Trish Kocialski




“Okay everybody, lets try the take one more time!” shouted the director over the voices around him.  He looked at the female lead and waved her over.  “Last take for the night, Maria.  Let’s do it right. I know you have it in you, just reach down and bring it out, okay?” 

Maria smiled and nodded.  “I’ll do my best, Henry.”  Henry patted her on the shoulder and waved her off to the blue screen in front of the cameras.

The actors took their places and composed themselves for the take, some lying on the floor, others on their knees facing the blue screen.  Make-up made the rounds and touched up the blood and pale faces.

Henry called out to the cameramen, “Ready?”  They gave him the thumbs up before turning their focus on their cameras.  “Okay, Teddy, let’s go.”

Teddy picked up the clapboard and stated, “Finale, scene three, take four,” then stepped out of the camera view.

“Action!” shouted the director.

Maria looked at the spot on the blue screen where the image would later appear then lowered her gaze to the floor.  She took a deep breath, clutched the weapon in her hands and raised her head prepared to raise the gun and say her lines.  What came out instead was the most blood-curdling scream ever recorded on film and it shook everyone on the set to their bones, only this time it wasn’t an act…it was for real…then she dropped her gun and crumpled to the floor.

“Cut!” the director yelled. He walked over to where Maria was still crumpled on the floor.  He looked down at the still figure, bent down to give her a hand up.  When she didn’t respond, he touched her arm.  It was ice cold.  “Shit,” he whispered, then yelled, “Someone get the EMT!”

Thirty minutes later, Maria was on a gurney being wheeled to an ambulance, Henry walked along side, still holding Maria’s hand.  “It’s going to be okay, Maria.  We’ve been on a furious pace for three months now.  We’re ahead of schedule so I’m calling for a short break.  In a couple of days we’ll all feel refreshed.”

Maria looked up at Henry; she was pale and still shivering even with three blankets on her and the outside temperature still in the 90’s.  She wet her lips and tried to speak, but only a raspy whisper came out.  “Henry…I…it was real, Henry.”

“What’s that?”  Henry released her hand as the ambulance crew lifted the gurney into the ambulance.  “Maria, you’re exhausted, get checked out and I’ll check in on you tomorrow,” he finished as the crew closed the back doors. 

Henry walked back to the set where everyone was waiting, wondering, and uncertain about what had just happened.  “All right, come on over,” he said as he waived them in.
“They think she’s just overworked…we all are.  So, I’m calling for a break.  Everyone, go home, get some rest and be back ready for the final scenes on Friday and ready to go at six o’clock in the morning!”  He turned and started to walk to his trailer on the lot when Mandy, his 2nd assistant on the film came running up beside him.

“Henry, I think she saw something.   Otherwise why would she just scream like that?  And that scream…that scream was so real.”

“Nonsense!  She was staring at a blue screen for Christ’s sake!  Maria Mondero is a talented actor.  She’s one of the top five females in the business.  She’s just exhausted.”  Henry stopped walking and looked Mandy in the eyes.  “Don’t be spouting your mumbo jumbo on set, Mandy.  I’m warning you.  I heard what happened in Calgary.”

Mandy looked down at the concrete floor, then up at Henry.  “That was a long time ago, Henry.  And no one knows to this day why things happened and how it suddenly stopped.” No one but me, she thought.

“Well, I just don’t want any supernatural shit spewed on my set to get everyone all spooked out.  They’re just tired, Mandy.  That’s all.  Now go home and chill.”  He turned, then turned back and raised a finger.  “This is the only warning you’ll get Mandy.  No mumbo jumbo!  Got it?”

Mandy was about to reply but bit her tongue knowing that if she blew this job, it may be the last time she worked in the film industry.  “Got it,” she whispered and headed to her ancient Honda 350 motorcycle.  Just as she was about to start the engine she glanced back at the building.  “Screw it,” she said with a snarl.  She lowered the kickstand, jumped off her Honda and headed back inside.

“Hey Bill,” Mandy called as she saw the cameraman packing up.  “That was quite a scream, eh?”

“Sure was!  Gave me goose bumps all over.”

“Any chance I could get you to show it to me on your camera?”

Bill looked around and shrugged.  “Yeah, why not.  I looked at it three times already.  Gave me the chills each time.  Wonder what made her do that?”  He pulled out the camera from its case and ran it back to the start of the last scene.  “You’ll have to look through the eye piece, the screen on this one just crapped out.”

Mandy nodded and got settled behind the eyepiece.  “You had the close up of Maria’s face right?”

“Yep,” he replied.

“Okay, I’m ready,” she said.

Bill hit the play button and the view brightened to show Teddy when he was walking off. Mandy focused on Maria as her head came up.  Without the headphones plugged in, all she saw was Maria’s face, a face that registered her fear.  Real terror could be seen in her expression.  Then Maria fell to the floor.

“Can I see it one more time in slow motion?”

“Yeah, but I’d really like to get going.  I told the guys I’d meet them over at O’Grady’s for beer and pizza.”  He got the camera back to the start of the scene, motioned for Mandy to get set up and hit play.

This time, Mandy focused on Maria’s eyes and what she saw, scared the crap out of her.  She could barely make it out, but she thought for sure she was looking at the shape of a person, or what was left of a person.  She couldn’t make out any detail.  The shape was billowing like a sheer curtain blowing in the wind, but she knew Maria really saw something.  “Oh, crap!” she said in a soft exhale.

“What was that?” Bill asked.

“Uh, I was just thinking out loud.  O’Grady’s has crappy pizza,” she said quickly.

“Yeah, it’s not the best, but you get a lot, and it’s all you can eat night to boot,” Bill said as he shut down the camera and got it back in the case.  “Want to join us?”

Mandy chortled, “Uh, no thanks.  I’m not fond of food poisoning.”  They both laughed hesitantly, knowing that was a definite possibility for Bill four hours after he eats the pizza.  “Don’t understand why the Health Department hasn’t shut them down,” she added with a smile.

“Maybe they like the pizza?” Bill said with a shrug and put the camera in the storage room and locked the door.

They walked out together in silence, each getting in and on their vehicles.  “Last chance,” Bill said as he rolled down the window of his Ford F150.

“I’ll take a rain check,” Mandy said as she started her Honda.  Bill waived and left the lot.  Mandy put on her helmet, turned the key and started her motorcycle.  “Well, crap.  Now what do I do!”  Gunning the engine, she took off with a squeal of the tires and dark smoke coming from her exhaust.




Alexandria Mondero, Maria’s wife, was making a second pot of coffee in kitchen. “Hey, what are you doing up?” Alexandria said as Maria walked into the kitchen.  “The doctor said you are to rest the next two days before you go back on the set.  They’ve been pushing you hard for several months…take it easy for a change.”

“Rest doesn’t mean I have to stay in bed for two days, Alex,” she replied as she downed the dregs of Alex’s coffee cup.  “By the way, thanks for getting me out of the ER last night. I don’t think I could have handled staying in the hospital overnight with all those reporters hanging about.”

“No problem, but I can imagine what was going through their heads at the sight of you.  You did look pretty shaky after all.  And you kept mumbling something about Juan being dead.  What’s that all about?”

Maria just shrugged and went to the coffee pot. She just stared at the pot wanting it to be done brewing.  Whenever she closed her eyes the vision of her dead brother now came bursting back into her mind.  She let out a sigh, “I thought I was over the nightmare.  I hadn’t thought of Juan in years, so why now?”

“Um, hon, who’s Juan?” Alex stepped behind her lover and put her arms around her.

Maria turned in the embrace and laid her head on Alex’s shoulder.  “He was my brother.  He died a long time ago.  It was a terrible, horrible accident.  At least that’s what the determination was.  I was only six and Juan just turned thirteen.”  She shook her head and began to cry.

“Aww, Maria,” Alex softly cooed as she wiped the tears from Maria’s cheeks.  “It’s okay to cry about loved ones who have passed.”  Alex could feel the tension in Maria’s shoulders as she held her close.

The hiss of the end of the brewing cycle broke the intensity of the moment.  Maria raised her head and looked at Alex.  A completely hard look was on her face.  “Loved one?  Juan and I, we were not exactly the picture of brother and sister love.  He was horrible to me.  He tormented me whenever Mama and Papa weren’t around or were out of sight.  I may have only been six, but I did not like my brother at all.”

“Then why the tears, love?”

“Juan…that night…that night, he killed my Papa!”
“Holy shit,” Alex breathed.  “What?   How?” Then shaking her head, “Holy crap!”

Maria continued, “I thought I was done with that memory.  I went through years of therapy after that night.  And finally they tried hypnosis and it worked.  It was wiped from my mind until last night and the scene in front of the blue screen.  I saw him Alex.  I saw Juan just like it was that night all over again.” 

“Tell me what happened.  Maybe it will help to talk about it.  You’re much older now and you can put things into perspective…maybe see things differently,” Alex offered as she led them to the family room.  “Here, sit down and I’ll get us some coffee.”

“I don’t know.  It was a horrible night.”  Maria shivered at the memory.  Alex grabbed the throw from the back of the couch and covered Maria with it.

“I’ll be right back.” 

When Alex returned, Maria’s eyes were closed and she was obviously reliving the night by the sight of several wadded tissues in her hands.  Alex set the coffee down on the end table.

“So, tell me what happened.  Maybe between the two of us we can end your nightmare.”

Maria opened her eyes and nodded, then began reliving the night.

“It was Halloween night.  I was dressed as a ballet dancer, tutu and all.  Catrina,” she paused, “you met her at our wedding.”

Alex nodded.  “Yes, your lawyer sister.  She’s a couple of years older than you, right?”

“Right.” Maria continued, “Catrina was dressed as Calamity Jane and Juan was dressed as the Grim Reaper.  Catrina was awesome that night.  She kept Juan away from me while we trick or treated.  Juan wanted to carry a real torch, but Papa said no and made a fake one from a flashlight and some red tissue paper.  Juan went on and on with Papa about how he was a ‘man’ now and could have the real thing, but Papa was strict and told Juan either the fake one or he couldn’t go at all.  Juan grudgingly took the fake one with us.”

Maria paused and drank some of her coffee.  Putting the cup down, she looked up at Alex.  “Kahlua in the coffee?”

“I thought it would help warm and relax you.  You’re awful tense love.”

Maria picked up the cup and took a longer gulp then continued.  “When we came home, Mama and Papa were finishing the decorations for our families Días de Muertos celebration on the next day.  Our house was a small old wooden structure that Papa was able to afford on his meager pay.  The living room was also small, but they really went all out with the decorations.  Pictures of my grandparents, uncles and aunts that had passed, the sugar cookies, favorite foods of those that passed and of course the bottle of tequila that my grandfather loved to drink.  Crepe paper was strung from the ceiling in beautiful bright colors.  It was a sight to behold.  The whole extended family was coming to our house the next day to honor those that passed.  When we lived in Mexico, we would go to the cemetery for the celebration, but since we were now living in Arizona…” Maria took another drink of her coffee before going on.

“Catrina and I took our bags of candy to the kitchen and poured the contents on the table for Mama to go through and approve.  Juan refused to do the same and Mama had some strong words with him before taking his bag and sending him to his room.  In our house, the parents were the final say, not like nowadays where kids get away with murder.” 

Maria stopped abruptly and shook her head.  “Well, I guess Juan got away with murder.” Tears started to fall at the reality of the irony of her words.  “Papa, I miss you so.”

Alex gave her another tissue and time to recover before asking, “What happened that night?”

“We all went to bed early that night.  Everyone was tired from the excitement of the day and wanted to get rested for the big day tomorrow.  I’m not sure what exactly happened next.  All I remember was Mama and Papa screaming at us to go downstairs.   Then the smell of smoke in the air made me scared and I hid under my bed.  I saw Catrina’s feet run out of the room then another set of feet came in walked quickly around the room then left.  I started to sob and another set of feet came in and the room got brighter.  It was Juan and he was calling my name.  I crawled out from under the bed and he laughed.  A very evil laugh then he grabbed me by my hair and pulled me out.  I could see he was carrying the torch.  But it wasn’t the fake one, it was a real flaming torch and it was licking the ceiling and causing the ceiling to start on fire.  I kicked him as hard as I could between his legs and he yelled and let go of my hair.”  She paused to catch her breath.  “I ran out of my room and tripped over Papa.  I grabbed Papa’s shirt and cried out for him to help me, but he didn’t open his eyes.  Juan came after me again and said, ‘he can’t help you now’ so I crawled to the stairs and tumbled down them hitting the wall at the landing.  The force of the impact knocked the breath out of me.  I could hear Mama, yelling for Catrina who was at the bottom of the stairs coughing in the smoke.  Mama found Catrina and carried her outside as she called for Papa to hurry.”

Maria stopped, tears flowing freely now.  Alex hugged her tightly, “Honey, you can stop.  You don’t have to go on.  I can see what must have happened.”

“No!” Maria said wiping her tears, “You must see how wicked Juan was,” and she went on. 

“Papa…I could barely see him through the smoke, but I saw him move.  My heart lightened and I shouted out for him.  He slowly got up and I could see the torch moving violently around and around.  Papa and Juan must have been fighting, then Papa went down again but this time he toppled down the stairs and landed next to me with a thud and a groan.  Blood was flowing heavily from a gash on his face.  Then Juan came down slowly, evil revealed in his eyes, his face contorted in a malicious grin.  He waved the torch at me so I ran down the rest of the stairs.  The smoke was so thick I could barely see and hardly breathe.  I stumbled into the living room trying to make it to the front door where I could hear Mama’s voice calling for us to hurry.”  Maria closed her eyes, reliving the next scene in her mind before speaking again.  “I ran into the table with all the things spread out for tomorrow and the bottle of tequila tipped over.  Thankfully the stopper was still on.  I was about to reach for it but Juan grabbed my hand and spun me around.  He shouted at me ‘Papa’s little angel always gets what she wants…well, not anymore!’  Just as he was bringing the torch down to set me on fire, the bottle of tequila broke over his head Juan dropped the torch behind him as he fell to the floor.  Flames swiftly popped up where the tequila and the torch met on his back.  Soon all the decorations caught fire quickly igniting the ceiling and everything in sight.  I cried out and Papa lifted me up and ran outside with me, gave me to Mama, then Papa ran inside to get Juan.  Minutes seemed to go by and no one came out, then Juan, still dressed in his Reaper costume came out consumed in flames.  He staggered across the porch, dropped to his knees, pointed at me and swore he would come after me and take me with him to hell.  Just as Papa emerged from the doorway the whole house blew up and he was swallowed in flames that seemed to come from hell itself.”

“Oh my God,” Alex said as she held Maria tightly.  “I’m so sorry, Maria…that memory needs to be forgotten forever.  But why come back now?  What made you remember all this?”

Maria shivered again and shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Maybe it’s the film bringing it back?  But I know what I saw…it was Juan, just like he was that night when he came out of the house in flames…pointing at me.”

“We need to end this nightmare, Maria.  I doubt it’s the film…an alien invasion film seems a bit far afield from this vision.”

“I don’t know if I can face that blue screen again, Alex.  What do I tell Henry?”

Shaking her head, Alex replied, “Don’t tell Henry anything.  You only have a few more scenes to shoot right?”  Maria acknowledged with a nod.  “Okay, let me think about this for a bit and we’ll come up with a plan.”




Mandy was pacing her apartment all morning trying to think of a way to talk to Maria without spooking her about that last scene.  She knew something was there that only Maria saw.  Or at least she thought only Maria saw it.  Maybe the other cameras saw what she saw too?  Shaking her head she dismissed that idea.  If the cameramen saw it they surely would have said something…but maybe, just maybe, something was recorded on the film? 

With a determined nod of her head she said out loud, “Okay, I’ll check the other camera’s first, then figure a way to talk to Maria.” 

Course of action decided, Mandy grabbed her helmet off the table and headed outside to her motorcycle.  Thirty minutes later she arrived at the studio.  The parking lot was empty, no cars by the actor’s trailers or Henry’s trailer.  She decided to park in back of the building just in case Henry came by.  She drove around to the back entrance that was used by the ancillary crew and parked in their lot.  As she approached the door, the security guard came by in her golf cart.

“Hey, Mandy!”  The guard waived as she pulled her cart up next to the entrance.  “I thought your crew was taking a couple of days off.”

“Yeah, we are.”  Mandy replied with a smile.  “I’m just catching up on some prep work before Friday.”

“Ah, no rest for the wicked, eh?” the guard said with a wink.  “Don’t forget to log in.  Got to keep records of all entries to the set when it’s down.”

“Oh, yeah.  Sorry, I forgot.  You must have been on rounds when I came in,” she said sheepishly.

“Well, you can do it on your way out.  But don’t forget, okay?”

Mandy nodded, then headed inside the studio.  “Damn, now I’ll have to think up a good excuse for being here if Henry checks the log.” 

She didn’t turn on the lights since she knew every inch of the indoor studio.  She pulled out her set of keys and fished through them for the one for the storage room.  Finding it, she slid it into the lock and entered, only then flipping on the light and closing the door behind her.




“Are you sure this is a good idea, Alex?  What if I…you know, pass out again.”

“I’ll be there to catch you if you do.” Alex replied with a grin.  “Doing this now, before Friday, at least you will know your reaction to the set.”

Maria nodded.  “And what if I have the same reaction?  Then what do I do?”

“If you do, we’ll figure out what to do next.  Promise.  You’ll be okay.  I’m right here with you.”  Alex squeezed Maria’s hand as they entered the studio.

It was totally dark and eerily quiet on the set.  “Wow,” Maria whispered, “I didn’t realize how dark the studio is without all the camera lights on.  The only glow was coming from the red exit sign over the door they came in.  She pointed to the right of the door.  “The light switches are over there…I think.”

Still holding Maria’s hand, Alex felt along the wall with her other hand and thinking, I really hate dark places.  Together they slowly walked toward where the switch box was. 

“Ah…here it is.”  Alex released Maria’s hand and reached in her pocket for her phone then switched on the flashlight app.  “Duh, should have used this in the first place!”

Maria pokied Alex in the ribs.  “Some techy you are!”

“Hey, I’m a security techy…I work in a fully lighted building…not a dark studio!”  She focused the light on the switch box.  “So, which one do we turn on?”

Maria studied the box then pointed at a switch.  “This one…and this one should do it.”

Alex flipped the first switch and the dim back lighting off set went on.  “That’s better.” Alex breathed a soft sigh of relief.  She didn’t want to let Maria know she hated dark places.  The next switch lit up the blue screen set at the back of the studio.  Feeling more comfortable with the brighter lights Alex waived a hand at Maria and toward the set. “Okay, lead the way, love.”

They picked their way around tables and chairs by the snack area, walked past a bedroom set and two other sets before arriving at the blue screen.  Maria reached for Alex’s hand as a slow tremble began in her fingers.  Alex gave her hand a squeeze and pulled her into an embrace. 

“I’m right here, love.”

“I know,” Maria replied.  “It’s just…I guess I’m a bit afraid.  Afraid that maybe I’m going bat shit crazy.”

“Oh, Maria, you are not crazy.  What happened was horrible and I can understand your fear, but you are not crazy!  Do you want to sit for a bit before you do that scene?”

“No!” Maria shook her head.  “Let’s get it over with.  I have to know one way or the other.  Go sit in Henry’s chair…over there” she pointed to his chair by a camera stand.  “Just call ‘action’ when I nod my head.”

Alex did as directed while Maria slowly walked to her spot on the set.  Her head was down as she walked, reluctant to look up at the screen.  She stopped at her spot and took a deep breath then nodded her head.

Behind her, Alex called out, “Action.”

Eyes closed, Maria composed herself then lifted her head.  She took a deep breath, opened her eyes and focused on the screen.  There on the screen was the image of her brother, Juan.  A wraithlike figure, his body engulfed in flame, pieces of his Reaper costume lifting off his body, exposing his own body as his flesh burned off.  He looked real as he pointed at her and snarled, “I’m coming for you…”  

Her scream was real too before she fell toward the floor.  Thankfully Alex had quietly moved closer after calling ‘action’ and though shocked by the intensity of her scream, was true to her word and caught her lover as she fell.

In the camera storage room, Mandy had just finished checking the last camera and was putting the case on the shelf when she was startled by Maria’s blood curdling scream.

“What the…” Mandy ran out of the storage room in time to see Alex lowering Maria to the floor.  She ran through the studio and slid down on her knees as she reached the duo.

“Maria…” she looked up at Alex.  “What happened?”

“Water, towel, anything…” Alex stammered shocked at the sight of Maria’s pale skin and the appearance of another person.

Mandy got up and ran to the coffee/snack area.  Luckily there were still some bottles of water, soda, and even some bottled latte’s.  She grabbed up a variety and a roll of paper towels then headed back to the set and placed them next to Alex.

“What’s Maria doing here?  Who are you?”  She reached down to touch Maria’s shoulder.

“She wanted…I’m her wife…Alex.  We were trying to figure out what happened yesterday.”  She grabbed the roll of paper towels and placed it under her head while Mandy opened a bottle of water.  Alex took it then poured some in her hand and slowly caressed Maria’s face with her hand and the water.

Mandy checked her pulse.  “She’s got a wicked rapid pulse.”

“Are there any blankets here?” Alex asked.  “She’s really cold.”

“Yeah, in one of the other sets.”  She stood to go.  “I’m Mandy by the way, 2nd Assistant to Henry on this film,” she called over her shoulder as she ran to get the blankets.

“Maria, come on, wake up.  It’s me…Alex.”  She placed soft kisses on Maria’s lips, shocked at how cold she still was.  Alex placed her head next to Maria’s and embraced her trying to warm her with her own body.   “Sweetheart, I’m sorry.  This was such a bad idea.”

“No,” Maria whispered in Alex’s ear.  “I…we had to find out…it’s Juan…he’s coming for me.”  Her head tilted to the side and she passed out again.

Maria was lying on the bed covered in blankets and anything else Mandy could scare up from the sets.  Alex was sitting on the side of the bed holding her hand.  Maria was awake now and gradually returning to normal. Neither had said much since Alex and Mandy carried Maria to the bedroom set.  Mandy gave a similar explanation to Alex on why she was there as she did to the guard.  Alex just grunted about visiting the set when asked why they were there.

Feeling much better, Maria slowly propped herself up and looked at Mandy.  “Please don’t tell Henry any of this, okay?” she pleaded.

“I won’t but…what happened, Maria.  Twice in two days.”

“Uh…I’m not sure,” she hedged looking at Alex for support.

“We, uh, thought we would see if Maria was strong enough to go on with the rest of the shoot on Friday,” Alex offered hesitantly.

Maria chimed in, “Yeah…just making sure I could finish the film Friday…that’s all.”

“Uh huh.”  Mandy walked around to the other side of the bed and decided to come clean with why she was there.  “Maria,” she began tentatively, “did you ever hear about what happened on the film I worked on in Calgary?”

Maria thought for a bit, but nothing came to mind.  “No, can’t say as I have.  Why?”

“Well, there were some unexplained happenings on the set.  Things that no one on the set could explain but me.”

“Such as?” Alex asked interested in where this was going.

“We had a lot of ‘accidents’ happen on set.  People getting hurt by falling props, sets bursting into flame for no reason that could be found by the fire department, people not showing up for their takes because they were locked in their dressing rooms.  It just went on and on.  The director kept making excuses and kept the production barely running.  I kept trying to tell them that the set was inhabited by a ghost.”

Mandy stopped and waited for a reaction, which she quickly got from both Alex and Maria.

“A ghost?”  They both said in unison.


“And only you knew it…why you?”  Alex asked a bit coolly.

“Yes, and that’s why I won’t tell Henry any of this,” she acknowledged.

Mandy shrugged and continued, “Honestly, I don’t know why me.  Ever since I was a child I had this uncanny ability to see things others couldn’t see.  Spirit things…ghosts if you will.  And I could see this ghost on the set doing these things.  I tried to warn the director and the other actors and crew but all it got me was weird glances and nearly getting fired. So I decided to try to fix the situation myself.”

Intrigued now, Maria asked, “What did you do?”

“I went to the set one night and talked to the ghost.”  She paused before going on.  “Turns out the ghost was a Native American and the site for the set was on an ancient village where he lived and died.  We had a long talk.  He was the Shaman of the village and was upset that we were disrespecting this land.  I tried to explain it to the director but he just thought I was a nut case and just ignored me and threatened to fire me if I didn’t stop scaring the crew with my stories.  So, on break one weekend I went to the local reservation and talked to the Shaman there.  Told him what I saw and asked for help.  He was hesitant, but asked me the name of the village and the name of the ghost and was surprised when I told him.  He said no one except the elders knew the story.  Evidently, one night, a fire destroyed the entire village.  Through time, each Shaman would look for where the village had been to cleanse the site, but none found the right spot.  I agreed to take him there the next moonless night so he could cleanse the site.  After that, the ghost was gone and the film finished without incident.  I never told anyone on set what had happened.  I was already looked at as a pariah…a ‘bad luck’ person to have on set.  This is the first film I’ve worked on in five years.”

“And you could speak this ancient Indian’s language?” Alex asked a bit suspiciously.

“That’s the other thing.  I can also understand and speak the different languages of the ghosts…but only when talking to them.”  Mandy shook her head.  “Look, I know it’s weird and highly unlikely, but it is what it is.  I can’t explain it.”  She hesitated and finally revealed what she saw.  “Look, Maria…I know what you saw.  I wasn’t at this set when it happened yesterday or maybe I would have seen him then too.  I just heard your scream.  It just registered with me as too real and then this waive hit me…a feeling really, that something wasn’t right.  Anyway, I checked all the cameras and ‘it’,” she made quotes in the air, “doesn’t appear on the film…except in the camera that took your head shot.  I saw that things reflection in your eyes.”

Maria gasped.  “You saw Juan?”

“If that’s ‘its’ name…yeah, I saw Juan...kind of an eerie, ghostly figure.  I can’t make out a lot…but he was definitely there.  If I had been on set, I probably would have seen him too.”  She shook her head, “I don’t think anyone else can see it…but you’re welcome to look.  And it somewhat explains what happened yesterday and today.”  She looked directly at Alex then at Maria.  “Doesn’t it?”

A tear ran down Maria’s cheek.  “I thought I was going crazy,” she said.  “I still don’t understand how you see these things, but I believe you.”

“So, who’s this Juan and why is he appearing to you?” Mandy asked matter-of-factly.

Maria began quietly…Alex holding her as she relived that horrible night once more.  It took quite a toll on Maria to finish the story and once the end came, she collapsed on the bed, emotions spent.

“Look,” Alex whispered as she covered Maria with the blanket, “she’s really exhausted.  I need to get her home and in her own bed.”  Mandy nodded in agreement and the two walked away from the set to talk quietly.

“I think I may know someone who can help Maria.”

“I’m not comfortable with her sharing this story once more.” Alex looked at the sleeping figure on the bed.  “I’m mean…just look at her.  She’s emotionally spent.  And if the media gets wind of this…”

“No, no…I totally get it.” Mandy protested.  “This person I know is very discrete.  It will stay just between the four of us.  I promise.  She knows me and knows about my…
let’s call it a skill.”

Alex looked at Mandy then back at Maria.  “I don’t know…”

“Do you have a better idea to deal with this?  If she can’t finish her scenes in front of the blue screen on Friday and walks away from this film now, she will destroy her career forever.”

Alex considered the alternatives.  “It will be her decision.  I’m going to take her home so she can get away from this place and think clearly.  Call us tonight and we’ll give you her answer.  Do you have her home number?”

“Yes.  I’ll call about 9 o’clock.  That should give her time to rest and think about her answer.”  They walked back to the bedroom set together and woke the dozing actress. 

After helping Alex take Maria back to their car, Mandy returned to the set to put everything back in it’s place.  She did not want anything to be different from when everyone left the day before.  She then stopped at the security kiosk and logged in and out in case the guard who was on rounds again checked the log.




The phone rang at precisely 9 o’clock.  Alex, expecting the call, picked up the receiver quickly.  “Hello”



“Did you explain to Maria my option?”

“Yes.  She wants to ask you some questions first.  We’re going to put you on speaker.”  Alex put the phone on speaker and set it on the coffee table.

“Mandy, Alex said you may know someone to help me.  Can you tell me about her, why you think she can help?

“Sure.  Her name is Claris.  She is a librarian at the main library downtown.  She’s head of the research section, very well known and respected.  Please don’t jump to any conclusion before I finish, okay?”

“Okay.  Go ahead.”

“I met Claris about a year after the Calgary episode.  I was at the library trying to do research about my ‘skills.’  I hadn’t been able to get another film job after Calgary…guess the director blackballed me…anyway, I figured since I had time on my hands I’d try to see why I was the way I am.  Long story short, Claris helped me with my research and she was totally okay with my weird skills.  We became good friends and I found out that she is a bit more than just a librarian.  She is an extremely skilled Wiccan witch.”

“A witch!” Maria nearly shouted into the speaker.  Alex looked dismayed and was ready to hang up the phone, but Maria stopped her.

“Now, don’t jump to conclusions, Maria.  Through the last four years I’ve learned a great deal about the Wiccan’s and have seen Claris in action.  She’s done some amazing things with her witchcraft and all for the greater good.”

“But…a witch?”

“People have a skewed view of Wiccan’s…they are good people and never do harm to anyone.  She’s helped me out a few times with some spirit situations too.  Not quite as evil as your spirit, but I’m pretty certain she can help you.  And, she is very discrete.  Her career would be over if word got out of her Wiccan High Priestess status so, yeah, she would not tell a soul.”

“Hang on a minute,” Alex interrupted and put the phone on mute.

“What do you think, Maria?  A bit far fetched?”

Maria bit her lip and nodded in the affirmative.  “Yes, but then, so is that apparition of Juan.  Perhaps if we meet her we can decide then?”

“Okay,” Alex confirmed and put the phone back on speaker.

“Mandy, can we meet her first and see what she thinks?” Maria suggested.

“Sure, but we need to do this tomorrow.  Filming starts again on Friday.  I’ll call Claris, fill her in, and set things up.  Your place or hers?”

“I think ours would be best.  It’s pretty private here.” Alex offered.

“Okay.  I’ll call her and then get back to you.”  Mandy hung up.

 Alex and Maria sat staring at each other listening to a dial tone.  “A witch!” they said in unison.

Thirty minutes went by before the phone rang again.  Maria picked it up on the second ring.

“Hello?” she said tentatively?

“Hey, it’s Mandy.  We’re all set.  We will be at your house at 10:00 AM.”

“10:00 AM.  You know where we live, correct?”

“Yes.  No problem.  Claris will be driving us over.  I’ll ring from the gate when we get there.”

“Fine.  We’ll be waiting.”  Maria hesitated then added, “thank you, Mandy.”

“You’re welcome Maria,” she hung up and crossed her fingers and spoke to the air in
the empty living room.  “Claris, you really need to work your magic tomorrow!”




The gate intercom buzzed at 10:20 AM.  Alex hit the talk button.  “Mandy?”

“Yes, sorry were late.  There was an accident on the 101.”

“No problem.  I’ll open the gate.  Come around to the back.  There’s a parking spot by the kitchen door.  We’ll meet you there.”  She hit the gate open button, and went to get Maria.

Alex opened the kitchen door and was surprised to see the librarian wasn’t what she had pictured.  Instead of a withered, bent old woman, the librarian had long flaming red hair and had to be at least 6 feet plus.  She was slim with an athletic build and walked in with the grace of a ballet dancer.  

Mandy stopped and introduced the librarian.  “This is my friend, Claris.  Claris this is Alex, Maria’s wife and this is Maria.

Claris extended her hand in greeting.  “Hello, Alex…Maria.”  Her voice was soft, her handshake was firm, and her green eyes twinkled as she smiled.  “Not the withered, bent old woman you expected, right?”

They both nodded, a bit embarrassed and at a loss for words.  Finally, Maria said, “Uh, right,” and waived her hand to the breakfast area that was surrounded on three sides by floor to ceiling windows, allowing the morning sun to fill the space with light.  “This way, please.”  She led them to the table and they all took a seat. 

“Can I offer you anything to drink?” Alex said as she started to stand.

“No, but thank you,” Claris replied.

“None here either,” Mandy added.

Claris immediately took charge of the conversation.  “Mandy has filled me in on the background and the appearance of the apparition so there is no need for you to have to relive that horrible night.”

“Thank you,” Maria sighed with obvious relief.  “Do you think you can figure out why Juan is doing this now after all these years?”

“And more importantly,” Alex interjected, “will you be able to stop him from doing this to Maria?”

“Yes, and yes,” Claris answered succinctly.  “First the why now.  This is a special time of year for spirits.  Some cultures refer to it as All Hollows Eve or Halloween; others called it Calan Gaeaf or Samhain.  But all cultures have this time dedicated to the departed or spirits in some fashion over a spread of days.  A common thread is the honoring of the dead family members.”  She looked at Maria. “Días de Muertos for example.  Another thread is that this time of year the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is very thin and that spirits, or the Aos Si, can crossover from the Otherworld to walk among the living.”  Claris stopped to check that everyone was following her explanation. 

Claris focused on Maria. “Maria, how long has it been since this happened?”

“Twenty years this year.  Does that make a difference?”

“Possibly.  Your brother was young then, correct?”

“Yes, he had just turned 13 a week earlier.  He was so proud that he was now a ‘man’ and not a child anymore.  Unfortunately, he still acted like a spoiled 3 year old.”

“Ahh…that helps.” Claris nodded then explained.  “Some believe the world of the departed has it’s own rules, so to speak.  In the Otherworld, he was probably still seen as a child, so the time from his death till now was a torturous time for him.  Gaining respect from the other departed, learning to exist in that realm as well as learning about the thinning of the veil at this time of year and how to cross over into the world of the living.  There are old stories of the Aos Si who successfully crossed over and created chaos for the living until they could be banished back to their world.  I think this is what Juan has in mind for you.”

Alarm shown in the faces of Maria and Alex. 

“Can you stop him from crossing over?  He said he wants to take me to hell with him,” an anxious Maria asked. 

“Yes, I believe we can.”

“We?” asked Alex.

“Yes, it will take all four of us to stop Juan.  Spirits can become pretty powerful in the world of the dead, and Juan has already revealed his power by appearing twice before Samhain.”

Alex posed the question again, “But we can stop him, right?”

“We are lucky to have Mandy on our side.  She’s a pretty powerful being when it comes to the spirit world.  Not many have her skill to see, hear and talk to spirits.  I’ve been very fortunate to have her along on occasion.”

She turned to Maria with a serious expression.  “But you, Maria are the key.  He is after you, and you must be able to stand up to him and show absolutely no fear in his presence.  We will be sending you as much energy and positivity as you need to banish him, but you must be fearless.  He has seen your weakness twice now, but I will prepare you the best I know how.”  She looked around the table and saw their agreement in nods.  “So, this is what we must do...” and she began to set out the plan.




Mandy, Alex and Claris worked on the preparation before the blue screen.  Maria stayed away from the set to ensure Juan did not appear before the preparations were ready.  They laid out a salt circle large enough to hold all four of them.  Then they placed black candles around the circle and a line of them to the back door. These were necessary to banish Juan from the site and out of the building.  Luckily it was a calm night and no chance of the last candle being extinguished before Juan left.   When those preparations were completed they went to the bedroom set where Maria was waiting.

Alex went to Maria and sat beside her on the bed.  She lifted Maria’s hand into hers and noted it was very cold.  “Are you alright, Maria?  Your hand is very cold.”  She lifted the other and it too was cold so she held both in her hands to share her warmth.

“I’m okay, Alex just afraid.  The last two times he appeared I completely passed out.  What if that happens again?”

Claris overheard Maria talking to Alex so she walked over to calm her and help her regain her composure.  “Maria,” she said in a confident voice, “you are more powerful than you think.  You are in the land of the living, which gives you the upper hand here.  And…we are here to support you and give you our strength too.”

Mandy came over and added, “And…you are an amazing actress.  I have seen you say your characters lines with such conviction and force that you were that person you were portraying.  You can do this.  We know you can.”

Alex reached both arms around Maria and gave her a light squeeze.  “I believe in you,” she whispered in her ear.  She released her left arm and caressed Maria’s face and gently pulled her chin so they faced each other.  “I believe in you,” she said again lightly placing a kiss on her lips.

“Okay,” Claris interrupted, “Lets go over this one last time.”  Maria, Alex and Mandy all faced Claris. 

“Alex and Mandy.  You have the Wiccan chant I gave you memorized?”  They nodded in the affirmative. 

“Maria, you have the banishment ritual memorized?”  She too nodded in the affirmative. 

“Great, then we are ready.  Maria, you stay here until we call for you.  Alex, you get the candles lit from the circle to the door.  Mandy, you prop open the door and I’ll light the candles on the circle.  When you’re done, meet me in the circle.”

When the three gathered in the circle Claris said to Alex.  “Alex, you will stand directly behind Maria, both hands on her waist.”  Then she told Mandy to stand to Maria’s left side and place both hands on her left shoulder while she would stand to Maria’s right and place both hands on Maria’s right shoulder.  “This will allow our earthly powers to flow into Maria as she says words and completes the banishment ritual.”

Claris looked at her watch.  It was 11:45 PM  “It’s time.”  Claris called to Maria to join them in the circle.

Maria walked to the circle, head down as she had done the last two times.  Entering she took her place at her spot and the rest moved into their positions. 

“Look up now,” Claris said softly and when Maria opened her eyes and looked at the screen, Juan began to materialize.  She felt their hands give her a light squeeze and she remained standing and felt warmth as it oozed into her body from their connection.

Claris nodded and they began their chant.

“What was awakened from its sleep,
Must once again slumber deep.
Return this ghost from whence it came,
So life can ease back to the same.”

They kept repeating the chant as Juan kept working to leave the screen and complete the cross over.  Finally, Juan’s materialization increased until he was right in front of their circle.  Maria could feel Mandy squeeze her shoulder a bit more forcefully and understood that she too saw him.

Juan laughed then pointed a flaming finger at Maria.  “Ah, little sister!  Had to bring some friends with you this time, eh?” 

His evil laugh rang out again and he seemed to float as he went around the circle looking at each one.  Alex and Claris kept their eyes on the screen as he passed by unseen by them.  He stopped by Mandy and hissed.  “Ooo, this one can see me!  Can she hear me too?”

Mandy turned to look at the apparition, starred right into his eyes as she kept up the chant, then grinned back at him.  This made him jerk back and throw up a hand to shield his face.  He lost some of his control and feared he should hurry, so he returned to face Maria.

“All this time I have been waiting for the chance to crossover and take you back to my world.  You don’t have the strength to stop me!”  He tried to reach for her, but his hand sizzled as it came into line with the salt circle.  “Arrgh!” he spat and retrieved his hand.

Emboldened by his failure, Maria began the banishment ritual and the others stopped their chant.

“Evil spirit that invades my earthly place,
I banish you away with the light of my grace.
You have no hold or power here,
For I stand and face you with no fear.
Be gone forever, for this I will say,
This is my earthly place and you will obey!”


She took out the salt and the holy water she had hidden in the pockets of her jacket and stepped to the edge of the circle, still maintaining contact with her supporters.  Then she tossed the salt at him and sprayed him with the holy water.  The effect was exactly what Claris had described.

Juan yelped as the salt and spray hit his body, anguished, guttural sounds coming from him.  Fear shown in his face as Maria threw more salt and water at him.  He backed away searching for a way out and saw the line of candles leading to the back door. 

Maria repeated the last line, more forceful and more confident.  “This is my earthly place and you will obey!”

He looked back at Maria, spat out a snarl, and then with a ghastly cry he hurriedly followed the trail through the back door and was gone.

Mandy released her grip on Maria and ran to the back door, slamming it shut with a loud bang.  She cringed at the sound and hoped the night guard was not on rounds to hear the loud noise.  When she returned to the circle she was happy to see Maria hugging Alex and Claris with tears of joy this time running down her cheek.  She went to Mandy and gave her a tight hug. 

“You saw him too, didn’t you Mandy.”

“Yes, I did.  He didn’t seem to like me very much,” she replied with a grin and a shrug of her shoulders.  “I’m glad I knew what to expect…he looked absolutely horrid.  I would have been petrified myself if I had no warning.”  She shivered at the thought.  “One evil sight for sure!”

“I can’t thank you enough, Mandy” Maria said as she gave her another tight hug.

“And that goes for me too,” Alex added.  “And for bringing Claris to us.  Wow.  I don’t know what we would have done without the two of you!”

Claris and Mandy nodded and looked at each other.  “Guess we make a good team, eh, Claris?” 

“Yes, we do,” Claris gave Mandy a hug.  “I was a little worried when I saw you look to the side, but then when you grinned, I knew that he must have seen the light in you.”

“I have a light in me?” she asked amazed.  “You never told me that before.”

“Sorry, thought you knew.  I saw it briefly that time you helped that little girl spirit reunite with her parents spirits. Tonight I assumed that was why he threw up his hands and covered his face.” 

Mandy looked at Alex and Maria.  “Did you guys see a light?”

They both shook their heads in the negative.  “Not me,” Alex replied.   “Nor me,” Maria added.

“Huh.” Mandy uttered.  “Just learned something new.”

“It may come in handy some day.  Someone with a light like yours is rare and is only known to have happened in ancient times,” Claris put an arm around Mandy.  “We’ll do some research on this, but now, let’s get this place put back in order.”

Mandy looked at her watch.  “Holy crap, the crew will be showing up in five hours to prep for the final scenes.”  She motioned at Alex and Maria.  “You two better get going and get some rest.  Big day tomorrow!  We got this…go!”




“And CUT!” shouted Henry.  “That’s a wrap folks.  Great work.  This is going to be one big money maker for sure.” 

The crew walked around congratulating each other on a great shoot.  There was lots of laughter and smiling as the stage crew started dismantling the blue screen.  People milled around Maria telling her what a great job she did with the final scenes.  Henry walked up to her as she stared at the crew taking down the blue screen.

“You look a bit sad,” he said as he gave her a hug.  “Sorry to see the screen go?”

“Huh?  Oh, no…not sad.  Actually I’m glad this film is over.  I think Alex and I will take a short vacation.  Maybe head down to Mexico in time for the rest of the Días de Muertos celebration in Puerto Vallarta and pay respects to my ancestors.”

 “Well, have a great vacation.  I hope we can work on another film again.  You were absolutely fantastic today,” he said with a smile.

Just then Mandy walked up and received a surprise hug from Maria who pulled on Henry’s shoulder as he was turning to leave.  “You need to keep this assistant on your films.  She is a miracle worker!”

“Really?  Huh, if you say so.”  He nodded and walked away.

“Miracle worker?” Mandy said with a grin.  “Just doing my job.”

“Well, I can tell you one thing.  Next film I do…I want you for my assistant…so stay in touch!”  Maria hugged Mandy again then ran into the arms of a smiling Alex.