I retraced the girl’s steps, my heart pounding, terrified of what I was going to find. Corrine was up to something frightening, something terrible, and it took every last bit of nerve I had in me to continue tracing her. At the end of the hall, there was nothing but one of the school’s heavy metal doors. Corrine had left the school? Well, there was only one way to find out. I moved forward, shoved the heavy door open, and stepped out into the afternoon light.
The doorway leads right out in front of the football field. I couldn’t see Corrine anywhere out on the grassy fields, so she must have turned right somewhere. I started shivering despite the warmth of the afternoon and started to wander around behind the school building. On top of being nothing but a jumbled pile of nerves from the start, I now felt guilty about skipping out on my classes. I prayed Mom wouldn’t find out.
Behind the school were a couple of empty buildings that used to be equipment sheds for the sports teams, but had been abandoned when the school had been remodeled. Nowadays, kids used them for other . . . malicious purposes. Smoking circles and make-out spots were just a few of the classier rumors that I’d heard. Maybe that’s what this was all about. Maybe all I would do when I went in there was waltz in on Corrine and her boyfriend and then make a total fool of myself. But, then again, that didn’t explain how I saw her walk through a wall . . .
I slapped at my cheeks. I’m too scared! I don’t care what the ghost-dream-or-whatever-he-was-boy says; I’m not cut out for this business! I couldn’t even explain why I was concerned for Corrine. I don’t even know her! Still, if she really was doing something dangerous and if I could do something about it but chose to do nothing, I would probably feel guilty for the rest of my life.
I took Dad’s bracelet off and put it in my pocket. I need a little extra help here, Dad.
I moved closer to the first building. It was old and the paint was peeling and looked ominous itself. I went over to one rickety, dusty window and peered inside. It helped that I was so tall; otherwise I would have to stand on my tip-toes. Through the filthy glass, I could make out some of the room within. It was completely empty, though a few cigarette butts littered the ground. Well, I guess that means one of the rumors was true.
The other building was a few feet away. It was in similar disrepair, but a bit smaller and a little more paint was intact. This one had only one window and it was too small and too high for even me to see in easily. I put my fingers on the edge and stood up on my toes. I didn’t see anything except the opposite wall. I bent my knees and hopped an inch off the ground. Nothing. I jumped a bit higher. Natta. On my third jump, I went higher than I meant and managed to see that there was something inside that was more than dust and cigarette butts. Someone had stuffed an old couch there and lying down on it was . . .
I landed back on my feet and hurried for the door of the shed. I grabbed the handle and tugged, but it wouldn’t budge.
“Corrine!” I called, yanking on the door with all my strength. “Corrine! Are you alright in there? Corrine!”
There was no answer. The old door groaned as I pulled on it, the hinges were rusted over. I put one foot on the wall to get some extra strength and continued to pull.
The ruined wood bent and made a frightening splintering noise as I continued to tug on it, but it remained closed. Just as I was going to give up, the latch gave way and the door swung open so violently, that I was thrown backward and landed disgracefully on my butt. I pushed myself up, groaning at the pain and humiliation, but still went inside.
“Corrine? Corrine, are you alright?”
The couch that Corrine was laying one was one of those orange, velvet ones from the 70’s. Moths had been at it and it was torn in places with stuffing leaking out of the gaps, some of which had been clumsily mended with duct tape. Corrine was on her side, with one arm thrown over her eyes. There were iPod headphones in her ears and she looked like she was just sleeping.
Immediately, that chill crawled up my spine again. Something was coming. I turned around and felt my cool shatter like glass, just as it had when I saw that ghost boy.
It was Corrine.
I couldn’t help it. I screamed. My head jerked back and forth, staring at the Corrine standing in the doorway and the Corrine lying asleep on the ancient couch. The Corrine in the door way seemed almost as scared as I was. She just stared at me with her light brown eyes as if I was the ghost! Then she moved toward the version of herself on the couch. She laid her hand on the shoulder of her sleeping self and then . . . she was gone. Not even a millisecond later, the eyes of the sleeping Corrine snapped open and she stared wildly around, yanking the headphones out of her ears. Her eyes found me and she practically threw herself off the couch, away from me.
“Wh-who are you!?” she demanded, still trying to retreat. She tripped and fell over, but kept trying to crawl away. “What are you doing here? How did you get in here!?”
“Wait!” I called, raising my hands in surrender. “I’m sorry! Please, I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m sorry.”
“What are you doing here?” Corrine asked again, still looking horrified.
“I . . . I thought,” I tried, but I found that a proper explanation for my being in here was nowhere in my head. She was right. What the heck was I doing here!? “I . . . I was trying to . . . I . . .”
Corrine stopped in her retreat and stared at me. She seemed to realize that she was in no immediate danger. In the whole of twenty five seconds, her fear turned into anger. “Who are you?” she snapped. “Who do you think you are, butting into other people’s business? How did you find me? Have you been following me? Just who are you!?”
“M-my name is Gina,” I answered numbly, relieved that she’d asked something I could actually answer. “I’m sorry. I . . . I was just . . . I was afraid . . .” I hate stammering. It makes me look so stupid.
“Gina?” Corrine asked, eyeing me with contempt. “Aren’t you one of those girls who dress up like a Goth but really isn’t one?”
“Something like that,” I replied. My voice sounded so small. I felt so stupid!
“What were you doing in here?” Corrine demanded. “Why did you come here?”
I wanted to sink into the floor, become swallowed up, and never be heard from again. But then the ghost flashed through my mind and some nerve returned to me. I stood tall again and looked her right in the face.
“I should be the one asking that,” I said. “What are you doing in here?”
“I was napping!” Corrine snapped. “You scared me half to death, screaming like that. It woke me up. Honestly, a person can’t even get a decent nap in this piece of crap they call a school!”
“That’s not what I saw,” I told her. “What were you doing, for real?”
“What are you talking about?” Corrine countered, her voice rising.
“You’re doing something weird in here,” I said. “I saw the ghost, Corrine.”
“Ghost? What ghost?” she asked, looking at me like I was crazy. “Are you on acid or something?”
“No,” I insisted. “You did something strange. The ghost that’s been going around the school. It looks just like you! You were . . .” Without warning, an idea sprang into my head. A total and completely ludicrous idea, but an idea none-the-less.
“You . . . you are the ghost!” I cried, pointing to her. “You’re leaving your body, aren’t you? But, how can you be a ghost if you’re not dead?”
Corrine’s face went pale and her eyes went very wide. I knew that look. Maggie made that face all the time when she was little, when we caught her doing something she wasn’t supposed to do. The look of a person cornered.
“I . . . I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Corrine snapped, picking up her backpack, which had been sitting on the ground by the couch. “You need help, y’know that? Serious, serious help!”
With that, she stormed away and out of sight, leaving me alone in the rotten, creaky shed with nothing but the moldy old couch and a nasty smell that might have been cat urine. All I could think of was who need the help more, me or Corrine?
I barely said a word to Ria on the way home after school. Lucky for me, she was in one of her moods today and was ranting about Mr. Walters and whoever was threatening her precious Aquadeus. All I had to do was throw in an occasionally “hm” or “yeah” or “you’re right” to make it look like I really was listening. When she dropped me off at my house, I got away without her realizing that something was wrong. I felt bad. I didn’t like hiding things from my best friend.
I went inside and headed straight for my room and flopped onto my bed. My confrontation with Corrine still rang in my head. I didn’t know how she could do it, but Corrine was somehow managing to leave her body and wander around like a ghost. Only I could see her when she was like that and now she knew I could. None of it made sense. I was still mulling over the dark, confusing thoughts when I was scared nearly out of my mind by a voice behind me.
“You found the girl, right? That’s good.”
I immediately started to suffer a heart attack then twisted around in my bed to see I was no longer alone in my room. The ghost boy was back.
“You!” I yelled. “What are you doing here? Leave me alone!”
“I can’t help it,” said Aaron, shrugging. “Where else am I supposed to go? You’re the only one who can see me in this town, remember?”
He sounded depressed. As my anger and fear drifted away, I noticed that he looked different than the last time. He looked wispier and I could see through him more clearly than before.
“Are . . . are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said with a sigh. “I’m just weak.”
“That’s all I can be,” said Aaron, raising his own mostly transparent hand. “Ghosts run off energy just like living people. We get weak if we don’t have energy and start to dissipate.”
“You’re . . . dying?” I asked, feeling a little sorry for him. Is that weird? Feeling sorry for a ghost? Or was the fact that I was even talking to him weird?
Aaron fixed me with a withering look. “How exactly am I supposed to die?” he asked. “I’m already dead.”
“Oh, right,” I said, awkwardly.
“I just need to Recreate,” he explained. “It’s kinda like a ghost-version of sleep.”
“Something like it,” Aaron said. “We kinda stop . . . being for awhile and take some time to take in energy from the surrounding area. Most ghosts Recreate during the day. Since the sun is out, there’s more energy to be absorbed. But it can make the area where we’re taking energy from get really cold, so humans can sometimes feel it when we take the energy. They call it ‘cold spots’ or something like that.”
“I never knew,” I said, dazed and slightly interested in this new scrap of information.
“Not many do,” Aaron admitted.
“Well, anyway,” I said. “Wh-what are you doing here?”
“Conformation,” said the ghost, lightly. He was getting less and less solid with every passing second.
“Conformation of what?” asked I.
“That you’ve seen the girl,” Aaron said. “The one who has been taking field trips outside her body.”
I gasped. “How do you know about Corrine?”
“She’s the reason I came to this town,” said Aaron. “I got wind of an Inhuman Entity around that girl and I have to stop it before it does some real damage.”
“What’s a . . . uh, that?” I asked, unable to keep up with his random talk.
“They’re what we’re trying to fight,” Aaron said, a dark look flashing in his young eyes. “They’re evil spirits. Dark creatures that enjoy causing harm to others.”
“You mean bad ghosts?” I asked.
“No,” said Aaron. “They’re not ghosts. Ghosts were alive once. Entities were never alive. It’s hard to describe. Father Harrison can do it better than I can.”
“Evil spirits that never lived,” I muttered aloud, trying to make it make sense in my head. “That’s scary to . . . Hey! Did you say that one of those things is after Corrine?!”
“I did,” said Aaron, his voice becoming very distant. “If she keeps . . . leaving her body . . . her soul will be . . . vulnerable . . . for the . . . Entity to . . . attack . . .”
“Aaron!” I cried. I reached my hand out to him, but it went right through him. I couldn’t feel anything, either. The only thing to indicate that the ghost was sitting there was the fact that the area was about five degrees colder than the rest of the room.
“Fine . . .” Aaron said, now sounding like he was half a mile away. “Just going . . . to Recreate . . . Gina . . . you have to stop . . . that girl. . . . If she keeps . . . this up . . . then she’ll . . . she . . .”The ghost didn’t finish what he was saying. He disappeared completely and I once again felt alone in my room.