A Foolish Heart

Oliver and his best friend Walker walked into the old hospital with the rest of the group. Even if the rumored hauntings proved false, its peeling paint and fallen ceiling tiles would have caused anyone pause.  Walker thought this was a great way to spend a Friday night in February. After all, there was nothing else happening in the little mountain town. Although Oliver had his reservations about the idea, he was bored and decided it was worth trying.

The leader stopped the team inside the entryway and spoke. “For those that don’t know me, my name is John. We’re pretty informal here. You’re allowed to talk amongst yourselves, but if something does happen, I ask you be respectful and simmer down so we can hear what the ghosts have to say. A few other rules that most folks already know. Don’t provoke the spirits. Unlike what you see on television, they don’t like that. Don’t invite them to use any part of your body, unless the idea of possession appeals to you, and even then, don’t do it. Finally, don’t wander off. This hospital is a big place. I don’t want to have to interrupt everyone’s evening trying to find one of you.”

Oliver thought John’s folksy speech seemed a bit out of place for such a creepy location, but he assumed John probably had done this a thousand times before, and by now it was all old hat to him. The team of five people all nodded and then followed John deeper into the bowels of the old hospital. After several staircases, and a few twists and turns, they arrived in some part of the building. John claimed it was the sanitarium wing, but then admitted they weren’t 100% certain about his assumption.

The team was invited to wander around the adjoining rooms. Oliver walked into an old treatment room. The raised tub looked like something right out of a Stephen King movie. In the pail light of his flashlight, the old white tile appeared gray and depressing. Oliver could hear the others moving about in other rooms. There was nothing to see, but something in the place kept him from leaving.

Oliver nearly jumped out of his skin when something touched his shoulder, and a voice whispered in his ear, “Hi, Ollie.”

Instinctively Oliver turned. He found Walker standing next to him snickering. Walker pulled himself together and quietly said, “Dude, you are too wound up.”

“Not funny,” was Oliver’s only reply.

Walker spoke with an air of sarcasm. “How’s the water in here? I bet you could use a bath now.”

“What are you doing?” protested Oliver.

“Take it easy, man,” responded Walker quietly as he motioned downward with the palm of his hand. “There’s nothing here, and even if there is, I have this.” Walker pulled out a necklace with a cross nestled inside amber. “I picked it up at some crystal shop in the mountains the other week. It’s supposed to be a talisman. The shopkeeper said it would keep evil spirits away.”

Oliver put his flashlight into Walker’s eyes. “You’re an idiot.”

“Keep your voice down.” Walker protested. “Besides, there’s nothing here. What kind of an idiot would hang out in a place like this?”

Oliver tried to keep his anger in check. “If there is anything here that necklace won’t protect you. Besides, I thought you didn’t believe in this stuff.”

“I don’t,” Walker responded rather sheepishly. Oliver could tell his friend knew his response was not making sense in light of his necklace, but Walker continued to push his argument. “I mean, I don’t believe in the stuff you do. If your God is so powerful why are you afraid of ghosts?”

Oliver took the light out of his friend’s face and answered. “It’s the same reason I don’t play on the freeway, or try to pet a tiger. There are rules to dealing with this part of God’s creation. If you respect the spirits and don’t attempt to interact directly with them, you should be okay. But, when start provoking them bad things can happen.”

“You believe that?” Walker asked.

“Basically, yeah.”

Walker put his light under his face so Oliver could see his friend’s narrow head shaking in disbelief. “That sounds pretty lame. Besides, we’re alive, and they’re dead. Even if they exist, they can’t hurt us. Do you hear me losers? I’m not afraid of you.”

Oliver had heard enough and walked out without saying a word. He found the rest of the group huddled together listening to a speaker that was spewing out low amounts of static. “What are you doing?” asked Oliver.

John looked up and said, “This is a spirit box. Sometimes the spirits talk through this. Sometimes it’s in response to a question, or they simply say something.”

Oliver stood there listening along with the rest of the team. Walker walked up from behind and asked, “Is everyone enjoying some white noise?”

A deep, loud voice abruptly emanated from the speaker, “Him,” it said. Walker grabbed his chest and took a step back. Everyone could hear Walker struggle to suck in air. Oliver put his flashlight on his friend’s face. Walker’s face was full of fear, and he nearly doubled over trying to take his next breath. The air around Oliver became heavy and oppressive, although he could breathe okay.

Oliver spoke above the static of the speaker and place his hand on Walker, “Release my friend now.” A light breeze passed through Oliver and the air became lighter than it had been moments before. Walker began to breathe a little easier, but he still appeared frightened. Oliver removed his hand from his friend. Walker stood up and then ripped the talisman from around his neck and threw it hard to the floor. “What’s wrong?” asked Oliver.

Walker pointed to the ground. “That thing, it felt like it weighed a ton. I couldn’t breathe until you told whatever it was to leave. That necklace doesn’t work. If anything it attracts trouble.”

A voice behind Oliver responded, “I don’t think it’s the necklace.” John walked up. “Did you provoke anything?” Walker shrugged and said nothing. “I’m sorry, but for your safety, you’re going to need to leave.”

Walker looked over at Oliver. “I don’t need to be told twice. Let’s get out of here.”

Oliver apologized to the group for the inconvenience and John led them all back to the entrance. Nobody spoke a word, and both men remained silent after they left the group and got into the car. As they drove down the long private road that led away from the old hospital, Walker finally spoke up. “Why did it listen to you? Whatever happened, why could you stop it? And please, don’t start preaching to me.”

Oliver smiled as he kept his eyes on the road. After a brief pause, he replied, “Respect. If you recognized that there is an intelligent force over the universe, it’s about respecting the Creator and the creation. That’s why Solomon said that only a fool says in his heart there is no God.”

Walker grunted and rubbed his chest as they drove away in silence.



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