“Hey, what was that?”
“What was what?”
“Over there. It looked like a spook.”
“What? Quit messin’ around.”
“What’s a spook?”
“It’s fake is what it is.”
“It’s a ghost. You know, like a dead guy coming back to haunt you.”
“Like a zombie?”
“Hey, shut up.”
“No, no, like without his body. Just his soul.”
“Hey, didn’t I say shut up?”
“You’re not the boss of me.”
“Hey, there it is again!”
“There’s no such thing as ghosts!”
Clara couldn’t see, but she could hear voices. She’d dropped her flashlight some time ago and couldn’t find it, but she didn’t want the voices to find her, anyway, so it didn’t matter if she couldn’t find her flashlight. It would just give her away.
People in town talked about this place being haunted. Kids would dare each other to come up here to see how brave they are or see if it’s true. Her brother and his friends came up here once. She thought it was all stupid. She didn’t know why she was here.
What if the voices were ghosts?
“Yeah? Then what’s that?”
“What? What is it?”
“Probably just your reflection in a window.”
“My reflection! It’s a spook! It’s a girl spook!”
“A girl spook! Can girls be spooks?”
“There’s nothing there. Quit trying to scare each other.”
“You’re just scared.”
“Yeah, scared! Can they?”
“Can they what?”
“Girls. Can girls be spooks?”
“Of course they can!”
“No, they can’t. No one can. Spooks aren’t real.”
“Girls are people, too, you know.”
Maybe it was just other kids from town. They argued a lot, but she didn’t see any lights coming from where they sounded to be. Maybe they’d lost their flashlights, too. Maybe they didn’t need flashlights. Ghosts probably didn’t need flashlights.
Clara wandered into another room. She figured she wouldn’t run into anything since the house was supposed to be empty except for her. And the voices, she guessed. She didn’t want to just sit and wait for them to find her. Weren’t you supposed to avoid ghosts? Even if they, the voices, weren’t ghosts, she didn’t think it would be good to be found.
She was lucky she hadn’t hit any walls yet.
“Will you shut up, already?”
“Look! Look! It’s over there now!”
“Ah! I think I saw her! I think I saw her, too!”
“Jeez, not you, too! Do you see what you’ve done?”
“But I did see her!”
“You wanted to see, so you did. Don’t be stupid.”
“Let’s go look, then, if you’re so sure.”
“Yeah! Let’s go find her!”
“What? No! There’s nothing to find. There’s no ghosts. There’s no spooks.”
“Where are you going?”
Clara saw something move. She guessed they had flashlights after all. Maybe the voices weren’t ghosts. She still didn’t want them to find her, so she moved to another room.
Maybe she should think about going home. She didn’t know why she was here, anyway.
“Look! There! The spook went in there!”
“Spooks aren’t real. It was just a girl.”
“We should go talk to her.”
“Girls don’t glow.”
“Even if she isn’t a spook, we should say hi.”
“She’s not a spook. She probably had a flashlight.”
“Let’s go say hi!”
“It wasn’t a flashlight!”
“You’re both being stupid.”
“She glowed! She’s a spook!”
“What’s wrong with saying hi?”
She saw movement again. It looked like they were following her. Weren’t ghosts supposed to go after people? Maybe the voices were ghosts, after all.
She could hide until they thought she left, maybe. Maybe in the basement.
“We don’t even know her. Why do you want to talk to her so bad?”
“It would be rude not to.”
“She’s getting away!”
“It’s rude to go chasing after a girl calling her a spook, too.”
“She went into the floor!”
“Let’s follow her. It’s probably worse to be rude to a spook.”
“Will you guys, knock it off, already? Hey, wait for me!”
There must have been a hole in the floor, because suddenly Clara was falling. It didn’t hurt when she landed, so she didn’t worry about it. She had to find a place to hide. She could kind of see down here, so it wasn’t so bad. There were boxes and old furniture every where. There had to be a spot.
Clara wandered forward to inspect behind a large stack of boxes to see if there was room for her. There was her bag. She didn’t remember bringing it down here, but she didn’t have time to worry about it. She could hear the voices.
“Hey, there’s a hole in the floor.”
“It’s pretty far down. Do you think she jumped?”
“She’s a spook. She probably just floated.”
What are you guys doing? We can’t go down there. We don’t even have flashlights.”
“Hey, look! My hat! I’m going down.”
Clara made herself as small as possible behind the boxes. She didn’t know why, but she really didn’t want the voices to find her. She had her bag now. She’d go home as soon as they went away. She shouldn’t be here, anyway.
Three soft thumps sounded from the direction she’d come.
“It is my hat! Maybe the girl spook knew and was showing me!”
“Why is your hat down here? We’ve never been down here.”
“I can’t believe you guys jumped. How are we supposed to get out of here?”
“Wow, look at all the stuff down here!”
“I see glowing. I think she’s over there.”
“Hey! Girl spook! Thank you! Thank you for finding my hat!”
“That really was high up. Shouldn’t we be injured?”
“We won’t hurt you, spook. My friend just doesn’t think you’re real.”
“Hey, what’s your name, girl spook?”
“Guys, quit it. What’s that?”
“Where? Girl spook has friends?”
“Don’t be dumb. That, over there.”
“That’s my shoe!”
“I thought I was wearing my shoes—“
“Hey, that’s my coat.”
“Girl, what kind of joke are you playing!”
“I thought you said she wasn’t real.”
Clara could see them. They glowed. All three of them. And she could see them not glowing. All three of them. Or she thought they were them. Same clothes, but all bones, so it was hard to tell for sure.
And then Clara knew she wasn’t going home. None of them were. She found her flashlight. It was still there with her bones where she’d left them.