I floated up the stairs very slowly, already hearing my sister in her room. She was screaming and crying and throwing things. I winced at the sound of glass breaking, and just wanted to turn right around and float off as fast as my ghostly spirit could go. But I swallowed my fears, and knocked at the door. I was given a very rude word as a response, so I went through. Miracle was standing in the middle of her room, her glasses gone, her fists clutching the torn remains of a magazine.
“Get the hell out of here,” she spat. “You want to go? So go, leave me alone.” She threw the magazines aside, turning her shoulder to me.
“Miracle, can’t we talk?” I asked.
“No! And don’t call me Miracle! You know I hate it.” Her voice was low and very angry as she glowered at me. “What’s the fricking point in being called Miracle, huh? Mom died, Dad abandoned us and now you’re abandoning me, just like he did! Some miracle!”
“SHUT UP AND FACE THE MUSIC!” she screamed, kicking the bed. “He. Left. Us. He ran away, he abandoned us, he couldn’t deal with taking care of us. He didn’t want us.”
“That’s not true! He died.”
“He is a GHOST he cannot DIE!” she screeched, hands coming towards me. I quickly went not solid and backed away. “Get that through your thick skull! But screw it, you don’t even care. You’re just like him.”
“He DIED!” I yelled back, my temper breaking. “You don’t know what it’s like to be a ghost, MiraCLE! It’s not easy. You know what I feel when I wake up? I feel the other side–the netherside–tugging at me, pulling at me, drawing me in. Wanna know what I feel every waking moment of every single day?! The same thing. Every. Second. I have a desire to just give in, go to where I belong. Death. It is hard to ignore that call. But I do. And Daddy did too–when Mama was alive. He loved her, just as he loved us, and when she died a part of him died and he couldn’t hang on any longer. He couldn’t. He went to the other side. He loved us both so much, but what? He was supposed to just–fade into nothing here? In front of us? He left to spare us that–“
“He left because he was a coward!”
My hand hit her. For the first time, I hit someone. She stumbled back looking as shocked as I was, as shocked as I felt minutes ago when she hit me. She screamed and leaped forward but I went not solid again and she fell to the floor. I tackled her and pinned her down, keeping any body part she could hit not solid, and my hands and knees holding her down as solid as I could be. “GET OFF OF ME! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!”
“Don’t you EVER call him a coward!” I yelled into her face. “He was NOT a coward!”
“Yes he is! He left! He left us! He left me! And you’re going to leave me! Then leave, see if I care. I don’t, I don’t care! I hope you die!”
“I AM DEAD!” I let go of her and fell back, crying now. “I am dead, Mira. That’s the point. I’m dead. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong with the living. I belong with ghosts.”
She spit at me as she got up, then wiped off her mouth. “Then go. Go, Chance. Go.”
“Understand it. Please,” I begged. “Please. I cannot do this anymore. I am locked up here all the time. The windows are covered, I haven’t even seen the outside in years. I can’t talk to anyone but family. I can’t meet anyone. And I just can’t do this anymore.” My sobbing increased. “I can’t… please understand… please…”
She grabbed a shoe and flung it at me. It went through, hitting the wall and falling to the floor harmlessly. “I told you to go. If you want my permission, you have it. Leave. I said I don’t care. Just get out of here!”
“I need you to understand. You’re my sister. I love you…”
“No you don’t, you’re just leaving me, if you loved me you’d stay,” she growled.
I turned my tear-stained face up to her. “And if you loved me you’d understand how hard it is for me to do that.”
She stared wild-eyed at me for a moment then dropped to the floor. “I can’t lose you,” she whispered. “Reaper, Chance. I can’t lose you too. I lost Mom, and Dad, and not you too. I can’t. I can’t be alone! I want them–I want them–I miss them so much!” Now she was sobbing and I moved over, putting my arms around her. She sobbed into my shoulder and I rocked her gently. “I want them back! It’s not fair! It’s not fair!”
“I know.” I held her tightly and cried as well, and the two of us just cried and cried for the first time, really, since either of our parents died. We both had cried a little bit after losing Mama, and I cried after Dad left, but we never did this much before. We clung to each other tightly, and my heart broke into a hundred zillion pieces. I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t leave her like this. I had been stupid and wrong. I had to deal with the cage, for the sake of my sister, and I was a horrible person for ever thinking to leave her.
We stayed together for a long time, until all our tears were gone and we couldn’t cry anymore. I let go of her and scooted away, gazing intently down at my lap. “I’m not going to go,” I said. “You’re right. I need to stay here.”
Miracle reached over and rested her hand on my leg. “No. You need to go.” I looked up, mouth open. She looked serious. Sad, but serious. “You’re right, Chance. It’s not fair to keep you locked up like this. Not to be punny or anything, but you need a chance at life. Whatever life that is. People don’t understand you, they’d rather zap ghosts off to oblivion. The only safe place for ghosts is in graveyards. I don’t want to lose you, but it’s not fair to jail you up and hide you away and give you cabin fever.”
We both smiled at that, both of us imagining the song from one of our favorite Muppets movie. “I’ve got cabin fever, I think I’ve lost my grip,” I said.
Miracle smiled. “I’d like to get my hands on whoever wrote this s-script…”
Then we were crying without tears, clinging to each other once more. “Y-you really want me t-to go?” I sniffled into her shoulder.
“No, but I think you need to, I think it’s the best thing for you,” she whimpered back.
“You really think so?”
It had been two full hours between the time I went up after Miracle and when we came downstairs. Both my aunts were still on the couch and I could tell they had been crying a lot, and talking a lot. They saw my sister and I were holding hands and then Aunt Kaylee burst into a fresh wave of tears. “You r-r-really want this, don’t you?”
“Yes,” I answered. “I’m sorry.”
“You can’t, until you’re eighteen,” she said stubbornly.
“You can’t keep me here, though it’d be easier to leave with your help,” I said.
“Aunt Kaylee,” Miracle said, “remember when you were on bed rest and you couldn’t do anything for almost two weeks? Imagine that minus sitting on the back porch and the phone calls, not for two weeks but for two years, ten–a lifetime.” I squeezed her hand gratefully. “We can’t do that to him.”
Aunt Kaylee looked at me in utter misery. “You could… go in the backyard at night…”
“I’m not a dog to be let out, Aunt Kaylee,” I said.
She began crying more and Aunt Emma put her arms around her. “Chance, I strongly recommend you stay here until you are officially an adult. You can go in the backyard at night, I know you’re not a dog, but you’re only fifteen. You cannot go out into the world on your own! You are too young.”
I shrugged. “Why can’t I? I don’t need to eat, so I don’t need to worry about food. I won’t need to worry about money. I cannot get hurt.” I stepped closer, hands curled together in a begging manner. “You both know how much I need to be free. You both know I don’t belong here. It’s always been a matter of time.”
“But you’re so yooooung!” Aunt Kaylee cried.
I put my arms around her, and Aunt Emma too. “I’ll be ok. I’m a ghost. I’ll be with other ghosts. Everything will be fine.”
“Will you v-visit?” Aunt Emma asked.
I shook my head. “I can’t. I won’t be able to come back. But you can come visit me. I’m gonna be at the Sunset Valley graveyard for a while, get used to things. If it fails, if I can’t even do that then I could come back.” We all knew I wouldn’t be coming back but it calmed everyone down me just saying it, even me.
“I never–wanted any of this–for you–” she choked. “Your parents…”
“I know, Aunt Kaylee. I know.” I hugged her and Aunt Emma and soon Miracle joined us, and we hugged for a long time ignoring the heavy sleepiness that crying caused.
I slept pretty good whenever I did get to bed, and when I woke up I felt really happy liked I used to feel. I had agreed not to leave until the weekend. Aunt Kaylee wanted me to tell the rest of the family though I didn’t want to. I loved my family but I knew it would hurt them so much, especially Grandpa and Poppop. When they found out they were both very upset and Poppop seemed scared, too. I overheard him afterwards talking to Aunt Kaylee about the dangers I could be in.
“I know,” she answered. “But he really wants this. And it’s been, what? Eight years? I don’t think he’s gonna come back…”
“He waited eleven years before. I don’t know what he could do to another ghost–it’s just not safe for him.”
“What are we going to tell him? A psychotic ghost might hurt him?”
“I don’t know, sweetie. I just don’t know what to do. I can’t believe he wants to–go–like this. Just up and leave. He’s fifteen.”
“And he goes through things every day that you or I cannot even dream of in heaven or earth. Horatio.”
“You sounded just like your Uncle Zari there.”
“Yeah well, he’s the one that taught me all the Shakespeare I know, watching those movies with him in it.” Aunt Kaylee made a noise and then sighed. “You know, he’s so much like his mother. Chance, I mean.”
“I know. That’s the hardest thing. As stubborn as she was. And my mother. Mules, the lot of them. I swear. But Serenity… when she was fifteen, she was surrounded by death every day, with Henri. And always pushed through.”
“Chance is even more surrounded by it, Mom-Dad. He’s right, and Mira’s right, and Ems is right. He cannot be kept under lock and key. Pretending he doesn’t exist to people outside the family. He’s fifteen. He’s gonna want to get some action sooner or later. He certainly can’t do that with the life he’s living now.”
Action? I squinted, trying to figure out what she meant by that. Considering the context and tone, I wasn’t sure if I really did want to know. So I just shrugged and continued listening in on their chat. I knew I shouldn’t be, but I was a bit curious after hearing that thing about a ghost after us? But they didn’t talk about that anymore, just about how much they were going to miss me, and what my parent might think about the situation. They both came to the conclusion that as hard as it was, both my parents would realize I had to go. That made me feel good inside. I didn’t remember Mama and Daddy all that much so hearing from two people who knew them well say they would have accepted my decision made me feel so much better about it.
But the thing about the other ghost bothered me. I still had a few days left here. I needed to find out what that was all about.
I tried to convince my family to sell my stuff but they refused. After all, they figured I would be back within a week. Maybe I would but I doubted it. Ever since making this decision I felt so much better. I felt so happy again, and hopeful, and excited. I’m going to meet people, I kept thinking, grinning to myself. Dead people, but still people! I can make friends. Real friends, not just relatives who were told to be nice to their poor dead orphaned cousin. I loved my aunts and uncles but I knew that is what they told their kids. One good thing about being a ghost and able to float around, it was real easy to overhear thing. Amy was the only one who ever really didn’t feel forced, but that was mostly since she really liked Miracle.
“So, three days,” Miracle said, coming into my room.
I looked up and beamed at her. “Three days. You, um, going to come with us?”
“Yeah.” She sat on my bed. “You really want to live in a graveyard? Where are you going to go during the day?”
I spread my hands out. “I dunno. A… mausoleum?”
“In what? A coffin? You’re going to share a coffin with a pile of bones?” she snorted. “Chance, dude, you come running into my room when you see a spider. You have nightmares. You really going to sleep with bones?”
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” I answered. “I don’t have nightmares about coffins or bones. And I don’t think there’s gonna be a spider in the coffin.”
“What do you have nightmares about? You–you never talk about them.”
I turned around, putting my hands on the big-screen TV my aunts had gotten me months ago despite my protests. “How about you sell this? It’s new, and if I come back I could always get a new one. You sell it. Buy something nice. A prom dress. And take pictures, so I can see.” Miracle wiped her eyes and I realized then she was crying. “Mira…?”
“Chance, I–” She gulped and shook her head. “I just wish you weren’t going. I wish life was different. I wish you could come to school with me and torture me like a normal brother. Go to the prom yourself. With some… sexy hot girl.”
“Mira!” I rubbed my face, completely embarrassed by that. “I’m not interested in girls.”
She smirked at that and poked at my arm. “What if you meet some hot sexy ghost girl? Do ghosts even date?”
“I don’t know!” I swatted her hand away. “And I’m not interested. I want to see things, see the world. Dating… is not on my bucket list.”
“Can a dead person even have a bucket list?” she asked with a grin and I poked her back.
“Shut up,” I laughed, and she laughed as well. “So, will you sell the TV? Please?” I put my hands together and gave her puppy dog eyes. She came over and put her hands on it, then nodded. “Thank you! And the proceeds go to your prom dress?” I asked and she nodded. I grinned and hugged her tightly, happy she agreed.
One day to go. I decided to outright ask about the other ghost thing. I knew who to ask, too. Grandpa. I asked to see him, though I had already talked to him the day before with Poppop. He agreed to come in and had lunch with me, Lissie and Aunt Kaylee. Afterwards, Aunt Kaylee and Alyssa went out so I could have the privacy I requested. Grandpa and I sat in the living room and he was patient as I worked up the courage to ask him. I had no clue what sort of can of worms I was about to open. After a couple of difficult starts I finally said, “I think I overheard something about another ghost that has to do with this family?” I asked. “I know about the ghost trap guns and stuff. Is this other ghost because why?” I saw the look on his face and knew I was right. “Who is it?”
“It’s a complicated situation,” he mumbled. “Probably something for your Poppop to tell you, not me.”
“I am asking you. Not him.”
Grandpa looked uncomfortable and I felt guilty for putting him in this position. I was about to relent and say I would go talk to Poppop when he began speaking. “Your Poppop–loved someone else before me. This person was not a good person at all.” I remembered what Poppop had said about being walked over and I nodded. “This person did a lot of terrible, terrible things. A lot of–“
“Grandpa, don’t sugarcoat things. I’m fifteen,” I said. “And I play a lot of video games.”
Grandpa looked down. “He physically abused Sebastian.” I gulped, feeling a lump in my throat. I hadn’t really expected that. “He left. And then eleven years later, showed up again and kidnapped Sebastian. We got him back, thanks–thanks to your mother. But…” He groaned and linked his fingers together. “This bad man, he died. The night I went to get Sebastian. And we thought that was that. But… it turns out… he may have become a ghost. A… friend of the family who knew your Poppop showed up not long after your mother died, armed to the teeth with…”
“Anti-ghost stuff?” I whispered.
“Yes. He never said explicitly that the ghost–killed your mother. But he hinted at it. And seemed anxious that this ghost was going to… come here to Sunset Valley. He gave us the anti-ghost stuff so we could protect ourselves. Duncan’s family has some stuff, as does–your aunt Kaylee. We don’t know if he will ever show up again but he might.” Grandpa reached down and took my wrist. “I don’t know if he’ll be able to hurt you or not. And you’re just fifteen. If you go out there on your own…”
“Grandpa, is there a lot of the anti-ghost stuff or just guns?” I asked.
“It just seems kind’ve odd that there’s just the trappy gun things and not… more protection?” I turned to look at him and he looked as though he was trying not to say something. “There is more stuff, isn’t there?”
“Ye… yes,” Grandpa admitted. “There are these… they’re sort of strips of charged metal or something. We were told that if a ghost goes near it, it will knock them out.” I rolled my eyes at him and he grimaced. “Our house has them, as does Duncan’s.”
“But not here,” I said, drawing away from him as a painful look went across his face. “Because of me? So–Aunt Kaylee and Aunt Emma and Mira and Lissie are less protected… because of me. What about everyone else? Aunt River and Uncle Jack, and Uncle Simon and Aunt–“
“They’re safe,” he mumbled.
My eyes went into slits at that. “They don’t have the guns or the metal, do they?” He remained silent which kind’ve told me. “I see. How come?”
“It’s complicated, Chance. And not important. They’re safe. There’s no reason for the ghost to go after them.”
“But reason for the ghost to come after you and Poppop? Uncle Duncan’s family? This family? How come? I don’t understand.”
“It’s not important. Please.”
I shrugged and then started to get up, then thought of something. “So if I wasn’t here, Aunt Kaylee and Aunt Emma could put the metal strips around the house?” I asked and Grandpa’s eyes went really big. “Then they’d be safer? Just answer me, yes or no?” He just kept looking at me. “Okay. Thanks, Grandpa.”
“Get them to put the strips up, ‘k?” I asked then got out of my seat.
Grandpa stood up, hands out as he pleaded with me. “Chance, they’d rather have you here than those strips up. They talked about it before, do you think they didn’t? There was so much talk when all this happened. Of going somewhere else, of hiding. But we decided to stay in Sunset Valley because we belong here. Kaylee wanted to stay here with you and Miracle instead of running away.”
“Wait, it has to do with me and my sister–not Aunt Kaylee?” I asked and he shook his head. “Grandpa, just tell me! Please.”
“Fine.” Grandpa sat back down and waved his hand. I took my seat again. “His name was Doug McIntyre. He was evil. If he’s a ghost, he still is evil. He–and Poppop–were together for several years. And…” He rubbed his forehead then took off his glasses. “You know there is a difference between being related by blood and being related by other means such as adoption, right?”
“Grandpa… I’m fifteen. Not five. I may not pay attention to my lessons but I’m not stupid.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry. It’s just… Duncan… and your mother… are not related to me by blood. You are not related to me by blood. That is why Duncan, his family, you and your sister are in more danger than the rest of the family. Because you are all–related to him. Technically speaking.” Grandpa told me all this, keeping his eyes on mine and now he waited for my reaction.
“Oh,” I said. I pressed my lips together and then smiled. “I see. Well, then, if Miracle is in more danger than she needs those strips up around here.”
“Chance! That isn’t what this story is supposed to tell you! This story is supposed to tell you that it is dangerous out there. If Douglas is really a ghost, he could come after you!”
I got up and smiled at him. “I’m a ghost too. What could happen?”
“You don’t know–“
“Exactly. We don’t know. Grandpa. Thanks. I think I’ll be safe in a graveyard I mean, if some sketchy ghost comes after me I could always go down into the ground!” I pointed at the floor and then zoomed my hand off. “And zip off like that! He won’t find me. And I want my sis to be protected. And the rest of the family should be protected to. You never know if he’s that dangerous.” I floated over and hugged him tightly. “Thanks, Grandpa. But I’ll be okay.”
He hugged me back, sounding very, very, very unhappy as he said, “Unfortunately, no one can lock you up to stop you.”
“Nope,” I laughed and pulled back, “Please don’t worry, Grandpa. I’ll be fine.”