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“1…2…3…4…5…6…7.” I flicked the light in the bathroom off and then on again seven times, counting every flick of the switch. Once I finished the routine, I could feel the sense of doom start to dissipate from my mind.
Before leaving the bathroom, I walked over to the toilet and took a piss. As I turned to leave, that sense of doom started to cloud over my mind again. The light switch routine wasn’t enough. If I didn’t perform the toilet routine, something bad might happen. I reached down and flushed the toilet, then proceeded to push the handle down another six times.
I decided to skip washing my hands. I didn’t want to risk triggering the hand-washing routine. I couldn’t handle scrubbing my hands seven times and then turning the water on and off again seven times.
I don’t know why the number seven became my magic number. I just know that all demands must be performed seven times. If I don’t do it, the feeling that something bad is going to happen just gets worse.
I never know when the demands will make themselves known. They come whenever they want, as often as they want. Some of them happen so frequently that I have started to preemptively perform them to prevent that overbearing feeling of dread.
“Bad day?” my wife asked as she walked into the bedroom, “I heard you jiggle the toilet handle.” She knew about my condition and tolerated it as long as it didn’t interfere with my life or inconvenience her too much.
Technically, my routines interfered with my life, but not in a way that debilitated me. They were just annoying and time consuming. Thankfully, my issues were confined to the house. I could function like a normal human being when I was at work or out shopping, but once I got home it was only a matter of time before the clouds moved over my brain.
“Just a little,” I said. “Work has been a bit stressful, and these things always seem to get worse when I am stressed.”
She walked over and hugged me from behind. I leaned my head against hers, where it rested on my shoulder. “We’ll find someone that can help,” She said. She had taken it upon herself to cure me.
“I’ll be fine,” I said.
I didn’t think I needed to be cured. I just needed to find out why things started to escalate when we moved into that house. Something about that house was making me worse. I always had little quirks, but they were manageable, and I could go several days without an incident. Once we moved into that house, the demands started to come one after the other until I couldn’t go a day without having to perform several routines.
“Don’t get mad.” My wife circled around me, keeping her hands around my waist. When she was standing in front of me she looked up into my eyes before continuing, “I invited someone over… someone who may be able to help you.”
I sighed in frustration and rolled my eyes.
“Just give him a chance… please… for me.” She gave me her best doe-eyed look.
It was hard to say no to her, so I just squeezed her shoulders seven times then stepped away from her.
She started to walk out of the bedroom and I followed. As I closed the door behind me, I started to pull on the knob seven times. When I counted the sixth pull, my hand slipped off the knob. That was not good. In order for the routine to work, I had to maintain contact.
“God dammit!” I cursed. I could feel my wife’s eyes on the back of my head knowing she had turned around to stare at me.
The air around me became heavy as the feeling of dread intensified. I quickly grabbed the handle and pulled on it seven times. I then performed the routine six more times to erase the failed attempt.
By the time I finished, a light sheen of sweat had formed on my forehead. I took a deep breath, let go of the handle, and stepped away from the door. The feeling hadn’t left completely, but it subsided enough for me to walk away.
If I am honest, that feeling of dread never went away completely. Not since we moved into that house. I could always feel it hovering just outside my perception as it waited for an opportunity to invade my thoughts. It didn’t matter how perfectly I preformed my routines. It was always there.
When I got downstairs, I went into the living room to watch TV while my wife put on a pot of coffee in anticipation of our guest’s arrival. As I scrolled through Netflix, trying to find something to watch, that familiar feeling came over me. I could feel it worm its way into my brain and start to demand I turn off the TV.
A new routine was being thrust upon me. I’ve never felt compelled to turn the TV off. I tried to fight it, but I couldn’t. I turned the TV off and then on again seven times. Disgusted with myself, I walked into the kitchen.
“That probably isn’t good for the TV,” my wife said as she pulled some mugs down from the cabinet.
“You’re probably right,” I snapped at her, “but it’s not like I can stop myself.”
She gave me a look that warned me I had almost crossed the line of her patience.
“Sorry,” I apologized. Her expression softened when she saw the pained look on my face. I didn’t mean to snap, I just get so frustrated at myself for giving in to the demands so easily.
That was when the doorbell rang.
“Why don’t you go have a seat in the dining room,” my wife suggested as she went to answer the door.
When she returned, she was followed by two men. The shorter man, who she introduced as Father Cooke was obviously a priest. The taller man, dressed entirely in black, who she introduced as Mr. Alexander, made me feel uneasy. There was something off about him. He had this way of looking at me that made me feel like he could see right through me. That look seemed to exacerbate my sense that something bad was going to happen.
“This is my husband Gary,” she said as everyone took a seat around the table.
I nodded at the men then slid my hands off the table and placed them in my lap. I didn’t like shaking hands and thankfully neither man offered theirs in greeting. As I sat and waited to hear why my wife had called a priest and whatever Mr. Alexander was, I clenched my fists six times and tried not to make a fool out of myself.
Father Cooke laid the large roll of papers he was holding onto the center of the table. As I eyed Mr. Alexander, I noticed he was carrying a small black box that he sat on his lap. He smiled when he noticed I was watching him and placed his hand protectively over the box.
“Coffee?” my wife asked as she set the mugs on the table and began to pour the steaming liquid into them.
“Thank you,” both men said almost in unison as they reached out and took the offered cups.
“I’m sorry,” I finally blurted out. “I don’t understand how you can help me. I’m afraid this is just going to be a waste of your time.”
“On the contrary, Mr. Bower, I think we may be the only ones capable of helping you,” Mr. Alexander said. As he spoke, he helped Father Cooke unroll the large sheet of papers to reveal a set of blueprints to our house.
I looked over at my wife while I waited for them to continue.
“Your wife explained your situation to us.” Father Cooke noticed me looking over at my wife. “While OCD isn’t reason enough to call in a priest, it can be a sign that something more sinister is at work.”
“Sinister?” I raised my eyebrows.
“Heaven and Hell exist.” Mr. Alexander set the box he was holding on the table. “And they are nothing like you’ve been led to believe.” When he finished speaking he turned the box towards me and slowly opened the lid.
I quickly stood up, causing my chair to fall over backwards as I moved away from the dismembered hand that crawled out of the box, “What the hell is that?!” I cried out. My wife came over and placed her arm around my shoulders to calm me.
“I didn’t believe it when I first saw it, either,” she tried to reassure me.
I stood and stared at the hand as it began to tap its index finger impatiently. I didn’t notice it at first, but I had started to tap each one of my fingers against my thumb while I counted to six repeatedly.
“Did you really have to do that?” Father Cooke chided Mr. Alexander.
“My apologies, Mr. Bower. I felt the best way to introduce to the world that haunts you is to just throw it out there.” Mr. Alexander sounded sincere.
“What?!” I exclaimed. Things had gotten really weird, really fast.
“I think you need to hear them out,” my wife said as I picked up my chair and sat back down. “I’m going to step away for a moment and give you boys some privacy. Trust them.” She kissed me on the top of my head then left the room.
“This is Lefty,” Mr. Alexander gestured to the animated hand. “He is the unfortunate victim of a botched summoning spell.”
“Victim?” Father Cooke laughed while shaking his head before turning to me. “Lefty is a demon. I won’t get into the specifics of how he came to be trapped in that hand, but I assure you he is not a victim.”
While he spoke, Lefty rolled over onto his knuckles and gave the priest the middle finger.
“I think that’s enough out of you,” Father Cooke said as he scooped up the hand, placed it back in the box, and handed the container to Mr. Alexander.
“Have you noticed anything different about your routine since we got here?” Mr. Alexander asked.
“No… wait.” I didn’t realize it at first, but I had been counting to six instead of seven since they arrived.
I looked up to see Mr. Alexander smiling. “You’ve started counting to six instead of seven, haven’t you?”
“How do you know that?” I didn’t think I was counting out loud.
“Numbers have power. The reason you have been counting to 6 is because you are an empath. You can feel the presence of angelic and demonic creatures. You subconsciously became aware of Lefty’s presence. That triggered a change to your routine as you unknowingly tried to defend yourself against the perceived threat. The greater the threat, the more often your routines are triggered.”
I scoffed. “That’s insane.”
“Is it?” Father Cooke nodded to the box as Lefty started knocking to be let out.
“How does that explain why I’ve been counting to seven?”
“That is where these come in.” Mr. Alexander pointed at the blueprints. “Let’s start with this one.” he pulled out the sheet that showed the floor plan of the basement. “Now watch as I line these up.” He placed the rest of the blueprints in order with the basement on the bottom and the attic on top.
“Okay… what am I supposed to be looking for?” I should mention that as I spoke with the priests, I continued to perform different routines, mostly with my hands or feet, to keep them from becoming a distraction.
Father Cooke produced a book from the inside of his jacket and opened it to a bookmarked page. He placed the book on the table and pointed to a symbol drawn on the page. “It might be hard to notice at first, but keep looking.”
I glanced at the stack of blueprints. The paper they were printed on was semitransparent, allowing the darker lines of the bottom sheets to be slightly visible. I then glanced back to the picture in the book. As I did so, I started to see the similarities between the symbol in the book and the layout of our home.
“What is it?” I asked,
“This is an Enochian Nexus.” Father Cooke pointed to the symbol in the book.
“For reasons we haven’t been able to discern, your house was built to resemble a three-dimensional nexus,” Mr. Alexander explained. “That is why you have been counting to seven. Angelic creatures are drawn to your house because it is a weak point between Heaven and Earth. Whenever you feel their presence, your defense mechanisms are triggered and you perform one of your routines. You count to seven because seven is the number of Heaven.”
I stammered as I tried to make sense of what they were saying. I couldn’t put into words all of the thoughts that were racing through my mind.
“It’s a lot to take in,” Father Cooke said. “The good news is we can help you.”
“The bad news,” Mr. Alexander cut in, “is that we are going to have to destroy your house to close the nexus.”
Right at that moment my wife returned carrying two large suitcases. “They already explained everything to me,” she said as she set the bags down.
“They can’t just destroy our house!” I raised my voice.
“I can’t keep living this way.” My wife fixed me with her tired eyes. At that moment I could see the toll my issues had placed upon her. She was as much a victim of my condition as I was. “They assure me the insurance will pay for the house. We just can’t be here when they destroy it.”
“What about work?”
“I already took care of that. I told your boss I was taking you on a surprise vacation.”
“Where?” I asked.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you.” I loved seeing her smile.
“Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay, okay, okay,” I said.
“You said that seven times,” Mr. Alexander noted. “I think it’s time we conclude our business before the creatures using this nexus figure out what we are up to.”
As we all got up from the table and gathered our things, I stopped and turned towards the priests. “How are you going to do it?” I had to know.
Mr. Alexander opened the box that held the demonic hand. “Lefty has become an accomplished arsonist during the short time he has been with us. I am confident he can make it look like an accident.” The hand rolled over onto its side and gave a thumbs up.