A family moves into a new home, and ignores the warnings of the ghost living there.
|This house on the hill was an old one. Tucked away in the knarled pines and deep brush, it stood looking over the valley floor like a guardian. There, newer houses and shiny business made up the town. The place had been abandoned, though it had never been quiet. School children told stories of phantom whispers and screams in the night. The older people never spoke of it, instead choosing to stay as far away as possible.
"Probably best to go elsewhere," said the old man on the bench.
The woman speaking to him was a mother with two inconvenient kids and a husband she barely tolerated. She didn't need his advice. She just needed directions. As she marched off, the old man shook his head. Some people never listened. Regardless, she found the house, the moving truck arrived, and life went on. Floorboards creaked, and dust filled the air as the trappings of modern life filled the space.
As the parents worked, the kids ran out back, ducking and weaving through the leaves and rocks. The creepy forest with an unnaturally cold breeze and restless shadows was a land of adventure and secrets for the kids. The crunch of leaves under their feet filled the eerie silence. The adventure of finding new bugs and killing imaginary monsters distracted them from the eyes silently watching the duo.
"Please don't go there," pleaded a voice.
The kids froze. The boy turned to his sister, face twisted into a mocking sneer. Whatever jokes he had formed in his head died with his sister's pale face. She stood frozen, scarcely daring to breathe. To their front were two headstones contained in an ancient wrought iron fence. Behind them was nothing.
"What was that?" she whispered.
The boy opened his mouth to speak, but it was his mother's voice that rang out.
"Mellisa! George! Come get dinner!" she yelled.
The woman's voice was siren, carrying all of the annoyance and weight of the years. The kids, eager to be anywhere else, ran towards the house. As they ate, the children never spoke of what happened at the gravesite. Their meals were eaten in uncomfortable silence as mom and dad grumbled between themselves.
The duo complained about missing boxes and the vase that had shattered in the front room. Someone had left their tv on the front lawn. Dad had found another box deep in the weeds that engulfed the west side of the house. Mellisa looked at George, who silently shrugged. Like her, he was thinking. At twelve years old, George liked to think that he was above most fears. However, the voices and oddly placed items brought him to a conclusion he didn't like.
"Tomorrow will be an unpacking day. We'll get the living room set up and school supplies unpacked for the kids," mom decided.
"Don't forget, I have the meeting in town," Dad chimed in.
"Of course you do."
"Can I go with? I need a new backpack," Mellisa spoke up.
Her eyes were bright and hopeful. For any day not spent in the house was a good day. Mom let out an annoyed sigh.
"No, Melissa. I'm sure your current one will do just fine."
"But it has holes."
"It can be patched. Now, eat your food or find your way to bed."
Mom's sharp tone came with a warning. Negotiations would have to happen with Dad in the morning. They spent the rest of the night sifting through boxes for their clothes and preparing for bed. The young duo sorted themselves out like they did every night. After murky baths, they brushed their teeth and lodged a complaint with mom about the taste of the water.
"It tastes sour," George complained.
"And it's crunchy. Water isn't supposed to be crunchy," whined Melissa.
"You'll be fine tonight. Someone will be out this week to look at the well," Mom answered between sips of wine.
That night they went to bed in their separate rooms. Each was a small affair with a bed against the wall and boxes that hid the pealing white plaster and exposed wood boards that made up the walls. There were no night lights or glow from the hall to beat back the oppressive darkness that engulfed each child.
Perhaps that's why Melissa woke up. The blue glow was not bright, but it didn't have to be. Her restless little eyes would've been looking for the slightest bit of stimulation. She rubbed her eyes and stumbled out of her room, clad in slippers, and a set of thin princess pajamas that she wore at every opportunity. Guided by thoughts that were not their own, she stumbled her way into George's room.
"George," she hissed as she grabbed his shoulder, "George, wake up."
George let out a groan. Sleep had finally come to him, and he wasn't about to abandon it so quickly.
"Go away," he moaned as he pulled the sheets tighter.
"George, she wants to talk to us," Melissa pressed.
The room began to glow ever-so-slightly blue as it had with Melissa's room. However, this time, it was the girl that was the source of the light. Her eyes were an ice blue that seemed to freeze George in a state of wide-eyed shock. Despite this change, Melissa was her five-year-old self. Her voice contained the same energy wrapped in a tired shell. Her hair was still a mess, and she was the same shape she had been before.
George knew better than to freak out or ignore this as a bad dream. Ghosts may be real, but the hellfire of an awoken dad was even more real. The situation left him with only one option. As such, he silently pulled himself out of bed. As they picked their way down the steps to the first floor, George watched the glow fade from his sister. As they rounded the corner at the first-floor landing, He refound it that light in the living room. Sitting on their couch was a woman working a sewing needle through something. George recognized it as his favorite shirt. It was a battered teeshirt that had seen just about every major life event of his over the last two years. However, he did not recognize the woman. It wasn't mom. That much was clear. This person had long blonde hair, and Mom was a brunette with shoulder-length hair. The woman was sewing, something Mom never did. Then, if things were obvious enough, the apperation's clothes looked like something out of Dad's western movies.
"You're a ghost," he gasped.
His voice shook from the fear he was barely containing.
"I have lived here for many, many years. I was here before your grandparents were born, and I shall be here when your children grow old," she explained as she continued to repair the shirt.
"You were the lady from earlier," Melissa piped up.
Unlike George, she had not quite fully grasped the concept of ghosts and the danger now sitting before them. Unlike him, she felt curiosity instead of fear.
"Clever girl," the woman answered with good humor, "You did as I asked too. For that, I am pleased. Not many people listen to a dead woman."
Both kids tentatively nodded.
"Tell me, George: Do you love your sister?"
George blinked in surprise. He took an uneasy step forward to place himself between Melissa and the ghost.
"I do. Please-"
The woman held her hand up. To George, she almost looked discouraged and tired.
"Take your sister and walk to town. Whatever you hear, do not come back up here. Usually, there is a policeman at the bottom of the hill. Get help from him," the woman said.
"What about Mommy and Dad?" Melissa asked.
The first traces of concern were appearing in her voice.
"It is too late for them. I tried to tell your parents. I tried to warn them, but they would not listen as you. It is too late. George, if you love your sister, you will leave," the woman urged.
With each word, her voice became more gravelly. The pleasant soothing voice that had greeted them was now gone. In its place was a predatory growl, like a cat getting ready to strike. Her golden hair disappeared in favor of thin black lines of hair on an emaciated body.
"George, run!" the woman screamed.
The woman snapped her head up to reveal black orbs and lines of razor-sharp teeth. Engulfed in a terror that he had never felt before, George bolted out of the house, dragging his sister behind him. As they flew down the dirt road, screams rang out from the house. In a brief moment of clarity, he whipped around, nearly tangling up his legs in the process. He scooped up his sister.
"Plug your ears," he ordered as another set of animalistic sounds cut through the night.
As he continued down the road, Melissa watched over his shoulder as shadows danced in the windows. In the blue glow of the woman, she caught sight of streaks in the window. With every passing moment, the very forest seemed to descend on the house. Trees seemed to grow closer, and the underbrush grew longer. By the time they reached the bottom of the hill, the building had disappeared entirely from sight.
The woman had given the kids the truth. Waiting at the bottom of the hill was a sheriff's deputy. The silhouette of his big SUV stood like a beacon in the night for George. With the adrenaline-fueled reserves of energy he had, George bolted up to the driver's side window, pounding and screaming. Thoughts collided and jumbled together in an incoherent mess. With a look of grim acceptance, he soothed the two children before depositing them in the back seat of the car. Despite the shock and trauma of the night, his words would always ring in George's head.
"Dispatch, this is Dalton over on Highway 13," he called over the radio.
"I've got two kids from the manor. Best wake the Sherriff. She's back, and this time she left survivors."
As he spoke, the deputy guided the SUV onto the highway without ever casting so much as a glance back up at the house.