backyard I found the kid. He was walking into the Bishop White house through the back door! I ran to catch up with him. By the time I reached the rear porch I couldn’t hear their voices from Walnut street anymore. It was like I was in a wind tunnel. This…sickly green light got brighter as I stepped closer to the house. I heard voices then in my ear as clear as day, but none of them were from my tour group.
I went inside the home of bishop William White.
A couple of national park employees found me the next morning.
They said I was in the bed of Mary Harrison, the Bishop’s wife. Mary had died years before the bishop and he had their bedroom closed off. Bishop White refused to sleep in their bedroom and locked it, sleeping in the study until his own death in 1836. They wouldn’t have bothered looking for me but I had been reported missing by the tour group, bless their hearts. Police helped the national park employees find me. One of them said that they heard wild laughter coming from Mary’s bedroom and they kicked the door in.
I wasn’t laughing though. According to the parks employee I sat at the edge of the bed, eyes wide open, muttering to myself about the bishop’s children and the 1793 yellow fever epidemic that gripped the city. I was rushed to Jefferson Hospital down town and kept for three days in the psych ward, that was until I started making sense again. That’s according to the doctors by the way. I still don’t remember the first three days in the hospital. My memory jumped from walking into the house to waking up in a hospital bed one day, hearing stuff in my ears and seeing shadows dart across my hospital room.
They had given me my phone and when I checked the date I nearly broke down again. Four days, four days of my life, they were just gone and lost forever.
They kept me until I could remember the night in the house. The cops kept questioning me as they wanted to charge me for trespassing on city property and blah blah blah. It was looking bad for me, damn cops. Lucky for me, the park services employee who found me knew just how haunted the building was and so did her supervisor. They knew that no one in their right mind would ever spend the night in that house and didn’t seek to press any charges.
That was on one condition, though. When my memories came back I had to tell the park employees what happened.
I guessed at the time that it was a fair trade. I think I’d rather be in county lockup than the halfway house I now live at. At least I’d get my own toilet.
But, a lot of people wanted to know what I saw, and what I heard. So, here it goes.
I walked into the home of Bishop William White, into the green light.
It was like my spirit box was on, but it wasn’t, and the sound was all around me. Different voices of different pitch, tone, volume, and everything were all talking to me at once, and they said incoherent, monosyllabic phrases. Occasionally I heard my name, and I heard specific words like death, time, lost and other stuff I can’t quite remember, but mostly my ears were just filling with gibberish.
I ended up in the kitchen, where Mr. Boogs or his ghost was cooking nothing in a skillet over a stove that didn’t exist anymore. I shouted for the kid, fully realizing I’d never learned his name at that point, as I made my way through the unhealthy green light to the stairs and the second floor.
Every door in the hall was open on the second floor except for one. Those voices swirling around me overpowered me now, but I pressed on. I called out Kid! Where are you, kid?! But I didn’t hear anything from that kid in particular. I looked in all the bedrooms and I saw…people.
They were the five children of the bishop. They all laid in their beds, grey, eyes open, and staring at the ceiling. Their lips were blue. I went into a bedroom and looked at one of the daughters. Blood trickled out of her mouth as she coughed and sputtered out help me, it hurts with a labored breath before she sighed and became still.
The others moaned in pain from their bedrooms. Some of them had shit the bed and the smell was ungodly. I pressed on to the third floor, all the while checking for the kid.
There was no one on this floor, not until I made it to the study.
And there he was. Doctor, Reverend, Bishop William White, standing in his study, bedding on the floor, staring out of the third floor window. The voices around me went quiet, and I approached him. He was tall and gaunt, a pale grey, with a long, white beard from years of isolation. He was a specter in the sickly green light.
When I got within seven feet of the bishop and he spoke to me.
What do you want to know?
He never looked at me, he just asked the same thing I heard in the box that night in the square.
So I asked him everything I could.
For starters, he doesn’t know what happens when we die. He only knew what happened when he died. He’s been staring out that window since 1836. People come and go behind him every single day that work in the home but they rarely, if ever, do they see him. Often people in the street will see the bishop looking out of the window, but he never sees them either. He can’t. The only thing he can see on that street is everything that happened on July 17th, 1836.
And he lives that day over and over again, every single day, and has for over 180 years now.
He used to see his children writhing in the beds like I did. He used to see Mary too, which was why he closed the bedroom off. He was in tune with that when he was alive. Now, the bishop can’t see them. All he can do is stare out the window as he did the day of his death.
He can still think, so he spends his time reflecting. The bishop can’t find peace because he does feel responsible for the yellow fever outbreak in 1793. He does feel responsible for the deaths of his children, whether or not he caused it inadvertently. He wonders how his wife is doing. He feels guilty that he lived so many years after they all died.
He didn’t know how or when I was going to die. As he is stuck in time, he has no concept of it.
But ghosts do exist.
I couldn’t think of anything else to ask him and I walked down the stairs to hunt for the kid. When I got to the second floor, the door to their bedroom was now open. The door to Mary’s room.
I had to know. I had to know what was in there. What if the kid was in there?
I walked into the bedroom and there she was, sitting on the edge of it, staring forward at the door frame. Her eyes were blank, she wore no expression.
“M…Mary?” I remember stammering out as something drew me inward.
But no response, not until I looked at her face.
She smiled, and her eyes began to bleed tears.
And then her smile contorted into something wicked.
And the smell overpowered me, the smell of sick, the smell of death, and I backpedaled again but the door to the bedroom slammed shut.
I was trapped.
She was off the bed now, grinning at me, floating towards me. The blood flowed so quickly from her eyes that they melted from the sockets and then she was this unearthly thing with two holes in her face and a ghastly grin.
And as she bore down on me, I screamed and passed out.
And then the parks people found me and I was taken to the hospital.
The cops later told me that the kid I was talking about didn’t exist, of course. Well, no one else in the tour group saw him anyway and they all thought I was doing a routine as part of the theatrics of the tour. Funny enough that last tour also had my highest reviews to date.
They still don’t think I’m all there mentally, and now I live in the halfway house in DelCo. It sucks, but Max is a hell of a neighbor, at least. And I don’t have to worry about money anymore, so that’s a plus. I’m back to normal, I have more mental clarity than I ever have, but they still think I’m crazy.
The doctors, the psychologists, even my own roommates just can’t see them, not like I do. No one can see them like I do.
But they’re everywhere.
I still see that damn kid from time to time, little pain in the ass. He never answers my questions so I still don’t know who he is or why he was there that night. I just know that he can go anywhere, it seems.
And when I don’t see him, I still hear him talking to me.
That is, when the others aren’t talking to me over him. It’s all a muddled mess.
It’s about time for me to sleep now. I stay up for days on end until I’m exhausted. I guess the insomnia keeps my medicaid coming as it gives me the illusion of insanity.
But I can’t sleep.
Because when I lay down, they’re there. They’re in my room. They’re always hanging around.
Max can’t see them, no one can, but they’re there.
They’re here, watching me, and speaking their nonsense, and grinning those damned grins.
And they’ll be here until I die, and I become one of them.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
For Amy. Rest In Peace Mew. I hope you’re free. I’ll see you again some day.