After seeing the message waiting for me in the foggy mirror the nightmares began. Exactly a week before I began a new year in a new high school. I don't know how to explain it, but it was as if I had a constant replay of some message that I just couldn't decode. The black and white, yet sharp, images flashed in and out like a bad Hollywood film depicting a running girl. This girl would always stop at a window overlooking the bright city that lay a short five minute car ride from the building and I would wake up with a violent shake and a boiling forehead.
I knew that I never screamed during my nightmares because neither my mom nor my sister ever mentioned them, much like everything else in my life this was my own secret torture. I had had similar nightmares before when I was younger, but of different people. The one that had been most prominent was of a man whose grey hair ruffled in an unfelt breeze. He would forever be on a roof somewhere in my old neighborhood and he would always turn to look at me with black eyes before falling.
Dad had joked about his psychic mother every time that I had gone down to the kitchen to grab a glass of milk for my nerves. He would be sitting at his desk in his office working, but I always secretly pretended that he was just waiting for me to come down like always. He would join me on our small island separating the kitchen from our dining room and would watch me gulp my milk down before asking anything.
"What did you see this time?" I knew, though he never told me, that this was his favorite part of the day; a sort of bonding between us. I didn't know it then, but my mind was unconsciously taking mental pictures of my dad--from his chestnut colored hair to his eyes that resembled tiny emeralds, in case I never saw him again. His favorite sweater, a red and white striped pattern, reminded me of the many holidays that we had spent in warm coffee shops; him with his coffee and me with my whipped cream nose.
"The man," I answered breathlessly, "he was still looking at me."
"If your grandmother were here you know what she would say?"
"'Greg, that daughter of yours is seeing some poor, dead sucker.'" I answered, trying to mimic my grandmother's voice.
"Exactly." He would laugh and then watch me get another glass of milk.
But now I sat alone in the dark kitchen that had no island but a long counter that my mom used instead. Dad's voice never echoed around me since he had never been in here and I wondered what he would do from now on. I fantasized that he was waiting in his office for something that would never happen again, but thought grimly that maybe he was sleeping, thinking that all of it had just been a dream.
So, after a single glass of milk, I crawled back into bed. I tried to delay my sleep by tossing and turning and occasionally fluffing my pillows. I tried to ignore the burning of my eyes or the mild headache I had from a lack of sleep as I listened to the creaks and groans of the house settling.
Then I heard it.
Soft at first, almost like a small child's footsteps cautiously on the stairs trying to awaken no one. But soon the sound increased, calling to me and my awake mind. I stepped out from under the covers and placed my foot down on the creaking wooden floors, highly aware of the chills that overtook every bone in my body.
The steps were louder now, pleading for me to come and see the marvels of such a mystery. Why couldn't my mom or sister hear this? I mean, sure the night was quiet for them, it had always been quiet when I was having one of my brushes with death, as dad had always called them, but this sound was almost unbearable. For a split moment I had forgotten what it was like to hear silence.
After getting my bearings I walked out of my cold room and into the warm hallway. Creak creak step. Creak creak STEP. The sound was deafening and I had to cover my ears and fight against the need to scream or close my eyes. I was scared, sad, lonely, angry; I couldn't choose a mood because they were all tie-dyed together.
When I reached the landing the sound suddenly stopped. The house was quiet once more, safe for the whipping of the wind outside. My relief was short-lived as something appeared at the bottom of the stairs. My breath caught in my throat as I watched a bright light stop on the bottom landing. In the center of the white light stood the girl that I had seen at my window when we had first moved here. Her black curls sat somewhat flat against her shoulders and her blue eyes screamed meaning to me. She was frowning, but in a sad, hopeful way and her peach colored lips were set in a determined line.
A weird sound escaped my voice as the girl took a step up the stairs. New to all of this, I was frightened out of my mind. My feet thought before me and stepped backwards away from the figure causing her to stop. Her gaze was sad, pleading as she never looked away from me.
"Please," her voice was like a feather floating in the wind, soft and delicate. "Help me." Her voice preceded her as she quickly disappeared, taking the light with her.