The figure stepped toward us before we could move. “What are you two doing?”
As I stared at the dark-clad, older woman, I thought my heart was about to stop. It wasn’t a ghost: it was just Sister Martha.
“Well?” Sister Martha asked as she took another step toward us.
I quickly glanced over at Meryl, who looked like she was ready to bolt. It was up to me to try and get us out of trouble. I took a deep breath and forced myself to speak. “Meryl and I were having trouble sleeping. We both were walking around and ran into each other.”
Sister Martha lifted an eyebrow and looked from me to Meryl. “Is that so? Don’t think for a second I’ll let either of you miss school today because you’d rather sleep.”
Sleep. That sounded so good and yet so terrifying. I was exhausted, but until we figured out how to make the woman leave me alone, there was no way I could risk it. If I fell asleep again, I knew the woman would probably kill me.
“In the meantime,” Sister Martha continued, “since you’re both up, you can help me with the morning chores before you get ready for the day.”
Neither Meryl nor I argued. The last thing I wanted to do was go back into my room alone.
Sister Martha kept us busy with chores all morning until it was time for school. If she was trying to punish us for sneaking outside together, it didn’t really work. I was grateful to have something to do, and Meryl seemed content enough to work beside me and talk when Sister Martha left us on our own.
The sun finally started to come up by the time we were done with the chores. Shortly after that, Meryl left for school and I went upstairs for my classes with Sister Rebecca. As much as I would have liked to have gone to an actual school like Meryl’s, Father Vincent and Father Sebastian insisted I stay at Saint Helens for my classes. The less I was involved with things outside, the better.
Partway through the day, my body wanted nothing more than to sleep. No matter how strong the urge was, though, I refused to let myself. It was a matter of life and death.
Finally, once my classes were over, I went back to my room. With the sun out and the lights on, it didn’t seem nearly as terrifying as it had the previous night. Even so, as I closed my door and started to walk toward my desk to do my homework, something moved out of the corner of my eye.
I spun around to try and catch the figure, but nothing was there. It was the woman again. She was toying with me.
I’d had enough. Instead of fear, anger burst out of nowhere and painted my face red. I tore one of the knives out from my waistband and slashed at where I knew the woman had just been.
“That’s it,” I said as I glared at the empty space with my knife out in front of me. “If you want to fight, fight me. I’m tired of you following me. I ki—”
Before I could finish, my door flew open and Meryl stood in the hallway staring at me. “Drake,” she said, as she slowly stepped into my room. “Are you OK?”
I looked over at Meryl and then at my knife. What was wrong with me? “Yeah. I’m just tired.”
“You should put the knife down.”
I shook my head and walked over to my desk. As I sat my knife down on it, I couldn’t help but feel like an idiot. “I guess that was stupid. You can’t really fight a ghost, can you?”
“It’s OK. I’m guessing you had a long day.”
I nodded. As I did, I realized Meryl was holding a piece of poster board in one hand and a plastic bag in the other. “School project?”
Meryl shook her head and glanced back out into the hallway. “Do you mind if I close the door?”
I hesitated. We were supposed to leave our doors open if a girl was in our room. “Well, we’re not really—”
“I know, but this is important. I think I figured out how we can talk to your ghost.”
She gently closed the door without asking again and walked over to me. “With this,” she said as she turned her poster board around. On it was the alphabet, the word “Yes” up in the left corner, “No” in the top right, and “Goodbye” at the bottom.
“A Ouija board,” Meryl answered. “I figured out how to make one earlier today, but I don’t want the Sisters to see it.”
“Aren’t those supposed to be bad for some reason?”
She shrugged. “It’s supposed to let us talk to dead people. This is our best way to figure out what your ghost wants. If it works, maybe I can find out what happened to my dad, too.”
I swallowed a hard lump as her words sunk in for the first time. She’d mentioned wanting to talk to the ghost, but I didn’t actually think it was possible. If we could, though, I already knew what the woman would say. She’d tell Meryl I’d killed her. I couldn’t let her do that. Father Vincent told me I had to keep everything we did a secret. Still, like it or not, I had the feeling Meryl would try to talk to her dad, regardless. If the woman’s ghost intervened, it was better that I was there, too.
“All right,” I said, more than a little nervous. “What do we do?”
She reached into her plastic bag and pulled out four small candles. “Help me set these up in a circle around us.”
As I took the candles from her and began to set them on the ground, Meryl pulled out several more and put them down as well. Once we were done, she pulled a small book of matches from her bag along with a heart shaped piece of cardboard. “Could you please turn the lights off?” she asked as she lit a match.
I took a few steps toward the light switch and flipped it off. I wasn’t sure what the candles were for or why we had to do whatever Meryl had in mind in the dark, but I decided to trust her. Even so, as darkness engulfed my room, I felt a cold, anxious sweat slowly form under my arms.
Meryl lit the candles one by one while I made my way back into the circle and sat down beside her. When she was done, she blew the match out and then hesitantly looked into my eyes. I couldn’t make out a whole lot of detail in the darkness, but it almost looked like she was blushing.
“Ready?” she asked.
Meryl took a deep breath and sat the heart shaped piece of card board down on the poster board. For the first time, I noticed it had a circular hole cut out in the center just big enough to display one of the letters. Before she touched it, though, she grabbed both of my hands in hers.
I realized too late that my palms were covered with sweat. Luckily, Meryl didn’t seem to mind. Judging from her serious look and the way she nervously glanced around, I wasn’t the only one a little scared.
“Oh spirit,” she said as she squeezed my hands. “Come and talk to us. Show us your presence and tell us what you want.”
I squeezed her hands in return as my fear continued to rise with each of her words. I was too afraid to even really speak. If the woman suddenly appeared, I knew I would die of a heart attack.
A spark of enthusiasm came into Meryl’s eyes as she continued. “Speak with us, spirit, through the Ouija.”
With that, she stared into my eyes and slowly released my hands. “What now?” I asked.
“Now, touch the planchette with fingers from both of your hands, but don’t move it around. If it works, it should move on its own.”
I wasn’t sure what a planchette was, but when Meryl rested her fingers on the heart-shaped piece of cardboard, I followed suit.
“Spirit, are you here?” Meryl asked once our hands were in place.
“Spirit, can you hear me?”
There was no movement – nothing but silence. Then, suddenly, the cardboard began to move toward the “Yes” in the upper left hand corner where it came to a rest.
Meryl stared at me wide eyed. “Was that you?”
The color drained from my face as my body began to shake. “No.”
Meryl swallowed. “Is this the spirit who has been coming to Drake?”
Slowly, the cardboard moved off of the “Yes” and then back to it. That was a bad sign. The woman was there with us and she wanted to talk. There was no way I could let her tell Meryl how she died.
Meryl looked back up at me. For a moment, I thought she was going to accuse me of moving it but, when she saw the look on my face, the words dried up in her throat. Instead, she just whispered, “It really does work.”
“Will you please go away?” I asked the board.
Slowly, the planchette moved across the poster board toward “No”. I felt tears well up within me at that. I should have known asking her to leave me alone would be too easy. Still, it wasn’t like I could fight a ghost. I couldn’t kill her – again.
“Why are you here?” Meryl asked.
Almost immediately, the cardboard moved toward the letter “H,” followed by the letter “E.”
“H. E,” Meryl said. “He? I think she’s talking about you, Drake.”
I swallowed hard as the planchette continued to move toward the letter “K.” Then, it slowly continued on toward “I.” My eyes went wide. I knew what was coming. I couldn’t let Meryl know I had killed the woman. If I tried to stop it, though, there was no telling what the woman’s ghost would do to me.
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