The Spirit Within
By: Tom Fowler

Julie sat in her favorite chair in the downstairs den engaging in a rare moment of contemplation. She was a vain woman, still very attractive at forty-seven years of age and not given to introspection or soul- searching. However on this night she was doing exactly that.

There was a spiritual side to her predominately carnal nature which she had suppressed for many years. Tonight, it would not be denied. Although Julie's resume of life included drug abuse with an accompanying felony conviction, three ex-husbands, countless affairs with men, (and women), and one suicide by a distraught wife whose spouse had succumbed to Julie's considerable sex appeal and charm, tonight there would be a reckoning for a life poorly lived. Her first husband once said, as he angrily packed to depart for a modest one bedroom flat apartment near his office, "Someday the bill will come due. Someday you will pay." For some strange reason, she recalled those words of over 20 years ago.

It was almost midnight, the "Witching Hour," as an occultist she once knew would say. From the comfortable leather chair facing the over sized fireplace, Julie chain smoked and pondered the lavish home her third husband had allowed her to keep. Michael Brand would never say so but he considered deeding the mansion over to her the wisest move he had ever made, for it rid him of Julie cleanly and permanently. It was a beautiful and magnificent home, decorated with darkly stained rich wood work in spacious rooms filled with the best furniture money could buy. A kidney shaped swimming pool and a small guest home in the professionally landscaped backyard were icing on this very expensive cake. Were Julie a more appreciative person, she would consider herself very fortunate to own and live in such a house as this.

But, Julie was not such a person and tonight she was troubled. The ash paneled walls of the den seemed to be alive with an indeterminable spirit. Normally feelings of any kind did not come upon her unless she had been drinking heavily or snorting coke, but her only vice on this evening was tobacco. She experienced an unfamiliar and unwelcome sense of fear and dread and could not understand why she felt as she did. Her sensuous lips trembled and this only served to anger her, as Julie was a woman who was used to being in control of her life and emotions. As far as she was concerned, life was Julie and for Julie. But, tonight that would change.

Crushing a cigarette butt in the ashtray, she quickly lit another. Julie was perplexed and slightly frightened by the uncomfortable and unwelcome feelings she had. As late evening turned into early morning, the air within the den became thick with cigarette smoke and tension. Julie's heart began to race and she rose to pour a drink of her favorite vodka. She cursed herself for doing so, for she had been working out and taking good care of herself for the last few weeks, except for the incessant smoking and she was making an effort to cut down on that. She had good reason for doing so as there was a young man at the office whom she was attempting to seduce. It was only a matter of time before he fell under her spell—if she stayed healthy and attractive. Julie knew, but did not understand why, that she had a mesmerizing effect on those around her, especially men. As the long morning continued, she began to sense that the answer to that question may be forthcoming. She was not certain that she wanted to know but the dark feelings were increasing as the time passed. A second, and then a third, tumbler of vodka did not calm her. Julie knew she should go to bed but was frightened to. Why was that, she angrily thought?

What Julie knew within her soul but could not articulate in any tangible way was that she was plagued by, what we will call for lack of a better term, a spirit. Like a radio or sound wave this spirit, a dark spirit which had been with her since early childhood, influenced everything she did but remained unseen and invisible. It gave her physical beauty, a selfish, cunning and mean-spirited disposition and afforded her power over other people. On this night, Julie was beginning to see the horror of it all. Julie was not so much Julie as the evil spirit within her.

Through the long early morning Julie continued to smoke and drink. She thought back through her wasted life. The blonde, beautiful and devious Julie had much to regret but had never done so before now. Never before had she given a second thought to all of the misery she had dealt to others. She did not understand the attack of conscience at this time.

Had she lived to look at herself in the light of day, she would have been horrified to see her face had aged considerably during the space of a few short hours. The spirit within had chosen, for reasons only it knew, to leave her early in the previous evening. Freed of the spirit, Julie became the Julie she should have been. She was also free to bear the full brunt of her life and transgressions. Physical aging and a troubled conscience came upon her quickly.

The spirit, outside its longtime host, wondered the house during that long night. The mice in the attic sensed its presence and left the huge nest they had built in a darkened attic corner, never to return. Julie's senses did not lie to her when she felt the dread and uneasiness coming from the beautiful custom made paneled walls of her home which was really not her home, for the spirit moved within the walls and floorboards of the stately mansion. You may say that on this night the house was haunted.

Just before sunrise, Julie felt a shortness of breath and gasped. It was the last breath of her troubled life. A few hours later, after a telephone call from her office, the police found her body in peaceful repose, positioned upright in the den recliner. A cigarette butt had burned to the end, charring her fingers. The officers noted it was a fortunate thing the house did not catch fire.

The medical examiner's initial impression was of an elderly woman who had suffered heart failure brought on by a night of excessive smoking and drinking. This would remain the official cause of death, except for the fact that Ms. Levebre was younger than she appeared in death.

No one would ever know the true cause of death, nor the reason for such a cruel and dissipated life.

Julie knew. Full realization came to her just before she died. The spirit also knew and for sure it would never give itself or the truth away.

The spirit had left the body and soul of Julie Levebre several hours before her death, leaving her a few agonizing hours to consider almost half a century of evil existence. When the spirit saw that full awareness had come to her, it touched her lightly. It was enough to take her life.

Only one person attended Julie's funeral, her mother. Julie had been the disappointment and heartache of her life and she could never understand it, for Julie had been such a sweet and caring little girl. Then, one day, she seemed to change overnight. The elder Mrs. Levebre had thought many times through the years that it was as if the devil possessed her daughter. That was the only thing that made sense but that was silly. Who believed in such things?

She never understood it.

Until the day the elder Mrs. Levebre experienced her own death, she just could not understand it.



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