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child’s toy—what could go wrong?
My First Ghost Hunt
by Kimber Leigh Wheaton
The paranormal has fascinated me for most of my life. In fact I can’t remember when it started or if there was a trigger. What I do remember vividly was my first foray into paranormal investigations. That sounds so much better than trespassing, doesn’t it?
It was a hot and muggy Texas evening. I was visiting my grandmother—she was so lenient, it was scary… but that’s an entirely different story. I loved visiting her because every year was an adventure, though the visit when I was twelve years old might have been a bit more exciting than I liked. We were playing in my friend Becky’s backyard, slow and lethargic due to the heat. My first major crush, Mike, was poking a dead snake with a stick—fun stuff.
It started as a suggestion, turned into a dare, and exploded from there. Visit the haunted house at the edge of the neighborhood. I was game. It beat poking a snake, that’s for sure. With the heat as bad as it was and the mosquitos appearing in masses, inside sounded better than outside. Besides, though my father believed otherwise, I was sure that ghosts were nothing but fantasy.
We made the three block trek to the broken-down, abandoned home at the end of a cul de sac. It was a Victorian, built at the turn of the century (yeah, I didn’t know that at the time, but I do remember thinking the house was really pretty, even as decimated as it looked). The porch was askew, rotten boards poking up all over the place. Windows were broken or boarded over. Oddly enough, the front door was solid and locked. After Mike almost fell through the rotting porch, we decided to check out the back.
After only a couple seconds wading through the knee-high grass, I decided I was better off with any ghost lurking in the house than the snakes, spiders, and scorpions hiding in the grass. But at that age I refused to show any weakness, especially in front of two boys. So I trooped on, praying with every step that there wasn’t anything deadly lying in wait.
For better or worse, the dilapidated back door was hanging off its hinges. The moment of truth had arrived: go inside an abandoned house that was probably the lair of every criminal in the area or look foolish in front of a boy—obviously a no-brainer. Inside we went.
The door creaked and groaned when Greg pushed it open, the perfect sound to start our haunted house adventure. We entered a kitchen that was nothing but a skeleton. Even the cabinet doors had been stolen. A strange smell filled the air, musty but something more. At the time I didn’t recognize it, but now it’s a smell I associate with death. As we passed into the dining room, Mike and Greg had to turn on their flashlights due to the setting sun coupled with the boarded-up windows. It’s amazing how much a little darkness can add to the freak factor.
Scared out of my mind, I grabbed onto Mike’s arm, drawn to the light and his potential ability to protect me from the things that go bump in the night. Arm in arm we crept around the downstairs, our footsteps echoing on the hardwood floor. It couldn’t have been creepier if someone staged it: dirty white sheets over furniture, a dusty old bookcase with rotting books, and cobwebs everywhere. As we passed the bookshelf, something grabbed my hair. I whipped around, ready to yell at Greg for trying to scare me, but he and Becky were across the room examining an armoire. When I turned back toward Mike, he was busy pulling cobwebs from my hair. With a soft whimper, I pawed at my hair, searching for the millions of spiders I just knew were there. Did I forget to mention that I used to hate spiders?
Mike wrapped both arms around me, pulling me into a tight hug. My heart melted at the sweet gesture until I realized he was trying to silence me. Steady footsteps sounded from upstairs. Thud, thud, creak, thud. We stood in silence at the bottom of the stairs, gazing into the inky darkness of the second floor landing. Who or what was upstairs? Mike and Greg both extinguished the flashlights, leaving us in shadows. My eyes strained as I continued to stare upstairs, listening for more noises in the sudden silence. Click, click, click. Thud.
We stood frozen, too frightened to move. A series of loud thuds broke whatever trance was holding us hostage. To my chagrin, Mike shoved me away in his fervor to flee the house. I watched his back disappear into the kitchen before grabbing Becky’s hand and dragging her toward the door. We burst out into the twilight, my eyes darting around looking for Mike and Greg. Those louses were gone. They seriously left us behind to be eaten, killed, or whatever by the menace lurking in the house.
Four days later there was a report on the news about a child molester found hiding in that same house. It wasn’t a ghost after all, but something much worse: a real-life monster. I consider myself lucky to have escaped, but the experience did not leave me unscathed. I developed a keen fear of real-life monsters, one that plagues me even today. It also sent me on a quest to find a chivalrous guy, one who would fight at my side, rather than leave me behind while he fled. I’m happy to say that those guys do exist, so if you haven’t found yours yet, keep looking.
But most of all, this experience cultivated an interest in paranormal hunting that has grown with me. While it’s true that I’ve never experienced anything that I can definitively label as paranormal, I refuse to give up. Life is full of mysteries, and one of the joys in my life is pursuing them.
I sense movement, and in the next moment Tracy throws herself at the barrier, a screaming, howling banshee. She fights against the magic barring her. Static electricity sparks through the room, zooming around, visible in the darkness. I push Kacie behind me as the manic ghost continues her relentless assault on the barrier. A deafening boom reverberates through the room, followed by a wave of energy. I push Kacie down, falling on top of her to shield her from the ghost’s wrath. Pain lances up my back like thousands of cat claws, making me cry out both in shock and pain. I glance back—Samson and
Delilah hiss their displeasure at Tracy, their claws digging into my back.
The claws retract when I yell at them, and all the other pain surfaces. Ignoring the throbbing in my ribs, I roll to my side to free Kacie, sending the cats leaping away. Tracy lets out one last anguished wail before slumping and falling to the floor. My familiars circle her prone body, mouths open, scenting the air. The heaviness in the air lessens, but I continue to take in shallow breaths to keep from aggravating the pain. I watch Tracy, searching for… well not signs of life, but existence? Her form flickers like an old movie, and I wonder if she’ll just wink out of existence.
“Is she…” Blake trails off, pushing himself up on his elbows. “That was quite a blast. You both okay?”
“Yeah,” Kacie says, rubbing her head.
“Where’s Mr. Kincaid?”
“Out here,” Mr. Kincaid says from the hall. “I got out just before the explosion.”
“Logan…” Kacie pulls on my arm while pointing at Tracy’s prone form. “I’ve never seen, I mean, she can’t…”
“Her spirit would’ve disappeared if she was destroyed.” I try to struggle to my feet but give up, sagging back down.
Kacie leans against me, and I wrap my arms around her.
Blake eyes us. “You two are not okay.”
“When Tracy forced the barrier, she released a lot of psychic energy,” I say, resting my cheek on Kacie’s head.
“It drained all of us, not just her,” Kacie adds.
“I feel fine,” Blake says stretching his arms over his head.
“Yeah, why is that?” I ask, unable to hide the genuine surprise from my voice.
“Rebecca will be thrilled,” Kacie says.
Blake raises his brows. “Why, she like stamina?”
Kacie giggles. “Get your mind out of the gutter, Blake. She likes researching puzzles.”
“Oh, no. I ain’t no one’s guinea pig.”
Tracy’s spirit releases a soft sigh, like a light exhale of breath… if ghosts could breathe. She floats to her feet as though controlled by invisible strings. Still solid, her dark eyes scan the room. A smile crosses her face when she realizes that she made it through the psychic barrier. All I can do is stare at the ghost and wonder what that mysterious smile means. Maybe she’s as drained as we are. Kacie squeezes my hand, her aura flickering from exhaustion. I meet her gaze. Evade and stall for time to recover—I try to send the message to her in my expression.
“Now that you’re in here, love,” Blake says, gesturing at the room. “Care to share why you wanted in so bad?”
Tracy blushes at Blake’s obvious flirting. I had no idea a spirit could blush, even one who appears as human as she does. I mean, it takes blood to blush, right? More manipulation? She glides to one of the beds and reaches out to it. Her hand goes straight through. When she tries again, she lets out a frustrated growl as her hand once again passes
through the mattress.
“I can’t touch anything?” she says, her words sounding more like a question than a statement.
One moment she’s by the bed and the next she appears inches from Blake’s face. He doesn’t flinch, which I have to admit is rather impressive. I’m pretty sure even I’d have reacted to her sudden appearance.
“Are you really a werewolf?” she asks, leaning so close they’d touch were she human.
“Yep.” Blake manages a blank face as the ghost circles him.
“Shift for me.”
“It ain’t a full moon, love,” he says, shrugging his shoulders. I’m well aware that Blake can shift whenever he wants. He’s a born alpha werewolf, not a bite victim. Blake’s features take on a look of complete innocence. Damn but he can rival Kacie and Daniel in the acting department. “Why’re you deflecting attention from that bed? What’s under that
“Nothing,” she says, backing away, shaking her head furiously.
“Now we both know that ain’t the truth.” Blake saunters over to the bed and lifts the mattress.
“Now what have we here?” Blake tosses a small book to me.
I open the book and flip through the pages. “It’s a journal.”
“It’s mine!” Tracy howls, making a grab for the book. But her hand passes through. She may have enough power left to look almost human, but not enough to manipulate physical objects.
Kacie takes the book, hugging it to her chest. “This is very private, but it could also be what’s keeping you from moving on.”
Tracy’s form flickers and sinks to the floor. She returns to an ethereal, misty spirit, and I can’t help but notice how much lighter she is now than before. Swirling white and light gray misty energy compose her figure, a sure sign that she’s close to acceptance of her fate.
“I’ll talk, but just to you,” she says, pointing at Kacie.
“No,” I say, unwilling to leave Kacie alone with this dangerous adversary.
“Of course,” Kacie says, directing a glare at me.
YA author with a soft spot for sweet romance. In addition to writing, she works
as an editor for two publishers, as well as select indie authors. She is
married to her soul mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three
dogs and lots of dragons. Kimber Leigh is addicted to romance, video games,
superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order. (If she has
to choose, she’ll take a chocolate covered superhero!) Winner of the 2014
Rising Star Award at the BTS Red Carpet Awards in NOLA & a Silver Medal for
YA Mystery/Horror in the 2015 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards.
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