This is the last part of Ghost Stories – Possession. Just finding it? You can start at the beginning here.
NOTE: Adult situations and language.
We ride Bly’s silk parachute for some time before I start to wonder why they would want a demon so badly they were willing to give up their kid’s soul for it.
Because information is power.
The thought is just in my head. Or, more accurately, I was in Bly’s head and that must have been its thought.
And that’s what you give them, I think back at Bly. Information? What do you get out of it?
I get to live, it says.
Since I don’t really know what it is like to be a demon, there’s not much arguing to that.
Well, I start, thinking on my toes, or hardened appendages, you can go back to living as soon as you show me where Niki is.
If you insist, it says.
Without warning, Bly takes over its body from me. I can sense that if I wanted, I could force the demon back into a corner of its being as I did when I first ate it, but I release my hold, allowing it to shift my physical body in its grip, freeing its hindmost legs.
With them, Bly takes hold of its silk parachute, pulling and canting on the threads. Soon, the creature manages to float us over downtown Oakland, its lights obscured by a dense fog.
Across the dark bay, the glow of San Francisco orients me. We’re making our way northwest. After a moment, I hear the roar of Highway 80 beneath us.
A shudder runs through Bly’s demonic body and it groans involuntary. Actinic lights dance at the edge of my vision and for a moment, I see the world directly beneath us through my own eyes.
What the hell was that! I think.
Bly doesn’t answer. The shuddering through its body continues and the silk parachute detaches, sending us into an out-of-control spiral.
If Bly had anything in it to throw up, I would have chucked into the bay’s waters.
Taking control, I gather up my body close to Bly’s prickly belly and roll as we make impact with a wooden deck. The blow knocks me back into my body and I lay for a moment wondering what the hell just happened. Am I still dreaming?
Water slaps the boards beneath me and the scent of brine and bird poop prompts me to focus on the lights above me. There’s a sign on the nearest lamppost. I can’t make out the text, but there’s no mistaking the logo. We’re at the Berkeley Marina.
Hadn’t McLean said something about Lou Jing having a boat here? And hadn’t McLean already checked it out?
Getting up on my own two feet, I notice Bly a few feet down the pier. It’s curled up on itself and its skin has turned the color of ash and is more transparent than a new ghost.
I walk over to it. It’s shivering, beak clacking against its pathetic, bristly hide. Resisting the urge to kick it over the edge of the pier, I ask it what’s wrong.
Again, it doesn’t answer, but it slowly unfurls and heads down the pier. I follow the dog-sized, phantom arachnid until it stops at a blue and white yacht. Bly points one of its limbs.
“He’s in there?” I ask.
Bly has gone mute and simply turns away from me and goes to the edge of the pier. It lifts its spectral ass over the water, and I see its abdomen working, like something is trying to get out. After a moment, it poops out some more silk and Bly is in the foggy sky before I can do anything to stop it.
Shit. Now what?
The boat rocks gently as someone inside moves and my hand goes to the butt of my gun. Releasing it from the holster, I thumb the safety before I make myself relax.
I don’t know if Lou Jing is in there. There’s no reason to believe he is other than some demon indicating that he, or Niki, was in there.
And just what was all that that just happened? Had I dreamt it? Or had I just wandered the streets of Oakland and Berkeley before my feet found their way to Lou Jing’s slip that should have been empty?
My head is spinning and it takes me a moment to realize the boat has settled. It couldn’t hurt to find out who’s in there, right?
But with no backup, I can’t face Jing. Not yet, at least.
The boat is one of those hefty yachts on which men in mid-thigh shorts and women in bikinis drape themselves over its decks as the wind careens them through crashing waves. The sails and ropes are neatly stowed so I don’t have a problem easing myself on a side deck, trying not to make a sound.
It’s a slow process.
For a moment, I kind of wish I was back in Bly’s body. I shiver at the greasy thought and slide on my belly, putting my face level with one of the larger side-deck windows. Curtains block my view, but I’m thankful for that. Otherwise, whoever was inside would have seen someone in a hoodie with a gun creeping along their boat.
Scooting forward on my elbow and knees, I finally find a break in the curtains and peer inside. There’s only dim floor lights and I can’t make out shit. I’m about to get up, resolved to the fact I would have to come back when I was sober. Or maybe I could convince Reyes to check it out. She’d probably tell me to stay away while she and McLean got all the glory of finding little Niki just in time.
Just in time for what? I think.
In all likelihood, despite what Reyes might think, Lou Jing probably killed his wife, thinking he’d take their son before she and her boyfriend took his son from him. When parent’s kids were on the line, they never acted with any sort of sense. Lou might have had it in for the kid’s mom, but I was sure Niki was fine. If the kid was on the boat, he was probably safer there than in the system.
Something dark with glowing red eyes strikes at the window so hard, it cracks. I jump up and am over the side of the boat so fast, I’m sure Bly would have had trouble keeping up.
The harbor’s water is colder than I expect and I gulp down a mouthful. I force myself to blow it out and not sputter up to the surface.
I can hear and feel staccato thrumming coursing through the boat’s hull, following me as I swim away. Whatever was in that boat, it wasn’t human.
And it wanted out.
* * *
Reyes’ voice comes over the payphone breathless, husky and deep.
“Reyes,” I say, my voice taking on the same timbre even though I’m shivering in the pre-dawn cold.
“Speaking,” she says.
“I found Niki,” I lie. If I tell her the truth, she would just hang up on me.
“What? Where are you?”
I fill her in. Give her some bullshit line about not trusting McLean’s work and how I just had a gut feeling about Lou Jing’s boat. She says she’ll be over and though I don’t say it, I’m hoping she doesn’t bring McLean.
But she does.
And his face goes a dark red when I tell them I’m not really sure if the boy is in the boat.
“Let me get this straight,” he says. “You got us up before dawn because your gut told you to?”
He’s not joking and his gaze goes to my mid-section again and I pull in my stomach muscles in a vain attempt to keep my budding beer belly and drinking habits out of this.
“You said his boat wasn’t in the harbor,” I say. “That it had been in some warehouse pending a leak repair, but there it is.”
I point across the road towards the bramble of masts coming into view in the morning light.
After I had pulled myself out on to pier on the other side of the harbor, I had tried calling Reyes on my cell phone, but my dip into the bay had fried its circuits. The nearest payphone was across the street in a parking lot, but still in view of the Berkeley Marina.
Reyes, McLean and I huddle around it. My wet clothes create a dark spot on the pavement. When they first got here, it seemed as if McLean would do a chivalrous thing and hand me his jacket, but he hadn’t.
“So,” Reyes says, “because the boat is now there, you think Jing and his son are in there, too?”
“It was probably repaired and returned to the slip by the boathouse,” McLean says, rubbing the sleep from his face. There’s a dark bruise on his chin where I punched him.
A part of me wishes I hadn’t hit him. And I have to admit, he’s probably right. That did seem likely.
But what about the monster?
Reyes and McLean give each other a look before scanning the horizon, probably wondering what they should do with me. McLean coughs into his hand, his other going for his pockets. For some zip ties? Are they gonna take me in? For what?
Reyes is kicking at the asphalt, concentrating at my feet and the dark stain beneath me.
I clench my fists. I would fight them if they tried to take me in. Tooth and nail.
“Tesserak,” Reyes starts, “how did you get all wet–”
A brown sedan squeals on the street between the parking lot and the marina. Its driver must have stomped on the gas pedal because it accelerates much too quickly, burning rubber and fishtailing as it makes for the marina driveway.
I can’t say for certain, but I’m guessing that it’s Lou Jing. Where had he been that it had taken him so long to get whatever warning the monster sent?
He crashes through the flimsy marina security gate and screeches to a halt in front of the nearest piers. What I take for a crowbar precedes Lou Jing as he busts out of the car. He’s wearing pajamas, bare feet.
Even from this distance, we can hear the studs as his footfalls pound the pier.
Without giving me a chance to say I told you so, Reyes and McLean sprint across the road at the same time a security guard materializes from a small shack adjacent to the gate. He probably just woke up.
I follow Reyes and McLean, wishing I had had a chance to tell them about the monster.
Passing the abandoned car, I note the security guard is staring at the damage it has caused, completely oblivious that the perp might still be on site.
I flash my badge at him, sure that Reyes and McLean have done the same thing. They are running down the center pier, heading for the branch that Lou’s boat is housed in. But they’re not going to make it.
A boat’s engine roars to life, breaking the pre-dawn quiet. They’ll be other boaters soon and I can’t imagine what we’ll do if that monster is released and I can only hope it’s not in Niki.
Lou’s blue yacht begins to back out of its slip. Reyes continues while McLean backtracks. I dart for the main pier. It’s longer and Lou would have to maneuver the boat past its tip to get out of the harbor. It would be my only chance.
My feet slap wood, shuddering through the boats moored to it. I force air deep into my lungs, and something pulls in my thigh but I push through it. The world slows around me, my focus a pinprick ahead of me.
There are five boats moored on four pier extenders. An over-sized catamaran juts out into the harbor channel. It sits high, but its low tide and I vault on to its deck.
My gaze tracks the mast of Lou’s boat as it goes by and for a second I think he’s gotten away, but my feet are still moving, fast as lightning. I launch myself from the catamaran’s back platform and thud into the side of the boat, my hands catching the side railing.
A holler of pain tears through my throat and it feels like my arms are going to pop out of their sockets.
“Halt,” I scream. “Oakland PD!”
Hey – you never know, it might work.
Something slams into my fingertips. Another howl escapes me, but I don’t let go. Tensing my core, I throw my legs over the side, kicking out as I go over.
My heel finds something soft and yielding. Someone grunts.
Spinning on my knees to face Lou, my gun is in my battered hands. Slick with my blood, I train the muzzle on him.
“Stop the boat, Lou,” I say.
He throws the crowbar at me, turns, and runs.
I duck, but the end catches on my back, tearing a hole through my sweatshirt and skin.
I scream and follow around the bulkhead.
The door down into the cabin is open.
With my back against the side, I wipe as much blood off my hands as possible, but they are leaking like a sieve. The boat’s engine is still running, but we’ve stalled in the middle of the channel. The only way Reyes or McLean can get to us was if they commandeered a boat. That could take hours.
I take a deep breath and enter, gun out before me.
The door slams shut behind me, cutting off all light. It was like someone closed my eyes. No, worse. I can’t even remember what light is.
My finger slips on the trigger and a shot lights the interior of the cabin.
In that instance, I see a dark stain, vaguely humanoid with red burning eyes. Its straddled over Lou, its clawed hands deep inside Lou’s neck and spine.
Niki is there, too. Bound and strapped into a corner. His eyes are wide, but glazed, as if he hadn’t seen the sun for the last couple of days.
That demon is about to possess Lou, giving him the strength of a thousand souls. A possessed person doesn’t feel pain. A demon doesn’t care what damage it does to the possessed, so long as it gets what it wants. And I’m guessing, killing me was a top priority.
I almost turn to claw my way out of there, but my experience with Bly the Fly makes me think I can do this. I can take it on. I don’t have to let these bastards eat away at me or anyone else. Especially not a kid.
Something crashes into me hard enough to drive me through the door and half way across the boat’s deck. My gun clatters over the side of the boat. The world spins around me.
Lou is on top of me, clawing at my throat with one hand, cutting off my air, while the other is pounding into my side. He cracks a few ribs. He’s got a fist of steel hammering at me over and over. I can’t breathe. Bright spots obscure my vision and something warm spurts from my lips.
I have nothing to lose, so I reach into Lou’s belly.
Electricity courses through me, making me bite my tongue. I’m about to black out, but I have a hold of the demon inside of Lou. It’s slick at shit and pulses as if a thousand worms with razor-sharp teeth are eating at the edges of my skin. I’m vaguely aware that Lou has gone limp on top of me and my feet pound the boat in some sort of epileptic fit.
Inside, my hands wrap around the demon’s throat, but it’s too big. It’s as big as the boat or maybe the ocean. There’s no way I can even get a good enough purchase on the fucker, let alone get it in my mouth.
But I dig my fingernails into it anyway and pull it close. If I couldn’t eat it whole, I would take a bite out of it.
But then it’s gone. I gasp a breath. Lights swirl, flashing across my vision.
Something wet, salty, and cold splashes my face. Sputtering, I jump up and lash out at the same time, clipping something.
“Tesserak!” someone says.
My eyes focus on Reyes. For a second, there’s murder in her eyes, but when our gazes meet, a look of relief comes over her.
McLean is bent over, nursing his chin – again.
“Oh, shit,” I mumble. “I’m sorry.”
Pain lances up my side and my tongue feels like it’s torn in two.
Wincing, I add, “Where’s Lou?”
Reyes steps aside, revealing Lou passed out and zipped tied on the deck of his boat.
Both Reyes and McLean stare at each other, as if they hadn’t really expected to find the kid.
Reyes moves first, but I move faster.
Inside the cabin, Niki is where I last saw him. Tears fill his dark eyes and he doesn’t take them off his father, even after we pile into the cabin.
When I remove the gag over his mouth and touch his shoulder, he looks up at me.
There’s a fear there I know all too well. How many times had I looked at my father like that after he’d beat me for being less than perfect?
Niki mouths something.
I can’t hear him.
“It’s okay, kid,” I say, my tongue swelling and making me sound like I’m five years old. “It’s gonna be okay.”
But he tries again.
So, I bend over, putting my ear near his mouth.
He says, “My mother said to say thank you.”
I tilt my head. The kid is looking straight at me. For a moment, we just stare. There’s tears in his eyes and before them jump into mine, I give him a small nod and stand up.
“Shit!” I say, turning to Reyes and McLean, pushing on my battered body to get past me. “Anyone gonna call an ambulance?”
* * *
Later that afternoon, I lay on my couch, nursing my cracked ribs and soaking my tongue in alcohol – the Rum variety.
McLean is on the tiny screen on my phone, a bubble of ocean water obscuring one side of his face. But the audio is working again and I hear him say how SPI saved Niki Jing-Merryweather from his deranged father. Reyes is standing next to him, her tired gaze fixed on something behind the camera. It seems to me like the weight of all the world’s missing children stand on her shoulders. The announcer says some bullshit that through the hard work of official paranormal entity sensors and with the assistance of the boy’s ghostly mother, the boy was found before his father could take him out of the country.
“Or kill him,” I say aloud, but then regret it as my tongue sends a sharp pain through the base of my throat.
The news program flashes to some PES expert who explains that we were not ghost-busters. And how we weren’t exactly part of the police force but a vital part of paranormal investigations since the solar flares of 2020. The piece changes to a recorded interview with the grandparents from both sides, thanking SPI for bringing back their grandson.
There’s wetness on my cheeks and I wipe at it.
Looking at my tear-stained fingers, I mumble to an empty room, “Not completely useless.”
It’s then I remember my father and his naked ghost. A moan escapes me. How am I gonna explain that one to Reyes and McLean?
Thank you for reading Ghost Stories – Possession.
What did you think? Should I continue the story?
I have three more ghost stories with Tesserak, Reyes and McLean. None of which are as complete as this one. I’d like to finish Lorena’s tale, but not sure it is worth it.
Anyway, thanks again for making it this far.