Read A Strange There After Online

Authors: Missy Fleming

Tags: #ghosts, #paranormal, #savannah, #haunted house, #series, #ga, #body swap, #desperation, #paranormal investigator, #ancestor, #alliances, #happily never after, #missy fleming, #savannah shadows, #a strange there after, #dangerous entity, #dark presence, #talk to ghosts

A Strange There After (3 page)

Jackson’s words festered and boiled as I
stalked Abby across town. In my mind, this battle wasn’t a lost
cause, not when my body walked and talked. I figured if anyone
might be able to help me it was Abby. Due to my gaps in time, my
forgetfulness, I didn’t even know if she’d been to visit me before
today. I assumed she had. Why wouldn’t she? And had Catherine
ignored her more than once?

The day was bright and beautiful. Wispy
clouds were painted across the sky. Savannah glowed in all its old
glory. Many referred to it as a city built upon its dead. So many
battles were fought here over the years, and corpses had often been
buried where they fell then covered further with houses and
businesses. Appropriate place for me, I reckoned. Luckily, I didn’t
have to worry about getting lost. My eyes rarely strayed from my
best friend’s back.

“All those times we worried something would
follow us home from one of our investigations and here I am,
stalking you,” I teased, not caring she didn’t hear me. “Funny how
things turn out. From a sensitive who can see ghosts to a ghost who
is a sensitive.”

It wasn’t until she stopped at a crosswalk,
and I almost ran into her, that Abby suspected she might not be
alone. Her blue eyes peeked over her shoulder as she scanned the
empty sidewalk. Well, empty except for me. My lips twitched,
begging to be let free in a grin, and I complied. Especially since
she kept glancing behind her with a panicked expression as she
picked up the pace the closer she got to her home, her long legs
lengthening the distance between us.

I easily recalled Abby’s house, her bedroom
with the dark purple paint on the walls and a UFO poster sporting
the words “I’m a Believer”. I used to spend so many afternoons
there, avoiding my step-family and the salon where Marietta
overworked and underpaid me. Almost more than the attic in my
house, I considered Abby’s a sanctuary. I used to sit at the table
and eat with her and her mama and roam freely through their house
as if it were my own, without fear of repercussions.

Abby practically rushed up the front steps
and dashed inside. I paused before going in, nostalgia washing over
me. With her mother working night shifts, I knew Abby would be
alone, so I stepped through the door. Upstairs, at the end of the
hall, I paused in front of her bedroom door. Pictures of us greeted
me, pulling an ache from my motionless heart, and I slipped into
the room.

A sigh of relief escaped me. I was here. Now
what?

Abby hunched over her computer, already
plugged in and scanning through pictures from our last paranormal
investigation. Tears pricked my eyes when she paused on a photo of
the two of us laughing, camera held at arm’s length in front of us.
Her finger touched the screen.

“What is going on with you, Quinn?” Her full
lips pursed into a scowl.

I took a moment to recover, soaking in the
sight of her. Round cheeks, blonde hair with just the ends tipped
pink, a new piercing in her ear. She wore her favorite Paramore
sweatshirt, our favorite band, with a pair of black cargo shorts as
well as her hot pink Converse shoes. And a cast on her arm? Wait a
second. Shifting closer, I studied the purple cast on her forearm.
From the frayed, dirty edges, she’d been sporting it for a while.
Skulls and flowers decorated the hard material, courtesy of Abby’s
own hand. I recognized her artwork anywhere.

“What in blue blazes happened to you,
Abby?”

She didn’t reply. Not that I expected her to,
but secretly, I hoped. Once in awhile, she detected spirits when we
investigated places.

“Oh my gosh, you have no idea how happy I am
to see you. Wait until you find out what I’ve been through,” I
babbled on. It felt normal. And I didn’t realize until then just
how deeply I missed my best friend.

Surveying her room, I expected something to
be different, but realized it was me who’d changed. She had her
favorite candle burning in the corner, next to her bed, bought from
Element, a funky store downtown. The scent barely penetrated the
fog messing with my senses. Outside her window, night began its
slow crawl across the city, but only one person reflected in the
glass—Abby.

Once I felt strong enough to attempt reaching
out to her, I ambled to her desk and stood a couple feet from her
left shoulder. I chewed on my lip as I searched for a way to let
her know I was there.

“You have to work with me on this,” I
explained before taking a deep breath and shouting at the top of my
lungs.

The only response I got was Abby scratching
her ear and humming as she opened another file and flicked through
a new set of images, which appeared to have been taken during a
solo investigation. It felt wrong to know she went out on her own,
without me. Another burning hole of jealousy formed inside me,
adding to the list of things I missed out on.

I tried to whack her upside the head, hoping
the movement at least disrupted the air nearby. It didn’t work. My
palm passed through her skull, which grossed me out.

Dancing in place, laughing, I shook my hand
out and repeated, “Gross, gross, gross.”

Then I froze. Finally, I was acting like
myself. Ever since the night in the cemetery, I’d been so angry and
hurt, flipping from one mood to the next. In this familiar space,
with my best friend, I was a normal teenage girl, not a freaky
misplaced ghost. Well, apart from probably touching her brain. I
reveled in the rightness of the moment before frustration came
crashing back in.

“Great,” I growled at Abby. “Some paranormal
investigator you are.”

Something clicked. Of course, I needed more
energy! I scoped out the area, looking for anything to draw from,
but all her cameras and stereos were off. I might be able to use
her computer, but I didn’t want to corrupt her files and
accidentally delete her work. My gaze landed on the lamp sitting on
her desk. Worth a shot.

Stepping closer, I concentrated on the small
aura of energy pulsing off it, pulling it into me. It wasn’t much,
but eventually the light began to dim and flicker. Abby glanced up,
her thin brows furrowed in confusion. Excited, I also drew on the
air around us, praying she’d feel the cold spot it created. Due to
all my sulking I hadn’t really experimented with my abilities as a
ghost. Feeling stupid over waiting so long I focused harder,
determined to draw a reaction from Abby.

Warmth spread into my limbs chasing away the
constant cold. I glanced down. My arms looked solid, real. The
sight pulled a smile from me. Then I tuned my attention on my
friend, willing her to sense me.

Finally, she pushed to her feet. “Holy crap,
is someone with me?”

“Yes, you dork,” I mumbled.

Abby scrambled into action, digging into her
desk drawer and coming up with a silver digital recorder. She
punched record and set it on the end of her desk.

“Oh, boy. Okay. Something must have followed
me home. Where is Quinn when I need her?” My heart soared. “If you
can hear me, speak into this red light.”

Feeling mischievous, I lowered my voice and
growled, “I’m the ghost of Christmas past.”

She didn’t respond, just pushed her hair from
her forehead and stared through me. Unfortunately, my stupid joke
used up a lot of my valuable energy. The warmth began to fade
quickly.

“I can help you. Tell me what you need.” She
picked up a small digital camera and snapped a picture in my
general direction.

Rolling my eyes, I leaned closer to the
recording device. “It’s your best friend, Quinn Roberts. Don’t
believe Catherine. She stole my body.” I was growing weaker, my
voice coming out quieter with each word. “She’s not me. I’m stuck,
Abby. I’m a ghost.”

I sounded so far away, even to myself. I
noticed my feet becoming translucent again. Crap. With the window
of opportunity closing, forced pleas clawed from my throat.

“Come find me!”

Abby’s wide eyes stayed fixated on the space
next to me.

My energy evaporated, the warmth along with
it, and any chance of being heard vanished. The atmosphere in her
room returned to normal. I could only hope my voice imprinted on
the digital recorder. Abby reached over and switched the device
off, fumbling with the buttons at first. It startled me to see her
affected by the encounter. Apparently, she didn’t get many ghosts
in her room. Lucky girl.

She glanced at the bedside clock. “Crap. I’m
gonna be late for work. Stupid late shift.”

Flinging the recorder into her cavernous
purse, she flipped off the lights and rushed out the door. I stood
rooted to the floor and gaped after her. Not exactly the reunion I
dreamed of.

Around me, the room faded. Actually, it was
me who became nothing. Slowly, more and more of me disappeared.
Darkness encroached, beginning at the edges of my vision and
enveloping me. The thought crossed my mind to be scared, but I’d
sapped my energy by trying to communicate with Abby.

When I opened my eyes, I found myself in the
attic, exactly where I started my day. Confusion knotted my brows
as I sat up and glanced out the window. To the east, the sky was
beginning to lighten, indicating dawn. Somehow, I missed an entire
night. It didn’t seem possible. I rose and went to look outside,
hoping to clear some of my muddled thoughts. At least I remembered
I was a ghost this time.

I wondered why I ended up here of all places.
True, it’d always been my sanctuary, more so the last five years.
When my stepmother, Marietta, forced me to move up here, not long
after Daddy died, I discovered I felt at home in the cluttered
space dominated by boxes and furniture, relics of generations of
the Roberts family. Through the years, I carved out a living space
and managed to sort through decades of history. Tucked away,
ordered to live in a dusty attic—another similarity I used to joke
about sharing with Cinderella.

As the shadows lightened, I thought about
Jason. His complete acceptance of Catherine tore me apart. Granted,
she was good. When I watched her, it was like seeing a movie with
me as the star. I forgot it was her. How could I blame him for
caring about me? I had to cling to that truth, or else I’d go mad
with jealousy and hate. I’d find a way to show him who she truly
was. I had nothing but time.

Movement from the rear of the huge yard
caught my eye. I strained to see what it was, and the hair on my
arms pricked, telling me it wasn’t natural. The shape was
distorted, definitely inhuman. Its gait not smooth. It loped and
limped along, large and hulking. Amber slits cut through the opaque
figure. The gaze was chilling, invisible daggers reaching toward
me, focusing with intensity. The longer I stared, the more its
shape shifted to resemble a person.

The figure terrified me, and I knew without a
doubt it was evil, but at the same time, I desired to know more.
Maybe it could answer some questions, give me insight. The twisted
body passed behind a tree and disappeared. I pressed closer to the
window, so close I practically hung through it and scanned the
grassy area. Nothing. I blew out a breath in frustration, an action
that should have fogged up the glass. What was the figure? I’d
never noticed it, in all my years growing up here, and instinct
warned me to fear it.

I was about to give up and move away, but the
large black mass darted into my field of vision, right on the other
side of the window pane, thirty feet off the ground. I leapt back
in terror as a face filled my sight.

Grey skin, twisted features and the jaw hung
to the left as if knocked loose. A dark, tangled mop of hair
floated in an invisible breeze. The figure’s nose was missing, as
well as most of its teeth. A black hole dominated one of the
cheeks, but the eyes stole my breath, my senses. At first, I
thought they were inky voids. Until they blinked, revealing amber
slits that stared at me, into me.

Its mouth opened, and fright seized my
throat. I tried not to look. Irrational fear told me if I looked,
I’d be swallowed. I’d disappear. But I couldn’t move. The hideous
being wheezed through the mangled nose, a sound similar to nails on
a chalkboard.

Then a hand as gnarled and disfigured as the
rest of it reached out. Bony digits sank through the glass, a high
pitched scream emitting from that terrible mouth. I scrambled
backward, frantic to escape, and tripped over my feet. Hitting the
floor, my last memory was those skeletal fingers coming for me.
Everything went black.

 

 

Chapter
Four

 

I am a ghost. I am a spirit. Remember. I am
a ghost. I am a spirit. Remember.

The mantra played in my head as I scanned my
surroundings—the attic, of course. Impossible to escape the dang
place. No matter how much comfort the space gave me, I longed for
an occasional change of scenery. Plus, how it got to be afternoon
stumped me. Luckily, or unluckily depending on a person’s point of
view, I didn’t have the same problem I did yesterday. I knew what I
was. Time proved to be my new enemy. It kept slipping away.

Did I actually pass out? Twice in less than
twelve hours. How very ‘southern belle’ of me. I rolled my eyes,
hating how crazy ghost-life made me.

The last thing I remembered was trying to
scramble away from the hideous
thing
floating outside my
window. Never in my life had I seen such a disturbing sight. It
spoke to me. Female, I realized, now that my powers of observation
weren’t so preoccupied. The memory of the encounter filled me with
trepidation, and I shuddered. The image would stay with me until
the day I died, no pun intended. Curiosity burned brighter than the
warning sign flashing ‘leave it alone’. I had to find out what it
was, why I hadn’t sensed it until last night.

“Probably what Catherine really looks like,”
I muttered gleefully.

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