5 writers Group Story – Part Two by Emilia Fuentes Grant
For part one, please click here
Two hundred miles away, Rachel stares out the window of a Greyhound bus, wishing she could shut her eyes, if only for a few moments. But it’s too dangerous for her to sleep in public, and absolutely out of the question to nod off on public transport, traveling at high speeds on a highway. She lets her forehead bounce against the glass, using every bump in the road to stay alert. The dark terrain and shadowy buildings outside her window send chills up Rachel’s spine. Only a few more hours until the bus gets to Philly. Sleep would come when she could lie down in private. Maybe even in her old bedroom, with her grandmother’s rosary beads under her pillow. Maybe she would rest peacefully for the first time in years, under the same roof as her brother.
She stares hard out the bus window, trying to picture her brother rummaging through her old things, silently willing him to find the box and the rosary. She is hopeful, but worried. Maybe she should have told him she was heading his way, but their phone conversation had not gone well.
“There won’t be another chance,” she pleaded, hoping he couldn’t hear the tremor in her voice.
“No, Rachel. No there won’t be another chance.” If Gavin detected her emotion, he gave no indication in his response. “Maybe youshould’ve thought about that before you left. Before you jumped ship and headed for the Golden Coast.” He paused, and Rachel could see him gripping the old receiver in the foyer, trying to control his temper.
“Gavin, listen. I know I messed up.”
“I don’t really care to hear your apologies, Rache. It’s been real fun catching up, but I’ve got to go. I’m busy here.”
Rachel’s sigh sounds loud in the sleepy quiet of the bus. Her big brother. Always working on something, obsessing over every little detail. The straightlaced one. The pragmatist. The guy’s got it all together. Everyone always said so. Their grandparents certainly thought so. They left their homes and all their possessions to him, though Rachel was only a year younger. Grandpa made Gavin the executor of his will and a non-voting member on the board of both of his surviving businesses. At the ripe old age of 19, Gavin became a property owner and board member in two successful Philadelphia companies. That was almost ten years ago now. Rachel imagines that he’s had nothing but success ever since. She never cared about the money; not really. She wanted freedom. She needed to be away from the house and its Shadows.
Leaving was her only option. At least, that what she thought when was eighteen. She had tried to tell her brother countless times that the house was haunted, but he never believed her. No one believed her. Their grandfather said he would look into it. A few weeks later Rachel was in counseling. She was ten. The therapist told her she was simply imagining scary things, and they weren’t real. When her “imagining” persisted, they said she had unresolved emotional trauma from the accident. It was a good diagnosis, except Rachel had no memory of the wreck.
She only knew the story. They were coming home from a barbeque on the Fourth of July. Her father had been drinking. He ran a red light and hit a van head on. Rachel’s parents and the woman in the van were both killed. Rachel and Gavin, ages four and five, were strapped into their car seats and received only minor bruises. Rachel couldn’t remember anything from the night or the accident, but she certainly felt trauma. She tried to ignore the Shadows, because she wanted to believe they were her own invention.
She was thirteen when the nightmares started. Her therapist’s “repressed memories” theory went out the window. She went to the hospital after her first nightmare. They called it an “episode”. She was found lying at the bottom of the staircase, unconscious. Her grandmother thought she had fallen, but she didn’t have any broken bones. Just minor bruises. They medicated her and it made her fits worse. Gavin thought she was pretending. Just trying to get attention. The nightmares got worse. Once they found her standing and screaming in the middle of her bed, clawing at her own face. Once the neighbors discovered her on their front porch. Her knees and hands were skinned and dirty, as if she had crawled all the way there. Rachel and Gavin grew further and further apart. When she turned eighteen, even when she learned there would be no inheritance, she was determined to get out. She thought leaving the house would make the terrors stop. She believed she was being possessed and haunted by some evil in her grandparents’ house. But leaving didn’t do any good. The Shadows followed.
The torment is worse now, because she doesn’t have her family to help her hide. The hardest part is keeping an apartment. A roommate is completely out of the question. For ten years, she’s been trying to pretend that everything is okay. Locking herself into her room at night. Never letting anyone stay over. But she can’t do it anymore. She has to face that house, the place where it all started, and find a way to stop the Shadows.
Rachel’s eyelids begin to droop, falling steadily lower and lower. She leans back, sits upright in her seat, away from the window. She shakes her head, feels the light sting of her ponytail slapping her cheeks. Awake Rache. Stay awake. But she is drifting between asleep and awake.
As her head bobs gently forward and back, a shadow drifts along the aisle of the bus. Pure black against the grey of the full, sleeping bus, the shadow is barely detectable. It is entirely out of place. There is no light to cause this shadow, no person or object to cast the shape. Yet, somehow, it’s there, and it’s moving. It is slinking along the floor in rolling kind of crawl, until it gets to Rachel’s row. The dark thing rises up from the floor-boards, hovers for a moment next to her face, then settles onto the seat beside her.
To be continued in Part Three