Chapter | 3
We’ve been in the house a week now, and I have to say, it has more than a few flaws. The locks on the doors don’t seem to work so well, and even the few we’ve replaced won’t always lock properly. I think it might be the doorframes, because there’s no other explanation. And I don’t need to add more things to the ‘no explanation’ folder in my head. I’ve tried not thinking about it, but something always reminds me.
I shouldn’t write these things down. Writing it down makes it real. It’s not real. I’m not seeing her. She’s not real. She’s not real.
But what if she is?
I’ve only seen her around the house, hiding in shadows or from the window in my room. She always just stands there, looking at me like she was disappointed in me somehow, and I hate it.
But in the last three months I’ve been here, I’ve only seen her four times. It actually sounds like a lot when I write it down, but compared to the other things happening…
Mama says it’s only the house; that the plumbing makes sounds and the house settling at night makes it worse, but I don’t agree. I’ve heard that in pretty much every scary story I’ve ever read, but I never thought I’d try to believe it so desperately.
I don’t know what’s happening.
I shut the journal, not wanting to read any further.
As the time passed in the girl’s life, the journal was getting weirder, and weirder. At first she would tell every detail about her day, even how it was going with the new flowers they planted, but now she was only writing about half a page, mostly about how freaked out she was.
This was the first time she mention the woman and I couldn’t help but shudder.
We’ve been in the house for almost two weeks now, and ever since the first two days, nothing ever happened. I went to bed, got up, spent my day looking through things in the shed, and then went to bed again. The cycle was undisturbed, but the girl’s journal was making me doubt that things would stay that way.
“Daniel!” I heard my mother call out of the blue.
Leaving the journal on my bed, I stepped into the hallway. “Yes?” I called, listening hard for her reply. When I didn’t hear anything, I moved further away from my room.
“Daniel?” I finally heard, but it definitely wasn’t coming from downstairs as I originally assumed.
“Mom, where are you?” I called.
“Upstairs!” she replied, which didn’t make much sense since I was already upstairs. I looked up and for the first time noticed the trapdoor to the attic was open, a step ladder standing under it.
“What are you doing up there?” I asked, climbing up the steps and hoisting myself into the dark attic.
My mother was on the other side, a torch illuminating her form.
“Mom?” I asked, crossing the distance until I could find out what she was busy doing. She seemed to be fiddling with some files.
I reached out to touch her shoulder, but stopped mid-air when I heard my name being called out again.
“Daniel? Are you here?” my mother called from downstairs.
The air left my lungs as I turned back to “my mother” crouched in front of me.
Slowly the woman started to rise. Other than a woman being in my attic, there was something about her movement that struck me as odd. It was almost like when a player in a game started lagging, their form twitching in and out of existence almost too fast to see. Which was exactly how the woman looked, like she was lagging.
For some reason my feet wouldn’t move, like the time I couldn’t look away from the girl. I was stuck in horrified awe of what was happening.
Deep down, I wanted to see the woman’s face, to know who I was dealing with, but it seemed that wouldn’t be the moment.
I bolt of electricity ran through my body and when I looked down I saw a hand wrap around my wrist before I was yanked backwards.
“Run!” the person called, pulling me further away from the woman. I twisted my body in order to move faster, but almost tripped when I saw it was the girl from the first night who was dragging me to the trapdoor.
“You can freak out later, but you have to get out,” the girl said once we reached the light shining in from the hallway. “Now,” she insisted when I didn’t move fast enough.
Without thanking her, I dropped to the edge of the trapdoor and lowered myself onto the step ladder. The trapdoor swung shut before I could even duck properly.
“Honey?” my mother asked, and by the sound of heavy steps, I knew she was coming up the stairs.
With wobbly legs I climbed from the ladder and picked it up, managing to get it to my room before my mother turned into the hallway.
“Yes?” I answered, but my voice came out faint.
“Oh, here you are, I could have sworn you were outside in the shed,” my mother said, leaning against my door.
I laughed nervously, “No, been here.”
“Okay,” my mother said, eyeing me suspiciously. I knew I was acting like a crazy person, but at that moment, I was convinced I was going crazy.
“Well, lunch will be done in half an hour, come down when you feel better,” my mother said, shutting my bedroom door behind her.
I signed, dragging a hand through my hair.
“Wow, she must think you’re losing it,” a voice said from behind.
The girl was sitting on the other side of the bed, her back leaned against the headboard and her legs tucked in.
“You’re not real,” I whispered, moving as far away as the bed would allow.
“I think we both know I am,” she said.
“How?” I asked, digging my hands into the sheets beneath me.
“Why don’t you take a guess,” the girl said, leaning forwards until it looked like she was about to fall over.
“Ghost don’t exist,” I retorted, hoping I sounded more confident than I felt.
“Well, that’s good news, but what am I then?” the girl asked, her sarcastic tone clearly intended to make fun of me.
“Prove it,” I said, because that was the only rational assumption my brain could make at that time.
“Seriously?” the girl asked, “Me popping up in random places isn’t enough proof?”
“I don’t know you, maybe you’re good at sneaking around,” I said.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” the girl muttered, unfolding her legs and jumping off of my bed.
“There,” she said. When I looked at her strangely she jumped again, and again, and again. She looked like she was about to give up when I realised what she was trying to do.
“There’s no sound,” I whispered, staring at her.
“Yip, no sound, and I know I’m skinny and all, but it should be a pretty clear indication that I don’t really have a body,” the girl said, reclaiming her spot on my bed.
When I didn’t say anything she sighed, pressing a hand to her forehead.
“Listen, I know you must be going through some serious life revaluation right now, but can’t you just accept it?” the girl asked, “Believe it or not, I’m actually pretty happy that there’s someone who I can talk to, it gets lonely here.”
I looked up at her, and for the first time actually, clearly looked at her.
She was around my age, and pretty too. As with her eyes, her hair was also dulled from what must have been a light brown, but it didn’t make her look any older. Everything about her seemed washed out, like an old cloth that was washed too many times until the colour leaked out.
She was wearing a plain white dress, almost comical in how cliché it was.
“Okay, I’ll try,” I finally said.
The girl smiled, clearly more enthusiastic about being friends than I was, but in a way it also set me more at ease. She was only human, granted not a live human, but I was trying to overlook the technicalities of my new found friendship.
“The name’s Lisa, nice to meet you,” the girl, Lisa, said, extending her hand to me.
I looked at it, the words slipping from my lips before I could stop them. “Won’t my hand just pass through?”
As an answer Lisa crawled closer and took my hand in hers.
Like the first time she touched me, an electric shock ran through my body, but other than that I couldn’t feel her. I could see her hand and mine connect, but I might as well have been shaking hands with air.
“I don’t…” I started to say, but Lisa was also looking at our hands, her face devoid of any emotion.
“Nice to meet you, Lisa, my name is Daniel Walker,” I said instead, for some reason not wanting to see her looking disappointed.
She snapped out of it immediately, her usual mocking expression returning to her face. Letting go of my hand, Lisa climbed off the bed and stood in front of the windows.
“Wanna go on an adventure?” Lisa suddenly asking, spinning on her heel to face me.
“Umm, sure,” I said, waiting for her to explain further.
With a clap of her hands, which did make a sound, Lisa started leaving the room and I was left with no choice other than following her.
We passed through the kitchen where my mother was standing by the stove.
“Oh, Daniel, food’s done,” she said as I walked past her to the front door. My eyes flew to Lisa, but she didn’t seem too concerned by my mother seeing her.
“Don’t worry, she can’t see me, adults tend not to,” Lisa said, skipping until she was standing next to my mother, “You should eat, we’re going to walk pretty far.”
Nodding my head, I sat down at the counter, filling my plate with everything my mother made- chicken, vegetables, potatoes. Lisa sat and watched as we ate, occasionally poking my fork as I raised it to my mouth. I glared at her and she laughed.
“You know, being a ghost looks like it can be pretty fun,” I said once we were outside.
Lisa gave me a sideways look. “It is, but there’s no point if there’s no one to haunt.”
“Good point,” I laughed, but I think it was meant a bit more serious.
“So, who would you haunt if you got the chance?” Lisa asked as she led me past the shed and to the trail I found the first day.
“Well, there was this kid at my high school who used to say he could communicate with the other world,” I said, overdramatising the end of my sentence. “I’d love to see his face when he realises ghosts really do exist.”
“It’s pretty good, especially those who freeze up,” Lisa said, turning around and cocking an eyebrow at me.
“Oh, big ha ha, so I froze, you can’t exactly blame me,” I defended myself, but in the process almost tripped over a surfaced root beneath all the undergrowth.
“You’re right, you could have been a screamer, like the last guy who stayed here,” Lisa laughed, her back once again facing me.
Clearing my throat, I asked her a question I’d been wondering about since we met.
“Lisa?” I asked.
“How long have you been here?”
Lisa hesitated for a moment, pulling her hair over one shoulder and combing through it with her fingers.
“I actually don’t know,” she finally said, “Whenever I try to think about it, I just come up blank.”
“Oh, and you haven’t tried working it out?” I asked, picking up speed until I was walking next to her.
“Of course I have, but it doesn’t work, the same thing happens every time,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
“Do you want me to help?” I asked, “Maybe I can do the maths if you just tell me what I need to know.”
Lisa stopped in her tracks, looking up at me. “Why do you care how old I am?” she asked.
“No specific reason, I just think it would be interesting to know,” I said, walking slower until she caught up with me.
“Well, I can’t see why it shouldn’t work, but let’s figure it out later, right now I just want to show you something,” Lisa said as we hiked up a slight incline.
“Can’t you just like fly instead of walk?” I asked between laboured breathing as the incline steadily grew.
“Myth,” Lisa said.
“What?” I asked incredulously, “And walking through walls?”
“Changing your appearance?”
“Does not hold my soul.”
Lisa turned to look at me, “Now you’re just thinking of vampires.”
“It’s not that far fetched if ghosts are real,” I said, raising my hands to defend myself.
“Well, I’ve never met one,” Lisa said, and finally we reached the top of the hill. For the first time I heard the sound of running water.
“A river?” I asked as we stepped onto the soft sand of the river bank. It wasn’t very wide, but stretched as far as I could see, probably turning to flow down the hill at some point.
“Don’t sound so unimpressed,” Lisa said, jabbing me in the ribs, but all it did was push me to the side, not hurt me at all.
“Why exactly did you bring me here?” I asked, watching her out of the corner of my eye.
“I think I might have died here,” Lisa said. My eyes widened at her blatant honesty.
“You think?” I asked.
“It’s blurry, I don’t remember much from being alive, but when I think about how I died, all I see is darkness and the feeling of being suffocated. Almost as if I’m drowning,” Lisa said, crouching next to the flowing water.
“What about the pool?” I asked, “It would make more sense if you drowned in the pool.
“No, the water was moving, pushing me around,” Lisa explained, “I’m sure of it, but I guess it’s possible that I didn’t even die here.”
“Why would you be here then?” Never in my life did I think I would be having a conversation with a ghost about how she died next to the river she might or might not have drowned in.
“I don’t know, it’s not like I have anyone who can explain being a ghost to me,” Lisa said.
“What about that woman?” I asked, sitting down next to her.
Lisa’s entire body visibly tensed up, her eyes locking on the kaleidoscope of colours the sun made as it hit the running water.
“No, she’s not like me, she’s something else,” Lisa whispered, dipping her fingers in the water only to have them come out completely dry.
“Something else?” I probed, hoping she could explain.
“I don’t know, but I don’t want to talk about her,” Lisa said, her hands coming up to over her face.
“Okay, what do you want to talk about?” I asked, pulling my knees up and resting my arms on them.
“Let’s talk about your life, I’m sure it’s happier than talking about how I died,” Lisa said, returning to her old self.
“Not really,” I said, laughing a bit at how true it was.
“Really? Tell me,” Lisa said, mimicking my position before training her intent gaze on me.
“Okay, well, my father recently passed away. My mother decide it would be a good idea to move away from the city, you know, change the way we live so that we can move on,” I said, but Lisa was still looking expectantly at me.
“I’m the one who found him, my father. You see, he and my mother had a pretty big fight the day before and the next night he didn’t come down for dinner when my mother called. He was lying on the bed, but it was too quiet in the room, I couldn’t hear him breathing.” My voice hitched, but I forced myself to continue. I needed to tell someone or else I’d go insane. “My father killed himself, overdosed on my mother’s depression medication.”
Lisa didn’t say anything.
“I told you, didn’t I, it’s not a happy story,” I said, but managed a smile. I felt good to tell someone other than the mandatory shrink the judge made me and my mother see.
“Guess that’s us, the unhappy pair,” Lisa said.
“The unhappy pair,” I repeated, “Sounds catchy.”
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