“I can’t just pretend I don’t see them. I don’t have that luxury. I tried to when I was younger, just ignoring them, but eventually you get tired of being afraid and the fear becomes white noise.”
Autumn’s eyes stared at the cracks in the concrete as she walked to school. Her black hoodie covered her face as laughing kids flew by on their bikes. The morning was still cold and the sky was cloudy and gray. Most mornings were like that though. Greenfield, despite its name, wasn’t the most colorful city.
Greenfield was old. On the surface it was a lively and well kept little city, tucked away in the woods. However, many of the buildings were showing their age, falling into disrepair and beginning to look like cliche haunted houses. But the city would never fix them, they’d either tear them down or just build around them.
As she walked down the sidewalk, Autumn could feel she was passing one of those homes. Against her better judgement, she slowed to a stop. A cold breeze touched her spine, as she reluctantly looked up. It was that house. The Davidson home. It had caught fire last year and was now abandoned. The black char was still visible, mixed with indistinguishable graffiti and yellow tape.
A headache began to swell in her head. Autumn squeezed the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes. When she opened them everything was dark. Everything except the house, which burned with a hellish white flame. She could feel the heat, and she could hear the screaming. She scanned the house to find the source of the cries for help. The top left window, directly above the fire, was filled with smoke. Light flickered across the window, but she could make out the face of a young boy - staring at her.
She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. “No no no. Get out of my head,” She thought as she pressed her hands against her eyes. When she opened them, everything was normal. The sun was beginning to peek through the clouds, she could hear kids laughing in the distance, and that cold empty face was still glaring at her. The young boy’s features were faded. One could mistake it for just a reflection in the glass, but she knew better.
Autumn quickly turned and continued her walk. Now wasn’t the time. She had school and the rest of the day just needed to be normal.
She reached Greenfield High as the last of the kids were arriving. “Dammit”, she thought as she entered the school. She hated being late, not because she was timely or anything, but-
“Hey Sixth Sense!” A boy shouted from a group of kids passing. She could hear them all laughing and muttering as they disappeared around the corner.
Last year she made the mistake of telling her boyfriend, now ex, about her abilities. That she could see the dead. That she was a weirdo. The whole school knew now. The creepy goth girl was now officially labeled as a walking red flag.
On her way to her locker, conversations would suddenly end as she passed and her ears filled with their whispers. She pulled the strings of her hoodie tight around her face and picked up her pace. She opened her locker, only to find someone had stuffed it with drawings of pentagrams and demon heads. Autumn quickly balled them up and threw them to the back of her locker with all of the other gifts.
Her locker had poster cutouts of Evanescence, The Used, Blink 182, as well as some drawings from Kiki’s Delivery Service and Hocus Pocus. Autumn didn’t disagree that she was weird. She came to terms with that a long time ago. It was just better when she was invisible. She grabbed her history book and walked to class.
“Hood off, miss Everly,” groaned Mr. Martin, her History teacher. Autumn sighed and pulled her hood down, revealing her messy dark brown hair. She sat at her desk and opened her notebook. In the margins around her class notes, were other notes of when she let her mind wander. History was easy for her, so her mind wandered often. The page she had turned to had a note in the corner she had left yesterday.
Davidson house - Intelligent? No visible portal. Could have faded.
Autumn had picked up a few things over the years. She has been able to see these things since her earliest memories. At first it was terrifying, seeing faces in the dark, moving shadows, and hearing whispers when she was alone. It made life difficult for her parents, always crying. But as she got older, she began to categorize them. She started to investigate more. Individually, every haunt was unique. Some were docile and harmless; others were terrifying and wicked. However, she created four categories for them.
· Residual haunts were mostly harmless. They were just moments stuck in a loop. It could be a man walking his dog every day at 7:30PM, or it could be a woman screaming. Just leftover energy from a life long gone.
· Intelligent haunts were lost spirits of recently deceased. She discovered early on that when someone dies, a portal would open. It looked like a translucent thread that stretched to the sky. It would vanish once the spirit passed through it. However, some spirits would walk away from it, leaving the portal open. These lost spirits wander the scene of their death looking for purpose. Eventually, their portal fades and closes, and they become poltergeists, or another haunting consumes them.
· Poltergeists were exactly that, evil spirits. They were lost spirits who had wandered for years, losing any humanity that remained. They become maniacal and vile, feeding on fear and negativity.
· Inhuman haunts were the worst. Powerful and unpredictable. They could look like anything, from animals to demons to twisted up monsters. They hunt other spirits and attack the living. She preferred to call them soul eaters.
She passed the Davidson house every day. The boy in the window didn’t seem evil, in fact she wondered if he was just another lost spirit. Only, she never found a portal. If there was one, it was very faded. The thought of it made her stomach twist. That poor kid deserved a better afterlife. He was likely to turn soon.
“Open your books to page 394,” Mr. Martin shouted, silencing the bustle of the class. “And we will continue our discussion of 1600’s America.”
“Mr. Martin,” A voice from the front of the room spoke up, Jaqueline Summers. If there existed a polar opposite to Autumn, it was Jaqueline. She did everything she could to stand out: bright purple headband, chandelier earrings, pink peasant-top, and a denim skirt. Anyone could have mistaken her for Lizzie McGuire. “Why did they even start killing witches in Salem? Surely one of them must have been guilty to cause everyone to be so suspicious.” Autumn saw a smile creep up her face as Jaqueline looked back at her. Mr. Martin looked at Autumn. Clearly even the teachers knew her secret.
“Okay class,” He said as he set down his notes, “We’re going to play a game. I need all of you to put your heads down. I’m going to walk by each of you, and if I tap on your shoulder, you are a witch. If I don’t you are human.”
Excited for literally anything but a lecture, everyone lowered their heads. Slowly he walked between each student. Autumn could hear his footsteps getting closer and closer to her. Surely he wouldn’t be so cruel as to make me a witch, right? His footsteps came closer and closer. He’d never. She could feel his body heat. Then he passed her, without a tap. Her heart slowed to normal as she sighed with relief.
“Okay everyone, you may lift your heads,” As Autumn opened her eyes, everyone was glancing around the room, looking for suspicious behavior. “Now when I say go, I need everyone to separate into groups. If your group has a witch in it, you lose. Simple.” Autumn already hated this game. “Go.”
Immediately everyone ran to their close friends and chatter erupted. Autumn looked around for any group that didn’t look like a pack of wolves. She walked over to a small group of band geeks. “No way, I heard his hand tap when he passed her,” one of them said and they turned their backs. She turned to a larger group, hoping maybe she could sneak in. “Sorry, but our group is big enough, we shouldn’t take any more chances.” Autumn pulled at her sleeves of her hoodie nervously. She turned around and accidentally met eyes with Jaqueline, who had the largest group. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen, she thought.
“Time!” Mr. Martin exclaimed. Autumn was now awkwardly standing in the middle of class, alone. “I see many of you have found your groups. Are you confident in your selections?” the class mumbled in agreement. “Then I will reveal the witches. If I tapped on your shoulder, please raise your hand.”
Everyone slowly scanned the room, looking for a hand to raise. No one raised their hand.
“That’s right. There were no witches in Salem.” Mr. Martin said as the room fell silent. “Innocent people died because they feared something that didn’t exist. The power of suggestion is very real; even you fell for it. The people of Salem weren’t cavemen. They weren’t stupid. They were no different than any of you. Fear, unchallenged, can destroy you.” He paused. “Now back to your seats.”
Mr. Martin’s words hung in her head for the rest of the day. Fear was the only reason she didn’t want to enter the Davidson house. Only, her fears of the paranormal were very real. She knew that house was dangerous for many reasons, not to mention fire damage. She also knew she could help that spirit if she could just find his portal. It could close at any moment if it hasn’t already. However, she had already planned to visit Granny after school. The retirement home is expecting her.
The lunch bell rang and made the decision obvious. Autumn dreaded the idea of enduring another minute of everyone’s judgmental faces staring at her. She grabbed her bag from her locker and began weaving through the congested crowd of excited kids. She walked to the gym and peeked through the door’s little square window. Teachers usually stood by all the exits to keep kids from leaving, but the gym had track kids entering and exiting the back door all the time. She entered the gym and tried to look as casual as possible, opening her backpack and pretending to dig something out as she walked briskly across the back wall of the gym.
She made it out the door and hurried through the parking lot. The last thing she needed was being spotted by the constable or by someone who knew her mom. The town was small enough that word traveled fast. So, Autumn entered a clearing in the woods that bordered the parking lot. She knew the woods stretched behind the Davidson house and would allow her to get there unseen.
This trail wasn’t a secret or anything though. Kids snuck out into the woods all the time for a variety of reasons. She passed the occasional beer can, plastic cup, condom wrapper, and other assorted trash. However, she knew not to take the short route, which ran alongside a creek and ended at a swamp with a large tree at its base. For a while now, Autumn had considered informing the Greenfield City Historical Commission that they had a hanging tree, but she figured they knew and chose to ignore it. Besides, she didn’t have any historical proof or anything. She could just still see the bodies swinging.
So she took the path less traveled, and cut through the brush. She pushed the loose branches and tall grass aside to reach an embankment that bordered the back of the houses. She ran along the edge of the embankment, passed a small kids park, then stopped behind the Davidson house.
Part of the wooden fence around the back yard had been knocked down, either by wind or by force. She peeked through the gap to look at the house. The backside of the house was in better condition than the front. There were less char marks. She figured it must have been a garage fire. The windows were boarded up and the door was enclosed in security tape. But something else caught her eye, the portal. It was behind the house all this time, but it was very faded. All that remained was a thin translucent thread that stood only about six feet tall. She could barely see it, but she could see the thread flickering and fading out, returning an inch shorter every few seconds. She didn’t have much time.
She stepped over the broken fence into the back yard. When her foot landed, a wave of heat flooded her body as the house raged in white flame. Screams filled her ears and she covered her eyes and shook her head. When she opened her eyes the flames were gone, and reality had returned.
“You were so scared,” She whispered.
The feeling of dread crept up her spine as she approached the house. The back door was likely locked or boarded up from the inside, but it was worth a shot. She reached out her hand and grabbed the doorknob. Suddenly, searing pain cut through her hand as if she had touched a hot stove top. She recoiled her hand and looked at it. Her fingertips were now red and tender to the touch.
She took off her backpack and set it in front of her, then pulled her hoodie off over her head. Underneath was a black tee shirt with a white rib cage printed on the front. She wrapped the hoodie around her hand, then grabbed the doorknob again. She twisted it and pushed, but the door wouldn’t budge. She pushed her shoulder into it and tried again, but it held strong. It must have been boarded up from the inside. She looked to her left and saw a basement window along the base of the house.
“Of course,” She sighed.
She reached into her backpack and pulled out a flashlight. She had done this long enough to know she needed a decent flashlight, so last year she bought herself the same giant flashlight that police use. It was heavy duty and bright enough to light up an entire room. She stuffed her hoodie into her backpack, zipped it up, and threw it back towards the fence.
She walked to the window and pushed on it with the tip of her shoe. The window began to swing upward. She pulled a hair tie from her wrist and pulled her hair up, then sat on her butt and began to push herself feet-first through the window. Autumn was slender and flexible enough to fit in tiny places like this, and she wasn’t afraid to get a little dust on her clothes to do it.
She squeezed her head through and landed blindly on her feet. She quickly clicked on her flashlight and lit up the darkness. The basement was mostly empty, aside from a dirty mattress, some blankets, and some cardboard boxes scattered about. The smell of dust and burnt wood filled her nose as she looked around. The staircase out of the basement was covered in spider webs. She shuddered at the sight.
“God, I hate spiders,” She muttered.
A cold touch began to creep up her spine, and goosebumps started to prick at her back. She suddenly didn’t feel very alone anymore. She quickly stepped towards the staircase, just wanting out of this dark room, then her flashlight abruptly dimmed. Her body shuddered and she looked down at her flashlight. She banged it on her palm, hoping to fix it, but then the light went out. Complete darkness took over.
“Fuck that,” she said and bolted to the stairs.
She scrambled up the stairs. That dreadful feeling of someone behind her grew closer and closer. Her foot slipped and sent her body forward. Luckily, she caught her fall with her face. She didn’t bother standing back up. She just crawled up the stairs as fast as she could. Whatever was behind her was uncomfortably close now. She reached for the door and barreled through it, then slammed the door shut with her foot.
The echo of the door reverberated off every wall in the empty house. She could feel a layer of dust cling to her body as she laid on the hard wooden floor. The house was dimly lit by the sunlight peeking through the windows, beaming through the dust in the air.
A single hallway cut through the center of the house. One could walk directly from the front door to the back door, both of which were boarded shut with a few planks of wood. A charred narrow staircase rose up behind her to meet a balcony, which wrapped around above her like a U. Beside the basement door was an empty bookshelf that ended at a dining room on one end and the kitchen on the other. The house was completely barren of any visible furniture, aside from a few charred remains of tables and debris.
Autumn got to her feet and tried clicking her flashlight again. It turned back on as if nothing was ever wrong with it. She walked to the bottom of the staircase and followed her flashlight up to the balcony. Goosebumps jabbed along her neck as a shadow darted into one of the rooms in the upper floor. It was too quick to make out, but it was no kid.
She quickly pushed the thought out of her mind and lightly placed her foot on the first step. The wood creaked as she shifted her weight. She took every step slowly, barely breathing between each step.
Halfway up, the wood beneath her nearly gave out. Her heart was racing as she realized the center of the staircase was scorched black. Slowly, she raised her foot to go up another step. The wood shifted and creaked, but held.
She reached the top of the stairs and, with a sigh of relief, turned to face the stairs she had just conquered. Her relief didn’t last long however. A door slammed shut, jolting her body. She looked to her right to find the culprit. There were three doors on the right side, all of which were closed. She knew the door furthest from her, at the front of the house, was her destination. That was where she saw the kid in the window. She didn’t dare open the other two doors.
“There must be another haunt here,” She thought. “I don’t think a lost spirit would mess with me like this. Besides…” She remembered the visions of flames, “He’s afraid.”
She stepped up to the last door on the right and reached out her hand, but stopped. She remembered the burns on her fingers. So she held her palm out to feel any heat coming from the doorknob. Nothing. She wasn’t exactly sure how ghost fire worked, but she didn’t want to risk it. She grabbed the doorknob reluctantly. It was cool to the touch. She turned it and pushed on the door.
Heat erupted from the room and the door fell away. Flames crawled up the wall like thousands of glowing spiders. The heat was almost unbearable as the crackling of the flames drowned out her thoughts. She closed her eyes and shook her head, but it didn’t work. When she opened her eyes, a burning ceiling fan fell in the center of the room. It drew her eyes to the bed in the back of the room. Hiding under the bed was the shadowed figure of a boy. She could hear his screaming.
She stepped into the room, hoping the heat from the flames was all in her mind. The inferno only raged hotter and she could feel her arms burning. She rushed into the room, stepping around the fallen debris.
“Don’t worry I’m coming!” She shouted through the screaming embers.
She reached the bed and got to her knees, then bent down to peer under the bed. A melted face looked back at her. The boy’s eyes were hollow and his face was blistered red. The sight of it twisted her stomach.
“DON’T LET IT GET ME!” The boy shrieked. Autumn shuttered and backed away from the disfigured face.
“I…,” She stuttered, “I won’t let it get you. I…I’m here to rescue you.”
She reached out her hand, though everything in her body told her to run. Then, a small hand reached out and grabbed hers. She pulled the hand and the young kid emerged from under the bed. His face was somehow beginning to heal, but the hollow empty eyes haunted her. She looked back at the entrance to the room. The flames raged around the door, but just outside the door was completely calm. She just had to make it out of the room.
“NO!” The boy’s voice shrieked in her head. “IT BURNS!” The boy attempted to free his hand and pushed her away. His face began to blister and melt again.
“I can’t just drag him out of here,” She thought. Then she remembered the portal. Why was it in the backyard? “If he died here, it should be in the room… Unless…” She remembered the doorknob was hot, but the char marks weren’t as bad on the back of the house. “The firemen must have busted down the doors and carried him out the back door.”
“I’ve got you,” She said and picked the boy up, holding him over her shoulder, like a fireman would.
His crying continued, but he didn’t fight her. She stepped around the fire raging in the center of the room as sparks fell from the roof. A picture frame fell from the wall, sending embers flying. One of the embers landed on her left arm, scolding her skin. She waved her arm around and bolted to the doorway.
As she exited the door, the heat subsided, and she was back in the empty old house again. She looked back at the room and it was nothing but an empty space. The walls were scorched black, but otherwise quiet and calm. Autumn set the boy down and held his hand. His face had almost completely healed, but his skin was pale and cold and his eyes still dark hollow shells.
“Come on,” She said with a smile, “Let’s get you home.”
She walked him down the balcony toward the staircase. As she turned to face the stairs, she heard a door creak open. A cold dread crawled up her spine as she dared to turn her head to see where it came from. The door directly to her right was creaked open ever so slightly. Its features visible like a shadow in the dark, a face stared back at her.
“Run!” She yelled to the boy.
He bolted down the stairs and the door swung open. A woman emerged from the door screaming. Her long face twisted and jerked. Her jaw unhinged from its socket as she shrieked. She jumped behind Autumn and crawled on the wall like a flesh spider. Autumn screamed and ran down the stairs. She could hear the woman’s hands crawling behind her.
The floor beneath her foot gave out as she reached the middle of the staircase. She felt her ankle pop and hot pain flooded her leg as her foot dropped through. She braced on the railing to catch herself. The railing buckled in her hands, but it was too late to stop her body weight from crashing into it.
The banisters snapped and the railing gave way as she put all her weight into it. She tried to scream, but her breath evacuated her lungs as she fell from the staircase. The sudden weightlessness made her stomach sink. Her body twisted and dropped from the staircase. Her back slammed into the hardwood floor and dust erupted around her.
She opened her eyes and the fiend chasing her was staring directly at her. Its twisted limbs held to the broken staircase. Then, with a shriek it launched itself toward her. Autumn lifted her hands toward it.
“I don’t have a choice,” She thought.
The dust swirled around her like glitter and light erupted from her hand. The light detonated like a shotgun in front of her, engulfing the fiend in light. When it cleared, the poltergeist was nowhere to be found. She looked at her feet and glittering particles swirled around her like a galaxy.
“Oh no,” She muttered, “No. No. No!” She frantically looked around for the boy.
She looked to the back door and found him. Only half of him. Half of his spectral body stood in place, staring at her. Her eyes widened in shock. Pieces of his spirit floated towards her like flower petals in the wind. She ran to him and reached out to catch him. His body fell into her arms, then fell through them. His spirit crumbled into dust, and the glitter around her faded.
“Dammit,” She muttered, trying to hold back her tears.
She left the house the same way she entered and crawled out of the basement window. She looked around to find the portal, but it had already vanished. Then, before she could stand up, her phone vibrated in her pocket. The sudden jolt made her jump at first. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her black RAZR.
“MOM” Showed across the display.
“Hey mom,” She said solemnly as she put the phone up to her face. She knew she was busted.
“The school called asking why you weren’t in class today.” Her not-so-subtle disappointment pierced through the speaker. “Where are you?”
“In the bathroom,” She mustered up a lie. “I started early, and I didn’t bring anything with me.” She winced. It was a stupid lie, but it would keep her mom from asking questions.
“You could have called me.”
“I know, Mom. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to bother you.”
“Are you still going to visit your grandmother?”
“Okay. We’ll talk more when you get home. No detours. You come straight home after.”
The phone clicked. She never said goodbye when she was angry. Autumn set her phone beside her and let her body fall limp in the grass. She stared up at the gray cloudy sky. As her adrenaline began to subside, the pain in her back tightened and her ankle burned. Her arms were covered in dust and soot. Frustration began to take over as she watched the clouds slowly pass. She looked at her hands and clenched her fists.
“What’s the point?” She thought.
She groaned as she sat up and brushed herself off. She didn’t feel like anything was broken, but her back was definitely going to hurt for a while. She walked over to her backpack, returned her flashlight, and put her hoodie back on to hide her dirty shirt.
Autumn walked around the house to the sidewalk. When she reached the front of the house she looked back at the window. The boy wasn’t there anymore. It was a relief and a bitter disappointment all at once. She turned and continued her walk down the street. The retirement home wasn’t far from school. She turned left down Everwood street and walked through the town square.
The center of the town square held the courthouse. It was old, yet well kept and strangely welcoming. The strange juxtaposition was as she walked passed it, the old Heartbeat Hotel came into view. It stood in the distance as a reminder of what the city used to be.
Heartbeat Hotel was erected about 70 years ago. In its former glory it served as a rest stop for travelers. Greenfield sits in the middle of some major tourist locations for camping, hiking, snow skiing, and the usual weekend getaway. The giant red heart painted on the side was an icon of the city.
However, small towns closer to the hot spots started to pop up and highways got wider, so Greenfield started to get passed up more and more. The hotel fell into disrepair and after a string of murders, suicides, and overdoses, the outdated rest stop was shut down. Now the 13 story yellow brick hotel was an abandoned eyesore. To make matters worse, Autumn could see at least six translucent ribbons firing into the sky like beacons of doom.
She continued her walk and arrived at Meadowood House Assisted Living. Meadowood House was a fairly newer spot. It stretched wide like a school with a welcoming flower garden entrance. The automatic doors slid open and the fruity smell of cleaning agents flooded her nostrils. She winced as it almost made her sneeze.
“Welcome, how can I help ya today?” The lady at the front counter greeted her with a smile.
The desk clerk was most likely in her late forties and slightly overweight, with her hair permanently curled to perfection. Her southern accent paired perfectly with her giant bless-yer-heart smile. She clearly wasn’t from around here, but she fit the vibe of Meadowood House pretty well. The house was decorated with scenic paintings and wooden furniture, complete with rocking chairs.
“Hi, I’m here to see Glenda Baker,” Autumn said with a courteous smile.
Glenda was her maternal grandmother, and her last living grandparent. Autumn never really got the chance to get to know her other grandparents as they passed away when she was young. So she made up for it by visiting her Granny any chance she got.
“Name?” The lady asked.
“Averly,” Autumn replied. “I have an appointment.”
“You’re a little early, but I’m sure she’ll love the surprise.” She stood up from her desk, jingling the keys around her lanyard. “Right this way, honey.”
She walked around the counter and proceeded down the hall behind her. Autumn followed close behind. They passed room after room, each with a name and photo of the resident living there, as well as a clipboard of medical info. One of the doors opened and a tall man, wearing a white doctor’s coat, walked out in front of the desk clerk.
“Oh hi Beverly,” His voice was calm and welcoming.
“How are ya, Dr. Magnus?” The clerk replied.
“Dr. Magnus?” Autumn chuckled in her head, “Did I just walk into a cliche romance novel?”
“Oh I can’t complain,” He replied with a smile, “Just checking on Mr. Good.” He took the clipboard hanging on the wall and scribbled on it. “Let’s make sure he takes his vitamins this evening, he’s feeling a little lethargic today.”
As they passed the open door, Autumn looked inside to find Mr. Good. He was lying in his bed with the tv playing local news in the corner. Beside him was a plate with soup and a plastic cup of juice. His eyes were wrinkled and tired, staring off into space.
Knock knock knock.
Beverly knocked on the door to Granny’s room and opened the door. Granny was sitting on her couch watching Frankenstein. Horror flicks were always her guilty pleasure. On screen, a windmill burned as townsmen surrounded it with torches, shouting at the monster.
“My favorite granddaughter,” Granny’s voice releases a wave of peace in Autumn.
Granny always was the brightest color in the room. She wore a bright yellow shirt with a matching yellow blouse on top, contrasting her brown wide-legged pants. She stood up without much help needed. She never was one to ask for help, nor did she accept it. Beverly stood beside her with her hand stretched out, but Granny never took it.
“Hi Granny,” Autumn smiled and hugged her. Her hugs always comforted her. She always smelled like flowers with a hint of lemon.
“It’s so good to see you, sweetie.” She tenderly rubbed Autumn’s back and released her.
“I’ll leave you to it then,” Beverly left and shut the door on her way out.
“Well have a seat,” Granny said, “Can I get you anything? I have some lemonade in the fridge and some lemon cookies if you’d like.”
Autumn sat on the couch and chuckled. “No Granny, I’m fine.”
“Oh nonsense,” She huffed and walked to her pantry. “You’re too young to say no to sweets.” She returned with a plate of cookies and a cup of lemonade. She sat back down and handed them to Autumn.
“Thanks,” Autumn realized she had skipped lunch and the cookies now looked even more delicious. She bit into one and closed her eyes, letting the sweet lemon flavor fill her senses. Easily the best part of her day.
“Hun, you are filthy,” Granny pressed her thumb on Autumn’s cheek, rubbing soot from it.
“Yeah, I tripped on the way over here.” Autumn didn’t look her in the eyes.
“Ooh,” Granny groaned frustrated. “No one better be giving you trouble. Are they?”
“I’m okay Granny, really.”
“Well,” She paused reluctantly, deciding it was best to drop the topic, “When are you going to do something with this hair?” She pulled at her messy hair. “I can barely see those beautiful brown eyes with your bangs so long.”
“It’s my style Granny,” Autumn retracted and smiled at her. “Besides, you’re the one with pretty eyes. Yours are green.”
“You stop that.” Granny swatted her hand at her. She grabbed Autumn’s cheeks and pushed her bangs out of the way, then turned her head to face the window. “Brown eyes in the sun are the most beautiful of all.” She released her face and smiled. “You’d know that if you didn’t wear so much eyeliner.”
Autumn smiled. Their conversation continued for another half hour. Granny asked about her mom, and she gave the usual “Good. Just busy all the time” answer. Autumn ate four cookies before she put the plate down and hugged her Granny goodbye.
After dinner, Autumn fell onto her bed with a long sigh. Her mom’s “talk” was pretty straight forward. She scolded her for ditching school and reminded her that she doesn’t get to just leave anytime she wants. Afterall, her mom was on the district board and Autumn’s actions reflected on her.
Autumn didn’t even bother turning on her bedroom light. The last remaining sunlight pushed through her window, dimly lighting the walls with an orange glow. She kicked off her shoes and let them fall to the floor. Her mind drifted off, and as her eyes began to shut a cold fear began to creep up her neck. Goosebumps returned and started tickling her skin. Her closet door slowly creaked open in the darkness and the shadow of a figure grew across her ceiling.
“Not now, Maggie,” Autumn groaned. “You know I hate it when you do that.”
“Oh come on,” A girl’s voice echoed in her head. “I’m a freaking ghost and I’m stuck haunting you. You can at least let me have a little fun.”
Autumn smiled and sat up. Maggie was standing just outside of her closet. She was wearing tattered overalls over a white shirt. Her skin was pale white and her eye sockets were empty and dark. A dark purple bruise wrapped around her neck.
“Sorry,” Autumn dropped her head back and sighed. “Tonight just isn’t the night.”
“You did it, didn’t you?” Maggie approached her. “You finally talked to that Davidson boy.”
“Yeah,” Autumn stood up and walked to her computer desk, “Sort of.”
“There was a poltergeist with him. And I sort of…”
“Did you blast him?”
“No,” Autumn sat in her chair and spun around frustrated. “That thing attacked me and I didn’t have a choice. I thought maybe he was far enough away, but…”
“He dusted…” Maggie finished her sentence, “How far away was he?”
“He was on, like, the other side of the house down, at least 20 feet away.”
“Wow! You must have been pretty worked up to use that much energy.” Maggie always enjoyed trying to figure out Autumn’s powers.
“Why do I even have these powers?” Autumn looked at her hands. “If I’m supposed to save lost spirits, why do my light blasts suck them up like fuel?”
“Are we really settled on light blast?” Maggie asked, “I always liked spirit canon.” Maggie held out her hand with her chest puffed out. “It goes off like a cannon and it uses spirit energy as ammo. Plus that sounds way more like a superhero ability.”
“Not funny,” Autumn side-eyed her ghostly roommate. “I’m not a superhero.” Autumn logged into her MySpace account and pulled up her blog. She went under the name GhostGirl92 and hid her real name. Her last post read:
“I swear one day I might pull my eyes out. Not that it would help. I can feel the dead all around me all the time. I can’t just pretend I don’t see them. I don’t have that luxury. I tried to when I was younger, just ignoring them, but eventually you get tired of being afraid and the fear becomes white noise. But that Davidson house just gives me the creeps. I wish I was like every other normal boring human. Lucky me.”
No one ever commented on her posts. She only had a few friends anyway. They were friends from school, who just accepted her friend requests to make their friend counts bigger. She had one pending friend request though: Ethan Moore.
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