Linda was new to it – goblins, Bigfoot, ghosts, witchcraft, Tarot cards. She had married into it. She had met Rob at the seminary where she had served as a secretary and he had been a student.
One day, when they were home and he was studying, they received an email from an old friend who had begun to coin himself a synchromystic: Things were suggesting themselves, said his friend. His friend had received a note from a man describing beings in his yard, beings with large, round eyes, beings similar to a sighting reported fifty years ago at another location but connected to it by an underground cave system.
That night, she baked sugar cookies in the shape of large domed head. She used shiny licourice pieces for eyes. She cut plump three toed feet cookies like the shape of the footprints the writer of the note had seen around his house. When Rob came into the kitchen and saw what she had done, he smashed the cookies with his fists, despite the hot pan. This was serious, he said, and he was going with his friend to check the cave where dark shapes had been seen.
She actually hadn’t been aware she meant it in fun, though maybe she had, she couldn’t be sure. Certainly when he was buried in studying predestination, atonement, salvation, sanctification, she was on more certain ground and she understood him as well, so much like her father and her father’s father. She wasn’t sure what had happened, and she didn’t relish finding herself in a cave with his newfound zeal.
The next night, she did find herself in a cave where the locals said dark beings emerged from an old defunct mindshaft. She was there, in her old hiking boots and a sweater, the air having been cleared with sage and an evoking call to the goblins. What in the world would her father have said? He had died and was lost to her, she acknowledged to herself with a great sadness like a hole opening up in her and swallowing all thoughts. It was the strangeness of this that made her miss him most, this most unexpected turn of her marriage.
They sat at the lip of the cave overlooking a drop down into the trees. And the light was fading and all the familiar sounds of her Kentucky were being parsed for hints of the extraterrestrial, the alien, the spiritual, whatever wanted to speak. It was decided she should participate in the “Spirit Box,” the thought being she was a virgin to the process and would have fewer preconceived notions. She would wear noise canceling headphones attached to a constantly scanning radio, the idea being that spirits use electronic frequencies as a means of communication.
Rob had developed a hardened expression for her since he picked up on the idea she might be making fun of him. He had not smiled, except around his friends. He had rarely touched her, except to help her climb. Would he be pleased she was helping? She was not sure. She was worried of course, and felt a tightening in her stomach. How about what my stomach is communicating to me? She wanted to say to the cave of men but of course dared not.
“It will take a while to get used to this,” instructed Rob’s friend who was holding the earphones. “Listen for a while before letting us know what you hear. If something or someone is trying to make contact there will be a pattern.”
Of course she was somewhat familiar with this, having transcribed many meetings as a secretary, having taking dictation. She appreciated that she was given the opportunity to wait before being expected to report.
The headphones descended, soft and snug around her head. It was cool outside and she had worn her hair down, a light jacket over her sweater, jeans. In a way it was like hiking and camping, no different than when she was in high school with her friends and they scared each other with stories and local legend. But had they really believed anything then? Or was this just an excuse to scream and hold hands and hug and share a time which was fast disappearing before them? Adults doing this voluntarily doing this struck her as odd and slightly pathetic.
Then she heard it, a voice from the Spirit Box that sounded strangely deep and resonant, like her father’s. “Kill,” she thought she heard it say. “Kill him,” it said. Then: “Kill Rob.”
She took the headphones off and trembled. She shook her head. “I can’t,” she said.
“It’s a little disorienting at first,” said Rob’s friend, but just try it one more time. “It would be really helpful. It’s ok if you feel a little bit apprehensive, it’s normal.”
She relented to having the headphones slipped back over her head, having caught a glimpse of Rob’s hard, foreign stare across the cave, illuminated by the lantern. He had never looked at her like he did now, like he might murder her.
There was silence, on the headphones, only static like white noise, then a loud booming voice: “Kill him!” Then more static. Then at last an unmistakable instruction: “Push him out!”
It was her father, warning her!
She stood up, walking over next to Rob at the lip of the cave overlooking the drop. She did not let on. She had the Spirit Box attached to her jeans with a clip and the soft headphones covered her ears.
“Kill him!” commanded the voice. “Kill him before he kills you!”
“Dad?” she said. She saw Rob’s face grow even angrier, his brow furrowing deeply, his jaw set. She was still making fun of them, pretending the spirit of her father was contacting her.
He reached for her but his friend put a hand on his shoulder to stop him and shook his head “No.”
“Kill!” said her father. “Now!”
Rob’s eyes glowed and burned. He wanted her to die.
Without warning she shoved his shoulder and using his surprise to her advantage, pushed. He fell from the mouth of the cave and disappeared, screaming, down, down, his friend, in shock, holding her arm, lest she fall after him, the white headphones glowing around her neck like the primitive necklace of a matriarchal tribe.