From where I stood at the bottom of the staircase, I could only see the simple wooden door that I knew would open into the attic. In the three months since I inherited the old Victorian and set about in my attempts to restore it, I still hadn’t found the nerve to climb those steps to discover what treasures from my family’s past may await in the most mysterious of all the rooms in my new home. The closest I had come to venturing into that space was the day I made the decision to invite the spirits down to tell me their stories.
Eventually, I would need to succumb to the curiosity that filled me, walk up those dreaded steps, and turn the knob to the other side. I needed to understand the house and my history as much as I needed to understand the other inhabitants of it.
For now, I was content to allow them to come to me. I’d been left with mixed feelings after my encounter with Agatha. I wasn’t sure I was ready for the stories the others might tell me. But as the minutes crept onward, my anxiety slowly changed to disappointment. Tonight’s visitor only had a twenty minute time frame to show himself and that time was quickly dwindling.
So here I stood staring at the mysterious door and wondering if I dare open it when suddenly the sound of giggling interrupted my thoughts and made me jump. I spun around on my heels to pinpoint the sound of the laughter.
“Try to find me,” said the voice of a little boy.
“Who is there?” I called out. My question prompted more giggling. I followed its sound down the long, dimly lit hallway until I reached one of the last bedroom doors on the right. It was partly open so I only needed to give it a gentle push.
Benjamin sat on the floor with his legs criss-crossed He looked up at me with large, dark eyes and an endearing smile. He couldn’t have been older than four.
“Do you want to play?” he asked me.
He was referring to the train set laid out at his feet and despite the fact that I knew I was communicating once again with one of the deceased, it was difficult to refuse his invitation. I joined him on the floor and reached out to push the little train engine as I made choo choo sounds. This delighted him and he giggled and rocked back on his heels clasping his hands together.
“It’s been a long time since someone has sat to play with you, hasn’t it?”
“Yes,” he said, suddenly sad and serious. His essence once bright and clear started to cloud and distort. “When Mommy went away, I had no one left to play with me.”
“You lived here with just your mommy?”
“No, I didn’t live here,” he said shaking his head until I feared it would roll from his shoulders.
“Oh. I thought maybe Agatha may have been your mommy?”
Benjamin stood and studied me with very curious, distrustful observation.
“I wasn’t allowed to live here,” he said at last, so quietly that I almost didn’t hear him.
I took a deep breath as I planned my next question but Benjamin took off running before I could have the chance to ask it.
“Wait,” I called out to the flashing ball of glowing light, “I thought you wanted to play?”
“Find me!” His voice echoed through the empty rooms, bouncing off walls and surrounding me. “You’re it!”
“Hide and seek,” I said with a sigh. Sadly, it was a game I’d never been very good at and I felt that Benjamin had an unfair advantage being a ghost.
I opened doors as I frantically searched the entire length of the long hall. Each room greeted me with emptiness with only the ethereal sound of giggling filling my head from somewhere in the distance. I cursed under my breath when I glanced at my watch and realized I only had about five minutes until our time was up.
“Benjamin, where are you?” I called out.
“Shhhh…” Benjamin said as he materialized before me with his index finger over his lips for emphasis. “He’ll hear you and get angry. He can’t know I’m here.”
“Come with me.”
I felt his small hand, icy cold, as it slipped into mine. It barely had substance or weight but his will pulled me forward and I let him lead me down the main staircase and around the bend. We stopped short in front of the grand piano that had been here before I moved into the house.
“What is it you want me to see here?”I whispered. I looked down into his tear-filled eyes and my heart broke with the pain of his pain.
“Mommy, wasn’t here to make him stop,” he said.
“He found you,” I said, realizing in that instance that this is where the inevitable had happened.
Benjamin nodded in affirmation and as much as I could manage, I knelt down to try to gather his little body to mine, to hold him close, and to take away that pain.
“And I know he is the one who made Mommy go away, too.”
I shuddered as fear shook through me. Benjamin wavered and slowly disappeared right before my eyes leaving me alone. The piano began to play a slow, sad song and not for the first time since moving into the big, old house, I wondered if I had made the right choice.
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