The next morning I decided to make the phone call I was dreading since learning the truth about being a necromancer. Now that I knew about my family secret it was time to hear what my mother had to say for herself. How much of this did she already know? Why did she keep me away for so long?
The sun finally peaked out behind the dark clouds. I was hoping the clearer skies would last until the weekend, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I sat on the back porch, letting the warm glow of the sun heat my chilly body.
I choose Caroline Saunders on my contact list and pressed send. Why didn’t I label it “Mom?” That closeness was never fully between us. It was my fault as much as it was hers.
The signal went through and I let the phone ring until her voice mail clicked on. I wasn’t sure if I would leave a message, but before the out going message clicked on, my mother answered the phone.
“Hello, Charlie. I was wondering when you would finally call your mother back.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked my mother with a hint of anger. Hearing her voice sent all the rage back into my veins. She left me rotting in a hospital for two years. How could she abandon me, her own son? Did she even have a heart to begin with? My grandparents seemed to think so. Did that mean I should think the same? I would give her a chance to explain herself, but if I didn’t like what she said I wouldn’t hold anything back.
“A sub warm greeting would be better than this, but I guess I shouldn’t expect it,” she said making me feel guilty about my rude behavior.
“I was at Jefferson for two years, mom. For two years you left me there. Did you know what was happening to me? All of that time going to doctors and seeing specialists. Did you already know what Dad did to me?”
Was I completely out of line for how I felt? Hadn’t my own mother caused me enough pain? Wasn’t she the reason my life felt like I was living in a nightmare?
“I didn’t want to put you in that hospital any more than you wanted to go,” she said. For the first time I heard true regret, but then something in her voice changed. It became hardened. “You were sick, Charlie. I only did what I thought was right. I couldn’t tell the doctors what Logan did. They wouldn’t have believed me. I am so sorry at what happened, but I knew I couldn’t take care of you. At least at Jefferson they could keep you safe. I know it wasn’t the best situation for you, but I really thought I was doing what was best. You were safe there.”
I knew when my mother was lying by the tone of her voice. When she wasn’t telling the truth her words rose in pitch towards the end of the sentence. This time her voice didn’t waver at all. She sounded genuinely sorry. My heart grew heavy as I shared my mother’s burden.
“I just wish you could have told me the truth,” I said grinding my teeth. “All those years of migraines and you could have easily told me the truth.”
“But you wouldn’t have believed any of it,” my mother replied.
“I’m so sick of that answer,” I snapped. “How do you know I wouldn’t have believed you?”
“Because I didn’t believe in your father until he was able to show me. There was a time I thought your father was crazy. At first I thought he needed psychiatric help.”
Did everyone have to be logical? Didn’t I still have the right to be angry? I was put away for two years in a mental hospital that I didn’t belong in. I didn’t have a normal childhood, but was I wrong in being angry?
“I want to know how you are,” my mother said with some concern. “I hope you’re enjoying the holiday with your grandmother and sister.” There it was, the raised pitch at the end. She was concerned for me, it was true, but she still didn’t want me in Dumont.
I felt like I was about to boil over with an anger I couldn’t help but to direct at my mother. Instead, I choose to grind my teeth and bite back my rage.
“I feel much better now, thank you,” I answered as I kept the anger at bay. “The headaches have stopped altogether and everything couldn’t be more wonderful.”
I wanted to scream, but I knew she cared about me. She was still my mother, but that didn’t make it any easier talking to her. Even before the hospital I was away at a prep school. We never talked much to begin with.
“That’s amazing, Charlie. The headaches are completely gone. I’m so happy for you, sweetie. How did you get better? Is there a special doctor your grandmother knows? Did Dr.Gibbons have anything to do with this?”
Dr. Gibbons, how did she know about Dr. Gibbons? I didn’t think my sister was talking to our mother about her mental health. Could my grandmother be telling her? Was my sister lying to me about how close she still was with her? What else did Madison say to her? It wouldn’t be the first time she went to my mother behind my back.
“I don’t mean to pry. I just figured he was helping you, too.” She must have trusted our mother more than I first thought. I began to wonder if it really wasn’t my mother’s idea to send Madison here in the first place. I wondered if it was possible for our mother to be that manipulating.
“Why did you keep me away from my grandparents?” I asked calmly.
“I won’t lie to you anymore, Charlie. I will tell you anything you want to know, but first, I need to know if you met your grandfather, yet.”
“My dead grandfather? Yes. I can talk to him and I’m seeing other spirits as well. He told me everything. Everything about my dad, about my family, about my powers. Martin fixed me, mom. I’ve been here two weeks and he was able to make me better.”
“Please tell your grandparents I’m sorry I couldn’t do a better job at keeping you away from Dumont. I realized you were never going to stop looking. When you were born we knew you inherited your father’s abilities. You were so strong even as a child. Spirits were drawn to you, Charlie. They followed you everywhere. Your father kept them at bay but when he died there was no one else to repel them. We were both only trying to protect you. When you were four it wasn’t safe for any of us.”
“Mom, what happened? Why were you keeping me away from here? What were you protecting me from?”
“I don’t know what it was. All I knew was your father was scared. You father didn’t get scared, Charlie. He was the most powerful necromancer on the planet. So, if your father was scared of something it must have been bad. He thought if he told me what we were running from it would put all of us in more danger. His only goal was to protect us.”
“Did you know what dad did to me? What he did to my brain?” I was angry again, unsure if I would ever forgive either one of them. “Why did he make me a cripple?” My eyes were tearing up, but it didn’t matter. I was alone, no one could see.
“He didn’t have a choice, Charlie.” My mother said, knowing exactly what I was talking about. “I saw how much pain you went through when your powers tried to manifest themselves. I wanted to tell you every day, but I made a promise to your father that I wouldn’t. He must have known you would come back here when you were old enough.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this before? Why wait all this time?”
“Charlie, your father was strong enough to raise an army of nefari soldiers. He could have controlled any spirit within a mile radiance, but he was afraid of whatever was out there looking for you. If your dad was frightened of it, don’t you think I would be, too? Do you think I wouldn’t try my hardest to make sure his death wasn’t in vain? I did my best to protect you, Charlie.” My mother began to cry. “He put that in you when you were three years old. We had no idea it would cause that much pain. If I knew your grandfather was able to cure your migraines I would have taken you to him long ago. You have to believe me. I couldn’t bare to see you like that, Charlie. It tore at me every single day. I was helpless, but I knew you wouldn’t be that way forever. I could only protect you for so long.”
“I’ve been here two weeks and nothing bad has happened to me. Maybe whatever was after us isn’t here anymore.”
“I wish I could believe that, but you have to make your own choices now, honey. Your father was such a powerful necromancer. If you even have half of his power, then I wouldn’t want to get into your way. Just be careful, Charlie. I don’t know what I would do if I lost you.”
It was impossible not to feel terrible. My mother was only protecting me, following my father’s last wish. I at least had to try at a real relationship with her. “I promise, I’ll be careful,” I said without thinking. I had no idea if I could keep that promise the instant I said it.
“Charlie? One last thing. Do you think you would have believed me if I told you before this?” She paused waiting for an answer.
She was right. I wasn’t ready for the truth until I came to Dumont on my own. I wouldn’t have listened, thinking it was a huge joke. If she had tried to explain my necromancer family tree I wouldn’t have believed her. I had to see it for myself.
“No, I wouldn’t have believed you.” I felt the tears roll down my cheek. “I’m sorry, mom.”
“It’s okay, baby,” my mother said as she held back her pain. “I love you, Charlie.”
“I love you, too, mom.”
After I hung up the phone I looked out over the front yard. I searched the naked trees into the forest. The woods were peaceful. A mist spread out into the valley below, but the morning sun would soon burn the fog away.
I was holding onto my anger towards my mom when it wasn’t really her I was mad at. I started taking deep breaths until the anger drained away. I felt my stress start to fade, leaving me in a content state for the first time since I left Jefferson. There was no one to be angry at anymore.
When I heard the front door open I looked up to see my grandmother walking towards me. In her hand were two mugs.
“Coffee?” She simply said.
“I would love some,” I responded trying to figure out how long she was listening before coming out. “Thanks,” I said taking the mug.
“I have a couple of errands for you if you are feeling up to it. I won’t be mad if you take a pass today, Charlie.”
“I think getting out of the house is exactly what I need today,” I replied taking a sip from the mug.
“Good, I have a grocery list and some packages I want you to mail. You going to see that Morgan girl again? She seemed like a nice girl.”
“Nunny, when did you find out Martin was a necromancer?”
“A year after we started dating,” my grandmother said with a smile. “He told me when he knew he was in love with me.”
“Are you glad he told you the truth?”
My grandmother thought about it for a moment before she laughed, “At first I was really freaked out, but eventually I was happy he could share it with me. I think in this case telling the truth really was better than hiding it.”
“Were you scared?”
“A little at first, but it begins to feel normal after some time.”
“Can I only tell someone I’m in love with?”
“You don’t have to wait that long, but you probably only want to tell someone you can absolutely trust with your secret. A very close friend would be okay, but be careful. Not everyone needs to know, but Family is an absolute must, by the way.”
I knew what she was getting at. I had to tell Madison. I couldn’t keep it from her. Keeping the truth from her would just make things worse.
“What about Diana?” I asked my grandmother. “Do I have to wait until I’m in love with her?”
“No, you don’t have to do anything, Charlie. Just some words of wisdom from experience is all. You probably have some time until you need to worry about those things anyway.” She walked away, but stopped before going into the house. “Charlie, I promise at the right time you’ll know what to do.”
While I finished my coffee on the porch I watched several deer gallop across the front yard and into the leafless forest. As they trailed off I saw a translucent spirit roaming around the tree line below.
I took the truck and on the way down the drive way I realized the spirit was a little girl in a bright blue dress. She kindly smiled while she watched me drive away. I wondered if this was the girl from the ghost stories told about the Sunnyledge.
Instead of the creepy feeling I thought I would have because of movies like the Grudge and the Ring I felt the spirit’s sadness. I realized I was picking up on the ghost’s emotions as I turned onto the main road. As I drove away the feelings faded and I was left with a question. Who was the little girl ghost in the front yard?
The Dumont post office was located a block away from city hall. I parked on the street and walked into the small grey brick building with only one window. It was dreary even by Dumont standards.
When I stepped up to the counter I noticed the man standing behind the counter was none other than Marcus Buffet. He looked hung over or still a little drunk. I wouldn’t doubt he was both. His postal shirt was almost completely untucked and his hair disheveled. I had seen the man’s hatred towards me at the barbershop. I was lucky the sheriff was there to help calm him down. When our eyes met his anger was instantly refreshed.
Buffett was the type of guy to carry a grudge his entire life. If he had children he would pass on his anger to them without knowing it. He would loose his chance to have a decent relationship with another person. I assumed he already ruined many a budding romance because of it.
He stepped back from the counter when I approached, but I was still close enough I could smell a bitter odor radiating from him. He smelled as if he hadn’t taken a shower in a month. When he opened his mouth to talk, I dreaded the spicy aroma of rum or vodka, whatever Marcus’ drink of choice was to mask his own body’s scent.
“Do you know who this is?” Marcus growled, while looking directly at me. Another man I hadn’t recognized was sitting on the other side of the room watching us. “It’s Kane’s kid. You remember Kane, don’t you Teddy?” He glared at me with his heavy drunken eyes and then back at Teddy. “You remember what his daddy did to them kids all those years ago? I’m telling you it’s started again. Just like before. All those kids getting killed and now Logan’s kid is here. You’ll see. It’s all going to happen like the last time. The McDermott girl was only the beginning. Mark my words”
“You have no idea if Logan had anything to do with those murders, Marcus.” Teddy said defending my dad while he looked at me. “Were you there?” He asked as he turned to Marcus. “Did you see him do it? Did Kane’s kid kill the McDermott girl because last time I checked the police haven’t arrested him. The Kane’s are good people, Marcus, so stop your yapping.” Marcus was completely insulted, but didn’t want to anger his co-worker further. “Just go sort some mail,” Teddy said before turning back to me. Marcus’ face was red from anger, or just flush from the booze. He didn’t say another word as he stormed out. “Don’t mind him,” Teddy smirked. “Had a stick up his ass since we were kids.”
“Seems like a friendly guy!” I sarcastically stated.
“He’s harmless,” Teddy informed me. “Complains and bitches about everything. He carries on and never takes blame for anything. Blames everyone else for his mistakes, but doesn’t ever think to take responsibility for his own life.” Teddy took a deep breath. “What can I do for you today Mr. Kane? Need postage for those boxes?”
I handed Teddy the packages Nunny had given me to mail. “Thank you. Yes, I would like to mail them please.”
“Ground or first class?” He asked. I wasn’t sure of the answer, so he added, “Your grandmother usually uses ground. Saves a couple of bucks.”
“That’s fine,” I happily replied. “Ground, please.”
He weighed the smallest of them first, and proceeded to stick the postage sticker on the front. When he was finished he threw the box into a bin directly behind him.
“Don’t worry about Marcus, he’s just an asshole sometimes. People only listen to his drunken ramblings with a grain of salt. Don’t take anything he says personal. He’s been drunk every day this week before 10:00am. Everyone knows he’s an alcoholic, so no one cares what he says. Every town needs a drunkard, someone to make sure their morals and values never slide below his.”
“Were you friends with my dad?” I asked the postman. “I haven’t met many people who have nice things to say about him. It makes me wonder what kind of man he was. Did my father really kill someone?”
“Logan and I were friends, but not what you would call close. I don’t know if anyone really got to know your father. We had the random class together, but I lost touch with him after high school. I’m not sure what really happened after that. I’ve heard the rumors and the rest of the stories. I don’t think anyone really knows what happened. That is except for Logan, but he can’t shed light on it now. A boy did die, but did your daddy do it? I’m not so sure. You seem to be your own man, Charlie. You have to decide what to think in the end. Wouldn’t be right to judge him without all the facts.”
“Well, you didn’t have to defend my father like that,” I said. “Thank you.”
Was there any truth to Buffett’s accusations? Had my father killed someone or did an old friend who barely knew my dad speak some truth? There were too many questions swimming through my head to focus on a grocery list, but I knew if I went home empty handed, Nunny would be disappointed in me.
I was somewhat annoyed parking was scarce at the Super Walmart. That meant it was busy and I wasn’t in the mood to navigate a large crowd. To my surprise the glass doors slid open and Billy came strolling out, followed closely by his father, Sheriff Brice. They were both carrying loads of groceries in plastic bags.
I noticed they didn’t have any of the normal staples like bread or milk, but frozen meals and random snack foods. The Sheriff had a bag filled with nothing but beef jerky, while Billy held a bag of two liter soda bottles, and another with bags of chips. They were either going to watch football with a bunch of friends or the Brice’s fed on nothing but junk food.
“Charlie,” Billy called out when he saw me, eager to talk to anyone other than his dad. “What’s up? Where have you been, man?”
“Sorry, my grandmother keeps me pretty busy.” I looked down at his bags. “You guys throwing a party?”
Billy ignored the question, and turned to his father instead, “Dad, you remember Charlie Kane?”
“Sylvia’s grandson, of course, how are you, Charlie? Haven’t seen your grandmother much. I hope she’s doing well.”
“She’s good sir. I’ve been running the errands for her lately. Giving her some time to relax more.”
“Glad to hear she’s doing well. How long are you going to be staying in Dumont, Charlie?”
“Dad, stop harassing Charlie,” Billy groaned. “He doesn’t need to be interrogated right now!”
“It’s okay,” I said to Billy. “I’m not really sure how long I’m staying. I wasn’t actually planning on staying long, but now, I might be sticking around for a bit.”
The sheriff loaded his groceries into his SUV. “Well, it was good seeing you Charlie. I’m taking Billy ice fishing today and we need to get a move on it. We need to get there before all the good spots are taken.”
“We’re getting together in the park tonight if you want to join,” Billy said when his father was out of ear shot. In a much quieter voice he added, “I’m getting a case of beer, too, if you’re in.”
“Was that the reason for all the beef jerky?,” Billy bunched his brow in confusion, but I enthusiastically added, “Never mind... Sure, count me in.” I wasn’t sure if I was going to go, but I didn’t want to seem like a dweeb. Diana would probably be there too, which made the night seem that much more promising.
The sheriff’s radio broke through with a surge of static. A mumbled voice came from the speaker. Sheriff Brice clicked the hand set which was clipped to a strap on his shoulder, “Could you repeat that again, Rhonda?” There was more of the mumbled voice over the radio, but the sheriff seemed to understand. “Okay, I’ll meet them there.”
“Sorry, Billy, bad news. We’re going to have to cancel our fishing trip. There’s been a new lead in the McDermott case. I’ll meet you at home. Charlie, do you mind giving Billy a lift?” The Sheriff handed Billy his bags. Before I had time to give him an answer he was already in his cruiser.
Billy held a bitterness towards his father. At first I thought it was normal teen angst, but his expression didn’t change when his father left. “He always does that. Just leaves. Doesn’t care if I get home or not.”
We loaded the truck up with his groceries. “I know he’s the sheriff, but does he take time off? You know to spend time with you?”
I didn’t have a father growing up, but then again, Billy didn’t have a mother. I could relate to his anger. It was the same type of resentment I held for my mother. Did I have the same bitter expression over my brow? Did my eyes seek retribution like Billy’s did?
“I’m guessing another lead is good for the case?” I asked, unsure of police speak.
“They get a dozen or so leads every day and most of them turn out to be duds. Every now and then something works out, but it’s not like he needs to be there for all of them.” Billy told me what the police had on the Laura McDermott’s murder so far. It wasn’t much. The sheriff didn’t seem too optimistic about finding the killer. They had no witnesses, no suspects, and not a clue as to what to do.
How was I going to be able to help Laura if the police couldn’t find anything? I couldn’t wait for the police. I needed to get through to Laura now, more than ever.
Billy followed me back into the store as I placed items from my list in the kart. While I had Billy as a captive audience I would see if he could shed light on Laura.
“Were you and Laura close?” I asked Billy while I pushed the kart further down the lane. “Like do you know why someone would have hurt her?” Laura was a member of his group of friends. Billy had to know something that would explain things. Why would someone want to torment Laura, even after her death?
“We all hung out together,” Billy explained. “Sometimes we hung out alone, but it wasn’t about hooking up.” Billy stopped, and added, “The hooking up part was good, but it wasn’t just about that.”
“Why do you think someone would have hurt her?”
“I have no idea, Charlie. She was a bit of a lush, but never hurt anyone on purpose. I didn’t really know anyone who didn’t like her in some way. She was clever and very pretty, what was there not to like?”
“Yet, someone killed her,” I mumbled.
Billy followed me to the truck and helped me load the groceries. “Can you believe that girl was seeing someone else behind my back? Creeping around with some older guy from town. Never found out who it was.” Billy tapped on the window. “I have some theories of who it could be.”
Billy didn’t seem too saddened and yet they were in a relationship of some kind.
“Were you with Sara at the time?” I asked, unsure if I was crossing a line or not. “I’m just trying to get a sense of the situation. I don’t mean to pry, but I’ve liked getting to know all of you.”
“It’s okay, Charlie. You’re okay with me.” He lightly punched my shoulder, “I’m going to level with you, because I like you, Charlie. This stays between you and me, okay?”
“I like you too, Billy.” I felt awkward saying. “Whatever you say it will stay between us.”
“We were together, but you know how it is. Every now and then I like to visit another village, if you know what I mean?” Billy’s smirk was crooked. I knew what he meant. Everyone would know what he meant. He was not a subtle guy.
“This was a long time ago, like last year, before Matt died. Laura and I decided to break it off when Sara and I became a little more serious. Laura and I were friends with benefits, but nothing more than that. All the guys had a thing for her. She was really hot if you didn’t know. Those year book photos don’t do her justice.” He pulled his wallet out and found the picture he was looking for. He held it up to show me, but didn’t want to hand it over. For a guy that didn’t care about her much he did the exact opposite behavior from what I would have expected. Why would he keep a picture of her if he didn’t care for her?
I looked at the picture. Laura was lying on a freshly mowed grass lawn, wearing a two piece black bikini. She filled the suit out nicely. Her shades were resting on her head so you could see her eyes. The last time I saw her face her eyes were a darker shade of blue. In the picture they were brownish, or more precise a beautiful shade of light hazel. In death her eyes would never be as stunning.
She had long dark brown hair that flowed down past her shoulders ending halfway down her back. What could this girl have done that made anyone want to hurt her?
“Charlie, you with me buddy?” He pulled the picture away and I instantly regained my composure. “Hot, right?” I just nodded in agreement, feeling words couldn’t even express the warped attraction I felt. Was it perverse that I had seen her first as a ghost? Possibly, but I was brand new to this, so I was going to cut myself a break. I wouldn’t judge myself to harshly until I understood my predicament.
“Why are you so interested about Laura’s disappearance man? It’s not like knew her or anything.” If Billy pressed me further I wasn’t sure I could lie convincingly. He would be able to see past my bullshit in seconds. “I bet you’re doing it for Diana, am I right? See how grateful she’ll be if you find the killer?”
“That’s it,” It wasn’t completely inaccurate. “I really want to impress her,” which was true.
“I get it man, Diana is like a sister to me. Since Matt died, she’s been distant. We try to do what we can for her, but I fear she’s too far gone.”
“She seems fine to me. We talked about her mom, I get it. It’s hard when you lose someone like that. Can’t ever be easy.”
We all have experienced loss. Diana, Billy, and I all knew the face of death too early in our lives. Were we all damaged souls? Was it possible to ever fix us?
“Make a left up here,” Billy said when we were a block away from his house. “When you put it like that Charlie, I can’t argue.” Billy unhooked his seat belt when we pulled up to his house. It was a small ranch with sliding glass doors and a low pitched roof. “Thanks for the ride man. I’d invite you in, but the place is a mess. My dad doesn’t get around to cleaning much these days.
“No problem, man,” I said offering him my hand. “I have to get back to the Sunnyledge for the rest of my chores.” He slapped my hand and cupped by fingers, before pulling them away with a snap.
“You should come out with us tonight,” he added as he got out of the truck. I watched as Billy made it up his front walk.
The sky was already getting darker and the lights were on inside the house. When Billy opened the door I could see something I wasn’t expecting to see.
I could see a blue spirit clear as day looking back at me from the window. It was a woman, that I could tell, but she was too far in the distance to make out any of her features.
I felt her stare while Billy entered his home. I wondered what her story had been. A past occupant of the house perhaps? Maybe a distant relative who had died years before? Maybe his mother?
My grandmother was just about to start dinner when I returned to the Sunnyledge. She was watching Wheel of Future and playing along with the tv. I was lucky I was back in time. After I helped her put away the food I searched the house for Martin, but couldn’t find him anywhere.
“Sometimes he disappears for a couple of days without notice. He’s a busy little ghost,” my grandmother casually explained. “Would I be able to offer my help? I’m even surprised sometimes at how well I understand the supernatural.”
“Actually, it’s about my dad. When I was in town,” I explained, “I ran into one of my father’s friends from high-school. I was just wondering if my father hurt anyone when he was younger? I really want to know the truth, Nunny.” I paused and then finally added, “Marcus Buffet said my dad was a killer.”
Nunny’s face turned sour as if the name of the post man put a bad taste in her mouth. “Of course Marcus is still spreading those damn rumors. You heard this down at the post office I presume?” I nodded in agreement. “That man has never liked your father. Even when they were kids. Sometimes the unexplained and unknown is scary to us, Charlie. People invent lies to cope with the fear. I imagine Marcus saw something your daddy was doing when they were kids and came to his own conclusions a long time ago.”
“That still doesn’t answer my question, Nunny,” I said almost apologetically. “Is my father a killer?” I repeated the question again. “Please, just tell me.” My grandmother wouldn’t discuss the issue any more. “Wait for your grandfather. It’s a question he should answer.”
Did that mean my father was a killer? Did her keeping silent automatically suggest my father’s guilt? I searched the house for my grandfather, but even with my new abilities I couldn’t find him. My grandmother said he would disappear for days, but that raised more questions than it should have. My grandfather was a ghost. Where did a ghost go for days on end? What did ghosts do when they weren’t haunting the living? I had very little information and with Martin’s disappearance I was running out of options.
I decided to get the journal I found in the attic. Maybe there could be some information in it. Something I missed. I traced my fingers against the grim reaper’s image.
As I looked at the foreign script I turned the pages and the symbols became much easier to read. As I focused my will the script came together to make full words, and then full sentences that I could understand.
The words were instantly translated in my head before I even had to think about it. I could see the shadow of the foreign language under my understanding. The script was written in black ink, but the English was projected over the text in same shade of blue as a spirit.
I stopped reading when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I went to the window and could see a ghost below in the yard. The bright blue color of the spirit stood out in front of the dark scenery behind it.
It was the same one I had seen a handful of times. Instead of joining everyone for dinner I decided my curiosity was getting the better of me. I quietly left my room, slipping on a jacket to combat the cold. I walked downstairs and out onto the porch. I could smell the cooked meat radiating from the kitchen. On the porch it was hard to see out in the darkness, but the blue specter was still clear as day. The ghost was near the tree line. As I watched, it moved slowly through the air, towards my direction.
The ghost was a child, a little girl, no older than ten. As her features came into focus I thought she was crying. I didn’t know if she could see me, but I stayed in the shadows just in case.
She didn’t take the path, but instead floated over the yard towards the front porch. Was it possible the ghost was able to see me in the darkness? Eyes required light to see, but ghosts didn’t have real eyes. I wish Martin was here to give me the answers I was looking for.
She was coming straight for the side of the porch where I was hunched over in shadow. She was half way up the lawn when she suddenly stopped. I waited, but she wouldn’t move. I stepped out into the open, but her reaction didn’t waver. Either she couldn’t see me at all, or she had seen me the entire time. Before I knew it I was walking down the steps. When I was half way down the stairs I heard Madison’s voice call out.
“Charlie, where are you going?”
I turned back and saw my sister wearing a large blue sweater and jeans stained with bleach. Her hands rested on her hips and her confusion was written over her face.
“Nunny, wanted me to get you. Dinner is ready.”
I turned around for only a second, but when I looked back the young spirit had already disappeared. The ghost had vanished without any clue to where she went.
“Damn it,” I said under my breath, but louder than I should have.
“What’s wrong?” My sister asked.
“Never-mind, she’s gone already,” I said with slight embarrassment and a lingering feeling of defeat. “You must have scared her off,” I added without thinking.
“What was it?” Madison asked.
“Just a deer,” I responded coming up with a believable lie. I decided I couldn’t tell her, not yet anyway. “Saw it from my room. She floated in from over there.” I pointed out to the woods where I first saw the girl. I was trying to keep some truth to the story.
“Did you just say ‘floated’ in?” my sister asked.
I quickly brushed off the idea. “Of course not,” I responded as if she heard me wrong. “I think you scared her away when you opened the door.”
“Thought I saw something from my room, too. I could have sworn it was blue though. Deer can’t be blue can they?” Her voice was trailing off and I didn’t think her question needed answered. “Well, time for dinner.”
“Be right there.”
After Madison went inside I sat in silence for several minutes waiting for the ghost to come back. When she didn’t appear I sat down on the porch swing and curled up into a ball. When the cold started to nip at my nose I realized I missed my chance for contact. I wanted to blame Madison’s interruption, but I knew it wasn’t her fault.
This was the second ghost already that I couldn’t communicate with. As a necromancer, I should be able to communicate with them. Why wasn’t I able to do it? Did my grandfather really fix me? I needed to figure it out. I thought about Laura, alone in the clearing, with no way to leave. She was trapped out there and I needed to figure out how to talk to her. If I can talk to her, she could tell me how she died. I wanted to help. I had to help.
After dinner, I didn’t bother waiting for Martin. I had to do this on my own. I couldn’t rely on my grandfather anymore for help. I was using him as a crutch. It was time I learned how to use my powers once and for all. I couldn’t wait any longer.
I ran back up to my room to put on warmer clothes. I threw on jeans, thick thermal socks, and my black parka. I found a pair of water proof boots in the back of my closet and put them on, too. They wouldn’t have the best traction, but at least they would keep my feet from getting frost bite.
After parking on the gravel lot, I slowly walked into the forest. I thought about where the power came from that let me do what I could do. Energy had to come from somewhere. It didn’t just exist.
Superman obtained his power from the Earth’s yellow sun. He would absorb sunlight making him super strong and fast. Green Lantern’s ring needed a battery that charged it. That battery obtained its power from an alien planet of Oa. I knew those examples were from comic books, but they were the only handbooks on the supernatural I had to work with.
I opened my eyes and concentrated on seeing Laura McDermott’s ghost. There was a small amount of pressure at the back of my eyes, so I knew it was working. Laura, appeared in the clearing as if she was always there. The blue glow of her skin was hypnotic. I couldn’t look away even if I wanted to.
My foot caught on a raised tree root and I stumbled forward. Luckily, I was able to get my hands in front of me before I hit the hard earth. I fumbled for my footing, sliding on the slick snow.
When I regained my balance she was still facing away from me. Laura still didn’t see me, yet I cautiously entered her peripheral. I didn’t know how she would react if suddenly she was able to see me. She still hadn’t made any indication of noticing me as I crept forward into her line of sight.
I waited, but couldn’t seem to figure out how I was going to get her to see me, much less talk to me. I tried getting her attention by waving my arms around like an idiot. I hooted and yelled profanities, but no matter how loud or crude I was I couldn’t get a reaction. I even tried making funny bird calls with no luck. She just couldn’t see me.
I paced around the clearing as she floated through the open space. She was looking for something, something she would never find. I knew if I couldn’t help her she would be in the clearing forever.
I wondered what kept Laura in the clearing in the first place? Why couldn’t she go anywhere else? What exactly was stopping her from leaving? Why couldn’t she move on? All the questions in the world wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t figure out how to talk to her.
As my grandfather explained, ghosts didn’t have the power to become solid. They would need a separate power source to do that. Martin was once a necromancer himself so he had access to his own power source, just like me. Laura didn’t have any extra power, and as a new ghost was helpless.
I was getting anxious. My skin was burning and I felt my airway constrict. I thought I might hyperventilate. Was I having another episode? Would the migraines start again. As my heart began to pound I realized I wasn’t having an episode. I was having a panic attack. I needed to relax. I took three deep breaths and felt light headed. With the headaches gone I could use the skills I learned to stop the panic attack.
I closed my eyes to block the world out. I cleared everything from my mind and waited until I was floating in a sea of darkness. Once my mind was clear I had the answer. It was like using the volume control on my phone. All I had to do was flip the switch in my head and it all clicked together.
A moment later I could hear Laura’s mumbled words. It sounded like she was begging for someone to help her. Then for the first time since I arrived in the clearing she finally noticed I was there.
“Where did you come from?” She yelped in freight. “Why are you here? Please don’t hurt me.” She backed away before she hit an invisible wall. The boundary to her prison.
“Laura, I’m here to help you. My name is Charlie Kane.”
“Is this a trick?” Laura asked over her shoulder. “Another mind game? I can’t take it any more. Please stop doing this to me.”
“I’m not here to hurt you. Laura, I’m friends with Diana, Sara, Billy, and Stan. I’m going to get you out of this place.”
“You can’t help me,” she whispered, “You have to leave, before he comes back.”
“Before who comes back?”
“You need to leave, Charlie Kane,” Laura shouted, “Before he finds you here.”
“Who is keeping you here?”
Before she could answer a large cloud of blue mist came sweeping down from the sky. At the center of the cloud was a creature that could only have come from Laura’s nightmares. It’s head was a demon bear, it’s body a tiger, standing on two legs. Curled up along the creature’s back were giant bat like wings.
It was her own personal demon to torment her in the after life. I could feel the fear radiating from her as she watched the thing get closer. She tried to get away, but there was nowhere else to go. Before it took Laura, the creature paused. It turned its head and seemed to notice me for the first time.
“Run,” Laura cried. “Charlie, please run.”
I wanted to help Laura, but I had no idea what the hell I was seeing. The demon spirit took an interest in me so I decided to back away. I had to get out of there before it attacked. I was sure this was what had trapped Laura here.
When it realized I could see it there was some confusion. It hadn’t expected anyone else would have that ability. It didn’t know I was a necromancer. The sudden surprise on the demon bear’s face was almost comical, but I ran the other way. I felt the creature follow right behind me, chasing me out of the clearing.
I didn’t stop until I was in the truck and heading back to the Inn. When I finally reached the Sunnyledge I felt completely drained. I felt defeated. But more importantly I was completely embarrassed that I ran away.
Once again I failed, but there was a silver lining. I was able to talk to her. I was finally able to make contact with a spirit besides Martin.
I grabbed an ice pack from the freezer and went up to my room. I had to use all my strength to pull myself up the banister. Thankfully, I didn’t wake anyone up from the creaking floor boards.
I peeled off layers of clothing and dived into bed. I put the ice pack over my eyes. The whole front of my head was sore. I wondered if it would get easier the more I used my powers.
“Looks like you had a bad night,” Martin said as he faded into existence in front of me.
“Where have you been?” I barked in frustration and pulled the ice pack form my eyes. It wasn’t his fault I was attacked by a demon bear, but where the hell as he been? I felt bad for snapping at him, but my terror from the demon bear was easier to channel into anger. “I went out there again. To the clearing to talk to Laura. I couldn’t wait any longer. I needed to help her.”
“I would have gone with you,” Martin replied.
“I didn’t know when you were coming back,” I insisted. I set the ice pack over my eyes and leaned against the back board. “I couldn’t wait for you any longer. I figured it out on my own. How to talk with them.”
“You talked to Laura? You should be happy you figured it out by yourself,” Martin proudly said.
“Well, that’s when it all went to shit,” I explained. I told Martin about the creature I came across. The blue demon spirit that is terrorizing Laura’s ghost out there in the forest.
“It knew what she was afraid of and it was using her own nightmares against her. I saw it actually enjoying her fear, before it noticed as I was there.”
“We have a big problem,” Martin said after listening to me. “Only a necromancer could have done what you saw, Charlie.”
“Do you think he’s going back to the clearing during the day?” I thought back to who we’ve seen in the clearing by themselves. So far there were two deputies I saw, but I was only suspecting, English. “The deputy,” I said turning the possible suspect around in my head. He was an ass, but was he a necromancer as well? “Would it be possible to catch him during the day. We could hide and wait for him to return.”
“He’s not physically going back to the clearing,” my grandfather explained. “Another ability necromancers have is called astral projection. The more powerful of our kind can release their own conscious soul and explore the world around them. They can stay safe on a couch in their own home if they want, while their mind travels around the universe interacting with other natural and supernatural beings.”
“Were you able to astral project?” I asked my grandfather.
“When I was a young necromancer.”
“Can you show me how to fight against it?”
“Starting tomorrow you’re not leaving my side until I can use these abilities to do some good,” I said as I climbed into bed.
“Get some rest,” Martin said. I waved goodbye as he sailed through the wall into the hallway.
I had the strangest feeling. It felt like I was being watched. I flipped the side table lamp on, but I was too tired to be surprised.
“Madison, what’s wrong?” I asked my sister who was standing by the edge of my bed. I couldn’t stop my eye lids from falling back down. I was too exhausted to keep them open.
“My room is just next to yours, Charlie. Sound travels really well through these old walls.” My sister was skirting around something, but I was way too tired to deal with it. “I hear you all the time talking to yourself. I’ve heard you have full conversations with a hallucination named Martin for a week.”
“Madison, can we talk about this tomorrow? I’m really tired.”
“Charlie, are you seeing things again? You need to tell me the truth. I can help you if you let me.”
I raised my head up and opened my eyes wider than normal to compensate for the exhaustion. Madison’s blond roots were more prominent now, under her black hair. I wondered if that was part of the style or an accident. Thick eye liner was caked onto her face encasing her almond shaped eyes. Black lipstick was smeared along her lips. She looked worse than I did.
“Are you all right?” I asked my sister worried her appearance signaled some kind of distress. “Did someone hurt you?”
“What are you talking about, Charlie,” my sister said defensively. “I look fine. Don’t make this about me when this is about you.”
I was too tired to argue with her. I would tell her soon, but not tonight. Tonight I needed to sleep. “I promise, I am not going crazy, Madison. I’m sorry if I’m acting weird, but I’m doing really well here.” I lowered my head and added, “Let’s talk more about this tomorrow? I can barely see straight.”
“Fine, but this conversation isn’t over,” my sister barked. “I’ll come find you tomorrow. We can talk then.”
I raised a thumbs up and my sister gave a small grunt. It was the same one my mother used when she was fed up with me. I watched Madison walk across the creaky wood floor and close the door behind her.
I finally was able to close my eyes once again and let out a tired groan of satisfaction. I let my mind venture into the realm of sleep, but I still had a feeling someone was watching me. I was beginning to think with the ability to see ghosts I would have very little privacy when it concerned the undead.
I lived with ghosts now, which meant the strange was the new normal. When I excepted this truth I suddenly felt better, the negative feelings vanished, and my mind drifted into the abstract.