“Papa, I don’t feel good.”
I was packing lunches for the kids since I had woken up so early. It was a good while before everyone needed to get up, but Villy had come down the stairs looking very unhappy. This was really surprising. He never got sick. Well he sorta-kinda-occasionally did but he always got over it very quickly. I went over and tilted his head up so I could check out his face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Tummy? Sore throat?”
Villy rolled his eyes at me. “Paaa! I don’t get those!”
Jeez, he was already sounding like a teenager. “Well then what’s the matter?”
“I dunno. I feel really icky all over. Like… like there’s something bad gonna happen. You know when you watch a scary movie or play a scary game and it’s all tense and you know something’s gonna pop out and it’s kinda like that, but… nothing’s popping out.”
“Is this about the girl thing?” I asked. Two days before this he had come home complaining about some girl and how girls were confusing, and asking all sorts of questions.
Villy glared. “No, it’s got nothing to do with that. I just feel all… jumpy.”
“Why don’t you lay on the couch, I’ll make you a toasted cheese sandwich and we’ll see how you feel, okay?” I asked, and he obediently went to the couch and flopped down. I quickly made him his sandwich and then returned to packing lunches, going ahead with packing Villy’s lunch in case he did go to school. He was still feeling ‘ughy’ by the time breakfast was ready and moped around, complaining.
“I don’t want to go,” he whined. “It feels awful and jumbly inside of me!”
“If Villy doesn’t hafta go to school, I don’t either,” Presea said and the twins chimed in their agreement with that statement and soon all three of them were begging me to let them all stay home today while Glados shook her head at them so desperate to not go.
“Everyone is going to school,” Specter said sternly as he came down the stairs. “Except Vilkas, who is not feeling well.”
“But he’s a werewolf!” Zaid said desperately. “They get all healed up and never sick, he’s never sick, even when we all had chicken pox he had it for like, five minutes then was fine!”
Specter snorted as he tucked his shirt into his pants and fixed his belt. “He has something that makes werewolves and like feel sick.” Then he looked at me since my mouth was beginning to open to ask. “Some of the supernaturals at the lab have been feeling not quite well lately. I think he should stay home and rest today. If that’s okay with you?”
“It’s fine,” I said, really worried now. I managed to snag a minute alone with Specter and asked him if it was very bad. He kissed my forehead and promised me that everything was fine, it was just the supernaturals had been very restless and unhappy.
“They keep going on about something happening, something coming,” he explained and I told him that Villy had said the same thing earlier. “I think there’s just some sort of odd imbalance in the magical world, and it is affecting the supernaturals. I’m sure he’ll be fine in a day or two.”
“If anything weird happens, you’ll let me know–right? And–and it’s all the supernaturals? Not just ghosts?”
“All of them,” he confirmed, ruffling my hair a bit. “If anything happens I’ll let you know. Same with you. If Vils really starts to feel awful…”
“I’ll call,” I promised and stood on tip toes to give him a kiss. “Love you, babe–have a good day at work…”
After he left and I got the rest of the kids on the school bus (Presea and the twins complaining, Glados telling them to stop) I went back in to study Vilkas. He was stretched out on the couch, watching TV, giggling at the cartoons. But then he’d occasionally frown and start squeezing his fingers into his palms or wriggling his body, or jerking his feet. As if he was really jittery about something. About something coming…
It was day two of Villy not feeling well when I decided to call Uncle Kay, and get an answer about the dead faerie. Specter had told me he seemed to know something and if he did it might have to do with what was going on with my kid. We chatted for a few minutes while I wandered upstairs, out of Villy’s hearing–hopefully. When I brought up the faerie Uncle Kay was a bit startled but then asked what I wanted to know.
“Specter says some at the lab say it’s a magic-user that did it, but he thinks it was a ghost,” I said completely bluntly. “And he also said you seemed like you might know–“
“It w-was a magic-user,” he cut me off. “The other d-day the faerie’s girlfriend c-came forward. She said she w-was there and saw the attack. It was a witch.”
I just sorta stood there, holding my phone, really confuzled about this turn of events. I was really expecting him to say Specter had been right. “When was this?”
“Just th-three days ago.”
So right after Specter had told me. “Specter said you were acting kinda funny about the whole thing so he thought there was something you were hiding…”
Uncle Kay went silent and then sighed. “I s-suppose there is. I was worried it m-might be a ghost from–well… d’you remember when I t-told you about your mother?”
I nodded then remembered, embarrassed, he couldn’t see me. “Yeah. You said it was–oh! You think it was the same ghost?”
“I did.” He went super quiet. “The modus–ahh, the M.Os were th-the same. Your mother was hurt on the inside without an-any evidence on the surface. Chance, I think I should t-tell you something. I don’t want to m-make this mistake again. It’s about your g-grandfather.”
I stiffened. A couple years ago he had told me my grandfathers had died. A few months apart. First he told me about the one, then about the other. I had spent months crying and feeling guilty. I had wished then I had tried to connect to my family before but after the deaths I was way too scared. I was paralyzed with fear that they’d be so angry I knew but didn’t approach them. And now that sick, fearful feeling was creeping all over me just at the mention. What was he talking about? Which grandfather? I already knew my other grandfather was dead so what was he talking about?
“Which one?” I asked.
“You had… you had four. Your f-father’s father, and then your m-mother had… technically three fathers. Sebastian, th-the one that d-died recently? He was w-with someone. Who is… biologically your mother’s other father.”
I was losing track of what he was going on about. “Okay slow down, hold on. Okay so my mom had three dads… um, the two that died and then another one?”
“Yes. W-well, the other is dead as well. He died a l-long time ago. He was a bad, bad man. Sebastian left him w-when he was still pregnant with your m-mother, and wound up m-marrying Halbert.”
“I don’t think I’m following this at all. Which one is Sebastian?”
There was a slight groan and I flinched. I wanted to point out I couldn’t remember who these people were, and the names were getting easily jumbled inside my brain. I was getting a headache just trying to figure out what he was saying, and I felt bad enough about it. I wish he wouldn’t groan. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I’m trying to fol–“
“No, it’s f-fine. I understand. Sebastian was the one b-born a Danevbie.”
“Ohhhh, okay. So… he… was with this other guy who was bad, and they had my mom, but Sebastian went to, um, Halbert, and they raised her?”
I went over to the dresser and began kinda scritching the surface with my fingernail. I was trying my best to keep these names straight in my head. “Yes.”
“And all these guys are dead now?”
“What’s this gotta do with what we were talking about before?”
“Because the ghost that killed your mother w-was your g-grandfather, biologically. Not Sebastian or H-Halbert, the other guy–the b-bad one.”
It took a few seconds for that to sink in. “Oh.” I guess he was waiting for me to react more so I said, “And you think he’s around?”
“I did wonder… but… we have a w-witness confirming it w-was a witch and not–not a gh-ghost, besides I doubt… You see, he had a l-lot of power when he was–at our old labs, but a b-big part of that was the fact w-we were on land that h-had a lot of magic concentrated on and around it. I think once he left, he sh-should have lost a l-lot of his powers.”
“But it’s not him,” I said, rather than asked. I ran my fingers across the top drawer and resisted the urge to open it. Inside was the ghost gun. We had locked it up, tucked it under our underwear. The key was in the bedside table on Specter’s side of the room. I really felt the urge to just check to make sure the gun was still there… but… of course it would be.
“No. I w-was wrong. I suppose it’s just my f-fear getting the better of me. Once bitten, an-and all that.”
“So, um, there is like–weird stuff going on though? Like the faerie death is weird… and unusual… and–and… the supernaturals are, uh, acting… strange?”
“It is strange, but n-not completely unusual. The supernaturals d-d-do tend to fight amongst themselves. It has been g-getting a bit worse. Oh, not here. At the labs. Until…”
“The faerie?” I asked when he didn’t continue. “It’s been getting worse? The fighting? Like, around… town?” I forced myself to move away from the dresser and began, half-subconsciously, going towards the table next to Specter’s side of the bed.
“In th-th-the area, f-from what we’ve been seeing, and have b-been told.”
“Told? By who?”
He explained to me that the psychic I had once talked to, the muscle-y man named Guy that had told me he couldn’t see who I was, spoke of it. I had pretty much forgotten about him and now I wish I hadn’t since he’d probably have answers to all this. Uncle Kay talked and I sorta drifted off, thinking about what I could ask him. About the barrier. About the unknown threat. About Vilkas and what was bothering him–except… oops. Maybe what Uncle Kay was saying was to do…
“So the supernaturals are getting all antsy?” I stared down at the bedside table, at the little drawer where the key was. No, the gun is still there, stop being paranoid. I turned and walked along the room. “What did, um, Guy say about this? Is it something very bad? Because Villy has feeling real unsettled and everything.”
“Not su-surprising. Supernaturals do detect–ah, the magical… frequencies? W-wavelengths? Ahhh, aura? Whatever m-magic is… operating through… or… or on? You kn-know, none of us have ever b-been able to f-figure that out.”
“Oh!” I exclaimed. “It’s like, um, dog whistles. Normal people can’t hear it but set it off and the dog goes all wild.”
“Hmm, I hadn’t th-thought of it that w-way but it’s as close t-to the truth as anything else we know. Yes. Something has been s-setting off this… dog whistle, this–supernatural wh-whistle and all the supernaturals are r-reacting. You’ve n-not felt anything, have you?”
“No. I guess I lost my, um, supernatural hearing when I got alive.” If I were a ghost, would I be feeling all this? Probably, a voice in my head said. But you’re not a ghost, stop worrying about what might be. Focus on what IS. Villy. The barrier? “Um, can I ask something else? Is there a barrier that can stop ghosts that isn’t like, in a wall or–like, I know the stuff that EG… well, you guys invented. But is there something that can be put outside and is, er, invisible…?”
He made some think-y sounds for a few seconds and then, “No. That’s n-nothing like I’ve ever encountered. Where did hear about th-this?”
“Some ghosts, an old friend. He came to visit me and he said there was this barrier around our place, it took four days to get past. So I was just curious.”
“Well now, th-that is odd. Do you m-mind if I c-come in? Take a look?”
I grinned at that. “Uncle Kay, when have I ever minded you coming in?”
He couldn’t really make it in that day, the day we talked, so he came in the following day. Villy was still at home, still complaining about something coming. He smiled at Uncle Kay and gave him a half-hug, kinda scrunching his face up when Uncle Kay tried to give him a full hug. “I’m too old for that,” he whined, wriggling away.
“You f-feeling all right?” Uncle Kay asked.
Villy glanced at me then back at him. “I guess.”
“Do you mind if we t-talk a bit about this?” When Uncle Kay said that, Villy shifted and looked very uncomfortable. “Because, well, you s-see, some of the people at th-the labs have been f-feeling this way too and I was hoping you could h-help me figure this out.”
Villy’s face brightened at that. “Oh! Yeah, that’s cool.”
So it wasn’t just the barrier that Uncle Kay came to see. I wanted to listen in but they sat on the far couch and talked in hushed tones and since I was puttering around in the kitchen there was no excuse to really go over, except to make it obvious I was trying to listen in. After the dishes were washed and the counters wiped and the trash taken out they finally finished talking. I was wondering what had been said but didn’t ask.
I took Uncle Kay outside and we wandered around the yard, trying to figure out what was causing the barrier. “I don’t feel a thing,” I said as we circled around the house for the third time. “They said it was stopping ghosts from getting in, not getting out so…”
“How st-strange, all the things w-we’ve managed to come up with as barriers f-for ghosts are a two way street, n-not one way. What stops them coming, st-stops them going. I’ve never h-heard anything so… invisible or so…” He was inspecting the ground now, kicking at clumps of dirt and grass. “Perhaps it is something not invisible, merely b-buried. Still! Stopping a gh-ghost one way but not another?” Now he crouched down, touching the ground. “Very s-strange. Your g-ghost friends weren’t just making this up?”
“I don’t think they would,” I answered. “Could it be magic?”
“I don’t know. There’s a l-lot about magic we don’t know. Before we c-came here, I–” He stopped and stood up. He ran his fingers through his hair then let his hand settle on the back of his head. “Before Moonlight F-Falls, things seemed a l-lot simpler. We used to kn-know so much about the world and… things like this didn’t happen. And now… I’m saying ‘supernaturals’ and ‘m-magic’ like it’s normal… and it is normal!” He came over to me and put his hands on my arms. “I d-don’t know what’s going on, Chance.”
“You used to not believe in ghosts and stuff?” I asked, surprised.
“I don’t know. The paranormal is n-not a field I…” He slowly let out a deep breath. “My life, g-growing up, was about… facts. About sc-science. About… extraterre-terrestials. I always thought if w-we were going to f-find strange new beings it would be out there.” He waved his hand at the sky. “Not down h-here. But then things changed. There’s m-more here, on our planet, than I ever th-thought.”
“Maybe it’s aliens,” I mumbled and he looked at me. “When I had the thingiemabob inside me it always seemed like the theory was either aliens or magic. What if it’s both? What if magic is just aliens? There’ve always been ghost stories and stories about… the supernaturals and stuff… but there’ve also been stories about aliens, right? What if magic is just alien technology? And–the, um, like lyca… lycin… werewolf stuff that makes them different is just alien? And vampires? And everything?”
Uncle Kay began adjusting his glasses, a small smile on his face. “That’s a g-good theory. Maybe all this unknown really is ali-aliens.”
“Maybe the reason there seems to be more stuff here than other places is aliens crashed here or something,” I continued. “And maybe what’s coming is the mothership.”
Uncle Kay was grinning now. “Perhaps y-you’re right. If that’s the case, my s-sister will be overjoyed.” He put a hand on my shoulder. “Let’s go back inside, I’m n-not really finding anything out here.”
That night I thought a lot about my alien-magic theory. I wondered if that was true, if it really was just… aliens? Was the doctor right about that sort of thing? Maybe magic was just alien technology that some people could use, like witches and wizards, and some people it altered their bodies, like werewolves and stuff. Although I really didn’t have any idea what would cause a regular person to turn into a ghost, then, and why it would only happen to some people and not all.
Still. I thought it was an interesting thought and I was real proud of myself for thinking it.
The weekend was not a good one. Vilkas continued feeling really out of whack, and because of that there was a lot of fighting. Specter and I broke up countless arguments and I lost track of how many times I had to send a kid to a corner or their room. On Monday Villy was still all yucky (his word) but this time he went to school. I couldn’t keep him out especially since it was getting near the end of the school year and he didn’t want to fail and have to repeat a grade.
Once I had the house to myself I got on the computer and tried to do some looking up of information about supernaturals but I couldn’t find much. Lots of articles about specu… possibilities of the supernaturals. Despite them being open, it was still something not everyone believed. They were called hoaxes and tricks and illusions and costumes. People were very weird, I didn’t get it. But still–past all that ‘no it’s not real’ and ‘yes it is real’ chats there had to be something about the disturbance in the force. But no! Nothing! At least, nothing I could find. Then again I was pretty bad with research stuff. That was definitely more of Specter’s fortay.
I did some editing for one of my videos I needed to finish, replied to some comments, then went to clean. I felt pretty distracted though which I realized after I put a can of tomato soup in the fridge. I took it out and gave up on tidying. Instead I went outside and sat on the swing, moving it just a bit, feeling the grass between my toes. I was so happy it was warm again. I hated wearing shoes outside. I hated wearing shoes anytime, really.
I began swinging a little bit and then came to a stop, digging my feet in the ground and staring off at the hill. There was something there. Or not? I wasn’t sure. I thought I had seen something but it was just my imagination, so I went back to swinging a bit, making a list of things I needed to–NO there was definitely something on the hill. A glimmery… shadowy… Ghost, I finally figured out, feeling quite stupid. But not quite? No, it was a ghost just nearly invisible. Like that girl had been, about what, a year ago?
I got up and went forward a little bit, not sure where the barrier was. “Hey!” I called out and the ghost-glimmer moved a bit. “Hey. Are you the girl from before?”
The ghost-glimmer floated down the hill towards me, coming to a stop several feet away. “I can’t come closer,” the ghost said so softly I barely heard. “What is happening?”
I took a few steps closer. “You’re not the girl, are you?”
The form glimmered some more. “What? I can barely hear you. There’s something…”
The voice was different, so I knew it wasn’t her. “What’s your name?”
“I can see you,” the ghost said, still softly. “Are you the one who was once a ghost?”
I moved even closer, so I was just a couple of steps away from the ghost now. “No, I’m not,” I lied. “Is that possible?”
The ghost was silent then the glow faded just slightly. There was a sound, almost a sigh? The ghost then looked like it was trying to come closer except that it couldn’t. “I’ve traveled so far, looking for aid. Where do I go now?”
“I–I dunno,” I muttered, feeling guilty. Specter and I agreed that if anything happened I would lie. That would be best… or so we thought. No, it is best. “I can’t help you.”
“You can see me. You can hear me? I don’t understand. I’m so lost. I need help. Please help me, I need–I need help.”
“I can’t help you,” I said as firmly as I could. I wanted to add that I wished I could, but I remained silent. I had to be very careful with what I said, especially after lying about not being the ex-ghost.
“I know you can help me, you’re him,” the voice said. “Help me.”
Whoever he or she was had just a pathetic, pleading sound in their voice that it practically broke my heart. “No, you’re mistaken,” I said without confection.
The glimmer faded to almost invisibility. “You do not understand. I need help. I need revenge. The doctor…” I stiffened. Doctor? I almost asked which doctor but I held my tongue. “The professor,” the ghost said in an even softer voice. My heart thudded hard in my chest. “They are the reason I’m dead.”
“How?” I asked without thinking.
“Do you know them? They’re terrible people. Liars. They do what they can to get what they want!” The ghost was very bright now, the edges spiking in anger. I took a step back, slightly afraid. “They don’t care who they destroy in the process. They killed me. They hooked me up to this machine and… and…”
“Then what?” I whispered, hands clutching each other.
There was a short laugh. “I’m a ghost, what do you think? I’m dead, they killed me and they can bring me back to life.”
“No they can’t, it’s impossible!” I blurted out. Red crept up onto my face. “It’s–“
“Stop lying, I know who you are,” the ghost snorted. “I know you’re him.” They came forward and as I was taking a step back they stopped abruptly. “This thing… what is it? I can’t get past it. I can’t hear you very well.”
I swallowed and wondered if I should go inside but part of me felt very guilty, and wanting to do something for him. Her. Them. “I don’t know what you know–” I began but the ghost cut me off with, “What? I can’t hear you very well.”
So I took a step closer, making sure to stand behind the barrier. “I said I don’t know what you know but they can’t bring ghosts back to life.”
“Oh. But they can. I was at their labs. I know what they have and what they can do, they just don’t want to do it. They don’t care. She doesn’t care. What use is it bringing the dead back to life? The only way she’ll ever use it is if he dies.”
I hugged myself, knowing perfectly well there was some truth in that. “They experimented with ghosts and–“
“And told you what, that it failed? Because they’re just so honest, aren’t they?” The ghost faded and brightened as it laughed. “The doctor hates people. Surely you’re not dumb enough to think otherwise? What she does is what she wants, what can help her and screw the rest of the world. Everyone is beneath her and if she doesn’t feel like it, she won’t lift a damn finger to help them. You know this.”
I sniffled, nodding just a bit because it was so true. The only reason Doctor Green-Eyes ever helped me was because of her brother, or to just see how experimenting would go. She barely even spoke to me anymore ever since the thingiemabob was taken out. It was like without that in me, I was nothing to her. “Kay’s not like that!” I said loudly.
The ghost sighed. “No, I suppose not. He’s nicer. But she lies even to him. Hides things, so he won’t know. She has things that could help, help the world. Help me. She killed me. I want to live again and they have the technology that can do it.”
“No they don’t–” I tried but it was kinda strange I mean, I couldn’t be all that different from other ghosts, could I? It worked perfectly for me and I was mostly ghost. If it just didn’t work for ghosts… why had it gotten me so completely living and not just partially? It did sorta sound a bit odd, now that I thought about it. And the doctor… well, everything the ghost had said was true. She did lie and not care about people.
“You can help me,” the ghost whispered. “Please. I need your help.”
I wanted to help. I really wanted to help. I wanted so bad to say yes, and help this ghost–just a little bit. Everything inside me just ached to help him. But there wasn’t anything I could do. So with a heavy heart I shook my head. “I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“I can’t help you. I’m sorry but what can I do? I don’t know where anything in the lab is, and I can’t even get there, even if I did. I’m sorry. I–I’m sorry.”
I gulped and then turned around to head back to the house. I took one step and then gasped as the light came zipping around to stand between me in the house. “You don’t understand, I need you,” it said.
“How–how–?” I stared at it then at the house then at the ghost. “How?! There’s a barrier, you can’t be floating there!”
The ghost laughed. “Oh please, the barrier is about five feet behind me right now. You think I’d actually stop at the actual barrier? No, no, Chance. I just faked it so you’d come closer and be outside.”
I felt my body shaking with fear and my eyes darted at the house real quick. I took a step back, nearly stumbling. “What? W… how… you… how?” I then gasped again as the light got more and more solid, getting bigger and bigger. Forming a human shape. Changing color. Becoming an actual ghost.
“I tried to do this the nice way, Chance, I really did. But if this is the way you want to play then…” He, I could see it was a he now, chuckled.
I took a few more stumbling steps back. “You know–me? Who… who are you?”
He laughed, shaking his head, his hair flopping against his cheeks as he grinned at me. “Well, I guess… you can just call me… Grandpa.”
I turned. I spun around quickly and began running. There was a hill in the way and I headed for it–or tried to. The ghost, the–bad one, Uncle Kay’s voice said in my head–laughed and then I felt this coldness, the chill I felt when William’s hand went through me, the feel of a ghost going through me. There was a spike of pain and I fell on the hill, the cold feeling still in me because he wasn’t trying to go through me, he was trying to go in me.
I clutched the grass and opened my mouth to scream but nothing came out. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t control my own body. The bad one was laughing again but from inside my own head and… I realized with horror… through my own mouth.
“That’s right,” he said out loud, in my voice. “Possession is one of my many talents. Now then. I just need your adorable little body. Not you. Nighty-night. Let Grandpa tell you a bedtime story.” My body stood up, brushing the grass from its pant legs.
“There once was a brat named Chance. And now there’s not. The end.”
And then everything went black.