Revis and I are at it once again. We are just starting the story so no promises on frequency or timing of posts. But, hey, at least we are writing again? Hopefully it’s even entertaining. Anyway, we hope you enjoy it because we will have a blast writing it.
The first time he saw a ghost it was nothing like what he’d seen in scary movies or read about in the horror books he owned. The room didn’t suddenly get colder. He couldn’t see his breath. His teeth didn’t start to chatter. The hairs on his neck and arms didn’t stand on end and no strange sensation ran up and down his spine either. There were no shadowy faces or rattling chains, no unexplained thumps in the night or half-glimpsed movements from the corners of his eyes.
All of that would come later. Yes, all of it.
But, that first time, there was nothing sinister or scary about the experience. Perhaps, he should have been scared. It happened so quickly that it was over before he had time to process what he was seeing. Plus, the first ghost he saw, he only saw an empty hand. There really isn’t much scary about that. And he wasn’t the type to scare easily anyway.
He had been sitting on his bed, reading a magazine he liked, when he looked up casusally as he turned pages, to see a hand, as if from another dimension reaching through the thin fabric between the worlds, pluck a book off his shelf, set it on the ground, flip to a specific page, and then withdraw, as if nothing untoward had happened at all. It had happened so fast, too, that he hardly would have believed he had witnessed it if not for the book, one of his favorites, turned to a page with only four words on it, “And so it begins.”
But it didn’t. Not for a while, at least. Weeks passed before the next occurrence.
That was enough time for him to convince himself that he had been asleep and dreamt the whole thing. The book was back in its customary spot on the shelf the following morning and he didn’t remember putting it back. Therefore, he couldn’t have seen what he had seen. It had to have been a dream.
He jumped at the sound of his mother calling up the stairs to him. Looking down, he saw that his mind had wandered and he’d made no progress on the English paper he’d been working on. It stared up from his desk, mocking him for mentally going back to the night of the book. Cursing himself for not staying focused, he got up from his desk and started walking to the door so he could go downstairs and eat.
His eyes caught movement out of the corner of his eye while he was going through the doorway. With a quick step backwards, he looked around his room until he found what he’d seen moving. It was another book. He stepped back inside and picked it up from where it sat on his pillow. It wasn’t opened to a specific page, but the title caused a chill to pass through him as he read it off the book’s spine: Unprepared.
“Jake? Let’s go.”
The slight elevation in his mother’s tone, the pitch that meant he only had a few seconds to make his appearance for dinner or he’d be in for it, kicked him into gear. Dinner was served at 5 o’clock sharp and any tardiness had to be rigorously explained. He put the book back on the shelf, ignoring the gooseflesh that suddenly rushed up his arms, and hightailed it to the table.
His mother’s piercing gaze caught him as he took his seat. “What were you doing?”
“Trying to finish up my English paper.”
The half-smirk, raised eyebrow, look she gave his answer meant she didn’t fully believe him but wasn’t going to push it further. He would have to give it to her to look over before he went to bed later but that was fine, he really needed to spend time on it anyway.
While eating he tried to bend his thoughts to how he wanted to reword the paper but he found his mind drifting over and over to the questions that had swarmed his mind when he had picked up “Unprepared.”
Had the first incident with a book really not been a dream? If so, what did it mean? And if this was some sort of message, that he was unprepared, then what was he unprepared for? What did he need to be doing?
By the time dinner was done, he had no answers. It didn’t help that his mom kept talking to him during the meal, interrupting his thoughts. She always did that when she knew his mind was elsewhere. It was her way of getting the most out of their limited time together. Between his schedule of studying for his final exams and getting ready for graduation, and her working the night shift, they didn’t see each other much outside of their dinners together. Besides, he reminded himself, there was far more annoying parental behavior that she could be engaging in than trying to have a conversation with him.
Once he’d finished dinner, he went back upstairs to his room to finish his paper. With the strangeness happening there earlier, Jake didn’t think he’d be able to concentrate on his work. To his surprise, however, the words came flowing to him when he sat back down Iat his desk. His thoughts became clearer the longer he worked on it and when he was finished, he was surprised by how good he thought it was. English was his worst subject, but he was pretty sure he nailed this assignment.
“I thought I’d find you up here furiously pounding on your laptop.”
Jake turned to see his mother standing in the doorway in her work clothes. “Mr. Johnson doesn’t want us to type out every assignment,” he explained. “He thinks it’s important for us to know and use cursive.”
She shrugged and walked next to him. His mother looked over his shoulder at what he’d written. Almost immediately, her face turned red and angry. “Is this some kind of joke?” she demanded.
He was about to ask her what she was talking about when his eyes drifted down to his paper. His face turned to one of confusion. The words on the page weren’t what he’d written.
“Mom, I… I…,” Jake struggled to understand what he was looking at, let alone come up with a reasonable explanation. He started to sweat and felt like he couldn’t breathe. He forced his mouth open to say something, anything, but nothing came. He sat there with his mouth agape. He could feel his mother’s wrath swelling. It was like a physical presence in the room pressing against him.
Suddenly, making him jump a bit, a knock on the front door came to his rescue.
His mother fixed him with a stern glance and then said as she was leaving the room, “I don’t know what you are playing at young man but, when I get back up here, you better have your real paper ready to show me.”
“My real paper?” Jake whispered glancing down at the jumble of words, doodles, and unrecognizable scientific calculations. “What happened to what I wrote?”
Jake reached up to scratch at an itch on his head when he realized the physical presence he felt before must not have been coming from his mom. It was still there in the room with him. The feeling, the pressure, was growing.
He faced the empty room behind him and stammered, “Hel… hello?”
The ghostly hand appeared directly in front of his face. Jake jerked away from it, burying himself deeper into his desk chair. Helplessly, he watched as the hand drifted down to grab ahold of his wrist. He struggled against it, but the hand was too strong. After he stopped struggling, the ghost hand began to move his wrist.
Jake’s hand moved over the paper, causing the pen he was holding to write. Had he been holding it the whole time? Where did the new notebook come from? Was there anything else he hadn’t noticed? Why hadn’t he cried out for help? Those questions flew from his mind as he began reading what the ghost hand was forcing him to write.
“You…were…warned,” he read aloud as the words appeared. “You… did… nothing… to… prepare… for… the… beginning. Now… it… is… time… for… your… end.”
While he was still more afraid than he’d ever been in his life, Jake overcame it enough that it was no longer paralyzing him. He hollered for his mother as he got up and ran for the door. Unfortunately for him, the ghost still gripped him by the wrist. He came to an abrupt halt within a few steps. Suddenly, the ghost hand yanked on his arm, sending a wave of pain throughout his body and making him wonder if it popped out of the socket.
He felt the ghost hand let go of his wrist. His relief was short-lived, however, when he felt it grab onto his throat. Even though it wasn’t squeezing yet, Jake was starting to have trouble taking a breath.