"Do you remember when we first investigated Bobby Mackey's Music World?" Nick asked his eyes locked on with mine.
I slowly nodded as the memory of watching their first episode flooded my mind. That had been when Zak got those three nasty scratch marks down along his spine because he had pushed the demonic entity too far.
"So then you must remember what happened in that episode to Zak?" Nick assumed.
"Yeah. Wasn't that the series premiere of Ghost Adventures? Where Zak got scratched really bad on his back?" I questioned hesitantly hoping I was thinking of the right episode. They had done investigations at Bobby Mackey's a few times. It was just a matter of sorting out which one he was talking about.
Nick nodded in agreement. "That's the exact one. I think that is when everything started."
I slightly squinted my eyes in curiosity. "Oh? How so?"
"Well, when Zak got scratched, do you not remember how he reported feeling dizzy and this weird sensation inside of him? Not only that, but we also captured some glowing anomalies surrounding Zak as well," Nick reminded.
"Right, right, I remember now. So you think those scratches on his back is what started everything?"
"Well, think about it this way: three scratches are assumed to be scratches of a demonic entity. We were also down in the basement of Bobby Mackey's which is considered to be?"
"Hell's Gate…" I whispered as I started piecing it together.
"Exactly and after Zak was scratched…I don't know, he started acting differently. Not to the point where everyone would notice, but after being friends with him for as long as I had? You tend to take notice more than most other people."
"How was he changing?" she asked. Curiosity and genuine concern lit up her honey brown eyes. She honestly cared for my best friend and was willing to do anything it took to save him. That set my heart at ease.
"Just the little things he did and said. Like I said, to an outsider's eyes it wouldn't seem like much, but to someone like me? It was evident. Especially about a week after we had finished the lockdown," I sighed.
Aerolynn scooted closer and placed a soothing hand on my arm.
"Please. Tell me EVERYTHING. Even the little things that you think wouldn't matter because it may be those little things that help me in the end."
I stared into her lightly colored eyes for a few moments more before slowly nodding my head in agreement.
"Well, we were back at the hotel reviewing the evidence and Zak was doing his commentary…"
4 years ago
"Hey, Zak, come check this out. You can hear this humming sound right here. I think this should be put in the final cut for the episode," I said excitedly turning in my chair to face Zak. Zak was standing by the hotel window looking out into the night. Aaron was in the next room watching the video footage in his own room. Zak and I had decided to share a room and cut down on cost as much as possible since this was our very first lockdown for the new series we were putting together on Travel Channel.
"Zak?" I asked standing up from the desk chair to walk over to my best friend. I lightly placed my hand on his shoulder making him jump and twist my wrist around and back. The bones in my wrist bent at an awkward, tight angle threatening to break.
"Dude, call down, man! It's just me! Holy fucking shit," I frantically reminded him. Zak blinked a few times before releasing the iron grip he had on my wrist.
"Sorry, dude. Just…don't do that when I'm lost in my own thoughts," he warned, his eyes returning to stare out the window.
"You okay, man? You've been sorta out of it lately since we went to Bobby Mackey's," I cautiously replied, my eyes scanning his face.
"I'm fine. It's just…I don't man. You'll think I'm crazy," he sighed raking a hand back through his short cropped, dark hair.
"Dude. I was attacked in the bathroom by a garbage can at Bobby Mackey's earlier this week. Somehow, whatever you have to say? I don't think it can be much crazier than that," I chuckled hoping to encourage him to tell me.
"It's just…it's my back. Those scratches…they've barely faded," he confessed.
"Well, they were some pretty nasty scratches, bro," I reminded him.
"I know, but it's been almost a week. Surely they would have healed more than they have?"
I shrugged not really knowing how to answer that.
"And after I took a shower earlier…they looked like they had gotten…deeper. And I've been getting these strange…urges," he quietly admitted.
I quirked a dark brow in curiosity. "What's up with you, Zak? What did you feel that night at Bobby Mackey's?"
Zak's blue-gray gaze lifted from off the floor to penetrate deep within my stare. "I felt something ripping up my insides, Nick. It penetrated its way into my soul and left a piece of itself behind inside of me. At night…I can feel it moving around. Like some sort of…alien. And it gives me these strange urges. It whispers horrible things inside my head. I…I don't know what to do, Nick. I've never ran into something like this before," he stammered, his massive body shaking from fear.
Zak fell to his knees, his large arms wrapping around his waist as he doubled over trying to contain the sobs that threatened to burst forth. I had never seen my friend this scared before. I knew we shouldn't have gone to Bobby Mackey's. I knew something bad was going to happen. I just didn't think it was going to be something as awful as this. And seeing him there on the ground made me grow uncomfortable. I didn't know how to comfort him and that made me feel like a horrible friend.
So all I did was stand there watching him cry out his frustrations and fears in the hopes that whatever Zak was going through would vanish.
Little did I know at the time…things would only get worse.
I watched the emotions flicker across Aerolynn's face as I finished recalling my memory to her of the first encounter I had with Zak and his darkness. Her face had gone from being shocked to intrigue to sad. And now her face showed absolutely no emotion on the matter. In fact, she almost appeared to be thinking hard on something.
"So, then," she began her brows pulled together as she continued to think through her thoughts. "That must mean those scratches…opened him up to the darkness."
"Why do you think that?"
"Well, think about it. He obviously didn't get possessed by any sort of entity or demon. He was just merely scratched. So, obviously the intent of the demon was not to possess him, but to open him up TO possession," she explained.
"I don't think I am quite following you on this one just yet," I sheepishly answered.
Aerolynn smiled and gave me a reassuring pat on my arm. "It's ok. I'll explain it the best I can with the way my mind works, ok?"
I nodded and waited for her to continue.
"Ok, so, Zak has a bad habit of always pissing off the wrong spirits. We all know this to be true. That day during your first lockdown, he just happened to piss off a very BIG, very BAD spirit. Well, demon. Obviously, the demon didn't want to possess him. No. It wanted to warn him; to curse him. It wanted to put a mark on his soul as a constant reminder of the wrong he had done that day. So the demon marked him, in others words, scratched him. Only, it wasn't just a surface scratch. It's like Zak had told you: it penetrated its way into his soul and left a piece of itself behind. Those claws aren't just for show to warn you a bit with a few scratches. That demon had much darker intentions in mind. Those scratches it left on Zak's back made basically an opening for other evil entities or demons to crawl inside him and, well, possess him," she tried to explain in fuller detail.
"So, you are saying the reason why those scratches on his back weren't healing was because the small sliver of darkness the demon left inside of Zak KEPT those scratches from healing?" I inquired finally beginning to understand her logic.
She nodded; a large grin on her face. "Exactly! It was keeping those wounds open for as long as possible so that more darkness could flow inside of Zak, consume his soul, and basically kill him from the inside out. And because of the line of work you guys do, it wouldn't take long for that darkness inside of Zak to grow."
I sighed and rubbed the back of my neck as another scene played inside my head.
"Yeah, well, that's not even the half of it," I told her.
She shook her head. "Yeah, I didn't think it was. There was no way that just those three scratch marks could be the entire cause of what has become of Zak."
"Oh no. Those scratches…were just the beginning."