Patsy didn’t know if the wraiths had always been there but she’d only started seeing them recently. Recently, as in the past four years. She didn’t recall seeing them before the night she discovered Rob was cheating but that didn’t mean they hadn’t been there. Perhaps they’d decided to appear at the time when she most needed them, as they’ve done since.
That day was one of the most distressing days that Patsy had ever experienced. It had been worse than the time that she had been dumped by her high school boyfriend in the Denny’s after the football game, with what seemed like half the school watching.
It had definitely been worse than the time she had slipped in the high heels at her sister’s wedding and each foot had shot away from each other so quickly that she had no time to catch herself and had dropped right to the floor in the most grotesque splits. She had literally torn the delicate flesh of her privates and had she ever screamed. She had also bled all over her powder puff pink bridesmaid dress and the lovely white marble floor of the Synagogue.
Her sister still refused to speak of it and it had happened fifteen years, two divorces, and another wedding ago.
But no… the day that she had come home to find Rob in bed with their neighbor had topped both of those days. She been furious with Rob but she loved him and thought that she could probably forgive him just about anything. She could not however, forgive Samantha the Bitch Bellard, who could have damn well had sex with Patsy’s husband in her own bed. Patsy suspected that Samantha had come over to her house to do the deed in hopes that Patsy would discover their ongoing affair.
Weeks later, Patsy had surmised that discovering the affair was so much worse than her other humiliations because the pain wasn’t ebbing in the least. The suffering she felt in the days following that fateful afternoon hadn’t diminished, not in the least. It just kept on stabbing her in the gut over and over and over.
She cried all the time, she couldn’t eat. She couldn’t walk outside without feeling that her slut neighbor was watching her from her kitchen window and smirking. Patsy hated the thought. She hated the thought so much. So very much.
A week after chasing a half-naked Sam Bellard from her house and then arguing with Rob every single night since, Patsy lay in their bed alone while he again slept on the couch. She couldn’t sleep for several reasons. One reason was that she was still so distraught. She had to admit that she was also concerned that Rob would sneak out and head next door to pick up where he’d left off when she had interrupted him. She kept checking downstairs to make sure he was still snoring on the couch.
The final reason she was unable to sleep on that particular night was that there appeared to be several black shapes floating around the bedroom. They were up against the ceiling and they were vaguely cartoon ghost-like, though they were black rather than white. They weren’t just black, though… they were inky black. They were blacker than the darkness, blacker than black.
Patsy knew on some level that these creatures must be incarnations of something, some evil force, perhaps. She was afraid of them though she had to admit that she didn’t fear that any of them might harm her.
“Of course you won’t harm me,” she whispered to the creatures—wraiths, she dubbed them in her mind—as they floated this way and that against the ceiling in intricate patterns. “I didn’t do anything wrong, did I?” Her thoughts went unbidden to her husband, and then more strongly to the bitch next door. Rage surged in her and the wraiths began to move faster and faster across the ceiling, mesmerizing Patsy. “It was her,” she whispered to the black shapes. “She did this to me and she needs to be harmed.” At once wraiths slithered out the door, tumbling over each other like eels in a pool.
Patsy was finally able to sleep, and despite her daily weeping sessions and inability to eat much, she slept like a baby every night.
Samantha Bellard died suddenly of cancer a month later, and it wasn’t until then that Patsy remembered the wraiths. She wondered if the wraiths had had something to do with Sam’s death. If they had, she didn’t much care. In fact, if they had somehow given Sam the inoperable tumor that took her life in a matter of weeks, and if they had done so at her behest, then Patsy was glad.
The wraiths didn’t show up again for two years.
Patsy had been up for a promotion and work and had been passed up in favor of a younger, newer member of staff. She didn’t have a high-powered position, or anything. She was a general staff secretary but after working for the law firm for twelve years, she was up for the position of Executive Secretary and Assistant to one of the partners when his long-time Assistant retired.
Instead, Gloria Durnam got the position. She had only been with the firm for eighteen months and Patsy was beside herself. She felt somewhat better when Bill Zopf, the partner who she would have been working directly under, visited her desk at the end of the day to express his disappointment.
“I can’t tell you how sorry I am Pat,” he told her. “I thought you’d be a shoo-in. You’re clearly the more capable of the candidates who applied and frankly, I’d have preferred to have just chosen who I wanted myself. You know how things go around here, though.”
Patsy knew. She knew that Gloria’s uncle was pals with one of the Senior partners and that he had surely pulled some strings to get Gloria into the position that should have been Patsy’s.
She complained about the situation at dinner and Rob listened attentively. She saw a few shadows lurking in the corners of the dining room and kitchen as she griped, and she wondered if they were the wraiths, come to visit her again.
Later, with Rob snuggled up to her in bed, she watched the ceiling as one by one, black shapes entered the room to move slowly around the ceiling. Patsy felt a thrill as they showed themselves and she smiled at them.
“Hello friends,” she whispered. They responded by moving more quickly. “Are you here to help me again?”
The movement of the wraiths quickened and she again became entranced by the patterns that they wove on the ceiling. She let her thoughts drift to Gloria and the injustice of the situation at work. As her rage built, the wraiths’ movement became a frenzy.
“She doesn’t deserve my job,” Patsy whispered, eyes glazed and body tense. “It’s my job. Make her pay for taking it from me!”
Her last words were naught but a hiss and the wraiths flew from the room with no hesitation as they embarked on their dark mission.
On her dark mission.
Nothing happened for a couple of weeks and Patsy couldn’t understand why the wraiths had failed to help her this time. She kept reminding herself that it took a month for them to kill Sam Bellar with cancer so maybe they were working on Gloria.
Then one morning she came to work to discover that Gloria Durnam had dropped dead the afternoon before, while working out in the law firm’s in-house gym. She had suffered an aneurism and rumor had it that she had been dead before she had hit the floor.
Patsy acted properly horrified and sad, just as everyone else was behaving. And at the end of the week, she somberly accepted the promotion that she should have been given in the first place.
She lay in bed that night, thanking the wraiths… thanking her wraiths, for taking care of her once again.
It was over a year later before she saw the wraiths again. As before, she didn’t know if they showed up because of something she had done or thought, or if they just knew when she needed them. Patsy half hoped that she hadn’t summoned them as she stared at them dancing about the ceiling above the bed because the only person that she was upset with at the moment was her husband.
She had risen a short time earlier to use the bathroom and found Rob’s side of the bed empty so she’d gone downstairs to see if he was having a snack or watching a movie or something. She found him in his study, jerking off to what looked like a porn video. She saw a man with his face between a woman’s legs and then jerked her eyes away.
She had been stung at first, since they’d had what she thought was a healthy sex life since the end of his affair with Sam the Slut a few years before. At least, she thought a couple of times a week was healthy. He never said that he wanted more, and had even turned her down a few times when she’d snuggled up to him in bed and touched him in hopes of getting something going. In fact, he had turned her down before they’d gone to bed just a couple of hours ago. And here he was, watching porn. She didn’t even know that Rob watched that kind of thing.
She turned to quietly leave the room and return to bed when she heard the woman on the television moan and say, “Oh yeah, Robbie. That’s so good, baby.” Rob also moaned loudly and the hairs raised on the back of Patsy’s neck as she turned slowly back to the room and took a better look at the people having sex on the television.
Her stomach roiled as she realized that the people on the television were the now-deceased Sam Bellar and Patsy’s own husband. She gaped at the screen as her husband’s head moved vigorously against the slut’s crotch. Rob’s TV hands crept up Sam’s TV body to rub her breasts and he moaned again, which in turn elicited another moan from real life Rob as he sat yanking on his penis.
Patsy’s stomach roiled again, though her indignation momentarily outweighed her disgust and jealously. And outrage. Rob had never, in fifteen years of marriage, done to her what TV Rob was doing to TV Sam. Never once. She had asked him if he would, since she regularly performed fellatio on him, but he claimed that he just didn’t like doing that kind of thing.
And there he was, his giant head on the TV screen, doing ‘that kind of thing’ to the woman that he had cheated with. Not only had he done it to her, he had recorded it so that he could watch it again and again. Patsy’s eyes dropped to the cabinet below the TV to see a stack of DVDs and her rage increased. He had apparently recorded a lot of things.
TV Sam started saying a lot of dirty things to TV Rob and he moved up her body to start having actual sex with her. TV Sam bucked and writhed, cursing and yowling like a mad woman until she apparently orgasmed, and TV Rob with her. A few moments later, real Rob groaned and did the same, except he ejaculated all over himself instead of inside his mistress, as his TV self was doing.
Patsy returned to bed and stared at the wraiths that appeared a few minutes later. Wondering what to do with them. She heard her husband return to their room but he went into the bathroom and turned on the shower. He was in there washing himself clean of what was essentially his continued affair. An affair that she had once forgiven him for… in part because she had been able to take her rage out on somebody other than him.
She didn’t have that choice this time.
“What to do?”
She had quietly posed the question to the wraiths but they didn’t answer her. They just spun around and around, hypnotized by their movement. As her eyes began to glaze, her rage surged again. He was her husband and she was still sharing him with that dead woman. He would rather jerk himself off to videos of her than to have actual sex with Patsy. She couldn’t bear it. She couldn’t let the insult stand.
Rob turned off the shower in the next room and Patsy waited. She counted off how much time it would take for him to dry himself and at least put on some underwear. When she deemed it safe, she focused again on the wraiths and smiled a cold smile.
“Make it quick and painless,” she whispered.
The shot into the bathroom and moments later, she heard a series of thuds as her husband’s body fell to the floor
It turned out that Rob had a congenital heart defect. Undiagnosed, of course.
Nine months after her husband had passed, Patsy was working late one evening to help her boss with some briefs for court the next morning. She didn’t mind working late, the extra hours gave her more spending money and she genuinely enjoyed the quiet in the office after hours, when most of the people were gone.
The wraiths appeared above her desk suddenly, surprising her as she shut down her computer and donned her coat before heading home. She stood there before her desk, one arm through her coat sleeve, staring up at the ceiling.
“Everything okay, Pat?”
She jumped and turned to find her boss, Bill Zopf standing by her desk, a file folder in one hand and a perplexed look on his face.
Patsy laughed and shoved her other arm into its coat sleeve. “Oh yes, Bill. I just thought a light was flickering so I was trying to see which one it might be so that I could notify maintenance.”
He craned his neck to look up at the ceiling lights. “They seem okay to me.”
“I know, they look okay to me, too. It must have been my imagination. I didn’t notice anything once I tried to find the flicker.”
“You’re good, then?”
“I’m great!” She thought she sounded screechy and insincere but Bill didn’t appear to notice anything untoward. He smiled and she grabbed her purse. “See you bright and early in the morning, Bill.”
“Thanks for your extra help, Pat. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
His compliment normally would have meant a great deal to Patsy and she might have taken the opportunity to flirt with hi a bit, but she was just too distracted by the wraiths to do more than thank him quickly before heading to the elevator. She noticed that the wraiths followed her and she was genuinely confused about why they were there. She watched them mill about on the ceiling of the elevator as she descended to the parking garage.
“Why are you here? I’m not angry. Nobody has done anything to me, I’m fine.”
They didn’t leave, but followed her from the elevator and hovered above and behind her as she walked to her car. She was so distracted by the wraiths floating along above her head that she didn’t notice the man until he grabbed her from behind and shoved her up against the trunk of her own car. His knife was pressed against her throat before she could catch her breath to scream and the feel of the cold blade filled her with fear so acute that she thought she might wet herself.
“Don’t move, bitch,” the man growled, and Patsy smelled the stale cigarettes and alcohol on his breath.
She whimpered and managed to say, “Please don’t hurt me, my wallet is in my purse.”
“I’ll get it in a minute, honey,” the man said into her hair as he pulled up her skirt and fumbled with her underwear.
“Please, no,” she begged and then she remembered.
She looked up with only her eyes and found the wraiths, still circling. “Can you make this one quick, too?”
She asked the question aloud, that was the way she always spoke to the wraiths, but the would-be rapist behind her thought that she was talking to him, because he answered her.
“In a hurry, baby? Sorry, but I’m gonna take my time.”
The sound of his zipper pushed her over the edge, her rage surged and she nearly shouted, “Take him!”
The wraiths disappeared from her limited view and a moment later, the man dropped to the floor of the parking garage, his knife clattering to the floor beside him. Patsy turned to stare down at him, triumphant, but she blinked in surprise when she saw drops of blood spatter to the floor. More drops hit the pavement and before she could raise a hand to her neck in alarm, she began to gush from the wound in her neck.
Then the pain hit and she couldn’t remember how to scream for help. Before she fell to the floor to bleed out her life’s blood, she watched the wraiths emerge from the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth of the dead man on the floor beside her.
“Please,” she begged them. “Help me.”
But they weren’t made to help, their only purpose was to harm.
As Patsy crumpled to the floor of the parking garage, she stared at the swirling shapes as her eyes began to glaze. One by one, the wraiths dissipated, like smoke in a breeze until there were none left.