For as long as I could remember, I spent weekends at my grandmother’s house. She had been widowed for over forty years and I was her only grandchild.
That Friday after Easter break was no different. My parents were going down to the city for the weekend to watch a play and visit some friends.
Grandma and I had a great night. After I finished my homework, we made homemade pizza for dinner, played backgammon and dominoes, and then read before going to bed. Grandma curled up with a romance novel while I favored a mystery.
When she announced it was time for bed, I was exhausted. I barely had the energy to change into pajamas and brush my teeth. I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.
I was in a deep, dreamless sleep when I was startled awake. Before I could react, the blankets were thrown from the bed, hands grabbed my ankles and yanked me to the floor. I opened my mouth to scream, but whoever was attacking me preempted my move. Hands tightened on my neck, cutting off the air. I panicked and tried to claw them away, but there was nothing there. I looked around, but I was alone.
I couldn’t make a sound, and I was growing weak, not sure what was happening, but knew I had to do something. I said a prayer in my head to the Archangel St. Michael. “Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”
I heard someone laugh. Then a gravelly voice whispered in my ear, “You don’t have enough time to properly entreat the saints to save you.” It was a nasty sound that made the hair on my arms stand on end.
I continued to struggle against my invisible opponent.
The room started to close in. I was losing my battle to remain conscious when the door burst open. My father jumped into the room sprinkling Holy Water and muttering prayers.
I was thrown across the room as a figure materialized. He was certainly handsome, and taller than my father. I could have had a crush on him if it wasn’t for the glowing red eyes and the trying to kill me thing. He snarled at my father, “Sal Russo, you’re doing your daughter more harm than good.”
“Get away from her.” He flicked more holy water at the demon. I could see it burning his exposed skin.
“I will for now, but there will be others. Lothar won’t wait forever before claiming his Fiori.” With that cryptic comment, the demon disappeared.
I leaned against the wall, gasping for breath.
My father came over. He helped me up and wiped away my tears. I hadn’t realized I was crying. “You’re okay now, baby doll.”
He always called me baby doll when I was sick or upset. It was comforting. “Thank you, Daddy,” I managed to croak the words out. It hurt to talk.
“Save your voice. Go downstairs and tell your grandmother to make you tea with lemon and honey.”
Not waiting to be told twice, I made a bee-line to the kitchen where I found my grandmother sitting at the table. She sipped coffee from her favorite mug as she read the morning paper. When she heard me approach, she looked up, smiling her almost toothless grin.
I must have been a sight, because she dropped the mug and ran over to me.
Grabbing my chin, she turned my head looking at the marks on my neck.
“You’re hurting me,” I protested weakly.
Letting go, she demanded an explanation. “What happened? You’re bruised. It looks like someone tried to strangle you.”
“Someone did.” I explained that I had been attacked.
Before I could go into detail, she grabbed her sturdy wooden rolling pin and made for the staircase.
I inserted myself between her and the stairs to stop her. The demon was lucky my father rescued me. He never would have made it out of the house in one piece if it was Grandma. “It wasn’t a human. It was a demon. Didn’t you hear the noise?” It tossed me around like a rag doll. At the very least she should have heard me hitting the floor after being pulled out of bed.
She shook her head. “I didn’t hear anything. I thought you were asleep until you came down.”
There had to have been some noise. Why else would my father have raced to my aid? My head was pounding from when it hit the floor. And the wall. My throat wasn’t much better. “Daddy said tea with honey would help my throat.”
“You were attacked in my home and called your father before coming to tell me? What was he going to do?”
Confused, I asked, “Why would I call him?”
She stood in front of me, still clutching the rolling pin. Her hazel eyes were blazing with anger. “That’s what I want to know.”
“I didn’t have to call him. He came rushing into my bedroom and vanquished the demon.”
“Don’t be silly. He’s in the city with your mother.”
“He’s still upstairs.”
“Anna, I haven’t seen your father today.”
I was about to go upstairs to look for him when the phone rang. I picked up the receiver and forced out a greeting.
“Anna! Are you all right?”
“Daddy? Where are you calling from?”
“The hotel we’re staying in. What’s wrong with your voice? Are you getting sick.”
“Why are you calling?” I held my breath as I waited for an answer.
“I had a dream you were being attacked by a red-eyed demon. It was so realistic, I woke up in a cold sweat.”
I heard my mother laughing in the background. “You always teased me about my dreams, yet the first nightmare you have, you panic. I told you my mother would have called us if anything was wrong.”
My hands started shaking. I’d had some bizarre experiences, but things were getting out of control. I never told my parents about my paranormal encounters before.
Taking a deep breath, I told my father what happened that morning, expecting him to laugh it off. Instead, he wanted to return home immediately and demanded to speak with my grandmother. I put her on the phone.
It wasn’t good. They were speaking in Italian, something they only did when I wasn’t supposed to know what was being said. At one point, it got a little heated.
Since I couldn’t understand them, I made myself tea. The warm liquid sweetened with honey helped my throat.
I started to relax, and poured myself another cup.
“Marone a mi! Go to the play. I’ll take care of everything!” My grandmother shouted before slamming down the phone. She stormed across the room swearing in Italian and waving her hands around.
Yanking open the cabinet where she kept her medication and bills, she pulled out an envelope and thrust it at me. “Here.”
The envelope was addressed to me and had been sent to my grandmother’s house. I ignored the fact that it have been opened.
Inside was a purple card. All sorts of symbols framed the main body. Typed in a fancy script was a message from a Marlow Hope inviting me to call on her at my earliest convenience. It included an address.
I looked at my grandmother. “Who is Marlow Hope?”
“She is a psychic and a medium.”
“Why is she writing to me?”
“I knew her mother. The family has been gifted with the ability to communicate with the dead.”
“Why would you know someone like that?” I asked.
“If you haven’t realized it yet, our family isn’t exactly run of the mill normal.”
“Don’t be sarcastic. You’re not too old for me to put over my knee.”
“We’re special. All sorts of ghosts and demons seek us out. I was hoping you wouldn’t be burdened with this, but I was wrong.”
“I’ve been approached by ghosts, and threatened by demons all year. I told you everything. Why wait so long to bring this up?”
“I had my reasons.”
“Do they have anything to do with Luther?”
Her faced paled. “Lothar?”
“That’s him. The demon in my room said he would have me.”
“You didn’t mention that before.”
“This hasn’t been a good day for me. So, who is he?”
“Let’s go and see Marlow. Then we’ll talk.”
I wasn’t happy that she was hiding something from me, but I could tell she felt visiting this Marlow person was important and wouldn’t say anything else until we spoke with her friend. I nodded, hoping that I would soon have answers.