Lisa Stenton

The Spiritwalkers

Written: Jul 13 2016

The monstrous howl of the garbage truck aroused me from my sleep, as it did every week. Twice a week I would be woken up by either gardeners or a garbage truck, but most often I’d simply shut the window in my room and fall back asleep.

Today, though, as I was teetering on the edge between wakefulness and dreamland, I had that sluggish train of thought that went from ‘I don’t remember taking the trash cans to the street last night‘ and spiraled down into ‘Oh my gosh I have about thirty seconds to jump out of bed and do it before the truck gets to my house‘.

The worst part about running outside in your pajamas is that there is no time to adjust from warm blankets to chilly breeze. I can only imagine how many times garbage collectors see people rushing to get their trash cans out in the early morning, and for that I pity them. A five foot even, tangle-haired and shivering Lisa Stenton is not a pretty sight by any stretch of the imagination, let alone a half-awake one struggling to race against a towering behemoth of an automobile.

I managed to get the trash can to the sidewalk with time to spare. The truck was still two houses down from me. I thought I might as well bring out my other two trash cans while I was outside. It would be too much work to go back inside and dress properly, though, to be honest my feet were freezing.

As I pulled the last can to the curb, the garbage truck finished emptying the first one I had placed and started to coast down to the next house, and that was when I saw something I couldn’t believe.

Behind the truck marched a dozen little creatures of all shapes and colors as ducklings would follow their mother. They looked sort of like the cartoony white ghosts except that most of them had little arms and legs proportionate to the rest of their body. As I watched the truck drive away, I noticed that there were a few more creatures trailing out of the houses in my neighborhood to join the others.

I blinked, rubbing my eyes to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Maybe I was still dreaming. But if I was still dreaming then I might as well investigate matters further.

Running back into my house, I grabbed a coat, slipped sandals on, and just as I was jogging back out the door I remembered to grab my glasses.

Pulling all of these on properly as I once again left the house, I was dismayed to find that these creatures were no longer there. That wasn’t fair at all. Either this was a dream and I ought to be able to have fun with it, or it wasn’t and they had no right existing in the first place. As the truck turned the corner, I took my glasses back off and turned to go back inside.

When I took my glasses off, the creatures reappeared, as if the curtains had been thrown back.

Whatever these things were, I could only see them when I wasn’t wearing my glasses. I felt a grin spread across my face.

Tucking my glasses back into my coat pocket, I ran to chase down the garbage truck.

When I turned the corner, I slowed to a brisk walk, as if I was just out for a morning stroll. I imagine there are some people that wake up in the unholy hours of the morning to take a walk in their pajamas. Inspecting the growing crowd of creatures marching behind the truck, I racked my brain trying to figure out what they were. None of them were over a foot tall, and they were all intent on following the truck.

“Hey!” I called, voice lowered so as not to attract attention. One of the creatures glanced backwards and made eye contact with me, an odd sensation as the creature’s white eyes didn’t seem to have pupils. It stopped walking when it noticed that I was staring at it, though I couldn’t make out any facial expressions.

“A… spirit walker…” it stated, voice tuning up and down like the notes of a wind chime. At its proclamation the creatures behind it stopped to look.

“A what?” I asked. “What are you?”

“Shades,” one toned.

“Ghosts!” another sang.

“Sprites,” a third hummed.

Shivering again, I took a tentative step toward them to get a closer look, and in response they charged forward, surrounding me so I couldn’t move without hitting one. They all stood, staring up at me with the fascination of a child witnessing a fire truck zoom down the street.

“So you’re… dead people?” I asked them. They didn’t seem to be of any threat to me.

“Yes!”

“Not really.”

“Sort of!”

“Sometimes…”

They all spoke melodiously, each only a few syllables at a time and each singing different notes that somehow blending into one beautiful chord. I scanned around me, suddenly realizing that I had forgotten to lower my voice. I noticed a woman in the driver seat of her car discreetly watching me, and as soon as she saw me look at her she immediately turned away. I blushed, remembering I probably looked ridiculous to this lady wearing a coat over my pajamas, standing on the sidewalk talking to nothing.

“Can other people see you?” I whispered.

“Rarely?”

“You can…”

“Not well.”

“Ghosts!”

“Right.” I said, shivering as another particularly strong wind blew down the street. “Look, I’m really cold. Can one or two of you come back home with me?”

“Who?”

“Two?”

“Few…”

“With you…?”

I couldn’t tell if they were talking to each other, but I was impressed that they understood the concept of rhymes. What exactly were these things? They didn’t move, but I raised a foot to take a step towards my house, and the throng around me started to move with the flow of my step. It was unsettling, but soon I was actually able to walk normally without fear of stepping on one. They always moved out of the way just as I put my foot down. I couldn’t feel them, but none of them ever actually got close enough to physically touch me, if they were even capable of that. Being surrounded by them, though, the air felt considerably colder. It was like being surrounded by a hundred ice packs, and my feet were happy to remind me I wasn’t wearing any socks.

When I opened the door to my house, the little creatures flooded in, eager to discover what lay beyond. I took off my coat and sat down on a chair in the dining room. The spirits, as I was coming to think of them, explored everywhere, and I immediately grew a little anxious as to what these things may have been looking for. Some started climbing the furniture, but they seemed to be able to decide what did or did not pass through them, so I wasn’t too worried about them knocking anything over.

“So I’m the only person that can see you,” I stated aloud.

“No!” one crooned. I felt a spike of panic as it walked right through a half-empty glass of milk I had left out from last night.

“Others… can,” another said, voice sort of muffled as it tried to crawl under the couch.

“We see!” another sang. Somehow that one managed to get on top of the refrigerator.

I thought about that for a second. “Why couldn’t I see you before today? Why me?” I asked.

“Spiritwalker…” one breathed, reverence somehow seeping into his tone.

“Glasses!” one stated abruptly, pointing a little arm to the coat I left by the door.

Recalling that I couldn’t see them with my glasses on, I jumped out of my chair and pulled them out of the coat pocket. Inspecting them for a moment, I put them on to see all the sprites in my house vanish from view. They even disappeared from the parts of my vision that my glasses didn’t cover. “Do all glasses hide you from sight?”

“Just yours…”

“Special!” the one that had pointed sang.

I had had these glasses for as long as I could remember. My eyesight had never been the best. People made fun of me in kindergarten and first grade for having glasses. I had gotten used to it by now. My eyesight wasn’t terrible, as far as I knew, but I being nearsighted helped form the habit of never leaving the house without my glasses.

Until today.

“So, you said I’m a spiritwalker? What is that?”

“You.”

“Family…”

“See us!”

Mentally translating what these things were trying to say wasn’t easy. Were the spirits a family? Or were they talking about me?

Suddenly I realized that it was no coincidence that my parents had glasses, too. They always told me bad eyesight runs in the family, but what if it was more than that?

“My parents are spiritwalkers, then?”

“Maybe…”

I waited for another reply, but surprisingly only one of the spirits answered me this time. My parents were on vacation, as they always were early in the spring. The house was always pretty vacant this time of year, but I was starting to suspect that maybe ‘vacation’ wasn’t the real reason they left. Maybe there were bigger things going on that I haven’t been aware of until today.

Then again, maybe I actually was dreaming.

 

 

Suicide Note

Written: Sep 24 2016

If you are reading this, then know that there was nothing to be done. What I do is an act of necessity, and it pains me that this is the only solution. I do not know who will find this first, but to anyone that is related to me, I apologize. I certainly hope you do not come home to this, mother, father. You are still on what I presume to be an important vacation, not due back for another month. If possible I’d like them not to be involved. It would probably be too much for them.

The Foe is upon us, friend. I am the only one that can stop it. You’ll find me in the attic. Please don’t come if you have a weak stomach. XXSAF2AMLJS87F… The sequence continued, but the rest was stained in blood and illegible.

The note was left on the kitchen counter, written on a notebook paper, covered in blood at the bottom. I noticed it when I was pouring myself a glass of orange juice while waiting for the toaster to pop. It appeared to be my own handwriting, and it was apparently days old now.

“Hey, Doc,” I said. “What is this?”

Doc was a spirit that lived in my house. There were about a dozen of them that came and went, first appearing when I discovered them about a month ago, but they weren’t ghosts like most people think of them. Instead, they’re like tiny balls of energy with little arms and legs. They’re kinda cute, really, once you get over how unnerving their nonexistent facial expressions are. They don’t even have pupils for crying out loud.

The little blue spirit appeared, standing on the granite, about eye level with me. He (it?) looked at the note for a second, then looked back to me. “Words,” he stated. None of them ever really said more than three words in a row.

“I can see that, Doc. But it looks like I wrote it.”

“Did you?” His voice sounded like the tones of a wind chime.

“Of course not. I don’t remember writing this. I mean, it’s a suicide note. These are the sort of words you write when you plan on… But I don’t even remember writing this.”

He didn’t reply at first. After a moment, he picked up the paper. It was larger than him, arms stretched outwards as much as they could go. He still couldn’t even lift it off the table. “Seems… strange,” he said.

“That’s what I’m saying. What do you think?” I had been trying to train the spirits for about two weeks now. They aren’t smart the way humans are, but they can do basic things, so I named them accordingly. Doc was the one I talked to about the weird things I saw. I mostly asked him about spirits, but maybe he had some insight into this, too.

“Your writing,” he diagnosed.

“So I just wrote that and forgot about it?”

“Obviously.”

“Don’t be sassy with me. What about the blood?” I asked.

“Your blood,” he confirmed.

“How do you know that?”

“Who else?”

“I suppose. Fetch!” I called into the house. Fetch, a green spirit wider than most of the others waddled down the stairs and into the dining room. I pointed to the glass across the counter. “Orange juice, please.”

He climbed up the cupboards and onto the counter, then grabbed the glass with both hands. “Don’t spill this time,” I added. He held onto it like he was hugging a tree, heaving it up and pacing over. He managed to put it back down where I stood without breaking anything, which proves I am a ghost whisperer. Well, besides the obvious. I took the glass and chugged it.

“So, lets assume I wrote this and forgot,” I pondered. “What was the point? What is ‘The Foe’ and why am I the only one that can stop it? What about these weird letters? There’s no way I just made all that up.”

“Wine breaks head,” he supplied.

“Oh, come on. All the alcohol in the world couldn’t have made me this drunk. Can spirits write?”

“Not like this…”

“You’re always so resistant when I ask about you and the paranormal.”

“Because.”

“See? You’re doing it again. Normal people don’t wake up to read their own suicide note. And even if they did, they’d probably find it the next day, don’t you think? It’s not like it was hiding somewhere. I don’t feel very dead. So what’s going on?”

“I don’t know…”

I sighed. “You’re useless.”

“Attic?”

“What’s that?”

He pointed to one of the words on the page. You’ll find me in the attic. I never open the attic. In fact I had only been up there twice that I could remember. I dreaded the thought of going up there now. Attics always creep me out. Whenever you’re watching a horror movie, bad things always start in either the basement or the attic.

And I don’t have a basement.

The entrance to my attic was a folding ladder that came down from the ceiling. You pull the door down, then the ladder collapses into place. The light to the attic didn’t work (of course), so it was pretty dark up there. I was armed with one of those huge bright flashlights that you can hold with two hands, just in case there were any werewolves or goblins that tried to eat me up there. Doc had yet to verify the existence of any such creatures, but I was pretty sure that if they did exist, they would be waiting to pounce in my attic.

“You know, Doc,” I said. “I’m pretty sure going up into the attic to look for my dead body is probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever done.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, little blue head cocking back and forth like a dog.

“Tell me honestly. Is there anything dangerous up there?” The dark hole in the ceiling loomed over the ladder, unaffected by the light in the hallway below it.

“I… don’t know,” he stated.

I’m not sure what I expected. “Are there any supernatural things besides ghosts like you? Yes or no.”

He didn’t reply for a moment. He seemed upset by those parameters. Spirits sometimes had a weird way of talking. When you get more than three of them together they would often reply simultaneously with slightly different responses, each one true, in its own sense. I tried to keep Doc alone so that confusion couldn’t really happen.

“Yes,” he finally replied.

“So there could be some vampire up there that wrote that note to make me easy prey.”

“…Doubtful.”

I didn’t reply. Taking a step up the ladder, I craned my neck to see if I could hear anything going on. There was nothing. I couldn’t even hear the wind outside.

“If I die,” I told Doc. “I’m blaming you.”

“Note’s already written,” he chimed.

That sent a chill down my spine. It was the perfect trap. Write a suicide note to lure the victim into a murder that would look like a suicide. Burning my house down to kill whatever it was that was lurking up there suddenly sounded like a very good idea. Could I call the police?

But no, there was no way to convince them that I didn’t write the note. I wasn’t diagnosed with any mental disorders, but that didn’t mean they’d believe me if I told them I didn’t write it.

I could just close the attic and pretend that this never happened. But what would the vampire do, his meal having escaped him? I couldn’t very well sleep in this house if there was some sort of malevolent necromancer in here or whatever. Could I perhaps stay in a hotel until my parents came home? But the thought of leaving the house for a month didn’t suit me either. If there was nobody home, who would guard it from new potential scary-things?

Which left me to the conclusion that if my parents had something to do with the supernatural, then I did, too. I could at least face this. So long as it was susceptible to flashlights to the head.

I took a deep breath and ascended the ladder. As I breached the next floor, the atmosphere of stagnant heat asserted itself. There was a little bit of light filtering through the only outside window, so it wasn’t as dark as I had anticipated.

I glanced around before climbing all the way up, making sure there was no immediate threat. Near both the front and back walls there were small plastic file cabinets, along with a few boxes of who-knows-what. My dad always liked things to be extremely organized. He could probably tell you the exact contents of everything up here, even though the attic door was probably opened less than twice a year. Everything had it’s place, and this was the place for things that didn’t need to see the light of day. Except maybe the few beams that filtered through that window.

After I climbed up the ladder and looked around, slowly scanning the room with the flashlight to check for any scary red eyes or maybe sleeping vampires, I found that the result was far scarier than I could have possibly imagined.

Save for the few items of storage, the entire attic was completely vacant. No vampires. No ghosts. No dead Lisa Stenton, or even any traces that anything unusual had ever happened.

Just what exactly was going on?

 

 

Numerophobia

Written: Jan 21 2017

Last Edited: Feb 2 2017

A week had gone by since the scare with that mysterious suicide note. I still hadn’t figured out what that was all about, but it wasn’t from lack of trying. In fact, that entire week was spent on my laptop. Okay, maybe it would have been spent on my laptop anyway, but still. Dozens of videos, news articles, and blogs later and I had found nothing similar to what I had seen lately. I decided to take my search to the local library.

It’s hard to research paranormal stuff. Really hard. A lot of the ‘concrete evidence’ you find on ghosts or werewolves is collected by crazy people. All the videos you find are horribly shaky or have terrible resolution. It’s like when somebody sees something they can’t believe they put their smartphones away and start recording it with their thirty year old camera.

So it was that I was hopelessly perusing the library of anything useful I could find. At least books couldn’t contain obviously fake videos of ‘Bigfoot Seen in Backyard?!’

I pulled another book from the shelf to see Doc’s white, pupil-less eyes staring back at me, startling me into flinching and dropping the book.

“Doc,” I exhaled, kneeling to pick the book back up. “I swear, if there’s a way I can strangle ghosts you’ll be the first to feel my wrath.”

“You’re… kidding,” the little spirit replied, pondering as he tilted his head.

I rolled my eyes. “You’ve got a knack for interpretation, I’ll give you that.”

After that I paid him no more heed. He wasn’t even supposed to be here with me, since I specifically asked him to stay home, but it wasn’t as though I could stop him. I had also gotten into the habit of taking my glasses off indoors, which resulted in mishaps like this.

The book I had grabbed was titled Paranormal Sightings of the Twentieth Century. I immediately went to the end, looking for an index, but there wasn’t any. Instead, I skimmed the glossary and ended up closing the book again, just as somebody walked into the aisle with me. It was a guy about my age, black hair, wearing glasses, and dressed in a button-up shirt.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I’m going to have to ask you to keep your voice down,” he said.

I had thought I was whispering to Doc. Apparently not. I glanced to the spirit that still sat on the shelf. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” I stammered. I pushed the book onto the shelf, passing it through Doc. My arm shuddered a bit at the chill, but I masked it by taking my glasses out of my pocket and putting them on. I took a second glance at where Doc should be if I could still see him. I couldn’t, which was assuring. It was easier to be normal if invisible ghosts weren’t talking to you.

“Who were you talking to?” the guy said, looking behind me and furrowing his brow.

“Oh,” I chuckled nervously. “Nobody. Just thinking… I have an exam coming up,” I lied.

His face lightened up a little. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Do you go to Southview, too?” he asked, referring to the local university.

I nodded. “Anthropology major,” I lied again. I wasn’t used to talking to strangers, and I had a habit of lying in small talk. Luckily, practice makes perfect.

“That’s pretty cool. I’m going into Accounting. My name’s Will, by the way.” He held his hand out. I took it. He had a firm grip. His hand was warm, though that may have just been that mine had passed through a freezing ghost a few moments before.

“Lisa,” I smiled as we shook.

“What’s your exam on?” he asked.

I glanced back at the book I was looking at. What would justify studying a book about paranormal stuff? “Cultures around the world and their views on supernatural belief,” I stated, trying to sound bored with the idea.

“You know, I know quite a bit about anthropology myself. I could help you study if you want. After my shift is over, that is.”

“Oh, I don’t know if I’ll be here much longer,” I dodged. I was about to say I had been here for a while already, but he would probably know that was a lie. This place wasn’t very populated.

“That’s okay,” he replied. “How about I give you my phone number and you can decide whether or not you want my help?”

I shrugged. “I don’t have my phone on me.”

“You mind if I write on your hand?” He pulled out a pen from a pocket of his pants.

I did. It was weird to have a stranger write on me. But at the same time, I got the vibe he would leave if I let him, and I didn’t want to be rude. “Sure,” I said. I rolled up my sleeve and held out my wrist.

He took a few steps forward, clicking his pen and writing ‘WILL’ and a string of numbers under it. When he was finished, he clicked his pen again and put it back in his pocket. “I gotta go,” he sighed. “Remember that,” he pointed towards my wrist. “That will come in handy.” He took his glasses off and winked before walking back down the aisle, leaving the way he had come.

I returned to what I was doing, and after about a minute I took my glasses back off. Doc shimmered into view, and now he was nonchalantly walking along the top of the bookshelves. “That was weird,” I said, remembering to be extra quiet. “I wonder how many times he’s tried that one on girls.”

Doc stopped to look at me. He tilted his head back and forth, as if trying to discover something. “He’s different,” he hummed.

“Hardly,” I scoffed. “If I had a dime for every time a guy tried to hit on me, I’d be rich.”

“Numbers change,” Doc murmured.

“What? Of course they change. Every guy is going to have a different number.”

“No…” Doc shook his head. He pointed a tiny arm towards me. Specifically, to my arm.

I glanced down at my wrist. The ink on my hand read ‘WILL’, but under it wasn’t the line of ten digits I was sure Will had written there. Now, there was just the one digit: zero.

Can’t I solve one mystery before another is thrown in my face?

Every time I tried to learn something about the spirits and all the mysterious things that had been happening, I stumbled across something entirely new. It was incredibly frustrating.

“Doc,” I whispered, still careful not to arouse suspicion in the library. “What’s going on?”

The little spirit cocked his head side to side. “Numbers changed,” he said again.

“I know,” I hissed, then, trying to relax, I took a deep breath. “Why?”

“Magic?” he shrugged.

I rolled my eyes. “It’s not enough for werewolves and vampires to exist. Now magic does, too. I can’t believe this. When will this start making sense?” I buried my face in my hands, rubbing my eyes.

“Numbers change!” Doc repeated, excited now.

I glanced to my wrist. The black number ‘0’ under ‘WILL’ was fading. When it vanished completely, a string of digits started appearing. They were spaced apart in such a way that resembled a date. If it was a date, it said ‘3 26 2017’. I could only presume this meant March twenty-sixth. Why was that important?

A realization dawned on me. Were these numbers changing in response to questions I asked? What had I just asked it? ‘When will it start making sense?’ It was a date. March was about a month away. It was a week after my parents were due home. Was it predicting the future? If that were the case, why wouldn’t it predict the day my parents got home? Was something bad going to happen?

“When was the Declaration of Independence signed?” I whispered into my wrist. I hoped fervently nobody had been watching me.

The numbers vanished. In it’s place, new numbers appeared. ‘8 2 1776’. August? That seemed odd, but the year was right.

“How much cash do I have in my wallet?” I said again. This time, I held my hand down, away from my mouth. It wasn’t as if the ink had ears, anyway, and since I didn’t understand how it worked, I thought I might as well test out out.

After a moment, the number ‘8.05’ appeared. I pulled out my wallet to verify. Three one dollar bills and a five. I pulled out the five to see if the number on my wrist changed. It didn’t.

“What’s the population of the Earth?” I wondered aloud. The old number faded.

When it had vanished entirely, my entire arm started darkening with the dozens of digits. It looked almost as though I had spontaneously grown a tattoo sleeve full of numbers. Anyone that was looking would have noticed immediately.

“How many quarters equal a dollar?!” I asked hastily, trying to get it to stop.

All the ink on my arm vanished once again, and I was left with a small ‘4’ under the word ‘WILL’. I relaxed.

“I guess I should have asked for human population,” I said to Doc, who was still seated on the shelf nearby. “Maybe we should go home to experiment with this a little more.”

“What about Will?” Doc chimed.

“He knows something, obviously. This ink is probably his doing. But I can’t confront him here. I need to talk to him in a safer environment. Find out if he’s friend or foe. He’s a vampire for all I know. Or maybe a witch or something. I guess that makes more sense.”

Doc inclined his head, standing up on the shelf. “Not a vampire,” he said after a moment.

“Yes, you’re very helpful,” I replied. “I’m putting my glasses back on. You’ll have to follow behind me or I’m leaving you here.”

I took my glasses out of my pocket again and put them on. I looked to my wrist to see if the ink had vanished, but it didn’t. “What’s Will’s telephone number?” I asked my hand.

The ‘4’ vanished. In it’s place, a string of ten digits materialized. I had what I needed. Time to go home.

I walked back out of the aisle and started pacing to the entrance of the library. It was still pretty vacant. Only a few people looking for books and even fewer people sitting down to read any.

As I passed the main desk in the front, I saw Will sitting at a computer. He looked up from his work and, adjusting his glasses, winked at me.

I quickened my pace, hurrying out the door. He probably wasn’t a witch, but, as they say, better safe than witch food. Or something like that.

The sun was setting by the time I got outside. I had been gone longer than I’d realized. Only then did it occur to me that if the ink was magical, it might also be temporary. Assuming it would be gone by the time I got home, I had to learn what I could from it now.

“How old is Will?” I thought in my head as I walked down the sidewalk. I crossed my arms, folding them across my chest so that nobody driving or walking by could easily see my wrist.  The number didn’t change. I asked the question out loud, and it morphed into ’23’. Definitely not a vampire, then. I wondered why it wasn’t more specific. Why give me a date and not the time of day? Why tell me in years how old somebody is, but not also give the months? It all seemed so arbitrary.

“How old is Doc?” I asked, scanning around to make sure nobody was nearby. Aside from the occasional car that flew down the main road, there was nobody. Looking back to my wrist, I was disappointed when nothing had changed. “I wish I had somebody to tell me how this stupid magic worked,” I mumbled. Maybe I wasn’t specific enough. “How old is Doc in human years?” Maybe they counted them differently, like dogs or something. Still, nothing changed. Was it because Doc was a nickname I had given him? Did I have to use his real name? What was his real name?

Maybe I could figure that out later. For now, a higher priority was knowing whether I could trust Will. The thought of having a real person to talk to about the supernatural and everything that had been going on was enticing, and I wasn’t about to shun the possibility just because he might want to eat me.

At the same time, though, I couldn’t ask ‘Can I trust Will?’ because it seemed to only operate in numbers. “How many times has Will been arrested?” I instead asked.

A small ‘1’ appeared where the ’23’ had been. “How much jail time has Will spent in months?”

The number didn’t change. Another bad question?

Either way that didn’t give me anything concrete, so I thought about taking a different approach. “How many times has Will killed a human being?” I stated, voice low.

The number ‘1’ faded. In it’s place, the number ’35’ appeared.

 

 

Answers

Written: Mar 20 2017

Last Edited: Apr 8 2017

March twenty-sixth. I woke up with a knot in my stomach. My parents were still away, a week late from their trip home, and I still hadn’t heard from them. I was anxious, but it didn’t surprise me. The ink Will had written on my arm a month ago had told me March twenty-sixth was the day things would start making sense. Maybe this was the day they would come home. But something in my gut told me not to get my hopes up.

I remembered reading somewhere that prophecies had a way of coming true even when they were avoided. If I considered the date the ink gave me to be prophecy, then I would get answers today regardless of what I did. Maybe I would find a book in my parents’ room that told me everything I wanted to know. Maybe Doc would stop being so vague with his answers. Maybe I would go down the stairs only to find a werewolf there waiting to eat me. Life was so full of wonderful possibilities.

But if I sought out my own answers, I could probably fulfill the prophecy on my own terms.

Throwing off the covers, the chill of open air and stretching my muscles helped me wake up. “Fetch!” I called after a good yawn.

After about a minute, the little green spirit walked through the closed door and into my bedroom.

“Pour me a glass of orange juice downstairs. No rush.” He nodded and walked back through the door. “Oh, and Fetch!”

This time he popped his head through the door so that only his white, pupil-less eyes went through. That had stopped bothering me a long time ago. In fact, I found the little spirits cute nowadays. “Make sure to get me a clean glass this time. From the cupboard, not the sink.” I shuddered at the thought of yesterday morning when I drank some unholy mixture of old coffee and orange juice.

As he vanished from sight again, I reached for my phone. Pulling it off the charger where it sat on the nightstand, I unlocked it and opened my contacts. I had still never contacted Will since he gave me his number. The fact that he was a serial killer probably had something to do with it. Maybe he was hunting for his next victim when he came to talk to me. But there was that ink to consider, as well.

“What doing?” Doc said from behind.

Startled, I swiveled around and covered myself with a pillow. Some shield it would make if there were any real danger. He sat on the bed frame, staring at me.

“Doc,” I breathed, relaxing. “How many times do I have to tell you to use the door?”

“It’s closed,” he pointed out.

“I know. But that is the area in the room intended for entrances. It’s really unnerving when you sneak up on me through the wall like that.”

With my heart rate increased, I decided to take this time to actually get up and change. As I discarded the phone, Doc hopped off the frame and got comfortable in the now empty bed. He picked up the phone and examined it in his tiny hands, but there was no danger as he couldn’t unlock it.

“I’m going to talk to Will today,” I commented as I pulled a t-shirt on.

“Dangerous,” he crooned, shaking my phone. I had no idea what his plan was, but he activated the motion sensor flashlight.

“Give me that!” I scolded, swiping it away from him and turning it off again. “I know it’s dangerous, but as long as I’m careful I’ll be fine.” I changed into more suitable pants and glanced into the mirror. After some minor tweaks and adjustments, I definitely passed the ‘Is that a human being?’ test. Well, I would after my hair was brushed, at least.

Looking at my phone contacts again, I stared at Will’s name. It was so weird to have a serial killer so readily available. I could text him any time I wanted. But as soon as I did, he would have my number, too.

A thought occurred to me. I set the phone down on my white, floral themed desk, and crouched to get under my bed. After removing several armfuls of dirty clothing I forgot I owned from underneath, I grabbed my old backpack from school. The binder inside was full of chemistry formulas and English notes, but it was bound to have a blank sheet somewhere. Okay, fine, it was mostly filled with doodles, but whatever. Besides, I was pretty proud of a few of them.

Tossing it onto the desk, I opened it up to the first blank page I found. Going to meet somebody with answers. His name is Will. Probably works at the library. Possibly a serial killer. If you’re reading this, I made a bad call. Sorry Mom & Dad!

Below that note, I wrote the date. Two suicide notes in barely a few months. My life was really derailing lately. At least this one was a lot more ‘Me’, for whatever that was worth.

Still sitting at my desk, I looked at the unsure girl in the mirror one more time. She might be making the biggest mistake of her life today. She was never one for taking risks. I wondered what compelled me so adamantly to talk to him today.

An steady exhale and a string of ignored mental warnings later, it was sent. “Hey, Will. This is Lisa.”

I stared at the phone, watching as the text changed from ‘sent’ to ‘delivered’.

A thousand butterflies filled my stomach. Each one was an entirely different conversation. What if he had nothing to do with the ink? What if it was the wrong number? What if he could track the text back to my house?

But no. I doubted texts were traceable. And even if they were, Will probably wouldn’t have the resources to do it. Still, the anxiety of the immediate future was overwhelming in that moment. A glance back at the notebook on my messy desk sent a chill down my spine. I added ‘I love you‘ to the bottom of the page before leaving the room.

As I descended the stairs and walked into the dining room, my phone hummed with the default ringtone I still hadn’t gotten around to changing. My breath caught in my throat. It was from him.

“Hey! Took you long enough!”

Something innocuous.  I guess it would have been weird to expect ‘Hey! You’re too late to be murder victim number thirty-six, but if you hurry you can by thirty-seven!’. What was I thinking?

“I had to think over your offer” I sent back. The glass of orange juice sat nearby on the counter. It was a bit on the empty side, but it was definitely an acceptable color this time. Still, precautions were necessary when you trusted Fetch to prepare your drink, especially without supervision. A careful sniff indicated that it probably wasn’t poisonous. It seemed he had gotten everything right for once. That was reassuring. The spirits didn’t learn very well.

My phone hummed again. “You asked some interesting questions, huh?”

How could I respond to that? I wondered what he knew, and what he thought I knew. What if the information I had gotten that day wasn’t even the worst of it?

“I want to meet up and talk” was my response. I was nervously chugging the juice, waiting for his reply.

“Sure, I’ll give you my address. See you in 30?” Maybe he didn’t think I knew as much as I did. I wasn’t about to meet a serial killer in his own home.

Having finished the glass, I stood up and walked over to the sink to wash it out. Before I got there, I slipped on a puddle right in front of the refrigerator and fell forward. The glass shattered ahead of me, scattering glass all across the kitchen. Thankfully, I was fine. Upon inspection, I realized that the puddle was orange juice. Apparently Fetch hadn’t performed as flawlessly as it seemed. I opened the fridge to see that he had dropped the carton inside. There was juice spilled everywhere.

“Sparkle!” I yelled.

A moment passed, and a purple spirit plopped onto the counter, passing through from the ceiling above. It stood up and looked at me. “Yes!” she chimed.

“Please clean this mess up. Don’t go in the fridge, and just push all the glass into a pile. Take all the time you need. Got all that?”

The little ghost nodded. I liked this new one. I hadn’t been training her very long, and I still didn’t like her name, since it sounded so childish. I was pretty sure the spirits didn’t even have genders, but whatever. Sparkle was a girl’s name.

Now I also had to change. Again. Luckily, I wasn’t wearing socks. I picked up my phone from the counter. I still didn’t like the idea of going to his house. “I was thinking coffee, actually” I replied.

“I can show you some cool things if we meet in private ;)”

Oh, brother. “Like the sharp end of a knife? I’m not meeting some guy I don’t know where my safety isn’t guaranteed.”

He didn’t respond immediately, so I took the time to look for a change of clothes. No clean pair of jeans left. I was forced to grab a skirt that matched my top. Could I teach Sparkle to do my laundry? Probably not. I would have to delegate that job to a different spirit. What would I name that one? I’d have to give that some thought another time.

Looking through the mirror after I was once again fully clothed, I realized I almost forgot to brush my hair. I was beginning to think I had scared Will away when my phone hummed again. “Your kind has nothing to fear from me. I promise. But if you want to meet, you’ll have to come to my house.”

Your kind. Was he not human? I wasn’t sure whether to be more or less scared because of that text.

Several minutes passed, and my scalp ached, but my hair was straight. I ran my fingers through it to make sure it was perfect. After that, I went back downstairs to put some sandals on. “Your address?” I texted him.

He sent it. Two miles. Too far to reasonably walk. I’d have to take the car, even though I hated driving. “I’ll be over soon.”

“See you soon!”

I dialed 9-1-1 into my cell phone so I would be ready in case anything went wrong.

I pulled into a quiet neighborhood. The single story house had a quaint little atmosphere. It would have been a welcoming environment if there was anybody around. It was just past noon on a Sunday, and there was no soul in sight. Maybe having a serial killer live here was what chilled this place.

His house was the first one down the street. After turning the car off, I grabbed my phone, which still had the police at the ready.

“Hey! Wait!” A voice called as I walked up the driveway. I turned to see Will jogging from up the street. He was dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans. He wasn’t wearing glasses, either. “That’s not actually my house.”

My face reddened and I quickly returned to the sidewalk. “You lied to me? Why would you give me a fake address?”

“Now, now,” he said, voice gentle as he held his hands up. “I had it all covered. I didn’t know if you would actually come or just send our dear boys in blue over. My place is close by.”

“Absolutely not,” I said, taking a step back. He halted, still about twenty feet away. I held my phone up so that he could see. “Give me one good reason not to call them over anyway. I have no reason to trust you.”

“Oh, come on. You wouldn’t do that. You’re already here. You do trust me.” His posture opened up a bit to seem less threatening, despite his argument.

“Humor me,” I said.

He sighed and stuck his hands into his pockets. “Fine. I’m going to be completely honest, here, I could kill you in this very moment and not only would your body never be found, but I’d get a free car out of it to boot. There would be nothing you could do about it. I’m not going to, but I could. If that scares you, you can get back in your car and drive off. I’ll delete your number from my phone, and our paths probably won’t cross again. But if you want answers, I can oblige.”

A breath caught in my throat. I could call the police with the push of a button, but if what he said was true it would be meaningless. Once again, I wondered what he really was. A vampire or werewolf could probably kill me pretty quick. Heck, maybe there were hundreds of things in the world that were even scarier. I was so lost I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. Of course, maybe he just had a gun. “What’s in it for you? Why not just kill me and take the car?”

He laughed at that. “Believe it or not I don’t just go around killing people for their stuff. That sort of thing gives you the wrong sort of attention. Plus, I have a reputation to uphold. I’d much rather have this chat indoors, though. We don’t know who could be listening.”

“Fine.” I grimaced at my phone one more time before putting it in my pocket. Or at least I tried. My skirt didn’t have pockets, and I was wearing sandals, not boots. Being so anxious about today left me grossly unprepared. I had nowhere to put anything. Not even the car keys I was still holding in the other hand. With a huff, I unlocked my car and grabbed my emergency purse from the backseat. It didn’t match my outfit at all, but when in need…

“Got everything?” he asked with congenial smile, no ridicule whatsoever on his face.

I closed the door and locked the car again. Making sure I was all set, I shrugged.

“Alright, it’s just a short walk down the street.”

He started walking. I followed behind, but not too closely.

“You look cute, by the way,” he commented.

“I know,” I muttered, closing the topic before it began. No way was I letting that happen.

I was half expecting him to guide me into a secret door hidden in a tree, or to a manhole cover that led to an underground world. Instead, we jaywalked across the street to an apartment complex. It was both relieving and disappointing. He unlocked the gate inside and led me up the stairs, but stopped once he got to the door.

“Before I let you in, I’ve got one rule.”

“What?”

“No leeches.”

“No what?” Did he really think I had a jar of blood sucking leeches in my purse or something?

“The thing you had with you at the library?”

I scratched my head. “You mean Doc? The little spirit?”

“You named it?”

“Sure,” I replied. “I’ve got half a dozen back home. I make them do chores for me. They followed me around so I figured I could put them to use. Why do you call them leeches?”

He visibly shuddered at that. “That’s just what they’re called. Remind me to never go to your house. Just know that they’re not allowed in my place, okay?”

“I mean, I can’t really tell them where to go. It’s not like I could stop them.”

“Sure, whatever. But they can’t be in my place, got it?”

Was he not even listening to what I was saying? “Alright, I got it.”

He nodded and unlocked his door. I was again disappointed when I got inside. It looked like a normal apartment, even if it was a bit messier than most. The smell of dirty clothes and something burnt wafted through the air. “Sit down wherever,” he said as he continued into the room. “You want anything? Coffee? Water? Soda? Beer?”

“I’m good, thanks.” I sat down on the couch, which sunk much lower than I had expected. A surge of adrenaline rushed through me as the sensation of falling ended as abruptly as it began. From across the apartment I heard a refrigerator door open and close. He returned with a can of beer and a bottle of water. After a polite decline, he put the water on the coffee table and sat down opposite me on the couch. I shifted around, tucking my skirt underneath me to face him.

“So,” he began, cracking open the beer. “Ask away, but you gotta be okay with the answers I don’t give, alright?”

“Fair enough,” I nodded. “What are ‘leeches’? Why do you hate them? They aren’t so bad.”

“Well, they’re technically called fragments. Classified as spirits. Simply put, they’re ghosts that aren’t really people anymore. They’ve forgotten everything about everything and cling to any semblance of humanity they can find.”

“So they’re ghosts. The souls of the dead.”

“Yeah, of sorts. Or at least they were. The older a ghost is, the more it loses. Fragments are kind of like the final stage a ghost goes through before they’re gone forever. They’re called leeches because they soak up anything they can around them. They like getting attention from others, which is probably why they follow you around. You don’t know any better.”

I frowned. “Are they dangerous?”

“Nah.” He took another sip from his beer. “Just annoying, mostly. Not really useful for anything.” I had to agree with that.

“Okay, let’s go broader. Give me a rough image of the supernatural world. What is and isn’t real. How you and I fit into it.”

“Hm. That’s a big one. The short answer is that everything is real, just maybe not in the way you think it is. Unicorns, dragons, faeries. All real. Bigfoot? Sort of. The evidence around him is usually solid, but not the conclusion, if that makes sense. How do we fit into the world? Uh, hard to say. We all have different places. You’d call us both spiritwalkers as a general term, but that only means ‘supernatural human’, really. There’s a million and one different kinds of us.”

“Wait. You’re human?”

“Uh, yeah?” He smirked. “What did you think I was?”

“I dunno. A werewolf, maybe?”

He choked on his drink and had to put it down to swallow properly. “I wish. No, I’m what you would call an ‘Inkmaker’. The humans are divided into factions called ‘guilds’ in the supernatural world. We all have different skills and jobs. I basically use alchemy to make magic ink that does cool things. Like the stuff I used to write on your arm.”

“So we’re all magical? What can I do?”

“No idea. I don’t know your lineage. Pretty much all spiritwalkers can see supernatural creatures, and some beings of the supernatural can be seen by normal people, like werewolves. Things that strong are super rare, though. I’ve only met one myself. But speaking of the ink, I’m curious. Did you find out anything neat about me?”

“I found out you’re a serial killer,” I said, glancing down uncomfortably.

His brow furrowed. “Not really. What was the question that led you to that conclusion? What words did you use specifically?”

“Uh…” Remembering a sentence I had said a few weeks ago verbatim was tough. “I think it was “How many people has Will killed?”

“Oh, that makes sense, then. When you say ‘people’, the ink probably registered that as both humans and spiritwalkers. I’ve killed plenty of those.”

“So it’s true?”

“Sure. I’m sure it’s no surprise that there are evil spiritwalkers out there. My hands aren’t clean.”

“How would you have killed me?” I asked.

He shrugged, a weak smile on his face. “I have a few vials of ink that could kill you if it gets in the right places. Sort of like grenades, really. If you know any sort of martial arts you probably would have been fine had I attacked you. Or if I had just missed.”

“So you lied to me again.”

“Well, I could kill you. In fact, I still can. It’d be much easier now, especially since the door’s locked. But as far as ‘threatening supernatural powers’ go, I’m pretty low on the list.”

“What ‘guild’ are you in? What do you do?”

He shook his head. “I can’t tell you that. You might be in a rival guild.”

“I’m not in a guild!” I frowned. “I’m just learning about all of this!”

“Well, most people inherit their guild. Assuming your parents are spiritwalkers, then you’re most certainly already in one. Pretty much every spiritwalker is.”

“Then why are you helping me?”

“I’m not,” he shrugged. “This is basic information. The only reason I knew you didn’t have it is because there was a leech following you at the library, and no self-respecting spiritwalker associates with leeches. You should stop letting them follow you in public, by the way.”

“How do I even do that? I told you I can’t do anything about them following me.”

“Don’t let them feed off your energy. It’s what they crave, and you’re just giving it to them.”

“What if I like having them around?”

“Your choice, I guess. But the less you tolerate their presence, the less they’ll be around.”

“Okay, let me ask you something else. Several weeks ago I found a suicide note written on my kitchen counter, in my own handwriting.”

He raised his eyebrows at that. “Spooky.”

“You don’t know how it got there?”

“Nope. There aren’t many supernatural things that can do that, but the list isn’t small, either. Course, you could have also just been drunk and written it yourself.”

“I wasn’t.”

He held his hands up. “Okay, okay, relax. It was a joke. What did it say?”

“It was basically written to my parents. It had some weird code on it, and mentioned some sort of ‘foe’. It implied my body was in my attic, but when I went up there there was nothing.”

His expression darkened at that. “Do you still have the note?”

“Uh, maybe. I’d have to look.”

“No, too dangerous.”

“What? Going back to my house?” A chill ran down my spine.

He nodded. “There’s definitely something there. Something powerful. And it’s been watching you.”