(Content note for vomit and horror imagery)
The fact that she’d dreamed about Rosalind Alderidge was enough to convince Iris that it was time to contact the woman. Rosalind was dead, she’d clearly been dead for decades, but she was a real person. And these dreams Iris was having, they weren’t ordinary dreams. She was just on the other side of a veil. And Iris had the experience necessary to slide the veil aside, just enough to have a conversation.
She could do this, even if she couldn’t get Billy McBride to talk. That had rattled her a little, but maybe that was a problem on his end. The two of them weren’t on the right wavelength yet. She’d get him to talk eventually. But maybe if she talked to Rosalind, she’d be able to get the information she needed anyway.
But first things first, she thought as she laid out the last of the candles in the circle. She was in her shop with the doors and windows covered. It was about ten at night and she had closed the shop early in order to prepare for this. Cleansing her body, cleansing her mind, and setting up a safe place in the shop where the ritual could occur. It wasn’t happening in her house upstairs, she had too many protections in place. But she’d carefully arranged the shop so that Roland couldn’t get in as she was distracted by contacting Rosalind.
Iris took a deep breath, reaching for that calm space inside of her. This wasn’t new to her. She did it to cover her mortgage in other people’s homes all the time. It was just that this time, she wasn’t just asking the spirit to leave.
She flicked her lighter on and carefully lit the six candles arranged around her. The air smelled like smoky rosemary and bay, the herbs smoldering in clay pots at every entrance. It was peaceful here, the energy calm, yet heavy with potential. She lit the last candle, then sat back down in front of her spirit board.
“I’m calling on the spirit of Rosalind Alderidge,” Iris called into the silence, bracing her hands just above the planchette. This wasn’t the same board she’d used to accidentally summon Roland. No, this one was from a shop in the woods of Monson, one that was only open one day a week by appointment only. It was blessed and sanctified and cleansed in every way possible. Yet her hands still trembled as she rested the lightest touch against the planchette. “Rosalind, follow the path and the energy and come to me. I want to speak with you.”
Nothing changed as Iris waited for a sign of Rosalind’s presence. She cast her awareness through the store, trying to hear behind every cabinet door and under every stool. Then there was something, a shift in the air, something she could almost see with her eyes closed. “Rosalind?” Iris called hopefully. “Are you here?”
The image flashed through her mind, just long enough for Iris to comprehend. It was Rosalind, her hair falling from its tight bun, her face in anguish. Then she was gone and there was acid in Iris’s throat, shoving its way up so quickly that she couldn’t move before she opened her mouth and vomited. It ran hot down her thin shirt and onto the spirit board as Iris moaned and vomited again, the acid coming out of her so quickly that it didn’t allow her to breathe.
Finally, she gasped for breath as her body heaved again, but nothing came up. The smell of vomit and fear permeated the room, and Iris could feel her pulse pounding behind her burning eyes. Tears ran down her face as she heaved again, spitting a small amount of hot vomit. Her whole body shook, and Iris opened her eyes as the room spun around her.
“Ro-Rosalind?” she called, voice pathetically thin as she wiped at her mouth. The smokey herbs were still smoldering in the corner and all the candles were lit.
And then she was vomiting again, body on fire as liquid sprayed from her mouth. Iris tried not to panic, though she knew this wasn’t just a poorly timed stomach bug. Struggling to catch her breath in between heaves, she dropped to the floor, tears making it hard to see the board. But she reached out with a shaking hand and moved it to GOODBYE.
Just as quickly as it started, the vomiting stopped. Iris lay still for a long while, exhausted and in pain. But as she slowly sat up and blew out all the candles, she knew she was alone in her shop again.
She staggered up the stairs about twenty minutes later. Her mouth tasted like fire and her stomach clenched in pain. But she’d had to clean the shop before making her way up to the safety of her apartment. Finally, she locked the door behind herself and fell to the floor.
Just for a moment, she told herself as cold sweat dripped down her face. She wondered vaguely if she should call someone. But no, she was always getting people in trouble. If she brought someone else in here, they might get sick too. It was okay. It was just a side effect of calling on Rosalind.
She wasn’t an ordinary spirit in the other realm. The burning in her throat reminded her of that fact. No, there was something much bigger going on.
She’d talk to Andrew about it tomorrow. Tonight she needed to shower, then sleep. Maybe she’d get more information from her dreams.
Before she realized what she was doing, Iris was crawling toward her phone. She pulled it off the cradle and slid back to the floor, heart pounding from the movement. She still had Olivia’s number in her head from that last shameful call she’d tried to make and she punched it in, praying Andrew would be the one to pick up.
It wasn’t Andrew, but it wasn’t Olivia, either. “I-is Andrew there?” she gasped out.
“Hang on,” the voice said, with new concern. “Are you alright? Who is this?”
“Iris,” she said. “I’m fine.”
“You don’t sound fine,” the man said. “Hang on, I’ll get him.”
Iris closed her eyes as she heard the background sounds through the receiver. A moment later, Andrew’s voice on the line jerked her back to wakefulness.
“Iris? Is everything okay?”
“Fine,” she said. “I tried… I tried to reach Rosalind. It didn’t work.”
“Jesus,” Andrew muttered. “Alone?”
Was it wrong to get defensive after everything? “It was a normal summoning,” she protested, eyes still closed. “It didn’t work. It hit me hard.”
“What do you need?”
“I just need to rest. I’m sorry, I don’t know why I called. I shouldn’t have.”
“No, of course you should have called,” Andrew said, voice softening. “You should have waited until someone else was there with you, but I’m glad you called.”
Tears welled up in her eyes at the concern he showed. Iris was shaking, and she knew she was going to fall asleep here on the floor if she didn’t move soon. “I threw up.”
“During it. All over my store.”
“I reckon you might want to open late tomorrow,” Andrew said. “Are you safe? Do you want me to come over?”
No, she didn’t. She just wanted to hear his voice. Maybe that was why she’d called without even thinking about it. “I’m safe,” she said. “I’m just going to… to shower and sleep.”
“Where are you now?”
“My apartment. It’s secure. She’s a ghost, but she’s not.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Andrew said. “Don’t try to contact her again.”
“She’s real. She was here. She was so sad, Andrew.”
“She went through a lot,” Andrew said. “Look, go get some sleep, yeah? I’ll call you in the morning.”
“Yeah,” she said.
She vaguely heard herself saying goodbye to him. Her body didn’t hurt anymore, but it felt completely drained of everything, physically and spiritually. She needed to get up. But if she tried to take a cleansing bath right now, there was a very real chance she’d fall asleep and drown.
She was safe in her home. If she fell asleep right here for a little while, everything would be okay.