I stared at William, my head all spinny and weird. It had been a very, very long time since I saw him and I was having a super hard time believing he was here. In my yard. Staring back at me. Talking to me.
“W-William?” I stammered, not sure what else to say.
“I heard your name spoken with this–this tale of resurrection. I confess, I did not believe such a thing truly happened.” He looked me up at down and then our eyes met again. It was so weird, he was technically so much younger than me but I felt like a little kid still compared to him.
“You came to–see if it was true?” I asked.
“Nay. I came to–“
“ARE WE DONE YET?!” The other ghost swept closer to us, hands on his hips. He had drowned and it was easy to guess why. There was no mistaking his pirateness. “Ye said would only take a minute.”
“I did no such thing,” William said, tilting his head a bit to look at the pirate. “I told thee it would be a long conversation, and thou said t’wouldn’t matter.”
The pirate folded his arms and scowled at me. “I see nothin’ special about this lad. Looks a bit lost at sea, if ye get my meanin’.”
“Thomas, you should not say such things. I apologize, Chance. Thomas is–“
“DON’T YE BE APOLOGIZIN’ FER ME, LADDIE!” The pirate… Thomas?… pulled his sword from its holder-thing and waved it at me. I backed up a bit. “Ye see this? I’m not afraid te run ye through, ye scurvy-ridden plague rat.”
I looked at Thomas then at William who was shaking his head then facing me again. “We came to tell thee that there is… an ill wind blowing.”
“A permanent red sky in tha mornin’,” Thomas put in, still glaring at me. “I’d say if ye get my meanin’ but judgin’ by yer empty eyes, I’d wager ye wouldn’t.”
“There is unrest,” William continued, ignoring Thomas completely. Thomas didn’t seem pleased by this and began waving his sword all threatingly at me again. William reached over, not even looking, and pushed it down. “And with your name being spoken as well, I could not help but worry.
I put my arms around myself, remembering Jennifer and shivering. “There’s only been one, besides you two, who’ve been here…”
William lifted his eyebrows and I couldn’t be sure but there seemed to be surprise in his eyes. “There are many. Most do not know much of thee, only a few have spoken of your name. Moonlight Falls is a place that attracts beings such as ourselves. The graveyard is full. Fuller than is should be.”
I looked around, feeling as though we were being watched. “Am I in danger?” I whispered, thinking of my sleeping children.
“I do not have the answer to that,” William said, coming closer to me. We were very close now, inches from each other. Something, somewhere deep inside of me, stirred a bit–remembering our first kiss and how it felt. How his arms around me felt. I could remember the strange feelings I had, that I now knew were feelings of lust and sexual desire that I had been too stupid to realize or recognize then. I was glad I wasn’t feeling that sort of thing now, just slight embarrassment for what I once did feel.
“Of course ye are,” Thomas spat out, shaking me from my memories. “If we kin find ye, Watcher knows some crazed murderous ghost could. Yer as dumb as a post, ye smooth-faced whelp.”
William smacked Thomas lightly on the side. “Thomas, do not say such things! You promised me you would be pleasant. I do not wish to regret bringing you.”
Thomas rubbed his side, scowling. “Well. He is a smooth-faced whelp. What kinda laddie has no whiskers on his face? Tis insanity, it is!” But he floated a few feet away, grumbling to himself, sometimes shooting me a look.
William bowed his head. “I do apologize for his behavior. Thomas… can be… loud.”
“It’s okay. And he is right, I could be in danger.”
“As we travel, Thomas and I shall try to dissuade those of your rumor,” William said quickly. “Perhaps speak of you being in Appaloosa Plains or elsewhere. Speak your name different. I will do my best to alter the rumors so it is harder for some to find you. However as I said, you have been spoken of before and there are many seeking you out.”
“W-well as I said it’s just been one other besides you guys.”
William nodded at that. “Those who are fit to travel tend to have trouble with where they are going. And you do not go out at night much? I thought not,” he said after I shook my head. “You have forgotten. Night is when most are active. And your land is protected.”
“Protected?” This startled me.
“Did you not know…?” William rubbed his chin and then waved one arm. “Tis protected by strong magic. It took Thomas and I four nights to get past the wall.”
“What wall? There’s no wall.”
“Ah, not a wall in the physical sense, but the power–the power protecting this house is strong. Another reason you have been left alone by ghosts?” It was a question but not one that could really be answered, and we both knew it.
“I don’t know what protection it is,” I muttered though I did suspect. Specter might have done something, brought some stuff home from the labs. “But you guys got past it?”
“Yes, only due to my determination to speak with you,” replied William, very softly. “I–I had to. I felt you should be warned. The unrest among the dead is strong. Stronger than I thought it was before coming here. Moonlight Falls… tis… tis…” He pushed his back back and sighed. “As if someone perhaps drew a circle within a circle on this place. A target. For something coming.”
My entire body shivered at that. “What’s c-c-coming?”
He looked at me sadly. “I do not know. It might be no more than a false feeling within me. I mayhap only be seeing more than what is there. It might be nothing to worry about.”
I looked around again, at the woods, and at Thomas who was glowering fiercely at me, hand on his sword. “He really doesn’t like me, does he?”
“Thomas has… jealousy issues. We are working on them.”
“Jealou–” I stopped and stared at William whose see-through skin tinted a bit darker. “You’re together! Like, boyfriends?”
“Ahhhh, y-y-yes,” William stammered. “I remember that word from you. That is a term to call it, I suppose. Lovers would be the one I would use. Yes. Thomas is my lover.”
I couldn’t help but grin. “Congratulations.”
He ducked his head, rubbing the back awkwardly. “Ah, I thank thee. Felicitations are in order for you as well. A long time coming. You are still with the hunter?”
I jerked at that, glancing back at the house. “How did you know about him?”
“Did he not tell you…?” William began shaking his head hard. “Tis nothing! A lucky guess is all! Nothing more.”
I folded my arms and studied William hard. “You met Specter,” I said.
“Ah. Y-yes. Many years ago. I assumed you knew of this… He came to… to kill me…” William stared into my eyes. “To avenge your broken heart. We spoke, and he let me live. Well. He let me be, I suppose. Living is not something I seem to be able to do.”
“Uh-huh. I think I’ll have to talk to him.” I looked up at the bedroom window, wondering why Specter had never once told me about this. He went to kill my ex-boyfriend?! I wasn’t sure if I should have felt super angry or slightly amused, and I kinda felt both. “I’m glad he didn’t do anything–WAIT! How can you even be here?! You–you were, uh, fixed? Not a traveler? You couldn’t leave?”
“There is terrible unrest in our–my world,” William said and he reached out to touch my shoulder but his hand went right through. I shivered at the slightly chilly feeling, watching as his hand swung back. Both of us looked a bit surprised. Thomas looked furious. “The–cemetery in Appaloosa Plains has been disturbed. The land where the estate had once been was… sold? Ahh, I do not know. But they built near it and it caused a… ripple amongst us in the graveyard. The land where I was buried has been disturbed as well. I suppose it was all enough to… knock me loose.”
He turned around and faced Thomas. There was a mini breeze but William’s hair stayed in place. “I wandered. I did not know where to go. I was very lost and… sad. Confused. It was a terrible feeling within me. I found myself, one night, at the ocean.”
“Where you met Thomas?”
“Aye. A traveler as well, for his body was lost at sea. But he doth prefer the waves to anything else. We shall be returning to the ocean. But I did so need to see you.” Now he faced me, his hand up but not coming near me. “To warn thee. Perhaps tis all… unneeded, as there are powers protecting you.”
“Thank you for coming. It means a lot to me.”
He smiled, and I smiled. Then Thomas was at William’s side, his eyes practically shooting daggers (or swords? cannonballs? pirate stuff?) at me. “Are ye done, Billy?”
“Billy?” I said and William shaded a lot.
“Aye, Billy,” Thomas spat out. “Ye wanna make something of it, whelp?”
“What’s a whelp?”
He tried to poke me in the chest but his finger went through. “Ye are,” he said, jerking his hand back. There was a very, very slight damp spot where he had gone through my clothes and I noticed he was dripping ghostly water everywhere.
I gave Thomas a smile. “I said it to him but I’ll say it to you too–“
“Say what? What you tryin’ to tell me, ye bilge swiller.”
“Bil…what?” I shook my head. “I wanted to say congratulations.”
That took Thomas off guard. He swayed back, tipping his hat back. “What?”
“You and William,” I said, jerking my thumb towards the knight.
Thomas narrowed his eyes. “Something–funny? Bout that?”
“Funny? No. No! I think it’s great. “
I wasn’t sure if Thomas believed me or not. He put an arm around William’s waist, all protective-like. “Yeah. Yeah, it is,” he said, sounding like he still wanted something. Or that I was wrong about something. Jealousy issues. Then I thought about what I just learned, about Specter going to avenge me. Did Thomas want to kill me? I eyed the sword. “See something ye like, matey?”
“I think we had dead rats on me ship smarter’n you,” Thomas grunted.
“Thomas,” William warned.
“I can’t help it! He seems so…” Thomas closed one eye, focusing the other on me. “Dumb.”
I blushed hard, shaking my head. “I’m n-not dumb.” I hesitated and then said, “I played a pirate in a game once.”
Thomas arced his eyebrows. “Ye… played a pirate? As in… playacting? Theater? Lies? Ye might’ve played one in theater, ye blaggard, but the only sword ye probably ever wielded is yer own.”
“I never had a sword,” I said.
Thomas laughed and gave my crotch a good stare. “Guess I know why William left ye, if ye ain’t got a sword.”
“W–ahhh!!!” I blushed dark at that, realizing what he meant. “No–I–no! I didn’t mean–I meant–a metal–no, no, no. Not like that!” I swallowed and then in a quiet voice said. “If you want to go that route then, ah, my husband’s sword too.”
William snickered and Thomas’s chest puffed out as he shoved his hat back. “Why ye weevil-eating swine.”
“Thomas, tis not a–a tournament. A competition. Calm down. Chance and I…” William lowered his eyes, not really looking at the ground. Not really looking at anything. “He deserved one more as him. And I believe that is who he has.”
“One like me,” I said. I remembered our parting. His words, the hurt I felt. As I thought of it I began to feel a little bit hurt again but not a lot. His disgust of me being so different. Though he didn’t seem very disgusted now. “And you got one like you,” I teased. “Only… louder,” I added and Thomas scowled. “When did you die?”
“When did you?” Thomas growled. “Ye did die, din’t ye?”
I rubbed my arm. “I dunno. I don’t think so.”
“What ye were just born a ghost?”
I almost said yes, but bit the word back before I did. “I don’t have much memory of–of things a long time ago. I had a, uh… I have memory problems,” I explained to William.
I had sorta been expecting him to be surprised but he just said, smoothly, “Tis not unusual at all. Many spirits do.”
“Yeah well he in’t a ghost now, is he?” Thomas snarled, floating back and forth, beginning to look like he was on edge. “I think we should go, Billy. We spent enough time talkin’.”
Now I had the thought of it wasn’t just cause I was William’s ex-boyfriend. But because I was alive. Ghosts had always had problems with those alive. “Where you guys going?” I asked, trying to be polite. But something inside was a bit sad.
“None yer business, landlubber,” Thomas snorted.
“The ocean?” I said and he jerked, then scowled.
“What about the ocean?”
I spun around, nearly falling over. Specter was coming off the porch, rubbing his head and yawning. I heard a sharp intake of breath somewhere behind me from probably William cause I also heard a grunty, annoyed sound. “Hey sweetie!”
“I woke up and you weren’t there, you weren’t anywhere in the house,” he said, confusion all over his face. “I was a bit worried.”
“Oh I was talking to them.” I waved my hand towards the two ghosts.
“Them?” Specter looked past me then returned his gaze to my face. “Them who?”
I turned to see if they were still there and they were. William looked uncomfortable, Thomas looking angry. “Them,” I said.
“He cannot see us,” William said. “Nor can he hear us.”
“Bloody living,” Thomas said.
“You can’t see them?” I looked at Specter who was frowning. “Ghosts.”
Specter’s body tightened as his eyes darted around, trying to see what he couldn’t. “You should come inside,” he said, hurrying over and grabbing my arm. “Are they dangerous ones?” he whispered.
“Aye, real dangerous,” said Thomas.
“No,” I answered and Thomas sneered. “Specter can I ask you something and will you answer me honestly?”
“Um–there are ghosts here and you want to talk?” he asked though his grip on me wasn’t as tight as it had been.
“Did you ever go to, um, Appaloosa Plains when you were a ghost hunter?”
Specter’s eyes went into slits. “What? Why are you asking that?” He looked around then leaned in close. “Who’s here?”
“William. My ex? The one you tried to kill?”
He paled a bit and released my arm. “Ah.” He licked his lips and ran his fingers through his hair. “Ah,” he repeated. “I didn’t–I didn’t try to kill him. I, uh, intended to but I didn’t, and I didn’t try. I…”
He reached down, putting his hand against my cheek. “You were hurting so much, baby. I was so scared. I thought… I thought it would help you. I panicked, all right? You were so… emotional and I didn’t know how to handle it! I–“
I put a finger against his lip, smiling now. “Well it’s a good thing you learned better ways of handling emotional stuff by the time I got pregnant.”
“You were pregnant?” William asked.
“Yes, a few times,” I said.
“A few times what?” Specter asked.
“He asked if I was pregnant,” I answered.
“So how come he’s here? How come he–he came here? To you?”
“To warn me–oh! That reminds me, did you put anti-ghost stuff around the place?”
“No.” Huh. That was odd. I had really figured he had done that. “Warn you about what? What does he want?”
“He says there’s power around this place making it hard for ghosts to get through,” I said. “I thought maybe you put it up.”
“No. We just have the gun.”
“Gun?” Thomas said, head jerking up. “What gun?”
“It seems the hunter has not left his hunting days behind him,” William noted.
“The gun was my idea,” I admitted and William’s eyes got very big. “What Thomas said earlier, about dangerous–uh, crazed ghosts finding me–“
“–it’s something I thought of before,” I finished then answered Specter’s question with, “William’s new boyfriend.”
“LOVER!” Thomas roared. “I am neither BOY nor FRIEND! Ye puffed up, scurvy-ridden, pox-faced bucko! Least yer man here’s a man with real whiskers!”
“Thomas says he likes your beard,” I said with a grin.
“I did not, ye lyin’–“
“Perhaps it is time we take our leave,” William said, cutting Thomas off.
“Do you have to?” I asked without thinking, then blushed, feeling stupid. “I mean, maybe you could hang around another night?”
“I do not think–” William started to say but he stopped because Specter was talking at the same time. Specter said, “That’s not a good idea.”
I looked at Specter’s pinched face, at Thomas’s angry one, and then at William’s embarrassed face. And I really wasn’t sure why. But since I was the only one, it seemed, that thought it would be nice… I didn’t say anything else. There was a few seconds of awkward silence which Thomas finally decided to fill with mumbling curses.
“How long have you two been–been together?” I asked, trying to find something to say.
“Hmm. Four… nay, five. Five winters. This winter shall be six. How long have thou been… wedded?” He asked this with a short glance towards Specter.
“Fourteen years,” I said proudly. “Fifteen, this fall.”
“The crystal anniversary,” Specter muttered. I raised my eyebrows at him and he blushed. “Traditionally that–the fifteen year anniversary is the crystal one. Chance, we should get inside. It’s–well, the kids–“
“Tis safer inside,” William said as Specter kept talking.
“I’m not afraid of the night!” I said and Specter went quiet. “I’m not.”
“Tis why you have a gun?” William asked and Thomas snorted. I frowned and William came closer, almost putting his hand on my shoulder. “You are right for it. Hate and anger pushes one as much as love and passion. Oftentimes more so. The desire to live will bring many. This… protection around your land will stop all but the most determined. However. the most determined will likely be the most passionate…” He bent in very close. “… or the most angry.”
I reached over, wrapping my arms around Specter’s arm. He opened his mouth to talk but I spoke first. “You’re right.” I hesitated then asked, “Don’t you want to live again?”
William spread his hands out. “Tis been a very long time since I was alive. The world has changed. It is not a place for one such as myself. And I do not think it would work on me. Whatever it is that–that did this to you. It worked on you for you are different.”
I winced, the memories dancing in my head. “Yeah… different.”
He must’ve sensed the sadness or maybe heard it in my voice because he reached out and let his hand hover just barely half an inch from my arm. “Chance. You have been wed fourteen years. You have produced children. You will die an old man in your warm bed. Surrounded by your children. Your grandchildren. Mayhap even great-grandchildren, as people do live longer these days. Can you really tell me you would have preferred to die an old ghost in a cold graveyard with naught but a ghost of seventeen years with you?”
Tears formed in my eyes and one slid down. “Is that… why?”
“I did not know you would become living. I did know you would not be happy remaining there with me. You were–you are–special. Different. In a good way. I spoke of this to him,” William jerked his chin towards Specter, “and that is why he did not kill me.”
“You–you dumped me because–you wanted me to be happy?” I asked, voice kinda raspy as more tears came out of my eyes.
“Aye. And are you not happy?”
I looked up at Specter whose eyebrows were knitted together all worried, whose lips were down in a frown, whose eyes focused so intently on me that even if he could see William and Thomas I knew he would still be staring at me–just me. I thought of Villy, and Presea, and Gladdy, and Lumie, and Zaid. Then I looked at William again, swiped some of the tears from my cheeks and said, “Yeah. I am. I–I am.”
William floated back, his hand far from my arm now. “You have found yours. And I have found mine,” he added, reaching for Thomas’s hand and Thomas swelled with pride. “You are different, Chance. But is has always been a good different. Your husband is the second luckiest in this world, I do believe.”
“Second?” I inquired.
William shrugged one shoulder then looked at Thomas. “I do believe I had wonderful luck as well.”
Thomas darkened then yanked his hand away. “Ugh! Ye knights are all the same, all poncy and poems and romance and yeeeucck! What kinda man says poetry!?”
“One who is in love,” William responded.
“Yuck!” But there was something in Thomas’s face that made me think maybe he wasn’t really that annoyed about the romance thing, and I realized that William and I–we had been kinda close in who we both wound up with. I had to cover my mouth not to laugh at that realizeness.
“Are they still here?” Specter asked since I wasn’t saying anything.
“Yes, but–but I think they’re leaving?”
William nodded and answered, “Aye. We are. I have warned thee–and am most pleased to find you safe. Protected. I pray thee stay that way.” He began drifting back, Thomas with him. But then he stopped. “Chance… whatever has happened… that is causing such… strangeness? I do not know why. None I have come across hath any idea. There are possibilities. Strange ones, varying with who you speak to. The Watcher hath abandoned this world. The Watcher is attempting to fix this world. The–barrier between what is, what was, and what will be is breaking. The barrier between what is and what shouldn’t be is breaking…”
“You’re not making any sense,” I said.
“Yeah the ghosts talkin’ bout it are usually crazier’n a drunk with cabin fever. This one ghost we met? Says it’s bein’s from the stars.” Thomas pointed at the sky. “People from–from Leo? Ursa Major? Orion? Yeah, people from the stars. Real crazy one, but yellows usually are.”
“Yellows,” I repeated.
“The ones that die from their own stupidity?” Thomas said.
“I know what they are. But they’re not bad.”
“Oh, this one was. This barnacle drowned. Not like me.” Thomas cupped his hands. “He drowned on land. In a bowl. Of’milk.” Thomas leaned in close. “That is yellow. An’ what kind of man drowns hisself in milk. On land? Least I drowned proper.”
“He said… aliens?” I asked, thinking that that was one theory the doctor would probably rreeallly like. “Aliens are what? Rippling the–the ghost world?”
“Something is,” William said.
“What do you think it is?”
“I… I think…” William trailed off and slowly breathed out. “I think it is merely another thing that cannot be explained, such as why we become ghosts without moving on. Or perhaps what made you… you. There are many things in this world that do not have an answer, and I believe this is another one.”
We just sorta stared at one another and then he began moving again. “Farewell, Chance.”
“Goodbye, William. Have a good… er…. ghost… life… death… thing. Oh! William? Can you leave? I mean, you said there was a–a sort of wall? I mean, can you–will you be able to go or will you be stuck here for a few days?”
“Wall?” Specter asked.
“Yes, tis easy to go from this direction to the other,” William said. “It is trying to keep out spirits, not keep them in.”
“Oh. Okay. So, uh, farewell. I guess. It won’t… it’s the… we won’t see each other again, will we?” I said, already knowing the answer.
“I do not know. Fate. Destiny. Mayhap we will. More likely we shall not.”
I felt kinda sad as he and Thomas drifted off. I felt strange, too. Memories fluttered around inside my head like butterflies. I wished he was staying another night or two. To talk… but what about? Our time together had been mostly stories, or–couple-y things. I hugged Specter’s arm again, my head on his shoulder. “They’re going,” I told him and pointed. “They’re getting pretty far.”
“You sound sad.”
“You sound accuse-y.”
He grabbed my shoulders, turning me so we were facing. I tried to look back at the ghosts but Specter gently took my chin and turned my head back. “Do you regret it?”
“Becoming… human?” He swallowed and then moved his hand from my chin. “Becoming… vulnerable?”
“And I was so invisible when I had a gun pointed at me?”
“Invincible,” he corrected with a bit of an upturn to his lips.
My brows lifted and I began to smile too. “I don’t regret it. Besides, you wouldn’t’ve married me if I was a ghost, would you?”
“I love you.” His hand began stroking my cheek and then his lips pressed against mine, kissing me in a way he hadn’t kissed me in years.
I melted against him, enjoying this. His hands strayed down my body, tightening on my back, pulling me against him. After a few seconds I put my hands against his chest and pushed him back. “You’re only doing that because you think I sound sad cause my ex-boyfriend is leaving,” I said.
His nostrils flared but his hold on me didn’t loosen. “He’s still young. And I don’t think it was his conversation that attracted you so much, was it?”
I felt anger bubbling up and I tried to shove Specter back away from me. “Stop being so jealous!” I managed to get free and I went up the porch stairs. “I love you, Specter. Not William. Am I sad he’s going? Yeah. He meant a lot to me and–always will. But you mean more. And always will. Even in a couple months when you get those sparkles and turn forty. I’ll love you. And–and when you do it again and become an old, wrinkly man I’ll still love you. How many times do you want me to–“
He cleared the steps in a single bound and yanked me against him, kissing very hard. This time I didn’t push him away. “Only as many times as you want,” he said when we came up for air. “I’m sorry. It was just a little hard finding you gone and I was scared.” His hands cupped my face and he began very gently kissing my lower lip and then chin, then up my cheek. “I was so scared.”
He stopped kissing me and put his forehead against mine. “Something is going on, Chance. The labs… the–the supernaturals at the labs. Something is happening.”
“William–that’s what he came here to tell me. There’s unrest. That’s what he said. That’s why he and Thomas tried so hard to get to me.” And then I told him everything William had said.
Specter listened silently and then pulled me inside, shutting and locking the door. “Last week–maybe, nine days ago? There was an incident. Near the labs. A–a faerie was killed. No one knows… how. I found his body in the woods. Something killed him from the inside out. Something… crushed his insides without touching his outsides.”
My eyes went wider and wider and at the last bit I covered my mouth. “No one knows what happened?”
“Everyone at the labs blame witches and wizards,” he said. “Magic-users. They say it was done by magic.”
“I don’t know. But… the professor… won’t talk about it. And he won’t talk about very obviously. Changing the subject. Pretending it didn’t happen. Acting real furtive.”
“Secretive. Like he’s hiding something.” Specter touched my temple and then sighed. “I think he knows something and just won’t tell.”
“Why… what does that have to do with me? You said you were scared for me? Why me? Why did you–“
“I think it was a ghost,” he said bluntly. I pressed my lips together, heart pounding in fear. “And with all this–this stuff going on with you? The past year? I was scared.”
I clutched his chest, feeling very scared myself. “What is going on?” I whispered. Specter was holding me again and my fingers twisted into his hair. “What’s going on?”