“Gather one, gather all—I’ve got a tale to tell,” I say, spreading my arms wide.
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Sam says, rolling her eyes at me.
There’s a storm outside, and we’re holed up in her apartment. It’s a rinky-dink studio, on the eighth floor, in the middle of the city. We’re having a seasonal storm, and while Sam loves thunder and lightning, she’s bored since the electricity went out an hour ago. Her cell phone apparently died, too, so now she’s being an annoying brat and demanding that I tell her a story.
“I’m not being dramatic,” I tell her, pursuing my lips. “I’m setting the mood.”
“Yeah, and what’s the ‘mood?’ Snide and sarcastic?”
“Just because you don’t know how to be serious, it doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t be,” I say, grinning when she scoffs. “Now, pay attention.”
Sam straightens up, wrapping her comforter tighter around her as she sits on her bed. I’m not sure how cool the room is, but it can’t be too warm if she’s all bundled up. I’ve long since stopped feeling hot and cold—but that’s what happens when one dies.
“It’s night time, and thunder flashes and lightning shakes the skies,” I continue, hands moving as I try to paint a picture with my movements. “The rain pounds against the rooftop, and the floorboards creak and groan.”
“Bor-ing,” Sam says, yawning.
I glare at her, crossing my arms over my chest. “Pay attention, or I’ll go find something else to do. Then you can figure out how to keep yourself entertained.”
She presses her lips together.
“That’s what I thought,” I mutter. “Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. The storm is raging outside, the wind howling through the trees. The thunder is so close, it’s shakes the house. Inside, there’s a little girl—and she’s all alone.”
“Where are her parents?”
“They went out into the storm when the power went out—but that was hours ago, and she hasn’t seen or heard from them since.” I pause, watching Sam shiver. “The girl is huddled on the couch, waiting for her parents to come inside. Suddenly, there’s a loud knock on the door. Thud! Thud! Thud!” I shout, making her jump. “The little girl stares at the door. Then, she gets to her feet, walking slowly, so slowly. ‘Mom?’ she calls. ‘Dad?’ Nobody responds.”
“Who’s at the door?” Sam asks meekly.
I stare her down, letting the seconds tick by.
“Well?” she prods, fidgeting with her blanket. “Who is it?”
I grin slyly, going back to my story. “The girl reaches for the doorknob, hand trembling. She grips it, heart pounding in her chest.” I draw out the moment, watching Sam shrink into her pillows and blankets. “She pulls the door open, and—”
Lightning flashes across the window, and Sam pulls her blanket tighter around her.
“—nobody’s there. She walks out onto the porch, and,” I drawl, before shouting, “somebody grabs her!”
Boom! Thunder claps outside, and Sam screams, jumping into the air.
I laugh as she burrows under the blanket, hiding her face.
“It’s not funny!” she yells, pulling her pillows around her under the blanket. She curls into a ball until I’m not sure which round shape is her and which ones are the pillows. “What happens next?” she whispers.
“Nothing. It was her dad.”
Sam’s head pops out from under the blanket, a scowl on her face. “That’s the lamest story I’ve ever heard, Phoenix!”
I shrug. “Scared you, didn’t it?”
“No,” she lies.
The lights flicker before illuminating the small space, and the refrigerator starts humming, the heater clicks on, and microwave beeps in protest.
“Look at that,” I say. “Now you can keep yourself entertained.”
Sam gets up, dashes to the wall, and turns off the light before turning, running, and diving back under the covers. “Tell me another story,” she says.
Next: A Ghost of a Tale – Pt 3