By: The Earthotic Way
“I refuse to be a part of this,” Lisa said flatly. “It’s disrespectful. And stupid.”
She stared in turn at her brothers. Bradley, the youngest, and Robert, the oldest, with Marty, her twin brother, right in the middle. She could still see the children they had all been. Bradley, of course, refused to hear reason. Marty, the diplomat, tried to take everyone’s side at once. Robert, the eldest and somehow still the authority on everything, folded his arms and looked impatient. “Oh let him do it, Lisa. What’s the harm?”
“What’s the harm!” Lisa made a “duh” gesture at the shrine Bradley had set up below the window of their father’s beach house bedroom. Among the pile of witchy paraphernalia were many things associated with their father: Daddy’s favorite brand of cigarettes, his finest watch, his long-expired drivers’ license, and a plate of chocolate frosted doughnuts. Lisa still connected the taste of chocolate with summering at the beach house, when Daddy would fry donuts, then let Lisa and Marty dunk them in chocolate. What a mess they made! Afterwards they would go sailing together on Daddy’s black-and-orange sailboat, the Blackbeard.
“Do ye dare join me crew?” Daddy growled in his pirate-voice. “Avast ye landlubbers, I’ll work ye to the bones to find me treasure! I’ll keelhaul the lot of ye lest ye do me biddin’!”
Even Robert, who by his teens had been ever-so-mature, would play the game as they skipped along the water, pretending to search for deserted islands or great white whales. The memory of those days shone brightly. After they’d lost their father, Lisa held onto those days like the treasures they’d sought. Her brothers failed to understand this, apparently. She said, “The harm is to my freaking sanity. Are you seriously trying to communicate with Dad?”
Bradley spread his hands over the shrine. “This is the perfect day to do it. Twenty-five years ago to this very day, he left the dock on his sailboat…”
“You were six years old,” Lisa snapped. “You barely remember him!”
Bradley’s eyebrows furrowed. “First, I do remember Dad, and second, I’ve spent the last year preparing for this. I got all the stuff, and I studied the rituals. I’m prepared to do it!”
“Let him get on with it,” groused Robert. “I have plans for lunch.”
Marty, the final word when it came to “dealing with Lisa” – she knew they said things like that about her – put his hand on her shoulder. “It might be a nice way to remember him. Like a memorial service.”
Clearly outnumbered, Lisa put up her hands in surrender and turned to face the bedroom window. Their beach house was a long, white emblem of their family’s prosperity, perched on a sandy East Coast hillside. They used it to this day, trading it off or sometimes sharing it in the summer months. But not for this kind of thing.
Daddy’s first-floor room had three windows facing the ocean, and the one Bradley selected for his silly ritual was beneath the window by Daddy’s bed, with a perfect view of the dock, the boathouse and the rippling ocean beyond. Bradley busily drew circles on the floor in chalk and lit candles, murmuring to himself, directing his siblings to stand within certain drawings. “Think about our father and beckon him to visit us today,” he instructed.
Lisa couldn’t help but think of Daddy, with all this stuff around, so she focused on the view out the window and thought, at least someone’s having a nice day. Far in the distance a sailboat was cutting swiftly through the water. From this window, the view had a haziness to it that she hadn’t noticed outside that morning. Maybe just a dirty window.
Bradley made arcane gestures. “We bid you to come forth from your watery grave.”
“Don’t be morbid,” Marty scolded.
“But it’s working!” Bradley gasped. “Look! His boat is coming this way!”
The lone boat was sailing at them through the hazy light. Closer now, Lisa could see it was painted black and orange, just as Daddy’s had been. There was only one person aboard. This was an eerie coincidence, which only made her angrier. She grunted in fury and left her “magic circle.” Walking away from her idiot brothers Lisa paused at the next window in Daddy’s room and glared out. What she saw – what she failed to see – made her stomach drop.
“Wait a minute,” she said unsteadily. Her eyes were playing tricks. She rushed back to the ritualized window and stared out. There was the black and orange sailboat, almost at the dock. She hurried to the second window and the third, trying to explain to her brothers. “He’s not there! It’s not there!”
Her alarm made Robert and Marty come to look.
“Well, that’s not possible,” said Robert, checking the windows repeatedly. But it didn’t matter who looked, or how many times, the fact remained. They could only see the sailboat through Bradley’s ritual window. Through the other windows in the room, the dock was empty, and no man or sailboat anywhere in sight.
In the view from the ritual window, the boat docked, and its lone sailor disembarked.
“It’s the Blackbeard!” cried Bradley in triumph. “I can see her name now!”
Robert stomped out of the room, despite Bradley’s pleas for him to stay. Marty and Lisa followed their older brother as they always had before. They made their way quickly through the house, checking every window, until the three of them tripped over each other stumbling out the front door. Beyond the wide white veranda, nothing but the calm breezes of the sea greeted them. No boat, no man, no haze.
Robert jabbed a hand at the ocean. “There’s nothing there. It’s some kind of trick.”
“We can’t leave him up there alone,” Marty said, as if deciding for all three of them. Lisa demanded to know why they couldn’t, but Robert and Marty raced back into the house to protect their baby brother from himself, if nothing else. When she caught up with them, the terrible illusion still remained behind the single window, but it was so much closer now.
Robert hauled Bradley back from the window and shouted, “Whatever you’re doing, stop! It’s not funny anymore!”
“It’s Daddy!” Bradley’s face was alight with excitement – probably alight with some drug cocktail his therapist had worked up for him.
Lisa stared agog the figure who slumped, oddly, determinedly, toward the house in dripping, ragged clothes. Its skull-head was grinning. Even from here she saw it grinning.
Robert gave Bradley a hard shake. “Send it back! Bradley, please listen. Maybe it used to be our father but it’s not anymore! Send it back to the ocean!”
Finally, Bradley was able to see the horror that lurched toward the window, its skull covered in leftover flaps of hanging skin, just enough to make a sort of hectic, hungry leer. It snarled, gnashing skeleton teeth together. Lisa recoiled, shuddering as she realized it dribbled chunks of seaweed from its mouth. It must be a projection, some kind of hologram! Yet she screamed, “Send it back, Bradley!”
His voice was childlike when he cried, “I don’t know how!”
The thing raised a rotting boned hand to the windowpane – not to knock, or to smash the glass – but to grasp the sill, and haul itself in, as if the pane of glass had simply disappeared into the same haze that had spewed this monster forth. Though it climbed, legs of bone and grasping fingers, it seemed also to float, and its mad grin of hard teeth chattered and Lisa could swear she heard a voice:
Do ye dare join my crew?