Grave Matters
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"So, could you give us a brief recap of the events that have happened in your home?"

Lila Graves leaned in closer to Elizabeth Knass, casting a quick glance aside to her partner sitting next to her on the couch, Kole Graves, before looking back to Elizabeth with a look of concern. She and her husband were a pair of paranormal investigators, the best in the country. They had dealt with hundreds of cases in their time on the job, dealing with each with proficient knowledge of the occult. They had made talk show appearances, published books, and were practically a household name.

What few knew was that they were in fact agents of the Foundation. The role they occupied was unusual - it wasn't quite a cover story, as they often dealt with the paranormal themselves and genuinely helped those terrorized with hauntings. But at the same time, they were well-versed in the Foundation's rigid, clinical guidelines for the proper ways to refer to the anomalous. The word "ghost" was only partly in their vocabulary.

Elizabeth, on a couch opposite to the duo, wiped the tears from her eyes and began to speak.

"It all started after we moved into this house. I had to move somewhere new after my wife died and… It was affordable! I thought it was too good to be true at the time! It was!"

Kole nodded. "It's always the case. People can't deal with the ghosts, so they just sell the house and move on. You did the right thing coming to us: we can help solve this problem."

"A few days after me and the kids moved in, we started hearing footsteps wandering around the house, from all over. We'd be downstairs, hear walking upstairs. Be upstairs, hear it below. Sometimes, we'd hear it from the room over. It's an old, creaky house, and you can hear everybody that's in it. There's always more than there should be.

"That went on for a few weeks, perhaps about two months or so. Then, it started to get worse. One day, we got home and there were piles of dirt in the middle of the floor in a couple of rooms. All neat and tidy - no dirt anywhere else in the house. It couldn't have been any of us, we had all been out. But the doors were locked, and the windows shut.

"There's a spot in the fields where no grass grows. It's all withered and dry. There's nothing different about that part of the field, but the dogs won't go there. I once tossed a ball in that way, Paxton charged out to fetch it and then … just stopped, right in front of the patch. Wouldn't go any further, refused to go through.

"The latest thing that happened was we woke up one morning and all the windows were fogged up. But there were handprints on all the windows. Every single one. Even the ones on the second floor, fogged up and filled with handprints. The cars, the shed? Nothing. Not even a drip of mist on any of them."

All of these were likely symptoms of a haunting, but the Graves needed more information if they wanted to be certain of what was going on. There were too many cases in which something that seemed like an obvious haunting turned out to be nothing more than a false alarm: the paranormal fanatics saw ghosts when there was nothing, unrelated anomalous phenomena were confused for a haunting or some simply lied.

Lili nodded. "We'd like to ask a few questions, just to establish the type of haunting we're dealing with here. Is that alright?"

"Yes, of course. Anything."

"Did anyone die in this house, or nearby?" This was a standard question, to establish a possible source of any hauntings. It wasn't necessary, but three out of every five actual hauntings the Graves had dealt with had been in homes with previous deaths in them. Vengeful spirits tended to linger when there was negative energy.

The homeowner gulped. "Well… the previous owner of the house died a few weeks before we moved in. He didn't have any close friends or family, we bought the house from a distant cousin in Florida."

"How'd he die?"

"Heart attack. Very sudden, out of nowhere."

"Have all of your clocks been functioning correctly since this all started?" Temporal resonance, a phenomenon in which two time periods become linked, is often mistaken by a layperson for a haunting but is drastically different in origin and treatment. One easy indicator that is temporal in origin is interference in any time-keeping devices, which often become unsynced.

"Well, yes, they have."

"Have any objects of yours disappeared from the house?" Kole jumped in. "Or have you found any objects you didn't recognize?" Interdimensional overlap also has effects similar to hauntings, with sounds and effects being carried between two similar areas in different dimensions. Unlike a haunting, objects would tend to crossover between planes as well.

"Nothing other than the dirt."

"Have you been having intrusive thoughts, that are not your own?" Certain memetic lifeforms - noncorporeal beings made up entirely of thoughts and emotions - could be mistaken for a ghost, taking up residence in an individual's mind. Any perceptions would be unable to be trusted, having been faked or made up by the memetic entity.

"I haven't, I don't know about the rest of my family…"

"Have you been waking up at night, unable to move?" The final false positive that the Graves looked for was purely mundane. Neither thought that sleep paralysis was the cause of the phenomena the [homeowner's] had been dealing with, but it was the most common explanation for supposed supernatural occurrences. Many simply were unaware of the truth.

"No, we've been wide awake for everything."

At once, the relative quiet was shattered by the loud ringing of a phone, from across the room. It was an old landline, attached into the wall, the kind that was added to the home decades ago and never removed, simply out of a lack of need.

Elizabeth looked across the room, at the phone.

"I think you should get that."

Cassandra stood and quickly walked to the phone, inspecting it for a second before glancing back to Elizabeth.

"We get calls from it. Only from that phone. The lines disconnected. Pulled it a few days after we moved in."

Cassandra slowly raised the headpiece to her ear.

On the other end, there was breathing. Loud. Seemingly, constantly into the receiver. There was something off about it at first, that Cassandra couldn't place. But as she continued, it became clear: it was more than one breath. She couldn't make out how many, but it was a crowd, into the receiver.

The headpiece was slammed into the wall piece with a large thunk.

"How often does that happen?"

"Every day."

Lila turned back to Elizabeth. "I think you shouldn't sleep here tonight. We have some friends nearby you can stay with for a few days. We're going to call the rest of our team in and find out what's happening. Hold a seance, try to get visual confirmation of the ghost, and then likely perform an exorcism. How fast can you pack an overnight bag? It might be a few days."

"Give me an hour."

Need to revise this section so that either Drew or Rosalee has the "clinical Foundation" vibe, i.e. is a stick in the mood and a skeptic.

No more than ten minutes after the Knass family was out of the home, a black van — simply labeled with "Skeptics of Conspiracy and the Paranormal" — pulled into the driveway. Inside were the Graves' apprentices: Drew Whitlow and Rosalee Lawrence. The two were members of the Foundation, who had been recruited from the scene of a university haunting.

Some of what was unloaded from the trunk of the van could be expected from any group of amateur paranormal investigators: cameras and heat-detectors, things that could be found in any tech store. But there was more in the trunk, equipment that only the Foundation could provide. Devices that could detect traces of ectoplasm, […] and even a few ritual books — ones that actually work. The last was something the Graves only had through kicking and screaming, and even then the books they had were only somewhat effective.

Lila hugged the two apprentices as they arrived, and lead them into the house, recounting the story of that Elizabeth had told her. Her version was altered, couched in the clinical tone of the Foundation. Ghosts became spectral entities, hauntings became repeated anomalous phenomena, and undead became postmortem vectors.

"We've already scouted out the house. We have a few good locations for cameras, and the kitchen is centrally located enough that we can use it as an operating base."

"Standard plan of action for the night?"

"Same as ever, that's the plan. Stay in pairs as much as we can. Ghost seems relatively non-hostile, so that won't be as much of a problem tonight, I hope."

"Are the phenomena more frequent at night?"

"Some are — the hands and footsteps were, from what they told us. The calls come at any hour."

As if on cue, the landline began to ring throughout the house. Kole, standing next to it, pulled it off the receiver. Immediately, he winced in pain and slammed the phone back down onto the receiver.

"Lila, you said it just breathed, right?"

"Yeah, what happened with you?"

"Screaming. Louder than it should have."

The four gathered in the kitchen that night, with their equipment set up through the kitchen. One set of monitors for the video streams, and a second for the heat detectors. Another monitor displayed ectoplasm levels throughout the house, and so on. From their war-room, the Graves could keep tabs on the entire house.

Rosalee was sitting at the table, pontificating. "Does it ever get better? Whenever we aren't actively on a mission with one of you, the rest of the Foundation is … less than friendly. Hostile, even."

Lila took a sip from her coffee. "Not really. They don't appreciate how we do things. Lock it in a box, they say, no matter the circumstances. Regardless of the lack of need."

"People already accept ghosts. Having a few sightings out there won't hurt anybody. In fact, it means the Foundation doesn't have to respond to all of them, all the time."

"And if the average person has a ghost, a real one, what would they do about it if not for us? They call the paranormal experts so devoted to their craft they changed their last name, and their ghost problem is dealt with swiftly and surely. Don't think they can call the Foundation anytime they want."

One of the monitors crackled with static. The four turned toward and leaned in. On one of the monitors, the one in the parent's bedroom, a ghostly figure stood, cloaked in shadow. In the dim light of the night vision cameras, they could only just make out the outline of the figure, one that was certainly inhuman. It shifted, giving hints of too many arms, before the feed cut out again.

"Looks like we've got our first sign of a ghostie."

"Should we go check it out?"

"Is it there anymore?"

As if to answer, the floorboards above the kitchen began to groan. It didn't have the gait of someone crawling, but a slower and louder walk. [… Probably actually crawl to get sound right …]

Drew looked up at the ceiling, unsteadily. "Do you think it's coming for us? It's right above."

"If anything, it's probably just curious as to who we are and what we're doing in the house. No reason to assume anything hostile yet - especially given that it never did anything to hurt the Knass family. Just log these events for the moment."

For the next few hours, the pattern continued: nothing more than a few disturbances, a few errant sounds and camera appearances. A little after midnight, however, one of the cameras cut out: an act of sabotage.

Kole slowly rose from his seat at the table, swiping a crucifix and a camera that had been sitting next to him as he did. He nodded to Lila, a customary acknowledgment of what was happening. This wasn't anything out of the ordinary for them, and no cause for alarm.

He left the room in silence. The quiet hung in the air for a few seconds, before the radio crackled to life. The three remaining in the kitchen all moved gently - Drew and Rosalee flinched, but Lila only leaned closer.

"Entering the kid's bedroom now."


"Looks like the camera was ripped from the wall. And, the battery's been-"

The radio feed cut out without warning, replaced with the sound of panting. An animalistic, growling pant, one that almost sounded like a mob. Lila grabbed the radio from the table almost immediately and began to fiddle with it to no results. The panting was everywhere - on every channel, on every frequency.

Without wasting any time, she leaped to her feet and waved her assistants to follow. They hurried through the house — which wasn't very large — and assembled in front of the bedroom door. The door was closed, and the door bolted. Drew tried to turn the handle for a few seconds before Rosalee urged them to the side.

Lila battered the door with a fire poker, one that she had taken from beside the fireplace on her dash to the bedroom. The handle came loose easily, and she kicked the door open.

The room inside did not hold trace of Kole.

Elizabeth wheeled out of the room immediately, without even bothering to look for her husband. Rosalee and Drew turned to follow her after a moment of hesitation, following her back to the kitchen. They found Elizabeth in the kitchen, rooting through one of her supply kits - one of the occult kits.

"Ma'am, what are you doing? A Foundation agent has just vanished in the middle of active anomalous zone, and you are getting out candles and holy water?"

"They're ritual supplies, Drew. We need to perform an emergency seance to contact the ghost."

"Why didn't we do that earlier?"

"You really think that's going to work?"

"The situation has drastically changed. We need new methods, and to try something new. And yes, it will."

Elizabeth led Rosalee and Drew into the living room, and began to draw a double-ringed circle on the floor in chalk, sliding the candles to Drew.

"Normally, a seance requires a mouth-piece, a voice. How do you get something like that? Well, in the ancient world, that's possession. But our ghost has already given us a mouthpiece - the landline. Rosalee, grab it and put it in the center."

Drew silently lit the candles and arranged them between the rings of the circle as Rosalee ran and grabbed the landline. With the ritual circle complete, the women kneeled down before the circle and clutched hands.

"O grave, dead spirit, I beckon you forth. Take on a mortal voice before us, and speak to us: what keeps your from your rest? Why do you deny salvation? Why do you inflict such torment upon the residents of this household."

The power to the house shut off.

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