Nate was quicker to react. He got off his ass and rushed to inspect Zander’s forehead. Along with Zander and Adam, he’d seen it all. Nothing surprised Nate anymore, which was why he was methodical in his approach.
“When did the marks manifest?”
“I don’t know.” Zander had to suppress the urge to step back. Nate all up on his face was violating his sense of personal boundaries. “My guess is when I woke up this morning?”
“You don’t sound so sure.” Nate traced the scratches without touching Zander’s brow. “What the hell happened when you went home last night? I knew we shouldn’t have let you go alone.”
Zander jammed this cap back on and approached the table they used for meetings in the editing room. He pulled out a chair and sat back until it was balanced on its back legs. Nate returned to the editing chair he’d vacated beside a still dumbfounded Adam. Their team always edited whatever footage they’d collected during investigations alone. None of the other TV techs touched the raw videos. None of them would have it any other way. And they’d proven themselves enough times that the higher ups didn’t pester them about it. Results and ratings, that’s all network execs cared about, and Paranormal Investigations provided both.
“All I remember,” Zander began when the silence in the room turned oppressive. He steepled his fingers behind his head and searched for answers along the soundproof piping lining the ceiling. He contemplated telling them about Kara briefly before discarding the idea. He wasn’t ready to share her existence with the team. They’d definitely send the Exorcist to get rid of her, and he couldn’t allow that, not until he had found out how he could help her. “I don’t really remember anything. I came home drained. I couldn’t even make it to bed, so I crashed on the couch. Then I woke up, my forehead burned, and when I looked at my reflection in the mirror, I saw what I just showed you.” He paused. “Oh, and I remember dreaming about red eyes. If that makes any sense.”
Adam and Nate exchanged a concerned look before Nate said, “Do you remember anything from the investigation?”
Zander scratched an eyebrow with the tip of his thumb. “That’s the other thing, what the hell happened to me inside Miller House? I can’t put anything together. I remember the interviews we conducted. And I remember the start of the investigation, but after that…nothing.”
“You serious, dude?” Adam whistled under his breath. “You have no idea what happened to you?” He shared another loaded look with Nate.
Zander slammed the chair down on all four legs. “Will you two stop looking at each other like you know something I don’t and just spill? I’m the one with demon marks on my freakin’ forehead!”
Nate raised both hands in supplication. “Chill, man, just chill.” He leaned forward until his elbows touched his knees and entwined his fingers. “It looks like something followed you home from the investigation.”
“No shit, genius,” Zander barked. He shook his head in dismay. “Why do the demons have to follow me home all the time?”
“Hey, don’t hog all the drama, man.” Nate sat back. “You know you’re not the only one dealing with shit following you home. Tina and I have problems with poltergeists, remember? That vase was handed down from her great grandmother. Not even superglue could save the thing. And Adam keeps hearing EVPs at his house.”
“Yeah, bro, and it’s always little kids for some reason,” Adam chimed in.
Zander was incredulous. “Really? A poltergeist and EVPs? That’s the best you’ve got?” He stood up and threw the chair across the room. It bounced of the wall with a deep thud. “I have a freaking demon in my house!” He pointed at his forehead. “You tell me you’ve got it worse than I do right now. And in case you didn’t get it the last time: I. Don’t. Remember. A. Thing. From. The. Investigation!”
Nate and Adam stared at him, speechless.
Zander glanced at the chair and gave in to scratching his head over the cap he wore. He walked to the chair, picked it up, and returned it to the table before sitting down again. He rubbed his face with both hands. The fatigue he’d felt the night before catching up with him again. He hadn’t fully shaken it off yet. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m just freaking out here. This has never happened to me before. You guys obviously know something since you were there with me, and I’m sure you’ve already seen some of the footage, so spill. What happened at the investigation that has this thing following me home and scratching my forehead?”
Adam swiveled his chair to face the console and cued up a video feed on one of the screens. “This is the beginning of the investigation. We’d just finished activating all our static night vision cameras.”
Zander watched himself from the cam Nate held. Adam stood to the left of him by a staircase that led to the second floor of Miller House. His face looked white as a sheet, but that was only because of the night vision they used. Everything else was in various shades of green and black. And like other investigations, Zander had begun provoking the spirits within the house. He shouted challenges for the entities to do their worst, to show themselves, to throw things, the usual dialogue to get the energies rising to a level that allowed the paranormal to manifest. Adam joined in by hitting record on his digital recorder and asking questions so he could capture some EVPs.
The team moved toward the kitchen where poltergeist activity was said to be most prevalent. Nate took over the provoking while Zander led the way. He focused on the LCD of his camera because everything else was pitch black. He’d slammed into countless doorframes and cut himself on many a rusty nail because he couldn’t see more than what his LCD showed him. They couldn’t investigate with the lights on because most manifestations were seen better in the dark as mist figures.
“I remember this part,” Zander said.
Without waiting for Zander’s instructions, Adam fast-forwarded until he got to the part where Zander was about to make his way down to the basement via the kitchen. “This is where things started to get weird,” he said under his breath.
“Right there.” Nate pointed at the screen. “See that?”
Zander couldn’t breath. A ball of light unlike anything he’d ever seen in his years of investigating the paranormal entered the back of his head. The orb looked like it had eyes. Red eyes.
“What the hell is that?” Zander whispered, covering his mouth.
“First, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Nate. “And I’ve seen many things in this business. I’d say that’s what followed you home.”
“It started getting freaky after that, man.” Adam hit the fast forward button again and when he stopped, it was during Zander’s session in the basement.
Adam and Nate had left him there to collect EVPs of a woman who supposedly committed suicide by hanging herself from the beams. He’d hit record on his digital recorder, and five minutes into the session, Zander just stopped talking and stared into space. The static night vision camera filming the whole thing went in and out of focus and then the picture got fuzzy like a TV antenna being adjusted to catch a signal. When the picture cleared, Zander was no longer in the basement.
“Where’d I go?” he asked no one in particular.
“That’s the thing, bro.” Adam rubbed his head, this time with both hands. “You never left the basement.”
“What?” Zander looked from Adam’s face to the screen showing an empty folding chair.
Nate continued what Adam was supposed to say. “When Adam and I returned an hour later, we found you at the farthest corner of the basement,” an uncertain pause, as if he debated whether to spill what he knew or run away, “you were facing the wall.”
“What?” It was all Zander could say. All his brain would allow him to say. He couldn’t make sense of what Nate and Adam were telling him.
Nate turned to the console and pressed play. A second screen showed video taken from Adam’s camera. He was the first one to enter the basement. He called for Zander, and getting no response, he panned the camera around the room. When he noticed a figure at the corner of the basement, he screamed. Nate seemed to grab Adam by the shoulder because the camera looked like it was yanked to the side. Telling Adam to calm down, Nate approached the corner, his own camera in his hands.
As Zander watched, his face grew paler and paler. He had absolutely no recollection of what he was seeing unfold on the screen.
Adam managed to steady his breathing and stop his cursing long enough to focus his camera on Nate, who was still approaching the figure standing in the corner of the room. At about a foot from the figure, Nate stopped, saying Zander’s name. He didn’t respond.
Zander could make out the gothic cross design on the back of the shirt he wore that night. He was standing directly in front of a juncture where two walls met, right beside the boiler. He had his back to Adam and Nate, in his right hand his digital recorder, the red light still on, which indicated it was still recording.
Nate hit pause on the video and queued up a sound bite. “This is what was captured on your recorder.”
A guttural groan followed by the words: You are mine, Z.
Cold sweat trailed its way down Zander’s spine. It was a class A EVP, meaning the words were clear as crystal and audible to the human ear without audio enhancement of any kind. Usually, they’d have to enhance the audio or increase the volume and play it over and over again to make out any EVPs their digital recorders had captured.
Nate played the video again and Zander couldn’t take his eyes off the screen.
Adam was asking Nate what was the matter with Zander just as Nate reached out to touch Zander’s shoulder. In a split second, Zander turned around, dropping the recorder. He surprised Nate enough to stumble back. Adam focused on Zander’s eyes while asking if he was alright. Zander didn’t respond. The picture started to shake, Adam’s grip on the cam faltering. He asked Zander once again if he was alright, backing away as he did so. The menacing gleam in Zander’s eyes was enough to force the toughest of men to back away, let alone an eighteen-year-old boy who was the most skittish of the three of them.
Nate regained his wits and called for Zander, but it was no good. Zander wasn’t responding to either of them. He walked toward Adam until the other boy backed into a beam and dropped his camera. It showed Zander’s boots climbing the basement stairs. A door slammed five seconds later.
Eyes wide, Zander swallowed. “What the hell…” He couldn’t complete the sentence. He’d seen himself possessed during investigations before, but never like this. Never had he lost total control of himself and looked like someone ready to kill those in his team.
Nate stopped the video and faced Zander. “We found you passed out by the front door after that.”
“The investigation?” Zander croaked out.
“Ended shortly after that.”
“You were out cold, man.” Adam shook his head. “We called for the Exorcist to come in. You woke up shortly after the house was cleansed. You don’t remember that either?”
Zander buried his head in his hands. “I’m so screwed.”