“What’s your name?” Garrin asked without speaking a single word aloud.
A thick silence followed.
“What’s your name?” he repeated.
“I am Ubel . . . ” came the unspoken response.
“What are you doing here.”
“What do you think? The lad . . . he wanted to see me and I am happy to oblige. . . . Seek and ye shall find.”
Garrin pivoted, glancing through the office’s clouded window pane behind him. Hunter and Landon remained where he’d left them, speaking back and forth in fierce whispers, likely debating their next move. He hoped they would simply turn around and leave the building.
“You will have a difficult time stopping me now,” Ubel said without speaking, moving out from behind the desk and standing before Garrin; its face still nothing more than a gradient of black. “If you leave the room now, they will see you.” At that, the figure leaned down and picked up a splintered chair leg, raking it across the floor and letting it drop with a clatter.
“Think fast,” Ubel said with a laugh, “here comes the photographer. Whose form shall he capture—yours or mine?”
“Don’t you avoid the camera?”
“When I can, but it hardly matters. No one believes such things—they will merely say it is staged or ‘Photoshopped.’ ”
Unlike the rest of the factory, which was mild and humid, this room was colder than ice; yet Garrin sensed body heat nearby, and it wasn’t the boys. He shot a glance through the window. Hunter was approaching now, eyes wide and camera raised. Within seconds he’d be upon them.
In one bound, Garrin leaped over the desk, scaled a filing cabinet and reached up into the exposed roofing where a mother raccoon lay curled up with her babies. Taking the animal in both hands, he silently jumped the desk again and let her loose at the door with a jerk forward. The bewildered creature stumbled outside and collided with Hunter, who came to an abrupt stop.
Hunter hollered and stomped his foot. “You have got to be kidding me!”
Landon let out a tremulous laugh and ran a hand across his sweaty forehead, smiling with obvious relief. “He really had you going—”
“Shut-up, Lan, just shut-up.”
Ubel brushed passed Garrin and went out onto the ramp where he stood still as a statue beyond the reach of Landon’s flashlight beam which was positioned on the frightened, blinking raccoon. Hunter’s back to the figure, he switched from the camera app to his flashlight, muttering under his breath. The raccoon waddled off into the pitch, and Garrin waited unmoving in the cloak of the door frame, unable to determine what exactly Ubel had planned next.
Hunter straightened, shivering. “Do you feel that?”
Landon raised his smartphone beam toward the ceiling. “Maybe it’s coming from the roof?”
“No, it’s behind us.” Hunter turned around as he spoke, sweeping his flashlight beam over Ubel—silhouetting the apparition.
Hunter, gawking, turned to flee and plunged into Landon; knocking him sideways into the railing. The disintegrated metal cracked and split with the impact, giving way. Both Landon and his phone fell over the edge. Within the same second, Garrin scaled the railing and grabbed both the grating from below and Landon’s ankle—snagging it in the twisted metal of the partly detached railing. The teen dangled in mid-air as his phone hit the cement below and shattered.
Having scrambled back to his feet, Hunter gaped down at his friend; blinking and rubbing his palms on his T-shirt, and swallowing repeatedly. His phone lay glowing on the grating nearby. He hadn’t seen Garrin jump the railing, nor did he see him now where he remained positioned beneath the ramp, hanging from the grating himself.
“Help me—” Landon cried, trying without success to pull himself up from the waist only to fall back again, arms flailing. The metal groaned, detaching further.
Hunter dropped to his knees, holding the grating with one hand for support and trying to grab hold of Landon’s wrist with the other. “I can’t reach you—”
“But I’m going to fall—I’ll break my neck—you’ve got to help me!”
Another section of the metal detached and Landon, screaming, dropped a foot lower.
Garrin knew Hunter didn’t have the muscle strength to pull Landon up by the legs. One more snap and the railing would break clean through.
Moving his leg beneath the length of Landon’s back, Garrin pushed—folding the teen upward at the waist. Seizing the chance, Hunter grabbed Landon’s wrist with both hands and yanked, pulling him up onto the ramp. Landon grabbed onto the grating with his free hand while Hunter pulled him the rest of the way up by the collar of his shirt. His ankle came free and the last bit of railing tore apart; a moment later clanging on the cement below.
Both boys lay crumpled on the grating, gasping for air.
“Someone . . . someone pushed me up,” Landon said.
“What? No, I pulled you up. . . . Adrenaline rush, I think.”
They sat up, then stood, Hunter collecting his phone and Landon walking with a limp.
“I felt it though,” he said, “I was pushed up from behind, right before you grabbed my wrist.”
Garrin dropped to the ground silently and remained in a corner while the boys clamored down the stairs and hurried to get out of the building, glancing back over their shoulders with every little sound. But he needn’t follow them too closely now—Ubel was long gone.
A couple years later in the highschool cafeteria, Landon and another young man sat eating together, chatting, and scrolling on their smartphones—when just like that, the blood drained from Landon’s face.
He sat upright.
“Hey, Wyatt . . . ” He spoke in a pinched, breathless tone. “Do you remember Hunter . . . grade nine math and biology, before he moved away?”
“Hunter. Yeah, yeah, I remember him. The one with the website. Obsessed with ghosts. Always trying to get photos and video footage.” A laugh. “Why you ask?”
“What—how?” Wyatt leaned over Landon’s shoulder to get a look at his phone.
“Says here he was crushed under several hundred pounds of lumber in an old barn, when an upper floor collapsed on him.”
“Man . . . ”
Landon remained silent.
“Well, look on the bright side. I guess he’ll know if ghosts are real now, won’t he.” Another laugh. “Hey, don’t you Christians believe in angels?”
Landon set down his phone and looked at his friend.
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
Page 2 of 2.
Featured image adapted from photo by Jan Bommes, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution.