Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Waiting For The Next Explosion-PART TWO

The first thing I remember when I regained consciousness was the steady hum of jet engines and the faint tint of ozone in the air. I found myself laying on a leather couch aboard one of Department 10’s plush Dassault Falcon transport planes probably heading towards their headquarters located outside the small town in western Virginia. Feeling slightly relieved that I was not dead I moved my head to look around which only produced waves of nausea rippling through my body that made me wish Amanda’s thug had just finished the job.

“Don’t you just love that new stun gun toy?” I heard Amanda say from somewhere across the plane’s cabin. “The design came from a batch of files you and I recovered from an old Soviet research facility back in 96. The problem was always the power source, but some of our bright boys and girls came up with a miniaturized superconducting coil that allows about twenty full-powered shots. Oh, the nausea and disorientation will pass in about an hour, but it’s best you just stay on the couch until we land.”

Through force of will alone, because I wanted to show her up, I literally gritted my teeth and stood up despite the world deciding to spin around at warp speed. Standing turned out to be the easy part, when I decided to walk towards the ornate leather chair Amanda was sitting in my stumbling shuffle was both comical and sad at the same time.

“Still far too stubborn for your own good I see.” She said as I plopped into the seat across the cabin from her.

Unfortunately, my little act of defiance left my body weak as water but my rage at being forcibly pulled back into Department 10 was still strong. “All right Amanda, explain to me why you breached our agreement? More importantly, why should I lift a finger to help you? Don’t even try that that shit about appealing to my patriotic sentiment or defeating some danger to national security. You and your special benefactor ended all that for me back in 2004.”

“Fine,” she said pulling a computer tablet out from a side pocket of her seat, “If I can’t appeal to your sense of service maybe I can engage your mind in legitimate scientific inquire.”

I stared dumbfounded at her for several seconds after she said those words before I broke into a fit of laughter.

“What’s so funny about pure scientific research?” She asked with a vague look of disgust on her face.

“Need I remind you of the story about how I caught you experimenting on children you bitch?”


By the time Amanda and I were finished with our accelerated training programs and became full members of Department 10 our highly selective group was completely engaged in cleaning up the elaborate and dangerous messes left after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Both of the main participates of the Cold War had employed numerous high-tech gizmos and bizarre techniques to out flank the other on the geo-political world stage but at least the United States was able to retain control on most of their toys. In fact individuals inside the American government actively suppressed certain technologies because while they would have benefited society as a whole were greatly inconvenient to a number of influential people in the supposed free market.

Inside the Soviet Union, a closed and authoritarian society, things were ironically different. After it fell many of its finest scientists and high concept technologies scattered throughout the world and fought over by any number of other countries, corporations, or organizations. In many ways, it made the 1990’s far more dangerous than the actual Cold War had ever been. Making matters even more fun, Amanda and I were called upon every now and then to deal with the occasional Twilight Zone-like situation that would easily defy all our preconceived notions of reality.

During those years, I was happy as a kid that had just sleepily stumbled into the living room on Christmas morning to find Santa had brought everything he wanted and more. And just like a kid I was caught completely off guard when it suddenly ended.

Department 10’s only real government oversight came from a small panel chaired by whoever was the Vice President at that moment. Since its establishment in the late 1940’s a strict hands off approach was maintained, that is until 2003 when the sitting Vice President decided Department 10 was going to begin cooperating with certain groups outside the government to promote an agenda more in tune with the administration.  Dr. Jamison totally refused citing long-standing policies of Department 10 being outside the normal governmental fray. The Vice President promptly replaced Dr. Jamison with an individual who had none of the scientific credential required to even begin to remotely understand what our group dealt with on a usual basis.

The new director of Department 10 did have one thing going for him, a lowbrow bureaucratic cunning that knew how to manipulate and divide our group. Right from the start, Amanda agreed with this new direction for Department 10, to the point it quickly ended both our professional and personal relationships. The day we said our final goodbyes I had every intention of never seeing her again, I had always known that at her core she was a cold and calculating person but her betrayal of Dr. Jamison and embrace of the new regime was far too much to accept. However, a little over a year later our paths crossed again one last time proving Amanda lacked not just simple empathy but the most basic principles that make a person human.

I was in Paris chasing down one of the last rogue Russian scientists. This particular guy was in France trying to arrange for a group of Uzbek smugglers to take him across the rapidly shrinking Aral Sea located in central Asia to an island where the Soviets had built a highly secure biological weapons research station. The various national intelligence communities believed the scientist wanted to retrieve a vial of enhanced smallpox. Normally Department 10 agents would not be tasked with such a “normal” mission but I figured since I was in the proverbial doghouse the new director just wanted to keep me busy and out of sight.    

Out of nowhere I received a message from Dr. Jamison to drop everything and link up with one of Department 10’s special reaction teams outside Warsaw, Poland. The old man explained that the entire smallpox mission was a deception to get the required assets in place to stop something far worse than a new global pandemic. It did not surprise me that even though Jamison was officially “retired” he had the pull to move both people and materials.

Because of Dr. Jamison’s prior planning the Special Reaction Team and I were in position in only a few hours after I received my message. The section of Warsaw we found ourselves was a bright and shiny new industrial park built just a few short years after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Our initial recon of the area showed it nearly deserted since it was close to two o’clock in the morning with most of the local businesses running strictly daytime operations. 

Despite that all the new structures we passed on the way in the warehouse we found ourselves about to assault seemed like some World War Two relic, almost to the point I half expected to see German soldiers guarding the fence that surrounded the perimeter instead of blissfully unaware Polish State Security types sitting inside modern cars smoking cigarettes. Always the master strategist his one last piece of advice was to split my team with the other half held in reserve. It did not make any sense but since the Poles looked like sheep waiting for the slaughter I did as he suggested.

“Security is amazingly slack,” the Special Reaction Team leader said while looking through a pair of binoculars.

“Yeah,” I replied, “it seems whoever is running this operation has taken the tactic of hiding in plain sight to the extreme.”  

The actual assault of the warehouse perimeter went off without a hitch with the cops being taken out without any bloodshed other than bruised egos on their part. Once we went into the warehouse though it was all I could do to prevent the Special Reaction troopers from terminating the collection of scientists and lab technicians we found inside.

The entire warehouse was made up of sections of human bodies either laid out on dissection tables or mounted upright on special platforms. Both fine electrical wires and miniature fiber optic leads could be seen running out of the body parts and into nearby computer terminals. The worst sights though were the ones where there was some sort of electronic interfaces devices coming out of exposed human brains, many of these test subjects were children who were in some fashion still alive although thankfully, none seemed conscious. The thought that I could never shake was that it was a surreal combination of Dachau and information age technology.

The scientists and lab technicians quickly and easily ratted out the senior person who surprisingly thought our intrusion was a huge insult given that he worked for Department 10 and reported directly to Assistant Director Amanda Grey.

“Grab every hard drive and optical disk! Medics, start checking these people, maybe a few can be saved! After that we’re blowing this hellhole!” I yelled to the troopers inside the warehouse.

Just as I was going to order the other half of my team Jamison had said I needed to keep in reserve to come in and help with the collecting of evidence I received a radio message from the troops left outside covering the perimeter. “There are five military helicopters off in the distance heading our way. Three transports and two attacks and my guess is that they are coming for us.” The trooper said calmly.

Standing there amongst all that systematic evil knowing full well at least a few of those people in those incoming choppers were possible former friends of mine I answered back the only way I could. “Bring them all down, and then look for survivors. Someone is going to pay for what we found here.”

The wreckage of the downed helicopters started huge fires that eventually sweep through the nice new industrial park. It was especially good cover from the explosions that destroyed the laboratory where all those unfortunate souls were being experimented on. We could not save any of the subjects that had gone through that unspeakable hell, they had all been dissected to the point there was simply not enough left of them to live without life support equipment. As for survivors from the wreckage, I was somehow still surprised when they pulled Amanda out. Not only had she escaped with her life but aside from a few minor cuts and being unconscious she was unhurt. From what I knew about her history before we met she was always the type that survived no matter what.

Two more Special Reaction Teams loyal to Dr. Jamison arrived and we all quickly escaped to a freighter waiting for us in the Baltic Sea. Dr. Jamison was on the ship and had arranged a teleconference with both the new Director of Department 10 and the Vice President.

Of course the Vice President displayed a cool detachment on one screen claiming no knowledge of what was going on all the while the new director squirmed in his seat on the other obviously realizing he was playing the role of convenient scapegoat. Amanda, with her wrists and ankles cuffed, on the other hand confessed saying the project was an attempt to develop the technology to teleoperate a human being.

Both Dr. Jamison and the Vice President began playing hardball with the former saying he was going to release all the collected information and pictures on the internet while the latter said he could have a missile take out our freighter in under an hour. It was an impasse until Dr. Jamison mentioned the carefully engineered vial of Russian smallpox virus the Vice President and his staff had been exposed to a few weeks before. And that all it took for the virus to become active was exposure to a couple of fairly common catalysts.

The endgame reached between the Vice President and Dr. Jamison was the sudden and fatal heart attack of the new director of Department 10 a few days later and that everyone who had participated in the attack on the Warsaw warehouse would be allowed to return to civilian life unmolested. Despite the Vice President going into a rage Dr. Jamison refused to turn over the smallpox antidote saying he was going to make sure Department 10 never tried anything like those monstrous Warsaw experiments again.

The big winner in all this was Amanda who became the new director of Department 10. In fact she was giving orders even before the wrist and ankle cuffs were removed. Both Amanda and Dr. Jamison wanted me to stay on with Department 10 but I simply could not look at her and not want to slit her throat. Hell, even the Vice President wanted me to stay but as I looked at those cold dead eyes of his enlarged on the screen I realized if one person scared me it was him. Without saying anything I wanted until the freighter docked in London and like every good spy I had grabbed one of my prepositioned Rabbit Hole bags filled with money various passports, and other items helpful to someone who wants to disappear and then did my best to fall off the face of the earth.


The fact that Amanda found me was a testament to her intelligence but as I sat across from her I still felt the burning rage at the monstrous experiments she ran. Only the fact that I did not want to commit suicide prevented me from trying to crash the plane we were on. With nothing better to do, mainly sense I did not want to look at the woman, I took the computer tablet she had offered and began reading up on the case she wanted me to become involved with.

“You’re bullshitting me,” I said, “There’s no way any of this could be true,”

Amanda looked at me like a parent must to a slightly dimwitted child. “Listen Greg, if I had wanted you dead I would have killed you back in that little village and been back in the States in time for a decent dinner.”

(Author's note: Part three will be in the final segment and if all the planets align and my wife does not try to kill me with yard work like last Saturday I should have it done by Sunday.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Waiting For The Next Explosion-Part One

The fishing village of Palma Sola is hardly more than a cluster of ramshackle houses surrounding a small church, general store, and the pier where around twenty equally rickety boats go out and attempt to earn a living on an increasingly overfished Gulf of Mexico. So when a black Chevrolet Suburban with heavily tinted windows showed up one morning cruising around like a shark scouting for the weakest in a school of fish the locals wisely started quickly disappearing. In this part of rural Mexico, having such a grandiose and enigmatic vehicle suddenly appear out of nowhere there was a very low probability that the occupants would be benign.

I personally did not notice anything until the little medical clinic I run emptied out completely. Not wanting to look a gifted horse in the mouth, I took advantage of the respite by grabbing a beer and going out to sit on the old picnic table under the awning connected to my building and look out at the ocean. When I finally saw the Suburban, I knew this was going to be bad because in my own experience such vehicles are almost always used by people with way too much authority or at least have the idea that they carry some form of significant clout.

To the best of my knowledge little Palma Sola, located seventy-sight miles north of Veracruz, had escaped the drug-inspired violence that plagued many other places in Mexico. However, experience has taught that there is always some conniving opportunist looking for the next quiet haven to screw up. Beside the disturbing chance the Suburban was some drug lord scouting out new territory, my biggest fear and paradoxically my greatest hope was that the SUV contained some asinine yanqui looking for a place to build yet another massive resort along the Mexican coastline. I honestly did not know what was worse for these people. The only choices seemed to be persistent poverty with the only available opportunity the drug business in the big cities or menial service industry jobs that amounted to a form of corporate serfdom catering to spoiled Americans.

Right when I was about to do like the locals and slip back inside the clinic to disappear the Suburban passed by again but instead of driving on it stopped, backed up the thirty feet it took to turn and pulled up to my building.

“Ah shit.” I whispered wishing I had not given up the habit of carrying my Sig Sauer nine-millimeter pistol. It’s just that when you find a quiet and peaceful place to escape an insane world constantly carrying such a weapon is the same as keeping the serpent from the Garden of Eden as a pet. In stressful moments, it is easy for the best of us to succumb to temptation and use such a possession, for the overabundance of fools these days it is usually overwhelming. The trouble with my high-minded philosophy was that armed fools are not just a danger to themselves but have a tendency to jeopardize the rest of us who  want nothing more than to live in peace. Then there are those that are just old-fashioned evil and if I had known the person stepping out of that Suburban would be within the range of my pistol I would had shot her on sight.

“Well Dr. Gregory Mansion,” she said in that deceptively angelic voice, “it took quite the effort and expense to find you. And I must say that when I first met you with your expensive suits and oh so carefully manicured appearance I never in this world would have thought you would end up in some Mexican rat hole looking like a Jimmy Buffett reject treating patients that could only pay in chickens.”

“Hello Amanda,” I said as pleasant as I could. “I’d like to say it’s great to see you again but my mother taught me that lying was a sin.” That made her smile and chuckle in such a way that given our history sent a chill down my spine because I could easily imagine Joseph Mengele responding in a similar fashion.


Amanda Grey and I met twenty-six years before in Atlanta, Georgia and while it did not seem possible but she was even more beautiful standing in front of my clinic than the day I first saw her in the Centennial Hotel lobby. We were part of a group of fifty or sixty composed of many different fields of expertise, all young and supremely confident that we could conquer the world on our terms alone.  

Naturally, we were all fresh out of our respective schools and excited about receiving a personal invitation to attend a recruitment briefing from a CIA spokesperson. Thankfully, egos did not take up actual space because if it had the auditorium could not have held us all. My ego was especially inflated because I had just finished eight years of neurosurgery residency and it would not have been an understatement to say I believed I walked on water.

When you put a bunch of prima donnas in such close quarters, they naturally begin to scope each other out in an attempt to establish a social hierarchy. In a subtle way, it was all quite ruthless with a number of the possible recruits walking out before the event even started. In hindsight, I guess it was inevitable that Amanda and I would come together in some fashion given our respective natures.

I spotted her across the lobby and like a scene from some ridiculous romance novel, our eyes locked. The first thing I noticed about Amanda was her athletic body and long blonde hair, even with an overstated view of my own importance all I could think of was that she had to be a goddess. We both quickly dumped the person we were talking with and met in the middle of the room. I quickly found out that along with her glorious body she held a PhD from Cornell in applied physics. Needless to say the attraction was overwhelming and had the entire group not been called into the auditorium ten minutes later we would have probably gone back to one of our motel rooms and skipped the presentation.

After we were all seated, a nondescript bureaucrat came out to explain the details of the CIA’s recruitment including security clearances and training. The old man that came out after that to give the actual recruitment speech clearly looked like a classic spook in a John le Carre spy novel. Both Amanda and I signed on immediately and six months into our training, this enigmatic person returned to make us another offer that this time would challenge our view of reality.

During our initial training, this person would often be seen observing the students in the various classes. The general idea was that he was some evaluator and after a few weeks, we all ignored his presence for the most part.  This changed one morning when both Amanda and myself we were told to report to our supervisor’s office and found this mysterious person sitting behind the desk.

He introduced himself simply as Dr. Jamison and quickly went on to explain that he ran an offshoot of the CIA called Department 10 and that it took care of special problems far outside the usual realm of intelligence gathering duties. Dr. Jamison went on to explain those duties revolved around investigating phenomenon that pushed the boundaries of known science and technology and that he wanted us to join his team.

“You’re talking about a real-life version of the Twilight Zone or Outer Limits?” I said chuckling, which brought a stern look of reproach from Dr. Jamison and one of embarrassment from Amanda.

“Yes son,” Dr. Jamison said, “certain incidents in the past have bore a similarity to a few episodes from those shows. However, our solutions have never come as easily or cleanly, in fact some of the conclusions we arrived at were the furthest thing from being perfect but at least the world goes on thankfully.” I started to ask what he meant by that last statement but decided against it and let him go on to describe what would entail if we joined. The primary requirement that sold me on joining his Department 10 was that both Amanda and I would have to earn PhD’s in other fields. For her it would be in theoretical engineering and advanced genetics for me.             

As the discussion continued, what did surprise me was how much Amanda seemed to like Dr. Jamison, almost to the point she was gushing like a teenager. She and I had been lovers almost since we first met back in Atlanta and despite her outward displays of affection to me, I was at least smart enough to realize it was mostly physical. To everyone else she came off seeming extraordinarily cold and calculating, in hindsight it was a warning I should have heeded. But in that office I had to chalk up her change in behavior from Dr. Jamison’s Sean Connery looks and obvious intelligence.


Amanda slammed the door of the SUV shut and walked over to the picnic table where I was sitting. With her standing inches away from me, I barely noticed the two nicely suited and heavily armed thugs that jumped out of the vehicle. “Greg,” she said coyly as she took the can of beer out of my hand, “I need to bring you back in from the proverbial cold. We’ve had something develop and we need your expertise desperately.”

“What? You must have found your missing soul and want it reattached to the hollow husk of the person you became.” I said getting sick to my stomach “Because that is the only way I would come back.” Given how well I use to know Amanda I could tell the laughter that followed was genuine, which truthfully scared me to the bone.

For what seemed like an eternity, she stood there drinking my beer and looking me over, much as a scientist examines a bacterium under a microscope. I knew Amanda was pushing close to fifty and yet she did not look a day over thirty, although when I looked in her eyes I could tell the years since we parted ways had taken a toll. In any other person I would have felt some sympathy, especially given her occupation, but I knew full well whatever Hell she had had gone through she helped make.  

“You know sugar,” she said, “I really would like to chat and catch up maybe even between some clean sheets like when we were younger but time is precious. Thomas, zap the man we need to move.”

Maybe it was all the years I spent playing the expatriate doctor and semi-drunk American trying to earn some redemption treating the poor and unfortunate but I had barely moved by the time one of Amanda’s goons pulled out a funny looking tazer. I had about half a second to ponder its appearance when a lightning bolt shot out and hit me in the chest. I fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes only to have Thomas shoot me again, after that things went very black.

Author's note: Finally had some significant computer time along with the urge to write some fiction. This went long and I should finish it at least by Monday. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Elementary School Mind Blowing

One of the highlights of any child's elementary school education are the times they load the kids up and take them on some field trip to discover some new aspects of the world. Truthfully, as an adult I cannot imagine a more stressful situation for any group of teachers tasked for such an endeavor. 

During that particular early period of my life I still remember how on a first grade field trip one of my classmates got sick and starting puking at the county library and on the bus ride back to school. Since it was a "relatively" simple and short journey only two teachers were assigned to oversee our group. This miscalculation in staffing put both of them to the test as one tried to comfort the sick child, who was still doing her Linda Blair impersonation, while the other made sure the rest of us did not freak totally out. In the aftermath of the county library debacle about twenty kids in all came down with a nasty stomach bug while one of the teachers with us, a first year rookie, resigned. 

While obviously messy that was not the worst field trip I remember by a long shot. Just the next year someone at my school decided that the second and third grade classes needed exposure to the arts. All things considered, it was both an honorable and amazing attempt given that we are talking about South Carolina in the early 1970's, then again given the reactionary nature of my state in 2013 it may have actually been a more enlightened time back then.

Whatever the case a Greyhound bus was chartered and after all the kids were counted about a dozen times for safety reasons we were loaded up and driven to the most beautiful city in North America, Charleston, South Carolina. I do not remember the name of the museum but I believe it was on Meeting Street and as kids can get we were very eager to get off the bus once we arrived. The problem was that we were not the only group there and had to wait a long time outside before we entered the building. We are talking about what amounted to an eternity for second graders but even that ended at some point but when we did enter the building we were stopped yet again at the foyer. By this time several of the museum employees were also overseeing all these hyper-energized kids with their patience being sorely tested. 

Case in point was the huge abstract painting hanging on the opposite wall of the foyer. It was a real canvas art work and it was beyond our ability to ignore with several of us drifting over to touch it. This really bothered the museum workers to the point one of them told us that if we stared at the painting our minds would be blown. While someone only a few years older would understand the true meaning of that statement for a bunch of impatient second graders it was taken quite literally. Several of us actually started to worry our brains might explode if we looked at the painting. A sort of panic began to spread to the point that even the skeptical kids began to believe their brains might be in danger.

After a few minutes a surreal kind of riot broke out with a number of my classmates in tears. Thankfully, the bottleneck opened up and we then left the foyer to enter the main part of the museum. Like all trips it eventually ended with us boarding the bus for the ride back to the school. If I live to a hundred I will never forget seeing the dazed and tired expressions on the faces of the teachers who accompanied us, nor will I forget the small bottle they passed around.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Those Curious Bumps In The Night

As someone who likes to metaphorically parade around carrying the banner of science and reason what I am about to write will seem hypocritical to the point of absurdity. However, it is my intention here just to relate some unexplained events that while minor, did cause me to ponder, at least for a short time, a supernatural cause because I was stumped as to how they occurred.

It all began around January of 1993 as Dragonwife and I moved into our first home. It was a pleasant three-bedroom, two-bathroom house about fifteen hundred square feet in size we had built in a new West Columbia subdivision. Throw in the garage that we had the builders’ covert into a “family room” and that pushed the total area up to nineteen hundred. Relax, I am not bragging, far from it, but that room plays a huge part in what I am about to relate.

Being newlyweds at the time, Dragonwife and I quickly settled into a routine even though we spent months living out of the boxes packed with our clothes and other items. This haphazard but easy going lifestyle seemed fitting since our section of the neighborhood was mostly empty lots with houses in various stages of construction. Many nights we went to sleep with the window shades up and it pitch black outside. I admit there were times I would wake up in the middle of the night slightly unnerved by the lack of any human habitation outside the house and the utter silence; even the sounds of nighttime insects were absent during those early days. While never a fan of modern scary movies replete with supernaturally powered serial killers I nonetheless felt the need to go to the windows and look outside scanning for any possible predator lurking in the darkness. After a few months these conditions seemed normal, even to the point I thought nothing of the uncovered windows when either Dragonwife or I got in that newlywed mood.

It did not seem like it at the time but the years passed quickly and by 1997 both the neighborhood and our lives had changed greatly forcing an end to the relaxed lifestyle. The entire subdivision was now finished by then and were as the night was once nearly pitch black I now had a street light right outside my window. Both the finished neighborhood, filled with possible prying eyes looking for a cheap thrill, and the very bright street light that kept me awake forced us to lower our window shades nightly. The addition of Darth Spoilboy, who arrived in 1995, was a huge game changer by itself. Making matters more convoluted both my wife and I were dealing with jobs that had grown increasingly complicated as time went by.

For me, this involved taking computer programming courses at the nearly community college at night. After work, I would drift over to the community college and study for a couple of hours before my classes started. Just because I could not stomach a habitual nightly stop at McDonalds or the campus vending machines there were many nights I simply did not eat until I got home around nine o’clock. When I returned, I would usually just have a bowl of cereal since I would be going to bed soon and did not want anything heavy on my stomach.

During most months my wife, son, and I did the majority of our living in the huge family room, which was connected directly to the kitchen. This converted garage was where we located the television, a couch, and couple of easy chairs. Being as large as it was my wife and I had plenty of space to relax while our son played with his toys. However, this overly large room was a serious bitch to heat during the winter forcing us to take refuge in the one unused bedroom on the other end of the house. The reason we used that particular bedroom during the cold weather months was because we had it setup as a guestroom complete with our second television hooked up to cable.

The night the first incident occurred, I had just returned home for my night classes and was in the kitchen making myself a bowl of cereal with the idea I would then head back to the guestroom to watch television with my wife and sleeping son. As I was standing at the sink washing out a bowl I heard what I would have to describe as a loud, deep, and very sad sigh. What really struck me as odd, and frankly scared me silly, was the fact the sigh sounded deeply Southern, like some cultured, old belle of Charleston or Savannah had heard a piece melancholy news. Yes, it was that intense and I mean every word when I write that the sigh had an accent.

This experience was totally out of the ordinary, while yes this was a new house subject to all sorts of pops and creaks as the foundation settled. And yes, the warm and cold weather caused the wood the house was built with to expand and contract all the time but I had never heard anything like that sound. To make matters even stranger the sound seemed to be coming from the antique kitchen table my wife had bought in Savannah around two months before and while being relatively new to the house, had also never uttered a sound since we brought it home. Why it had decided to get all spooky that night and not sooner, I cannot explain.

After recovering from the serious chill running down my spine, I checked the family room for any possible source of the sound. As expected it was empty and the television was off, not even my wife’s dog was in there. I then checked the actual living room, located on the opposite side of the kitchen and it was empty as well. Long story short, the only other occupants of the house expect for me were in the guest bedroom watching television, which had the volume turned down because baby Darth Spoilboy was asleep.

My wife’s reaction to all this was mild disinterest to a slight annoyance. No, she did not believe my claim and frankly, I was puzzled as well because I could not easily explain it away. The rest of the night was uneventful although I was subject to the occasional jibe from my wife. That is until a few days later when she came running into our bedroom, itself on the other end of the house across from the guestroom, and told me she had heard the female-like sigh complete with southern accent as well. Truthfully, I took a good deal of satisfaction seeing her so flustered since she had given me a great deal of semi-good natured grief about my incident.

Now I know there is some logical explanation for this event. As the years have gone by the best I can figure is that both my wife and I were just in the right place and at the right time to hear the house to settle in an unusual way. That being said, how a house in the process of settling emits a southern accented sigh is still a mystery.

Everything “returned” to normal after that with the event becoming something of a joke. Except for my mom-in-law who in her imperial Virginian manner was convinced it was her deceased mother coming to look over how Dragonwife and I were taking care of our son. It rather upset my her when I responded if that was the case great-grandma needed to pull her supernatural weight and change some messy diapers or do some babysitting. Curiously enough in a tongue and cheek way, I in turn got a response back from great unknown.

By the time Darth Spoilboy was a toddler my wife and I had developed a tried and true method at putting him to bed. While I changed his diaper, if he needed it, Dragonwife would sing him a lullaby. She would then turn on his special nightlight that played soft music and beamed a collection of stars on the ceiling.  With that done, she and I would quietly leave the room with me turning off the overhead light as I shut the door.

When you do something enough it becomes instinctive and that was the case with putting Spoilboy to bed. The key to everything was turning off the overhead light to allow him to watch the stars on his ceiling. So, you can imagine my surprise when I walked by his door one night on the way to the bathroom and saw light coming from underneath it. Sure enough after opening the door I found the overhead light on, luckily Spoilboy was asleep so I just thought that somehow Dragonwife had gone in there earlier to check on him. I turned the light off, proceeded to do my original business, and then rejoined my wife in the family room.

“You forgot to turn off the overhead light in Spoilboy’s room after you checked on him,” I said. “You know if he had woken up we would have caught Hell trying to get him back asleep.”

Dragonwife looked at me from her spot on the couch with a puzzled expression. “I haven’t gone in his room since we put him in his crib.” Dragonwife said lowering the book she was reading.

I figured she had gone into his room and just forgotten about it and said no more. About an hour later though when we went to bed I again saw light coming from underneath the door to Spoilboy’s room. Sure enough, the overhead light was on and while that bothered me, it was nowhere near as disturbing as the disembodied sigh from a few years before.

“All right great-grandma,” I said in a joking manner, “I don’t need this bullshit. If you feel so energetic I have a trash bag filled with dirty diapers you can take to the other side.” The incident never happened again. For those who think Spoilboy just climbed out of his crib at that time he was still too small to either accomplish that or reach the light switch but that is the only viable explanation I have.

After that, things went mostly quiet with our uninvited suburban poltergeist. Now there were the ubiquitous and naturally unexplained bumps in the night but we never experienced any objects flying through the air or carried on conversations with disembodied voices. My mom-in-law to this day still believes it was her mother hanging out with us. This always makes me hope like hell that she does not share the same interest keeping a permanent earthly address. Yes, I know that was unkind but what is the use in being the unmentioned son-in-law if I cannot have a little fun from time to time.

This however is not the end of my story. That occurred in the winter of 2002 at my old work place, De Luca’s Telecommunications Widget Factory. For several years prior the De Luca factory has seen an enormous growth in orders which resulted in the construction of a second production facility over by the Columbia airport. Being an upstanding, alert, and intelligent worker, I was picked as one of the maintenance crew for the new plant. All told, there were twelve of us working three shifts and at that particular moment De Luca’s was a truly awesome place to work. And just like everything else to good to be true just a few months after going over to the new factory the bottom fell out of the telecommunication widget market.

Within a month layoffs resulted in the crew being cut to six guys and the total elimination of the night shift. And since I had the least seniority of those remaining, I became the lone individual working the 3:00pm to 11:00pm shift. As long as I ignored the screwed up hours and the massively empty building filled with idle production lines it was not a bad gig. There were only two productions lines going and since the equipment was brand new, my repair duties were minor. I spent most of my time in the maintenance shop surfing the company’s high-speed internet or helping the three or four actual production workers properly use the computerized system that allowed them to check out items from the fenced-in parts room, which required a special security card to gain entrance.

The parts room was shaped like the letter “L” and occupied the better part of the first floor of the maintenance shop. Above it was a second level consisting of a collection of offices on one end of the “L” and a library on the other with bookshelves filled with maintenance manuals and tables stacked with even more that had yet to be organized. Halfway through a shift one night two of the production guys came into the shop looking to check out a part they needed to produce a particular type of widget. After a few minutes of searching they called me down from the office I where I was surfing the internet to help them find it and go through the difficult process of using the laser scanner to check it out.

We quickly located what they needed but we spent twenty minutes trying to get the laser scanner to read the various bar codes on both the required paperwork and the shelf where the part was normally stored. Since the shift was drawing to a close I told them to head on out and run the product and that I would deal with the errant technology.

Not only did the parts room require a security card to gain entrance but the door leading into the maintenance shop as well. After the two production guys left if they wanted to come back in they would have had to scan one of their cards which would have caused a very loud and irritating buzzer to go off. Needless to say I saw both of them walk out of the shop and heard the heavy door shut. About five minutes after they left I started hearing what sounded like someone lifting up one of the tables on the upper level then dropping it. I was still dealing with the check out process in the fenced-in parts rooms but whatever was happening above me was only getting louder as the minutes went by.

“Dammit Eric,” I called out figuring the certified second shift joker was pulling some prank. “You will clean up whatever mess you make.” My remark only caused the noise to increase yet again to the point I was getting upset. Eventually I got the expensive parts control software to work, and promptly ran out of the parts room to cuss out whoever was up on the upper level even though everything went silent the instant I opened the parts room door. Much to my surprise, I saw no one on the upper level. Even before I walked up the only stairway to check out the situation closer, I could tell the maintenance manuals were scattered about all over the floor.

At that moment my freak out factor was off the scale, so much I immediately left the shop to find the two production guys to make sure they were not pulling some trick. While some may think that is all that happened there was no other way out of the shop other than the one that I always had a clear view of and even then, the buzzer I mentioned would went off had they come back inside. When I found the two production guys they were running the required widget which took two people during the entire process. Not wanting to sound like I was crazy I said nothing and went back to the shop.

I knew this situation was, and still is, insane and while I can logically explain away all the other incidents, this one is beyond me. During the remaining shift, I went back to the shop, propped open the door, picked up the manuals scattered about and made a solemn decision not to mention this to the dayshift crew. As I wrote at the beginning, I believe in reason and logic and while I am open to the idea that there are things outside the realm of the scientifically explainable, the burden of proof rest solely with those making extraordinary claims.

These incidents ended right after we moved into our new house. Like all “strange” events, they have become something of a family legend and are often talked about during Halloween when such stories are common. I reiterate, there are most definitely logical explanations for everything I have written about although the last one still has me puzzled.