[Mysteriousheartland.com] “I’m glad more of you decided to join me this time,” Mike said to Greg, Aurelia, and Emmet at the top of a hill south of Olney, Illinois, “considering what happened at that abandoned farmhouse near Cuba Road last month.”
“I’m only here because I want to see you humiliate yourself again,” Emmet chuckled.
Greg laughed and Aurelia bit her bottom lip in a failed effort to prevent herself from smiling. Mike glared angrily at his companions.
The quartet stood at the edge of the small, crab grass infested gravel parking lot kitty corner to a gray, one room church. Mount Pleasant Cemetery sprawled across the hilltop. Two country roads converged at the bottom of the hill, several yards away. The frosty wind assaulted the few remaining leaves on the trees that lined the roads.
Mike pulled his heavy, leather trench coat snugly around his waist. With a determined glare, he turned toward the chipped, off-white wooden doors of the church.
“If you two don’t mind,” he said, “prepare yourselves to witness what we’ve been searching for all these months. You doubted me before, but based on the facts, I’m almost certain this is the place where we will finally open the portal to the astral plane.”
“Alright, let’s see it,” Greg said impatiently.
Mike cracked his knuckles and seized the door handles. The lock seemed as though it would give with a minimal effort.
The doors shook violently as Mike tried to force them open. As he stepped back to prepare for another try, a faint buzzing sound filled the air.
“Do you guys hear that?” Aurelia asked with detached concern as a handful of tiny wasps floated past her head.
“What?” Mike snapped.
Suddenly, a deep crack in the siding above the door came alive with hundreds of tiny insects.
“Look out!” Emmet shouted. He stumbled backward toward the car.
“It’s only a bunch of bees,” Mike scolded. “Stop being a baby.”
“I’m allergic to them, jerk,” Emmet shot back.
Greg swung at them with his cane. “I’m surprised they’re not all hibernating,” he said.
Aurelia swatted away the wasps with a wrist full of bracelets. “There, they’re gone,” she said. “Let’s get this over with. We didn’t drive three hours to be scared off by a bunch of wasps.”
“You’re right,” Mike heartily agreed. “Everyone step back. We don’t know what’s going to happen when I open this door.”
On closer inspection, Mike discovered someone had left the padlock unsecured. He slipped the lock from its position and grasped the door handles.
Aurelia’s shrill voice pierced the air. “What are you waiting for?” she demanded.
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Mike replied.
“Just open the damn door already,” Emmet said.
With a forceful tug, Mike yanked open the double doors and a gust of wind blew from the musty interior. Nothing but dust and a nearly empty room greeted him.
Emmet burst into laughter.
“Now hold on,” Mike shouted. “You can’t expect a portal to just reveal itself. We have to summon it.”
“Alright, buddy,” Greg said. “I think we’ve done enough for today. Let’s go back to town and get some hotdogs and burgers.”
Mike glared at his friend and pulled a piece of yellowed paper from the pocket of his trench coat. “I need to recite this incantation, ass,” he hissed. Clearing his throat, he began. “Anail nathrach, uatha bha’is, bith thonn du’iseacnt,” he chanted, his voice growing steadily louder. “Le de’anamh E!”
Thick clouds gathered high above the church, but nothing happened. Poorly contained laughter echoed throughout the interior.
Mike stepped determinedly inside the building and recited the ancient words once more. “Anail nathrach, uatha bha’is, bith thonn du’iseacnt, le de’anamh E!”
Again, nothing. Mike crumpled up the paper and shoved it into his pocket.
“Come on, let’s go before someone calls the cops,” Emmet said. He pulled his baseball cap from his head and ran his fingers through his stringy, blonde hair. Standing nearly a foot taller than the others, he would have had a commanding presence if not for his poor posture and nervous demeanor.
Aurelia stepped out of the way as Mike stormed past. He tucked his trench coat beneath his rear and sat under a tree.
“What, are you pouting now?” Aurelia asked.
“What did you expect, man?” Emmet said. “You knew it wasn’t going to work. There’s absolutely no proof this astral portal is real. You’ve never seen a picture or illustration of it. You’ve never seen it located on a map or heard it mentioned in any other sources. I hate to break it to you, but the invisible and the non-existent look alike.”
“He has a point,” Greg added.
A long period of uncomfortable silence followed, then Emmet chuckled nervously. “So,” he stuttered, “did anyone see the game on Sunday?”
Mike slowly turned his head, his face contorted into a look of anger.
Before he could open his mouth, a black van with the letters P.C.P.R.S. stenciled on the side crept up the gravel drive toward the cemetery’s small parking lot. It did not seem possible, but Mike’s face turned an even deeper shade of red. The van parked next to their car.
“Uh oh,” Aurelia whispered.
A middle aged man, his face and fingers smeared with orange Cheetos dust, climbed out of the driver’s seat. Two women and another man quickly joined him. Each wore a fresh, black windbreaker with P.C.P.R.S. emblazoned above the breast pocket in yellow. One of the women held a small dog at the end of a leash. It growled and barked at the Fallen.
“Oh look, the kids are out of jail,” the man covered in Cheetos dust said.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Mike snapped. “How the hell did you know we were here? Did those zealots tell you?”
“Yes, they did,” the Cheetos-covered man’s companion said. “They warned us you might be lurking around here, causing trouble. We’re sick of you amateurs giving us a bad name.”
“Amateurs!” Mike repeated.
“We’ve reported you to the paranormal police for violating our code of conduct,” one of the women condescendingly told the quartet.
Emmet burst out laughing. “The paranormal police? Give me a break! Don’t you people have jobs and families?”
“Who are you?” the woman demanded. “And why are you here if you don’t believe in any of this?”
“God made me an atheist,” Emmet replied. “Who are you to question his wisdom?”
“Enough!” Mike yelled. The two groups fell silent, equally surprised by his uncharacteristic burst of emotion. “I’m sick of you following us around and then accusing us of getting in your way. I don’t care how many times you’ve been on TV or how many books you’ve written. You have no right to tell us what to do or where we can and can’t go. You don’t have any more claim to this place than we do. If the owners want us gone, that’s fine, but screw your ‘paranormal police’ and screw your rules.”
The Cheetos-covered man appeared flabbergasted.
“You can tell that to your friends too,” Mike added. “I don’t know who’s been vandalizing haunted sites, but it ain’t us. I’m sick of being blamed for everything just because we don’t conform or follow your arbitrary rules.”
“Maybe we should get out of here,” one of the women whispered.
“Don’t bother,” Aurelia said, “we were just leaving.”
As the Fallen made their way to the parking lot, the leader of the P.C.P.R.S. struck Mike with his shoulder. “This isn’t over,” he whispered.
Mike grinned. “You got that right.”
[New episode every Friday…]
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