I completed this short story shortly after my 17th birthday, for a writing competition at high school. It didn’t win the competition, but it did help me put an eerily similar real life paranormal event in sharp relief. Real life ‘Sarah’ didn’t die two years after this event — in fact she married, had 3 children, divorced and then studied law.
It was probably just one of the girls pushing on the glass without realizing it, perhaps a freak gust of wind, possibly we’d gone stir-crazy with the heat … or was it something else?
An Old Ouija Board. An Abandoned Church.
The setting sun beat down on roads and pavements. Heat rose in a shuddering haze that glued our hair to our heads. It was the sixth day above 40 degrees, and for year 12 students at Murray Heights High School, the third day in a row that school had closed due to the heat.
With my three best friends, I traipsed into Libby’s bedroom. Mel fell back onto the bed with a groan, Sarah slumped against the wall, and Libby went in search of cold drinks. I slid onto the floor; arms spread wide apart, sweat dripping down my neck.
Libby ambled back into her bedroom with four cold cans of cola, her mothers old Ouija board and a grin on her face. “Look what I found.”
I didn’t turn my head, just grunted.
Libby pushed my legs out of the way and spread the board on the floor. “Come on guys, stick your fingers on the planchette.”
“It’s too hot.” Mel and I moaned together, but we obediently sat around the board.
“You pushed.” Mel elbowed me.
I blew out a long sigh, I was too hot to care.
“That was you!” Sarah pointed at Libby.
Libby laughed without looking up. Somehow she wasn’t letting the heat bother her. “Was not.”
“It must be cooler outside now,” Sarah lifted her hair from her neck and fanned herself with a magazine from Libby’s floor.
Libby’s eyes flashed, “Lets go to the old church. I bet we’ll find ghosts there!”
“And it will be cooler inside.” Sarah jumped up and dragged me to my feet.
“Not the old church, it’s almost dark.” Mel crossed her legs on the floor.
Libby yanked on her arm, “Don’t be a ninny.”
We trooped to the end of Libby’s street. Libby and Sarah in the front, Mel and I lagging behind.
The heavy wooden door swung open with a creak. Libby jumped into Sarah. They both giggled and stumbled back down the steps into Mel and me.
It was only an old church. I swallowed quickly and followed the others, slowly and silently through the doorway into the dark interior. The stale, cool air lifted hair on my hot limbs.
I swiveled to take in the entire space. The small church hadn’t been used for years. Pews stood higgledy-piggledy, in messy silent rows. A contorted Christ hung from a heavy cross on one wall. Libby bobbed her head and crossed herself in the orthodox fashion, touching her head and stomach, then her shoulders from right to left.
Without speaking, we cleared a space for ourselves on the floor and dropped to the ground one by one. Libby loped down with her legs crossed. Sarah fell gracefully onto one hip, and Mel knelt on her feet. I lay my hot stomach onto the cold floor, stuck my feet up in the air and dropped my head on my hands.
The planchette moved by itself.
Libby gasped, “Quickly guys, touch it, just one finger.” She lifted her head and spoke in a clear voice. “Who’s there?”
I scrambled onto my bum and pressed one fingertip onto wood. Nothing happened.
“Do you have a message?” Libby asked.
This time the planchette moved under our fingertips, it spelt out S – A – R – A – H.
“Okay now I am spooked,” Sarah said.
Mel bounced on her heels, “What do we do now Libby?”
Libby’s voice shook, “I don’t know, this has never happened before.”
My mouth felt dry. Smells of dirt and decay filled my nose, then my mouth, but I couldn’t take my finger off the glass.
It moved again. I jolted upright. Mel squealed. Libby shushed us. Sarah stared at the Ouija board as if in a trance.
Slowly the planchette moved to D, then E, then A then D again.
“That’s not funny.” Mel’s voice cracked. “Who’s pushing it?”
“Do you mean Sarah will be dead?” Libby pulled her hand away from the board as if it burnt her skin.
“Well we all will be one day.” I tried to make a joke.
“When?” Libby shouted, “When will Sarah die?”
The planchette moved to the number 1, wobbled for a bit and then pointed to the 2. It stopped completely still for a few seconds and then spelt out Y – E – A – R – S.
“It’s just silliness.” Sarah tossed the board and the planchette to one side and darted to the door.
The door slammed shut. We hammered on it with fists and heels. Libby tried to pull it open, but it shut tight. Hairs rose on the back of my neck.
A draft of wind twisted in the middle of the church. Leaves and dust swirled into the air. There was a roar like a jet plane taking off, then the wind picked up pews and smashed them against the walls.
Sarah’s mouth dropped open, but I didn’t hear her scream over the deafening noise. We huddled together, our backs pressed into the door. It only lasted a few seconds. Silence fell as quickly as the noise began.
Mel pulled on the door handle again. It turned easily and opened to the cacophony of crickets and frogs. A huge orange sun hung just above the horizon. We ran through the car park clutching one another’s hands.
Libby yanked us to a stop, “The board, it was my grandmothers, she brought it with her from America. I have to get it.”
“Let’s all go back.” I made myself sound braver than I felt.
I dragged my heavy legs back to the door.
“I’ll wait out here,” Sarah mumbled, “in case the door sticks again.”
We nodded to Sarah; Mel touched her shoulder as we pushed against the door. It opened smoothly. Inside the pews stood still where they had fallen. The air felt as stale and cold as when we first arrived.
We retrieved the dented board and the planchette and strode back to Libby’s house.
We hadn’t left any house lights on, but light and the sound of the evening news tinkled down the driveway. Libby’s mum was home.
“What have you been doing?” Her voice boomed at us from the kitchen when we walked in the front door. “And don’t tell me ‘nothing mama’ Elizabetha.” Libby’s mum filled the kitchen door, her hands on her hips, “I can sense the spirits on you from here.”
This article in the Smithsonian Magazine – here, about the strange and mysterious history of the Ouija board, is very interesting. Whether we are communicating with the spirits, or accessing our subconscious brains it’s equally fascinating. I recommend a read!!