We had been in Dark Falls for six days. We were scheduled to leave on August 25th. As our parents said, we had to stop our overactive imaginations and get comfortable. Besides, yesterday the ghost lecture hadn't gone well. Mr. Meyers had repeatedly yelled about science and logic.
"How old are you, Alexandra?" her father asked.
"That's it! You're not five, so you're able to sleep on your own!"
I found him lacking empathy and being very close-minded. He seemed offended because his daughter had her first nightmares at thirteen. He had brushed a reply that had not been fully understood for Petey's case. We let it go and, in agreement, preferred to help each other. Much to Alexandra's misfortune, it had rained all day yesterday and we spent our time playing board games without being able to leave our dark cage.
The rain had finally stopped today, but the ground was still damp. After breakfast, I went to my room to change. As I was pulling on my shoes, I heard whispers coming from my closet. My heart began thudding in my chest. I began to creep slowly towards my closet. I turned on the light. The light bulb sizzled but didn't go out. There was nothing.
"Just my imagination. Nothing more than an overactive imagination." I whispered over and over.
I close the door and they laughed. I could have sworn I heard my name being called from within. It was as if I was being beckoned inside. Again, I slowly reached my hand towards the handle. My breath ragged and my heart raced. Just then, a knock sounded on my bedroom door.
"Come on! We are all waiting for you," Alexandra shouted through the door.
"Be right there!" I replied and turned to meet her outside.
As I was preparing to descend the few steps off the porch, my brother threw a bunch of dead leaves in my face. Blinded, I lost my balance and slipped. Mike's arms saved me from my fall. They circled my waist and squeezed me against him.
"Kim!" Alexandra shouted as she ran to me.
Slowly, I stabilized myself as I gripped Mike's arm. Even though I had just slipped, I felt so safe in his arms.
"That was dangerous, Derek!" Mike snarled in a ferocious voice.
"You idiot!" I yelled at my brother.
"She could have hurt herself badly!" Alexandra said to him.
"Okay, Mike… You can let me go! I think I'm fine now."
I would have gladly stayed in his arms, but I was overcome with anger. I wanted to throw myself on my brother and push him in the leaves… Make him pay for what he did. My brother stepped back.
"Go away, Derek!" Mike said sadly to the youngsters. "Go away!"
They didn't need to be told twice. They took off across the street. When they were out of sight Mike whispered softly in my ear.
"Don't move, I'll take the leaves out of your hair. Just calm down, he isn't worth your anger."
I calmed down at the sound of his voice. He was so gentle and kind. I tore off the dead plants within my reach. As he finished picking at my hair, he walked around to face me.
"Thank you," I whispered with a blush. "For the leaves and for my fall. Without you, I could've hurt myself pretty bad."
"No problem," he said with a smile.
He bit his lip and gaze into my eyes.
"I'm ready to follow them now," I said, taking a step back. "Let's leave for the playground."
We arrived two minutes after Alexandra and Derek. George was the first one to meet us.
"I heard that your brother hadn't been kind to you," he said to me.
"Is he ever?" I groaned.
"Little brothers…" a voice said. "They're impossibly annoying!"
I turned around and saw a young girl next to Riley Simon. I thought she must be one of his friends. She had red hair, twined in two braids that rested just below her shoulders. She wore a gray bowler hat. The rest of her clothes were very dark and gray. She handed me a baseball glove with a smile.
"My name's Karen Thurston," she said.
"Enchanted," I smiled, taking the loan equipment. "Thank you for lending me the glove."
"You can keep it until the end of summer," she offered. "Maybe we'll take part in a few more matches."
"And us, we're Liz Ryan and Dylan Thomas," said two teenagers who sneaked between Riley and Karen.
Dylan threw his glove at Mike who grabbed it with a smile. Liz was chewing gum and laughed when Dylan pinched her hip before luring her against him.
"Hello," I said, embarrassed.
"You're Ray's sister?" Alexandra asked.
"Yes," Karen agreed. "Unfortunately, he couldn't come today."
"Is he sick?" my brother asked.
"I guess you can say that," Karen said with a mischievous smile.
"Well, we'll separate the teams!" a guy, who presented himself as Jerry, said.
I ended up with Mike, Riley, Karen, Liz and Dylan. The other five teenagers who appeared were with Alexandra and Derek.
"By the way, she's mine, so don't touch!" Dylan told us as we sat on a bench to wait for our turn at bat.
He spoke about Liz Ryan, the beautiful brunette with generous curves. I liked her style, especially the fuchsia bandana she had knotted on her forehead. Her frizzy hair formed a halo around her head. She was very pretty.
"Don't worry," Mike said. "I don't run after women already in a relationship."
After not hitting anything twice in a row, Riley gave me some support as we both headed toward the left field:
"Hey, you can do it. I know you will."
He was right: after a slight glance at his serious but tender gaze when it was my turn to strike, I came in contact with the ball. It went away forcefully, barely missing my brother's head.
"Uh… Riley?" I said timidly at the end of the game.
"Have you, by any chance, seen Petey?"
"No, but he must surely be around the cemetery. Why?"
"I think… Uh… I think he came into our house the other night."
"We don't know how he did it," Mike agreed. "It was scary."
"He jumped at me," I added.
"He had blooded red eyes!" Alexandra, who had just joined us, stammered.
Riley looked at us thoughtfully:
"Um… Maybe it wasn't Petey?" Riley said, thoughtfully. "It was probably a very big rat."
"That's what my father said," Alexandra murmured, lowering her head.
The discussion ended there and Riley and his gang of friends fled to their respective homes. We had made met again the next day for another game where I made a better impression.
In the evening, alongside Alexandra, who refused to sleep alone in her room, I thought of the nice things Karen, Liz, and Dylan told me. They sincerely seem to want to become my friends.
I turned toward Mike's sister. Alexandra had fallen asleep. I closed my eyes and let myself be lulled by her soft snoring. The second night was where things got worse.
"Kim," someone whispered.
I stretched and turned towards Alexandra who was shaking me. She had sat down in bed.
"What?" I said.
"Someone's playing with my baseballs in my closet," she explained.
I heard a rumbling sound and I pushed myself up on my elbows. I looked at Alexandra: she had the same fear etched into her facial features.
The door, however closed, slowly creaked open. The sinister creaking noise seemed to last forever. My heart felt as if it would beat out of my chest. Moments after the door stopped, we both noticed movement in the darkness.
Alexandra threw herself at her bedside lamp. She tried lighting it, but the lamp wasn't working. We looked back at the dancing shadows.
A baseball, white with red strings, rolled towards us. The small "tac" sound it made as it struck the bedside table echoed through the room. It bounces off a few centimeters.
I decided to take courage and bolt to the door. I could hear snickers in the closet as I was getting up.
"Kim, no!" Alexandra cried.
A silhouette detached itself from the others. It was small like a child and fuzzy looking.
The blow echoed behind me and I felt it whistle by my cheek. Alexandra groaned and trembled beside the ball lying on my pillow. I ran to the front door of her room, but it seemed … locked? But the door had no lock!
"Come and play with us," pleaded several voices.
Several balls rolled towards Alexandra, stopping as they struck against the bed's wooden legs. A distant echo, conceived of multiple voices, beckoned her.
"Alexandra, come play with us…" the voices said in an eerie way. "We know you love baseball… Alexandra, come play with us… We need your talent…"
Alexandra had clenched her arms around her knees and whined. Without further waiting, I ran to her and pulled her arm.
"Come on!" I ordered.
Without ceasing to stare at the closet's shadows, she put her feet on the floor. She was paralyzed by fear and followed me only subconsciously.
The balls made so much noise. How could they not have awakened the others? I didn't care if our parents were going to be angry, but they should come and helped us. Did they choose to ignore the noises?
I began beating the door with my fists, trying to push it open. Alexandra pulled the bottom of my pajama t-shirt. As I turned to her, she pointed to a red-eyed silhouette emerging from the closet. It stopped and suddenly turned to us. It began speaking in a male voice.
"You never give up on anyone, it's remarkable Kim."
Suddenly, a bundle of lightning ricocheted outside the window. It lit up the room, but we didn't see anyone. The rumbling which followed was so powerful that we fell on our knees.
Alexandra's table lamp lit up. The shadows were gone and the room was empty.
The handle turned and we pulled back. Mike was surprised to find us disheveled, frightened with tears in the corners of our eyes. Alexandra threw herself at her brother, sobbing. He gave me a look of incomprehension.
"First Petey, now this," I stammered in fear.
I pointed to the thirty baseballs laying at the foot of the bed and the one on the pillow.
A look crossed his face and I knew he understood something else had attacked us. He nodded toward the corridor. I followed him to his room.
When Alexandra was calmed down and asleep in his bed, Mike sat down beside me on the hardwood floor. He pressed his back against his bed and I told him what happened.
"And you?" he asked me. "What do you think of that?"
"I … I don't know. But what happened tonight really frightened and exhausted me."
I hesitated, then continued:
"I … I feel like the house really is haunted!"
To my surprise, he didn't lecture me. He gently twined his fingers between mine:
"After what happened with Petey, I think so too."
What is me or did he moved closer?
"What are we going to do?" I murmured. "Our parents will never believe us."
"We could ask Riley if the house is haunted?" he said with visible regret. "Maybe that's why his family moved to another house?"
We ended up asking Riley one afternoon. He repeatedly insisted the house wasn't haunted. Luckily, nothing supernatural happened for a while and we were each able to sleep in our own rooms to our parents' great relief. We were all beginning to think things were done happening. Little did we know, things were just beginning.