No More Carefree Laughter, Silence Ever After, Walking Through An Empty House, Tears In My Eyes, Here Is Where The Story Ends, This Is Goodbye
"Calm yourself. You're scaring yourself for nothing," I thought to myself as I sat on my parents' couch. I used to think I was a sensible kid, not given to flights of fancy. Yet when it came to that night spent alone in my family's sizable home I realize I had a very good reason for being scared.
There's a certain humor in the fact that kids, myself included, are in such a hurry to prove themselves mature enough to handle being on their own that, when they actually get their way, they don't realize what they give up. For instance, I am an only child so my parents went to even further lengths to coddle me and see that I was safe at all times. I think that's why I ran away so much because at times the attention was a wee bit stifling. Honestly, I wasn't even allowed to mind the house on my own until well into my thirteenth year. I remember that morning they'd finally given me the thumbs up after days and days of teasing me with call after call to the usual babysitters and assorted kin. I do not know if they had planned, after all, to have someone watch me and the plans just fell through or if they had been testing to see if I would throw a tantrum when presented with yet again not getting my way. Whatever it was, when I finally saw them drive off I smiled the smile of the blissfully free. I had at last moved up another few steps on the way to adulthood. I had been trusted enough not to do harm to myself or, Heaven forbid, to the house. Not only that, but I'd been given the additional responsibility of feeding myself without setting the kitchen ablaze. All in all, I was feeling at least a couple of inches taller that afternoon.
I spent the next few hours pushing the boundaries of my newfound liberation. I ambled from channel to channel on the television, paying special attention to the naughty bits that my mother would have normally instructed my daddy to avoid while I was in the room. I ran up and down the stairs with a velocity that bordered on racing. I called every friend I knew including people I hadn't talked to in months. I think if I had the wherewithal to do it I would have rearranged the furniture simply because, for that day at least, it didn't feel like THEIR house. It honestly felt like my house.
It wasn't until the sun started setting and the realization that my parents weren't due back until close to four in the morning that the scenarios started playing tricks with my pretty little head. My choice of viewing fare didn't help the cause of staying calm much either. I flipped between watching The Warriors, with its spastic portrayals of strange, strange gang members wreaking havoc through the city, to Gremlins with its even weirder visions of small, scaly monsters again wreaking havoc through the city. By the end of those two movies I not only made sure to close and lock every door, window, curtain, shade, and shutter in the house, I made sure every light in the rooms I normally moved through was turned on.
I refuse to say I was scared though. I convinced myself I was merely being cautious. "You never know when rambunctious gremlins might decide to try break in," I repeated to myself only half-jokingly. Every twitch, every creak, though, sent the slightest chills down my spine as I moved from the front door, to both side doors, and finally stopping my sentry rounds at the back door. I returned to sitting on the couch, trying my best to ignore the hunger pangs that had started to develop. I wasn't about to head into the kitchen, with its convenient access to sharp instruments of death, to make myself something to eat. Calling for a pizza was also out of the question because I knew full well what inviting a stranger to step through an open door would lead to. Nope, I was content to stay right there on the couch slowly starving to death. To me starving to death sure beat dying to death.
It wasn't until I saw the ghosts that I realized that perhaps I wasn't quite as grown-up as I had pretended to be to my parents and to myself. Some would argue that I was only imagining things, that I'd let my penchant for creativity get out of hand. That certainly might be true. I'd be the first to admit that my state of mind during that night wasn't very conducive to remaining objective and rational. I'd also be the first to admit that my viewing lasted all of five seconds and that during those five seconds I was only brave enough to view the scene from my peripheral.
But just as Patrick's had his one instance of possible spectral sighting so I had mine. The facts are as follows. Fact one is that my parents' home had always been rumored to be haunted. Until that night I'd never seen any proof myself, but I was only a little girl back then and who knows what I might have seen and just filed away as being what normally happens at most houses. It's difficult to say I didn't see something out of the ordinary and, because I didn't know any better, I thought it was par for the course. Fact two is that my parents' home had been the home to at least four or five families before us, stretching back all the way into the mid-1800s. My mother has always hinted at the fact that during those times a few children died from assorted illnesses and accidents. She used to tell me that a house always remember who lived and died within its walls. She would add that every so often a house will give small reminders to the current occupants about just how far back its history goes. I used to chalk that up to her feeble attempts to get a rise out of me because I always tried to act so sure of myself and so defiant, but, like most of my mother's recipes, there may have been a kernel of honest-to-God fact mixed in with her talent for improvising. The third fact is that I have never seen a ghost at any other time in my life which leads me to believe that the one time I did was factual. If I had a history of seeing things or creating nightmares out of normalcy, then maybe I could attribute that night to imagination. It's the fact it remains an isolated incident that lends it its authenticity.
(Okay, okay, there was that one time at the cabin, but both Torry and I thought he could have been a normal kid we exaggerated about.)
There was two of them, two boys. I didn't see how they were dressed but the darkness did not cover up the fact that they were both young--a lot younger than myself, in fact. They walked through the living room to the side of me as if they owned the place. If they saw me, they didn't let on. I saw them walk on the side of the couch where I was sitting, presumably behind me, and after that they were lost to the night. Like anybody who witnesses an extraordinary event, I didn't stir for a few seconds. I tried convincing myself that I was being crazy. I couldn't have seen what I saw.
"Calm yourself. You're scaring yourself for nothing."
in these old familiar rooms children would play
now there’s only emptiness, nothing to say
Again, alone with the emptiness of the room, it took five minutes for the sheer panic to set in. I dared not move. I don't think I was even capable of changing the channel. I didn't even want to swivel my head to see if they had really left. The last thing I wanted to see was the pair of them standing behind me, watching me. If they acknowledged the fact that they saw me, in my warped logic, I would have to acknowledge that I had seen them. I didn't want to do that. If they were content to let me be, I wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.
When my parents found me asleep on the couch, they told me it looked like I'd been crying. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I had. I didn't want to admit to being so scared that I'd just sat there, hungry and tired, crying because I didn't know what else to do. I had watched television for a couple of hours more until I had drifted off, sure that I wasn't going to last the night. I couldn't tell my parents the truth because, as much as I feared being left alone, the fear of not being trusted ever again to be left alone was just as strong. I told my mother there had been a sad movie on television that had really got to me. She'd believed me and told me that I was being childish. However, the fact that I seemingly had survived the night intact and without admitting to being terrified straight out of my head had earned me brownie points. I went to bed with a strange peace about me. The worst was over after all. If they had planned to harm me they would have done it while I was alone.
As I went to bed, I said a prayer of thanks to God that He had blessed me with two parents who always made me feel safe.