2268 Jim Kirk was expecting the door buzzer when it announced a second visitor to his quarters that evening. The doors parted to reveal Leonard McCoy, a flat box clamped under his arm. Kirk wondered what McCoy had cooked up this year for their customary Halloween discussion. Various other methods to mark the ancient holiday were regularly indulged in on the Enterprise; the Biology Departments Halloween Party was almost mandatory well, at least once! But Kirk, Spock and McCoy had long ago established their more sedate routine.
"Evenin Jim Spock. Didja wonder if I remembered what night it was?" McCoy greeted his friends with his familiar easygoing style.
Kirk pretended surprise. "What night is it, Bones?"
McCoy aimed a good-natured punch at his friends shoulder. "As if you didnt know. Hey, waitll you see what Ive got!" He whipped the box from beneath his arm. "Ta-da! A genuine, honest-to-goodness Ouija board! Thisll be just the thing . " He broke off at the expression on Kirks face. "Whats the matter, Jim?"
"Dont bring that thing in here, Bones. If you do, Ill leave," Kirk warned.
"Youre kidding, right?" McCoy asked, his exuberant grin fading fast when he saw the look on Kirks face.
"No, Im not kidding," Kirk returned firmly.
"But why, Jim?" McCoy persisted. Even Spock looked concerned, rising from his seat and setting aside his glass of iced fruit juice to get a better look at the box.
Kirk looked a bit embarrassed at his violent reaction, but held firm. "Im sorry, Bones, but that thing just . just brings back bad memories. If you and Spock want to use it, fine. Just take it somewhere else and do it."
McCoy laid the box down hastily in an unobtrusive place. "Gee, Jim, I had no idea youd even seen a Ouija Board before."
Kirk remained ominously still.
Spock was lifting the lid with all the inquisitiveness of an eight year old, poking at the simple board inside with its numbers and letters. "It is constructed of simple Terran wood and plastic," Spock observed. "It seems harmless, Captain," he concluded.
"Dont say that. Thats what we thought," Kirk replied sharply.
McCoy fixed Kirk with a piercing stare. "All right, Jim, we wont even get it out of the box. But in return, as soon as I get me a drink, youre gonna tell us whats going on whats caused this reaction in you."
Kirk pressed his lips together in obstinate silence.
McCoy recognized the look. "Oh, no, you dont. Youre gonna tell us you know I wont let it rest." He crossed over to the bar and began rattling glasses and ice. After he had concocted one of his special mixtures which Spock eyed doubtfully, he settled himself in a corner of the cozy sofa. "Okay, lets have it."
"Its nothing, Bones. I over-reacted, I guess," Kirk made a lame attempt to soften his reaction, but McCoy would have none of it.
"Jim, that crap might work with Spock, but its never worked with me. So cut to the chase and lets have it," he ordered.
Kirk sighed. There was no evading the thing. Maybe it would be good to tell somebody what happened that night . after all these years. "It happened the summer Gary Mitchell stayed with us. Garys parents and mine knew each other before Gary and I ever went to Starfleet Academy. Its probably why we were drawn together as cadets. That, and our shared experience that one summer. We were only eleven or twelve... Hell, I dont remember exactly. Old enough to have known better, maybe." Kirk paused for a sip of his drink.
"We had a great time that summer, Gary, Sam, Petey and I. Petey Greer was a neighborhood kid. A little on the small side, and maybe a little timid, but Sam and I thought he was okay. All red hair and freckles, that Petey. Yeah, he was an all right kid. Now Gary was a different story. He was visiting us from whatever colony he was from. He seemed to take an instant dislike to Petey. I think Petey brought out the bully in Gary. Gary was like that. You never could show him a weakness hed zero in on it and attack relentlessly."
Spock shifted in his seat. "So I noticed," he commented dryly.
Kirk shot a look at his first officer. "Well, you had to know Gary. He did have some good traits, too. Anyway, we had a lot of time on our hands that summer. Dad was home for a change, and it was great. Mom and Dad had their hands full just keeping us occupied and out of trouble. We had the run of the place, and run we did, all over our property, the neighboring farms till one day we found this house in the woods. It was only a shell by then, a brick shell of what was once a grand, two story house. Most of the top story had crumbled away, but the walls and ceilings of the lower floor were pretty much intact.
"We spent all day exploring it, poking through the rubble, unearthing old plumbing, ancient wiring, rusty nails, chunks of plaster. We found an old crystal chandalier, much the worse for wear after its fall from the rotting ceiling and God knows how many years on the floor. We rooted through everything, and speculated about who might have lived there. Petey was as nervous as a tribble in a room full of Klingons while we were exploring. Gary didnt help the matter he kept jumping out at Petey from behind corners Petey was so relieved when we left " Kirk smiled at the memory.
"That night at the supper table, the four of us Petey stayed for supper that night were all relating the adventure to Mom and Dad.
That must be the Clark place, Dad remarked. I grew up on the legend of that place. I thought it probably fell down years ago. Nobodys lived there since the 1890s, maybe the 1900s.
What legend? Sam eagerly asked.
Its been the local haunted house forever I remember my Dad and Grandfather both talking about it, Dad replied.
So what about the legend, Dad? I asked.
George! Mom protested. "Youre not going to drag up that old gossip, are you? It happened so long ago, theres no way of knowing whether its true or not.
Oh, its true, all right. Dad told her. We spent one whole day in the local library looking up the old newspaper articles. He turned to us. Seems this old guy that lived there Jeb Clark was his name he bludgeoned his wife and kids to death in the house... his mother-in-law too. Then he shot himself in the head with a pistol.
Ewwww! Gary exclaimed with exaggerated distaste, while Sam and I exchanged glances of mingled awe, disbelief and disgust.
Peteys eyes were as round as saucers. But why? he breathed, engrossed with the story.
Dad leaned close to Petey. For the sheer fun of it, Dad whispered, then slammed his fist on the table, rattling all the glasses.
Petey jerked backward like a scalded cat, nearly overturned his chair!
Kirk chuckled. "Then this nervous laugh went around the table."
Great story, Dad, Sam said.
Dad was still laughing at Peteys reaction, but he raised his hand as if swearing an oath. Its true, I tell you. I saw the records.
"We all exchanged looks Sams and mine full of curiosity, Garys pure mischief, and Peteys was dread with a dash of fear mixed in. I knew it wouldnt be long before we returned to the house."
Kirk paused, gazing across the room as though looking back in time. Then he continued.
"Gary brought it up the very next day. He wanted to go back that night, but Sam firmly nixed that idea. He had promised a neighbor hed help him with his field fertilization program. So it was two days later when Gary brought the subject up again. He was determined to go that night. He even checked... there was going to be a full moon.
And you know what that means Gary said in a melodramatic voice, leering ridiculously at Petey, who gave a snort of laughter. So whaddya say Jim? Sam?
Sam and I looked at each other and shrugged, then slow grins spread on our faces.
All right. Should be fun. Petey, you comin? Gary made the invitation a challenge.
Yeah, Ill be there, Petey replied.
"I wondered if I was the only one who could hear the false note of bravado in his voice.
"But just a visit to the local haunted house wasnt all Gary had planned. He showed up late that evening, with a flat box tucked under his arm."
Whats that? Petey asked suspiciously.
Gary patted the box. Just a little added touch.
Sam tilted his head, trying to read the upside-down letters. O .U .I "
Its a Ouija board, you moron, Gary interrupted, cuffing Sam on the side of his head.
"Sam didnt like that much Garys friendly punches were never that friendly. Anyway, as we tramped through the fields and finally the woods that sheltered the house, Gary explained hed found the board in an antique shop. He knew what he was looking for, because hed done a lot of reading about the occult. Petey looked real uncomfortable when Gary mentioned that. But it was too late to back out we had arrived at the house.
"Somehow it looked more forbidding than it had in the daytime, sitting there washed in the moonlight, as if it was silently waiting for us. A cold shiver went up my spine. I glanced at the others. Even though we were all nervous, no one was going to be the first to voice any misgiving.
"We went inside and the first thing I noticed was this all-pervading chill it was a hot August night, yet I swear it was cold in that house. I wasnt the only one who noticed. "
Sam finally said, Jeez, this place is like a stasis chamber.
"A shiver ran through me at his unfortunate choice of words. Petey was real quiet, a good indication of how scared he was. Gary was the only one who seemed unaffected by the atmosphere. Everything was quiet except for the chirp of crickets and the buzz of cicadas. Gary moved into the center of the biggest room on the main floor, set down the box with the Ouija board in it, and started dragging things out of a sack hed brought.
"Making a circle of candles, he lit them efficiently with a porta-flame he whipped out of his pocket."
Sets the mood, he said in answer to my silently questioning look.
"Then almost reverently, he brought out the Ouija board and set it in the circle of candlelight. It didnt look like anything special to me just a board printed with numbers, letters and some mysterious symbols. But Gary acted like it was our ticket to adventure. Finally, he had everything ready to his satisfaction."
Well, sit down, you guys. Whatre you waiting for? he asked us, suddenly impatient to start.
Jimmy, you sit there, and Sam here, Petey there he pointed out our places to us.
"Gary and Sam were sitting on one side of the board, Petey and I on the other. He showed us how to place our fingertips lightly on the pointer, and warned us all not to try to guide it in any way."
Something else will do the guiding, he informed us.
"I could see Peteys fingers tremble as he tried to keep them resting lightly on the pointer."
Kirk paused, taking a long sip of his drink.
"What did you ask the board, Jim?" McCoy nudged, in spite of the increasing anxiety in Kirks voice as he told his tale.
Kirk shook his head ruefully. "At first, Gary asked all the questions. All the silly stuff you always ask Will I get married be wealthy be powerful... He claimed he was just warming up. Then Gary asked it when he would die. I think I must have made some sound of protest. I didnt want him asking things like that. But he silenced me with a look, and rather than spoil his fun, I shut up. At first I thought the board might not answer. Then it began to move 2 ..2 .6 ..5 . the year 2265. Our eyes met in shock. That wasnt very far into the future. And as you know it turned out to be correct."
Kirks eyes met Spocks unblinking obsidian gaze for a long moment before continuing. "Anyway, Gary tried hard to be nonchalant about it and he probably fooled Sam and Petey but not me. I knew he was shook. But he plunged on, probably to hide his reaction."
Is it true that many years ago, old Clark bludgeoned four people to death in this house?
All eyes were glued on the board as it pointed immediately to the Yes.
Peteys jaw went slack, and Sam and I exchanged looks, then looked at Gary. His eyes were glittering with excitement. He shifted impatiently, his knees were beginning to protest the extended cross-legged position we had assumed, but no one suggested we stop now. Gary darted a quick glance at Sam and me before he asked his next question.
Is Clarks spirit still in this house? he asked.
Again, without hesitation, the pointer moved to the yes corner, stopped, made a lazy circle around the board and returned to the yes.
We all shifted in our seats then, and Gary ran a nervous tongue across his lips.
Sam whispered, Gary, maybe this isnt such a good idea.
But Gary made an angry, silencing motion with his hand. It was almost as though Gary thought he had something to prove to us. Is the spirit here now? he asked. His voice had dropped to a whisper without his realizing it.
Four pairs of eyes were glued to the board, waiting. I know I was holding my breath and I suspect the others were too. At first the pointer was still, and I heard a slight sigh of relief from Peteys lips just before the pointer began a determined course. This time it was spelling something. Gary breathed out the letters as the pointer touched each one.
T U R N A R O U turn around, he repeated.
"The blood drained from our faces, and our eyes locked across the board, horrified. Vainly, Petey and I peered into the darkness beyond Gary and Sams shoulders, but Sams quick, nearly soundless intake of breath captured my attention. His gaze was riveted on a point somewhere behind Petey and me, and it was with a sinking feeling that I knew whatever it was, it was behind us. Then I heard the faint sound of breathing, a hiss of air through a moist passageway.
"None of this was lost on Petey either. His eyes were as big as saucers. I was cautiously trying to roll my eyes backward without turning my head But Petey showed no such restraint. In a flash, he whipped his head around, took one look at whatever was behind us and let out a yelp of fear. That cry seemed to release whatever force had been holding us in our seats. We scrambled to our feet, and the Ouija board went flying across the room. Since the thing was between us and the door, we made a concerted dive for the gaping window, and largely fell through it, landing in a tangled sprawl of arms and legs on the dusty ground. Nobody bothered to take inventory, though, and we were on our feet and running a split second later. We ran as if pursued by all the demons of hell and as far as we were concerned, that was exactly the case. We tore through the woods, our faces and arms and legs scratched by branches, until we emerged into the cornfield on the other side.
"Gary dropped to his hands and knees, totally winded. Sam and I were pretty breathless by then, too, and sprawled on the ground next to Gary, gasping. Endless seconds went by as we lay there, until finally I could speak. I looked back the way we had come."
Wheres Petey? I managed to ask.
Gary and Sam looked around, confused.
'He was with us when we left the house . wasnt he? Gary asked in between breaths.
Maybe he just fell behind . He oughta be here in a minute, Sam suggested.
But a full minute passed, and Petey didnt come out of the woods. We all exchanged a look of dread.
Somethings happened, Sam voiced the thought for us all.
I looked at Gary, whose face reflected mingled shame and fear. I knew he wouldnt go back for Petey. And I didnt want my brother to go back to whatever was waiting in that house. I pushed myself to my feet and was off, back the way we had come, before either one of them could say a word.
I thought I heard Sams voice call Jimmy! just as I plunged back into the woods. I ran all the way, pausing every now and then to hiss Petey? even though I didnt really expect an answer.
"I finally arrived at the clearing where the house sat, and paused at the edge. There was a faint glow from the window wed so recently tumbled through. I approached with caution and looked through. The glow came from the few candles that were still lit and hadnt been scattered in our mad dash. I scanned the dark depths of the room. Whatever had been there, wasnt there any more. Petey was still sitting cross legged where he had been, his eyes wide with shock."
Petey! I called softly, but he seemed paralyzed with shock. Whats with you? Lets get outta here, I urged as I boosted myself up to the window and swung a leg over. I quickly pulled my other leg over the jamb and sprinted across the room.
Cmon, Petey, I called, this time more urgently, and I touched his shoulder.
"And he .. he fell over, and thats when I saw that the whole back of his head "
McCoy made an involuntary sound of shock and put his hand on Kirks arm. After a long moment during which Kirk pulled his emotions together, he continued. "The authorities ruled the death accidental they said he probably hit the back of his head trying to scramble out of the window." Kirk paused, looking earnestly at Spock and McCoy. "But I knew better. You see, he never moved never even had a chance to break for the window. He was still sitting right where he had been when wed been asking questions. Whatever it was that Gary called forth that night, it killed again. It killed Petey. And thats why I dont ever want anything to do with a Ouija board again," he finished quietly.
"Jim, did you see what was behind you?" McCoy asked hesitantly.
Kirk shook his head. "No. I think Sam and Gary saw it. Whether or not Garys extraordinary powers of ESP were involved, well never know. Petey saw it better than anyone but he wasnt able to tell us about it. We only talked about it once, later that night. It was almost as though we thought if we talked about it " Kirk stopped, overcome with memories.
"It would come back," Spock finished.
McCoy looked at the Vulcan with surprise. "You buying into this without scientific proof, Spock?" he asked, amazed.
"It did come from a reliable source, Doctor," Spock replied. "And to resurrect an old Vulcan proverb: Somewhere between the supernatural and the scientific lies the unexplained."
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