• C.A. Lightfoot

Web Serial: Episode Two

Updated: Feb 12

A Dark Attachment

Rating: 16+

Genre: Paranormal, magical realism

Warnings: None

Summary: The events in Virginia haunt Memphis in new ways.




 

Episode Two


In the days following the incident in Virginia, Memphis found herself in an unusual predicament.

Benched.

Though she had grumbled, argued, and even tried persuading, no one would allow her to go on the next investigation. Monroe Paranormal was an institution in the southern part of the United States, started by her great-grandfather in the 40’s. They traveled so far as Alaska in pursuit of evidence, to cleanse homes and help people.

No matter what she said to the team, no one would cross Marisol Monroe. They knew her wrath far too well.

So, while the team trooped toward New Orleans in the summer of 2021, Memphis was stuck at home, reviewing tapes. Typically, this would be left to the four or five interns they took every summer, but her mother had determined some of the evidence captured in Newport News was too delicate to be in the hands of inexperienced co-eds.

Out of the four this year, two remained with Memphis in Dallas. Rick was 24, a graduate of parapsychology from the University of Edinburgh, a trust-fund kid trying to tick off absent parents. Memphis liked him immediately, since Rick had the ears of a bat and the patience of Job.

The other left with her was Sally, a 20 year old junior at the University of North Texas at Denton, majoring in Environmental Science. She had joined the team out of sheer boredom, wanting something to do with her summer that didn’t consist of shopping, tanning, and drinking.

Neither of them bothered her. What bothered Memphis was the audacity of being left behind because the bruises on her throat had yet to heal.

As she approached the building where Monroe Paranormal held their offices, she popped her hip to the side. Her X-Files lanyard swung toward the reader at the side of the door. The little black box buzzed for a moment, then the indicator light lit with green, propping the door open.

Using her foot, Memphis pulled the door open the rest of the way, balancing her bag on her shoulder, the tray of coffee in her hand, and the bagel-bag clenched between her teeth.

The long corridor smelled of apples and spice, the little oil burner that Rick liked already going this early. Though they shared a hallway with a psychologist, he typically used the outer entrances and not the hall. The glass door with “Monroe Paranormal” stamped onto the opaque glass was propped open, the soft sounds of Ruelle drifting out into the hallway.

Memphis allowed herself to smile. They would never leave the door open and play music if Marisol was around. Memphis’ mother ran a tight, leak-proof, ship. When the cat was away, however…

She stepped into the office and breezed through the waiting area. Since it was Sunday, there were not any consultations to handle and Yvonne would be spending time with her family, phones rolled to the answering service.

Sundays were reserved for combing through recordings, transcribing and enhancing video.

To the right of the reception desk and waiting room was her mother’s office, a large room complete with corporate-style table for full team meetings. It was closed today, with the bulk of the team gone.

To the left stood a hallway with smaller offices, storage areas, a little kitchenette and the editing room. The latter is where Memphis headed, opening the unlocked door with her hip since the bulb screwed into the ceiling was lit green.

Music tumbled out of the editing room, where Rick and Sally sat before the bank of screens and rows of buttons, levers, and gauges. Rick spun in his chair at hearing her approach, his bearded face breaking into a cheerful grin.

“Morning, Memphis!” Rick took the coffee she offered with a nod.

Beside him, Sally had her ears covered by her expensive, state-of-the-art headphones. Though she expressed that paranormal investigation ‘wasn’t her thing’, aside from the credits for her degree, she took the job with unusual solemnity.

Memphis allowed Rick to take the bagel bag out of her mouth, then slid her bag onto the floor before she reached for the oat milk latte she’d brought for Sally. When she tapped Sal on the shoulder, the girl glanced up quickly, her jade-green eyes heavily lined with shimmering black.

Without taking the coffee, she spun her chair, yanked the headphones off of her head and slammed them onto Memphis’. Startled, Memphis held the coffee out. Sal took it, set it down and reached for the replay dial.

“Listen to this.” Sally insisted. “I’ve cleaned it up, it’s from the Lowe house in Baltimore last month.”

Confused, Memphis allowed Rick to take the cardboard tray for their drinks from her hands. When he handed her the coffee with her own name, Memphis sat in the chair Sally had just vacated.

The girl was staring at the screen, playing back the video of Montana, Memphis’ older brother, in the house so haunted it had taken them weeks to sort through all of the recordings.

Sally hit play, took her coffee, and stepped back.

Memphis leaned forward, her coffee in hand, watching as Montana tried to speak with the spirit in the house.

“Are you willing to talk to me?” Montana’s deep, rumble of a voice was too loud in her ears. She could hear the ambient noise so clearly in the enhanced audio that it made the hair stick up at the base of her neck. Muscle memory had her hand clenching, as though wrapped around a handheld camera.

Montana sat on the staircase in that beautifully restored Victorian, turning on the spirit box in his hand. The sweeping radio frequencies were too loud, but Memphis closed her eyes, concentrating on listening.

Where…is…she?

A cold shudder chased Memphis’ pulse. She kept her eyes closed.

My…darling.

She opened her eyes, ice in her veins at the familiarity of the sound. Memphis had not been on the case in Baltimore, but with the second team filming for their television segment at Yorkshire hospital in Texas.

My…darling.

The voice said it again, this time with a distinctly demonic growl.

Montana on the screen seemed to not hear anything. His body remained relaxed.

A beat later, though, he jumped up. Memphis knew this part, her family had retold it a dozen times. Montana had been touched by something they could not see, a chilled hand directly on the spine. He’d been filled with dread, Montana said, with panic and fear so stark he almost could not recall his name.

Memphis.

Her name came through the enhanced audio, Montana still screaming. Sally must have lowered his vocals to enhance the whispered growl beneath it.

“Was that…” Memphis did not finish her question, pulling one earpiece away so she could hear.

“It’s the onboard speaker for the camera,” Sally supplied. “Not the Spirit Box.”

Memphis set the coffee down, reaching for the dial to spin the video back.

Memphis.

Stopping playback, Memphis stared at the screen for several seconds. Bile tickled the back of her throat, so she took a deep swallow of too-hot coffee to fight it back down.

As she removed the headphones, Rick spoke in that calm, patient way of his.

“I did an analysis of the vocal pattern from Baltimore with the recordings in Newport News.” Rick clutched the cup in his hand. “It’s exactly the same.”

Memphis had known that, from the moment she heard it.

Something about that demonic attack in Virginia had bothered her since that night. There was something familiar in the voice, once she could go back over it in her mind. Something like affection in the words.

The attack had been something else, hadn’t it? Didn’t she feel two presences that night or was she mis-remembering?

“Keep working.” Memphis murmured as she stood from the chair. Both interns were watching her carefully.

Something was tickling the back of her mind, pushing her to look over her shoulder into the hallway.

Was there someone watching her?

As her eyes alighted on the Archive room, Memphis could not deny the urge to go looking.

“Finish the Baltimore audio, if there is anything else weird, let me know, ok?”

“Sure,” Rick said with his usual aplomb. “What’re you gonna do today?”

Memphis moved toward the where they stacked boxes of files and old recordings, wondering what she could be looking for.

“Research.”

***


At home late that same night, Memphis sat on her bed. Her brother-in-law, Tony, had made them both dinner as they were the only two still at home.

Since the Monroes had finally settled in Dallas, they all lived together. Tony and Montana kept the back part of the house as their own, still in that newlywed flush. Memphis and Marisol had rooms toward the front of the house, each with a personal bathroom.

Kitchen, living area, and gym were all considered common areas.

Tony enjoyed having Memphis to himself, since he had been her friend far longer than her brother-in-law. Memphis had introduced the handsome, dark-skinned doctor to her brother at a Christmas party three years ago. Though neither would admit it, Memphis was sure they had fallen head over boots the second they clapped eyes on one another.

She often teased that they owed their happiness to her.

Once her brother-in-law retired to the bedroom he shared with the husband out of town, Memphis pulled the file box out of her car, spreading the contents on her bed.

Often, Memphis had feelings, a pull toward things. It made her an excellent investigator in the field, but could also bring her unanticipated boons while sitting at the office.

In the archives that morning, Memphis trailed her fingers over the rows and stacks of file boxes, going all the way back to the 60’s. All Monroes had kept meticulous records, updating technology as it came, closing cases and files when they could.

She hadn’t felt anything until her hands landed on a box of files dating from 1966.

Memphis.

The whisper hadn’t come from the room around her but that place within that never led her astray. Memphis had taken the box from the shelf, frowning as she glanced at the contents neatly stacked within.

Thick file folders were spread over her bed, each with a file number, photo, or title on top.

She sat cross legged on her bed, running her hands over the two-dozen files on the blue duvet. Memphis glanced at a few of the titles, knowing they were from her grandfather’s era as lead investigator. Sam Monroe had done incredible things, given the technology of his time. She’d once loved to look through these old files, to read his neat penmanship, to listen as he questioned spirits on old reels.

As she tilted her head to read one of the files, she could smell the thick, richly fragrant scent of a burning cigar.

Grandpa?”

Memphis swallowed thickly, feeling the presence of her dead grandfather so strong in the room, her eyes stung with tears.

“What am I looking for?” Memphis whispered to the still air of her bedroom. “Help me.”

He had never let her down. Memphis knew he wouldn’t start now.

Warmth washed over her, the scent of cigar smoke so pungent it burnt her nose. She could feel the arms of her beloved grandfather around her, the weight of his chin on her shoulder as he often did to read with her.

“Which one is it? What do you want me to look for?”

Her hand tingled as she gripped one of the files. Memphis allowed herself a smile as the warmth around her grew.

Before she could pull the file from beneath the others, though, the warmth was gone. Sorrow and grief struck at her heart with the efficiency of a serpent’s bite. So long. He had been gone so long, but she still missed him as fiercely as she had the day he’d died. Her father hadn’t been the same without his own. The family never really recovered.

The file in her hand continued to give her a zing, as though it were shocking her after rubbing socked feet on the carpet. The electric feeling did not immediately dissipate, though, but continued as though the file itself was charged.

“Bishop, Texas. November 1966.”

She read the title aloud, rubbing her index finger over the smooth perfection of her grandfather’s script.

Opening the file, Memphis frowned. There were old photographs at the top, pinned in place by an ancient paperclip.

The house was one she did not recognize. It sat some way back from whatever road the photographer stood upon, half-hidden by a dozen evergreens. It was not large, only one story, and appeared to have been in good repair.

At the third photograph, Memphis paused. The hair at the base of her neck stood to attention, her eyes scanning the photo to find what was drawing her attention.

There, in the window on the left, was that a shadow? Yes, a shadow in the shape of a person.

My…darling.

The rasp came back, a tingle in the recesses of her mind. Was she sure she hadn’t heard it with her ears? Was it a memory or something more?

Exhaling slowly to regain control of her pounding heart, Memphis set the photographs aside. Behind the cover sheet with investigation dates, locations, and investigators typed neatly, Memphis found what looked like a journal entry in her grandfather’s precise handwriting.

Our investigation has come to a halt. Only two of my team members are still standing. The attacks – that is all we can call them now – have left Cecil, Roger, and Harvey all in the hospital. There isn’t anything wrong with them, not outwardly.

Something must be happening in their minds.

I can hear it, the whisper that Harvey said chased him from the site, from the haunting that won’t let us go.

My darling, it whispers, my darling. My darling.

What is it? Why won’t it leave me be?

My darling.

My darling.

Memphis sat back, her breath catching in her throat again. Her own mind helpfully supplied the signature rasp that had haunted every moment since Virginia.

Was her grandfather trying to tell her that there was a connection? Had they ever solved this case?

Searching through the paperwork again, Memphis could not find another entry. There were more dates, tapes to be played kept in a small plastic bag. But no mentions of an exorcism, no cleansings. What had her grandfather done to rid the home of whatever this was?

If he had already rid himself of it once, why was it back? Why did it torment her?

Memphis jumped, screaming when the door to her bedroom slammed shut. She pressed her back against the cool, oak headboard, eyes cutting to the open window across the room. Wind. The wind had slammed the door, judging from the way her blinds were banging against the sill.

She slid from the bed, still slightly shaken. Memphis reached up to pull her window closed, catching the reflection of her open bedroom door in the glass pane.

A large, strangely humanoid mist stood in the open doorway.

The doorway that had slammed shut seconds ago.

Unable to help the second scream in as many minutes that escaped her lips, Memphis whirled where she stood.

The bedroom door stood wide open, as though it had not slammed closed seconds before. No male figure could be seen, even as Tony came careening around the corner of the hall, a Slugger held in both hands as though he’d come up to bat for Baylor, just like the old days.

“What’s wrong?” Tony asked, searching the immediate area for danger. “Why are you screaming?”

Relief flooded her at seeing Tony, but Memphis could not speak. She caught movement with the corner of her eye, a shadow crawling toward her closet and vanishing within.

“I think…” Memphis shook her head. No. She wasn’t going to scare Tony, not when they had no idea when Tana and Marisol would return. “It’s just my nerves, from the attack in Virginia. Can I sleep with you?” Tony lowered the bat, gripping it with one hand so he could envelop his sister-in-law with the other. Memphis clung to her old friend, her brother, trying to will her body to stop shaking.

“Course you can, baby girl.” Tony soothed. He was no stranger to the nightmares and nerves that came with her job. “Course you can sleep with me.”

Tony steered her out of the room. Memphis could have sworn she heard something close to the closed closet chuckle in a dark, taunting manner as her brother-in-law shut the door behind them.





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