I thought it only fitting to start my new story on what would have been Harold Ramis' 73rd birthday. :)
Just wanted to clear things up before I start! This first chapter is like a little prequel, showing the past. The next chapter will go 13 years into the future, past the events of the two Ghostbusters movies and possibly the Wii game. Had to figure in the age of Ray's daughter in relation to his Ghostbusters career and whatnot. So...hope this helps! :)
"Can ghosts hurt people?"
Ray Stantz sat next to his young daughter's bed, a smile on his face as he listened to her babble to him about his favorite subject.
"Uh…well so far it doesn't seem that way. Ghosts are just…people who have passed on from this level of living and entered another plane."
"I saw one again today, Daddy."
"Was it your friend, Mr. Edward again?" Ray asked gently. She shook her head, her small brown curls tickling her face as she did so. Her round baby face scrunched up thoughtfully as she tried to put her thoughts to words.
"No…Mr. Edward wasn't here this afternoon. This one was a…uh…what was that big word you used before?"
"Which one? I use a lot of big words." Ray said patiently. He glanced at his books and papers he had set on the desk next to her bed. Over the few years he had been working at the university, he had brought a lot of his paranormal research home with him and his daughter had become fascinated with it, despite her young age.
"It was in that one-" She said, pointing at a large blue binder in the middle of his stack of books. He raised an eyebrow in amusement as he flipped through the pages of his personal research book.
"A poltergeist?" He guessed after a few seconds. She shook her head.
"No…this one was screaming at me. I don't know what she said…" She said. Ray's amusement faltered as he flipped through another few pages of his book.
"Screaming at you? Why would anyone want to scream at you, Nikki?" He asked. She shrugged and Ray stopped as he found a page with a large picture on it. She crawled over to the side of her bed and peered at the book in Ray's hands.
"That's what it looked like!" She exclaimed, pointing excitedly at the picture. Ray frowned.
"A…A banshee?" He said. She grinned and looked at the picture once more.
"She had a long flowy dress on and it looked really pretty. When I told her that, she just started screaming. I covered my ears but I could still hear it!" She insisted. There was no fear in her little face as she stared at her father for answers.
"Banshees tend to appear as a warning…" Ray said slowly. "What were you doing when you saw it, Nikki?"
"I was playing in the living room with Alice. We were playing with my dollhouse." She said simply. She tilted her head towards the window across her room. She stared briefly at something there and Ray carefully turned to glance at the empty wall.
"Did Alice see the ghost?" Ray asked, directing his daughter's attention back to him. She blinked slowly and turned to look up at him curiously.
"No…Mommy came out of the kitchen and told me to pick up my toys. Alice blamed me for throwing them on the floor, but I didn't. I'm really careful with my babies…" She said as she snuggled back underneath the blankets, pulling her dolls and stuffed animals closer to her. Ray nodded and smiled down at her. He set the book aside.
"I know you are, sweetheart." He said as he stood and tucked the blankets around her. He slipped a small teddy bear under the covers next to her and she hugged the stuffed animal lovingly.
"Can you read me some of your notes again?" She asked before he could tell her goodnight. He looked at her small, pleading face and sighed as he sat back in his chair and picked up another of the many ghost story books he had been researching.
"Well…your Uncle Egon got me this a few weeks ago. We're starting to look into old rituals and what a lot of people call magic."
"Not the good kind of magic though, right?" Nikki asked sleepily. Ray smiled and shook his head.
"No…not like your fairy tales and princess stories." He said. She smiled, slightly intrigued. "There's one story that I've been looking at recently where a group of people would meet every full moon in a secret place and they would practice a type of magic that they believed would make them live forever. The longer it went on, the more followers they gathered. Then after a while, one of the younger followers they acquired ended up tipping off the police one night before their meeting, and their meetings were put to an end. It was never really found out what exactly happened. There were no bodies, no arrests, just…nothing. Egon's got some theories though, and I think Peter is planning…"
Ray stopped as he glanced up to see that Nikki had fallen asleep, like he knew she would. He smiled as he quietly shut his book and gathered up his papers. It was a nightly ritual; he would tell her about what findings he, Egon and Peter had gathered at the university each day and she would tell him about her daily adventures. That would eventually lead up to her begging him to read to her, and no matter how interesting the subject he was reading, she would always drift off to sleep.
Ray stood and leaned over to plant a kiss on her forehead. She sighed contentedly and hugged her bear closer towards her. Ray smiled and turned to pick up his books and papers and reached over to turn off her lamp.
"…Don't forget…to say goodnight to Mr. Edward, Daddy." Nikki said sleepily. Ray smiled and turned back to the window in the empty corner of her room.
"Goodnight, sweetheart." He said as he turned back to her, smoothing her hair down.
He switched off the lamp and then headed quietly out of her room. As he shut the door silently behind him, he was unsurprised to see his wife, Meredith waiting against the opposite wall of the hallway for him.
"Didn't seem to take as long tonight." He said softly, with a smile. She smirked as she hesitantly touched his hand.
"Ray…I've been meaning to talk to you…" She said. Ray's smile fell only slightly.
"What's wrong?" He asked seriously. She bit her lip and lowered her face to the carpeted floor at their feet.
"I just…I don't think it…" She started. She grew silent for a second before finally speaking again. "Nicole is starting school in a little less than a month. I'm…afraid the other kids are going to make fun of her."
"Why would they make fun of her? Because she's already started learning when a lot of them haven't?" Ray asked defensively. Meredith rolled her eyes.
"What you're teaching her isn't normal educational material, Ray." She muttered as she gestured towards his books. Ray blinked, taken aback.
"She's begged me to share my work with her. Ever since she learned to talk, we've been conversing about ghosts and haunted places together. She loves it, why wouldn't I want to share that with her?"
"Ray, talking about it is one thing, but I'm scared that she really believes in this stuff. She claims that she sees ghosts in the apartment all of the time. Do you know how spooky that is, seeing her talk to something that's not there?" She said. Ray shrugged.
"I mean, that's what I've been investigating for years, Meredith…" He said. "Besides…isn't that a normal childhood experience, having imaginary friends?"
"No Ray, it isn't. And she doesn't refer to them as 'imaginary friends' she specifically calls them 'ghosts.'"
"Some people believe that children are more tuned in than adults are to the supernatural-"
"Ray." Meredith stopped him quietly. She was staring at him pleadingly. "I'm worried about what other kids will think."
"She said that your friend Heather brought her daughter, Alice today. Does Nikki not get along with her okay?" Ray tried to reason. Meredith shook her head.
"I heard her tell you about that 'banshee' incident. Ray, when I walked out of the kitchen, Nikki was on the ground with her ears covered and poor Alice ran crying to me begging to go home. Nikki's toys were all over the living room like she'd thrown a temper tantrum." Meredith shook her head. "This ghost business has just gone too far."
"Well, maybe I need to call Pete and Egon. If this really happened, we need to look into it. We can-"
"No…I think…I think I'm going to take Nikki down to Mom's. Maybe once she adjusts, she can start elementary school down there." She said quietly. Ray's heart skipped a beat.
"You're…you're talking about taking her all the way down to Virginia? Meredith…you can't." He whispered. Meredith's eyes were full of sadness as she turned away from him.
"I talked to Mom about it a few days ago. I made plans to fly down there in three weeks." She said simply. Ray lowered his gaze to the books in front of him. His hands tightened around the stack as he nodded, accepting that Meredith had already made up her mind.
"What am I going to tell Nikki? She's…she's gonna be heartbroken." Ray said, his voice strangely calm. Meredith shook her head as she turned back to him.
"I won't tell her. We'll go, saying it's just temporary. That way you won't have to deal with how she'll take the news when she does find out." Meredith said. Ray's heart fell even further.
"If…that's what you think is best for her." Ray said sadly. Meredith leaned over and kissed him gently on his cheek.
"It is. I just want her to have a normal life. And she can't do that when you're scaring her with stories about ghosts and banshees and whatever else you're devoting your life to."