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.

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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.”

A Reverse Angle – Part Three

Victor helped me remove the drapes.

Neither of us spoke of our night time adventures. Yet, they clearly haunted our thoughts.

Oh, but it was such a relief to pull those horrid drapes down. There is so much light in the house now.

I can almost feel the house breathe.

***

Victor’s fears and fearful thoughts dissipated with each drape that came down. The knowledge that he didn’t need to be dainty about it made him enjoy the project so much more.

Pull!

Pull!

Tug!

Snap!

Tear!

And another one down.

“Are we going to put up any new drapes?”

“Not for some time. I want to enjoy all of this delicious, delirious light.”

He laughed.

But his mother was right.

The daylight was delicious and exhilarating. He wanted to roll around in it as a dog rolls in snow.

***

“There! I think we ought to take a break.”

Victor followed me into the kitchen.

I set the tea kettle on the stove as he washed his hands.

“After our break, we’ll tackle the upstairs rooms.”

Victor shut the water off. “Mother.”

I busied myself making us cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches.

“Mother.”

“Yes?”

“About what I saw last night.”

Again, I felt that cold arm wrap around my waist. But I kept myself calm. My voice remained steady. “Yes?”

“It wasn’t a dream. How could it be when I still heard them after I woke up?”

I put extra cream cheese on my sandwich. “I don’t know what to say. I can’t explain it. I wish I could.” I plated our sandwiches and carried them to the table.

“Mother. Are they ghosts?”

I picked up my sandwich and took a bite.

He didn’t touch his food. He sat there, waiting for my response.

I swallowed. “I don’t know.”

“Have you…Have you seen anything?”

“No. But I’ve thought I…I imagined I heard some distant voice. It was too distant to understand what they were even saying. And last night.”

I hesitated.

Did I really want to tell him my side? Surely, it would accomplish nothing more than increase his fears.

“What happened?”

I surely couldn’t leave it at that.

I told him.

Yet, with the light shining through the windows, my tale of terror didn’t seem so frightening.

Victor picked up his sandwich and took a bite. “So, what do we do?”

I contemplated my sandwich. “We will finish taking down the drapes. Then, I will call an old friend of mine who may be able to answer our questions.”

A Reverse Angle – Part Two

I am unsure as to what Victor had seen in the attic.

I am certain he saw something.

I do not know what.

Neither does he.

I will keep that attic door locked.

***

Victor stuck close to his mother for the rest of the day.

But it couldn’t stay day forever.

Night came.

He put on his bravest face and kissed her good night.

He tried his best to not look like someone ordered to walk the plank.

He honestly tried his best.

“I’m just across the hall if you need me.” she said.

“I know. Good night, then.”

“Good night.”

***

The master bedroom has a strange feel to it.

A sort of heaviness that presses down on one’s head.

I suppose I could share the room with Victor, but no.

No.

I will not cave in to such weak-minded fears.

I am not afraid.

This house will not make me afraid.

***

It was a strange feeling of familiar and unfamiliar to sleep under his own blanket on someone else’s bed.

Victor shivered.

What if someone died in here?

What if someone died on this very bed?

No.

I cannot think of such things.

Mother says there are no ghosts and she is right.

I can’t explain what I saw in the attic.

Maybe it was a wayward raccoon.

It would have to be a fairly large raccoon to look like…

He shivered again and rolled over onto his side.

I shan’t think of it.

I shall sleep and sleep well.

This is my new home and this is my new bed.

No one else’s.

***

There is someone in the bed with me!

I opened my eyes and lay as still as possible.

No.

It was only a dream and nothing more.

Perhaps I am missing my husband.

Surely that is it.

I lit the nearby candle and carefully checked the bed.

Nothing.

No one.

There.

Only a dream and nothing more.

I set the lit candle on the night stand and considered blowing it out.

But then I thought of the arm that had touched my waist.

The candle stayed lit all night.

***

“There’s someone here.”

“Shh.”

“You shh. Look. He’s there.”

“I don’t see anyone.”

“That’s because I’m older than you. I can see more. And I. can. see. him.”

“You’re trying to scare me. I will tell mum. Mum will go mad again.”

Victor opened his eyes.

The voices fell silent.

Only a…only a dream?

Victor’s feet were cold. He drew them upwards.

“See? There! There he is!”

He let out a sound that was neither a gasp nor a scream, sprang out of his bed, and bolted towards the door. He grabbed the doorknob and tried to turn it.

“He’s there at the door! Look! Look!”

The doorknob resisted his efforts.

Victor heard the sound of muffled breathing growing faster and faster. He couldn’t say if it was his or not.

The breathing stopped.

The doorknob turned.

Victor fled the room.

***

Victor burst into my room with wild ghost tales.

I calmed him down as best as I could, but it wasn’t easy. Whatever he had witnessed had left him badly shaken.

I let him stay in my room.

It made him feel better.

It made me feel better too.

***

I am tired of these heavy drapes covering every window, blocking every breath of daylight.

They are coming down today.

All of them.

 

 

A Reverse Angle – Part One

The house was gorgeous.

Period detail.

So many heavy drapes. Of course, those had to go. Period detailing or not. Horrible things were terribly musty. But I would take care of that after we’d all moved in.

Victor bit his thumbnail. “Looks haunted.”

“Of course it does. Most grand, old houses always do.”

“Mother. What if it is haunted? We won’t have to stay, will we?”

“My dear boy. There are no such things as ghosts or hauntings.”

****

Victor explored the house on his own while his mother bossed about the movers. She was terribly good at bossing.

And he discovered a strange thing.

No matter where he went in the house, no matter what room, the door always slammed shut behind him.

Most doors will drift closed given time and patience.

Yet, these doors slammed shut with a powerful force.

He tried to make sense of it.

It’s an old house. he thought. Old houses have drafts and…such. Yet, I don’t feel any drafts.

Ghosts, then?

But Mother says there are no ghosts. And she knows.

Still.

I wish the doors wouldn’t slam so.

It worries me.

***

It is a beautiful house, but it has so many dark corners.

I keep…hearing strange things just out of my range of hearing. I can’t tell if it’s a woman’s voice, a girl’s voice, or a boy’s voice.

Yet, there is only Victor and I here. No other woman or child.

I fear it is the vast loneliness of this place trying to get to me.

It will not get to me.

I love this house.

I intend to stay here.

***

Victor walked all the way up to the attic. He opened the door and shuddered.

Covered things stood like an assembly of ghosts all around the room. They could have been anything.

Or anyone.

Then, in the far left corner, one of the covered things moved. It was low on the ground, like a child sitting on the floor. It raised its head and turned to look at him.

Victor ran out of the attic and headed for the stairs.

The door slammed shut behind him.

***

I will add electric lights to this place. It will be expensive, no doubt, but it must be done.

I will not spend my days here, quaking at shadows and darkness.

“Oh, Victor. There you are. I was worried. I—”

“Mother! Mother! I saw a ghost. A ghost!”

I hesitated.

I thought about the strange…sounds I had heard. “Perhaps you are mistaken. Perhaps it was some sort of animal.”

“It’s in the attic. Come see. Come see!”

I couldn’t very well refuse.

After all, I can’t have my son believing in such falderal as ghosts and spooks. “Lead on.”

***

Victor led her upstairs into the attic. He watched her reaction as the doors slammed shut behind them.

Yet, it didn’t seem to bother her all that much.

He wondered if he were just being overly jumpy.

Yet, her reaction to the ghost in the attic…That is what he needed to see the most.

He tried to turn the attic doorknob.

It was locked.

He frowned. “I came in here. I did.”

“I’m sure you did, Victor. It’s an old house. The realtor said that the doors tend to somehow lock themselves. Loose locks or something of that sort. Nothing to fear.” She pulled out the enormous key ring the realtor had given her. Each key was marked with an initial or some sort of id.

There were so many keys to go through.

“Why are there so many doors?” asked Victor.

She shook her head as she flipped through the keys. “To keep the house warmer, I suppose.”

“Seems to keep it darker.”

She stopped and looked up at him.

He shrugged. “Personal observation.”

She smiled and resumed her search for the attic key.

“Who owned this place before us?”

“Oh, it hasn’t been owned in years. Last family lived here during one of the World Wars. I can’t recall which one.”

“Oh.”

“Here it is.” She put the key into the lock and unlocked the door.

They entered the attic.

She gasped at the sight of the covered objects. “Oh. What treasures are hiding under these yellowing sheets?” She pulled them off in bold, unfrightened gestures.

Victor stuck close to his mother as she unveiled chairs and credenzas and such furniture stuff. He tried to pay attention to her, but he could feel his gaze wanting to move to that far left corner. “Mother.”

“Oh. I’m sorry. Yes. Your ghost. Where is she?”

He gulped. Here it is. My moment of truth. “In the far left corner. Do you see it?”

There was a long moment of silence as she looked over there.

Victor had no courage. He stared at the empty bookshelf she had uncovered.

“No. Victor darling, there’s nothing there.”

He looked.

That corner was the only empty spot in the whole attic.