Bath time with a toddler can get pretty crazy. There’s giggling and splashing. Multiply that times two when you stick twins in a tub, and it gets loud and wet. Kneeling by the side of the tub when my boys were little, I usually ended up soaked.
That’s all right—my kids and I have fond memories of those times. I would turn on music and let the boys play. Sometimes we used bath paint or I would put a few ice cubes in the warm water because the boys thought it was funny to watch them melt.
Once, after my husband made a grocery run, I decided to give my children a bath. Since he was out running errands, I cranked up the music louder than he would have preferred, and we had a bathtub party.
The shindig was in full swing when something odd happened. My back was to the bathroom door, and just behind me was the sink. Sitting on the sink counter was a bottle of baby lotion. The lotion bottle flew over the toilet and hit the side of the tub, as if someone had picked it up and lobbed it. Startled, I whipped my head toward the door, fully expecting to see my husband standing there, trying to get my attention.
That was the explanation that first came to mind, because it made the most sense. The music was so loud, I would not have heard him come in. But he wasn’t there.
I rose and poked my head out the door, looking up and down the hallway. There wasn’t anyone there. Puzzled, I ducked back into the bathroom and studied the lotion bottle, lying next to the tub. It had not simply fallen off the sink. If it had fallen, it would have landed between the sink and the toilet. Instead, it had landed more than two feet from the sink.
Not wanting to leave toddlers unattended in the tub, I quickly rinsed the boys’ hair and got them out, toweling them off and getting them diapered before checking out the house. Then I went room to room, scared someone else was in the house. I saw no one, and my husband didn’t come home until later. So here’s the question: who—or what—was trying to get my attention?
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015
Merry Christmas! This is our fifth year living in Oregon, and we’re excited to celebrate the holidays.
Our first Christmas here was rough. We were in the middle of moving 1500 miles from Tucson, Arizona to the northern Oregon coast. My husband ended up moving here first for a job opportunity, while my seven-year-old twin boys and I stayed behind to sell the house and so I could fulfill my job contract. We missed each other and were grateful to be able to spend Christmas together.
At the time, my husband had rented a tiny one bedroom apartment in an old Victorian in Astoria. It was a cool building, even if the apartment was sparsely furnished. On Christmas Eve, we were in the middle of tucking our children in bed when one of our sons suddenly sat up and said, “Who’s that man in the hallway?”
My husband and I looked at each other and then stared out into the hallway. We couldn’t see anyone, and we knew no one but the four of us were there. The only other rooms in the apartment were the living room, the bathroom, and a small kitchen. We knew we had locked the front door and all the windows were closed.
We asked our son to describe the man, but he shrugged. “It was just a man, walking down the hall.” We turned to our other son and asked if he had seen anyone. He hadn’t.
I recently asked my son, now twelve, if he remembered this happening when he was seven. He nodded. “Yeah, that was so creepy.”
I wondered if, now that he was older, he could describe what he saw. “It was this shadowy man,” he said, “wearing a trenchcoat.”
I have no idea who our Christmas Eve visitor might have been, but it sure wasn’t Santa Claus.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015
I’ve talked about seeing shadows at work, in Old Main and the Nugent building, and how co-workers shared their own odd experiences with me. I also had a weird experience seeing a shadow in my house.
After work, I’d come home, feed and bathe the kids, and get them to bed. Then, relishing a few hours for myself, I would write.
Sometimes I’d stay up late writing and pay for it the next day when I had to get up early for work. Sometimes my husband would go to bed, and then, hours later, would come out and remind me not to stay up too late. When I was into a story, it was easy to lose track of time. My husband worried about me not getting enough rest, especially because I often had trouble getting to sleep when we lived in that house.
I had experienced a number of unsettling things in the house, so I tended to be on edge, waking at the slightest noise. Sometimes the noises weren’t so slight. For a while, I’d wake up to someone screaming. When you have young children, your sleep is often interrupted, so I was already sleep deprived and hyperaware, listening for their cries. Once I was fully awake though, I’d realize it wasn’t my boys screaming. I would go check on them, and they’d be sleeping peacefully.
A few times I woke up thinking one of my boys was standing next to the bed. I’d sit up and slip off the covers, ready to take my son back to his bed, but there was no one there. Again, when I would check on the kids, they were in their own beds, fast asleep. Night after night of that was slowly making me nuts, and I needed more sleep than I got. That’s why staying up late writing was not the best of ideas, but it was a nice escape from other stressors.
One night I was sitting at the kitchen table, writing. It was late—probably eleven—and my husband had been in bed for about an hour. In the middle of typing a sentence, I stopped, struck with the feeling I was being watched. In the periphery of my vision, I saw someone standing in the hallway. I thought it was my husband, coming to tell me not to stay up too late.
I turned my head and saw a tall, dark shape standing in the entrance of the hallway. Motionless. Watching. Then the figure vanished.
I probably should have gone to bed at that point, but I was so unnerved, I just sat there, my fingers poised above the keyboard. Somehow it seemed like a bad idea to acknowledge the entity. I thought, “Nope. I did not just see that.” Then I kept on writing.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015
Today I want to introduce you to Chanrithy Him, author of Rise of the Golden Aura, a story that reimagines vampires. Chanrithy told me about Asian vampire mythology and how that contrasts with Western vampires. Her novel was inspired partly by the first Queen of Cambodia and the legend surrounding her being a Naga (Dragon) princess. Below is an excerpt about the legend.
Chanrithy Him is an international speaker and author of the widely acclaimed, award-winning memoir, When Broken Glass Floats. Her book has been praised in reviews by such publications as the New York Times and the (London) Sunday Times. Radio Sweden Channel One compared her memoir with books written by Imre Kertész, the 2002 Nobel Prize winner in literature.
She is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to publish Rise of the Golden Aura. I hope you’ll check it out and support this indie author!
Legend of the First Queen of Cambodia:
Traditional stories passed down from generation to generation tell how the land of Cambodia was formed. Once, there was an ocean ruled by Naga who built an empire under the sea. The land was ruled by the Indian Empire. One day, Neang Neak, a daughter of the Naga king, took a bath by the seashore. Her beauty caught the eyes of Preah Thong, a young Indian prince who was visiting the area. Falling in love with the princess at first sight, the prince went to ask the Naga king for Neang Neak’s hand in marriage. The king refused to give his permission unless Preah Thong defeated the Naga’s most powerful warrior. The prince won the contest, and the marriage took place. Keeping his word and as a token of his love for his daughter, the Naga King swallowed the water to uncover the land that is now known as Cambodia and gave it to the newlywed couple as a wedding gift.
While growing up in Cambodia, I was captivated by the romance and mystery of the ancient Khmer temples, the Asian vampire mythology, Khmer stories of reincarnation and incantation.
In the memory of our recent tragic history, I journeyed back in time to pen my award-winning memoir, When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge (Norton). Since its release in 2000, my book has been used in high schools, universities, and book clubs around the world, and I’ve been invited to speak about my experiences to audiences in America and overseas. My life story is featured in a documentary film called The Will To Live, along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Dr. Juan Almendares of Honduras.
Historically, Cambodia had her share of legendary leaders, namely kings who built famous temples. As a Khmer-American, like my fellow Cambodians in the Khmer diaspora, I romanticize the Golden Age of Cambodia, when she was a powerful and prosperous empire that flourished and dominated almost all of inland Southeast Asia.
In 2005 I toured some of the famous ancient Cambodian temples that I have dreamt about since I was eight years old. Of all of them, there was one that truly captivated my heart and soul. It was a famous 12th Century Bayon temple with 54 majestic four-face towers. There, I felt a strong presence of a distinguished female spirit watching me.
By cosmic or spiritual energy, we made a special connection. At that moment, I pledged that I would write a novel that would feature this enigmatic temple. In 2012, I began writing Rise of the Golden Aura, my first novel of a series that reimagines the vampire culture. In doing so, I hope to inspire, entertain, educate, and empower even more readers worldwide.
Rise of the Golden Aura features a Cambodian-American teenager as its heroic main character. It is set in Cambodia and America. It is a young adult vampire-romance fantasy with a cross-cultural theme. The concept of Asian vampire myth and folklore is a fresh new take on the previous portrayals of vampire culture. It will resonate with people around the world, especially young girls and women. It will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and fans of P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast’s House of Night series, just to name a few.
In Cambodia, there are signs, for those who can read them. A Radio Free Asia interview documents a blind man’s vision—that ancient royalty will reincarnate as a queen with supernatural gifts, and an aura that can be seen only by those who belong to the spirit world.
Halfway around the world, in Portland, Oregon, high school student JD Bophatip, dutiful daughter of a successful immigrant mother, takes a leap into her American life when she is inspired to compete for the title of Queen of Rosaria in the Portland Rose Festival. Then her life takes an even more unexpected turn, and not just because of the charming, enigmatic Ryker Erickson.
With his tall, handsome physique, melodic voice, and mystical air, Ryker is irresistible. But Ryker, too, is powerfully struck—by the mystery of JD’s glowing, golden aura.
As JD and Ryker grow closer to each other, and closer to understanding each other’s secrets, JD’s dreams become increasingly prophetic. Struggling to understand a mysterious gift containing Sanskrit inscriptions and sacred jewels, JD seeks to harness her emerging powers in time to fulfill her destiny and save her life.
For Ryker, a descendant of Vikings, belongs to a powerful circle of vampires. Vampires who have a vested interest in the politics of JD’s city and state—and the entire human realm. Vampires who have a prophecy that a golden vampire will come to rule the vampire underworld. Vampires who will stop at nothing to destroy her.
Praise for Rise of the Golden Aura, from an editor and a publicist:
“There is a lyrical beauty in your writing, a longing, that is spell-binding. We are hooked! Thank you so much for sharing.”
“The vampire-romance-fantasy topic is in tune with what sells in today’s market. The vampire queen plot has potential to be immensely fascinating. This is a facet of vampire culture that has not yet been utilized within this culture.”
It is nighttime. Darkness has drawn its veil over a large lake that slides serenely through towering pine and fir trees. A glowing image reflects abstractly in the still black water— a fairy, flying. The reflection fades as wings ascend into the dark sky, then she changes course and gradually descends, closer to the water’s surface.
She looks a young girl, a hauntingly beautiful creature but with crimson eyes. She does a double take over her own reflection, as if seeing it for the first time.
She wears an exotic outfit, gold, with an ornate crown and a necklace of glowing colored stones. On her arm is an armlet, on her ankles, decorative anklets. She stares cautiously at her luminescent hand as it touches her red, pounding heart. Blue lungs contract and expand. She can see her blood busily circulating life beneath her skin.
She trembles. Slowly, she embraces herself, with both her luminescent arms, and then she stretches them out like wings and flies away, between mountains dense with tall trees, timber-flanked valleys, and cold, clear streams covered by the veil of darkness. Her long black hair flows to the rhythm of the wind.
Something touches me.
Strands of my hair brush against my face. I feel my heart beat in my chest and my arms stretched outward as if I’m flying.
A dream. Just a dream.
Thanks for sharing about your book, Chanrithy!
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015
I’ve shared my experiences working in Old Main at the University of Arizona. I also had odd experiences working in the Nugent Building next door, which was built in 1937. When my department was moving our offices, I had to visit the storage room in the basement. The fluorescent lights were dim, making the room seem darker than it should have been. I got a strong feeling, like I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t welcome. Unnerved, I grabbed what I needed in a hurry and got out of there.
Later, after carrying a box of supplies to my office on the second floor, I headed downstairs and found myself alone on the first floor. Everyone else had left for the day. I walked down a darkened hallway, lit only by the glow of an exit sign. I could hear my heels clicking on the tile floor. Then I heard a second set of footsteps, like someone was following me. I stopped and looked behind me, but didn’t see anyone.
Sometimes I would work late, and I’d be the only person on the second floor. More than once, I caught a dark shadow out of the corner of my eye, like someone was standing there, watching me. When I would turn my head, there wouldn’t be anyone there, though I could see the faintest afterimage—a fleeting glimpse of a dark figure. I didn’t tell anyone what I was experiencing, but after that, I always kept the lights on when I was there alone.
Then I heard a story from some co-workers whose offices were located in the basement. They told me they had heard strange noises and the electrical equipment—copiers and fax machines—would often malfunction. One woman swore she’d taken a photo and could see the faint image of a person—one that could not be seen with the naked eye.
After a tragedy on campus involving the death of a student, our supervisors decided to have the building blessed. The student had been Native American, and even though she hadn’t died in the building, her loss had a huge impact on the close-knit community. The cleansing ceremony was meant to help everyone heal.
What is weird is that after the smudging ceremony, my co-workers said the strange incidents in the basement stopped, like whatever had been down there was finally gone.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015