A single bare bulb burned dimly overhead. The emanating illumination from the bulb could only be called light in the most technical of considerations. It amplified shadows and somehow made the darkness more visible. The bulb sang its own dirge in the form of a low pitch buzz.
The shack, a shoddy built shanty, was composed of rotting unfinished boards. It groaned and whined against the wind and rain beating mercilessly against it. There, deep in the heart of the structure, stood Echo surrounded by mementos of his past. Journals, books, instruments all taking malicious forms in the shadows.
From the darkness, just beyond the reach of the light, came the sound of struggling breath. A growing raspy wheezing accompanied by bare flesh dragging itself along splintered floorboards drew near to where Echo stood.
“Echo…E-Echo…” Raspy and sputtering the familiar voice called from the darkness; desperation saturating every forced word. “Please. You must…come home.”
Echo drew himself into a fighting stance at voice in the darkness. He could hear the sound of his own blood rushing through his ears, pushed quickly through a highway of veins by the rapid beating heart in his chest. The familiar acidic taste of fear rose in the back of his throat. He tried to will himself to run, but his legs stood in firm defiance.
In response a fat hand breached the darkness slapping down hard against the floor. It dragged behind it the naked fleshy form of his father. Face down, the back of his father’s bald head look as if it had been smashed in by a brick.
The old man slapped another hand down dragging himself nearer to Echo before looking up at his son. Echo faltered a step. His father’s face was a twisted mockery he barely recognized. The man’s lips were black. His eyes covered in an grey film. Vomit and blood crusted in his long ragged beard.
“There isn’t time. Come home!”
White noise pulsed all around the shack growing louder and louder until it was deafening and unbearable.
“PLEASE!” His father cried out reaching up to his son with a bloated hand.
Echo bolted upright in bed, heart racing, cold sweat trickling down his body. Static played through his ghost box, a small handheld radio device used during paranormal investigations. It scanned through radio frequencies at a quick pace. He listened intently to the white noise a moment before shutting the device down.
Wind and rain beat against his window. Lighting flashed filling his room for an instant with a blinding white light. A heavy crash of thunder followed shaking the walls of his apartment before leaving Echo sitting in silence.
The alarm clock next to his bed displayed “3:45 a.m.” in ominous red numbers. He stared out into the darkness of his room catching his breath.
“It was just a dream.” He said.
The antiquated ringtone of his cell phone broke the quiet of his room, ringing and vibrating somewhere on the floor. His heart caught in his throat. He spilled out onto the floor searching for his phone.
His hand smacked against the reinforced plastic phone case just beneath his bed. Without checking the number he answered.
“Echo.” The voice on the other end was thick with static, a bad connection.
“Hello? Who is this?”
“It’s Pastor Lucas. Josh Lucas. You remember me?”
It had been nearly ten years since he spoke with Pastor Lucas. The two never got along, no matter how hard Echo tried.
“Yeah. How can I forget? Do you know what time it…”
“No time.” Pastor Lucas interrupted. “Please, you need to come home.”
The words brought flashes of the the nightmare to the fore of Echo’s mind. He could see his father’s bloated and ruined face begging him to come home.
“Listen. You have to come home.”
“Your father. I’m-I’m sorry. He passed away a few hours ago.”
“Some kind of accident. He was at home. It sounds like he took a really bad fall.”
The shack, mementos of his past, the death rattle of the single bulb, all came rushing back to Echo. He wondered if the nightmare had been prophetic, or if his father had reached out to him from beyond the veil separating the living from the dead.
“Echo?” Pastor Lucas said.
“Yeah. Yeah. I’m sorry. Yeah, I’m, I’m here.”
“I’m so sorry. When do you think you can get down here?”
“I,” Echo paused to consider his words carefully. “I don’t know if I can. Or if I want to.”
“What? What are you saying?”
“I haven’t heard from him in years.”
“That isn’t completely his fault, Echo.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say. You bury him.”
“Echo! He’s your father. You have to do right by him. You’re the only one who can manage his affairs.”
“Please don’t preach at me.”
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Don’t you care that the man’s dead?”
“He’s been dead a long time, Josh. A very long time.”
“You have to…”
“We’ll talk later.”
Echo ended the call and set the ringer to silent. He crawled back into bed listening to the rise and fall of the storm outside his window. The nightmare and his conversation with Pastor Lucas replayed themselves in his mind sending him into an uneasy sleep.