It had been about twelve years since I unexpectedly became an orphan. On my fourth birthday I watched my family, including relatives and in-laws, die enigmatically before my eyes. It wasn’t an easy thing to understand as a child just learning how to read books over ten pages long. How could a child even fathom what she had seen? The mysterious, black and blue miasmic creatures were barely visible enough to make out with the naked eye. They moved in blurs of sticky smoke that surrounded my family just seconds before they individually dropped lifeless like mosquitoes flying into insect-zapping light fixtures. All I could do was cry until I regained consciousness and noticed the mass hysteria finally stopped, leaving me the only survivor in this unforeseen onslaught on the back yard lawn of my home in middle Long Island, New York.
I was the child of two young love birds who were both in a hurry to fall in love, grow old and die knowing they’ve done everything they wanted together and more. I’ve only known them for a couple of years and I felt like I knew everything about them already. I felt how much I missed them, how my mom would read to me practically every free moment she had to herself, and how my father would chase me around the house, not just for fun, but to build strength in my still-developing legs; I was an avid crawler, but a stumbling and wobbly walker even by the time I had reached the age of three.
I remembered my parents inviting the entire family over for my fourth birthday. My mother was holding me most of the time, something I had felt accustomed to because of my inability to move around sturdily on my own. I remembered her scooping me up off of the floor after I fell while running through the kitchen. She flew me up like I was an airplane taking off from the runway. I squealed a high pitched “weeeee” as I was elevated up to my mother’s chest where she cradled me close. She flew me past the arches separating the kitchen from the dining room and underneath the chandelier that hung over the center of the large, rectangular twelve-seating dining room table. I stretched my arms out like a bird—or a plane in this case—and continued to squeal and giggle as my mom puckered her lips and “rasped” an impersonation of an old airplane propeller. We flew past members of my immediate and extended family; my grandmother Agatha, my older cousin Gabriella and her husband Marcus, my aunt Annie and my Uncle Walt. Each of them either pretended to be an obstacle blocking my path, or kissing my cheek as I was flown in their immediate direction by my mother.
After flying double-helixes through the living room, we finally made it back to the kitchen and through the screen doors leading to the back yard. More family members were outside, along with most of my younger and older cousins, and a lot of relatives I was too young to recognize or know. One thing about my family was, no matter what the occasion was, the entire clan got together to celebrate the day; we were extremely family-oriented, and very close-knit from what I could remember.
“Evvy-ONE this is Big Momma preparing to land!” My mother announced, and then she began lowering me to the freshly cut green grass below. My sandal-heeled feet touched the cold, springy blades of grass as they further cushioned my weight once I was on my own to stand. My legs weren’t short or pudgy like they used to; they thinned out slightly and grew a couple of inches longer, but I still waddled a bit. I looked ahead through the crowd of family members talking over the upbeat, child-appropriate pop music while holding plates of food or chasing each other with water guns, until I noticed my father motioning for me to go to him.
“There you are!” he sang, “Come here, Evvy! I let a huge smile escape my cheeky face—I was told I had my mom’s perfect dimples. I ran—or hobbled in this case—to my father as fast as I could, not even slowing down as I collided into my father’s chest—to be more precise, my mobile instability prevented me from slowing down, as trying to do so usually resulted in me face planting onto the ground. He knelt down like a baseball catcher calling in a pitch, and his arms closed around me like a Venus flytrap as he kissed my forehead. “Daddy’s got a surprise for ya!” he said, “Definitely not as flashy as the present Mr. Goldstein got you, but you’re gonna love it!”
“Does it have four legs and tail?” I asked in a high-pitched voice as I held up three fingers; I was obviously hoping for a pony, but at that age one could dream.
“Close,” my father said with emphasis, “It has four wheels, and it’s PINK!!!” He directed my attention further into the back yard. And there it was. The body of it was a strawberry milkshake-pink. The bumper and the trim were white. It was big, and for my size, it was big enough to be an actual vehicle. It was a perfect replica of my parents’ H2 Hummer, but pink, and “teacup” size to fit only me and another child. “I remember you watching those Power Wheels commercials, and…well you really didn’t have to say anything—,”
I didn’t hear the rest of his speech, and I was too young to care whether or not I had offended him; he was actually laughing as I made a mad dash for the ribbon-wrapped Mini H2 Hummer. The thick, plastic key was already in the ignition as I maneuvered my little body up and into the driver’s seat. I turned the key, but nothing happened. “There’s a little red switch on the side!” my father yelled, but he ran over anyway to save me the trouble of trying to find it. He flipped the switch, and the front gauges under the dashboard lit up with red, yellow, and green lights. “Okay, now turn the key away from you,” my dad instructed.
I turned the key away from me as he motioned which way was ‘away’ from me, and the Hummer roared to life. To me, it sounded like a real car; I shrieked with excitement as I heard the mini Hummer’s faux engine purr. “Awesome, isn’t it?” my dad sounded very proud.
“Awesome!” I exhaled, still thrilled that I finally owned my very own mini Hummer—my own pink beast.
My dad showed me how to step on the gas pedal to go, and hold it until I wanted to stop. I was a pro at driving the pink beast once I got the hang of stopping and going, steering to where I wanted to go came natural to me as I drove around the massive acres of my back lawn; I was pretty advanced for my age when it came to learning.
I took turns driving the pink beast with my cousins, and it was just as fun being in the passenger side as it was being behind the wheel. My older cousins all had a Power Wheels car before, or have driven one, so they drove much faster than I did. My older cousin Ronnie always floored it, while Kristin drove fast but smooth, turning the wheel fast and took real tight turns—it was exhilarating. Later on, our parents called us all back to the party to open up more presents. I felt sad having to park the pink beast for the time being, but I was excited once again after the amount of gifts waiting for my anxious unraveling.
Five Barbie dolls, five board games, a dozen Beanie Babies, four dresses, and a giant doll house later, it was time for the birthday cake. My mom picked me up and held me in her arms. I draped my arms around the back of my mom’s neck and clutched my wrist to hold myself up. Everyone stared at the doorway as my aunt Annie and my dad carefully rolled out a small, white cream-covered cake with multi-colored coconut and chocolate shavings serving as a garland to dress the edges of the cake. A flame-lit candle shaped as the number four was placed right in the center of the cake. One of my Uncles had a big family camcorder propped on his shoulder like a missile launcher, recording the big “oh my gosh!” look on my face, and everyone singing “happy birthday” off key and out of rhythm, but having a good time in the process. I felt my cheeks warm up, which was a sign of blushing as the spotlight was on me when it came time to blow out the candles. I took a deep breath after the climax of the “happy birthday” melody reached its peak and my mom began showing me how to blow them out.
Suddenly, I felt a gush of wind. It was freezing, as if someone opened the door to a walk-in freezer. It was weird to me, given it was eighty-seven degrees outside on a Wednesday afternoon in the middle of July; usually breezes like this one were not as cold as the gust of wind that brushed against the bare skin of my arms. The wind was so cold it made me shiver suddenly. Before I could even respond to the cold wind or even exhale to blow out the candle, the wind extinguished the small flame once dancing on the candle wick; it was as if someone puffed really quick to blow the candle out before I could. I sighed, mainly to exhale as I was still holding my breath. “Awww, honey,” My mom pouted. “We’ll relight the candle hun, don’t worry!”
“I got the lighter right here, babe,” My dad told my mom. Suddenly there was a scream close by. My mom and I both spun our heads toward the direction of the scream.
“Mom!?” My cousin Kristin was on her knees, her hands shaking the shoulders of my Aunt Sally—she did not move. “Mom, wake up! Come on mom! Wake UP!” she had burst into tears, frantically shaking her mom, trying to revive her. Still holding me in her arms, my mom trotted hastily over to my Aunt Sally. As we got closer to Kristin and Aunt Sally, I could see the horror stretched across my mother’s face like saran wrap. My Aunt Sally was pasty-white, and only the whites of her wide-open eyes were seen. Her veins were extruding from her skin—black and blue tubular, webbed streams appearing all over her body as if they were trying to escape her now chalk-white, crippled looking body. “Oh my god, Sally!” Mom gasped, holding her hand to her mouth as tears ran free from the ducts of her eyes.
“STEPHEN! CALL AN AMBULANCE!!!” She finally shouted to my dad. My father ran over to us, his cell phone being juggled in his hand as he tried to assess the situation. When he had seen what my mother and I saw, his phone dropped, and he stood frozen like an ice sculpture. Kristin laid her head on her mother’s chest, and then craned her mother’s head up to her mouth, her ear almost touching Aunt Sally’s lips.
“She’s not breathing!!” Kristin shrieked.
“Check her pulse!” My mom shouted to my Uncle Walt, who just became aware of the situation. I then saw the big tank-like figure of Uncle Walt almost plowing through the crowd of family members either staring in shock, or trying to help. “What on earth happened?” Uncle Walt murmured. Without waiting for an answer, he hunched over as fast as his large, stocky-built body would allow him to, and placed his first two fingers to the left side of Aunt Sally’s neck. “No pulse,” he murmured. “We need to call an ambulance right now!”
“This isn’t right,” My father continued to mumble to himself.
“What are you talking about??” Uncle Walt asked frantically, “Pick up your phone and call for an ambulance!!”
CPR was being administered to Aunt Sally when suddenly a loud, sickening thud from behind me filled the air, and everyone turned around. “Lucy!?” My mom gasped. My Aunt Lucy’s body had hit the soft grass. Her children rushed over to her side as she lied on the ground, lifeless. Seconds later, another thud much heavier sounding filled the air.
“Uncle Richard!!” My cousins ran over to my Uncle Richard’s side.
Another thud and another relative lied on the ground. “Oh my god, what’s happening!?” My mom screamed frantically. My father was now pacing around, one of his hands grasped tufts of his hair as he mumbled on his cellphone once he had picked it back up. “This wasn’t supposed to be today,” he started. “Premonitions indicated that the event would be tomorrow. Were the premonitions wrong? Was I wrong? What went wrong!? No I won’t calm down, Alex! She’s not supposed to be here when all of this would happen! My family was supposed to be safe! I PROMISED ASHLEY THEY WILL BE SAFE!!”
Thud! One of my older cousins lied lifeless on the ground. Thud! Another cousin, and then another, my cousin Ronnie, fall to the ground. Another thud soon followed. “GRANDMA!!” I cried out.
I was too young to know what was happening; all I knew was that everyone was in a state of panic, and everyone, now including my grandma Agatha, seemed to be falling to the ground, not moving an inch, which was enough to let me know that something was gravely wrong. My father continued to argue with a mysterious person on his phone about how “this” was not supposed to happen today. I did not understand any of this, or what my dad was talking about. Scared from the crying and my family falling to the ground one by one, I clung to the collar of my mother’s blouse top as tears started to fill my eyes until they fell freely from my soft cheeks, dampening the collar of my mom’s top. I felt a familiar rush of coldness brush against my skin as I started to cry.
My Uncle Walt fell right at my mother’s feet.
My mom screamed and back peddled, running into the remaining family members that were still standing. Suddenly the chilling breeze became more frequent, and so were the thuds as more family members began falling to the ground. Some twitched before they stopped moving completely.
“Everybody inside!!” My mom cried. Everyone made a dash for the back door of my house—except dad. “Honey, what’s going on!?” My mom shouted hysterically. “Is this really happening now!? Tell me this isn’t happening now!! You said that everyone would be alright!” My dad did not move, and then I felt the bone-chilling breeze again.
“Ash, I was wrong…I’m so sorry…I love you both—,” My dad’s eyes widened, and he dropped like a marionette whose puppet strings were sheared in half. He hit the ground seconds before his cell phone did. “STEPHEN!!” My mom let out a blood-curdling cry.
“DADDY!!” I shrieked, and my mom knelt down beside my lifeless father. Suddenly, thuds filled the inside of the house to where most of my family members had retreated. “Mommy!!” I shouted repeatedly.
Both my mom and I shouted for help, but everything outside of this cataclysm was lifeless. It was as if no one in our neighborhood was around. That’s when I saw them; blackish-blue gusts of smoke, flying around the back yard of my home. They swirled around the remaining few family members that didn’t make it inside until they dropped; it was as though no one else saw them but me. I saw the last person, my favorite two-year-old cousin Scarlett, drop to the ground, and her frantic cries silenced. I began to choke on my own saliva as I cried. Scarlett was just a baby compared to myself, and the one family member I was closest to. The thought of her now gone only meant that my mother and I were next. The gusts of black and blue started swirling over in me and my mother’s direction. I closed my eyes just as I was face-to-face with what looked like a distorted old man’s face, twisted and tortured. It started getting even colder, as if winter decided to cut the line in front of summer and autumn. I held my mom tight, burying my face in her bosom. “Mommy!” I cried.
“It’s okay baby,” my mom murmured, rocking me gently in her arms. “Everything is going to be alright. It’s just a dream honey, just a dr—” I felt gravity pulling me towards the ground. The last thing I saw was the patch of green grass as it grew closer into view, then everything turned black.
I was awakened by the police and EMTs that were examining a bruise on my head. “She’s coming to!” One of the EMTs shouted. “We’ve got a live one!”
“The only live one,” one of the police officers murmured. “It’s a shame…what the hell happened to them!?”
But no one knew what happened, how it happened, or why it happened. I had EMTs, police officers, and even the Center for Disease Control trying to communicate to me as best as an adult could try to communicate to a four-year-old child as they deemed me negative of contamination or radiation. I tried to explain to them what I saw, and what happened; everyone falling, the cold breeze. Everyone thought I was just being a typical child when I incoherently blurted out the events on that day; I thought they just felt bad for me more than anything. My entire family was wiped out by some unknown force—possibly an early-winter breeze? Like that didn’t sound farfetched to them at all. The only logical explanations that they could think of were an act of terrorism against my family, or a sudden, isolated epidemic.
With literally no known family members left alive, I had to go to the wake and funeral with my closest neighbors instead. Since I was officially an orphan, most of them chomped at the bit to take me in with them. I was surprised to see so many people at the funeral—friends, co-workers, neighbors, but I didn’t see my favorite neighbor of them all; Mr. Goldstein. I favored him the most because he was a family friend, and my father’s childhood friend. The week before, he kept calling my family apologizing for not being able to make it to my fourth birthday party. I remembered Mr. Goldstein’s goofy and cheery face every time he bellowed, “Top of the morning neighbors!” or his more overly-used, “Knock knock!” greeting whenever one of my parents had opened the door. He had a smile as stretched and exaggerated as the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland—just not as creepy. And although I was only a “teacup” sized person then, Mr. Goldstein was like a giant in my eyes; he was taller than even my father, who probably would have been about five-feet and nine-inches tall when he was still alive.
Mr. Goldstein would give me random little presents—a random Beanie Baby usually—and I would normally play with them until I lost them somewhere in our big pale-green house. On Saturdays, Mr. Goldstein would stop by and tell us stories about his random trips around the world. He took a liking to London a lot; most of his exciting adventures took place there. My father would stay up at all hours of the night talking to Mr. Goldstein about London the most—my father had a business there, and that led to plenty of “guy dates” for the two of them.
One night, Mr. Goldstein actually surprised me two days before my birthday with a present much more different than any of the one-hundred-something Beanie Babies He’d given me; An extraordinary platinum necklace. I remembered the tiny, circular disc-like links almost looking white as the light gleamed from the necklace’s flawless luster. On the end was a locket—shaped like a miniature book about one and a half by two and a half inches. The book-locket was also platinum, and encrusted with small, true blue gems lining the outer regions of the front “cover” of the locket. In the center rested another true-blue gem—it was in the shape of a crescent moon. The blue gems were so flawless it almost appeared as they illuminated as light graced their surfaces. “I found it while helping an excavation,” Mr. Goldstein boasted, “I figured since you’ve already got yourself a treasure trove of ‘Beanies’ by now, I wanted to break the trend!”
I remembered my tiny fingers wrapping around the links of the necklace—the necklace alone was pretty weighted. Mr. Goldstein helped put the necklace around my neck, and it felt like I had a tiny three-pound dumbbell pulling my upper body towards the floor. “What do you say, honey?” My mother asked—it was more of her way of reminding me to express verbal gratitude.
“Thank you!!” I beamed, “It’s so pretty!”
“I really should be called, ‘the gift master!’” Mr. Goldstein boasted again. I opened the locket like a book, granted the locket was designed as such, and noticed that there were already two pictures in it. One of them was of me being held by my mom and dad. They both had big, genuine smiles, while I had a look of thought stretched across my face; it was almost as though I was thinking, ‘hmm, should I have lettuce with this sandwich, or just cheese?’
The other picture was of only me. I was smiling in this picture only because it was a preschool picture, and I had to sit in front of a faux backdrop of a majestic forest with my arms crossed properly on a desk top. I didn’t want to smile because my two front teeth were just coming in, and they looked funny compared to the teeth that had already come in. I had a lot of hair, and it draped down past my shoulders like a sunset-reddish curtain—I looked like Ginny Weasley from the Harry Potter books.
However, it was that moment when I saw it; an apparition of sorts, almost standing right next to me. It was black, but faded almost as if to blend in with the drop-down poster of the majestic forest—almost as if it was part of the majestic forest itself. I actually thought it was a smudge and attempted to wipe it away as if that was going to restore the blurred picture to its original state, but it didn’t.
The day before the horrific day, I remembered waking up in the morning, listening to Mr. Goldstein talk to his puppy, Ari, about behaving for the house-sitter while he was away; there wasn’t a Mrs. Goldstein to worry about since he was never married to begin with. Ari was a beautiful white wolf pup he had rescued while out in the woods. I remember him proudly telling the story to me when I had asked him about the barking I had heard at his house. I never personally saw Ari any closer than from the confines of my house. Something that Mr. Goldstein said to Ari before he hopped into his overly packed Ford Explorer and took off was almost like a chime, signaling something important and valuable as it rang in my ears. “I will be back for you soon, little one.”
That was the last time I saw or even heard from Mr. Goldstein. I never thought anything of it then because I was on the verge of being four-years-old…duh. But at the same time, it was a bit spooky for the few seconds after I listened to him speak those last words to his only domestic companion; it didn’t sound like he meant Ari when he said those words.
The day after my dreaded fourth birthday, I remembered the last time seeing Ari; he was sitting on the front porch of Mr. Goldstein’s house, and he looked at me with a grim, melancholic expression. I turned my attention to Mrs. Brown, one of my close neighbors, as she pulled up in her car to take me to the wake and funeral, and then I heard Ari bark twice. I turned around, and Ari was mysteriously gone. I could have sworn I heard the echoing of Ari’s barking when he had suddenly vanished. I didn’t think anything of it.
After the wake and funeral of my entire family was over, I had attorneys, social service representatives, and of course fellow neighbors, try to explain to me where I will be living, and why I couldn’t return home. “But, I want to live at home,” I murmured under sobs and heavy flow of tears.
“That’s not going to be possible, hon,” One of the attorneys said, “Without any known living relatives left, we’re going to have to make preparations for your future living options.”
“NO!” I cried, “I don’t wanna live somewhere else! I want my mommy and daddy back!”
“I know hon, but—”
“We can take her in!” a familiar voice interrupted the attorney. It was my closest neighbors, the Robinsons. The Robinsons were a very loud and energetic family whom which had already taken in a foster child, Barry. He was a year older than I was, but a bit shy as he hid behind Mrs. Robinson and sucked his thumb.
“We were very close friends of her family, as were most of the other neighbors. We have our own foster child now, and we are always fond of young Evvy. Our house is huge, and we make plenty of money to support her. We will refuse to let that remarkable girl be shacked up at some orphanage!”
“Oh—Um, well, we will have to further discuss this to confirm that you will be well suited, of course,” The attorney stuttered, apparently intimidated by Mrs. Robinson’s assertiveness.
I lived with the Robinsons as one of their own albeit the Robinsons letting me keep my maiden name. And as the years shaved away, so did the pain of losing my family. The Robinsons were a really great family; full of fun and excitement. There was never a day without some form of drama or adventure that ended in humor. One day, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson took Barry and me to the circus for Barry’s eighth birthday. “I don’t understand why you would want to subject the kids to evil, creepy, menacing-looking goblins with rainbow pajamas and pale, macabre makeup,” Mr. Robinson protested.
“Look, Ben,” Mrs. Robinson started, passing a red light. “I don’t want to hear your complaints! Not today! Get over your childhood fear of clowns, and realize that a circus is more than just the clowns! It’s not all about the clowns!”
“It’s ALL about the clowns!”
“You sound like a clown with your whining!”
“Yeah? Well what if I came to bed, dressed up as a clown to cheer you up if you were upset?”
“Then you’d be performing your juggling act on the sofa! I married a MAN, not a CLOWN, Ben!”
“But you always say that I’m funny!”
“I never said you were funny, just funny LOOKING sometimes!”
Mrs. Robinson passed a second red light.
“Knock-knock!” Mr. Robinson suddenly teased.
“Oh no, don’t you start with those!” Mrs. Robinson said as she laughed.
“Oh come on!” Mr. Robinson whined. “Knock-knock!”
Mrs. Robinson gave in and replied, “Who’s there?”
“Honor Roll who?” She asked as she passed a third red light.
“Wow, you passed three red lights in a row, babe!”
“So? Weren’t you in the middle of a knock-knock joke!?
“Yes I was, until I noticed you passed three red lights!”
“So what? I don’t hear any sirens, so we’re good!”
“Well that’s true! Three red lights and no cops to stop you! You’re really…HONOR ROLL!!” Mr. Robinson exploded into obnoxious laughter.
“Oh my lord, Ben,” Mrs. Robinson said, shaking her head in shame at the joke Mr. Robinson was obviously proud of. A giggle escaped from my mouth; I didn’t find Mr. Robinson’s joke that funny, but I thought the conversation between the two of them was pretty humorous. Barry thought so too as he snorted out a chuckle and the whole minivan became a chorus of laughter throughout the entire ride.
The Robinsons were a really great family to get along with, even when it came to the extended family. They were just as family-oriented as my late family and festive as well. One day I had the pleasure of meeting Grandma Robinson, who preferred to be called Nana than Grandma Robinson. Nana was shorter than my late grandmother, but more youthful and jubilant. “I am so sorry about your family, dear,” Grandma Robinson said, “But despite the tragedy of it all, and at such a young age, you’ve managed to remain such a sweet child!”
“Thank you, Nana,” I smiled. The subject about my family’s mysterious death was never solved, and it was still a freshly sensitive subject. However, I always managed to cope. Maybe it was because I was still so young and I didn’t understand it all. I didn’t know what the true definition of dying was—only the fact that when you die, you leave and there’s no coming back. And though I did not know many things like life and death, I realized that my attitude was more mature than most children at the age of seven. There were things I realized that most adults or even young adults would realize too late. One thing I realized was that Barry, their adopted son, grew into a royal pain in the butt.
“Can I play ‘connect the dots’ with your face!?” he would tease. Barry would always poke fun of my freckles, and my fiery-red hair. When my freckles started to show, Barry thought I had a flesh-eating disease. He actually drew a constellation on my face while I was asleep—I remember getting up from the sofa after watching Finding Nemo to brush my teeth, and I saw a black scribble of Orion and the Big Dipper drawn on the right cheek of my face. It wasn’t just the fact that he made fun of me for having freckles, he would always pretend I was a villain from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers as well. “DIE, RITA REPULSA!” he would shout as he dropkicked me from behind, causing me to face-plant into the sand pit of our back yard. I ate about two mouthfuls of sand, and listened to him bellow the lyrics to the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers theme song about five times a weekend.
Although Barry was such a pain to me, I never reacted negatively. I never cried, whine, or showed signs of pain or disgust. The fact was, through all of the torturous times with Barry, I never felt any real pain. I actually thought it was funny, and would always bring it up during conversations. “I can’t believe I lost in earring after you karate-kicked me into the pool!” I would say with a laugh.
“BARRY!!” Mr. and Mrs. Robinson would scold him. “You don’t hit your sister, or any girl for that matter!”
“I wasn’t hitting her! We were playing Power Ra—”
“I don’t care if you were playing Street Fighter! Keep your hands off your sister! Do you understand!?”
“Yes…,” Barry would sulk.
“Now apologize, or I’m taking away all of your Nerf guns!”
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“Oh that reminds me,” I started, “I found some of the darts you used last time you loaded them with paint to shoot at me! They’re still yellow!” I said with a smile, knowing that payback was much more therapeutic than crying any day.
“WHAT!?!?” Mr. and Mrs. Robinson had both gasped.
Needless to say, Barry had a lot of his toys and favorite pastimes revoked until my ninth birthday. Barry actually matured a lot. He only dropkicked me into the pool when it was more appropriate, always making sure he didn’t hurt me in the process. “Are you okay?” he would frequently ask—it was rather more annoying than him kicking me into the pool out of the sheer enjoyment he obtained at my expense.
We took a lot of pictures that year when Mr. Robinson bought one of the newer digital cameras, the ones that didn’t need the Advantix film in them. There were a plethora of pictures of us doing pretty much everything; a picture of us at dinner, a picture of us walking to the park, and even a picture of Barry and me on our first day of school. It was cheesy, but it was exactly the thing I needed to keep my mind off of my traumatic fourth birthday. We were all happy, and pain of losing my family was almost completely gone.
It wasn’t until Barry’s tenth birthday party in January when things started turning for the worse. Everyone gathered around Barry to take a family photo, and that’s when I heard it. Help… It sounded so close, that I thought it was my younger cousin Betty. “Are you okay?” I asked her.
“What are you talking about?” she looked puzzled.
“I thought you needed help with something.”
“With what, silly?” she laughed.
And then I heard it again.
“Okay, that’s not funny, Bet!” I said, obviously spooked.
“What’s not funny!?” she asked with a frustrated tone.
“Okay Bets, stop doing whatever it is you’re doing to your cousin,” her mother, Aunt Meg scolded her.
“But I’m not doing anything!” she whined.
“Someone keeps whispering help in my ear!” I said.
“It’s not me!” Betty whined, “I’m not even close enough to your ear!” She was right. She was actually two bodies to the right of me.
“Well it’s not me, and I am close enough to your ear,” Uncle Brian, Betty’s father, said humorously.
“Well somebody’s doing it!” I shouted.
“Okay, Ev, that’s enough,” Beatrice scolded me for the first time in my time living with her as her foster child. “Let’s smile and say cheese everybody!”
I shook it off, staring at the red light Ben aimed at the group. He made a few adjustments to the direction of the camera as it swiveled on a tall tripod, then rushed into the picture. I was now between Barry and Ben, who had to squeeze between Uncle Brian and myself. As Ben counted down from five seconds, I heard the mysterious whimper as if it was emanating from directly in front of me. Please…help me! I tried to ignore it as best as I can as I heard my foster father holler, “THREE! TWO! ONE!! SAY CHEESE!!!”
I straightened up, smiled brightly at the beaming red light and yelled “cheese!”
The camera made a subtle bleep bleep noise, and the flash went off. It was so bright, like a spotlight shining at my face for a brief second. As the effects of the camera’s flash faded from my eyes, my eyes met with black smoke and bright red spheres.
I felt the sting of blistering ice as it held me by the shoulders. Before I knew it, I was staring into the blood-red eyes of a black and bluish blur of a figure, its face too distorted to make out if it was human or beast.
“It’s here!” it echoed a slow, low-toned gasp as if it was suffocating. I wanted to scream, but I was literally paralyzed, as if the thing was constricting my entire body. I couldn’t even breathe. I felt like it was suffocating me. I tried frantically to move my limbs. No matter who I hit, or where my arms or legs swung, I needed to move. This thing had a hold on me, and I did not know what it wanted; only that it wanted me to help it. “It’s here!” it hissed again.
Suddenly, I felt my mouth force open, and the thing that had me ensnared lunged what looked like its face, into it. It felt like water was being forced into my mouth, down my throat, and into my lungs. The inside of my body was expanding, and the drowning blur of the thing continued to flow through me. Soon it felt like every vein, artery, and even organ, was being filled with what felt like an endless supply of freezing ocean water. I was still unable to move, unable to speak or cry for help, even though everyone was still alive and within arm’s length of me. The entire inside of my body felt like it was being stretched of its capacity, and my heart began to beat rapidly—it was the only organ I felt was actually working. I kept trying to scream, to kick and flail. I was still paralyzed, still burning from the unknown thing that was drowning me. I felt helpless, and everyone was still standing around as if they were frozen. And that’s when I noticed they were frozen. They stopped moving, as if they were forced to freeze in time at the push of the pause button on a DVD remote. Everyone was still smiling, and the last bit of light from the camera flash was still gleaming faintly. I felt like crying; this is what the pain felt like, like having to watch my entire family die with no cause or reason, the pain being felt when the same creatures as the one drowning and burning my body decimated my family members one by one. I thought about that pain as I felt myself crying, though the motion could not be acted out through my current paralysis, is this how my family died? Is this what this thing is doing to me? Am I going to die? Why me? Why my family?
Suddenly, a few things happened almost instantaneously. First, the pain had mysteriously and abruptly ended. The blackish-blue creature suddenly retracted itself from my mouth, and I felt like a massive plug was removed from my esophagus and trachea. Everything in the room was moving again, even the paused light from the dimming flash as it retracted from the flash bulb. Everyone began moving and talking again, laughing and celebrating Barry’s turning ten-years-old…or would have been celebrating if the final thing, my horrific, gut-wrenching scream and my flailing fists crashing right into Barry’s face and Ben right below the belt, didn’t stop them from doing so.
“EVENFLEU!” Beatrice howled in horror, half angry and half shocked. I stopped to look around the room, at everyone staring at me as if I was crazy or being beaten to death. My eyes were wide opened, almost detaching from their sockets.
“I—” I couldn’t even finish. My body still felt like it was on fire still, and every vein and muscle felt congested, as if they were force-fed glue. I felt like my entire body was going to explode until I realized that something was direly wrong with my heart—it had stopped beating. I stood there, waiting for my body to collapse, for everything to turn completely black and cold. I waited for breathing to no longer become available to me. Instead, I just stood there, clutching my chest, not feeling a single thump of life from my heart. “Mommy,” I wimpered, and I felt tears rolling down my eyes; they felt thick, and warmer than normal tears.
“Oh my god, Beatrice, her eyes!” My Aunt Meg said with a gasp.
I watched as several drops of black ink-like fluid fell from my chin as they poured out of my eyes and onto the floor. The black tears smelled like blood; stale coagulated blood. “Evvy, honey, what happened!?” Beatrice hurdled over an unconscious Barry—his nose was probably broken from my fists flailing frantically. “Evvy, honey, say something to me!” she shook me desperately to get a response. Something warm began to trickle from my right nostril—the same black fluid my eyes were producing. A thick, worm-like stream traced over my lips, following the same path as the tears as it broke off from my chin and splattered onto the cold floor. “EVVY PLEASE SAY SOMETHING!!”
She was feeling my wrist for a pulse, checking my temperature, putting her hand on my chest looking for a heartbeat—anything that could give her a clue as to what was happening to me. She stared at me as she put her put her hands to her mouth. “Her heart’s not beating!” she shrieked. My body was finally getting heavy, and more black fluid ran from my eyes and nose. My throat then felt like it was closed shut, preventing me from breathing and even talking again. My eyes then suddenly started acting weird; I was seeing everything in a bright-blue tint. I couldn’t make it out, but the blue tint traced the contours of everyone in the room; including Beatrice, who was now wiping my face from the black fluid that was painting it. “No Evvy, no!” Beatrice shouted, “Don’t you die on me! You won’t die like your family did! I won’t let that good family’s only legacy end today! NOT today!”
I finally gasped for air, and my lungs filled up freely. My heart began to beat again, and I felt my veins felt like they were flowing with normal blood again. I gasped again, as if I’ve never breathed in oxygen before. When I finally had little composure of myself, I managed to cry out one single word. “Help.” After that, everything finally went black.
I woke up to an annoying high-pitched ringing, and then realized that I was lying in a bed at the local hospital. Apparently I spent what felt like a week there having tests done on me. I felt like a science project with so many tubes running through me. “She has no signs of any internal damage, Mrs. Robinson,” one of the doctors said. “If she awakens soon, we’ll be able to perform some tests for any mental trauma. For now, as far as the tests show, Evenfleu’s healthier than the average nine-year-old, and more.”
“But what about the blood!?” my foster mother contested with a harsh whisper. “Her blood was black! It looked like molasses! There’s no way any child could be healthy if their blood was black!”
“From what we ran, this… black blood… wasn’t in her system. We took blood tests, and her blood work came back normal. Perhaps it was just a prank or something she had to drink—”
“Her eyes…were completely...BLACK!!” I was able to hear her loud and clear now. My eyes were black!? I thought to myself. “I highly doubt that she would be that convincing of a prankster to make her eyes turn completely BLACK from out of nowhere!!”
She continued to argue with the doctor about the many reasons why I wasn’t completely healthy; bleeding black from the eyes and nose, heart stopping, me coughing up more black stuff, then my eyes turning jet-black just before passing out on the floor. The doctor could not find any cause of those symptoms my mom spat out in front of the entire Intensive Care Unit hallway.
“It sucks, hearin’ bout how yer not well, huh?” an unfamiliar voice rasped. I turned over slowly, too afraid to move due to the tubes connected to my body, until I was partially on my side. I saw an old, dark leathery-skinned man sitting up in the bed beside mine. He had tubes connected to him the same way I did. His body shook like a wet child, and his body looked too frail to touch. But he had a smile that looked so genuine, as if all of the pain in the world couldn’t add up to the amount of happiness he had in his heart. All I could do was nod my head in agreement to him. “Bah, what do these people know? You and I kiddo, we’re strapped to these here beds, just waitin’ on the bad news. Let me tell yeh…we’re too young to be sittin’ here, bein’ told how we’re sick. Life is bout goin’ out there, and doin’ things! They sit there and talk all soft and quiet, as if dyin’ an’ bein’ sick is a bad thing…It’s a part of life! A part of living! We all livin’ to die, and we’re all just dyin’ to live!” The old man sort of freaked me out a little, but he also sort of made sense to me then.
“Death is a scary thing though…I don’t expect a youngin’ like yerself to understand it yet, but even at the youngest of ages, yer gonna experience death in more ways than one! We all livin’ to die, and we’re all just dyin’ to live!”
He was right. What he had said made me think back when I just turned four. It quite possibly could have been the best year of my childhood. I remembered how every single member of my family, one by one, dropped like flies. I remembered the swirling blackish-blue apparitions blurring around each member like swarms of wasps guarding their nests just before each member fell to the ground. I remember, in the middle of dead bodies piled up like sand bags, from inside of my old house to the back yard where I watched in horror. There was no blood, no dismembered bodies. Just the random twitching of limbs from the lifeless bodies that almost formed a fort around me. “I—I have witnessed death,” I whispered hoarsely; the tubes made it slightly difficult for me to speak.
“Well course ya have!” The old man said with a chuckle. Every time ya step on a lil’ june bug, seein’ a dead possum in da middle of da street!”
I gave him an awkward look as he started to readjust his position in his bed. He chuckled. What I got from him was that he was kidding about that. “That’s a sign, ya know,” the old man whispered as he leaned towards my way. “It means that somethin’ significant’s comin’ yer way. Somethin’ good…But ya won’t understand it yet, not till yer older. But you’ll know kiddo. You’ll feel it.”
I must have let my inner feeling of being spooked by what the old man said show on my face—he stared at me for a brief second until he laughed.
“Oh don’t worry yerself, not tryin’ tuh scare ya!” he ensured.
I can hear my foster mother still arguing with the doctor, bringing up the fact that I had lost my entire family mysteriously, and how she was going to die the same way before she let me suffer the same fate.
“What’s yer name kiddo?”
“E—Even…Evenfleu,” I stuttered.
The old man let out a heavy haw haw at the way I answered him.
“Well, Even-Evenfleu,” he began, “It was a pleasure meetin’ ya! I gotta get goin’ now…But I’ll see ya again! And rememba’…Death, sickness, dyin’…It’s all part of life! We all livin’ to die, and we’re all just dyin’ to live!”
“Wait,” I blurted out hoarsely. “Where are you going?” For some odd reason, I didn’t want the old man to leave. Something about the old man made me feel at ease, even the ringing that woke me up faded away. The old man was also kind of funny. He would have made me smile if he didn’t have to leave.
Then I had a reality check feeling that overwhelmed me. We were in a hospital. There was no way he was just going to hop up out of the bed with all of those tubes connected to him. He wasn’t even getting up from his bed at all. He was just sitting there, still waving goodbye. He didn’t even answer my question. He was just smiling with the same waving motion as if I was watching a two-second video loop.
Suddenly, the annoying ringing started again, and that’s when I realized, it never stopped. The ringing was still going. I felt a strong surge shooting through my body like I was struck by lightning right in my chest. I began coughing as the ringing died down to subtle bleeps, like a softer-sounding version of Ben’s digital camera just before taking a shot. To my surprise, I reopened my eyes. When did I fall back to sleep!? I had thought. Then I realized that there were other shocking changes. The obvious change was the cause of the ringing and bleeps, the big machine with red and green-lit numbers and digital line graph moving in sync with the bleeps. Also, the people that were now hovering over me—my foster mom and dad, the doctor who was getting chewed out by my foster mom earlier, and other doctors and nurses in scrubs all exhaling with a huge sigh of relief after I opened my eyes.
“Oh thank God, Evvy honey!” Beatrice praised as she pressed her hands together against her mouth, as if she was praying.
“She’s finally stabilized,” the doctor murmured. Something was wrong in his tone, however.
“We’re going to need to run some more tests,” he said with a heavy sigh.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” I finally spoke. My voice sounded funny—I felt like I haven’t spoken in years.
“Honey,” She said, “you were in a coma for six months!” That was the other shocking change. I couldn’t even fathom just talking to an old man one minute, and then the next minute reawakening from a six-month coma with everyone hovering over me.
“I couldn’t have been in a coma; I was awake just a minute ago!”
“Honey, a minute ago you were dead,” she whispered.
Dead? I thought to myself. “N—no, I was just talking to this old guy! Right over there!” I pointed, noticing one of the other changes, no tubes connecting to my arms. Then I noticed the other change, the old man was no longer there. “Where is he!?”
The doctor walked over to the empty bed and examined it for only a second.
“There hasn’t been anyone in this bed for over a year,” he concluded.
“But I was talking to him,” I argued, “an old guy with a big smile and raspy voice, dark-skinned and thick eyebrows!” The doctor dropped the clipboard he was holding. I didn’t even notice him holding one until he did.
“Archie Long!?” he said as he looked over at his colleagues. They all shrugged at the name. “From the show, ‘The Life and Times of Archie Long!?’ Used to flirt with you guys?” He reminded them.
“OHHHH!” the few female nurses responded, and even giggled.
I sat up a bit, realizing that there was still a breathing tube just underneath my nose.
“His name is Archie Long?” I asked.
“His name was Archie Long,” the doctor corrected me. I thought to myself, That’s what he meant about having to go…he knew he was going to die, and he was willing to accept that. “But you couldn’t have talked to him,” the doctor said, “Because…”
He shook his head. His forehead wrinkled, and so did the area between his eyebrows. I could tell he was struggling in thought.
“Why?” I murmured.
“Because Archie Long died two years ago,” one of the nurses spoke for the doctor. My eyes were wide. I didn’t believe them. Everything seemed to feel like one big joke. I was just talking to the old man they called Archie Long. I thought that they were probably wrong, that they were talking about the wrong old guy.
“This was his last day alive with us,” one of the nurses said, as she pointed to the wall where the old man lied. It was a picture of two of the nurses that were in the same room I was in, and the same doctor—Doctor Newton Wright, MD. All of them were hovering over the familiar, leathery-skinned old man with the genuine smile, his frail, web-veined arms hugging the waists of the two nurses. Just below the picture, there was writing:
With endless love,
The photo had a familiar smudge as the one in the picture in my locket. The only difference is, the smudge was more defined—it looked more like a blurry duplicate of Archie Long. “Right after we took that picture, he fell into a sudden cardiac arrest, and passed away,” Doctor Wright said sadly. “He was well liked, and loved, in this hospital. He lifted the spirits of everyone. He was never afraid of death, nor did he think ill of dying. He would always say—”
I cut him off. Something told me I knew what he was about to say. “It’s a part of life…A part of living…We’re all livin’ to die, and we’re all just dyin’ to live,” I murmured slowly. All of the nurses and even Dr. Wright just stared at me, a look of horror flushed over their face as if they just saw me twist my head completely around.
“That was the last thing he said before he died,” Dr. Wright muttered. Then I realized why they were so freaked out; Archie Long has been dead for two years, and I was brought into the hospital six months ago. There was no way I should have been able to talk to him, let alone see him alive. I was also in a coma for six months, and according to Beatrice, I was dead for over a minute. I began putting all of these facts together in my head. And then suddenly I unconsciously let out a gasp, because it was then that I realized, that all this time, I had been talking to a ghost.
I realized this whole time that this strange…phenomenon…that was occurring stretched out far beyond talking with Archie Long’s ghost. I gathered a couple of weird instances; the mysterious blurry smudges in certain photos, the blackish-blue blurs that appeared just before the death of my entire family, as well as the blackish-blue thing that tried to drown me by jumping down my throat. That event sent me to the hospital for six months, practically dead and having a six-month long conversation with an old ghost named Archie Long.
I spent another week at the hospital for observation, and a few tests courtesy of Dr. Wright: mental tests, blood work, more mental tests, a few days of therapy, and then more blood work. After all of the tests proved negative for anything showing a potent cause for what had happened to me, I was free to go home. At least that is what Dr. Wright told my Beatrice. I believed the real reason Dr. Wright ran those tests was for the very same reason I had known at that point—to see if I had actually talked to ghosts.
I still felt weak after returning home from the hospital. Dr. Wright suggested a week off from school to recover, and that’s what Ben and Beatrice had me do. “I know it is April, and being in school is probably the most mandatory given it is two months away from the final month of school,” Dr. Wright said, “but I think you should monitor her for at least a week, just to make sure there aren’t any other complications.”
During one of the days of the week I stayed home, I lied in my bed, in thought about the theory of contacting ghosts, and only one question came to mind: How did it work if it was actually possible? I didn’t know whether to close my eyes and picture a ghost or just start chattering away.
And then I remembered the signs—blackish-blue blurred figures, bone-chilling winds, and the last sign I had almost forgotten, the blurred images in photos. There was nothing I could think of that would help detect the first two signs, so starting with the easiest sign I hopped out of bed and headed for my dresser. Pulling out the top drawer, I shuffled through my random accessories and t-shirts until I felt the cold, platinum book-shaped locket connected by the thick-linked necklace Mr. Goldstein gave me. I pulled it out from the top drawer—it still glimmered flawlessly as it reflected the sunlight striking it from my bedroom window. Using my thumbs, I carefully snapped the locket open, and then immediately looked at the picture of only me. The blur was still there. I examined it carefully, and then made a very eerie discovery. The blur was no longer a blur. It had an actual human appearance; only it was still a blackish blue tint. I examined more and discovered that it indeed had the face of a female no older than my late mother. She looked like she was peeking from behind one of the trees in the majestic forest poster. She looked as though she was looking straight into my own eyes as I examined the photo.
I then decided that in order to try to make the ghosts show themselves at my own will, I was going to have to search for them. I began thinking of ideas like normal kids my age would do when they were orchestrating mischief. I thought that if they showed up in pictures and not simply through the naked eye, I was going to need a camera.
I snapped the locket shut, draped the necklace around my neck, and then ran out of my bedroom and into Ben’s office where he kept his digital camera. I searched his desk, and the drawers underneath it. No camera. I checked the sill of the faux fireplace against the wall opposite of the desk. Nothing. I almost gave up and left the room, but and as I turned towards the door, that’s when I saw it; Ben’s windbreaker coat, and a lanyard with the word “Canon” labeled all over it. I hurried to the windbreaker and checked the pocket. Jackpot! I retracted my hand, holding in it a shiny, silver digital camera a little more than half the size of a red brick. I turned the camera around until I found the power button and then pushed the small, circular, and even shinier silver button. The camera made a wzzt wzzt sound, followed by a familiar bleep bleep sound. There was a black rectangle, almost the same size of the camera itself, on the back of the camera which suddenly flashed white. A split second later, that same rectangle became a digital viewer, showing the floor and the tips of my sneakers in real-time. The camera worked!
I ran out of my foster father’s office, through the living room, and into the kitchen—there was a door leading to the back yard just like my old house had. Stepping outside, I took in the fresh air—it was crisp, almost as if it just finished raining. It has to be after 3p.m., I thought as I stared at the sun looming just over the Robinsons’ house.
Using the digital viewer on the back of the camera, I looked around the back yard for ghosts. The sand pit. The deck and the pool. The woods just past the sand pit. No ghost in sight. I checked all around the side of the house and even the front yard as well as the driveway. Not even a blur was seen. I sighed with disappointment, defeated from my failed attempt to spot a ghost.
I jumped from the abrupt monstrous horn from a familiar minivan that stopped just in front of the Robinsons’ house. The driver side window rolled down to reveal the face of a middle-aged adult woman. It was Mrs. Brown, one of my old neighbors. “Hey there, girly!” she sang.
“Hey Mrs. Brown!” I sang back.
“I heard you were in the hospital for a while! Is everything okay?”
“Yep,” I answered, “I’m feeling better, thanks.”
“I was worried, what with what happened with your family and everything.” I winced, reliving the tragic event in my head within seconds. “I’m sorry for bringing that up, dear,” she apologized, “The old house isn’t the same though. I miss everyone, including you. Wish I could have adopted you; you are such a loving young girl! But the Robinsons are good people. They look out for their own. I’m so happy that you’re doing well!”
“Thank you, I’m glad you’re doing well too!” I said, smiling.
“Well thanks for asking how an old gal’s doing!” she teased. I giggled as she made a face, pretending to be hurt. “Oh! I do have something of yours, however,” she continued. “You probably don’t know this, but…your old house was condemned. No one wanted to live there, and the banks weren’t making anything from it, so they have it all boarded up. Such a shame! But I did manage to get a couple of your things, and your parents’. There was a pink Power Wheels Hummer just sitting out on the front lawn, still in mint condition. I figured you wanted to have that to drive around in. You still look small enough to ride it, and my kids are way too big to fit a foot in it. I’ll stop by and let the Robinsons know about your parents’ possessions and their will. You’re gonna want to be there too since, you know, you’re the only surviving family member left…Sorry for bringing it up again dear!”
“It’s okay, Mrs. Brown,” I murmured, “I’ll let them know.”
“Okay, dear! You take care of yourself—don’t get into any trouble, you hear?”
“I won’t, Mrs. Brown,” I nodded.
Mrs. Brown smiled and waved to me, and then the driver side window rolled back up. I waved back as her minivan pulled off and raced down the street, in the direction of my old house.
That’s when the idea struck me. My old home, where all of this started. The first blur in the photo, the cold winds, the blackish-blue blurs. I didn’t even think about it. I just stepped off of the Robinsons’ property, heading down the street, seven houses away, towards the cause of it all: the Andreas residence.
I skipped walking altogether and ran the entire way. I saw the “305” school bus drive past me as I ran. Barry would be getting off of that bus, I thought. I tucked the camera in the pocket of my jeans, and then sprinted the rest of the way until I saw the house I was born and raised in.
It looked like something from a horror movie. Old, decrepit shingles and siding stripped of its paint. Wooden boards nailed horizontally to cover the broken glass of windows and doors. Old ivory ferns practically knitted around most of the house. And uncut grass grew as high as the three-foot berry bushes that used to add to the décor of the house. It actually reminded me of the house from A Nightmare on Elm Street, except for the lack of the hopscotch tiles drawn in chalk along the walkway and the eerie “Freddy Kruger” jingle.
I stopped as soon as I made it to the front of the house, catching my breath for a moment. I immediately began running everything that happened five years ago in my head…everything. I remembered when I was about to blow out the candles, and the cold wind that followed. I headed straight for the back yard, the paranormal crime scene. Caution tape still littered the lawn, and the tables from my fourth birthday party were still there—ferns and tall grass hung on them like mountain climbers hanging from the gargantuan monuments of stone. I quickly pulled out the camera, turning it on and looking around. “Nothing!” I sighed out loud.
I examined everything, using the digital viewer as my source of spotting paranormal activity. The back yard was littered with everything except paranormal activity. That’s when I heard it, a faint sound of a young girl crying from inside of the house. This is it! I thought. I had to get inside of the house. But with everything boarded up, from the windows to both of the doors, it made this objective unrealistic…or almost unrealistic, because as I searched the perimeter of the house I noticed that one of the windows on the side of the house had a few loose boards; some random kids trying to break in perhaps. Either way, it was a chance for me to break inside. I searched the back yard for anything to shake the loose boards off of the window—a shovel, a crowbar, anything. I found neither a shovel, nor a crowbar. But what I did find was an aluminum baseball bat. Where it came from was a question best left alone, granted I was the only child; a girl with no interest in baseball, especially at my age back then, and the rest of my family liked football for the most part.
I grabbed the bat—it weighed much more than it looked—and raced to the side of the house. I looked up at the window with the loose boards. It wasn’t too high, so I knew I could climb through the window. The problem was, even though I could knock the boards loose, the window could still be shut…or worse…broken with jagged-edged glass.
I growled, winding the weighted aluminum bat just over my shoulder and swung. The bat met the wood with a solid thunk and one of the boards fell to the ground—the easiest of the boards. I took another swing. Thunk! Shards of wood flew from the impact of the bat in chunks of splinters. Aside from the imprint of the aluminum bat and a significant split in the middle of it, the board was still nailed to the window. Thunk! Thunk! The second board flew off of the window. I swung the bat one last time. Thunk! The bat split a third board, sending it flying inside of the house. “YES!” I cheered.
Tucking the camera back into my pocket, I knelt down slightly, gathering myself to jump. I pushed off both feet, springing up towards the window. My hands just grabbed the window sill. Broken wood that splintered up from that window sill, dug deep into the palms of my hands. I cringed, holding on to the windowsill and trying my best to pull myself up. A few splinters meant nothing at this point.
I reached deep into my reserves, pulling my body up, and slithering into the open window until I fell through the other side. My head bounced off of the white porcelain of the toilet. Great, I’m in the bathroom, I thought as I rubbed away the stinging pain from the gradually swelling bump on my head. I spent a moment plucking all of the splinters from the palms of my hands, and then exited the dark, cob-ridden bathroom.
The house held a stagnant scent of old clothes and rotting furniture. The house was completely dusty and dark, and just about everything was garnished in cob webs. Some of the furniture was still there after five years and it showed, but most of the luxurious furniture and appliances, such as the fifty-five-inch screen plasma television and home theatre system, were missing. I thought perhaps Mrs. Brown had a hand in those disappearances. I tried to flip the switch to bring light into the house, but nothing came on. I pulled out the camera once again, turning it on and looking through the digital viewer. The image displayed from the camera started to distort, like an old-fashioned color television with the rabbit-eared antennas that didn’t quite work too well.
Just as I started pressing the small buttons and dials that adjusted the camera settings, I heard the cry again. It definitely came from upstairs, I thought. I blindly followed the low, muffled crying through the dark dining room as a feeling of nostalgia rushed through me, trying to map the area out through the imperfect digital viewer.
Suddenly, something moderately sized and glowing white moved too quickly for my eyes to see in the scrambled digital viewer, but I had a hunch where the white figure had gone; In my old bedroom.
I half-ran up the stairs until I reached the top, and then inched cautiously towards the door to my old bedroom. The crying grew louder. I slowly opened the door, and spied around the room with the digital viewer. Nothing was there.
I walked into the bedroom and looked around more. I was certain that the ghost went into this room. Just as I was about to check the window, I heard a sound. It wasn’t crying, but something different, something familiar. The sound reminded me of when I was in the hospital talking to the ghost of Archie Long; harmonic, and subtle, soothing and comforting. The sound grew louder, loud enough for me to determine that it was coming from directly behind me.
I turned around, looking through the scrambled viewer. I saw nothing, but I felt that whatever I saw from downstairs was right in front of me. Then I remembered Barry’s birthday party, when we all gathered to take a picture, I smiled bright, chanted “cheese!” and then after the camera flashed, I saw the face of the ghost, holding me. It was worth a shot.
I walked closer to the calm, harmonic resonance slowly, holding the camera up to my face and pushing the even smaller, even shinier silver button next to the power button. Nothing happened. I checked the camera, and then I noticed something different about the digital viewer—it had a small, red, blinking clock icon on the upper-right corner of it now. It was counting down the seconds starting from five. Ben must have forgotten to turn the counter off, I thought. And just after I thought about that, the camera bleeped twice, the flash went off, and that’s when I saw it. It was a small, smoky, bright-bluish image, a distortion of what looked to be a small child no older than two years old—maybe three. As soon as the flash went off, its head spun around in a blur, caught glimpse of me, and shrieked. And then it vanished out of the room in blinding speed. “WAIT!” I shouted. I should have been scared out of my wits, but I wasn’t. The feeling that I’ve had from the small ghost was the same feeling I had with Archie Long, a bit creepy, but safe, and comforting. Plus this ghost seemed different. The ghost was a bright bluish-white instead of the blackish blue that I’d remembered.
I raced out of the room and down the stairs. I took a nasty stumble, and the camera flew out of my hand, clattering hard against the hard-wooden steps. I banged my knees up a bit, but I shrugged it off—for now—and scooped up the camera, turning it off and stuffing it back in my pocket.
I ran towards the front door, and turned the knob. The door did not budge. I then remembered that every door and every window was boarded shut, all except one window. I ran into the bathroom again and almost literally dove through the opening the missing boards made for me. I slithered the rest of the way out and ran to the back yard, frantically looking around.
There it was.
“I know you can see me,” I said. “And I can see you. I’m not here to hurt you, not that I can actually hurt you, since you’re already d—”
Then the ghost slowly turned around. I walked closer, and slowly towards it until I saw the ghost’s face, and then gasped. “Scarlett!?” I shrieked.
“Evvy!” she cried. I remembered the last time Scarlett being alive. The last thing she cried out was my name. Tears began to roll down my eyes.
“Scarlett!?” I could not believe I was staring—and talking to—the ghost of my two-year-old cousin; a girl far too young to have died.
“Evvy,” she hiccupped.
“It’s me, Scarlett, I’m here now!” I reached out to touch her hand, her shoulder, any part of her. My fingers simply slipped through her as if she was made of smoke. She shouldn’t have died, not this young.
“It should have been me who had died,” I cried, “not you!”
“Evvy?” Scarlett’s ghost sniffled.
Suddenly, the blurry figure became more solid—clearly visible—it was definitely Scarlett. I let the tears flow freely at that point. “What is it, Scars?” I asked.
“What’s died mean?” she asked, her beautiful, bright eyes looking up at me.
“Well, Scarlett,” I said. I still didn’t know too much about the term, but I knew enough to answer her. “It means that you are no longer alive.” I said.
“Like, when you go to heffen?” she asked.
“Yes, when you go to heaven,” I answered.
“Does that mean I won’t be able to drife your new car?” she pouted.
I shook my head. “Not at all!” I said with a smile, the tears still flowing—just not as much. “I will bring it with me when it’s my turn to go to heaven, okay?” I promised.
“You bedder,” she demanded. I giggled slightly, and held my arms out to Scarlett. “Come here, Scars!” I sang, smiling, but still saddened that my two-year-old cousin was no longer alive. Scarlett scurried over, in almost a blur, over to me, and tackled me, wrapping her arms around my waist. This time, my body did not simply just pass through hers. The feeling felt weird; I was able to feel her arms constrict my torso as she hugged me, and that’s when it happened. Flashes of random images of Scarlett flew past my eyes. She was still alive in each image, up until I started seeing images of my family once again. Everyone towered like giants, and fell to the ground like trees in front of me. This must be back when I was four, I thought. I then made a shocking discovery. As I saw myself running towards the door leading into the kitchen of my old house, I saw an image of my mother holding me. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t watching the last moments of my family’s death through my eyes; it was through the eyes of Scarlett. I heard Scarlett crying, and her little hand reaching out to me and my mother, and then everything went black.
I realized that my eyes had closed since this strange event, and I opened them, realizing that Scarlett was still hugging me. I wrapped my arms around the translucent body of Scarlet, and hugged her tight; she felt soft, like a pillow; I did not feel any bone structure that would frame her tiny figure.
“I’m so sorry, Scars,” I started to cry again, “You did not deserve this!” A second later, Scarlett pulled away from our embrace, and then started looking around suddenly.
“I hear people singing, they’re calling for me…do I haff to go now?” she asked sadly. I heard the harmonic resonance grow louder, and then nodded.
“You can visit me anytime you want,” I told her. “I’m right down the street, just over at the Robinsons’ place.” My voice began to tremble. My heart ached, realizing I was speaking to one of my family members for the first time since five years ago, and she was about to leave.
“I can’t go by myself,” she said.
“You won’t be by yourself,” I ensured her. “Bring my mom and dad with you. Tell them I said that I love them, and I miss them when you see them!” I began to cry.
“I luff you too, Evvy!” she chanted.
“And I love you too, Scars,” I murmured.
It was weird hearing her talk so fluently. She could barely say my name when she was alive because she was only two. But that didn’t matter now…one thing was proven that day; I, Evenfleu Andreas, was able to contact ghosts.
“What are you doing here!?” I spun around towards the familiar voice, wiping my eyes and face from the tears. It was Barry, with a couple of his friends. “And who are you talking to!?” he demanded.
The harmonic resonance faded away. I spun around to see if Scarlett was there—she was now gone. “Dude, your sister looks like she’s seen a ghost!” Barry’s friend, Jordan, laughed.
“Apparently she can,” Barry sneered, “at least, that’s the story she told the doctors!”
“I just ran into Mrs. Brown,” I said, my voice still trembling slightly, “She said she had my old Power Wheels car, so I wanted to see if it still worked—but I saw my old house, and—”
“DUDE!” Barry shouted. “Is that dad’s new camera!?” He pointed to the lanyard dangling from my pants pocket. He snatched the lanyard, yanking the camera out, and then started fiddling with it. “Ohhhhhhhh!” he chanted. “You’re so busted for breaking dad’s camera!”
“What are you talking about!?” I asked.
“The Digital View Finder’s all busted! What did you do? Drop it!?”
Shoot! I screamed in my head. When I fell down the stairs inside the house, I must have broken it when it fell out of my hand!
“Wait till dad hears about this,” Barry bellowed.
Another thing that was proven that day: Barry returned to being a royal pain.