“It’s no big deal. I played it at my cousin’s house last Halloween. It was fun!” Shelley pulled a small shot-glass from her backpack. She set it on top of a yellowed, worn gameboard with the word Ouija at the bottom. “It didn’t come with the planchette thingee so we used this last time.”
Nina had never seen one up close before. Only in movies and passing by the game section of the toy store. She had to admit, it was intriguing – the thought of talking to the dead. A desperate image flashed through her mind. Maybe she could get in touch with her Nonnie. It had been a year and Nina still missed her grandmother terribly.
“Picked it up at a thrift store last summer. Paid fifty cents for it!”
“Okay, let’s do it.” Meghan was no scaredy-cat. She’d made that known after the tenth time she’d repeated it that night.
The three girls sat cross-legged in a circle surrounding the Ouija board and makeshift glass planchette. Shelley lit a small red candle and smiled wickedly at her friends.
“Geez. Relax, you two. I said it’s not a big deal. It’ll be fun.” She punched Nina’s leg lightly.
“Okay, so lead us, great leader Michelle Shaminson.”
Shelley picked up the shotglass and turned it upside down. “Okay. Everyone place one index finger lightly on the top of the glass.”
The girls reluctantly followed Shelley’s instruction.
“Don’t push hard on the glass. It has to be really light touch.” Shelley reached over and checked each girl’s finger to ensure they weren’t pressing too hard on the planchette. “This is the key to making contact. Don’t push too hard. Just let it happen.”
“Okay. Now what?” Meghan yawned. She’d gone from scared shitless to bored in twenty seconds flat. A new record for her. The last time they’d had a sleepover, Meghan was the one who tried to climb out the second-floor window in attempts to sneak out of the house. She fell and was rushed to the ER for a broken leg and coccyx. In fact, Nina was shocked Meghan’s parents allowed her to sleepover not six months after the incident.
“Now, we ask a question.” Shelley inhaled loudly. “Would anyone like to talk with us?”
Silence. Silence. And paralysis. No one moved or said a word.
Then, a snicker.
“Meghan! Stop laughing! You’re going to piss the spirits off.”
“I can’t help it! Nothing’s happening. Clearly, even the dead find this sleepover a snooze.” Meghan uncrossed her legs and flopped back on a large, fluffy beanbag chair. “I’m tired. Can’t we just watch a movie and pass out?”
“Stop whining, Meghan. Let’s keep trying.” Nina didn’t want to admit it, but she’d looked forward to trying the Ouija ever since Shelley had whispered it to her during gym class the week before. Something about how Shelley and her cousin had talked to Mother Theresa and Amy Winehouse.
Meghan sat back up and the girls replaced their fingers on the shotglass. This time, Nina concentrated on the board itself. She allowed her eyes to trace over each number. Each letter. The word GOODBYE at the bottom. The words YES and NO on either side of the board.
“Is anyone here that wants to communicate?” This time Nina said it. Shelley smiled and nodded at her.
Slowly, the glass began to shake and move away from its stationary position in the middle of the board. Nina and Shelley looked at each other, excitement and awe written all over their young faces. A laugh burst from Meghan’s lip-glossed mouth.
“Come on, you guys! Stop messing with me! Who’s pushing it? Shelley?”
“I’m not moving it, Meghan.”
“Okay, then Nina must be.”
“I swear, I didn’t move it either.” Nina looked down at her index finger, now shaking like the shotglass had moments before. “I am barely touching it.”
Glances of terror, anxiety, and apprehension shot around the circle. None of the girls felt very secure in the others’ denies of pushing the planchette, but the planchette continued to move. The problem was, it wasn’t spelling anything or moving to any of the pre-determined words like yes or no. It was just slowly moving in circles. Round and round. At least a minute went by with the girls staring at each other, down at the spiraling shotglass, and then back at each other. No one wanted to break up the session for fear of losing contact or pissing one of the other girls off.
“Okay, this is getting annoying,” Shelley huffed and looked up into the air. “Can you stop with the circles, please Spirit? You’re not saying anything.”
Surprisingly, the shotglass darted to the far corner of the board so fast the girls fingers were nearly left behind. Then stopped abruptly over the word YES.
“Okay, so you agree? The circles were getting annoying.” Shelley shrugged. “Let’s talk for real, now. When did you die?”
“Why did you have to ask that?” Nina whisper-yelled at Shelley.
“I dunno. Just thought it would be interesting.” Shelley shrugged.
This time the shotglass moved slowly from the corner of the board over the numbers at the top. 1-9-0-8.
The spirit board gave Shelley confirmation as the glass hovered over the word YES a second time.
“Shit, Shelley. I’m scared. Can we stop now?” Nina didn’t like the knot in the pit of her stomach. It reminded her of the day her grandma died. The feeling that something bad was going to happen, though there was no reason for it.
“We are not stopping now!” Meghan’s face was lit up. For once, the girl wasn’t bored and looking for trouble. She had found it. “How did you die?”
Nina’s anxiety was sky-high. Something wasn’t right about this Ouija board. And her friends were egging it on.
The glass slowly spelled out the letters A-X-E.
Meghan gulped. Shelley’s eyes grew wider. Nina withdrew her hand.
“I can’t do this anymore. I’m freaking out!” Nina’s hands were shaking as she ran them through her hair.
“Stop being such a chicken shit. This is getting good! Come on, Nina. Nothing bad will happen. It’s a game, remember?” Shelley grabbed Nina’s finger and placed it back on the shotglass.
“What’s your name, Spirit?”
The glass began moving in circles again, slowly at first, then building in speed.
“I said, what’s your name?”
Without warning, the glass stopped its incessant spinning and flew over to the letter Z. Then it stopped dead in its tracks.
“Your name is Z?”
The shotglass moved slightly off the letter Z and then back again. Over and over and over, until the girls threw their hands in the air and gave up.
“We need to talk to a different spirit. This circle and back and forth motion is driving me nuts,” Shelley declared.
The three girls left the Ouija board and homemade planchette sitting in the bedroom while they went downstairs for a snack.
An hour later, they returned to the spirit board in hopes of contacting a different spirit. Maybe Nina’s Nonnie. Or a celebrity. Or someone other than the annoying spirit Z would show up.
But the same situation repeated itself. The spirit Z seemed never to have left the board, or maybe it had never left the room. The planchette moved in circles, this time aggressively, and this time without the girls fingers being on it at all.
Nina screamed at the spirit, “STOP! WE DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU ANYMORE! GOODBYE!”
But the spirit wouldn’t leave. It repeated its name constantly. Z. Z. Z. Z. Z. Z. Z.
Shelley grabbed the shotglass and ran it over the word GOODBYE three times.
Then all went silent. No movement from the shotglass. Just heavy breathing and horrified expressions on their faces.
Shelley broke the silence, “I can’t believe that just happened.”
“I knew we shouldn’t have messed around with this,” Nina replied.
“Shut up, Nina! You were SO into it! You told me at school you wanted to try it.”
“Both of you shut up! We need to get rid of this thing. Something’s not right with this board.” Meghan was the voice of reason for once in her rebellious life.
The girls gathered the board and shotglass and went downstairs where Nina’s parents had a fire going in the fireplace. They looked around to make sure her parents were out of sight.
“Must be outside or something,” Nina concluded after calling for her mom and dad.
Nina took the board and shotglass and threw them into the fire. The fire hissed and crackled as the three girls watched the board melt in the hellish flames.
“There. It’s over.” Shelley smiled at her friends. “I’m sorry I brought it over. I never would have if I’d have known that was going to happen.”
Two weeks after the sleepover, the girls didn’t see each other much at school. Nina avoided Meghan and Shelley; being near them only reminder her of the nightmares she’d had every night since their Ouija experience. A black-cloaked figure named Z visited her in her dreams at exactly 3:33 AM on a nightly basis. She would wake up in a cold sweat, screaming at the top of her lungs, waking her poor mother, who would come barreling into her room in a panic.
“You’ve got to stop watching horror movies, Nina. This is getting old,” she’d say before going back to bed.
While Nina was walking to art class, someone yanked on the strap at the top of her backpack from behind.
“Nina! How are you?” Nina turned to see Shelley’s pale, sickly face staring at her. There were dark circles under her green eyes and her cheeks were sunken in. She looked like she was dying.
“Not so great. And you don’t look good, either. What’s going on? Where have you been? I haven’t seen you around school.”
“I don’t know. Something strange is happening. I can’t sleep. This thing from the board…nevermind,” Shelley pulled her backpack up onto her shoulder and rushed off.
“Shelley! Wait!” Nina called to her friend, but it was no use. She ran down the hallway, disappearing into the sea of students.
That night, Nina couldn’t sleep. She’d waited until her parents had gone to bed, then turned her bedroom and closet lights on. She stared up at the ceiling, frightened to fall asleep and let Z torment her dreams. He was there every time she closed her eyes, even for a brief moment. She could almost hear him whisper his name in her ear. She could almost hear him breathing…
Nina realized she’d fallen asleep. Her eyes flew open. She held her breath, and in the stillness, she heard it. She wasn’t imagining things. She heard someone breathing closeby. Under her bed? A slow, heavy inhale and exhale. She searched her mind for a logical reason – the cat? No. The cat was locked up in her parents room for the night. Her older brother? No. He was away at college and wasn’t set to visit for another month. She was just imagining things…
But the breathing sound never stopped. It only grew louder. Heavier. Faster. As if something was preparing to attack.
Nina had had enough. She had to fight this…whatever it was under her bed. It was probably someone playing tricks on her.
Her voice cracked, but she was able to squeeze out a shaky, “Hello? Who’s there?”
She hopped out of the blankets and stood on top of her bed. Ready to pounce on whoever was hiding in her room. Her legs were trembling. Her palms sweating. Her head was spinning. But she was ready.
Clunk. The breathing stopped, but it sounded as if something metal had hit the floor underneath the bed. Like whoever was under there was holding something heavy and had dropped it.
“I said, WHO’S THERE?!” Nine was screaming at the top of her lungs now. “COME OUT BEFORE I CALL THE COPS!”
A dragging noise ensued as the person emerged from under Nina’s bed. A leg clothed in black first came out, followed by the rest of the person’s body. He was all dressed in black. And as he rose to his knees, Nina noticed something – it wasn’t a he. The hood fell from her head.
“Shelley! That was NOT funny! You scared me half to death!” Nina leaned back against the wall behind her, smiling from ear to ear. Thank God it was just Shelley playing a prank on her. She breathed a sigh of relief.
But Shelley didn’t return the smile. Shelley looked down at the floor and pulled her black hood back over her head. Her face was ghostly white, and there seemed to be a darkness surrounding her.
Nina froze in place and stared at her best friend in confusion. “Shells, what are you doing? You scared me. The joke’s over. Come on, stop it.”
Shelley bent down to remove something from under the bed. The sound of metal dragged across the floorboards, and Nina screamed as she saw what was in Shelley’s hands.