Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sleeping Sweetly

Marcella dozed on her arm, her eyelids fluttering the in the morning sun reflected off the fields of sun-dried grass. As the car hit a pot hole, she jolted awake. She looked around wildly in the backseat for a moment, wondering why she was in a car.

“Good morning, Sleeping Beauty,” a white-haired woman said melodically, glancing at her through the rear view mirror. In a glance, Marcella was calmed. Of course, she was going to Grandma’s. She must have fallen asleep.

“‘Morning, Grandma. Is is much longer to your house?” she asked.

“Only a few more minutes, sweetie. Then, we’ll have some time to connect before you go off to college,” Grandma said.

Marcella nodded, then poked her younger brother awake.

“Huh?” he said stupidly, rising from where he had sprawled against the arm rest.

“We’re almost there, Brutus,” Marcella answered.

He looked around dully for a moment, neurons still wakening. He glanced at Grandma then grinned, “No parents for a week, Marcella! Can you believe it?”

Marcella rolled her eyes. “I’m going off to college soon. That’s no more parents ever.”

“My, you’re growing up so fast, Marcella. It seems like only yesterday you knee high to a pig’s eyes,” Grandma smiled.

“I can’t wait until I get to go to college,” Brutus pouted. “Then, I can go party with hot girls and drink and-”

“If by party with hot girls you mean go study at the library, then that’s exactly what you’re going to do. This is why I’m going to college and you’re not,” Marcella said grinning, elbowing her brother.

“And here we are,” Grandma announced.

Marcella and Brutus got out of the car, stretching their limbs and yawning, before examining the house. It was a two-story, white-washed structure that had to have been at least a hundred years old. The existence of a stone well peaking out of the backyard gave evidence to the idea.

“It’s been forever since we’ve been here,” Marcella said, taking a deep breath of the clean, country air.

“Do you remember when we would go catch snakes in the back?” Brutus asked.

“Of course,” Marcella said.

“Well, do you bet we can still do it?” he asked.

“We should help Grandma with the bags first, Brutus. Be courteous,” Marcella corrected.

Brutus grumbled something as they turned to find Grandma watching them. She smiled. “Marcella, you’re becoming such a proper lady.”

Marcella smiled victoriously as she grabbed her suitcase. Brutus grumbled more as he grabbed his.

Marcella and Brutus stepped inside as Grandma narrated, “You two are up in the bedroom on the top floor. You can just put your bags down, and I’ll fix you two something to eat. It’s been a long car ride.”

“‘Race you to the top!” Brutus yelled, scampering towards the staircase.

Marcella rolled her eyes. Turning to Grandma, she said, “Sometimes I swear Brutus will never grow up.”

“Ah, let the boy enjoy his youth. It brings joy to my old heart to see him play like that,” Grandma said kindly.

Marcella nodded, then followed her brother up the stairs to the attic room.

“Oh my god,” Marcella hear Brutus whisper swiftly without breathing, dropping something heavy inside the bedroom.

Marcella rushed the last three steps and into the room, her older sister protectiveness driving her forward.

“Brutus,” she called in a panic. She found him staring at a mirror, open-mouthed, his suitcase at his feet. “Brutus?”

“I saw a ghost, Marcella,” he said quietly, not turning to face her.


“I saw a ghost, in this mirror. It was this guy in white. He stared at me. He started coming toward me, through the mirror. But, he disappeared when you came in,” Brutus said nervously.

“Is everything alright up there?” Grandma called.

“Yes, Grandma,” Marcella yelled back down.

“It must have been a trick of the reflection. There’s no such thing as ghosts, Brutus,” Marcella said authoritatively.

“You wouldn’t be saying that if you saw it. He was clear, bright as day. All white with these horrible black eyes and a slit along his throat. He had curly hair like you,” Brutus blurted.

“Adding details doesn’t make me want to believe you. Now, I know you’re pulling my leg. Let’s go get something to eat from Grandma. I’m starving,” Marcella said, grabbing Brutus’s shoulder to pull him away from the mirror.

A white face with black eyes fell forward into the mirror, reaching out to the sister and brother. Marcella shook her head, whispering, “It can’t be. It can’t be.”

The white hand gripped Brutus’s wrist before the two turned and thundered down the stairs.

“Not too old for racing anymore?” Grandma smiled as the siblings skidded into the kitchen. She was pouring sugar into a pitcher for lemonade.

Marcella and Brutus exploded into dialogue at once.

“Whoa there. Calm down. One at a time,” Grandma said, smiled fading as she set down the sugar.

“We saw a ghost,” Marcella said succinctly, terror still in her eyes.

“Well, you know with these old houses. All of them have their ghosts,” Grandma chuckled, taking up the sugar again.

“But this one was a real one. We both saw him,” Brutus said emphatically.

“Of course. People always do,” Grandma said. She put down the sugar and brought out the lemons, carefully rolling each one on her cutting board. “With all the creaks and odd drafts, it’s only natural.”

“Come on, Brutus. Let’s go outside. This house seems to be playing tricks on us,” Marcella said, calmed by Grandma.

“But-” he started, but was silenced by a look from Marcella. Obediently, he followed her out onto the back porch.

Once they were outside, he turned to Marcella, “You know we saw a ghost.”

“I don’t know what we saw,” Marcella said.

“Well, I know, and it was a ghost,” Brutus said. “It grabbed me! Look what’s on my arm!”

He thrust his arm out in front of Marcella’s nose. She rolled her eyes, lowered it, and pulled it and her brother out into the light where she could see. She examined it for a moment.

“They’re just scratches,” she said dismissively.

No, not just scratches. Ghost scratches. The ghost gave ‘em to me,” Brutus said.

“You could’ve gotten them anywhere. You’re stressed, Brutus. Let’s just take a walk, away from the house. Air out your brain,” Marcella said, smiling as she knocked on her brother’s skull.

“Nothing’s wrong with my brain. You saw it too! You’re just, I don’t even know. Come on, Marcella,” he whined.

“Let’s use Occam’s Razor here. Either we’re the first people to ever see a real ghost, or our eyes we’re playing trick on us,” Marcella said, leading her brother down a path in the grass.

“Sure, let’s use Occam’s Razor. Either we’re seeing a ghost, which’s been reported gazillions of times. Or, we both had minor seizures messing up our eyes so we thought we saw a ghost,” Brutus shot back, elbowing his sister hard.

Marcella tripped, catching herself on her hands. “Ow,” she said tightly, cheeks glowing red as she righted herself.

“Hey, look, a baseball!” Brutus said.

“I think I realized it was there,” Marcella said, wiping the dirt off her knees. “It must be from the last time we were here.”

“It doesn’t look that old,” Brutus said reasonably, wiping off some residual dust and holding the white baseball up to the sunlight. “Do you think Grandma left it out here?”

“You don’t think Grandma’s been out her hitting a few?” Marcella smiled. “I mean, they might have a senior league out here in the middle of nowhere.”

“Well, it can’t have come from us or anyone else as there’s no one around. That leaves only Grandma. But, why would she be throwing baseballs around?”

“It must have just been preserved or something,” Marcella said, continuing down the track. “I mean it’s hot and dry here, like in Egypt where bodies have been preserved for thousands of years.”

“Who’s been keeping up this trail?” Brutus asked, unmoving.

“What do you mean?” Marcella asked.

“Well, it’s just rock. Shouldn’t there be grass sprouting out in it? Grandma can’t be out her wandering the fields everyday with baseballs,” Brutus said, frowning.

“You’re right! Grandma has secretly been allowing her other grandchildren over,” Marcella said in a sarcastically conspiratorial whisper.

“Knock it off,” Brutus whined.

“Well, then come on then,” Marcella called waving him forward farther down the path.

“Wait!” Brutus yelled. Marcella turned, waiting.

“You’re going to call me crazy, Marcella,” Brutus said, scratching the side of his neck.

“I already think you’re crazy. You’ve got nothing to lose there. Honestly though, if ghosts and demon baseballs are within reason, I can’t think of anything you would consider crazy,” Marcella said, laughing.

“I think there’s something wrong,” Brutus said flatly.

“What do you mean, ‘wrong’?” Marcella asked.

“I just have this gut feeling that something isn’t right here. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t want to go back into that house,” Brutus said, wrinkling his nose as he sniffed.

“Oh, Brutus,” Marcella pulled him into a hug and felt him relax slightly underneath it.

“You know, even when I’m away at college, you can still visit me,” she said.

“What?” Brutus asked, pulling away abruptly.

“I thought you were sad because I was leaving,” Marcella said frowning as Brutus grimaced at her.

“No! Well, I mean, sorta. But it has nothing to do with this! There’s something wrong, Marcella! Something really wrong,” he said.

“What then? What’s wrong?” Marcella asked, exasperated.

“I don’t know!” he yelled back. He sat down heavily on a rock, head in hands.

“I think that ghost really threw you through a loop,” Marcella said, rubbing his back.

“Don’t do that,” he muttered irritably, throwing her arm off.


“Treat me like a child. You’re not grown up yet, so stop acting like my mother,” he hissed.

A bell rang and they heard Grandma’s voice calling.

“I think Grandma’s finished with breakfast,” Marcella said. “We should go back to the house.”

“I told you already: I don’t want to go back to the house,” Brutus said defiantly.

“Well, she went through all that trouble to make food for us. We kinda have to eat it, Brutus,” Marcella said.

“Why don’t you just go eat it?” Brutus asked snidely.

“I can’t leave you out here alone,” Marcella said.


“Well,” Marcella started, looking around at the grass and the old house. Brutus stared hard into her eyes as she avoid his. “It’s creepy.”

“Ha! You feel it too!” Brutus declared triumphantly.

Marcella rolled her eyes. “Saying a place is creepy is different than saying there’s a ghost and evil baseballs.”

“But, you feel it. You just try and reason your way out of it. You know something’s wrong, just like I do. You just repress it,” Brutus said.

The bell rang again.

“Whatever. Just come on. We’ll just tell Grandma we’re not hungry, if you’re so against going into the house,” Marcella said, offering her hand to her brother to pull him up.

The two walked back to the house where Grandma awaited them on the porch. “Are you two working up an appetite?” Grandma asked, holding a tray with a pitcher of lemonade, some fruit, and oatmeal.

“We actually wanted to go explore a little bit longer, if that’s alright,” Marcella said.

“Of course, sweetie. Just come back when you’re ready, and I’ll make something else up for you,” Grandma smiled. “How about a glass of lemonade before you go?”

Marcella was about to nod when Brutus stepped on her toe. “No, we’re good. Keep some cold for us, though.” She smiled and the two walked down the trail again.

“You know you’re being rude, right?” Marcella asked. “Grandma went through all that trouble. And, I’m not sure about you, but I’m thirsty.”

“Didn’t you feel something wrong, Marcella? Every time I get close to that house, I just feel like something’s crawling under my skin.” Brutus shivered.

Marcella said nothing for a long while as the two walked in silence down the twisting paths through the grass. Several miles passed, as the pair lazily tossed the baseball they found back and forth.

“You do know, Brutus, that we’re going to have to go back into the house sometime to eat,” Marcella said slowly.

“No we don’t. I mean, there’s food out here somewhere,” Brutus motioned vaguely in the grass.

“And we’ll have to go back to-” Marcella started.

“Look!” Brutus cut her off.

He dropped down to his knees, pulling Marcella down with him roughly. His eyes tracked frantically over the dirt.

“What am I supposed to be looking at?” Marcella asked.

“Footprints,” he whispered. He traced the curved of a faint footprint in the dust.

“And?” Marcella asked.

“It’s a footprint in the back of a house in the middle of nowhere where only our grandma is supposed to live. Don’t you find that strange?” Brutus asked manically.

“Brutus, calm down and look at your shoe,” Marcella ordered calmly. Brutus obeyed.

“Now, look at the footprint.” He did so.

“Notice any similarities?” Marcella asked. “We must’ve walked this way before without realizing it. All these paths are rather loopy and circular.”

Far from appeasing Brutus, Marcella watched as his eyes grew wider. “What?” she asked impatiently.

“I’m feeling a strong sense of déjà vu,” Brutus whispered.

“Do you know what causes déjà vu, Brutus? When your brain messes us and crosses short term and long term memory. It’s linked to anxiety. Are you alright, Brutus?” Marcella asked.

“I, I, I’m not sure,” he deflated slightly. “My brain’s a mess. I feel like I can’t put everything together.”

“Here. Let’s go inside. I’ll go first. We’re both bigger and stronger than anything in that house. We can go play cards or something,” Marcella said gently, helping her brother to his feet.

He let himself be led back into the kitchen where Grandma worked with something in the oven.

“Are you two ready for dinner? Heavens, it’s almost supper now, isn’t it? I still have the lemonade ready, if you want it,” Grandmas said, wiping her hands on her apron.

“Sure, Grandma!” Marcella said.

Grandma poured them both tall glasses of lemonade, which the siblings obediently drank.

“Why so glum, Brutus? What’s got you down in the dumps? Nothing I hope my cookies won’t fix?” Grandma asked, pulling out a sheet of cookies.

Brutus said nothing, but pulled on a crude imitation of a smile as he bit into a cookie.

“So, are you and Kaylee excited about going to the College of William and Mary? It’s so good that you and your best friend were accepted into the same program. I mean, it’s a long way from home in Boise, but I bet your parents are so proud. I know Shaun has been calling me everyday, saying how proud he is of his daughter,” Grandma said as she put a kettle on a stove.

“Yeah, I’m excited,” Marcella said grinning.

“It’s like the only thing you think about,” Brutus whispered snidely.

“Now don’t be jealous of your sister, Brutus. It’ll be your turn soon enough. Then, I’m sure Shaun and Marian will be calling me every day to tell me about where you and Dan get in,” Grandma said. “Enjoy your high school years while you can. I hear you’ve been quite successful on the baseball team. Didn’t your team win the last game of the season yesterday?”

“It’s because Marcella may have the brains in the family, but I have every other body part,” Brutus announced.

“I’ll take that,” Marcella said, grinning. “It’d rather be brains than a zombie. You can’t live without your brain.”

“You can’t live without your body either, smart one,” Brutus retorted.

Slowly, as he and Marcella joked, the smile become more real.

Suddenly, Marcella yawned loudly. “Gosh, I’m tired. I think I’m going to go to bed,” Marcella said.

“I’ll come too,” Brutus said.

“Alright you two. Get a good night’s sleep. I figure we can go off into town tomorrow, if you get up early enough. There’s an old candy shop I think you would enjoy,” Grandma said as Marcella and Brutus climbed slowly up the stairs.

“Okay, Grandma,” Brutus called down.

The siblings quickly changed into their pajamas, without looking at the mirror, talking to one another about what candies would be in an old candy shop.

“Licorice is an old candy, right? And that yucky hard candy they always have in candy bowls for some odd reason?” Brutus said.

“Yes, but just because the candy shop’s old doesn’t mean it only has old candy. It could have Twix and Snickers like any Wal-Mart,” Marcella said, tugging her hair down from its ponytail.

“She wouldn’t say it was an old candy shop unless it was, well, old,” Brutus said.

“It always gets tangled!” Marcella exclaimed, attempting to unravel her ponytail holder from her hair. She stood and walked over to look in the mirror.

Then she froze.

She rubbed her eyes, trying to remove the trick of light that almost looked like a face. Brutus stood up, walking to see what had frozen his sister so completely. They both watched silently as the pale face became more and more solidified and detailed.

“It’s fake,” Marcella said firmly. “It’s a trick mirror, that’s it. Just a joke.” Marcella stepped away from the mirror, examining the backside of it.

“Marcella, I don’t think it’s fake,” Brutus whispered tonelessly.  

“It has to be,” Marcella said, returning to her brother. The ghost reached out of the mirror as Marcella and Brutus took several steps back. It  was faster. It grabbed Marcella’s shoulders. For one moment, it seemed neither sibling could understand what was happening.

“It’s real,” Marcella squeaked, breaking the silence.

Marcella wretched herself away from the ghost and pulled her brother backward as the ghost blocked the stairs. Marcella tugged her brother into the closet, falling into a heap on the floor.

“It’s real,” Marcella whispered.

“I know,” Brutus said, watching the door.

“It’s real,” Marcella whispered again.

“I know.”

“It’s real.”

“Marcella, quiet. Listen,” Brutus hissed.

Both stilled as a delicate knocking came from the other side of the closet door.

“I think we should open it,” Brutus said calmly.

“Are you crazy? It’s the ghost that just flippin’ grabbed me!” Marcella said breathlessly, utterly terrified.

“I don’t think it wants to hurt us,” Brutus said. “It can go through a mirror. Why do you think it would knock at a door?”

“Oh.” Marcella said.

Both of the two stared at the door.

“So, are you going to open it?” Brutus asked.

“What? Why me? You’re the one claiming it’s Casper the Friendly Ghost!” Marcella shot back.

“But you’re the oldest. You’re the one always claiming to be fearless,” Brutus countered.

“Yeah, but that’s when dealing with possible things. Not ghosts. Ghosts are out of my domain,” Marcella whispered back.

“I thought you said you would always protect me, but if you want to be a baby...” Brutus said.

“Fine,” Marcella sniffed. She stood up as her heart thundered in her chest. She put her hand to the doorknob as her fingers pulsed. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door.

The ghost stared back at her with unseeing eyes and did nothing.

Brutus stumbled to his feet, joining his sister as she faced the ghost.

“Is something wrong?” Grandma called from below.

“No,” Brutus yelled back.

Marcella and Brutus stared at the ghost for a while longer.

“Um, hi,” Brutus said finally.

“Really?” Marcella asked, raising her eyebrows.

“Hey, look. It worked. The ghost’s waving.”

The young man, who couldn’t have been more than seventeen or eighteen when alive, swung his translucent arm back and forth in an arc.

“Hey, Mr. Ghost Man. My name’s Brutus. This is my sister Marcella.”

“I can’t believe this,” Marcella said.

The ghost inclined his head.

“Anyway, we were wondering why you keep coming out of the mirror towards us. I mean, it’s, um-” Brutus said, pausing as he searched for words.

“Scary,” Marcella finished.

The ghost picked up his hand and formed a strange fist, which he pulsed back and forth.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you’re doing,” Brutus said.

“He’s miming writing. Quickly. I think there’s some paper on the dresser,” Marcella said, rifling through her bag for a pen.

Marcella offered the ghost a pen while Brutus offered him paper. The ghost put the sheet on the ground and picked up the pen. As Marcella and Brutus leaned over the piece of paper to see, the ghost wrote.

I don’t have much time, so you must read closely. My name is Louis, and you are in grave danger. The woman who calls herself your grandmother is not who she says she is. She is a murderer, who only wishes to watch children play again at her house. She traps them here as children and murders them when they are no longer children. I once played in those fields, but I grew too old. She drugged me and slit my throat.

Marcella sat back at her heels, pulling Brutus back with her. “Um, sorry to interrupt you, uh, Louis, but this can’t be. Our parents just sent us off to go see our grandmother. They wouldn’t send us with some crazy person. I think my dad knows his mother,” Marcella said, feeling increasingly uncomfortable as those black eyes stared into hers.

Tell me: what are your parents name? What did you do yesterday? What city did you come from? What is the name of your best friend? What was the weather like? You can’t answer, because you’ve been drugged. And, you’ll be drugged again and again, so you can never remember yesterday, until she kills you. You must escape now.

“That’s ridiculous. My parents names are Shaun and Marian. I watched Brutus’s baseball game yesterday. We’re from Boise. My friend’s name is Kaylee. And, and, I can’t remember the weather, but that’s no big deal” Marcella said dismissively. Her fear forgotten, she challenged the ghost with a defiant look.

“Do you remember what Kaylee looks like?” Brutus asked.

“I saw her yesterday,” Marcella snapped, turning sharply towards him.

“You know my friend Dan? I can’t picture him. I can’t picture anyone. I can’t picture what my school looks like. I know words, but they have no pictures,” Brutus whispered slowly.

“Kaylee,” Marcella started, but paused, thinking hard. Gradually, color drained from her face. “I can’t picture her either. Why can’t I? What’s happening here?”

Marcella and Brutus turned to each other. “We have to get out,” Brutus said.

Marcella nodded, and the two stood up. However, as he did so, Brutus stumbled.

“Are you alright?” Marcella asked.

“I think so. It’s just my head’s fuzzy, and I’m so tired,” Brutus yawned.

“She must have already drugged us. We have to get out now. Come on, Brutus,” Marcella said, hefting half her brother’s weight onto her shoulders.

“Can we go out the window?” Brutus asked sleepily. As Marcella went to look, the ghost shook his head. He pointed towards the stairs, but floated in front of Marcella and Brutus to lead the way.

“You two have been making quite a bit of noise up there,” Grandma said, rising up the stairs with a platter of cookies as the trio descended. The ghost and Grandma met eyes. Grandma dropped the cookies.

With a shriek like nails on a chalkboard, the ghost descended on Grandma. The two tumbled back downstairs as Grandma fought with a vigor unseen in women of her age. Swiftly, Marcella dragged her brother down the stairs towards the front door.

“Come on, Brutus, wake up!” Marcella said between gritted teeth as she plowed through the doorways.

“I’m trying,” he whispered back as she fumbled with the locks on the front door.

A teeth-rattling, bone-cracking, heart-piercing wail traveled from the stairs.

“Did Louis win?” Marcella asked, pausing from her work on the locks.

Grandma turned down the hallway. Her white hair was askew and she clutched a knife in her hand. “Nope,” Brutus said.

Marcella pushed through the door and shut it swiftly behind her. Grandma pounded on the other side as Marcella leaned against it.

“Brutus, you have to get to the car. You have to go start it. Wake up, or we’re all going to die,” Marcella said urgently as the door jumped beneath them.

Brutus nodded slowly and peeled himself off his sister. It was just so difficult to get his limbs to move. It felt like they were made of cement. Or maybe they were made of sand. Or clay, like the kind he played with as a little kid. He made a mug once.

“Brutus, move! I can’t hold her much longer!” Marcella yelled.

Brutus stumbled toward the car. In the twilit night, it was dark orange, like dying embers of a fire or an old pumpkin. It had to be thirty years old. Nobody made cars like that anymore.

The door jumped open and a knife flew out digging into Marcella’s chest. She yelped and fell back onto the door, jarring the knife from Grandma’s hand.

His sister. Brutus had to concentrate. He needed to save his sister. He fell onto the car’s door. Was this the driver’s side? He didn’t know. How could he figure out? It had something to do with right or left. Left. What did he leave?

Marcella picked up the knife and let the door open. Grandma had no time to see the knife before it was driven into her shoulder, then her chest, then her chest again. Grandma fell to the floor as Marcella dropped the knife, horrified. Blood, hers and Grandma’s, now covered the porch. However, even as she stared, the old woman was inching herself back inside the house. As the door closed with a thump and the lock turned, Marcella found she could not pick up the knife again.

Brutus recognized he was in the driver’s side, but there were no keys. How could he drive without keys. He saw Marcella.

“There’s no keys,” he said dumbly.

“It’s okay. We’ll walk. We need to get away. We’ll find a car or something,” Marcella whispered. She helped him out of the car, grimacing.

“You’re hurt,” he said, pointing the the deep red spot on Marcella’s front.

“Yes. But, we have to find help. We have to keep walking,” she said.

He nodded, and the two walked.

“I’m tired,” Brutus said after a few minutes.

“We have to keep walking. You can sleep later,” Marcella said between gasps.

“But I want to sleep now,” he muttered.

“But we have to keep walking,” Marcella replied.

Brutus could feel her heart beat in his. Her blood was getting his shirt wet, which made it cold, which made him cold. What season was it? Should it be cold? Did it matter?

Marcella stumbled, but caught herself. “Come on, Brutus. Keep with me. Just keep walking. We’ll find help.”

That’s right, they needed help. That’s why they were walking along the road. The black tarmac shot off to their right like an endless pit. Maybe that’s what death would feel like, falling into an endless pit. With blood. With lots of blood on your clothes.

Marcella stumbled again, but did not catch herself. Brutus found himself being propelled into the pit of darkness, but it was not endless. It stopped quite suddenly and hurt him. He could feel his sister beside him as she took large, rapid breaths.

“Are we going to die, Marcella?” Brutus asked simply.

“You shouldn’t. I can’t go on any longer, but when you wake up, keep walking. Don’t turn back. Find someone to take you home, but no one old and female. Promise me, Brutus, that you won’t get in anyone’s car that looks like that woman, even if you think she’s your grandmother. Promise me, you won’t forget, Brutus. Promise me,” Marcella said.

“What?” he asked sleepily. She talked a lot. It was like listening to a radio, but not a very good one. Her breath was all haggard, and she sounded not fun.

She placed a hand on the side of his face, forcing him to look at her. “Promise me you’ll remember, Brutus,” she said.

“I promise, Marcella.”

Brutus opened his eyes gradually to a gleaming sun. It was morning, a new day, which was a good thing. He had a feeling he’d been waiting for it with someone.

“Good Morning, Sleeping Beauty,” a voice called.

He looked up. A pair of kindly eyes met his through a rear-view mirror.

“Hey, Grandma,” he said, a little distractedly. He had a lump in his stomach. Was he carsick? His head sorta hurt. And he had this strange dream he couldn’t quite piece together. Grandma was in it, along with an old pumpkin. He always had strange dreams when he was excited though, and it wasn’t everyday you got to go to your grandmother’s with no parents.

“How much longer until we’re there?” he asked.

“Oh, only a few more minutes,” she said quietly, with a smile in her words.

He sat back in the car. He couldn’t shake the dream. How did the old pumpkin and Grandma relate? He was pretty sure there was a part about a dark pit too. He placed his fingers to his temples, concentrating. Was there a ghost in it?

“Here we are,” Grandma announced as she slid into the driveway, parking the car.

His reverie broken, Brutus got out of the car, examining the old house from tip to tail. Something shimmered in the upper bedroom window. The curtain fluttered and he could swear he saw a face.


“Is something wrong, Brutus?” Grandma asked.

Brutus turned away from the window rubbing his eyes. Marcella. Wasn’t there a Beach Boys song named that? Why would he be thinking of that now? His brain hurt. Hurt. That word seemed awfully important as well.

Brutus faced Grandma, who was smiling sweetly. He was about to return the facial expression when he noticed a bandage peaking out from beneath her lace collar.

“What happened?” he asked.