15 Nov “Raymond’s Will”
Written by Benjamin James
Hello. My name is Raymond Daws. This recording should be considered my last will and testament. It is intended for whomever takes possession of this house at 12874 N. Pryor Road. After setting aside some money for family and other concerns, I should have approximately three hundred thousand dollars left to my name, give or take, depending on how much longer I live, I suppose. That should be about three times the appraised value of the house and it will be given to you, once certain services have been rendered. The law firm of Little and Dobbs in town will have documents confirming this arrangement. So that you understand how vital it is that this request is honored and executed faithfully, I need to explain some things.
There’s nothing particularly special about me. I’m just a middle-aged guy. However, I have never been what you’d call a “people person”. It’s not that I dislike other people, for the most part, it’s that I just don’t identify with others very easily. As a kid, I didn’t get excited about the things the other kids did. I didn’t have fun the same way that they did. And now, as an adult, I still don’t understand why people care about most of the things that people care about. I find small talk annoying, which invariably makes me come off mean or grumpy. I’ve kind of always been a grumpy old man, really, even before I started getting old. But like any grumpy old man, I also got lonely when everyone did what I asked and left me alone.
Surprisingly (or maybe not), I’ve always been a staunch believer in the supernatural, ghosts in particular. There was never a time when I didn’t believe, and these paranormal encounters have always met the majority of my companionship needs. I don’t feel one way or the other about all the God-and-Satan drivel, but when it comes to ghosts, I have no doubts whatsoever. I grew up catching glimpses of them, or hearing them just around a corner. I used to think that it was my blind faith that allowed me to perceive them where other people didn’t, but to be honest that was probably just delusion. I think everyone catches a glimpse from time to time, but for non-believers those glimpses get explained away or ignored and forgotten. Not so for me. Having the opportunity to witness the dead and trying to interact with them has been my very favorite part of being alive.
That’s where this house comes in. It was around the time that I started making some real money at my boring accounting firm that I also started to give up on the idea of traditional family life. As you may have guessed, I have never been good at dating. Eventually, I started looking for a house just for me. Before long, a realtor led me here, and I fell in love with it immediately. I loved the things about it that would turn most people off. I loved how it’s out in the middle of nowhere. I loved that it hadn’t been occupied for decades, as the last resident died during World War Two. It was well-built and still in good condition, though there was a thick layer of dust and cobwebs everywhere. It was fantastic.
The best part about the place was Mary. She was the woman who died here, and the place resonated with her. I felt her presence the first time the realtor ushered me in the front door, and I’ve felt it ever since. I was amazed and enchanted by how consistent she was. Spirits are fleeting, in my experience, gone almost before you know they’re there. Not so here, with Mary. Even when I couldn’t see or hear her, it was like the house itself was somehow . . . overwhelmingly content.
I quickly began researching her life and I was fascinated. Mary Erikkson was a young woman who married her high school sweetheart, Bill, as so many did back then. They were madly in love. Bill built the house for Mary himself in anticipation of their wedding day. They moved in that night, preferring to honeymoon in their dream home. They’d lived here blissfully for eight months when Bill was drafted by the Navy and called away to war.
Tragically, Mary died unexpectedly in her sleep only a few months after Bill shipped out, though it’s believed that it happened peacefully. She was found tucked into bed with a letter from Bill in her hand and a small, tranquil smile on her lips. The suspected cause was an undetected heart defect. In a strange way, it was a blessing. Only two weeks later, before he could possibly have received news of her death, Bill’s ship was blown to kingdom come in the South Pacific. He died instantly. So, they both died believing that the best was yet to come, knowing they just had to hold on for awhile and then they’d be together and happy once again, forever.
And I think that’s the best feeling, really, when you know something wonderful is coming and you only have to wait for it. Once it arrives, you might begin to find flaws with it, or get bored and take it for granted. But when it’s on its way? It’s still this perfect thing. That’s how Mary felt when she died, and all these years later, it was like time had stopped for her and she maintained that wonderful feeling. She could be a little somber sometimes, as people get when the one they love is away, but mostly, when I spotted her reading a book or looking out the window, she just seemed content to wait. I heard her singing faintly or playing a song on the piano sometimes, and I could tell that the song itself was a memory. It brought him back to her. I envied them that but it was a happy-envy, if that makes sense.
It occurred to me that I probably would not have enjoyed her company nearly as much if she was alive, if she were anything like most of the living. As a ghost, though, she was the perfect companion. She never asked me for anything, I didn’t have to make small talk, she was just there and she kept my loneliness at bay.
When I bought the place, I set about restoring it to its former glory. I made a point of sticking with the original décor as much as possible, cleaning and polishing and reinforcing as needed, never actually replacing anything if I could avoid it. I got the piano tuned. I could swear I felt her approval when I did these things. In all honesty, it was the best relationship I could have hoped for.
Mary and I coexisted in our refurbished home for three happy years. Then, something terrible happened to a dear member of my family, my oldest niece. Was done to her, actually. I was unaware until our next family get-together, though I knew that she’d had a brief stay in the hospital. I could tell that something was very wrong. She was emotional, tense, and jumpy – not at all like her usual self. She made it clear that she didn’t want to talk about whatever it was, but I felt compelled to find out. I’ve watched her grow into a lovely young woman, and while I’m unable to have a traditionally close relationship with her, I care for her deeply. If there was anything I could do to remove this cloud from over her head, I was damned well going to do it. So, I made quiet inquiries with her closest friends. Before long I had a good enough idea what happened and exactly who was responsible. Guy named Steve. Steven Miller.
At that point I was unsure as to what to do with this information. I’ve never been what you would call a man of action, never even got in any fights, unless you count a minor scuffle in grade school. Never messed around with the law and I had no desire to. But I knew that I would never feel right doing nothing. At the same time, I’ve never been quick to judge people, even if I believe they’ve done something terrible. Decent people hurt each other and then regret it enough to never do it again. A schizophrenic can break from reality and kill his best friend. Alcoholics do things that would shame them forever, then they don’t even remember the next day. Given the abhorrent nature of Steve’s attack on my niece, however, it seemed unlikely that he would be repentant. I needed to know for sure, though.
I found out where he liked to hang out, dressed myself down a little to fit Steve’s hole-in-the-wall bar scene, and I went fishing. In retrospect, it seems really stupid. Like, there are so many different bad endings to that plan. But it actually worked, somehow. I got to know him kinda like the way you’d get to know a cat. I bellied up to the bar a couple stools down from the dickwad, ordered a beer, then sat and pretended to watch the game, waiting for him to do something, anything at all. Eventually he said something stupid, so I replied with something stupid, and we were off to the races.
A few beers later, we were sitting side by side, and I was comfortable enough to tell him my “stories”. I’d thought up a couple of fake exploits that were basically about me being a piece of shit to women. I made them vague enough to not be disprovable, but with a few specific details to make them convincing. The idea was to see how he would react to someone bragging about stuff like that, and he did not disappoint. He smiled—I guess you could call it a smile, though it was more of a stupid smirk—and then he one-upped me. Several times. I could tell that his stories were the real deal, and probably only the tip of the iceberg. It was like being a terrible person was his playground [job?]. As he drunkenly regaled me with his loathsome stories, my uncertainty vanished. I felt nausea squirming in my gut, and the coldest rage of my life. He had no remorse. He would continue to do these things as long as the world allowed it.
I realized my façade was beginning to crack. I wasn’t ready for that, so I made an excuse and said goodnight. As I drove home, I knew that I was going to murder him. I’m guessing a lot of people who know me, or who think they know me, would be shocked by that. The truth is I had no qualms about it at all. My only concern was being caught, and I was certain I had the perfect plan to ensure that didn’t happen.
In less than a week I was ready. I made several more mercifully-brief visits to the bar and yukked it up with Steve. He displayed more disgusting behavior and ate up my fawning-deference act like it was slop-time at the hog farm. I felt ill and mentally drained every time, but I knew that I’d gained his trust. Steve loved having a sidekick.
I had a pre-dug a hole in my backyard and a tarp laid across my kitchen floor. I put up some fresh paint and left a few tools out so the tarp wouldn’t seem out of place. Then I met up with Steve. He was already half in-the-bag. Excellent. I told him I was hosting a pregame party and invited him out to help me set up some elaborate drinking games to impress all the hot girls who’d be attending. “I don’t hafta impress girls,” he slurred, but he followed me out of the bar anyway. When we got to my place in our separate vehicles, I invited him in and he followed me into the kitchen. I got him a beer from the fridge. He popped the top and took a long gulp. I pulled my .22 caliber pistol out of my waistband and shot him twice in the chest.
At first he only registered shock. I shouted that this was retribution for what he’d done to my family and all the other women. Then he turned to me, enraged. He threw the beer can aside and rushed me. His hands were at my throat and he slammed me against the fridge. I pushed the gun directly against his chest and shot him again. He was much larger than me and the rage made him inhumanly strong as he crushed my windpipe. For a moment I feared that I’d lose consciousness. Then, thankfully, the blood loss and organ damage overcame him and his hands went slack. He teetered, trying to breathe, and coughed blood in my face. He crashed to the floor, but his expression did not change. I stood there, gasping and gagging, waiting for him to die. It took a long time. I kept expecting him to become fearful or something as it became clear that he was going to die, but he never did. He glared at me from the floor and clenched his hands, choking snarls escaping from his bloodied mouth, flailing uselessly at my feet. Finally, his body stilled.
Honestly, it seemed like it had all worked out as well as I could’ve hoped. I wrangled his cooling body onto the tarp and wrapped him up as neatly as I could. I paused at the back door to listen for anyone coming down the gravel road just in case. Hearing nothing, I dragged him out to the hole, threw him in and packed the loose dirt back on top. I changed into workout clothes, drove his car into Wilson’s Lake and jogged the mile-and-a-half back home. Throughout the ordeal, I never saw another soul.
I scoured the kitchen late into the night – Steve had managed to leak all over the place, despite the tarp. It was after midnight when I heard the sound of Mary’s footsteps. They were her steps to be sure, but not like I had ever heard them before. It made me shiver even before I could make any sense of it; they were running, running frantically. A piercing sob ripped through the house. She was terrified.
Then I heard heavy footsteps. Deliberate and getting heavier with each step, following her down the upstairs hallway. The last step hit like a sledgehammer and she screamed unlike anything I’ve ever heard. And then there was silence. I stood in the kitchen, frozen in a cold sweat. After an interminable amount of time, I snapped out of it and crept upstairs. There was nothing there to be seen or heard. I could sense a presence, but it was nothing like the peaceful aura Mary had exuded. It was bad. It was really, really bad. It was a venomous blackness with teeth. I couldn’t stand feeling it all around me in that room another moment and fled.
I did not sleep that night. The next day I called in sick to my mundane job and started looking into anything I could find about paranormal activities. Hauntings, evil spirits, poltergeists, anything that could help me. What had been an idle hobby became full-time, fervent study. The next night I dug up Steve’s body, chained some old dumbbells to him, and threw him into the lake to join his car. But when I got back to the house I knew that the damage had not been undone.
I continued to study with every free moment, incantations and rituals of every kind. I looked up exorcists; they’re not as easy to find these days but there are still a few out there. I persuaded a sympathetic priest to come over. I asked him if he was bound to tell police about someone confessing to a crime. He told me he was obligated to tell them if someone was planning a crime, but if it was already done that he was bound to secrecy. I told him everything that had happened and he asked me if I wanted to ask the Lord’s forgiveness. I told him that I wasn’t sorry for killing him; I was only sorry for doing it here. He seemed taken aback at that, but after a moment of quiet reflection, he said that he was still willing to help me. We prayed together for a lengthy interval and he did all the things he knew to do to eradicate evil and bless my home. He wished me good luck as we parted at the front door, which seemed a little strange coming from a priest, and then he left.
That night I heard Steve again. He was laughing at me, maniacally. It was obvious what he thought about the priest’s efforts. That was fourteen years ago now. I have made no progress. He has delighted in torturing Mary and I every single night since.
Before all this happened, I would hope to see or hear something new from Mary every day. Finding her in a new place, doing something I didn’t know she did was the best feeling. She took such simple joy in everything that she did. It was contagious. In the years since that godforsaken night, I’ve heard a lot of new things, and they have all been nightmare-inducing. He attacks her every night, brutally. I’ve heard her scream a thousand different ways. I’ve seen her stumbling naked down the hall, eyes blackened and blood darkening her long auburn hair. I’ve heard her choking, and miserable wails, and begging.
I feel constant despair. Experiencing this is bad enough, but the fact that I know her misery is on me is unbearable. In my haste to do what I needed to do to avenge the horrific attack on my niece and to stop that monster, I invited the monster into her home. Her sanctuary. And I have trapped her with it.
There is nothing more important to me than a clean conscience and an end to this hell. However, it has become clear to me that what I must do to absolve myself is not something I can do while I’m alive. I can’t be certain that I can do it as a dead man, but it’s my only remaining hope. I don’t have the will to end my own life. I’ve made a few pathetic attempts, but I just couldn’t force myself to follow through. I do seem to be aging more quickly now, though, and that is fine with me. I have taken steps to ensure that whenever I die, however I die, it will be here as I no longer leave. I took early retirement, became a recluse in my home, and cut off regular contact with my family. I never told them what I’d done and don’t want them to ever see me this way. I pray that when I die, I will be able to remain anchored here, and that I will be strong enough to defend her, and to restore the peace that I stole from her.
This is where you come in. I don’t know what state the house will be in when you find it – the “vibe” it’ll emanate. But, if you have an open mind and an open heart, it will not take long for you to perceive it for yourself. If it is, as I hope, a place of peace and contentedness again, then please just take good care of it and enjoy it, or sell it to some happy old couple who can appreciate it as I did once.
If I have failed—if this is still a place of suffering—then I must demand that you burn this house to the ground. Spare nothing. See to it that every timber is ash, and turn the earth up over it. If she cannot exist here in peace then she must be set free to whatever the next stop for her soul will be. I don’t know what that is, but without a doubt it’s better than this tortured existence. I owe her at least that much. In truth, I owe her a great deal more; but if that is the best I can do, then so be it.
For your faithful assistance in this matter, in addition to the monetary rewards, you will have my sincere and eternal gratitude.