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Start from the beginning!: The Echo - Chapter 1
When the morning sun filtered in through the window, Kimberly awoke to find Lynn wrapped in her arms. She smiled and brushed the hair from her daughter’s face.
The clock read 8:45 AM. She would have to call the school and let them know her daughter wouldn’t be in. Then, she’d have to cancel her own appointments. She had no plans to go to work today. Figuring out what was going on with Lynn was her first priority.
As she went through her morning routine, she listened with a small measure of satisfaction as the traffic rushed by outside. She was glad she wasn’t going to be joining the throng.
When she padded downstairs and into the living room, she saw two pillows and a folded blanket stacked in the middle of the couch. On one of the pillows was a note with only three words.
‘I’m an asshole.’
“I couldn’t agree more,” Kimberly spoke aloud, crumpling the paper.
It hadn’t been her intention to frighten Gary last night. After she’d moved Lynn into the master bedroom, she’d gone back downstairs to call Cheryl.
“Oh, you caught me just in time,” Cheryl had said. “I was just about to drive over there. What happened?”
Kimberly relayed the story, and Cheryl listened, making no attempt to dismiss the experience of the bedclothes brief stab at sentient life. Before the women hung up, Cheryl promised she would pray for both of them and suggested it might be a good idea to call in a priest to bless the house.
When the call ended, Kimberly had gone into the kitchen with the idea of making herself a cup of chamomile tea, but she’d never even made it to the cabinet.
Keeping the light off, she had sat down in one of the chairs and stared into the near-blackness of the room, her thoughts flying as though her brain had been set on 'spin'.
Flashes of each event that had so far happened with Lynn churned through her brain, clashing with the recently reclaimed memories of her father’s abuse. Cheryl’s face appeared all dark brown eyes and golden cross. Paul’s face followed. First, it was an image of him as a teenager, always getting in between her and her father, nearly getting into fistfights with the man in his efforts to protect her.
She saw Paul as he was now, penning the journal of incidents and suggesting the supernatural.
Her brother. How he had punished himself when she’d finally revealed to him why she’d made an attempt on her life. He’d never quite gotten over the fact he hadn’t been there that night.
How much he had changed over the years.
Gary’s face came to her mind. The smile and devil-may-care attitude.
She’d let her thoughts run like that for what seemed like hours, ears alert for any new noises that might come from upstairs.
Eventually, she decided to get up from her perch in the kitchen and settle down on the couch. Still, she turned no lights on, and her body remained alert and ready to react at the slightest sound of distress from her child.
As the images in her mind settled, the renewed realization that she was changing hit her with startling clarity.
She felt like a mother wolf protecting her den. Strong, alive, and ready to tear open anybody who dared come near her and her cub. It had been that precise moment that Gary had decided to grace the house with his presence.
She’d surprised herself by how calm she’d been, and how her new demeanor had affected Gary.
“Maybe now he’ll know he can’t jerk me around,” Kimberly said aloud as she chucked his note into the garbage.
An hour later, she and Lynn were at the kitchen table eating pancakes.
“Are we playing hooky today, Mommy?” Lynn asked, watching as her mother poured a thick stream of maple syrup onto her breakfast.
“Well, I think we both needed a day off,” Kimberly replied, righting the bottle before the pancakes drowned.
“I think you’re right,” Lynn agreed, taking a sip of her orange juice. “I couldn’t possibly have gotten up before 10 today.”
Kimberly smiled at the earnestness and maturity of her young daughter's choice of words. “Do you remember anything about the dream you had last night?”
“Not exactly. I just remember you pulling me out of a dark well.”
Kimberly raised an eyebrow at her. “A dark well?”
“Um...I don’t know if it was a well,” Lynn said around a mouthful of pancake. “Not a real one, but it felt like you were pulling me out of someplace dark.”
“What else do you remember?”
“Something was holding my leg. I kept kicking it and kicking it.”
Kimberly felt a chill as she remembered the “living” sheet. Before Lynn had woken, she’d torn the bedclothes off and thrown them in the wash, forcing herself, as she passed the garbage, not to shove the things down to the bottom of the can before taking it outside and setting it on fire.
“Do you know what was holding you?”
Lynn shook her head. Her eyes drooped. “I’m still a little tired.”
Kimberly reached across the table to feel Lynn’s forehead. “You don’t feel like you have a fever. Do you feel sick at all?”
“No. Not really sick, just tired. Like I was up running all night.”
“Can you tell me anything more about what was holding your leg?”
Lynn sighed and looked thoughtful as she took another sip of her orange juice.
“It just felt like something was holding me,” Lynn explained. “Something cold and hard like…metal.”
“Metal?” Kimberly questioned.
Lynn nodded. “And then, you got it off me. Cause I remember you were telling me it was OK.”
A memory flashed into Kimberly’s mind. “Lynn, you said, ‘She keeps hurting me’. Do you remember why you said that?”
“Not anymore,” Lynn said, face falling. “I remember saying it, though.”
Kimberly’s glance fell on the kitchen counter where the photos from the party sat in a thick, white envelope.
Yesterday, she’d stopped by Amelia’s to pick them up.
“Do you want to see the pictures I took from the party?”
Lynn face brightened. “Yeah!”
Kimberly opened an app that played only meditation music as mother and daughter curled up together on the living room couch. A relaxing combination of gentle flute and rhythmic drum filled the air.
“This one is pretty,” Lynn said, gingerly holding a photograph of Danielle crossing the playscape. “I like her hair.”
“I like that one, too,” Kimberly agreed.
“Oh, wow!” Lynn cried when she got to the one of her on the merry-go-round. “This one is so cool!”
Kimberly was still amazed at how perfect the photo had come out. The camera's focus was on Lynn's face, blonde hair flying, one gray eye peeking out. The rest of her body was slightly out of focus, but you could still make out her small hands gripping the steel bars, her dress swaying in the breeze.
“That’s the one I’m going to paint for you.”
Lynn turned and beamed at her mother. “Really?” She cried. “Wow!”
Lynn continued to flip through the photos, careful to touch only the edges. “Aunt Cheryl looks funny in this one.”
Kimberly laughed at the pose her sister-in-law had struck on the balcony.
The next photo was the one of Mrs. Bellevue, waving her arms as she tried to get the attention of the children below her.
Lynn frowned at this one, tilting her head to one side.
“What is it, honey?” Kimberly asked, puzzled by her daughter’s reaction to such a comical-looking picture.
“She doesn’t trust you anymore,” Lynn said.
Kimberly’s heart jumped. “Why do you say that?”
Lynn peered at the photo as though it contained a hidden message her mother could not see. She moved her shoulders up and down in a kind of half-shrug.
“I don’t know,” Lynn said flatly. “That’s just what the picture feels like.”
Lynn pressed her face into her mother's shoulder as a deep yawn overtook her.
From the angle and the way the light hit her daughter’s face, Kimberly noticed for the first time that Lynn was developing circles under her eyes.
She wanted to ask Lynn more questions about her comment about their next-door neighbor, but she could see Lynn needed more rest. “Sweetie, why don’t I take you back upstairs, and you can lie down for a bit OK?”
Lynn nodded, eyes drooping. She placed the printed photos down on the sofa and held out her arms.
The child was asleep by the time Kimberly had laid her down on a fresh pair of white sheets.
No Dora this time.
Kimberly pushed the curtain aside and looked at the Bellevue house across the street.
“She doesn’t trust you anymore.”
Why would Lynn say something like that?
“Is that what you really saw?” Debra asked. “Are you sure you saw the bed sheet wrap itself around Lynn’s leg?”
Kimberly and Dr. Owens had been speaking for about 10 minutes on the phone. She’d only been planning on leaving a message for the psychologist to call her back and had been surprised to find her available.
“I’d bet my life on it, Debra,” Kimberly said. “Something more than physical, more than psychological is going on here.”
“Well, you sound pretty sure. What do you plan to do?”
“I’m going to continue with the journal. I was writing in it before I called you. I want to keep a record of what she says about the incidents as well as what happens. I want to get as clear a picture as possible.”
Before they hung up, they confirmed their next session and Debra reminded Kimberly once again to have Lynn checked out by Dr. Harrison.
She called his office right away. She didn’t want to continue forgetting.
While she waited for the return phone call, she decided to do some online research into paranormal phenomena.
As she searched the list of online discussion groups, she made a mental note of the ones she liked and continued searching for informational sites.
One of the websites caught her interest, and she viewed their FAQ page.
‘How do I get rid of a ghost in my house?’
Her eyes skimmed the answer underneath.
It suggested asking the ghost to leave in a firm, commanding voice. Kimberly could picture herself now, standing there talking to thin air.
She scrolled down.
Kimberly sucked in a breath when her eyes landed on something intriguing.
Sometimes a house could be accidentally "haunted" by a living person. Some people astral or mentally project to a place while they sleep, meditate, etc., and their personality and thoughts radiate while their astral/mental body is invisible (though a clairsentient might see them).
Wow. Isn’t that something along the lines of what Paul had suggested?
Was it possible that Lynn, in fact, was causing the ‘hauntings’ herself? Could she really have made that blanket appear to come to life?
Did people haunt themselves?
As Kimberly continued to read, she became more immersed in the subject than she had thought she would.
When the phone rang two hours later, Kimberly had already taken five pages of notes.
“I’ll be able to quiz Paul the next time I see him,” Kimberly thought aloud as she accepted the call.
It was Dr. Harrison’s office. They surprised her by saying they wanted to fit Lynn in by the end of the week. Usually, the office needed a least a couple of week’s notice to schedule a complete physical.
“With what you described on the voicemail,” Linda, Dr. Harrison’s nurse, explained, “we'd like to get her in sooner rather than later.”
Glancing at the clock, she was surprised to see it was almost 1 PM.
No wonder her stomach was growling!
It was time to make lunch. She grabbed some bread and vegetables and set about making a salad and sandwich combo for them both.
Kimberly opened a drawer and took out a tray. Setting the food on it, she grabbed a Sunny Delight from the fridge and headed up the stairs with Lynn’s lunch.
She hadn’t heard a sound from Lynn all morning, and she hoped this wasn't a sign that Lynn was coming down with something. With all the stress she was under, it was small wonder she hadn’t already become ill.
Balancing the tray on one hand, she pushed the door open gently.
“Sweetie, are you awake?” Kimberly whispered as she peeked her head into the room. “I figured you might want some--”
Kimberly screamed and fell backward against the door jam. The tray clattered to the floor, and the orange drink popped its cap, causing its contents to seep into the rug and, a moment later, into the sock of her right foot.
Kimberly’s stomach jumped into her throat as her wide, shocked eyes took in the state of Lynn’s room.
Every drawing, photo, and poster had been viciously ripped from the walls. A few pieces of tape still clung to the blue paint, the only evidence anything had ever hung there.
Kimberly recognized Lynn’s favorite poster of two unicorns. It was ripped right down the center, half of it on the floor, half of it still clinging to the wall.
It was then that Kimberly saw the red markings. It appeared to be a word, but Kimberly couldn’t make sense of it.
Limbs trembling, she braced one slick hand on the dresser as she turned to look at the remaining two walls. They contained more of the same markings.
A sudden, rattling wheeze made Kimberly gasp, and her head snapped toward the sound.
Lynn was on the bed, face to the headboard, feet coiled beneath her as she rocked back and forth.
Stepping around the upended tray and spilled food, Kimberly took a step toward the bed, her eyes darting wildly from wall to wall, her mind working overtime to make sense of the large red letters scrawled all over them.
There was a T, then what looked like a backward E. She couldn’t make sense of the letter next to it. Was it a Q?
Above Lynn’s headboard was another backward E, then an M.
“Lynn?” Kimberly called. “Honey?”
The rocking got faster, and the wheezing breath rose in speed to match, causing Lynn's blonde hair, which was completely obscuring her face, to move and undulate as though it possessed a life of its own.
Just above the damaged poster on the third wall, there was another T, then an O, then a U.
Kimberly gasped as the sentence coalesced in her mind.
GET ME OUT
Kimberly saw why she hadn’t been able to make sense of the letters right away.
They’d been written backward.
“Lynn?” Kimberly's voice broke as she put her hand on her daughter’s shoulder.
The rocking, which had been bordering on violent, stopped, suddenly and completely. The head turned in a slow but jerky fashion, as though the neck was going through a series of clicks.
Kimberly squatted next to the bed.
“Lynn, honey, what did you do here?” Kimberly asked, her voice shaking as Lynn’s head continued its frightening jerk along her spinal column.
The child’s head came to a complete stop and her hair moved to the side like a curtain, revealing one cold gray eye.
The eye continued to stare at Kimberly for a moment, and a current of breath stirred the child’s hair once more as she spoke four words that chilled Kimberly to the marrow.
“My. Name. Isn't. Lynn.”