Linda Maye Adams

Writing in Public, Story 6, Scene 12


12

Randy thought he would have run right out, back into the sunlight, and scooped Molly up, holding her close.

Instead, he followed Nikki through the house.  She was like the cat on her shirt, coming back from the veternarian, and going from room to room.  She went all the way up into the attic itself which stretched the length of the house and smelled like bats.  She went into each room, making a circuit before exiting.

She got back down to the first floor, stopped at the piano.  She hesitated, her fingers reaching for one of the broken keys, then she snatched her hand back.

Randy watched her, wishing he knew what to do.  “What are you looking for?”

And she was looking.  He was certain of that.

She started pacing.  The plank floor squeaked and sputtered under her feet.

“I don’t know,” she said.  “That…light show…felt like it was supposed to be in there.  But it felt wrong, too.”

“Did you ever go into that room before?” he asked.

“That was the room I always stayed in,” she said.  “My aunts told me that there were friendly ghosts in that room.  I thought it was just a story…now I don’t know.”

Randy stuck his hands in his pants’ pockets, mainly to have something to do with them.  He hated lying to her, but he was starting to understand how little he did know.  That feud between the families had shut off all sources of information.  Most of what he did know was secondhand and he wasn’t sure if any of it was true or just a fanciful notion.  It wouldn’t be beyond Father to make stories up to scare off curious family members.

But he’d never heard stories about ghosts.

“What did they tell you?” he asked. “About the ghosts, I mean?”

Nikki’s pacing slowed, and it seemed like with the clear thought, she was calming down.  Color filled her face again, brightening it up.

“They said the ghosts might come out if anyone played the piano.  I remember the first time I banged on those keys.  Aunt Rose was horrified and chased me away.”

Randy wanted to ask her if she’d seen any ghosts, or anything come out of the area where the opening was.  But what came out was a different question entirely, and he had no idea where it came from.

“Why did your family stop visiting here?” he said.

Her fingers twisted into a knot.  “I don’t know.  We came here every summer for years.  Then one year—I think I was eleven or twelve—we just didn’t.  And we never came back.  I asked—I think my mother said we just couldn’t afford to go and maybe later, only that never happened.  Everyone stopped, even my cousins.”

“The adults knew something.  That would explain why everyone wants you to sell the house.”

“So I don’t find out now?”

“Because whatever it was, it frightened them. And still does.  Are you frightened?”

He didn’t add ‘enough to leave and never return,’ but it was a sour taste in the back of his throat.  He didn’t want her to leave.

“Yes,” she said.  “Of what’s in that room.  We can’t go out and call someone to fix it.  We’ll end up with scientists or military here trying to figure out how to experiment with it.”

The sour taste turned bitter.  “They’d make it worse.”

Nikki nodded.  “And we don’t even know what worse is.”

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