Category: ghost story

#LostSouls, Epilogue

https://youtu.be/Fy95nExY8FE

Six months later.

It was one o’clock in the afternoon as Emma sat in a
1950s-style dinner located just three miles away from the old fixer upper that they
had once called home before it had burned to the ground in a fiery blaze. Fortunately
for her, she had come out of the ordeal relatively unscathed and with a new
lease on life. Rather than continuing down the path that had nearly led to her
demise, she had instead decided to commit herself to doing what was necessary
to work through her problems and move on.

Reconnecting with and repairing her relationship with
Miguel was in integral part of that process. And although, at times, the gulf
between where they were and where she believed they needed to be seemed as wide
as the Grand Canyon, she never gave up trying or lost heart. He, in turn, did
his part to mend what was broken as they struggled to find their way back to
what they once had.

“How are you feeling?” Miguel asked as he slid into the
booth beside her and put one arm around her shoulders.

“We’re great,” Emma replied, as she smiled and patted
her protruding belly. So far, so good.

Just then, the front door of the diner tinkled as their
former neighbors, George and Casey, walked in. After Miguel had waved them over
to where they were seated, Casey clasped each of their hands in turn and said, “It’s
so good to see you both looking so well. Goodness knows you deserve some
happiness after all you’ve been through.”

“I wouldn’t be here without you,” Emma replied,
swallowing hard. “You saved my life.”

“She is right,” Miguel eagerly chimed in. “I just wish
that there was something we could do to repay you for all that you have done
for us.”

“Just knowing that both of you are okay is reward
enough for me,” Casey replied as the waitress handed both her and George menus.
After taking a moment to peruse the diner’s offerings, Casey looked across the
table at Emma and asked, “So, when exactly is your baby due?”

Emma glanced at Miguel, who winked back at her as she
said, “In five months. We’re having twins. The technician for my ultrasound
said that it’s a boy and a girl.”

Casey squealed with delight at the news. “Do you have
names for them yet?”

“We were actually thinking about calling them George
and Casey,” Miguel teased. “What do you think?”

George laughed and said, “Sure. Why not?” After a
brief pause, he then asked, “Have you made a decision about what you’re going
to do with that property yet?”

“It is up for sale,” Miguel said as he leaned forward
and rested his arms on the table. “We thought about rebuilding it at first but
then decided against it after the contractor that we had hired to look the
place over discovered your old classmate’s body buried underneath the basement
floor.”

“I don’t blame you one bit,” Casey replied as she
looked down at her hands in dismay. “I’d do exactly the same thing if I were in
your shoes.”

“Have you heard anything about how Mary may have
died?” Emma asked George, who had been a police officer prior to his retirement.

“I asked a few of my friends who were still working on
the force about it and they told me that the autopsy of her body indicates that
her skull was fractured by some kind of blunt instrument. Poor kid.”

The conversation then took a brief pause as the
waitress took everyone’s order. But, as soon as their server was out of earshot,
George filled them on everything else he had been told about Mary’s untimely death
and then asked, “Do you remember my priest friend that came over to the house
on the night of the fire?” Miguel nodded while Emma shot them a curious glance.
“He stayed there until the fire was completely out. After the firemen left, he
told me that walked the perimeter of the property and said a prayer before he
went home.”

“Did he see any sign of her?” Emma asked in a
tentative voice.

“Not that I know of,” George replied. “But I do recall
him specifically saying that he felt like he wasn’t completely alone while he
was there.”

Turning to Casey, Emma asked, “Do you think Mary will
ever be at peace?”

“I hope so,” Casey said as she bit her lip. “I’m just
thankful that she didn’t take you down with her.”

“She almost did,” Emma replied as brief flashes of
memory of the evening of the fire came to the forefront of her mind. “But,
thankfully, God had other plans for me.”

“Yes, he did,” Casey said. “And speaking of that, I
think it’s time we livened up this gathering with some music. That big, shiny
jukebox by the door has been calling my name since George and I walked in.
Would you like to come and help me pick a song?”

Emma nodded as she scooted out of the booth and followed
Casey to the coin-operated music machine. As they were heading in that
direction, a curly-haired redhead of five shot past them with her mom in tow,
demanding that she be given the chance to choose a song. While patiently
waiting behind the little girl and her mother, Emma turned to Casey and asked,
“Is ‘Silence is Golden’ one of the songs on this machine’s playlist?”

“That was Mary’s favorite, by far,” Casey said with a
sigh. “I remember hearing her play it from the street while my brother and I
road our bikes or played ball outside.”

“Personally, I’d be happy if I never heard that song
again in my life,” Emma replied as she watched the little girl drop a coin in
the slot and pick a song.

“Me too,” Casey replied just as The Tremeloes
harmonized voices began humming the opening bars of their most famous song
through the jukebox’s speakers.

The End.

#LostSouls, Part 5

Week 4

“Mama, wake up. Papa’s waiting for you outside.”

Am
I dreaming?
Emma thought as she slowly opened her eyes
and gazed at Eva’s cherub-cheeked face. “I love you baby girl.”

Eva frowned as she pulled on her mother’s arm and
said, “Go now, Mama. Run.”

“Okay, okay,” Emma replied as she pushed herself up to
a seated position and sniffed the air, which smelled like charred wood. Loud, crackling
noises coming from the other side of the bedroom also caught her attention as
her daughter’s visage faded from view. Alarmed, she reached out for the socket
knob of the lamp beside her bed, turned it, and gasped when she saw that tufts
of smoke were seeping into the room from underneath the door.

Panicked, Emma leapt off the bed and headed toward the
window. As her hand reached for the window latch, she heard a vinyl record pop
and crackle as it spun round and round on the record player of its own accord.

“Oh don’t it hurt deep inside…” crooned the British
quartet as smoke began to fill room and constrict Emma’s breathing.

While struggling to open the latch, Emma heard a
familiar voice say from behind her, “What are you doing?”

“We have to get out of here. The house is on fire,”
Emma replied as she turned to face Mary, who was standing by the bedroom door.

Mary smiled. “I know. Isn’t it wonderful?”

Emma’s eyes widened in shock and surprise at Mary’s
words. Did she do this?

“What’s wrong? Are you going to cry?” Mary asked in an
irate and bewildered voice. “You should be happy. We’re going to be together
forever.”

“No, Mary,” Emma replied with an increasingly labored
breath. “I don’t want to die.”

“You’re just like the others,” Mart said, scowling. “Why
does everyone hate me?”

“That’s not true,” Emma said as her body became
wracked with coughs. “I want to help you.”

“Then why were you trying to leave?”

“My husband…Miguel,” Emma stammered as her
panic-stricken mind wondered whether he was somewhere trapped and/or hurt in
another part of the house. “He needs me.”

“He doesn’t care about you or your daughter,” Mary
roared. “He let her die.”

Before Emma could respond, she became distracted by someone
banging against the window just as the music inside the room was rising to an
ear-splitting pitch. Although weak and increasingly disoriented, she used what
little strength she had left to pull herself up and see who was there.

“Emma? Is that you? Thank God,” Miguel cried out as he
stood on the other side of the window with a crowbar from the trunk of his car
in hand. “Stand back. I am going to get you out of there.”

As Emma backed away, she heard Mary say, “He can’t
come in. Tell him to go away.”

“No,” Emma replied weakly as she slumped to the floor
and looked over at the bedroom door, which had begun to crackle and char.

“Stay with me or he dies!” Mary screamed as her
translucent body shook with rage before charging toward Miguel.

Emma responded with a strangled cry and tried to grab
hold of Mary’s ghostly figure as it slid past her. But, just then, something
entirely unexpected happened. A warm and almost blinding light filled the room,
causing Mary to be flung back against the opposite wall while a tiny figure
dressed in white suddenly materialized and came up beside her.

“You leave my mama alone,” Eva said as she glared at
Mary, who was growling and gnashing her teeth at them both like a rabid dog in
one corner of the room, and then turned to Emma and said, “Lie down and rest. I
will keep you and Papa safe.”

At that point, Emma didn’t know what to think or
believe as she heard Miguel smash through the window with a crowbar. After quickly
lifting up the lower sash and crawling through the now open window, he swooped
Emma up in his arms and handed her over to George, who was waiting for them
outside. He then carried Emma a safe distance away from the house before
lowering her to the ground and saying, “You’re going to be okay.”

The cold, clear air felt like a balm to her lungs as
she gasped and coughed while calling for her husband.

“I’m here,” Miguel replied as he slouched down beside
her. “You okay?”

Emma started to cry as she grabbed hold of Miguel’s
arm and said, “I saw her.”

“Who did you see?”

“Eva,” Emma replied in low and shaky voice. “She saved
me from that…” But before she could finish her sentence, an ungodly scream
emanating from the house derailed her train of thought and shook her to her
very core. She then motioned for Miguel to come closer as she said, “Hold me,
please.”

Miguel readily acceded to her wishes and cradled her
in his arms as he said, “Don’t cry, mi amor. I am here.”

“I’m so sorry…for everything,” Emma said as she brushed
his cheek with the back of her hand.

“So am I.”

#LostSouls, Part 4

Week 4

“Why do you stay with him?” Mary asked as she glanced
over at Emma, who was sitting beside her on the grass, while she slowly swung
back and forth on the tire swing.

That was a question that Emma found herself asking
more and more often as she thought about how to respond to Mary’s question.
With each passing day, she was finding the gulf between her and Miguel growing ever
wider and more unbridgeable. Most days, she was left to her own devices while
he worked on different parts of the house. Mealtimes had become awkward affairs
permeated by painful silences that often made her want to cringe in her seat
and flee at the earliest possible opportunity.

“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,”
Mary said after a long pause.

“It’s not that,” Emma replied as she batted a fly away
from her face while trying to keep her mind focused on the person and
conversation at hand. “You’ve got enough on your own plate to worry about
without me piling on you with all my grown-up problems.”

“I don’t mind,” Mary said. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”

Emma smiled and said, “I’m glad you think that.”

“Then answer my question.”

“Relationships are complicated,” Emma replied slowly, “and
sometimes when problems come up they’re not always easy to fix no matter how
much you care about the other person.”

“Do you still love him?” Mary asked with an arched
brow. When Emma nodded, Mary added, “I thought people who loved each other were
supposed to be happy.”

“We were. It’s just that…when Eva died I…”

“He was
careless,” Mary said in a rather tactless way. “If he’d been watching her as
closely as he should have been, she’d still be alive today. You have every
right to be mad at him. It’s his fault she’s dead.”

“No,” Emma replied weakly.

Mary pressed on. “But isn’t that what you’re thinking?
Why defend him?”

“I just want to be fair,” Emma replied as she recalled
Miguel’s account of what had happened. “He told me that he had turned his back
on her just a second before…”

“He’s making excuses,” Mary interrupted. “Do you think
he’ll stay with you now that Eva’s gone?”

“I don’t know,” Emma replied. “With the way things
have been going between us lately, it’s beginning to look less and less likely.”

“I’d never leave you,” Mary said as she got up from
the swing and sat just out of arm’s reach of Emma on the grass. “I like being
here with you. I hate it when you have to go.”

“That’s a sweet thing for you to say,” Emma said in a
cautiously sympathetic tone. “But wouldn’t you rather be spending time with
kids your own age?”

Mary frowned and then shook her head as she said,
“You’re all I need.”

“Don’t you have any friends at school?”

Mary shook her head again. “They all made fun of me
and pushed me around when the teacher wasn’t looking. I hated school and
everyone in it.”

“Have you tried to talk to anyone else besides me
about what’s going on with you at home and at school?”

“No one cares about me except you. I’d stay with you
all the time if I could.”

Emma felt a mixture of concern and pity at Mary’s
words and thought that a hug or a quick hand squeeze might be in order. But
when she asked her young friend if that would be okay, she was surprisingly met
with a fervent rebuff.

“You can’t touch me,” Mary cried out in alarm as she
scrambled away from Emma with undue speed and haste. “Not yet. Too soon.”

“Okay, I’m sorry,” Emma replied with some surprise. “I
didn’t mean to upset you…I just thought it might make you feel better.”

“Are you mad at me? Do you want me to go away now?”

“No,” Emma replied. “I’m happy to stay here with you
as long as you like. I just don’t want you to get into any more hot water with your
stepdad Sam by coming here and talking to me as often as you do.”

“He can’t talk or do much of anything nowadays,” Mary
replied with a malicious grin. “I made sure of that.”

What
does she mean by that?
Emma thought with a shudder as she envisioned
Mary exacting revenge on her stepdad in a myriad of ways.

“I can take care of your husband too if you want me
to,” Mary offered. “You don’t need him anymore. Make him go away, or I will.”

“Please don’t talk like that,” Emma said as she rose
to her feet. “You’re scaring me.”

Just then, Emma heard the patter of paws coming closer.
Oddly enough, the moment she turned to face the little gray mutt that was
bounding toward her, it stopped cold in its tracks, bared its teeth, and began
to growl.

“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry,” exclaimed a gray-haired
woman who came rushing after the dog. “Dolly’s usually not nearly so
standoffish.”

Fearful that the dog might pounce at any moment, Emma moved
to step in front of Mary when she came to the realization that her young friend
was now nowhere to be seen. Where did she
go?

“Hello. My name is Casey. Aren’t you Miguel’s wife?”
When Emma nodded, Casey added, “Your husband has told me so much about you.
It’s so nice to finally meet you in person.”

“Get rid of her, Emma heard Mary’s disembodied voice
thunder in her ears. “Now.

What’s
going on?
Emma thought as she spun around to see if she could
find where the little girl’s voice was coming from. Am I going crazy?

“Are you okay?” Casey asked, looking concerned. “Is
something wrong?”

“No, no, I’m fine,” Emma replied with a vigorous shake
of her head. “I don’t mean to be rude but this really isn’t a good time for me.
I think I need to go inside now.”

Oh, Okay,” Casey replied as she watched Emma turn away
and rush toward her house with her head bowed and her arms folded in front of
her.

As Emma walked away, Casey bent down and wagged her
finger at her dog as she said, “Dolly, that was rude. Why did you do that?”

Just then, a ferocious wind began to whirl around
Casey as her dog whined and tucked its tail between its legs. She looked up at
the sky and then towards the lake with a growing sense of unease as she gazed
as water on the surface and took note of the fact that it was perfectly still.
It wasn’t long before things quickly went from bad to worse.

The sound of girlish laughter filled the air as Casey felt
like she was being pulled toward the edge of the lake by a pair of strong,
unseen hands. Try as she might, she found that she was unable to resist the
force that was pushing her inexorably forward. But then, to her great surprise
and relief, the driving wind and the laughter abated just before the tip of her
shoes hit the water’s edge. She quickly said a prayer of thanks as she clutched
her hands to her chest and tried to catch her breath.

“Casey, it’s been too long. Did you miss me?”

The hairs on the back of Casey’s neck instantly stood
on end at the sound of the oddly familiar voice while her dog whined ever more
loudly at her side.

“Tell your mutt to shut up before I break its neck and
throw it in the lake.”

“Leave her alone,” Casey replied as she snatched the dog
up into her arms and then glanced at the young female form which was somehow
floating just above the water. It was Mary.
Casey’s jaw dropped and her eyes widened as her brain tried to make
sense of the incomprehensible scene that was unfolding right in front of her
eyes. Mary was wearing the same pleated skirt and tattered navy blue sweater
that Casey had often seen her old classmate wear to school over fifty years
earlier. But her disheveled hair, sickly white and translucent skin, and malevolent
smile clearly put Casey on notice of Mary’s nefarious intentions as far as she
was concerned.

“You don’t look at all happy to see me. Why is that?”

Before answering, Casey glanced at Mary’s old house
and then asked, “What do you want with that young woman?”

“Why should I tell you?” Mary replied with a sneer.
“You saw what Sam was doing to me and what did you do? Nothing. He beat me almost
every day and sent my mommy away.”

“What does that have to do with her?” Casey asked
while pointing to the house.

“She’s nice to me. Did you know that she lost her
daughter? She was so sad when I first met her. But she’s getting better now,
and it’s all because of me.”

Alarm bells immediately rang in Casey’s head as the
pieces of the puzzle that had been floating around in her head quickly fell
into place. “Emma has a husband that loves her. She belongs with him.”

“Not for long,” Mary replied. “And when he’s gone,
it’s going to be just her and me.”

“No, Mary,” Casey said with all the courage she could
muster. “You have to let her go.”

“She’s mine!” Mary screamed as Casey was sent reeling
into the water by a stinging blow to the chest. After flailing on the surface
of the water for a moment or two, she was dragged underneath it by what felt
like a pair of iron weights shackled to her ankles. The words I’m dying, were the last conscious
thoughts she formed in her mind just before her world went black.

Less than two hours later, Miguel found himself
walking through the sliding doors of the emergency room at Kensington Memorial
Hospital. He had been approached less than half an hour earlier by a visibly
shaken woman in her thirties who identified herself as Kendra, the daughter of George
and Casey Wick, in his driveway. She told him that her mother had nearly
drowned in the lake that afternoon and was asking for him. Although he was
tired and hungry, he readily agreed to follow the Wicks’ daughter to the
hospital.

Once there, Miguel went straight to the ICU and was
greeted by George with a hearty handshake just outside Casey’s hospital room.

“She’s lucky to be alive,” George said, shaking his
head. “If it hadn’t been for a couple that just happened be walking by the lake
when she hit the water then I think I would have lost her for sure.”

“Thank God they were there to pull her to safety in
time,” Miguel replied as he patted George’s shoulder. “Do you know what
happened?”

George nodded. “I’ll leave it to Casey to give you the
details. I tried to convince her to wait but she was adamant about having
either me or my daughter bring you here tonight. She told me that it was a
matter of life and death.”

Miguel nodded gravely and said, “Would it be okay for
me to go in and see her now?”

“I think the nurse is just finishing up checking her
vitals. Let me check.”

A
matter of life and death?
Miguel thought as he paced back and
forth in the hallway and wondered about what Casey so urgently needed to tell
him. Within minutes, George emerged from the room behind the nurse and motioned
for him to come inside Casey’s semi-lit room.

Casey looked fragile and weak as she lay in bed while
hooked up to various monitors. A faint smile crossed her lips as he moved
closer. “Miguel, I’m so glad you’re here.”

“I came as soon as I heard what happened to you,” he
replied as sat in a chair by her bed.

“Thank you. How is your wife?” Casey asked in an
anxious tone.

“Fine, I think,” Miguel replied with a quizzical look.
“I haven’t seen her since lunchtime. I was working on the basement with a
contractor most of the afternoon and had just come from Home Depot to get more
supplies when your daughter asked me to come here.”

The rising fear he saw in Casey’s eyes as he watched
her reaction to what he’d just said immediately filled him with dread.

“She
wants her. I know it,” Casey said as she reached out to Miguel. “You have to
get her out of that house before it’s too late.”

“Who
wants her?” Miguel asked as he
grasped Casey’s hand.

“I
saw Mary,” Casey replied as tears began to well in her eyes. “The girl that
used live there when I was a child. She looked exactly like she did back then. I
know it sounds impossible but it’s true. And…and she wants Emma. Don’t you
see?” He did. She quickly added, “She tried to get rid of me because she
thought I’d get in the way of her plans. I tried to escape but she was too
strong and pushed me into the lake. She was holding me under when that couple
pulled me up. I thought I was going to die.”

After
exchanging a few more words, Miguel rose from his chair and thanked her before
leaving the room. To his great surprise, George volunteered to go back to the
house with him and offered to ask a retired priest that he knew to meet them
there to bless it. “If what Casey said is true,” George offered as they both
stepped out onto the hospital parking lot, “it won’t hurt to have a man of the
cloth with us to cleanse that place while we’re there.”

It
was a little past seven o’clock in the evening by the time Miguel turned his
car right onto the narrow, tree-lined street leading to his house. All seemed
quiet and peaceful as he drove up to his driveway and parked. Still, he found
himself fumbling for his house key in his haste to get out of the car and check
on Emma. He made the sign of the crows when he looked to his left while exiting
his car and saw George being approached by a white-haired gentleman in black
clerical clothes. But when he turned toward the front of the house, any
semblance of calm that he may have felt was instantly shattered by the sight,
through the picture window, of flames wreaking havoc in his living room.  

“Oh
my God,” George exclaimed as he caught up to Miguel. “Your house is on fire!”
And indeed it was, in more ways than one.

#LostSouls, Part 3

Week 3

After a morning spent prepping and painting the outside
of the house in the sweltering heat, Miguel was ready to take a break. He felt
hungry and was dripping with sweat as he strode into the house to get something
to eat. He opened the front door slowly and carefully so as not to disturb
Emma, who was asleep in their bedroom.

He went straight to the kitchen to make a ham and cheese
sandwich and then grabbed a bottle of water before heading back outside. As he
sat down on the top step of the front porch to eat his lunch, he thought about
how far this place had come from the weed-infested and dilapidated bank-owned property
that he and Emma had purchased just weeks ago. He had thrown himself into the
job of repairing the house like a zealot on a crusade after Eva’s death.
Although he could have hired others to do the work, he had opted to do most of
it himself. More often than not, he had found it to be therapeutic, especially
in the face of the soul-crushing grief he had experienced ever since the day he
lost his beloved daughter. He spent countless hours pulling up threadbare
carpet, scraping walls off decades old wallpaper and repairing leaks and
electrical shorts before laying down hardwood flooring and repainting almost
every interior wall with one notable exception: Eva’s room. Given Emma’s
fragile state, he thought it best to leave that room untouched for the time
being.

It wasn’t long, however, before his mind began wandering
to thoughts of Emma. In the three weeks since they’d moved in, she would often
sleep until noon and spend hours at a time sitting next to the tire swing
hanging on the oak tree by the lake. Until now, he had thought that giving her
time and space would be enough as she worked through her feelings of anguish
and loss. But now, he was beginning to wonder if that had been the wisest
course of action to take, especially since his leave of absence from work was
set to expire in less than a month. He was wary of leaving her at home alone in
her present state and was beginning to wonder if a more intense psychological
intervention was necessary at this point.

As Miguel pondered his options, the sight of his
neighbor’s dog bounding toward him from across the street made him smile. As it
stopped at his feet and rolled over for a belly rub, he saw its owner, George,
following closely behind.

He approached Miguel with an outstretched hand and
said, “We meet again.”

“It is good to see you,” Miguel replied with a firm
handshake. “Where is Casey?”

“She’s at the store. What about your wife?”

“Emma is sleeping.”

“Ah, okay,” George replied with a quizzical expression
since it was already well past noon. “I see that you’ve made a lot of progress
since the last time we spoke. I’m impressed.”

“Thank you,” Miguel replied with some pride. “It is
coming along quite nicely. I did a lot of work on the inside of the house and
pulled up all the weeds outside even before my wife and I moved in. Once we unpacked
and arranged our belongings inside the house, I spent the next few days building
shelves and storage cabinets in the garage and fixing up the front yard.” He then
pointed to the rose bushes he’d planted in front of the porch railing and said,
“As you can see, I planted these just yesterday and am in the process of
patching all the bald spots in the lawn with grass seed. I am hoping to finish
painting the exterior walls by tomorrow and would like to get to cleaning out organizing
the basement next week.”

“I can’t imagine what it must be like down there,”
George replied with a shudder.

“It needs a lot of work,” Miguel admitted. “I have
only been able to clear out the section of the basement in and around the
stairs. I made an appointment with a contractor to come over and help me figure
out how best to utilize and repair that space.”

“Were there still items from old man Rhoades in the
house when you moved in?”

“Actually, yes,” Miguel replied. “I found an old
record player, which still works, and quite a few vinyl records in the
basement. I also found cases of old comic books and baseball cards down there.”

“Really? I didn’t think that he was the type of guy
who collected that kind of stuff. But then again, my wife told me that his
ex-wife Carrie, had lived there with her first husband before he died in
Vietnam. I’m guessing that’s probably all his stuff.”

“Did she tell you that I ran into her at Starbucks
last week?”

“Yes, she did,” George replied with an almost apologetic
look. “She told me that she filled you in on all the local lore about this
place. Personally, I think it’s all a bunch of hooey made up by people with
overactive imaginations.”

Miguel smiled and said, “Your wife, Casey, seems to be
convinced that it is true.”

“Tell me, in the three weeks that you’ve lived here,
have you seen or heard anything that made you think that your house was
haunted?”

As Miguel thought about the numerous times he had heard
a door close of its own accord or had felt a gust of cold air blow past him,
his rational mind quickly came to the logical conclusion that these occurrences
were probably par for the course in an old and drafty house like his. And as
for the girl that he thought he saw staring back at him through the picture
window…Well, he told himself. She just can’t have been real. Thus, he
said, “No.”

“I thought so,” George replied. “I tried to tell her
to just leave things well enough alone but she wouldn’t listen.”

“I am sure she meant well,” Miguel said.

“Well, all the same, I still think that it was mighty
nice of you to indulge her the way you did.”

“It was no problem, really.”

George nodded and said, “Is there anything I can do to
give you a hand?”

Miguel thought a moment and then said, “Now that you
ask, I do have quite a few empty moving boxes that I have been meaning to move
from the garage to the basement. Would you mind helping me out with that?”

“Sure. Just give me a minute to bring this little one
back to the house and then I’ll be right back.”

“Great. The boxes are stacked on left side of the
garage,” Miguel said as he got up to open the garage door. “I will leave it open
and keep the front door unlocked for you.”

While George went to take his dog back home, Miguel
picked up a stack of the boxes from the garage and carried them into the house.
As soon as he walked in, he heard Emma playing “Silence is Golden” from behind
the closed door of the master bedroom. Emma’s
been playing that song a lot,
he thought as he toyed with the idea of checking
in on her. He got as far as the doorway and even raised his hand to knock on it
before he lost his nerve and went to open the basement door instead.

A powerful gust of cold air struck Miguel like blow to
the chest, knocking him off balance as he stepped onto the stairs. He quickly
steadied himself against the door frame and then flipped on the light switch. Before
descending, he paused to allow his eyes to adjust to the dim flickering light
illuminating the basement floor. On the way down, he carefully braced himself
with his free hand on the brittle wooden railing while holding an armful of
boxes in the other.

Miguel was nearly halfway down the stairs when the
music from the master bedroom suddenly stopped. Although the eerie quiet that
ensued unnerved him and almost caused him to turn back, he forced himself to
keep going. Once he had reached the bottom of the stairs, he put the boxes down
by the wall closest to the stairs and again found himself fighting the urge to
flee as he and looked around the dirty and musty smelling room. What is wrong with you? he asked
himself. Get ahold of yourself. What are
you afraid of?

While his conscious mind struggled to placate his
growing fear, the sound of footsteps near the basement door nearly caused him
to jump out of his skin. “Hello?” Miguel called out as his eyes darted toward
the top of the stairs. “Is anybody there?” No answer. “Emma? George?” Still, no
response.

Rather than wait for a reply which didn’t appear to be
forthcoming, Miguel elected to see for himself who was moving around up there. But
as he made his way back up the stairs, yet another strong gust of cold air
slammed into him with even greater force than before. As he grabbed hold of the
railing to keep himself from falling, he heard what sounded like the crazed laughter
of a young girl echoing through the room. He bounded up the stairs as soon as
he had regained his footing and was nearly at the top step when the light bulb
at the bottom of the stairs blew out with a loud popping sound. As he lunged
for the doorway, he felt a pair of ice cold hands grasp his ankles and yank him
off his feet. He cried out in terror as his torso hit the stairs with a painful
thud just as the door above him slammed shut.

“No!” he screamed as he tried to scramble up the
stairs in the dark on his hands and knees. At that point, the laughter in the
room had grown to an ear deafening pitch as yet another gust of wind sent him
hurtling down the stairs once more.

“Emma, I need you,” Miguel groaned as he lay sprawled
on the steps. “Help me, please.”

Seconds later, Miguel thought he heard the basement
door creak open. When he looked up, he saw what looked like the figure of a man
standing by the doorway.

“Oh my God, are you okay?” George asked as he quickly made
his way down to Miguel. “What happened to you?”

At first, Miguel just shook his head while George helped
him get back on his feet. Will he believe
me if I tell him what happened?
he thought. Probably not. He could hardly believe it himself. Finally, he said,
“Thank God you came when you did.”

“How could I not?” George replied. “I heard you as
soon as I walked in the house. You could have probably woken the dead with all
the racket you were making down here.”

“You think so?”
Miguel asked as he stepped into the hallway and looked over at the still closed
door to the master bedroom. “I was hoping that someone would hear me.”

“Is your wife still asleep?” George asked as he
followed Miguel’s gaze. “Wow. She must be a sound sleeper.”

“I guess she must be.”

Later that day, Miguel was sitting across from Emma at
the dinner table when he heard her ask, “How was your day?”

Is
she actually talking to me?
Miguel thought to himself
with some surprise since they had spent much of their meal up to this point in
virtual silence.  He replied, “Good. And
you?”

Emma shrugged and said, “All right, I guess.”

“Umm…by the way, did you happen to hear any unusually
loud noises earlier this afternoon?” Miguel asked. Emma shook her head.

How
is that possible?
Miguel thought to himself. “I had a little
problem in the basement earlier this afternoon. Did you not hear me calling out
to you?”

Emma blinked once and then twice before saying, “Sorry…no.”

Miguel bit his tongue so as not to start a fight. Who are you? And what did you do with my
wife?
he wondered and then decided to change the subject. “I saw one of
your co-workers, Connie, at the post office the other day. Do you think you
will be ready to go back to teaching in the spring?” No answer. “Emma?”

“What did you say?”

“You heard me,” Miguel replied a little more loudly and
forcefully than he had intended.

Another blank stare and then…nothing.

A few minutes later, he put his fork down and asked,
“Why do you like to play that song “Silence is Golden” on the record player
over and over again?”

“I like it,” Emma replied slowly. “I thought you did
too.”

“I do. But do you really have to play it fifty times a
day? I am surprised that you haven’t worn the record out yet.”

“Then buy earplugs…or just leave.”

For a moment, Miguel was too shocked to speak. But
instead of ratcheting up the rhetoric, he took a few deep breaths and tried to take
a more conciliatory approach with her. “You could play other songs, you know.”

“No,” Emma replied firmly. “I need to play that one.”

Why?
Miguel
thought with growing alarm and as he paused to consider what he should say
next. “Why do you sit by that tire swing in the back yard all the time? Where
do you go when you go for those long walks through the neighborhood?”

“Why are you asking me all these questions? I am an
adult, remember?”

Then
act like one,
Miguel wanted to say but didn’t. “Can you just
answer my questions?”

At that, Emma rose from her seat and slammed her fist
on the table as she said, “God, you really can’t take a hint, can you?”

“How am I supposed to know what you are thinking? By
osmosis? I am not a mind reader.”

“Okay…So, what
about this? Leave me alone. Was that clear enough?”

“Emma, we need to talk,” Miguel replied as he motioned
for her to sit back down. “The way you have been acting is not normal. You need
help.”

“No, I don’t.”

Miguel shook his head. “Most of the time you sleep
half the day away and…and when you are awake you are either locked in your room
listening to that damned song or outside sitting by the tire swing. You can’t
go on like this. Eva would…”

“Don’t you dare mention her name in front of me,” Emma
snapped.

“Why not? She was just as much mine as she was yours.”

Rather than answer, Emma simply rose from her chair
and flung her napkin on the table before fleeing the room. Miguel made no
attempt to follow her.

Long after Emma had closed the door to the master bedroom
with a loud bang, Miguel remained rooted to the spot as his shell-shocked mind
replayed their last conversation like a tape on a loop.

#LostSouls, Part 2

Week 2

It was a little past noon by the time Emma finally got
around to getting out of bed. She was wearing the same white t-shirt and shorts
that she had put on over forty-eight hours earlier and felt absolutely no
motivation to change or shower at any time in the near future. What’s the point? she thought as her
eyes drifted back and forth between the grimy popcorn ceiling directly above
her and the gloomy skies that lay beyond her bedroom window. My baby’s gone.

Emma groaned aloud as she reluctantly swung her legs
over the side of the bed and sauntered over to the bathroom. Once there, she
bent over the sink, splashed her face with ice cold water from the faucet, and then
glanced at her reflection in the mirror as she toweled her face off. She hardly
recognized the pale-faced woman with greasy brown hair staring back at her. And
yet, she chose to do nothing as she pulled her hair back with her hands and
opened the medicine cabinet to find a scrunchie. As her eyes scanned the
shelves, they fell upon the bottle of Prozac that she’d been prescribed by her
doctor shortly after Eva’s death. He had assured her that it would make her
feel better. When it didn’t, she had to tell her doctor, “Thanks, but no
thanks,” when he tried to suggest that she take another psychotropic drug to
treat her depression.

When she finally made her way to the kitchen to get
something to eat, she saw a note from Miguel pinned to the refrigerator door with
a magnet. It read, “Went to Home Depot to get some paint and a few other
supplies. Will be back soon.” A wave of guilt overtook her as she thought of
all the big and little things he had done in the days and weeks since their
daughter’s death to try to support and comfort her and of how little she had
done for him in return. It’s not his
fault,
she reminded herself despite the persistent voice in her head that
told her otherwise. Give him a break. He
lost her too.

While this internal debate was raged on, she took a
large mug off a shelf and poured herself a cup of coffee. After adding some
cream and sugar, she was about to take a sip when she saw a young girl sitting
on the tire swing not far from her kitchen window.

The girl was barefoot with long, black hair and was
wearing a navy-blue sweater over a pleated jumper. Emma guessed that she was probably
no more than ten years old. Curious as to why she would be there rather than in
school, Emma decided to step outside and have a word with her.

As Emma got closer, she began noticing certain things
about the girl’s appearance that hadn’t caught her eye at first blush. Upon
closer inspection, she saw that the girl’s hair was tangled and matted while the
skin on her legs appeared to be caked in dirt. Her clothes also looked ragged
and stained. Given the girl’s physical state, Emma opted to tread carefully so
as not to startle or frighten her away. Once she was within a few feet of the
girl, she stopped and cleared her throat to make her presence known.  She quickly found herself stifling a gasp when
she saw that the girl’s lip was cut and that her left eye was badly bruised and
puffy. What kind of monster could have
done this to her?
she thought, enraged.

“I’m Emma. What’s your name?”

“Mary,” the girl said in a guarded tone.

“Do you live around here?” No response. “Are you okay?
Do you want me to call your parents?”

“My mommy’s gone,” Mary said matter-of-factly. “She
went away.”

“What about your dad?”

“My daddy’s dead,” she replied. “Mommy said he died in
the war. I live with Sam.”

“Who’s Sam?”

“You ask a lot of questions,” Mary said with an
assessing glance.

“I’m sorry,” Emma replied. “It’s just that…shouldn’t
you be in school?”

Mary smiled. “Sam doesn’t think so. He says it’s a
waste of time, especially for girls.”

Does
he
?
Emma thought with some concern. “Well, I suppose that he’s entitled to his
opinion but I think that most people would disagree with him.”

“Are you worried about me?” Mary asked.

After a brief pause, Emma said, “Frankly, yes.”

At that, Mary’s smiled broadened. “You seem nice. I
like you.”

“Thanks. Is there anyone else besides Sam that I could
call?”

Mary shook her head. “No one cares about me.”

“That can’t be true,” Emma replied as she tried to think
of what she could say or do to assist this unfortunate soul. “Is there anything
I can do to help you?”

Mary furrowed her brow in thought and then asked, “Can
you stay and talk to me?”

“I sure can,” Emma said as she edged closer before
sitting down in the grass beside her. “What would you like to talk about?”

Mary shrugged. “I dunno. Anything really. I usually don’t
get to talk to anyone other than Sam.”

“Why is that?”

“That’s just the way things are,” Mary replied in a
slightly anxious tone. “I don’t ask why. It makes him mad when I ask too many
questions.”

“Does he hurt you?” Again, silence. “Do you want me to
take you to the police?”

“They can’t help me. No one can.”

“Why not? My car’s in the driveway. We can go right
now if you want.”

“NO!” Mary screamed as she got up from the swing and
looked like she was about bolt at any second. “It’s too late.”

“Okay, okay,” Emma replied as she rose to her feet.
“Calm down. No police. I promise.”

“I gotta swear you won’t. Or else…”

“Or else what?”

“I’ll go away and never come back.”

“Don’t do that,” Emma replied as she tried to think of
a way to calm the girl down. “What would you like me to do then?”

“Just stay with me. I’m tired of being alone.” When
Emma nodded, Mary added, “I want to hear about you.”

“What would you like to know?”

“Anything. Everything. Whatever you want to tell me.”

Where
do I start?
Emma thought and then said, “I had a
little girl once. She was just a couple of years younger than you are now. Her
name was Eva. She had the biggest brown eyes and the most beautiful smile.”

“What happened to her?”

“She died suddenly,” Emma replied as she fought the
sudden urge to cry.

“Did her daddy hurt her?”

Why
would she say that?
Emma wondered. “No, Eva’s daddy loved her
a lot. It’s just that she went onto the street when his back was turned and…”

“You blame him, don’t you?” Mary cut in. The bluntness
of the girl’s words instantly rendered Emma speechless. Mary added, “I would
too. Most men are pigs, aren’t they?”

“Why would you say a thing like that?”

“Because it’s true,” Mary replied. “They lie and cheat
and do vile things.”

“Some maybe, but definitely not all.”

Mary stared at her a moment and then said, “You seem
like a good mommy. Eva was lucky.”

“Thanks, but I think that I was the lucky one. She was
my everything. But now that she’s gone I just…”

“You’ll be okay,” Mary interrupted. “I’ll make sure of
that.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Miguel had just
walked into a local coffee shop to buy a cup of coffee before heading home when
he spotted Casey Wick, one of the neighbors that he had met a week earlier,
standing by the counter. He waved. She smiled in return and then walked over to
him and said, “Hello there. It’s so nice to see you again.”

“It’s Casey, right?”

“Yes,” she replied as she shook his hand. “You have a
good memory. I usually forget a person’s name the minute after they tell me
what it is.”

Miguel laughed and said, “Don’t worry. That happens to
me a lot too.”

“How are you? I bet all that work you’re doing on your
house is probably keeping you pretty busy.”

“Yes, this past week has been very hectic, if you must
know. There is just so much to do. I try fixing one thing and then end up finding
five other things that are wrong with the area of the house that I am working
on.”

“Well, don’t kill yourself trying to get everything
done all at once. Take your time and just make sure that you get things done
right. Believe me, all your neighbors will thank you for it.”

“I certainly hope so,” he said. “It has been a dream
of mine to own my own home since my wife Emma and I got married.”

“How is your wife? Is she doing any better now?”

Miguel stopped for a moment to consider what he should
say to Casey about Emma before answering. “She took our daughter Eva’s death
very hard. I think that she is still in shock and is having a difficult time
copping with what has happened.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Casey replied as she gave
him a quick pat on the arm. “But at least she has you to lean on. You seem like
a very nice young man to me and I’m sure that you’re doing all you can to help
her through this.”

“I hope you are right,” Miguel replied with palpable
uncertainty. “Eva meant everything to her. To both of us.” Casey nodded and
said nothing else even though he could tell that she was curious to know more.
Sensing that she was someone that he could trust and confide in, he quickly
added, “I came here on a student visa and was planning to go back to Spain as
soon as I earned my degree. Emma changed all that. We met at a party and hit it
off right away. From that night onward, we became nearly inseparable. We found
out that she was pregnant just a few weeks after we had started dating.”

“Things like that happen all the time,” Casey replied
sympathetically.

“Even though I was scared, I asked her to marry me
right away…”

“Obviously, she said yes.”

“Actually no,” Miguel replied with a slight smile. “I
had to ask her three times before she agreed to be my wife. She wanted to make
sure that we were doing it for the right reasons and not simply for the baby’s
sake.”

“Sounds like a girl with a good head on her shoulders.
I probably would have done the same if I’d been in her shoes.”

Just then, the barista called out Casey’s name. Before
heading over to the counter to pick up her drink, she said to Miguel, “Do you
have time to chat?”

Miguel nodded and said, “Yes, of course. I apologize
for not getting back to you. I really am interested in hearing what you have to
say about my house’s history.”

“Good. I’ll go and find us a table then.”

A few minutes later, Miguel took a seat directly across
from Casey. After placing his coffee and blueberry muffin on the table, he took
a bite of his pastry and then sat back in his chair and asked, “So what is it
about my house that concerns you?”

“Umm…well it’s hard to know where to begin. How much
time have you got?”

Miguel glanced at his watch and said, “About fifteen
minutes. Is that enough time?”

“It’ll do,” Casey replied as she took a sip from her
coffee cup. “Like I said before, I used to play with a girl that lived there.”

“Yes, yes. I remember you telling me that,” Miguel
replied as he took another bite out of his muffin. “What does that have to do
with the house now?”

“Maybe nothing. But, over the years, I’ve heard
stories, rumors from friends and neighbors alike about sightings of a
ghost-like figure of a young girl in and around your place.”

“But I thought you said that your friend left with her
mother?”

“That’s what my parents told me, but there’s always
been a part of me that didn’t quite believe that story.” After a brief pause,
she continued. “She used to come to school with bruises on her arms and legs. There
was one time she even came to school with a black eye. But whenever I’d ask her
how she got them, she’d tell me that she fallen or bumped into something.”

“Did you try to talk to your parents about it?”

“I did,” Casey insisted. “My dad told me to stop
sticking my nose into other people’s business and to leave well enough alone.
And for a while, I did do that but when she stopped showing up for school, I
got scared and begged my mom to see what was going on.”

“And did she?”

Casey nodded. “She’s the one that told me that Mrs.
Rhoades had left her husband and taken my friend with her.”

“If that is true, then why did you seem so nervous
while you and your husband George were standing on my driveway?”

Instead of answering his question, she asked one of
her own as she nervously drummed her fingers against her coffee cup. “Have you
noticed anything odd or strange about the place since you moved in?”

“Why do you ask?” Miguel asked. “Please tell me. I
want to know.”

“You’re probably going to think I’m crazy but I think
that the stories I’ve heard about your place might be true.”

Miguel furrowed his brow as he placed his elbows on
the table and his chin in his hands. Is
Casey really suggesting what I think she is? Could my house really be haunted?
As
the import of her words began to sink in, he felt the hair on the back of his
neck stand up as he recalled the night he thought that he saw a young girl on
the other side of the picture window. “Have you seen this ghost yourself?”

“No,” Casey replied. “But I thought that I felt her
presence on your property on more than one occasion.”

“What do you think might have happened to her?”

“I…I think that
her mom left her with her stepdad.” She then shuddered, adding, “Just looking
at him made my skin crawl. I can’t imagine what it was like for her to live
with him.”

“But why would her mother do that? Even if he was only
half the monster that George had described to me the other day, I don’t see how
any she could have left her child in the care of such a man.”

“I see what you’re saying but Mrs. Rhoades was…different.
My mom told me that she’d always been a drinker but that it got a lot worse
after she found out that her husband had died in Vietnam.”

“It sounds like your friend lived a very tragic life,”
Miguel said as the need to rush home and check on Emma grew within him.

“She did,” Casey replied with an air of regret. “I
just wish that I could have done more to help her. But that’s all water under
the bridge, isn’t it?” A brief silence ensued.

After downing his last bit of coffee, Miguel said, “I
am sorry to cut this short but I really think that I should be going now. I was
already running late to begin with and my wife might be wondering where I am.”

“Of course,” Casey replied. “Don’t let me keep you.”

As Miguel stood up, he shook Casey’s hand and said, “It
was a pleasure to see you again.”  

“You don’t believe me, do you?”

Miguel paused and then said, “To be honest, I do not
know what to believe or think at this point.”

“Fair enough,” Casey replied. “I know that what I’ve
just told you is a lot to take in. Just think about what I’ve said and call me
if you have any questions.”

“I will do that,” Miguel replied as he turned away
from her and then hurried out the door.

#LostSouls, Part 1

Week 1. One month later.

The sky was overcast and threatening rain as Miguel
and Emma drove up to their new home, which was located on a narrow, tree-lined
street with a lake just behind it. The one-story tract house had been built in
the 1950s and looked every bit its age. They had first seen it after Eva’s
third birthday and had immediately fallen in love with it despite the amount of
work that they knew would be required to make it a livable space for their
family. The realtor who had shown it to them had made a point of telling them
that the schools in the area were among the best in the city and that the
neighborhood, although old, had had a fair number of young families move
recently.

Miguel glanced at Emma, who was staring mindlessly out
the window, as he pulled the brake up and turned the ignition off.  He waited a minute or two before turning to
her and saying, “Emma, we are here.” No response. He tapped her arm.

“What?” Emma replied as she jerked to attention.

Where
do I start?
Miguel thought as he turned away from her and
opened the car door. “We had better get moving and bring the stuff in the car
inside. It looks like it is going to rain soon.”

Miguel popped the trunk, took out two bankers boxes
and carried them up to the front door. Before inserting his house key into the
lock, he glanced at Emma, who hadn’t moved, and sighed.

In fact, it wasn’t until two-thirds of the boxes from
the trunk had been unloaded before Emma stepped out of the car and joined him
inside the house. She walked listlessly past Miguel as he stacked a few of the banker
boxes that he had brought in on top of one another in one corner of the living
room. She then proceeded to wander about the place without purpose or aim until
she reached a small, empty bedroom with faded and chipped pink paint on the
walls. She leaned against the doorway and, for a moment, envisioned it filled
with Disney princess-themed toddler furniture and stuffed animals strewn all over
the floor. But then, she was immediately brought back to the cold, hard reality
of the here and now by the sound of her husband’s voice calling out to her from
the hallway.

“I am sorry,” Miguel said in an apologetic tone as
Emma turned to face him. “I did not mean to startle you.”

Emma shrugged. “I was just thinking about what we were
going to do with this room. Do you have any ideas?”

Without thinking, Miguel began moving toward Emma with
outstretched arms, that is, until he saw the distress in her widening eyes. He quickly
lowered them and took a step back as he tried to think of what he could do put
her at ease. After a moment’s thought, he decided to share a recent find that
he’d made in the basement with her. “Can I show you something?”

To Miguel’s great relief, Emma nodded without
hesitation and willingly followed him back to the living room. She stood just
out of arm’s reach as he placed a worn-looking brown case on their dining room
table. She coughed and waved her hands in front of her face as he blew the dust
off it before opening it up. “I found this old record player in the basement
the other day.”

“Does it work?”

“Yes, it does. Would you like me to show you?” Emma
said yes and moved a little closer as Miguel pulled out a vinyl 45 single at
random from a record case that looked just as old as the turntable, took it out
of its sleeve, and placed it on the platter before turning on the power switch
and setting the speed switch to 45 rpm.

As Miguel picked up the tone-arm of the record player,
Emma asked, “How old do you think this is?”

“It was covered in dust and cobwebs when I found it underneath
the stairs so I am guessing that it is probably pretty old,” Miguel replied as
Emma sifted through the records in the case.

Loud crackling noises erupted as Miguel put the stylus
on the 45. Soon enough, they heard four harmonized male voices singing, “Oh
don’t it hurt deep inside to see someone do something to her…”

“I like it. Do you know the name of this song?” Emma
asked.

“It is called ‘Silence is Golden’ by The Tremeloes,”
Miguel replied as he leaned over the turntable and read the record label on the
45.

As Miguel and Emma stood there and listened to the
tune’s haunting melody and lyrics, it troubled him to see the almost hypnotic
effect it seemed to be having on his wife. This sense of unease reached a
crescendo when, midway through the song, a strong gust of cold air suddenly brushed
past him. As he scanned the room to find its source, he thought that he saw a young
girl staring back at him through the picture window in the living room. But
when he blinked and looked again, she was gone. After taking a moment to assess
what had just occurred, he convinced himself that his eyes must have been
playing tricks on him and then quickly dismissed the incident from his mind.

Once the song finally came to an end, he looked down
at his watch and said, “There is still time to go back to your parents’ house
and get some more of our things. Do you want to come with me or stay here and
unpack?”

“I don’t care,” Emma replied with an apathetic shrug
as she picked up the turntable’s tone-arm and replayed the song.

“Then just stay here,” Miguel replied as he turned to
go.

He had just closed the front door and was about to
open the car door when he caught sight of an elderly couple strolling past him
with their little dog. He stopped and said hello as soon as he saw the gray-haired
woman with piercing blue eyes smile and wave at him.

The man, who was stocky and balding, walked ahead of
her and extended hand out to Miguel as he said, “Hello. I’m George and this is my
wife Casey.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you,” Miguel replied as he
shook each of their hands in turn. “My name is Miguel.”

“I was
wondering when someone was going to move into this place,” George said as his
eyes scanned the property. “My wife grew up on this street. She could tell you
a lot about this place if you’d care to know.”

“Of course,” Miguel replied. “Maybe we can do that
once my wife and I have settled in.”

“Do you know much about the house’s history?” Casey
asked with a look of unease.

“Not really,” Miguel admitted. “My wife and I
purchased it from a bank on an ‘as is’ basis. Did you know any of its prior
owners?”

“I played with a girl that lived here years ago,”
Casey replied. “I often saw her swinging on that tire swing over there or
swimming in the lake behind your house.”

“Was it her family that lived here last?”

“Just her stepdad,” Casey said as she looked away and shifted
from one foot to the other. “According to him, she and her mom just up and left
him one day. I never saw her after that.”

“Pardon my French but that man was one mean son of a
bitch,” George said while shaking his head. “I only met him a handful of times
and believe me that was more than enough for me. More than a few people have
said that he did everything he could to stick it to his neighbors every chance
he got. My wife told me that he just let the place go after her friend left and
didn’t give a rat’s ass about what anyone else on this street thought about it.
It got so bad at one point that the city even stepped in and cited him for code
violations. I don’t envy all the work you’re going to have to put in to fix
this place up.”

“I know that it will take some time, but my wife and I
are absolutely committed to renovating the house from top to bottom.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that,” George said. “It’s
about time this place stopped being such an eyesore.”

“I am sure that you and your wife will be up to the
task,” Casey added with a nervous laugh. “And you’re moving in at the perfect
time. Quite a few young families have moved into this neighborhood recently. Do
you have any children?”

“My wife and I did have a little girl,” Miguel replied
slowly. “But she died in an accident a little over a month ago.”

“I’m so sorry,” Casey replied, frowning. “That was
rude. I should never have asked.”

“It is fine, really. How
could you have known?”                                                                

“Well, don’t let us keep you,” George said. “I’m sure
we’ve taken up enough of your time already.”

“No, not at all. I enjoyed meeting you both.”

“Same here,” George replied as he shook Miguel’s hand.
“I guess we’ll see you around. Have a good rest of the evening.”

“You too,” Miguel said as he got into his car. And
then, just as he was about to turn on the ignition, he heard someone wrap on
his driver side window. He looked over and saw George’s wife, Casey, staring at
him with frightened eyes. He rolled down his window and asked, “Yes?”

“I think there are some things about this house that
you and your wife should know about,” Casey replied as she shoved a piece of
paper with her name and phone number on it into the palm of his hand. “Call me.
The sooner the better, okay?”

“I will,” Miguel replied, confused, as he pocketed her
information. What exactly does she know? he
thought with some trepidation. And why
does she look so scared?

Later that evening, Miguel found himself hovering at
the entrance to their bedroom wondering whether he should come in and lie down
next to Emma, who was reading a book, or sleep on the couch.  After a moment of careful deliberation, he
opted to do the former.

“What are you reading?” he asked her as he slipped under
the covers.

“ ‘Bag of Bones’ by Stephen King,” Emma replied as she
yawned and placed the book on the nightstand.

Sensing a slight thaw in her demeanor, he decided to keep
the conversation going. “Do you think this house would make it into one of his
novels?”

Emma arched her brow as she cocked her head to the
side and asked, “Why do you say that?”

Miguel shrugged and said, “Well, the doors creek, the
paint’s chipped and the basement has more cobwebs then a mummy’s crypt. Shall I
go on?”

“That’s not enough,” Emma replied. “You need something
more.”

“And what would that be?” Miguel asked as he scooted
closer to her.

“The knife-wielding maniac or the creepy monster
lurking around the corner, of course.”

“I guess you’re right,” Miguel said with a laugh as he
reached over Emma to turn off the light. “Then I guess we should be okay then.”

As Miguel hovered above Emma in the darkness, he was
overcome by the urge to touch her. After weeks of self-restraint, he felt his
resolve crumble in the face of this intense and unyielding desire. But as he
pulled her into his arms, his hope that she would welcome his advances crumbled
as soon as he felt her body stiffen in his arms. Still, he held on, praying
that she wouldn’t push him away.  

“Miguel, I’m sorry. I can’t,” Emma cried out and began
to weep. He let go. She cried harder.

Knowing that any attempt to comfort Emma would only be
met with further rejection and tears, Miguel quickly concluded that the only
thing he could do for her now was to get up and leave. And so he did.

#LostSouls, Prologue

It was a sunny and cloudless Saturday afternoon as Eva
Rose Martinez, a lively and strong-willed three-year-old, got ready to try out
the shiny new red tricycle her parents, Miguel and Emma, had bought for her
that morning.

“Papa, let’s go,” Eva whined as Emma, a tall and
slender woman with hazel eyes and wavy brown hair, secured a neon yellow helmet
with pictures of Big Bird from Sesame Street on it to her head.

“Hold still little miss miss or you won’t be going
anywhere anytime soon,” Emma warned.

“I am,” Eva replied with a scowl as Emma checked the
chin-strap to her daughter’s helmet.

“Babe, she is just going to be riding in front of the
house,” said Miguel, a man with a boyish face and an easygoing nature, in his
daughter’s defense. “Relax and let her have some fun. I will be right there
with her.”

Emma pursed her lips and furrowed her brow as she took
a step back to inspect her handiwork. “You can never be too careful you know. Do
you think I should put on her elbow and knee pads too?”

Eva rolled her eyes while Miguel shook his head. “No,
I think a helmet is more than fine.”

“Are you sure?” Emma replied uncertainly.

“Absolutely,” Miguel replied as he hurried his
daughter out the front door before Emma could stop them.

After opening the garage door, Miguel handed Eva her
tricycle and warned her to stay close. She nodded and proceeded to ride in
circles while he gathered up the things he needed to wash his car. He then
headed over to a spigot on the side of the house with a bucket in hand. Eva
followed. As he waited for it to fill with water, he said, “Just stay on the
sidewalk, okay?”  

“But I wanna ride there,” Eva replied while pointing
to the street. “See? No cars.”

“I know, I know,” Miguel said as he knelt down beside
her. “But you know your Mama. She would be so mad at me if I let you do that.
Do you want me to get in trouble?” Eva shook her head and sighed. “That’s my
girl,” Miguel replied as he patted the top of her head. “I knew you would see
things my way.”

Eva spent the next few minutes going up and down the
sidewalk before stopping next to her father and saying, “Can you play with me?”

Miguel smiled. “I will after I get this done. Don’t
you want to help me wash the car?”

Eva wrinkled her nose as she shook her head and said,
“No Papa. You Work. I play.”

“So, is that how it is?” Miguel replied with a laugh as
he dipped a sponge into the bucket just as a distracted teenage boy on a cell
phone swerved onto their street in his red pickup truck.

Heedless of the oncoming peril, Eva took off her helmet
and got off her tricycle to pick up a bright yellow ball that had rolled onto
the street from a neighbor’s yard while her father’s back was turned. The last
thing she heard in the seconds before she was struck was the sound of
screeching tires just before the vehicle’s bumper and grille slammed head-on
into her tiny frame.

“Eva!” Miguel screamed as he ran over to the pickup
truck, which had come to a complete stop in front of the driveway. He heard her
whimpering softly as he bent down and reached out for her little hand.

“Papa,” Eva said in a faint voice. “Hold me. I hurt.”

“You are going to be okay nena,” Miguel replied as
tears began to sting his eyes. “Papa’s here.” He then glared at the teenage
boy, who was now standing next to him looking as white as a sheet, and shouted,
“Call 911, damn it! She is badly hurt.” The boy nodded and dialed the number on
the cell phone with trembling hands while Miguel turned his attention back to
his daughter whose grip on his hand had begun to slacken.

“Stay with me please,” Miguel begged as Eva took her
last breath.

Ricardo Gomez & Hailee Steinfeld. This i…

Ricardo Gomez & Hailee Steinfeld. This is gif for #LostSouls, a 5-part #horror story.

Ricardo Gomez & Hailee Steinfeld. This i…

Ricardo Gomez & Hailee Steinfeld. This is a quote from Part 5 of #LostSouls, a 5-part #horror story.

Ricardo Gomez & Hailee Steinfeld. This i…

Ricardo Gomez & Hailee Steinfeld. This is a quote from Part 5 of #LostSouls, a 5-part #horror story.