"Remind me next time: I owe you for those chapter notes."
"Yes, yes you do."
June could not help but smile, and Blake responded with a gentle elbow to her arm. After the events of this morning, the rest of his school day had luckily been uneventful. And, of course, he hadn't mentioned to any of his friends the incident involving the spirit.
Now it was just him and June, walking the same way they'd come from that morning. Their houses stood only a block up ahead, easy to identify even among the long stretch of homes down the street.
"So, I know Amelia can get a little carried away with plans, but you have to admit. Planning out activities for the summer sounds really exciting."
Blake nodded. "And just think. We'll be in 9th grade next year. Freshman."
"I know! And then four years later? Off to college!"
"You know, with your grades, you could easily grab a couple of scholarships."
June let out a small laugh as the both of them stopped in front of Blake's front yard. "Aww, thanks. I could see you snagging a small scholarship too."
"Yeah, I don't know." He shrugged his shoulders and rubbed the back of his head. "Academics isn't my thing."
She gave a response to his comment but he only half paid attention. Another strange chill ran up his spine, and he fought the urge to make an irritated face. This many in less than a day? his mind screamed. One last night and another the afternoon before...this is starting to happen more often than normal.
"So...you won't, right?"
Blake returned to reality, and realized he had no idea what June had told him. But given her slightly furrowed brows, he could only make an educated guess about the context of her inquiry.
"No, I won't. Promise."
Unfortunately June did not look entirely convinced, but Blake gave her a quick wave before he walked down the path leading to his house. "See you tomorrow, June."
He pulled out his keys from the side pocket of his backpack and stuck them in the door. As he unlocked it, he looked left and saw June at the next house over. He then watched her disappear into her home after a quick wave in his direction.
Blake's key jangled when he turned them and finally entered his home. He set his backpack on a kitchen chair nearest the door, and stretched his arms up. But he did not relax for long. The chill up his spine reminded him that he still had another order of business to attend to.
He slowly walked down the hall, looking left and right, and waiting, trying to get a sense of things. He waited a few moments longer, before his gaze made its way to the other side of the house, and the door to the backyard. Blake's eyes narrowed a little as he entered a small office, complete with a couple of chairs and small desks, a single computer sitting atop one of the desks. Directly in front of him stood a door with a light blue curtain that covered the window on the upper half of the entryway. It was locked, but Blake unlocked it and opened it halfway.
The backyard was a simple one, with grass and dirt patches, surrounded on three sides by a tall wooden fence that was taller than him. Blake performed a quick scan of the yard, but did not initially notice anything unusual. Even so Blake could sense something here. Another spectre, but different from the one this morning. And he was certain an entity stood in the middle of the yard. It took a few moments for the spectre to take notice of his presence.
Blake narrowed his eyes and concentrated hard. An adult. Female. And an individual that felt lost, just like the little boy. Yet at the same time, this spirit emanated waves of calm.
"Do you need help?" he asked.
The entity seemed accepting of his offer, but Blake couldn't really feel anything else. He stepped out further into the backyard, but left the door behind him open.
"I need a bit more to go on," he said. "Where are you from?"
A moment later, an image of mountains flickered in his mind, and for a few seconds the hairs on his arms, legs, and neck stood on end.
"Mountains....like the Rockies?"
The spectre did not respond. Blake thought harder.
"What about the Appalachians?"
A sense of familiarity rushed over him. Blake was surprised for a moment, but he shook his head.
"You're a long way from home then," he said. "This is western Idaho, practically the other side of the country. You'll want to go east, far east."
It seemed the figure understood. However, she did not move. Blake waited a few moments longer but still nothing happened.
"Is something wrong?"
For a second he caught a whiff of something. Burning wood. But the scent was not a malicious one; it was calm, and warm. He also smelled pine and shrubs. He sensed strength and energy emanating from her, and though he needed a few moments he eventually understood.
"You were camping, right? In a forest east of here. There was some kind of accident?"
It was as if the spectre nodded. Blake focused for more details, but found none. Whatever had caused their demise, it had come too quick for her to realize. He focused even harder on the direction.
"I don't know for sure, but head northeast," he suggested. "If you were with someone, chances are good they're in that direction."
Surely the partial closure would have sufficed for this woman. But to Blake's stunned confusion, they still remained.
He squinted his eyes. "What is it?"
The spectre emanated a new emotion, one he did not expect: fear. But this was not fear associated with death. This woman feared something in their current state. They feared......another presence? Blake had not felt anything like this before, but perhaps he'd missed a sign of some sort. He looked around, and let his perception reach out further. He waited for the familiar sensation of a warm chill down his back.
But what struck him was something else entirely. He held his breath as a burn pulsated throughout his body. It radiated primarily in his arms and legs, and while the feeling seemed accompanied by a slight stinging sensation, something else alarmed him more. His chest was reacting to it. Why did his heart race in such a rapid and unpleasant manner?
He then noticed it. His fingertips quivered. Blake looked around with a start but had no idea why his own body seemed afraid right now. He'd never experienced this kind of sensation before.
Suddenly his gaze froze, fixated. He noticed movement, near the corner of the fence. A shadowy figure. Even with a step forward and squinted eyes, he could not completely make it out. The wispy shadow twitched, then disappeared behind the fence.
Blake was still as a statue, for what felt like a season. The strange burn ebbed away, but it did not completely take away the apprehension. Something was wrong. He'd been able to sense the presence of spirits since before he could remember. He could feel certain things, certain images, smells, and emotions. And even then he only made guesses on who they were and what they looked like.
But he had never seen anything like that shadow before. Not only that, but he felt like he had actually seen it just then. He swallowed nervously.
A chill ran back up his spine, and he remembered the woman again. They still stood in place, but whether or not they noticed what Blake did, he could not tell. He breathed calmly and cleared his throat.
"Do you, um, think you can head northeast now?"
The spectre seemed much more confident in themself, and Blake breathed a sigh of relief. A wave of gratitude washed over him in moments. The spirit then left, and the chill was once again gone.
But Blake was not done. He ran across his backyard, reaching the corner where that shadow had seemingly appeared. The splintered wood at the top prevented him from climbing up too much, though he managed a small look over the fence, enough to see other backyards and little groves of trees. Nothing; whatever materialized had long since vanished. Not to mention that strange burn no longer coursed through his veins.
With a heavy sigh he lowered himself from the fence, and rubbed off any wood shavings still stuck on his hands.
"Okay, okay," he muttered, walking back up to the open back door of his house. "Try not to freak out. That had to have been your mind playing a trick on you."
Yet even he knew how foolish that sounded aloud. His body clearly reacted to the shadow entity, whatever it was, and not in a very pleasant manner. His spirit-sensing ability had been with him a long time. In the past, he'd maybe sense a spectre, and make contact with it, every nine days or so. But in the last week.....he would sense many spirits in a single day, and make contact with at least one of them in that same time period. So maybe, just maybe, his ability was strengthening. So much so that he was seeing more than just harmless spirits. And these new creatures could see him too......
Blake slapped his cheeks with both hands before he closed the door behind him. Stop thinking like that, he told himself. Still, he leaned against the door and groaned with unease. If this got worse, he worried it would affect his everyday life.
His heart stopped, and his legs tensed as he spun around. That was the front door. Was someone trying to break in? Instinctively Blake hid behind the wall, with only the hall and the kitchen standing between him, and the door.
It finally stopped.
"Blake? You home?"
He exhaled when he recognized the voice, and he pressed his back against the wall for a few seconds. But then he stepped out into the open of the hallway and gave a small wave. "You startled me," he said. "I didn't expect you to be home so early."
The woman before him wasn't quite forty, but most wouldn't have guessed it based on her fair-skinned face, with a sheen on her shoulder-length blond hair that showed no signs of aging or grayness. Even so....there were noticeable bags under Alisha's eyes, and her lips looked a bit dry. Not only that, her cheekbones did not appear to be quite full, as his were.
"Sorry, I needed to take care of some things." She walked through the hallway, past Blake, and towards the office. Specifically, towards the printer on the end of the desk. He then noticed the small set of folders that she clutched.
"Some things to take care of?" he echoed.
She unlocked the computer and opened up a folder. "The printer jammed again at the pharmacy. Debra doesn't think we'll get repairs until tomorrow evening, so I offered to print out some forms and documents we still need for tonight."
Blake could not help but smile. "You're too kind, Mom."
Alisha focused on the computer. But Blake noticed a little smile creep onto her face. When he noticed her yawn, and then cough right afterward, he frowned. He paused before speaking.
"You took a pill this morning, right?"
"I did, thank you."
"You forgot your medication last night though."
Her fingers stopped moving on the keyboard, and she briefly cast a side glance in his direction. Her lips tightened, her indication of embarrassment.
Blake simply raised an eyebrow in her direction. "Mom, you know you need your meds when you get these colds. I don't want you feeling miserable. You already don't sleep well and you get nasty headaches when you don't have a cold to worry about."
It wasn't exactly a medical condition, but Alisha's immune system wasn't exactly the strongest. She was often not well, but did her best. And she was more prone to even little things like colds, so when she got one Blake always made sure they had plenty of medications on hand so she was as comfortable as possible.
"I know. And I'm sorry. Sometimes I just get so tired that I don't think about it. I promise, I'll take it tonight." In a brief moment she pulled him into an embrace, with his face leaned into her warm chest. "I'm sorry you have to take care of me sometimes. I mean, I should be the one taking care of you, right?" She stepped back and returned to the computer.
Alisha sounded genuine and remorseful, and Blake thought it lucky that her forgetfulness was seldom seen. He also considered himself lucky that his own immune system was very strong. Even with his mother's genetics and frequently being around her, he'd not gotten sick once in his life. Perhaps his strength came from his-
Blake shook his head, not about to finish the thought. But for some reason, the memory of that strange shadow crossed his mind. He about opened his mouth and said something. But he held his tongue. No, he scolded inwardly. Mom doesn't need to know about any of that, remember?
Instead he focused on the current conversation. "It....happens sometimes," he finally said. "But just remember tonight, okay?"
She looked at him with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, then returned to her work on the computer. Blake stood and stared for a moment longer, but eventually he left the office and headed for his room. He paused at the doorway, groaning to himself, but he entered anyway.