With Halloween upon us, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to introduce you to one of the residents of our otherwise normal home. I know last month I wrote in The Final Box that our home has only five occupants, but this month I discovered that a member of the previous household did, indeed, follow us to our shiny new home. I suppose that if I'm going to confess I must also add that I left him off the roster of the previous abode as well. At least, he wasn’t mentioned by name. I did share one of his antics without giving him due credit. Perhaps that's why he's decided to make his presence known now.
In I Collect People, I told you how I collect the people I see for characters. Well, in this case, we were the ones collected. I know, you're probably thinking, "He's been in that house for four months and he just noticed someone else living there. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer." I understand. It's odd, Real Genius odd, where the guy lived in a tunneled-out room under the dorm. But this resident was easily hidden. He didn't eat, never showered that I know of, and yet, never reeked of body odor. You rarely knew he was ever there mainly, because Chip doesn't have a body.
Chip is a ghost.
Now, don't close the browser yet. I know some of you are skeptical and do not believe in the paranormal, and while my family has always teased about haunted happenings and superstitions, I was not really a believer myself until the house on Sherwood Avenue. Furthermore, if these occurrences had happened to me alone I would have tossed them aside as the wild imaginations of a tired writer. Yet, I wasn't always alone and I'm not the only one who saw or heard our friend. Even the cats knew he was there and I have it on good authority that cats are very good at knowing these things. The cats, themselves, told me. I didn't really need them to tell me. Too many times they were found hissing at a wall when no one was there or hunched down, staring at an empty corner. Cats know these things.
Even so, there have been enough sightings by enough people to support the validity of his existence. We named him Chip because Casper was already taken and we wanted him to have a fun name so as not to be scary. We’re easily fooled people.
I have no idea what Chip's real name is or how he died. I know he's young and not too terribly tall. I know this because I saw him entering one of our bathrooms. I was sitting at the dining room table, working on a manuscript when my brain reminded my bladder of the pot of coffee just recently consumed. As I stood to make my necessary trip, someone walked into the bathroom. I sighed the frustration of a man who has already waited too long and sat back down. However, I couldn't concentrate. I mean, I had to go in a distracting kind of way.
"What in the world are they doing in there?"
"Who?" Char asked.
"Whichever teenager went into the bathroom twenty minutes ago."
She looked at me kind of strange. "Honey, we're the only ones home."
"Then....." I stood and walked to the bathroom. The door was open and the room empty.
That wasn't the only time we saw the specter either. His reflection would float across mirrors and windows while he could be spotted flitting and fleeting from room to room. And he wasn't your stereotypical white cottony type ghost, either. No, Chip was merely a shadow of his former self. Really, that's all we saw. A shadow.
I know you're probably thinking it all a mere trick of the eyes. Robbie's already said he was blind and needs glasses to find his glasses. Go ahead and forget that I said I was not the only one who saw this dark apparition. I'm used to people discounting what I say. I am married, after all, with teenagers. Yet, there was more than his inky form sliding through the house. Like AT&T, Chip reached out and touched someone.
At the time there were eight with flesh living in the house. The two tiny ones were at their dad's and Heather was gone. It was noonish and the girls and I were cleaning around the house. Zac was in the back bedroom sound asleep from a long night of mischief. However, he wasn't asleep for long.
I don't know much that scares Zac outside of yardwork, but he came out of his room slow and quiet. His eyes were wide and his face a ghostly pale. Not the color of our ghost, obviously, but this was shortly after we moved in and we were just discovering Chip.
"What's wrong?" Teri asked.
"Something touched me." His glassy eyes just stared at the wall.
"By something you mean......"
"I don't know. I had some papers on my desk and they just started moving around. I thought someone had come into my room while I was sleeping." Zac hates anyone in his room or touching his stuff. I'm not sure how he'll survive being a parent. "I jumped up yelling at whoever it was but no one was there and my door was closed. The fan wasn't even on. Then a cold hand touched me."
"I thought you said you were alone."
"I was alone."
The little two-year old boy slept in that room before Zac and he never slept well or long. We now knew why. Like cats, little kids are privy to the workings of ghosts and faeries.
Chip never did anything mean or destructive. He just floated around, making his presence known and scaring the girls. However, he had a protective side to him when it came to the females. You see, one day Char was doing something in the pantry while Teri and I were in the kitchen. Teri was on one side of the Formica island and I the other. The two of us were goofing off, picking on each other and in the course of our jests I picked up a knife and threatened her with it. We were both laughing and it was all in fun. Chip, however, was not amused and from the empty area behind me came a very real, very loud growl. Teri and I froze. Char came out of the pantry and asked who growled. We just shook our heads, eyes wide. We were the only three home.
We had a ghost. I was instantly a believer. He'd walk in front of our windows just to make me get up and check the front door. He even played practical jokes.
One night after a friend told a story of how a blue ball kept showing up in his attic, bouncing by itself even after the ball was put with the trash and taken away, everyone went sound to sleep. Melissa had spent the night that night and was in with Teri when in the quietness of the night a blue ball bounced into their room and against their bed. They weren't scared at first, or at least they tried to act brave. Thinking it was one of my jokes, they scooped the ball up to confront me.
I was asleep, snoring rather loudly.
Now, they were afraid. They were even more frightened when the next day they were told we didn't own a tiny blue ball. It went in the trash but we were sure it would be back.
Then the time came for us to move. Not because of Chip mind you as we had become quite used to him by then and considered him one of the family. Don't tell anyone but he was quite the favorite. He didn't drink my coffee, use my deodorant or play with my computer. There were times I think he suffered from PMS, however. I know he's a male ghost but I know quite a few men - and all of my teenage sons - who regularly suffer the symptoms of PMS to the point I want to give them tampons.
No, it was just time for a new location. So, we packed up the house and left the beach heading for the mainland, leaving salty air, flooded streets and Chip behind. Or so we thought.
At the beginning of October it all started happening again. I was sitting in our piano room, which sounds nice except no one knows how to play the thing, when I heard someone going through the kitchen drawers. The only two home were Chris and myself and up until then I assumed he was asleep. I stood up, my father's chest puffed ready to crack heads over the mistreatment of my cabinets and stormed the kitchen - the empty kitchen. I marched myself to Chris' room now annoyed that he had escaped my parental wrath the first time only to find him fast asleep, the drool soaking into his pillow proof he had not stirred in hours. I wanted to blame the cats but they were back to staring at empty corners.
Then a few days later, Teri was straightening Chris' room while he was away for a few days and called for me. Leaving my office, wondering what secret stash she had uncovered in my son's pretty bare room, I walked in to find her with that look I recognized from Sherwood Ave.
"Feel that pillow."
Not really wanting to, I walked over and lightly touched the corner of the pillow she pointed to. It was warm, more than warm.
"Cats taking a nap?"
"Door was shut. His windows are blacked out so how did that pillow get hot?"
And it was body heat hot as if someone had just risen from a nap. It was only the corner of the pillow, too. We stared at each other. She dropped the pillow and we locked his door. What good that was going to do I have no idea, but it made us feel better.
There's been whispering down the hall, as well, when no one was around, along with more bumps and bangs, but there were no shadows. Still, we prefer to think Chip moved with us because we were so much fun. It beats the idea of the girls getting used to another ghost. However, if it is Chip he's taken up eating because the other morning, I set a muffin with only two bites missing on the dresser and when I turned around it was gone. I was the only one home – the only one with a body, that is.
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