Entry 30: The Baptismal Pool: Saturday August 6 continued
After Shaedra left, I cleaned up the glass. Putting the shards in the trash, I thanked my lucky stars (and Mischa) that things turned out like they did. I am glad things didn’t go further with her. I know if they had, I would feel much too guilty and would never be able to look into Donna’s eyes again without being overcome with shame. A man’s desire for physical contact is sometimes hard to contain, even harder when such temptations are placed before him on a platter in the way Shaedra offered herself to me. Thankfully, Mischa wasn’t about to let that happen. She wasn’t going to let me get deterred from the task at hand. But what task was that? Remaining faithful to my wife? Or delving further into the mystery that has taken over a large part of my life?
I had some lunch, just a dry sandwich and some chips. Trying to take my mind off all the questions that swirled in my head, I sat in front of the TV and watched a game show. It’s funny how people on those shows seem so stupid. A question is asked, and no matter how simple it is, they stand there dumbfounded, not knowing the answer. Maybe under normal conditions they’d probably know, but with the stress and pressure they just go brain dead. I feel the same way about the Mischa mystery. I know the answer is right in front of me. I should be able to see it, but for whatever reason, I am missing something vital. But what is it?
I went back to work at two-thirty to check on the baptismal, to make sure I hadn’t overfilled it or anything. As I walked over, I thought of the apparition I’d seen earlier after my encounter with Shaedra. I am certain it was Mischa’s spirit breaking that window, brushing past me, and returning to her “home” in the church.
When I got to the church, the baptismal pool was almost filled. Another thirty minutes and it would be at the right depth for tomorrow night’s service. I went upstairs, then down the back steps to the pool. I knelt down and put my hand in the water. It was starting to warm up. By Sunday night it should be at the right temperature.
I briefly wondered about all the people who’d been baptized here over the years. The former lost souls who had stepped into these waters, and come back out feeling refreshed and new. I know baptism is considered by some as just a symbol, a Christian practice that represents how the saved are washed clean by the love of Christ, but still I wonder how many people really felt different after being immersed in the water. Did Mischa feel changed when she was baptized? And what was it about this place that held her here, even after death?
I stood up and started back up the steps. Then I heard a sound behind me. Something disturbing the water. A splash, followed by a gasp of breath. I spun around and almost fell backwards from the scene in front of me.
She was in the baptismal pool. Mischa. Her Easter dress floated around her in the water, spread out like a bridal train. Though she was only a few feet in front of me, I could not see her clearly. Her hair, wet and matted, hung down in her face, partially hiding her features. I could see her eyes though, displaying a look of terror and fear. A line of blood ran from her blonde scalp and down her obscured face. Through the blood and damp hair, I could see her mouth was moving, as if she were saying something, but no sound came forth. Still I could read her lips, as they mouthed the words “Help me…”
I backed away, not knowing what to make of this. She didn’t look like a ghostly wraith. She looked real. Solid. With form. I could even smell the blood. But It wasn’t the blood coming from her forehead. No, it was from somewhere else. Blood surrounded her in the water, as if coming from some other injury. And as I looked more closely, there was something else mingled with it. Something like flesh. The crimson flow appeared to be coming from beneath her billowing dress and that’s when I realized the horrifying truth. Miscarriage. She had been pregnant and she lost the child. She had lost it right here in this baptismal.
Again she opened her mouth in sorrowful plea: “help me…” But this time she had voice, her lilting southern accent pronouncing it as “help may.” She held her arms out towards me. I wanted so badly to take her in my own arms and hold her. Let her cry on my shoulder and carry her out of here. I started towards her. Her eyes grew wide and her feet seemed to slip from beneath her. No, not slipped. It was as if an unseen assailant had pushed her, forced her backwards in the water, in a violent caricature of being baptized. She sank beneath the water and I could see her struggling on the bottom of the pool, trying to get back to her feet, but unable to. Her hands tried to grab purchase, and I saw her fingers scrape against the metal wall, trying to find something to grab hold to. She was drowning, I had to do something.
Without thinking, I yelled and dove into the pool to save her. I went under the water in search of her, but there was nothing there. She was gone. My eyes opened under the water. It was as if she were never there. No girl in the baptismal. No blood in the water.
I came to the surface and wiped my eyes. The only disturbance in the pool was me. I was a bit shaken, but not afraid. I looked around me, trying to find some trace of the girl I’d seen struggling in the waters. But she wasn’t there. I was alone.
I climbed out of the pool, my clothes drenched. I looked back, wondering what it was I had just seen. A mini movie from the past? A remembrance captured in the fabric of time and space? A message from Mischa? Maybe it was all these. What I had just seen must have a bearing of truth. I believe now she lost her child somehow in this place, and she herself may have died here, too, I don’t know. But at least now things seem to be coming clearer. The truth was clamoring to the surface, just like her ghost rising from beneath the baptismal waters.
Looking down at my wet clothes, I knew I needed to get back to the house and into something dry. I started up the stairs, my soaked shoes squeaking with each step. I looked up and stopped. There was a shadow at the top of the stairs. I froze and tried to blend in with the surroundings. With my back against the wall, I stared up to the landing. Mischa was at the top of the stairs. She stood in the doorway, her back to me. She seemed animated in conversation, and though I could hear her, her voice was garbled like an old audio tape playing in reverse. But who was she talking to? I couldn’t see anyone else up there, unless they were out of my line of sight, somewhere on the other side of that doorway. She tried to walk forward over the threshold, but something or someone was stopping her. An unseen antagonist, an invisible barrier. And then, instead of moving forward, she fell backwards. No, it was just like it had been in the pool moments ago; She didn’t fall, she was pushed. She tumbled backwards down the stairs towards me, trying to catch hold of the railing, but to no avail. Her momentum was carrying her right towards me and instinct made me come out from my hiding place to attempt to catch her. But her falling body, ethereal and no longer solid, passed right through me and continued on its mad tumble down the stairs, ending with a splash in the baptismal pool. Then she was gone, vanished beneath the waters before dissipating into nothingness.
My heart was racing fast, and I realized what I had just been shown. I had been a witness to the past, though slightly out of sequence. And so I put the pieces together in my head. Someone had been talking, maybe arguing, with Mischa at the top of the stairs. She tried to get around them and leave. They pushed her down the stairs and she tumbled into the shallow depths of the baptismal pool. In the fall, she lost the child she’d been carrying, and the blood I’d seen in the pool was the result of her violent miscarriage.
But what happened after that? Did her assailant come into the pool and hold her under? Right before I’d dived in to “save” her, she’d been on the bottom trying unsuccessfully to rise to the surface. I turned and looked at the baptismal pool. Did Mischa die right here? Drowned and in helpless anguish over her lost child? Who had killed her? Why? And was he still out there, having escaped justice?
I don’t want to consider it, but I have a feeling I will need to talk to someone about all this, in order to truly piece it all together. But Tommy Blaine is out. I can’t get back into the state hospital to see him. Mrs. Shiflett is out of the question, too. She wouldn’t tell me the truth even if she knew it, especially if her nephew is involved. But if someone had died in the church, wouldn’t the church elders at the time have known it? Not if it was kept from them. Not if the killer covered his tracks. It had to be someone who had access to the church. The Pastor’s nephew, with his alleged violent background, makes him the prime suspect. But what if it had been the former Pastor Shiflett himself? What if it was the custodian at the time? What if this nephew was just a case of me barking up the wrong tree? No, I don’t think so. It was him, I know it. But I have to find him first. Then it occurred to me; certainly the church had old membership records somewhere. In there, maybe there was a full name and last known address for the nephew. If I could find it, I could give it to police and have them go and question him. But where were those records? Maybe locked up in the secretary’s office. I’ll ask her Monday morning if I could have a look.
But until then, there were other questions to consider. If only Mischa could talk to me, tell me what had led to all this and why. Only she can tell me. Then it occurred to me. Her father, Mr. Martin. He doesn’t believe she’s dead. Doesn’t that stand to reason he would keep her room the same way, waiting for her return? If I could get in her room, maybe her voice could be found there. Maybe there was a diary, letters, something to put the missing pieces in place. But her father won’t let me in there. Last time I saw him, he had punched me out, I can’t go talk to him again. But I could wait for him to leave, then sneak in and take a look around for myself.
I can’t believe what I’m thinking. Breaking the law. I saw something weird today and now I’m ready to be a criminal. I know it’s wrong, but this is never going to be resolved in conventional ways. I am going to have to get my hands dirty to see the truth come clean…
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“Resurrection Diaries” by Paul D Aronson.
Original text copyright 2007.
10th Anniversary Edition 2017. All Rights Reserved.