|The Taylight Zone - Anthology Three
04 - Moving Day
“What was wrong with our old house?” Zac Hanson asked, lugging the last of the boxes marked Zac’s Personal Stuff up the stairs.
“Duh, Zac,” Taylor responded, bringing up the rear. “You know why we moved…all those crazy fans hanging out in the front yard."
“Yeah, I know, but I liked that house. I did spend half my life there.”
“And that’s such a long time.” Isaac had appeared suddenly from the bathroom, butting into the conversation.
“Bite me, Chewie,” Zac responded.
Diana walked out of the master bedroom. “Language, Zac.”
“Yeah,” Taylor said, “and quit your bitching.”
Zac offered a smart-ass smirk in his brother’s general direction. Tay simply rolled his eyes. Of all the Hansons, Zachary was the least excited about moving into their new home. He understood why they’d done it, but he wasn’t happy about it.
“Why can’t those stupid girls just hang out some place else,” he muttered, walking into his new room. “Haven’t they heard of a shopping mall?”
His room. Zac liked the sound of that. He’d never had his own room before. He, Tay, and Ike had been sleeping within a few feet of each other for as long as he could remember. Zac hadn’t even been able to get undressed on his own. Privacy was a precious commodity in the Hanson household, one that Zac took very seriously.
“Not anymore, though,” Zac said. “The world is your oyster.” He looked around. “Well, at least a few square feet of it is.”
He giggled with glee.
“My own room,” he said. Zac jumped on his bed and began bouncing up and down. “My own room…my own room…my own room.”
He stopped jumping when he heard someone clear their throat. He turned to face his father, standing in the doorway.
“Zac,” Walker began, “what are you doing?”
He felt his face flush. “Um…uh…I dunno.”
Walker Hanson smiled. “Well, get down off the bed. You look like a freakin' monkey up there.”
“Sorry, Dad,” Zac responded, jumping off the bed.
Walker simply shook his head. “And get ready for bed. It’s late.”
Zac sighed and looked around the room. Boxes were piled to just over his head. The walls were plain white, not yet decorated with his autographed Jenny McCarthy and Cindy Crawford posters, something he planned to correct the first available opportunity. He wouldn’t have much time, though. They’d be going on tour soon. Who knew when he would become settled in to this new place?
“Oh, well,” he shrugged. Living out of a suitcase, or in this case, a box, was what he’d become accustomed to.
He walked over to a box, opened it, and pulled out an oversized MTV T-shirt. He threw it on the bed and reached down to unbutton his jeans. They were baggy and fell to the floor when he pulled down the zipper. He stood there for a moment in his boxers before stepping out of the pants.
His shirt came next, which he threw into a crumpled wad on the floor. It was then that he heard a sound coming from the closet, causing him to jump.
“Holy cow!” he said. “What the…”
There it was again. A repetitive thud like a tennis ball being bounced on a hard floor. Zac stared in terror at the door, wanting to run, but his feet seemed almost glued to the wood beneath him. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise.
“There’s a logical explanation for this, Zacman,” he told himself. “A very logical, and meaningful explanation.”
“Play with me…” a voice said.
It was the voice of a child, sweet and innocent, and it was coming from the closet.
“That one’s a little harder to explain,” Zac said.
“Play with me, Zachary.”
“Sweet mother of…” Zac began. “Wait just a minute.” He walked over to the closet door and opened it, half-expecting Jessica or Avery to come jumping out. When they didn’t, he stepped into the closet and looked around.
It was empty.
“Okay, guys, where are you?” he said, shutting the closet door.
He turned toward the entrance of his room.
“Jessie…Avie?” he said, walking into the hallway. “Hello?”
No one awaited him. All his sibling’s bedroom doors were shut. Zac turned and made his down the corridor to the next room over...Jessie and Avery’s room. He lightly knocked. “Jessica?” He turned the knob and slowly pushed open the door. The room was dark. His two little sisters were fast asleep in their beds.
“Darn it all,” he said.
Zac pulled the door closed and walked back to his room, the wood floor creaking under his feet as he stepped. Outside the wind whistled through the trees, brushing against the side of the house, making a moaning sound. Zac picked up the pace and jumped into his room, shutting the door behind him. He looked around quickly. He wanted to make sure it was safe.
“Zac Hanson,” he began, “paranoid schizophrenic...next Sally.”
There was a cold chill in the room. He looked down at his body and realized that he was still only wearing his boxers. He hadn’t finished getting ready for bed. He walked over and picked up the MTV shirt, and quickly jerked it over his head.
“You’re losing it, Zacman...completely and totally. You’re three fries short of a Happy Meal.”
A child’s laughter rang out from the closet. Zac’s flesh broke out in goosebumps.
“Who’s there?” he said. “This isn’t funny anymore.”
“Play with me, Zachary,” the voice said again.
He opened his mouth to scream but no words came out. “Dad,” he mouthed. “Ike? Tay? Somebody?”
“Play with me, Zachary…Walker…Hanson.”
The door to the closet slowly began to open, creaking noisily. Zac stared in horror as a glowing figure in the shape of a young girl appeared. She was wearing a long, white dress, cut almost to the floor. Her tiny feet were covered in black boots. Her hair was the color of fire, and hung in long curls down to her shoulders.
She was lovely.
She giggled at him again. “Play with me.”
In her hand she held a bright red ball which she tossed it out toward Zac. It hit the floor with a thunk and rolled up to his foot.
Zac felt something warm and liquid run down his leg, collecting into a puddle on the floor. His mind screamed like a banshee, but his mouth wouldn’t say a word. He thought of every prayer he’d ever learned in Sunday school and recited it through his head.
“Good night, Zachary,” she said before giggling again and fading from view. The closet door slowly creaked to a close, leaving Zac Hanson in a daze.
“Now there’s something you don’t see every day.”
Zac just stood there staring at the closet. He wasn’t sure what to think of the scene that had just played out before his very eyes. He didn’t even know if he believed it yet. The mind had a way of second-guessing the eye.
“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, Zacman,” he said, snapping out of his stupor. He suddenly realized he was wet. “What the..." He looked down at the puddle at his feet. “Oh, man! Great job, Zac...just piss yourself, why don’t you?”
Zac walked over to the pile of boxes and pulled out a fresh pair of underwear, almost tripping over the red ball at his feet. He then, as if nothing had happened, made his way to the bathroom to take a shower.
Taylor Hanson closed the lid to his laptop computer and sighed heavily. Somehow talking on-line had made this place feel like home, as silly as that sounded. Zac had a point about moving. Taylor had liked the old house better too. And as much as he enjoyed the prospect of his own room, he knew that it would take some getting used to.
He stood up from his desk and turned off the lamp, letting his eyes adjust to the dark before making his way to the bed. Outside the wind blew fiercely through the trees, their branches casting eerie shadows on the wall of Taylor’s room. He hated sleeping in an unfamiliar place, there were new noises to get used to.
At their old house, Taylor knew what every sound was, from the furnace turning on to the garage door humming to a close. This wasn’t the case with the new house. Every few minutes there was something different, leaving his mind to wander back to every horror movie he’d ever seen in his life trying to identify the source for each sound.
Taylor laid down on his back in the bed and pulled the cotton sheet up to his neck. Hands placed behind his head, he lay listening to the sound of the wind.
“Man,” he said, “this is weird.”
Ike wasn’t snoring, nor was Zac talking in his sleep. How in the heck was he supposed to get any rest like this?
“Go to sleep, Tay,” he chided. “Just go to sleep.”
He heard the door to the bathroom across the hall shut and then the sound of the water being turned on. He turned his head and looked at the clock: 12:30.
Who the hell is taking a shower at this time of night?
Taylor sighed and shook his head. “It’s probably Ike washing his hair again.”
He laughed and closed his eyes, letting his mind wander to the tour this summer.
Man, he thought, that’s gonna be so cool!
Taylor couldn’t wait to get out there and start performing. He loved doing live shows, it was such a rush. The crowd, the energy, the music – it was hypnotizing. It gave him a rush that no one could ever explain. Having people scream your name and sing and dance along with your music was absolutely the most awesome feeling.
A huge yawn interrupted his thoughts and Taylor felt himself drifting into a gentle state of sleep. He surrendered to the exhaustion, letting it overtake his body. A few minutes later, his eyes opened wide as he felt a cool breeze blow through the room. It brought with it...well, almost a presence, giving Taylor the feeling that he was no longer alone. This gave him a chill, an uneasiness, as he slowly raised himself from the bed, eyes darting around the room.
“What’s up with this?” Tay asked no one particular. It was then that he felt it, something brushing across his left shoulder. The touch was gentle, ever so light, and almost...affectionate? Taylor quickly turned his head; no one was there.
Then, he felt it again. This time on his right shoulder.
“Keep cool, Tay...lay chilly.”
An unseen hand caressed his cheek. He jerked away.
“Cool and calm...you’re an ice cube.” He felt his pulse begin to race, his heart struggling to beat its way out of his chest. The cool air blew gently through his long, blond hair. And then, as quickly as the “presence” entered the room, it left, leaving Taylor in a terrified stupor.
For the fourth time in fifteen minutes, the small pile of clothes fell from the top of Isaac Hanson’s dresser and onto the floor with a flump. He looked up from his bed, where he’d been writing in his journal, and sighed. He was getting tired of picking them up.
“Let them stay on the floor,” he said. “I’m not getting up again.”
So much had happened today, with the move and all. Old memories bid farewell, new ones ready to be recorded. Isaac was excited about the new house. As much as he loved and adored his brothers, he’d been waiting a long time for his own space. His father, realizing this, had offered Ike the finished attic as sort of a “loft apartment.” Isaac couldn’t be happier about it.
The place was huge, more than enough space for a seventeen-year-old to set up camp. It was kinda spooky in a cool sort of way, with darkened corners and pitched dormers. He was excited to finally have his own place, something that he could decorate to his own personal taste.
No more tripping over Zac’s Legos or wading through Tay’s dirty clothes. If there were ANY dirty clothes to wade through or Legos to trip over, they would be Ike’s and Ike’s alone. The thought of that made him smile.
“This is so cool.”
He could invite friends over without worrying about dealing with a moody Tay or a goofy Zac. No more threatening to kill either of them for making retarded faces when he had a girl was over and in his room, with the door open, of course. Maybe he’d even get some writing done on his sci-fi novel. The attic proved to be a wonderful source of inspiration. It was going to be just great.
Ike’s journal flew out of his hand and landed by the side of the bed. The noise had scared him out of his skin. He looked over to his right and noticed his guitar lying on the floor. It had fallen from its stand.
“Well, how the hell...” he began, climbing out of the bed. Guitars just didn’t fall of their stands...did they? He walked over and picked up Aubrey from the floor and placed her back in her berth, shaking his head. “Weird.”
As he turned toward his bed, the journal that had been lying on the floor, his journal, sailed through the air and smacked him in the head. “Ouch, dammit!”
Isaac reached down and picked up the journal from the floor, using his other hand to cover the spot on his face, just below his right eye, where he’d been hit. For a moment he stopped, wondering what was going on, but then it occurred to him. He smiled. “Alright, good one, Zac. Come out now and I won’t beat the crap out of you.”
There was no answer. “Zac? Taylor?”
A hideous, growling laughter filled the room, sending chills up Isaac’s spine.
“You guys are so dead.” Ike called out. He was ready for them to jump out from behind something and try scare the piss out of him. Actually, it was too late for that. “Guys?”
He received no answer.
Isaac turned around to find Aubrey on the floor again. Once again, he picked up the guitar and placed her back in the stand. “This is too weird.”
The lamp on his nightstand fell over, shattering the bulb. The darkness closed in on him as his eyes tried to adjust. He turned toward the bed.
“Stay away,” a voice boomed. “Leave her alone!”
He jumped at the sound, eyes frantically searching for its source. “Leave who alone?”
Something connected with Isaac’s nose, the equivalent of a brick being shot from a cannon. He felt something warm run down his upper lip and into his mouth. He tasted it. Blood.
"Son of a…” Isaac yelled, running towards the stairs, which were his only escape route. As he descended the steps, the haunting laughter echoed in his ears, mocking him.
She was beautiful.
The woman in Taylor’s dream, a year or so his senior, was wearing a long, white, billowy dress. Her long blond hair was blowing seductively in the breeze that had somehow found its way into the room, her supple young breasts yearning to be released from their prison.
Just gazing at her was enough to send rivers of blood rushing to every part of his body. She smiled at him. Her eyes spoke of passion…unquenched thirsts of desire, longing to be satisfied. Taylor could do nothing but stare as the comely Aphrodite joined him on the bed, her hands gently pulling away the thin cotton sheet separating him from paradise.
Taylor felt ripples of electricity flow through his body as she gently caressed his chest through the cotton T-shirt he was wearing.
“My darling,” she said, “make love to me.”
She leaned in and gently kissed Taylor on the lips, sending a fiery wave of passion through his body. He reached for her shoulders gingerly pulling back the dress that encased her marvelous frame. Her breasts exposed, Taylor explored them with his hands, as she slowly climbed on top of him. He felt his body press into her and moaned with delight.
“Make love to me,” she said. “My beautiful Jacen.”
Zac had stood under the scalding water for almost twenty minutes, letting it wash away the fear and confusion that consumed his mind. Somehow, in some small way, it had helped to clear his head. He absent-mindedly turned off the water and stood there for a moment, the wetness dripping from his exposed twelve year-old body. That was when he heard it again.
“Play with me, Zachary.”
He froze. Slowly he reached up to shower curtain, almost afraid to pull it back. Somehow, he knew what would await him. He closed his eyes and jerked it away. Cautiously he opened them and wasn’t disappointed. The young girl stood in the bathroom, red ball in hand. She giggled again and then faded from view, the ball dropping on the floor in front of where she had just stood.
Zac, having stood all the freakiness he could for one night, let a yelp and ran out of the hallway, barely stopping to open the bathroom door, forgetting that he was without a stitch of clothing.
Taylor snapped out of his sleep. There was a loud pounding at the door.
“Tay!” Ike’s voice screamed. “Open up, Tay!”
Realizing it was only a dream Taylor jerked back the sheet and got up from the bed. “Dammit!” He walked over to the door and threw it open angrily. “Ike,” he began, “you’d better be dying because…”
Taylor took one look at Ike’s face and stopped cold. “What the hell happened to you?”
Isaac’s face was flushed and he was out of breath. “Have you…have you noticed anything weird going on here?”
“Weird? No. But you just interrupted the most incredible dream I’ve ever…”
“It must have been some dream,” he said with a chuckle. "You're blushing."
Taylor looked down and felt his face flush. “Oh, good lord.” He turned around and walked back into his room.
The bathroom door opened and out ran a wet and naked Zac, screaming his lungs out. He looked to his brothers with terror plastered on his face. “Oh my gosh, Ike! I…she…a girl…a ball…laughing…”
“Zachary Walker Hanson,” a voice boomed, “have you lost your mind?”
It was their father.
“Get back in that bathroom and dry yourself off,” Walker continued. “And put some clothes on. I told you boys to go to bed.”
“But Dad…she’s in there…with a ball...wants to play…” Zac protested.
“No buts, Zac, just do as I say.”
Zac shrugged and went back into the bathroom, slamming the door.
“As for you, Isaac, what exactly is going on…” Walker said, turning to his older son. “What happened?”
“Something weird is going on here Dad.”
“I’ll say something weird is going on. What happened to your nose?”
“Dad, there’s something upstairs, in my room.”
“What do you mean something?”
Isaac shrugged. He knew it would sound crazy. “I was laying in my bed, writing in my journal, when the clothes just fell off my dresser, several times. Then, Aubrey got knocked from her stand. When I went to pick her up, my journal flew through the air and hit me in the face. Then Aubrey fell over again…and the lamp…and I got hit in the face.”
“Who hit you in the face?”
“I don’t know, Dad…something…somebody…”
“Isaac, you’re not making any sense. It sounds like you had yourself a bad dream and probably fell down and hurt your nose. Clean yourself up and go to bed.”
“Go to bed, Ike…I’m tired.”
With that, Walker turned and walked back to his room and shut the door. Isaac sighed heavily. He was about to walk in to see Taylor when Zac came out of the bathroom. “What’s wrong with you?”
“I tell you, man,” Zac began. “This place gives me the creeps. I think it’s haunted.”
He expected his older brother to laugh at him. Instead, Isaac just stared. “What do you mean, Zac? Why were you so scared?”
They walked into Taylor’s room. He had put on a pair of baggy jeans to hide his shame. “What’s up with you two?” Tay asked.
“Go ahead, Zac,” Ike said.
Zachary launched into his story about the young girl who had appeared to him twice now. Taylor and Isaac stared intently as their little brother relayed the tale to them, conveniently leaving out the part about wetting himself. When he finished, Tay smiled. “You’re putting us on, right, Zac?”
Ike shook his head. “No, Tay, he’s not.” He then explained what had happened to him. “Hasn’t anything weird happened to you, Tay?”
Taylor thought for a moment. “Well, I guess so. I was laying in bed, and suddenly I felt this…uh…well, presence in the room with me. She…well, it…seemed to be flirting with me…touching me…then I went to sleep and had one hell of an erotic dream.” He was quiet for several seconds. “Are you guys sure you weren’t dreaming?”
“No, I never went to sleep, Tay,” Zac said. “And what about when I got out of the shower?”
He nodded. “Well, you’ve got a point there.”
“I wasn’t asleep either, Tay. I’m sure of it.”
Taylor’s brow furrowed. “Then what the hell is going on?”
“I don’t know,” Ike answered. “But I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend tonight in that attic tonight.”
Zac nodded. “Amen to that…I’m not going back to my room now.”
“Well,” Taylor said. “I guess you guys could sleep in here.” He noticed, but said nothing, when both his brothers seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. “Go grab a pillow, guys. You can bed down on my sleeping bag.”
Isaac laughed. “Just like old times, huh?”
The rest of the night for the brothers Hanson was uneventful. After traveling together to each brother’s respective room, the safety-in-numbers philosophy, and bedding down for the night in Taylor’s quarters, they slept peacefully and without disturbance.
Not much had been said at breakfast that morning, the three brothers were relatively quiet. Walker hadn’t mentioned anything about the night before, sleep having eroded his memory. Isaac, Taylor, and Zac, however, clearly recalled the events of the previous evening, all to well.
Taylor, in his never-ending quest for knowledge, was now scouring the house’s library for information on psychic phenomenon. Their house was old, at least one hundred years, and a room full of books was just one of the treasures they’d found waiting for them.
It was an immense, two-story room, lined with scores of old and musty volumes. The very look and feel of it reminded Taylor of being at the bottom of the Grand Canyon looking up. It almost made one dizzy. It was that large.
He sat at a huge oak table in the middle of the library, his face stuck in a large, ancient, leather-bound book. It was about as thick as Taylor was tall, and it smelled of dust and mold and who knew what else. The book was interesting, however, giving him some valuable information.
“Hmmm,” he said aloud, and then began to read aloud from the book.
For most, death is to be a pleasant experience. One usually thinks of a peaceful slumber, or a journey through rays of light to some unknown paradise. For others, however, death is a living hell, plunging them into a purgatory of their worst nightmares made ‘flesh.’
“Unfinished business, huh,” Tay said. “What kind of unfinished...”
“What’s up, Tay?” Ike said, walking into the library, a can of opened Dr. Pepper in his hand.
Tay jumped. “Don’t do that, Ike!”
His older brother smiled. “Sorry about that. What are you doing?”
“Research on what?”
Taylor closed the book, causing a puff of dust to cloud the air. “Ghost, goblins, spooky stuff of all kinds.” He removed his reading glasses, rubbing at his eyes.
Isaac nodded. “Last night freaked you out, too, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess it did.” He stood up from the table and walked over to the shelf, placing to book back in the gap he’d left by removing it. Then, he put his glasses back on. “The more I thought about it, the more I realized I probably wasn’t dreaming...the first time anyway.”
Taylor continued to look at the books, pulling one out, flipping through it, placing it back on the shelf.
“What did you find out?”
“A few interesting things, actually,” Tay responded. “One book said that the reason places are haunted is that the past residents may have, like, unfinished business. The reason they’re here is that their spirits are doomed to roam the Earth, until they can resolve things.”
“Weird,” Ike said. “I wonder how our ghosts fit in?”
The fifteen year-old shook his head. “I was wondering the same thing. I guess we’d have to know something about the history of the house.”
“How are we going to do that?”
“Well,” Taylor said, “that’s kind of what I’m doing now. Looking through the books hoping I can find something.”
Isaac looked around him. There were literally thousands of books. “It’ll take forever to go through...”
They both jumped, turning around. A book had apparently flown off the shelf and landed on the floor a few feet from where they stood.
“Fuck me…” Tay screamed.
He walked over to pick up the book. It was a small one...lesser in size than most of the others. It was made of leather, which had not stood up well under the tests of time. The once gold-leafed edges were now a sickening yellowish-brown color. He opened it carefully. The first page revealed it to be a journal. Written in very shaky, yet elegant print, was a name: Jacen Bartholomew Vartanian. Below the name was a date: July 15, 1915.
“Holy cow,” Tay said, “it’s someone’s journal.”
“Cool,” Ike said. “Whose?”
Taylor turned the page. “Some guy named...” he stopped, his brow furrowing, “Jacen.”
“Oh my gosh, Ike,” Tay exclaimed. “That’s what the girl in my dream called me. She called me Jacen.” He looked down at the first page, brown and tattered with age. His eyes struggled to read the pale, faded print.
July 15, 1915 -- My name is Jacen Bartholomew Vartanian and today is my birthday. Today I turned sixteen years old. Grandmother gave me this journal. She said, “Today, my boy, you have become a man. You must record your thoughts and your feelings in order to grow.” I’m not sure if grandmother is right or not, she’s always been a wee bit eccentric, but I’m willing to have a go at it. Today was also the day we moved into Gramercy Oaks. I love this old house. It has lots of character. I find myself being inspired as I walk its hallowed halls. The voices of the past speak to me. I could spend eternity here.
“Okay, this is kinda boring.”
“Yeah, skip ahead,” Ike agreed.
Taylor flipped forward in the book to another page.
August 7, 1915 – I realized something today…something that may very well effect the rest of my life. I’m in love. I never thought it could happen, nor did I think it could be this beautiful. I think about her all the time…she’s lovely. If only I could tell her. If only I could tell the world. Isabel knows. I can trust her. There’s an honesty about that child. She’s very mature to be only twelve.
“Twelve years old,” Ike said. “Could that be the girl Zac saw?”
Taylor shook his head. “I don’t know.” He continued to read out loud.
She didn’t react at all like I thought she would. She seemed pleased. Oh, to be so young and innocent. My younger sister sees nothing wrong with me being in love with Vanessa. I must admit, however, that neither do I.
“Who’s Vanessa?” Tay said, flipping forward.
August 9, 1915 – I told Vanessa today…she was pleased. We were walking in the meadow behind the house. I took her by the hand and looked her in the eye, saying, “I love you, Vanessa Caroline Crawley…I love you madly.” She smiled beautifully and responded with, “I love you too, Jacen.” We made love in the meadow this afternoon. It was absolutely heavenly. We must be careful. Father must never find out. He would never take to us being in love, even if we’re not related by blood. He took her in after her Father died and thinks of her as his own daughter. He’s already mentally unstable. I’m afraid this would push him over the edge.
“What’s up, guys?” Zac asked, entering the room.
Ike and Tay jumped. “Holy shit, Zac!” they screamed in unison.
The younger Hanson brother giggled. “Gee, guys, it’s just me. You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Isaac smacked Zac on the side of his head. “I seem to remember someone running out of the bathroom with no clothes on last night because they were scared. Do you have any idea who that might be?”
Zac raised an eyebrow. “Hmm, no, not at all. Doesn’t ring any bells with me. What are you guys doing?”
Taylor rolled his eyes. “We found this old journal...or rather, it found us. We think it may have belonged to one of our ghostly friends.”
“Cool,” Zac responded. “Found out anything interesting?”
“Well, so far, we’ve learned there were three children that lived her: Jacen, Vanessa, and Isabel. Jacen and Isabel were brother and sister; Vanessa was taken in by their Father after she was orphaned. Jacen and Vanessa apparently fell in love and were afraid his father would find out. Their father thought of Vanessa as one of his own, even though there was no relation”
Taylor turned the page and continued reading.
August 11, 1915 -- Father found out today. Vanessa and I were making love in the library when he caught us. He was supposed to be gone all day...he’d taken Isabel into town to see Dr. Rigby. Oh my, he was furious. He threatened to kill us both. Six months ago, before mother passed on, I never thought I would have heard him speak in such a manner. Now, I know he means it...he’s unstable. He frightens me. I understand he is upset with us, but I’m afraid of what he might do.
“They did it in here?” Zac asked. “What did they do, go at it on the table?”
August 15, 1915 -- Vanessa and I made love in the meadow again today. It is impossible for us to put aside our feelings for one another.
“Stayed pretty busy, those two,” Isaac said. “There’s just one question I have, if Zac met Isabel, then who were our ghosts, Tay?”
“Well, if they were Jacen and Vanessa, why would do what they did? I mean, I doubt Jacen was the one trying to feel me up...at least I hope not. And why would either of them beat the shit out of you?”
Isaac thought for a moment. “You said the girl in the dream called you Jacen, right?”
“Okay, let me hypothesize for a second. What if that was Vanessa? And what if she for some reason thought you were Jacen?”
“Well, it makes some sense, but why would she think I was Jacen?”
Ike laughed. “I haven’t made it that far yet.” He stood up from his chair and started to circle the table. “If she thinks you’re Jacen, what if he thought I was after Vanessa?”
“So, he beats the crap out of you?”
“Exactly. Just my luck, Zac gets the friendly ghost; you get the horny one; and I get Rocky Balboa.”
Zac chuckled. “You were beat up by a ghost, Ike. That’s pathetic.”
“Give new meaning to the term ‘ghostbuster,’” Taylor added.
“Yeah, sure, guys. Go ahead and laugh at your injured brother. I’ve suffered some major trauma here.”
“Head trauma,” Zac said.
“That explains a few things.” Taylor and Zac were laughing hysterically.
Isaac grabbed Zac and put him into a headlock. “You guys are not funny.”
“Come on, Ike,” Taylor said. “Lighten...” He stopped in mid-sentence as his eyes drifted to the upper level of the immense library. At the top of the stairs stood a small child in a white dress. She was smiling at him and holding a red ball. “Guys.”
Isaac released his younger brother and looked to see what Taylor was staring at. Zac went bug-eyed when he too looked to the top of the stairs. “That’s her! That’s the girl that was in my room last night.”
She giggled. “Play with me.”
Isaac moved out from behind the table. “I’ve got an idea, guys.” He walked to the middle of the room. “Isabel?”
The little girl nodded.
“I’ll play with you, Isabel,” Ike said. “Throw me the ball.”
Isabel hesitated for a moment. She looked at Isaac and then at the ball in her hands. Her face spread into a wide grin. She tossed the ball down the stairs. Isaac ran forward and caught it. “Nice throw,” he said. “Come down here, Isabel. We’ll play ball if you come down.”
“What’s this ‘we’ shit?” Zac asked, watching Isabel descend the stairs.
“Don’t be afraid, Zac,” Ike said. “It’s okay. She won’t hurt you.”
Taylor and Zac moved out and joined Isaac. Isabel stepped down off the stairs and slowly walked toward them. Her eyes were fixed on Taylor, showing a glint of recognition. Suddenly, she grinned and ran toward him. She collided with Taylor, her face burying into his tummy, arms wrapped tightly around his body. Isabel was hugging him. “Jacen,” she said.
“Uh,” he responded, “my name is Taylor.”
She pulled away and looked at him, confused. Then, she smiled. “You’re being silly, Jacen. Stop trying to fool me.”
Isaac dropped down on one knee and looked Isabel in the eye. “This is our brother, Taylor,” he said.
She giggled. “How could he be your brother, you silly goose? He’s my brother.” She walked over to the wall and pulled a book from the shelf. Isaac followed her. She opened the book and pointed. “See?”
Isaac took the book from her hands and stared at the picture. It was old, tattered and browning around the edges. There were three children shown in the photograph. One of them was Isabel. Next to her stood a beautiful girl. Behind the both of them stood a young man, about sixteen, with long, blond hair. He looked exactly like Taylor!
“Guys,” Ike said, “you have to see this.” He pointed at the boy and asked, “Isabel, who is this young man?”
She smiled. “I told you. It’s my brother.”
“And the other girl?”
Taylor and Zac took the book and looked at the picture. “Whoa,” Zac said. “That guy looks just like you, Tay.”
He said nothing; he just stared at the picture.
“Isabel,” Ike began, “were Vanessa and Jacen in love?”
She nodded. “Yes, very much so.” She turned to Taylor. “Are you really not my brother?”
He shook his head. “No, Isabel, I’m not.”
“Where are your brother and Vanessa now, Isabel,” Isaac asked.
“I don’t know,” she said, tears forming in her eyes. “They come and go. Sometimes I see them, sometimes I don’t. It’s so very lonely here. I was happy to see someone move in. It’s been such a long time. I’m sorry if I scared you, Zachary.”
Zac smiled nervously. “Uh...no sweat, kid.”
“Isabel,” Isaac inquired, “do you know why you’re all here?”
“Jacen says it’s because father killed us all...that our souls are doomed to roam the earth for all eternity.”
“Why did your father kill you, Isabel?”
“He was crazy. Not always, though. Only since mother was thrown from the horse and went to be with God. He was very angry that Jacen and Vanessa were in love. He found Jacen’s journal and learned that they had been to the meadow many times. He got mad and...”
She stopped. Her little eyes filled with tears. “...he shot them both in the head. Then, he killed me too. Now I have to stay here forever...wandering around this cold lonely house. I hate him! I hate him!”
Isabel suddenly vanished. Her screams echoed a deafening symphony in the large library. Books flew off the shelves in rapid secession, some of them pounding into the brothers as they scrambled for cover. A cloud of a dust filled the air, along with the musty smell of age-old volumes. Then, as quickly as it had begun, the screaming stopped; the last of the books fell to the floor.
Zac, who had dove under the table when stuff started flying, poked his head out. "Is it over?"
"I think so," Taylor responded.
"Holy cow," Zac said. "She was pissed."
Isaac offered a nervous laugh. "That's an understatement, Zacman."
"That book was right," Taylor offered. "They are here because of unforgiveness. They'll be here forever until they forgive him."
"That's easier said than done sometimes, Tay," Ike said. "But you're right. I wonder what happened to him."
Taylor looked around him at the huge mess. "We'd better clean this up before Mom sees it and has a conniption fit." He silently began picking up books and placing them back on the shelves. His brothers followed suit. He looked over at Zac, who'd become engrossed in a one of the titles he'd picked up. "Come on, Zac, this is no time for reading."
"No, Taylor, I found something."
Zac held up the book he was holding. Taylor took it and looked at the front. He read the title out loud. "A History of Tulsa County." He turned it over and read from where Zac had marked the page. "Most infamous of all Tulsa tragedies is the story of Lord Bartholomew Vartanian. Lord Vartanian, heir to the British Vartanian fortune, was one of Oklahoma's first oil barons. During the summer of 1915, Lord Vartanian settled into the historic Gramercy Oaks house with his children, Jacen and Isabel. Known to be a devoted family man, Lord Vartanian suffered a great loss when Lady Vartanian was killed in the spring of that year after being thrown from a horse. The grief proved to be too much for the Lord and those who knew him best began to report him losing his grip on reality. At the end of August, Lord Vartanian, having completely lost his mind (for lack of a more conclusive explanation) murdered his family – including Vanessa Crawley, daughter of James Wentworth Crawley – whom Lord Vartanian had taken in after Lord Crawley's untimely death – with a Civil War pistol and then hanged himself in the front parlor of Gramercy Oaks."
"He killed himself," Zac said. "Whoa."
Taylor reverently closed the book and placed it back on the shelf. "We need a plan, guys."
"A plan for what?" Zac asked.
"We've got to help them," Taylor explained. "Unless you want to continue living in this haunted spook house."
"Plan away," Zac said.
Later that evening the brothers gathered in Zac's room to discuss their strategy. Taylor had continued with his research by calling the real estate agent in an attempt to find out anything about the house they'd moved into. It had proven to be a difficult undertaking, with the agent not exactly willing to divulge any information.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Hanson, but I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about."
Taylor laughed. "This house is haunted, Mr. Alvarez. I can't believe you knew nothing of its history before you sold it to us."
After several minutes of bickering back and forth, Taylor had had enough. He finally was able to squeeze the information out of the guy. "Okay, okay…you win," Mr. Alvarez had said. "I know about the history of the house but I had no idea the place was haunted. I'd heard stories, of course, but nothing concrete. And as far as telling you about it, well, would you? You have a house to unload and you don't have a buyer. Suddenly a family comes along who's interested. Well, Mr. Hanson, I didn't tell you because I wanted to sell you the house. It's a good house…solid. And if it just happens to harbor a few demons, is that my fault?"
Through a little more prodding Taylor had been able to find out about the family cemetery just a few yards beyond the back of the house. He'd taken a stroll and found the graves, buried one next to the other.
Taylor had also come up with a plan, which he was about to share with his brothers.
"Alright, guys," he said, "tonight we sleep in our own rooms."
"Oh, no!" Zac complained. "No way! I'm not sleeping by myself."
"Come on, Zac, that's the only way this plan is gonna work. The ghosts don't seem to come around as much when we're together."
"What is this plan of yours, Taylor?"
"I propose to get them all together in the cemetery, gather them around their father's grave and just, well…" he stopped. "I don't know. It sounds stupid, but they have to forgive their father or they're gonna stay here forever. I, for one, can't deal with that."
"Amen," Zac chimed.
"Okay, here's the plan. Tonight, if and when the spooks come out, let's try and get them to the cemetery out back. Ike, tell Jacen that Vanessa is out there waiting for him. I'll do the same with Vanessa. Zac, well, promise Isabel you'll play with her. I don't know. Do whatever it takes to get her out there. Once we're there, just follow my lead. Any questions?"
Ike and Zac shook their heads.
Isaac sat in the dark, his old football helmet planted firmly on his head. He wasn't taking any chances with this guy, ghost or not. For a spirit, Jacen packed a pretty mean wallop. Ike's eye was proof of that fact. He knew things would probably get ugly tonight, and he wanted to be ready.
"This is crazy," Isaac said out loud. "I'm protecting myself from something I can't even see."
He hadn't wanted to admit it in front of Zac, but Isaac was afraid. Who wouldn't be? You saw stuff like this in the movies all the time; you never expected that it could happen in your own house. And the fact that it was his house really pissed Isaac off. He hated this…he didn't like to be afraid. Here he was just waiting for the guy to come out of nowhere.
He stood up from the bed and looked around, jerking the helmet from his head. "Where are you? Come out and show yourself."
Silence answered him; a deafening quiet that chilled him to the bone.
"Come on out, damn you!"
Through the darkness he saw a book fly through the air just in time to duck out of the way.
"Is that all you've got, Jacen? Come on out where I can see you."
The pile of clothes from the previous evening fell from the dresser.
"Where are you?"
Isaac's blood turned to ice as he heard a hideous laughter fill the room. Suddenly, right in front of him, a ghostly figure appeared. He was staring Jacen Vartanian straight in the eyes.
"Come on, Tay," he said out loud, "be cool."
Vanessa Vartanian stood directly in front of him. This time, however, it wasn't a dream.
Oh my gosh…oh my gosh…oh my gosh!
She stood about as tall as he did and had gorgeous blond hair. Her face was that of an angels and it was smiling from ear to ear. The look in her eyes was love. She gently reached out for his hand. 'Jacen," she said. "My beautiful Jacen."
Taylor froze as her ghostly hand touched his. She took a step closer to him, still smiling.
"I love you, Jacen."
She was inches away now. Vanessa leaned in and gently kissed Taylor on the lips. For just a split second, he forgot everything. He was lost in her beauty and in the love that she exuded.
Snap out of it, Tay!
"I'm sorry, Vanessa," he said to her. "But I'm not Jacen." Her smile faded as Taylor continued. "My name is Taylor, and I want to help you."
Vanessa took a step back, her face echoing confusion. "You're teasing me, Jacen."
Taylor shook his head. "No, Vanessa, I'm not. My name is Taylor Hanson."
She shook her head. "No, you're Jacen. It's been such a long time. Please don't play games with me."
He stepped forward. "I assure you that I am not Jacen. Do you know why you're here?"
Vanessa thought for a moment. "I…I'm not sure. Father was angry…so very angry with us. He…" A single tear streamed down her cheek. "Father shot us to death."
Taylor nodded, not knowing what else to do.
"I've been here for so long," she continued. "It's so cold and lonely."
"Do you know why you're still here?"
Vanessa shook her head.
Taylor took her by the hand. "You're here because of your anger…your bitterness."
"I don't understand."
"Vanessa," Taylor began, "you have to forgive Lord Vartanian. It's the only way that you'll be free."
"I can't forgive him for what he did. Jacen and I were in love. He discouraged that…he even killed us. How can I forgive him?"
"Have you tried?"
She sighed, the tears flowing freely now. "No, I haven't. I just always assumed that I couldn't. I've hated him for so long, Taylor. That just doesn't go away."
"I know, Vanessa, but you have to try. And I think I know how I may be able to help you."
Vanessa looked at him. "You can help me?"
"I think so, yes."
She squeezed Taylor's hand. "Thank you."
Zac had almost fallen asleep when he heard the voice speak.
"Play with me, Zachary."
The closet door creaked open and there stood Isabel Vartanian in her white dress, holding her red ball.
He rose up in the bed, rubbing his eyes. "Hello, Isabel," he said. "I've been waiting for you."
She smiled. "Have you?"
"Yes," he said, climbing out of his bed. "I was hoping you'd want to play with me."
Isabel giggled. "Of course I want to play with you, silly goose."
Zac stood up and held out his hands. He was still unsure about this, but he knew Taylor had a point about getting rid of the ghosts. He'd do whatever he had to do. Although it was kind of cool to live in a haunted house. At least his ghost didn't go around beating the crap out of people.
"Throw me the ball, Isabel," Zac said.
She wasted no time, quickly tossing him the ball. He caught it and walked towards the door. Isabel watched him intently. "Where are you going, Zachary?"
"Would you like to play outside, Isabel?"
She nodded and followed Zac through the door and down the stairs.
"Leave her alone!" Jacen said.
Isaac shook his head. He was amazed at how much this guy looked like Taylor. The eyes, the hair, the shape of the face were all strikingly similar. It was frightening. "I'm not here to take her from you, Jacen."
"Liar!" the ghost screamed, causing a shoe to fly across the room to emphasize his point.
The black Nike connected with Ike's right arm. He stood his ground. "I want to help you, Jacen," he said. "You have to trust me."
Jacen laughed. "You fool! Why should I trust you? You've taken Vanessa from me. I should kill you."
"I've not taken her anywhere, but I do know where she is. I'll take you to her, if you'll let me."
Jacen stood quiet for a moment.
"I know why you're all here, Jacen," Isaac said. "I know what your father did. It was horrible and it was wrong, but forgiving your father is the only way you'll ever leave this place. You, Vanessa, and your sister have been kept here for a reason."
Isaac approached the young apparition and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"I know you loved her, Jacen. She loved you too. You can be together…forever. You have to trust me."
Jacen opened his mouth to protest but suddenly thought better of it. He simply nodded at Isaac. The eldest Hanson brother smiled and led Jacen to the door.
"Where are we going, Zachary?"
Zac turned and smiled. "It's a surprise, Isabel. Do you like surprises?"
"Oh, yes! I love surprises!"
"Then follow me. We're almost there."
Taylor and Vanessa approached a break in the woods behind Gramercy Oaks. Illuminated by the moonlight, the trees cast an eerie shadow on the ground. Not quite May yet, there was a certain chill in the air, a sign that spring wasn't going to go lightly.
In the middle of the clearing were five smooth headstones, spaced about three feet apart, standing guard like sentries in the night. They were lined perfectly and reverently, a monument to a terrible tragedy. Vanessa, whose smile had a way of lighting up a room, even in her ghostly state, frowned.
"I know this place," she said. "Why did you bring me here?"
Taylor, who'd been leading her by the hand, turned to face her. "This is where you must make your peace, Vanessa," he said.
She shook her head. "I cannot."
Taylor smiled gently. "You can," he said. "You can and you must."
The tears flowed from her eyes again. Taylor could sense her pain…he felt it.
"You've tortured yourselves long enough, Vanessa. You love Jacen and Isabel…and you even loved Lord Vartanian once. He took you in when you had no one. Isn't it time…"
"We're here, Tay," Zac announced.
"Vanessa!" Isabel squealed.
The older woman opened her arms and embraced Isabel. "Oh, my darling Bella! I've missed you so!"
Isabel hugged Vanessa tightly. "As I have missed you!" The little girl sobbed. "I've longed to be with you. I've been so alone…so afraid."
"It's alright, Isabel," Vanessa said. "I'm here now. We're together."
Zac stood next to his older brother and smiled. He was awe-struck at Vanessa's beauty. "That the chick from your dream, Tay?" he asked.
Taylor, a little awe-struck himself, simply nodded.
"Cool," Zac said.
He turned upon hearing the sound of approaching footsteps. He smiled again when Ike appeared from the trees, escorting someone who looked to be Taylor…or at least a darn good likeness. "Whoa, Tay! Check it out!"
Taylor turned, his eyes fixing upon…himself. It was uncanny. Jacen Vartanian and he could have been twins. He laughed nervously as he saw Jacen returning the same stupefied look. Taylor stepped forward. "Jacen Vartanian, I presume," he said, holding out his hand.
Jacen nodded, accepting Taylor's hand. "Yes, I'm…I'm…" he stammered. "You're me."
"It would appear that way, yes," Taylor responded. "It's nice to finally meet you. I brought someone…"
"Jacen!" Vanessa screamed. "Oh, my Jacen." She ran to him, her arms opened wide. As the two collided, Jacen picked her up and swung her around and around in his embrace.
"Darling Vanessa," he said. "I thought I'd lost you forever. How I've missed you." Jacen kissed her hard on the lips, holding her tightly in his arms. "Oh, Vanessa," he said.
He let go only when he felt a tug on his trousers. He looked down and smiled. It was Isabel. "Bella!" Jacen reached down and grabbed his younger sister, taking her into a warm embrace, kissing her cheek affectionately.
"Jacen," she said. "I've been searching for you…it's been such a very long time!"
"I've missed you too, my little flower. You've been staying out of mischief, I trust."
"Yes, brother," Isabel said. "Oh, I have a new friend. You must meet Zachary."
Jacen set her down. She wasted no time running to Zac. "Jacen, this is Zachary, my new friend. He played ball with me."
Zac nodded towards Jacen. "'Sup?" he said.
Jacen nodded. He had a confused look on his face.
Isabel looked to Taylor and Isaac. "They all played with me. And they brought me back to you. Oh, Jacen." She ran and embraced him again.
He hugged her, looking up at Isaac. "Thank you," he said. "To you and your brothers. You've brought my family back together. I'm just sorry that it had to be under such horrible circumstances."
Isaac smiled. "Well, we were glad to help, although our motives weren't exactly pure. We kinda did this to get rid of you."
Jacen laughed. "I suppose I understand. I wasn't very hospitable, was I?"
"Well, you two," Jacen began, "I suppose you both know why we're here."
The two young girls looked down at the headstone with somber expressions. There was a deafening silence in the air. They all knew why they'd been brought here, but none of them wanted to admit it.
Taylor stepped forward. “It’s time to let it all go.”
Jacen nodded at Taylor and stepped to the edge of the grave. He kneeled down and stared at the headstone that bore his father’s name. For a few moments, he simply gazed at the marker, not finding the words. Then, he spoke. “Father, I was angry with you. I’ve not allowed myself to forget the horrible things that you did. Vanessa and I were in love. I know it must have seemed wrong to you. I know that you couldn’t have possibly understood the feelings we had for one another.
“You had no right!” he stopped, realizing the tone of his voice had risen. “You had no right to keep us from one another. Nor did you have the right to take your anger out on Isabel. You hurt us, Father. All these years I’ve hated you, sworn that I would never forgive your evil deeds. Now, Father, I have no choice. I release myself from you. I forgive you.”
Vanessa kneeled down next to Jacen, taking him by the hand. “I forgive you too, Lord Vartanian.”
Tears fell from Isabel’s face as she too knelt before her Father’s grave. “I also forgive you. I’m sorry, Father.”
A bright shaft of light suddenly broke the darkness from earth around the marker. It shown down like the sun, illuminating the grave of Lord Bartholomew Vartanian. The Hanson brothers stared in amazement, as a figure appeared to rise from the ground in front of the headstone. It was a man, about their father’s age, dressed in a tattered velvet jacket and pants, transparent in state. They could see the trees behind him through his body.
“Alright,” Zac retorted. “Who invited him?”
“Shhh,” Isaac said.
The figure rose to a standing position and gazed down upon the children, the light around him fading. A joyful smile spread across his face. “Thank you,” he said. “For so long I’ve waited to hear those words, waited to be released from my agony. I’m sorry, children. I’m so very sorry.”
They ran to him, wrapping their arms around the man and embracing him, their anger and hatred left behind.
“We love you, Father,” Isabel said.
He picked her up, kissing her lightly on the cheek. “I love you too, darling Bella. Oh, how I’ve missed you!”
“Yes,” Vanessa said. “We’ve missed you too.”
They hugged one another tightly, so caught up in their reunion they almost didn’t notice when another bright light beamed down from the heavens, illuminating Lady Vartanian’s grave.
“Oh, boy, here we go again,” Zac said.
Then, she appeared...Lady Vartanian. Her beauty shined brighter than the ray that illuminated her. Her hair was long and golden, draped across her shoulders like a royal coat. Her smile was like a chest of diamonds, rich and beautiful.
“Mother!” Isabel screamed. “Oh, mother!”
Lady Vartanian laughed. It sounded like angels singing. She held out her arms and embraced her youngest daughter as Isabel collided with her. “At last!” the Lady said. “At last we can be together for all eternity. My family has been forgiven their sins...the curse is broken.”
She embraced each of her children and then her husband. The joyous reunion continued for several more moments until Lady Vartanian held up her hands. “It’s time,” she said. “We must go now.”
Zac Hanson watched intently as Isabel turned towards him and his brothers, a bright smile on her face. In her hand she held the red ball, which she clutched tightly. She held it up towards Zac. “Thank you, sweet Zachary. Thank you for bringing me home. Thank you all.”
She tossed the ball into the air. Zac reached out and caught it. Isabel giggled. “Goodbye, Zachary.”
“Goodbye, Isabel,” he responded.
The Vartanian family stood closely together in the light. Suddenly, in a scene straight out of a Star Trek movie, the beam brightened, enveloping their bodies in a myriad of sparkling fireballs. And then, as quickly as it had appeared, the light faded, leaving the three brothers standing alone in the forest clearing.
Zac stared at the ball for a moment and then looked up at his brothers. “Guys,” he said, “what just happened here?”
Isaac laughed nervously. “I’m not sure myself, Zacman.”
“Me neither,” Taylor added. “I’m just gonna go back to the house and go to bed.” He laughed. “I might actually get some sleep without Isaac’s snoring.” He took off running.
“Oh, you are so dead,” Isaac said, taking off after his brother.
Zac stopped for a moment, staring at the ball again. He turned around and gave one last look at the clearing. A chill suddenly swept over him and he took off into a run. “Guys,” he yelled. “Wait up! Don’t leave me out here!”