Gloria Dunn looked out from the window of her simple white car. She examined the numbers on the mailbox, 822 Adam Lane. This was the place. She leaned back in the seat. The sun felt warm on her coffee-brown skin. She was tired. Her car’s air conditioner was acting up again, but at least fall was coming, and that meant using the heater, which worked whether you wanted it to or not.
She sighed, and got out of her car. She pressed the key on her radio.
“Server four, I’m serving PPPO, 822 Adam Lane.”
“I’m clear,” the dispatcher responded.
She checked the paperwork on her clipboard and walked up to the door. She knocked and listened to the echo. Standard trick; it made the house seem empty and foreboding. She knocked again, and a cat leapt out of one of the windows with a crash. She didn’t flinch. After another few minutes of pounding on the door, an old man cracked the door open.
“Is this the corporeal dwelling of Henry Holbrook, deceased seven twenty-one twenty-twelve?”
The old man stared at her like she was insane, then his eyes glazed over. His features took on the cocksure attributes of the possessing soul’s face. He looked like a young man now, or rather, like he should be a young man.
“Henry Holbrook, you are hereby served with this order of protection. “You are not to haunt, spook, pester, harass, bedevil, lurk, or otherwise bother Ms. LeAnne Clems. Contact by third parties, or by possession, or other paranormal means are also punishable by jail time. Do you understand?”
The visage of the old man twisted into a face of confused rage.
“What! I filed for bereavement haunting last week!” Gloria rolled her eyes and handed him the thick sheaf of papers.
“Your bereavement proceeding was denied on the grounds that Ms. Clems was, quote, glad the son-of-a-bitch is dead.'”
“I…I don’t want this! This is bull!”
Gloria sighed and said in her best public servant voice, “Bereavement, according to Georgia state law, involves both parties. Ms. Clems is not bereaved but overjoyed in light of your demise. Your motion for continuous contact from beyond the veil is considered harassment. Thus, she filed for, and was awarded, this order of protection. You may not appeal, this decision is final. Good day.”
Gloria turned on her heel and strode away, leaving the sputtering spirit behind to try and sort through the court order.
That was easy enough. She didn’t even have to trick him into accepting the papers. She climbed into her car and looked at her next assignment. A corporeal eviction. Those were always fun.
“Server four, order served. Show me en route to 3406 East Park Road.”
“I’m clear.” Gloria took her time driving. What’s the point of rushing a Friday? It was all the same. Besides, possessive spirits were reluctant to let go, so they weren’t a flight risk. Gloria drove through the suburbs, enjoying the Beatles station and trying to ignore the oppressive heat of Georgia’s summer. After a twenty minute drive, she pulled in front of her next address.
“On scene at East Park,” she told the dispatcher. She got out of her car, popped the trunk, and took out her eviction kit. She walked up to the house and knocked on the door. This time it was answered at once. Possessive spirits were not shy.
“Yes, I-” He fell for the easiest trick they use. He must be new.
“Franklin Ross, you are hereby evicted from this corporeal form, via order of the Georgia Paranormal Housing Authority, ordinance of unlawful possession.”
Gloria reached into her bag as the man’s face contorted in almost impossible ways. The ghost was trying to scare her. Gloria took out a vial of Georgia state holy water and another form. She dipped a finger in the vial, placed it on the man’s forehead, and read aloud:
“By the power of Holy Law, by the power of the Georgia Paranormal courts, you are hereby evicted from this corporeal form and legally commanded to cross the veil into your appropriate afterlife.” She pressed on the man’s forehead, who sank to the floor. After a moment, he blinked and stood up.
“What? What…what day is it?”
“You were possessed by an unlawful squatter. I evicted him on your behalf. Have a nice day.” As Gloria was walking away, she heard the man talking in a daze.
“Where the hell am I? What day is it?” She got back into her car and examined her list. One last stop. She sighed.
“A poltergeist. That’s just great.” She thumbed her radio mic. “Server four, en route to Kingsley.”
“Clear,” said the dispatcher. Did she detect a hint of amusement in the dispatcher’s voice? Maybe she was just paranoid. Dispatchers never had a hint of anything in their voices. As Gloria navigated the streets of Tula, she drummed her hands on the wheel of her car. Maybe the poltergeist wouldn’t be bad. Maybe there’d only be one.
Maybe it’d just exorcise itself.
She pulled up to the address and eyed the house on Kingsley. It looked ratty, worn down. The weeds in the yard were overgrown and the gutters had not been cleaned out in a long time. The corners of the roof were growing beards of Spanish moss. Gloria examined the affidavit of complaint. The landlord, A. Lewellyn, wanted the tenants to remove the poltergeist or move out and take it with them. Damages to the house, neighbors complaining of noise, etc.. Gloria had to do a bit of investigating.
“On scene,” she told the dispatcher. She got out of her car and walked up to the front door. She was struck by a putrid smell. She eyed the windows, trying to get a glimpse into the house, but they were covered with tin foil. She opened the screen door, creaking on rusty hinges, and knocked.
“Georgia Paranormal Housing Authority, I need to speak with someone.” She knocked again. Someone moved about inside the house, and the window next to the door she’d tried to peek in broke outward with some force. Gloria looked at the broken glass and checked to make sure her state-issued holy water was in her pocket.
“Open up! Georgia PHA! If you don’t talk to me I can call the police and they’ll let me in.” The door opened. An older woman with wild gray hair peered out at her. The odors of a rotten house assailed Gloria. Feces, urine, rotting food, and, yes…the smell of ectoplasmic evacuation. Good Lord.
“What you want?”
“I’ve got an affidavit of complaint here from your landlord.”
“That piece of crap hates me! He just hates me! I didn’ do nothin’ to him, and he callin’ the law on me for havin’ a house an’ my pets!”
“Ma’am, that’s a matter for civil court. I’m here to check for an unregistered poltergeist. This court order gives me the right to enter your residence and conduct an investigation. Will you allow me in, or will I have to get the cops out here?” The woman sputtered.
“Whateva happened to the Constitution’s what I want ta know! Y’all cain’t just bust up in my house like this without no warrant!”
“This isn’t a criminal investigation, I don’t need a warrant. This is the last time I’m asking to come in before I do involve the law.”
“Now I don’t see why y’all have to be hateful about it! Come in, but I want to talk to your supervisor! I have rights, ya know. I pay your salary.”
“Ma’am, I’m a Georgia resident and I pay the same taxes as you, so I’m self employed.” The woman seemed taken aback.
“Well, all right then, but don’t you go lookin’ where you ain’t allowed! I want a copy of the papers.” Gloria handed the woman the court order.
“I’m Gloria. Will you tell me your name?”
“Pearl, thank you for cooperating. If I can just take a look around I’m sure this will only be a moment.” Still muttering and clutching a yellowing bathrobe around herself, Pearl opened the door enough for Gloria to squeeze into the house.
“Oh, God,” said Gloria. Old newspapers were stacked from floor to ceiling. Cans of what she hoped were old coffee grounds (but it’s never the simple, is it?) were stacked in haphazard piles in one corner of what she assumed was once a living room. Other miscellaneous trash in a riot of colors and stinks indescribable assaulted her senses. A doll without any eyes. A pan full of broken marbles. Cats. So. Many. Cats. Cats in the trash, cats on the trash, cats hiding behind objects, cats yowling from deeper within the hell hole.
“Naw I know where everythin’ is, so don’t be takin’ none of my treasures.”
“I…I wouldn’t dream of it, Pearl. Do you know why your landlord thinks you might have a poltergeist?”
“Naw. Naw, he’s just causin’ trouble ‘cause he don’t like me or my babies.”
“You mean the cats, don’t you?”
“They’re my children!”
“Okay.” Gloria squeezed between precipitous stacks of old fashion magazines and ratty clothes on plastic hangers. Cats squealed and darted whenever there was room to do so, and hissed when there was not. Gloria felt her stomach turn every time her eyes moved, so she decided to just focus on not falling and suffocating under the garbage.
Gloria found a lamp on the floor of the living room and cleared some space on an end table.
“What’re ya doin’?”
“Checking for a poltergeist.”
“With m’ lamp?”
“They love knocking lamps over.”
Gloria watched the lamp. After a minute, she adjusted it a little closer to the edge of the table. It still refused to move. She heard a thump from behind her, but between the glacial movements of the trash and the dozens of cats, it probably had nothing to do with her. She turned to Pearl.
“Have you found any chairs stacked in places they shouldn’t be?” As Gloria spoke, she saw a stack of lawn chairs in the kitchen.
“Naw, not that I seen.”
“Strange noises?” A cat yowled from somewhere in the house. It almost sounded human.
“Aw, sweety, I been smokin’ for so long I can’t smell nothin’.” Gloria sighed.
“Any small objects that go missing?”
“If I could find all my treasures I’d be able to organize that yard sale like I been meanin’ to but I think my babies like to play games.” Gloria nodded.
“Okay, I’lll just take a peak around the rest of the house and then I think I’ll be on my way.”
Pearl followed Gloria through the maze, regaling her with stories about objects she found in the heaps. Gloria stopped at the end of one hallway where a stack of egg cartons blocked what looked like a doorway.
“Is this a room?”
“Jus’ a closet. I haven’t been in there for years.” Gloria thought about the layout of the house.
“Is this room on the front of the house?”
Pearl hesitated, “Oh, no, sweety. You just got mixed up in the clutter.”
“I think it is,” said Gloria. “I really need to take a look in here. Something broke one of your windows.”
“It was just a cat probably. No big deal, I’ll have my nephew replace it.” Gloria turned around.
“You just said you haven’t been in here in years. How are the cats in there?”
“They get into the ceiling you know. There’s so many…”
Gloria shook her head and pulled at the pile of egg cartons, which fell away. There was a little cone dug out of the rancid carpet, like a slice of pie. The door vibrated, and the handled rattled.
“Just cats, Pearl?”
“Don’t go in there.”
Gloria opened the door.
The room was full of small, mundane objects flying around like a startled nest of bats in a cave. A salt shaker flipped past Gloria’s head. She ducked down under the onslaught of brick-a-brack. Books fluttered through the air. Plates spun and whistled. Gloria backed out of the room and slammed the door shut.
“That’s not one poltergeist, that’s a damn ruckus of poltergeists!”
“I tried to warn you.” Gloria froze. She turned back to Pearl. The old woman was staring off into space.
“I dunno when it happened, but the house changed. I used ta get all them treasures, and then they jus’ seemed to start appearin’.”
Gloria brushed herself off, “How long has this been going on? When did the first poltergeist get here?”
“I jus’ got ‘em at a yard sale. It was little thang, just a little poltergeist. I liked the company so much I kept getting’ ‘em.” The house shook and banged now.
“Pearl, I want you to come with me. I don’t think this house is safe.”
“Y’all can’t make me leave!” Pearl’s face turned stubborn. The floor bucked under their feet once, twice. Gloria listened to horrifying creaks and groans.
“I’m leaving. If you want to stay in here, that’s just fine.”
Gloria picked her way through the wreckage as shrieks and moans filled the air along with flying trash. Gloria was suddenly glad of her hex-proof vest. She managed to claw her way to the door amidst the tilting floor, flashing lights, and flying objects. She ran for her car and grabbed the radio.
“Server four to dispatch, I need backup out here.”
“Emergency?” Gloria turned to look at the house. The frames of the windows sagged, and the doorway turned dark. The front of the house looked like a grimacing face.
“Dispatch…tell ‘em to bring the dozer. I think we’ve got a full blown ghost house.”
Sirens rose in the distance. Gloria stood by and watched as the state’s heavy ghost removal teams arrived. The house shuddered and made strange sounds. A rescue team managed to get Pearl out with one member receiving a minor concussion from a lamp. Eventually the Georgia Paranormal Housing Authority bulldozer arrived. It was oddly shaped, almost like a cathedral, with flying buttresses and a large blade with a variety of religious icons on it.
“Are you Gloria?” a voice asked.
“Yes, that’s me.” Gloria turned to the speaker.
The man extended a hand.
“Jim Cooke. I’m the regional inspector for GPHA. I understand you were the first person in there?”
“I was investigating an affidavit of complaint about an unregistered poltergeist filed by the landlord.”
“What did you find?” Jim began writing on a form.
“A whole collection of poltergeists. The house itself is possessed, I’d say. We’ll be lucky if you don’t run into a minor demon trying to clean that place out.”
“We may.” Jim scribbled some notes into a box. “Would you mind signing here? It’s a witness statement. We’ll probably want a copy of your report, as well.”
Gloria signed. “What now?”
“Well, I’ve got to call a shelter for all the cats, and the Department of Health and Human Services, as well. We can’t very well bulldoze her house and leave Pearl in the street, can we?” They both looked at the house when it seemed to wail.
“Oh yeah, that thing’s possessed. I hate to send people in for the cats, but…well, we’ve got work to do. Am I keeping you, Gloria?”
She shook her head, “No, this was my last stop for the day. If I may, I’d like to stand by and watch. I’ve seen some nasty hauntings, but nothing like this.”
“You’re welcome to. Thanks for the info.” Jim nodded to her and walked off, shouting orders. After a bit the local shelter showed up with a large number of kennels and began removing cats. Gloria watched as the last of the animal crew came scrambling out, pelted with trash.
The GPHA van showed up and men in protective gear climbed out. Gloria waved in a good natured way. They went in, only to come out fifteen minutes later draped in old feces and oddments from inside the house. The sun was setting in Tula as Jim got an emergency order, and they fired up the Holy Dozer. Choral music blasted over loud speakers shook the air as the dozer roared to life. As the blade pressed on the frame of the house, screams and moans filled the air.
The noise died down as the house was torn down and ground under the silver treads of the dozer. When there was nothing left, the area seemed quieter, restful. Gloria saw Pearl sobbing. The old woman was covered in a blanket. Somber looking volunteers were trying to coax her into a van.
“Ma babies! Oh, mah babies!” Gloria put her arm around the old woman.
“It’ll be okay, Pearl. The shelter will take good care of your cats. I’ll make sure of it for you.”
“Oh, thank you, Gloria, thank you. Bless your heart.”
“You’re welcome, Pearl.”
“What about my ghosts?”
“Oh, the poltergeists will have moved on. It’s for the best, Pearl, trust me.”
The old woman sniffed, but stepped into the van. Gloria got into her car and drove home. She took a hot shower and climbed into bed. She was so tired, she didn’t even wake when the light in her bathroom began turning itself on and off.