Something in the Air
Then I realized it was Josephine.
“For the love of God Josephine, if you are to wake me up couldn’t you give me some sort of warning? I mean, say something to wake me up, not just sit there like a ghost? It’s kinda creepy to wake up and find someone in your bed. I’m sure you’d feel the same if you were alive.”
“Sorry.” Josephine shrugged her shoulders. “It isn’t always bad to find someone in your bed.” She smiled a wicked smile and I rolled my eyes.
“If you are going to share sex stories, you should go bother Jenna instead. She’ll find them fascinating. I’m not interested.”
“I’m not here to share tales from my wonderful youth. I just wanted to check in on you. And for some reason, it felt better to materialize. More human. I guess I miss tucking people in.”
“You had kids?” Suddenly my annoyance was replaced with curiosity, even though I was tired.
“Yes, a boy. But he died young. It was common back then. You know before vaccines and antibiotics. You’re so lucky these days. And you Missy, are even luckier because when antibiotics won’t work anymore, you have a whole herbal pharmacy.”
“Yeah, Wilda has told me that by 2050 scientists reckon this will happen.”
“Anyway, are you OK?” Josephine’s voice sounded concerned.
“Let’s see: I have a creepy ghost haunting me who keeps going on and on about gold in the mountain and I have three other ghosts who do things to make me fall off my bike and then there are ghosts like yourself and Mr Crinkle who show up at unexpected times, scaring me in public. No, I’m not OK.”
“And there I was thinking that all this had brought you closer to Jason and that your life was now perfect acting Juliet and seeing that guy.” Josephine smiled.
“This isn’t funny Josephine. Sure, it’s nice to talk to Jason, but I’m only doing that because I fell off a bike. I could have seriously injured myself. And I’m not seeing him.”
“I get it. Those three have ridiculous ideas when it comes to getting you to do things. I mean puncturing your wheels is one thing, but doing it while you’re biking is not cool. And while they didn’t mean to make you fall off your bike because of the note, it was stupid. They just don’t think very clearly at times. But trust me, they are there to protect you, not harm you. And they’re trying to give you hints about things they can’t say out loud. There are rules…we can only interfere so much. I mean I could tell you all of Jason’s thoughts right now, but there’s a protocol for these things.”
Suddenly I felt very awake.
“You know what we are thinking?”
“Not exactly. We feel it. Kind of like how you feel when someone’s sad, or happy, or excited. It’s impressions and you can feel them too, but it’s easier for us. And some are more obvious than others.” Josephine rolled her eyes. I guessed she was referring to my crush on Jason. Hmpf.
But there were more important fish to fry.
“And the voice about gold in the mountain? Who’s that? What does he want with me?”
“Ah. Hmm.” Suddenly Josephine did not seem very interested to talk at all. “Well, it’s complicated.”
“It’s like here on Earth. I mean amongst the living. There’s good and bad. And there are some forces out there that aren’t good. And they influence life on Earth too. That’s one of them.”
“So, it’s not a ghost?”
“No, not exactly, no.”
I was starting to get impatient. Couldn’t the woman…ghost…just speak straight?
“So what is it?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“There are rules.”
“But I’m involved in all this, so it’s not fair that I don’t know.”
“Listen, I can warn you of danger. That voice is a danger. Avoid it. Think of it like you do witchcraft: there are different forces at play. You tap into whichever one you choose. Your mind lets you choose, if you take charge. Otherwise, you only go with whatever just happened.”
This was cryptic.
“I think what you’re trying to say, or what Agatha would say, is that thoughts happen to you unless you happen to them? Like if a sad event happens and you keep thinking about the sad event, you keep being sad. But if you make an effort and go out and do things you enjoy, with people you enjoy, and focus on the good stuff in your life and creating more of it, you become happy again. God, I’ve listened too much to Agatha, I’m like a flipping recording!”
“Agatha is right though. It’s like that. Only there are outside forces influencing humans too and if you don’t make that choice, they can sort of take hold of your mind.”
“You mean they can possess you?” This was starting to sound like a horror movie. And I don’t like horror movies. Why fill your brain with that kind of stuff?
“Sort of. All you need to know is that you need to stay in charge of your mind. At all times. Listen to your heart. Drown everything else out. The same way you drown out negative chit-chat. Like the thoughts you’re having right now about the voice. That voice doesn’t have to matter to you. You just happened to pick it up because you hear things now. Other people don’t hear things. They feel things. Like a hunch. The same way you feel a message from a ghost. But as you can hear, those forces will come to you. You’re an easy target.”
“Right. This is weird. Are there other forces out there too? Like all the stuff I don’t believe in like elves and stuff?”
“Do witches ride broomsticks?”
“Well, then all legends aren’t true. But some are partially true.”
“Speaking in riddles really doesn’t suit you, Josephine.”
“I know. I’m better at singing jazz tunes. My beautiful whiskey voice. But you asked a question and I can’t answer straight. It doesn’t work that way.”
“Right. But I’m stuck in this whole thing so it kind of sucks that I am not allowed to find out.”
Josephine nodded and smiled a wistful smile.
“It does. But there’s a reason for the rules. And I can’t explain more than I’ve already done. All I can say is that you should listen to the three crazy ladies and not to the creepy voice. Makes sense?”
“Yeah, crazy ladies make a lot of sense,” I replied sulkily.
“I have to go now. You don’t want puffy eyes from sleep deprivation tomorrow when you see Jason.”
“I’m not really a beauty queen.”
“Don’t say that to Romeo, because all Romeos believe their Juliets are beauty queens. Believe in yourself, girlfriend. You don’t have to care about puffy eyes, better if you don’t, but do believe in yourself. And now, sleep.”
And just like that Josephine left the building. Or at least became invisible, while I lay awake thinking about all the things she’d said…and not said. What an infuriating woman!
Maths isn’t my thing, not really, but it has always helped me clean my head. It isn’t like literature, or philosophy, where one can think freely. One has to stick to rules and regulations and think strictly about the problem at hand. One can’t add a dose of romance, ghosts, or wacky symbolism. It’s boring…but refreshingly clean.
So in maths class on Friday morning, I started to feel a bit more normal. Awake. Even my puffy eyes started to clear. Not even Wilda’s magic potion for puffy eyes (icy green tea and chamomile tea bags) hadn’t managed to remove them entirely. I had felt sleepy all morning. Until maths.
Of course, Johanna hates maths. And she wouldn’t stop chewing her pen and drawing outrageously cool dresses from the gold rush era in her exercise pad. When she gave yet another theatrical sigh of boredom, Mr Wood started walking towards us.
“Johanna, he’s walking over here. Hide the drawings,” I hissed.
Johanna smiled sweetly, turned a page, raised her hand and waved at Mr Wood to get his attention.
“Johanna?” Mr Wood enquired as he walked up to us.
“I have a problem with this erm, problem. I can’t seem to work it out.”
“OK, let’s see.”
I shook my head. Johanna never cared about acing maths the way I cared. Not that I could ever ace it, but I wanted good grades. All she cared about was knowing enough maths to use it for making clothes. I, on the other hand, had an uncertain future where I didn’t know what college I needed to get into. I shook my head and tried to return my thoughts to the maths problem at hand, as Mr Wood and Johanna were nattering away. Johanna was arguing that numbers are purposefully confusing and Mr Wood argued that they are the most straightforward thing in the world…
Just as my mind was strictly focused on x in the equation again, I heard a familiar voice.
“Gold, there’s gold in the mountain. Seek the gold…”
Startled I looked up. Where was the voice coming from? As I looked around the classroom I saw Samantha tossing her hair and leaning forward towards Jason, so that said hair ended up in his exercise book.
“Jason, I can’t figure out this problem? Can you help me, please? Mr Wood is busy with Johanna.” She pouted her lips as if disagreeing with Mr Wood helping Johanna and Jason nodded. He looked completely nonplussed. Ha!
“Sure. Here, let’s see.”
Samantha leaned forward even more as Jason grabbed her exercise book and I was sure her breasts were touching his arm by now and as they did, he smirked. I shook my head. As Jenna always says: “A man needs sex and personality from a woman and to get his attention it helps to charm him. But if he thinks all you have to offer is sex, because you think it’s all you have to offer, it will never be a happy relationship. Or a long one.” Still… If Jason was interested in Samantha she’d get a fling and…I’d get nothing.
Startled I looked around again. I’d gotten so distracted by Samantha’s over the top flirting I’d forgotten about the blooming (as Jenna would say) voice.
As I looked around this time, I still didn’t see something creating the voice (like, say, a mysterious shimmering force), but I saw Raya Eastwind look around too and briefly our eyes met. For a moment something glittered in her black ones. Recognition. Then shock. She knew I’d heard the voice too and she was shocked I had done so.
Startled, I looked down. Were there other people who could see…hear…ghosts too? Or whatever this force was? Jason seemed oblivious to it, but then it probably wasn’t tying to get his attention. Besides, he’d said he could sense things at times, not that he always heard ghosts…or things…rattle around.
Just as I looked down a note came sailing through the air and landed on my desk. I looked around again, but now everyone seemed to be looking down into their books and Johanna and Mr Wood were engrossed in their math problem and completely oblivious to what was happening next to them.
I looked at the note.
“Go outside. Now. Back entrance.”
As I touched it, it disintegrated.
Josephine had said I should trust the three crazy ladies. This must be their work. It was the same kind of parchment. Unless, of course, the voice was fooling me?
I decided to take my chances. After all, if there was trouble I could call for Mr Crinkle, couldn’t I? Wasn’t he supposed to protect this school?
Resolutely, I stood up.
“Excuse me, Mr Wood? I just need to use the bathroom please.”
“Sure, sure, Louise, go ahead,” Mr Wood mumbled distractedly and then kept explaining what he seemed to think was a fascinating mathematical concept to Johanna.
I walked out into the corridor and headed for the back entrance, by the parking lot. The corridors were eerily quiet. No, just quiet, I reminded myself. I’d never before thought of Rocky Creek High as eerie. It was a school. Filled with somewhat annoying teenagers and some kooky, some boring and some wonderful teachers. I tried to shake off my nervousness — this was really getting ridiculous.
As I arrived at the back entrance, I carefully opened the door and was greeted by a gust of cold wind. At first, I couldn’t see anyone, but then I heard voices coming from the back of a car and saw Mr Crawley and Mr Bonham, our geography and geology teacher, together with the man from Mr Crawley’s shop. The creepy one.
Carefully I stepped outside, adamant about not making a noise, so as not to get discovered. I didn’t know why, but I wanted to hear what they were saying. After all, why else had the note told me to go out here? There must be a reason for it.
“Can we do that safely?” I heard Mr Crawley say.
“Mr Bonham here, I believe, already confirmed we can,” the creepy man replied.
“Yes, you just have to take precaution there’s no one there,” Mr Bonham replied. “Not that hard this time of year and in the late evening. Especially if double checking with satellite gear and simply keeping your eyes open. But do be sure.”
What were they talking about? Safe? What would it be safe to do?
I didn’t get any further in my line of thought, nor did the men get any further in their conversation, as Raya burst through the door, throwing me a quick glance as I was cowering next to it, slightly bent over to avoid being seen, and ran up to them.
“Dad, what are you doing here?” she asked, looking at the creepy man.