Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Night in Kellum Hall

As we rounded West Tennessee Street in Tallahassee and went through the main gate at Florida State, I had two dueling emotions - elation and sadness at the same time.  The excitement of starting a new phase of your life but sadly reflecting on who and what you had left behind - my beautiful Etta and my mother who tried to make me a society maven like her.  Just 10 hours earlier I was still in my room that I had lived in since I was a toddler and now I was going to spend the night in a new place with new people.  I knew I would be home for the holidays and summer breaks, but I would miss not seeing them every day.  

My father pulled the red Corolla in front of Kellum Hall as a Resident Assistant name Chad asked my name and if I had my room assignment.  I pulled out my paperwork and smiled at my dad because the road to getting here had been perilous.  My ability to see the dead had made a normal childhood all but impossible and even as we drove from Atlanta to Florida, we had encountered ghosts from the past - Klansmen who needed to be banished to the hell they had sentenced others to in their lifetime.  Needless to say it was a long drive physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  It was also 8:00 pm so check-in for the day was coming to a close. 

Chad told me that the dorm was co-ed but the girls' floors were on the top and the boy’s floors were on the bottom.  My father immediately asked if there was room in Jennie Murphree which was known on campus as the Screaming Tower of Virgins.  Thankfully it was full with a waiting list – no doubt for parents who wanted the illusion that their daughters would still be untouched after four years at a state college.

We started to bring my suitcases and boxes upstairs to the ninth floor.  The smell of slight mildew, sweat, stale beer, and hormones hung in the air as we waited for the elevator.  “Sugar Bear, you’re sure you’re ready for this?” my father said with an enormously concerned look on his face.  “Dad, I’ll be fine – besides the Wilsons are right next door and have been here a week already –they can give me the lay of the land.”  He relented I think still secretly hoping that I’d decide against staying so he could drive me back.  I was his oldest – his baby girl and the guilt of leaving my mother when I was six always weighed on him.  He would see me every weekend, at school functions and for holidays but he knew it wasn’t the same.  Then when he got remarried and had two more daughters – the tightrope of trying to be all things to all the females in the family got tighter.  God forbid we ever started having our menstrual cycles together. 
I had known the Wilson sisters since kindergarten when we met fighting off a racist ghost who was not keen on an integrated school being built in his land – a place that the local KKK had once used for rallies.  The Wilsons were the first black girls to attend the school which didn’t sit well with a few people both living and dead but we managed to form a strong bond as a result of that adversity.  Besides my father thought the world of them and it was the only way he’d let me go to FSU rather than the University of Georgia which was just 40 minutes away.  
So here we were – my dad and I put together the room – or my half of it which was a bed, a dresser, a small closet, a desk, and a mini-refrigerator.  The bathroom was a few doors down with shared toilets and showers.  It was still a week before school started but the bulk of the rush parties for sororities and fraternities had taken place.  Most of what was going on now was small get-togethers, the impromptu Tide slide (when the guys in a dorm wing get the floors all wet and soapy and then slide bare-assed down the hallway – it is way more stupid than it sounds if you can believe that) and ice water socials where potential sororities invited you to see them.  You had to wear white and drink ice water like a proper young lady – which definitely was not for me.

“Hey, Miss Sophia – how about I go back to my hotel and I pick you up for a late dinner at Chez Pierre?” my father asked like a was a real lady who deserved a fancy dinner.  I actually would have been happy with pizza and a can of Coke but it was my last night with my dad before the college part of my life started.  “Of course daddy – see you in an hour?” I asked and hoped I’d be able to find a decent dress and shoes among all the suitcases and boxes.  I got my shower caddy together with a towel, soap, shampoo, face cleanser, and moisturizer.  I walked out into the hallway which had young women and men coming and going.  It seemed strange that I could shower and just about anyone could walk in on me- but then this was what dorm life was all about.   
I started the steamy shower and made sure the curtain was closed on my first sultry summer night in North Florida, only to have a chill catch me by surprise.  Something seemed off as one of my floormates walked in with her roommate.  “I really don’t want Dexter over tonight – he’s weird.  I’d just like to hang out in the lower lounge, watch TV and eat pizza.”  “C’mon,” her roommate begged “He’s been really nice to me and I’d like to try that game he was talking about,” countered the other girl.  
“Okay, but by 11 he needs to be out – promise me Cynthia.”  “Fine Lynnette – but try to be nice to him.”  The two girls went into their respective stalls, took care of business and left.  I finished my shower, dried off and put on my robe making sure no one could see me as I ran across the hall to my own room.

I found a simple skirt and tunic top and some flats and finished putting on my make-up.  I went downstairs to wait for my dad who was let into the lobby by a couple of girls who gave him the once over and declared him "super cute" for an older guy as they grabbed a few more girls to go to a frat party.  We left arm in arm and frankly I didn't care if anyone thought I was nerdy for wanting to hang out with my dad.  

We got to Chez Pierre at 9:45 pm just in time for the last seating.  The Maitre D' recognized daddy and set us at a nice table by the window.

We both smiled as he handed us our menus - looking at each other across the table was really the first quiet non-road trip moment that we'd had with each other all day.   I had learned so much about my dad and had so much to say but found myself trying to keep it together so as not to ruin our last dinner before I was an official college student.  "Daddy - I - really --thank you for today - for telling me --" I started to say just as our overly chipper waiter came over.   "Hey folks - welcome to Chez Pierre - my name is Denny and I'll be your server this evening - may I interest you in a glass of wine, sir?"  The moment was broken and my dad went into his usual nice guy mode - ordering wine for him, a virgin Margarita for me and some escargot as an appetizer and chicken for dinner.  It seemed ironic that just four hours earlier we had been fighting ghostly Klansmen who were also abolitionists in Cordele, Georgia but here we were in Tallahassee having drinks and snails.  

"Sugar bear - let's not tell your mother about this afternoon- I'm pretty sure she'd freak out and be upset that I never really shared with her that I had - that I could see ghosts,"  he said quietly looking down.  I knew she blamed him and me for the end of their marriage - Daddy for bailing on her and me for seeing ghosts and spilling the secrets they told me at the family reunion.  

Denny returned with our drinks and appetizer and we talked about regular college stuff just like any other father and daughter would do.  I had always wanted these normal moments but they always seemed to allude me.   We finished dinner around 11:30 pm and Daddy dropped me off at the dorm.  "See you tomorrow for lunch before I leave, Sugar Bear," he said and gave me a huge hug as I got out of the car.   I smiled - still fighting my emotions but not letting on how lost I felt.

I walked past the student lounge that smelled of Budweizer, cigarettes and pizza.  There was an episode of Saturday Night Live playing in the background.  I walked up to my dorm room and saw that the Wilson girls has there door ajar next door. I knocked as Joy was getting a piece of pizza out of the delivery box.  "Sophia!!"  she squealed and we hugged each other.  "Sophia?" asked Grace as she came into the room holding her shower caddy.  I gave her a big hug and felt like I at least had a piece of home to keep from being too lonely.  They noticed my attire and asked if I had a hot date already.  "No, I went out to dinner with my Dad," I replied to which Grace commented - "Well it was a hot date - you're father is smoking!"  "Ewew - that's my dad but apparently he's been getting the once over from a few girls tonight."  I sat on Grace's bed as I grabbed a slice of pizza even after the big dinner I had just eaten.  Snails just didn't hit the spot like pizza did.  

"So how have things been so far?" I asked wiping tomato sauce from the side of my mouth.  "Actually, not quite as wild as I would have expected, but we've been staying away from the frat parties," explained Grace.   "Bullwinkle's Saloon is pretty cool - you can get cheap beer there and the dance floor is fun.  Best of all, you can walk to it easily from here.
We'll take you -" Joy continued but stopped mid-sentence when we heard a young woman scream.  "What the hell?" I said as I looked down the hall.  A gray haze was settling around a room two doors down.  The haze was not from cigarettes or pot, but was being given off by a less than friendly entity.  I saw some kids pile out of the room as the woman continued to scream.  
The Wilsons and I ran down to see what was going on.  As we looked in the room, there was a terrified girl sitting on the bed sobbing "A demon, a demon tried to get me!" she screamed.  Grace and Joy looked at me and I tried to focus in on what she was seeing. The dense haze was trying to cover up the entity but I saw that it was emanating from a Ouija board.  "Jesus Christ," I thought to myself, "I really hate when people use these things - nothing good ever comes of it."   

"Cynthia - for God's sake just calm down!" said a girl whose voice I recognized as Lynnette from earlier.  I remembered they were talking about a guy named was Dexter and he was pretty easy to pick out.  A guy who was looking nervous and smoking cigarettes rather than trying to reassure this poor young woman.  Grace leaned into me - "I know you wanted a fresh start but is there anything you can do?"  I looked closer at Cynthia and while her eyes looked wild and glassy - l realized that some of that might have been drug induced. 

"Has she taken anything tonight?" I asked trying not to accuse anyone of using drugs but they got my drift.  The collective unease of the room got stronger.  "Dexter gave her something - I don't know what it was," said Lynnette who was so upset she was shaking.   Cynthia lunged off the bed and grabbed me  "They are saying you can help - please help me," she sobbed and became limp.  "I'm calling Father Fetcher from the church down the road," said one of the girls who lived across  the hall.  "Yes, do that please," I said quickly. "Dexter what did you give her?" I commanded realizing I'd have to take matters into my own hands until someone with more experience arrived.  Dexter just looked down and didn't say anything as he took another drag off his Malboro.  "Dammit, answer me!"  "It was just one hit of acid - it shouldn't have done this," he replied nervously.  

Great - hits of acid while playing with a Ouija board - how f*cking stupid was that?  No wonder Lynnette was not crazy about him.   The entity started to move towards Cynthia.  "Get back!" I yelled at the apparition and the group moved out of the dorm room thinking I was talking to them.   "Claire would you go into my dorm room and get the rock salt that is in my big suitcase?" I said quietly to not to alert this thing as to my intentions. 

Claire left quickly so it was just me, Grace, Cynthia and Lynnette in the room.  Cynthia's body felt like it was burning up and she was sweating profusely.  "This is more than a bad acid trip," I thought to myself as the plastic pointer on the
Ouija board started to move in it's own.  Lynnette started to get hysterical and I could see that Grace was freaked but true to her name she told Lynnette that I was an expert on ghosts and had the situation handled.   "Who are you?" I asked trying to get a name so that it could be banished.  The plastic pointer spelled out the word "DIE".   The room got darker and colder and the entity was feeding off of Lynnette's fear.  "Okay, everyone out but me and Cynthia - please," I said not sure what I was going to do.  Just as they left, Claire showed up with the rock salt at the same time that Father Fetcher arrived.  He was a young priest - probably in his 30's with dark wavy hair and a slim build.  He had his priest collar on and a small suitcase which I hoped were his tools as a demonologist to help get rid of this aggressive entity.

"Hey there - I'm Father Fetcher - "  "Get out," said Cynthia in a very masculine voice "You and your ways are not welcome here."  Claire threw me the zip lock of rock salt and then left quickly.  Father Fetcher looked a little shaken.  "They were playing with a Ouija board and taking hits of acid," I explained hoping that might update them quickly.  "Were you playing the game as well?" he asked irritated and fumbling with his case.  "No, I'm was out with my dad but I'm a -I can see-" I hesitated and then Cynthia said, "They are saying Sophia can see spirits - please let her help me!" 

Cynthia passed out again but then quickly came to and had a strange look on her face.  The haze that was around the board had now moved over her.  The door slammed by itself which startled both me and Fr. Fetcher.  "They told us in seminary that this could get really bad - "  The soda cans on the table started to shake and fall on the floor.  "F*cking A - it's a dorm room with a f*cking Ouija board and people doing drugs.  Don't they know that entities like this are hanging all around us and this sh*t just invites the evil in!" stated the angry Padre.  I had to admit - I liked a priest who knew how to curse under pressure.

"Cynthia-I am Father Eugene Fetcher of St. Thomas More - I'm here to help you - try not to be afraid.  You're having a bad trip right now and seeing some very bad things - but the power of Christ can help you."   The bed started to shake and Cynthia started to whimper.   I could see the demon hovering - he had a red blood stained face that looked like a human skeleton with large teeth and black hair.  "Father, he's right over her.  I have some black rock salt - do you need me to use it?" I whispered but the demon looked my way and started to move it's mouth slowly.  "That sounds a little pagan to me but I've never done this before so I'm open to anything.  Does it work?" he whispered back.  "It banished some Klansmen ghosts earlier today with my dad," I replied matter of factly.  "Wow, so you have some experience - that's great.  Cool - cool.  Um, I'll pull out some oil and holy water with my bible and you -" He was cut off when his briefcase went flying and the items scattered to the ground.  "Shit!" we muttered at the same time.  

Cynthia's back started to arch and her mouth started to open - the entity was floating over her and the evil mist started to flow into her mouth.  "If we don't do something soon, she will be possessed," I said urging him to act quickly.   He crawled over to where the briefcase was and grabbed the vials of Holy water and oils.  Cynthia grabbed one of my hands and pulled me towards her - her face now a combination of bloody skeleton and her own flesh. I could not get her icy hand to let go and it looked like she was going to bite me with her teeth which were now fangs.  The room got colder and darker and I started to shiver. 

The heat of Cynthia's breath felt like it would scald my hand if it got any closer.  I reached into my pocket and ripped open the baggie of rock salt.  I threw it into the face of the demon/Cynthia.  She howled and let go my of hands to rub her eyes.   The room started to shake like we were in an earthquake and the Ouija board went flying.  Father Fetcher found the vials of holy water and oil which were broken - he cut his finger on the glass as he took the fluid off the floor and sprinkled them in her face as well.  He took a deep breath and spoke in an commanding voice: "Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen."  

I kept looking at the demon which was got smaller while the prayer was being said.  Suddenly, a big blue light with a sword appeared.  An abbess opened up in the floor and the blue light which now appeared to be an angel pointed his sword to the darkness.  The diminished demon struggled to stay in this world but the power of the sword was too strong and he let out an unholy moan as he was sucked into the unknown.  The floor quickly closed and the room shuttered.  The angel looked at me and Father Fetcher.  He nodded and then looked up to the sky as he disappeared leaving a trail of blue and white light.   

Cynthia's body started to relax and she came to.  Father Fetcher as was covered in sweat and his once white collar was gray.   "Did you see any of that?" I whispered still trying to comprehend it all.  "I caught a little blue light in the end but you'll have to tell me all about it," he said smiling.  The lights in the room got brighter and the room felt like a normal temperature again. "We make a pretty good team, are you Catholic?"  "No, Episcopal," I replied.  "Close enough," he retorted and we both started laughing.  "Sorry about the cursing - being a priest is still pretty new and I can have a bit of a mouth," he said holding the small cut on his finger.  "No worries, you're secret is safe with me," I replied.  

Lynnette, Claire and Grace came running in.  "Hey, are you all okay?" Claire asked.  "The floor was shaking."    Cynthia opened her eyes and they looked normal again.  "What happened?" she asked thankfully not remembering anything about the spiritual attack and noticing that there was a priest in her dorm room.  "Oh my God, did I sleep through Mass?"   "No, but I will be confiscating this Ouija board in the name of the church and burn the damn thing.   Hear me now all of you- I never want any of you to play this game again.  You have no idea what you are working with and bad sh-- I mean -- really bad things can happen," said Father Fetcher catching himself.  "Make sure you get plenty of sleep the next few days and eat healthy raw foods," the Padre advised as he put a band aid on his cut finger.  We cleaned up the room quickly and packed up the brief case just as Cynthia was falling back to sleep.  "Keep an eye on her for the next 24 hours just to make sure she's okay," I said as we left.  

Fr. Fetcher, Joy, Grace and I walked down the hallway as Chad the RA ran up.  "Hey, is everything okay up here?  We heard screams and like this side of the building was shaking."   
"We're fine," Father Fetcher replied. 

I noticed that Dexter was standing in the hallway, still smoking and not making eye contact with anyone.  "I am not going to turn you in this time, but if you even try to spell the word 'acid' I will see to it that the powers that be will make your life a living hell," I said directly and quietly.  Dexter looked at me and nodded.  He put out his cigarette and walked down the back stair well.  

"Do you have a place for me to burn this?" asked the priest who didn't want to have the Ouija board near him any longer than he had to.   "We have an incinerator in the basement - do you want to throw it in there?" Chad replied.  "That works," replied Fr. Fetcher.  

"Hey, would you like to have lunch with me, Joy, Grace and my dad tomorrow?  He'd be very interested to meet you," I asked hoping the good Father would say yes.  "Of course Miss Sophia, I'd love to talk to your dad and congratulate him on raising such a smart and capable daughter in so many ways," he smiled and then went off with Chad to burn that God forsaken game.

I got back to my room and the day mercifully came to an end. I was bone tired and exhausted and hoped the rest of the week would be quiet.  I also wondered how things would be since I was now "outed" as a medium at least for the girls on this floor.  But those thoughts quickly gave way to sleep which I was in dire need of. 

I woke up the next morning around 11:00 am - not in my bed at home like the day before but in my new home for the next four years.  The phone rang as I struggled to figure out where it was.   "Hey Sugar Bear, how was your first night in the dorm?" my dad asked.  "It was interesting - I met a priest and learned a new prayer," I replied sweetly not wanting to worry him.  "In fact he's coming to have lunch with us," I mentioned casually.  "A priest - will a Rabbi also be joining us?" my father joked.  I laughed and realized how much I would miss seeing him but we had bonded on this trip in a way I could not have expected.  "Hey daddy, I really love you - you know that right?" I said suddenly.  "Sugar bear, I love you too. So much.  I'll see you and the Wilson girls soon," he said with his voice breaking.  I hung up the phone realizing that although I was on my own for the first time I had friends and people who loved me so I would never be truly alone.