Chapter Two, Part One
“Ryder?” My Eomma woke me up gently for once at 7 am on Monday morning. I stretched and rubbed my eyes so I could see her perched on the side of my bed.
“Where am I?” I yawned.
“Home,” She chuckled. “Your Appa is going to get Zack up so you can go get a nice shower before school,” She told me. He had got the week off so we could spend some more time together and talk to the doctor about getting me an appointment. “Don’t waste this son, and don’t forget to come to me later to get your lunch money. Also, I have something you need to go give Elsa before you go to school.”
“Really? What?” I asked, and got out of bed.
“Mandu,” She replied.
“You made dumplings for her?!” I exclaimed in Korean as she left the room. She made her my favourite food?!
“They are vegetarian, and I made you some too. You can have them tonight for dinner,” She called back and I sighed, resting a hand on my chest before I left it on my bed then grabbed my towel.
My shower was just what I needed, and I would get up early every day to shower if I didn’t love sleep so much. My daily routine of getting ready was a breeze, and not even Eomma’s impatient voice telling Zack to get ready could put a damper on things. I looked cool in my jeans, red and blue flannel shirt with long sleeves, and a black t-shirt that had a bad-ass sword-wielding character from one of my favourite zombie games too who was my age and like me in the zombie apocalypse always had a filled-up backpack on her back. When I went downstairs, I was as quiet as a mouse because my Appa gets really pissed off at noise or someone talking to him while he is making a call. I could hear him in his study as I crept down the hall to the kitchen.
While getting my breakfast, I noticed a Tupperware box holding the delicious food with a post-it note saying ‘For Elsa, not Ryder’ on the lid. I groaned, throwing my head back and whispered ‘why’ but still I knew to wait for dinner. I’d be thinking about them all day though.
“Okay, we have an appointment!” Appa called coming out of his study while I finished my cereal.
“Thank goodness, what day?” Eomma asked as she and Zack came downstairs.
“Friday, four-thirty in the afternoon,” Appa replied. That was good, but homework would have to be put back to the weekend. “I will take him if you can’t get time off work,”
“No, I will make sure I get it from them. They owe me for all the overtime,” Eomma replied putting Zack into a chair. “You got all your books and homework Ryder?”
“Err…pass,” I chuckled. She tutted, then pointed towards the stairs.
“Get it now,” She told me and I did as she told me, after putting my bowl in the sink. I got my English and Music homework from off my desk but was stopped when I heard some voices from across the street. I looked up and instantly smiled when I saw who was talking.
Eleanor McBurnett, the prettiest and coolest girl in my year. She and her family came from Colorado in middle school. She’s blonde, likes lots of the video games I like, has an adorable laugh and smile, is smart and good with computers, is really nice and chilled out with everyone unless they give her a reason not to be, and I may or may not have a huge crush on her. Only my parents and Alisha know, and every time they see her and I’m around they go out of their way to either talk to her or try to get me to talk to her. Every time I do, I just end up making zero sense. Seriously, I will say the most random shit to this girl because just her looking at me for a second makes my mind go faster than an x wing fighter jet and my mouth just spits out that garbage. Thankfully she finds it funny and doesn’t make fun of me. I was so busy admiring her while she walked down the street with her friend Jasmine, that I nearly didn’t hear Eomma calling to me.
“Coming!” I called back then looked down at my Grandfather’s pendent. “Please, give me the willpower to say something that makes sense,” I whispered in Korean then put everything into my bag and rushed downstairs with it again. I put on my jacket then bag before going back into the kitchen to get the box of food and to say bye to my family. I put on my sneakers in the hallway and was out the door quickly stuffing the Tupperware box into my bag.
“Hey, Ryder!” I stopped at the end of the driveway and looked up to see Eleanor smiling at me from across the street. Jasmine was vibing to some music from her phone as she strolled down the street.
“H-hey…” My face couldn’t move and my jaw hung open.
“You on the way to school?” She asked me crossing the street to me.
“Err…” Come on you big idiot! Speak! “Yeah,” I replied while shaking my head no. She frowned a little and glanced at the box of food.
“Oooo what you got there?” She asked pointing one of her thin fingers.
“Oh, this? It’s for a f-friend…A friend I need to go g-give it to now,” I stuttered. At least I wasn’t slipping into broken languages she couldn’t understand.
“Are you going to school? You don’t look or sound too good,” She replied. She sounded really concerned, but little did she know she was the cause of me being like this.
“Yes! I am!” I shook my head no again then cursed myself in Korean before I cleared my throat to start again. Come on Grandfather, or whoever is watching this extremely cringey show from up there, help me out! “I’m fine, just tired. I had some serious stuff going on with my family at the weekend,”
“Oof, I can relate, and I feel tired too,” She told me.
“Really? You look like a Sim that just got created,” I told her and she chuckled.
“Thanks, but I feel like a Sim with all its needs in the negative,” She replied, resting her hands in her jacket pockets.
“Really? Is death gonna appear and leave a little tombstone or urn behind?” I asked looking side to side. Instead of laughing though she just glanced down glumly at the ground.
“No, but a-” she stopped then shook her head and said never mind readjusting her bag strap. It felt like a cry for help but before I could say she could tell me I instantly felt this rush of coldness shoot through my body. It didn’t hurt, but it brought with it what I could only call a presence that wasn’t me or Eleanor or anyone in the neighbourhood. It carried with it the scent of stale and dry earth, and I also saw from Eleanor an almost transparent blueish grey coloured wavy line going across the street and back the way she came. The scent and coldness went with it. “You should get to your friend; I’ll see you in school?”
“Err, yeah. See you,” I waved goodbye again, probably looking like a big idiot and watched her walk away. The line followed her, but as she got further and further from me with each step it started to fade away. When I looked back up the street, I saw the line still but it was also starting to fade. Thankfully that was the way I needed to go to get to Elsa’s shop. I cautiously followed the line, zipping up my bag after I put the box in and put it over my shoulders. The line, when I tried to reach out and touch it, would vanish, but I still felt cold spots on the ends of my fingertips. When I got out of my neighbourhood it vanished, but I was sure that Eleanor once mentioned she lived around here. I just didn’t know where. I know that whatever this was I had to mention it to Elsa. I strode quickly to the shop.
When I arrived, it was open, and Elsa was cleaning the front glass panel on the door. I heard some soul music coming from inside, not something I’d expected from her, and when I approached the door, she was wiping away at it.
“Hello! You came back!” She exclaimed then opened the door. “Come in, come in,” She ushered and I went in and slowly pulled off my backpack while she turned the music down. “I did not expect you this morning, what about school?”
“I’m on my way. Eomma wanted me to give you this,” I said unzipping my bag to pull out the box. “It is veggie mandu. My favourite,” I told her bitterly smiling as she took it from me and took off the lid. She let out a gleeful gasp and smiled widely.
“I have not had Korean food in so long! How kind of her!” She exclaimed.
“She’s not that kind. She sent me to give it to you and said I couldn’t have any,” I scoffed resting up against the counter with my arms crossed. “Also, before I go I wanna ask you about something I saw not long ago,” She nodded. I then explained to her what I saw with Eleanor, I left out the part about my feelings for her though. After all this, she hummed in thought.
“It sounds like something ghost-related. She could have a spirit following her, she could have been somewhere that had a lot of spiritual energy that was still lingering around her, she may have even been somewhere that was haunted by a restless spirit,” Every time she said “spirit”, I got more and more scared shitless.
“S-spirits as in Ghosts?” I asked and she nodded twice.
“Are you scared of ghosts dear?” She asked me and I nodded ashamed. “That is why you reacted like you did to Hanz,”
“That and I thought my head was going to explode,” Just as he was mentioned my bag jolted slightly making me jump away from it and stumble. I didn’t fall though and I saw Hanz standing near the door to the study hallway. “I don’t mind you now Hanz,” I told him then he ran off laughing like a normal kid his age would do while playing.
“Looking back at your hallucinations, do think many of them were ghosts?” Elsa asked me and I shrugged.
“There was a lot of appearing and disappearing, loud noises, them doing stuff a kid shouldn’t do, coldness, and once I even got grabbed by one,” I explained. I always thought the hallucinations that did those things were ghosts. No one believed me of course, but nevertheless, they left me with phasmophobia.
“I am sorry to hear you went through that Ryder. If it make you feel better, you will learn how to defend yourself from dangerous ghosts. In fact, you can start by reading about it if you want,” She told me.
“I don’t have the time right now, may another day?” I suggested.
“If you want to be a Creature Seer Ryder, reading is good place to start. And since your parents know, you can take the more classified book home with you,” She told me.
“Classified?” I questioned.
“The books that mention Creature Seers in detail. Some don’t and can be passed off as myth and legend books and therefore are not classified. Blind Humans cannot look at classified books,” She explained to me walking back around the counter. “If you want to come by later you can come pick out a book to take home and read. You must look after it though.”
“Are you gonna make me sign something in blood to make sure I do?” I asked and she frowned while pursed her lips.
“Just make sure you don’t destroy it,” She replied.
“I won’t. I don’t know if I want to start reading about ghosts just yet. Or any kind of creature yet,” I told her.
“Think it over. You pick what you want to learn first. Now you should to school,” She then got out one of the mandu, making me instantly start to crave it. “And tell your Mother I will make Pierogi for her,”
“Pie-what?” I frowned as she lifted the small snack to her mouth.
“Dumplings, it will be Polish version but they come from Europe,” She told me then ate the mandu. I clenched my chest like I had been hit with a bullet.
“Okay then,” I then grabbed my backpack and said goodbye to Elsa before I could see her eat another one.
I arrived at school, dropped off my things I didn’t need that morning into my locker and met up with Alisha in homeroom.
My homeroom like most of the classrooms in the school. It had about thirty desks attached to chairs one behind the other in rows of fours. There was a wooden desk at the front of the class for the teacher and a black swivel chair that stood adjacent to the whiteboard and high-tech projector suspended from the ceiling. The walls were painted a cold grimy white colour decorating a few bits of work and posters related to English, History, Algebra and Geography. The floors were a pale blue plastic the room was also lined with cupboards and at the back a couple of tall double-door cupboards and the door to the storage room. We didn’t have windows, but the room sometimes somehow still felt freezing.
Things were pretty calm and chilled despite it being Monday morning, partly because our homeroom teacher wasn’t here yet and she wasn’t here to boss us around. But that didn’t last long. The door to the classroom opened to reveal Mr De Santis come in and it was like Hollywood’s most handsome heartthrob just made a grand superhero entrance.
“Someone end me,” I muttered in Korean when I saw many people in the class including every girl except Alisha, all stared at him grinning like they were under some spell that conveniently stopped people from focusing on anything else other than the eye candy in the near vicinity.
“Good morning class, I will be covering for your homeroom teacher today. She’s, going through some emotional things, but I can assure you the only emotions you’ll experience here are positive ones,” He said smoothly as he strode into the room to sit at the desk. His laced his fingers together and flexed his beefy arms clearly trying to show off. I wanted to be sick because I heard a couple of his weird admirers’ giggle in response.
“Sir, isn’t in wrong to be sharing other teacher’s personal business with students?” Alisha asked putting her hand up. As much as I wanted to cheer at her ripping into the creep, I was worried that now he’d somehow charm Alisha into liking him.
“Your teacher wanted me to let you know what was going on, it is important for teachers to be open with their students. You are all young people after all, and keeping secrets and leaving you high and dry can encourage close-mindedness, and that is not a good thing to be,” he replied. He was right about the close-mindedness, but we didn’t need to know everything about her!
“There are some things that should be kept private and are inappropriate to be sharing with us,” Alisha pointed out.
“And what things are those, Miss Byrd?” He challenged with a smirk. Alisha would probably get in trouble for mentioning those things, and she looked a little embarrassed too.
“Things, I don’t want to talk about sir,” She replied.
“And that is fine Alisha,” he replied softer, his eyes turned black for me again for a second. “Now why don’t we talk about things we can talk about now that people in the past could not and why,” Lots of people put their hands up but before he could pick any of them the door was suddenly pushed open and Eleanor rushed in. “Late again, Miss McBurnett,” He began and she looked down bashfully.
“Sorry, Mr De Santis. I had to take a phone call from my Mom,” she told him. A few people in the class snickered.
“Was it an important call?” He asked and she nodded. “I understand, and that is not something to be laughed at!” He said sympathetically to her before he scolded those who laughed with a glare that could cut steel.
“Thank you,” She smiled, and my shoulders dropped. Great, she likes him too. What is wrong with them?! This is very illegal! How do the other teachers not know about this?!
“Do you think we should talk to someone about, that?” Alisha whispered to me as I watched Eleanor sit down with a blush on her sweet cheeks that were made chubby by her wide cheesy smile.
“And what do we say? We could get in serious trouble without proof,” I shrugged.
“We have to go to the principal!” She stressed, then the door into the classroom was opened and Principal Singh came in. The short and thin brown-skinned middle-aged woman grinned at the now tense class with a wave before she turned to our teacher.
“Matteo-” She gasped and covered her lips with a hand. “Oops, I mean Mr De Santis, before you take register may I have a word?”
“Of course, you may Principal Singh,” He smoothly replied with a smile. “Class I want you to get some reading done,” Me and some of the other students that weren’t gazing at him like bags of wild hormones groaned. “Books can expand your minds and satisfy your fantasies,” His smile then became a smirk. “So, save those groans because I don’t want to come down too hard on you this Monday,” I saw again his eyes turn black, but no one else reacted like I did indicating they didn’t see it. Most people either snickered or hooted or whistled.
“Calm down and do what your teacher says, class!” Mrs Singh added in a strict tone. Everyone then started to get out books and read but me and Alisha just sat grimacing or pretending to throw up in our chairs.
“Eww, he needs to calm down,” She said quietly to me as she took out a book.
“Yeah,” I muttered still thinking about his eyes doing that. Was it something to do with abilities? What if they settling in or growing stronger or whatever was making me see hallucinations? Unless he was a creature too! But what?!
“It looks like Principal Singh doesn’t have a problem with it,” She huffed. “Maybe that means he’s okay. Who knows maybe the principal is telling him to tone it down right now,” She shrugged as she opened her history book.
“It isn’t like we have proof he is doing anything, like, pervy or illegal,” I stated, obviously not saying anything about his eyes because I couldn’t which sucked. Since we were best friends, we knew near enough everything about each other, except for the thing I recently discovered. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell her and expose her to this cray and scary world of creatures.
“Yeah, I think he’s a weirdo though, and I’m gonna avoid him like my ex,” She added and I nodded getting out a book I had been reading in my English class. Thankfully the bell rang marking the end of homeroom and soon everyone started flooding out of classrooms to go to their first lessons.
My first lesson that day was English. I wasn’t in the same class as Alisha, but I was in the same class as Eleanor, and I gathered the courage from very depts of me to talk to her on the way to class.
“H-hey Eleanor,” I began appearing at her side with a smile that probably made me look like I was being held at gunpoint.
“Hey again Ryder,” She smiled back, not like she did at Mr De Creepo but she still looked pretty.
“So…you do the homework?” I asked her.
“Yeah, it was a little frustrating but yeah,” She huffed. “I would rather we do it on computers though, makes things easier and we don’t have to use a load of paper,”
“Yeah, I get what you mean. Sometimes my backpack looks I robbed a school supplies store,” I added and she laughed weakly.
“Yeah, but then again considering what’s going on in my house I’d find it hard to do homework either way,” She replied, her shoulders dropping.
“Why?” I asked her. She looked around like she was searching for somewhere and at the others in our school like she was scared about them hearing us.
“Come on,” She then grabbed me by the arm and tugged me down a few hallways away from where our English classroom was until it was pretty much empty.
“Whoa, okay, slow down,” I stuttered as we came to a stop. She looked at me with hesitation biting her lip softly.
“You’re probably gonna think I’m missing a few screws but, I don’t care. I need to tell someone,” She stressed. I had a feeling it may or may have not been something to do with Ghosts, but even if it wasn’t, I was happy she trusted me enough to tell her this important thing. “Me and my parents…we think that our house is haunted!” She stressed, her voice cracking up with fear. I knew it! And just as she said that I saw the ghostly line appear slightly from her again going out towards the door. It seemed my abilities were, powering up again I guess I could call it after she told me.
“Really? Wow that’s…wow,” I didn’t know what to say or how to react because I didn’t want to come across like I didn’t believe her, and I didn’t want to come across like I knew more than I was telling.
“You, believe me, right?” She asked with a frown.
“Well, I’m not afraid of ghosts, but I’m gonna open a business capturing them,” Instead of laughing she groaned at me.
“Never mind,” She turned and starting walking away.
“No! No! No! Wait!” I rushed in front of her making her stop. “I believe okay? I’m sorry…I may know someone who can help,”
“What? Like a priest or an exorcist?” She asked.
“Sort of, like an exorcist, I will need to talk to them, but if you want the help, she may be able to give it to you,” I explained. Elsa had to be able to perform exorcisms, right? Especially after what she did with K.
“You better not be fucking with me right now,” I had just enough will power to stop myself from blurting out something inappropriate that would probably get me a slap from her and in big trouble with the school and my parents and just shook my head. She crossed her arms and paced around a few times frowning before she gave me a reply. “I’ll talk to my parents. Thanks, though Ryder,” She told me and I smiled.
“Don’t mention it,” I stood there like an overgrown dork staring at her before she reminded me, we needed to go to class and we hurried in to English class. But the end of the day could not come fast enough.