“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Miracle! Happy birthday to you!” There was cheering and laughter, and then more cheering. She blew out the candles, or so I guessed, and then there was yet more cheering as she probably went through her sparkle-change. I was sitting at the top of the stairs, holding my legs and listening in since I couldn’t be there. We had our own party earlier in the day with pin the tail on the donkey, and a pinata. But she had really wanted her own party with her friends, which was fine with me. Ever since I told her I would hide in my room when friends came over, we had done it. On rare occasion at first and afterwards she’d come running up to me, hugging and thanking me. But then it became more and more frequent (her having friends) and by now it was just part of our life.
I kinda wished I could be there to see her change, but it was important for my family to be able to be less tethered than me. Parties like this, I was glad to make my family happy. I knew my sister’d be fine with just family in for the birthday but when I suggested a party with the other girls in her class the look on her face told me this was better than any other birthday gift I coulda gotten her. So here I was, sitting at the top of the stairs and listening in. I was supposed to be completely in my room but I could hear if anyone was about to come up the stairs–which occasionally happened as the only public bathroom was up here, as the downstairs one was our aunts’ private bathroom.
I straightened up a bit when I heard footsteps in the room below the stairs. I hopped up and zoomed as fast as I could towards my room. I just settled onto the floor on the other side of the bed when there was a tap at my door. “Chance?” It was Aunt Emma. “I have some cake and ice cream for you, if you want it.”
“Oh!” I scrambled over and opened the door, beaming up at her. “Thank you. I’ve been sitting in my room all this time.” She handed me the bowl, one eyebrow raised. “Okay so I was sitting at the top of the stairs.”
“Just be careful,” she reminded me and I nodded, already scooping up some of the chocolate ice cream. “You’re doing a wonderful thing for your sister.”
“It’s nothing,” I said, sucking at the chocolate and looking up at my aunt. “I’m glad she’s having a good time.”
“Hey, Kaylee and I got you this.” Aunt Emma produced a small, wrapped box. I looked at it curiously then back into her face. She seemed pleased.
“But it’s Miracle’s birthday,” I protested.
“You deserve something for doing this for her.” Aunt Emma pressed it into my hand then stepped out into the hall. “If you need anything, you know what to do.”
I nodded. Three loud thumps on the floor. They were planning on saying there was a large dog that didn’t like strangers, but I didn’t need anything. She was gone by the time I opened the gift. Though I felt bad for getting something on my sister’s birthday, I couldn’t help but give a quiet squeal of joy when I saw the new DS game I had been wanting. When I asked for it the month before, my aunts said it was too expensive to just buy games on a whim and if I wanted it, I’d have to save up for it. I did get a small allowance which usually saved up super quick since I never could spend it on anything. Sometimes I gave some to Miracle who would buy me some candy or something; more often I spent it on video games. I had almost enough simoleons for the game, just one week away from being able to get it, but now I could get a different game.
I started up the game and played for a bit, but then drifted back to the stairs to listen in on the party. I couldn’t help it. I wondered what was going on down there. Now they were listening to loud music and there were thuds that could have been dancing. I settled on the top step, hearing the shrieking and giggling. I grinned. It sounded like Miracle really was having a great time. I could hear her voice in the middle of all the other voices, laughing the most, shrieking the most. Definitely the best gift I could ever give her.
There was a thudding sound, and rushed footsteps. Someone was running and I realized it was someone running into the room that had the stairs. I got up and started fleeing as fast as I could. I heard someone running up the stairs and I hoped it was my sister since I knew I wouldn’t get to my room in time. Since I was on the other side of the hall as the doors that led into Miracle’s room and Alyssa’s room, the only option to hide would be to dive outside–and be seen by everyone.
I couldn’t help but glance over my shoulder before plunging through the wall. A girl was at the top of the stairs, staring in shock at me. Her mouth was a big ‘o’ and then she began running towards me. I went through the door and clutched at my chest, feeling ready to cry. She saw me! She saw me! I began breathing hard even though I didn’t need to. It was panic. She saw me. I was in so much trouble. Oh my gosh. I was going to–
“Hello?!” I spun around as the voice was right outside the room. I backed up, going through the bed. “Hello? Is someone there?” There was knocking and then, oh no, the doorknob rattled. I dove under the bed as fast as I could just as the door opened.
Thank goodness my bed is mostly solid under here, I thought, curling into a little ball. There was a space of maybe an inch at the very bottom. When I played video games under here, that is where my game system went while most of me was sticking through the bed. But I didn’t think even if she looked under she could see me, but I could see her feet moving around my room. I bit my lip, feeling so scared. Her feet moved all the way around my bed, and she kept talking.
“Is someone here? I saw someone–hello?” Then she was on her hands and knees, peering under the bed. I held my breath. Her eyes went wide and she screamed, and then I remembered that she could still see through that inch between the floor and the bed. She jumped to her feet and ran from the room.
Oh no oh no oh no. I moved closer to the edge. My door was still open and I could barely make out her running off. She wasn’t screaming though. That was good. I waited till I hear her running down the stairs before getting out of my bed. I shut the door and wished for a lock. I’d have to ask my aunts for one, if we stayed her. What if this caused so much trouble we’d have to move? Oh, I hoped it wouldn’t go that far. But I learned my lesson. Unfortunately. When Miracle had friends over, there was always a possibility some girl could run up and leave me with NO TIME WHATSOEVER to hide.
I remained under the bed for the remainder of the party, playing my new game. I got some decent stuff done before my family came to my door. Two pairs of feet. Miracle, and Aunt Kaylee. I grimaced a bit, knowing that they were gonna lecture me. I wriggled out from under the bed, saving my game as I went. “Hey,” I said, smiling over at them and studying how my sister now looked. “How did the party go?”
“It went great!” Miracle said out of no where. She bounced over and hugged me tightly. “Oh my gosh, this was a wonderful day, thank you so much Chance.” She put a sloppy kiss on my cheek then giggled. “I can’t even begin to thank you. I want to get you something in return for this, whatever you want–within reason I mean, but Grandpa and Poppop gave me a bunch’ve money so I could buy you a new game or something.”
“No, it’s okay, Aunt Emma and Aunt Kaylee bought me a game,” I said, indicating my DS. “Thank you thought.”
Miracle rolled her eyes. “Only you turn down more gifts, but all right. Maybe some candy? Or a movie?”
“Um, maybe a candy bar if you really want. So everything went fine?” I faced Aunt Kaylee, feeling a bit confused. “There was someone up here–“
“Oh, you mean Lindsey?” Miracle asked and I shrugged. “She screamed?”
“She said she thought she saw a mouse but it was just the shadow of something.” Miracle shook her head. “She’s so weird.”
I squinted. So the girl lied? Aunt Kaylee came a bit closer, rubbing her shoulder. “Ah, did you see her or something?”
“Yes,” I said, switching my gaze back to Miracle whose eyes were big. “She came running up the stairs and I couldn’t get in my room fast enough. She came into my room and looked under my bed. I know she saw me when I was going in my room–“
“WHAT?!” Miracle screeched, horrified.
“–and I think she saw me under my bed,” I finished, my brow going all wrinkly. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean for it to happen!”
“OH MY WATCHER!” Miracle grabbed my arms, or tried; I went not solid cause I didn’t want her death grip on me. “She saw you?! Lindsey?! This is bad! Aunt Kaylee! He’s been seen. Like a Borrower!”
Aunt Kaylee pulled her a little bit away from me. “Sweetie, he didn’t mean for it to happen. But we need to figure out a plan of action. Go all mission impossible on this or something. Okay. I’m gonna go feed Alyssa, you two go down and tell Ems what happened. I’ll be down in a minute. In my spy outfit. WAIT! My spy outfit is in my room, crap. Huh. Well, I need it before we can talk about this.” She took off towards the third bedroom in the upstairs while Miracle and I went downstairs.
“I can’t believe you were seen,” she hissed.
“I’m sorry!” I felt awful. This was probably even worse than I thought it might be. Aunt Kaylee did not get into her spy outfit for any old reason.
While Miracle told Aunt Emma what was going on, I went into the living room and tried not to feel too guilty. It was my fault for being outside my room when I said I’d be in, but how was I supposed to expect someone to come running? If they walked or even jogged, I would’ve had enough time. Not running though. I never even though of it. Now I was paying the price of not thinking of all the possible things that could’ve happened. I should have just stayed in my room. Need to be more careful, I thought as the girls in the house came into the living room. Aunt Kaylee went into her room, to change. When she came back out she was in her MI outfit, or what she said was her MI outfit.
“Right, we need to figure out what to do,” she said, plopping into the chair. “What exactly happened? That’s where we start. Chance?”
I gulped, and repeated the story. Once that was done, the attention turned to Miracle to explain more about this girl that saw me. “Lindsey Morris, she’s a real strange one,” Miracle sighed. “I only invited her since I was inviting all the girls in class. I mean, I don’t wanna be mean about it, but it’s not like some people haven’t tried to be her friend. She’s like… hmm… suspicious of people. That’s it. I think her family has money or something. Like, she thinks anyone who wants to befriend her as ulterior motives or something. She acts like she’s better than everyone else.”
“Will she tell many people?” Aunt Emma asked.
“I really don’t know. Maybe she did think she was imagining things. I’ll ask her about it Monday. She really might have like… rationalized it into thinking she saw something.”
“We need a plan of what to do if she tells anyone,” Aunt Kaylee said. “After all, if she does tell people then… someone might come to find him.”
“Don’t let them in?” I suggested and they all looked at me. “Or–I know! I could hide in the roof! Then no one could find me, like they might if I am under my bed.” I beamed, proud of finding a good solution.
“On the roof?” Miracle asked. “Then people can see–“
“No, in the roof. I could float up in there and hide out there,” I said kicking my legs happily. “Nobody could find me up in there at all. So if anyone did come you could be like, ‘Yes come in, no ghost here’. And there wouldn’t be.”
“Oh, sweetie.” Aunt Emma put her hand on my arm, obviously concerned. She shot a look to Aunt Kaylee who seemed on the verge of tears. “It’s… not as simple as… that.”
“Ems, no, it’s a great idea,” Aunt Kaylee said quickly. Aunt Emma frowned, and Aunt Kaylee looked down at her lap. “Chance, it’s a good idea.”
“It’s a good idea!” Aunt Kaylee stood up, arms folded. Miracle and I were staring at her, wondering what was going on. “I think the kids should go… play or something. Make a puppet. Or volcano. Just don’t reenact the Brady Bunch, we don’t want Miracle’s nose broken. Wait no, that was the football episode. Er—just… go.”
“How about you tell us what’s going on?” Miracle asked as I started to get up, every intention to obey my aunt’s request. I eyed at my sister then settled back down onto the couch since it was obvious she wasn’t going anywhere.
“Nothing going on,” Aunt Kaylee chirruped happily.
“We should tell him,” Aunt Emma said and now we turned towards her. She was focusing her eyes on her hands and lap.
“Uhhhhhh no,” Aunt Kaylee said.
“Uhhhhh yes,” Miracle snapped. “If something’s going on with Chance we should know. Especially him. And me. I’m his sister, I need to protect him, and I need to know what you’re not telling us.”
I stared up at Aunt Kaylee who was obviously upset. She rubbed her arm and then sighed. “Sweetie…a long time ago I was asked by your parents to watch over you both. Just before your father died, he requested something of me and I am going to follow that request. That sorta includes what I’m not going to tell you right now. Yeah, I’m sorry Mira, Chance, but this is just something you’re both a bit young to know.”
“Due to the recent outbreak of paranormal activity–” Aunt Emma began but Aunt Kaylee shot forward and covered her mouth.
“Henri asked me not to say anything!” she said, sounding more upset.
“Kaylee, love, I think they’re old enough to understand the situation,” Aunt Emma said, pushing Aunt Kaylee’s hand away. “I think… Henri would understand. I never met him, and I am sorry for that, but Mira and Chance are smart. I don’t think it will scare them. I trust them, and I know you do too.”
Aunt Kaylee stepped back, mouth moving with no sound coming out. Finally she groaned and sank down into the chair. “Okay. Yeah. You’re right. Um, all right, so a few years ago there was some… as Ems said recently there’s been an outbreak of paranormal stuff going on. No one is sure why. It started… hmmm, five years ago? Nothing really bad but enough that it’s getting the attention of people like a bull doing the Macerena. People can’t really see ghosts, not proper ghosts, so they don’t… understand them. However, there are also beings that, uh, are unfortunately being classified as ghosts as well but I think it should be something more akin to poltergeists. Like you see in movies. Well, not you, but uh, there are a lot of movies out there about ghosts that do nasty stuff.”
I kept my mouth shut, not telling her that I had seen movies like that. A lot. “So what does all this mean?” I asked. “What does it have to do with me?”
“It means there is bad stuff happening that people are saying is cause of ghosts,” Miracle said flatly. “Isn’t that right?”
“Yes,” Aunt Kaylee said. “It was slowly getting worse over the years, and people only just really realized this stuff within the past couple of years. Chance, your father asked me not to tell you until you were older.”
“I–I still don’t understand,” I said with a small frown.
“He was worried about how people would react to the sudden… upswing of activity,” she told me. “And frankly, he was right. The–things are very much like ghosts and I do believe that… they are sort of ghosts. Since barely anyone can see ghosts anyway, more and more technology has popped out like a baby to see ghosts, hear ghosts, detect ghosts.” She ticked these off her fingers one by one. “And… to… get rid of ghosts.”
I didn’t make the motions of breathing for a while, good thing I didn’t need to breathe. Kill us. To kill us. Like–like in the movies. Ghostbusters. Don’t let the streams cross. And there were people who wanted to–to do that? To… to those like me? Nice ghosts? Innocent ghosts? People like me or my father? “Why?” I croaked out.
“People have a hard time sorting out the good from the evil, when they can’t see or hear it,” Aunt Emma said, rubbing my shoulder. She tried to. I was not solid. “There are groups who are seeking to understand the paranormal, the nether paranormal… but there are also groups seeking to… get rid of the nether paranormal. Some say to ‘help them to the other side’. Others just seem to treat it as a job. And some… seem like they just want to get rid of the nether paranormal. There are safe places for ghosts. Graveyards are supposedly safe as that is an acceptable place for a haunting. But anywhere else, anywhere else that they might have contact with humans, then it’s fair game.”
“There are two big businesses that specialize in hunting down ghosts,” Aunt Kaylee put in. “The first one started eight months ago, and it’s at where pretty much people think this crazy stuff started, and then one in Bridgeport which is the biggest concentration of the nether activity since it’s the biggest city on the east coast.”
Bridgeport was pretty close. If this business was called, they could be here before the day was out. “Oh,” I gulped. “And th-they have… stuff that could… hurt me?”
“No, thankfully not. The only place that can end a ghost is EGHB which is days away from where we live and none of them have ever been here,” Aunt Emma said. “That’s the first place. They have a lot of advanced technology that no other place has. BNRC–Bridgeport Netherworld Replacement Center–can only trap ghosts.”
“Like the stuff you have,” I said simply. “And Poppop has.”
“How did you…?”
“You have guns like that, don’t you?” I asked.
My aunts exchanged looks then Aunt Kaylee slowly nodded. “Yes. Poppop was given these guns from a distant relative as there is… possibly a ghost that might come and try to harm us. Poppop has one of the guns, your Uncle Duncan has another, and we have the third. It is only for use of protecting you, and the rest of us, and never towards you.”
“So I couldn’t hide in the roof… because… they might still find me?” I asked.
“They have detectors,” Aunt Emma said. “I don’t know what will happen since you’re not a regular ghost… and I really don’t know how well these detectors work. But there’s always a ch–er, uh, it could always be a possibility.”
“So if she tells and it gets out…?” I already knew the answer though.
“We’ll have to probably move,” Aunt Kaylee confirmed.
I kept quiet. It seemed so much for so little. I never did anything to anyone… I understood that others did… and that… it was hard to figure out which ghosts were the good ones and which were the bad ones. But it just seemed a bit unfair that I had to mess up the lives of the people I loved, because I was like this. I looked around at all their faces. The thought of moving was not a good one–hopefully with any luck we wouldn’t have to. I would just do my best to stay more hidden and more quiet, and hope that no ghostbusters ever came.