JESSICA

JESSICA

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Jessica sat in the library at her college. She gazed around at the other students. She wasn’t looking for a familiar face or anything in particular.

She turned back to the computer in front of her. The students in her English class had been told to write about an experience that they could never forget.

Jessica bit her nails as she stared at the blank screen. An experience that we could never forget? She could count so many of them that choosing just one was proving to be a daunting task.

She cracked her fingers and flexed her wrists. She knew that if she was going to pass this course, she had to submit her assignment on time. The deadline was tomorrow, less than twenty-four hours away.

She had to start somewhere, she mused as she began to type away. She already knew the best place to start from: the house she was raised in.

The house had always been on the older side, and she had experienced an uneven share of strange experiences in it. They had been unusual, but not peculiar to her alone—all her family members had experienced similar encounters as well.

“I still maintain that nothing odd ever used to happen in this house of ours,” Jessica’s mother had said to her once, when she was still a little girl. “It only began about five months after you were born.”

“After I was born?” Jessica asked.

“Yes, my dear, it’s as if your birth ushered in all the strange things that happen here.”

Her mother had announced that revelation in the kitchen one weekend, when they had been preparing a meal together.

The revelation had followed an incident earlier that same day. Jessica had been picking out her clothes for the laundry, while her mother put them in a basket. Suddenly, the basement door opened.

They both stopped doing what they were doing to peer at the door, before Jessica’s mother walked up to it.

“It must be the wind,” she said, slamming it shut.

“The wind’s always bothering that door,” Jessica offered.

Her mother stopped to look at her. “Always?”

Jessica pointed to the door of the basement. “It always opens on its own, Mummy.”

“That would be the wind, my dear.”

“And when it closes?”

Her mother frowned. “When what closes?”

“The door. It also closes on its own.”

“That is not possible, Jessica. The wind doesn’t play games with little children.”

“But it’s true, Mummy,” Jessica insisted.

“Really?”

Jessica nodded.

Her mother turned to glance at the door, which was now shut. She dropped a shirt into the basket and turned to her daughter. “Can you tell me more about the door closing on its own?”

“There’s nothing to tell, you saw it. When the door opens like that, I don’t close it because it does that on its own.”

“On its own? That’s not possible.” She patted Jessica’s head. “Don’t worry, Jessica, I’m sure you’re only imagining things. Let’s just finish the laundry so that—”

There was a loud click. They turned to see that the door had opened again.

Jessica glanced up at her mother. “Don’t shut it, Mummy. Just watch and see! If it doesn’t close on its own, then you can close it.”

This seemed to pacify her mother, who nodded. So they both stood quietly, watching the door that was still ajar.

After a couple of minutes of waiting, Jessica’s mother turned to her. “There. Are you satisfied? The door is still open. Didn’t I tell you? The wind can’t open and close—”

She didn’t finish her sentence because Jessica suddenly pointed at the door. Her mother spun around just in time to see the door close by itself.

“My goodness,” her mother stuttered.

“Told you, Mummy,” Jessica said, continuing to fold her clothes.

Her mother turned to look at her—Jessica was acting like nothing had happened. “Aren’t you… aren’t you scared?”

Jessica sighed. “I used to be scared before. But not anymore. Now I don’t really think about it.”

Her mother fell silent.

The basement door was not the worst of Jessica’s experiences. There were several others that she could think of, but she was still struggling to choose which one was best for her assignment. She decided to write about as many as possible. After all, it wasn’t as if they were ordinary stories.

Some of the most memorable were the ones she couldn’t explain even though she had them on audio.

Her audio recordings had captured someone or something that was very angry and very loud.

Jessica stopped typing to open her bag. Amongst her notes and belongings was an old tape recorder. She took it out and placed it on the desk next to her.

Jessica knew that if she told anyone that this tape recorder had been used for Electronic Voice Phenomenon “EVP” recordings, they would swear she was out of her mind. The reason was obvious: everyone knew that making EVP recordings was just asking for trouble. Now that she was much older and wiser, she knew that to be true. Unfortunately, when she was a small child, she was not privy to this fact. And even if she had been, she had originally started recording audios for completely unrelated reasons.

She was just seven years old when she recorded her first strange encounter on audio.

Jessica grew up in a family with three girls. She was the middle child. Her father was the only male in the house. He was an architect who took long trips to work in the city, while her mother was a gardener.

One day, Jessica was up in her bedroom with her five-year-old sister, Jessica was seven at that time, pretending to host a radio show. She was using the same tape recorder, but hadn’t yet thought about EVP recordings. She was simply recording herself pretending to be a radio presenter. She kept her younger sister around to help with background applause, but didn’t give her any speaking roles.

After she finished recording, Jessica rewound the tape. She wanted to listen to the recording before playing it for her parents.

Jessica was expecting to hear her usual talking, followed by the applause of her younger sister. However, in the middle of the recording, they both heard a sound.

Both Jessica and her sister were startled when they heard a loud sigh, followed by someone saying “enough”. It was drawn out, in a deep register. It sounded as if a man had been standing right there in the room with them, apparently expressing his frustration with the recordings that Jessica and her sister were making.

Jessica reached forward and stopped the tape abruptly.

“Why did you turn it off?” Jessica’s sister asked.

“Because we’re gonna find out why Daddy interrupted us,” Jessica replied. Then they went stomping around the house looking for their parents.

“What’s going on?” their mother asked, when they found her in the kitchen.

“Where’s Daddy?” Jessica demanded, as she placed the tape recorder on the kitchen table.

“Why, what happened?” her mother asked.

Jessica pointed at the tape recorder. “He ruined my show, Mummy!”

Her mother frowned. “He ruined your show? How?”

“I was upstairs doing my radio show and he started talking through it! And now my show is ruined.”

“Are you sure? It might’ve just been some other noise.”

“Noise? What noise? It was Daddy!”

Her mother stared at her in confusion. “But he’s not home right now, Jessica. He’s out at work and won’t be back till dinner time.”

Jessica glanced from her mother to the tape recorder, and then to her younger sister. “But it was him. It was him.”

“Play the tape recording for Mummy,” her younger sister said.

Her mother nodded. “Yes, that’s a good idea. Why not let me hear what you recorded? I’m sure it’s nothing.”

Jessica played the tape recorder from the start. Her mother and sister were listening attentively. At first, they could only hear Jessica talking and talking, then her younger sister applauding. But all of a sudden, they heard the same sound that Jessica and her sister had heard earlier.

Jessica’s mother sat upright when she heard the loud frustrated sigh. She reached for the tape recorder and played it back several times.

“See?”

Jessica’s mother stared at her with wide eyes. “But that couldn’t be your Daddy. I told you, he isn’t here. He hasn’t been home since he left in the morning.”

“Then who is it, Mummy?” Jessica’s sister asked.

“I really wish I knew,” their mother said. “Look, enough of those recordings for today, okay?”

When Jessica’s father came back that evening, her mother played the tape recorder for him. When he heard the sounds in the background, he was bewildered. “Are you sure there wasn’t a man in Jessica’s room when she recorded this?” he asked.

“A man? Dear, did you just hear yourself?” Jessica’s mother asked. “What man would be in their room?”

Jessica’s father was at a loss about what to make of it, and so was everyone else in the house.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Two weeks later, Jessica’s grandparents from her mother’s side came to visit. When the recording was played for them, her grandfather waved it aside. “That tape recorder’s broken, it’s just some glitch. What do you think?” he asked Jessica’s grandmother.

“I don’t know, my dear,” Jessica’s grandmother replied. “But I don’t think it’s a glitch.”

“Really? So if it’s not a glitch, then what do you think it is?” Jessica’s mother asked.

“It’s very strange,” Jessica’s grandmother replied. “Very strange and intriguing.”

Her response left everyone even more bewildered.

Jessica didn’t make any more recordings while she was growing up. But she couldn’t overlook those unexplained incidents or the strangeness of the house she lived in. By the time she got to college, Jessica started making EVP recordings in earnest. At about the same time, so did her mother and sister.

 

***

 

One summer, Jessica had come home from college to help babysit her older sister’s son—he was almost a year old, but not yet speaking.

Jessica’s mother brought out a little tape recorder. “Come and sit with me while I make a recording.”

The three of them were in Jessica’s room. Her mother started talking into the tape recorder as Jessica reclined on her bed, leafing through a magazine.

After a while, Jessica’s mother stood up.

“Where are you going?” Jessica asked.

“Just checking up on the baby.”

Jessica didn’t say anything more. Even though she was in charge of babysitting, her mother had been busy trying to get the child to talk. Her mother was always saying things to him in a long, drawn-out way to get the boy mimic what she was saying.

Her mother went to the edge of the room by the window, where Jessica’s nephew was in his crib.

Later on, Jessica’s family listened to the tape recording from that morning. They could hear Jessica’s mother stand up and walk towards the window.

What could be heard next was Jessica sighing, followed by a very deep, raspy inhale. It sounded like something was sucking all the air out of the room. Yet no one on the recording reacted to the strange noise; there was only the sound of Jessica flipping through her magazine.

As if nothing had happened, the recording then played Jessica’s mother trying to teach her grandson to talk, hoping he would copy her: “I love you! Come on, dear: Iiiiiiiii… looooove… youuuuu…”

Straight after that there was an odd hissing sound—then a deep and hoarse voice that said, in a manner that was clear yet somehow mocking, “I love you, Jessica.”

Jessica paused to look around the library. She recalled the first time she had heard that particular recording and the awful way the man had said he loved her. She had been disturbed by the message. 

A week or so after that last encounter, her mother had burst into her room.

“What’s wrong?” Jessica asked, sitting up in her bed.

Her mother’s eyes were wide open, and she was shaking as if she was cold. “I swear I just saw someone!”

“Someone? Someone where?”

“Someone just walked into your room.”

Jessica frowned in concern. “No. It’s just me in here.”

“I swear—I know what I saw, Jessica,” her mother said.

Jessica shook her head and sighed. “You swear? Come on, you’re probably just seeing things. I’m not hiding a boy under my bed, honestly. Besides, no one would fit in there anyway.”

“No,” her mother shook her head vigorously. “He went into your room just a couple of seconds ago!”

Jessica stared at her mother, who was clearly not drunk or joking. She was dead serious. Jessica shifted uncomfortably and got up from her bed. “You sure?”

“Absolutely, Jessica. I wouldn’t lie to you. He must be still here somewhere.”

“Definitely a he?”

“I think so. He was very big and shadowy.”

“But no one came into my room.”

Her mother grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the door. “That’s what you think. But I know what I saw.”

“Where are we going?”

“We’re going to the living room.”

“Why?”

“We’re going to make a recording.”

They went down to the living room with the tape recorder. Her mother turned on the tape recorder and signaled for Jessica to sit down next to her on the sofa.

The next morning, they played back the recording. On the tape, Jessica’s father could be heard entering the living room. Jessica’s parents began talking, while Jessica occasionally commented how cold it was.

The same hoarse male voice mocked, “Jessica, are you feeling cold?”

Jessica remembered how shocked and frightened everyone was that morning. Had it not been for her father’s distinct voice in the background, she would have thought it was him playing games. But it wasn’t. It had been the voice of the unknown and the unseen stranger.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

When Jessica returned to college, her elder sister and mother had decided to make another recording. But this time, they were not alone. Jessica’s grandmother had come back to visit and was also in the room with them.

Soon after, Jessica’s mother called to play her the recording over the phone. She could hear her elder sister on the tape saying, “Let’s mention Jessica. It always seems to pop up whenever we mention her name.”

Her grandmother then added, “Well, I can’t wait for Jessica to come home on her next school break. What do you think about that?”

In response, the same raspy voice said, “That bitch.”

When Jessica heard the vile statement in that familiar voice, the phone fell from her hand and clattered noisily on the floor. It took her a while to regain her composure, before she could pick up the phone again and continue the discussion with her mother.

Jessica paused. She stretched before she resumed writing.

Not all of her strange encounters had been captured on tape. About a year ago, one of Jessica’s good friends said that her grandmother—a person Jessica had never met—had asked about her.

“Your grandmother?” Jessica repeated in surprise.

“Yes,” her friend replied. “She said your name specifically.”

Jessica frowned at her friend. “My name? But she doesn’t even know me!”

“Yes, and that’s what I found very weird at first,” her friend admitted. “But you know, my grandmother has a sort of second sight. So that might explain how she knew your name.”

“Really? Okay… So, why was she asking about me?”

“I don’t know how to say this, but she had a message for you.”

“What message?”

“She came to our house yesterday for a visit. Then she asked me if I had a friend by the name of Jessica. You can’t imagine how surprised I was! I mean, we all know she’s kind of clairvoyant, but saying your name like that was really unexpected.”

“And then what? What did she say?”

“She asked me to tell you that there’s a man who’s very close to you. That man is very mad at the people who were supposed to protect you when you were a child but didn’t.”

Jessica frowned. “What?”

“And there’s more,” her friend continued. “My grandmother said that this man trying to protect you is not being honest. He’s just acting mad around you and on your behalf, but it’s all a game.”

Jessica sat up when her friend mentioned this. “Your grandmother said that?”

Her friend nodded. “Yeah, and she said that he’s not genuine—he’s not actually mad at you or at the people around you. It’s just his way of trying to get close to you.”

“Close to me!” Jessica repeated. “You don’t know what you’re saying. He’s been haunting me for a good part of my life!”

“My grandmother said that too. But then she said it’s all a scam. He’s not haunting you, Jessica. He’s only trying to get close to you.” 

Jessica snorted. “Well, that’s some consolation. So, what now? I shouldn’t be worried anymore and I can just relax whenever he turns up?”

Her friend shook her head. “No, you shouldn’t relax, Jessica.”

“Why? You just said he only wants to get close to me.”

“Yes, but my grandmother also said that I should warn you—just because he says that he cares doesn’t mean that he won’t harm you.”

Jessica rubbed her forearms quickly. It was as if she was suddenly cold, even though her friend was not. It was obvious that her friend’s message had left an odd impression on her.

“So, I should be scared now, right? This mysterious man doesn’t want to harm me, he only wants to get close. But he could still hurt me regardless?”

Her friend nodded. “She says you should be careful.”

Jessica stopped typing. Her hand reached for her neck and felt the chain around it. At the end of the chain, hidden under her blouse, was a Saint Benedict Jubilee medal. She held it tightly, feeling the reassuring weight of the round, embossed wrought iron.

It wasn’t as if Jessica was deeply religious. Even though both of her parents were raised as Catholics, she wasn’t one. She didn’t believe in organised religion. The only reason she had bought the medal was because things had really gotten bad lately. As strange as it might sound, she had done it out of desperation. She had to do something that made her feel safe.

She squeezed the medal again and sighed. She knew it was ironic that an atheist like her could feel safe wearing one of these medals. But it was true. She really did feel safe with it.

Jessica decided that she had written enough. She packed up her belongings, then walked out of the library and headed home.

It had been a hectic day. Her part-time office work had been tiresome, and she had rushed straight to school for a lecture before going to the library to work on her assignment. Now, she needed to rest.

After a long bath, she took out a frozen meal from the freezer and put it into the microwave. While it was warming up, she turned on her laptop and began to review what she had written at the library.

Then she heard her doorbell buzz. She went to open the door and saw a man wearing a blue t-shirt and faded black jeans. He looked familiar.

“I see you every morning,” Jessica recalled.

He nodded. “Yes. I normally see you just outside—we usually exchange greetings when you’re on your way to work.”

“How can I help you?”

“I need to tell you something. May I please come in?”

She hesitated, then stepped aside. “Sure, why not?”

After he came in, Jessica noticed that he did not wait to be shown where to sit. Rather, he went directly to the table where she was working on her assignment. He went straight there as if he knew where he was going.

“You have to be very careful, Jessica,” he said suddenly, startling her.

“Excuse me? How do you know my name?”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, as he peered at the screen of her laptop. “What matters is that you are in danger. I keep wondering if you’ll make it to July.”

“July?”

“Yes, that’s about three months away, right?”

She did a mental check. “Yes, that’s right. But I don’t understand. Why are you here? What do you want?”

He straightened up and backed away from her laptop. “I just came to tell you to be very careful. Like I said, if you can make it to July, then you’ll be fine.”

As he headed for the door, Jessica tried to stop him. “Wait, don’t go!” He paused at the door to look at her. “Are you a psychic?”

The man smirked and shook his head. “No. I just came to warn you. That’s all.”

Before she could respond, he was gone—leaving her standing in the doorway, more confused than ever.

She closed the door and went back to her assignment, but could not help feeling unnerved by what had just happened.

As she sat down to finish reading through her work, she noticed that the position of her laptop had changed. It was no longer close to her seat. Rather, it was at the other end of the table, closer to the window.

She frowned, trying to remember if the stranger had touched her laptop when he was in her house.

He hadn’t.

He had only looked it over like someone searching for something. But he never touched it for a second.

Jessica pulled the laptop closer to her. She held her breath as she slowly turned it around, expecting to see the worst on the screen.

Nothing had changed. It was the same document she had been reading before the stranger showed up.

She heaved a sigh of relief. She couldn’t explain how her laptop had moved, but she wasn’t surprised.

She thought of the small figurine that she kept close to her bed. On impulse, she stood up and walked to her bedroom. There, on her chest of drawers, was the figurine. Its back was facing her.

Jessica went to turn it around to face her. She sat down on the edge of her bed and looked at it for a while. As if she expected it to talk.

It didn’t.

She sighed again and stood up. She walked to the door then stopped. She turned around to look at the figurine again. Its back was facing her once more.

She glanced around her room. She shook her head before walking out and closing the door behind her. She wasn’t surprised to see that her laptop had also moved again.

As Jessica sat down and reached for her laptop, she shook her head in disdain. She was already used to things mysteriously moving around her house. The figurine was always turning away from her, and so were other items she owned.

At some point, she even had a team of paranormal investigators ask for her permission to come into her house to investigate strange incidents.

This was just another thing she couldn’t simply explain away.

She wondered what her lecturer was going to make of what she had written.

Eventually, Jessica shrugged.

The fact was that she knew she was being followed. Whatever it was, it definitely followed her—from her childhood home, to her first-year college dorm, all the way to her current house on the edge of the city.

It never left her alone.

And worse still, she didn’t even know what it wanted.

She was now beginning to wonder if it was a ghost.

Or maybe it was something else.

Or maybe she wouldn’t make it to July.

 

THE END

Lamees Alhassar