An Unfinished Game

Grandma Interrupted

WITNESS

Lynessa Layne
Date | Autumn, 2002
Location | In the boonies of Plantersville, TX, northwest of Houston

THE STORY

I knew better. I was raised to know. 

The Bible warns never to interact with the spiritual realm. Demons desperate to be once more among the living fill our hopeful minds with tricks while evil flirts with a human long enough to be invited in. Growing up in a God-fearing household, I’d known better, but Junior High teens don’t care about resisting temptation, and they’re also invincible. Sleepovers were much more fun when my besties and I stopped gushing over crushes and began dabbling with unseen forces. 

Pencils. Three each. Folded to make a U. We held them in our hands and touched both U’s together. At times, nothing happened, and pencils were as lifeless as they were when coloring dots on a scantron. Other times, the immediate pull on the wood connected like playing with magnets in science. Up, down, in, out, sometimes opposing directions like a ‘maybe’ to one of our stupid questions. The responses were so cool!

My best of besties, Maria, and I would goof-off, watch movies, music videos, have girl talk, but inevitably, the pencils came out. 

The pull got stronger, not on the pencils, the pull for more. Like being in a relationship with a boy who mystified you. You’d held hands, kissed, graduated to making out, but now he wanted to go beneath your shirt. Should you let him?

Let’s make a board,” one of us suggested. I couldn’t remember which. We were both nervous and excited about moving to spiritual second base.

Out of what? We don’t have anything besides paper,” the other offered. 

We looked around her messy room scattered with homework, makeup, clothing, but the best we could do was a piece of printer paper from her mom’s stash. “If those pencils were good enough, it will be able to do this.“”

While one of us set about drawing letters like an Ouija board, the other found some cardboard and began cutting it into a triangle. The hole wasn’t easy, and we’d had to bend the material to make a circle in the center. It had an ugly crease when we were done. 

You think it’s your grandma?” I asked her. She’d passed a few years back, and we’d felt like the pencils had provided guiding responses of the maternal type. 

Maria shrugged and reached across her bed for a scarf her grandmother knitted for her. 

I don’t know, but we can put this up here and find out. See if she can knock it down to give us a sign?” Maria smiled and reached on her tiptoes for a shelf over her bed. It was high, and she had to struggle to push the cloth about ten inches back against the wall until the scarf looked like a purple snake settled in for a nap. She wiped her palms like she’d gotten dirty. “There. Candles?

Sure, good idea.” We lit three and placed them around the room, then turned out the lights. We sat across from one another, the makeshift joke of a board between us. The flimsy paper crinkled against the carpet, so we placed her math book beneath the sheet, then put two fingers from each hand to the cardboard we set in the blank space on the paper. Each of us released a breath in anticipation of the same familiar excitement. “You want to ask the first question?

She nodded and chewed her lower lip. “Is this you, grandma?

Her voice was low enough that those in the living room watching TV wouldn’t hear us. We looked down at our fingers and felt …

Nothing. 

At all.

Our excitement dashed like letting the air rush from a balloon. 

Let’s try again.

We adjusted our posture as if we meant business. What fools. 

But, somehow, our demeanor did matter, because the vibe in the room shifted like this quiet spirit now watched with a wicked smirk, thinking Oh, yeah? You want to play that game? Gladly.

Is anyone here with us?” I asked. We sat with determination, our fingers feeling nothing for passing seconds as we stubbornly waited. Neither of us broke the silence. The candles flickered just a bit differently, enough to make us feel the change. Our eyes met like we’d succeeded at something, but we looked back to our unmoving fingers, only to realize they’d moved, and were moving still! Millimeter, by tiny millimeter, we couldn’t feel, crawling like the slowest of insects toward the ‘YES’ we’d printed. 

I’m not doing that. Are you doing that?” I asked her, almost willing her to be screwing with me. 

No, girl. C’mon.” 

Our skin prickled with goosebumps at the same time, and my scalp felt like every strand of hair became needles.

Who is here with us? What is your name?” Maria asked when we’d been patient enough to wait the two-minute trip over the answer. We weren’t foolish enough to get pissed at the spirit for taking so long. After all, we were interrupting their realm. Least we could do was be polite.

Our eyes met once more, and we were anxiously excited.

Again, when we looked down, our triangle was relocating, heading down at a snail’s pace, holding us in suspense. I knew now, looking back, that the entity enjoyed the control over us like a meal for its starving belly. Never full. Always hungry.

S,” we said together. We hyper focused as the triangle began the tedious trip to another letter. The candles sparked, but our absorption was on the “A” we announced at the next finish line.

Do you know anyone with those letters so far,” I asked, “because I don’t.”

Hmmm …” She looked far away in her mind, digging for anything we could spin into a connection. 

Add a T to that. SAT.” The triangle crawled away while we sought a name we knew, but nothing.

Oh, my gosh!” Maria gasped. “Look!” 

Goosebumps didn’t have jack on our horrifying dawning. The triangle rolled over the A and got too close to the N for our liking. Unable to keep going, we ripped our hands from the cardboard. 

Hell no!” was only one of the things we sputtered in our panic. At once, all three candles extinguished in a sudden gust of chilled air. Maria and I lunged into each other’s arms. Three hard, loud knocks sounded rock-solid on the door like the spirit had come for a foreboding visit. The hell we were calling the entity by the spelled-out name. That shit was only in the Bible, right? 

Turn on the lights! Hurry!” I cried. We scrambled together, unwilling to untangle in the dark. The ‘board’ crunched beneath our feet, and she fumbled for the switch that blessedly illuminated the room in instant relief. As we clung together at the foot of her bed, catching our breath, we looked over in unison to see the scarf lying on her pillow.

Let’s get out of here!” 

I nodded in agreement. We released each other and jolted for the door. I wrapped my arms over my chest, unable to get warm enough, even though East Texas in Autumn is still in the nineties. We could’ve jumped in the pool in her front yard right now if we wanted, but I needed a coat. If the country wasn’t pitch black after the sun went down, the outside heat would’ve been soothing. 

We tried not to run into the living room so her parents wouldn’t know anything was wrong. 

Did anyone knock on my door just now?” Maria demanded, probably a little disrespectful. Her parents looked up like they hadn’t realized we’d come into the room, then they looked like we were crazy and shook their heads. 

If we tried to sleep on the floor out there, they’d know something was wrong. We never hung around them unless they forced us to. We lingered in the shallow hallway, looking at her partially open door. The light was still on, innocent enough, yet now her room seemed nothing like the one we’d always played makeup and nail salon in. 

Now that door looked like a sneaky beast was beckoning from behind it with a curling claw. ‘Come here little girls. I won’t hurt you. Want some candy? Just a little closer …

Though we’d been inseparable for years, after that night, things were never the same between us. A lot of drama distanced us. We hurt one another in ways that were unthinking and two-faced. Until now I’d never connected the cause. Though we’d burned that ‘board’ and never picked up another set of pencils, the damage was done. The evil was there, and the spirit didn’t need us to reach out to it any longer. We’d invited the vampire in to take its meal over a long period of time. 

As I looked into the mirror of my new bathroom, three inexplicable scratches marred my armpit, and I knew, even now, twenty years into adulthood, that evil spirit still followed me wherever I went. 

Dabbing ointment on the most recent attack, I thought of Maria, and couldn’t help wondering what kind of attacks she still had to contend with as well.

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