I’m going to die. They’re going to kill me. My boyfriend’s going to dump me. My health is failing. I can’t breathe. I’m going crazy. I’m going to get fired. My life is over. I can’t pay my bills. I’m screwed!

Kathleen Freeborne felt the pain in her left hand first as she lay in bed and a barrage of negative thoughts littered her mind. Then she felt the tingling, stinging sensation creep up her arm, penetrate her shoulder, slice through her neck, finally finding an unwelcome home in the left side of her head. It began throbbing dully, growing in intensity, starting off as a thumb tack-sized ache, slowly enveloping her entire brain.

She winced and her eyes narrowed. Her palms were sweaty. Beads of perspiration rolled down her forehead, into her eyes.  One landed on her upper lip and she absently rolled her tongue over it, the salty taste reminding her of reality.

Deep breaths. You’re being paranoid.

She inhaled a deep breath, exhaled slowly, but the negative thoughts continued.

You’re fucked. You can’t manage your life. Shit is about to hit the fan. In a big way. You don’t have your act together. At all. And Mark knows it. He’s going to leave you!

She didn’t dare move, worried that to get up would be problematic.  Her hands instinctively clutched the thick comforter that by now had slipped down, only covering her lower torso. Her knuckles turned white with the force of her grip as a wave of panic swept through her body and she shuddered.

About thirty minutes later the negative stream of consciousness subsided, her mind went completely blank momentarily and then cleared. She slowly released her tight grip on the comforter and looked out the bedroom window, streams of sunlight shining through the venetian blinds painting white lines across her slender frame. She blinked, wiped her eyes with her sweat-soaked hands and slowly her thoughts returned to normal and the pain subsided.

And she remembered. Her life wasn’t bad. In fact it was very good. At 32, she had managed to focus her efforts successfully.  Living in a rented two-bedroom apartment in the town of Montague, Prince Edward Island, she had settled into a comfortable relationship with Mark Riley, and they had been together for four years. Sure, the relationship had its ups and downs. Don’t they all?  But overall, she was very happy with Mark. He understood her and not everyone understood the complexity of her mind and the analytical way in which she processed information.

Intellectually, Mark was probably inferior to Kathleen but it didn’t bother her. He had a street smarts about him that fascinated and attracted her. And, she wasn’t sure she wanted an intellectual equal. Maybe they didn’t have a lot in common, but that didn’t bother her either.

On the contrary, she thought their personalities complimented each other. She tended to worry and Mark had a calmness, decisiveness and inner peace about him that she found so reassuring.

Looking in the mirror at her sweaty image, the little crease in her brow, long brown hair, clear brown eyes, she frowned as she noticed the corners of her lips pointing downward. They usually pointed up and her friends often commented her smile was infectious and could light up a room. She forced a smile, trying to recreate the attractive features that many had told her she possessed.

The smile came and went, the corners of her lips returning to a downward position. It was not the smile she normally possessed. She furrowed her brow, ran her hands through her thick mane, sighed, peeled off her sweaty white undershirt, underwear and hopped in the shower.

The hot water cascading off her fit body made her feel a little better. But, she had to admit the fear and panic she had felt immediately after waking up this morning had scared the hell out of her.

In her entire lifetime she had never suffered from an anxiety attack.

She had remembered the condition from her college days, five years ago. She had completed a three year diploma program in human services and the last year she had specialized in autism and behavioral sciences. Afterward, she found a job with the local school board as an educational assistant, teaching autistic children aged 9 to 11 years.

It paid well and she enjoyed the challenge. But she wondered now as she stepped out of the bathroom toweling herself dry if it was the stressful situations at work that had triggered the anxiety attack. On a few occasions she had been punched in the face by her students. In another incident, one student had locked both hands onto her hair screaming and it had taken two staff tugging furiously to finally remove him.

Or maybe it was the latest incident with the control freak teacher Ron Bagland. There had been violent episode with one of the students acting up while Ron was absent and the principal had agreed to call in Child Welfare Services, after consulting with two educational assistants.

When Ron heard about the incident a few days later, he had entered the small classroom, yelling and screaming at the three educational assistants-right in front of the six autistic students.

Kathleen’s friend and colleague Linda Bibner had broken down in tears during the outburst. Kathleen remembered the tears welling up in her eyes and how she had struggled to maintain her composure. A few days later Linda had mentioned she was looking for another job.

Are teachers supposed to yell at their assistants in this day and age? Right in front of the students? I don’t think so.

Kathleen made a mental note to call her physician as she dressed and walked over to her wall calendar, reminding herself of the date; Saturday, February 25th, 2012. She looked at the clock; 11:56 am. She picked up her landline and dialed doctor Frank Heeling, wondering grimly what would happen if she ever had an anxiety attack at work. She shuddered as the phone rang, trying to force the thought from her mind.


      Chapter Two

10:56 pm, two nights earlier, King’s Playhouse Theatre, Georgetown, Prince Edward Island, Atlantic coast, Canada.

It has become public knowledge among many residents of this small, laid-back island province that this theatre, erected in 1897 on a former burial ground, is haunted. There are reports of doors opening and closing, lights mysteriously turning on and off, items disappearing, strange voices and even actual ghost sightings.

One of Canada’s longest running theatres, it carries on business as usual and is a major cultural and entertainment venue in PEI.

Caretaker Bill Blythe wasn’t concerned about culture and entertainment as he finished up mopping the hallways, nearing the end of his shift. In his mid-sixties, he was happy to be there on this frigid and stormy night. It kept him away from his cantankerous wife Thelma, who was always reminding him of what he had forgotten to do that day.

“You forgot to take the garbage out…you forgot to clean the hair from the soap after you showered…you forgot to shovel the snow…you forgot to put the dishes in the dishwasher… if you’re going to the kitchen anyway, why don’t you take your plate with you?”

It was always something with her. She had become miserable in her old age and Bill thought the longer he was with her the more her negativity rubbed off on him. He had been with her for twenty five years, but it seemed to him things had turned ugly within the last two years.

Leaving for work a few hours earlier, she had been quick to remind him to shovel the snow “either before you go or before you set foot back in this house.”

“Yes dear,” was all he had managed for a reply.

It seemed all Thelma did now was watch TV, eat junk food and complain.

Usually a happy-go-lucky sort, he had noticed slowly his demeanor had begun to change. He had become much less patient with people, more agitated and had started indulging in alcohol more than he cared to admit. The King’s Playhouse was an escape for a him, a place to get away from Thelma’s nagging and find solace in the numbing effects of the booze and the solitude of the empty building.

What a way to retire, he thought, as he set his mop down, reached into the pocket of his worn blue coveralls and took a nip from the flask. The strong taste of Lamb’s Navy Rum burned his mouth and his esophagus on its way down, but he smiled, a crooked, toothy grin and brushed his grey, grizzled beard with his hand. The liquid warmed his insides and numbed his feelings, which is what he wanted right now.

“How you doing Captain?” he asked, waving a hand to an empty chair the Town Council had set aside for the ghost of the theatre, whom it had named Captain George. The Town figured if there was a ghost, it would accommodate him so he could enjoy the shows along with the patrons.

The empty chair did not respond to Bill’s question. He paused, waiting for an answer but one was not forthcoming.

Retired with a pension, he had taken the caretaker position at the theatre three years ago to keep himself occupied, give him something to do to take his mind of what had become a mundane existence. Now, dealing with you-know-who, the job had become something he looked forward to. In fact, it was fast becoming the only thing he looked forward to.

He had gotten used to the eerie sounds of the theatre. Lights often turned on an off, at times he heard footsteps, even the odd door slamming. But he had never heard any voices, or screams, or seen any actual ghosts.

But he hoped that one day he would. He had become lonely and wanted someone to talk to. Even if it were a ghost.

“Anything on your mind Captain?” he asked the empty chair in the dimly-lit hallway as he took another long pull on the flask. He waited for a response, but the only thing he could hear was the high-pitched whistling of the wind outside. He knew it was snowing hard-the weatherman had predicted 15 centimeters-but he was in staggering distance to his house so he didn’t care.

And tonight, he wanted to get a little more than buzzed-he wanted to get shit-faced.

He finished his last mop-stroke, put it inside the bucket on wheels, and walked into the utility room. He emptied the dirty water into the sink, rinsed the mop and leaned it into a corner alongside the bucket. He reached into his pocket for the flask, stopped and listened.

He heard a low shrieking sound, coming from the stage area.  He returned the flask to his pocket, without taking a swig and listened again. All he could hear was the wind whistling, the odd creak of the old building, probably from its powerful force. Nothing that would concern him in any way.

He opened the flask and took another long pull. He wanted to see something. “Come out, come out wherever you are,” he said, closing the door to the utility room and walking toward the stage. He smiled as he opened the theatre entrance door, pulled out his flashlight and walked toward the stage. He didn’t want to turn any lights on. If it were a ghost, he didn’t want to scare it.

He sat down on the stage and pointed the flashlight beam at the ceiling, enjoying the flashing light patterns he was creating. “Come out and play with me,” he said.

He heard nothing.

Then suddenly, the white light circle he had created on the ceiling grew a pair of eyes, a sinister smile. He blinked, wiped his eyes, returned his gaze to the beam. The eyes remained. The smile remained. Then something strange happened-something that would haunt Bill Blythe for the rest of his life.

A white apparition grew from the beam of light, floated down and stood in front of him. It transformed into a small man dressed as a priest, small horned-rimmed spectacles, neatly-cropped grey hair, signature white collar.

The beady eyes regarded Bill. “You need to be saved,” reverend James Maling said, smiling.

Bill, by this time, had a little alcoholic glow on.  But he couldn’t help shivering as the room suddenly became cold. He could feel the hairs on his neck stand up, took another swig of liquid confidence to settle his nerves and said, “Saved from what?”

“Saved from whom,” Maling said.

There was a moment’s pause as Bill digested the sentence. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll play along. Saved from whom?”

“Your wife Thelma. You need to be saved from her. Do you want that?”

“Why the heck not,” Bill said without hesitation.

In a swift motion, the apparition of Maling possessed the body of Bill Blythe. He shuddered as it became one with his worn out body. Noticing his core temperature dropping, he reached for the flask.

His mind went blank as reverend James Maling flung it away. It hit the wall with a tinny popping sound and the whiskey sprayed out, staining it a yellowish brown, the image of a smiling serpent barely detectable.

Maling prided himself on being a well-respected man of the cloth.  He had a certain disdain for self-indulgence and he was not prepared to conduct his important business while intoxicated.