the_unexplained.gif (2895 bytes)

Mary Schuttler



Jim Kirk was expecting the door buzzer when it announced a second visitor to his quarters that evening. The doors parted to reveal Leonard McCoy, a flat box clamped under his arm. Kirk wondered what McCoy had cooked up this year for their customary Halloween discussion. Various other methods to mark the ancient holiday were regularly indulged in on the Enterprise; the Biology Department’s Halloween Party was almost mandatory – well, at least once! But Kirk, Spock and McCoy had long ago established their more sedate routine.

"Evenin’ Jim… Spock. Didja wonder if I remembered what night it was?" McCoy greeted his friends with his familiar easygoing style.

Kirk pretended surprise. "What night is it, Bones?"

McCoy aimed a good-natured punch at his friend’s shoulder. "As if you didn’t know. Hey, wait’ll you see what I’ve got!" He whipped the box from beneath his arm. "Ta-da! A genuine, honest-to-goodness Ouija board! This’ll be just the thing…. " He broke off at the expression on Kirk’s face. "What’s the matter, Jim?"

"Don’t bring that thing in here, Bones. If you do, I’ll leave," Kirk warned.

"You’re kidding, right?" McCoy asked, his exuberant grin fading fast when he saw the look on Kirk’s face.

"No, I’m not kidding," Kirk returned firmly.

"But why, Jim?" McCoy persisted. Even Spock looked concerned, rising from his seat and setting aside his glass of iced fruit juice to get a better look at the box.

Kirk looked a bit embarrassed at his violent reaction, but held firm. "I’m sorry, Bones, but that thing just…. just brings back bad memories. If you and Spock want to use it, fine. Just take it somewhere else and do it."

McCoy laid the box down hastily in an unobtrusive place. "Gee, Jim, I had no idea you’d even seen a Ouija Board before."

Kirk remained ominously still.

Spock was lifting the lid with all the inquisitiveness of an eight year old, poking at the simple board inside with its numbers and letters. "It is constructed of simple Terran wood and plastic," Spock observed. "It seems harmless, Captain," he concluded.

"Don’t say that. That’s what we thought," Kirk replied sharply.

McCoy fixed Kirk with a piercing stare. "All right, Jim, we won’t even get it out of the box. But in return, as soon as I get me a drink, you’re gonna tell us what’s going on… what’s caused this reaction in you."

Kirk pressed his lips together in obstinate silence.

McCoy recognized the look. "Oh, no, you don’t. You’re gonna tell us… you know I won’t let it rest." He crossed over to the bar and began rattling glasses and ice. After he had concocted one of his special mixtures which Spock eyed doubtfully, he settled himself in a corner of the cozy sofa. "Okay, let’s have it."

"It’s nothing, Bones. I over-reacted, I guess," Kirk made a lame attempt to soften his reaction, but McCoy would have none of it.

"Jim, that crap might work with Spock, but it’s never worked with me. So cut to the chase and let’s have it," he ordered.

Kirk sighed. There was no evading the thing. Maybe it would be good to tell somebody what happened that night…. after all these years. "It happened the summer Gary Mitchell stayed with us. Gary’s parents and mine knew each other before Gary and I ever went to Starfleet Academy. It’s probably why we were drawn together as cadets. That, and our shared experience that one summer. We were only eleven or twelve... Hell, I don’t remember exactly. Old enough to have known better, maybe." Kirk paused for a sip of his drink.

"We had a great time that summer, Gary, Sam, Petey and I. Petey Greer was a neighborhood kid. A little on the small side, and maybe a little timid, but Sam and I thought he was okay. All red hair and freckles, that Petey. Yeah, he was an all right kid. Now Gary was a different story. He was visiting us from whatever colony he was from. He seemed to take an instant dislike to Petey. I think Petey brought out the bully in Gary. Gary was like that. You never could show him a weakness…he’d zero in on it and attack relentlessly."

Spock shifted in his seat. "So I noticed," he commented dryly.

Kirk shot a look at his first officer. "Well, you had to know Gary. He did have some good traits, too. Anyway, we had a lot of time on our hands that summer. Dad was home for a change, and it was great. Mom and Dad had their hands full just keeping us occupied and out of trouble. We had the run of the place, and run we did, all over our property, the neighboring farms… till one day we found this house in the woods. It was only a shell by then, a brick shell of what was once a grand, two story house. Most of the top story had crumbled away, but the walls and ceilings of the lower floor were pretty much intact.

"We spent all day exploring it, poking through the rubble, unearthing old plumbing, ancient wiring, rusty nails, chunks of plaster. We found an old crystal chandalier, much the worse for wear after its fall from the rotting ceiling and God knows how many years on the floor. We rooted through everything, and speculated about who might have lived there. Petey was as nervous as a tribble in a room full of Klingons while we were exploring. Gary didn’t help the matter … he kept jumping out at Petey from behind corners… Petey was so relieved when we left… " Kirk smiled at the memory.

"That night at the supper table, the four of us – Petey stayed for supper that night – were all relating the adventure to Mom and Dad.

‘That must be the Clark place,’ Dad remarked. ‘I grew up on the legend of that place. I thought it probably fell down years ago. Nobody’s lived there since the 1890s, maybe the 1900s.’

‘What legend?’ Sam eagerly asked.

‘It’s been the local haunted house forever… I remember my Dad and Grandfather both talking about it,’ Dad replied.

‘So what about the legend, Dad?’ I asked.

‘George!’ Mom protested. "You’re not going to drag up that old gossip, are you? It happened so long ago, there’s no way of knowing whether it’s true or not.’

‘Oh, it’s true, all right.’ Dad told her. ‘We spent one whole day in the local library looking up the old newspaper articles.’ He turned to us. ‘Seems this old guy that lived there… Jeb Clark was his name… he bludgeoned his wife and kids to death in the house... his mother-in-law too. Then he shot himself in the head with a pistol.’

‘Ewwww!’ Gary exclaimed with exaggerated distaste, while Sam and I exchanged glances of mingled awe, disbelief and disgust.

Petey’s eyes were as round as saucers. ‘But why?’ he breathed, engrossed with the story.

Dad leaned close to Petey. ‘For the sheer fun of it,’ Dad whispered, then slammed his fist on the table, rattling all the glasses.

Petey jerked backward like a scalded cat, nearly overturned his chair!

Kirk chuckled. "Then this nervous laugh went around the table."

‘Great story, Dad,’ Sam said.

Dad was still laughing at Petey’s reaction, but he raised his hand as if swearing an oath. ‘It’s true, I tell you. I saw the records.’

"We all exchanged looks… Sam’s and mine full of curiosity, Gary’s pure mischief, and Petey’s was dread with a dash of fear mixed in. I knew it wouldn’t be long before we returned to the house."

Kirk paused, gazing across the room as though looking back in time. Then he continued.

"Gary brought it up the very next day. He wanted to go back that night, but Sam firmly nixed that idea. He had promised a neighbor he’d help him with his field fertilization program. So it was two days later when Gary brought the subject up again. He was determined to go that night. He even checked... there was going to be a full moon.

‘And you know what that means…’ Gary said in a melodramatic voice, leering ridiculously at Petey, who gave a snort of laughter. ‘So whaddya say… Jim? Sam?’

Sam and I looked at each other and shrugged, then slow grins spread on our faces.

‘All right. Should be fun. Petey, you comin’?’ Gary made the invitation a challenge.

‘Yeah, I’ll be there,’ Petey replied.

"I wondered if I was the only one who could hear the false note of bravado in his voice.

"But just a visit to the local haunted house wasn’t all Gary had planned. He showed up late that evening, with a flat box tucked under his arm."

‘What’s that?’ Petey asked suspiciously.

Gary patted the box. ‘Just a little added touch.’

Sam tilted his head, trying to read the upside-down letters. ‘O….U….I…"

‘It’s a Ouija board, you moron,’ Gary interrupted, cuffing Sam on the side of his head.

"Sam didn’t like that much… Gary’s ‘friendly punches’ were never that friendly. Anyway, as we tramped through the fields and finally the woods that sheltered the house, Gary explained he’d found the board in an antique shop. He knew what he was looking for, because he’d done a lot of reading about the occult. Petey looked real uncomfortable when Gary mentioned that. But it was too late to back out… we had arrived at the house.

"Somehow it looked more forbidding than it had in the daytime, sitting there washed in the moonlight, as if it was silently waiting… for us. A cold shiver went up my spine. I glanced at the others. Even though we were all nervous, no one was going to be the first to voice any misgiving.

"We went inside and the first thing I noticed was this all-pervading chill… it was a hot August night, yet I swear it was cold in that house. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. "

Sam finally said, ‘Jeez, this place is like a stasis chamber.’

"A shiver ran through me at his unfortunate choice of words. Petey was real quiet, a good indication of how scared he was. Gary was the only one who seemed unaffected by the atmosphere. Everything was quiet except for the chirp of crickets and the buzz of cicadas. Gary moved into the center of the biggest room on the main floor, set down the box with the Ouija board in it, and started dragging things out of a sack he’d brought.

"Making a circle of candles, he lit them efficiently with a porta-flame he whipped out of his pocket."

‘Sets the mood,’ he said in answer to my silently questioning look.

"Then almost reverently, he brought out the Ouija board and set it in the circle of candlelight. It didn’t look like anything special to me… just a board printed with numbers, letters and some mysterious symbols. But Gary acted like it was our ticket to adventure. Finally, he had everything ready to his satisfaction."

‘Well, sit down, you guys. What’re you waiting for?’ he asked us, suddenly impatient to start.

‘Jimmy, you sit there, and Sam here, Petey there’ he pointed out our places to us.

"Gary and Sam were sitting on one side of the board, Petey and I on the other. He showed us how to place our fingertips lightly on the pointer, and warned us all not to try to guide it in any way."

‘Something else will do the guiding,’ he informed us.

"I could see Petey’s fingers tremble as he tried to keep them resting lightly on the pointer."

Kirk paused, taking a long sip of his drink.

"What did you ask the board, Jim?" McCoy nudged, in spite of the increasing anxiety in Kirk’s voice as he told his tale.

Kirk shook his head ruefully. "At first, Gary asked all the questions. All the silly stuff you always ask…‘Will I get married… be wealthy…be powerful...’ He claimed he was just warming up. Then Gary asked it when he would die. I think I must have made some sound of protest. I didn’t want him asking things like that. But he silenced me with a look, and rather than spoil his fun, I shut up. At first I thought the board might not answer. Then it began to move… 2…..2….6…..5…. the year 2265. Our eyes met in shock. That wasn’t very far into the future. And as you know…it turned out to be correct."

Kirk’s eyes met Spock’s unblinking obsidian gaze for a long moment before continuing. "Anyway, Gary tried hard to be nonchalant about it… and he probably fooled Sam and Petey…but not me. I knew he was shook. But he plunged on, probably to hide his reaction."

‘Is it true that many years ago, old Clark bludgeoned four people to death in this house?’

All eyes were glued on the board as it pointed immediately to the ‘Yes.’

Petey’s jaw went slack, and Sam and I exchanged looks, then looked at Gary. His eyes were glittering with excitement. He shifted impatiently, his knees were beginning to protest the extended cross-legged position we had assumed, but no one suggested we stop now. Gary darted a quick glance at Sam and me before he asked his next question.

‘Is Clark’s spirit still in this house?’ he asked.

Again, without hesitation, the pointer moved to the ‘yes’ corner, stopped, made a lazy circle around the board and returned to the ‘yes’.

We all shifted in our seats then, and Gary ran a nervous tongue across his lips.

Sam whispered, ‘Gary, maybe this isn’t such a good idea.’

But Gary made an angry, silencing motion with his hand. It was almost as though Gary thought he had something to prove to us. ‘Is the spirit here now?’ he asked. His voice had dropped to a whisper without his realizing it.

Four pairs of eyes were glued to the board, waiting. I know I was holding my breath and I suspect the others were too. At first the pointer was still, and I heard a slight sigh of relief from Petey’s lips… just before the pointer began a determined course. This time it was spelling something. Gary breathed out the letters as the pointer touched each one.

‘T…U…R…N…A…R…O…U… turn around,’ he repeated.

"The blood drained from our faces, and our eyes locked across the board, horrified. Vainly, Petey and I peered into the darkness beyond Gary and Sam’s shoulders, but Sam’s quick, nearly soundless intake of breath captured my attention. His gaze was riveted on a point somewhere behind Petey and me, and it was with a sinking feeling that I knew whatever it was, it was behind us. Then I heard the faint sound of breathing, a hiss of air through a moist passageway.

"None of this was lost on Petey either. His eyes were as big as saucers. I was cautiously trying to roll my eyes backward without turning my head…But Petey showed no such restraint. In a flash, he whipped his head around, took one look at whatever was behind us and let out a yelp of fear. That cry seemed to release whatever force had been holding us in our seats. We scrambled to our feet, and the Ouija board went flying across the room. Since the thing was between us and the door, we made a concerted dive for the gaping window, and largely fell through it, landing in a tangled sprawl of arms and legs on the dusty ground. Nobody bothered to take inventory, though, and we were on our feet and running a split second later. We ran as if pursued by all the demons of hell… and as far as we were concerned, that was exactly the case. We tore through the woods, our faces and arms and legs scratched by branches, until we emerged into the cornfield on the other side.

"Gary dropped to his hands and knees, totally winded. Sam and I were pretty breathless by then, too, and sprawled on the ground next to Gary, gasping. Endless seconds went by as we lay there, until finally I could speak. I looked back the way we had come."

‘Where’s Petey?’ I managed to ask.

Gary and Sam looked around, confused.

'He was with us when we left the house…. wasn’t he?’ Gary asked in between breaths.

‘Maybe he just fell behind…. He oughta be here in a minute,’ Sam suggested.

But a full minute passed, and Petey didn’t come out of the woods. We all exchanged a look of dread.

‘Something’s happened,’ Sam voiced the thought for us all.

I looked at Gary, whose face reflected mingled shame and fear. I knew he wouldn’t go back for Petey. And I didn’t want my brother to go back to whatever was waiting in that house. I pushed myself to my feet and was off, back the way we had come, before either one of them could say a word.

I thought I heard Sam’s voice call ‘Jimmy!’ just as I plunged back into the woods. I ran all the way, pausing every now and then to hiss ‘Petey?’ even though I didn’t really expect an answer.

"I finally arrived at the clearing where the house sat, and paused at the edge. There was a faint glow from the window we’d so recently tumbled through. I approached with caution and looked through. The glow came from the few candles that were still lit and hadn’t been scattered in our mad dash. I scanned the dark depths of the room. Whatever had been there, wasn’t there any more. Petey was still sitting cross legged where he had been, his eyes wide with shock."

‘Petey!’ I called softly, but he seemed paralyzed with shock. ‘What’s with you? Let’s get outta here,’ I urged as I boosted myself up to the window and swung a leg over. I quickly pulled my other leg over the jamb and sprinted across the room.

‘C’mon, Petey,’ I called, this time more urgently, and I touched his shoulder.

"And he….. he fell over, and that’s when I saw that the whole back of his head…"

McCoy made an involuntary sound of shock and put his hand on Kirk’s arm. After a long moment during which Kirk pulled his emotions together, he continued. "The authorities ruled the death ‘accidental’… they said he probably hit the back of his head trying to scramble out of the window." Kirk paused, looking earnestly at Spock and McCoy. "But I knew better. You see, he never moved… never even had a chance to break for the window. He was still sitting right where he had been when we’d been asking questions. Whatever it was that Gary called forth that night, it killed again. It killed Petey. And that’s why I don’t ever want anything to do with a Ouija board again," he finished quietly.

"Jim, did you see… what was behind you?" McCoy asked hesitantly.

Kirk shook his head. "No. I think Sam and Gary saw it. Whether or not Gary’s extraordinary powers of ESP were involved, we’ll never know. Petey saw it better than anyone… but he wasn’t able to tell us about it. We only talked about it once, later that night. It was almost as though we thought if we talked about it…" Kirk stopped, overcome with memories.

"It would come back," Spock finished.

McCoy looked at the Vulcan with surprise. "You buying into this without scientific proof, Spock?" he asked, amazed.

"It did come from a reliable source, Doctor," Spock replied. "And to resurrect an old Vulcan proverb: ‘Somewhere between the supernatural and the scientific lies… the unexplained.’"

main.gif (11611 bytes)

Free counters provided by Andale.

banner.gif (1761 bytes)

Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES -- 2266-2270 The First Mission
Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES On-Line Fiction
Click Here to Return to the Orion Press Website