A Reverse Angle – Part Ten

Victor laid his hands on the table and propped his chin on them.

Everything was quiet.

No weird sounds.

No heavy breathing.

No screaming.

Yet, it wasn’t a good kind of quiet.

It was a strained, someone holding their breath kind of quiet.

The silence before the sound.

Victor listened hard, waiting for the sound.

***

“Children. Come to me. Speak truth to me. Come. Come. Come.”

I tried to keep my thoughts clear and my mind calm.

It was a struggle.

I couldn’t help but feel nervous.

Something was going to happen.

Something big was going to happen and I would have to make a choice: Stay or leave.

***

The front door banged open.

Victor raised his head.

Someone ran through the front door.

He jumped out of his seat and grabbed his chair.

What if they come in here?

They did not.

They ran upstairs.

***

“Children. Come. Tell me why do you cry? I will not harm you. I wish to help you. Come, children, and speak to me.”

The bedroom door opened and closed quietly.

I looked towards the door.

No one was there.

The closet door opened and shut on its own.

Yet, no one was there.

***

Victor ran to the kitchen door.

He opened it.

A cold gust of air rushed past him, bearing the scent of faded roses.

He staggered back into the room, too afraid to advance.

“Mother…”

I must go to her.

Yet, he was too afraid to move.

***

“Come, children. Tell me. Why are you here? Why do you cry? Speak truth to me, children. Come and speak to me.”

The closet door opened.

I glanced over there.

I saw nothing but the open door and the dark, empty closet.

“Come.”

The bedroom door opened.

No one entered the room, but I heard a soft, distant gasp.

I shivered.

“Tell me. Speak truth to me. What did your mother do to you? Why do you cry? What did she do to you?”

Lydia tilted her head. “A pillow? Is that how she killed you?”

One of the gentlemen glanced at Lydia. “She says they’re not dead.”

The gentleman holding my hand spoke. “He says they’re not dead.”

“Not dead.”

“Not dead.”

A cold wind rushed at us and the table pounded and shook.

“The mother says they aren’t dead. We are wrong. They aren’t dead.”

“Not dead.”

“Not dead.”

I trembled as I heard the mother’s distant scream coupled with her children’s incoherent yells.

Then.

Everything went silent and still.

Lydia bowed her head, softly gasping for breath.

***

Victor came to his senses.

He took a deep breath and ran to the door.

He ran out of the room and up the stairs.

“Mother!”

He burst into his bedroom.

Lydia raised her head.

His mother rose from her seat and hurried over to him.

“Mother, I felt a horrible coldness downstairs. It was…It was…”

“Shh.” She hugged him. “Don’t worry. We’re safe.”

“What happened?”

She looked back at Lydia and repeated her son’s question.

Lydia gave the gentleman on her right a questioning look.

“We made contact.” he said.

She nodded as if remembering hazy details from an almost forgotten dream. “Yes. All three of them. The mother. Anna. Nicholas.”

“They don’t know that they are dead.”

Victor looked up at his mother. “What are we going to do?”

She released him and walked over to Lydia. “Are they gone?”

Lydia’s expression turned sad. She shook her head. “They are too deeply attached to this house. They will never, ever leave.”

***

I shivered. “What happened to them?”

Lydia’s old eyes teared up. “I don’t know all of the details, but the mother smothered them in their sleep. Then,” Tears fell down the lines and wrinkles. “she shot herself in the head.”

I felt utterly sick to my heart and to my stomach. “There is no question of what I need to do.”

Victor came over to me.

I hugged him. “I will not stay in a house where children were murdered.” I kissed the top of his head. “We will move in with my mother until we can find a more suitable place to live.”

Victor nodded.

I released him and shook Lydia’s hand. “Thank you. Thank you so much for your help.”

“You are most welcome, Polly dear.”

***

Lydia Toomey and her companions packed up their séance equipment and left.

Victor and his mother packed up only what they did not want to leave behind and hurried down the stairs.

As Victor followed his mother, he heard the echo of shushed whispers.

“The house is ours.”

“The house is ours.”

“The house is ours.”

***

Victor and his mother left the house.

The door slammed shut behind them.

“Victor, hurry. To the car!”

He ran to the car and opened the back door.

Victor was about to get in, but he felt compelled to look back at the house.

A woman in a black dress stood in the window of what was once his bedroom. Two children stood on either side of her: a young girl in a white nightgown and a much younger boy in white pajamas. They stood still and silent.

He shuddered and hopped into the car.

They drove away.

***

The ghosts’ whispers echoed in the silent, empty house.

“The house is ours.”

“The house is ours.”

“The house is ours.”

*********THE END************

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A Reverse Angle – Part Nine

I debated back and forth within myself if I ought to allow Victor to witness the séance.

I, of course, had to be there. I was the house owner. It was my right and responsibility to be there.

Yet, Victor was only a child.

There was a possibility that the séance might conjure dark spirits who could take possession of the youngest and weakest member of the group.

Victor.

Yet, after all that he had witnessed, perhaps the séance would provide him with closure.

Yet, I did not want him to be harmed by any wayward spirits.

On and on the debate waged in my head until, at last, I simply could not take it anymore.

I sat Victor down and asked him what he wanted to do.

“What do I want?”

He thought it over.

I was certain his mind was traveling down the path I had blazed.

“I wish to see it.”

I sighed.

It was not the answer I had been expecting, much less hoping for. “Are you certain? It might be dangerous.”

“You will be there, won’t you?”

“Well, yes.”

“Then, I have nothing to fear. You’ll protect me.”

How could I refuse him after that?

***

A couple of hours later….

Lydia arrived with three gentlemen.

Victor and his mother stayed out of their way as they set up the séance table and such.

They all look too respectable to be doing this sort of thing. thought Victor. The gentlemen look like they ought to be handling money in a bank, not dealing with ghosts. I wonder if they even know what they’re doing.

He looked at his mother and considered asking her, but decided against it.

She looked worried enough as is.

There was no need to worry her further.

***

Lydia came downstairs alone.

She found Polly and Victor in the kitchen.

“Come. The room is all ready.”

Polly and Victor rose from their seats.

Lydia looked at him and shook her head. “I’m sorry, my dear, but a séance room is no place for a child.”

Victor frowned. “But I want to see it.”

She came down to his level and set her delicate hands on his shoulders. “Please. For your own safety, stay down here. These spirits are sad and in pain. I cannot guarantee their behavior when I call upon them. They might act out. I don’t believe they are dangerous, but spirits can be very unpredictable when they feel cornered.”

He looked up at Polly.

“If that is what you believe would be best.”

Lydia stood with utmost care and released the young boy’s shoulders. “I do.”

“But Mother will protect me.”

“Victor.”

He sighed and sank back in his chair. “Very well. I’ll stay down here.”

Polly looked relieved. “Thank you, dear.”

***

I followed Lydia upstairs to Victor’s bedroom.

I hated the idea of a séance being done in my house.

Having it in Victor’s bedroom…Well. That took me yards beyond hate. Yet, I had no say in the matter. It was the room she had chosen. So, it was the room we were using.

No questions asked.

No debate required.

Her companions were already in their seats.

Only two seats left: one for Lydia and one for me.

We took our seats and held hands.

Lydia bowed her head and went silent.

She went terribly still.

I wanted to tap her to verify that she was still well. Yet, I knew the most important rule of séances: Do not break the connection.

That was all well and good, but if she toppled over, I was going to  break the connection. Rules or no rules.

She raised her head.

A strange, distant fog swirled in her eyes. It startled me. I wanted to release her hand.

But no.

I held tight.

“Children. I can hear your pain. I can hear your cries. Come to me and speak. Tell me, children, why do you cry? Come to me. Come to me. Come to me and speak truth to me. Why do you cry? Speak truth to me. Come to me. Speak!”

A Reverse Angle – Part Eight

Lydia came into the kitchen. Her face was pale and drawn.

I guided her into a chair and made her a spot of tea.

“Did you see them?” asked Victor.

She looked at him as if he were a mile away.

“Victor dear. Give her a few moments to recover.”

Lydia blinked. “It is all right, Polly. No, I didn’t see them, but I know how many there are. Three.”

I gasped.

“A woman. Her daughter. Her son. Something happened to them. I believe the mother may have…”

The tea kettle whistled, startling us.

I pulled it off the stove and poured the water into a prepared tea cup. I brought the tea cup to the table and put it in front of our guest. “Please go on.”

Lydia stirred the tea bag in the cup and watched the color blossom. “I believe the mother may have killed her children.”

I sat there, stunned. I was vastly unprepared for such a possibility.

“Is she going to kill me too?” asked Victor.

Lydia shook her head. “I firmly believe that she and her children are no threat to either of you.”

“Is there a possibility that you’re wrong?”

“Polly darling. I can tell when a spirit is a danger to the living. If they were a danger, I would know. I would feel it. And I would certainly tell you, dear.” She removed the tea bag and took a cautious sip.

“So, what do we do now?”

She set her cup on its saucer. “I will contact a couple of my most trusted friends and we will have a séance. Tonight, if you wish.”

“I hate the idea of séances happening in my house, but yes. Let’s do it tonight.”

“We will do it in Victor’s room, if that isn’t a problem?”

I shook my head. “I don’t want him to sleep alone until we can get this resolved. So, yes. That is not a problem at all.”

“Good. We will gather here just at the beginning of dusk.”

I nodded for there was nothing more to be said.

***

We stood in the doorway and watched Lydia leave.

“After the séance, will the ghosts go away?” asked Victor.

I wrapped my arm around his shoulders. “I hope so.”

“If they don’t?”

I didn’t reply.

“Will we have to live with them?”

I didn’t want to surrender the house, our home, to spirits.

Yet, to willingly live with them and their unknown temperaments, that would surely be madness.

“We will see, Victor. We’ll see what happens next.”

A Reverse Angle – Part Seven

We stayed in the car and watched the drapes burn.

The black smoke climbed to the sky, reaching and stretching towards Heaven itself, but falling woefully short.

The flames grew tired and weary as they ran out of drapes to eat. They yawned and fluttered down into slumber, into death.

A dense fog crept into place.

Victor and I decided to get back into the house before we lost sight of where the house even was.

We sat in the kitchen and waited for Lydia’s arrival.

I made a couple of sandwiches. We nibbled at the edges of them as if they were a stand-in for our fingernails. I can’t say if either of us even tasted the bread, much less the filling.

A couple of hours later, there came a knock on the front door. The sound carried loud and heavy through the silent hall.

I rose from my seat.

Victor followed me to the front door.

***

Lydia Toomey stood on the other side of the door, looking as unmediumish as a person could appear. She smiled at Mrs. Marlish and clasped her hands. “My dear. I hope all is well.”

“Victor and I are still in one piece. That is a minor victory in itself.”

“Indeed.” Lydia took a breath and sighed. “I need to go upstairs. I was unable to do so earlier.”

“Do you want me to follow you?”

Lydia thought it over. “No. This is something I must do alone. Otherwise, your emotions might interfere with my impressions. Please don’t misunderstand.”

“No, it’s fine.”

Lydia nodded. “Very well.”

“Is there anything I can do or give you to help you?”

“Bless you, my dear. No. I’ll be fine. Thank you so much, all the same.”

“Thank you.”

Lydia squeezed her hands before releasing them. “I’ll be down shortly. If I call for you, please come running.”

“Indeed, I will.”

***

Lydia approached the staircase.

The fear was worse than ever – as dense as the fog outside.

She tightened the shawl around her delicate shoulders. “I must do this.”

She walked upstairs.

Slowly.

One step at a time.

The fear and pain and sorrow tightened around her throat and pounded inside her head.

She raised her head and focused on each step.

One at a time.

She focused on each breath.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

She stopped at the top step and closed her eyes. “Guide me. Tell me where to go.”

She opened her eyes.

The fog outside filmed over her eyes.

She released her grip on her shawl and shambled down the hall to Victor’s room.

Lydia opened the door and sat in the middle of the room. “I’m listening. Speak truth to me.”

From somewhere far away, a woman called out for her children.

Her daughter.

Her son.

Lydia’s old lips parted and she spoke the younger woman’s words.

Her children’s names.

“Anna.”

“Nicholas.”

“What have I done? God, give me a second chance. I need a second chance.”

A gunshot.

Lydia blinked and the fog left her eyes.

Tears fell down her aged face.

She put her hand to her heart and bowed her head.

She cried quiet and long.

A Reverse Angle – Part Six

Room after room was undraped.

Victor quietly chanted, “The house is ours.” as he hauled the drapes out to the bonfire.

Walking down the stairs with an armful of heavy material was a daunting challenge. He kept expecting someone or something to give him a fatal push, but it never happened.

He couldn’t help but wonder what the ghosts would say or do next.

He knew that they would not keep their silence for too much longer.

***

We worked our way up to Victor’s room.

The doors slammed shut in every room we entered and left. It made me think of a tempering child.

I wondered if maybe it were a child.

Perhaps it was a young boy of Victor’s age.

Or perhaps a younger girl.

Yet, what if it weren’t?

What if it were an angry young woman?

Or an abusive man?

I thought again of the arm that had gone around my waist.

It hadn’t felt like a man’s arm, but what if I were simply remembering it wrong?

Was I safe here?

And what of Victor?

Was he safe?

Perhaps it would be in our best interest to leave this place.

But no.

I was not willing to surrender so quickly.

Not yet.

I had a secret ace that the spirits were unaware of – Lydia Toomey.

I smiled as Victor reentered the room.

Lydia Toomey would come and set things right.

And the house would be ours.

***

Victor and his mother left his room and leaned against the walls in the hall.

“How many more rooms are there, Mother?”

Before she could respond, a breath-stealing screech rent the air.

Victor panicked and ran down the stairs.

His mother ran after him.

***

We sat in the car. I in the driver’s seat. Victor in the passenger’s seat.

He scooted closer to me and I hugged him close.

That screech hadn’t been one voice.

It was two voices.

Two young voices screaming in terror.

I cried softly into my son’s hair.

What had happened here?

Who were these others and what fate had befallen them?

“Lydia Toomey will come.” I spoke through my tears. “She will find out the truth.”

“Will she make them leave?” Victor’s voice was so small and afraid. It hurt me inside.

The answer I gave him hurt me more. “I don’t know. I can only hope.”

A Reverse Angle – Part Five

Lydia left shortly after our conversation.

Then, I heard them.

Footsteps.

Footsteps running all around the second floor.

Victor and I retreated into one of the safe rooms – one of the rooms that had been de-draped. Somehow I knew that they would not dare enter a daylit room.

Victor curled up onto the couch with me. I wrapped my arm around him and held him tight.

No spirit was going to touch my son.

Neither of us attempted conversation.

We listened to the footsteps.

I wondered when they would stop.

***

Victor opened his eyes.

He couldn’t quite remember when he’d fallen asleep.

And the house was quiet.

And dark.

He widened his eyes.

The drapes were once more hanging on the windows.

***

I don’t know how they did it, but the others managed to undo all of our hard work.

All of the drapes had been rehung.

All of them.

I was not pleased by this new development.

This was undoubtedly an invitation for us to pack up and leave.

I did consider it.

But this house was ours.

I was not about to be bested by maladjusted spirits.

I was resolved to show them.

Those drapes were going to come down.

And this time they were going to be burned.

***

Victor and his mother tore the drapes down with a determination that had to be seen to be believed.

I wish we could just leave. he thought.

If these ghosts want the house all to themselves, then we ought to let them have at it.

Yet, it is terribly exhilarating to burn all of these old grayed drapes.

How the fire leaps to the sky with each new load!

I wonder how big it will be when we are done.

***

Victor stayed close to me and I was glad of it. Despite Lydia’s claims that these ghosts were of no danger to us, I felt as if we were treading on dangerous ground. With every drape we brought down, we were signing a contract of doom.

We finished the first floor.

All of the drapes were down.

All of the drapes were burned.

They would not reappear on our windows.

Not unless they were ghosts as well.

We headed up the stairs to the second floor.

***

“Mother. What do we do if the ghosts try to stop us?”

She carefully considered her answer. “Tell them that this house no longer belongs to them. Tell them that the house is ours. At the very least, it will give them something new to think about.”

Victor nodded. “That makes sense.”

“Let’s start with this room and work our way down the hall.” She unlocked the door.

They entered the room and headed straight for the drapes.

A Reverse Angle – Part Four

I left Victor in charge of the second floor drapes.

He attacked them with such a gusto I couldn’t help but smile.

I went downstairs to call Lydia Toomey. She was an old friend of our family.

She could supposedly communicate with spirits. I was not overly keen on the idea of bringing a medium and séances and Ouija boards into our home.

Yet, I did not want to go through one more night like last night.

I picked up the phone and dialed her number.

As I listened to it ring, I heard the sound of muffled breathing.

Yet, it was not coming from the phone.

It was somewhere behind me.

Muffled breathing that grew faster and faster and faster.

Until it just stopped.

I looked over my shoulder.

There was no one behind me.

“Hello? This is Lydia.”

“Hello! This is Mrs. Polly Marlish.”

“Darling! It’s been such a long time. How have you been?”

“Very well. I.” I looked over my shoulder again.

Just as a figure in white ran out of the room.

The door slammed shut.

“Polly? Darling, what’s wrong?”

“I need your help.”

***

“In Dublin’s fair city—”

Victor grabbed the one side of the drapes and pulled.

“Where girls are so pretty—”

The drapes seemed to hiss as the material tore.

“’twas there I first met me sweet Molly Malone.”

Victor clenched his teeth and pulled extra hard.

 

The drapes came down and the daylight made the dust motes dance in the air.

A high, thin voice shrieked.

Victor startled.

Before he could even turn around, a book slammed into his back.

The door opened and slammed shut.

He turned around.

He stood alone in the daylit room.

He looked down at the floor and picked up the book that had hit him.

It was a Catholic Catechism with yellowed pages and delicate covers.

He dropped the book and ran out of the room.

***

*sigh*

Victor came downstairs with more ghost tales.

I fear that things are intensifying.

What will happen if we stay here one more night?

Will we be murdered in our sleep?

Who are these others who haunt us?

Victor will sleep in my bed tonight. That is for certain.

For his safety.

And for mine.

We could leave this house, but no.

The house is ours.

Whoever they were, they are gone now.

This is no longer their home.

I look forward to Lydia’s arrival.

***

Victor looked at Lydia Toomey. She didn’t look much like a medium. As a matter of fact, she looked disappointingly ordinary.

Like someone’s grandmother.

But his mother was delighted to see her.

As delighted as a stranded person is to see a life raft.

Could she really do anything to help?

He contemplated her soft cloud of white hair, her delicate, bird-like face with its fifty-five hundred wrinkles.

He shook his head.

I don’t think she’ll be able to help us at all.

***

Lydia walked around the house.

As she entered the rooms with the downed drapes, her delicate form and heavy shawl created the strange illusion that she belonged in the dust-moted world.

Although the daylight felt good and comforting, she shivered. There was a coldness in the house that nothing could banish.

And a sadness too heavy for her to bear.

She stopped at the bottom of the staircase and looked upward. She knew that she needed to go up there.

She had to go up there.

Yet, she dreaded it without fully understanding why.

Mrs. Marlish came up behind her. “How is it going?”

She shook her head. “What do you know of the previous owners?”

“Very little. To be honest, I never inquired. Why?”

“They are sad. So deeply sad.”

Mrs. Marlish shivered. “Are?”

Lydia glanced at her. “Why, they are ghosts, of course.”

“I don’t believe…”

Lydia smiled. “I believe you do. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here now.”

“Are they dangerous?”

Lydia looked up the stairs again.

Her smile fell. “No, but they are all so sad. I feel them and I feel for them.”

“What can we do?”

“I wish to communicate with them. I wish to know who they are and what happened to them. Unless you have any objections.”

Mrs. Marlish took a breath and exhaled. “None. Do what you must.”