“Help! Help!” Charlie yelled as loud as he could. As the specter continued to approach him, no one seemed to hear. It was almost upon him when a thought popped into his head.
You must have kept your guardian angel working overtime. Immediately he threw himself on the hope that sprang from that statement he had heard from his mother.
“Guardian angel! Help me!” he hissed, as the darkness engulfed him. Instantly a brilliant light flowed from beneath his bed and threw itself against the invading darkness. The sick feeling that engulfed Charlie disappeared and was replaced by a feeling of hope and strength. It was if the sun had risen inside him and flooded the entire room. The fear and panic in Charlie eased, and his tension relaxed. A moment later, three medical people ran into the room.
“What is it?” they almost yelled. “We heard you in the hall outside.” They turned and looked at the elderly man and realized that his equipment had stopped working.
“Call in the crash cart!” one shouted after listening for his heart. Charlie watched as the three people in scrubs worked on the old man. By the time the crash cart arrived, they had his heart beating.
Charlie sat quietly, watching the frantic actions of the threesome. Finally, as things settled down, one of the nurses turned to him.
“There must be something wrong with a circuit,” he said. “There’s no power in this room, or the next. If it hadn’t been for you, this man would have died. Thank you.”
Charlie nodded soberly. “Will you be able to fix the circuit?”
The nurse shrugged. “The electrician will look at it tomorrow. In the meantime, we will need to move you and Mr. Sanchez into different rooms.”
Nurses and orderlies came into the room and wheeled the beds of Mr. Sanchez and Charlie down the hall and into empty rooms on the other end of the hall. Mr. Sanchez was put close to the nurse’s station for observation, which Charlie was moved farther down the hall in a room with a boy about 10 years old.
“That’s a lot of excitement for one night,” said the nurse. “Try and get some sleep. You want to look fresh for your discharge.”
Charlie nodded, but knew that sleep would be hard to come by that night.
Charlie was surprised that he actually was able to sleep that night. He woke up when someone brought him a breakfast tray early the next morning. His mom arrived soon after that, and Dr. Maxwell about half an hour later. After examining his ears and eyes and doing some tests on Charlie’s coordination, Dr. Maxwell pronounced him ready to go home. Mom took care of paperwork, and a few minutes later, they were in their minivan and headed for home.
“Charlie, do you feel up to having Lu visit you? He brought someone else to see you,” Mom asked Charlie, who was dressed, but still lying on his bed in his room upstairs.
Charlie nodded, knowing who it was.
Lu entered the room, and was followed by a quiet girl with long brown hair, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. She was a little taller than Charlie, and he smiled at the familiar face.
“Hi, Charlie, how are you feeling?” Emily asked.
“Hey, Em. Thanks for coming to see me. I’m feeling OK,” Charlie said. The two of them had been close friends for years, and had known each other well. Emily had visited his house many times, had been in this very room. And yet the conversation felt awkward. There were many things that were left unsaid, things that Charlie wasn’t sure he was ready to talk about, even now.
“Lu said you had something you wanted to talk to me about,” Emily said, her eyes looking around the room as if she were reacquainting herself with her surroundings. “The room seems smaller than I remember.”
“Just more junk,” Charlie said. “Got some new Star Wars collectibles if you’re interested.”
She shrugged. “Maybe later.”
Charlie nodded. “Right. Straight to business. That’s the Em that I remember.”
There was an awkward pause. Lu spoke up.
“Look, I can wait downstairs if you want, Charlie.”
Charlie shook his head, still looking at Emily. “No, this concerns you too, Lu.”
Charlie took a deep breath, then looked at Lu, then back at Emily.
“I need you to talk to Bud for me,” Charlie said. “I think—no, I know—that he’s in danger.”
“Talk to him yourself,” Emily said. “Your video has made you the flavor of the week. Maybe he’ll listen to you.”
“You know that’s not true,” Charlie said. “I won’t get a word out before someone puts a fist in my face.”
“Then why are you worried about him? And what makes you think he’s in trouble?”
“I still consider him a friend, even if he doesn’t feel the same way about me,” Charlie said. “And as to why I know he’s in trouble, well, that’s a little more complicated.”
“OK, so tell me,” Emily said, pushing some clothes off a chair and sitting down in front of Charlie. “I’m all ears.”
Charlie looked at Lu, who nodded to him.
“When I woke up after the accident, I started seeing and hearing things. I saw shadows that moved down the hall, and whispering. One of the things I heard that first night were the words, “Bud Landry must die.”
Emily stared at Charlie, then snorted. “You’re kidding me. You hear things after an accident and suddenly it’s a life and death situation? Have you ever thought it might just be a brain injury?”
“Yeah, that’s what I said,” Lu said, stepping forward. Charlie turned to Lu, and he hesitated in mid-stride.
“Lu, you’re not helping things.” Charlie turned back to Emily. “OK, Em, I know that you base your whole life on evidence, on things that are measurable. What I heard and saw was subjective. But last night something happened that can’t be dismissed that easily.”
He told them of the shadowy visitor the night before, the faulty electrical circuit, and the roommate that almost died.
“Coincidence,” Emily said. “Or maybe, the circuit died and then your mind told you the shadow creature was there before the power went off.”
Charlie shook his head. “Em, you weren’t there. There was a feeling when that thing came into the room. I felt like I was going to throw up, and then I felt like I wanted to give up and die right there on the spot. Then when the other creature came–.”
Emily held out her hand to interrupt. “Wait, there was a second creature? This just gets better and better.”
“When I shouted at the dark creature, I interrupted it. I think it realized that I saw it. Then it came for me. I would have died right there as well, except….”
“Except this creature of light came right out of my bed. It pushed back the darkness and protected me. The darkness disappeared. Then the nurses ran into the room and started working on my roommate.”
Emily looked at him, frowning. Charlie frowned back at her, realizing she was passing judgment on what he had told her.
“What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking several things, Charlie. First, I still think it is hallucinations from brain injury. Occam’s Razor says: ‘The simplest answer is often the most likely to be correct.’ But I do consider myself a scientist, and since you’ve never lied to me before, I suspect you’re telling the truth here. So I feel obligated to look at all the possibilities.”
“Thank you,” Charlie said.
“You’re welcome. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that we’re friends again. You still have a lot of stuff to answer for. But I will help you. Which brings me to the second concern.
“Bud isn’t going to listen to you if you tell him that dark creatures are out to kill him. Not without a lot more evidence than we have here.”
“So what do we do?” Charlie asked.
“We find more evidence for what you are saying. You are the witness to the events in question, so your job will be to continue to gather more physical evidence—whatever you can find. And it needs to be more than just what you think or feel. It has to be measurable and something others can see and hear.
“I, on the other hand, will pursue this from a totally objective scientific viewpoint. I will try to find any other record of similar situations. We need to find out what these things are—both the dark and the light.”
“What about a hypothesis?” Lu asked.
“What?” Charlie said.
“You got to have a hypothesis, or a theory, or something. Don’t you?”
Emily nodded. “Charlie’s right. Our research might lead us in another direction, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some sort of theory on what it is you think you are seeing.”
“Beyond hallucinations from brain injury,” Charlie added.
Emily shrugged. “That will be our first theory. But there have to be other ones as well. Any suggestions?”
Charlie grinned. “Ghosts? Aliens?”
Emily nodded. “Those will be our second and third possibilities. Any others?”
Lu raised his hand. “I have one. But instead of telling you about it, I think it would be best if you heard it from someone else.”
“Who?” Emily and Charlie said together.