Bridgewater, North Carolina.

The funeral service had gone cruelly slow as had the viewing service the day before. Now, while Jacob Rainey was downstairs on the sofa
with his father, his wife Trisha, was heavily sedated upstairs in bed. Jacob’s mother and his mother-in-law couldn’t resist turning the knife a
little further by inviting themselves to Jacob and Trisha’s house after the funeral. On one hand, he felt it was only fair; after all they did just
lose their granddaughter. But on the other however, he had just lost his eight-year-old daughter and at this point, wanted nothing more than
the both of them to disappear into the woods and slumber.
Greta and Ruth were in the kitchen adjacent to the living room, ranting back and forth on how things were done, how things should be done
and how things should not be done in any fashion other than the one they prescribed. Though, neither of them would be so bold as to come
out and say it, they would make it known in so many words. Jacob’s father though, as well as Trisha’s father, stayed quiet as best they could.
On some level, how Greta and Ruth dictated the funeral bothered them.
Trisha’s father was upstairs, as well. Like a silent guardian, he sat by the bed as the drugs slowly coursed through Trisha’s system and she fell
further down the hole. Jacob’s father had been the greatest voice of reason over the past three days since Leigh died. He was the greatest
voice of reason and yet, he kept his mouth shut through most of it. He would say he didn’t like getting involved in all the “politics” that
revolve around dying. His wife however, knew no limits.
It was quarter to nine in the evening when they finally decided to leave. Greta and Henry left first and Ruth and Walter lingered for a few
minutes longer. It was the casual—almost trite—well-wishing, shaking of the hands and reciting of archaic Bible verses, most of which were
from Ecclesiastes and hugs at the front door as they left. When the house was finally free of them, it was a weight off Jacob’s shoulders. He
closed the door and walked back through the foyer and into the living room. The coffee table in front of the sofa was covered with Leigh’s
pictures; some Jacob and Trisha had in the house, others family arranged from their own personal collections.
Jacob took up one of the pictures and looked it over for a moment. It was a picture Trisha had taken. She was a wonderful photographer and
always made them look great from any angle. It was a picture from one of her winter portfolios. In the picture itself, it was not winter though,
it was from only two months ago, April 1st. A moderate-sized snow had come through on a Canadian wind—only lasting two days at best—and
the three of them had made a snowman and a snowwoman at the Bridgewater Recreational Park. The snowman was crowned with a black
beret and was wearing a purple bonnet. Trisha and Jacob locked the limbs together as if the two snow figures were holding hands. In the
picture, Jacob stood to the right of the snowman with Leigh on his shoulders.
A sound from upstairs seemed to roll down the staircase, splitting the thick silence in the house.
Jacob dropped the picture accidentally when he heard the noise. He picked up the picture and sat it back on the table and walked up the
staircase to investigate.
“Trisha?” he called, as he came to their bedroom, at the head of the hallway. “Is every…”
He came to the doorway and muted, when he saw that Trisha was asleep in bed.
He looked around the room.
Nothing.
He stepped backward and looked down the hallway.
Leigh’s room was at the very end just passed the half-bath.
The hallway was dim and he walked down past the bathroom and started to hear a faint and eerie harmony. It was coming from Leigh’s room.
He hesitated at the doorway for a moment, then pushed the door open and flicked on the lights.
It was a music box, a four-inch replica of a black, grand piano, the one Leigh kept on her dresser. The music box lay on the hardwood floor in
front of the dresser playing a tiny, metallic version of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Für Elise; one that—as of now—could chill to the bone.
Jacob walked over, picked up the music box, placed it back on the dresser and turned to walk out of the room.
He pulled his shirt off as he walked into his and Trisha’s bedroom and draped it across the latter-back chair at his computer desk. Trisha was
asleep with half her body under the covers and there was a half-empty bottle of Chianti on the nightstand. Jacob corked the bottle and sat it
on the floor and then he sat down on the edge of the bed, close to Trisha.
He sat there simply thinking for almost twenty minutes before he crawled in bed himself. And not long after he crawled into bed he began to
cry quietly.
* * *
Two weeks later, Trisha and Jacob were sitting at the table in the dining room, having breakfast and not talking much. Trisha was reading the
newspaper and Jacob was going over his checkbook, soon to be off for work. Trisha closed the newspaper and slid it aside. She reached for
her glass of orange juice and before her hand could grip the glass it slid to the edge of the table, tipped and fell to the floor.
The glass shattered and Jacob looked up from his checkbook. Trisha was looking at the spot where her glass had been, a look of disbelief on
her face.
“Everything okay?” Jacob asked.
Trisha was quite for a moment and then replied: “Yeah. I think…I just…”
“Just what?”
“Nothing,” she said, sliding her chair away from the table and standing up. “I’ll get it.”
Jacob cast her a puzzled look for a moment, as she left the room and then went back to his checkbook.
Around twelve o’clock Trisha walked out the front door with her camera in hand. She had a small flower garden just under the living room
picture window, facing the driveway. It was doing really well: vibrant yellow chrysanthemums and orange-yellow torch lilies, resting beneath
a window ledge coated with blue Chinese wisteria; she wanted to get a picture of it. The midday light outside was perfect.
Trisha squatted, aimed the black Canon EOS 20D at the flower bed, stood, stepped back three paces, squatted and aimed again—perfect. She
held the camera steady, centering the image on the camera’s screen, snapped two shots and stood back up. She took two more from a
standing point.
Trisha slid her arm through the camera’s black strap and it hung over her shoulder, as she squatted to pick two of the chrysanthemums and
two of the torch lilies.
She broke the flowers off close to the bottom, so they had long stems, and took them inside. Inside, Trisha placed the flowers in an
opalescent vase and sat it in the middle of the dinner table. After she had taken two pictures of the vase, now holding the flowers, she walked
back through the living room.
Just past the staircase, was a small nook, where Trisha’s computer sat on a small, narrow desk. She sat in the chair in front of the desk,
removed the SD card from the camera’s battery compartment and plugged it into the SD port on the front of the computer tower. She
opened the image folder tagged as TRISH’S PHOTOS and dropped the pictures from the SD card into it. After she removed the SD card from
the tower and popped it back into the camera’s battery compartment, she began scrolling through her photo folder.
She clicked on the photo of the flower garden under the window ledge and the photo of the flowers in the vase on the dining room table and
then clicked Print Pictures. As the pictures printed out on 8.5”x11” semi-gloss photo paper and dropped into the printer tray, Trisha double-
clicked on one of the pictures and the photo opened in a maximized window.
Fear swept through her and she jumped back, pushing her chair away from the desk. It wasn’t a dark and evil fear that came over her, but an
unnatural, surreal and unsettling one nonetheless.
A dark silhouette had been captured in the photo. It was one of the pictures she had taken of the garden under the living room window.
Trisha had taken this particular photo from a standing angle and at the bottom of the picture was the beautiful garden of chrysanthemums
and torch lilies. At the top of the picture though, was the picture window with the dark silhouette standing inside the house, looking out at
her through the glass.
Trisha reached for the mouse and closed the window. She took both of the pictures lying in the printer tray and looked them over.
The first picture was the same one she enlarged in the computer window. She discarded that one and went to the next. In the second picture,
the shadowy figure became more defined. This photo was of the flowers in the vase on the dining room table. In that picture, the dark figure
was standing at the other side of the table, looking dead at Trisha’s camera. The figure in the photo was over-pixilated, but it was
unmistakable—at least to Trisha’s eyes. Short in height, lank, light, shoulder-length hair, fair skin tone—it was Leigh.
Trisha dropped the photos on the floor and left her computer nook. She walked through the living room and out the front door, and there,
she sat on the stoop.
Light tear streams were running down her cheeks; she dropped her head in her hands and cried.
When Jacob walked through the front door that afternoon, he was struck by something unusual; the house was quiet as a tomb. It was so
quite that, for a moment, it was as if his breathing repetitions were the only sound in the world.
“Trisha,” he called, dropping his satchel next to the table at the end of the sofa. “I’m home.”
No return.
Nothing at all.
Jacob walked into the kitchen, took a Pepsi out of the refrigerator and walked up the stairs. He found Trisha in their bedroom. She was
sitting upright in bed, the covers pulled over the lower half of her body and several pictures were lying on the bed in front of her; tears
running down her cheeks.
Jacob entered the room. He suspected this would happen; he would come home from work one day to find she progressed into an emotional
breakdown. In fact, he thought about it a lot and he was somewhat surprised it had taken her this long.
Jacob approached the bed, took a seat on the edge and put his soda can on the nightstand next to Trisha’s camera. He realized quickly, the
pictures in front of Trisha were not what he thought they would be. He was thinking she’d probably been going through one of their old
photo albums and awoken a few old sorrows. These photos were different, though. They were new. They were taken in various parts of the
house.
He picked up one of the photos and looked it over intently. The photo he held was of the vase on the dining room table. He couldn’t help but
notice the short, slightly out-of-focus figure standing at the other end of the table.
“What is this?” he asked Trisha, looking down at the other photos on the bed.
The figure was present in all of the photos.
“You don’t know?” Trisha replied.
Maybe he did know, but didn’t admit it to himself—at first.
“It’s Leigh,” Trisha replied, whispering.
Jacob put the photo back on the bed.
“What? It can’t…”
“I thought so, too—at first,” Trisha said. “That’s why I took more pictures.”
She wiped the tears off her cheeks as she continued, “She showed up in all of them…sometimes to the side, sometimes in the background. But
in all of them.”
“Trisha, you know that’s not possible.”
“Do I?” she replied. “Do you? Maybe you do, but I don’t. How else could she be in every photo? I don’t know why she’s there, or how it
happened, but it’s her.”
Jacob looked down, giving the photos another once-over. The figure seemed to have an overtone that was like some kind of static, but it did
resemble Leigh and in an uncanny way.
Trisha took her camera off the nightstand.
“Take a picture,” she said, giving Jacob the camera. “Take a picture anywhere in the house and you’ll see it. You’ll see her in it.”
Jacob took the camera and powered it on. He paused for a moment.
“Maybe later,” he replied in a doubting manner.
He began collecting the photos on the bed.
“I’m gonna put these away…”
“No,” Trisha jumped at him.
“This is unhealthy,” he added. “It’s not good for you or me to carry on with this nonsense.”
“Bastard,” Trisha scorned, shoving herself back against the headboard.
Jacob ignored the bastard remark.
“You’ll thank me later,” he said, leaving the bedroom, photos in hand.
Jacob looked over the photos again as he walked downstairs and into the kitchen. He wadded them up into a single ball, squeezed them
together tightly and threw them in the trashcan. As he walked back to the stairs, he stopped and looked around the living room.
There was a strange chill in the air.
Jacob brought Trisha’s camera up, aimed it at the window on the other side of the room, just behind the recliner. He brought the zoom back a
little, getting almost all of the living room on the small screen and snapped the picture.
The picture held on the screen for a moment before it disappeared. Jacob went to the library menu and pulled the picture. He looked it over
wide-eyed for a moment. He looked up from the camera screen and scanned his eyes nervously around the room, then pulled them back to
the screen.
Jacob deleted the picture quickly, slid the camera strap back over his shoulder and walked back upstairs.
Jacob woke suddenly…and strangely that night, his hands and nose cold. He looked at the alarm clock by his side of the bed. He saw the
digital numbers on the clock glitch, going from 1:13 A.M. to 1:16 A.M. and back to 1:13 A.M.—he shivered under the sheets. He raised his
head slightly and it was then he realized he could see his breath passing in front of the red glow from the clock’s face.
He rolled over and was startled when he found that Trisha was awake. She was sitting up in bed crying lowly, her arms wrapped around her
body. She was shivering in her nightgown and Jacob could see her breath, too.
“Did you turn the air up?” he asked, sitting up in bed.
Trisha didn’t say anything, she simply nodded no.
“It’s her,” Trisha replied.
“What?” Jacob asked, wiping his eyes.
“It’s Leigh,” Trisha said in a low, tearful voice. “I don’t know how she’s doing this, or why, but she’s here. I’ve been hearing things in the
house.”
“Trisha,” he said in a annoyed voice, “I told you, that’s nonsense.”
Jacob felt of Trisha’s cheek. It was cold.
“How long have you been up?” Jacob asked.
She started to reply, but stopped jumping when they heard the sound of something hard hitting the floor downstairs. Jacob turned his head
to the bedroom door quickly, back to Trisha and then slid out from under the sheets. He put on his bathrobe and left the room.
Trisha remained seated on the bed, in the darkened room, shivering and staring foreword. Her fingers were freezing and numb on the tips as
were her knees. Even in the darkness and the cold, her thoughts didn’t drift away from Leigh.
Trisha looked down at the bedcovers across her legs and horse-shoeing around her hips, when she felt soft and light motion. In the sparse
glow of the red, digital numbers of the alarm clock, she saw the comforter and sheet were pulling away from her on its own. It slid over her
legs slowly, until it was at her knees. And, at that moment, it felt as if the room dropped another five degrees.
Jacob reached and flicked the lights on in the kitchen. He checked the digital thermostat on the wall, next to the refrigerator. The thermostat
said it was 62°, but his body said it was colder. He pushed ‘heat’ and set the thermostat to 73°. There was a pregnant pause before he heard
the soft sound of the heating system kick on.
He looked around the kitchen and then looked back to the living room. Everything was in place, but he knew that the sound he and Trisha
heard didn’t come out of thin air—not that the air was thin in the house tonight. In fact, it was very thick.
Jacob walked through the kitchen and rounded the corner to the dinning room. His cold, right foot crashed into something—painfully. He
almost stumbled over one of the wood, straight-back chairs. He slid his hand along the wall and flicked on the dining room light, as well.
He looked down at the chair curiously for a moment. The chair slid out from under the dining room table and toppled over backward. That
was the sound he and Trisha heard.
Jacob wiped a hand across his forehead. The awkwardness of the chair toppled over in the dining room, almost made him forget all about the
sharp pain his foot had found in ramming into it. He bent down and stood the chair back on its feet and slid it back under the table.
A noise from the living room now: a light thud and breaking glass.
Jacob turned quickly and walked around the corner to the living room. He reached under the shade of the lamp on the table next to the sofa
and turned it on.
The noise was a framed picture that had been sitting on the TV in the corner beside the picture window. He looked at the picture for a
moment, looked around the living room thinking briefly that this is what happens when people start to lose their minds.
This is how it starts, he thought, almost driven to laugh at the fact. Trisha and I lost our daughter and now we are steadily losing our minds.
That struck him as a very morbid thought and he felt bad on the inside for thinking it, even though it seemed almost uncontrollably casual.
Jacob shivered from the chilled air in the room and squatted in front of the broken picture. He rubbed his hands together in front of his face
and then huffed warmly on them, his breath lightly showing. His peripheral vision blurred very briefly.
A small hand formed (it was reaching for him, coming at his face) and dissipated rapidly in the fog breath that came out of his mouth.
Jacob jumped—withholding a scream within his throat—and fell backward landing hard on the floor. The hair on his arms stood as straight as
a rule and his skin tightened.
“What the hell?” he said in a low, shuttering voice.
Jacob staggered to his feet and looked around the empty room quickly,
Leigh? His skin was still tight around his flesh. He didn’t bother turning off the kitchen light, or even the lamp next to the sofa. He made for
the stairs quickly without as much as a glance back at the living room.
The next morning, things were even worse for Trisha. Now it seemed the air would never clear for her; the air being the thoughts she kept
huddled together in the vacuum behind her eyes. Jacob was still a little skeptical about Trisha’s ideas on the ordeal concerning Leigh’s
residual soul—back from the dead like some Hollywood film hogwash—but he knew his wife’s troubled condition was showing no signs of
waning. And now, it was slowly transforming him, too. The little incident in the living room last night: the hand manifesting in the fog of his
breath, the hand reaching, as if it were reaching for him, still clung to the fine threads of his psyche, like a nightmare has tendency to do after
the waking.
Jacob sat at his computer desk, filtering through the Yahoo search results for the word “poltergeist”. The single-word criteria yielded over
four thousand results. He clicked on several of the links, but didn’t find anything he liked.
He put the cursor in the search box and tried something different: ghost hunters in North Carolina.
The third link on the first page of results caught Jacob’s eye quickly: Community college in Bridgeport, North Carolina gets fund for new
study called amplified physics, founded by Professor Hal Simmons. Many students and teachers in the city of Bridgeport refer to Mr.
Simmons as a crack-pot ghost hunter…
Jacob clicked on the link and the page opened. It was a newsletter page, dedicated to the Marsh University Community College faculty and
students. Jacob looked over the picture to the right of the screen, which was of a man in his early to mid-forties, standing at a podium in
front of a hoard of students. Below the picture was the line: Professor Hal Simmons lecturing students on his theories of amplified physics.
Jacob read the rest of the paragraph on Professor Simmons: Many students and teachers in the city of Bridgeport refer to Mr. Simmons as a
crack-pot ghost hunter whose methods of teaching seem a little crude. After the death of his twelve-year-old son in January 1995, Professor
Hal Simmons began to pioneer a class-study called Introduction to Amplified Physics (a subject he describes as better equipping man to
understand the world of the Infinite—or the “spirit world”). The subject was later adopted in 1999, after the public success of Mr. Simmons’s
novelistic study book entitled “Greater Theories on Amplified Physics” (published by Stanton/Lee Press).
Jacob scrolled down a little.
Professor Hal Simmons is no stranger to conflicting opinions. In 1996, he attested to having created a machine that would allow people to
see the dead [citation needed]. One professor at Penn State regarded Simmons as a modern-day Nikola Tesla and his ability as a Godsend,
while another in New York claimed that such device is careless and ungodly.
Simmons was on the Lecture Committee from December 2001 to March 2002, as well as making a book tour around various states on the
east coast when his book “Greater Theories” was reissued in 2005, but now limits himself to simply teaching amplified physics at Marsh
University in his home city of Bridgeport…
* * *
Marsh University, Bridgeport, North Carolina.
“I’m here to see Professor Simmons,” Jacob told the Assistant Dean, a lanky woman with gold horn-rimmed glasses and sandy-colored hair.
She slid her chair closer to her desk.
“Is he expecting you today?” she asked.
Jacob turned his head back to her, after looking around, remembering his own college years.
“No,” he replied. “But, if there’s any way I could see him that would be great. It’s really important.”
She pushed at her glasses with one finger.
“Mr. Simmons’s office is five doors down the hall--on the right,” she said, pointing in the direction. “He should be finishing up with a group in
a few minutes. If you will have a seat in his office, I’ll let him know that you’re waiting.”
Jacob nodded humbly.
“Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.”
Jacob was sitting in the leather chair in front of Hal Simmons’ desk when the professor walked into the office, the strap of a lunchbox over
his left shoulder. He was older now than in the photo Jacob saw on the Internet. He stood just over five-five, plump and gray. He looked
more like a shrink than a college professor.
Jacob stood and shook hands with him.
“I’m Jacob Rainey. I came here from Bridgewater.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Rainey.”
Simmons moved to the seat behind his desk, and Jacob sat back into the leather chair.
“I hope you don’t mind if I eat lunch while we talk,” Simmons said, taking a sandwich and an orange out of his lunchbox. “I stay pretty busy
here and I take it in when best I can.”
“It’s fine,” Jacob replied.
“Well. How may I help you, Mr. Rainey?”
“I read you teach amplified physics,” Jacob said. “You still work in that field?”
“Ten-year professor.”
“Is it true that you have first-hand experience in the field?”
“Of course,” Simmons replied, taking a bite out of his sandwich. “What right would I have to teach it otherwise?”
Jacob smirked.
“Are you looking to take up a course in it yourself?” Simmons asked.
“Oh, no,” Jacob replied. “I’m here on other business.”
“Let’s here it then.”
“My wife and I are having a problem.”
“I’m not a marriage counselor, Mr. Rainey,” Simmons said, chuckling.
“A ghost problem.”
Simmons was bringing the sandwich to his mouth and he stopped abruptly. He hesitated for a moment and sighed.
“Do you know the nature of this ghost?” Simmons asked his voice now serious.
“Yes.” I did, anyway. “It was our daughter.”
Simmons sat his sandwich on his desk.
“How old?” he asked.
“She was eight,” Jacob replied, sliding one of the photographs across Simmons’s desk.
Simmons took the photo, slid his reading glasses on his face and looked it over thoroughly.
“How long has she been dead?” Simmons asked.
“Almost three weeks.”
“Any violent tendencies? Do you and your wife feel threatened by her in any way? Has she done anything to purposefully frighten either of
you?”
“No…I don’t think so. No, it’s nothing like that.”
Simmons nodded, “Well then, the two of you have nothing to worry about. Maybe she’ll disappear in time.”
Simmons slid the photo back across his desk to Jacob.
“Pardon?”
“Mr. Rainey…I don’t work with ghosts anymore.”
“But we need your help…my wife needs your help. You’ve dealt with them before…with your son.”
Jacob caught a glimpse of disdain in Simmons’s eyes for the subject.
“When a child dies at a young age,” Simmons said, “sometimes, they have a hard time accepting it, or they just don’t understand it. You run a
great risk trying to impede them.”
Jacob cast him a somewhat cenacle look.
“Do you really think your physical features are all there is to you, Mr. Rainey?”
Jacob didn’t answer.
“When we die, the bigger part of us—the most important part—lives on. It lives, in its own way, just as you and I. It can feel happy, it can be
disheartened. In the end, Mr. Rainey, I did my son more damage than I did good for my wife.”
“I read you invented some kind of machine…it let’s us see them. With a machine like that, you should be trying to help people. Hell, you
should be in the Yellow Pages.”
“The living are not supposed to interact with the dead. It can be very dangerous—for them and for us.”
“So, you’re saying you’re not going to help us?”
“I’m saying, it might be within your best interest and the best interest of your daughter, if I don’t help you. I’m sorry.”
Jacob walked through the front door and into the living room to find Trisha sitting in the corner where the east wall and the south wall met;
several 4”x6” photos lying on the floor in front of her. Jacob knelt down with her and looked over the photographs.
“Do you feel her?” Trisha asked, tears running down her cheeks. “You can feel her everywhere—no matter what part of the house you’re in.”
He scanned over the photos. The figure, Leigh, was in all of them; to one corner in some, in the background in others and in the foreground
in one of them. Jacob picked up one of the photos. Trisha had taken the picture dead on, in front of the mirror in their bedroom. In the
photo, Leigh’s out-of-focus silhouette was standing just a short distance behind her.
Jacob dropped the photo.
“Come with me,” he said, pulling her to her feet by one arm.
“You can’t get away from her,” Trisha said in a raspy voice. “Earlier, I kept thinking of how big it is? How far it can spread? How far we’d
have to go to get away from it?”
Jacob walked her upstairs and put her to bed.
He knew a doctor in town named Carl Hammond. Jacob called him, and Dr. Hammond arrived at their house thirty minutes later and
prescribed Trisha a sedative.
The next morning, Jacob crawled out of bed and staggered down the stairs, when he heard someone knocking on the front door. His eyes
were barely open and, as he passed through the living room, he smashed his foot into the leg of the end table beside the sofa.
“Shit!” he cried, a pulse pounding in his big toe—the same foot he smashed into the toppled chair.
Another knock at the door.
“I’m coming,” Jacob said, continuing toward the door.
He opened the door and the sunlight blinded him for a moment.
“Good morning, Mr. Rainey.”
“What?” Jacob wiped his eyes for a moment.
When he opened them, he saw that it was Simmons, and a young college kid stood with him.
“Professor Simmons? What are you doing here?”
Jacob looked over them, to the white Astro van sitting at the edge of the yard.
“This is Chris, one of my brightest students.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Rainey,” the kid said.
“He will be assisting me today,” Simmons added.
Jacob still had a groggy voice and a bland look on his face.
“Assisting you? In what?”
“I though a lot about it after you left my office yesterday,” Simmons replied, “and I’ve come to help you and your wife, Mr. Rainey.”
“Are you and your wife religious, Mr. Rainey?” Simmons asked, sitting in the easy chair across from the sofa.
Trisha had now come downstairs and joined Jacob on the sofa; Chris, Simmons’s assistant, sat in the recliner.
“No,” Jacob replied. “Not really.”
Trisha was still drowsy from the sedative Dr. Hammond gave her and she was trying to get her mind around what was going on.
“Well,” Simmons began, “today, that’s a plus. That means you’ll believe most, or all, of what I’m going to tell you. Often, in my experience,
extremely religious people and non-believers are closed-minded to the very end.”
“Non-believers,” Trisha croaked. “What do you mean?”
“Atheists, Mrs. Rainey,” Simmons said. “The free thought organizations…if you can call willful ignorance ‘free thought’.”
Simmons shifted in the chair.
“Today, Mrs. Rainey,” he continued, “you’re going to be able to meet your daughter.”
Trisha looked at Jacob, pale-faced.
“What is he talking about, Jacob?”
Jacob began to explain, “Professor Simmons is a…”
Simmons cut in, “I’m a professor of amplified physics, which means that I study, and at times, instrument the metaphysical world.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t know what that means.”
“That means I study the spaces between the living and the dead,” Simmons confirmed. “I study the afterlife.”
“How, exactly?” she asked.
“Mrs. Rainey, this may seem like a very generic statement, and for that, I apologize, but it’s true…there are things in this world that can’t be
explained; they can only be understood.”
“What are you, a medium, or something?” she asked.
Simmons and Chris smirked.
“No, Mrs. Rainey,” Simmons replied. “I’m no more in touch with the deceased than your are really. I pioneered the study of amplified
physics fifteen years ago. After my son died, I began to search and tried to develop ways to connect with him, and, finally, I did so with
success.
“In my search for answers, I began to realize how closely meshed our own world is with the world of the deceased. In fact, in my own
opinion, they are the same world. I don’t believe in the fairy tales about the ascending staircases or descending elevators that awaits us when
we pass on. I do, however, believe—having seen it first hand—people pass on into another world. We simply leave this physical state behind
and become infinite. That infinite world exists all around us, all the time; we simply can’t interact with it, because we—physical beings—can’t
harness infinity.
“So, why is our daughter only showing up in photographs?” Trisha asked.
“The figure you are seeing in the photographs is a residual image of how the girl saw herself when she was still apart of the physical world.
There are molecules and organisms all around us. Her spirit is harnessing the surrounding molecules and manifesting that image through
them. You can’t see it because she is manifesting piece-by-piece, in various groups. The light from the flash of the camera reflects off of the
molecules she’s using to build her image and the camera catches it all at once and imprints the figure onto film. In a way, I guess you could
say she is using lots of tiny images to make herself into one full image—a metaphysical collage, in a way. Your daughter brings them all
together and becomes visible on film through a process known as “phototaxis”.”
Trisha listened to Simmons and took in everything he said. Somehow, though, she kept feeling like she would wake up in bed at any given
moment.
While Chris helped Simmons wheel in his equipment, Trisha and Jacob went around the house, closing blinds, pulling down shades and
cutting off any lights that might be burning. Chris and Simmons brought the machine in on one of those roller trays they use in schools to
wheel in overhead projectors.
Trisha was standing in the kitchen when they wheeled it into the living room and began to plug in the various power cords. She walked
around to stand in the kitchen doorway and watch.
“How many wall outlets do you have in this room, Mrs. Rainey?” Simmons asked.
“Four or five. Maybe,” she replied. “How many do you need?”
Simmons smiled and replied: “Four or five…maybe.”
He had the “grandfather” smile about him and it brightened Trisha’s face with a smile of her own.
Trisha looked at the machine, curiously.
It was round and roughly the size of the common car tire. The main part of the thing looked like a zoetrope; only the slotted areas in the sides
didn’t display various images. The slots were fitted with industrial filaments. A Tesla coil stood at the top of the machine apparently, built
and wired into the center of the zoetrope-looking body and at the bottom, four long power cords were wired into it. Also, at the base of the
machine, was a lever, six inches in length.
“So, what exactly does this thing do?” Trisha asked. “I mean, how does it work?”
Simmons spoke, as he walked around, plugging in all of the power cords.
“Basically,” he said, “it will draw all of the molecules and organisms toward this room like a magnet. And since your daughter is using them to
manifest her appearance, we will be able to see her. But,” he pulled himself up from the wall outlet with a grunt, “we will have to wear these.”
He drew a pair of small goggles from his breast pocket.
They looked like hybrid swimmer goggles.
“If we don’t wear these,” Simmons said, “the filament rays could cause extensive, retinal damage.”
“What do you call this thing?” Jacob asked, walking into the room.
Chris answered, jokingly, from across the room: “It’s a photo-sphere-trope-coil-thing.”
Chris laughed. Simmons turned and cast him a serious look and the boy’s smiling face fell straight again.
“Actually,” Simmons said, turning back to Jacob and Trisha, “I never really named it. I couldn’t get a patent on it, so I didn’t bother.
Nowadays, I wouldn’t want one…it’s a prototype.”
Simmons walked over to his briefcase, which sat on the floor next to the recliner, opened it and gave Jacob and Trisha a pair of the goggles as
well.
“Are we ready, Mr. and Mrs. Rainey?” Simmons asked one hand on the lever.
“I believe so,” Jacob replied, looking to Trisha.
She was adjusting the goggles, making sure they were tight on her head.
“I’m ready,” she answered.
“Keep one thing in mind, Mr. Rainey: the girl you will see is still your daughter, not some dime-store illusion or some malign spirit trying to
ruin your day. She is simply a child trying to understand why she can’t do the things she did before. She is a child trying to understand why
she can’t get her parents’ attention. The most important part of her is still there and it can be enlightened or disheartened as easily as it could
when she was a physical body. Also, you are not showing that you don’t still love her, only that she must continue her journey without you.”
“So, what are you suggesting?” Jacob asked.
“Break it to her gently.”
Simmons wiggled his goggles with two fingers ‘til they were tight and then he threw the lever.
The filaments in the slots of the machine began to glow with a crisp, white glare and the Tesla coil began to arch. Blue and green electricity
traveled down the coil and into the body of the machine and the outer body began to spin around the filament slots. The outer body spun and
spun and seconds later a bright flash of light could be seen.
Simmons, Chris, Jacob and Trisha stood in a white purgatorial setting.
The room was silent…a heavy silence. The white light coursed over every inch of the place. Dust and molecules became visible, moving
toward the machine and spinning around it like debris caught in the winds of a twister.
For a moment, all of them stood perfectly still. In that moment, even Hal Simmons seemed a little uneasy.
The professor walked across the white plain to Jacob and Trisha.
“I don’t see anything,” Jacob said.
“Look behind you, Mr. Rainey,” Simmons returned.
Jacob and Trisha turned around quickly.
A small hand was manifesting in a group of lightened molecules. The molecules formed like specks of glistening dust in the beam of a
flashlight now developing a torso. Now legs and shoulders, and finally, a face transpired out of a group of molecules. All of the body parts
came together quickly and formed (Trisha and Jacob couldn’t believe their eyes) the figure of their eight-year-old daughter. They formed
the appearance of Leigh, the girl they had known well and loved for the better half of a decade.
The figure of Leigh was sketchy, but it was her—no doubts there. The texture of her skin was not like the texture of skin anymore, but that of
an over-pixilated photo instead. She held her hand in front of her face and looked it over. As it moved about, light shimmered off the small
extremity.
“Leigh,” Jacob gasp, in an overjoyed and almost crying voice.
Trisha couldn’t speak for the shock of it all. A small gathering of tears had begun to form behind her goggles.
“Daddy?” Leigh replied.
Her voice was sharp and excited. She ran to him.
Jacob knelt to her height.
“Mommy, Daddy,” she ran to Jacob and moved to hug him.
Leigh couldn’t draw her arms around him. When she tried, all of the bright molecules clung to Jacob’s shirt and the image of her hand seemed
to go straight through his body. When he tried to touch her, his hand went through her, as well, the bright molecules gathering around his
hand, like tiny static sparks. He reached to touch her cheek and the molecules cascaded down, as if that part of her face melted away and was
re-animated by another group of bright sparks.
Jacob had tears gathering behind his goggles now, also.
“What happened?” Leigh’s voice asked. “I’ve been trying to talk to you and Mommy for days now. Didn’t you hear me?”
“No,” Jacob replied. “We couldn’t hear you.”
Now Trisha knelt, too.
“Mommy.”
“Hey, sweetie,” Trisha replied in a crackling voice.
Trisha reached to touch Leigh’s face and it melted and re-animated again, like it did when Jacob tried to touch her.
“You’ve been crying for along time now,” Leigh said. “I hear you.”
“I’m crying because I miss you,” Trisha said.
“You miss me? Why do you miss me?”
“Sweetie,” Jacob hesitated, “you were in a car accident with your nanny, Ellie. You’ve been dead for almost three weeks…”
“Gently, Mr. Rainey,” he heard Simmons’s voice advise from behind.
Jacob and Trisha had almost forgotten altogether that Chris and Simmons were there in the room with them.
Trisha felt something painful growing inside of her like someone had kicked her in her chest.
“Baby,” she said, “you died in the back seat of Ellie’s car. Ellie died in the same wreck, out on the bypass.”
“What? No. No…it isn’t true…”
Jacob spoke, “Leigh.”
She turned to him. The soul that was Leigh, was crying.
“We want you to know how much we love you,” he continued, “and how much we miss you…and we’ll always be thinking about you, but you
can’t stay here.”
“Why?”
“Because,” Jacob hesitated for a moment. “Because it’s hurting your Mommy…and it’s hurting me, too.”
“But I don’t wanna hurt you or Mommy,” Leigh replied, still crying. “I just wanna stay here with you.”
At that moment, Trisha would have given every last breath in her lungs to be able to hold Leigh, to hold her baby girl. As far as she was
concerned, it would have been a fair price.
“You have to go, Leigh,” Trisha said. “You have to go on without us for now. And we have to go on without you, but we’ll always remember
you.”
Leigh didn’t reply. She stood silently bewildered for a moment. She had only been waiting two weeks for this moment, but to her, existing
outside of the physical dimension, where things aren’t measured by metric rule or standard rule or hours of the clock or days on a calendar;
if they are measurable at all in the realm of the infinite, it seemed much longer.
Leigh only had one more question.
“Will I see you again?” she asked in a low, pitiful voice.
Jacob didn’t reply. He didn’t reply because, in all honesty, he didn’t know the answer himself.
“I hope so,” Trisha said, fighting to keep her face from crumbling under an emotional avalanche. “In fact, I’m sure you will. And…we may
look even better to you than we did before.”
Nothing was said for a long moment.
In that moment, Jacob could hear the sound of the machine behind him—an electric purring. Leigh looked at Trisha, then turned to Jacob
and she realized that they were being honest; she would have to leave…whether she liked it or not.
Leigh turned to leave, slowly, heartbroken, even if she didn’t have a heart anymore.
“Leigh,” Trisha called.
Leigh stopped and turned back to them.
“Remember, we love you,” Trisha said, “and we always will.”
Leigh nodded, but it didn’t seem to brighten her spirit any. She turned and continued to leave, and again, Trisha felt as if someone just kicked
her in the chest.
As Jacob and Trisha watched the image of their daughter walking away—down what seemed like a tunnel of ultraviolet light—a feeling began
to grow inside of both of them, one they hadn’t felt since the night Leigh was born. It was a good feeling; the feeling there was something
more to the human being than just the physical, mundane world. And, though it was with great uncertainty as to just what it was, they felt
almost as strongly, whatever it was, it was probably more pleasant than anything that could be experienced on earth—the physical earth, as
Professor Simmons called it. The feeling continued to grew in both of them, until it was less willing belief and instead now bordering on
intuition.
Whatever it was, Jacob felt certain that Leigh would find it; and in time, he and Trisha would find her.
by Wesley Dingler