An update about the two ethereal bodies floating in my house, dear strangers.
The first body’s face, looking upward, could be seen through the hole I’d cut in the hallway floor. The second body, looking downward, was mostly hidden directly overhead in the ceiling. Only its ghostly nose protruded.
I Sawzalled a new hole, cutting a wide oval and revealing the second face. It was a woman this time. Like the man below, she was bald and lacked both eyebrows and eyelashes, and even if they hadn’t shared their strange hairlessness, they resembled each other enough to be relatives.
Once the plaster dust settled and my eyes felt clear, I stood on my stepladder, craned back so I could look straight up, and examined the woman’s face.
Her expression was neutral. She stared without blinking and seemed not to notice me, as if she were waiting for something else and wouldn’t react until she saw it. I realized I was blocking her view of the man’s face below and so I climbed down, moved the ladder, and let the two mysterious faces see each other at last.
I stood aside and waited, standing as close to the floor and ceiling holes as possible without obstructing the way. Since the man’s head was recessed a foot below me in the floor, only part of his face was visible to me, but I saw that he immediately stopped mouthing his silent words, and that his expression grew pregnant with emotion. Was it amazement, fear, or hope? His opportunity had come to tell the woman something critical—a secret he had kept and needed to convey.
The woman’s face remained neutral as she stared at the man below. Eventually he mouthed new words, and while I couldn’t interpret his speech from my vantage point, he seemed to talk with urgency and passion. I was glad to have brought the two of them together in their afterlives, and I looked up at the woman, anticipating an expression of peace, epiphany, or marvelous relief from whatever the man was telling her.
I have never seen a more harrowing scream. The woman’s eyes widened and seemed to vibrate. Her nose crinkled at the bridge, and her entire head lengthened as her mouth stretched open. She bared her upper and lower teeth, all the way to her canines and gums. She made no sound. Her mouth was cavernous and grim, like the drain of an old metal slop sink, and her scream had the indrawn intensity of suction.
I felt my own breath being drawn from my body, and I forced myself to look down at the man’s face below. He had stopped mouthing words. His expression was aghast, as if he’d expected a different reaction from the woman he’d addressed. I was reminded of violent offenders apologizing in court, with carefully phrased remorse, and finding not forgiveness but the bloodthirsty, outraged fury of the victims.
I glanced up at the woman’s face in time to see her disappear in a bright scarlet flare. The light warmed my face and left behind a stench of burned insulation. It was glorious to see—a flash of power she had saved and finally unleashed.
I stood above the hole in the floor and looked down. The man’s stricken face stared a while longer, and then he flickered out and vanished like a pitiful illusion.
An update about the hovering body in my hallway, dear strangers.
(Read Part 1)
As I described in my earlier report, the body is nonphysical—I was able to reach my hand through his torso—and is pressed face-first against the ceiling, the way an ordinary body would lie facedown on a floor. Because he’s so close to the ceiling, I was initially unable to see his features.
My solution was to Sawzall a hole in the ceiling, cutting a circle around his head, so I could see him through the floor of the hallway above. This was messier and more challenging than expected, but after I cut a crude hole in the ceiling, I walked upstairs, coated in plaster dust, and finished the hole from the upper hallway.
It was psychologically difficult using a Sawzall in close proximity to what appeared to be a live human head. I was relieved to see that throughout the process, the man’s expression remained unperturbed. The sawdust and plaster drifted through his head to the hallway below, and I was left with a rough but sufficient portal.
The hovering man’s head was then visible eighteen inches below in the hole, separated from me by the joisted gap between the house’s two levels. The gap was dark. A flashlight would have been useless because he was non-corporeal; light would have simply passed through his head. Fortunately, he was faintly self-illuminating, and his pinkish-gray face glowed up at me with excellent clarity.
His eyes were open. They didn’t blink. He was bald and lacked stubble, eyebrows, and eyelashes, which gave his head and face an embryonic smoothness I found both repulsive and fascinatingly generic. I wondered why his hair had vanished in the afterlife.
As I had earlier suspected, he was silently mouthing words, and because he didn’t move his eyes left or right, his mysterious soliloquy seemed directed at me with unsettling intensity.
I have little experience with lip-reading, but by emptying my mind and allowing instinct to guide me, I started to interpret some of what he said. After many minutes of watching, I recognized the pattern of his mouth’s movements and determined that he was speaking a single repeated sentence:
“I never told you what happened that night.”
I sat away from the hole, with my back against the wall, and pondered his words. To whom was he attempting to speak? What had happened on the night in question? Such answers were impossible to guess, but I imagined the man speaking to his lover, or his child, about an incident in darkness—a night of so much meaning in the story of their lives that he’d persisted after death in order to express it.
As I daydreamed various scenarios—a fatal accident, murder, betrayal, maybe a missed opportunity of necessary love—I began to absentmindedly stare upward. My eyes zeroed in on a strange protrusion in the ceiling.
I stood for a closer look and discovered it was a nose and upper lip. They were the same pinkish gray as the man’s spectral form below, and I realized I was looking at parts of a second hovering body, nearly all of which was hidden in the space between the ceiling and the crawl-space attic above…
A disembodied man is hovering in my brownstone’s second-floor hallway.
The hallway is narrow and long, with a grimy plaster ceiling and a hardwood floor covered by a lichenous carpet runner. Two wall sconces provide a modicum of light in the hall, but the man’s form floats in the gap between the sconces and is somewhat difficult to see.
I’m mostly certain he’s a man. He floats face-up against the ceiling, straight as a plank. From below I can see the back of his head, which is bald, but none of his distinguishing characteristics. He is nude, as many ghosts are—an essential, lingering self without ornament or clothes.
He’s motionless. He isn’t translucent but his form is an otherworldly pinkish gray, like neon light submerged in dirty slush.
I determined he isn’t a solid body by pushing a broom handle through his torso, and then by climbing onto a step-ladder and reaching my hand through his back. My palm met no resistance until it touched the ceiling. He felt neither warm nor cold. I perceived no electric charge.
He doesn’t make sound, and yet although I can’t directly see his face, I’m convinced (for reasons I can’t explain) that he’s constantly mouthing words. Since I have no way of turning his ethereal body, I’ve resorted to other approaches.
I slid a mirror between his head and the ceiling and tried to view his face obliquely, but all I could see was his right eye. The eye was open. I may have imagined it, but I think his pupil dilated when the mirror slid in front of it and he suddenly found himself staring at his own reflection for the first time since his death.
Viewed through the mirror, his jaw did appear to be moving, but his ghostly mouth was pressed an inch or two into the ceiling and was therefore completely hidden.
I’m going to saw around his head, through the ceiling, and open a viewing portal through which to see his face from the third-floor hallway above. I’ll report back once I find my Sawzall.
Hey, it’s Claire. Here are the highlights of my interview with Melissa _________, the woman who’s been pregnant with a male fetus for twenty-six trimesters.
ME: Congratulations, I guess!
HER: Thank you. I feel very blessed.
ME: What’s your son’s name?
ME: Most mothers I’ve known start to feel very “get this baby out of me” by the end of the third trimester. How’re you feeling after seven years of pregnancy?
HER: I worried a lot in the first year, but once I understood he was healthy and safe, I made peace with him staying inside. My hormones reached a wonderful balance. I have a permanent pregnancy glow. I’m not in any discomfort. I think a lot of mothers would love this experience. I’m always with my baby. He doesn’t get sick, he’s never alone. He’s growing up in a perfect environment.
ME: He’s not really growing up, though, is he?
HER: He isn’t physically growing but he’s happy and alive. He’s always growing closer to me.
ME: I want to ask some challenging questions if that’s OK.
HER: Go ahead.
ME: Have you considered a C-section?
HER: God, no! It’d be extremely dangerous for him at his stage of development.
ME: You’ll never get to see him or hold him. You’ll never talk to him.
HER: I talk to him all the time. I’m holding him all the time.
ME: Are you concerned he’s missing out? Totally arrested development? He’ll never ride a bike, or see the ocean, or make out with a prom date. He’ll never have a life of his own.
HER: He’ll never get hooked on drugs or have his heart broken, either. He’ll never have to worry about the news or feel alone.
ME: This takes helicopter parenting to a new level, though. You’ve locked him in the cockpit.
HER: I didn’t ask for this. If I suddenly went into labor, I wouldn’t try to fight that. I’m making the best of a unique situation, which is what every good parent does with every individual child.
ME: Why do you think this is happening to you and Timothy?
HER: I have no idea. Why can some woman get pregnant while others can’t no matter what? Why do some babies have disabilities and others have amazing natural gifts?
ME: But this isn’t like, “Geez, my baby has a harelip.” This is one in a billion. Unprecedented, far as we know. You’ve got to have some theory.
HER: I’ve had lots. Proof that God has a plan. Proof there isn’t any God. Mutation. A leap in evolution. Somebody slipped me an experimental drug. Alien pregnancy. But I don’t believe in most of those crazy ideas. I’m a very normal woman, very grounded. I think theorizing is less important than simply enjoying what I’ve got. We’re happy. We have a good life.
ME: That’s super zen. I don’t personally roll that way, but I appreciate how you’re just like, “I love my permanently unborn baby Tim and I’m awesome at my payroll job.”
ME: May I ask you one more question? It’s a tough one.
ME: He’s snug as a bug in there. Not really aging. There’s no indication that’ll change. What if this goes on for decades and he finally outlives you?
HER: I guess they’ll cut him out. Maybe that’ll be his time.
— Report filed by Claire Maple
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!