I woke to knocking at my bedroom door, but wasn’t sure if it was real because the room was still pitch black. I was instantly annoyed when I looked at my phone and saw it was only 5:46 in the morning. I kept still, unable to tell if I was really awake. I was still caught between the two worlds, floating on a cloud of blankets and lingering towards cautiousness. The knocking continued, pulling me all the way out of a peaceful night’s sleep.
“Just a second,” I quietly said getting out of bed. Who was knocking on my door so early? What could they possibly want at this hour? I didn’t care if they could hear me or not. I wasn’t going to make a lot of noise and wake myself up any further then I had to.
I opened the door to my grandmother, half awake in her bathrobe, standing in the hall. Apparently, she hadn’t planned on waking up this early, either. She extended a cordless phone in my direction. Her sour expression revealed the hidden grumpier side.
“It’s your friend,” she grumbled. “I think, Bobby,” my grandmother tried to explain as she dropped the phone in my hand. “Says he needs to talk to you and it can’t wait. Told him you were sleeping, but he said it was important.”
“Sorry,” I said as my grandmother turned around and slowly walked back to her room so she could go back to sleep.
“Billy,” I said into the receiver while I rubbed my eyes. “What do you want?”
“... they picked him up last night, Charlie,” Billy quickly said. “Stan’s besides himself. Doesn’t know what to do.” I couldn’t follow what he was talking about. My attention had taken a bit to get started as my body began to wake up. Who had been taken? Who’s besides himself?
“Wait... start over,” I cut Billy off. “I think I missed something. What happened to Stan?”
“No man, nothing happened to Stan. Stan’s fine, he’s actually here with me. It’s his dad. The sheriff picked him up early this morning.”
“For what?” I asked in confusion. My mind still hazy, but slowly clearing up. The words starting to fall into place as my brain began to catch up.
“Murder, man! Laura’s murder! Cops think Mr. Perry killed her!” Billy shouted over the phone. He was excited by the situation while he told me the details. He was thrilled they found Laura’s killer, forgetting that his best friend’s father was now the prime suspect. “I was chilling with Stan around three, playing War of Warlords when my dad barges in. He pulls Perry from his bed, reads him his rights, and takes him away. In and out in less than two minutes.”
“Why are calling me about this?” I asked with a raspy voice, still exhausted from the day before. How could Billy think I was okay with him?
“Damn, man, you sound like shit,” he said drawing out ‘damn’ for a second longer. Late night or something?”
I hadn’t forgotten Billy almost killed me during a drinking binge only a couple of nights ago. Wasn’t being murdered a sign someone not liking you? I was trying to figure out why he was calling me in the first place. He hadn’t really shown an interest before in being my friend.
I had to wonder what he was angry at during the party. It was possible Billy was taking the death of his friends a lot harder than he was letting on. He tried to act tough, but I knew right below the surface he was still a little kid. It was also possible he was jealous at me for being with Diana. She said he used to ask her out all the time. He might have felt hurt and was just lashing out.
It occurred to me that Billy could be depressed. Sometimes when there was sadness, anger followed as a defense mechanism. It would explain the sudden outbursts and the fits of rage I witnessed. It probably wouldn’t get treated unless I tried reaching out to him. Although, it wouldn’t explain his extreme douche-ness. I could be wrong, Billy might just have a crappy personality.
“Are you serious right now?” I asked with a slight bite. “You know you almost killed me, right?”
“I’m sorry about that, Charlie,” Billy said sincerely. “I was completely out of line, man. I was drinking, and I was already worked up about Laura. I don’t know what happened. I just snapped. Please, forgive me, man.”
Hell, I might regret it, but I would try to forget about the other night and be his friend. “Fine, I’ll be there in thirty minutes.” I was brief and to the point, trying to get off the phone.
I still wanted to lay back down, but I realized this might be the only chance I had to learn the truth for myself. I forced my eye lids to stay open. After two minutes of starring at the ceiling, I jumped in the shower. I brewed a cup of coffee, added two sugars, and a splash of cream. I held the coffee in a mug and took a deep breath, inhaling the aroma of roasted coffee beans. I took little sips at first, making sure it wasn’t scalding, and then finished the cup.
The dining room was empty, but that didn’t mean Martin wouldn’t hear me. “Martin, you there?” I asked to the open room.
A moment later my grandfather appeared by my side. It was early in the morning, but spirits didn’t sleep, so it didn’t matter what time it was.
“Billy, just called me,” I said. “Looks like Stan’s dad was picked up last night for Laura McDermott’s murder. He’s being questioned at the sheriff’s station, right now.”
“Howard Perry,” My grandfather said to himself. He said his name with familiarity, but seemed confused. “How could Perry have done this?”
“Could he be a necromancer?” I asked.
“I don’t think it’s possible,” my grandfather explained. “I’ve known the man since he was a child. His mother was even Logan’s English teacher in seventh grade. I’m quit certain there has never been a necromancer in his family. There must be some kind of mistake.”
“Well, I don’t know what to tell you. He was just picked up for murdering the same girl that happens to be trapped in her own personal hell. If he’s not a necromancer, maybe we were wrong about something. Maybe the necromancer and the killer are not the same person. Maybe Perry killed Laura and someone else took her soul.”
“Either way, if Howard didn’t do it, he might know who did.”
“We need to talk to him,” I said grabbing my car keys. “Let’s go.”
“He’s been arrested, Charlie,” my grandfather pointed out. “How are you going to talk to him? You won’t get anywhere near him.”
While I pondered what to do I watched Martin float around the room. He didn’t worry about bumping into anything. He could just go right through the furniture and anything else in his way. He could walk through walls without anyone ever seeing him. There it was. My plan was simple, yet impossible if I wasn’t a necromancer.
“We’re going to walk in through the front door,” I said laying out my plan for my grandfather. “I’m meeting Billy and Stan at the sheriff’s station there now. Getting access won’t be a problem. You find out where they’re keeping Perry. Then you keep watch while I ask him some questions.”
“What if the other necromancer is at the sheriff’s station?” Madison asked as she finally made her presence known.
“Even better,” I responded.
“Just for the record I think this is a very bad idea,” my sister said. “Come up with a better plan before you get yourself arrested.”
“We don’t have time for a better plan,” I said to my sister. “Why are you here anyway?”
“I’m coming with you.”
“No, your not,” I said with a raised voice. I lowered it and added, “If I get caught you shouldn’t be there.”
“I have to see Dr. Gibbons this morning. This will give you a reason to leave after you get what you want.” She saw the displeasure on my face. “You’re more likely to mess this up without me.”
Twenty minutes later we were at the Sheriff’s station.We found Billy in the lobby, while Stan chatted with a deputy I didn’t know. I was still mad at Stan for what he did to Madison, but I would have to let it go for now. His problem was just getting started.
Stan turned around, but hesitated when he saw Madison, and flinched at his own guilt. He could have ignored her, but he said hello and took a seat near Billy. He was pretending nothing happened and everything was good between them. I wasn’t sure if that would work for my sister.
Stan sank in his chair at the embarrassment he felt while Madison use her glare to bore a metaphorical hole into his forehead. When she took notice at the shame he felt, her expression changed. She awkwardly smiled and let her anger fade away. I think she felt sorry for him.
Stan turned to Madison and asked her to go for a walk with him. She shook her head and he whispered, “I want to apologize for how I acted.”
“Here is fine,” my sister said. “Let everyone hear what kind of pig you are.”
“Please, Madison,” Stan whispered. “I know I acted like a jerk. Don’t make me do this in front of everyone.”
“Speak up,” she said raising her voice. “I don’t know if the others were able to hear you.”
“Maybe if we go somewhere private,” Stan said so everyone could hear him.
“Whatever you want to say to me in private you can say to me here,” Madison snapped. “You don’t get that privilege again.”
Nervously, Stan rose and faced Madison.
“I am so sorry for what I did to you,” he said and then lowered his voice. “I was drunk,” Madison was about to blow up at him until he added, “But that isn’t an excuse, I know that. It’s eating me up inside. I really like you and I can’t believe I treated you like that. I’m sorry.”
“I should tell everyone what you tried to do to me,” Madison snarled. “But, I won’t. And do you know why?” Stan shook his head. “Because Sarah and Diana have already lost two friends in one year. I won’t destroy what you might have here. And I know that you will never do that to anyone again. Because, if you do, I will rip your balls off. So sit down, put this in the past, and let’s focus on your dad.”
Stan nodded his head in agreement and mouthed a thank you to my sister. She nodded her head, sat back in her seat, and crossed her arms. She was proud of herself. I was proud of her. It was the first time I realized my sister was so strong. Sometimes I underestimated her entirely.
“How long have you been here?” I finally asked taking the focus back from my sister. The tension was overwhelming everyone and even made Billy visibly uncomfortable.
“We followed the sheriff from Stan’s house over around two,” Billy replied. “Haven’t seen his dad since they booked him. I think they’re still interrogating him.”
“His lawyer still isn’t here,” Stan added. “Not sure what’s taking him so long.” He looked back at his phone scrolling through texts.
“Where’s Sara?” Madison asked.
“She’s at the diner keeping Diana company,” Billy answered. “They’ll meet up with us later.”
Martin suddenly appeared from the wall and floated over with a concerned look one his face. What had he learned to make him worry I thought as he moved closer?
“What’s wrong?” I mouthed.
“They found her blood in the back of his car. They want to move him to county, as soon as they decide to charge him. We don’t have long, Charlie. If we are doing this we need to do it now.”
If my grandfather had his doubts about the plan he wasn’t letting me know them. I could tell he wanted the truth as much as I did.
“You sure?” I whispered.
“I don’t believe Howard had any part in her murder. I know the man. He couldn’t have hurt anyone.”
“What’s wrong, Charlie?” Stan said catching Billy’s attention. They were both looking at me like I was crazy. “Who you talking to?”
“Just talking to myself,” I responded. “I have to go to the can.” For a second I thought Billy was looking directly at Martin, who was floating to my left. For a second I thought he might be able to see spirits. When his attention turned back to Stan, I realized he was looking at the clock behind me. “I have to piss like a race horse,” I added for a laugh and trailed off.
“Gross, Charlie,” Madison called out. Stan broke a small smile and Billy grinned. I was happy I could lighten the mood.
I followed Martin down the hall and into the men’s room. I checked each of the three stalls, making sure we were alone before I started talking. If someone overheard my one sided conversation they would think I was a nut case or maybe just on the phone.
“He’s not the necromancer,” Martin began when nodded that we were alone. “I don’t believe he killed anyone.”
“You’ve said that before. Why can’t it be him?”
“I’ve known Howard a long time, Charlie.” My grandfather became sullen, even more upset. “He was one of your father’s only living friends. He was there for your father when Logan...” He trailed off, not wanting to continue the thought.
“When my father did what?” I was tired of the secrets. “Tell me!” I demanded. “Tell me what my father is so hated for?” I was frustrated with my grandfather, for being so vague about my dad. I felt an anger that I didn’t know was bottled up. I was taking it out on my grandfather when I should have redirected it to finding this other necromancer. I was ashamed for how I was acting. “I just need to know,” I added dropping the harsh tone.
“Our family has a reputation in this town,” my grandfather explained. “Some people get scared of what they don’t understand. When Logan was ten his powers started to manifest. There was an a fire he accidentally started using a power that some necromancers inherit. Several people were injured, and one young girl died. They couldn’t get to her in time. Your father learned to control his abilities but the damage had already been done. Your father was guilt ridden with that girl’s death. He carried that guilt all the way up to the end. I think he tried to make up for it. Your father was a great necromancer. Powerful, and very skilled.”
“There was a story that we tell young necromancers about an ancient book that contains all of our family’s secrets. When your daddy was a boy I told him this story because I thought it was just a tale to teach younger necromancers about the darkness we all have. I was taught the story was a metaphor about responsibility when using our powers. I thought it was like the ten commandments but for necromancers.”
“About six months after you were born your father started to worry about your safety. He wouldn’t tell me what it was scared him, but he thought if he could get more powerful he would be able to stop what ever this threat was. He went searching for the ancient book, he referred to as the Necromancer Chronicles. In the story the books were written in a language only a necromancer could read.”
“Howell’s journal. You said you didn’t recognize the language in the book. The professor calls it, Necravul.”
“It doesn’t matter what you call it, Charlie. It was only a story, remember. I had never seen the language and when you showed me the book I was very skeptical, until you said you could read it. Did he say who taught him?”
“He thought it was a spirit named Lilly,” I replied. “He said she is a little girl who died in the late 1800′s.”
“Must have meant your great aunt Lilly.” Martin said, but grew confused. “Why would Lilly do that?” he wondered out loud.
“I think she helped him kill someone.”
“You must be mistaken,” my grandfather said defensively. “Not our Lilly, Charlie. She wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“That’s what you said about Stan’s dad. I think Lily gave Howell the necromancer chronicles. He was using a spell to turn himself into a necromancer. It didn’t work though.” I looked at my grandfather skeptically. “How does that explain my dad’s death?”
“Charlie, your dad found the necromancer chronicles. He was able to access the darkest parts of a necromancer’s abilities. The chronicles consumed him, Charlie. He was out of control. Ready to kill so many people for what he thought he needed to do.” My grandfather’s face went dark as the blue hue changed to mimic his mood. “I stopped him.”
“So, you killed him?” I snapped.
“Don’t you think if there was another way I would have found it? Your father was too powerful and to far gone. He couldn’t be saved, Charlie. The darkness had already taken him over. Believe me when I say there was no other way.”
“What happened to the chronicles after that?” I asked as I let the sudden declaration sink in.
“I don’t know,” my grandfather answered, but he wouldn’t look me in the eye. “I could never find them.” He paused. “Charlie, if you want to back out of this, I wouldn’t blame you.”
“No. I’m not backing out,” I said as I got in position by the door. “We can talk about this later.” I waited for my grandfather as he left the bathroom through the wall.
When he was sure it was safe, Martin led me down the hall to the interrogation room. I slipped in, while Martin lingered out in the hallway. If anyone approached the room he would warn me instantly.
Sitting alone at the metal interrogation table was a man who looked like Stan, only thirty years older. Silver handcuffs bound him to the table and his appearance suggested he hadn’t slept in days. His hair was a wild mess of salt and pepper and they obviously hadn’t let him wash up. His blue cotton button down clung in large wet patches all over the man’s body. His pasty complexion flashed under the fluorescent lights.
I sat down, across from the broken shell of the man I knew as Howard Perry. He hadn’t looked up to see who had entered the room. He was afraid at his bleak future of imprisonment.
He looked so much different then when I met him in the barber shop. He had confidence then. A power that commanded the attention of his peers. Now all he had was the fear of going to jail.
“Mr. Perry, we need to talk, but we don’t have much time,” I said catching his attention.
Perry looked up in confusion. It took him a moment, but I saw the recognition in his eyes. He knew who I was, but thrown off by my presence. “What are you doing here, Charlie? You shouldn’t be here. Get out before someone catches you.”
“I’m going to be as direct as possible, Mr. Perry. You have to tell me the truth. You might not understand now, but I’m here to help you. Why was Laura’s blood found in the back seat of your car?”
He was bewildered at my knowledge of something that only the police just found out about. He became silent, ashamed. It seemed both of the Perry men were destined to feel shame on the same day. He didn’t want to answer me, but I didn’t have the time to wait. I could be caught any second.
He started to speak, but stopped himself. He couldn’t find the words. He wanted to say something but he wasn’t sure how.
“I can help you if you tell me the truth, but it has to be the truth.” He still wouldn’t answer me. I turned to Martin in the door way. “What do I do now?”
“He was the closest and only friend your father had, Charlie. He knows what Logan could do. Remind him.”
“Mr. Perry, I know you were friends with my father, Logan Kane. I know you knew many of my families secrets. I have the same abilities as my father. I can help if you let me. I need to know who killed Laura.
“Why?” He asked with skepticism. “Why would you help me?”
“That poor girl’s spirit is being kept prisoner, by a dark necromancer. Her pain hasn’t ended in death, Mr. Perry. Even spirits feel pain. I don’t know how much longer she has. I need you to tell me what you know about Laura. I can help stop this maniac, but only if you help me.”
At first I didn’t think he was going to help, but his lips began to move. “I loved her so much, Charlie,” Perry cried out. “I knew it was wrong, but I truly wanted to be with her. She was turning eighteen. We would be okay with the age difference. She wanted to be with me as much as I wanted to be with her.”
“I don’t have enough time to go into how messed up that is Mr. Perry. No matter how you look at it you took advantage of that girl. But I’m not here to judge you. Right now all I need to know who killed Laura.”
“It wasn’t me, Charlie. I loved her so much. I would have done anything for her.” He was ashamed, emotionally distraught, but not over killing her. He was ashamed for something else. Something that would get him in a lot of trouble when the police figured it out. He might go to jail even if he didn’t kill her. She was only seventeen.
He became quiet. He didn’t want to answer. “She wanted to… and I didn’t realize she never…”
I understood, making it much harder to be empathetic with the man. He was over forty and Laura was barely a woman at seventeen. He should have known better. How could I defend him? How could my grandfather want to help this man? My moral compass was getting all screwed up today.
“Is your grandfather here?” Perry asked. I nodded and pointed towards the door. “Did he tell you about your dad?” I nodded. “I’m sorry, Charlie. He was my closest friend. He meant a great deal to me. I know Martin did everything he could to save him.”
“He’s telling the truth, Charlie,” Martin calmly said. “About everything.”
“I know he is,” I said to my grandfather. I didn’t wait for the all clear when I slipped out into the hallway. I obtained the information I needed from Perry and that was it. It didn’t matter if anyone saw me coming out of the interrogation room now. I could always say I was looking for the bathroom and made a wrong turn.
As I walked the hall I passed a man in a dark grey suit, carrying a briefcase. If that was the lawyer he would have his hands full for the forceable future. I watched from the end of the hall as the man walked into Perry’s interrogation room.
When I returned to the lobby Madison was sitting next to Stan, carrying on a friendly conversation about Pokemon. Apparently they were both big fans of the cartoon. She looked like she was having a good time, which made me cringe.
“You feeling alright, Charlie,” Billy asked concerned. “You were in the bath room for a while. Something you ate?”
“Must be that,” I easily agreed. “We got to take off. Madison, we have to go if you want to be on time.” I turned towards Stan, “I hope everything works out.”
Stan stood up before we left and grabbed my shoulder. “Charlie, thanks for coming down here. I know we don’t know each other very well, but I just want to make sure you know I appreciate the support.”
I was still angry towards Stan for what he did to Madison, but if she could forgive him, I guess I needed to as well. I didn’t have to be his best friend though. Wasn’t my helping his father good enough?
“I know this must be hard for you,” I said to Stan. “I’ll catch up to you guys later when I finish running some errands in town.”
I dropped Madison off at her therapist appointment and went to do the grocery shopping. Martin said there was something he needed to do and left me to shop. I had forty-five minutes before I needed to pick Madison up from her doctor’s appointment.
I triple checked my list at the general store in hopes I didn’t forget anything. I already had to go back to the produce aisle twice, once for onions, another time for carrots.
My mind kept drifting back to Perry. I was appalled he was having an affair with Laura before she died. She was only seventeen years old and his own son’s very good friend. It was creepy and made me feel dirty just knowing about it.
I still wasn’t convinced Perry was completely innocent, but that didn’t mean he killed her. He could have had motive. Maybe she didn’t want to keep see him anymore. What if he went into a rage when she tried to cut it off? He could have killed her easily if they were alone. He would have had the opportunity and the means of doing it.
I’ve certainly met plenty of people who I’d consider cruel in this town. Some of them were mean as hell and couldn’t move on from the past. They were scared at what they didn’t understand. They were scared and when people were scared they lashed out.
Have I already met Laura’s killer? Was it Perry, or another angry adult? Did I know the necromancer? Did I see him walking the streets of Dumont during the day? Could I already pick them out in a line up? The thought of someone hiding in plain sight was the scariest part. He could be anywhere and anyone.
I found myself standing in the canned food aisle staring at chicken stock when a chill ran down my spine. At first I thought it was cold air being vented close by, but after looking around I didn’t see any.
The refrigerator section was on the other end of the store and there were no ventilation grates near me. I wasn’t sure where the cold air was coming from.
A pleasant voice called out from behind me, “Excuse me, sir?”
“Sorry,” I said as I moved aside to get out of the woman’s way. Instead of a flesh and blood I saw an elegantly dressed blue spirit float by. Her blue hue was lighter than my grandfather’s, a sign she was a much older ghost. She wore a dress layered with dark blueberry satin which covered even her feet.
When I looked at her face I saw a young woman of about twenty. She was unfazed by my ability to see her and I was still captivated by my own powers.
“Excuse me, could you tell me how much longer until the train arrives?” Some spirits relived a moment in their life like it was on a loop. Her dress was a relic of a time when woman covered themselves ultra conservatively before the twentieth century.
Martin warned me interacting with older spirits could be problematic. They could be more temperamental than newer spirits. If a spirit didn’t move on, then over the years they could deteriorate mentally. It’s like ghost dementia, but the spirit keeps it’s strength. Not enough to appear to the living, but enough to interact with solid objects.
“I’m not sure how much longer the train will be.” I said, leaving out any indication of her being dead in case she didn’t know. It was always possible. “How long have you been waiting?” I inquired.
She seemed unable to understand the question. “I’m sure it will be here shortly,” she said deflecting my question. She turned to ponder her wait and floated away.
Some spirits didn’t know they were dead. They could become confused and agitated and never realize they were spirits. I was thankful I followed my grandfather’s warning. She could have easily lashed out, hurting someone around us. If she wanted she could probably cause serious problems for the living.
These are the spirits you hear ghost stories about. These were called poltergeists. Spirits that haunt the living. These are the ghosts portrayed in horror movies. Most of these stories were probably based on depressed spirits stuck in a loop, reliving a tragic moment in their life. PTSD for the spirit world. They are the troubled spirits that haunt the living, but half the time can’t remember their own names.
On my way out I asked a woman at the checkout counter what the store had been before it’s current rendition of market. She didn’t look more than sixty years old, but said it “Hasn’t been anything but a grocery store.”
“What about before you were born?” I asked.
She twisted her jaw to the side, contorting her face. “Nope, I think it’s been like this for a long time.” I took my change and collected my bags. “Unless you mean before like a hundred years ago?” she continued. I nodded. “When the town was settled in 1860 there was a train station here. Ran right through where the middle of this store is today. They built this market here about ninety years ago.”
“What happened to the train station?” I asked.
“I think it burnt down. Was just a small office and a platform, nothing like they got over in Morgantown. The moved the tracks further into town and built this over the ashes.”
I thanked the clerk for her help and walked back to the truck. The ghost was over a hundred years old. It staggered my mind thinking I could talk to someone who lived that long ago.
Madison was already waiting for me when I made it back to the truck. She was leaning against the hood while she rubbed at her eyes. I could see the redness from the emotional rollercoaster my sister went through in therapy.
“Ended early today,” she said when she moved her hands away from her face. They were tearful, but she tried to keep her head down to hide them. I was about to ask if she wanted any help, but my sister turned towards me before I could.
“It can get real emotional in there,” she explained with a smile. Before I could extend my help she added, “I really don’t want to talk about it,” as we got into the car. “I’m fine, just emotional.”
I nodded and left it alone. I didn’t want to pry. If she wanted to talk about it she would let me know. If I pushed the subject all we would do it fight. I tried to stay clear away from any reason to get her more upset.
When we returned to the Sunnyledge, Martin wanted to play chess, but I wasn’t in the mood. My sister jumped at the chance, though admitted she didn’t know how to really play.
“That doesn’t matter,” Martin said, “I’ll teach you how.”
Madison smiled, slowly forgetting whatever came up in therapy. She was happy here, happier than I had seen her in a long time. Not since we were little and didn’t know any better.
Halfway through their game I asked my grandfather a question, “Did you know there’s a really old spirit at the market that’s been there since, the late 1800′s?”
“You must mean Mary Moore,” he said, “Sweet girl with the big frilly dress? You didn’t try talking with her? I’ve warned you about interacting with older spirits, Charlie. It’s dangerous.” My grandfather moved his knight several spaces and took my sister’s pawn.
I didn’t want to lie, but if he knew I made contact with an older spirit he would get angry at me. I didn’t want to upset him so I lied. “No, of course not.”
“It’s a good thing you didn’t talk to her, Charlie. Remember older spirits can be very dangerous, even unstable. Just please be more careful around Mary okay?”
“He gets the point, Marty,” my grandmother interrupted. “Let him be. Charlie, why don’t you go up to the attic to get the Christmas decorations. We don’t normally have company this time of the year so we don’t decorate much. This year feels special.”
For the past nine years my grandparents stopped decorating the Sunnyledge for Christmas. My grandmother decided now that Madison and I were staying through new years we would decorate the house once again. My grandmother wanted to do something special for us and acting like a family was special enough. I jumped at the chance to be included in tree decorating.
I pulled the cord and the attic door released from the ceiling. I unfolded the wooden ladder with a high pitch screech, extending it to the floor. Martin floated up above me as I made my climb up. The ladder wobbled a little when I got to the middle, but righted itself when my weight was pressing against it.
“Charlie, use the degreaser on the latch and hinges please,” Martin said as he disappeared through the ceiling.
I checked the utility closet on the second floor and found the bottle. I gave the metal hinges a good spray with the degreaser and bent the legs back and forth. When I made it up to the top I closed the door and reopened it a couple of times to spread the chemical around. When I couldn’t hear the sound of rusted metal rubbing against rusted metal, I left it alone.
Martin was hovering near a giant stack of junk. The base was made of old sets of bedroom furniture and provided support for the boxes piled on top. Distressed armoires and bed frames filled the space around it. Large storage boxes were stacked along with lamps, mannequin torsos, several cribs piled on top of each other, and hundreds of suitcases interlocked like a game of poorly played Tetris.
Over the years guests would leave their possessions behind, creating a surplus of forgotten junk. Over the years the piles grew. Each year I could imagine the stacks growing in size as those traveling through the Sunnyledge left their most prized possessions behind.
Martin floated over to a column of boxes that touched the ceiling where the roof peaked. He pointed to a box near the bottom that read, “Christmas Decorations” in bright red marker. I started to slowly move items from the top, clearing away the clutter, until I uncovered the boxes I needed.
When I moved the boxes I revealed a small circular window looking out over the front of the property. From this height I could see the entire front yard all the way down to the end of the driveway. From there I saw the leafless trees which would hide the hills during the warmer months. Further I could see a stream running through rolling hills.
Madison was seated on a stone bench on the side of the yard. Sitting next to her was a pale blue spirit. From the distance I couldn’t tell who it was. I was instantly worried another spirit was taking an interest in my sister.
“Who is that with Madison?” I asked. “The spirit next to her on the bench.” Martin floated behind me to get a better look.
“Well, if I was still breathing!” he bellowed. “That is your great aunt Lilly.”
“She’s the child who haunts the house,” I said astonished that some of the ghost stories were actually true. This was the same Lilly from Howell’s journal. He had met her over one hundred years ago. Urban legends were written about her.
“Lilly died from tuberculosis at nine.”
“So she’ll be a little girl for the rest of time?” I asked worried that anyone be forced to be a child forever.
“Well, it’s not forever, she’s only been around a little more than a hundred and fifty years. If she never moves on, eventually she will fade from existence.”
“How long can a spirit go before they fade?” I asked astonished.
“I once met a spirit who claimed he was over a thousand years old.”
“Is Lilly a necromancer,” I asked.
“Since Logan died I’ve don’t think she’s talked to anyone.”
“Will Madison be all right with her?” I asked worried Lilly would somehow hurt my little sister. I still had no idea why she helped the professor all those years ago.
“Lilly is harmless, Charlie. She was only a child, when she died.”
I remembered the professor writing about Lilly in his journal. I couldn’t help but think she had something to do with the professor’s disappearance. Could she have manipulated Howell into doing what she wanted? Lily gave him the necromancer chronicles. Why would she do that?
“Why would she give Howell the ability to read the chronicles?” I asked my grandfather as we watched Madison and Lilly on the bench.
“You should ask her, Charlie. Let’s bring the decorations downstairs and you can meet your aunt.”
The sun had started to disappear behind the horizon as I walked out the front door of the Sunnyledge. There was a sliver of white light surrounded by a brilliant red. It faded into pink and burnt orange behind the trees. Some stars had already appeared in the evening sky giving the appearance of a hybrid of night and day.
Madison and Lilly were laughing together as I approached. I could make out small ribbons at the end of Lilly’s pig tails. Her glow was dull, not bright like an older ghost, but still truly beautiful to see in the real world. I took a seat next to Madison and crossed my legs.
“Charlie, I would like to introduce you to your aunt Lilly,” my sister said in a welcoming voice. “Lilly, this is your great nephew, Charlie Kane.” At my name Lilly’s eyes grew wide and her glow grew more vibrant.
“Logan’s son?” Lilly asked my sister, while the pale blue mist swirled around her face. My sister nodded. “Delighted to meet you Charlie,” she said with a little girl’s voice. “Madison was telling me about how well you were learning to use your powers.” She paused as she studied my face and said, “You are a splitting image of Logan. You look so much like him, Charlie.”
“Why would you want to remember a killer?” I asked raising my voice louder than I wanted to.
“Charlie, I watched your father grow from a small helpless infant into a decent young man. He was brave and caring. What happened to your father was a tragedy. A necromancer’s power can consume us just as easily as a raging fire engulfs a house made of wood.”
“I’m going to take a walk,” Madison said as she stood up. “I’ll give you guys some time to talk.”
“You don’t have to go,” I replied to my sister unsure if I wanted to be alone.
My sister came closer, taking my hand in hers. “You need some time alone with your aunt. I’ll be around if you need me, but I think it’s something you have to do by yourself.” My sister was honest and seemed wise beyond her years. Maybe Lilly made everyone feel smarter? She rested her hand against my shoulder. “I’ll catch up with you later, okay?” I nodded, understanding what she wanted me to do.
I could tell Madison felt left out, possibly alone in my new world. When my sister walked away she started texting on her phone. I was hoping she was still be discrete about my families secret.
My attention turned back to my great aunt, Lilly. A chill went down my spine as I watched the little girl, who died at nine smile back at me. If she wore alive and became sick today, modern medicine could have cured her. The little girl would have her entire life still ahead of her. I could see the pain and frustration of being a child forever in her eyes. I wondered why she didn’t change her appearance like Martin did. Maybe due to her age she didn’t possess some of the powers fully developed adult necromancers had.
“You’re father was a descent and kind man,” Lilly said. “I wish you could have known him.”
“Tell me, if my father was such a great man, why would he let the chronicles consume him? He let those books corrupt him.” I was raising my voice again. I couldn’t keep a level head when it came to my dad. The feelings were all so raw.
I could feel the power running through my veins, ready to bubble up over my anger. I took a deep breath and counted back from ten all the way down to one. I felt a little better after the exercise. Lilly waited for me to regain my composure. I began to realize how the power could consume you while making choices for selfish reasons.
“He didn’t do it on purpose, Charlie. I’m not sure he ever found the chronicles. I don’t know if they even exist. All I know is Logan was trying to find a way to bring the love of his life back from the beyond.”
“Bring who back?” I asked. “My mother?” I asked completely confused. I was unaware of who she was talking about. Lilly shook her head, “Then who was it?”
“Before Logan met your mother he fell in love with a married woman. Her husband found out about the affair and in a jealous rage killed her. Logan tried everything to bring his first love back from death, but it was no use. She had already moved on. Logan became obsessed with pulling her spirit back from its resting place. It was the most selfish thing he had ever done, but in the end he did it for love.”
“Logan unlocked the darkness hidden deep within himself. He was able to do things that our kind vowed never to do again. I don’t know if he had the chronicles or he figured out how to do these things on his own. It’s one thing to raise a cat, but bringing a soul back to this world is a sin against nature. Logan could raise an army of nefari if he wanted to, but he brought his first love’s soul back from true death instead.”
“Like a nefari?” I asked. “How could he love a walking corpse?”
“Not a nefari, Charlie. He brought his love’s soul back from the beyond. His power was so great that he could rip a spirit back from eternal peace. This woman’s soul had already moved on, but she was forced back to this realm. Her journey back was unnatural, and the power your father had was destroying him. Power corrupts us, Charlie. You must always be conscious of that. Weather you have the chronicles or not. Your father was a good man, but went mad with the power he found he was able to manipulate.”
“Your mother met your father when Logan was still able to keep the darkness at bay. It wasn’t until after you were born that he couldn’t contain the power anymore. It changed him at the end. There was nothing that could have stopped him except for your grandfather.”
“Is that why Martin had to kill my dad,” I replied. “He became to powerful? Or because he brought his love back?”
“The darkness started to bend his soul, Charlie. It made him do horrible things for distorted selfish reasons. Things against even a necromancer’s nature. Making the nefari and cheating the laws of death were only the beginning of what he tried to do.”
“What’s stopping me from becoming just like him?” I asked.
“You have to stop comparing yourself to your father. His mistakes are not yours, Charlie. None of this is your fault. We all have the choice of how we use our powers.”
“Martin said my dad was hiding me from something. What was it he was so scared of?” I wanted to know. “When he left me. When he left my mother. What was he protecting us from? What was he scared of?”
“I wish I knew,” Lilly replied. “Your father wouldn’t let us know. He didn’t think it was safe.”
“How do we know he was telling the truth?”
“Because there are much worse things in this world than a rogue necromancer, Charlie.”
I didn’t want to talk about my dad anymore, but still needed to ask about the professor. My great aunt didn’t seem evil at all. She was a sweet spirit. How could Howell have got that so wrong?
“I found a journal up in the attic a few weeks back. A professor named T.C. Howell left it behind after visiting the Sunnyledge before it became an inn. Back when it was still just the home of our family. Most of the book is written in a language he called, Necrovul. He says its the language of the dead. He said you helped him find the necromancer chronicles so he could learn how to use our powers. Is any of that true?”
“I remember the man you speak of, Charlie, but I didn’t know Theodore Howell kept a journal. He liked to tell stories. I’m not sure what he would have written about. He was looking for proof of our existence, but I would never have helped him find the chronicles. I thought he was chasing a fantasy. Like I said, I’m not even sure if the chronicles are real. Your grandfather is convinced Logan obtained them, but I’m not as sure.
“But Howell said you were helping him.”
“I was completely bored back then and really was just killing time, Charlie. We didn’t have TV or the internet to keep us entertained like today. It sounds like Howell embellished a lot about our interactions. I did show myself to him and even told him about necromancers, but that was it. We did talk about his quest to find the proof he was looking for, but I couldn’t help him even if I wanted to.”
“So you didn’t teach Howell to read and write the language? What about my dad? Martin told me my dad found the chronicles. That’s why he went bad.”
“I did not teach Howell anything,” Lilly replied. “I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful, but it sounds like Howell was telling tales made up by his obsession with the after life.”
Madison walked over, as the gravel crunched under her feet, and brought our conversation to an end. “Your grandmother wants to start decorating the tree, Charlie.”
I wanted to thank Lilly, but when I turned back she was already gone. I wanted to find out more about her interactions with Howell, but it would have to wait. If Lilly didn’t teach Howell how to write the language than how did he learn it? Was it really the language of the dead or something faked by a con-man?
Instead of learning the truth behind Howell’s journal I now was back at where I started. It looked like the journal wasn’t real, but a made up hoax by a college professor bored with his real life. That still didn’t explain how I could read it though. Did he really learn the language of the dead? If not, how was I able to even read it?