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“So, where is the Norman Rockwell family today?” Paul asked as he took a bite of grilled chicken.
Kimberly chuckled at her brother's reference to Debra and her family. “They're at a Christian retreat in Connecticut. It goes for the whole weekend.”
Paul rolled his eyes as he caught the water bottle his sister slid across the table. He really enjoyed these lunches over at his sister's place. It gave them a chance to catch up.
“I never could understand the point of those things,” Paul said. Then he shrugged. “Oh well, live and let live, right?”
“I think it’s great they have such faith,” Kimberly said, pulling up a chair. “Sometimes I wonder if I should find my own spiritual path.”
“Do you really? I’ve never heard you mention it.”
Kimberly picked up her napkin and rolled it between her fingers. “Well, it's never too late to start.”
“You could join a cult.”
Kimberly balled up the napkin and threw it at him with a laugh. “Don’t you ever take anything seriously?”
“Well, I take what happened at the birthday party yesterday very seriously,” Paul said, the playful smirk slipping from his face. “How is Lynn doing today?”
“She was fine this morning. Gary has her for the day. I think he’s trying to make up for avoiding her before. They’re going to the Franklin Park Zoo.”
“Oh, wow. I haven’t been to the zoo in years. Last time I went, I was so bombed, I picked a fight with one of the monkeys.”
Kimberly’s head whipped around. “Are you serious?”
“Yup. I was in my twenties. I’ll never forget it. I started yelling at one of the poor creatures and got thrown out.”
Kimberly gave him a puzzled frown. “I don’t remember you ever telling me that.”
Her brother shrugged. “It’s not something you usually go around bragging about.”
“I guess not.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to get off track,” Paul said, looking sheepish. “Was Lynn able to offer anymore insight into what happened?”
“Well, the first thing she asked me this morning was if Mrs. Bellevue was still mad at her. I had to explain to her that Mrs. Bellevue had never really been mad at her, she’d been mad at me.”
“That did sound like an awful scene in the basement.”
“God, it really was.”
“Do you know what started it?” Paul asked. “I mean, did Lynn explain what really went on down there? Obviously, Claire didn’t do anything.”
“No, Claire didn’t do anything,” Kimberly agreed, picking up a forkful of salad. “Lynn told me she’d seen a shadow in the hallway and saw it heading toward the stairs.”
Paul’s eyes narrowed. “So, she followed it?”
Kimberly nodded. “She said the next thing she knew, Claire was holding onto her and screaming at her to ‘stop it’. Lynn said she’d wanted to tell me right away that Claire was innocent, but she couldn’t talk.”
“Lynn says this is the worst that’s happened to her. I still can’t believe I shoved Claire like that, Paul. She’s just a little girl.”
“You thought she was harming Lynn,” Paul said.
Kimberly shook her head. She took another forkful of salad, chewed, and swallowed before answering. “It’s no excuse. I was irrational.”
“Mrs. Bellevue seemed to understand at least.”
“Thank God for her.”
“What about her husband? Did he tell you exactly when this alleged ‘inhuman voice’ incident took place?”
Kimberly rolled her eyes at the mention of Howard’s name. “He doesn’t remember the exact date. But, it sounds to me as though it happened the day you came over and I showed you the drawing.”
Paul shook his head.
“He really doesn’t like me or Lynn anymore. You should have seen the looks he was giving us from across the room while Angela and I were talking. I even caught him looking at Lynn a few times as though she were some sort of sideshow freak.”
“What do you think is happening to Lynn?” Paul asked, taking a sip from his water bottle.
“I don’t know,” Kimberly said. “Just when I think I have a handle on things, something else happens.”
Kimberly narrowed her eyes as a scene in the party room played out in her mind.
She’d seen what looked like the two girls fighting. She’d shoved Claire and grabbed Lynn. Lynn’s body jerked against the wall…
She gasped. “Paul, I just thought of something else. Something very odd.”
Now that she had a more sober view of the situation, a piece of the puzzle that had eluded her before snapped back into place with such force, Kimberly felt it would physically knock her over.
“Just as I’d grabbed hold of Lynn, after Claire was well away from her, I could feel Lynn’s body reel backward against the wall again. Just for a second before she went limp in my arms.”
“OK.” Paul didn't appear to understand.
“Oh, Paul!” Kimberly cried, her face draining of color. “Something actually had a hold of Lynn. I could feel it pulling me back to the wall with her!”
“Whoa! Kimber, are you sure?”
Kimberly nodded, pressing her fingers to her lips. She suddenly felt as though her body had been drained of all its blood.
Paul gazed at her, his brow furrowed. “Do you think it’s possible that she’s…being haunted somehow?”
Kimberly’s head swam dangerously. Her next words came out slurred, as though she'd had a few too many glasses of wine. “What. No. What?”
“I’m not trying to scare you. I’d like to believe there is a logical explanation for all of this, but if what you’re saying is true, the other incidents could add up to something more paranormal than abnormal.”
Kimberly sagged against the chair, her meal forgotten. “So, either I believe my daughter is losing her mind or she’s being stalked by a ghost. Which is worse?”
Paul got up from the table and crossed to the other side of the kitchen. While Kimberly watched, he grabbed a notepad and pen from a holder on the wall.
“Okay, help me out here,” Paul said, pen flying across paper. “What was the date of the nightmare?”
Kimberly’s brow knitted into a frown as she looked from her brother’s animated face to the paper in his hand.
“I just had an idea you should start keeping a record of what’s been going on,” Paul explained, answering his sister's unasked question. “Do you remember the date?”
“Um, it was a couple of weeks before school started. August 11th, I think.”
Paul wrote the date down, next to it he wrote, ‘nightmare’.
“You should start keeping a journal. That way, you’ll be more clear on whom Lynn was around and what she was doing and what type of incident took place. You might notice a pattern.”
Kimberly’s eyes widened. “Wow. Good idea.”
“OK, what happened next?” Paul asked. “The drawing, right?”
The siblings went on like this for several more minutes until they had a complete list.
August 11 – Nightmare – Gary moves in, bad thunderstorm - Home
August 12 – Monster Drawing – Play date with Danielle
August 25 – Lynn disappears at mall – Toy shopping with Mom
September 7 – Bruise appears on Lynn’s back – Sleepover with Danielle
September 14 – More drawings, school incident – School
September 22 – Lynn is ‘thrown’ against wall – Claire’s birthday party
Paul studied his notes carefully then handed the notepad to his sister.
“Huh?” Kimberly looked from the list to Paul then back again. “You see a pattern here?”
“These incidents seem to occur on the weekends or close to it.”
Kimberly’s jaw dropped. “You’re right! Do you think it means something?”
“I don’t know, but it’s a start, at least. I would continue keeping a record like this. Get a journal or something, and make it a little more detailed than what I did here.”
Kimberly scanned the list again. “September 7th is when we found the bruise, but we don’t know when it got there.”
“It had to have been that day, otherwise you would have noticed it when she took a shower.”
Kimberly shook her head. “Not necessarily. I don’t sit in the bathroom with her now. I just check on her every few minutes.”
“That’s true,” Paul said. “I forget she’s getting older.”
“You're right, though. She would have noticed the pain when I hugged her goodnight even if she doesn’t remember getting the bruise.”
“That’s something else you should keep in the journal,” Paul suggested, tapping the pen against the pad. “Keep note of whether or not she recalls whatever it is that’s happened to her.”
“So, you really think she’s being haunted?” Kimberly asked, putting the notepad on the kitchen table. “Is it possible for a person to be haunted? I’ve heard of haunted houses, but a person?”
“If one person is being haunted, it’s not a ghost,” Paul replied, his face grim. “It’s called a possession.”
Kimberly reeled back in her chair as though her brother had slapped her. “P-possessed?” Kimberly stammered. “Y-you think Lynn is… possessed?”
“It’s possible. I mean it’s either that or a poltergeist.”
Kimberly stared. “Poltergeist,” she echoed. Even after all these years, she was amazed at how quickly (and calmly) her brother could switch subjects even of this magnitude. “Explain that.”
“A poltergeist usually shows up in a house with children,” Paul said. “That’s quite common. A poltergeist shakes objects or throws them around. They’ve even been known to speak. Sometimes they get lumped into the same category as ghosts, but they’re not spirits of the departed, they are more like entities. Pure energy.”
“Speak?” Kimberly cried. “They can talk?”
“There was a case in 1931 of a talking mongoose. Have you ever heard of the 'Bell Witch'?”
“Is that something like the 'Blair Witch'?”
“They think that’s where the kids got the idea for the movie, yeah. It’s an old legend from 1817. The man of the house supposedly shot at this strange creature that had the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit. He never hit it, but ever since that day, something evil moved into the Bell house and attacked the family. It often spoke about how it was going to kill John Bell, and it did.”
Kimberly suddenly felt lightheaded again. “OK, that’s enough. Really, Paul, a talking mongoose? Part-dog, part-rabbit creatures? What does this have to do with Lynn?”
“Those are extreme cases,” Paul said. “They’re old documented legends, and, most likely, that’s all they are, but still, you asked if a poltergeist can talk, and those are the two cases I’ve heard of.”
“OK, so go on about that one. Why does a poltergeist hang around children?”
“Well the explanation is that it is the energy of the child that is manifesting the events.”
“Okay, I feel like we are talking in circles here. Do you think Lynn is causing this phenomenon herself, or do you think it’s a poltergeist?”
Kimberly's eyes narrowed.
“I can’t be sure,” Paul explained. “She might not even be haunted or possessed or poltergeisted—not that that’s even a word—those are just theories I’m kicking around.”
“But, you believe it’s supernatural?”
Paul nodded. “If I had to make a guess, I’d say either a poltergeist by way of psychokinesis or a possession.”
“Psychokinesis?” Kimberly cried, her hand smacking the table. “Paul, will you speak English? What does that mean?”
“It means Lynn has the power to move objects with her mind.”
Kimberly tried to take it all in. “Well, we’ve already determined she’s a bit psychic.”
In that moment, they both thought back to the incident with the ceiling fan when Kimberly had been standing under when her daughter suddenly cried out, “Mommy! Fan!”
“So, could she be doing this without even being aware of it?” Kimberly wanted to know.
“Yes, but there’s a problem with that theory, too.”
Kimberly shot her brother an exasperated look and threw her hands in the air. “Of course there is!”
“She sees a girl who isn’t there at the mall and follows a shadow down into the basement at a birthday party,” Paul went on, ignoring his sister's frustration. “Then, she draws those strange things. Those activities point more toward either being possessed or haunted.”
“OK, then,” Kimberly said, letting out a breath slowly. “So, basically, we’re no closer to figuring this out than we were when we started this conversation.”
“I gave you a couple of suggestions. If you keep the journal, it should give us something more to go on if we notice similarities in events. Meanwhile, maybe you should do some of your own research and see what you dig up.”
“I can’t even believe this is happening,” Kimberly said, getting up and grabbing both plates off of the table. “I can’t believe I am talking about the possibility that my seven-year-old daughter is being haunted.”
“I’ll do whatever I can to help Kimber, I promise.”
She yawned. “I know, Paul.”
“Maybe you should take a nap,” Paul suggested as he shrugged into his coat.
“Sure, then I can dream about talking mongooses chasing me around!” Kimberly replied, a note of sarcasm creeping back into her voice.
“Would you rather I hadn’t said anything?”
“No,” Kimberly sighed. She scraped the leftover food into the trash and put the dishes in the sink. “It’s not that, it’s just…the scary thing is, you might be right. I mean, I told you about that inhuman voice and, well, if what Mr. Bellevue said was true, I’m not the only one who’s heard it.”
“Lynn’s symptoms, if that’s what you want to call them, don’t add up to one specific diagnosis, either paranormal or psychological. At least not in my opinion.”
Kimberly covered her mouth when another yawn overtook her. “Maybe I should take a nap. I think all of this stress is finally starting to catch up with me.”
“We’ll get through this, Kimber,” Paul promised, placing a comforting hand on his sister's shoulder. “But first, can I ask you one more thing?”
His gestured toward the table with his eyes. “Do you mind if I take some of the leftover chicken home?”
Kimberly turned over in bed and opened one eye. The glowing red numbers on the alarm clock told her it was 6:25.
She sat up with a start. Had she really been asleep for three hours?
As she swung her legs over the bed, a dull pang in her abdomen sounded nature’s call.
Yawning and stretching, she got up and padded down the hall.
A voice from the partially opened bathroom door halted her steps. A sliver of light from the overhead fixture was broken by the shadow of somebody moving inside.
“Honey, just pull your skirt up a little more, OK?”
She crept closer and had her hand poised over the door to knock when she heard him speak again. “I can’t reach it if you don’t spread your legs a little more.”
Kimberly’s brow knitted into a frown as the last two sentences she’d just heard wove into cohesion in her mind.
Her heart began to pound, and a sudden surge of adrenaline cast off the last vestiges of sleep. She crept closer to the door and put her ear to it.
A sniffle came from somewhere inside, followed by a small, wary voice. “It hurts.”
Kimberly’s broke into a cold sweat as the full implication of the words Gary and her daughter were exchanging sank in.
An image flashed unbidden into her mind.
She was fifteen, hiding downstairs in the basement, hoping her father wouldn’t find her. She’d fallen asleep and awoken in the dark to a horror she still could not put out of her mind.
Her father was touching her.
“Gary, ow!” Lynn’s voice rose in a hissing cry.
With the ferocity of a wild animal, Kimberly lunged into the door, throwing it wide.
Before the loose piece of tile behind the door came crashing to the floor at the force of the impact, Kimberly had Lynn in her arms and was glaring at Gary with such intensity, he staggered backward from his crouching position and fell flat on his back.