Yasmine kicked at the step, bitterly wishing she was at her real home, not this strange ramshackle old house in the boonies. Back there shehad real friends she had known all her life to make the school days bearable.The popular cliques had passed judgment on her first day: not good enough.
Her mother, wanting to have another of her pep talks,probably. Yasmine was off the step and running fast, disappearing into thewoods at the far edge of the lawn. Slowing inside the safety of the trees, shelooked back. Her mother was there, her expression irritated.
Served her right. Her big important job was why they hadmoved.
There was a sudden croaking at her feet. Yasmine stumbledbackward, startled, then realized she was on a small forest path. The toad hopped away into the greenery and was gone.
Intrigued, Yasmine followed the path to a small clearing only a few feet away. In the sea of long wild grass was a dilapidated house. She moved closer, relieved by the sight of some toys on the front porch. But when she got closer, she was disturbed to see they were old toys, the set of three blocks chipped and scratched, and the small wooden doll with a missing eye.
“Yasmine! I mean now!”
Pocketing the toys, Yasmine headed back reluctantly.
Yasmine awoke with a scream, her gasps loud in the quiet darkness.
There had been a little girl, the child tearfully pleading Yasmine to help her as she was choked. Then her eyes had rolled up and…
Her alarm clocked blared suddenly.
With a grimace, Yasmine called, “Coming!”
That afternoon, Yasmine walked down the forest path with thetoys, eager to put them back where she had found them. She was sure they hadinspired her bad dreams.
But the house in the clearing was gone. Instead there was a newhouse with a manicured lawn, complete with a young boy riding his bike incircles. He saw her at once.
“You can’t come here,” he yelled. “This is my place.”
Tabitha forced a smile. “I didn’t know, sorry.”
“I don’t care. I want a dollar.”
“I don’t have any money,” Yasmine said, thinking fast. “Butyou can have these.” She held out the old toys.
The little boy seized them, then retreated to the far side of the yard.
Yasmine turned, eager to be gone.
She turned, as an older boy her own age came jogging out ofthe house.
“Sorry about my brother,” the boy said. “He’s got issues.”
“Obviously,” Yasmine said snidely.
“I meant he has autism.” He held out his hand. “I’m John.”
Yasmine flushed. “Sorry.”
“We’re about to have dinner,” John said. “Do you want to stay?I know you’re new at school—”
In spite of her guilt, Yasmine wanted out of there. “Sorry, no. I have to go home.”
She darted into the woods, not heeding John’s calls to come back.
That night, Yasmine again dreamed of the little girl. But this time she was helping to strangle her. The girl gasped as under hersqueezing hands, growing weaker and weaker, then going limp. As she slid to thefloor, the little girl’s body became vaporous, then disappeared.
Again and again, Yasmine woke up panting, lying away forlong minutes before falling asleep again. Every time she closed her eyes, thedream was back, replaying in a horrific circle of death.
At dawn, Yasmine dressed. Weary but determined, she headed for the house in the woods.
John was waiting for her in the long grass before the dilapidated house, a smile on his lips.
“I knew you’d be back.”
“Who was the girl?” Yasmine yelled.
“My sister,” John said. “She was trying to interfere—”
A petulant little girl appeared from behind him, clutchingthe wooden doll with the missing arm. “Was not. I just wanted a girl to play with!”
“You’ve got one now,” John said indulgently.
The little boy she had seen yesterday rode up on his bike,followed by another identical boy. “We’re twins,” one said. “Bill didn’t mean to be rude yesterday. He just wasn’t expecting you. I’m Ben.”
“What is going on!” Yasmine screamed. “Who are you?”
“We lured you in,” Ben replied. “Our spirits live in the toys. When you brought us into your house, we began separating your spirit from your flesh.”
The blocks…two had been the same, and third one had been much bigger.
Yasmine shook her head frantically. “No! I’m not dead!”
John held up another doll, this one newer looking, the fac ehauntingly familiar. “We’re ghosts. And now you are, too.”
“I’m Demi,” the little girl said, holing out her hand toYasmine. “We can play now.”
Yasmine ran screaming, tearing through the woods and back to her house.
The police were there, and an ambulance. Terrified, she rushed inside, and up the stairs.
Her mother was sobbing at Yasmine’s bed. And there on the bed was Yasmine’s body, eyes staring, her mouth open in a silent scream as the coroner zipped the black bag up over her face.
©2012 Tara Fox Hall