We last saw Anna being interrogated by Michael Cohen, the police detective assigned to a series of related murders that all involve the same ghost. Anna realizes that the only way she can stop the specter's spree is to help him. Read the whole Anna the Extractor Series--"The Extractor," "Bury Their Own," "Beloved," "A Tremor in Your Name," and "Stress in the Workplace," "Common Denominators," and "Calling" (an introduction)--to learn more about Anna and her supernatural adventures.
“Lucas, be still.”
The rabbi isn’t speaking to the man, but to the ghost that possesses him. Ten men of various ages surround Lucas with heads bowed and eyes closed, reciting a psalm in Hebrew, each at their own pace. Some of the men have their palms turned up, as if ready to receive a blessing. Others are nervous, unsure of themselves, merely mumbling the words and wringing their hands.
The ghost cannot flee as he has before, not when the rabbi knows his name and commands him to stay. His host begins to tremble, face flushed, and breath shallow. Lucas peers through the eyes of his stolen body, searching the faces of those around him, and noticing the silhouette of a woman just beyond the circle, sitting on the arm of a faded red couch. He knows her immediately, feels the chill of her spirit pressing toward him before she even moves.
“Anna,” he hisses.
She stands, sliding between two of the men to enter the circle. He recognizes the look of a plan hiding in the curl of her lips. Anna is determined, but he doesn’t know what will come next.
“Are you absolutely sure you want to do this?” the rabbi asks Anna.
“Yes,” she says, then swallows.
The rabbi licks his lips then raises the shofar, a bellow erupting from the horn as he blows. The man whom Lucas possesses shakes harder, falling to the floor as his eyes roll back in his head. The chanting grows louder as the rabbi raises his hands and Anna sits down on the floor. Lucas feels his spirit detach from his host, like the friction of velcro pulled apart. He is suspended in space, but cannot sail from the enclosure of religious fervor.
“Lucas, into Anna,” the rabbi says.
Like a beast forced into a cage, Lucas feels his existence fill Anna’s expanse. He can control her, but to a certain extent she can do the same to him. Their spirits merge, and the distinction between the two is hard to discern. He feels her parents’ absence and the light decay of her lungs from cigarette smoke. He notices the presence of another spirit apart from Anna’s, but he’s drunk with the sound of exorcism. Lucas can’t think straight. He doesn’t know what to do. All he has left is the flow of revenge that has sustained his spirit for decades. It makes him angry. It makes him lash out.
Some of the men take a few steps back, threatening to break the circle when Anna starts to beat her chest with her fists, a groan resounding from deep inside her. She’s doubled over, and her hair shields her face. The rabbi urges the men to keep formation, to continue the recitation.
“Anna, are you still present? Can you hear me? Tell me my name if you can hear me,” he says.
Anna shakes her head, barely able to turn her face in his direction.
“No, if I say it then he has it. He can take you if he has it,” she manages to utter.
Another wave of rage careens through Lucas as he throws himself against the walls of Anna’s body, her heart and soul. He digs her nails into the skin of her neck. He pulls her hair and slams her down against the floor. He needs a way out and he can’t find it. The only way out is through her, with her, to end her.
Despite her small frame, Lucas uses the force of his presence to strike down the man directly in front him. Anna headbutts his chest, and he falls to the floor in shock and terror. As the circle breaks, Lucas feels the power over him begin to diminish, like water seeping out of a crack in a porcelain cup. He notices that the rabbi is stunned, knows to go for him next. He feels Anna resist his control, but it’s already too late when she takes hold of the shofar and rails it against the side of his head. The holy man falls to his knees, losing focus only for a moment, but by the time he remembers the ghost’s name, he is gone and his host is gone, too.
Lucas can feel how lost Anna is as he uses her body to run down busy sidewalks, taking side streets, unsure of where he’ll go, but knowing he needs to get out. But something still binds him to her, as if a job left unfinished cannot be abandoned completely. The rage is building with every step, and he feels that other spirit’s presence build with ferocity. Lucas feels trapped, like the walls are closing in, but Anna is weak and she’s losing the fight. She can’t recover her body or her mind.
But then he feels her. He feels her spirit digging. She’s scratching at the walls of his past, peeking through the curtains of his motives. She’s going places where she shouldn’t, opening doors that he has kept locked for so long. And she isn’t alone.
“Lucas,” the spirit whispers.
And he remembers, the spirit of the little girl whose life he took years ago, using the hands of her drunken father.
“Lydia,” he seethes.
Lucas feels her residing in the cross that rests against Anna’s chest, a place he cannot enter. The little spirit is just out of his reach, and her voice taunts him as she whispers his name, debilitating his hold on Anna’s body.
“I’ll kill her,” he mumbles with Anna’s voice. “I’ll throw Anna into the river. I’ll drown her. I’ll make her kill everyone she loves.”
“Lucas,” Lydia begins. “Anna doesn’t wish you ill. She’s trying to help you. Let her.”
“No one can help me,” he screams through his host.
He brings Anna to her knees in the middle of an intersection, cars squealing to a halt and spectators gathering about in horror and delight.
“She can,” the little spirit whispers. “She will.”
Written by: Natasha Akery
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe