Monday, January 11, 2010


Hello, my name is Steve Winwood. If you Google my name you’re going to think that I’m some semi-famous guy. Well I’m not. I had no idea who the Steve Winwood was until someone said, what, like the Steve Winwood? And I said who?
            This isn’t about how I share a name with someone who I’m ‘in the Wiki know’ about. This is about how my house has spooks. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and that’s not the case, I assure you. I can walk around in the dark anywhere and I’ll be fine. Just not up on the second floor of my house, where the spooks work. Their job is to make me feel uneasy and like I should probably run everywhere I go when I’m upstairs. They do a very good job of this, of course. I feel like every time I reach to flip on the light switch there will be something staring me down when I snap my head around to survey the room I just walked in to.  If I walk by a bed I’m sure that some decrepit skeleton hand will shoot out and grab my ankle.
(Never mind that skeletons can’t be strong enough to do any damage to me. One stomp on an infirm skeleton wrist should be enough to cripple it past the point of inflicting physical harm.)

And you may have guessed that the times I am the most spooked by the spooks is at night. This is true. But I maintain: I am not scared of the dark. I’m scared of the spooks. Sometimes the upstairs is still scary in the daytime but it’s not quite as bad. The fact that it’s still scary in the daytime is how I know that it’s spooks and not just the dark.
I used to wonder why ghost hunters hunted with the lights off. If you were to see a ghost, wouldn’t it be easier for you to see them with the lights on? Human eyes were not created with night vision. Then I figured it out. Ghosts use the elements. They’re phantasms, nay, phantoms (!) that have become attuned to the dark because of it’s spooky advantages. What can they do to you physically? Honestly, not much. Not the ghosts that reside upstairs, at least. They could creak a door, maybe, or make me chilly, but that’s not much to have a heart attack over. Nothing to scream myself into acute apoplexy over. So once the haunting community came to terms with this I think they agreed that the proper time to haunt is the night. When things are dark- uncertain- likely harbor a forgotten and discarded artifact to trip you. In the daytime things aren’t nearly as scary. Ever seen a vacuum cleaner look like a short woman with a horridly bent nose? I have. It was at night. Then I saw the vacuum cleaner ten hours later. It was a vacuum.
Ghosts don’t have to be seen; they are felt instead. That’s why the whole upstairs is spooky. I know it’s not one oversized spook that covers the whole upstairs and spills into every nook and cranny of ever room- how preposterous! Those spooks are just everywhere up there. I can feel it. Ghosts are scariest when they wait just outside of your vision- right outside a door or right behind your head when you curl up facing the wall at night.

And, once again, I promise you that I am not afraid of the dark.

The ghost’s spooking jurisdiction ends somewhere near the bottom of the stairs. I feel the tight grip of their spooky hands releasing whatever it is in my chest and throat that makes me feel so uneasy when I’m up there. Let’s just say it’s the human’s spook nerve. When clinched properly it can affect your whole body. It can make you shake; it can make you double over, even. It can make you say the silliest things. Men: it can make you sound like a woman. Woman: it can make your man come running to you in childlike fear. It can make you gulp right after it makes your throat the Mojave Desert. This spook nerve- the one that invokes the powerful emotion of fear- can make you lie and it can make you hurt people when you’re normally as docile as a little Yorkshire Terrier and it can turn you into a scared little rabbit that can’t do anything but run in a helter-skelter pell-mell scramble for the hills or whatever you may be running to for refuge. However you may handle yourself when this nerve is grabbed or pinched and prodded varies with the day, it seems. Sometimes I make my trip down the stairs a quick one, bouncing down each step as fast as I can go without risking a fall and sometimes I walk slowly, defying each and every spook that may be trying to make sure I pee my pants on my way out.
One particular day I was feeling defiant. That day was the day that I actually encountered my first spook. I’m talking visual contact and all.
It was daytime, a perfect time to defy spooks. I started my slow descent down the stairs, not feeling very spooked at all by this trip. Halfway down the stairs I heard something and I stopped. It sounded faintly like someone blubbering on about something through broken sobs- something like this: boo… ablubbadoo-hoo… aboooooo... hoo... hoooo. All with long “o” sounds, of course. Very melodramatic and melancholic.
Galvanized by the inexplicable human notion that everything mysterious needs to be investigated, I turned around. I crept up the stairs as quietly as I could, making sure I would not lose the sound that I was in the process of tracking down. I got to the top of the stairs and craned my head down the hallway to the right- nothing. Nothing in sight, that is. The sound was still there, though, somewhere near the other end of the hall. I walked slowly, stopping sharply at the sound of any creak in the floor. It took me probably five minutes to traverse the length of the hallway. I looked in on the two rooms that I passed on my journey, but seeing as none of them contained The Sound I continued forward, slowly, slowly. Now the hallway presented me with three choices: straight into the walk-in closet attached to one of the guest bedrooms, a right which led to the aforementioned bedroom or a left which led to the bathroom, which was also connected to the first room on the left as you walk the hallway from the stairs. My upstairs is a maze, come to think of it. I know it like the back of my hand, assuming the back of my hand is spooky and implying that I only look at it when I need to. I took a left, following my ears.
It was coming from behind the shower curtain, louder than ever. Someone, or something, was definitely crying in my bathtub. I grabbed the edge of the curtain and yanked it clear to my left and gasped, fell backwards and ripped the curtain off of the railing as I watched a ghostly figure gasp, fall backwards into the wall, sobbing, and make the shower head drip lightly as a spook may do to spook the intended spook-ee. Needless to say, I was spooked. For a few seconds. Then I realized that I still heard this sobbing.
“Gh…ghost?” I said into the air, pulling the detached shower curtain over me like a blanket. A security blanket, to be exact. Don’t tell anyone, but I still have my baby blanket. It’s purple and it is the target of jealousy for many a woman wishing to snuggle with me. I’m loyal to my blankie.
“Go away!” Blubbered the ghost from inside the wall, somewhere just beyond the reaches of my human eyes.
“Is something…is there something I can help you with?” I asked the wall, still feeling a little bewildered at the whole incident.
“Go eat something you’re allergic to! Or, better yet, go find me something to eat that I’m allergic to.” Came the ghost’s curt reply, and then after a dramatic and timely pause he continued in a dragged out bleat: “Oh wait. I’m a ghost.
“What is going on?!” I asked myself out loud.
“What is going on with you?” Shot back the ghost.
“I wasn’t…”
“How come you’re not scared of me ever?” Whinnied the ghost.
“Every time I’m stuck out here on day shift you’re never scared when you’re up here. Don’t think that I don’t notice. You don’t even pretend to be scared. You could at least give me that! And the others- oh, they notice too!”
And then we were silent for what was probably seven whole seconds. Seven severely interminable seconds. And then I spoke up.
“I, um, you know that I have no idea what’s going on right now, don’t you?”
“I’m haunting you. Wooooo-ooohh” Said the most halfhearted ghost I could have ever imagined.
“Look, ghost,” I said a little uneasily. “I’m scared right now. I tore the shower curtain off.”
“That’s only because you saw me. Showing yourself is a last resort when you’re a ghost trying to scare people, and anyway, I wasn’t trying to scare you. I was on break.”
“On break? From what?”
“From spooking, what else? I’m a ghost. It’s not like I was taking a break from an intense cribbage tournament.”
“I guess.” I said, which, by the way, is something you can say to anything. Seriously. Try it out sometime. (Correct response: Alright…I guess.)
“What do you mean by shifts?” I asked.
“Shifts?” Said the ghost. “Oh. Shifts. Yes. This is the graveyard shift. All the other ghosts are asleep right now.”
“Ghosts sleep?”
“Well, yes, but only because being up all day every day is extremely boring. Especially since you don’t come up here all that often. We just stay awake in shifts. We keep the most ghosts on spooking duty when it’s dark outside.” Explained the wall.
“Yeah. And they won’t let me work the night shifts with them because they say they already have enough ghosts to cover the shift. Like there can be too many!” Whined the ghost. “The more the scarier, right? That’s how the saying goes!”
“Oh, come on, ghost. You’re scary!” I solaced the poor thing.
“Yeah? Then what was that stunt on the stairs all about? You never slowly walk down the stairs at night!”
“Yeah…well…I twisted my ankle the other day and now I have to be careful on stairs.” I fibbed like a child. It was obvious that I was lying; the ghost resumed its ululations of self-pity.
“I’m the worst ghost ever!” It wailed.
“Ah butter biscuits.” I said under my breath.
“What...did you say?” Asked the sobbing ghost.
“I, uh, said …butter biscuits.” I said feeling embarrassed at my stupid replacement words. I usually just say something random with alliteration that’s likely to make me smile after making a mistake. One time, a few years ago, I said “Aw JonBenét Ramsey!” and my co-worker looked at me kinda funny and I go “Too soon?” even though it was more than ten years after the fact. He didn’t find the same humor I did in it and it probably made the foot-in-mouth situation that I was trying to navigate out of worse so from then on I decided to just say harmless things like “butter biscuits!” and “snake socks!” and “parrot pushups!” and so on.
“B…butter biscuits?” The ghost blubbered back.
“Butter biscuits.” I sighed in reply.
And then the sobbing ghost did something you see children do when they find out that their immunization shot or their first haircut or first rollercoaster isn’t all that scary or doesn’t even hurt. The crying segued right into laughing. Hysterical laughing, choking on breaths and sniffling and I’m sure even a sore ghostly abdomen to boot. Then I started laughing a little bit too.
“Shh…shh!” The ghost said as it calmed down. “You’ll wake the others!” It warned me.
“Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea…” I said as a light bulb in my head flickered on.
“No, that would be a terrible idea!” Said the ghost with a plea somewhere in the tone of its not-so-spooky voice.
“Look,” I said, pulling the shower curtain to the side revealing a growing dark spot on my pants.
“Something smells like piss and asparagus.” Said the ghost from behind the wall.
“I know.” I whispered.
“You just pissed your pants.” Stated the ghost, nonplussed.
“I’m going to get up, run out of here and down the stairs. I’m going to drop my phone in the hallway and run back up to get it about a minute after I get down. Wake your ghost friends up.”
I felt cold burst through me right after I said that and I could already feel the whole upstairs getting spookier as I got up and ran as fast as I could down the hallway and tore down the stairs. I stood in the living room, panting a little bit. I walked into the kitchen, turned the faucet on cold and filled up a glass of water. It’s not often that someone will sacrifice their pride for another, but the feeling I had coursing through my veins for what I was about to do as I drank that water was one more rewarding than any I felt in literally years. I set down the glass, put on my game face and crept towards the stairs. I poked my head in the doorway leading to the stairs, mounted the small landing at the bottom of the stairs, and bolted.

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