Disclaimer:- The Dead Zone has never belonged to me and all that... blah, blah, no money and all that.
This fic began life as a request from Tzi (how could I refuse?) about a concept that Yoiko *waves at Yoiko* had discovered and thought would be good to be done in a Dead Zone setting. Here for them both, and anyone else is my take on the information apparently based on true events (http://www.dibbukbox.com)
When Johnny Smith had a nightmare, he rather expected it to be a little more impressive than the one he had been having regularly over the last few nights. Not that he was wishing it upon himself, but generally his nightmares involved blood, terror and hideous scenes blended and merged from the flood of visions he had endured ever since he had awakened from that coma and the 'gift' had awakened with him. But no, it was nothing like that. The recurring nightmare was of a carved box. A carved wooden box which looked something like a cabinet of some sort and not a terribly impressive one at that. It seemed to be maybe around eighty years old and rather indistinguishable from any other furniture of that type. There was no real reason why he should be calling it any more than a rather surreal dream when all the horror inherent in the wine box should have been limited to the way the object would very patently clash with the rest of the decor of his living room. He found it rather inexplicable that it had elevated itself into the realm of nightmares by just existing and creeping into his subconscious mind.
In the nightmare, it sat there in the room that he recognized as his own living room, and the background seemed ever so slightly to bend around it. As if it was something slightly heavier or contained something more massive than the norms of reality could tolerate.
That discrepancy was enough to twist a low grade anxiety in him despite everything he had been through and witnessed in his life. He should be used to the horrifying and inexplicable by now being caught up in it practically on a daily basis until recently, but there was something about this dream that got right to the heart of his buried fears and gave them a damn good tug.
The box, or cabinet or whatever the hell it was, would just sit there in the dream with that aura of strangeness that was totally at odds with its rather mundane appearance. And he would walk closer, looking for something to explain the malignancy and threat he felt breathing from the object in pulsing exhalations. That tension was rather like the apprehension of waiting for a doctor to tell you how long you had to live, growing as the moments passed.
How could anyone feel such dread over a simple object of furniture? All it was, was wood, and badly carved wood at that. Some decorated vines on the outside to serve as handles for the cabinet door when they were unlatched. A drawer at the bottom. That was it.
And yet in the nightmare, dread turned very easily to terror as he stood a few feet away staring at the mystery artifact. He could see every single detail, every grain in the wood, the color of it all, and yet it was roaring in his head to run, to get away and be anywhere else except where he was standing.
And still, he reached to do what he always did when confronted with a mystery no matter how dark, or dangerous.
He reached out his hand, watching it shake and tremble like a human divining rod plumbing for mysteries, staring as he lowered it down to touch so he would pull a vision from its heart that would allow him to control and place this irrational fear.
He felt the least it could do was dramatically spew blood or let out a blood curdling scream.
No. Time and again, the thing that sent him gasping back to consciousness in a panicking sweat was the fact in the dream that as he touched the box it shivered under his fingertips. Shivered like a dozing beast rousing from a last meal to fresh hunger.
It was so real and so tactile that it woke him every time with an adrenaline rush of fear. He had to say it, even if it was just to himself, it freaked him out.
And coming from Johnny Smith, who spent a world of time inadvertently slipping into the darkest places of the human mind, to describe himself as 'freaked out' was a big deal.
It was just an ordinary box. It wasn't as if he had gotten anything off of it when he and Bruce had actually brought it into the house a few days ago. They'd damn near dropped the thing and Bruce had only just stopped the door flying open and spilling its contents over the drive way and he'd felt nothing then except for the pain when they dropped it on his foot in the process.
He looked at his breakfast coffee morosely. Maybe there was some deep psychological meaning to dreaming about terrifying antique wine boxes. Rebecca would have...
He barely looked up as the door opened, too deeply contemplating the latest disaster his life had thrown at him. Besides, he already knew who it would be -- Bruce, for the morning checkup before work, making sure that he hadn't managed to do something stupid to himself in the night. His latest injury was way past the need for anyone to be concerned about it, though he knew that it was a more psychological concern his friend had.
"John, you're really going to have to start changing your security codes, man." Bruce wandered in with groceries as if he lived there. "I mean, come on. Use some initiative here. Your birthday as a security code? Any random person off the street could just come barging in here."
"If they knew my birthday." Johnny looked up a little forcing himself to some semblance of welcome. "And happened to be interested in even coming over."
"Plenty of people that way, John." Bruce's smile faded a little as he took in the psychic's appearance. "You look like shit."
"And good morning to you, too, Bruce," Johnny said wryly. The other man always kept his distance unless invited closer, a habit that had formed between them both for practical reasons.
"You taking the pills or not?" Bruce frowned as he turned his attention to the other man. "You said you were taking the pills. So help me I'll..."
"Chill?" Bruce did stop if only in amazement at the faux pas. "John, no one says chill any more. No one really said 'chill' when it was being said."
"I said 'chill'," Johnny protested weakly.
"But you also think the clothes you wear are classic," Bruce felt he had to point out, grinning at him. "So, sleeping pills or not?"
"Oh, I'm taking them, but I'm getting nightmares." Johnny gestured for him to help himself to coffee. "You bring the bagels?"
"Yeah, but you should be walking more ... you know like... outside, John, before you deserve one," Bruce said pointedly. "Soft cheese and salmon in the morning. Can't be good for you."
"Do I look like I'm putting on weight?" Johnny asked rhetorically even as he waited for the bag to materialize.
"No. No you don't. Which is another thing that..."
"Bruce, save it, okay?" Johnny said sharply. Maybe a little sharper than he had intended, but he was tired. He'd been degrees of tired for years now but ever since Rebecca he had been exhausted. He didn't know if his interference had done anything of any worth, and all it had done was not 'quite' saved a life and possibly doomed everything to a hideous future.
A tragic irony really, that she had been doomed to a coma and he had saved Stilson's life, even if it was because the man had used him as a human shield and he had taken a bullet fired by her. There was a peculiar sense of symmetry to it - after all, he had set it all into motion even if his intention had been to save her life. He hadn't dared pick up the silver cane since, unable to face the future and see if any of those sacrifices had been worth it.
"Johnny, c'mon, you can't plead recovery forever," Bruce said firmly. "You want me to pull another intervention on you? I'm telling you man, the way you're going, that's where you are headed. Storm and twisters and shit not withstanding."
"Knowing my luck, this time it'll be an avalanche or something," Johnny replied with dark humor.
"We're nowhere near snow in Cleeves Mill."
"A big avalanche." Johnny countered. "Huge thing. Right down from Alaska. Tragic. Should have kept your hair long, Bruce, 'cos your ears are going to freeze off."
"Yeah, very funny, man. You are full of it, John," Bruce told him darkly even as he unpacked the ready done bagels. "I can hear your arteries clogging up. So... nightmares, right? Or Visions?"
"Nightmares. Stupid nightmares. Freaking me out nightmares."
"Freaking... you out?" Bruce paused even as he lifted an apple to his mouth. "John, you've handled shit that would scare me witless. Does this mean that it's the whole Stilson thing... it... well you know?"
Armageddon? End of the world. Washington in flames.
Or a box. That shivered.
Hmm. Tricky. The similarities weren't exactly rife.
"Just uh, one too many stale bagels before bed time. Nightmares about that damn box that Gene is storing here." Johnny admitted feeling very foolish. Dreams of Armageddon at least had some credibility. You were expected to be afraid of that.
"The wine box?" Bruce sounded skeptical. "Not that hulking big wardrobe? Now that is creepy. There were.... mothballs, man. Gothic mothballs. Damn, I hate those things. Besides, you didn't get anything off of it when we carried it in did you? Aside from a bruised foot where we dropped. Considering it was one of the only things you did help bring in."
"Yeah, yeah, pick on the man who should have been in surgery and got shot, instead," Johnny replied and sighed inaudibly. "I just... don't know why, Bruce, but every night I've been dreaming about it. "
"And it's what? An evil vampire box? We need to put a stake through its heartwood?"
"That's really bad, Bruce," Johnny looked at him with a stern gaze for that bad pun.
"Seriously, man, what's the nightmare? I mean you've seen murders, and felt them, seen disasters and... everything. What's the deal with the box?" Bruce asked being a little less flippant.
"It's just... terrifying. And it moves. Just a little. I can't explain it. I can't wait until Gene has the auction and gets rid of it. Why people need to leave their earthly goods to Faith Heritage, I don't know." Johnny replied frustrated.
"So Purdy can pay you back." Bruce bit into the apple with relish. "Look, staying in the house is driving you stir crazy. Let's do some fishing. You could get J.J. and give Sarah and Walt some alone time. They're worrying about you, too, and Walt is stressed. Workload going up at the moment."
"I'm not ready to go back into it, Bruce. Not yet."
"Hey, man, that wasn't a dig or anything," his friend replied hastily. "Just a fact. Lot of weird shit going on at the moment. So, fishing?"
"Not today, Bruce." Johnny said in a tone of voice Bruce knew was an absolute. He backed off casually as if he hadn't been serious at all.
"I'll bug you tomorrow then. If I have to carry you out there bodily, you will see sunlight again. My credibility as a physio is at stake here man, and the worse you look, the more my income drops. Think of my future children, John!" Bruce grinned at him as he turned to leave.
"Bruce Junior and Robin ?" Johnny asked adopting a quizzical look.
"Hey did you..."
"Damn. You'd think I'd be wise to you by now." Bruce shook his head. "Bruce and Robin. Damn."
Johnny grinned a little and saw him to the door. "Have a good day, Bruce," he said as he patted him on the shoulder...
He felt the stuttering roar and familiar vision tug that sent him into that different world that was the place of his visions. He'd tried many times to describe the sensation and failed as it was impossible to convey it in anything other than secondhand descriptions interpreted through other senses than the one that was working. It was like a lucid dream of reality. There was a knowledge that it wasn't now, but a raw overwhelming feeling that this was real and that it would happen, or had happened. He could feel that. He usually said that he would feel a little disorientated and the images would come at him or he would rush into them, sometimes like the whisper of a ghost, and sometimes like an arrow striking a target.
This time was brutal, hard, visceral in its impact
Flash of a blade above him, catching his panicking vision. The feeling of weight on him, kicking back hard, fighting for his life. His breath was ragged and the emotion was one of desperation and betrayal. He fumbled and gripped for the blade even as he was aware of himself yelling. "No! I won't LET you! "
He whirled fighting, tumbling, unable to see who or what was attacking him. It didn't feel right. It burned in his mind, in his sight, making his eyes stream as if he was trying to see through a needle piercing in through the dark centers of his pupils.
But he was losing. A large burning hand pushed down on his chest and he could see the knife descend slowly and a very familiar voice choke out...
"I'm sorry, John. But I have to do this. It's gone too far."
He blinked, swam up out of the other-world, released from its tyrannical grip and Bruce was half way down the drive way to his truck "...and do those exercises, John, or you'll be the one regretting it!"
He was too shaken to do anything else except raise his hand and nod before retreating.
Fuck. Fuck what was that about?
The sense of betrayal lingered around him. Bruce? Attacking him with a knife. It was... impossible.
But the Visions never lied. They could be misinterpreted, or assumptions made but they didn't lie. And that had felt all too real.
His hands were shaking. What the hell was wrong with him? Bruce wouldn't betray him. Bruce was his best friend, his lifeline in this complex world he had been reborn into whether he wanted it or not.
Better to believe it was tiredness than a real Vision.
A stiff drink. That would help.
He limped into the living room and went to his sideboard and pulled the first bottle he could find. A cheap brandy he usually only had at Christmas from the taste of it, and then the hair on the back of his neck prickled abruptly and he turned around rapidly half expecting to see someone there watching him succumb to weakness.
Nothing. But he still had the sensation of being watched. And the only thing in the line of sight was...
The damn box.
He stood and watched it a moment as it steadfastly refused to do anything spectacular. Or even remotely impressive. There was however, a rather odd odor in the room.
He sniffed at the shot of brandy that was taking away the shock of the Vision. Nightmare. Whatever. That smelt okay but...
"Dammit Bruce, you didn't let the Henderson's cat in here again, did you?"
The room stank of the sharp acrid smell of urine. As if a male cat had sprayed over the place which had happened on the odd occasion that the unspayed tom from across the road decided he needed reminding that his house actually belonged to the feline race.
"That creature is a menace," he muttered aloud nearly choking on the pervasiveness of the stench. "Where's my blacklight?"
By the time he had fetched it, the living room smelt nowhere near as bad, and shining the blacklight had not fluoresced a single drop of cat urine anywhere.
And a little worrying. Not worrying enough that he was going to waste time on it though.
Resolutely he turned his back on the artifact and walked away.
And tried to ignore the fact it watched him go all the way.
Bruce would have been pleased. He had gone out in the early evening for no real reason aside from getting away from the house and picking up something to eat, and had been surprised at the rather belligerent behavior of some of the local kids.
He reminded himself of Bruce's relatively recent brush with death at the hands of muggers and victims alike. And the numerous attacks he had helped to prevent and solved. Cleeves Mill was not the center of all sweetness and light by any means, but still the atmosphere felt a bit raw.
Or maybe it was just him. Maybe it wasn't the place that had changed, it was him. He didn't feel comfortable. It was as if everything around him, rubbed and abraded at raw and open sensitivities.
It was a relief to retreat back home. It was quiet and he was so familiar with the visions there that they murmured in the back of his mind like a comforting hum of memories rather than the sometimes violent penetrating rush of an intimate knowledge forcing its way into his mind.
He found himself acutely aware of the living room as he avoided it, unwilling to venture near the mouth of darkness that was the partially open door.
Which was stupid because if there were someone in the house he would have felt it on touching the front door. Handy, these psychic abilities, sometimes.
Johnny considered his avoidance as he made a drink, prodding at his reluctance. He had no vision to back it up, nothing except for a subconscious unease and it might just be possible that his much vaunted abilities were on the fritz.
Seeing Bruce attack him with a knife was a pretty sure indicator of that. Himself? He could understand if he was pushed to murder. He had tasted it in the psychic spoor of many, he had been pulled and twisted so many times, losing and losing himself so often that if he cracked it would be a relief rather than a surprise. Practically all of his friends would say that. All... uh... three of them? Purdy still had yet to redeem himself in his eyes.
So. Yeah. Psychic Fritz city. Who could blame him? With everything that had happened, surely he was entitled to a little slack?
He watched the dark door of the living room suspiciously. This was ridiculous. It was a box.
He went over to the door and went to turn on the light in the room before stepping in. There was a click and absolutely no light came on. Johnny frowned into the darkness and glanced down as the moonlight from outside glittered on something on the floor. Automatically he bent immediately to pick it up...
Flash of images...
Moonlight on shards of glass, studding the streets with a diamond adornment until every surface glittered with sharp cruel pieces. People running, yelling, a wild unstoppable electricity in the air, harsh and powerful. Throwing things...
Henry Gaskell of the store on the corner closest to him, lying in a shroud of glass woven from the window of his own shop...
...and another window cracked like thunder, releasing a tide of something into the crowd in the street.
And there was Walt, running, trying, ducking as missiles and handfuls of glass were hurled his way in a parody of a crystal snowball, the looters uncaring and vicious... throwing until he went down and...
There was the him-now Johnny standing next to Walt, as the moment froze around him. Gingerly he touched one of the pieces of glass embedded in him, still unable to subdue the horror completely.
The reaction was unexpected. There was a roar in his mind as if he was traveling deeper and being fought. As if all of what he had seen had been the tip of an ancient psychic iceberg that was pulling him down.
It wasn't clear, it made him struggle and panic as he used to do with his visions, trying to quell them, push them away.
But the roar now was a roar of a multitude, the glass was there again, bright and incongruously beautiful in its violent destruction, a counterpoint to the ugliness of the ghostly people who dragged others from shadowy shops in a different time and place but with enough similarities to make the scene parallel to the one he had just witnessed.
Harsh accents snapped in a cold night as he watched in a numb horror.
And then one of the men in the vision turned and slowly smiled as he locked gazes with him, seeing him with dark, glittering eyes.
That shock, that recognition, that moment of 'I see you' wrenched him clear and back to bending over with a shard of glass in his hand.
He flung the piece of glass down, blood dripping from a cut where he had gripped too tightly, breathing raggedly.
What the hell....
Come on, a double piggy back vision with very surreal elements? Okay, he had had one or two surreal visions, but mostly they were very literal.
He back away into the light, his hand still shaking and then blinked as he caught a flicker out of the corner of his right eye.
Like the shadow of something large and swift lurking just out of sight behind him.
Okay this was just stupid. He was not going to get spooked by this. There was probably some rational explanation for it. He'd just go to bed, take a sedative, sleep, and talk about it in the morning with Bruce.
Who would laugh, he was sure of it. Laugh and poke fun at the spooky psychic getting spooked.
"John, this could be serious."
Johnny looked at him over his coffee. "Bruce, I was imagining more of ridicule in terms of response, not the solemn tones of a TV movie."
"This is no joking matter, John," Bruce said leaning on the table. "And so far your visions have been right. Even when they shouldn't have been."
"You trying to tell me, Bruce, that you've been spending your evenings sharpening a big knife with my name on it?" John replied looking at his friend with a skeptical look.
"No, of course not, John." Bruce looked distinctly uneasy and Johnny didn't have to touch him to realize Bruce was holding back something. He liked that about him, that he was so open. It gave him a semblance of comfort and normality in not having to push into his head to get his thoughts.
"So? I've finally gone to the big nuthouse in the sky? What?" Johnny queried.
"I don't think... that... only..." Bruce grimaced. "We should get you checked out."
"Ah, so the reservations are made at the nuthouse in the sky, just awaiting arrival." Johnny nodded, looking down at his coffee.
"No. Look, what you describe, John," Bruce was very uncomfortable. "The strange smell, the skewed hallucinatory effect, the visual aberration and feeling of being watched or inexplicable emotional reactions to things... it's text book, John."
"Text book what?"
No sentence was good that ended up with 'It's text book.'
"Possible brain tumor." Bruce said finally.
His point was proven.
"Oh." He had to slump back in his chair. A brain tumor? What, it found the gap where half of the gray matter had smeared around the road after the accident and decided to move in? Christ on a fucking crutch! Had he fulfilled his cosmic purpose and that was it, time to punch in the overtime?
"It might not be. It might be something just as simple as stress," Bruce said hastily.
"Hmm." Johnny was not convinced.
"We'll go to the hospital, we'll get you scanned again, and then we'll know, right?" Bruce said reaching for the bagels he had brought over just as Johnny reached for his own. There was an accidental light brush of contact...
Flash of images and a weird twisted echoing feeling to his vision. As if he was hearing from a distance or subtitles or there was a double layer of information. Bruce's voice.
"..told him that we were coming in for a scan, but he's lost it doctor. Seriously. He's completely terrified of this box in his house. I'm worried about him."
"I'll put him under when he's lying down for the MRI. Hopefully we can get the sedative in him without any problems."
The Johnny-now self was still standing there watching Bruce, aware again of a distortion in his vision as if something was trying to prevent him seeing the truth. He stared at his best friend, hurt by the implicit betrayal.
Selling me out! I trusted him!
There was something burning in his senses here, a roaring of otherness as he looked at his friend. A slight incongruity to his shadow that made him freeze in shock and as he turned... his dark eyes...
Weren't Bruce's eyes.
He snapped back, trying to make his movement casual as he took the bagel.
He looked at Bruce suspiciously for a different reason. So say he wasn't crazy, had a brain tumor, or generally on the psychic fritz. If there was some meaning buried in this what was it?
Bruce not being himself? How literally should he take that?
"So, I'll make an appointment, okay?" Bruce said. "In the meantime, you want to take a look at this box with me here? You been back in there this morning?"
He shook his head. "No. I didn't sleep that well so I..."
"Staggered out of bed just in time for your morning bagel delivery, yeah I get it, John," Bruce cut in, sounding amused. "C'mon, lets take a look, and if anything freaky happens, I'll be here too. To hold your hand."
"Your dedication astounds me, man," Johnny quipped back pushing the other vision to the back of his mind. "Come on then. Let's see what an idiot I'm being."
"You said it not me man," Bruce said preceding him towards the living room.
"Watch out for the glass, okay?" He could see it from here and was relieved he hadn't imagined that part of things.
Bruce was looking around. "Looks like all your lights popped bulbs. Could've been a power surge maybe?"
"Maybe." Johnny didn't sound overly convinced. He still felt uncomfortable being there though there was none of the awareness he had experienced the previous evening. The sights of the glass shards on the carpet brought the memory of that peculiar dual layer vision with the streets so filled of glass that it sparkled like crystal.
"Well, here's the box. What is it? A wine cabinet or something?" Bruce looked at it again, casually and easily touching it. It made all his dilemma and hesitation laughable. "These vine bits look stuck on, not the same wood. Maybe it wasn't originally a wine box. You looked inside yet?"
"You kidding me?"
When he could hardly approach the box? Opening it was along the lines of asking him to pick up the silver cane again and face the prospect of Armageddon in his mind once more. At least for now he could pretend that his ignorance was tantamount to it all being over.
"Well let's see if we got some antique bottles of wine or something," Bruce said opening it up as if it were just a normal piece of furniture. It shocked Johnny that he did it. And then he was shocked at the fact he was shocked.
He suspected he could amuse himself like that for hours.
Cynicism was probably not a positive trait that he should be cultivating, especially if Bruce was alternatively planning to stab him or have him sectioned.
"Okay, what do we have?" Johnny asked sitting down on the chair closest to the box. "Bones? Mysterious bloody knife? What?"
"We have... a candle stick!" Bruce said dramatically. "And damn it's ugly. I can see why it got stuffed in here. It looks like a deranged octopus mated with a wrench or something."
"My God, that is hideous," Johnny had to agree nearly flinching back from the item.
"Want to try on this one? I know you're not getting anything from the box, but how about this?" Bruce offered it over and Johnny hesitated. Okay. What could go wrong?
...Just the same as always, his brains could start leaking out of his head or something. But television could do that to you eventually apparently so...
"Yeah." He reached out for it, his hand starting to shake as it felt the roaring presence of a vision lurking in its form. It was like hearing an ocean inside a single raindrop, the dizzying pull of emotion that was like a peculiar magnetism. He closed his hand around the base and...
Darkened room, the Candlestick lighting a circle of people sitting around the table.
"We shouldn't. Not again, " one of the women said and the accent and words were noticeably German. Those were the harsh sounds in the previous vision. Their dress was dated. The past, definitely the past sometime around the war.
"We have to; it's the only way to keep the dybbuk controlled until the rabbi finds someone who can deal with it. You know that it turns its attention outwards when it is not tormenting those that called it first."
Johnny stared at the man speaking. What the hell was a dybbuk? The mention of a rabbi made him lean towards this group being of Jewish extraction...
"You call what is happening out there to do with this?" Another man exclaimed. "That is ridiculous. The persecution of our people is a fascist agenda that.."
He was shushed by a nervous hiss.
"Do you want to take that chance? Now focus... Bethany? Please begin."
That clinched the Jewish connection. A Jewish séance of a sort? He hadn't realized that was something that was acknowledged by Judaism, but frankly his knowledge of the Jewish faith was limited.
He was watching the table when it happened. The candlestick flickered and shivered and he glanced around to the medium and startled back. She looked up with bright dark eyes. Eyes that he had seen in his vision of Bruce and the strange distorted vision of betrayal.
"Jesus!" Johnny snapped back to the present.
"Bad one?" Bruce asked sympathetically.
Johnny looked at him warily. How much did he say? If this was some weird case of possession, then telling Bruce anything could be dangerous.
"Weird one," Johnny said finally. "Sort of distorted. Muddled. Ever heard of anything called 'Dybbuk'?"
Bruce shook his head slowly. "Can't say I have. Is it a place or a thing or something? We can look it up."
"Maybe tomorrow," Johnny replied rubbing at his head. "I think I might try and get that sleep debt paid off."
"You want me to get an appointment for you now?" Bruce asked locking the cabinet door again.
The echoes of his bagel-related vision haunted him. "Uh, no, I'll do it, Bruce. Scouts honor."
"Sure, John, sure you will." Bruce was not fooled. "I'll give you to the end of the week, and then I'll make one for you. Look, I've got to go and check in for my first session at the hospital in about thirty so I better get moving. You take it easy, okay?"
"Easy, gotcha." Johnny sat there as if his leg was giving him trouble, and Bruce obligingly got up to go.
"I'll see myself out, man, I'll be in again tomorrow. Same time, same bagel," his friend said.
"See you then, Bruce," Johnny answered absently, even as he planned his day in the wake of Bruce's departing footsteps. He had a trip to make to Reverend Purdy and the Faith Heritage Ecclesiastical Library. He could find what he was looking for there and find a way to help Bruce before this... dybbuk drove him to the levels of insanity that prompted him to pick up a knife and come after him.
For a man teetering on the edge of financial ruin, Reverend Purdy did not stint on anything. There were times when Johnny wanted to hate him, suspect him and, yes, the man had a long way to go in regaining his trust, but there was a certain core spirituality to the man that Johnny could sense every time he touched him. If you could be a shyster and at the same time a man of faith and vision, Reverend Purdy was that man. A toughness as well that had him face the world and confess, to make tough choices and reach high and examine his falls from grace for their message from the faith that made up the heart of his life.
Even when he was angry with him, he did respect Purdy. It was hard not to after the revelations surrounding how he had covered up with mother's suicide out of a long cherished love for her, and a respect for her dignity.
And he owed him. Big time.
"Johnny, a pleasure to see you, my boy." Purdy stood to meet him, beaming a welcome. "I must say I was surprised, considering"
"Well, I let you store that clearance in my house, Gene, I haven't exactly severed ties completely," Johnny replied not ready to play the prodigal son just yet.
"The auction is set for a week Tuesday, and I appreciate the assistance, Johnny. I am sure that it will go a substantial way to replenishing the funds..."
"I'm sure it will. As it happens, it's one of the items that I'm here about," Johnny interrupted a little sharply.
"The gothic style wardrobe? I did wonder if you might pick something up from it," Gene Purdy looked at him steadily. "Did you have another Vision, Johnny?"
"What do you think?"
What was wrong with him? That was snappish even considering the circumstances. He really should have tried to get some more sleep before he started this. It was more stressful than he thought not being able to trust Bruce. He would have anticipated Sarah being his foundation, but she was with Walt. Or maybe even Purdy, but when it came down to it, it was his physiotherapist Bruce who had ended up being his grounding force. And to suddenly not be certain of him was wounding and exhausting.
He rubbed at his temple again. "Sorry, Gene. I'm a bit tired. I've been having nightmares about the wine box. I wanted to know if you knew any more about it?"
"The wine box? Really?" Purdy looked surprised and then put on his reading glasses. "Well let me look at the inventory, it's here somewhere. Hmm. Ah yes, here we are."
Johnny squinted a little, his eyes a little photosensitive with tiredness as he waited somewhat impatiently.
"The wine box, Gene," he prompted again.
"Patience my boy, it's not listed under Wine box, which makes the process of locating it a little difficult." Gene cleared his throat and peered down the list. "Ah yes, Wine Cabinet, also known as the Dybbuk box. Hmm, that is interesting.."
"That's it... that's the one. " Johnny leaned forward. "What does it mean? Dybbuk. I heard that word in a vision."
Gene sat back and Johnny knew from the way he stroked his beard thoughtfully that he did know something. He had always been convinced it was a pose of sorts but it just seemed to be a rather irritating Purdy habit.
"Well, I believe it is a kabbalistic term, part of the Jewish mysticism," the priest said, clearing his throat. "I'm sorry, Johnny, my recall doesn't extend to much more than it being a term for a malevolent spirit or entity that possesses a person or place unawares and can have rather distressing effects."
"Does the Library have books on this, Gene?" he asked impatiently.
"Well we have several kabbalistic texts and references in the section on Judaism," Purdy replied watching him. "You seem somewhat agitated, Johnny?"
"I'd just like to get decent night's sleep," Johnny replied a little acerbically. "I haven't had one in the last four nights since I moved it in to my house."
"That begs the obvious question of why haven't you just thrown the thing out?" Gene asked even as he got the key to the Faith Heritage Library out of his drawer.
"Because the box in itself might not be the problem," Johnny replied taking the key. Without a vision, thank God.
"Are you genuinely considering the possibility of some sort of possessing spirit, Johnny?" Purdy sat up straight. "The ramifications of this are... incredible! You need to research this thoroughly, and perhaps an article would not go amiss..."
"...and a nondescript Wine box will suddenly become a prized commodity and every parapsychologist nut will want to get their hands on it." Johnny said cynically. "What coincidence that it's going to auction shortly."
"The implications to faith and the spiritual realm were my priority," Gene rebuked a little. "Still, by all means, let me offer our resources and my assistance if that should help."
"I think I can manage this mission alone, Gene," Johnny replied. "I'll let you know if I turn up anything."
"Just call if you need anything, my boy," Purdy nodded.
"How about a normal life?" Johnny murmured as he headed off to a long day of research.
What he couldn't borrow, he had photocopied and had put out on the tables in his basement. His 'Armageddon' and Stilson conspiracy board had been wiped clean -- well, more partially attacked when he had been well enough to move after the abortive shooting. He had been in a rage at himself for sharing the secret and condemning Rebecca to such a path through revenge. Never mind what Bruce had said about her choosing her own path. She wouldn't have even known that the path had existed if not for him and his stupidity. He hadn't needed the press to tout him as the man that aimed the gun. He knew that the fact he stopped the shooting, even in such a sacrificial manner only just evened the score, and he was capable of sinking into his own pit of self-recrimination without the assistance the public at large.
So the Armageddon board had been destroyed, and a new whiteboard placed in his working area in his basement. It was quiet down here. Very few memories and visions whispered at him for attention like they did in practically every house, even if he was adept at blocking most of them out. Few people had come down here over the years, and usually their longing and needs had been restricted to the finding of some long lost item. Scarcely enough to distract him.
He looked up at his new notes scrawled in whiteboard marker, trying to assess it in a calm rationale manner.
Yeah right. Calm, rational. Not exactly words associated with Johnny Smith, infamous psychic. If they saw this board, that vision of Bruce getting him committed would be real in no time. Still. It was a puzzle.
Dybbuk box. He'd scrawled 'means of containment for a Dybbuk = Jewish entity that can possess a person without their knowledge and cause them to do acts contrary to their personality, usually malevolent,' next to it on the whiteboard
Purdy's description had been a pretty good summary really. He sat on the edge of the desk and stared. The arrow then pointed to 'Sensory reactions' . He had written the details next to it and in a fit of honesty had linked it to a bubble with 'Brain Tumor?'.
A rather distressing amount of the details had arrows pointing that way.
It was the section of 'Bruce possessed?' and the bubbles he had scrawled details of visions in that was really getting to him. He was trying to see the connection. Bruce attacking him with a knife, the visions of riot and glass everywhere in two different times. What was all that about? The vision of being led into a trap. The impending feeling of doom and paranoia.
His life was a barrel of laughs.
He added in a final layer. What did he do when an attempted murder threatened?
He fiddled with the marker and then wrote. 'Tell Walt'.
Even when they were arguing, even with everything between them he knew Walt in a way that was hard to describe. It took a strong man to trust the man who was a direct threat to every part of his life, and Walt did that time and again. He hadn't given it any thought until the time when Walt had turned and snapped at him about trust and tearing his way into his mind and thoughts.
He knew nobody knew what it was like for him, how it felt so much of invasion to him that he didn't really consider what it was like for them.
He sighed. Talk to Walt. Right, tomorrow he'd do that. But what about Bruce if he was possessed? Obviously the Box had some means of containing the... thing. So he had to get it out of Bruce and into the Box again. And to do that he needed to know more about the Box, and how to exorcise a Dybbuk. Piece of cake. Sure it was.
Still he wrote that down on the board as well and stared at it a while.
The obvious way to find out more about the box was to go and touch it again, and maybe talk to the relatives of the woman's estate. He was reluctant to do the first but that was something he could do right now. Even if he didn't want to. But if the answers lay there to solving this before it reached a point where Bruce picked up a knife and came after him, he would be grateful. Because even if they made it through, he wasn't sure that their friendship would, and that was worse in some ways. Bruce wouldn't forgive himself for any harm done, even unwittingly.
Where he wouldn't face the fear for himself, it was a lot easier to do it for everyone else.
He put down the marker and headed upstairs again, slowly and deliberately. Ignoring the buzz of fear as he approached the living room he turned on the lights -- a good start, and resolutely approached the box. His head pounded as he got closer, throbbing in his temple as if he had run up the stairs or got up too quickly and he reached out to touch the top of the box.
Nothing. He didn't understand it. The box was a central focus of all this and yet his hands might as well be dead for all the sensation he was getting from them.
Wait a moment. He couldn't feel anything. Even his sense of touch was muted and numb. It was as if he had crushed them and was trying to feel with mangled flesh.
With a shocked noise he snatched them away, conscious for the first time of the sensation flooding back through the palms and up into his fingertips.
Okay, so that really wasn't a good sign. When your hands had as much feeling in them as mangled stumps that was probably the time to start worrying.
He couldn't help but have the traitorous thought as well that intermittent loss of sensation in extremities was another sign of a possible brain tumor. He had spared a few minutes over another cup of coffee to do a quick search on the internet. Bruce's concern was totally logical, much to his faint chagrin.
If it were the case, who only knew what effect that might have on someone with his abilities. It might explain the faint distorted feeling he had been getting.
Or, on the other hand he could attribute that to a clouding influence of a more supernatural energy. If he was sensed as some sort of threat then surely he would be a logical target? If the word logical could be applied to this sort of phenomena.
He sat back on his haunches a little stiffly, regarding the Box. The part of him that had been a science teacher, a damn good science teacher, was rather reluctantly coming down on the potential tumor side.
It makes sense. There's all the symptomology, and if you were truthful with yourself, you'd say that you're a bit more irritable and touchy lately. You still get headaches and you haven't been feeling right for a long time. Hell, it was touch and go before whether you would end up with brain surgery! It was only your eleventh hour break out and mission to try and stop Rebecca that put a halt to that.
On the other hand.
I haven't even scratched the surface of what these abilities can do. Just when I think I have a handle on how it fits together, it throws me. Psychic time travel for Christ's sake. Turning out to be the mysterious man who saved myself from the car crash by yelling like a madman for myself to get out of the car before it exploded. All that mixed in with the girl. Now, now it makes sense, but then how was I to know that such a thing was even possible?
What if this is something like that? Something that doesn't appear to make sense but will? With the vision of myself committing a murder, I couldn't believe that I could start the day calm and normal and yet be seeing myself in the grip of a desperate bloody violent rage strong enough to kill a stranger within twelve hours.
But I didn't kill him.
Perhaps there is a power, a force at work here that could trigger something similar. Never say never. The perspective of time makes the unimaginable occur. Lives can change in one split second to the next. What else can I do but explore this avenue and see where it leads me?
He was conscious again of the feeling of a presence behind him but resolutely ignored the prickling in his neck as he wrapped a part of the throw on the nearby chair around his hand and used it to open the door of the wine box cabinet. It felt like bitterly cold ice trying to seep through gloves as he did so, so he didn't linger on the process and just shivered.
He looked at the other nondescript items in there aside from the ugly candlestick. A dried rosebud, a couple of coins. Two locks of hair... A cup and some strange looking statue. Nothing outrageous in themselves but...
He reached tentatively for the rosebud, unwrapping his hand as he did so.
It felt warm and living cupped there, though he could see the brittle texture of the petals. Softly, like a fall of petals the vision stole over him.
"It will work, the rabbi is coming and tonight we will do it. " A young man was speaking urgently to a beautiful young woman. "All he has asked of us is to provide a vessel that is steeped in sacred regard. It could be the menorah box or your acron kodesh."
"The acron kodesh. It can take all of the things that have been touched by this dybbuk," the woman said looking down at what Johnny could see to be the rosebud, fresh and living in her hand. "And Frederich will be returned to normal? I could curse his mother and her obsessions! And Bethany with her powers of meddling with things she should not!"
"She has been through enough herself," the other man said gently taking her hand.
"Has she been through seeing her betrothed turn from a kind, loving gentle man into a vicious monster?!" the woman shot back. "One moment he gives me this rose and I believe that everything is wonderful again, and the next he clasps my hand around the stem and squeezes it tight! Is that the act of the Frederich that you know, David?"
The man called David had turned the hand he had taken over, carefully looking at it. Even Johnny could see the deep wounds of rose thorns in the palm.
"No." David looked at her. "That is not Frederich. He would die rather than cause you hurt. You know that, Ruth."
"I do." She straightened. "Which is why I knew something was wrong. Something wrong with him since he went to that séance group of his mother's to speak to the summoned spirit of his father as she claimed. I do not doubt they summoned something that night, but that it is not his father I am very sure. It contaminates the very air, the city streets.. It brings out the evil in all men and women, not just Frederich and those that sat in that circle. Have you not noticed the ways our neighbors have been talking, looking? Once this is broken, David, we shall leave."
"Leave? But where will you go Ruth?"
"America, Spain, England - anywhere but here. Remember your heritage David. We should know when it is time to move on. Even Havela agrees to that. She will be its keeper."
Johnny was amazed to hear such solemn words from such a young woman, but he could understand why. Even second hand through the vision he could feel a sense of taut atmosphere. Edgy and hovering just on the edge of disaster.
"One way or another it will be over tonight."
Johnny shuddered and returned to the here and now. He felt chilled and cold and he carefully laid the bud down and pushed the door shut.
He felt oddly nauseous and dizzy as he stood, strange dark blurs at the side of his vision and the sensation of something somewhere paying attention to him. Watching, listening... as if he were being hunted.
He was so drained that he couldn't have thought of running even if he had needed to. Rather unsteadily he headed off towards bed, only just remembering not to reach for the silver headed cane as he went. He didn't need that tonight, or ever again.
Johnny had experienced one of the worst night's sleep of his life, which was saying something considering the material his subconscious mind had to work with.
He groaned and flung his arm over tired and irritated eyes, feeling stiff and sore all over for no apparent reason.
Every time he had dipped into the shallows of sleep, he had experienced the same dream over and over. At first he had been pleased that it hadn't been about the stupid box. And then he began to wonder if that might not have been easier to deal with. This was hitting him where he hurt. Literally.
It started out pleasantly enough. He and Bruce walking down the pathway next to the road outside the house as they had many times before when he had been exercising his leg after all the operations. They were bantering. Hell, they were always bantering, or he was listening to Bruce go off on a wild metaphysical tangent, blending all the many snippets of esoteric knowledge he had into some coherent if way out there point. He liked that. He never knew if they would be discussing Zen principles or some strange pop culture phenomenon he had missed in that absent six comatose years where he was 'having his brain rewired' as Bruce so delicately put it.
It was a nice day, it was comfortable, and he felt at peace, and then he would turn to smile and make some sort of flip comment and he would meet Bruce's eyes and...
They would be completely black, like a sheen of oil, and Bruce would smile, an extremely unpleasant smile that distorted his face, and blurred its lines. The shape of his face would become like a mask and then, without warning, the dream-Bruce would turn on him.
And he would feel the strength that had eased him back on the road to recovery, turned to beating him senseless. Fighting back only caused the thing wearing Bruce's face to laugh and redouble its effort, and he would feel his ribs crack with a pop in his chest. His face would thump against the pavement, grit stinging as he scraped across it and blood rushing hot into his mouth as a foot kicked hard into his stomach.
He would surface, choking on dream blood and then the exhaustion would sweep him under again and he would go around the cycle again.
He moaned again, debating whether to hide under the pillow from the forthcoming day. But he was going to see Walt. And see if he get a kabbalistic expert to give him the definitive way to drive out a Dybbuk from his friend and...
Johnny flinched and nearly fell out of the bed in shock.
"Jesus, Bruce! What the hell are you doing in my bedroom?"
The physiotherapist grinned. "You'd be amazed how many times I hear that. In totally different circumstances. " He approached the bed carefully. "I brought breakfast round like usual and there was something missing. At first I though I had forgotten the cream cheese, but then I realized it was a different type of 'cheese' altogether. You weren't up. And that's not like you. You coming down with something?"
He leaned over again and Johnny instinctively leaned back. His dream-biased self was clamoring that the other man was a threat.
"No... Well I don't think so. Maybe. I ache like hell and I couldn't sleep for shit." Johnny said stretching a little. He winced a little.
"Well, I hope the other guy looks as bad," Bruce replied tilting his head slightly reaching forward to touch something on his face.
He didn't get a chance as Johnny retreated rapidly pretending to get up suddenly, and regretting it almost immediately.
"What?" he asked as he tried to move gracefully and fluidly to get his T-shirt.
"Looks like you've been in a fight, John," Bruce said seriously. "Something happen last night?"
What, aside from you kicking the crap out of me all night in my dreams?
Johnny disappeared into the bathroom to put on a shirt, and his eyes widened when he caught sight of himself in the mirror. Bruce wasn't kidding. He had a bruise up on his cheekbone and his torso was littered with marks that he couldn't work out how he could possibly get even if he was thrashing around in his sleep.
"I had another vision about the Box," he called out cautiously. "Past stuff. The people in it believed they had trapped an evil spirit in it. I think, judging from the way they were dressed, it was somewhere just before the second world war."
Literally just before, he realized with a hint of shock. That was it, that was the feeling. It reminded him of the atmosphere he had experienced in his visions of the future in flames. A taste of violence and destruction on the wind.
"So why do you think that you're having the visions about it? " Bruce asked having sat on the end of the bed. "You usually have some reason, don't you?"
"I don't know." Johnny came back in and shrugged. "It's a bit strange."
"You think that's strange?" Bruce said. "You ought to see the papers. Total chaos last night, man. I mean, way out of the norm. Some sort of gang confrontation going on and it hit the headlines. "
"Yeah? You mean... here? Cleeves Mill?" Johnny did have to pause a moment at that.
"Yeah, weird huh?" Bruce shrugged. "It's getting like an inner city out there. I don't get it."
Johnny looked at him as he pulled on his socks and shoes. "Maybe it's something to do with this? The Box? I keep seeing scenes of violence and fighting around it."
Bruce looked skeptical. "Sure, John. The box is causing this? Some weird emanation from the varnish is driving everyone nuts?"
"Hah, yeah, that's about as likely as..."
"Subsonic noises driving wild animals to attack everyone." Bruce said. "Seen enough things hanging out with you, John, not to dismiss anything."
"Well, I might take a trip to see Walt, see if I can get to the bottom of it, just in case." Johnny said casually.
Bruce brightened, smiling. "Really? Actually going to see him at work?"
"That's what I said," Johnny replied setting off out of the room.
"Damn, John, but that's good news," Bruce seemed happy about that. "You've been going a bit squirrelly in here."
"Hey, hey... I've been out!" Johnny protested as he eased himself down the stairs.
"Going grocery shopping does not count as going out," Bruce said. "You want me to catch up with you at Walt's office?"
"Uh... no. That's okay, I'll just drop by," Johnny replied.
"Cool, I'm heading out, man. Waited too long for you downstairs before coming up to see if you had passed out or something," Bruce was still looking at him carefully. "You sure you didn't ...you know, lose some time or something? Might explain the bruise on your face? Kissing the carpet accidentally sort of thing?"
"No!" That time he did snap. "I'm fine Bruce!"
"Uh-huh." Bruce gave him a skeptical look. "Go to the doctors, John. Make an appointment. Don't make me get all heavy handed on you."
"I said I'll do it." Johnny was aware that he was overreacting but his mind was sending out all sort of warning regarding trusting Bruce to take him anywhere.
The conflict made him feel very slightly disorientated and even a little physically sick and he was feeling shaky.
"You do that, John," Bruce said patting him lightly on the shoulder -
Flash of images, with that odd feel of divergence again as if something lurked unseen, then the knife again, still struggling.
"I'm sorry, John, but it's gone too far..."
His own voice, choking out a protest. "No! No... god no, NO!"
And then the shuddering horror of the next words. "Shit, hold him still will you?"
And the indescribable betrayal of another pair of hands pushing him down.
It was all he could do not to stagger back from that one, but he forced an automatic smile, his taste for breakfast soured. He usually thought of himself as being all alone, but that was a lie. He relied on at least some people to trust him otherwise he would have succumbed to madness a long time before now. To suddenly have that trust pulled out from under him gave him definite pause for thought.
He watched silently as Bruce left, pulling out of the driveway in his truck. He obviously hadn't changed enough to avoid that fate. Time to rectify that.
The sheriff's office was always reasonably busy, but right now it was as chaotic as Johnny had ever seen the place. Considering he had been there during the area's worst cases that meant the place was one step shy of out and out chaos.
Johnny tried to ease himself through the crowds as smoothly as possible without attracting undue attention. He needn't have worried. Everyone there was completely focused on continuing whatever crime or conflict had brought them there.
"...and do you know what the bastard said to me? Do you?" Old Mrs. Hawkins, who he sometimes saw in the coffee shop he dropped in to. But he had never heard her utter any type of profanity. "...he said to me, if that was good coffee then I must be not be a frigid old bitch! Can you believe that? Well of course I was so shocked I just reacted and.."
"Threw the coffee over him, and now he's in hospital being treated for burns."
Johnny was amazed. He couldn't imagine Mrs. Hawkins harming the proverbial fly, even if it were very, very irritating, let alone throwing hot coffee on some one.
"...I... I don't know what came over him. I've been late before and he's never reacted like that before." A young woman in tears was saying. "He accused me of being with another guy. I don't know how he could think such a thing! He knows the evening classes over run sometimes. But... he was convinced and for a moment I really thought he was going to hit me! He say's he loves me and he picked up the golf club... and then he just went outside and smashed up my car windows with it!"
Johnny eased past, similar conversations surrounding him, as crimes of violence, vandalism, intimidation were being reported to a rather harassed looking staff. Who from the looks of it had been at this job too long already.
He knocked on the door to Walt's office, sensing he was alone and pushed it open even as the Sheriff beckoned him in as he finished off the conversation on the phone.
"No, no there is no obvious reason for this sudden upturn in crime. We're looking into it, we have to explore all possibilities before we can make a definite statement. Believe me, we are as eager to get to the bottom of this as anyone else, perhaps more. Yes. Yes, thank you. Goodbye."
He put the phone down with a audible sigh. "As if I didn't have enough to do without fielding reporters. John, it's good to see you. You're looking..."
"If Bruce is to believed, like shit." Johnny said with a slight self mocking smile.
"Bruce's judgment is pretty reliable," Walt said with a bit of a smile. "So then, what's the deal? If it's a social call, can we put it off to one of Sarah's invitations to dinner? She and J.J. would really like to see you, too, and I'm snowed under here as you can see."
Oh, that hadn't taken long. There was the pang of guilt he always felt in dealing with the outside world. There was always something to be solved, an emotion crying out to be resolved, a Vision to be seen. Walt, by the nature of his job was generally surrounded by them.
"Actually, I thought I would come down on something work related." Johnny replied, leaning on the chair but not sitting. "I have something that sounds a little way out, but I think that there is something causing this wave of violence. Something... out of the ordinary."
Walt looked at him for a long moment. "Right now, John, I'm willing to accept any explanation up to and including Goddamn aliens."
He sounded serious and Johnny nodded. "Then you want to take me to some of the hotspots and I'll see what I can pick up?"
"That's more of a plan than I've had up until now," Walt said, getting up. "It's good to have you back on board, John. It's times like this that I realize how good you've been making us look."
Johnny smiled a little, wonder how exactly how he went about telling the down to earth Sheriff that a possessed wine cabinet was at the back of all this. "Lead on. How's Sarah and J.J.?" he asked as they exited the office and the department.
"Worried about you. Which is a pain in the ass, John," Walt said with a touch of his blunt and sometimes painful honesty. "Sarah goes in to see Rebecca on occasion. That's bringing back a lot of memories. She's been a bit put out with your isolation."
"And you haven't," Johnny replied with brutal candor.
"Hey, John, you know I wouldn't wish what happened on anyone, least of all you. You've been through enough," Walt said glancing at him as they made it to the police truck.
"Should've been me, Walt," he said quietly as he settled down staring straight ahead.
Walt looked at him. "No, John, you were looking for another way. If you had been intending to do that yourself, then it would have already happened. You were looking for another way, right?"
He nodded silently.
"So it wasn't you. Don't start taking that responsibility. Look, I'm taking you to the street were we had to bust up an impending gang confrontation. Maybe you can pick something up there."
It would be a miracle if he didn't.
No matter where Walt had taken him on their hunt for answers the visions had been the same.
Reiterations on the theme of the vision he had experience picking up the glass fragment around the mysterious Dybbuk box. A riot exploding on the streets, people running amok. No clear starting point but like a tinder showered by sparks from one single flint, the action erupted simultaneously. People would die. People he cared about - in his wary symbiosis with Walt he included the other man in that tally - would be hurt. He reached for the visions hoping desperately to find something a little more sensible, practical at the source of his foreboding than a pre-second world war spirit box. He touched the ground; he delved into the brittle sharp images of the future almost fanatically tying the times together, the progressions and hoping that would help. But he reached and still couldn't find anything else save a splitting headache and a small warm trickle of blood from his nose.
"Okay, John, that's enough." Walt called a halt when he saw that smear of red on the back of his hand as he tried to wipe it away unseen. "For Christ's sake, what are you doing? Trying to kill yourself?"
"Just trying to get the answers we need," Johnny replied having to just sit on the curb a moment, his head pounding. God, he felt sick. He knew better than this. "There's going to be a full-blown riot, Walt."
"Yeah, I heard you and I believe you, John, but you are not going to make yourself ill again trying to see the cause," the other man said as he crouched at eye level. "You're not as recovered from being shot as you think. Forget the TV, getting shot is a serious wound and it can take months to get over it."
"It's been months, Walt," Johnny reminded him.
"Only two," the Sheriff replied. "Look, these things don't seem to have a direct source, not from what you have been describing. Maybe there just isn't one. At least now we know the hotspots and can be ready. You can't narrow down the root cause which might just mean that there isn't one."
Johnny was silent a long moment, swallowing the metallic taste of blood down the back of his throat. Did he say something? Maybe he could allude to it.
"What if I said I thought the source might be something... supernatural?"
There was a silence equal in length to his own as Walt brushed back his hair with his hands. "I'd say that was about as ridiculous as me believing that there could be a riot in Cleeves Mill a week after the high point of last week's crime was Deputy Sykes finding an illegal still in the north woods."
"Was that a 'yes I believe you' or not?" Johnny asked, just to clarify the point.
"John, I've had to believe a lot of stuff from you, and I'll admit, this one is stretching it a bit far." Walt replied. "But right now, it's as likely a reason as anything else. God only knows how and why, and I don't want to. But if it is the source then... what can I do about it anyway?"
"You can get me into the database. I think it's centered on a certain artifact. I need to look up its connections and documentation," Johnny pushed. Visions only got him so far. He needed facts to jump the gaps in the trail and Walt had the access to get to those facts.
"I don't know, John..."
"C'mon, Walt, give me a break here. If someone calls you on it, say I broke in while you were seeing to something else? I'm not asking you to take the fall for it, just the access," Johnny pressed. "Just a couple of names and addresses - I could probably get them the long way round but by then it will be too late. I knowthat!"
He could see the hesitation and the wavering and pressed his advantage. "It's public access stuff, it's just easier to pull up on the police databases. I can find it. Then I might be able to stop this riot before it gets going."
The lure was finally enough. "Tell me what you need, John, and I'll have it sent around, okay?"
"Thanks, Walt, I appreciate it. I want to nail this one down tight," Johnny replied as he stood unsteadily.
"I wouldn't have guessed. You want to come around for dinner tonight?" Walt offered as they walked back to the truck. "You're looking thin as all hell. You not been eating?"
"You sound just like Bruce," Johnny grumbled.
Walt laughed. "With less Zen I hope."
Johnny smiled a little. "Chinese temples have less Zen than Bruce."
"You better believe it, man." Walt replied with a smile as they set off back to the station.
Two days later, and Johnny had to admit, he looked and felt the wreck that people had been warning him that he would turn in to over the past few months. The nightmares were alternating between the box and a variety of his friends turning on him and attacking him viciously.
He would stand and stare at his reflection in the mirror, horrified at how he could have such livid bruises from doing nothing more than sleep. It was like the ultimate version of discovering you had a bruise and really genuinely not having a clue how it happened. In the past two nights, it had escalated to all out psychic warfare. Whatever this thing was, it obviously loathed and despised him with a depth of passionate hatred. He knew he was fighting it all night, and now it seemed it was manifesting all day as well.
He would put his hand on the door frame and it would feel slick and cold as if congealing blood was smeared in clots over its surface. He nearly choked on the acrid smell of acid urine that would flood everywhere and vanish as quickly and no bulb would stay whole in the living room no matter how careful he was in replacing them
He had resolutely ignored it. He continued with his work through, focusing his considerable powers of obsession on tracking through his questions. He tracked, using the information from Walt, and from Reverend Purdy, relatives of the late Deborah Kaplan who died age 103. Who's nickname in the family had been 'Havela' and whose granddaughter was very hostile at the suggestion they might want the box back and showed no surprise that he might want to be rid of it
One thing he did discover from her was that 'Havela' Kaplan had requested that she be buried with the Dybbuk Box and the Orthodox burial ceremony did not have provision for such a request so it had been left with a variety of other effects to Faith Heritage as part of her legacy.
And with that, she flatly refused to answer any other questions and hung up on him.
He was hitting a dead end and the visions now of Bruce attacking him were so frequent he could barely step anywhere in the house without flashes of a panicked hunted feeling following him on a flight through his own house penetrating his mind.
Sometimes it would be the face of his friend that he saw, and other times it would be the distorted semblances of a monster head, huge and looming out of the darkness that made him flinch.
His working board was covered with intricate notes, and he stared at the papers he had scattered everywhere. He was running out of time. By midnight tomorrow, the riot would start, and it would be too late.
Or by tomorrow he would be stabbed by his best friend, who he had refused to see since every time he looked at him, all he could see was the oil slick eyes of that thing staring back at him, mocking him.
And he still didn't have an answer. He had one last shot at this. Going to the grave of the person who had been there when the Dybbuk had first been trapped.
When he had written that on his board, all hell broke loose.
It was the merest flash of a vision that had him duck, a split second before the dusty bottle smashed against the board, hurled out of nowhere.
The flicker of movement distracted him, and he nearly tripped as he turned and only just dived sideways as the second bottle shattered where his head should have been.
The words were a throb on the cusp of hearing rising and falling. The whispered syllables of hatred audible in a rasping growl of sound
"Who is that? Show yourself!" Johnny yelled out, grabbing hold of piece of timber
There was a low snickering sound from the far corner as if someone was watching him from the shadows even as the temperature plunged dramatically, all heat leeched from the area. Johnny frowned as he watched tendrils of frost crawled over the shattered fragments of glass at his feet, and then flinched as the single powerful light bulb above him popped.
Darkness descended in an immediate shroud, blinding him with its suddenness.
He could feel the thing moving in the darkness. He could feel its shadow eyes, imagine them as a darkness concentrated into pitiless points. He backed away, his boot crunching on glass, the steam of his breath billowing like a desperate prayer invisibly upwards. His hand fumbled along the edge of the table, flinching at something sticky there and then the feel soft hair under his fingers...
The feel of cold dead flesh, that small beauty mark standing out in a Braille relief and a sticky pool of blood and a ragged fibrous edge of torn, ripped flesh.
"No! It's not real! Not real!"
The voice was growing louder, and then, as Johnny stumbled in the darkness almost choking back a sob, the coldness pierced him and a very clear menacing voice said roughly three inches from his left ear..
This. Means. You.
You shouldn't be able to run when your heart had stopped with fright, but Johnny Smith managed it even with his limp. He wasn't ashamed of his fear enough to stay in the house, not with that thing on the loose. He grabbed his keys, his coat and barely remembered to slam the door behind him in his rush to leave. If he stayed there that night, he would be lucky to be alive come the morning.
Sleeping in motel rooms never made for the most restful sleep, and it seemed the dreams and nightmares could find him even there in the seediest out of the way place in the region. He had started to drive in the general direction of the cemetery where Havela Kaplan had been buried the moment he had fled from the house and found a place to say somewhere on the outskirts of the town picked out of his memory.
It wasn't until he was sitting outside the synagogue cemetery, cradling a bad coffee in his hands and trying to ignore the fact that his eyes were burning with exhaustion, and were bloodshot enough that even he was beginning to wonder when he would crash, that he recalled that Bruce most likely would have gone to his house as usual.
Shit. Fuck and shit. Assuming that Bruce was possessed, which obviously he had to be, because every vision he had pointed it out -- but didn't know it, which was also a basic characteristic of the dybbuk, what was he going to think when he reached the house?
And found it wide open, lights still on... everything disturbed?
He'd hunt through the house to see if his friend was lying unconscious after some sort of seizure. It had happened before after all. It was Bruce that had found him after he had collapsed from the future vision about himself, Wade and J.J. which had then ripped a whole in the fake, distorted hypnotic suggestion of a vision Rebecca had implanted in his memory about a 'birthday surprise' and revealed the assassination attempt.
He would find the board. If the 'thing' had left anything of it. Would he be safe down there? Most likely if the dybbuk was possessing him. Unless the thing was a sadistic to its hosts as it was to others.
He glanced at his watch - he was already too late to warn him. The morning bagels would have been on the table for a good thirty minutes by now. He would probably have reached the point of searching the house.
And he was just so tired now. His hands had been shaking as he had taken the coffee and piled sugar in it for energy even though he didn't normally like it sweet. He'd never had such a run of visions, not so frequent and intense bombarding him with the same subject from different view over and over again. It felt like he was balanced very precariously in the here and now and could fall at any time.
He gulped down the last of the hot coffee, including the sugar sludge and got out of the car. He limped up into the cemetery feeling the restless stir of the visions strong emotions had left embedded in the grass, the stone, the path itself. It was one reason why it was so difficult for him to try and even visit his mother's grave. There were the needs of so many clamoring for his attention, his own need was drowned out.
But here and now, he had a mission and he focused on that, letting his abilities draw him to the correct place for this particular compulsion.
He got some strange looks as he threaded himself erratically through the maze of head stones of the synagogue cemetery until he stood before a still fresh looking grave. He'd only had the box less than two weeks and she would not have been buried that much more in advance. The stone was engraved in English, though there was a Jewish phrase at the base which Johnny glanced at finding it familiar somehow.
Come on Havela, I need you. You looked after this thing for a long time. You were a 103 when you died, obviously you knew how to control the spirit inside of it or keep it contained. I need your help! MY friend needs your help.
He let his hand drift over the top of the headstone, feeling Visions snap and reach for him hungrily. He was fishing for the important Vision, the wily giant that flickered and lurked like a glittering prize in the murky depths. His fingers trembled like bait over the newly placed turf and he cast his line into the earth and reached deep for the last impressions of Deborah 'Havela' Kaplan.
With the familiar rush he was there, just before her death. He could see the marks of it etched deep into her face and mirrored in the youthful feature of another women.
"Promise me, Aliza. You will bury the box with me?" she asked with a audible urgency.
"Grandmother, the Rabbi at the synagogue has already told me that this is impossible." Aliza replied in a low voice that indicated they had been over this many time. "I have asked."
"Do not ask, just do. I have stipulated this in my will," the old woman was agitated. "Promise me this, bubbulah. It could be the most important thing you do in your life."
Johnny could see the younger woman sigh and nod. "I promise, Gran. And the words too,.. from the first book of Samuel. The Rabbi thought those were appropriate."
The ancient woman gave a wheezing laugh. "He has no idea."
The scene froze, and Johnny stepped around toward the older woman, marveling at the clarity still in her eyes even at that age. That promise had been broken for some misguided respect for normal propriety and presumably it had allowed the dybbuk free.
He still needed to go deeper so he tried to use the piggyback method of visioning that infrequently occurred. He could ride back into the past to that time and there , he had to hope, he would find answers.
He touched her arm...
"Rabbi Ezra ben Kurzweil, they are assembled."
"I am nearly ready, Deborah." The rabbi was putting esoteric instruments out, including a twisted ram's horn. "There are at least ten others at the circle yes?"
She nodded. "They all believe that they are hear to help control the dybbuk, not that we believe one of us to be acting as host to its spirit."
"We will all recite the 91st Psalm three times and I will blow the shofar." He indicated the horn. "This I have been trained to do, but if it is strong, there is a darker form of the kabbalistic wisdom to draw upon."
He took out a small knife and covered it reverentially with a cloth.
"You yourself have confessed how concerned you are that the growing tensions are related to the time this spirit has been free. If that is so, it is a powerful spirit of the sitra akhar, perhaps not a lost soul but one of that kind. If that is so, the only way to drive it out is to force its essence free using the most holy name of God interdispersed with the victims own. Cut into the skin, even the most powerful yetzer ra will find itself ejected and will be drawn to the items we will put in the spiritual containment of your acron kodesh. We will then seal it with the words of Samuel. "May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life"."
He repeated the words in Jewish and she nodded agreeing. "And then, we will have the time to make a plan for releasing this dybbuk safely, or else it will remain bound to the owner of the vessel and if the box is opened, that seal will be broken. You are willing to be the guardian?"
The younger Deborah nodded slowly. "It is my fault that it was even loosed. I will accept that charge. Could it really be the dybbuk that is causing all these things to happen. For such hatred against us?"
The Rabbi hesitated. "Such things wake and whisper to the dark things in the heart and mind of man, not force it upon them. I am sorry to say it would not be the cause, but it would be salt into a wound magnifying its effects."
"I understand." The younger woman sighed "That would have been too much to hope for. I am ready, Rabbi."
"Good. Then let us begin." And with a solemn walk, the pair entered the room.
Johnny sat and watched as the impending exorcism began as had been described. Everyone looked so solemn and serious, and he spared a thought for what must have happened to them all to make them so deadly serious about what was usually a very intangible subject more likely to be ridiculed or ignored.
Everything seemed to be working well up to the point when the Rabbi blew the shofar horn in the particular way the priests were trained to do. That something happened was not in question. The fact that it was evidently not what had been expected was obvious. Every single piece of glass in the room shattered causing the people there to panic and stagger back even as a shadow pooled like ink on the table from the hands of one of the men and there was a sound of wild laughter as a harsh voice started addressing and taunting them all in the Jewish tongue. He was amazed to find he could understand the gist of it.
Johnny ducked instinctively as things hurled around the room and the very floor and walls shook as if some massive geyser of force had punched out into the world before the entity then flung itself against the Rabbi in the darkness even as Deborah grabbed the prepared items and placed them in the wooden box. The last to go in was the candlestick and it flared viciously as she grabbed it.
Johnny could see the burns on her hand as she thrust it inside and the balance of power shifted again. Instead of spiraling outwards, there was a sensation that everything was sucking inwards towards that box. Including rather obscenely the life of the Rabbi the dybbuk was trying to fight or possess or destroy.
Johnny could see it tearing away from the body, tangled with a paler mist that seemed to twist and turn around it as much as it clawed and rended at this new addition. He didn't know if this were visible to anyone else, though the moment when the body of the Rabbi collapsed into a sudden lifelessness was enough to set the room shouting and screaming. He had to remind himself that he was just an observer here, that this happened so many years ago that the desperation was no longer as fresh and bright as it appeared here and now.
He did note that it was Deborah who could see, even as tears streamed from her eyes at what had happened, that she was ready when the twined essences settled in the box and she slammed the cabinet door shut and intoned very firmly and placed her bleeding hand on the latch.
"Tihyeh Nishmaso Tzerurah beTzror haChaim!"
Johnny found himself mouthing the translation having recognize the phrase from the previous discussion and from her tomb stone.
'May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life'
The room settled into silence but outside the ripples continued with glass shattering in a cascade of sparked violence and tension, as the events of what he recognized to be an event known as Kristallnacht shuddered across Europe with the darkest of the minds of man seizing on the loosest of rationales to indulge in cruelty and oppression . Whether it was a coincidence, or a source of power the spirit had drawn upon, Johnny didn't know, but it would appear the dybbuk had a taste for those events and would seek them out again.
And just like that, everything ceased.
Including the vision.
Johnny pushed himself up from the graveside, his head pounding. Two spirits trapped in the box, one good, one bad. Was he being helped by the dybbuk force of the Rabbi who had died in the exorcism? Was that why he could understand the phrases in Jewish? He'd never instinctively understood languages before and it had confused him that he was suddenly absorbing that knowledge as well. Perhaps it wasn't just a happy coincidence.
It was too early for this. He needed to get back to Cleeves Mill, he needed to force the spirit out of Bruce and he was not entirely confident of his ability to do that alone or with the ritual that had gone so spectacularly wrong. Unpleasant though it might seem, he was more inclined to use the cutting symbols into flesh rather than do the job improperly and end up releasing a blast of negative force and potentially killing the person trying to stop the thing. All he needed were the appropriate Jewish symbols for Bruce's full name with that of the symbols of the name of God and he would be set.
Where would he find that information?
He turned around and looked at the Synagogue behind him presumably full of learned men of the Jewish faith. "What a coincidence."
And headed straight inside.
"Jesus Christ, Johnny, where the hell have you been?" Walt practically exploded at him. "And have you been kidnapped or something or not? Look at you!"
"It's nothing like that, Walt, I just had to take off ..."
"Yeah, we worked that one out," Walt paced beside him. "You left your phone behind, you left the lights on, the basement looks like there was full scale fight in there..."
"Sarah is okay, though, right?" he said belatedly remembering the feel of a dead face beneath his fingers and praying it had been a trick of the entity.
"What? Yeah, she's fine, John. But I'm having my doubts about you." Walt was most definitely Not Happy, and Johnny felt awkward bringing it up. "Bruce was going nuts out there. He thought you'd been abducted again, he said you've been acting really strangely and you know what? I agree with him. You would never have done this sort of shit before."
"What, take off into certain danger?" Johnny replied snappishly before he could censor his tongue.
"Don't be stupid, you do that all the time, because you are a damn fool idiot who thinks that he has to solve all the problems alone," Walt replied firmly. "No I mean this... not thinking. If there's one thing I'll say for you, it's that you're always thinking about how something you might do will affect your friends and affect that person. You've practically turned it into an art form. You get suckered into things because you think about what it means to the person asking you first, and then how it might effect you second. And it's damn annoying, because it makes it really damn difficult for me to hate you, and we all know that's where things should be if we were remotely normal."
"Yeah... well, ditto." Johnny replied, a little stunned at the outburst.
"Since the last week or so though, you've been acting really oddly. I've seen it, Bruce has seen it.."
"I bet he has..." Johnny muttered darkly.
Walt ignored him. "And I don't have TIME for this. I need to get the streets of Cleeves Mill under control again, and yet, I'm spending precious police time looking to see if our resident celebrity psychic has been abducted again."
"Well, I haven't." Johnny said shortly. "Look, I had to follow a lead. I know now what the problem is, okay? It's a force, a supernatural force that has been released from an artifact that should have been interred with its owner. I think that it contained two types of force, one positive, one negative and the negative one is affecting Bruce, and the other one has been helping me try and find the answers. Because I know now how to drive it out, get it back into the dybbuk box and stop the escalating violence!"
Walt just stared at him.
Wow, that had sounded so much saner in his own head.
Walt was still staring.
"Look, look... this needs to be carved onto the person's skin," Johnny said urgently. "That drives out the spirit, and then it's attracted back into the box and it can be sealed with this phrase, see?" Johnny pulled out the crumpled piece of paper with his notes on it, including the vital collection of syllables in the Jewish alphabet. He had a long list of them there, Bruce's name, his name, Walt's, Purdy's as he had made it sound like he was doing research into kabbalistic techniques for a dissertation.
"You are seriously sitting there telling me you are intending to take a knife to your best friend?" Walt said in a low quiet voice.
Only if he doesn't get to me first.
"If I don't, Walt, he's going to try and kill me tonight!" he finally snapped back, his patience worn very thin. "I've been having these weird distorted visions all week. I swear, I'm not lying about this. There's something different about him, and it's this energy that's spilling out everywhere! If we stop this, it might just allow this tension to fade away gradually."
"John, I can't believe you are saying this," Walt said approaching him slowly and Johnny pushed up out of the chair hastily recognizing Walt's rather characteristic 'let's just stay calm while I cuff the madman' walk. "Bruce wouldn't do that to you, he's worried about you!"
"I don't want to hurt Bruce, I want to help him, and believe me, this is the only way." Johnny replied backing away awkwardly, "We're running out of time."
"I think, for your own good, John, I'm going to have to keep you here," Walt said in his soft voice.
"No." Johnny made to snatch for the paper on the table but had to flinch back away from Walt.
As the experienced lawman twisted to try and get him in an secure hold, he pushed him back and the vision fragment stabbed up through his hands into his thoughts;
...the knife again, still struggling.
"I'm sorry, John, but it's gone too far..."
His own voice, choking out a protest. "No! No.. god no, NO!"
And then the shuddering horror of the next words. "Shit, hold him still will you?"
"I'm doing the best I can... dammit!" Walt's voice impinged into the vision and he turned to look up at the heavy weight pressing on him and saw the lawman gleaming wedding ring gripping him tight. "Hurry up and finish it, then we can get rid of that damn box!"
He was going to die.
At the hands of the people he trusted most in the world.
He wrenched himself clear of the vision and from Walt and ran blindly away, out of the Sheriff's office and back towards his house. If they got rid of the box, they would never be free of this force and that was not something he wanted to think about.
He didn't even stop to think about them coming after him.
The house roared in his senses, the moment he staggered in through the door and touched the frame. It was as if there was a giant swirling vortex of energy pulsing obscenely in his mind, building up to something centered around the box itself. Something like the shuddering blast that had triggered the wave of energy that had been like a breath of air on faltering sparks of hatred and intolerance in the past and had spawned Kristallnacht. Perhaps the tensions were not so established or defined here, but he remembered the old saying of violence begetting violence and knew instinctively that this couldn't be allowed to happen. The box was their only chance of containing this thing.
Who was he kidding? His only chance of containing it. He was very alone on this particular endeavor. And he didn't have much time. Walt and Bruce would be close behind him. He would have to try and move the box himself.
He crept in around the kitchen, seeing the evidence that Bruce had been there that morning while he had been at the cemetery. The house was freezing, cold enough that he could see his breath billowing in front of him as he steadied himself. No change there from the previous night then.
His Visions didn't lie. If he stayed here, Bruce and Walt would try to kill him, and then later an inexplicable riot would erupt all over his home town. He had to be ready.
He yanked out a drawer hastily, nearly spilling the content over the floor and chose a small sharp kitchen knife.
He could remember the Jewish letters that applied to Bruce. He hoped that Walt wasn't affected too, because he hadn't memorized that one. He stuffed the knife in his pocket and headed towards the living room.
It was only a few steps to the living room, but the air thickened around him like molasses. He felt like he was in one of those dreams where he seemed to be running through cement, and there was a twist of perception that made the object of his quest was bizarrely unreachable. He could see it. He could see the damn box, he could feel the swirling of whatever the hell energy was going on here, but it was as if there was something trying to stop him getting to it.
That must mean that the dybbuk was close which most likely meant that..
He dropped into an awkward crouch and pressed his palm to the ground receiving an immediate flash of someone running up into the house.... Then another pair of familiar boots.
It was going to happen here and now unless he could get out of the house before they found him. Not without getting to the box though and he felt like he was fighting against a hurricane now to reach for it. It began as a resistance in the air, a pressure, and then an actual manifestation of the force opposing him.
There was a howling rush of air, and he staggered as it nearly unbalanced him.
Over the roar of wind, he could hear Bruce yell, "In the living room!" even as rational thought blanked out of his head with fear.
He caught a glimpse of Walt and Bruce standing in the doorway just as he was buffeted clean off of his feet and into his fireplace.
"Jesus Christ!" That had to be Bruce.
"Fucking hell." And that had to be Walt.
Maybe they would believe him now. They didn't have much time to make up their minds. But as convincing arguments went, first hand knowledge of poltergeist activity was a convincing argument.
"I take back what I said about going over the edge."
"Yeah, man, because we're right there with him." Bruce replied, looking a little wildly around the rebelling room.
Neither of them were as sensitive to things as Johnny was obviously, but the emanations were tangible enough to be seen by anyone.
Johnny tried desperately to push himself up even as that flicker of darkness seeped into the corners of the room even as Bruce stepped across the threshold and the newly replaced bulbs popped slowly, deliberately one by one, as if crushed by an unseen hand. There was a menace in that progression as if it could be bones next, or heads, crackling and popping under invisible fingers.
He grabbed the poker and, without thinking, tried to raise it against the box. It was dangerous, it could kill his friends, he had to get rid of it!
"Johnny! No!" Bruce threw himself at his friend, carrying him heavily to the floor, with a thump that made Johnny's head spin and bursts of light appear behind his eyes.
He fought instinctively, feeling the roar of dual presence there and being totally convinced that if he gave any quarter the thing that was controlling his friend would seize complete control. He fumbled in his pocket for the knife, a driving urge to fight back, to pin Bruce and force the loathsome invading thing out of his body even if it required blood.
"What the hell!" Bruce saw the flash of the metal kitchen knife "Walt!"
The surprise attack was enough to give Johnny the upper hand in the first instance.
"Hold still, Bruce, you've been possessed!" Johnny gasped out as he struggled to get to a point where he could just do the deed and have this over with.
"Are you crazy, man?" If anyone is possessed here, it's you!" Bruce's voice raised in incredulity even as he used his superior strength to buffet him back and then turn the tables. "You're the one who's been acting weird lately!"
"That's because there are two spirits, and I've got the good one helping me, wanting to STOP you," Johnny shouted back hoping that Walt was listening and would pitch in to help him. "For Christ's sake! Shit!"
Bruce had twisted his wrist, and he had lost the knife to the other man and this was all going very horribly wrong like the Vision. Desperately the psychic twisted his head to try and appeal to Walt who was staring at them, with the piece of paper in one hand and his eyes a little wild as papers and objects fluttered in an impossible wind.
"I have the good dybbuk!" Johnny yelled at him. "Bruce is possessed by the evil one!"
"You're the one with the bad spirit in you!" Bruce yelled back, wrestling for control. "Don't believe him, Walt."
"What is this? A bad science fiction movie?" Walt looked from one to the other. "This is STUPID."
"Just get him off of me!" Johnny yelled out. "I told you I saw that he was going to try and kill me! Do you believe me now?"
"That's such shit John, I have no intention of killing you!"
"So the knife over my chest is there for what reason exactly?" Johnny snapped back.
"Shut the fuck up, the pair of you." There was an audible click of a safety click off as Walt leveled his gun at the pair of them. "I hate that in sci-fi movies. The whole big deal eludes me because, frankly, if I was put in that position where I didn't know who was carrying the whatever the hell lame ass plot disaster they came up with that could destroy the world - I'd just shoot both of them."
Bruce and Johnny both turned and looked at Walt in amazed horror. Even the oppressive energy in the room seemed shocked.
"You have got to be kidding!" Johnny exploded. "It's Bruce! I've told you, he's tried to kill me! All we need to do is to mark him with the symbols."
Bruce held him at bay. "Actually... oof... that's not a bad idea. Mark us both, then we'll be sure. If the person being affected doesn't realize it's them then it could be either one of us..."
Walt put the safety back on and strode over to help Bruce subdue Johnny.
"Just call me Walt 'fucking King Solomon' Bannerman."
Apparently that was the extent of the explanation he was willing to give, though his practical action was decisive enough.
Johnny started struggling in earnest, the sense of a Vision catching up with him overwhelming him,
"I'm sorry, John, but it's gone too far..." Bruce said as he got the knife free, ripping at his shirt to expose a canvas of skin.
"No! No.. god no, NO!" Johnny thrashed and lashed out as if his life depended on it, which he truly believed that it did.
"Shit, hold him still will you?" Bruce said glancing over at Walt who moved in close to grip his shoulders.
"I'm doing the best I can... dammit!" Walt' replied looking down at Johnny's wild terrified eyes, remembering what the man had said about being killed by Bruce earlier that day. That prescient knowledge shone in the bright blue eyes that looked up at him, despairing of a future he was sure was about to come to pass. "Hurry up and finish it, then we can get rid of that damn box!"
"Give me the paper!" Bruce demanded, stopping Johnny from kicking by practically sitting on him, even as Walt pinned his arms and shoulders. He nearly got loose as Walt passed the paper over and yelled incoherently.
"This will work right? It won't hurt him?" Walt asked wincing as Johnny yelled again.
"If John was going to use this on me, I've got to assume he thought the risk was going to be worth it," Bruce replied hastily reading what he had to do. "And since it is real then we've gotta trust what his visions were telling him."
"Even though he's got it wrong?"
"Doesn't mean the Visions were wrong, just the interpretation," Bruce said as he stared at the piece of paper and then pressed the knife tip to pale skin. "I'm really sorry John... hang in there, man, okay?"
Easy to say were you were not the one on the receiving end of a cut that seemed to make your blood boil like fire.
He could feel a tearing inside of himself with each symbol pressed into flesh until that sensation was nothing and the tearing inside was everything. It was like a parasite, with its teeth and head clenched deep inside his own mind and emotions and shredding him as it was being tugged loose.
Bruce was right. No good dybbuk force would torture its host so. They were bringers of enlightenment, not suffering, a possession that imparted wisdom rather than invasion. He could think that thought now, his perceptions and realizations clarifying as the dybbuk force writhed under the forced separation.
The visions had been true, he had just been skewed in his interpretation to believe in the fear and paranoia that lurked inside of him. But it hadn't been able to change his fundamental nature of wanting to fix things, and so had cunningly worked around his own personality, skewing that need to his own ends. He had nearly destroyed the box thinking he was saving his friends which would have been a complete disaster.
He was screaming and couldn't hear it over the roar that was in his own head or in the actual room as objects were hurled in a frenzy trying to stop Bruce and Walt from completing the final syllable on his skin. His possessions thumped into them with a bruising force but Bruce, displaying the stubbornness that made him cajole, demand and lead his patients to achieve things that seemed impossible, like those first few steps after paralysis right up to that final walk home, cut the final line and was hurled back as the shadow ink self of the dybbuk boiled out of the symbols that made up the most holy name of God unable to tolerate that 'truth' in any form. It swirled, causing Bruce to flinch back and grab instinctively to open the cabinet box.
Just as he had seen before in his vision of the past, Johnny saw the shadows pulled towards the miscellany of objects there, gravitating as if there were no other choice. It fought the pull, clawing at all of them with their darkest memories as it lashed out seeking for a grip on any one of the three men there.
"Get... away!" Johnny cautioned the others even as he pushed forward. He remembered the words from the first vision, even if they were just words, he knew that they would work. He ignored the burning on his chest and shouted out the words the Rabbi had used and was not at all surprised to hear his words echoed in Bruce's voice behind him.
He had been right. Bruce DID have a dybbuk in him from the box, but all along it had been that of the Rabbi Ezria ben Kurzweil not of the evil entity that had been haunting him.
With the additional help and his own force of belief behind it, every trace of the darkness poured into that ordinary box. Johnny wasn't sure if the others could 'see' it in the same way he could but he knew exactly when to reach for the door with his own blood smeared hand and push it shut firmly saying the sealing words,
"Tihyeh Nishmaso Tzerurah beTzror haChaim!"
May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.
And from the abrupt silence that suddenly reigned, it appeared that the word was the deed.
Johnny slumped down in the wreckage of his home wondering how he could apologize for this, how he could say anything that could put into perspective what the three of them had just witnessed. His chest hurt, he felt tired beyond belief, his mind, his emotions felt bleeding raw and he just couldn't concentrate on anything.
"Hope you've got beer in your fridge, John, because I need one," Walt said after the silence had stretched into their third incredulous minute of silence. "But not if it's that foreign crap you keep getting."
Johnny glanced over at Bruce who was wearing identical expression amazement. How was it that Walt could pick up and move on so easily? Didn't he realize what had just happened? What it meant, how it could change everything?
"Walt, how can you think about drinking right now?" Bruce said in amazement. "After all that... shit, you saw it, and now you're carrying on as if it were nothing important?"
Walt hesitated by the door, turning on a warm and thankfully untampered with light in the hall. "I've seen some strange shit in my time on the force, and with working with John, it's just got worse. And there one thing I've realized about it all when all is said and done. You chose what you believe in. And you know what?"
"What?" Johnny prompted, mesmerized by Walt's words.
The lawman shifted. "Seeming as how I probably won't have a riot to put down tonight after all, right now... I really choose to believe in that beer."
He turned and headed to the kitchen even as Bruce headed over to Johnny, wincing in sympathy for the cuts he had made.
"How're you doing, John?" he asked quietly.
"How do I look?" Johnny asked, closing his eyes a moment. "No, no... wait I have an uncanny premonition... like shit, right?"
Bruce gave a low laugh. "Got it in one, John. I'm really sorry about... this. And all these damn bruises? They were from it too?"
Johnny nodded wearily. "Yeah. If it comes to that, I'm feeling pretty damn stupid about believing you were conspiring to stab me to death. I was totally convinced. So much for my visions huh?"
"The visions showed you what you needed to see, the dybbuk made you interpret the way that suited it best," Bruce said as he used the ripped shirt to stop the bleeding. "You're not infallible John, you're not meant to be."
"More Zen right?"
Bruce chuckled. "Right. More Zen." He worked a moment longer. "I really am sorry, John."
Johnny didn't have to be told that. He didn't even have to see it or sense it. It was just a statement of fact. "Well, just for that you get to do all the digging when we go and bury this thing in the dead of night in Havela Kaplan's grave."
"Can we do that?" Bruce seemed a little skeptical.
"You tell me, you were the one talking like a rabbi a little while back," Johnny pointed out.
"Hmm." Bruce nodded, agreeing it was something that needed to be done. "After I've patched you up. How are you feeling now?"
"Like I should be converting to Walt's beliefs," Johnny said unsteadily. "How about it?"
"Yeah, I'm with you, man. " Bruce twisted and called out. "Two converts here to your Church of Beer, Walt!"
They heard the footsteps coming back and the Sheriff tossed them both a can concealing his own shakiness with the decisive movements. He cracked his can open, all three of them pretending not to notice the shaking of each others hands as they followed suit.
"Welcome to the Church of Beer, guys," Walt said dryly raising the can in an unspoken toast to their rather surprising survival.
"Hallelujah!" Bruce added as he swigged his first mouthful, making Johnny laugh for the first time in days.
They had made it through the curse alive and stopped a disaster in the making, and no matter where he looked, that silver lining was out to get him.
It was over, which in his life generally meant that something else was just beginning.
The first thing Johnny was confronted with after he and Bruce had spent a furtive night burying the Dybbuk box in Havela Kaplan's grave as she had requested and then cunningly replacing the turf so no one would notice was the fact that Bruce had pointedly left his silver headed cane out where he would see it as a challenge to him to take the lessons of what had happened and move on.
As he rested, he looked at the silver headed cane that had held the terror of his connection with the visions of the terrible future to come. Armageddon, Washington in a holocaust of fire and death, the world and its peoples decimated all bound up in that one object.
He hadn't picked it up since he had prevented the death of the man he had known was going to cause that fiery sunset to the human race. Even if it had been more by accident than design. He had intended to wrestle the black and silver gun away from Rebecca. Stop her from trying to save him, from avenging Rachel, but Stilson had grabbed him and pulled him across his body as a reluctant shield.
He hadn't been in front of Rebecca when they returned fire, not protecting her as he thought, instead he had been lying in a pool of his own blood, fluttering at the edges of unconsciousness, and that silver topped cane rolled from his hand.
He hadn't touched it since.
He couldn't bear the thought of it. According to his future self, with his reckless actions he would have just condemned the world and lost the burgeoning emotion of love. He wouldn't touch it because he would finally know if that were true if the visions spoke to him, and until then he could pretend otherwise.
But maybe Bruce had been right, and Walt, too. The Visions never lied but the interpretation could be very wrong. He touched the healing but sore cuts on his chest to remind himself of that fact. He had been convinced that the vision about the dybbuk box had showed him that Bruce had been possessed by the evil spirit, when all it had showed him was Bruce with a knife - who in reality had turned out to be trying to save him.
Things were not always as they seemed and the future could change.
He stared at the silver cane again for a long moment.
With a sudden movement indicative of a man plunging through a great fear, Johnny Smith reached for the cursed or blessed silver handle of his cane...
And listened to the silence of the future.
Authors Notes:- Most things in here are based on actual suppositions and fact such as the methods of kabbalistic exorcism, and the apparent connections with Kristallnacht etc. the rest I made up! Hope you enjoyed it.!