In peaceful suburbia, a family moves into a well-kept two-storey, three-bedroom home. Husband, wife, and two boys get some help moving and unpacking boxes from the local church.
One woman, old and corvid, relates to the wife the story of the last family who lived in this home. "Secular heathens, they was. Never gone to church. Maybe for Christmas, maybe Easter, but no more. They got God angered, is what they did. Came down on that family with all His fury."
A man, young and sightly, tells the husband in an almost-whisper, "Did they ever tell you about the folks who lived here before? Not really churchgoers, but a good bunch, sir. Had a little girl, a real clever one. They got scared out, though. Some infestation, I heard. Roaches or some crap, I don't know. You better keep an eye out, sir."
When it began, it was easy enough to dismiss. Photos on walls and tables were rearranged. Lights turning on when nobody was supposed to be awake. Stick figures drawn onto the walls with crayon. The husband and wife presumed it was their mischievous boys, up to no good, as they always have been, in spite of their protests.
It got worse. It got much worse. Husband and wife decide to call over the pastor. The pastor, seated on their couch with a coffee between his hands, says, "I don't rightly know. You sure it's not just your boys playing tricks on you?"
The wife insists, "No, no, it's not them. They're as scared as me and Cole. I don't think they could move around the furniture if they tried, anyhow."
The pastor contemplates. "You know, I saw once on TV that a family'd been sharing their house with a vagrant and they'd never even known it. He lived in the attic and only came out when everybody was away or sleeping. Kind of explains the excrement on the walls, too, if you think about it."
The husband says, "I've been over every inch of this damn house. There's nobody here I don't know about. I can guarantee it."
The wife adds, "The doors are the worst part. It scares the lights out of me. They slam closed even when we're all together in a room and there's no way any one of us is doing it." She hesitates. "It's like we're being haunted by demons, Pastor."
"You know my church don't condone talking about demons that way. Angels in heaven, demons in hell, and man on Earth. And that's that." He shakes his head reproachfully. And he leaves them, refusing to give real thought to what the family told him. It just doesn't rightly make sense, does it?
A few days after the talk with the pastor, the wife is putting her boys to sleep. She sits on the chair between their beds and prays. As she concludes with "Amen", the lights shut off. All the lights in the house. She hears her boys giggling, even while she watches them squirm with fear; it takes her only a moment to understand that the noise isn't coming from her boys at all. The doors have all opened, the windows have shattered, and the wind is bursting through the rooms and the hallways like so many flutes and whistles.
It stops abruptly. The husband appears in the doorway with a furious, panicked look in his eyes. He doesn't even stop to ask if his wife and boys are okay. He has had enough. He storms to the telephone, and he calls the police.
On a desk in a compound in the basement of an unassuming building, a telephone chirps madly. A woman, wearing the years on her face like a tree wears bark, extinguishes a cigarette and answers.
"Yeah. This is Val."
Moments later, Val enters an elevator with four uniformed operatives. They disembark into a garage and board a van with the logo of an electrical company on its side. The driver acknowledges them with a nod, then transports them across winding roads to a two-storey, three-bedroom home in peaceful suburbia with demolished windows and an overgrown lawn and a half-dozen loitering police officers.
Val meets the officer in charge, a moustached man built like a sheaf of paperwork. "Tell me what you've got."
The officer in charge has seldom felt so out of his depth. When he turns to answer Val he finds himself squinting into the floodlights he had deployed around the house. He says, "Who're you?"
Val flashes a badge qualifying her as a member of the state police. "My name is Valerie. We're taking over here."
He clears his throat. Says, "We got a scared family and an allegedly haunted house, ma'am. The last family was apparently having some trouble, too, but nothing like this. A few hours ago the husband called and told us all the windows broke. Said they'd been seeing weird shit in their house for a while now."
"Like pictures or writing on the walls?"
The officer flips through a notepad, nodding. "Crayon drawings, a couple of times, that the boys wouldn't admit to having made. Some drawings in shit, too, though that they cleaned off."
"Furniture moving around?"
"Yeah, we heard that, too. Where's this going?"
Val asks, "Temperature changes?"
"Blood coming out the faucets?"
"I'm sorry, ma'am, I don't understand what you're getting at."
Val says, "Well? Was there blood?"
The officer gapes, then in response to Val's glare he flips through the notebook. "No, not that I know of."
She calls back to the van, "We're good for entry, let's go!" The four operatives approach her. The officer strains to eavesdrop while she tells the operatives, "Probably a code three haunter, but could be natural. Rule out ETs before we proceed with negotiation." Then, to the officer: "Did the family talk about any one place of the house like the most of the incidents took place there?"
"I guess," the officer answers after a pause. "They said a lot of it happened in their boys' bedroom. We found drawings in there, family said the boys didn't make them." He pointed a finger at one of the shattered windows on the upper floor. "That room, there."
Val nods. To the operatives: "So the bedroom is the probable nexus. I'll come in behind you all. If the circumstance deviates from protocol, you let me do the talking. Understood?"
In unison, "Understood, boss." The operatives take flashlights and thermal cameras and an ensemble of other equipment from their laden belts, then Val follows them in through the front door. The officer in charge stares after them. Then, in an attempt to make himself useful, he rallies the other officers on the scene and instructs them to make doubly sure that nobody unauthorized gets onto the property.
The operatives, Bailey, Gordon, Samuel, and Garcia arrive in the foyer, followed by Val. Val flips light switches in a row by the door until the ground floor and staircase in front of them are brightly illuminated.
They ascend the staircase and creep through the hall, to the children's bedroom. Bailey, with white-blonde fuzz shaved almost to her scalp, watches their route through expanded-spectrum cameras. Gordon, whose spindly frame might as well be sewn into his aged uniform, watches a temperamental Geiger counter. Samuel, disapproval etched permanently into the creases of his eyes and mouth, monitors the activity heard by infrasonic and ultrasonic microphones. Garcia, jet-black beard crawling over his face like iron shavings on a magnet, leads the way, with a floor plan of the house displayed on a tablet.
"I'm picking up infrasound," Samuel reports. "Looks like a haunter."
"I can corroborate that," says Bailey. "I'm not seeing any thermal signatures, ET or otherwise."
"Could be stealth," Garcia suggests.
Gordon says, "Not with rads this low, it couldn't be."
"Definitely a haunter, then?" Val asks. "Samuel?"
"It's getting louder as we approach the nexus. Whatever it is, it's in there."
They come upon the bedroom door, shut tight. Garcia takes a deep breath before easing it open but, before he opens it far, the hallway light flickers and dies. The operatives' flashlights follow, and they are enveloped in darkness. A sliver of moonlight intrudes upon the hallway, projected through the partially-open door.
Val ignites a cigarette. "Come on, let's get some light." The operatives take compact gas lanterns from their belts. Garcia attempts to turn on his tablet, but the screen remains dark.
The door creaks open, and the light from the lanterns reveals a shadow standing in the center of the bedroom. Samuel disentangles an audio cable and connects the infrasound mic to a speaker. The voice, even with its frequency elevated well into the range of human hearing, is as deep and chasmic as Lucifer's own laughter.
The shadow says, "Get the fuck out of my house."
Garcia steps into the bedroom. "We're not here to hurt you." He takes a moment to gauge the shadow's reaction and, deciding it's willing to listen, continues: "The family who lives here is scared. We want to help. We want to help them, and we want to help you. Okay?"
From Samuel's speaker, a noise like a threatened animal's growl.
Garcia says, "Can you tell us who you are?"
"I am The One Who Shits. The family who lives here is mine. You cannot have them. Return them to me at once."
Garcia looks back at Val for confirmation, and she gives a subtle nod. He says, "The One Who Shits, the family here acts disrespectfully because they don't understand who you are. I will be honest: They never will. They are only scared. Do you understand?"
The voice barks, "I understand that you are intruding on what is mine."
"We can give you another family. One that will understand and appreciate you."
"No." The shadow grows larger, closer. "This family is mine. They will come to understand. I will make them understand!"
Val comes into the room and stands beside Garcia. They exchange a meaningful look. "The One Who Shits. Did you choose that name for yourself?"
The shadow stops where it is. It trembles, as if in frustration. "What? Why?"
Val drops her cigarette and stamps it out. She says, "It's stupid."
A roar: "What?"
"You heard what I said. Maybe you're terrorizing the families here because you're embarrassed by your name. Maybe you're scared they'll hear what it is. The One Who Shits. Fucking ridiculous." She says, "Garcia, did you ever hear of a haunter called The One Who Shits?"
Garcia says, "No, boss."
"I've heard of The One Who Fucks Corpses, and The One Who Never Calls Back. Vile, terrifying names. But The One Who Shits, that's just a fucking disgrace."
"Stop." The voice demands, "Stop it."
Val says to Gordon, without looking back at him, "You still got comms with the officers outside?"
"Of course," Gordon answers.
"Why don't you tell them the presence that's been fucking with this home has a name."
Gordon speaks into a radio, "Am I speaking to the officer in charge? Over."
The radio crackles back, "Yessir. Who's this? Over."
"I'm in the house. We found the—"
Gordon is interrupted by a gale tearing through the house. The infrasound speaker becomes an echo of what the operatives are hearing in the wind, with their own ears. "What the fuck do you want, you fucking assholes?"
Val braces herself against the wind and demands, "We're taking you from this house and putting you in another one. I don't care if you like it or not but, incidentally, you will. The new home will have a new family and they won't hate you. Now cut this shit out, The One Who Shits, or I'll authorize Bailey here to use force." Bailey grins sadistically and pulls free a device that was held on her back. It resembles a rifle, but has too many appendages and perturbances to plausibly fire anything so harmless as bullets.
The gale subsides.
The officer comes in over the radio, frantic. "Hello? Are you still there? We saw shit flying out some windows. What's your status?"
Val watches the shadow placidly.
"Don't," the voice says. It almost sounds meek.
Gordon says to the radio, "We're fine. Give us a few minutes. Over."
Val says, "Bailey, find the vessel and let's get out of here." Bailey reholsters her monstrous firearm and confronts the shadow. She looks around the room, scans the ceiling, and then checks under the boys' beds.
"I got some loose floorboards here," she reports.
Gordon comes to her side and waves the Geiger counter over the beds. "Looks right."
Val, the other operatives, and the shadow watch while Bailey and Gordon move one of the beds clear. Bailey wedges her gloved hands into the spaces between floorboards and tears one off, revealing a slender rectangle of darkness. She moves her lantern closer, pushing some light into the space.
Bailey says, "We got the vessel, boss."
The shadow flickers, the lights come on, and the infrasound speaker falls silent.
Val and her operatives exit the house, with Bailey holding an urn that looks like it could be centuries old. The officer in charge hurries toward them. "What happened? What happened in there?"
"Nothing you need to worry about," Val answers. "Tell the family to fix their windows and the floor in the children's bedroom. Things should be normal after that."
"Ma'am, we heard noises." The officer says, "You're not state police, are you? What the fuck is a haunter?"
Val shrugs and walks on, but Samuel lingers behind. He says, "You know spiders? Centipedes? Scary little things, but really they're good to have around. They get rid of more bothersome pests. A haunter's like that. Can even be friendly if you let it. Only really gets aggressive if you ignore or annoy it, like this family did."
"More bothersome pests?" The officer's eyes are wide with fear of the implications.
"I mean like snakes and rats, that sort of shit. Home invaders, should you be so unfortunate." Samuel laughs. "What did you think I meant?" He catches up with the rest of the team and gets into the van.
Elsewhere in peaceful suburbia, Bailey's SUV pummels the gravel in the driveway of her home. She parks and carefully retrieves the urn from the back of the SUV. When she comes to the front door of her home, it opens to reveal her waiting husband. Their daughter squeezes out the door and embraces Bailey, who curses when she nearly drops the urn.
They go into the house and Bailey is hounded with questions regarding the nature of the urn, from both hubsand and daughter.
"Honey, what's that? Is that an urn?"
"It's an urn. It's also a haunter, who'll be staying with us now. You know Samuel? He fucking loves The One Who Fucks Corpses. Took care of his roach infestation almost overnight."
"Mama, what's a corpse?"
"I'll tell you when you're older."
"Honey, I'm not sure this is a good idea. What will the kids at school say?"
"I don't know, they'll probably think Sammy has an imaginary friend or something. It'll be fine."
"Mama, what's a haunter?"
"It's kind of like a guard dog, but smarter, and stronger. And invisible."
"Honey, isn't this dangerous? Can it hurt us?"
"A guard dog could hurt us, too. Doesn't mean it will, just means you shouldn't piss it off."
"Mama, how smart?"
"Real smart. I'm sure the two of you will make great friends."
"Honey, I'm not sure about this."
Bailey sets the urn, the vessel containing the essence of The One Who Shits, on top of the fireplace, and invites the haunter into her home.