//Surely you and the other entity both knew that direct, physical interactions would have the greatest effect. Why does it seem that neither of you focused on that possibility?//\n\nAn entirely reasonable question, I agree. If the goal were just to convince them of some unnatural occurrence, that would be the most expeditious choice. However, each of us had our reasons not to do so.\n\nFor my part, I did not with to frighten them, so I believed my attempts to affect their world physically had to be carefully conceived so as to appear entirely non-threatening. In the end, this had been a difficult standard to meet. Most of the simple actions I could complete would either be dismissed as the product of mundane forces and circumstances, and the rest were in danger of being interpreted in any number of ways. I reasoned, particularly based on the family’s reactions to my earlier attempts, that should they accept the influence of an unseen entity, they would most likely interpret it as an attempt to frighten or at least disturb them. The ability to move objects slightly mostly leads to situations wherein objects would fall, tip over, or otherwise be disturbed from their intended locations and orientations, and I feared they would only see the disruptive aspects of the events. I wished to communicate, to be understood, and if possible to help them, but I did not wish to frighten them.\n\nThe other spirit had a more fiendish motivation. If the family were to see obvious effects, and in particular have those intercessions witness by more than one person, they might begin to believe in the spirit’s presence. That belief would give them an adversary, a villain who could be blamed, hated, and resisted. It might even lead them to flee the house, convinced that malicious spirits lurked within. This was the one outcome the vile spirit wished to avoid. As soon as the family knew the nature of the threat, they would unite against it, and whether they fled or not, it would be difficult for them to be influenced or frightened any further. It wanted to hurt them, torment them, and I believe ultimately to destroy them, but it did not wish to be known.\n\n[[With both of you trying to influence the family, how did things change?|7]]\n
//What did you do? Did you try to help them?//\n\nI faltered. I cannot apologize enough for this part of my involvement. Arya and Isaac faced a tower of rage where their husband and father should be, irrational and violent, and the doubt and hesitation they battled were well-earned. I had no justification for such emotions, I who faced no personal risk of harm. It was my place to help them, and in that moment I could not think clearly and rapidly enough to help them in that moment. I don’t know how much good I could have done in those seconds, and perhaps I would not have made a difference at all, but the possibility haunts me. I doubt I will ever be free of it.\n\n[[What did William do?|What was William's response to them leaving]]\n
//Do you have any knowledge of events outside of the time you lived and the years since?//\n\nIt would appear not. I remember my own life, and at some point I became aware of my current peculiar existence, and all the memories I carry come from those two times. As best I can tell, it is as if I have simply been here since just before my death, and for most of that time I have been without a physical form but still aware to various degrees of this place and time.\n\n[[I have another question about time.|Time questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//I have a question about the afterlife.//\n\n[[Are there higher powers?|Are there higher powers]]\n[[Is there anything like Heaven?|Is there anything like Heaven]]\n[[What is your religious opinion of your current existence?|What is your religious opinion of your current existence]]\n[[Are there other beings that you're aware of where you are?|Are there other beings]]\n\n[[Actually, let me rethink that.|Side thread]]\n
//As you suspected, Isaac was terribly injured that night, but he did survive. William had gained the advantage in their struggle in the sitting room, and had beaten him badly before strangling him into unconsciousness. When Arya and William were in the kitchen, Isaac regained consciousness and managed to make his way out the front door.//\n\n//Arya did exactly as you encouraged her once she escaped William. When she left the house that night, she had no serious injuries, and she reached her car before William could catch up. Sara had already secured Marie in her car seat and was waiting in the car for her mother, as was Isaac. They fled to a hotel, where they lived for several weeks while sorting things out.//\n\n//William is a more complicated matter. You may not want to know all of this, so if you wish me to stop, you know how to communicate that to me.//\n\n//William was injured, both by Isaac and Arya, but not so badly that he could not have recovered. As you know, the injuries to his mind were much more severe. He never returned to the house. When he was too late to catch Arya, and watched her drive away with the rest of his family. They left him, and no one else was here to see what happened, but Arya called the police to report the attack and ask them to go to the house and take William into custody. She knew he was dangerous, but also knew he needed help.//\n\n//When the police arrived, they found William on the front step. Arya must have dropped that knife somewhere along the way, because William had found it. What they found was not made public by the authorities or the family, but William had apparently injured himself with the knife extensively, and before the police arrived, he died.//\n\nI see. I wish you had a happier story to tell, but I suppose I should appreciate instead that the news is no more grim than it is. It is a great relief to me to know that at least the rest of them escaped. What has become of them in the time since? Have they been able to move forward and rebuild their family despite the loss of poor William?\n\n[[I'll tell you what I know.|Elaborate]]\n[[I don't think it's my place to tell you more.|Abstain]]\n
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//Do I have any reason to be afraid?//\n\nNot from me, my new friend. I am a gentle soul, I assure you, and what I’ve told you thus far is unvarnished and unabridged truth, as shall be every tale I tell you from here on. This interaction that we share now will be the extent of our connection, and so long as it does not trouble you, then all will be well between us.\n\nI cannot, however, assure you that there is nothing at all to fear in this place. I will tell you truly, I have seen the influence of another spirit here, one of malice and purely ill intent, and I cannot say with certitude that the fell spirit has departed. Its ways are largely a mystery to me, but should you feel any other influence upon you while within the house, or feel emotions you cannot explain, I beg you to stand and leave this place at once. I will understand, and will not judge you ill for it. This world is a mystery to me in many ways yet, but I no longer doubt that a spirit without physical form, one that is not me, can most definitely make its presence known in a dangerous and harmful way.\n\nIt is an important point, and I will make it once more; should any emotion strike you that seems foreign, or if thoughts of unpleasant or harmful natures creep into your mind, flee this place and never return, for evil has made a home here.\n\n[[Do you know who I am?|Do you know who I am]]\n[[What do you want from me?|What do you want from me]]\n
You contacted the Markhams to tell the Samuel's story of the events that took place in the house. You also gave your recommendation that since Samuel has decided not to interact with the living any more and he saw no evidence of the other entity's continued presense, the family should sell the property and let someone else without an existing connection to the house live there.\n\nThe Markhams were not at all receptive to this idea. They didn't feel they could entirely trust Samuel's word and opinions, and the idea that the other entity was gone simply because its influence had not been observed recently when there had been no ongoing residents of the house was rejected outright.\n\nThe Markhams did not sell the house, and your suggestion alienated you from the family. They considered your opinion difficult to comprehend and felt they must consider the possibility that you had been influenced by the other entity in an attempt to encourage more innocent people to move into the house and be subject to malicious influence. They have refused further contact with you, and have shuttered and secured the house. They no longer allow anyone to enter, under any circumstance. Their long-term plans for the house, if they have any, are unknown.\n\n<<display "Samuel's legacy">>\n\n\n[[Proceed|End]]\n
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//Why try to contact Sara again? Why not try someone else instead?//\n\nI believed the best way to help her might be to reassure her that she could trust her own perceptions, and that she had not imagined the event that had triggered this silent crisis. If I could convince her somehow that her receptive mind and inquisitiveness were what allowed the interaction to occur, then perhaps she could accept that only she was able to see it occurring.\n\nI did not want the rest of the family to witness any actions I might take, for fear of increasing their acceptance of these possibilities. If Sara’s belief had truly been the catalyst that allowed the other spirit to take hold, then extending that belief to others could increase its influence, perhaps even beyond a point where I could hope to challenge it. But with Sara the damage was done, and I reasoned that the best resolution for her was the removal of any doubt that she had witnessed what she thought, and thus even if she believed others thought her foolish for whatever reason, she could comfort herself by knowing something amazing was happening all around them, and they were blinded to it by their narrow perceptions and abundant disbelief.\n\n[[What sort of contact did you intend to attempt?|What sort of contact did you attempt this time]]\n[[What did you end up doing?|What did you do this time]]\n\n
//Wait — do you mean the other spirit was turning the knob? I thought both of you could only affect physical objects in very minor ways.//\n\nThat, my friend, is precisely the miscalculation I had made up to that point as well. When the other spirit’s capabilities matched up with my own with such parity, I assumed the magnitude of those abilities was also similar. And perhaps they were, at first, but even then I should not have let that mislead me into believing that this would always be the case. I suspect the vile thing’s power had grown somehow — it did not strike me as the type of creature which would rely on subtlety when a more direct approach was available.\n\nRegardless of how it had come to be, the fact remained. We both watched as the doorknob of the attic stair door turned slowly, as if either an unseen hand were turning it, or someone were about to emerge from behind the door. Sara could not know which was the case, but I knew there was no one behind the door, or at least no living person. In all the years I have spent in this place after my death, I am unaware of any instance when a living soul was within these walls and I did not sense them instantly.\n\nThe question of whether a physical being was involved made the situation unquestionable and quite real for Sara. She could not allow her mind to talk her out of what was happening, because there was yet the chance that nothing unnatural at all was occurring. Someone could have secreted themselves away in the attic, waiting until dark to emerge. It was unlikely, but likelihood is of little consequence when one is staring at a doorknob, slowly turning.\n\nSara screamed. The sound was of terror alone, inarticulate, wordless and throaty. Someone was about to enter her bedroom, and the only exit was on the far side of the door from which the intruder was about to emerge.\n\nIf the other spirit had grown powerful enough to achieve such a feat, I feared what else it might now be capable of. I knew instantly that whether the danger she faced was physical or emotional, she needed help of a type I could not hope to provide. I reached out my thoughts to the family, to sense their reactions and to urge them to Sara’s side.\n\nIsaac was the first to respond. Even through the doubled walls and closed doors separating his bedroom from Sara’s, the sound of her cry had been startlingly loud. It shook him from the edge of sleep and his instinctive response was of anger, the reaction of a father who watched over a sleeping child and wanted nothing more than silence, but concern took hold soon after when he began to comprehend what he had heard. I did all I could to push him further toward that concern, and a moment later he was in motion, dashing out the door and into Sara’s bedroom.\n\nSara shrieked once more when her bedroom door burst open. A measure of relief followed as she recognized the form of her older brother.\n\n“What!? What’s wrong?”\n\nIt took her a moment to regain her faculties and produce the words. “There’s someone in the attic!” She pointed a shaky finger of accusation at the attic door and refused to look away.\n\nNaturally Isaac was suitably alarmed by what she said, and doubly so because at that moment, having just entered her room, he stood not a full pace away from the attic stairway door. He spun about to stare at the door and instinctively stepped away, his back pressed against the bedroom door which had swung inward and now blocked the door to the kitchen stairs.\n\n“What? How do you know?”\n\nSara sat as far back on the bed as she could and curled her legs up in front of her until she could hide behind them, with only her eyes showing above her knees. “I heard footsteps and I saw the knob turning.” Her eyes still had not left that doorknob, and though it no longer moved, she was sure it would resume the moment she looked away.\n\nIsaac thought for a moment, and I did what I could to urge him on, telling his mind that this was real, that he must trust Sara. He stepped quickly to the attic door and braced his foot against it, with heel to the floor and the ball of his foot against the door. He grabbed the doorknob in both hands, and instructed Sara in the calmest tone he could muster.\n\n“Go check on Marie, and then grab my flashlight from the nightstand and bring it in here.” He leaned in now, and pressed his shoulder against the door.\n\nSara had no doubt that there was someone behind that door, but the relief of no longer being alone in this gave her enough courage to will herself out of the bed. She slipped behind Isaac and out into the hallway. She hurried to Isaac’s room, and was surprised to find Marie still lying quietly in her crib, breathing softly and apparently undisturbed. She located Isaac’s flashlight which was a great heavy thing, the type with a series of those electrical batteries at its core, and hurried to deliver it to Isaac. As she passed back through the hallway, Arya was emerging from her room, watching Sara’s movements without comprehension.\n\n“Sara, what on earth is going on?”\n\n“I don’t know mom, I think some might be in the attic, Isaac is checking it out.”\n\n“Oh God… should I call the police?”\n\nSara did not answer, already turning the corner into her bedroom. Isaac had turned on the light switch by the door, and they all took some comfort in that. It is instinctive, you know. It doesn’t matter whether light will assist in a given situation — we all know that the dark is where secrets and danger lurk, and the light is a place of knowledge and safety. Seeing Isaac there, all his strength braced against that door and a look of determination and aggression in his eyes, made Sara feel immeasurably better.\n\n“Here.” She handed the flashlight to Isaac, and he pointed back into the hallway.\n\n“You wait out there.”\n\nSara stepped back away from him and waited. Arya had stepped out of her bedroom now, and joined Sara near the stop of the stairs.\n\nIsaac steadied himself and tested his grip on the flashlight. He had held the doorknob tightly, pressed his body against the door and listened closely during Sara’s errand, and he had heard nor felt any indication of a presence, but he knew that meant little, as any intruder could have been frightened by Sara’s cry and retreated.\n\nI braced him as best I could with thoughts of courage, that all would be well. I did not for certain this was true, but in that moment he needed to believe it, and I knew there to be no mortal intruder in the home who could harm him when he entered.\n\nHe turned the knob and flung the door open. Sara and her mother both jumped at the suddenness of it, and were then left staring at the attic door itself, which opened to block the bedroom entrance.\n\nIsaac stared into the darkness, his flashlight seeking anything unusual, anything moving. He was of course relieved when he saw nothing in the stairwell, at least up to the landing where the stairs turned in their ascent. He listened a moment, and hearing nothing, he took a careful step forward, then another, until he could reach the pull chain of the light fixture above.\n\nNothing.\n\nIn the hallway below, Sara cringed at the sound of each wooden stair step creaking under Isaac’s weight. It had sounded just like that, moments ago. There could be no doubt that it was what she had heard before.\n\nIsaac crept, heart pounding, up the open stairway until his eyes rose above the level of the attic floor. He looked all about, as quickly as he could manage. The shadows played tricks as his flashlight’s beam moved across the exposed wooden structures, but he saw nothing amiss. He continued his cautious progress, until finally he reached another pull chain, this one connected to a light so situated as to illuminate the entire space. There he saw small boxes and bins, dust and cobwebs, but no intruder.\n\n“Isaac! What’s happening?”\n\n“It’s okay Sara. There’s nobody up here.” He made his way back down to her room, extinguishing the lights as he went. When he moved the attic door away from the entrance, Sara was there, relieved and yet disbelieving.\n\n“Are you sure?”\n\n“Positive. Nothing moving, nothing big enough for anybody to hide behind, nothing. Are you sure you—”\n\n“Yes! It was definitely someone walking on the stairs! I could hear every step they took, and then I WATCHED the doorknob turning!”\n\nArya stood beside Sara, with a hand on each shoulder, hoping to comfort her. “Are you sure you weren’t sleeping? You know how you used to have trouble waking up sometimes when you were younger.”\n\n“I was sitting up in bed, mom. I wasn’t sleepy at all.”\n\nIsaac closed the attic door tightly, and tested the knob, but it seemed to function as expected. “Okay, hang on a second, I’ll be back.” He moved past them, back down the hall to his room, and emerged a moment later with a small black wedge in one hand and a shoe in the other. He stepped into Sara’s room, placed what I soon understood to be type of doorstop under the attic door, and struck it repeatedly with the heel of his shoe to drive it into place.\n\n“I don’t see anything unusual up there, and I really don’t think anything will be getting through that door now. If you want me to, tomorrow I’ll stop by the hardware store and get a couple of slide bolts so you can lock both of these stairways from in here. We probably should have done that at some point anyway.”\n\nSara nodded enthusiastically. Whether anything had been found in the attic or not, she had no doubt of what she saw, and the idea of a lock on that door, a physical device she could see and touch and know it was secured, made her feel much more comfortable.\n\nI suspect it was the mention of the slide bolt that made them all think the same thought, one which before that moment hadn’t occurred to them, nor to me. A project such as this, making some small modification to the house to make life easier or better for someone, was the kind of thing that in happier times William had always been glad to do for them.\n\nWhere was William?\n\n[[So where was William?|Where was William]]\n
<<silently>>\n<<remember $ch1reached=true>>\n<<goTo "Who are you">>\n[[1. Introductions|Who are you]]\n<<endSilently>>
//Who else did you know in life? What of your family?//\n\nI was the sole surviving child in a family of modest wealth and, I will freely admit, very little affinity for each other. My father, Cyrus Hearndale, was successful in business, though I rarely knew anything of consequence regarding his work, and so far as I could tell, we were regarded well enough by the community. We were included in many social gatherings, and I was often taken along to dinner parties and various soirees in honor of some happening or another.\n\nMy mother was Esther. The navigation of social occasions seemed to be her primary profession, but to her credit she took great pride in our estate, spending much of her time tending to the gardens and personally seeing to the aesthetic and functional appointments of the common areas and guest room. I’d been preceded by a brother, who had passed early in life and about whom little was ever said.\n\nIt was a quiet house, but a fine one, peaceful and modern for the time, as evidenced by how few changes have been made to this place over the years. We had a domestic, an older woman named Addy, properly Adelaide I believe, although I’m nearly certain I never knew her family name. She had been widowed prior to my memory, and still lived there with my parents up until the end of my recollection of such things. Our relationship was friendly, more so than what I experienced with my parents, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was familial. It was rather like spending time with the kindly grandparent of a friend, who wished you well and spoke easily with you but to whom you never felt particularly close.\n\n[[Should I be afraid of you?|Should I fear you]]\n[[Do you know who I am?|Do you know who I am]]\n[[What did you do in life?|What did you do in life]]\n
Upon leaving the Markham residence the final time, you prepared yourself to relay Samuel's messages as agreed upon and made sure to preserve a full account of your discussions.\n\nSamuel expected you to make a recommendation on his behalf to the Markhams regarding the future of the house. What did you tell them?\n\n[[Preserve the house and study it.|Ending-Preserve]]\n[[Cleanse the house.|Ending-Cleanse]]\n[[Raze the house.|Ending-Raze]]\n[[Sell the house and forget all that happened.|Ending-Sell]]\n\n\n
//When were you born? And where?//\nI was born here in Bridgewater, on the second of November in 1871. As simple as it may sound to someone in this time, I don’t believe I’ve ever left the area of this town, even in death. I suppose that means I’ve spent nearly a century and a half in one town.\n\n[[I have another question about time.|Time questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//What do you mean, another presence? Another spirit like you?//\n\nThere are undoubtedly similarities between my own existence and the other being in the room that night, but I must believe they are limited. I hope that is the case.\n\nWhatever it was, it had no physical representation that any of us in the house were aware of. It could affect the world, though as yet we had only seen the small initial demonstration of its abilities in Sara’s room. As far as I was aware, it had not demonstrated its presence or taken any noticeable actions before that night.\n\nI would, over time, become more and more aware of what was happening in the house, what was being done to the family, and as my understanding grew, so also did my realization that this presence, whatever it was and whatever goals it was working toward, must surely be of a malevolent nature.\n\n[[How could you tell it was malevolent?|How could you tell it was malevolent]]\n[[What was it doing?|What was it doing]]\n
//Are there any other beings, to your knowledge? Angels? Demons? Gods?//\n\nIf angels there be, they have not shown their presence, either in my life or the times that have followed. I have known no God or gods, not in any sense that means any more than if any living man or woman said so.\n\nThe only evidence I may have of any other existence in this world came in the form of the vile influence I invited into this house through my own shortsighted and selfish acts. If that beast exists, whatever it may be, then it is surely what any reasonable person would call a demon. I can see no kindness of spirit there, no indication that it considered the people in this place to be anything more than simple animals to be tormented, toyed with, and laughed at as they suffered. Even if no other type of spirit exists in this place, I would call that thing a demon regardless, as I can find no other word that can suffice in describing the malice of that entity.\n\nIn my hopeful moments, though, I choose to take the existence of that unwelcome thing as a sign that perhaps a counterpart may exist somewhere, a benevolent spirit that does good works in proportion to the destructiveness of the dark soul. If so, such a creature would be a wonder to experience, and “angel” would be a fitting designation. Perhaps in a world where such a being existed, there might be a place for a god.\n\n[[I have another question about the afterlife.|Afterlife questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//So had you and the demon both been trying to influence William?//\n\nIn a word, yes, but the reality was much more complicated. I can only assume that the demon reached the same conclusion I did. The problem with a man who has lost faith in himself and his own judgment is that he does not trust his own thoughts. It did not matter how either of us influenced William, because he no longer had the motivation to act. \n\nI believe he began an extended absence from his employment at that point, as he rarely left the house but there was no acknowledgment of that fact between him and the others in the house. He spent his time in the sitting room, illuminated by the television which was always on but usually ignored. He stared silently at the walls for hours on end, and moved only when biology demanded it. One moment he resented his family for the state of his life, and the next he hated himself for allowing them to drift away from each other. He would fantasize about a tearful reconciliation with his wife, but could not bring himself to speak to her.\n\nWilliam was no longer an active participant in the family. Now, he was an open wound, festering, and I did not know if I could bring him back. The family would not be whole without him, but I no longer believed he could bring himself to return to them. I decided the best chance I had of bringing the man back to his family was to convince them to reach out to him, and welcome him back regardless of what had happened between them.\n\nI believe the demon viewed the situation differently. One had been broken now, and four remained.\n\n[[How did you plan to convince them to reach out to William?|How did you plan to save William]]\n
//What did you do with Arya?//\n\nIt was difficult to know what to do with Arya. She had grown so suspicious of her family, and then William’s failure to come to their aid had been crushing for her. I had tried during this sad affair to keep her hopeful, because I felt only she would have the practical determination to ignore the vague impressions of ill fortunes that the demon would inflict upon her, and instead do what must be done in the moment to protect her family. She still suffered the delusions, fostered by the demon’s thoughts, that she was always watched, observed, judged. Everywhere there were eyes, keeping track of her, planning some nefarious deeds that she could never quite comprehend.\n\nI failed her, I think. The best ploy I could devise is in retrospect quite lacking, but I thought it would be better than doing nothing and relying solely on the children. If this gambit came down to a matter of tiny differences, any change in Arya could potentially help.\n\nWhenever she thought of how she had been constantly watched and observed, and felt that her family were not her allies, I would remind her of the little girl. Marie could not possibly have any part in such dealings. She had just begun walking in the time she had lived in that house, and had the barest of vocabulary. Aside from the period when she cried constantly for her mother and no one else would do, she always greeted her grandmother with delighted eyes. I made Arya think of little innocent Marie, and how she did not deserve to share such a fate. How then could Arya protect Marie?\n\nShe must flee with the girl.\n\n[[How did you try to make Sara leave?|How did you try to convince Sara to leave]]\n[[What did you think would convince Isaac?|How did you try to convince Isaac to leave]]\n[[What did you do to pursuade William?|How did you try to convince William to leave]]\n[[Did you attempt anything with Marie?|How did you try to convince Marie to leave]]\n[[How long did this go on?|How long did this tension go on]]\n
<<silently>>\n<<remember $ch4reached=true>>\n<<goTo "What else did you do to connect with them">>\n[[4. Journey|What else did you do to connect with them]]\n<<endSilently>>
A Penitent Man
//What do you know of the family who lived here most recently?//\n\nThe Markhams. I quite liked them. Let me think a moment.\n\nThere was the gentleman, William, the father of the family. I immediately took a liking to him. He was an academic or instructor of some sort, though I never understood quite what I saw through his eyes. I would suppose from context it involved chemical formulations and processes of some kind, but the meanings of the many equations and symbologies escaped me entirely. I can recognize however the act of reviewing a stack of papers, one much like another, making notes and revisions as he peruses them, leaving little doubt he was a teacher. Many nights were spent here at this very table, making his way through several cups of coffee as he whittled the collection of papers away.\n\nHe was an even-tempered sort, his actions generally easy to understand and reasonable enough to my mind. I often enjoyed sharing his presence as he listened to music, as his was still a style of music that brought back memories for me. The form itself was unfamiliar, but to hear the sounds of horns and drums and a piano was a comfort.\n\nThe lady, Arya. In pronunciation, just as the musical form, and I found it fit her well. She had an exotic countenance, and I still do not know of what derivation she was. I gathered she had relatives too distant to visit, even when such rapid methods of travel are available to you now, so I assume they are in some distant land, and when they spoke by telephone, she sometimes slipped into a quick language entirely foreign to me, but I sensed only the comfort of casual discourse with friends, and she smiled often as she spoke.\n\nShe too had obligations and works that came home with her, and much time was spent reviewing the documents stored within the portable computer she carried with her so often. There was a serenity about her, often in contrast to the flurries of activity that would sometimes sweep through her family as they rushed to meet some schedule or another, and their dependence on her steadiness was considerable. She was aware, and I can’t say she enjoyed the burden, but she bore it gladly.\n\nThe young man was Isaac, just shortly past his own adolescence at that point, and I spent a great deal of time concerned for his well-being. He had only come to live with his mother and father the summer before the family left this place, and he had brought along with him a quite young child, less than a year old at the time. I could feel that the situation behind their relocation was a source of great distress for them all, and of course especially to Isaac, but also that everyone in this house felt that nothing more needed to be said, or that they simply did not know what to say on the topic, so I never learned what exactly had transpired. I only know it had left Isaac shaken and unsure of many things, and that was part of his decision bring his child here. The child, by the by, was a daughter named Marie, bright and happy, but sometimes inconsolable in her sadness, so it seemed to me there must be a mother somewhere who she yet remembered.\n\nAnd the young girl, Sara. I can’t be sure if the issue is that I have had relatively limited dealings with women in adolescence, whether in life or in the time since, or if it was a reflection of her particular temperament and circumstances, but navigating her thoughts was challenging in particular. Is it always so with young women? It seems her life was full of friends she often didn’t care much for, and a near-total preoccupation with social status and popular perceptions thereof. I do not mean to sound as if I somehow hold the fairer sex in disdain — I assure you that is most decidedly not the case. Perhaps it has simply been too long since I myself was a young man wishing to be seen as wise and worldly, or I have forgotten the intrigues and maneuvers of social structures.\n\nOf all those in the Markham family, Sara was the one who troubled me the most. Theirs was a harmonious family, as families go, and they spoke often on many topics, pleasant and less so, but more than the others, Sara had many secrets. So far as I could tell, her secrets were not of great consequence, but they were not things she felt her family could know, and in such a caring group, that alone gave me pause. But it was not so dire as I’ve made it sound; she was most likely a typical girl of her age and her times, and some too-protective part of me was preoccupied with her moments of sadness.\n\nBeyond the inhabitants of the house, I know nothing of the extended family. If they had relatives, they were too distant either in location or in affection to have visited here.\n\nThere was much that I learned about each of them, mind you, as my affinity for them and my isolation led me to observe them at great length and frequency. But in broad strokes, that is what I knew of them.\n\n[[Do you know why you're still here?|Do you know why you're still here]]\n[[Did you have any prior connection to them?|Did you have any connection to them]]\n[[Do you know what happened to them?|Do you know what happened to them]]\n
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//And by attacking them further and driving them out, you would save them?//\n\nIt was the only salvation I could see for them. They had not been able to fight back against the demon’s influence in a time when they had been stronger, and now with William so damaged, Isaac drifting towards darkness, and Sara living in terror of events she still had trouble believing in, there could be no hope for them on their own.\n\nThey had me, though they would never know it, but all that I could offer them would surely not be enough. The demon held sway over Isaac that evening in a way far beyond what I had ever accomplished, and the physical manifestations it had accomplished, turning the doorknob and lighting the attic stairs, were well beyond any effect I could achieve. How then could I hope to save them?\n\nNo, the only plan I could see in my desperation to save them was to turn against them and drive them away. They would know of my presence, finally, and they would hate me for it. The demon did not want them to leave, because then presumably the games would be over. I believed, based in part on assumption but also on what I could glean from their thoughts and limited conversations within the house, that the demon’s influence was somehow limited to this place, just as mine was. If that were not the case, then I would never be able to save these people, and all efforts on my part would be irrelevant. I had to believe that there was still a chance that I could help them, and act in accordance with that belief.\n\n[[So how would you drive them away?|How would you drive them away]]\n
//What will that mean for you? Isn't it possible you'll be destroyed, or lost?//\n\nThis is true. However, I believe there is little good that will come of my further interactions here. I will never again risk inviting evil into the lives of innocents. Not even you, my new friend. I already fear that you will come to regret this interaction one day, but I felt it worth the risk to provide this account to the Markhams. I do not plan to speak with you again, even should you return here later on. Please do not take offense at this, as I do so to my own deteriment for the good of those who may suffer if I misstep.\n\nPerhaps then it is best if I go to whatever rest befits a spirit such as me. Be that a divine reward or punishment, or simply oblivion, I believe the time to answer that question has come.\n\nDo what will prevent the influence of evil in this world, my new and last friend. That is a higher goal than the preservation of one old soul.\n\n[[I understand. Farewell Samuel.|Farewell]]\n
What follows here is a record of the conversations you participated in with the spirit that connected with you in the Markham residence. The story revealed by that presence, of a tragic mistake and a previously-unthinkable danger, is presented here to bring closure and understanding to the surviving members of the Markham family, and to serve as a warning to all who will listen that the implications of this new reality are perhaps more dangerous and troubling than has yet been considered.\n\n[[Let's begin.|1]]\n
//Are there other non-living entities of some sort where you are? Are any of them here in this house?//\n\nBefore the events of a few years ago, my answer would have been a regretful no. I assumed for a time after I came to understand my existence that there must be others like, that my situation can’t be unique, and eventually I had to run across some other spirit, some soul or entity, something.\n\nThat never happened. Just that disappointingly simple. I never ran across a single consciousness that was anything other than a living human being. If there are others like me, or other sentient existences that are not tied to a physical form, I did not encounter them for over a century.\n\nThen there was the other entity, a thing I led into this place. I cannot communicate with it, and if it is somehow directly aware of me in some way, I am not aware of it. All that I can say with certainty is that it was here. Whether it is still here, I can only speculate, but I suspect it may have departed in the absence of residents here in the home to torment with its malicious games.\n\n[[I have another question about other entities.|Entity questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//How would you drive them away?//\n\nMy task was clear, though I did not know at first how I would accomplish it. Whatever torment the demon laid upon them, I could not lessen it, or attempt to counteract it. Instead, I must make them believe that all the ills they suffered, all the misery they had encountered, were all the result of having come to this place. Everything that had gone wrong in the family had happened here, and even if the notion that the house itself was somehow the cause of their pain was too bizarre for them to accept, perhaps I could convince them that a fresh start in a new place was the first step to restoring their once-strong family.\n\nNow Sara must be the key. She alone believed that something strange was at work in the house, and was open to the notion of a malicious spirit trying to scare her. If I could convince here that this was precisely the case, that a spirit or perhaps several spirits meant them harm, and most importantly that the malicious presence was bound to the house, she could be the one to convey the idea of fleeing to the rest of the family. Whatever motivation they required, whatever they believed or wanted to believe, I would be there to show them that remaining here, in the house that I had been so proud of in times long gone, would surely lead only to heartache and sorrow for them all.\n\nI have never once in the days since felt my soul to be clean, not since the day when I began to once more carefully watch over Sara, not to protect her or connect with her, but to determine how I could frighten her most effectively.\n\n[[What did you do, to try to convince them to leave?|How did you try to convince them to leave]]\n[[Did the other presence realize what was happening?|Did the other entity realize]]\n
//Did the situation get worse with Marie as well?//\n\nMarie made the situation much worse, though of course through no fault of her own. The poor child still only spoke a few words; she could not possibly know what effect she was having or what was being done to her. She wasn’t even old enough for it to strike her as in any way unusual that she kept returning to one thought again and again: abandoned. She just knew that she was utterly convinced her father and the rest of her family could disappear at any moment, and there was no guarantee they would be found again. She cried often, loudly, and if she slept and woke alone, it would take hours to calm her down again.\n\n[[What were the effects on Arya?|How did it escalate with Arya]]\n[[What happened with William?|How did it escalate with William]]\n[[What was happening with Isaac?|How did it escalate with Isaac]]\n[[What changed with Sara?|How did it escalate with Sara]]\n
There was a man in this town when I was alive — his family name escapes me but I believe his given name was Cuthbert, which seems to have fallen out of favor in the years since so it sticks in my mind — who to my knowledge was never proven to have sunk to the level of outright criminal behavior, but who was generally regarded as a man devoid of moral compass or anthropic intent. He would find work when his reputation did not precede him, or in cases where his employer felt the risk was sufficiently low, such as the work of a grounds keeper or field worker. Wherever he was found, accusations of all manner of misdeed followed. He made no pretense of hiding that his monetary wealth and material resources were inconsistent with his ability to find employment, knowing the clear implication that these boons were gained through misdeeds. Word was passed amongst those of certain circles that two young women on separate occasions had accused him of indecencies, though they would not attest to the incidents publicly. None claimed him as their own, and none would have wept to see the last of him.\n\nThere was however one who spoke for Cuthbert, a young congregationalist pastor named Anthony Fletcher. I was not a member of his congregation but we knew each other and we friendly, and I respected his opinions in many matters. He was often seen with Cuthbert, and it was said that when Cuthbert could find no lodging, he would spend the winter months sheltered in the pastor’s own home. I spoke with Fletcher one day regarding Cuthbert, and while the precise words spoken have faded over this years, I will try to maintain the meat of the matter. I had asked if we had all simply been misinformed about Cuthbert.\n\n“No,” he had replied, “I believe that much of what you hear about Cuthbert is likely to be true. He is a troubled man, and he often has difficulty finding a way through his life’s challenges without falling into sin. He has hurt many people, and done a great deal of wrong.”\n\nI was surprised that there had been no defense offered for Cuthbert, and no indication that he might be a more upstanding person than the one we had all perceived him to be. I asked Fletcher, “so you would say your association with him is an effort to bring him back to God?”\n\n“In part, yes, but it is also because I pity him. I knew his father, God rest his soul, and he believed he lived a righteous life, but he was a monster to that boy. I temper my view of Cuthbert’s actions with the knowledge that not one soul spared a kind word for him in more than twenty years, and it would be a miracle for any child to survive such an upbringing and a life of isolation without a great deal of damage to his soul.”\n\nI confess, I did not pay this notion much mind at the time, and I don’t know what became of Cuthbert after my passing. I always felt a man’s path was his own. I can appreciate how a troubled upbringing could leave a man with little to work with, and life would surely be more difficult, but to claim that every misdeed can be laid at the feet of a now-absent forebear was a poor excuse. \n\nI can no longer believe this to be true. In the days following the first contact the other spirit made with Sara, I watched as each member of the Markham family in turn isolated themselves from their loved ones. I felt the resentment and anger that permeated their interactions. All this from a word, an idea, repeated with sufficient frequency and certainty as to either drive out or sully all other thoughts. In only days, they were like strangers to each other, to themselves.\n\nI realize now that one of the vital defenses of the human mind is the ability to evaluate the source of a statement, and view said statement in light of the credibility and motives of the speaker, the author, the artist. When a biting criticism or accusation comes from a villain, a clear enemy or malicious individual, the impact is reduced or even dispelled entirely. When such a statement comes from a trusted friend, a brother, a mother, what then? Can you learn to question their motives and credibility, or will you accept their evaluations as delivered? What if you can’t, because you hold them in too high regard, or are sure of the accuracy of their observations? Would you have the strength if that person had divided their time equally between pulling you downward and building themselves up?\n\nI think on Cuthbert in a different light now. The only voice in the world he trusted convinced him every day of the depths of his faults; what choice did he have but to agree? A deep rut is difficult to break out of, and even passing near is often enough to drop you back in.\n\nFor the Markhams, each of them had their own voice, whispering its venom in their ears, and they had no defense because they could not know the source, or even that there was a source outside of their own minds.\n\nWith their defenses so lowered, they stood no chance against such evil.\n\n[[Did you try to help them?|What did you do to help]]\n
//Where are we now?//\n\nOn this point I have little uncertainty. Whenever I have been aware of my surroundings, I have recognized it as the home I’ve lived in since shortly before my marriage. It has of course changed over time, painted and reorganized, added to and rebuilt, but I still see the bones of my old home all around me.\n\n[[I have another question about location.|Location questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//What are your normal activities? Are there any requirements to your existence? Anything analogous to food, or sleep?//\n\nThe purely physical concerns are gone entirely. I have only vague memories of the need to eat or drink, or relieve myself, or any such requirements of the flesh. I have experienced each in some vague way, when my thoughts share those of a living person, and I must say now with the benefit of external perspective, it is maddening to deal with such things when the mind has become accustomed to their absence.\n\nAt any given time, some part of your mind is considering how hungry you are, how thirsty, how hot or cold, whether fatigued or not, whether sleep is needed. There are clothes pressing on the body, pressure on the feet or the posterior, itches, breezes, and if you’ll permit me to say, the drive for physical dalliances, all jostling for attention in your mind, all through the day and often the night, and often you barely even take notice. It is like a droning insect you’ve learned to ignore, only there are dozens of them, each making its own peculiar sound. Even now as we converse, I feel the pen in your hand, the chair and the floor beneath you, the unruly tuft of hair that’s looped around on itself to tickle the back of your left ear. There’s a dull ache in your right wrist, and I fear you’ll need to depart and rest soon, if the weight of your eyes is any indication.\n\nI’m sorry; I do feel your uneasiness, and only now realize how what I just told you could feel invasive. I do not mean it to be so, but if we are to communicate in this manner, then I must share your thoughts, and it is difficult to ignore so many conflicting stimuli.\n\nBack to the question at hand, there seem to be no particular processes or requirements to replace the need for sustenance. I have rested my mind by isolating myself, though I do not know if some aspect of my existence requires me to do so or if it just seemed prudent considering the stress of the situation I found myself in. Aside from the need to separate myself from other minds and exist only in myself from time to time, I’m not aware of any other routine that I must follow to maintain myself.\n\n[[I have another question about your existence.|Existence questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//Why would Isaac react that way?//\n\nIsaac surprised all of us. I believe he even surprised himself. Here, as with Arya upstairs just minutes earlier, was a moment when a person of less admirable character might have faltered. Isaac knew his reaction should be anger. It would have been a reasonable response even in a family that was otherwise harmonious. The large bag that lay at her feet was damning evidence, and worse, his mother had not refuted the accusation. She was leaving in secrecy, and taking his daughter without his knowledge.\n\nYet it was not. \n\nHe was still Marie’s protector, as much out of instinct and habit as intent, and it was clear she was at risk. For months, his existence had been marked by ever-present feelings of failure, of regret, of lost potential. The schematics he had so carefully designed for his adult life had been unceremoniously scrapped, disregarded, and worse, he was expected never to look back on them and wonder. He mourned a life that never was, while at times blaming himself for its loss. This was all prior to the demon’s arrival. It had simply worked to deepen those wounds, and to give Isaac someone to blame. Anger at circumstance is difficult, and leads to feelings of helplessness. Anger at a person can be focused, nurtured, and acted upon. The demon had given him that, by fouling his mind with the notion that the girl was at fault, and must be disposed of. \n\nIt had nearly succeeded, in at least that one dark moment I bore witness to. Worse, I do not know if that was the only such incident. The thought, however tenuous its grip, was there in Isaac’s mind. But now, Arya had given him the opportunity to agree in principle with the demon’s taunts, and be rid of Marie, without confront the part of his mind that still fought to protect the girl. He knew she was not safe with him. He knew she was not safe in the house so long as the family remained as it was. Arya taking Marie away, to care for her alone and away from the anger, the mistrust and, in honesty, the hate that had come to define their family of late, was an unknown. The father in him had realized this, and when confronted with the possibility, he could not immediately dismiss as an absurd course of action.\n\n[[How did William respond to that?|How did William respond]]\n
//I must do what I feel is best for them. I will not reconsider.//\n\nThat is disappointing in a way I fear I cannot explain. I will pray you think better of this later, and decide to grant mercy.\n\n[[Should others know of the demon?|Should others know of the demon]]\n
//Did you attempt anything with Marie?//\n\nI did not. I saw no way for her influence to be sufficiently targeted. Chances were any attempts to make her want something she did not have without the ability to properly express that desire would only lead to more sorrow on her part, making her more difficult to deal with and increasing the burden on Isaac. I had to leave Marie alone, and hope the demon was not affecting her too deeply.\n\n[[How did you try to make Sara leave?|How did you try to convince Sara to leave]]\n[[What did you think would convince Isaac?|How did you try to convince Isaac to leave]]\n[[What did you do to pursuade William?|How did you try to convince William to leave]]\n[[What did you do with Arya?|How did you try to convince Arya to leave]]\n[[How long did this go on?|How long did this tension go on]]\n
//How did you hope to convince the family to reach out to William? Why did you think they still would?//\n\nI had to believe that some part of each of them remembered how things had been before my interference and the demon’s appearance. It had only been a matter of a few weeks, though it felt longer to them. Each grievance felt as though it were the result of a long journey of realization, and they they had finally reasoned out something that had been bothering them for a long time. If they could be prompted to view these events in context, and realize how recently things had been very different, I thought I might lead them to see the reality of things and recall how they had cared for each other and for themselves. The first opportunity I saw came through Isaac.\n\nEach day, I reminded Isaac of the great burden of responsibility. I knew it was a risk to remind him of adversity and focus on what might be called a discouraging thought, but I trusted that he would see a parallel between himself and his father. His father had been a young man, just about Isaac’s age, when Isaac himself had been born. He, too, had finished his education while working to support himself and a child. Arya had been with him of course, and she too worked and studied while still striving to deprive Isaac of nothing. It was no secret to Isaac that he had not been expected so early in his parents’ marriage, and obviously it would have been a source of great hardship for them.\n\nAnd yet they had persevered. There had never been a time when they had been on their own, without responsibility to another, and that can be a terrible burden. Isaac had enjoyed the life of a child who may not have always had what he desired, but he was never hungry, never abandoned, never without the care and affection of both his parents.\n\nNow he faced a situation very similar to theirs, a generation later. He was young, he had not finished his intended education, and he had found himself a father while still coming into his own. In his case, the child’s mother was not with him, whether by fate or by choice, and the burden had fallen to him alone. He withstood the trial as best he could, and the fear that he had failed and made a ruin of his young life was within him long before either I or the demon encountered him. He had been forced to fall back upon his parents for aid, and they had done so gladly, genuinely happy that it was within their power to render such assistance at a time when their son, and their granddaughter, had needed them so greatly.\n\nThis was where I had hoped to build a channel of understanding that would flow back toward William. Though they had been glad to help their child and his own child, it was once more a burden placed onto them. They would undoubtedly be called on to assist in little Marie’s care, if Isaac could be expected to resume his education and seek employment. Until Isaac was able to support himself once more, these were more souls to be fed and clothed and cared for. The room that had just been established as a study for William must now be emptied and refit as a bedroom for the young man and his child. This was the burden they had once borne now returning to their home and care, and I gathered from the discussion that took place just after Isaac’s arrival, it had been their insistence that led him there.\n\nThis was the thought I reminded Isaac of each day. The great responsibility that had been carried willingly for so many years by his father. Arya had endured much as well, but while hers was the strength to accomplish the tasks of the day, she too had looked to William for the courage to endure the ongoing hardships they faced. When the burden of caring for Isaac had returned, and with him the child Marie as well, it was with a glad heart that William took up that responsibility once more. He would ensure they both had a place in the family home, and they would want for nothing under this roof. Did Isaac not owe his father the same? Could he extend his own hand to the broken man he saw now, and not be concerned with the circumstances that had led them there? I hoped so, my friend. I desperately hoped so.\n\n[[Was the other spirit active as well?|Was the other spirit active as well]]\n[[Did you think you were likely to succeed?|Did you think you would succeed]]\n
//It doesn't sound as if that thought troubles you.//\n\nI can't say I disagree with you there. I suppose I could stand as evidence that the soul can come to accept and bear most any reality, no matter how strange, given sufficient time to become accustomed to it. There was a time when I might have left more uncertainty in my answer to such a question, but after a century spent without a mortal body, the idea just doesn't seem as unsettling as it once might have.\n\n[[Should I be afraid of you?|Should I fear you]]\n[[Do you know who I am?|Do you know who I am]]\n[[What did you do when you were alive?|What did you do in life]]\n[[Who else did you know before you died?|Who else did you know]]\n
//Did you have any knowledge of or connection to the Markhams before they came to this place?//\n\nNot at all. To my knowledge, I did not know them in any way beforehand. The family name was not familiar to me, and I don’t know of any way I would have encountered them before they arrived here.\n\n[[Do you know why you're still here?|Do you know why you're still here]]\n[[Do you know what happened to the Markhams?|Do you know what happened to them]]\n
On your recommendation, the Markham house was preserved. In light of what you told them, they refused to relinquish ownership of the house to anyone so they could maintain control of the house and what happened there.\n\nIn light of the events at the Rossum house over the preceding two years, there was an abundance of research organizations and universities competing for access to a site like the Markham house. They had their pick of these researchers, and the house now functions as a full-time research facility into the possibility of life after death. Since that time, there have been no confirmed interactions with any non-living spirits, but research continues.\n\n<<display "Samuel's legacy">>\n\n\n[[Proceed|End]]\n
//So you and the other spirit were both trying to influence the family in your own ways. How did it progress? Was one of you more successful than the other?//\n\nTo be honest with you, I was somewhat surprised that my efforts were as effective as they were. I spent each day watching the family, focusing on each of them in turn when it seemed one was in greater need of assistance. Arya bore her isolation, hopeful that change would come, while William gradually stopped complaining about the terrible burdens of responsibility. Marie would play with her grandparents, which also served to improve their moods significantly, and her sleep had become more regular and reliable. I reminded Isaac each day that he had known victories before, and to hold onto the confidence that more victories would come.\n\nSara remained a tangle of emotion. I still sought ways to communicate my intent to her, to assure here that while there was something unseen in her home, which meant she was no fool and not imagined it, that did not necessarily mean she was in constant danger, and she could take comfort in knowing there may be something truly unique and potentially important happening to her. The confusion within her that led her to constantly shift between belief and disbelief was an unexpected but important boon. She had stopped isolating herself quite as much from her family, but also did not seem to have suffered any further ill effects from the influence of the other spirit.\n\nBy then I had begun to see unusual events here and there which I suspected may be the work of the other presence. It was either that, or the house itself had become unstable and the family had grown unusually clumsy. Dishes and glasses seemed to fall from shelves and tables with alarming frequency, and the books on the many shelves around the house had become so prone to shifting and sliding about that William had returned home one day with a small box full of simple metal bookends, dozens of them all alike. In short order every bookshelf in the house had either been packed to capacity or securely braced with bookends.\n\nThere was one serious threat, which narrowly missed being a severe calamity, when Isaac was preparing a meal for the family and left a large knife, with a blade fully the length of an extended hand to the fingertips, lying on a cutting board where he was chopping some large vegetable. I believe it was a gourd of some sort, perhaps a squash? Anyway, it too somehow slipped from the flat surface where it had rested and fell to the floor. It fell neatly point-down and missed Isaac’s bare foot by a matter of inches, and struck the floor with sufficient speed to leave a small gouge mark in the floor. No one was there to see what had happened aside from Isaac and myself, and it seems probably the other spirit was there as well, but Isaac simply cursed his own careless mistake. It never occurred to him that the incident could be anything but his own negligence, but I could see each so-called mistake and seemingly random occurrence in the house, and I could tell they were happening too often to just be coincidences and happenstance. The other being was at work, and it felt to me that it must be growing frustrated with its lack of progress, because from there, the situation began to escalate.\n\n[[How do you mean, it escalated?|How did it escalate]]\n
//Are there higher powers? Lower powers?//\n\nThere are times when I hope the answer is no. My existence is a challenge to accept in the first place, and the notion that some greater powers exist and yet remain absent from my awareness and existence is maddening. What purpose does this un-living serve? Are others bound like me to this manner of existence, lurking just outside of the physical world?\n\nAm I alone here simply by virtue of there never being another death in the house? Why am I bound to my house in the first place? Are there other places, the sites of great calamities or pitched and bloody battles, where thousands of spirits like me drift in half-existence? Why have I never experienced anyone outside the house, even someone in the yard?\n\nThen again, at least if there’s a higher power, then maybe this existence serves some purpose. Maybe I just haven’t seen the point in it yet, and one day it will be clear to me why I have been left here. That would at least lend some meaning to this interminable limbo.\n\n[[I have another question about the afterlife.|Afterlife questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//Can you communicate with any other living people?//\n\nIt seems not. This is the first time I’ve been able to take part in an exchange like this since my death, and I must say since you bring it up, this has meant a great deal to me. I don’t know that you will be able to properly understand what you’ve given me. As far as I’m aware, you’re the first living person to know my name in a century. It’s challenging to describe the degree of isolation I have endured over this time. If there are others who exist in a manner such as I do, which I have to believe is likely, I can only imagine how many of them lose their sanity in these conditions over the long, lonely years. It has been difficult, to say the least, and I have gone through periods I suspect would not have allowed me to have the type of conversation we’ve been having. I suspect I would not have been coherent, or even civil, in my darker periods.\n\nThank you. I mean it sincerely, whatever may happen after today, and whatever becomes of me. Thank you.\n\n[[I have another question about other entities.|Entity questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//Why would the demon do something that trivial yet requiring such effort? Was it just to delay her?//\n\nIn part, but again, the demon was clever. If she wished to retrieve her keys, she had to walk past the sitting rooom, past where William and Isaac still fought. It kept her in the house, and forced her to walk close by the sitting room and hear the desperate sounds from within. I suspect the demon hoped the distraction would delay her, and give it more time to act.\n\n[[Was she able to retrieve her keys?|Did Arya retrieve her keys]]\n
//Can you leave? Have you tried?//\n\nI do not believe so. To be honest, with my experiences so strongly tied to the presence of other minds, I’m not sure what leaving would mean, as I don’t seem to have a single, identifiable physical location. I have been aware of multiple presences at once, and I’ve been able to experience the observations of each of them while they were clearly not in the same location.\n\nAs far as my understanding stretches for now, I do not know how I would leave, but when I have attempted to exist in any other place, by seeking out another mind to experience, or focusing my thoughts on a physical location, I have not been successful. I suspect for now that leaving is not possible, at least not by my own will or intent.\n\n[[I have another question about location.|Location questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//What did Isaac do?//\n\nIsaac was the first to move. The protector that was still within him, the one I had tried to encourage, heard the fear and doubt in his daughter’s voice, and he was running before a full thought even formed in his mind. Whatever had taken over within him at that moment knew that his rational mind had nothing of importance to say to him. His duty was to her, and as long as the threat he saw before him was closer to Marie than it was to him, he was failing her. He would not fail now. That is the memory I hold to now, of Isaac rushing to Marie in the entry hall. That is the Isaac I wish to remember.\n\n[[What did Arya do with Marie?|What action did Arya take]]\n[[What was William's response?|What action did William take]]\n
//What effect did it have on Isaac?//\n\nHis situation, I strongly believe, demonstrates that the malicious spirit had an understanding of the family and the circumstances of their lives. As I told you earlier, I was aware that Isaac had come to live with his parents as a result of some unhappy occurrence whose details I had never learned, and it was obvious he was apprehensive about raising the girl, Marie, on his own, while also providing for her and moving forward with his own life.\n\nNow, each morning, Isaac woke with the same idea in his mind, where it would remain throughout the day — failure. The word had hovered over him like a thunderhead for as long as I had been aware of him, always lurking in his thoughts, but now it had been drawn to the fore, and it polluted every observation, every emotion and perception. His persistent fear that he was failing in the care of his young daughter was well on its way to become an accepted fact, indisputable. He had not yet found employment since returning to this place, and that too was another symptom of failure. I could feel him question whether he bore some responsibility in whatever had occurred prior to his arrival in the home, but I find it telling that he could in part blame himself without truly even thinking clearly of the relevant events, because I could never sense them in his thoughts. His rational mind did not believe he had acted wrongly, but that would not stop his heart from searching for a way to blame itself.\n\nA sense of failure is a pernicious animal. It ignores all that you accomplish, and gleefully announces your shortcomings like a crier. The only argument against failure is demonstrated success, but the beast pays it no mind as it follows close on your heels, cataloging your missteps and miscalculations. It dogs your steps and drains the joy from your days. Sometimes I believe the only escape for those hunted by failure is to have their good deeds and victories recognized and acknowledged, and perhaps even praised.\n\nBut the other spirit had left little chance of this. Each member of the family carried their own weight, and as such had next to no room in their thoughts to consider the emotions of others. There would be no recognition, no appreciation for Isaac, and that would not occur to him as a problem — after all, he soon believed, he was entirely undeserving of any sort of praise.\n\n[[What was happening to Arya?|What was it doing to Arya]]\n[[What about William?|What was it doing to William]]\n[[What was it doing to Sara?|What was it doing to Sara]]\n[[Was it even affecting Marie?|What was it doing to Marie]]\n[[What effect was this having on the family?|How did the family react]]\n
//What do you mean? Neither of you moved it?//\n\nThat is precisely my meaning.\n\nSara did not move it, of that I am sure, as I saw and felt everything she did. She was well back from her desk, and was not moving at the time. Her breath was measured and slow, and the air in the room was not otherwise disturbed.\n\nLikewise, I was sure no one else in the family had done anything that could have affected the chapstick, or the desk. If I recall correctly now, only Isaac and Arya were awake at the time, and each of them were in their respective beds. No one was stirring such that they would have shaken the floors, and I’m not sure of any other way they could have influenced the situation.\n\nThere was never any doubt, in Sara’s mind or in my own, that the chapstick had been intentionally moved. The first tilt had been sudden and significant, but not enough to send it over. When it settled back toward its initial position, it had rocked forward again, this time with more speed than it had demonstrated the first time. It was just as one would expect it to behave if someone had tapped it once from behind, let it right itself, then pushed it once more.\n\nAnd finally, as I previously stated, I did not move it. Such an action takes considerable focus on my part, and it is not something I could do absent-mindedly or in passing. I was still considering my options, unsure of my course for all the reasons I explained before. The movement of that small cylinder was as much a shock to me as it was to Sara.\n\nAnd so our list of suspects was exhausted. I knew with absolute certainty who was in the house, where they were, and what they were doing. No one perpetrated this act, yet still, the reality remained.\n\n[[Then what are you saying happened?|What are you saying]]\n
//How have you spent your time since your death?//\n\nThat’s a larger question than you might think. To say I’ve had nothing but time does not properly convey the reality of what I’ve experienced.\n\nI have had periods in which I totally ignored the world. I’ve resented the living for having what I have lost. I’ve dismissed them as delusions, cooked up by my idle mind in the absence of stimulation. I’ve focused every moment of my awareness on the tiniest details of the lives of people I came into contact with.\n\nI’ve begged God to forgive me and take me away from this existence. I’ve cursed Him for punishing me far in excess of any sins I may be guilty of. I’ve resigned myself to God’s absence.\n\nI no longer remember all the topics I’ve spent untold time pondering on. It’s difficult to measure time when I’m not interacting with someone, so I may have spent years on each of any number of lines of thought. The novelty wears off in time.\n\n[[I have another question about time.|Time questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
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//Did you die here?//\n\nI can’t be certain but I suspect as much. I’ve attempted on many occasions to assemble the memories of my life leading up to that unfortunate occasion, and I have not been able to remember the event, but my last memories are of this place.\n\nI have no reason to believe this, only supposition, but perhaps I died here, and that’s why I’ve found myself here beyond death? I cannot be sure, but it seems sensible, as much as any of this can make sense, with so much unanswerable.\n\n[[I have another question about location.|Location questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//I think we should focus on what happened that night.//\n\nVery well. Suffice it to say, I do not know if I have explained William as well as I might otherwise have. He is a better man than this tale would indicate, and I respected him greatly in better times.\n\nNow, though, there was nothing left of that man, and he was every bit the beast I am describing.\n\n[[So what did he do?|What did William do]]\n
<<silently>>\n<<remember $ch3reached=true>>\n<<goTo "What did you do">>\n[[What did you do]]\n<<endSilently>>\n
//How long did this go on?//\n\nLooking back now, I’d say this continued over the course of three months, maybe more. Progress was made in small steps here and there, and failures were common, but overall I believed I was successfully moving toward an important goal, so I pressed on without concern for how long my task might take.\n\n[[In the end, was this plan successful?|5]]\n
//What sort of contact with Sara did you attempt this time?//\n\nNaturally I realized I could not simply demonstrate my presence to Sara in a blunt and clumsy manner. If I revealed my presence to her through some simple action, an object moving when it should not or the like, I might simply frighten her further. The doubts she still carried regarding the chapstick incident were a comfort to her — how else could she live in such a place? How could she close her eyes at night knowing some invisible visitor of unknowable intent could be lingering there with her? If one were to think about such possibilities rationally, it would be difficult to explain why she would remain at all. Whatever action I took, it would violate that facade, and her reaction in the moment would determine whether my gambit would succeed.\n\nMy ability to influence the physical world was limited, and thus, so too were my opportunities. How often can one affect an object just slightly, as if by a gentle tap or nudge, and create some significant effect that cannot be dismissed as happenstance? I am in a unique position to answer that question, after spending what must have been hours on end analyzing each tiny trinket in Sara’s room and evaluating the angle of rest of each item on her shelves; it is exceedingly rare so far as I can identify. The restriction that I must not frighten the girl limited my options even further, and in the initial days I was not confident I would find a suitable opportunity.\n\n[[Why contact Sara again?|Why contact Sara again]]\n[[What did you end up doing?|What did you do this time]]\n\n
<<silently>>\n<<remember $ch7reached=true>>\n<<goTo "How did events proceed from there">>\n[[7. Escalation|How did events proceed from there]]\n<<endSilently>>
//Are you unchanging? Can you be injured? Can you die?//\n\nIn form and capability, I have noticed no changes in my existence since I first began to understand what I am. My ability to interact with the outside world is essentially the same, though I have learned new ways to influence people and, in certain circumstances, objects. I observe events and spirits in the same ways I have all this time, and I feel no different from one day to another.\n\nI do however experience change in my conscious facilities. My ability to gain memories of the events I experience seems uninterrupted, which is a curiosity in itself when so much of medical thought, even in my time, linked memory to the living organ of the brain. I suspect that much of our thoughts and sense of self have been similarly linked to the functioning of our anatomy in the intervening years, so I suppose that is one revelation I can offer you without any reservation - I see no indication that my ability to think, to feel, and to remember in any way necessitates the functioning of a brain. If I’m wrong, and a brain is yet required, then I should very much like to know where mine is located presently, and how I seem to function so well while deprived of physical proximity.\n\nI have yet to be injured, so far as I am aware. I do not know if I am impervious to injury, or simply of good fortune. Perhaps it is simply that no spirit which knows of me has attempted to do me harm, although considering the nature of the other being whose presence was felt in this house in recent times, that now seems less likely. I was given on indication that the beast herein would have passed up a chance to do ill to a soul if it had the means.\n\nAs far as death, a true death, your guess dear friend is as informed as my own. I am unaware of age, hunger, or injury affecting me, so it is difficult to see a way in which another death would find me. If it does, I can’t know what will become of me. Either there is another world, another reality beyond this one that even I from my strange un-living cannot perceive, or there is not, and this side-reality that exists alongside your physical world is perhaps all there is. In either case, it is a sobering thought, and if my chest were still with me, I would say it fills with a hollow dread.\n\n[[I have another question about your existence.|Existence questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//So did she go through with it?//\n\nShe did. Arya leaned over the crib and picked up both Marie and the blanket she slept under. She did so gently and slowly, praying the child would continue sleeping. She wrapped the blanket around the girl and rested the bundle in the crook of her arm. The child yet slept. She took a breath, and once more she was in motion.\n\nShe descended the stairs slowly and carefully, listening for any movements below. The television was still on, and she heard no other sounds. She reached the ground floor, and bolted straight for the front door. Her keys hung there by the door, I gather including the key or keys for whatever automobile she drove. She was in the entry hall, mere steps from the front door when she heard a voice.\n\n“Where are you going?”\n\nBehind her, William had just emerged from the kitchen. His eyes were cold and his brow was low, his suspicion showing plainly. This was the point in Arya’s plan for which she saw no alternative plan. If she were caught, trying to flee the house with Marie and a bag full of clothes and supplies, what lie could possibly be believed? She did not have one, and in that moment, she turned to face William with wide eyes of panic. It was a jarring transition from the calculated steps of her plan to having no notion of how to proceed, and while her mind raced, no words came out.\n\nI still wonder if I should have urged her immediately to run. I don’t know if she would have made it to the door while also collecting her keys. But I know that stopping and turning to face him gained her nothing. In that moment of hesitation, William had time to absorb what he saw. His wife was dressed, rushing for the front door and carrying both Marie and a large bag. Whatever the bag contained, it was clearly very full, and not the sort of thing one would be carrying for a short outing.\n\nAll the resentment and fear in William that his family plotted behind his back, that ploys were afoot and he was not party to them, flooded his mind. I don’t know that the demon had any part in this. I don’t think it needed to any longer. This was who William was now. His reaction was his own, and that reaction was rage.\n\nHe moved with frightening speed toward Arya. She and I both believed in that moment that he meant to attack her. Mercifully he brushed past her, instead bracing the door with his arm. He stood there, glaring at her, as Marie began to stir. “Where are you taking her?”\n\nShe spoke the first words that came into her mind. “Just out for a walk.” She could not say it convincingly, and her voiced trailed off at the end. All she could think of at that moment was the look on her husband’s face.\n\nI feel I must say a few words about William at this point, if you have a moment?\n\n[[Please, go ahead.|About William]]\n[[I think we should focus on what happened that night.|Staying on topic]]\n\n
//I have a question about time, and your perception of it.//\n\n[[What year is this?|What year is it]]\n[[What years do you remember?|What years do you remember]]\n[[When were you born?|When were you born]]\n[[When did you die?|When did you die]]\n[[Are you aware of how much time has passed?|Are you aware of how much time has passed]]\n[[How have you spent your time, since your death?|How have you spent your time]]\n[[Do you have knowledge of any other time, outside of your life and the time since?|Do you have knowledge of other years]]\n\n[[Actually, let me rethink that.|Side thread]]\n
//When did you die? What happened? Do you know?//\n\nI don’t remember the event itself, so I don’t know if the memory is simply lost to me or if I was never aware of it happening at all. Perhaps I passed in my sleep, or was killed in some sudden, unforeseen trauma. It’s a difficult thing to think about, although I suspect you will not find it surprising that I’ve spent what felt like a great deal of time contemplating the subject. I’m not aware of any particularly risky situation I would have found myself in, nor of anyone who would have wished me ill. I never associated with any unsavory elements, and my business dealings were always fair, at least in my opinion, and were certainly in accordance with the law in any case. My home, as you can see, was sizable but modest, with no ostentatious displays of wealth, and the same could be said about most areas of my life.\n\nI’ve had to face the reality that I may never know why my life ended, and take what comfort I can in not having to relive the event in my memories indefinitely. If you could be convinced to do so, I should appreciate greatly if you could investigate whether any historical record exists of my passing, and if so, if you could return to this place one day and relay that information to me, however vague or incomplete it may be. My mortal life has been a story without a climax for quite some time, and whatever may have happened to me, I believe I will be happy to know the conclusion in whatever form it may take.\n\n[[I have another question about time.|Time questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
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//Have you been here since your death?//\n\nI suspect so. I believe I died here, and since that time I have never identified any particular observation or interaction with a living person that would lead me to believe I have gone somewhere else.\n\nBut then, as my awareness seems to come only through the presence of others, I don’t know whether I would even recognize the experience of being in another place. How would I know, if only the presence of others gives my existence shape? If I ignore all other minds, then I experience nothing but my own thoughts - how can one know if some larger existence can be found, if their own consciousness cannot perceive it?\n\n[[I have another question about location.|Location questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//You mentioned an incident, one that you now regret. What happened?//\n\nYes, let us get to this sad business. I told you truly before, what I want to accomplish here, more so than any other possibility, is to confess what I have done in my ignorance. I will say just once, before we begin, that my intentions were always for the good.\n\nI’ve described to you previously the curious phenomenon I’ve experienced with living spirits, wherein I may co-exist with them and share in their thoughts and perceptions. For the many years since I passed on, this has been my only window into any existence outside of my own mind. There were two moments, each distinct, that in concert allowed me to embark upon a remarkable, possibly unprecedented, course of action. It is important for you to understand each of these milestones before I can begin to explain the rest of the matter.\n\nThe first moment came on an evening of no particular interest, initially. William sat here in the kitchen, reading a book on whatever academic pursuit was of his interest. In truth, once I realized his readings were evidently of the same matters as his teachings, I gave them very little thought. My interest that evening was of a musical bent, and I had learned that the small device that lay on the table next to the book was his method of listening to his music without disturbing others. As I shared his thoughts that evening, the thought crossed my mind that I would quite like to hear a particular piece. As I was considering the sound of it, William picked up his music device, pressed a few buttons, and returned it to the table. He resumed his reading, and the very piece I had been thinking of began to play.\n\nBefore you judge me foolish, more a fool than I am, I realized at once that this could simply be a curious coincidence. The moment that left me shocked came shortly thereafter, when he suddenly stopped reading, raised his music device, and stared at it for a moment. I could not say before that moment that I had ever related a single thought to a living soul since my death, but I knew quite well that I could sense general thoughts and emotions with no small degree of accuracy, and it was very clear to me at that moment as he stared at the device what he was thinking.\n\n“Why on Earth am I listening to this song?”\n\nThe thought when through me like a bolt. He was genuinely unable to explain to himself why he had made a change to the music, much less why he had elected to listen to that particular piece. It evidently was not at all the sort of music he had a mood to listen to at the moment, and he found it exceedingly strange that he would have chosen it. He decided he must have inadvertently touched some button or another while reading, and dismissed the situation quickly. But I did not have that luxury, as I’d been paying no mind at all to the book, and had observed him very deliberately choosing the piece of which I had been thinking.\n\nAs you might expect, this was a tremendous revelation for me. After a century in isolation, I would now be tempted with the possibility of communicating, with interacting. It immediately became the focus of my efforts.\n\nThe second moment of import came soon after. Each day I would attempt to recreate a situation similar to what I had experienced with William that night, either with him or the other members of the family, and the results were not yet conclusive but somewhat encouraging. There were times when I would think of a certain action or object, and the person with whom I was sharing my existence at that moment would soon after do something similar, or touch the object in question, but nothing so clear as first incident.\n\nOne evening, at the dining room table, I was attached to Sara, and the meal being served gave her no cause to use a knife, though there was one set before her. I set my mind to relaying to her the importance of picking up that knife, or reorienting it, or in some way moving it. Every bit of my consciousness was focused on the imminent need for that knife to be somewhere, anywhere, other than where it was. I could feel her thoughts turning in part to that knife, and the realization drove me to push harder, to insist that the knife be moved, at once. As she gave another thought to the knife, and I pressed on with all force of will I could muster, Sara and I both very clearly observed the knife turning, as if nudged gently at one end, until it had rotated a few degrees from its initial orientation.\n\nIt could be the table had been jostled, or a strong current of air had blown past at just that moment, causing the knife to rotate on its fulcrum for a moment. I knew this to be the case, and so did Sara. To each of us, though, it was a strange moment, for I had apparently managed to focus her attention on the knife as well. I did not know at the time whether it had truly been happenstance, or if I’d influenced the girl to nudge the knife or the table, or in some other way cause the movement we witnessed. If not, there remained the strange possibility, which seemed entirely unlikely but which I could not bring myself to dismiss entirely, that I had somehow affected the knife myself.\n\nThese are the two moments that set everything else in motion — the realization that I could in some measure relay a thought to a living person, and the tantalizing possibility that I could, through some as-yet unknown mechanism, exert some influence in the physical world.\n\n[[What did you do with that knowledge?|What did you do next]]\n
//Do you have any awareness of any other locations?//\n\nNone. Since the moment I became aware of my current existence, I have never been directly aware of anything outside of this house. I’ve experienced the thoughts others have had about the outside world, so I do know of other places, but only through the thoughts of others. The immediate situation is always a person somewhere within this house.\n\nRight now, for instance, I know exactly where you are, thanks to this link we’re sharing somehow. You’re sitting at the small table in the kitchen, facing the sitting room. I see it as you see it. Every time I have experienced another mind, I’ve seen something similar, some familiar location here in my house.\n\n[[I have another question about location.|Location questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//Are you directly aware of anything other than people?//\n\nDirectly? I don’t believe so. You’re the only person present here now, and while I cannot say that I exist, in some physical sense, at your location or sharing the same space as you, I can say that my awareness of our surroundings is limited to your own knowledge thereof.\n\nCan you tell me what’s directly behind you right now? Just behind that chair? Would you know if something were there? I can feel your attention pulling us both that direction now, but you can’t see it, so you don’t know, and neither do I. It’s as if I’m recalling a memory that is missing a piece, and my mind simply fills in the gaps with a smooth, empty nothingness, like clearly remembering a dinner shared with someone, but not being able to recall what was served. The information simply isn’t there, but somehow you can see the event clearly enough in your mind that the missing portions don’t distract you.\n\nIt’s hard to describe what my existence is like when no one else is near. In those times, there is nothing outside of my own thoughts. There is no house, no reality, no other presence - only me, in the emptiness, waiting.\n\n[[I have another question about your awareness.|Awareness questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//Were you born here?//\n\nI was not. I was born in the home of my parents, which was also in the Bridgewater area.\n\n[[I have another question about location.|Location questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//Do you have senses as a living person would understand them? Do you experience physical sensations? Is there an up? Is there cold?//\n\nI don’t precisely have senses, but for the most part that remains the method by which my mind interprets the world. I sense what others are thinking, and much of their thoughts consist of the raw sensory impressions their bodies are collecting at all times. When my mind is closely linked to a living person, I conceive of the world in much the same way they do. There is an up, there is cold, there is light and dark, hard and soft, loud and quiet.\n\nOne oddity therein is that these observations are subjective. For example, given two people in close proximity, I will sometimes experience conflicting sensations of the temperature, as one will believe it to be comfortable while another will find it excessively warm or cold.\n\n[[I have another question about your awareness.|Awareness questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//Are you aware of how much time has passed?//\n\nCertainly. From what I can absorb from the living near me, I have seen the broad strokes of how the world has changed. I know of television and computers and the pervasiveness of the automobile. It seems the world moves at great speed now, and there’s been little to limit the invention of ways to entertain and communicate and kill one another. The world in which you live is difficult to fathom at times, but that hasn’t particularly bothered me. My existence mostly affords me views into the thoughts of individuals, and people are still very much as they were in my time in the ways that matter.\n\n[[I have another question about time.|Time questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n\n
//Let's start with the simple things, if you don't mind. With whom am I communicating?//\n\nMy name is Samuel. Samuel James Hearndale. I lived here in Bridgewater from birth to the age of thirty-one, assuming my memory of that detail can be trusted. I should say, more accurately, that I remember a time when I was thirty-one, and I cannot recall now a time when I was of any age greater than that and still remained in the flesh.\n\n[[And you're aware that you're dead?|You're aware you're dead]]\n[[Who else did you know in your life?|Who else did you know]]\n[[What did you do in your life?|What did you do in life]]\n
//What changed with Sara?//\n\nIn Sara, strangely, I sensed no new invasive thought. The voice in her mind that had called her a freak had disappeared, replaced by nothing. I wondered if I had succeeded in protecting Sara from the other’s influence. Soon enough, I learned that my unseen adversary had chosen another strategy for her.\n\n[[What happened to her?|What happened to Sara]]\n[[What were the effects on Arya?|How did it escalate with Arya]]\n[[What happened with William?|How did it escalate with William]]\n[[What was happening with Isaac?|How did it escalate with Isaac]]\n[[Did the situation get worse with Marie?|How did it escalate with Marie]]\n
//What else did you do to connect with them?//\n\nAs I had found two ways of affecting their world, I similarly had two routes available to me in my ongoing efforts.\n\nOn the one hand, I could attempt to persuade them to think on certain things, be they locations, people, ideas. By leading their idle thoughts, I hoped to change their likeliness to accept my existence.\n\nOn the other, I could try to impart my thoughts via physical interaction. Unfortunately this ability seemed to be quite limited, only permitting me to exert the most minuscule of force for a brief moment, so it was not as if I could simply pick up a pen and write them a letter. I would have to be more creative, and act in ways that would be more difficult to dismiss.\n\n[[How did you try to affect their thoughts?|What thoughts did you share]]\n[[What physical interactions did you attempt?|What physical actions did you take]]\n
//What year is it now?//\n\nIt hasn’t been that long since I was aware that it was 2013. I assume that it still is? The things that I learn from the living are sometimes indistinct and blurry, like reading text in motion, but I believe it must still be 2013.\n\n[[I have another question about time.|Time questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//So you're aware that you’re dead?//\n\nOh quite so, yes. But again, for accuracy, I should say I've surmised that I must have passed on, as my current existence leaves few other options for consideration. I have my mental faculties, and as near as I can tell they are in essentially the same state they were in at the end of my life. I have some degree of awareness of the living world. Yet I am without a body, while I continue to exist in whatever form this may be, so death seems the most likely explanation.\n\n[[And that doesn't trouble you?|That doesn't trouble you]]\n[[Should I be afraid of you?|Should I fear you]]\n[[Do you know who I am?|Do you know who I am]]\n[[What did you do when you were alive?|What did you do in life]]\n[[Who else did you know before you died?|Who else did you know]]\n
//What happened with William?//\n\nWith William, it was clear once more that the other spirit had chosen these preoccupations carefully to bring conflict into the family. Where Arya was sure she was being watched, William was convinced he was being excluded. Something was happening in his house and he was not being told. His wife was keeping something secret, and the children were on her side.\n\nThe result, of course, was that he was constantly watching Arya, sometimes openly, other times surreptitiously. He eyed her suspiciously when she spoke on the phone, and searched through her papers in her absence.\n\nI don’t need to tell you what devastation followed. Soon there was no trust between them, and they did not speak. Whenever she was at home, she locked herself away in the bedroom she had shared with William, curtains drawn, always with her back to a wall and with one eye on the bedroom door. William remained downstairs almost exclusively, and slept on the sofa each night. Occasionally in Arya’s absence he would launder his clothes and stash a selection in one of the lower cabinets of the shelves in the dining room, which served to reduce his need to visit his bedroom at all. Neither of the parents trusted their children, and all conversation in house essentially ceased.\n\n[[What were the effects on Arya?|How did it escalate with Arya]]\n[[What was happening with Isaac?|How did it escalate with Isaac]]\n[[Did the situation get worse with Marie?|How did it escalate with Marie]]\n[[What changed with Sara?|How did it escalate with Sara]]\n\n
//I think we would be wise to try to stay on the topic at hand.//\n\nVery well. I suppose the matters of folk long dead remain distant and not at all urgent, even in our present circumstance.\n\nWhat is important here for the moment is that each of the Markhams now had their own voice, whispering its venom in their ears, and they had no defense because they could not know the source, or even that there was a source outside of their own minds.\n\nWith their defenses so lowered, they stood no chance against such evil.\n\n[[Did you try to help them?|What did you do to help]]\n
//What did you do for Arya?//\n\nThe family could not survive without Arya. Before the vile thing had begun its work, she had held the family steady, and if she crumbled, they would topple around her in time, sure as a tree whose root has died. And, honestly, she was in the greatest need of support. Where the others were tormented by demons of the mind, her fears were being realized all around her. Some days she saw her children for mere moments, and her husband wished for her company less and less. Her isolation was no mere preoccupation. It had become her reality, and when she was alone, she wept, wept in a way my heart could not bear. Most often it would overcome her when she was alone in her bed at night, where she would draw her legs up to her chest, blankets gathered up around her, and sob angrily until her hands shook.\n\nShe had not simply been ignored, or forgotten. All that she had thought of her life had been taken from her so quickly that she couldn’t imagine how she could not have seen the calamity before it arrived. She’d married William 27 years earlier, and had known long before the day arrived that they would be wed. She had never once in those years questioned or regretted her decision, yet now, seemingly overnight, he had become a stranger to her. A month before, she would not have wished to even ponder her life without his companionship, and now she felt her whole body grow tense whenever he entered the room. No one in the house knew what would trigger William’s resentful rants anymore, and had largely chosen to avoid him, but that option was not open to Arya. She had her own pursuits, still, and her professional accomplishments brought her both stimulation and satisfaction, but the life she had built for herself, she had built along with William, and it only made sense with him, and with their children. If that life had evaporated around her, what then was there for her?\n\nThe question then was, how could I help her? I had to be clever, to be sure, as the other presence had chosen its weapon well. What, then, could counter that simple yet devastating thought?\n\nI dared not wait too long, so I believe it was only three or four days after I first realized what was happening, though I’m sure it was the next day after I realized the severity, that I began sharing my mind with Arya’s while focusing on my selected idea: hope. I immediately felt it inadequate, but with the isolation she feared being manifested all around her, I reasoned that perhaps the best I could do would be to remind her that there was always hope that this would pass. Whatever troubled William could be identified. Whatever drove her children away would be forgotten. Some missing piece would be found, and normalcy would return. As long as she had hope, it gave me time to try to restore the rest of the family to her and show her that she had not been abandoned.\n\n[[How did you help William?|What did you do to help William]]\n[[What of Isaac?|What did you do to help Isaac]]\n[[What did you attempt with Sara?|What did you do to help Sara]]\n[[What could you do for Marie?|What did you do to help Marie]]\n
//What would you like them to know about you?//\n\nI want them to know that in all things, I was their friend, and I did not need to be recognized as such for it to be true. I want them to know that it was my respect for them that motivated me to attempt contact with the living.\n\nI want them to know that if what I did was truly what allowed the demon to gain access to this family and begin to manipulate it, then I don’t think I will ever find peace or the comfort of forgiveness ever again.\n\nI want them to know who I am, and why I did what I did. Tell them, please, how deeply I regret what happened, and that I will continue to do so. In the unlikely circumstance that I am in some way able to assist them, I would do so without hesitation.\n\nI want them to know that I wish the best for them. I think of them often, and hope they have found a way to some happiness.\n\n[[I will tell them.|I will tell them]]\n[[I don't think that's a good idea.|Not a good idea]]\n
//What were the effects on Arya?//\n\nArya seemed to develop overnight an irrational aversion to the many windows of the house. She cast her eyes about nervously, particularly after dark, and stared suspiciously at her family whenever they entered the room with her. When I shared her thoughts, what I felt was similar to before. One idea was surfacing repeatedly from somewhere in her mind, regardless of anything else happening: the notion that she was being watched. Whenever she shared the room with someone else she was constantly annoyed that they were silently watching her, and even worse, they must be pretending not to, since they were never looking at her when she tried to catch them. When alone, she felt sure someone must be watching, through the windows perhaps, or peeking around a corner at her. In particular, the windows were intolerable after dark, when reflections made it impossible to see if anyone was lurking outside, and each night she would move from room to room, lowering shades and pulling curtains to conceal all the windows and exterior doors.\n\n[[What happened with William?|How did it escalate with William]]\n[[What was happening with Isaac?|How did it escalate with Isaac]]\n[[Did the situation get worse with Marie?|How did it escalate with Marie]]\n[[What changed with Sara?|How did it escalate with Sara]]\n
//You tried to contact her again?//\n\nIt seems foolish, I agree, and even as I began I remained unsure that I was taking the correct course of action. \n\n[[Why contact Sara again?|Why contact Sara again]]\n[[What sort of contact did you intend to attempt?|What sort of contact did you attempt this time]]\n[[What did you end up doing?|What did you do this time]]\n\n
//Was the other spirit aware of what you were doing? Was it aware of you at all?//\n\nAt this point, if the other knew of me, it did not demonstrate that knowledge in any way I could perceive. I never felt any thoughts come into my mind unbidden, and of course, I was without a physical presence to interact with it. When I acted, either physically or on the thoughts of others, I did not sense anything attempting to countermand my efforts. After witnessing how fiendishly well-suited the invasive thoughts had been for each member of the Markham family, I was sure it had some degree of awareness of their thoughts and feelings, their interactions, possibly even their memories. As such, I assumed it would be aware of any positive changes I managed to accomplish in my attempts to close the rifts in the family and bring them back together.\n\nBut I say again, at this point in my tale, I had no interaction with the other. We have not yet come to the pinch of the game.\n\n[[Why did neither of you try interacting more directly with the family?|Why did neither of you interact more directly]]\n[[With both of you trying to influence the family, how did things change?|7]]\n
//What did you do in life? How were your days spent?//\n\nMy father’s successes were enough to provide for an education, while our family’s roots in the community helped me to find positions early on, and as such I was able to establish myself independently by my early twenties.\n\nI spent much of my early life working as an accountant’s clerk, and in time had come to own and administer my own small grocery, which would be my foremost concern for the rest of my days. It was modestly successful, providing more than enough for me and for those in my employ, and I took no small measure of pride in administrating a business which had a demonstrable role of importance within the community. Providing for the people of the town was my profession, make no mistake, and I saw to its affairs and receipts as such, but it also put me in a position to provide certain services and consideration to the people of Bridgewater. It was a small thing, but I took pride in it.\n\nIn that time, I met and courted a young woman, Caroline, and in my twenty-third year we were wed. My apologies if I offend, but I do not wish to speak at length regarding that part of my life. Caroline and I did not have any children before a fever took her from me in our second year together, and at my passing I was aware of no family I left behind, aside from my parents who I preceded in death. I would appreciate if we could leave it at that.\n\n[[Should I be afraid of you?|Should I fear you]]\n[[Do you know who I am?|Do you know who I am]]\n[[Who else did you know when you were alive?|Who else did you know]]\n
//How did she intend to rescue Marie? Did she plan to flee? Was she successful?//\n\nWhether she succeeded is, in the end, a difficult question to answer, more so for me since my knowledge of the consequences is necessarily limited. I can only know what I saw, and those are the events that I must speak to you about. I suspect your presence, with such an amazing and to my knowledge unheard of gift, must surely not be coincidence. Someone must have sent you here, to learn what became of these people and how they found themselves in such a lamentable state just before their departure from this place. This I think is a good and just reason for what has transpired here between us. It is to my benefit that you have done so, as I may now give a full accounting of that final night, and clearly explain my motivations and intent to any who may wish to know them.\n\nArya planned wisely, and in this case it worked contrary to the demon’s purposes to have influenced her in the manner it had chosen. In her fear that she was being watched at all times, she crafted her plan entirely in theory, and when she put it into effect, it was a marvel to see her act so swiftly and precisely. She waited until the house was quiet. She did not know where Sara had gone, but she did not seem to be nearby. Isaac had put Marie down for a nap, and had gone to the sitting room to watch television. She had heard William return to the house just a short time before, and wagered that he had returned to the storage building and wouldn’t return soon.\n\nThe moment had come, and she moved with a speed I did not know she could manage. She pulled a large bag of some sort from her closet, a soft, oblong thing with a strap worn across the shoulder, and threw it hastily on her bed. She pulled each drawer of her wardrobe open in turn, and from each she grabbed precisely what she intended. This is when I knew the extent of her planning. Even in this small matter, her actions had the confident speed of forethought. No sooner had I come to understand what was happening, she had already wrapped herself in a sweater, slipped on her shoes, and made her way across the upstairs hallway, to the room where little Marie slept.\n\nShe dropped her bag at her feet, and from the drawers next to the child’s crib, she began pulling supplies for the child. Clothing, diapers, bottles and various supplies I confess I did not entirely recognize, all found their way into that bag. When the items she had sought were accounted for, she began gathering more, adding them to the bag until it was near capacity. She closed the bag — a zip? Zipper? Is that correct? Such a common item that it is rarely referred to, so I was never quite clear on the proper name. Zipper. Thank you. She used the zipper to close the bag, and put the strap over her shoulder. She paused there and allowed herself to take a deep breath and collect her thoughts before taking the next crucial step.\n\nThat is when the demon interceded. Maybe it sensed that whatever Arya was doing was contrary to its plans, or perhaps it simply knew that Arya was no longer acting out of fear. I don’t know if it had become stronger in its influence, or if the effects were made stronger by its dismay at the turn of events, but I felt its presence immediately in her mind when it arrived, and it brought with it an overwhelming flood of fear and doubt. In an instant, she lost the courage to proceed. The doubt led her mind astray, and she began to imagine all the ways this plan could go wrong.\n\nI could not hope to counteract such a strong influence on her mind. It is beyond my knowledge, if it be within my power at all. I knew instantly that I would not be able to push Arya forward, but in the end, that was not necessary. To those who I presume sent you here, this is something I want to be sure you tell them. I could not have done battle with that beast within Arya’s mind, not alone, but I was not alone.\n\nI had hoped since the beginning, since I saw what was happening here, that the strength I had always seen in this woman as she took care of this family would in time be the key to their salvation. That strength surfaced there, as she looked down on Marie. All I could do, and likely all I had to, was remind her to look at that child. It was no secret to Arya by now that her family was in danger in many ways, and there was no way this child, her grandchild, should be subjected to such things. She did not know of the demon’s influence, and she did not need to. She knew the fear, the doubt that came unbidden, and angrily she struck it down and paid it no more thought. The will to fight that vile thing’s influence in her mind was hers — I merely held her hand, so to speak, and reminded her that she could do what must be done.\n\n[[Did she go through with it?|Did she go through with it]]\n
<<set $marker = state.history[1].passage.title>>\n<<goTo 'Side thread'>>\n
What the Markhams knew of Samuel and the other entity was entirely your decision. You chose what to tell them, and what the rest of the world knew of him. As a result, Samuel's place in history depended on you.\n\nWould he be remembered as a noble spirit who sought to communicate from beyond death for the good of us all? Was he a selfish haunting who meddled in the affairs of the living and invited evil into an innocent family? Was he both in equal measure? Did he exist at all, or was there only a malicious spirit here, a sign that interaction with non-living entities is a sure route to suffering?\n\nSamuel James Hearndale now exists only in the way you have chosen for him. His legacy was yours to chose.\n\nWhat sort of man was he?
//How did William respond to that?//\n\nHe stared at Isaac, speechless, unbelieving. Anger followed. He stammered out a few words, and I can’t recall exactly what they were but they weren’t complete thoughts. Eventually he collected himself enough to speak, and his response was directed as much to Arya as to Isaac. \n\n“What is the matter with you people? That’s not such a bad idea?”\n\nIsaac had begun to walk towards them, but did not immediately respond. \n\nAll of this had happened in a matter of seconds, and so great was my anxiety at the situation that I found myself merely observing, forgetting that I might in some way help them. As Isaac approached and William waited for his answer, I acted in what I thought in the moment to be the most beneficial way. I did what I could to push Isaac to think of childhood, and of Arya as a mother. Though of course I knew nothing of his childhood directly, all that I had learned second-hand and personally witnessed left me confident that she had been a good mother, and that even as confused and troubled as Isaac now was, the memories of his childhood would be too strong to be overcome quickly. I hoped he would conclude that the best chance for Marie’s well-being might be to leave with Arya, at least for a little while. He did not immediately do so, but he was considering it, and so I continued to encourage him.\n\nThe demon arrived, and by God I feel ill just recalling that moment. It was so powerful then, whether by growing influence or sheer rage, that even through my passive connection to William at that moment I still felt its thoughts come crashing down upon me. At that moment I could have sworn that I literally heard the thing’s voice within my mind. If the methods I had employed to influence the thoughts of the family to that point could be described as a whisper in their minds, and I had feared the demon’s voice was growing stronger, what I felt at that moment was a scream. I cannot imagine what the experience was like for William. It was singular and overwhelming. It was not subject to reason in that moment, as it would not wait for rational evaluation. It demanded action.\n\n“THIS WAS THEIR AIM,” it roared as an unquestioning condemnation, and William’s mind filled in the details. The scheme he had sensed in them before, the trickery and collusion, had all been real, and this was its culmination. They were making preparations to leave him, unannounced and unexplained. She was taking the child at the moment of least suspicion, since she would be the most difficult to evacuate. He had seen Sara walk away from the house earlier, and Isaac could certainly manage to depart on his own. After all that he had done for them, they were leaving without even the courtesy of explaining their actions. They would slip out, one by one, like cowards and thieves. He was abandoned. Betrayed. Alone.\n\n[[What did you do?|What did you do to stop William]]\n[[What did William do?|What was William's response to them leaving]]\n
//Was it even affecting Marie?//\n\nI wished it not to be true. I had hoped that little Marie would be spared the influence of the malicious beast. Once I realized what it had done to the others though, I knew I could not risk it.\n\nI had typically avoided interacting with the girl. I knew it to be unlikely that I would gain ground toward my larger goals through her, and I feared what effects my influence would have on her young mind. A mind so new and easily influenced could not possibly benefit from invasive thoughts. When I had on occasion found myself aware of her mind, it had been a singular experience. Her thoughts were simple, pure and easily interpreted by their lack of nuance. The whole of her attention would be focused on a single topic, and each emotion was a pure surge of love, need, joy, fear, sorrow. She had not yet learned to feel anything in part, instead throwing all of herself into each moment.\n\nI knew the other presence had made itself known in the little one’s mind from the moment I dared to seek it out. I decided it was time to look for signs of the beast when I noticed the growing frequency of incidents when the child would cry intensely and inconsolably with no discernible impetus. As with the others, there was a thought, clear, persistent, unchanging, and destructive. For her, that thought was “mother.”\n\nShe only vaguely knew that word, and could not say it clearly, but she knew the concept as well as you would expect. As I’ve said, I do not know what occurred in that family, but I knew the mother of the child was never present, never spoken of, and not expected to appear. Marie had not seen her mother recently, and whenever a memory of her crossed the girl’s mind, she missed her terribly. Now, under the influence of the other, Marie thought of her mother throughout each day, and the periods of sobbing and wails of sadness had become commonplace.\n\nI knew the other spirit meant these people harm, as its influence on the others had made that clear, but what was happening to the little girl was a cruelty almost too malign to comprehend. She was still yet a baby, and to torment her with constant reminders of her absent mother, to leave her suffering in loss and sorrow, was an evil I had not been prepared to encounter, for you see, the effects were not isolated to the girl.\n\nWith each incident, the relationships of the family members with the girl became more strained, in particular the one between the child and her father. She would sob for considerable lengths of time, and each time Isaac’s patience wore just a bit thinner. He’d already begun to think of the girl as a burden, a symbol of his failure, and to have her constantly inquiring through tearful eyes when her mother would return was almost too much for him.\n\nWhat manner of beast could do such a thing to a child? It had arrived at a torment so simple and effective that even her young mind could understand it fully, and experience fully the sorrow that it brought.\n\nMy soul is made heavy by this subject. The girl’s suffering has ended, and I would rather not dwell on it further, but I feel it necessary for you to know the full depth of the evil that had come into this house. The loathsome spirit that had found its way into this home did not hesitate to hurt this tiny child to further its aims. What darker could there be?\n\n[[What was happening to Arya?|What was it doing to Arya]]\n[[What about William?|What was it doing to William]]\n[[What effect did it have on Isaac?|What was it doing to Isaac]]\n[[What was it doing to Sara?|What was it doing to Sara]]\n[[What effect was this having on the family?|How did the family react]]\n
//What became of that other presence?//\n\nThat troubles me greatly, perhaps even more than the fate of the Markhams. I haven’t any notion of what became of that beast. Since the moment William stepped out the front door, I have not encountered the demon. Even in the time we have been here, and I related this tale to you, I have been listening for that horrid voice, and watching for any movements around us.\nThis is why I warned you early on to leave this place instantly if even a single thought came unbidden into your mind, and that warning stands now and likely in perpetuity. I may never know what became of the demon but just as I cannot know with certainty what led it to begin tormenting the Markhams and whether it was indeed my fault for opening their minds to the possibility, I may also never know whether the demon still lurks here, silently awaiting more playthings.\n\n[[So you don't know what happened to them after that?|What happened to the family]]\n[[What do you want to know about the Markhams?|10]]
//So what did William do?//\n\nFor a moment he simply stood there, menacing her.\n\n“That’s a damned big bag for a walk.” He grabbed at the bag roughly, and Arya twisted away from his grasp by instinct. The bag slipped from her shoulder, and the sound when it struck the floor combined with her motion caused Marie to stir. “So what, you’re running out on us?”\n\n“No! No, I’m just—”\n\nShe tried to say more, but I do not recall the last words. I felt the anger growing in William, and I could almost see his intent the moment before he acted on it. I thought he was going to strike her, or worse, the child. Arya thought the same, in the instant his hand suddenly sprung forward. Mercifully he struck only the wall behind her, but the intent remained, and it was nearly as disturbing as if he had struck her. He wanted her to be afraid. He wanted her to think that if she continued to anger him, he might strike her. \n\nIn my possibly unique situation, I was privy to the motivation behind the act, and it was as terrible as I feared. He was not simply posturing. He might attack her at any moment.\n\nArya shrank away from the impact, and held Marie close. The child’s confusion was growing, and Arya could tell she was getting upset. William paused and glared at her before proceeding, now in a calm and measured tone. “Don’t lie to me.”\n\nMarie’s patience with the confusion reached its end, and she let out a single, plaintive cry. This, finally, was enough to draw Isaac from the sitting room to investigate. He hurried into the hallway, and the look of anger on his face as he assessed the situation was an uncanny mirror of his father’s just seconds earlier.\n\n“What the hell?”\n\n“It seems your mother has decided to leave, and she’s taking your daughter with her.”\n\nArya sank back against the wall, defeated. Looking into William’s cold eyes as he threatened her had been a tremendous blow. Now she faced the combined wrath of her own husband and son together. That was too much to bear.\n\nThe surprise was in his response. He simply stared at them both for a breath before speaking.\n\n“Maybe that’s not such a bad idea.”\n\n[[Why would Isaac react that way?|Why would Isaac react that way]]\n[[How did William respond to that?|How did William respond]]\n
//What of Isaac?//\n\nIsaac was the only member of the family for whom I knew at once what I needed to do. Failure was the word he had feared in every dark moment for as long as I had been aware of him, and once the other presence took hold, the idea of failing — as a son, as a father, as a professional — had become all-consuming. I felt the young man had the wisdom and the gumption to make wise decisions and progress them, his motivations were good, and his affection for all his family and for his daughter in particular were genuine, so I knew what he needed before any other consideration. \n\nThe boy needed confidence. When he reminded himself of his failures, I would remind him of the struggles he had faced in his university and still completing his studies. When he looked at Marie in quiet terror and wondered whether he would ever feel like anything but an impostor in his efforts to parent her, I reminded him of how far they had already come together, and that he knew exactly what he needed to do to begin building the life he felt she deserved.\n\nWith confidence, I hoped he would interact with his mother again, that he would get out of the house and continue his search for employment. He could take some joy in his daughter again, confident in the knowledge that he would learn to do all that was required of him. As long as she needed him, he would not allow himself to fail her, and hew knew he could succeed in that effort.\n\n[[What did you do for Arya?|What did you do to help Arya]]\n[[How did you help William?|What did you do to help William]]\n[[What did you attempt with Sara?|What did you do to help Sara]]\n[[What could you do for Marie?|What did you do to help Marie]]\n
//What of the demon? Surely we must at least find a way to prevent others from falling under its influence.//\n\nThe world beyond these walls is strange to me. It's clear to me that the notion of this demon's existence is somehow more easily believed than it might once have been; I lived in a time when the disbelief in such things was very much the mark of an enlightened and scientific mind. I leave it to you to decide whether a warning to the larger world is sufficient, or whether it will be ignored, or worse, it will draw out those who would seek contact with a demon for whatever purpose.\n\nBut in my estimation, we cannot risk it. If the demon remains here, and I have no reason to believe it does not, then no one can be allowed here. Since our limitations seem to be tied to this home somehow, then perhaps it should be destroyed. If the demon is indeed a creature of malevolent spiritual origin, then perhaps holy men should be brought to this place, to cast out the unliving.\n\nYour judgment, and that of the Markhams when you speak to them, will not be questioned by me. I will accept what fate brings, and bear ill will toward none.\n\n[[What would you recommend we do?|What do you recommend]]\n
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//What happened to Sara?//\n\nI mentioned earlier that Sara’s bedroom was the northwest one, which was built as a servant’s quarters, and entering or existing the room requires one to pass by the doors to the servants’ stairways up and down. The first night after the other spirit’s tactics changed, Sara lay in bed attempting to sleep. As she drifted, she heard boards creak, as they often did late at night as the house cooled and shifted and the rest of the family walked about the house in the relative quiet. It took several seconds of listening to the sound repeating before anything struck her as wrong, but once it did, her heart felt to her as though it would stop. She was hearing the creek of wooden boards from the attic stairs. As a consequence of the house’s layout, there was no way in or out of the attic, save for the stairs that led into Sara’s bedroom. She lay frozen in fear as the creaking sounds grew closer, making their way across the wall toward the doorway to the attic stairs, then stopping. For a moment there was only silence, and Sara debated whether to call out in case some family member had been in the attic earlier and was just now coming out, but before she could speak, she heard a quiet knock at the door, as of someone gently tapping with one finger.\n\nShe mustered all the courage she could find, and spoke.\n\n“Hello?” It seemed a simple question, but her tone was a mix of anger and fear.\n\nThere was no answer, but in a moment, her eyes caught a change of some kind, and after staring for a moment, she and I both realized what we were seeing was a reflection of moonlight from the window beside her bed in the doorknob of the door to the attic stairs. The reason it had caught our attention was that the reflection had changed slightly, and was continuing to change.\n\nThe reflection was changing subtly because the knob was turning.\n\n[[How is that possible?|How is that possible]]\n
//How did you know it had returned, or resumed in what it had been doing?//\n\nI had not sensed its influence in so long, my fear began to grow. What if it were still there, still affecting them somehow, but in a way I hadn’t anticipated or detected? Was the family still at odds, still struggling to understand each other because too much damage had been done and my efforts could not overcome it, or was it because the demon was somehow working against my aims and negating their progress?\n\nI shudder to think that I might never have found it. It was a slight thing, easily overlooked in my estimation, and my fatigue was so great that I very nearly passed it by without a thought. The demon made its move, this time with a measure of subterfuge, and this was the moment of fear from which I will never fully recover. The method of its deception, the intent behind it, left me with no doubt that it had become aware of my presence and my intent, and now it would work against me as well.\n\nMarie would often wake in the night, as a child of that age is wont to do for any number of natural reasons. It is the way of things when a baby is involved. On one particular evening her cry was particularly sudden and piercing, as if she were waking from a nightmare, and it echoed through the house. Isaac was up at once, a learned reflex I believe any caretaker of a child must know well, and comforted the girl as best he could.\n\nThe cry had awakened Sara from uneasy sleep, and she lay in her bed for a few moments, letting her mind wander and settle once more. She no longer slept in darkness, and by the light of her bedside lamp, she stared on the two stairway doors across the room, each now secured as Isaac had promised by a slide bolt. The comfort afforded by this small object was tremendous, knowing that nothing could enter without a pronounced and unmistakable effort.\n\nWhat she could not know, or at least could not be sure of, was that the locks would not help her, because her tormentor never wanted to open it at all. To open it would end the suspense, and remove any doubts. It did want to be known — it wanted to be feared. It wanted to be the shadow that hunts you in nightmares, but which you can never quite convince yourself is real by light of day. Without a clear threat, she would not flee. She would reason, and she would doubt, and she would fear.\n\nThat night, behind the safely locked attic door, the string on the light fixture over the attic stairs was pulled by that unseen hand, and a rim of light, easily seen even in the partly-lit bedroom, appeared around the stairway door.\n\nSara froze, at first not believing what she saw. She believed it a trick of light, or of her still drowsy mind. But just as before with the doorknob, she continued to stare, and the light remained, defiant in its very existence.\n\nShe listened, and dared not breathe. I told her, in that limited way I could attempt to do so, that it was merely a trick, something that could not harm her, but I was still weary while the terror growing in her was immense. There was no sound, and no movement that either of us was aware of. After a few moments, the light was extinguished. Sara, and I through her, clearly heard the quiet mechanical “chunk” sound of the pull string mechanism in the light fixture.\n\nSara did not move, not then, not for the rest of the night. She lay there for hours, too terrified to move, and sobbed quietly. Weary though I was, I continued for some time to soothe her, and convince her that while something had indeed wished to frighten her, there was no immediate danger. It was difficult, and even I was beginning to doubt that my statement would prove entirely true.\n\nBut you see, friend, as I told you before, the vile spirit had learned to be crafty. I focused on Sara for a great while that night, and very nearly missed the true danger. I remained vaguely aware of the others in the house, as always, but none of them seemed to be acting strangely. William was dozing downstairs, half-watching something about a war long past on television. Arya slept fitfully, as did Marie. And Isaac stood by Marie’s crib, where he had stood when soothing the girl to sleep.\n\nOnly a sliver of my mind realized what was amiss, and it tagged at the corner of my mind until I listened, mercifully. I had been focusing on Sara for some time since Marie first woke up crying, and I had hear no further cries from Marie since those first few moments after she awoke. Why, then, was Isaac still standing idly by her crib?\n\n[[Was he not simply watching over her?|Was he not just watching over her]]\n
//I have a question about your existence.//\n\n[[How would you describe your existence?|How would you describe your existence]]\n[[Are you trapped here, in this place?|Are you trapped here]]\n[[Do you experience time normally?|Do you experience time]]\n[[What are your normal daily activities?|What are your normal activities]]\n[[Are you unchanging? Can you die?|Are you unchanging]]\n\n[[Actually, let me rethink that.|Side thread]]\n
//So what are you saying? What happened in there that night?//\n\nMy shame, dear friend, is what occurred in that room. The folly of my existence.\n\nI could not know then, and only came to realize the truth of the event as time went on, but I will not ask you to wait for an explanation as I had to. The sin that I have previously alluded to came into being that night, and from that moment, my existence would become solely focused on righting this wrong.\n\nThere was another presence in Sara’s room that night.\n\n[[What do you mean, another presence?|6]]\n
//So where was William? Was he not home?//\n\nAt that moment, I wished very much for that to be the case, but of course I already knew I was wrong. I know who is in the house at all times, and though the events in Sara’s room had preoccupied me, once I could put my mind back to it I knew that William was indeed in the house. He was downstairs, in the sitting room. And though it pains me to say it, he was awake.\n\nHere, my friend, my only friend, is another moment I wish I could cast out of memory and never think on again, but a full and true accounting of these events is important.\n\nI hope that the other spirit — no. Let us be honest with each other now. This is no “other” spirit, some other consciousness of questionable motive and character. This was an evil thing, and though I cannot speak to you with any confidence on matters of of the divine, I see no reason to discourage us from calling it demon. It was an evil, malicious thing, and I feel it would be fair to call it a demon. I do not do so lightly, but there it is.\n\nI hope that the demon did not observe my actions and learn from my example, but I must consider the possibility. It is that, or the demon arrived at the same conclusion I had when I endeavored to make contact with Sara in a manner she would not find threatening: physical interaction and mental influence could be used in concert to a greater effect than either could separately.\n\nAnd so it was that when all in the house, myself included, were paying rapt attention to Isaac’s investigation of the attic, the demon had turned its attention elsewhere.\n\nWilliam was alone that night, in the sitting room. He had no work before him, and nothing to read. He sat, alone, and dwelt upon the thoughts that had preoccupied him all that day. They were aligning against him, he thought. They conspire. They talk about me, but never to me. They do not want me here, in my own home. Whatever they want, it does not include me.\n\nAll the while, the demon sat within his mind, and nurtured these poisonous notions. By the time I looked into William’s thoughts that evening, he was simmering in anger. The idea placed in his mind by the demon was powerful, like a waterfall crashing into his emotions. As before, it was a simple idea, barely worth a word, but that was all it took. As his daughter screamed in terror, as voices called out to each other with fear, he repeated one word to himself.\n\nTrickery.\n\nThey were tricking him, he thought. I cannot explain this in a rational way. I wish I could, but the venom that flowed through his thoughts was powerful, and he was certain he had seen through their plan. They were luring him into something. “Oh, daddy, please come help!” He would rush upstairs to render aid, and they would laugh at him, the old foolish man, running in to save them from what?\n\nAnd sure enough, as he sat, most satisfied with himself for not being taken in, the furor subsided, and all was well again. He heard their footsteps as they walked slowly back to their respective bedrooms, and most tellingly, Marie never even cried out. All was well in the house, he thought, and they would not fool him so easily.\n\nThis was the moment when I realized I was failing them. I could not protect them all, not all the time, and when I turned my attention away for just a few minutes this man, this husband and father who I had come to respect and admire from afar for a great long while, sat in proud satisfaction, triumphant, as his daughter cried out for help upstairs.\n\n[[How did the family react?|How did the family react to that]]\n[[What was your reaction?|What was your reaction]]\n[[That must have had consequences.|That must have had consequences]]\n
//What was it doing to Sara?//\n\nSara bore the burden of a malicious thought, planted within her mind and cultivated each day by the other spirit. Hers represents my greatest failure to these people, as I believe it only took hold so strongly due to the influence I had exercised over her thoughts in my own attempts to communicate with her.\n\nShe constantly thought herself a fool. The effect was twofold, as she felt herself taken as a fool whenever she felt her opinions were not given proper consideration, or her struggles were not seen by others as the serious affairs she regarded them to be, but she also feared she might in fact be a fool, wasting her time entertaining thoughts of ghosts and spirits for so long that she had actually convinced herself that she had seen something which she knew could not have happened.\n\nI could not know if the other spirit was aware of what I had been doing, or if it had simply been observing long enough to see where the gaps in her armor could be found. Either way, its aim was true and the attack wounded her deeply. In my own experiences in life, I knew that the schism between child and pattern often expanded greatly during adolescence, and nothing I’ve seen since would lead me to believe that is any less true in these times. This preoccupation that now took hold in Sara drove her even further away from her family, and in the hours spent alone, a resentment grew in her, as slights both real and imagined were accumulated into a litany, illustrating how no one she had cared for saw her as anything more than a foolish child.\n\nThere can be little doubt that I bear significant culpability in this part of the affair. I had planted seeds of doubt in her mind and cultivated them over weeks without cease. I had driven her toward thoughts of the paranormal, of the unknown, and the possibility of a spirit devoid of physical form which could be influencing her home and her family. I was the reason she had sought out a spirit, and pleaded with it to effect change in her world.\n\nThis, my friend and confessor, is the first of the sins for which I seek absolution, for I believe this is the very act which allowed the other presence, the beast, to invade this home and attach itself to the Markham family, who had done no wrong to deserve such treatment. I have sensed no hesitation in the spirit to explain why it would have refrained from its activities prior to my interference, and I do not know of any reason why it would have targeted them in particular, so it is my belief that Sara’s receptiveness, her willingness to believe and her desperation to know that she was not imagining what was going on in her home, is what invited the fell presence into her life, and in turn gave it the ability to harm her family as well.\n\n[[What was happening to Arya?|What was it doing to Arya]]\n[[What about William?|What was it doing to William]]\n[[What effect did it have on Isaac?|What was it doing to Isaac]]\n[[Was it even affecting Marie?|What was it doing to Marie]]\n[[What effect was this having on the family?|How did the family react]]\n
It was a full three years after the events at the home of the Markham family when you were asked to visit the house. Many in the Bridgewater community had heard of your involvement in the events at the Rossum House earlier this year, and your reputation as someone who could legitimately and reproducibly communicate with the spirits of the deceased was quickly becoming inescapable. You had attempted to lower your profile, and perhaps to some degree prevent the coming deluge of requests for help in contacting lost spirits, but when the call from Bridgewater came and the details of the incident were seen in a new light, you knew you could not refuse.\n\nThe story had been inescapable for weeks. A well-regarded, seemingly stable family in a small town suddenly and viciously tears itself apart, and otherwise-rational family members insist that nothing less than an evil spirit had tormented their family and driven them into madness. What at the time had been dismissed as the lamentable results of the mental trauma suffered by the family during the events in question must now, in a world that only recently bore witness to the Rossum House incident, be considered a potentially dangerous intercession by some spirit from beyond the living world.\n\nIt took a week of near-constant effort to align your thoughts with that of another presence, one you could not see but which you almost immediately sensed when you entered the house. Eventually, you made contact with something, some lingering consciousness in the empty shell of the Markham residence. Each day, you sat at the small table in the kitchen, pen and paper at hand, mind relaxed and open despite the potential dangers, hoping some spirit would find the means to reach you.\n\nAt first it was a simple scrawl you couldn’t explain, then letters. In time, words formed, and when the spirit realized and accepted that its words were being received, that a message was being conveyed, a monologue began to unfold, and it was not what was expected. The first of it was delivered all at once, as if in a fevered trance, and it left you reeling with shared sorrow.\n\n[[It read...|Confession]]\n
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//I have a question about other entities.//\n\n[[Are there other non-living entities where you are?|Are there other non-living entities]]\n[[Can you communicate with any other spirits?|Can you communicate with other spirits]]\n[[Are there any other living people you can communicate with?|Can you communicate with any other living people]]\n\n[[Actually, let me rethink that.|Side thread]]\n
//How did you try to make Sara leave?//\n\nIn the case of Sara, the work was already near to complete. She was already terrified of what she had seen, and I believe that if she’d had any other place to go, she would already have fled the house. I understood they had no relatives nearby, and she did not have friends she felt comfortable asking to take her in, particularly knowing that they would inevitably want an explanation as to why she needed their help.\n\nAt this point, you must understand, no one else in the house believed anything was amiss, aside from what they saw in their own lives and each other’s behavior. Only Sara had seen anything that she couldn’t explain and had at least partly accepted it as potentially something more than coincidence and happenstance. She had little reason to feel that anyone else would have believed her, and with every day that passed after one of the incidents, she herself believed it less and less. It was easier that way, and I think it was just her mind’s way of protecting itself.\n\nWhen I felt I was ready to proceed, I began with her, and my plan was twofold. I had once spent significant time and thought on deciding how best to communicate with her with subtlety and delicacy and avoid frightening her. When I was no longer concerned with those restrictions, the opportunities were everywhere. From the start of that evening, any time Sara found herself alone, I would identify any object nearby that could potentially be physically disturbed, and if I had the strength, I would do so. At every turn, the dangling cords of lights and window coverings would turn and sway, and any object not perfectly stable would slide or shift. Sometimes she noticed, sometimes she did not, but as I expected, the more incidents she witnessed, the more keenly she was aware of them. I knew she would attempt to dismiss these movements as imagination and coincidence, but I was sure she would eventually be unable to ignore what was happening. Her anxiety and alarm grew quickly, until she refused to be alone and instead followed Isaac and Arya wherever they went.\n\nI honestly do not know if the demon is not as clever as I’d previously thought. Mayhap it thought I had chosen to join it in its torment of the family, or it thought me foolish enough to attempt a strategy that would only aid it in its abuse. Whatever the cause, it gladly accepted my actions as potentially beneficial to its own plans. I knew when it entered Sara’s mind, and began pouring its lies into her. Her self-doubt was plain, and I’m sure the demon thought there was very little work left to be done to push her to one conclusion in particular. And so it began to whisper to her mind, “I’m going crazy.”\n\nIt was an effective ploy. The girl was indeed close to believing that all the strange events she alone had witnessed must be evidence of some disorder of the mind, but as I said, my plan for her was twofold. I had anticipated the demon’s action. Though it may grieve me to say so, I suspected it would take this action because were I in its place, it is what I would have done to cause Sara the greatest harm. I knew the terrible toll this moment might take on the young girl’s spirit, but to accomplish my intended goal, I had invited the demon to do so. Should Sara ever read this confession, or otherwise somehow be made aware of my words, please relate to her my greatest regrets, and tell her that I shall never forgive myself for this act but that I did believe, and still do, that I was acting to save her life.\n\nWhen the demon relented and turned its attention elsewhere, I was there waiting on the edges of Sara’s mind. I could not hope to reverse the course of her thoughts, but that was not my intent. All I had to do was adjust their trajectory just a bit, too subtly for the demon to notice, toward a similar conclusion that might yet save her.\n\n“This house is driving me crazy.”\n\n[[What did you think would convince Isaac?|How did you try to convince Isaac to leave]]\n[[What did you do to pursuade William?|How did you try to convince William to leave]]\n[[What did you do with Arya?|How did you try to convince Arya to leave]]\n[[Did you attempt anything with Marie?|How did you try to convince Marie to leave]]\n[[How long did this go on?|How long did this tension go on]]\n
//How could you tell it was malevolent?//\n\nIn the days following the incident with the chapstick, I did nothing but search for the actions of the other. Always vigilant, always watching, though I can’t say I knew what I hoped to accomplish if I did manage to catch it in the process of any interaction with the family or the world. Even knowing it had been present before, I could not sense it. I always knew precisely who was in the house, and where, and generally what was happening. It was difficult not to, as if my mind were connected at once to anyone who entered, and my only part in the process was to shift my attention from one mind to another, or to turn away from them to be alone with my own thoughts, yet even then I remained at least dimly aware of all those within the house. If I had not detected the other presence that night, then there was no reason to believe I would be aware of its presence if it yet remained.\n\nAnd so, I watched.\n\nWhat I saw was Sara continuing to struggle with what she had seen. She did not feel she could tell anyone, as she had no evidence and was well aware that even her own family would be unlikely to believe her account of what had happened. She had begun to doubt herself as well, blaming herself for spending so much time thinking on ghosts and spirits and the like and telling herself that she may well have imagined the whole event. Perhaps her foot had bumped something when she sat back, or there was a hair caught in the cap which was pulled by something when she moved away.\n\nI did not have that luxury. Without the self-doubt engendered by rational disbelief, I could remember the event clearly, and I knew she was not the cause. She had stopped moving for several moments before the chapstick moved, and when it moved, it did so twice. It was not in her mind, yet she struggled, and the turbulent thoughts within her left her preoccupied and distant. Her family had noticed, and while they largely dismissed it as the unpredictable moods of an adolescent, their concern slowly grew.\n\nI should have realized earlier where the threat was lurking. The other presence was able to affect physical reality to some degree, just as I was. Likewise, the other was able to influence the thoughts of those living in the home. My own motivations for doing so were primarily altruistic, though I will confess to having my own selfish designs which were also served. The influence of the other demonstrated no such benevolence, and by the time I saw what was happening, much damage had already been done.\n\n[[What was it doing?|What was it doing]]\n
//I don't think that's a good idea. It may only reopen old wounds to speak more of this.//\n\nI understand your concern, but I beg of you to reconsider. This is all that I have wished over these past few years, alone with my guilt. I want them to know that I tried to protect them. I want them to know which were the acts of the demon, and which were mine.\n\nI do not know what fate awaits me. This house cannot stand forever. This world cannot last forever. Eventually some end will come to me, and I do not wish to carry this burden with me for all the rest of my existence.\n\n[[Very well. I will tell them.|I will tell them]]\n[[I will not reconsider.|Disappointing]]\n
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//So what did you do in the second attempt? What was different?//\n\nNow, I’m telling you this tale for my own selfish reasons, but I do have enough consideration for you, my friend, not to waste time with too many footnotes and asides. Eventually I did find myself in a situation where I might be able to connect with the girl without a significant chance of frightening her. Naturally she would be startled, if she noticed at all, but again, hopefully not frightened.\n\nI had observed that each night before she slept, Sara would listen to her music device while she read. I found it a curious though ultimately trivial parallel that often she would do so at nearly the same moment her father began listening to his own music downstairs. But importantly, she had a separate listening apparatus by her bed… ear buds. Is that correct? I sense it is. Thank you. She had a distinct set of ear buds which she used exclusively for listening while lying on her bed. I believe it had something to do with the padding or flexibility, or in some other way relating to their comfort. In any case, those ear buds never left her room. Whenever she had finished using them, she would detach them and hang them over the shade of the small lamp on her bedside table such that the ear buds themselves hung just over the top of the shade and the cord was left dangling till it came to rest on the table. This process was ritual, and thus reliable. I could anticipate her actions, and therein I saw my opportunity to announce myself to her.\n\nOne evening — and forgive me for not being able to specify the context more clearly, but the reckoning of times and dates is difficult for me now, more so when I attempt to recall events past — I waited for her evening preparations to be completed. In time all was prepared, and she reclined on her bed, all lights extinguished save for that same lamp by her bed, music device in hand. As she turned to retrieve her ear buds, just as her arm reached across her body towards them, I focused all of my attention on one of the two components thereof, and mercifully it was balanced as precariously as I had hoped. The balance shifted, the weight of the cord became to great, and one half of the apparatus fell to the table top with a soft knock. Her eyes narrowed and her hand stopped. The first step in my plan had succeeded. She had certainly noticed.\n\nAs she stared at the fallen ear bud, I once again focused my thoughts, and the second one slipped over the rim of the shade as well, sending it and the dangling cord collapsing onto the table in a heap. Sara gasped aloud and tensed, instinctively shrinking back from the table with her eyes now wide and staring intently at her ear buds. For a moment I was reminded of the days of school boy pranks and trickery, and the thrill of seeing a genuine expression of surprise from the receiver of an effective trick. I knew this next step had succeeded when her mind screamed that something unnatural, something impossible, was happening to her again.\n\nThis was a precarious moment, as her mind swam in mixing currents of emotions. Surprise was uncontested and took the fore, while wonder, disbelief, and fear all battled each other for dominance. As the confusion held her in place, I took what I hoped would be the key step in communicating with her. My physical interactions had been limited, primarily because achieving those effects took my full concentration and sometimes left me exhausted in some sense I can’t really explain, so I had not yet properly experimented with using physical effects and mental influence in concert with each other. I began to share my thoughts with Sara fully, sensing her emotions as clearly as I could and hoping that in turn would make my influence stronger and more easily interpreted on her part.\n\nI then set my mind to a singular feeling. I find that the words to express it are somewhat clumsy and inelegant, but when conveying the feeling directly by thought, it is a simple one, and I was counting on her to recognize it. I pushed with all my will for her to experience the idea of helpfulness, of the giving of assistance. It is not precisely generosity, or the giving of gifts, as the item in question was not mine to give and I did not mean to imply that it was. If I were of physical form, it is the feeling I would experience as I extended a hand to her, offering her the item, perhaps with a friendly “Here you are. My pleasure.” I don’t know that I can express it succinctly in words, but I sense that you know well the feeling I speak of.\n\nI experienced her emotions as they became yet more complex, possibly just as confusing to her as they were to me. The only sign I had that I might yet succeed in this venture was that her fear, while still present, no longer grew, and she had not moved from the bed. Slowly her confidence rose as her sense of immediate danger subsided, and she cautiously reached out her hand and retrieved her ear buds from the table. The moment her hands closed around the cord, she stopped, half-expecting something to happen but unsure of what that would be. When all remained quiet and still, she ran her fingers along the rim of the shade, but determined that there seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary there.\n\nShe pulled her hand to her chest, still clutching the cord, and looked all about the dimly-illuminated room. I’m sure she did not know what she might be watching for, but it seemed prudent to watch for intruders considering the confusing circumstances. I knew that my best course of action was to continue precisely as I had been, filling her thoughts with the notion of assistance happily rendered. Confusion began to surge, and in time confusion and disbelief were the dominant emotions in Sara’s mind. \n\nThe old doubts were still there, urging to her avoid going any further down a path toward belief in things that cannot be. It was difficult to tell to what degree they were her own and how much was due to the influence of the other spirit. She could at least in part convince herself in part that the ear bud had simply slipped, and once the one fell, it had dragged the other down. The feelings that had come unbidden could be the result of her imagination set loose by a sudden start, and her drowsy mind had difficulty believing it.\n\nI had begun to lose hope at this point. Her need for events to make sense in an entirely natural way would not be easily overcome, to my great disappointment, and I could not hold that fact against her. She very much needed for her life to be normal. She could not know yet that a normal life was not a possibility under her current circumstances.\n\nThe disappointment I felt was a great stroke of fortune, and may have changed the course of events entirely. I learned that night that my own thoughts, whether I wished to convey them to another or not, could affect those to whom I was connected. I believe she felt that sudden shift, from such a strong feeling of helpfulness to a great disappointment, and despite the impossibility of what she was now considering, the thought that crossed her mind was strong enough to be tentatively spoken aloud.\n\n“Thanks?”\n\nMy heart soared, friend. The physical organ may be a long time gone, but the core of joy within a person has persisted beyond my death, and I felt it keenly in that moment. She seemed to sense it as well, and in the mirror of her dressing table I briefly saw a subtle smile. She shook her head as if to clear it, then proceeded with her nightly routine.\n\nI knew she was explaining the event away in her mind. As I said, if she could not, I don’t know how she could have remained in the house any longer. But I had succeeded, at least for the day. She had seen what I had done, and somewhere in her mind she realized that it could not have happened without some outside influence. She had experienced my thoughts, both those intended for her and those I experienced freely as a result of her responses, and her willingness to believe had grown so strong that for at least one moment, she spoke a kind word aloud to her seemingly-empty room, not out of frustration or fear, but as one human might speak to another.\n\nFor good or for ill, it was a beginning.\n\n[[Was the other spirit aware of you, or what you were doing?|Was the other spirit aware of you]]\n
//How did you try to convince them to leave?//\n\nI knew I must coordinate my efforts, to strike them all quickly and mercilessly, and hope that if each one wanted to leave for their own reasons, yet expressed the desire at the same time, it would be acted upon before they could take time to analyze their motivations and talk themselves out of it.\n\n[[How did you try to make Sara leave?|How did you try to convince Sara to leave]]\n[[What did you think would convince Isaac?|How did you try to convince Isaac to leave]]\n[[What did you do to pursuade William?|How did you try to convince William to leave]]\n[[What did you do with Arya?|How did you try to convince Arya to leave]]\n[[Did you attempt anything with Marie?|How did you try to convince Marie to leave]]\n[[How long did this go on?|How long did this tension go on]]\n
You relayed Samuel's tale to the Markhams, as well as his warnings about the potential dangers of the house's continued existence. Along with your summary, you conveyed your personal belief, based on your discussions with Samuel, that the house must be destroyed.\n\nThe Markhams were not pleased with your recommendation, but based on what Samuel had related to you and the terrible effects the family had suffered, they could not argue with the logic that if the spirits seemed to be bound to the house itself, it should be destroyed.\n\nThe Markham house was adjacent to land owned by Manning Farms, a commercial farming company. The Markhams sold the house and surrounding land to Manning Farms on the condition that the company destroy the house upon taking ownership. The house was torn down to the foundation, and the cellar space was excavated and filled back in. That land is now being maintained as part of a larger apple orchard, and the company has taken steps to discourage tresspassers from attempting to visit the site of the house.\n\n<<display "Samuel's legacy">>\n\n\n[[Proceed|End]]\n
//That must have had consequences. What happened to William?//\n\nWilliam no longer knew what to believe. He had been positive that his own family had conspired against him somehow, but when I forced him to confront what he had done, the illusion constructed there in his mind began to crack and shift. He was forced to confront the fact that he could not rationally identify what goal his family would have in conspiring against him. What purpose would it serve to manipulate him? Why, honestly, would they bother with the subterfuge? \n\nThat realization did much to break William’s confidence in himself. He had always been a logical man, and knowing that he had turned his back on his own daughter for reasons he could not later explain to himself shook him badly.\n\nIn this, I saw an opening. With his faith in his own judgment gone, he sought strength and structure instinctively. I believed that if I focused on William now, I might be able to bring him back to his family. Sara and Isaac knew they had seen a glimpse of what their family had once been that evening. A threat arose and they were drawn to each other. Sara trusted Isaac and knew he would not let harm come to her if he could prevent it. Isaac was called on, and he acted to protect those he cared for despite the potential dangers. And though Arya had been hurt deeply by realizing William had not come to their aid, it had helped her to see Isaac protecting Sara. It was a glimmer of a better time and it blew new air on the embers of the hope she still held for them all.\n\nIf they could hold on to each other for just a little while, I could turn my attention to rebuilding poor broken William. With all my thoughts focused on him, I thought I might find the strength to remind him of what his family had once been, how he used to find meaning in caring for them, and the quiet but very real love he felt for them all. If I managed this, and the family then reached out to him, they might well be able to rescue him.\n\nThere was an opportunity here, to shape William, to rebuild him and restore him as the protector of his family. However, there was also the possibility that he would never return to them. A grim tide had risen around him and washed away what was, and the simplest choice was not to rebuild but to resign and let the current take him where it may, even if that meant drowning.\n\nI knew this, and the demon knew it too.\n\n[[Had both of you been influencing William?|Had you both been trying to influence William]]\n[[How did you plan to help William?|How did you plan to save William]]\n
//What was your reaction to William's inaction?//\n\nNone of them could muster anger, but I could. I was furious with the man. I will not bother to defend or justify my actions toward him for the rest of that evening, as I’m well aware they were harmful and not at all productive. I did not care.\n\nI was there with him in his mind, and each word that I would have thundered into his face if I had the benefit of a body, I placed directly into his thoughts.\n\nHow could you?\n\nWhat kind of father would do this?\n\nYou are wrong about them.\n\nThey need you.\n\nYou’re abandoning them.\n\nThis was unwise, I realize. It only served to tear him down, and while he needed to be reminded of his connections to his family, I suspect belittling and shaming him may not have had the desired effect. But again, I did not care. At that moment all I wanted was to strike the grin from his face, and since I had no hands to do so, my only option was to make clear to him the depths of his failure that night.\n\nIt was, however, effective. He was not worthy of this family, at least not anymore. Not in the state he had sunken to. Not when he would risk letting a call for help from a child go unanswered just to avoid potentially being embarrassed or manipulated. And at that moment, some part of him realized it.\n\n\n[[How was the family reacting?|How did the family react to that]]\n[[That must have had consequnces.|That must have had consequences]]\n
//Do you know who I am, and what is happening here?//\n\nI believe so. I’ll warrant I understand it at least as well as you do. For my part, what is happening is much the same as the manner of interaction I have with any living person in these times, wherein I exist intermingled with your own thoughts, endeavoring to make sense of the many ideas and observations darting here and there.\n\nWhat is unique in this instance seems to be this peculiar ability of yours to write down on that pad of paper whatever thoughts I suggest in your mind. It is as if you’ve taught your body to put thoughts into written word without conscious awareness of the act, and the unexamined words pass directly from me to the page.\n\nI feel I may have frightened you by some measure with my confession when this began. I do apologize for that, sincerely, and I mean no offense when I say I am aware that you are in no position to grant me absolution. I did not know how long this interaction would continue, and as you may suspect by now, the words have been yearning for expression for quite some time. The opportunity presented itself and I hurried to capitalize upon it before that window closed again. Now I feel a bit foolish when it seems we have time to converse at length after all.\n\nI must say as well that it gives me no small thrill as I watch these words take form in ink before us. It is the closest I have come to a physical presence, to direct and meaningful interaction with the world, in all these long years. I feel I’ve returned home after a long voyage, and what was once commonplace is now a strange wonder. I do hope you can forgive me if I ramble on, fascinated with this process.\n\n[[Should I be afraid?|Should I fear you]]\n[[What do you want from me?|What do you want from me]]\n\n
//What do you recommend we do?//\n\nNone can be allowed to live here. That much is certain. Anyone who enters this house must know the danger. They should never be alone, and they must never sleep here.\n\nIf that can be achieved in some way beyond my knowledge, then please do so. If not, cleanse this place by whatever means necessary. Bring in your holy people to cast out the lingering spirits. Raze the house. Build something else here, not a residence, but something that may be beneficial to others.\n\n[[What will that mean for you?|What will that mean for you]]\n
//What did William do when he decided the others were leaving?//\n\nIn all that followed that evening, I believe the demon had realized the end had arrived, and it no longer concerned itself with subtlety. It would do all it could to tear the family asunder before they could escape. I believe it must have sensed that they could be pushed no further, and whatever the outcome, they would no longer return to this house together. This could be its last chance to strike at them, and it would do as much damage as it could in these final moments.\n\nI know, you asked about William, but I want to be clear with you what had been set loose in the house that night before I proceed. Full understanding of that fact is key, because in his next actions, William may as well have been the physical form of the demon. What it willed, he acted upon, very nearly without a passing thought of his own to the contrary. It had attempted to drive this family apart in many ways, but the goal had been the same for each person — it would leave them feeling isolated and alone, even when they should otherwise realize they were neither. In William, it had succeeded. When a man’s sense of identity and his role in the world is built entirely in terms of what he is to his family, then he comes to believe that family has betrayed and abandoned him, what then is left of the man?\n\nThere was nothing left of William, so far as I could sense. Perhaps the man I had admired before was still there, and in time could be found once more, but he would not be found that day.\n\nWhat Isaac and Arya both saw that night was nothing more than a beast, eyes wide, muscles tensed, lips drawn back from bared teeth. Marie stirred once more, and this time her eyes opened enough to take in the scene around her. She spoke a single word, and the moment shattered, setting everyone on motion. All she said, in that tiny and achingly innocent voice that such a young child has, was a questioning “Grandma?”\n\nAnd then they were all in motion.\n\n[[What did Isaac do?|What action did Isaac take]]\n[[What did Arya do with Marie?|What action did Arya take]]\n[[What was William's response?|What action did William take]]\n
//Is there any other plane of existence, for lack of a better term? Heaven? Hell? Something else?//\n\nIf you ask because you hope I have some first-hand evidence of the matter, I regret to disappoint you, but that question is as much a mystery to me in death as it was in life. If there is something outside of the world you know, it is largely unknown to me as well. The existence I currently experience is something I had not considered with any seriousness in life, so there is that aspect, but otherwise I have no revelations for you.\n\nI don’t know if it would be better to believe that there’s something beyond this place and that I have for some reason been excluded from it, or that my situation is some strange effect of the natural world, and there is no larger design at work. I suppose that may depend on the disposition of whatever other place to which I might be able to travel, would you agree? \n\nI suppose if the choice is this or nothingness, or worse, Hell itself, perhaps the boredom of this lonesome existence is preferable. This new interaction we have established gives me no small measure of hope, that my continued awareness may not continue in the decidedly uneventful fashion to which I had become accustomed. Then again, my only interaction with the world of living souls prior to your presence here was catastrophic, tremendously so, and it may well be better for us all if I recede back into the cracks in this world, quietly amusing myself as a perpetual spectator in this place.\n\n[[I have another question about the afterlife.|Afterlife questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//What was it doing?//\n\nIt was subtle, so much so that even when I noticed what was happening, I doubted myself. Now I was the one with a compromised perspective, doubting my own perceptions. I found that when I focused my attention on one member of the family, there would be a single idea that stood out amongst the many currents of thoughts. It was barely even an idea, now that I think on it again. They were the barest of impressions, simple but pure and undiluted by nuance. I came to understand what was happening when I noticed that each time I shared their thoughts, the same fragment of a notion would be there among their thoughts, and while it was always the same from one day to the next, it was a different one for each family member.\n\n[[What was happening to Arya?|What was it doing to Arya]]\n[[What about William?|What was it doing to William]]\n[[What effect did it have on Isaac?|What was it doing to Isaac]]\n[[What was it doing to Sara?|What was it doing to Sara]]\n[[Was it even affecting Marie?|What was it doing to Marie]]\n
<<silently>>\n<<remember $ch8reached=true>>\n<<goTo "How did you know it had returned">>\n[[8. Descent|How did you know it had returned]]\n<<endSilently>>
//How did the family react to your attempt to reach them?//\n\nEven my most cautious and reserved expectations were too generous, as fate would have it. I suppose I underestimated their ability to reason away events that seemed impossibly unlikely. They laughed at the coincidence of the book titles and of their unplanned congregation in the dining room that night. As they discussed the circumstance further, they agreed they must have heard the movement of books on the shelves, perhaps due to a carelessly-placed book causing a series of movements, or maybe a result of the wood of the shelves settling under the considerable weight of so many books and giving those two particular volumes just enough of a push.\n\nHowever, there was also some small cause for celebration. Having the unusual benefit of experiencing their thoughts, albeit it in a vague and sometimes confusing way, I could sense the doubts and questions that were being raised and then dismissed in each of their minds. Rationally they could not allow themselves to question whether it had been naught but coincidence, but that same rational disposition would not allow them to simply dismiss out of hand such an unlikely combination of events. They could tell themselves they’re heard the shelves groaning, and that their own footsteps on the floor had shaken the books just enough. Surely, if two books from those shelves, which seemed to hold primarily books of an academic nature, fell at random, the mind could draw some parallel between them, whether in their title, or the appearance of the covers, or the size, or some other similarity.\n\nBut I knew what they would not say, or even consider at length. I could feel the thoughts that formed and lingered a moment or two before being swatted away like gnats. In those moments that followed that evening, when each of them in their turn would unconsciously take on a grim countenance, eyes narrowed as they inspected their own recollection of events, before frowning and shaking their head dismissively, I knew what they had briefly allowed themselves to contemplate.\n\nEach of them wondered, at least briefly, about the possibility that someone, something, had caused those events. That was the only motivation I required.\n\n[[What had you hoped would happen?|What did you hope would happen]]\n[[How did their reaction affect you?|How did their reaction affect you]]\n
//What about William?//\n\nWilliam was haunted by the burden of responsibility. When once he would have labored contentedly for the good of his family, now each task anyone asked of him felt to him like one in a long series, seemingly never to end. He would have to set aside ever more of his own limited time, and instead spend that time assisting someone else in whatever they were trying to accomplish. His perception of how much depended on him at any moment grew further from the reality of things each day, and in time it seemed to him as if he could never truly have time for his own pursuits in light of constant demands from his family.\n\nI sense you see the plot here as well, and this was indeed the point where any remaining doubt I had clung to regarding the malicious nature of these manipulations was swept away. This invasive thought, which colored William’s perceptions of every moment spent with his family, was in precise opposition to the idea that clouded his wife’s mind. Every day she felt more isolated, more alone, while at the same time he grew frustrated with the seemingly-constant demands on his time and attention presented by his family.\n\nThis had been a family that cared for each other in a subdued and comfortable way that was rarely examined or addressed, but which was also never in question. They were not demonstrative of their affections, but the loyalty and affinity of a close family was there, and I had experienced it as the understated backdrop of all the interactions in the house since their arrival. Now, with the introduction of these two pernicious thoughts, a terrible venom had been introduced, and in the quiet spaces between the family members, healthy flesh began to rot.\n\n[[What was happening to Arya?|What was it doing to Arya]]\n[[What effect did it have on Isaac?|What was it doing to Isaac]]\n[[What was it doing to Sara?|What was it doing to Sara]]\n[[Was it even affecting Marie?|What was it doing to Marie]]\n[[What effect was this having on the family?|How did the family react]]\n
//Was he not simply watching over her? Maybe she had been quiet, but had only just recently gone back to sleep.//\n\nThat is reasonable, and as I thought about the situation I reckoned that might in fact be just what had happened. I moved my focus to Isaac then, to make sure all was well and that hopefully my concern was not warranted.\n\nWhat I found instead was a terrible thing, one of many moments that drives me to this lengthy confession. I have tried to conceive of some way in which the events that occurred in this house were not my fault, were not a direct result of my interventions, but it has been in vain. And so I must bear the guilt for many ills that befell this family, including the one I witnessed that night.\n\nThe demon was clever. I must concede that. It had found a way to inflict itself upon these people in most effective fashion, and worse, it appeared to have realized that another party was at work and had deliberately drawn my attention elsewhere. As Isaac stood there, half-awake, instinctively going through the process of soothing his daughter back to sleep, the demon was at work. It knew, as I should have realized myself, that the young man’s mind was most malleable in this state. Whatever defenses his consciousness might have against the forced intrusion of unwanted thoughts, they were surely at their weakest now. Attempting to influence them in their sleep would surely be dismissed as the wandering of the dreaming mind, but in the fog-laden area on the borders of sleep, thoughts might come unbidden and still be considered.\n\nBy the time my attention reached Isaac, he was deep in contemplation of thoughts which his waking mind would have shaken off angrily. It was beneath him, something unthinkable to even consider. He stood there that night, staring down at the still, sleeping Marie, and thought of all the ways his life would be simpler if she were gone.\n\nIt is a true statement, and though cold and unfeeling it may be, the fact remained. His life would be easier in numerous ways if the girl were gone. He would not need his parents to help support them, and would not be here in this house with a family he cared less for with each passing day. He could finish school. He would not be reminded at every moment of Marie’s mother, with no hope that he could see of ever moving past that pain. He would certainly find it easier to court someone else, without the complications of being a father. He would not be awake right now, or a half-dozen times each night. \n\nThe list was long, and he stood there long through the night enumerating all the ways his life would be simplified all at once, if this thing, this albatross, this tiny reminder of all that had gone wrong in his life, were to disappear.\n\nHe could not know that he would not be the first good parent to think such a dark thought in times of trouble. The mind does wander, and many a parent has dwelt upon thoughts of regret or loss when circumstances brought them low, but in all but the most lamentable cases, these thoughts are mere distractions and are easily dismissed. I cannot judge him for the thoughts.\n\nWhat was different here that night was the depth to which he had considered unspeakable things. With the demon, that despicable creature, whispering in his ear, what would have been the frustrated wanderings of an exhausted mind became a serious contemplation. He had passed beyond the wistful what-ifs of how life could have been different, and had forgotten all the joy he had felt in happier times when holding his little girl. No, his mind had moved on to practical considerations. He stood there, looking down at Marie, and wondered how he could be rid of her without ruining his own life in the process.\n\nHe knew if he tried to relinquish his claim as her father, Arya would fight endlessly to take the child in as her own. Even in the strife that had befallen them, Arya’s love for Marie had never wavered. The hope she carried for her family, and which I had nurtured in her myself to protect her from the demon’s influence, was embodied in that little girl, innocent and joyful, and she would never willingly let it be taken from her family.\n\nKnowing this, he suspected the only options available to him were of the unspeakable sort. I feel that you sense my meaning here, and I should very much like to avoid elaborating. He was thinking of how events can be made to look like accidents. God help me, I was in there with him, feeling him contemplate these terrible things, all the while looking down at that little girl, asleep in her crib, so peaceful and trusting, and so defenseless.\n\nI’ve come to you to confess certain deeds, and we have come to the moment when I knew the depth of my guilt. A family that distrusts can be mended. A family that resents can rediscover affection and acceptance. Even a family whose patriarch is a shattered man who can no longer believe in himself or anything else can find a way to rebuild that foundation, and in turn drawn strength from it.\n\nWhat hope is there for a family where in the midst of such strife, one of their own, one who I had labored long to remind that others had sacrificed and suffered on his account, could look down at a sleeping baby, the one being in the world whose love for him was still yet innocent and utterly unquestioned, and consider doing her harm? What chance is there of victory when your adversary can inflict such a grievous wound and catch you almost completely unawares?\n\nThis was the end of my delusion, friend. My objective must change, because in this moment I was forced to accept that I would not be able to rebuild this family. At best, I might save their lives, or at least their souls.\n\n[[What was your new objective?|What was your new objective]]\n
//What did you think would convince Isaac?//\n\nIsaac was in a dangerous state, if I may risk belaboring the point. The fantasies he had entertained, of how his life would be better without Marie and all that possibility entailed, left both him and the girl in a perilous state. The confidence I had tried to instill in him, to encourage him to look forward in his life with hope and not wallow in failures of the past, had grown like a fire kindled and fanned by the bellows of the demon. He saw them all as obstacles to be overcome, and little Marie as the anchor that held him in this unhappy port. If he could just be shed of that burden, he could move forward with building the life he knew he deserved.\n\nI knew the demon was continuing its work, always pushing Isaac to take actions from which there could be no return, and here too I had to be discreet if I hoped to influence Isaac without tipping my hand to the demon. Just as I had with Sara, I believed the only way to persuade Isaac to do as I wished was to make only a slight change to his motivations. When the demon would whisper in his ear that the girl held him back and he would be better off without her, I would be there to make my own suggestion — that the girl would be happier with her grandmother anyway. I did not believe I could convince him to stay, but I hoped I could convince him that easier solution was to leave Marie here, and accept that his parents would assume responsibility for her. William was in no condition to parent anyone, but even knowing that Arya had been through and how unreliable she may now be in other ways, he never doubted that his mother would instantly take Marie in and raise her as best she could.\n\nI did not suggest this course lightly, just as I did not wish to hurt Sara. I was encouraging a father to abandon his daughter, potentially harming the familial ties between them permanently. Even worse, if I succeeded, I might save him, yet leave the child in danger within the house. This is the terrible choice for which I would like to leave a wholly inadequate apology to Isaac. I wanted only to save you, both of you, and I hope you will be able to understand why I acted as I did.\n\n[[How did you try to make Sara leave?|How did you try to convince Sara to leave]]\n[[What did you do to pursuade William?|How did you try to convince William to leave]]\n[[What did you do with Arya?|How did you try to convince Arya to leave]]\n[[Did you attempt anything with Marie?|How did you try to convince Marie to leave]]\n[[How long did this go on?|How long did this tension go on]]\n
//If you felt you couldn’t undo the damage that had been done, what was your objective from that point?//\n\nI made a choice that night which in the final telling, should such a thing come one day for me, will likely determine the disposition of my soul. Either I succeeded in saving them so much as they could be saved, or I committed the greatest folly of my existence.\n\nI did not believe at the time that there was any hope of the Markham family recovering so long as they were still subject to the demon’s further influences, and I remain firm in that belief to this very moment. It would take all of the family acting in concert over no insignificant time to rebuild William, and Isaac had been the cornerstone of that design. If Isaac could be brought so low in a single moment of my inattention, how could I ever align the rest of the family with that larger goal?\n\nI could follow the demon’s lead, and experiment with what could be accomplished if I reached into their minds as they lingering on the edge of sleep, but each day I grew more certain that this constant meddling, pushing conflicting thoughts into their minds to do battle, would in time drive them all mad. I too often forgot while in the midst of my struggles against the demon that for each of the living minds in this house, these thoughts seemed to come from within them. Sara could resist those effects to a greater degree than the others, as only she believed that some unnatural force was at work. The rest were defenseless, constantly at odds with themselves and fighting to simply understand how they themselves felt about their situation and their family. No, further fortifications and counterattacks within their thoughts would save them. I had to do what would have been anathema only days before.\n\nI had to join with the demon. I too must strive to torment these people, and inflict suffering upon them. By doing so, I could turn the demon’s own successes against it, by using the fractured state of the family to further my own goal, because though we would both be hurting this family, my objective would be my own, and in the end I could only hope this difference would be enough.\n\nI had to drive them from the house.\n\n\n[[And save them by driving them away?|And thereby save them]]\n[[How would you drive them away?|How would you drive them away]]\n\n
//What happened on the last day the Markhams were in the house?//\n\nThe effects of my plan were quite pronounced. In effect, my own efforts and those of the demon were complementary — now that we were both urging them all in very nearly the same directions, it was as if we were a single swift current sweeping the family downstream, and the only difference was that I hoped to push them to shore before they reached a fall.\n\nOn that final day, Isaac had not yet mustered the motivation to leave the home. He muttered and complained and stomped about, and his care of Marie was performed in a perfunctory manner at best but was still adequate. His frustration was growing quickly, and I had begun to worry whether he would act to change his situation before becoming so angry at his circumstances that he lashed out violently at someone.\n\nWilliam, surprising even to me, had immediately taken to the notion of spending his available time in the storage building behind the house. He would come in from time to time, mostly to see to his biological needs, but would soon return to his refuge. I could not yet tell if being outside of the house was having any beneficial effect on his state of mind, but it had removed him from the immediate problem, and it increased the chances of his family being able to restore him to the man he’d once been when they were able to escape.\n\nSara had withdrawn to her room. While the demon’s ability to torment her with demonstrations of its presence was gradually decreased as the number of available objects it had the power to move became exhausted, they never ceased entirely. There were those items which could always be moved, dangling strings, cords, a necklace that hung on a stand, and so forth. As Sara noticed these, she would secure them, tie them up, or put them in a drawer out of sight — whatever you make the movements stop.\n\nWhen the demon feared it would soon be left with nothing to disturb around Sara, it must have decided the girl was ready for the next step in its plan. If there was nothing to move, it would try to move her, and see if she felt it.\n\nNow, this is one thing which I had dared not try, not even once. I think it would be a foolish thing to do if trying to communicate calmly with a living body. I do recall from the days before my passing that all manner of unexplained sensations of the skin could be easily explained and were usually dismissed without a thought. Most likely, it was just a sudden movement of the air, or a shift of your clothing, or nothing at all. Who can say they’ve never felt an itch or a strange touch and absent-mindedly given the area a scratch or rub without a single thought as to the source?\n\nBut, on the other hand, what if one did manage to convince that living person that the strange feelings they experienced were in fact the touch of an unseen spirit, what sort of reaction could be expected? This, friend, is why I have never done so. To do something so intimate, so close to another without their senses warning them of your presence and intent, could not help but frighten the recipient.\n\nAnd frighten her the demon did. When her bedroom finally became still, I sensed the state of her mind when the demon began to touch her. At first, even in the state she had been driven to, she too dismissed the subtle impressions she felt as nothing of concern. Eventually though, came the moment when her mind focused on the frequency of these sensations. She quickly shifted positions, looking for an insect or similar which might be responsible, but finding none. As she settled down once more, she felt the strange touch again, this time on her face, and she could stand no more. She quickly put on a large coat and shoes, ran downstairs, and was out the front door in a moment’s time.\n\nI was initially pleased. It seemed the demon had pushed its gambit too far, and driven the girl away after all. It was possible she wouldn’t return at all, which might make my task easier. If there were any concern and affection left in these people for another, they would not allow the girl to simply disappear without giving chase after some time. She was no small child, but she had not yet reached maturity either, and certainly should not be left to wander alone for any significant time. Every moment spent outside of the house was a boon to me, as it made them more likely to begin to understand how their lives were troubled here, and better elsewhere.\n\nArya could not yet be concerned with such things, and was not immediately even aware of Sara’s departure. She, to my surprise, was the first in the house to reach her breaking point. It took the better part of the day for her to silently gather her courage, to formulate a plan, to wait for her moment to take action. In her decision, she had found her determination, and that determination brought courage. Her world may be crumbling around her, she thought, but there is good that can come of this. Isaac could not be trusted anymore, and Sara was a strong and independent child who would have to be strong until Arya could find a way to help her. But today, there was the plan, and the plan must be completed. Marie must be rescued from this family.\n\n[[How did she plan to rescue Marie?|Did she plan to flee]]\n
//You never saw Sara again?//\n\nIt's true, I did not. I could tell when she spoke to her mother in that last moment in the house, she was utterly convinced that some calamity had befallen them which was entirely due to their presence in this house, and that she would never return. In that way, it pleases me that I never saw her again. It gives me great hope that she escaped this evil, and through that confidence and strength she would be able to move on with her life in a productive and healthy way.\n\nI pray, when the telling of my tale ends shortly, you will tell me I am right, and that Sara has thrived since I last saw her.\n\nBut let us resume the story, here in its final moments, yes?\n\n[[Very well.|What was going on in the house]]\n\n
<<silently>>\n<<remember $ch10reached=true>>\n<<goTo "What do you want to know about them">>\n[[10. Legacy|What do you want to know about them]]\n<<endSilently>>
//This can’t have gone on for very long. How long did things continue this way?//\n\nNo, indeed they could not. Things began to change very rapidly in the house, and in fact the very next day after I embarked on this plan was the last time I saw any of the Markham family.\n\n[[What happened that day?|9]]\n
//Are you trapped here, or are you here by choice? Do you know?//\n\nTrapped may be the best word, yes. I don’t know whether this condition is forced by some external force, so I would not say that I have been bound or imprisoned here, but I do seem to be trapped here, yes. My awareness of the world outside is limited, and without a notion of a physical body, it’s honestly difficult to tell at times how I would even go about departing a given place. What I can say is that the nearest act I can conceive of to leaving a place would be to focus my awareness onto a person who is not in the house, but so far as I can remember, this has never happened. I’ve never been aware of any person, living or not, existing outside of this house.\n\n[[I have another question about your existence.|Existence questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been, as near I can recall, 116 years and perhaps three months since my last confession.\n\n"In all honesty, I can’t be assured that I remember the proper way to do this, but I realize this may be my only opportunity. There is likely no forgiveness for me, as I suppose I’ve done little to merit your grace in the years since my death, but I confess to you now that I feel regret, whole and unrelenting, and finding none in the solitude of my suffering with whom I may share this feeling, I can turn only to you. I cannot expect your forgiveness, and your ears must surely be deaf to my pleas by now, but still I must ask, and hope to find solace in the asking."\n\n[[Proceed.|Title page]]\n
//What did you do to pursuade William?//\n\nWilliam was a delicate case in that it was difficult to motivate him to action of any type. He had almost completely withdrawn by that point, and could hardly be said to be a living being anymore. I don’t believe the demon was attempting to push him any further, because his very presence in that state was an ongoing injury to the family. Inside his mind there was a tranquility unlike anything I had experienced in others, but this calm was in no way comforting. It was a dead calm, a battlefield after the war’s end. There was no turmoil because there was no conflict. He had given up.\n\nWhat message could I relay to him that would incite him to act, but would not drive him to desperation? If I simply told him to leave the home, and he did so, where would he stop? Would he ever be able to find his way back to his family again, or had the demon’s influence driven him too far?\n\nI took another risk here, but one that I hoped would safely remove William from the demon’s influence without separating him from his family. While it had not been there in my time, I had gleaned from the thoughts of others over the years that a small storage building of some sort had been constructed near the back porch, used for the storage of gardening tools and the like. I realize this may sound like a strange solution to the problem at hand, and I admit I was unsure about this plan as well, but I suggested to William that if the family were excluding him, perhaps he should exclude himself as well, and then at least he could be alone. Suggesting to a sound mind that he take up residence in a small storage structure outside of the house would be foolish, to be sure, but William’s was not such a mind, and he was indeed receptive to the notion. He would identify some project, something that required the use of his woodworking tools, and that would provide justification for him spending hours at a stretch in that shed.\n\nI can sense you wondering, what purpose does that serve? It wasn’t merely to remove him from the immediate situation with his family. For reasons which I’ve explained previously may never be clear to me, I am aware only of the interior of the house, and my influence extended no further. From all that I had observed, it seemed that the demon’s limits were the same as my own. It leads one to ponder the significance of such common constructs, does it not? Why should I, as a spirit of no physical form, be constrained to this physical structure? While it had been my home, and I felt no small amount of pride in it, I was similarly pleased to have been able to take ownership of and care for the surrounding property — why, then, did my existence not extend at least that far? What is it about these walls of brick and wood that can dictate the limits of a spirit’s domain? And even more curious, why would such a limit apply to that other creature? Was it too bound to this structure, or to me? \n\nI apologize. I’ve rambled once more. The key point to understand is that so far as I could determine, neither I nor the demon could further affect William if he were outside of the house. That was the best outcome I could see for him in the coming events — I must save the rest of the family, and hope that they would return for him.\n\n[[How did you try to make Sara leave?|How did you try to convince Sara to leave]]\n[[What did you think would convince Isaac?|How did you try to convince Isaac to leave]]\n[[What did you do with Arya?|How did you try to convince Arya to leave]]\n[[Did you attempt anything with Marie?|How did you try to convince Marie to leave]]\n[[How long did this go on?|How long did this tension go on]]\n
//If your ability to interact physically is so limited, how did you use it to communicate with them?//\n\nLet me see what I can remember now. I tried so very many tacks.\n\nI often attempted permutations of the original ploy, wherein I would encourage one or more of the family to investigate a location, where I would then move some conspicuous object. These efforts seemed to grow decreasingly effective with each attempt, as the family began to accept the idea that the house was settling or shifting, and their attention had been drawn because they had been aware, but only subtly, that something had been amiss in that location. Thus I learned I would have to become more creative, and focus keenly on how the family would interpret and dismiss all but the most blatant example of intervention from the spirit domain.\n\nOne strategy I explored early on was taking advantage of situations where I could provide some minor assistance, with the hope that these actions would be seen as intelligent due to the helpful nature of the unexpected event. Unfortunately, this too was easily dismissed as a pleasant happenstance. As an example, in one instance Arya stood washing a large dish of some sort in the kitchen sink, and when she reached for the dishtowel hanging to her side, it fell from its hook at just that moment, into the path of her reaching hand. The result, however, was that she assumed she had brushed the towel, or the breeze of her moving arm had moved it, and she was instead pleased that age had not dulled her reflexes beyond the ability to catch the towel as it fell.\n\nSo it went with a great many things. When the pen you laid inconveniently far away rolls closer, it’s easy to believe that a jostle had caused it to roll, and simple good fortune had led it to roll closer rather than further away. When you’re about to walk out the door without your keys, which is a sufficiently common misstep that even I have learned of it over the years, and they slide off the counter onto the floor with a distinct jangling crash, you may count yourself lucky for the reminder without examining the cause. You probably just laid them on the edge of the counter and forgot to pick them up. It seems logical, and much more likely than the true cause, and I cannot fault a body for accepting the logic conclusion and not pursuing the matter further.\n\nI was greatly pleased to discover the great ease with which I could change the images displayed on the television. Yes, friend, I know what the television is. I have seen them in this house for many years, and at least understand their basic function. The buttons on the remote control were difficult though not impossible for me to activate with the appropriate level of concentration, and the result was generally unexpected for all involved. This never had the desired result, as the blame was placed on faulty devices. Several variations of the control device were discarded and replaced, and eventually the television itself, but at no point did it seem to enter their considerations that someone else was causing these issues, so I forewent any further experimentation in that area.\n\n[[How did you try to affect their thoughts?|What thoughts did you share]]\n[[What kind of results were you seeing?|What results were you seeing]]\n[[Did you have second thoughts at any point?|Did you have any second thoughts]]\n[[For how long did this go on?|How long did this go on]]\n
//Where else have you existed since your death?//\n\nUnless my perceptions have deceived me, I have never departed this residence since before my death. My awareness of my surroundings relies on the observations of the living persons near me, but in every case, their sense have made it clear they have been somewhere within this house. It seems that my existence, in whatever form it has taken, is linked to this place.\n\n[[I have another question about location.|Location questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//Did your plan succeed?//\n\nNot in any way I can claim as my own design. I’m sure I had moved them considerably along the path to belief, but not enough, and at best I would say I had brought serious doubts into their minds about the possibility that something they could not explain was taking place in this home, even if they were not yet willing to contemplate the possibility of a spirit.\n\nAlthough, as fate would have it, the degree of success I had achieved was, in the end, the very thing that brought about a terrible change in the situation.\n\n[[How did the situation change?|How did the situation change]]\n
//What was going on with those still in the house? Were William and Isaac still fighting? Had Arya escaped?//\n\nUnfortunately, events soon took a dark turn within the house.\n\nWilliam and Isaac still struggled at the entry to the sitting room, but the demon had finally mustered the capacity to deal with the events by the front door.\n\nArya hurriedly lifted her bag from the floor, putting the strap over her shoulder once more. Her keys hung from the second small hook in the wall by the front door, and as she retrieved them, they escaped her hand just after clearing the hook. It was apparent to me immediately that the demon’s stronger influence extended to physical manipulation, as the keys took an entirely unexplainable trajectory, as if flung by an unseen hand into an arcing path that carried it past the sitting room entry, into the kitchen. They landed, in fact, not more than a full pace behind you.\n\n[[Was that just to delay her?|Was it just to delay her]]\n[[Was she able to retrieve them?|Did Arya retrieve her keys]]\n
//Who opened the door?//\n\nActually, no one even directly registered the door opening, and the cry that came through it also very nearly escaped their notice.\n\n“DAD, WHAT THE HELL?”\n\nIsaac and William had no time to acknowledge the new voice, but Arya spun to face the front door. Sara stood there in the now-open doorway, eyes wide in horror as she watched the struggle before her. I was not yet aware of her directly, as she was still just outside the house proper, but I witnessed her arrival through Arya.\n\nSara’s sudden arrival shook Arya out of her own hesitation. There was no other course now. They had to escape this place. Arya spoke with urgency now; the demon’s attention was elsewhere, and her determination was building once more.\n\n“Honey, something’s wrong with your father. We have to leave and I need you to help me. Take Marie and go wait for me by the car. I’ll be right out to get you.”\n\nIn her words, I saw the moment where I might still be able to assist them. I waited for my opportunity, when Sara would cross the threshold of the house and I might be able to reach out to her before the demon could influence her. As Arya moved to hand the frightened child over to her, Sara stepped into the house, and I put all my remaining focus into her. Just as I had tried to tell her when she doubted the source of her troubles before, I told her once more — it was this place, this house. She must believe it. When I felt her mind return to that thought, I hoped she would understand my last request of her. I begged her, I suppose would be the best way to express it, with all the force my spirit could muster, “tell her.”\n\nHere, the girl’s belief in matters that she could not understand may have helped them all, because she accepted my message without concern for where the urge had come from. Her eyes opened wide, literally and in figurative terms, and she spoke firmly as she gathered Marie up in a bundle in her arms.\n\n“It’s not dad. It’s this house, mom. You know what I mean. We have to leave. So does dad.”\n\nIt is not my place to do so, as I have nothing that could be described as a significant connection to Sara, but I was proud of her then. She spoke confidently. She knew what needed to be done, even if she could not explain it, and once she told her mother and took Marie, she stepped back out of the house. She did not yet move toward the car as instructed, understandably, as she wished to see events unfold within the house, but she was not willing to be within those walls ever again. She was beyond the demon’s influence, as best I could tell, as was Marie. Here, finally, was hope.\n\nThis was the last I saw of Sara, and it is the image I carry of her.\n\n[[You never saw Sara again?|You never saw Sara again]]\n[[What was going on in the rest of the house?|What was going on in the house]]\n\n\n
//What was the rest of the family’s reaction when they realized William hadn’t come upstairs?//\n\nIt was not an easy moment, for them or for me, to be honest. It is not my place, but after spending so much time together and developing such a close connection with each of them, it was troubling to me as well. None of them knew what to say or how to proceed after that moment. Sara had looked up at her brother, and her sadness was plan on her face. He met her eyes, and could only shake his head and shrug slightly, answering Sara’s implicit question with the only answer he could give: no, he did not understand how things had gotten the way they were either.\n\nArya’s arms were folded across her chest, and one hand had risen to cover her mouth. She squeezed her eyes tight, then turned and walked back to her bedroom, closing the door behind her. I don’t know enough about you to guess whether you’ve learned this in your own life, but I have found that when two people have committed themselves to each other and dedicated time to each other, they will hold themselves responsible, whether knowingly or not, for the behavior of their counterpart. When one has chosen a person as their companion in life, the opinion of others can feel as though it applies equally to both people. It is somewhat similar to the experience of enthusiastically recommending a particular book to someone, only to discover that they found it lacking or disappointing, thereby putting not just the book but your judgment and taste in question as well.\n\nSo it was when Arya realized William had not come. At any other time in her relationship with William, she would have assumed that his absence from the situation upstairs would indicate he was outside of the house, or otherwise indisposed. Now, she couldn’t bear to go downstairs and check. Somehow, after the events of the preceding weeks, she had little doubt that she would find him there, silently staring at her like a trespasser in the home they had chosen together.\n\n[[What was your reaction?|What was your reaction]]\n[[That must have had consequences.|That must have had consequences]]\n\n
You relayed Samuel's story to the Markhams, along with the recommendation that they attempt to cleanse the house. Neither Arya nor Isaac are particularly religious people, but hearing of Samuel and the other entity was enough to convince them that a spiritual solution might be best.\n\nIn the ensuing months, spiritual leaders of many faiths and traditions were invited to the house. The Markhams still refuse to this day to enter the house, but they allowed others to enter as long as they worked in groups.\n\nPrayers have been said, rituals have been performed, and those who claim to have gifts similar to your own have been summoned to attempt contact with any lingering spirits. So far, none of those who have been allowed into the house have reported any unusual events. The Markhams are holding on to the property, still not entirely convinced that the house is safe but not yet ready to take any further action. Time will tell what becomes of the Markham house.\n\n<<display "Samuel's legacy">>\n\n\n[[Proceed|End]]\n
//What did you do with this knowledge?//\n\nIt was clear to me that if there were some chance, however small, to establish a line of communication with another soul, then that must be the focus of all my endeavors. Aside from what I personally stood to gain from being able to interact in some way with another soul, I could very well be the key that proves the existence of a world beyond death. Of all the questions humanity strove to answer through the ages, this was one of the greatest, the most fundamental and yet unknowable, and here I found myself in the position to potentially answer that question for mankind. It may sound as if my vanity is taking the fore here, but I truly felt this was a great service I could provide, and give meaning to this existence I’ve been struggling with for so long. Perhaps the stories of lingering spirits had some truth to them, and were based on tales of other departed souls in similar situations to my own, who had tried and failed in similar endeavors.\n\nThere were several incidents such as the ones I described, where it seemed I was able to lead a person to think of something in particular, and possibly even to cause a slight degree of movement in some small object, but all were of the sort that a rational mind could still easily dismiss as coincidence or lively imagination. It was evident that if I were going to forge a connection that could not be rationally dismissed, the event would need to be carefully conceived and executed to appear to be an intentional act on the part of some non-evident person or persons, and that the resulting interest in solving the underlying mystery would leave them more receptive to the idea that some non-physical presence was in fact interacting with them.\n\nSo at last we come to it - what did I do? I do tend to ramble, I realize. It has been so very long since I could speak, for lack of a better term, in such detail and clarity with another soul. To lay my emotions bare to you, new friend, I have been terribly lonely, and with every moment of these interactions I realize ever more clearly how much I have missed it.\n\nBut I digress, yet again. I do apologize. Back to the matter at hand.\n\nAt the end of considerable debate on these events, I came to realize that it would be difficult to convince such logical people that another intelligent spirit sought contact with them when the only tools at my disposal were vague suggestions and nearly-imperceptible motion. What was required was some confluence of events that would leave at least some doubt in their minds that all could be explained away in some rational way.\n\nI will not bother you with the preparations, but only the execution of the final design. On an evening when all those in the home, all except little Marie, were yet awake but growing weary. I had found the drowsy mind to be more easily suggestible. In each of their minds, I placed the same notion, in the strongest and purest form I could muster — what is happening in the dining room?\n\nWilliam was the first to be persuaded. He’d been here at the kitchen table, which meant he shared a wall with the dining room, but could not see any portion of it. I suspected that as the self-appointed protector of the house and its inhabitants, his instincts would suggest to him that he had sensed some danger or irregularity in his home after dark, and that would drive him to ensure that all was well.\n\nArya was the next, as she too was still going about her business at her desk, which at the time was in the alcove looking out on the veranda. As I had hoped, once she noticed that someone else had also moved to investigate the dining room, she also became curious, and moved to join William.\n\nIsaac, upstairs in the southeast bedroom, the one with the fireplace, was more difficult. It was past Marie’s bedtime and he was still growing accustomed to his role as the girl’s only full-time caretaker, which left him hesitant to leave her, even briefly. His reluctance was useful, however, because when he did leave, he walked quickly, and caught the attention of Sara. I had begun to wonder whether I could successfully motivate her to investigate, but the thought had taken hold, and when she saw Isaac rush to the stairs and heard her parents beginning to converse downstairs in puzzled tones, she too could not help but join the others.\n\nIn the dining room, William and Arya were looking all about the room. He was checking the windows, as she looked about the floor for anything that might have fallen. Isaac asked what was happening just as Sara entered, and they all slowly came to a consensus opinion that all had sensed something amiss in this room, yet none of them could explain exactly what had led them to that impression.\n\nNow, I claimed earlier that I would not bore you with the preparations, but there is one aspect I must explain, as it will seem strange otherwise. When the Markhams were here, this was a house of books, everywhere books. They had workmen install several of the shelves you see throughout the house, and further, they had many freestanding sets of shelves, filled to capacity with books, sometimes two deep or stacked atop each other. I realized early on in this process that these books could be a potential avenue for communication if I could lead someone to the proper words, whether through physical motion or suggestion. I saw an opportunity, and spent many days working toward realizing it, focusing whenever possible on nudging two particular books out of alignment.\n\nOne was light, an aged little volume, a paperback I believe they’re properly called, and was in a section of the dining room bookshelves that was rarely disturbed. Each day, I could incrementally move it further from its proper location, further out toward the edge of its narrow shelf.\n\nThe other was more troublesome, large and unstable. The binding was a strange series of loops of some sort, but it seemed the cover was unusually smooth, as it slid much more easily than expected. It soon also hung precariously on the verge of slipping free.\n\nAnd so, as the family gathered to investigate the dining room that night, I set my focus on each of those books in turn, hoping I had left them sufficiently close to the necessary thresholds. When the large, smooth book fell, it made a loud slap on the wooden floor, giving the family a considerable start, but also drawing their attention toward the shelves. As they watched, I gave the smaller book its final prodding, and it too slipped free and tumbled to the floor. When it struck, a startled cry escaped Arya, and they all now stared towards the shelves with defensive postures and uneasy eyes, as if they expected a cascade of falling books to follow. Considering the circumstance, that was not an unreasonable assumption, but I had no further actions in mind, and the remaining books stayed in their places.\n\nAs the initial tension faded, William knelt to lift the smaller book, while Sara picked up the larger one. Fortunately for me, she took the time to note the titles of each book. Her face rose into a slight grin, and she laughed gently.\n\n“Hey dad,” she said, turning the book she held and showing him the cover of an academic essay of some sort whose full titling escapes me now, but which began with the phrase "Hello - Is Anybody Listening?"\n\nWilliam looked at the book in his hands, and he too took on a nervous smile as he turned it to show the others a book entitled __What Do You Say After You Say Hello?__\n\n\n[[What did you hope would happen?|What did you hope would happen]]\n[[How did they react?|How did they react]]\n
//How did their reaction affect you? What did you decide to do?//\n\nIt wasn’t what I had wished, but neither had it been a failure. I saw that I had made some small progress, and there was every chance that continued efforts on my part could lead to a significant outcome. Despite the admittedly modest nature of the success I’d achieved, I was thrilled. For a lifetime I had resigned myself to my solitude, and now it seems I might one day speak once more with other living souls.\n\nAnd yet now, here we are, you and I, having discourse the likes of which I could not have dreamed possible a few years ago. I suppose there’s some irony in achieving the very thing I had longed for in such a strange way. It pains me to say that as much as I may enjoy this, I suspect it has not been worth the cost.\n\nI decided that even if it became my only pursuit, I would dedicate myself entirely to establishing contact with these people, and in so doing prove to the living in whatever way I could that my existence beyond death, whatever it was, was a reality.\n\n[[I see. So how did you proceed?|4]]\n
//How did the situation change?//\n\nAs I mentioned, Sara seemed to be moving the furthest toward accepting my existence. I’d seen her reading on her computer about a great many topics in what I soon learned was referred to as the “paranormal.” She never mentioned the possibility to anyone else, at least no one else in the house so far as I observed, but the notion had taken root, and she was learning what she could about such matters.\n\nI had, in fact, discovered her at times reclining on her bed, immobile, making a deliberate attempt to open her mind to the possibility of a ghostly presence. Happily, this did indeed seem to have some effect, as I found her more easily influenced when she was in the state. It took near to no effort on my part to move her attention to a certain object, or place, or topic, and at times it was as if I had as much control over her focus as she did. This realization would have great significance later in the affair, and I will return to this in time.\n\nThere came an evening when Sara’s willingness to consider an unseen presence reached a turning point. I don’t know how serious she was in her intent, but she had decided in the privacy of her bedroom that the most direct way to settle the question of a spirit in her home might be to find a quiet moment, open her mind to the possibility, and simply ask. Hers was the northwest bedroom, what in my time would have been the servant’s quarters, though as I had lived alone for most of my time in the house, I had not employed a domestic. If you have not seen it, that room still houses its own staircases intended for use by the servants; as you enter the room, a door on your left leads to a staircase down to the kitchen, and the door at your right leads up to the attic space. The room itself was therefore somewhat smaller than the others, though the double walls of the stairway spaces insulated it from the rest of the upstairs, something Sara considered a feature when listening to music or conversing on the telephone.\n\nLate that evening, when all the house was quiet and doubly-so in Sara’s room, she had sat for some time, head in hands, watching scenes of some sort played out on her computer which showed purported sightings of spirits and unexplained activities. What I felt in her was most akin to disappointment. She knew, in the way that one knows things and states them publicly, that ghosts were not reality, and that her fascination with them was beneath her maturity. One constant I’ve observed throughout my existence is the disdain of the adolescent for childish things, and the disappointment she felt was in herself, for her inability to move past being startled by each bump in the night and watching at all times for movements in the shadows. In moments like these, my will was tested, as it was evident my endeavors were bringing about such negative emotions in this family, about whom I had genuinely grown to care. In the darker areas of her computer screen, I could see her reflection from time to time through her eyes, and the weariness I saw there was nearly enough to dissuade me from attempting contact through her any further.\n\nBut as my resolve was weakening, there came a moment that filled me with joy, an exhilaration of such magnitude I had nearly forgotten could exist. She moved quickly, as if losing patience in a heated argument, pushing her computer away and grabbing a small tube from among the various trinkets scattered around the desktop. Forgive me, but I don’t believe I ever managed to seize upon the name of this item, though I understood from observing its usage that it was some sort of balm or ointment applied only to the lips. I sense you understand what I’m speaking of, so that will give you an image to hold in your mind. She took the tube and placed it, standing vertically, on the desk in front her, no further than the distance from your eyes to your hands at this very moment, and stared at it impatiently, even angrily. She breathed deeply for a moment, and I could feel her mustering herself to act, trying to ignore the part of the mind that warns one away from taking actions that might result in embarrassment. She knew she was alone, or at least that there were no other living souls in the room with her, as you and I know quite well she was not actually alone, yet still she could not resist the urge to look all around the room before proceeding.\n\n“Okay,” she had spoken alone, quietly but not in a whisper, as though clearly intending to be heard. “Whatever you are, if you’re here now, please move this chapstick.” Ah! That’s what it was. Chapstick. I do remember after all. So she then sat back in her chair, taking effort not to jostle the desk or move her feet, and even directing her breath to the side a bit.\n\nMy moment had finally arrived. I had received my invitation to demonstrate my existence, immediately upon request, in a manner which would leave little doubt in her mind. This would be the moment that both she and I would remember for however long our existences may last. If fortune was with me, this would be a moment written of, spoken of at length, for the rest of humanity’s existence, the moment the question of life beyond the physical had been answered. All she had to do was believe, just this once, and not give up. What if the next time, she could provide some small items with writing on them, which I could move to indicate my thoughts, or responses to questions? Even a rudimentary system of moving one object for yes and another for no could allow such a staggering degree of conversation to occur, considering the circumstances involved, that my mind raced once more with the possibilities.\n\nBut here at the moment where my plan should come to fruition, I hesitated. What effect would this have on the girl? What if her reaction was not what I intended, and in the light of day, outside the home where he could provide reassurance, would she decide she had imagined the affair, and resolve to pay no more mind to talk of spirits? Worse still, what if her reaction was entirely as I hoped, but others could not be convinced? Would she be taken as mad, or branded a liar or a fool? What manner of suffering might I be dooming this girl to?\n\nI was aware by then, having witnessed the various recordings and imagery than can be captured and reproduced by modern electrical devices, that I could perhaps provide evidence that could be displayed repeatedly, whenever needed, but I was also aware of the manipulations those same devices are capable of. Would any evidence I provided be dismissed as a charade, or an elaborate hoax on Sara’s part to gain money or notoriety?\n\nI had to believe that what I was doing would, in the end, be for the best. I did not enjoy the notion of potentially bringing suffering into the girl’s life, but I reasoned that if the tide of disbelief she encountered rose too quickly and powerfully, she could abandon this pursuit, and perhaps I would as well. She was young yet, strong and resilient even if she did not believe herself to be so, and she could find her way to a normal life if the road I set before her became too much to bear.\n\nIn all my years, only a handful of sights have been etched into my mind’s eye so deeply that time will never wear them smooth. One of them, as clear now as it was that night, is the image of Sara’s face, reflected in the now-dark display surface of her computer, in the brief moment before she stumbled back from the desk. She was a mask of terror, abject terror, as the tube before her suddenly tipped once, rocked back, then fell forward onto the desk. She jumped back instinctively, disregarding the chair beneath her, and as she stepped backward it tipped beneath her, sending her tumbling. She scrambled like cornered prey to find her feet. Her mind was nearly empty, as her rational mind yielded to instincts of self-preservation. Something was in the room with her, something that should not be, could not be, and it was too overwhelming. As she regained her feet, she ran for the door and burst out into the upstairs hall. Her flight took her downstairs into the main sitting room, where she turned on all three available lamps, sat in the oversize upholstered tan chair in the corner, pulled her knees up to her chin and wrapper her arms tight around them. She sat their, trembling and struggling to understand what had happened.\n\nI was horrified. Heartbroken. What had I done to this girl, who had no quarrel with me? I remained connected to her for a time, and shared her fear as I attempted to soothe her mind with thoughts of safety and calm, but to little avail. To be honest, I was no more sure of her safety than she was. At that moment, I too was afraid, something I had not experienced in so long I had nearly forgotten the experience. My uncertainty was every bit as pronounced as her own, for you see my new friend, in my moment of hesitation, when I was not sure of my course, I had lost control of the situation. As we sat there together, so to speak, Sara and I both shared the same thought.\n\nI did not move that chapstick.\n\n[[Neither of you moved it?|Neither of you moved it]]\n[[What are you saying happened?|What are you saying]]\n
//What was happening to Arya?//\n\nIn Arya’s mind there was always the feeling of isolation. I had never noticed any such feelings before, not more so than any person may experience from time to time, but in short order it became a constant factor in her thoughts. I would hear her on the phone with her family, and where the topic might commonly have been the happenings of their respective families or of cultural matters, conversation would instead drift to the distance between them, or how long it had been since they had traveled to one of their homes. \n\nShe and William had always had a comfortable style of interaction in the time I knew them, each one content to pursue their own interests for hours at a time before reconvening later on to discuss whatever matters they pleased during mealtimes and before sleeping. Once these thoughts took hold, she began to cultivate a quiet resentment of this practice, as it began to feel like another way she was being left alone, isolated. Each time her daughter came home and closed herself up in her room instead of lingering downstairs, it would no longer be dismissed as the typical behavior of a girl her age, exploring her independent nature. Here too she began to resent the people she loved leaving her alone so often, and worse, to view their dependence on her as an increasing burden, a symptom of a one-sided relationship where her emotions were disregarded.\n\nShe continued in her normal routine and in her role as the family’s core, but with every day that passed, the part of her that happily carried that burden grew more weary, and I feared the day would come when she would decide to set that burden down.\n\n[[What about William?|What was it doing to William]]\n[[What effect did it have on Isaac?|What was it doing to Isaac]]\n[[What was it doing to Sara?|What was it doing to Sara]]\n[[Was it even affecting Marie?|What was it doing to Marie]]\n[[What effect was this having on the family?|How did the family react]]\n
//Did the other entity realize what you were doing?//\n\nNot for a long while, no, and this may be the only reason I was successful at all. Perhaps the demon thought I had given up, or decided to take part in the torment of the family. It might not have even bothered to consider my absence — once I’d stopped resisting its plans, it may not have cared at all what became of whoever had been opposing it. So far as I could tell, it continued to foment mistrust and fear in the family, apparently to drive them further apart.\n\n[[What did you to to try to convince them to leave?|How did you try to convince them to leave]]\n
//What effect did this have on the family? How did they react?//\n\nI suspect their reaction was much as the other spirit had hoped, by which I mean the direct effects were entirely obscured to all the family, but the indirect effects were sowing discord most effectively. The thoughts that had been placed in their minds changed their behavior in innumerable ways.\n\nWithin just days, William was effectively unapproachable. His frustration grew unchecked, and when approached to perform even the simplest task, he complained at length before proceeding, or simply refused outright. His family soon concluded he must be under some great stress he did not wish to discuss, and they began making efforts to avoid asking anything of him, and in short order, they were avoiding him entirely.\n\nSimilarly, Sara desired little interaction with her family. She suspected that they were merely humoring her, while quietly dismissing anything she said afterward. Of course, none of the family ever expressed any such feelings, but Sara had already accepted their derision as fact, and so every interaction in which they did not treat her like a naive child only illustrated their deception, and soon enough she felt only resentment for them all and limited her dealings with them as much as possible.\n\nIsaac’s thoughts of failure became consuming, and some days the only movements he made were to deal with the immediate needs of Marie. The child was still so young as to sleep more than half the day and night, and whenever she slept, so did he. Hygiene was of little interest, and he rarely left the house at all. When he cared for Marie, he did so in a perfunctory manner, showing little emotion, which he had learned as a defense to Marie’s constant requests for her mother. If she did not understand now why her mother was not there, then she was not going to understand until she had matured, so what choice could he see but to ignore, to endure? He had asked her, begged her, and commanded her angrily not to ask again, but to no avail, as each attempt only brought more tears. Marie continued to suffer in her own way, sure that there was a fundamental emptiness in her life that nothing would fill, and Isaac accepted in time that he could not lessen the child’s sadness, or even distract her from it for more than a few moments, and soon enough he had stopped trying.\n\nThe horrid plan that had been enacted here by the other spirit was once again shown to be of a cruel intellect when I considered what had become of poor Arya. As the rest of the family was driven further apart, Arya’s feelings of isolation threatened to consume all the light within her. The fear within her, of being alone and unnecessary, disconnected from anyone who cared for her, began to play out around her in terms she could not dispute. Her sitting room, her dining room, and her bedroom were all devoid of the conversations that had once filled them with friendly voices and warm feelings. While all others in the house sought to separate themselves, from their family and from the world, Arya wished for nothing more than even the simplest form of friendly interaction, some reminder than she was needed, that she was appreciated. She needed to know that she was remembered. And each day, everywhere she looked, she saw none of it. Whenever she was not seeking a connection with some other member of the family, she would often be found on the phone, talking to those distant friends. She spoke quickly and quietly, almost always in that foreign tongue, and there was never a smile.\n\nIt’s staggering, to my own mind anyway, the damage wrought by such base ideas, not even full thoughts but rather slivers of thoughts.\n\nIt brings to mind the story of a man I once knew, though I don't want to delay you further if you wish to focus on the Markhams.\n\n[[Tell me about him.|Tell me about him]]\n[[Let's stay on topic for the time being.|Let's stay on topic]]\n\n
//How do you mean, the situation escalated? Did the other spirit change its behavior?//\n\nI mean precisely that. The beast, or whatever it was, shifted its tactics both suddenly and significantly. I don’t know if it was a reaction to my efforts, or if driving the family away from each other had just been the first step in a larger plan, but in either case, the disruptive thoughts I encountered in the minds of the Markhams all changed without warning on the same day.\n\n[[What were the effects on Arya?|How did it escalate with Arya]]\n[[What happened with William?|How did it escalate with William]]\n[[What was happening with Isaac?|How did it escalate with Isaac]]\n[[Did the situation get worse with Marie?|How did it escalate with Marie]]\n[[What changed with Sara?|How did it escalate with Sara]]\n
//Forgive me if this sounds flippant, but can you read minds?//\n\nThere are few questions you could ask me that I would find inappropriate. We can both readily agree that we are delving into extraordinary matters here, and as such, a frank discussion is in our best interests. A healthy curiosity is to be encouraged, I believe.\n\nI wouldn’t say that I can read thoughts, as such. What I sense is not so clear, usually more of a sense of which directions a person’s thoughts may be moving.\n\nOne way to understand it would be, if someone should bind your eyes and place you in a river flow, you would be hard pressed to describe the water, but you could likely tell me the direction of the flow. That will give you some notion of how I experience the thoughts of the living, but to extend the metaphor, I am immersed in a dozen or more streams at each moment, trying to determine which way each one flows. I might feel pulled in the direction of a book in which the text is difficult to make out, then drawn toward a lamp, then back to the book, where the words form vague ideas in my mind.\n\n[[I have another question about your awareness.|Awareness questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n\n
//Do you experience the normal passage of time?//\n\nI believe so. Whenever I’ve experienced the thoughts of those around me, the events seem to take place at a pace comparable to what I would expect if I were a living person acting in their place.\n\n[[I have another question about your existence.|Existence questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//How would you describe your existence, in a practical sense?//\n\nIt will be difficult to describe, but I will attempt to explain. My thoughts remain intact, and as best I can recall they are of similar disposition and demeanor as they were in life. My knowledge and learning seem to be just as they were, and my recollections of specific events seems to function the same as it ever did. Whether I attempt to bring up memories of my life or of events that occurred in the time since, I seem to have equal success in both pursuits.\n\nI know I must seem terribly quaint to an audience living in such times as you do, but I am aware of the general scientific thinkings surrounding the organ of the brain and the biological functioning of such things, and I cannot explain the discrepancy between those data and my own experience. All I can say on the subject is that to my knowledge I have no biological reality at all, and yet I am entirely able to continue thinking, to form memories, and to call up images in my mind’s eye.\n\nOther aspects of physical reality have faded away, and I cannot say I miss many of them. I was never particularly excited by gastronomic pursuits, so it has not troubled me that hunger and thirst are but dim memories now, as are the baser activities one might associate with those processes.\n\nThe greatest change in adjusting to this existence is that I have none of the physical senses to which you are accustomed. I have neither seen nor heard since my death. I taste and smell nothing, nor have I experienced touch in this place. I do not have a sense of the world. I do not know which way is up, or in which direction I am oriented. There is neither light nor dark, loudness nor quiet, hot or cold.\n\nWhat there is, is thought. I sense the presence of other entities, other thinking minds, and if I focus on them, I seem to coexist with them, after a fashion. When in this state, our minds mingle to some degree, and I can experience some of the thoughts of that person. When I do so, it’s like a waking dream, where I see and hear and feel, but only specific important stimulations are noteworthy, while the rest grows indistinct and fades into the nothingness. I know what that person sees, and hears, and often what they think and feel at that moment. Strong emotions can drift across the veil into my own mind, and I find myself reacting viscerally to imagined foes that exist only in the mind of the living person.\n\nSo this is my day to day existence. Without the need for sustenance or rest or the physical restraint of a body that has its own specific requirements for survival, my mind is open to explore itself, and when other minds are nearby, they become a conduit through which I can experience the living world.\n\n[[I have another question about your existence.|Existence questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//So what years do you remember since your death?//\n\nIt’s hard to say, precisely. I don’t have much of a sense of time, as my awareness seems to come largely from sharing the observations of the living persons near me. I know there have been extended periods when I shared this place with one or more people, observing their lives and watching how they see the world, and I have noticed that when a new group of people came to live here, their knowledge of the world seems to reflect significant changes, enough so that I can only surmise some significant period of time passed between the previous period of interaction and the more recent one.\n\nAt times I have been very aware of the living world, keeping track of events both local and on a greater scale and observing the daily lives of the people who I had come into contact with. Other periods have been defined by a detachment from the living world, in which I denied any involvement in the affairs of the living, so as you would suspect, my knowledge of those periods is essentially nil.\n\n[[I have another question about time.|Time questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//If you don't mind, I have a question before we continue.//\n\nOf course, I'd be happy to help wherever I can.\n\n\n\n//(You ask a question about...)//\n[[Time|Time questions]]\n[[Location|Location questions]]\n[[Other Entities|Entity questions]]\n[[The Afterlife|Afterlife questions]]\n[[Existence|Existence questions]]\n[[Awareness|Awareness questions]]\n\n[[Resume the conversation.|Side thread exit]]\n
//Do you know why you’re still here? Is it a choice? Could you leave this place?//\n\nIt is assuredly not a choice. In the first place, finding myself here was a tremendous shock to me, though I suppose that much is plain.\n\nLeaving presents the troubling question of what awaits me beyond this situation. Most troubling, perhaps, is the possibility that the answer is nothing at all. Maybe this, for whatever reason, is all that remains for me, and should I leave this place, I will pass from existence into the abyss. If something does await me, who is to say it will be preferable to this place? I may lament the loneliness I’ve endured at times, but what if the next stop for me is the pit itself? If only Hell awaits, then I will happily embrace the isolation of whatever one might call this existence.\n\nThat said, I have at times found myself so maddened with the loneliness of this place that I have attempted to depart. I have focused my thoughts intently on any place that is not here, and I have clung with the desperate fingers of my mind to each person who walked out the door, but to no avail. This is the place where my reality is defined, and this is where I must remain, at least for now.\n\n[[What do you know about the family who lived here?|What do you know of the family]]\n
//How did you help William?//\n\nRegarding William, he had been what I understand is now considered a traditional or “old-fashioned” gentlemen in terms of his role in the family. Now do not misunderstand me — he respected Arya, or at least he had in better times, and they consulted at length on the decisions that affected their home. That said, he very much considered himself to be the head of the household, less as an expression of authority though and more as a responsibility that he bore to them.\n\nIn their home, this was how he defined himself. When he checked all around the house each night to make sure the doors and windows were locked, that the unneeded lights were extinguished and each member of the family was accounted for, he was their protector. Whether he was reviewing accounts and paying expenses, or repairing a piece of furniture or some bit of machinery, it always instilled in him the invigorating mix of responsibility and affection that came from performing necessary duties for his family. Each worry, each menial obstacle he could remove from their paths would free them up for more satisfying pursuits, and that suited him.\n\nAnd so it was that when the voice whispered in his ear that these efforts were a ceaseless burden that threatened to overtake his entire life, it soured the joy for him. Where once each task had reminded him of all the ways he could help his family, now he could not help but fixate upon the idea that no matter how he may help them, they would simply want more, until eventually he would serve no purpose but to act at beck and call, a servant in the house of the ungrateful needy.\n\nFor him, my plan was to restore that sense of work done in the pursuit of larger goals. I would push his mind as best I could toward thoughts of achievement. Not his own achievements, mind you, but those of his family. When he begrudgingly moved to take care of some trivial household need, and I would feel the resentment and anger begin to swell, I would remind him of all his family had accomplished. When Arya needed his assistance in the kitchen, I asked him to remember her achievements, and his mind would wander to her accomplishments in her work, or to her warmth and dedication as a mother. When Isaac asked his assistance in his search for employment, he remembered how proud he had been of his son, taking care of Marie and her mother while completing his higher education, and now working so hard to continue caring for the girl while attempting to begin a new life of his own.\n\nThe influence of the other was strong, and I could not bring William back completely from his resentment, but when he thought of all his family could accomplish with his help, the time spent on those tasks was somehow easier to bear, and perhaps it wasn’t so bad to be needed so often by one’s own family.\n\n[[What did you do for Arya?|What did you do to help Arya]]\n[[What of Isaac?|What did you do to help Isaac]]\n[[What did you attempt with Sara?|What did you do to help Sara]]\n[[What could you do for Marie?|What did you do to help Marie]]\n
//What kind of thoughts did you try to share with them? Were they specific ideas, or just emotions?//\n\nThere was always one notion which ran like a current through all of my efforts, whenever I was sharing my thoughts with one of the family. At all times, I attempted to convey the belief that there was someone else in the house. I knew it would never be enough to convince them of my presence, but I hoped it would introduce sufficient doubt to enhance my other efforts.\n\nThere’s a word I have studiously avoided to this point in our exchanges. I have done so deliberately. It feels to me somehow frivolous and belittling, but I came to understand at this point in my interactions with the Markhams that I must accept the vocabulary that would best convey the intended message to them. Whether I wished to think of myself in such terms or not, I was forced to concede that I would most clearly be described as a ghost. This became the second of the thoughts I attempted to impress upon them at every opportunity — an interest in the possibility of ghosts, in the search for them, in purported visitations and interactions with them, in their form and purpose. In short, I wished to instill in each mind a deep and persistent curiosity in whatever I may be.c\n\nAs far as specific thoughts, I admit I spent a great deal of time experimenting with ultimately fruitless endeavors.\n\nI initially focused on the simple shifts in behavior that I could induce, things like the original incident with William and his music. This was effective in the sense that I could fairly frequently succeed in provoking certain decisions and actions, but in a larger sense it did not help me to achieve any of my goals. I could typically only succeed in these ventures when I influenced a behavior that the person in question was not paying much of their attention to, something they did without thinking. As a result, even if they did what I suggested to them, they did not realize why, and never considered whether some external will had changed their behavior. It was an interesting effect, but not particularly useful.\n\nI found the best results came when I gave them vague impressions of something strange going on and someone unaccounted for being present, and I hoped my other efforts would be made more effective by this underlying current of unease.\n\n[[What physical interactions did you attempt?|What physical actions did you take]]\n[[What kind of results were you seeing?|What results were you seeing]]\n[[Did you have second thoughts at any point?|Did you have any second thoughts]]\n[[For how long did this go on?|How long did this go on]]\n
<<silently>>\n<<remember $ch5reached=true>>\n<<goTo "Did your plan succeed">>\n[[5. Incident|Did your plan succeed]]\n<<endSilently>>
<<silently>>\n<<remember $ch9reached=true>>\n<<goTo "What happened on that day">>\n[[9. Crisis|What happened on that day]]\n<<endSilently>>
//What did you attempt with Sara?//\n\nI did not appreciate at first how great a challenge Sara would be. I should have anticipated difficulties. There are times when I grow weary, if such a word means anything in my case anymore, of identifying my many missteps.\n\nAll things being equal, if the meddling presence had come unbidden into this house and begun pursuing its harmful agenda with its thoughts, Sara would have had a difficult time defending herself. A child of her age, just barely adolescent, was already a fragile creature when one considers their emotions and self-perception. One of the greatest concerns in life at all times was the perception of others, and it was of the utmost importance to present oneself as always being comfortable, in control, never taken by surprise. To be taken off guard or caught on one’s heels was a sure sign of inexperience, and such a failing was the surest sign of a child. Could there be any greater sin that to be young and innocent?\n\nOh, my friend, look now at my foolhardy words. I distance myself from the attitudes of youth, as if I have the right to speak against them, as if any of us do. Even in death my vanity wishes to convince my pride that I am above such childish concerns. We all feel that urge, do we not? To be perceived as wise, worldly, unflappable? Why, then, would I be compelled to portray myself to you as an enlightened soul who has transcended these artifices? The only explanation I can muster is that I seek to bolster your estimation of my wisdom, and if that is the case, does that not prove that I am guilty of exactly the folly of which I accuse the young?\n\nBack to the matter at hand, as I said, Sara’s burden would have been difficult to bear in any case, but her conflicting feelings were being fueled by the memory of the incident with her chapstick. She tried to reason it away, to dismiss it as coincidence or her eyes betraying her, or to convince herself she had drifted into sleep at her desk, and the entire incident had been the work of her half-conscious mind attempting to make sense of incidents half-observed and poorly-understood. The explanation which was simplest, which was the easiest to accept as reality, was that she had been wrong, or barely conscious, or just seeing things that were not there. While comforting in a sense, allowing her to avoid the idea of unseen spirits lingering nearby, out of view but watching and listening, the price of such a belief was that it was difficult to disagree with the perception that she was, on some fundamental level, a fool. She’d allowed a single moment of unexplained activity to lead her deep into researching the paranormal, believing in things she knew were childish, silly notions.\n\nOnce Sara began to accept that all those around her thought her a fool, she too began to isolate herself from her family, and I gathered from her thoughts and what I could understand from her tempestuous moods that she had largely withdrawn from her friends as well. If you believe everyone to be judging you harshly and believing you feeble-minded, and you cannot prove yourself otherwise, would you not simply avoid interaction with others entirely? To me, this reaction was easily understood, an entirely reasonable course to take.\n\nSadly, if her reaction was such an appropriate response to the situation, what course was left to me in my attempts to bring the family together and repair the damage done by the other spirit? What would be the opposing sentiment to being thought a fool? Should I attempt to convince her that people considered her wise instead? Would the damage to her spirit not be just as severe if I somehow managed to convince her of her great wisdom, superior to that of those around her? If the appropriate influence lay somewhere between the two extremes, wherein she must consider herself neither a fool nor a sage, how then does one find the proper balance? Would it even be possible to perform such a delicate mental maneuver when opposed by a force which works only to place one thought, simple and unrelentingly morose, in the girl’s mind? It was as if I’d been asked to safeguard the girl’s traversal across a narrow bridge, and where I was responsible for the careful maintenance of her balance, the other presence was like a strong wind blowing indiscriminately. \n\nI concluded that I would be unlikely to succeed in this task, but in so doing I was forced to acknowledge that I was utterly lost in the search for a way to help the one person my actions had most directly and immediately harmed. She doubted everyone and everything, even her own mind, at a time when the support of others was vital. In time, I arrived at a solution which I cannot with any confidence was a wise choice in light of the events that had led to the situation at hand, but desperation demanded that I take action, and I did not see another option with significant odds of success.\n\nI began trying to contact her directly.\n\n[[You tried contacting Sara again?|You tried contacting Sara again]]\n[[What did you do for Arya?|What did you do to help Arya]]\n[[How did you help William?|What did you do to help William]]\n[[What of Isaac?|What did you do to help Isaac]]\n[[What could you do for Marie?|What did you do to help Marie]]\n
//I will tell them what you have told me, and let them judge for themselves.//\n\nThat is all I may reasonably ask of you, and I appreciate it. I sincerely hope it brings them some measure of solace to know where blame may be laid outside their family.\n\n[[Do you want others to know what happened here?|Do you want others to know]]\n
//So, as a religious man, what is your opinion of your existence in ecclesiastical terms? Do you believe you’ve been punished, or forgotten, or even rewarded?//\n\nI spent a great deal of time on that very topic early on, and I mean that in a sense that perhaps only I, or someone who shares my predicament, can truly appreciate. Looking back upon that time now, I’ll warrant I spent no less than several weeks, without interruption, contemplating what fate my poor soul had fallen upon. When the constraints of physicality are lost to you, time becoming meaningless and the customary periodic demands of your body now simply absent, the mind can fix upon a question of sufficient import and urgency for quite some time. \n\nIn all the time a man may spend contemplating what will become of him after his passing bell has wrung, I doubt he spends much time on the idea that he will pass, and aside from the loss of his mortal form, very little will change. If I were to be entirely honest with you, one reason I allowed the time to stretch on so while thinking on these things was that I was hoping something would change and my questions would be answered. A flight of angels, come to sing me to my rest, or Old Scratch sidling up to lead my sinful heart to whatever fate had been set aside for me; either way, it would relieve me of my endless internal debating, and at times I truly would have welcomed either option with equal enthusiasm.\n\nAt length I came to accept that no divine or mundane change awaited me. I remained precisely as I was, where I was, and I can’t imagine for how long. Though I lack form, I believe my soul itself needed rest that is akin to sleep, and I became unaware of myself or anything else for some time.\n\nI suppose to answer your question, the simplest option to eliminate would be that I’ve been rewarded somehow. I have considered that possibility, but I rather prefer not to believe that the only existence beyond this world is somehow so heinous that this state of barely-being and loneliness was any manner of reward. If all that awaits beyond this world is worse than decades spent alone in a fog of uncertainty, then I sincerely hope that is not where my path leads.\n\nThere were those in the church who believed in the intermediate state, where the soul would reside whilst awaiting the Resurrection upon the Lord’s return, but it wasn’t a topic that was addressed with regularity or at any length. There seemed a general consensus amongst the clergy, at least in my time amongst the Congregationalists, that even those who await the resurrection would find themselves in the company of the Lord while awaiting their final reward, so it would seem those teachings do not shed any light, so to speak, on my predicament.\n\nIf this is punishment, then it is effective, though it could most assuredly be worse. At times it’s as though I exist in some sort of theater, where from time to time a company of players will arrive and put on a most elaborate play, years in the performance, sometimes questionable in pacing and certainly uneven in theme and scope, but as a whole it’s always a compelling narrative with unmatched insight into the American family. Then I am left to my thoughts for a time, alone in a dark theater, until the curtains rise again and a new set of players takes the stage. While I may be doomed to be ever in the audience, never upon the stage, it takes little imagination to construct a hundred fates worse than this.\n\nAs for being forgotten, that possibility occurs to me often, and the emotions it engenders in me are complex, to be sure. It’s often the greatest insult one can encounter to be forgotten entirely, as whether you be loved or hated, respected or reviled, at the very least your existence has demanded the attention and reaction of those around you. To be forgotten is to be unnoticed, unnecessary, irrelevant. Can there be a greater insult? That, I suppose, would be the true punishment.\n\nSo perhaps this is a punishment after all? And if so, are the disastrous results of my attempts to interact with the living souls here in this house a further sanction for my audacity in defying the fate I had been given? I tell you truly, I had not considered it that way before, but just in the telling, I see that possibility, and it chills my very soul.\n\nI don’t wish to speak of this anymore.\n\n[[I have another question about the afterlife.|Afterlife questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
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//Sara was the first to return to her normal self. She took comfort in knowing, even if no one would believe her, that some malicious external spirit had attacked her family. Once they left the house, all strange activity around her stopped, which further convinced her of the true source of their troubles. She viewed herself and each member of her family, including William, as survivors of an attack, so she quickly found the will to forgive their actions over the preceding months. She has suffered some negative effects from the trauma and the loss of her father, of course, but she is for the most part a typical girl of her age.//\n\n//Arya is not the woman she was, and I suspect that will not surprise you. She is unlikely to ever truly recover from the loss of William, particularly in light of how their time together had ended. She has never been clear on what exactly happened to any of them in that house, and while she has never agreed entirely with Sara’s insistence on the presence of evil in the house, she could not dismiss it entirely. However difficult it may be to believe that possibility, it still made more sense to her than William’s transformation, which in retrospect with the benefit of clear thinking was extremely hard to understand. She returned to work not long after leaving the house, and soon after she found the family a new home, including a space for Isaac. He accepted, and that is the situation today — Arya works and supports Isaac, Sara, and Marie, while Isaac continues working toward his college degree.//\n\n//Isaac had a difficult recovery. Due to his strangulation in the fight with his father, Isaac had suffered what’s called an ischemic Stroke, though mercifully not a severe one. It caused some damage to his body, and he walked with a slight limp and had trouble holding objects with his left hand for a long time afterward. Arya had helped Isaac to get physical therapy, and his body is now almost completely recovered. I believe he has also been seeing a psychotherapist, and though I have no first-hand information about this, it’s fair to assume he would so do both to work through the effects of the events in the house and to work on the issues he still carried from his marriage.//\n\n//I can answer that question for you as well, by the way. Isaac was engaged to Marie’s mother, but discovered shortly before they wed that she had long been hiding dangerous illegal activities from him, and that she had been stealing from him to support them. In order to ensure that he would be given sole custody of Marie, he had personally turned her in to the police. She went to prison, and she’s still there now. Isaac took custody of Marie, but his finances had been greatly damaged by his fiancee’s activities, and as soon as he took custody of Marie, he had move into the house.//\n\n//Thankfully, Marie has no meaningful memories of that time, and seems no worse for wear.//\n\nThank you. This is difficult to face, but as I said, it’s good to know that they have recovered as well as they apparently have.\n\n[[What do you want them to know about you?|What do you want them to know about you]]\n
//What could you do for Marie?//\n\nIn the case of Marie, I hesitated to once more engage with the mind of so young a child, but the malevolent spirit was already there, and I felt my intervention might be her only salvation.\n\nIt was difficult to positively identify the direct effects of the constant reminders of her mother. The child was so young and had been separated from her mother so early, she hardly remembered that mother at all, so the result of the other’s influence was that she was constantly haunted by thoughts of someone she could conceive of only in vague impressions. There was someone in the world, someone warm who had cared for her once but who was no longer in her life, and those reminders brought a sadness so strong it surpassed all other emotions.\n\nHere I would have to be cautious. I knew the potential for lasting damage to the gentle young soul, and a misstep in this endeavor could do even more harm to these people. I might have refrained altogether, but the strain on Isaac of caring for the child, so frequently taken by crying spells, was significant, and I feared he would not recover if the situation with her did not improve.\n\nThe thought I arrived at, and prayed I had chosen well, was family. It was close to mother and included her, so it would not engender conflict within her mind, but left room for her to consider a broader group of comforting presences. Whenever she thought of her mother, I would not discourage her, but would instead lead her to think of her grandmother Arya, always happy to hold her, to play with her and keep her warm and safe. I reminded her of William and Sara who had genuinely been so happy to see Marie come to the house despite the inconvenience they knew a young child would bring to the house.\n\nBut most of all, I reminded her of her father. I had seen all the ways he cared for her, and I encouraged her to see all the little things that Isaac did for her. He was the comforting face filling the sky above as she drifted to sleep, and the arms that held her when she woke up afraid. Mother was family, and it was not my business to encourage her to forget her already dim memories of her mother, but the others in the house were her family as well, and the loneliness of missing mother could be tempered by the realization that there were still people to care for her. It was as far as I was willing to push the little one, and I hoped it would be enough.\n\n[[What did you do for Arya?|What did you do to help Arya]]\n[[How did you help William?|What did you do to help William]]\n[[What of Isaac?|What did you do to help Isaac]]\n[[What did you attempt with Sara?|What did you do to help Sara]]\n
//What results were you seeing? Did your plan seem to be working?//\n\nOverall, I must confess that my results were modest indeed. The most significant lesson I learned during this time was that given sufficient opportunities, it's surprisingly easy to induce people to act in specific and seemingly inconsequential ways without ever realizing that an external influence is at work. They may not know why they do certain things, but they will almost always dismiss it as a passing thought that was forgotten, or the result of being over-tired.\n\nI felt that the closest I was getting to a useful result was probably with Sara. Whenever an object moved in an unexpected way, she was now likely to shoot an accusing glance in its direction. She seemed nervous at times that could not be easily explained, and she would frequently look all about for someone else in the room with her, when no one was there. It seemed that my efforts to suggest another presense in the house had taken hold to some degree in her mind, and I knew that if the time came when I needed to focus my efforts on one person, I would likely be best served by doing so with Sara.\n\n\n[[Did you have second thoughts at any point?|Did you have any second thoughts]]\n[[For how long did this go on?|How long did this go on]]\n
//So you don’t know what happened to them?//\n\nNot at all. I knew Sara and Marie had not re-entered the house after their departure together at Arya’s command, so as far as I know they escaped. I knew Arya was bruised and frightened by her encounter with William that last night, and the toll it must have taken on her spirit was far greater, but I saw no reason to believe she would not survive and recover.\n\nWilliam’s injury had been serious, but not necessarily of the sort that might have cost him his life. It was a small knife, and it had made only the one wound. He did not seem to suffer any serious injury in the fight with Isaac, but I don’t know what manner of wound he might have been capable of ignoring in his rage.\n\nIsaac is my last confession in this affair. I do not know what happened to him. I was focused so intently on Arya’s escape that I was not there with him. He was alone, pitted against his own father in what might well have been a fight for his life. I might have been able to help him somehow, or at least have better information to provide to you now, if I had not failed him. I pray my failure has not cost Isaac too dearly.\n\nSince that night, the only people I’ve encountered here in the house were the cleaners who came soon after, and then the workmen who came to pack and remove the Markham’s belongings. And now, you.\n\n[[What became of the other entity?|What became of the other]]\n[[What do you want to know about the Markhams?|10]]\n
//I have a question about your awareness of the world.//\n\n[[Are you aware of anything other than people?|Are you aware of anything other than people]]\n[[Can you read minds?|Can you read minds]]\n[[Do you have senses, as I would understand the word|Do you have senses]]\n\n[[Actually, let me rethink that.|Side thread]]\n\n
a story by Michael McCollum
\n\n\n<html>\n<div id="titlePageTitle">\nA Penitent Man\n</div>\n<div id="titlePageCredit">\nby Michael McCollum\n</div>\n</html>\n\n\n\n\n[[Proceed.|Setup]]\n
//Did you think you were likely to succeed?//\n\nI felt this was my last opportunity. If the demon was not aware of my activities, and somehow thought it had accomplished enough for the time being, I could continue my efforts at restoring the family without its interference. I had little doubt after the events with the attic door and William’s reaction that the demon had grown more powerful somehow, or more effective in some way, and I feared if we were placed in direct conflict, the demon’s sway would not be overcome.\n\nAnd so I worked at changing them. In whatever way I can be said to have endurance, as I do not know how to describe it properly, I labored until I could not muster the concentration to do so any longer. I would then slip into something akin to a waking sleep. I have long observed others sleeping but have not done so myself since my death, so my memory of the feeling is hazy, but that is how I can best describe it. I was still aware of the presence and activities of everyone in the house, but it was at times impossible to concentrate on them. I had long considered myself to be without such physical concerns as fatigue, but now it seemed I had simply never had occasion to drive myself beyond this limit of mental endurance.\n\nI continued my work whenever my energy would permit it, and could only hope I had accomplished enough when I found the demon had resurfaced.\n\n[[How did you know it had returned?|8]]\n
//What did you do? Did you try to help them?//\n\nCertainly! It was all I thought of from that moment forward! These were good, honest people of intellect and artistry, and though they had not known it, they were the nearest thing to family to me for several years. If that weren’t enough motivation, I will say again at the risk of belaboring the point, it was likely this sad situation was my fault.\n\nI suspected from the start that the best chance I stood to counter the effects of the other influencer was to add my own voice to their thoughts. There was no way to know beforehand whether this would be successful, as I had no notion of what manner of spirit or being I was attempting to combat, nor through what mechanism it had achieved its influence. I hoped it was somehow similar to my own abilities, and that I would be able to counterbalance the burden each of them suffered under.\n\n[[What did you do for Arya?|What did you do to help Arya]]\n[[How did you help William?|What did you do to help William]]\n[[What of Isaac?|What did you do to help Isaac]]\n[[What did you attempt with Sara?|What did you do to help Sara]]\n[[What could you do for Marie?|What did you do to help Marie]]\n\n
//I don’t believe it’s my place to tell you more about them. They don’t know you, not in a conscious way, and I think it’s their decision whether to tell you any more about their lives.//\n\nI understand. It is a difficult situation to place you in. I can only request, then, that you please let the family know what I’ve told you. Tell them that I meant them no harm, and that when harm came to them, I did all that I could to deliver them from its grip. And please, let them know that anything they would be willing to share with me regarding their lives since leaving here would be most sincerely appreciated. I do care about those people deeply, and it is my greatest hope that they have managed to rebuild their lives and come together once more as a family.\n\n[[What else do you want them to know about you?|What do you want them to know about you]]\n
//What did Arya do with Marie?//\n\nAt the first indication of movement on William’s part, Arya wrapped Marie in her arms and turned her back to her husband. If he meant to strike them, Arya would make sure she bore the brunt of it. She braced herself, and hoped she would still be able to help Marie.\n\n[[What did Isaac do?|What action did Isaac take]]\n[[What was William's response?|What action did William take]]\n
//Was the other spirit active as well?//\n\nI am sure that it was, but it seemed to grow uncharacteristically subtle. I could no longer immediately sense its influence when I observed the family’s thoughts, and if it was exerting any physical influence, the family did not witness it consciously and I did not see its effects.\n\nI dared not hope it had departed, but in sad fact, I think it may have thought it did not need to engage the family further at the moment. For practical purposes William was lost to them at least for the present, and without her partner Arya would likely soon fall. She had begun to contemplate whether the assistance of a doctor was required, as William’s emotional condition and reasoning seemed unpredictable and difficult to comprehend, but she had not yet decided whether to attempt to move forward with that possibility without William’s consent, and she was not prepared to have that conversation with him. She had not, in fact, had a conversation with him of more than a handful of words in many weeks.\n\nSara was morose, and often wondered whether she was deluding herself in the belief that affairs in the family had been better in the past. Perhaps, she reasoned, she just hadn’t been old enough to understand what tensions and conflicts were hidden behind shaky facades, and now that she was older and more mature she was seeing the true nature of her family. Given time, she could reason that fear away, as she had memories too fall back on and remind her of all the conversations they’d had, and all they had done together. They had even consulted her in the selection of this house, and so far as she could intuit, it had not been a false consultation to placate her. She had been a participant in the decision, and it was one of the first moments in life when she had felt that her parents saw her as more than just a child. These people, the ones in the house with her now, could not be those same people. Something had to have changed.\n\nI felt a great apprehension when she thought, idly at first but progressively more often, that the arrival of Isaac and Marie must be what had caused these conflicts to arise. It had been stressful at first, naturally, but after the first few weeks they had begun to settle into a routine and the situation had seemed stable enough. Perhaps it had just taken time for the strain to wear them down. This was a smaller house than the one they had lived in previously, and now not only had Isaac returned, but now Marie must be accounted for as well. The only obstacle preventing her from becoming more convinced of this possibility was the difficulty in determining what, precisely about Isaac and Marie’s presence could have caused such strange behavior from her parents.\n\nAnd of course, there was still the matter of having now on three occasions witness an object moving with no human intervention. Maybe one had been the product of overly-stimulated imagination, perhaps two could be a mere coincidence, but the third had seemed undeniable and an indicator of ill intent. There should be no presence in the attic, and certainly no one should be entering her room from above. The comforting possibility of a small animal sneaking into a crack somewhere and lurking on the attic stairs was of no comfort when recalling the horror of watching a doorknob turn in the night. Her eyes had not been deceiving her — she had watched, and yet it had continued to turn. Isaac finding nothing above only served to reinforce her fear. An intruder in the attic would be horrifying, and she was not sure how the family would have dealt with the situation had that been the outcome, but it would have been comforting in its pedestrian nature. An intruder is a person, someone of flesh and bone and intent, something that could be defeated or captured. The emptiness of the attic space was one more bit of Sara’s understanding of reality stolen away from her.\n\nAs for the child Marie, I don’t believe the demon was influencing her actively. With the tensions and ill will permeating the house, she could not help but see its effects, and they in turn determined her moods. She became such a fragile thing, in turns desperate for affection and then fearful of the very same person. She would wail and cry, then with the next breath return to her play as if nothing troubled her at all.\n\nThere was, to summarize, very little hope in my estimation that they would survive the assault without my assistance.\n\n[[Did you think you were likely to succeed?|Did you think you would succeed]]\n
//Was she able to retrieve her keys?//\n\nArya’s mind filled with confusion, anger, and fear as she tried to understand what had just happened, but she pushed them back as strongly as she could manage. This was what circumstances required of her. This was what had to be done, and the reason was of no consequence.\n\nShe dropped the bag once more and ran toward the kitchen. As she passed the sitting room, she saw William and Isaac continuing to struggle. They wrestled on the floor, and each one attempted to land strike blows against the other with limited success. She thought she would have to help Isaac somehow, but first she had to make sure Sara and Marie were safe.\n\nShe made her way here, into the kitchen, and began searching for her keys. You can see the door from here, and so you can see there is only a small portion of the kitchen where she expected her keys must have landed. They landed just behind you, and she found them quickly. She knelt down and picked them up, but I knew something was wrong. I had been closely focused on her, trying to bolster her courage as best I could while watching for any way I might assist her, and by the time I realized what was amiss, we were both taken unawares. She turned back toward the front door, keys in hand, and found the way blocked by William, glaring and breathing heavily.\n\nArya’s mind spun. Where was Isaac? Had he fled? Had William beaten him, or worse? Were the girls still safe? And what could she do now? Even in her desperate state she knew she had little chance of prevailing in a physical struggle with William. She had to escape, but no longer believed that she would. Then came the moment when her eye caught the blood on William’s hands. Her son’s blood. William’s son’s blood. Her mind seized upon that thought, and would move no further.\n\nI would not allow an irrational fear of personal harm to stay my hand, so to speak. Not again. I focused once more on Arya and urged her to simply flee. I did not have to convey anything more complex than that. Her mind knew what was necessary, if she could will herself to act. She was in the kitchen already. The door to the back porch was unguarded. She had only to move, MOVE, I begged once more, and the ice broke free. William’s reactions were slower now. The struggle with Isaac had taken much of his strength, and it was a moment before he pursued. She reached the door, and cried out when the knob slipped from her hand as William pulled her backwards. He turned her about and pushed her back against the counter, there by the sink.\n\nWilliam did not speak anymore, but his eyes said much. There was nothing to recognize there any longer, and Arya knew he did not intend to allow her to leave, whatever that required. She considered running again, then began searching for options, as did I. Neither of us arrived at a plan in time.\n\nThe damnable demon was there, my friend. Of course it had never left, and while it yet drove William forward in his hateful and misguided acts, it had the capacity for more. It too was watching for its opportunity, waiting for the precise moment when just a small push at just the right place might make all the difference. This is how the final events came to be, the ones which more than any other I’m sure have led to your arrival here and this strange dialogue we’ve conducted. After all that happened, all the complexities and struggles, all of it came down to just a touch in exactly the wrong place.\n\nAs William stepped ever closer and Arya looked desperately for anything that could give her another option, the demon was there, and on the counter top just to Arya’s right, a small paring knife rotated slightly, as if touched with just enough force to cause it to turn a few degrees. I don’t believe either of them consciously noticed anything unusual about the knife, but it was enough to draw their attention. In that second, each of them knew that Arya’s only chance was that knife, and the next instant they were both scrambling to wield it.\n\nArya’s hand closed on it first, and she turned back to face William, knife in hand, hoping to deter him from attacking at all. He had very nearly reached the knife as well, and by the time Arya turned, he was in motion, and already too close to stop. He collided with her, and she shrank back from the expected attack, but instead heard a gasp from William. He stepped back, and Arya watched horrified as a dark red stain on his light blue shirt grew ever larger before her eyes. William stood dumbfounded as he struggled to comprehend the sight as well.\n\nWhen William hesitated, my first thought was Arya’s as well. Could this injury have shaken William from the madness that had taken him? I do not know the answer. I regret to say that I could no longer justify allowing William the opportunity to redeem himself. The family must be saved, and Arya was their best chance. I knew she had to flee, and I knew the demon could not hope to interfere now. I was there with her, in her mind, and I thought of the image of Sara holding Marie just out the front door, looking back at her, waiting.\n\nShe ran, knife still in hand. William turned to pursue, but slowly, and he could not make up the distance. As Arya passed the sitting room, she saw blood stains on the rug, some near the hall and others scattered about, but she did not see Isaac. She was pushing away tears as she ran out the door.\n\nWilliam was a few steps behind her, and still moving more slowly than she. I willed him to stop, to let her go, but it was as if no one were listening anymore. There was no response at all. There was still a determined anger, but little more, when he followed out the door.\n\nI searched the house then, but found no one. If Isaac was still in the house, he had to be unconscious, or worse. Everyone else was gone. That was the last night I encountered any of the Markhams, and that is the last of my knowledge of them.\n\n[[So you don't know what happened to them after that?|What happened to the family]]\n[[What became of the other entity?|What became of the other]]\n\n
//Did you have any hesitations or second thoughts along the way?//\n\nFrom time to time, yes, I regret to say that I did but that I did not heed them. It troubled me that the effect of my attempts to suggest that someone else was in the house had engendered an ongoing low-level tension of a sort. It was as though they were all expecting an unwelcome house guest to enter the room at any moment, and the unease this caused was likely having detrimental effects on their mental states.\n\nI took no joy in this, once I realized the effect I was having, but I considered the goal to be of great importance, and their vigilant watch for an unknown entity in the home was instrumental in any plan that could lead to them acknowledging and accepting my presence.\n\n\n[[What kind of results were you seeing?|What results were you seeing]]\n[[For how long did this go on?|How long did this go on]]\n
//What did you want to say about William?//\n\nI really must stress, in case I have not made it sufficiently clear prior to this, that theirs was a remarkably tranquil and supportive marriage. They had been together since they were barely more than children themselves, and though I had only witnessed close to two years of their lives, everything I had seen told me they had cared for each other deeply as well as holding each other in high regard. I’m sure you know as well as I that the combination of affection and respect in equal measure is not so common as we might like to believe, yet I had always found it in them. I gathered that each of them had accomplished good works in their respective employments, and as far as my understanding of things goes, they had done well in raising their children.\n\nI say this because I fear I may have portrayed William poorly in this tale. He may not have been much of a husband and father during this lamentable time, but I believe it was his great affection and loyalty to his family that had produced this angry brute. He had done well in hiding the stress he felt when taking responsibility for the safety and well-being of his family, and though he did so gladly, it remained a significant burden. To have that image of his family turned against him through the demon’s meddling was too much for him, and that I think is why he was broken while the others still fought.\n\nIn this moment, though, that man was gone. Here instead was something I would hesitate to call a man of any sort. All that remained was jealous fury.\n\n[[So what did he do?|What did William do]]\n
//Do you want others besides the Markham family to know this story? And if so, do you want the to know you by name and in detail.//\n\nThere was a time when I would have leapt at such an opportunity. Knowing now how badly this first foray of mine into contacting the living has gone, I think I leave the answer to that question to you. I sensed when you arrived here that you already suspected you would make contact with something like me, which tells me there are those who already believe a supernatural element was involved in these events. Sara told people that a spirit drove her family to attack each other, and led William to mutilate and kill himself, didn’t she? No, don’t bother taking over writing; I can sense in your mind already that I’m correct. So some people believed her, and now you were sent here to try to communicate with whatever haunts this house. \n\nCorrect?\n\nThat’s why I leave this to the Markhams, and to you as well. If you believe it will be a boon in some way, then I will be more than happy to reveal myself to anyone who you think would listen with an open mind to my story. Otherwise, I believe it would be best if only the Markhams knew of this conversation and all that I’ve told you. They may know everything — my name, my life, my connection to the house, everything.\n\n[[What of the demon?|Should others know of the demon]]\n
//What do you want from me? What can I do for you?//\n\nI earnestly hope that what I want from you is a trivial imposition, one that can be accomplished this very night. I need for someone to know who I am, and what has happened to me. I want this existence to be known, and I want the Markham family to know that what happened to them in this house was not their doing. I want whatever ill effects have since befallen that family to be addressed in the new understanding that what happened here was real, and they were not at fault. I need to tell someone what I have done, to explain my actions and motives. I need someone to hear my confession, and to know that at the very least, I sought absolution.\n\nI need you to talk to me, to listen to me just for a little while, so this old spirit can confess his foolhardy mistakes and selfish desires and hope that if his existence does change, that perhaps there will be forgiveness for him.\n\n[[Then let's discuss why you're here.|2]]\n
//What do you want to know now about the Markhams?//\n\nAnything. Anything that anyone would permit me to know. Whether they knew of me or not, I was there with them, every day, every moment, and I likely knew each of them as well as any other living person. That was how I knew my opinions of them were well-founded. I saw who they were when no one else was watching. I felt their thoughts, sometimes even when I wished not to so as to provide them privacy. I may not have been part of their family, but for their time in this house, I say without hesitation they were my family. Not knowing what has become of them is a hole in my very being, and if it is your place to do so, I bet of you to tell me now whatever you can of what happened after that night, and what has become of them now.\n\n[[I don't believe it's my place.|Abstain]]\n[[Very well. I'll explain what I can.|Explain]]\n
//What was happening with Isaac?//\n\nIn Isaac, I believe the malicious spirit sensed the confidence I had attempted to instill in him, and chose to use that confidence against him. His confidence increased by bounds, and soon he believed that in light of his clear predisposition toward success, something must be holding him back. His resentment stretched in all directions — in his mind, his wife had failed him, his parents were eager to see him stumble for their own selfish reasons, Sara was desperate to be the favorite child and was all too happy to let Isaac fail, and even Marie was an anchor that kept him from moving forward.\n\nAll of this was troubling, but in particular the last point there — under the influence of the other, Isaac had begun to view his own tiny daughter as a burden, an obstacle to be overcome. How could a man fall so far? I was never a father, but I cannot understand how the thought could even occur to him, much less how it could keep coming up in his mind.\n\n[[What were the effects on Arya?|How did it escalate with Arya]]\n[[What happened with William?|How did it escalate with William]]\n[[Did the situation get worse with Marie?|How did it escalate with Marie]]\n[[What changed with Sara?|How did it escalate with Sara]]\n
//I understand. Farewell Samuel. I will do what I can for the Markhams, and I'm glad we've been be able to discuss these matters.//\n\nThank you, friend. It was a pleasure to be able to converse one last time in a way befitting a human being. Whatever fate awaits, I know my story has finally been told. Farewell.\n\n\n[[Proceed.|Resolution]]\n
//Can you communicate with any other non-living consciousnesses?//\n\nI cannot say, truthfully. I have only encountered one other such being, to my knowledge, and I can’t be sure if I was unable to communicate with it, or if it was simply ignoring me. Perhaps its mind was too alien to my own, and we cannot comprehend each other, but I did try, many times, to communicate with it. I tried to reason with it, to threaten it, to convince it to stop what it was doing or at least to understand it, or to know if it acted alone or in concert with some other consciousnesses, but my attempts bore no fruit.\n\n[[I have another question about other entities.|Entity questions]]\n<<linkTo "Side thread" "I have a question about another topic.">>\n<<linkTo "Side thread exit" "Thank you. Let's resume where we were.">>\n
//I have a question about our location and other places you've been.//\n\n[[Where are we right now?|Where are we]]\n[[Where else have you lived, or existed?|Where else have you existed]]\n[[Were you born here?|Were you born here]]\n[[Did you die here?|Did you die here]]\n[[Have you been here since your death?|Have you been here since your death]]\n[[Can you leave this place?|Can you leave]]\n[[Are you aware of anything outside of this place?|Are you aware of any other locations]]\n\n[[Actually, let me rethink that.|Side thread]]\n
//How are you connected to this place? Is it the house itself, or a specific area that encompasses some or all of the house?//\n\nMy condition seems specific to the house itself, precisely as defined by its structure. I become aware of people as they pass through the doorway, or shortly thereafter, and when I am sharing the thoughts of someone who departs, I lose track of them just as they are crossing the threshold.\n\nAs for my connection, this was my home, from the time I gained the means to obtain it until my passing. I took great pride in it, and held the hopes that it would one day be home to a joyful family. My aspirations in that direction had sadly not progressed in the manner which I had hoped, but the aspiration remained. It may be that my heart was bound up in this place, and now does not wish to depart, or it could simply be that my untimely demise took place here, and so this is where I remain.\n\nI know of no reason why this connection should be linked so directly to the physical architecture, when I have no physical form or limitations that I am aware of, but that does not change the reality of things; the borders of my existence align to the walls of this place, and any attempt I have made to stretch beyond those limits has produced no result.\n\n[[Do you know why you're still here?|Do you know why you're still here]]\n[[What do you know about the family who lived here?|What do you know of the family]]\n\n
//Do you know what happened to the family?//\n\nIn one way of thinking, I know what happened to them better than any living soul. I understand much of the events even better than they themselves do. But in another, I have no idea what happened to them in a larger sense, and that question has weighed heavily on me ever since. I know only what occurred here, in the house, and nothing more. I hope that if I explain my part of the story, giving an account as full and unadorned as I can muster, that you might in turn explain to me what has happened in the time since.\n\n[[Very well. Let's discuss that.|3]]\n
//What did you hope would happen?//\n\nHope? What I hoped for was, of course, entirely foolhardy and impractical. Hope is not a reasonable thing, and it too often leads us into fantasy and delusion. \n\nI apologize. I shouldn’t say that. Pay no mind to my sour outlook, my young friend. Even if physical age no longer applies, I must surely be a cantankerous old man by now.\n\nWhat I’d hoped, frivolous though it may have been, was that those otherwise sound of mind people would witness this display that I taken such pains to prepare and execute for their benefit and decide at once that some intelligence must be behind it. They would realize what had happened, what the importance of this event may be, and would set about working just as dedicatedly to contacting me as I had worked to contact them.\n\nYou see now. I told you, hope gives flight to silly dreams.\n\nIn my more rational moments, I realized that a more reasonable expectation was that my actions would be enough to plant a seed of belief, and at least give them the notion, even if they would totally dismiss it if they thought directly of it, that there might be some reason they had gathered in that room just at the moment those two books in particular fell from two different shelves. It wouldn’t be much to start with, but it would set a process in motion, one which would build momentum like a train, always leading them closer to the realization that there was an additional resident in this house. It would take time, but of course I had that in abundance.\n\n[[How did they react?|How did they react]]\n[[If their reaction was not what you wished, how did that affect you?|How did their reaction affect you]]\n
//What was William's response?//\n\nWilliam did not strike Arya. She was no longer the threat to him. Every inch of Isaac showed his intent as he charged toward his father. His gait was awkward because his head was held back and his arms remained in front of him. His father had become a physical danger to the family, and Isaac had realized he had to eliminate that threat. The demon saw it too, and its thought within William’s mind was nothing less than a command. It was wordless and formless, but just the idea of it was enough. It demanded that William respond in kind, and with all possible intensity. This attacker challenged his rightful authority. It must be dealt with harshly.\n\nWilliam spun to face Isaac and ran to meet him. You can see behind you right now, the entry hallway is not long, and in the span of a blink, they collided. Isaac expected resistance but was still surprised by the aggressiveness of William’s response, and his father toppled him. The pair tumbled back toward the sitting room, William attempting to pin his son to the floor while Isaac struggled to free himself, and neither of them noticed the front door open.\n\n[[What did Isaac do?|What action did Isaac take]]\n[[What did Arya do with Marie?|What action did Arya take]]\n[[Who opened the door?|Who opened the door]]\n