Don watches helplessly through Web cams as the ghost attacks Chester, his cat. Can he save his pet in time?
A few days into January, the couple has returned to work. Don setup a Web camera security system over the holiday. While he’s had an encounter with the ghost, Don still thinks there are rational explanations for the activity.
That’s about to change.
I Might Believe
Don settled into his office chair and opened a spreadsheet. A mid-afternoon sleepiness had begun to creep over his mind. That’s something a banh mi and pho lunch can cause. He planned a quick trip to Uptown Espresso in South Lake Union for a caffeinated pick-me-up after he ran a financial analysis for a new client.
Line graphs and bar charts blossomed on his two screens. Finance jobs tend to rely on Excel as the main method of communication. He hated spreadsheets as much as Amber hated PowerPoint presentations. One day, he’ll get to leave this behind and start his eco-adventure business, but not today.
He pushed back his chair and swiveled to his backpack. Inside was phone with the latest alternative rock tracks downloaded. He would need some thumping bass lines and booming drum beats to get through this afternoon. His office didn’t allow employees to stream music on a work computer, but he could use its WiFi to stream music on his own devices.
Don popped his wireless buds into his ears and brushed back his blond hair. He’d have to get a haircut soon: His hair was probably an inch too long for his boss’ liking. But, his boss wouldn’t return to the office for another week.
As he connected, an alert popped up on this phone’s home screen. It was from the security system. Something triggered the hallway camera on the second floor.
Don tapped the message to open the security app. As it pulled up, four tiles appeared. Each held a still from the last image captured by the four web cams. Besides the hallway, there were cameras in the sun room, kitchen and front door. If he wanted, he could click each tile and speak through a microphone on each camera. The system was close to real-time, but it had a ten second delay between image capture and when Don would receive an alert.
He clicked the hallway image and played a thirty-second loop. It was Chester, their cat. He finally woke up and headed down the hallway. Don smirked and went back to his spreadsheet.
After thirty minutes of projecting annuities and dividends, Don’s phone vibrated. He looked and saw it was another message from the security system. This time, the sun room camera caught something. Don thought it was Chester lounging in his Lazy Boy, like he does on winter days, and ignored the alert.
But another alert came from the kitchen a minute later.
Don thought that was strange since this camera was pointed toward the front door and away from the sun room. Chester would need cheetah speed to trigger the alert within a minute.
As Don clicked the kitchen image, two more alerts popped up on the screen. The hallway and front door cameras caught something.
At this point, Don thought it was a bug in the system. He did have a few problems getting the cameras to focus and send alerts over WiFi.
He swiped the alerts aside on the screen and clicked on the front door camera. The video stream flickered and static come over it for five seconds. That wasn’t normal for the system. When the video came on, Don saw a white vase shattered on the hardwood floors. That little shit, he thought. If Chester were a kid, he’d be grounded for a month.
Don exited the front door video and went back to work. He needed to finish a forecast for startup investments by noon the next day and it was now 3 p.m.
As Don entered revenue data, his phone began to vibrate so hard and fast, he thought the screen would crack. Security system notifications fired away on the screen. Multiple notifications came from the sun room, kitchen and front door. Don clicked the most recent sun room alert.
The video sputtered and froze. Lines of static crisscrossed the playback. It lurched forward a few seconds then hung. Don strained to see what happened in the video, but it was so blurry, it looked like a blotted water-color painting. Chester seemed to be on top of the recliner. Don hit pause and checked the office WiFi on his phone. It had full strength.
He looked back at his phone and hit play. Again, the video played a few seconds then froze, but this time, it started again and streamed like an HD movie.
Don saw Chester floating. He floated a foot above the top of the chair. Then he flipped over on his back, his legs thrashing into the air. He squirmed around, twisting, trying to get free of something. His front claws appeared to grip something, but that something was invisible to the camera. Chester strained to flip back on his belly.
Then, Chester flew across the sun room and crashed into a wedding picture of Don and Amber. The impact caused the picture to come off the wall and fall with the cat on a black leather couch below.
Don’s eyes widened and his voice fell away. Speechless.
What the fuck is going on in my house?, he thought and hit the emergency button in the app.
“There’s someone in my house,” he said before the 911 operator could even ask. He blurted out his address and had to repeat it. He spoke too fast for the operator to get it. She told him police would arrive at his house in 5 minutes. Don glanced at the time on his watch and calculated how long it would take to get home at this time of day. Probably 50 minutes.
Don leaned over his cube wall and told his co-worker he had an emergency at home, but he’ll check his work email tonight. His co-worker asked him if everything was OK and Don just said “some crazy shit” went down.
As he left the office building and entered the parking garage, he called Amber.
“Babe, you need to go home now,” he said in a measured monotone voice. “I think someone’s in the house and he might have hurt Chester.”
Amber gasped and paused for a few moments. Her voice trembled as she responded. “How did this happen?”
“I don’t know. I saw it on the web cams,” Don replied. “Did you see it too? Did you download the app?”
“No, I didn’t think I’d need it,” she said.
A flash of anger crossed Don’s mind. He put the system in to make her feel safe and she didn’t put the app on her phone. He took a few breaths to calm down. “It’s OK,” Don said. “I’ll put it on your phone when you get home and we check on Chester.”
Don may be angry, but he would never yell at his wife. Ever.
Don continued, “Can you leave now? It’s going to take me nearly an hour to get home.”
“Sure, I can get someone to cover for me,” she said.
“Love you,” he said and another call came in. It was the police. They asked for the PIN to enter the house and check for intruders. The officer on the phone said they saw some damage through the window.
“Did you see our cat? Is he OK?” Don asked. The officer said he had not, but he’ll have his partner look for it once inside. “All right. I’ll be home in about 45 minutes. Will you still be there? I have a video from our security cameras.”
The officer said he could stay to watch it and ask a few questions.
As Don hung up, he pressed down on the accelerator, going 20 miles-per-hour over the speed limit. His evergreen-and-white Mini Cooper seemed to hop down I-90 East toward Snoqualmie. Speeding tickets be damned.
In Part 5, Amber and her girlfriends have a night-in when the ghost manifests.
Ed. Note: To keep the couple’s privacy, we’ve used pseudonyms. This story is inspired by events at a home in Snoqualmie, Washington, so treat it as fiction.