This was a new effect. The markings on her shoulders, back, sides, chest, and abdomen warmed as the spirit drew closer, but as she watched, it moved aimlessly about, like a dog searching for the source of a scent. At one point it drew close enough that she could have reached out and allowed the power of the sigil tattooed into her right palm to burn it from this place of existence, or simply ward it off. But she was intrigued by this sudden development, since the ability she’d had since her 10th birthday had never manifested in this manner before. Her ‘bleeding effect’ that took place when feeling the powerful emotions that were in a sense what the living left behind, could reveal ghostly figures, but it had never protected her before.
As the spirit continued to wander about, its malevolent stare unfocused as it sought her out, Miranda couldn’t help but wonder if her ability could do even more than this.
Glancing around the room at the inert forms of her protectors, her family, and the foolish ghost hunters that had begged for the chance to witness an actual supernatural appearance, Miranda didn’t figure that it would be wise. She’d relied on the Catholic priest currently lying unconscious against the far wall to be her spiritual guide as well as her protector, as his research into the occult and unconventional methods had been a lifesaver over the years. As the spirit continued to search for her though, Miranda’s eyes widened slightly as she saw the telltale signs of the spirit fading from view once again, which mean that as she glanced down, her own body began to reappear as she was expecting.
There you are…crooned the hideous, squealing voice of the spirit. Miranda looked up just in time to see the thing gliding towards her, its baleful gaze seeking to undo her as her blood ran cold.
* * *
5 years ago…
“What’s wrong Rand?”
She wanted to answer her mother, but Miranda didn’t know how to tell her about what she’d seen upon blowing out the candles on her cake, nor did she know what it meant. A few of the other kids had seen the same thing she had and had tried to point it out, but the moment they’d attempted to get others to see it, the apparition had been gone.
“Mom, am I crazy?”
Her party had ended a short while ago, and despite the fact that her friends were still around and busily talking about thing that young girls enjoyed in her room, Miranda had been restless. She hadn’t tried to think about what she’d seen too much in the last few hours, especially since people might think she was nuts. But after telling her friends that she was going to the kitchen to get a few snacks, she’d sought out her mother, though she wasn’t hopeful about the results of this choice.
“Why would you ask that Rand?”
It was a better answer than she’d been hoping for, since some parents had a horrible habit of wanting to shield their children from hard questions by assuring them that no, of course they didn’t think they were nuts. Her mother at least had enough sense to try to get to the meat of the problem. Miranda’s father might have replied with a witty quip designed to make her feel better, or to indicate that she was nuts, but he knew it and accepted it. That would have been the only other answer that might have made her feel better in that moment, but unfortunately her father had to work tonight, and wasn’t here to offer up any sort of relief.
“I dunno,” she replied, keeping her gaze on the table between them, “I, ah, I saw, something today. I didn’t know how to tell anyone.”
“Was it the same something that the other kids were trying to tell their parents about?”
Miranda’s eyes lit up as she met her mother’s gaze. A nod was all she could summon at that moment.
“One of the kids apparently told their parents that they’d seen someone hanging from our tree out back. Is that what you’re talking about?”
Miranda nodded again.
“I saw it too Rand,” her mother replied quietly, “But I didn’t know how to react, since none of the other adults appeared to see it.”
“What was it though? If you saw it, and I saw it. What was it?”
“It was creepy, that’s what it was,” her mom said with a wan smile, blowing out a short breath as she walked from her current spot to a large window overlooking the spacious back yard.
“But what if it happens again? Whatever it was?”
“I don’t know Rand,” her mother stated, still looking out the window, “I’m not even sure what happened in the first place. But it’s made me curious about the history of this place, especially since this house has been standing for nearly as long as Vancouver has been a settlement.”
“When was that?”
“Vancouver was founded in 1825, but for a while a lot of it was still wide-open country. And for a while people still thought it was part of Portland.”
“I remember someone saying something about that in school,” Miranda replied, “But mom, did people hang other people around here?”
Her mother shrugged, shaking her head as she replied, “It was a much different time sweetheart, I’m not sure. But what you saw, what I saw, kind of indicates that they might have.”
“I kind of think that the library would have anything on it,” Miranda said with a slightly sour tone to her voice. Her mother frowned briefly, smiling afterwards as she replied.
“You’re a little too young to be so cynical. But then you’re also too young to be that nonchalant about seeing a ghost, or a spirit, or whatever it was.”
“You’ve seen the movies I watch and the games I play mom. Unless the thing was coming right for us I’m not going to be scared of it.”
“Who taught you to be so brave? Was it me, or your father?”
Miranda rolled her eyes, “I think I’ve been desensitized by a world where shock and awe are common practices in entertainment.”
Miranda almost laughed as her mother eyes widened as she said, “It’s also made you a wiseass obviously.”
The two of them shared a laugh that felt good quite honestly, but as Miranda went to answer she sucked in a sudden breath as a sudden chill struck her out of nowhere, accompanied by a sudden bout of something that felt akin to rage that came on suddenly and without warning. Her mother gasped aloud as within the middle of their living room, only a few strides away, the apparition of a man could be seen, his face locked in a horrible snarl. He was leaning over something from the position of his body, the fat, almost pear-like shape of his form hovering dangerously over another figure that was revealed in that second as their forms appeared to be dissolving in reverse, coming into focus in a way that made no sense.
The second form looked to be no bigger than a child, perhaps was a child, and both Miranda and her mother uttered startled, thin cries that faded out quickly as the cold hit Miranda again, this time laced with a hint of terror and, she believed, sorrow. What she didn’t expect at that moment was for the first spirit, specter, ghost, call it whatever a person wanted, halted in his action and, inexplicably, turned his head to stare directly at Miranda.
Rage had twisted the ghost’s features into something even worse than what his normal, jowly appearance must have looked like, but as she watched a change came over the man as the rage simmered and cooled, and his eyes took on a haunted look. Before she knew it he was backing away, his clenched fist loosening as it dropped to his side.
No, no, don’t tell her, no don’t tell her…
They could both see the spirit’s lips moving, but only Miranda could hear him apparently as he backed away, further, and was then through their living room wall, and gone. Her mother didn’t move, but Miranda couldn’t help it, she had to see if the other figure had stuck around. Upon glancing over the couch that stood upon the dividing line between the living room area and the kitchen though she could see nothing. The other apparition was gone, and with it the lingering feeling of sorrow had departed as well.
“If you’re going crazy Rand, then we both are,” her mother said in a breathless tone. “I saw it, and I don’t want to believe it, but I do.”
“Great,” Miranda said as she hung her head.
* * *
Four days passed before the effect happened again, but somehow this time was easier to take. It helped that the emotions she’d felt only moments before were happy, joyful even, but she’d done her best to not notice, to keep from drawing attention to herself. That was what she had figured had gone wrong with the sighting at home just days ago, she’d done something that had alerted the spirit to her presence. The couple she’d seen by the waterfront had been pleasant enough, a man and a woman that had obviously been in love when they’d passed, or had at the very least passed into the afterlife together, or had reunited. Whatever the case was, she’d been happy to avoid their notice.
As she’d been walking towards the bus station to catch the next ride home though, the good feeling that had accumulated from the couple faded quickly as other spirits were apparently busy within the city. She’d felt one of them running by her, a young child as far as she could tell, one who had been scared and alone by the feel of it. Miranda had done her best not to look after the child, even after hearing within her thoughts the plaintive cry the child had continued to utter.
Mama? Mama I’ll be good! Mama, come back now please!
She’d felt her heart come close to breaking as she had gone by the spirit, but had almost reacted when the same effect that had taken place at home with her mother had started to occur. The strange rippling effect, almost as though the spirit was emerging from beneath a watery surface, had happened once again as the child had become visible for a brief moment before she’d continued walking, attempting to make the stop she had in mind without encountering any further spirits that might pull at her emotions in such a way. This was only her fourth time experiencing this, but somehow she was able to keep it together just as well as she’d done the first time, but the emotions were horrible, apart from the couple near the water.
The more negative and desperate emotions had torn at her thus far, creating an effect that felt as though she’d lost something, or someone, and had therefore lost all hope. And that feeling of rage, of utter lunacy that the second time had brought had filled her with such dread that she had felt like running away at first. She hadn’t known how to react to the sight of someone hanging from the tree in their backyard, but it had scared her deep down. Why she hadn’t screamed was hard to say, especially since those around her had reacted the same.
There was something to these feelings, some quality she couldn’t understand. It was almost as though what she was feeling extended to those around her maybe, or that she created a deadening effect akin to what she’d seen in the last Twilight movie upon watching it with her friends. Was she a mental shield of some sorts? That didn’t sound right, since she could feel every emotion that was being conveyed by these spirits so far, but those around her had, to this point, felt nothing, except maybe a morbid, detached curiosity. It sounded like something from a comic book, or a badly written horror story, but it was happening to her, and she had no ready explanation for it.
At least getting on the bus hadn’t shown her any spirits, at least not until they’d hit Officer’s Row, the street that housed several of the oldest and most noteworthy homes in Vancouver. She’d heard several ghost stories that had originated on this street, which ran straight into the downtown area and on towards its termination point miles to the east. Miranda did her best to keep her eyes forward, as she didn’t want to tempt fate right now, especially after all she’d heard of this town as she’d grown up. Vancouver wasn’t quite like other cities, where ghost stories were so plentiful, but there were plenty of tales and stories to go around since Officer’s Row had housed quite a few people in its time, and according to history and to rumor, several of them had died here. Some of them had even been said to been executed somewhere in this vicinity, but she’d always been told by her parents that such tales were largely fabricated.
She wasn’t willing to lift her head to see if the tales were true or false. But as the bus made its way along the avenue Miranda shuddered as a wild jumble of emotions passed through her, making it obvious that not as much had been fabricated as her parents might believe.
Keeping her head down, Miranda waited for her stop, weathering the scattered emotions as best she could.
* * *
As the years went along the sightings only increased, but somehow, Miranda learned how to control the emotions that came with them, thereby keeping the ghosts from appearing. They could still see her, and she could see them, but unless she lost control of the strange ability she’d developed, others were unaware of them. For a while it seemed like the perfect way to go, to just ignore them and let the spirits go on about their business. But that only worked for so long.
After a while those that weren’t content to be seen and thereby ignored started doing things that caught the attention of others. Various times would suddenly fly off tables, chairs would be knocked over, unexplained noises would be heard, and other actions were taken, as though to get her to admit that they were there.
None of them had managed to get too violent though, at least not until an occurrence that had happened only days ago, the same occurrence that was threatening to prove fatal at this point. The markings that she’d received upon her body at the age of thirteen, and received beyond legal means, had been to keep her safe once it had been discovered that there truly malevolent spirits out there that meant her harm. The protective markings belonged to a variety of different cultures and religions, and had been infused with, as she’d been told, the holy power of each deity and divine force that had used them as their symbols.
Some might have laughed at the idea, but thus far, for two years, they’d kept her safe. Each time an angry or malevolent spirit had been close by, she had felt it as each tattoo had sent a mild charge of energy throughout her body. When getting too close the tattoos were warm to the touch, yet she’d never felt any discomfort. This time though, as the thing that had found her within this space drew near, each tattoo was becoming increasingly warm, radiating from her skin in a manner that could only mean one thing as far she was concerned. This thing was undeniably evil, and despite the disguise it wore, that of a middle-aged man, it was not human.
As she’d found out, human spirits didn’t trigger her tattoos in this manner unless they were wholly evil, and even those few individuals that were irredeemably evil didn’t elicit this kind of reaction from her tattoos.
We’ve been watching you, pretty girl, the thing crooned, red eyes glowing as it approached, the human face it wore leering as a wide grin split its face, much wider than any human would be been capable of. Being dead and made of whatever ethereal stuff that spirits were composed of might have explained such a thing, but the baleful light of its eyes was hard to miss.
The feelings of rage coming off of this thing were affecting her much as many other spirits had done over the years. But this time, she felt different, almost empowered somehow, not frightened as she’d been in the past. If anything, she felt stronger, definitely still afraid, but far angrier than she’d ever felt in her life. It was as though the spirit had lit a very short fuse somewhere deep within her, and without thinking, she spoke briefly before feeling something flare deep within her, bursting free as though a dam had been broken.
“Then you haven’t been watching close enough asshole,” she snarled, baring her teeth before opening her mouth wide to release a primal roar of such intensity that stumbled back half a step, widening her stance as the sound continued, thrumming powerfully in the air between her and the ghost as the most immediate results could be seen.
The spirit recoiled in both shock and pain it would seem, eyes scrunching tightly against the sudden outburst as it continued to roll onward, hammering at the insubstantial form as the creature attempted to withstand the strange attack. It failed horribly as within seconds its form began to fray, pieces of it flying into the ether as she watched it being torn apart. The spirit had no chance to even scream as the sound of her roar continued to punish the thing, finally breaking it apart completely as the remains went flying off into the insubstantial realm they’d come from, apparently.
“Is that going to be a common thing now?” came a voice from behind her.
Turning around as she let the effect die down, Miranda could see that those around her were starting to come to, but her mother was on her feet, looking none the worse for wear despite a minor cut over her left eye.
“I hope not,” Miranda replied, “I get the feeling that won’t work all the time.”
A groan caught their attention as one of the ghost hunters started to stir.
“Next time we might need to contact someone that really knows how to deal with spirits,” her mother said with a chuckle, “If the reveal is too much for them I’d hate to see what they would have done when the rest of us were down. You’ve got some guts young lady, standing up to that thing.”
Miranda shrugged, “You live with something long enough, you learn not to back down. Otherwise you’ll be backing down all your life.”
Her mother beamed at her, “That’s my girl.”