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My feet stepped carefully on the grass muddied by the recent rain. The outlines of the big old house showed up on the horizon. I took a deep breath and by instinct closed my fingers around the iron cross hanging in my chest.

“This thing won’t help, you know,” said the voice – referring to my touch in the cross –, always full of fun and sarcasm, that I got used to hear without a break for the last couple of days. I turned my face to my right side and saw Samantha smiling, her pearly teeth gleaming by the pale light of the dusk. “The ghosts won’t get away from you, especially when you look for them.”

“I don’t look for ALL of them,” I emphasized. “Why did you come with me, Samantha? Is it not enough just telling you that I prefer to do these things by myself?”

Her smile only widened. “You’re not getting rid me so easily, Victor.”

Trying to ignore my new blabbering shadow, I walked forward.

“Honestly, Victor, you could do so many things… but you’re always in this ghost-hunting thing… Enjoy life while you can!”

“Shhh,” I silenced her as we reached the front door.

“Are the residents home?”

I shook my head and started to force the lock, wielding a hairpin. Even though there weren’t any neighbors, I wanted silence, but Samantha wasn’t helping.

“What are you going to do when we get inside?”

I glanced at her perfect face, the dark blue eyes loaded with a thousand different emotions, the pink mouth half opened in expectation… How could I stop her from following me? There was nothing more in the world that mattered to Samantha. All she wanted was attention and patience, and I was the one she chose to give this to her.
“Just follow me, alright? And try not to talk. Challenging, isn’t it?” I smiled a little and she pretended to be outraged.

The door closed by itself as soon as we got in, an unexpected windstorm forcing the hinges from the windows. I walked through the vast dark room very carefully. Indistinguishable sounds were coming from upstairs, and tok-toks sounded repeatedly on the top floor.

Swallowing hard, I started to climb the stairs, step by step, trying to do it as soundlessly as possible. I didn’t have a great plan for the moment we faced the troubling spirits. I held the cross once again, aware that Samantha was right about it, but unable to contain the gesture that always calmed me down.

The wind howled, breaking into the house through the west window, which opened at a burst, making both of us to jump in fright. Adrenaline flowing, I went up a step further, but Samantha was faster and climbed two, stopping in front of me, a level of difference leaving our eyes at the same height.

“Victor, maybe this is a bad idea. We can come here another day, with backup. You know it can be dangerous.”

I almost smiled. “First: there’s no ‘us’ in this mission. Second: I’m not afraid of ghosts.”

Her beautiful smile returned when she heard the second phrase. “Of course I know that,” she said, and came closer, intense, her face so pretty… For a moment I caught myself thinking: What if everything was different? But she doesn’t understand it is… “I’m going to end this tonight, all by myself,” I told her, returning to my serious expression. Even though I normally had to bear – not without complains – her stunning, fun and unpleasant presence, today it was not appropriate.

“It doesn’t matter how much you try,” there was a smile there… but, uncommonly, it was a sad one, “you will always be haunted, Victor.”

I would have shivered hearing those words if I didn’t know what they meant. But yet, I felt a pressure in my chest – which was not fear.

Samantha walked down the stairs, the unusual wind making her red hair flutter. She turned to look at me, showed her usual, full of meaning, white smile and, right before my eyes, she faded away.

Paula Ottoni, 2012

Copyright © Paula Ottoni, 2017.