Authors: Belinda Frisch
Tags: #Fiction, #Horror
Adam forced the front door. “I don’t know whose it is. It’s a flop house or something. Charity’s always coming here.”
Brea followed him inside where Charity’s crying echoed.
Adam held his hand up. “Be careful, the floors are rotten through in some places.”
The time-worn wood creaked and groaned and Brea moved carefully across it. The living room was empty except for a wadded up tarp and a shadeless lamp that she wished there was power to work. There was no heat, so the place was freezing.
“Charity?” Her name floated from Adam’s lips in a puff of white air. “Charity, it’s Adam. Where are you?”
Charity’s sniffling replaced her all-out bawling and Brea and Adam moved toward the sound.
One squealing rat chased another under a tilted stove that had sunken like an aquarium treasure chest into the sodden floorboards. Putrefied dishes spilled out of the sink on to the broken counter. Brea gagged on the smell and taste of airborne mold.
“Charity, it’s Brea. Will you please answer us?” She reached for Adam’s hand. “I really want to get out of here.” The nightmare came back to her in pieces. The hallway, the noise…
“She’s always down here.” Adam went two doors down the hall and stood in the doorway on the right.”
“Holy shit.” Brea froze.
The brass frame of a child’s twin sized bed reflected Adam’s lighter’s flame. It looked recently slept in and the faded Strawberry Shortcake sheets spilled on to the floor. On the wall above the bed was a latch-hook carpet of a puppy’s face coated in dust so thick Brea could barely see through it.
“Come on,” Adam said, “help me get her out.”
“I c-a-n-t.” The word came out staccato.
Adam tried to coax Charity out of the built-in bookshelf cabinet, but she wouldn’t move. He moved the lighter closer to see her. Charity shivered and wiped the dripping snot from her nose, smearing blood across her chin.
Brea couldn’t move.
“They know,” Charity said. “They know about everything. That’s why they did it to her. They killed my Harmony.”
her soothingly. “It’s going to be all right. Are you hurt? Why are you bleeding?”
“Don’t let them take me, too.” Spit strung between her top and bottom lip and her bloodshot eyes looked up at Adam, imploring.
Brea felt someone standing behind her and quickly turned.
“Help me.” It was the voice from Math class.
“Adam…someone’s here. Did you hear that?”
“They’re coming,” Charity said.
Two loud bangs rang out in succession and Brea dropped to the floor. “Please tell me you hear that.” She curled up into a ball on the floor. “Please…please…”
“Brea,” Adam shook her by the shoulders, “what the hell are you talking about? There’s nothing. I need you to help me.”
to get out of here. Please get me out of here.”
Adam lifted her to her feet. “It’s all right. Breathe. God, you’re burning up.”
Charity let herself out of the cabinet and walked over to Brea. “You hear it, too?” She was ghost white, her face smeared with blood, her breath foul and her teeth rotting.
Brea nodded as Adam wrapped a dusty blanket around her.
“Come on, both of you. It’s not safe in here.”
Charity shambled past them, shaking her head and either crying or laughing, Brea couldn’t tell. “There’s so much she didn’t tell either of you.”
Adam dropped Brea off at home before taking Charity to the Emergency Room for stitches. The blood on her face was from a cut on her hand that she got knocking into one of the broken windows.
Brea thought about what she had said, how there was so much Harmony didn’t tell them, and she couldn’t believe it was true. Harmony told her everything. At least she thought she did, but as she crept back into her bedroom, she wondered.
She changed into pajamas in case her mother woke up and sat down on the new beige carpet her mother just had installed. She tore out the side of the bag where the Ouija board had punched a hole. The board was now hidden between her box spring and mattress where her mother wouldn’t find it and where it couldn’t do anything on its own.
She emptied the rest of the bag's contents and sorted through laundry both clean and dirty, through make-up, and crumpled up papers. Everything smelled like smoke.
“Come on, Harmony. I know there’s something in here.”
She shook the clothes out piece by piece until Harmony’s journal fell out of a wadded up sweatshirt.
Brea held it open and when nothing fell out, flipped through page by page.
There were journal entries dating back almost a year as well as snippets of stories and poetry. One poem in particular stuck out:
Autumn leaves bring with them
Incomprehensible cold-weather conversations
As I walk down the Ave
To a place in my life
That I'd rather not go
Sparse leaves stand proud
And Dream of April's rain
As life suspends
Amidst this frost that is my breath
I hold his hand for one last time
Before I succumb
To the plague of this season
It was dated two days before her suicide.
“Why didn’t you say something before it was too late?” she said as if Harmony could hear her.
She flipped past the random scribbling about Tom and was almost to the back cover when she noticed a page that felt too thick. It was two pages stuck together and when she pulled them apart, she gasped. They were held together by a bloody partial obituary.
obituary. He died at 6 Maple. She hurriedly called Adam.
“Oh my God, oh my God.”
“Brea, calm down. What’s wrong?”
“Did you know Charity was married?”
“I don’t think so, why?”
“I have something I need to talk to you about. Can you pick me up?”
“In about a half hour.”
“Sure, no problem.”
“Adam, one more thing. Do you mind if I stay?”
Adam’s living room was somewhat under-furnished: a dark blue couch, a big screen TV and a couple of gaming systems stacked on a box on the floor, but it was clean and Brea felt safe. She set her bag down at the door and said, “Thanks for this.”
“I still can’t believe Charity was
. Harmony said she didn’t even know her father. How is that possible?” He was still dumbstruck from their conversation on the ride over.
“I don’t know. I have to, uh, go to the bathroom.”
She closed the door before he told her where it was.
“Do you want me to make some coffee?”
The bathroom light flickered and a hazed feeling settled over her. She felt like she was channeling someone, Harmony, seeing things through her eyes, remembering her memories. Brea picked a piece of pink, plastic razor blade out of the garbage can and dropped it when a pain tore through her head. Flashes of Harmony crying and cutting herself blinded Brea and, for a moment, knocked her off her balance.
“This can’t be happening.” Details of Adam’s apartment Brea couldn’t know were suddenly clear. She held her hand on the vanity drawer and said, “Nail clippers and Q-tips.” She pulled the drawer and inside was nail clippers and Q-tips. “Toothpaste.” She opened the next drawer with the toothpaste. “Whoa, what is going on here?” For a minute, she was channeling Harmony.
She opened the door and almost ran Adam over, tripping and falling into him.
“Yeah, fine. The lights flickered and I got spooked.”
“Happens a lot in there lately.”
“I bet,” she said. “Coffee ready?”
It took him a minute to answer, like he was thinking about something else. “Coffee, yes.”
She sat across from him at the kitchenette table, contemplating how to tell him about the ghost.
“Sugar?” Adam slid a glass bowl across to her and handed her a teaspoon. The silverware was mismatched and most of what was in the kitchen looked second hand.
“Thanks.” She waited for him to hand her the creamer. “Did Harmony ever tell you what happened that day you dropped us off at Oakwood?”
“The day you left before I got back? No. I asked, but it made her mad and I dropped it.”
“We had a fight.”
“Did she ever mention Tom?”
“Don’t tell me it’s another boyfriend. I knew about that Lance asshole.”
“It’s not a boyfriend. It was Charity’s husband’s name, Harmony’s father’s. He’s a…ghost.”
“I know this is going to sound crazy, but she said he wanted to kill her. We used a Ouija board because she kept telling me how things were happening to her and around her—things moved by themselves, broke into pieces spontaneously, she was seeing and hearing things—she wanted to find out who or what was causing it…”
“Hang on a second.” Adam went to the bedroom and came back with a piece of paper. He laid it out on the table. It was an encounter form from her last visit with Dr. Reed. “She left it in a sweatshirt pocket of mine.”
“What, exactly, am I looking for?”
“Here.” He pointed. “Hallucinations, circled, paranoid schizophrenia, circled.” They were the diagnoses Reed marked down for billing. “Don’t you get it, Brea? She was seeing things and hearing things because she was a paranoid schizophrenic like Charity. And why would a father want his daughter dead? Does that make sense to you?”
“She never…” Brea held the paper.
“She never told me, either.”