You know the talk over the years that this place is haunted?
I was working late last night, when I heard a cry for help. It sounded far away.
I assumed it came from outside, but when I walked up front, I saw a young man and woman standing there.
The young man wore dungarees and a plaid shirt. The young lady wore a simple sundress. They were holding hands.
Their clothes looked old-fashioned. I could see through them. “Please help us,” the girl pleaded.
The young man nodded at me.
Their pained and sincere expressions convinced me they really did need my help. I wasn’t afraid of them, either, they looked pretty unhappy.
“How can I help you? Why have you come to me?”
The young man gestured. “You know what this building used to be?”
“Before the newspaper bought it? It was the old high school.”
“My name’s Dale Joland. This is my betrothed, Judy Langhammer. We went to school here.”
“What can I do for you?”
“You can help us. You need you to erase something–a sentiment I scribbled years ago. It’s still here. It’s the only reason we can’t move on.”
“Move on? Like to Heaven?”
“Yes,” said Dale. “You can’t enter the gates of Heaven unless all ties to Earth are gone, until all records of your existence on Earth are erased or forgotten.”
I thought about that. “You mean then nobody’s getting into Heaven any more?”
Dale shrugged his shoulders.
“You can help us,” Judy said.
“What do you need me to do?” I asked.
“A little sentiment I scribbled in the supply closet is the only record of us left on this Earth. Our families died off years ago. We died in 1906–it was an accident with a buggy at the train crossing.”
“Yes, the county courthouse burned in 1907,” I said. “Your birth certificate and marriage license and everything else must have burnt up.”
Dale squeezed Judy’s hand. “That’s right.”
“So you mean that a little piece of graffiti is all that’s keeping you two kids from reaching heaven? I mean, how long have some people been waiting?”
“There’s a man named Narmer who’s been at the gates for over 10,000 years,” said Judy. “Also a man named Gilgamesh has been there at least as long.”
“Crap, then you’re lucky,” I said, turning to Dale. “You said you wrote this graffiti in a supply closet?”
“Yes. Judy was assigned to get supplies for the teachers. I snuck into the closet one day and drew a small heart with an arrow on the wall, right behind where there was a pile of erasers, so she would see it.”
“Where was this closet?”
“It was the last door on the left as you came down the main hallway,” said Dale.
I turned around. “I know where it is.”
I walked down the hallway and shined a light in the old storeroom. “Do you have any idea where on the wall the graffiti is?”
Dale stepped forward. “The erasers were on top of the filing cabinet opposite the door,” he said.
The wall is now covered with shelves holding old bound volumes of back issues of the paper. I began to pull the volumes out and pile them on the floor. As I did I looked back at the pair of ghosts.
“So everyone whose name is recorded on Earth is held up from entering Heaven? Who’s idea was that?”
“Mankind’s fall wasn’t eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge,” said Dale “It was writing down that knowledge. The Enemy took the shape of a man with a bird’s head. It wasn’t a serpent–although the bird had a neck like a serpent.”
“An ibis,” I grunted. “Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge. You mean civilization is the devil’s plan for humanity’s damnation?”
“Yes,” said Judy. “And now the numbers trapped at the gates are so very large…”
“The negative energy will soon overwhelm the material world, too,” said Dale.
I kept pulling and stacking. “That explains a lot about the last 200 years,” I said, “and also about this 2012 talk.”
I leaned back and shined the flashlight on the wall. The old layers of paint on the wall were pockmarked and peeling. As I shone the flashlight, I could see many scribbles in pencil, pen and marker.
“This wall is loaded with graffiti,” I called back. “What am I looking for?”
“It says ‘Dale loves Judy, TLA’ Inside a heart,” said Dale.
“Some things never change,” I muttered. Then I saw it was in front of my nose. “Hold on, I found it.”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out the bottle of Wite-Out. I doused the sponge on the tip of the applicator and dabbed the white liquid onto the small heart, which was perhaps no more than an inch and a half wide. As I finishing dabbing, I heard Dale’s voice.
“Yes, thank…” came Judy’s voice. I pulled my head back.
They were gone.
I hate to quit a job without notice, but I thought you deserved an explanation. I’m going to a hunting cabin in the Rockies my father left me. It may be a good place to hide when all hell – or heaven or limbo or whatever – breaks loose.
Meanwhile, I will start working on how to erase all traces of my life here on earth. It will take time – if I have it.
Oh, please help me get a little start. Shred this when you’re done reading it. And take my name out of today’s staff box.
Your (former) Night Editor,
©2011 Lou Antonelli