My grandfather never spent that much time with me, growing up. When I heard the news of his passing, all I could muster was a tone of indifference in the form of empty condolences. My lack of sympathy turned to guilt when I heard he left me everything he owned. This, however, was more than likely due to the falling out between him and my parents. Being his only grandchild, I was probably one of the few options he had when writing his will. I wouldn’t be surprised if he and his lawyer threw some names into a hat to pick the lucky winner.
No matter the reason behind my inheritance, I appreciated the gesture, though I didn’t wait with bated breath, knowing the man didn’t have much to his name. I expected to receive old war bonds and some hand me down vintage clothing, void of any modern value. Still, I was vaguely curious, but not enough to keep the thought fresh in my mind. I forgot all about my new “wealth” until it eventually arrived at my doorstep.
Sure enough, a few weeks after my grandfather’s death, a large package came in the mail, containing all of his belongings. As I suspected, there wasn’t much; some old photo albums, antiques, a pocket watch, and a box full of outdated TV guides. One of his possessions, however, grabbed my attention. It was a wrapped gift addressed to Abigail, my grandmother. She passed shortly after giving birth to my father, so I assumed he never had the chance to give it to her.
Holding the unopened gift brought with it a slight wave of sadness for my grandparents and their situation back then. My dad had told me countless times about how much Grandpa missed Grandma over the years. Abigail was the love of his life; they were supposed to run off to Paris and start a life together. This was always a dream of theirs. Pregnancy, followed by death, impeded this plan. A love story cut short by the unforgiving nature of life’s unexpected turns.
Though I felt grief for my grandfather, the feeling was soon outweighed by curiosity. I could have left the gift intact; an untouched memory that was never my place to view in the first place. That would have been the proper thing to do. But I was never really one for manners. I ripped that thing open so fast, a spiral of dust shot straight up in the air, clouding my glasses. I wiped them clean before looking at Grandma Abigail’s newly opened gift.
It was… a Ouija board. A Ouija board, of all things. With it, was a small note and a list of instructions.
This is what the note said:
To my dearest Abigail,
The shop owner told me that this was a special board, designed to grant wishes. If we wish with all of our might, maybe we can finally make it to Paris.
Upon reading the instructions, it seemed my grandfather was right:
Property of Grovewood & Co. An emporium of mystical artifacts, the likes of which have never been known. Use with the utmost caution.
This is a one-of-a-kind Ouija board that can manifest your deepest desires. If used properly, you will never need anything ever again. Follow these instructions to unlock what you’ve always wanted:
1. Remove the planchette from its compartment
2. Slide the planchette over the board, using the letters to spell out whatever it is you desire
3. Place the planchette back in its compartment, completing the ritual
Repeat this process as many times as you want, but NEVER attempt to revert a previous wish. It will not end well. Enjoy.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this. What a strange gift. Sweet, but strange.
I tossed the board in with the rest of my grandfather’s belongings and put them up in the attic. That’s where I thought they would stay, but as luck would have it, life took another one of its unexpected turns.
A few months passed. My grandfather and the items he left me were as far from my thoughts as they could possibly be. The only thing occupying my mind and heart was Veronica. We had been dating for 7 years, a perfect time to go our separate ways, according to her. I was devastated. I never knew how much I loved her until the moment she said goodbye. Heartbreak seemed to be a re-occurring theme in my family.
I drank a lot that night. And I mean a lot. In addition to whiskey, I was consumed with a toxic cocktail of heart-wrenching sadness and anger. As my depressed thoughts ran haywire, I wondered if this was the kind of loss my grandfather felt when Abigail died. That’s when I remembered the strange gift he bought. Perhaps I needed a way to cope with the breakup, or maybe I just wanted a distraction; either way, in a drunken stupor, I dug out the Ouija board for a closer look.
It was beautifully crafted. Hand-etched wood, a compartment built in to the side for the stunning ivory planchette, and a unique assortment of characters on the front. Everything was a bit fuzzy, but I could make out a mountain of letters descending in size as they moved up to a large ampersand at the top of the board. I was no Ouija-connoisseur, but I knew they didn’t make them like this anymore.
As I admired the board’s craftsmanship, an idea sprung to mind. I skimmed through the instructions, grabbed the planchette, and slid it over the face of the board. I used all of my drunken willpower to want what it was I wished for. With every scuff of ivory on wood, with every transition from letter to letter, I willed the universe to grant me a favor. I knew it was time for the relationship to end and I knew Veronica would be happier on a different path; I didn’t want to screw that up for her. Still, I needed closure. I wished for just one more day with her. One day, for old time’s sake.
I didn’t believe in magic, but I allowed myself to, if only for a brief drunken moment, to feel better. It was a catharsis that alleviated at least a small portion of my pain. After making the wish, I stumbled over to my bed, fell onto the sheets, and passed out.
My alcohol-induced slumber consisted of a plethora of dark dreams, most of which involved my grandparents. In one, I watched them strolling through Paris until the background melted into a horrible, black goo. In another, I saw Abigail giving birth; not to my father, but to the Ouija board (An image I will never get out of my head). The last one I can remember was of my grandfather using the board to wish for a child and then trying to take it back. Every dream ended with the same still image of the ampersand on the board, closing in on my field of view. Bizarre is the best word I can think of to describe it all.
I awoke the next day to a loud banging at my front door. I was hungover, but could gather enough of my wits to know I wasn’t expecting company. Confused and nauseous, I hesitantly looked out the front window to see Veronica, in all of her beauty, waiting patiently at my doorstep. I couldn’t believe it. Had the board worked? Or was it just a coincidence? I didn’t care what the circumstances were. With a racing heart, I quickly opened the door to greet my former love.
“I’m here.” She stated, plainly.
“But why? How?” I asked.
“Don’t ask questions,” she told me, “Just enjoy the time we have together.”
It was the board. What else could explain it. Veronica was supposed to be on a plane back home to her family in Canada. Nothing would have kept her from them, certainly not me. It worked. It really worked.
I decided to do as she said and not question the higher power that brought us back together. I would enjoy every last moment spent with her and hopefully it would help me put our relationship to rest. I had been given another chance, and I had no intention of letting it slip through my fingers.
That day was perfect. It was like every peak of our relationship rolled into one; an entire day of nothing but good moments, each one building on the previous to create a continuous story of happiness. That night, we even made love. The perfect ending to a perfect day. And as I laid there, my arm wrapped around her waist, we fell asleep together, one last time. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to our relationship. It was bittersweet, but I was elated. I could move on from this. The memory of this day would keep me going for years to come. Or so I thought.
Upon waking the next morning, I was horrified. My arm was still around Veronica’s waist, but it was not the same living, breathing Veronica I went to bed with the night previous. My arm was wrapped around my lover’s skeletal remains; a blackened pile of bone and ash. What I felt in that moment could be likened to shock, but it was different. Every drop of blood in my body ran cold and my heart sunk so low, I swear I could feel it beating in my stomach. I was absolutely mortified.
I couldn’t find it in me to move right away. All I could think of was the board and the stupid wish I made. I received exactly what I asked for; precisely 24 hours with my love. Now, she was gone to me. She was gone to the whole world. Her family would be waiting for her to get off that plane she never boarded. Her friends would wonder where she was. She would never bring joy to another human with her beautiful, captivating smile. She would never get to enjoy the life she so desperately sought to live after our breakup. It was all gone; all of it. Thanks to me.
In an emotionless, zombie-like state, I scooped up the brittle remains of my ex-lover into a cardboard box, placing her in the attic next to my grandfather’s belongings. I then grabbed some lighter fluid, a box of matches from the stove, and set my sights on the Ouija board. It was all I could think to do in that instance. It was all I could do to keep from breaking down.
Just as I was about to douse the wood, another idea sprung to mind. It worked the first time, so why not a second? The instructions clearly stated that I could use it as much as I desired. Why not simply wish for her to be alive again?
Aroused at the possibility of bringing my love back to life, I removed the planchette from the board, spelled out the phrase BRING HER BACK, and placed it back into its compartment. I waited. Nothing happened. I waited some more. Still nothing. Eventually I grew fed up and tossed the board against the wall. Tears dripped onto the floor. I hadn’t even realized I was crying. I missed her so much. This was definitely what my grandfather felt when he lost Abigail. I just knew it. The worst feeling a person could ever feel.
My breakdown was soon interrupted by the sound of footsteps above me. It was coming from the attic. My heart skipped a beat as I ran upstairs to see if Veronica had been brought back to me. I swung the door open with a smile on my face, expecting to see the love of my life alive and well with open arms. She was there alright, but not in the way I pictured.
The box of Veronica’s remains was opened and on its side. Standing beside it was Veronica, the same way I found her that morning; blackened bone and ash, only now she was upright and walking about. My adrenaline spiked as her wicked skull turned to see me at the doorway. She tilted her head before making a mad dash in my direction. I swiftly slammed the door shut and locked the deadbolt, but not before a swatch of fabric from my shirt was clawed off by bony fingers. A thunderous banging commenced, letting me know my Veronica was alive again, at least in some fashion, and she was livid.
I raced downstairs as the panic set in. Before I could catch my breath, my phone rang. I answered it and was greeted by Veronica’s parents. Apparently she failed to touch down in Montreal, but she told a few of her friends she was coming to see me before leaving.
“No, not here.” I awkwardly blurted out as I looked through my window to see Veronica’s car, still parked in the driveway. To make matters worse, the ferocious knocking from upstairs grew louder, no doubt bleeding through to the other end of the phone.
“Sorry, now’s not a good time.” I hung up on them, but they called back shortly after. As the phone continued to ring, the banging continued as well. The sounds clashed in my ears, creating a pressure that directed stress to every fiber of my body. I desperately needed a way out.
I grabbed the board in haste, letting my shaky hands rely mostly on muscle memory. As I pulled the planchette from its compartment, I heard what sounded like the attic door being busted open and footsteps coming down the stairs. I didn’t have a lot of time left. As fast as my arms would allow, I slid the planchette over the board and wished to be left alone. I placed it back inside and closed my eyes out of fear.
The noises… ceased. No phone ringing, no footsteps. In fact, all sound was gone. Overwhelming silence in every direction. Upon opening my eyes and looking out the front window, I was greeted with an empty world. No cars on the road, no neighbors doing yardwork, and no animals in the trees. I left my house and walked up and down my street, but saw no living creature anywhere. This was the board’s way of granting my wish. I could only truly be left alone if there was no one to bother me in the first place. Another one of its back-handed gifts. Splendid. Just splendid.
I walked back into my house and sat at the board, defeated. My life was ruined. Even if I wished again and accepted the board’s price, I could not revert the previous one. I tried that already and created a monster. It seemed I would always be by my lonesome, no matter what. Perhaps I deserved it. After all, I killed my girlfriend. I deleted everyone from existence. Maybe this was the path I was meant to take after all of the crimes I committed. Not just now, but before. In the 7 years I dated Veronica, I never once put her needs over my own. I took her for granted. That’s why she wanted to leave. Who could blame her? And now, I was alone. I couldn’t be near her or anyone ever again. This was punishment for my wrongdoings; my own personal slice of purgatory.
I came to accept my fate and hoped there was still a world out there; an alternate timeline where Veronica was living out her life and receiving the love she truly deserved. And maybe there was another where my grandparents’ time together wasn’t cut short; a string of different decisions that finally led them to a happy ending in Paris. I could only hope.
Looking down at the board, the large ampersand stared me down, much like it had in my peculiar dreams. This reminded me of something. The shop from the instruction manual, “Grovewood & Co.” – it was said to house a great deal of supernatural artifacts, like the board. What if that was my way out. If I could get to the shop, maybe I could use another artifact to fix the mess I had made.
It wasn’t much of a plan, but I literally had nothing to lose anymore. I slid the planchette over the board and spelled out TAKE ME TO GROVEWOOD & CO, making sure to use the large ampersand at the top. I placed the planchette inside and waited. Within seconds, a swirling vortex of light surrounded me, lifting me and the board into the air before placing us back on solid ground. When the white veil was lifted, I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
The board had taken me to a room. There were no doors or windows, only glass displays and book shelves. It felt akin to a museum or library. I could only presume I was in the Grovewood showroom, surrounded by powerful artifacts. I picked up the board and decided to take a tour. The things I saw were astounding.
Each display contained an artifact and a plaque, engraved with a description. These are some of the items I can remember:
None of what I saw seemed helpful. I perused the catalog of books the shop had to offer, but there were none in English. I’m not even sure they were of any earthly language. Eventually I came to a section of empty displays, including one for a Ouija board with the ability to fulfill desires. This was no doubt the display for my grandfather’s board. I wondered what would happen if I put it back in its case.
I carefully lifted the display and placed the board within. After reconnecting the glass to the base, something strange happened. A glow emanated from the board, almost as if a dormant power had been activated. Another light engulfed me and lifted me in the air. I was then placed back at home, safe and sound.
I quickly steeled my focus in an effort to get my bearings. There was no malicious sounds coming from upstairs, and no signs of the living dead in my peripheral. So far, so good, but I wasn’t quite sure yet if things were back to the way they were. For all I knew, the board backfired again and could strike at any moment.
I jumped. Someone was at the door. I calmed myself before opening it to find the delivery man, giving me the large package of things my grandfather left me. I signed for it and then bid him farewell, confusion painted across my face. I then received a text from Veronica; “We need to talk.” I never thought I would be so happy to see those words. It seemed placing the board back in its home worked. Everything had been reset. The world had returned to normal.
I chuckled to myself as I lifted the box back up to the attic. I couldn’t quite fathom everything I had been through, but I was glad it was over. It’s only after recalling these events, that I noticed something out of place. Veronica didn’t send a text like that until many weeks after I received my grandfather’s package. This was strange, but easy to brush off. A harmless side effect of the universe unravelling and reconnecting. Nothing to worry about.
I reached the attic door and placed my hand on the knob. Before turning it, I heard something coming from within…
With a great deal of hesitance, I turned the knob and pushed the door open, unsure of what to expect. Behind it was not my attic. It was a room full of glass displays and bookshelves; a room I was all too familiar with. Though it defied all explanation, I was back at the Grovewood shop, more baffled than I had been during any of my misadventures with the board. Perhaps I never really left. This had to be the downside; another one of the Ouija board’s many nightmares come to life.
Standing in the center of the room was Veronica, complete with her skin and vitality.
“Did you get my message? We really need to talk.”
“But Veronica, how…”
She cut me off before I could finish my thought.
“Oh, I’m not Veronica. I thought it best to take this form so as not to startle you. By nature, I’m also inclined to please the owner of the board. I knew you wanted to see her again.”
She was right. She looked and sounded like my Veronica, but I could tell something was slightly off. A feeling that I can’t quite put into words.
“And who are you, exactly,” was all I could offer in response.
“My chosen name is Eliana. I’m a manifestation of the board and its power.”
It was then that I noticed the dress she was wearing. An elegant array of letters leading up to an ampersand-shaped cut out at her chest. Was she really the human-version of my grandfather’s board?
“You’ve misused me to the point of fragmenting specific sections of the universe that are not easily sewn back together. I’m here to help you set things right. Most of my energy was spent taking on this physical form, but I have enough in me to grant you one more wish. You have to make this one count.”
“Umm, okay. What do I do?”
“I cannot make your wish for you, nor can I suggest or persuade to sway your judgement. I can, however, point you in the direction of knowledge that might help. Here, take my planchette and use it to read a book on the shelf behind me titled “Artifact Cocktails: Dual Forces and Their Effects.” The planchette’s glass will translate the text.”
The planchette materialized in her hand as she handed it to me.
“Turn to page 427 and read about which items can be used in tandem with the board to create new powers. It’s true that, with the board alone, you can’t revert a previous wish, but with the help of an item in this room, we may be able to circumvent that rule.”
Though disappointed my journey into the unknown wasn’t over, I has happy to have a little help this time around. I got to work immediately, using the planchette to scour the shelf for the correct title.
After finding the book, I opened it to page 427, and rubbed the planchette all over the chapter, devouring the text within. There were so many different uses for the board; some mundane, some dangerous, though none were deliberately helpful. I went over the pages a few times before shutting the book, confident in my next course of action.
It seemed, in the Grovewood shop, there was another Ouija board. When used together with mine in a specific manner, it could open a portal to view other realms. It wasn’t a cure for the mess, but it was a start. I didn’t know how it might help, but it was all I could think to try at the time, and I told Eliana as much.
“It’s not a bad idea. Your board, like many of the other items in this room, has jumped ship on more than one occasion. If you calibrate it just right, you might be able to see its use in one of these worlds, granting you better methods of implementation. It could be the key we need to unlock the mystery.”
Both boards appeared in Eliana’s hands as she handed them to me. I placed them on the floor, making sure to put my grandfather’s on top of its counterpart. I then placed their respective planchettes on a pair of random letters. Different combinations provided different results.
Before my very eyes, an oblong tear in the fabric of space-time revealed itself; with it, the view of a hidden world. I was taken aback, but Eliana didn’t so much as bat an eye.
The next few hours consisted of moving planchettes and stealing glimpses across realms. In one world, I saw a man, seemingly stuck in an attic, not dissimilar to my own. In another, a sentient orb floating through the cosmos. In another still, a frozen landscape, untouched by time. The one that interested me the most, however, was a town lost to the rest of its world, filled with inhabitants who can’t escape, try as they might.
While fascinating, none of the portals I opened were of any help. I eventually exhausted the normal combinations. This led to toying with the planchettes; turning them on their side, upside down, and even holding them steady above the board, all in an attempt to gain access to more timelines. No new ground was made, putting me right back at square one, defeated and weary.
At my wit’s end, staring blankly at the board before me, I was again greeted with the ominous ampersand. It was the only character I had yet to use. I saw this as an invitation to try one more experiment. Not expecting anything viable, I clicked the planchettes together and placed them onto the ampersand. To my surprise, a new portal opened up.
There, in the void, was what appeared to be a souvenir shop, filled with happy-go-lucky staff and customers. Eliana reacted this time, her mouth agape in awe.
“That’s the shop! Grovewood & Company! Shortly after its grand opening almost a century ago! You found it! This might be just what we need. Go ahead, look around. Let’s see what we can uncover.”
Eliana’s excitement was contagious, keeping me focused on our mission.
Remembering the instructions from the book, I slowly spun the planchettes in a clockwise motion to change perspective. It was like a slideshow, allowing me various vantage points from which to view the shop. Before long, I was there. The showroom. Within it, a vast collection of artifacts, dwarfing the one in my own timeline’s version of the shop. I cycled through the displays, and eventually wound up at a pocket-watch with no description on its plaque, causing Eliana to gasp.
“What is it,” I asked.
“Nothing. I just recognized that one is all. Keep going.”
I continued, but I could tell Eliana wasn’t with me. I prodded her for more answers.
“Are you okay? What’s on your mind?”
“I was just thinking. That pocket watch. If we had it, we could potentially use it with the board to erase what you’ve done.”
I didn’t understand what she meant, but I cycled back to the pocket-watch to get a closer look.
“It looks a little familiar, but I don’t recall it being in the chapter you showed me.”
“That’s because it isn’t in there. In fact, it isn’t in any of these books. It’s a powerful force that expels energy at random. Its many effects have never been fully documented, but I’ve seen it in action. One of its abilities is time travel, usually killing the user in the process.”
“Oh. Perfect.” I said, sarcastically.
“If you use the board to focus the watch and hone in on this one power, you can wish for its mercy, granting you safe passage. We could turn back the sands of time to before you used the board and reverse its toxic effects once and for all.”
“I thought you were bound by the board not to make suggestions?” I pointed out.
“That’s just it. It’s not really a suggestion if we can’t acquire the watch. This is a one-way window, after all. Nothing goes in and nothing can come out.”
She was right, but I had an idea.
My eyes darted around the room until I found what I was looking for. In a display to my left was the woodman’s ax. I remembered it from my previous trip. This is when I asked Eliana a question.
“Can three artifacts be used together, rather than just two?”
“In theory, but I’ve never heard of anyone trying it before. I wouldn’t advise it.”
That was all I needed to know. I ran over to the display, lifted the glass, and grabbed the ax.
“Wait. What are you doing? That’s not going to work. You don’t know what will happen.”
I ignored Eliana’s warnings and thrust the ax’s blade into the portal. A wave of energy knocked me back against the far wall. On the verge of becoming unconscious, I watched as a dark mist exited the opening and swirled towards Eliana, entering through her mouth. She grew in size and wore a crooked smile with blood red eyes; possessed by some otherworldly entity. She then picked up the ax and charged toward me; a sight that almost made me miss my zombie girlfriend.
In an injured daze, I managed to dodge her blows, weaving in and out of displays, being careful to avoid the broken glass that scattered in her wake. While running for my life, one of my knees gave out, causing me to fall in front of the Ouija boards. I instinctively grabbed one and held it up to shield my face as her ax came down on me. It struck the board and bounced back, a surge of enormous power released from their connection.
Could objects not destroy other objects?
Eliana and the ax fell to the floor. The dark mist exited her body and raced toward me. Just as it was about to worm its way into my mouth, it froze in place. This is when I noticed Eliana sitting up on the floor, her arm outreached. She was using her power to control it.
In one fluid motion, Eliana swung her arm and the entity jumped back into the portal, the cut I made with the ax closing behind it.
“Eliana, I’m so sorry. I should have listened. I…”
“There’s no time for that. I’ve been drained. I don’t have much energy left. You have to make the wish now. Hurry.”
I understood the urgency, but I didn’t know what to wish for to remedy the broken world I created.
I averted my attention back to the portal and gazed upon the unreachable pocket watch in all of its glory, desperately wanting its ability to turn back time. The power to give birth to a world where Veronica was alive again, where Eliana could sleep peacefully in her board, and where my idiotic selfishness could be forgiven. An existence untouched by my foolish mistakes.
Looking at the watch, I realized something. The reason it looked so familiar to me. Could it be?
I ran over to my grandfather’s package and ripped it open. There, sitting with the rest of his things, was the pocket watch from the shop. I held it next to the portal, just to be sure. It was an exact match. He must have purchased it when he bought my grandmother the Ouija board.
“Eliana! I have it! I have the…”
“Make your wish, now!”
I ran over to the board and placed the watch on the ampersand. I grabbed the planchette and wished to be taken back in time. Safe passage from that moment, to the first moment I used the board. The dial on the watch turned counter-clockwise as another light surrounded me and lifted me in the air. It seemed to be working.
After a few moments, I was placed back on the floor in front of the board and watch, but not in the shop. I was home. I quickly ran upstairs to double check. The door opened to my attic, free of walking skeletons. I then called Veronica and she picked up, perturbed by my exclamations of joy, convinced it was part of a half-hearted scheme to win her back. Finally, I sat back at the Ouija board and sighed, thankful my strange adventure had come to an end.
But there was one more thing I had to do.
Using the board and watch one final time, I sent a letter to my grandfather in the past, convincing him not to visit the shop in the first place, hoping it would send the pair of items back where they belonged. Shortly after completing the wish, the objects vanished, proving my idea successful.
The repercussions of this last wish didn’t stop there, however.
Memories flooded my brain, each fighting for a spot on its surface, begging for me to call on them so I could recall new events from my past. My grandmother didn’t die after giving birth to my father. Both of my grandparents were there for me as a child, growing up. In fact, both of them were still alive. I can’t explain it, but never crossing paths with that shop saved their lives.
Just then, something shot through the mail slot of my front door. A small package with a postcard from my grandparents in Paris; where they now lived:
We picked this up for you at a boutique here in France. Thought it might cheer you up after your breakup with Veronica. Maybe she’ll take you back. Take care of yourself. We love you.
I opened the package to find a small box with a ring inside and a note:
Property of Grovewood & Co. An emporium of mystical artifacts, the likes of which have never been known. Use with the utmost caution.
Place this ring on your true love’s finger and they will be bound to you for life…
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