Hey, it’s Claire. Here’s a weird one. By “weird” I mean creepy AF and just the kind of thing that makes me dread-love my job.
I met a woman named Melissa who’s been pregnant for seven years. Twenty-six trimesters to be exact. I heard about her from an anonymous tip on The Blackboard and drove out to meet her in an office park where she works payroll.
She’s unmarried and wouldn’t talk about the father except to say he was a full-time fantasy footballer and no love lost on either side. She’s 49% pretty and looks right at the tipping point of “don’t ask about her due date in case she isn’t actually pregnant”. Picture a mousy thirty-year-old woman with a shopping-mall haircut and the beer belly of a middle-age man.
Little backstory here. Her coworkers like her OK and she’s a payroll whiz, no professional complaints whatsoever, but everybody thinks she’s crackers. Not dangerous crackers but sad crackers. Because she announced her pregnancy to everybody twenty-five trimesters ago, and there was an office baby shower and everything, and then no baby. She grew a paunch and then nada.
People assume she miscarried and traumatically fooled herself into believing she’s still pregnant, because she’s been talking about her unborn baby ever since. Not excessively, just casual references like, “I can’t drink alcohol because…,” or, “He kept me up all night with his kicks.”
So yeah, chances were good that she was very sad crackers. Except I felt the kicks. She let me put my hand on her womb and let me tell you, that was one real kick. I felt the little thing’s heel.
And then Melissa tells me her cousin is an obstetrician who gives her regular checkups and even ultrasounds, and there’s a fetus all right. She (the cousin, I talked to her in person) keeps it hush because she’s afraid Melissa’ll get boxed into a lab somewhere and experimented on, etc., and while I’m not a big gov’t-science-conspiracy theorist, I’d err on the side of hush-hush, too.
The fetus doesn’t grow or develop anymore. It just floats around in there, kicking and sucking up nutrients and dreaming whatever bizarro stuff fetuses dream. It’s like her amniotic fluid’s the fountain of youth, and there’s a human fetus bathing in the goo and never aging and man oh man, if she could bottle it she’d be a trillionaire.
I interviewed her. I’ll send you the highlights soon. Just give me a trimester to type it up j/k.
— Report filed by Claire Maple
I thought I had a bat in my apartment last night, which was weird and exciting because I thought bats vanished during winter (do they hibernate or what?), but anyway here’s what really happened and it’s totally more exciting than a winter bat.
I’m in my bed tent, and it’s late, and I’m playing Carly Rae on my earbuds and reading Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft for the godzillionth time. And suddenly this thing lands on the outside of the tent and it’s all like, “Fluttery, flappity, look at my wings I’m super awkward.”
I unzip the tent and jump out of bed and it’s GONE. My apartment’s small. My roommate Katey’s room is up the hall and her door is shut (she had that boy over again) so whatever landed on my tent’s got to be in my room, the hallway, the bathroom, or the kitchen. I checked them all with a flashlight. Nothing! No sign of the thing.
So now I’m 101% awake and disappointed and way too distracted to read, so I get back into bed and lay there, staring up at the tent’s ceiling with my earbuds on.
I’ve got holiday lights strung around my room, and they’re glowing through the tent, and it’s crazy magic pretty and you ought to try it. Anyway anyway, I listen to two songs and the thing comes back.
It’s straight above me outside the tent, flippity flappity, and I can see its wings like silhouettes because of the glow. Except they aren’t really wings.
They’re hands!!! Two adult-sized hands pattering on the tent, not violently but nervously? Shakily? I don’t mean anything disrespectful because you know I looooove old people but they were like a mega-old person’s jittery helpless hands.
I say, “Who’s that’s, who’s there?” and I’m kinda freaked because they’re definitely hands, and there’s either a stranger in my room, or it’s Katey or Katey’s boyfriend messing around, and I say, “Knock it off or I’ll hex you soooo bad.” Katie, at least, knows that’s true.
The hands disappear. My earbuds are out and I wait a bit, listening for footsteps or creepy breathing, but I don’t hear a sound and I can’t see any shapes moving in the glow. So I unzip the tent again and jump back out.
There’s nobody there. No one under the bed or in the closet. Katey’s door was still closed up the hall. And there’s absolutely no way it was a bat. I saw the hands’ fingers, clear as a shadow puppet’s shadow.
Phantom hands! Total mystery. They didn’t come back that night but maybe tonight I’ll get lucky. Reeeally hoping it’s Red Maggie, who I told you about a while back. How wild would that be??
P.S. Give William a hug for me. Extra tight!
Results from the “I Am Haunted By…” questionnaire have been compiled, dear strangers. Thanks to everyone who answered.
46% were male voices
31% were unknown
23% were female voices
Of the EROTIC FATA MORGANA haunting people:
86% were melancholic
14% were violent
Of the GHOSTS haunting people:
75% were real
25% were delusional
Of the PREOCCUPATION WITH THE DREAMLIKE QUALITY OF LIFE:
56% considered it positive
44% considered it negative
Of the IRREPARABLE MISTAKES:
52% learned from their mistakes
48% did not
By a broad margin, the most common COLOR OF ONE’S CHILDHOOD TRAUMA was red. Other colors included indigo, hunter green, orange, cobalt blue, and, in one case, a spectrum.
We received many answers to the PECULIAR URGES AND EMOTIONS we’re unwilling to admit. Here are some of the answers:
“I want to watch people cry at a funeral.”
“I am afraid everyone will leave me.”
“She is the love of my life. I am not the love of hers.”
“The feeling when you look into the mirror and wonder am I even real”
“Animalistic desires to eat, kill, fuck”
“I don’t particularly want to be part of this world, but have so many loved ones that feel the same way I feel, like we’re all here to keep the others from leaving, too.”
IMPORTANT NOTE: We’re a group who often explores dark and painful subject matter. We’re honored you’ve shared these answers with us. If any of you are in serious need of help, we are not qualified in that regard. But help exists, and we encourage you to seek it from friends, loved ones, or compassionate professionals. Please take care of yourselves. We like you.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
My Dear Strangers,
We have common demons, common lights.
I have loneliness, bafflement, doubt. Ghosts come and go. Bodies come and go. Days I’m hexed, nights I’m bewitched. I believe in unreasonable things. I’ve found the weirdest depths in other people, and sometimes in myself.
I hear from many of you, sometimes distantly, sometimes closely. Ouija-like. Fingers on a shared planchette.
This week I saw an Equinox sticker on a bumper, next to the sticker of a band that’s spoken to me for years. I received your email and snail mail. I had odd dreams and some of you were in them.
If feel I know you. Do I know you?
I heard from a stranger who wondered: If I’m really so lonely and haunted, why don’t I talk to her more? Can I tell her I have loneliness even in society? That I have work that’s saved me from depression, day after day, and that I’m terrified at times of unbalancing my balance? That I value her contact but, given the clamp of time, I cannot offer more than what I offer already?
I have loved ones. I have the Equinox Society. But what am I in all of this, and what am I to you?
A signal in the dark, maybe found, maybe not. I share art, thoughts, and stories from my friends—William, Claire, Amanda, Hank, and others—in the hope that we (including you, dear strangers) might find something rare and marvelous in common and discover that we’re not such strangers after all.
Equinox Society Secretary
I received the following letter via paper mail. I don’t know the sender, who identifies herself merely as “An Old Woman”. I’m giving the message special attention for reasons I can’t discuss in detail. Suffice it to say the envelope was marked with certain runes that very few people outside of the society would know and understand.
Dear Mr. Mahoney,
I’m an old woman now. At least 94. My exact age is unknown because my birth parents abandoned me in infancy, and because I have no trustworthy memories of my childhood. I believe much of what I remember about pre-adolescence is imaginary. I have no memory of willfully imagining it all—only a deep-seated instinct that most of it is lies.
This morning my granddaughter, who is seven, asked me where I was born. This is what I told her.
I was found inside a hive hanging from a tree branch: a newborn baby covered in live bees. A hunter heard me crying inside the hive and broke it open with his rifle. I fell seven feet without sustaining an injury. The hunter suffered dozens of stings picking me up and carried me home to his wife.
When he told her the story, he realized how ludicrous his own account sounded and thought he must have imagined it all. Maybe the stings had somehow caused him to hallucinate and misremember. Yet there I was, wailing on the kitchen table with bees still wriggling out of my ears and nostrils.
His wife believed the story and thought I must be evil.
She boiled water in a pot, intending to cleanse me, but her husband’s throat kept swelling from the stings and he died, right there in the kitchen. The wife blamed me for his death, and after confirming he was gone and keening over his body, she lunged for the boiling water.
Her lunge was awkward. She stumbled to her knees next to the stove, cried, “Oh!” from the pain, and—instinctively grabbing the pot handle to steady herself—managed to dump most of the boiling water directly down her open throat. She choked and thrashed on the floor for a while, and then she was dead, too.
I was found a day later, by a visiting neighbor, still on the table but no longer crying. No one ever pieced together exactly what had happened to the hunter and his wife. My origin remained a mystery. I was placed with adoptive parents and ran away from home at the age of eleven.
After finishing this story, my granddaughter asked me who else had been in the farmhouse that day. I told her no one. The couple had lived alone, miles from the nearest town. She asked me how I—only a baby at the time—knew any of what had happened.
“I remember it,” I said. “Every word. Every gesture. Which is impossible, of course, for an ordinary baby. But it’s the one thing about my early youth I know I didn’t imagine.”
“Maybe the wife was right,” my granddaughter said. “Maybe you were evil.”
I smiled when she said it. She’s a bright little girl. I wonder if she remembers how her mother found *her*.
An Old Woman