Jul 5, 2014

Breather Excerpt

After a good hour or two, all the main events of the party are over. People from church are still talking to Dad, since talking is all adults ever do. Lillie’s picking up the wrapping paper from the floor since she’s kind of a neat freak. The boys are talking in the corner and I just sit at the table. I really don’t want this party to end. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve actually had fun.
            Then I notice the guys start clearing out of the kitchen. I’m curious. Why are they leaving? I stumble out of my seat and nearly trip on a smear of icing on the floor. Finally, I catch up to Kale to find out what’s going on. “Hey, where are you guys going?”
            “We want to check out those creepy dolls in the attic.”
            My heart drops into my stomach. The only thing I can think of is that girl Emilee and the dream I had. Are those dolls… really still up there?
            Could that dream have been something real?
            Well, whatever it might be, I don’t want those idiots going up there. Something about it gives me the creeps. My mind races for a something to say to keep them downstairs, but comes up blank. This isn’t turning out the way I want it to, so I stand my ground. Kale may be the master of passive aggressiveness, but stubbornness is my specialty.
            “Kale, we don’t know what’s up there.”
            “Well, I do. I went up there once,” he argues. “It wasn’t for long, but I saw the dolls and everything.”
            “That was only one time.”
            “I like to live on the edge,” Hunter says plainly.
            “Yeah,” Kale chimes in. “Life’s as extreme as you wanna make it.”
            Those idiots. Why are they doing this? And more importantly, why are they dragging me into this? I want to stay with Matthew and be safe. Still, the stupid protective instinct I have to keep my brother out of trouble is tugging at me. I can’t let them go alone. They’ll do something dumb and hurt themselves.
            “You all need to come down,” I protest. “The floor might break through or something.”
            “Stop being a chicken.”
            “I’m not a chicken. You’re all just stupid.”
            “If you want to go, I’ll go with you,” Matthew promises.
            I turn to the side, eyes wide. He nods slightly.
            Lillie’s mouth thins out into a worried line, but I can tell that she’s trying to hide it. “Be careful up there, okay?”
As much as I don’t want to admit it, a part of me is creeped out by the thought of what might be up there. But what am I supposed to say? That the voices in my head are growling at me and telling me not to go in the attic? Maybe Kale’s right. Maybe I am losing it and scrambling for ways to deny my growing insanity. I mean, I’ve lost a parent in the past three months. That’s enough stress to make anyone have weird dreams or hallucinations, right?
            Well, if I am going crazy, I’m not allowing them to see it. No one’s allowed to see that side of me. Besides, the fact that Matthew wants to go with me makes it look as if I’m scared. I refuse to let them see me as a coward.  So I hold my head high and straighten my back. I’m okay. Yeah, I’m definitely okay. I tell myself this as I begin to climb the ladder.
            Once I reach the attic, I can barely breathe because there’s so many dust particles floating in the air. I cough and cover my mouth to keep from inhaling the wrong stuff. The attic shows exactly how old this place is. Sunlight streams from the windows above, but that’s the only illumination we get. Everything else is dark,
            “It’s so old and… cold,” Kale mutters. “And probably full of mold.”
            “Creepy…” Hunter muses. “Were these here before you guys moved in?”
            “No,” My brother replies sarcastically. “Dad has a subscription for Precious Moments. Of course they were here before.”
            They keep arguing in the background as I feel a stab of fear in my chest. This place is the exact place that my dream took place in. Everything is dusted over and rotten, but other than that, it’s all the same. The dolls are still here, too. Their porcelain faces are broken and cracked, as if something human could seep through. Their eyes are glazed over so they look dead. And they’re all fixed on us right now. My skin crawls at the thought of being watched, and suddenly I know how Emilee felt.
            It becomes suddenly clear that I don’t want to be here. I feel a little hot and fidgety, which isn’t a new feeling. Still, it’s enough to make me want to create an excuse- any excuse- to go back downstairs. But I know they’ll make fun of me, and that drives me crazy. So I stay put.
            “You were right, man,” Matthew sighs. “This place is freaky.”
            “Yeah. You scared, Lark?”
            “No,” he states, even though it’s obviously a lie.
            “Whatever. I’m doing some exploring,” Hunter says.
            “Be careful,” Kale warns. “The attic is ancient. Don’t wanna fall through somewhere.”
            The boys spread out and I don’t want to be alone. The only question is, who do I follow? Kale will tease me. Hunter will try to make me laugh. Matthew? Well, I get the feeling that he might already think I’m strange. I’m not sure who to walk towards. I think about my options for a little while before I feel a lurch in my stomach.
            And I suddenly vomit into the floor.
            My eyes water and I cry out in surprise. Everything in me strains to hold it back but it keeps spilling out, filling my mouth with its disgusting taste.
            Hunter and Kale turn back towards me, eyes wide with shock. Matthew immediately runs to my side. “Are you all right?”
            I gasp, but no words will come out. My throat is still raw and burning. There’s a good chance that I might throw up again, so I don’t answer. My hands clasp over my mouth, preparing for another heave of my gut, but nothing comes. It’s almost as if I’m afraid to move.
            “I’m gonna take her downstairs,” Matthew volunteers. “She might be allergic to something up here or something.”
            “Maybe. Did it really gross you out that much?” Hunter asks. What started out as a joke has ended up with concern. He’s trying to smile, but his eyes look worried.
            “No,” I deny. “I’m good.”
            I think about it, and come up with more questions than answers. I could be allergic to something up here, but is it really likely? I can’t remember getting gagged on dust or anything. Plus, I’ve felt fine ever since I’d woken up this morning. The puke randomly came from nowhere and I can’t explain it with anything. Why would I get sick like this? I wrack my brain for an answer, and only one thing comes to mind.
            My dream.
            The girl in my dream threw up in the attic, too. Of course, she did it out of stress. Couldn’t blame her on that end. I couldn’t imagine getting married, period- let alone getting married to a total stranger just because her parents said she had to. I imagine my own father forcing that on me and my stomach turns over. It’s weird, but I knew how she felt- responsible for their sake but still selfishly begging for an escape on the inside. I shake my head, trying not to think about it.
            They don’t have a clue.  I haven’t told the dream to anyone, and I don’t plan to. Still, I can’t help but be afraid of how I did the exact thing she did. Why would I do that?
            Whatever the reason, Kale’s already looking stern. “You should go back downstairs now. Don’t want you throwing up anymore.”
            “Yeah. This place looks totally haunted, anyway,” Hunter agrees.
            “It could be. I know who lived here before,” I blurt out.
            Probably shouldn’t have said that, but for some reason, I kind of wanted them to know. They actually look kind of curious, staring at me with large eyes. Even the skepticism is smacked off Kale’s face. If it came from anyone else, they would have called it a lie. But the three of them know I’m brutally honest, so the looks on their faces are serious.
            I decide to fill up the silence with an explanation. “Her name was Emilee,” I begin. “Her dad ran this huge liquor company and they owned this house with a couple of their slaves.”
            “How do you know this?” Kale asks.
            “I did some research,” I lie.
            The whole attic gets quiet. I don’t want to go further, but I feel like it’s needed. The only thing I know to do is keep my voice steady so they don’t think that I sound crazy. “Her family wanted her to get married, but she didn’t like the guy,” I continue. “And it led to a lot of bad stuff.”
            “So they owned a liquor company and the plantation here?” Matthew wonders.
            “Liquor in the front, poker in the back,” Kale says with a wily grin.
            Hunter laughs. “That sounds dirty!”
            They’re already getting off track when I want them to be serious. With their loud chuckling in the background, I can’t help but feel like I’m the only who cares about what’s going on. Then again, it was me who threw up, after all.
            My mind travels back to soul mates. Being forced to marry a stranger screwed Emilee out of ever being able to find hers. If soul mates were real, would she have found hers? There’s no telling. Something about destroying that hope, though… It had to hurt worse than never finding one in the first place. Hope may be an illusion, but sometimes it’s all we have.
Matthew, though, looks more intrigued than distracted. He gives me another curious stare- the kind that I’m slowly getting used to. “Did she get sick a lot before she died?” he wonders.
            “Uh…” I guess you could call it that. “Yeah.”
            “Well, I do have an idea about this place,” he says quietly. “I saw this one documentary once.”
            “Yeah. What about it?”
            “It said that haunted houses may not be because of ghosts at all. They’re not ghosts because they’re not dead,” he replies flatly. “They’re living in a time that parallels ours. The energy in this house is strong enough to transcend their reactions. It can make people hallucinate and see stuff, too.”
            “So while it’s 1865 over there, it’s 2013 here?”
            “You got it.”
            “You’re such a science nerd, Lark,” Hunter mutters.
            “You’d learn something if you actually stayed awake in class.”
            That one seems a little easier to swallow. It’s a little strange, though, to think that we are connected. Still, I can’t deny that it’s an interesting idea to toy with. At least it’s better to think about than having actual ghosts in the place, though. Something about that creeps me out. I hate the idea of being spied on- especially by someone invisible that I could never catch. Then again, it’d probably be the most company I’d have in a long time. If it weren’t my birthday, then there’s no way anyone would come visit.
            Kale walks across the room, careful not to step on my puke on the floor. His eyes are narrowing into two blue slits, his arms are crossed. This is his ‘disbelieving’ look and he often shoots it when he thinks someone’s telling a lie. I don’t like it because Dad does the same expression sometimes. “You don’t actually believe in that junk, do you?” he asks Matthew.
            “I’m not saying I believe it,” he argues. “I’m just saying that it’s a possibility. Why else would Kristin randomly throw up like that?”
            “Maybe ‘cause Hunter was trying to flirt with her again.”
            “Hey!” Hunter calls out. “Not funny!”
            The rest of the guys laugh, and even I have to give a small smile. Of course, I can’t really ignore the nagging thought burrowing in the back of my mind- that Matthew’s right. Somehow the things they did before are affecting me now. I could be wrong, but is there really any other explanation? I didn’t feel the least bit sick until I stood in that spot.
            Whatever the reason, I don’t want to be under the eyes of these dolls anymore. One of them is missing a face and looking at the black holes where its eyes should be is giving me chills. It’s good that I finally have an excuse to cop out of this attic search. I don’t plan on coming back here. “Guys, I think I’m gonna head back downstairs,” I tell them.
            “Okay, then. Are you just not feeling good?”Kale wonders.
            I nod without looking up.
“That sucks. Maybe we could get together for a ghost hunt sometime. That’d make up for this, I bet,” Hunter chirps.
            “I don’t think you’re nervous enough,” I say with a small laugh.
            I may be playing it off, but I can’t help but feel a little jealous. If I had one tenth of the optimism Hunter has, I would be doing much better in this whole situation. I sigh and stare at my feet.
            He notices my sadness right away. “Relax, Kristin. No ghosts, no worries. They’re not real.”
            “Yeah. I doubt it’s anything to worry about,” Matthew mutters. “It was just something I saw on TV.”
            They’re probably right. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill and worrying over things that don’t exist. It would be like me. I tell myself that as I make my way down the ladder.
            At least I have someone who might be on the same page as me. If Matthew said that it could be something other than a deranged make-believe story I’ve dreamed up in my head, then I can say it’s possible. He’s definitely sane enough for the both of us. Still, there’s a good chance that it’s just my imagination, which is a thought I hold on to for the next week or so.
            If only it was.