This story is by Miguel A. Zamora and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Rey floated inside a deprivation tank every morning. It was the best way to make the voices stop. The tank door slid open at 5 am. He put on his noise-canceling headphones before he got out.
Showered and dressed, he shrugged his shoulder holster into position, clipped his badge to his belt, then took the elevator to the lobby.
He stepped out into the eerie morning light of a new day. Countless spirits of the dead surrounded him and tugged and pleaded with him. Rey pushed past them and made it to his truck and got in. The rune painted on his truck kept the dead from entering.
The spirits rocked and pounded the vehicle from the outside.
Damn, it never stops.
Rey made a call through his headphones.
“Office of Paranormal Investigation.”
“Good morning, Amy. What’s up?”
“Detective Lopez wants you at the scene ASAP,” she said.
“Of course she does. Be there in twenty.”
“Yes, sir. Oh, and happy birthday, sir.” She hung up before he could reply.
Rey pulled up to the crime scene and saw a scowling Detective Jessica Lopez standing in front of a lake house surrounded by yellow crime scene tape, hands on her hips.
He took a deep breath and removed a cross and a small leather pouch from the mirror and hung them around his neck.
Rey would recite a nursery rhyme over and over until he could focus and block out the voices.
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday,
That was the end,
Of Solomon Grundy.”
He turned off the truck and stepped out. Spirits surrounded Rey immediately. The steel cross around his neck glowed.
“Rey, glad you could make it,” Lopez said.
Rey grinned. “No backup?”
“No; when they heard I called for El Rey’s help, no one wanted to be around the man that speaks to the dead.”
“Funny, but I don’t talk to the dead. I listen to the dead. The dead just talk, and they don’t wait for a response,” Rey said. “They don’t take turns. They speak all at once.”
“One could go mad,” she said.
“Yes, some with this gift have gone mad; others find ways to cope, while others don’t live long enough to find their place,” Rey said with a grin.
Rey rolled up his sleeves. His forearms were covered in scars.
“Those are nasty.”
“I got these forty years ago today. I was six,” Rey said. Lopez just stared.
“Detective. Can we get on with it?”
She snapped back to attention. “Would you like the file?”
“No, it’ll unfold as we walk the house.”
Lopez nodded, opened the gate, and walked toward the house. Rey took a step toward the house and was met with resistance. A mob of spirits were pushing against Rey, impeding his progress.
Rey pulled out a small bottle from his pocket. It contained iron shavings. He poured the content into his hand and then threw it in front of him. The spirits vanished, and he walked unimpeded to the door.
“That bad, huh?” she asked.
“Unfortunately. You brought protection?”
Lopez reached under her shirt and pulled out a silver cross and chain. Rey handed her a pair of red lens glasses.
“Can I keep these this time?” She put them on.
Ray smiled as Lopez opened the door.
The air was stale and dry and cold.
It was extremely dark in the house. He snapped a blue chemlight and Lopez turned the flashlight on under her Glock.
Rey took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Stay behind me, and whatever you do, don’t shoot me.”
“Funny,” she said.
He walked the house with his eyes closed. “Two died in the living room. Children, a boy and a girl.”
He walked past the kitchen. “Female, stabbed nine times, died here.” He pointed to a spot on the floor.
“Male died on the top of the stairs, self-inflected gunshot,” Rey said as he opened his eyes.
A sharp pain struck him. Rey fell to his knees and covered his ears.
“Rey, are you okay? What’s going on?” Lopez asked.
“Jess- do you hear that?”
“What?” Lopez stood by Rey, gun drawn.
“Something is crying out for me.”
He took a deep breath and recited the nursery rhyme under his breath. Rey stumbled to his feet and grabbed the stair rail.
Rey held up his hand and waved her off, nodding.
“It’s old; not sure what it is, but it’s angry and it’s powerful. I’ve felt it before.”
He rubbed his forearms.
“Let’s go; we need more men,” Lopez said.
“No, something wanted me here.” Rey grabbed her arm. “It’s been calling out to me.”
Rey took the small pouch from his neck and gave it to Lopez.
“It will protect you. And take these.” He handed her two Glock magazines. “Special rounds.”
She ejected the magazine and inserted one.
The voice again started to yell for Rey as he and Lopez climbed the stairs to the second floor. The wall started to move like someone pushing on a curtain. It flexed and stretched out at them.
Rey drew his Glock. A red-eyed shadow creature leaped out at him. He shot twice and the creature exploded in bright light.
“Jess, we have wraiths. Stay close and watch our six.” He noticed a light from the bottom of the door ahead of him.
“Don’t let them scratch you. You won’t live,” he said.
Rey kicked the door in and entered the room. The door slammed behind them, and the room went dark. Rey and Lopez were back-to-back. Growls and snarls were heard all around them. Rey snapped a white flare that lit up. They were surrounded by wraiths. Tall, thin black figures with razor-sharp claws, red eyes, and sharp teeth. Rey and Lopez opened fire.
The voice called out to Rey, and he lost focus and was hurled into a wall. Lopez turned to see an eight-foot-tall, yellow-eyed demon that stood out from the shadows. The demon laughed and looked at Lopez. She opened fire on it and the rounds passed through. The demon swiped his hand and the door opened.
“Out… Get Out,” the demon said as the wraiths advanced on her. She was forced to back out of the room.
The door slammed shut. A wraith had Rey pinned to the floor. He heard gunshots and Lopez screamed from behind the door.
“I have waited years for you. My vessel. I will run wild in this world,” the demon said.
Rey struggled against the wraith’s grasp; he freed his right hand. He was able to ignite another flare. The wraith retreated from the light.
Rey laughed as he cracked his neck and knuckles. He dusted himself off as he rose.
“I knew one day you would come back. To finish what you started. So, I prepared for you.”
Rey held out his arms and his body pulsed and radiated light. The demon looked puzzled.
The room started to vibrate violently. The windows in the room blew out and spirits flooded the room and engulfed Rey. Spirits entered Rey’s body and his eyes glazed over. The demon charged Rey.
“No!” Rey screamed. The demon stopped in its tracks, unable to move.
The wraiths cowed and fled into the shadows.
“Back off!” Rey called.
A shockwave hurled the demon into a wall. The room continued to get brighter. The wraiths started to burn from the light. Rey slammed his fist on the floor and a paranormal blast exploded from his body.
Rey exhaled and stared at the demon’s burned body.
“Impossible.” The demon snarled. “You’re not that strong, Rey.”
“Surprised, are you? It didn’t go the way you thought it would. Did it?” Rey picked up his gun and holstered it.
“It’s funny the things you learn from the dead. If you only listen.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out an orb. He crushed the orb and oil covered his hand. He made a cross over the demon and it ignited in blue flames. It screamed and dissolved into black smoke.
The door swung open, and Lopez rushed in.
“You’re alive!” she exclaimed.
“Yes, and it’s done. The house is cleansed.” He gave her a nudge.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
He smiled at Lopez. “Never better. Let’s get out of here, Jess. You can buy me a drink.”
“Buy you a drink?”
“Why not? It’s my birthday.” He gave her a wink.
“Wait, what?” she said as she followed him out.
Outside, the sunset painted a peaceful sky, and a cool breeze flowed from the lake.
Rey looked around and smiled. “It’s quiet,” he muttered.
“Nothing,” he said. “Absolutely nothing.”