I wanted to follow the mysterious girl but in my weak state, I collapsed onto the bed and fell into a dreamless sleep. The next few weeks went normally with similar occasional nightmares and I tried to find the ghostly girl again but she was never there. Axel had steered clear off me but I could sense his gaze on me sometimes, as if he were trying to solve a puzzle from afar.
Mrs. D’onofrio, on the other hand, tried to converse with me many times, mainly asking about my mental health which was probably to make sure I didn’t need another psychiatrist. She was also extra irritable and argued with almost every orphan twice in a week. I had heard her grumbling about not able to find something but dismissed it as her crazy rambling.
A month after Axel had been in my room, I sat on the bed with headphones plugged in staring at my mathematics book and trying to concentrate on the trigonometry questions when suddenly the door slammed opened and their stood the identical female twin of Axel Merlyn. Ariel Merlyn had the same glittering emerald eyes and jet black hair, but her big eyes were more of a turquoise color and her hair fell in waves till her waist. She was a beautiful girl, with a button nose and perfectly shaped lips. The only flaw the girl had was her inability to speak but she showed no sign of her problem with it, in fact she was the only girl in the whole orphanage who smiled through every situation.
I was glad it wasn’t any other kid standing at my door especially her brother but her usually calm face was turned up in worry, wrinkles creasing her forehead and her mouth turned down into a frown. She quickly signed me something in ASL language but when I sat there like a dumb person unable to comprehend her actions, she sighed in frustration and took out a mobile on which she continued to type out a message before striding towards me and holding up the phone for me to see.
Have you seen Axel?
My eyebrows furrowed in confusion and I shook my head in answer which just made Ariel appear even more worried.
“Don’t worry about him, Ariel. He’s probably out for a walk or something.” I tried to comfort her but my words just seemed to make it worse. She waved me goodbye and left the room, walking stiffly.
I tried to concentrate back on my work but thoughts about Axel kept roaming in my mind so I shut my book and music player, leaning back on the headboard with my eyes shut. For eleven years, I had lived here, seeing things nobody else could and the only one to have remained here for so long. Other orphans came and went, none of them staying for long except for Axel and Ariel. All of them had dark pasts that nobody discussed but everyone knew.
The town kids called us freaks, not bothering to hide their obvious hatred for us. There were only some kids who didn’t care about such things and two of them had become my closest friends. I sighed, thinking about the people I had encountered in these eleven years. I had learned to ignore things that made no sense, even the ones which negatively affected me after all there was nothing I could do except move on with my life.
The bed suddenly creaked as I felt someone sit down in front of me and my eyes fluttered open to see Axel sitting there, looking at me like a scientist inspecting a new species. I didn’t say anything, staying in my position as we both stared at each other until Axel sighed and ran a hand through his tousled hair.
“I have to talk to you about something.” He said in his deep voice, answering my unsaid question. When I nodded for him to continue, he blew through his lips in frustration. “Your name….”
I froze, not ready to believe that he knew. How could he when nobody else did? He noticed my posture and his eyes narrowed, turning into slits.
“Jade Orphelia….” I stated stiffly, looking him straight in the eye as he shook his head and smiled bitterly.
“Your full name, Jade” He said even though his face told me he already knew the answer.
“Why?” I asked, still confused about how he could know.
“It’s Felicia Jade Orphelia, isn’t it?” He said, emphasizing on the first name and giving me a scrutinizing glare. I nodded back, not willing to let my tumble of emotions show. His eyes flared up in anger and his face became expressionless as his eyes roamed my face. He opened his mouth to speak again but I cut him off, demanding him to leave my room. “Last I checked, this was my room and right now I don’t want you in it so kindly, go bother someone else with your brooding stares.”
“Oh and Ariel is looking for you.” I added. He gave me one last glare before standing up and leaving the room, his foot falls slowly fading away. I straightened up and opened up my side drawer, pulling out the pages I was looking for. The first page had a black and white picture of Old Nick’s Orphanage.
At the age of fifteen, when the only psychiatrist I had opened up to left suddenly, I had a breakdown. I cried until there were no more tears left and my pillow was soaked. With stinging eyes, I had sneaked down to the library, ignoring the moving silhouettes in the shadows as I booted up one of the two ancient computers placed there. In a moment of determination, I had searched about the horrifying history of Old Nick’s Orphanage. I had always thought it was a haunted building and due to my weak and vulnerable state, I was the best target for the ghosts which explained why I had nightmares.
But what I found that night before Mrs. D’onofrio stopped me still haunted me to this day. The most peculiar part was that nobody in Old Nick even knew about what I found and when I tried to tell Cara about it, she waved it away. It was like someone or something made them unaware of the brutal killings that had happened in this small town.
And now Axel Merlyn was another person who knew, Maybe Ariel as well since she had come to search for Axel in my room. I knew they would come to ask me questions, questions I knew no answers of. But the question that swirled in my brain was why. Why would they search the history? Why would they be interested in it? Why weren’t they ignoring it like everyone else in this cursed town? After all, in today’s world, people would consider them nothing more than mere coincidences. They might find them creepy but they would dismiss them due to their inability to comprehend that which they are not ready to know. I sighed once again and placed the pages back into the drawer, I wasn’t ready to reopen those wounds yet.
Dinner at Old Nick’s Orphanage was supposed to be a time for all the kids to come out of their rooms and get together to interact with each other, however nobody thought of it like that. Most of them just came, filled up their plate with whatever was in dinner and retreated back to their room. I was one of them; I wasn’t keen to interact with kids especially the younger ones who always wanted to know about my nightmares.
So when I went down to get food and a water bottle, I was surprised to see that everyone was sitting at the table with Mrs. D’onofrio sitting at the head of it. She never had dinner with us. When I entered the room, it was too late to turn back as everyone looked up at me. Some of the kids gave me sympathetic smiles while others grinned at me for becoming one of the victims like them. Mrs. D’onofrio gestured at me to take a seat. Her lips were turned up into a smile yet there was certain hollowness in her expression.
The dinner was silent. The little kids ate quietly in the keeper’s presence and quickly went into the lounge to continue their games while the teenagers like me avoided each other by pretending to be busy on their mobiles. I had, unfortunately, forgotten my gadget upstairs so I had only food to concentrate on. I felt eyes on me and I looked up to see two pairs of green eyes observing me. Ariel looked at me with pity, remorse and bewilderment while Axel only showed anger and hatred; Hatred that I couldn’t understand. I looked away, concentrating on my food when suddenly a piercing scream went through my brain making me gasp out loud and grab the sides of the table tightly. I squeezed my eyes shut, the scream still echoing in my mind. The room was silent, not even a peep could be heard and I slowly opened my eyes to see everyone staring at me. Without a word, I got up, my eyes stinging with unshed tears while I made my way out of the room. Just before I left, my eyes met with Mrs. D’onofrio whose expression only reflected merriment and enjoyment.
Instead of going upstairs, I walked into the backyard, a gush of cold air hitting me when I exited the backdoor. I tilted my head back, looking up at the sky to clear the tears away. I had wasted a lot of tears before and I wasn’t going to now, not anymore. From inside, I could hear the little kids telling each other stories about me and my ‘condition’. I had learned to ignore this, the constant whispering, the disgusted yet curious looks because after all they were right, I was a freak but I hadn’t asked to be one.
I kept looking up at the stars shining away in the sky, blocking out the muttering of the children as I inhaled the fresh air. My eyes wandered down, staring at the shady forest in front of me, the trees swayed in the light cool breeze, their leaves rustling together, disturbing the peace of the night. I remained there, letting the air whip through my air and I heard the kids get up and make their way up stairs. Mrs. D’onofrio told the kids to go to bed and they did, their feet pattering lightly on the old wooden floor boards, they all slept in one room like I used to.
Every new kid had nightmares so they all slept together to not feel as alone and scared as they would in a private room. My arrival was no different but after my bloodcurdling screams in the middle of the night; Mrs. D’onofrio had transferred me into my current room, telling me to be a good girl while her eyes glittered maliciously in the dim light. Those nights I didn’t sleep, afraid of the nightmares I woke up screaming from but never remembered. The kids I met in my first week disappeared slowly, leaving the house where at night my screams roamed the halls like ghosts.
People said it was because of the manner of my parent’s death but I knew it wasn’t I always knew there was something, something stuck to me, leading me to places I didn’t want to go. At the age of thirteen when I had learned how to use the internet, I searched my symptoms and most of the results were related to my mental health. I tried to find a doctor, I tried to get someone to stop the dreams, the visions, the shadows but Mrs. D’onofrio discouraged me, she told me it won’t help. Her reassurance always had an underlying threat, and it scared me, it still did.
I hadn’t realized that I had shut my eyes until I heard a twig break and my eyes snapped open. Instead of an animal, I saw the same pale ghostly girl standing in front of me. From a shorter distance I could see her more clearly. She wasn’t a ghost, but she wasn’t human either. Her features were visible yet it was as if I was watching a character from a silent black and white movie; the color drained from her being. Her eyes studied me, I could say they were emotionless but they weren’t, they were full of bemusement, observing my each breath as if waiting for me to turn and run, challenging me to act like any other human would but I stood, staring back at the figure. The girl’s figure acted like a glitch yet she didn’t fully disappear for even a second.
Shorter than me in height and body, she still made a chill go through my body and I shivered. After a while, her eyes flashed golden and she raised her hand, motioning me with her finger to follow her. That’s when I realized the silence that had taken over the night, the trees swayed yet there was no rustling, I stepped forward but the grass didn’t crunch beneath my feet. It was as if the whole world had been muted by someone while I stood there, looking at the inhuman entity in front of me. She turned around, her lips twitching up into a knowing smirk as she walked towards the woods. I followed without question, my feet moving without my consent.
She floated soundlessly into the woods as I followed her, my eyes fixed on the translucent figure. My eyes watered but I didn’t dare to blink, fearing that I might lose sight of the ghostly girl. When I stepped into the trees, a wave of cold air came; making me shudder and the sounds of the world became clear again. The trees rustled loudly as the breeze started blowing more quickly.
The girl, turned and her golden eyes sparkled as she smiled gently, urging me to join her so I did. Nervousness churned in the pit of my stomach and I felt cold but there wasn’t a hint of fear in my body. I didn’t feel terrified of the girl like I did with the creatures who visited me often in my dreams. Her lips moved but I couldn’t figure out what she said. She raised her hand and gestured me to come closer. I hesitated, suddenly unsure and scared of what could happen but then a sense of determination took over as I realized that I had been through the worse kind of mental torture thanks to my nightmares so this couldn’t possibly be worse than that.
The leaves crunched under my feet as I took steps towards her, stopping right in front of her. Her eyes studied me curiously as I stood there the wind blowing around me, whipping through my hair. Her figure circled me, not touching until she was standing in front me again, her face betraying none of her emotions. I opened my mouth to say something when her hands landed on my shoulders and a cold shudder went through me, it was like a crackle of electricity and everything went black.
I thought I had fainted but instead a picture took shape in front of me. It was still night, but the weather was gloomy, lightning struck in the dark clouds above where the sky had been clear a few minutes ago. I tried to move but I couldn’t. The scene got clearer and I realized I was standing on the road, right in the middle.
A woman stumbled out from the trees, her appearance disheveled. In the dim moonlight I could hardly make out her features, there were leaves in her hair and her clothes were torn at some places. She stood in her place on the cemented road, her sobs erupting through the silence of the night. The clouds thundered above and a second later, the pitter patter of rain could be heard all around. I felt the droplets land on my skin, sliding down yet I kept my attention on the woman in front of me. The lightning struck again and suddenly two lights appeared, coming towards us at fast speed. The rain fell more heavily and I tried to warn the woman to move back but no sound came out. I stood halted in my place, feeling helpless by the second, dread churning inside of me. The lights kept coming, and the dread spread through my whole body as the lights illuminated the woman.
She was in her late thirties with short dirty blonde hair with leaves and twigs stuck in them. She turned towards me, her eyes looking straight at me. Emerald, her eyes were emerald. The shade similar to the eye colors of the two orphans currently residing in the same house as me.
Trepidation spread through my whole being as I realized what I was witnessing and in a split second, the woman flung herself in front of the car. The squeal of car breaks came just before her body hit the bonnet of the car, and the crunch of her bones echoed through the night. From my position, I could see her skull smash against the cement floor, her eyes void of any living signs as the scent of her dark blood mixed with the rain water.
My throat felt dry, my eyes stung from what I had seen and my breath was coming in pants due to the clenching of my heart in my chest. I thought that was it, but what happened next made my half eaten dinner rise in my stomach. The car drove right over her, the whole weight of the car passing over the woman. I felt sick, my ears echoing from the bone crunching sounds. A scream crawled up my throat and finally I let it out, screaming into the night while tears made their way down my cheeks, mixing with the rain drops. I squeezed my eyes shut, my head pounding painfully.
I was back. I was back in the forest, with no signs of rain on me and I was staring at the golden eyed girl whose face only reflected sadness and a hint of anger. My face felt wet from crying and my breathing hadn’t slowed down. I backed away from the girl, turning around and running straight for the house. I ignored the eerie greeting that went through my head when I entered; instead I ran straight upstairs to my room and locked my door. I was still crying as I slid down to the floor with my back against the door. I hugged my knees to my chest and buried my head between them. I was shivering, my emotions swirling inside me but one thing stood out, the one thing I was sure of.
I had just seen the death of the Merlyn sibling’s mother and it hadn’t been a suicide like we were made to believe so.