Losing Her Twice






Dark ink spreads across the crisp white page. Those dark lines cross and grow to become a physical interpretation of the fruit of the author’s imagination. There’s comfort in those words. Eyes rake across the page, devouring the story. Music circles the room, barely acknowledged. A gentle mid-spring breeze floats from an open window through dark hair, pulled away from a soft face. A piece of discarded homework holds the name, Cashus. The picturesque scene is interrupted by a beat-up car rattling into the driveway. The engine goes quiet, and a door slams. The owner of the dark hair rushes to shut off the music. Then, they wait. A key can be heard in the door, the knob turning, and the old door opening—the sound of shoes hitting the floor and the slam of the door cue a small jump. They pull a deep breath in, bracing for a loud shout. But it doesn’t come. They draw their knees to their chest, deciding whether they want to face the monster downstairs.

 After another minute, they stand up, focusing on the carpet beneath their feet. Cashus cautiously moves to the top of the stairs. A woman sits at the kitchen table, eyes searching for something that isn’t there. She forces a cloud of smoke out of her already damaged lungs. Her dark hair frames a hard-aged face, stuck in a permanent frown. At least she isn’t yelling yet. Cashus moves down the stairs slowly. They enter the kitchen but aren’t acknowledged. They make two cups of tea as the silence grows thick. As they place the mug in front of the older woman, she doesn’t turn. With the window holding her attention, she grabs the cup and drinks. A slight wince at the hot liquid spilling down her throat was her only way of acknowledging anything besides the window. They sit down, young and old, on either side of the table.

Two coasters slowly side across the table when neither young nor old have moved. They smile at the coasters, relaxing. The quiet is interrupted by the older tapping out the tried cigarette and standing. The younger of the two follows in suit, standing. Cashus averts their eyes, staring down at their tea.

She moves around to the liquor cabinet—the younger of the two tensing up. Dark eyes meet theirs as they turn. She gestures to the wine and the cup sitting on the counter. They open it for her as she goes to light another cigarette. Once the older has a glass of wine in her hand, she gestures for Cashus to get lost. They turn and hurry away, back to the safety of their room.

They sit in front of my mirror, just looking. The face in the mirror is not the subject of interest. The reflective surface looks as though one could step right through. Fingers brush the cold glass. They push their hand against the mirror more, picturing the world they wish was on the other side. There is a library with books skies high, vines crossing along the shelves, and a haven to read and write. Someone lost, returned. They can almost smell the paper and their sister holding them close.

A loud crash disturbs the peace. Letting out a groan, Cashus flops back, abandoning the mirror. Their mother’s still downstairs, upset at the lack of wine. She gets louder and harder to block out; another crash, another shout. Once she’s worn herself out or drunken herself asleep, the quiet will come back. They have to wait. 

They distract themselves with thoughts of their sister. Since she’s the older of the two, she got to leave first. Yet, two months of freedom was all she earned before the accident. Then she had to return. They can’t tell if she is happy, but they hope she is. Maybe when they leave, she can come too. Then she’ll be satisfied.

  A small smile reaches their face. The prospect of freedom is thrilling, terrifying, and invigorating. It’s finally quiet downstairs. Cashus sneaks off to retrieve dinner. A simple sandwich and a few loose chips will have to do. They return to their room to eat, enjoying the peacefulness of the night. 

Before going to sleep, they dive back into their book. A dose of fantasy is a perfect cure to a broken reality. Cashus slowly fade as they read, their dream becoming the same story on the page. Slowly the blanket moves up around them and tucks under their chin. The bed dips next to them as if another person has laid next to them. 

Once they woke up, Cashus met another face looking back at them. Their sister’s bright eyes and light hair are staring at them. They gasp, and she fades away. She’s still there, but one can’t see her. A smile settles on their face; their sister is always a comfort. 

Pulling back the covers, they move to leave the room. Once they reach the top of the stair, a smell hits their nose. Mom vomited last night. They hold back a gag and move into the kitchen. Their mother is passed out on the couch, her mess on the floor in front.

It’s a nice day. The smell of the fresh grass of spring is strong. The birds chirp at one another, deep in conversation. The flowers stretch to the sun, soaking in its warm beams. They consider how to spend the day. Reading is an option, homework long put off, and writing. Creating a book has felt like a distant dream for a while. Perhaps today is the day to change that. They turn to their computer to get to work. The typing line flashes expectantly. A thousand ideas and possibilities. A knot forms in their stomach. The white page looms, mocking them. They shut their computer. Their sister’s voice rings in their ear, telling them to get something on the page. She was the inspiration for anything they created. 

Thinking of her brings up memories. One night, they were sitting in my room reading music coming in through their headphones. The usual shouting rounds started, so they turned up the music in response. They could still hear their sister’s voice mixed with their mom’s. Then there was a loud thud and a shout. It went silent. After another minute, the door opened and then shut. Their sister gave them a weak smile, cheek red. Their mom had punched her in the face. The two cuddled up and let the music drown it all out. A hot tear slipped down their cheek. Arms that weren’t there slide around them in a warm hug. Even though she was dead, her first thought was that she cared for in life. 

School is a much-needed escape. However, it doesn’t last forever. The closer they get to the house, the slower they walk. Every inch of them hopes she’ll be in a good mood. Their stomach drops as their critical turns. Once the door closes, she turns, hair a mess, face flushed, eyes filled with rage. As soon as the door clicks shut, she starts screaming. The sound of anger and hate fills their ears, and they hear ringing. They focus on their breathing, hoping the screaming ends soon.

Unexpectedly, a hand makes contact with their cheek. They look up, eyes tearing up. The anger hasn’t left her eyes. The second slap misses them as they duck under her arm. She screams after them. As soon as they make it to their room, they push a chair against their door. She’s still yelling. There are a few crashes of objects hitting the floor and shattering. Eventually, she stomps out the door, and her car rolls out of the driveway. The salt from their tears causes their cheek to sting more. Yet, it feels good to sit in pain. 

They slip in and out of restless sleep. A loud banging starts at the door. Cashus get up and carefully creeps down the stairs. Mom would use her key, so there’s no way it could be her. Blue and red lights flash through the house’s windows and dance around the room. Police lights. They feel a knot form in their stomach. The last time the police came to their home, she was dead. They release a breath and throw the door open. Standing a head above the young figure is a man in a uniform. He clears his throat.

“Do you know this woman?” He pulls out a wallet and holds up the ID. They nod. It’s their mom’s ID. He swallows. “I hate to be the one to tell you, but your mother died in a car accident. She was drunk.” Their mouth begins to resemble a desert. They stare at him, mouth agape, unsure how to react.

“How old are you?”

“Two weeks from 18.”

“I see. That means social services won’t have to take you.” They nod and begin to close the door. They slid down the door and lay there with a blank face. What now?

The following day the usual movements of the day continue. However, a weird numbness sets over them. Although, per usual, no one talks to them, this is more welcomed than regular. 

Three people wait for them when they return home. One of them introduces themself as a lawyer here to read her will. They nod and invite the three inside. Since their sister is gone, everything is theirs. The house, the last of their mom’s money, and anything else belongs to them. So after a quick signature and some mostly ignored tea, the three are on their way.

They leave the young person sets up to do the night’s homework. There’s no one to hide from anymore, so they set up at the kitchen table. It’s a peaceful scene. Once they’ve nearly reached the end of their homework, their pencil jerks, leaving a dark mark on their page. The pencil begins to shake violently. They drop it, and it continues to vibrate on the floor. It rolls across the table and drops on the floor. They stare at it and then reach to pick it up. It continues to move away from them. They follow it out of the kitchen and to the couch. The bowl left two days ago is still there. They look at the bowl and reminisce on all that’s happened. 

A vast crash comes from the kitchen. Cashus turns to look. Peaking through the kitchen door, they can see the remnants of mugs scattered all over the kitchen. They step into the kitchen. In the middle of all the debris is the cup they handed their mother not so long ago. They try to swallow the quickly growing lump in their throat. They move to clean it up. 

After that, it is a tranquil evening. The next day goes similarly, and so does the day after that. With graduation around the corner, there’s a lot to consider. Standard forms quickly: school, homework, clean, cook, deal with the ghost, then go to bed. The addition of the new spirit isn’t appreciated, but it’s tolerable. The ghost mostly moves things around. The most dramatic was the destruction of the mugs, at least until it wasn’t.

Focused on homework, they don’t notice it beginning again. Cashus scribbles down the answer to the formula as the pencil starts to shake. This time Cashus tightens their grip and try to keep writing. Similarly, the pencil twists, making it impossible for them to write. They finally drop the pencil. It continues to shake, but this time it doesn’t roll away. Their stomach drops as the pencil slowly inches close and closer. Cashus gets up and steps back, but the pencil follows. They duck, the pencil barely missing them. Turning around, they see the pencil now buried in the cabinet. A chill runs down their spine—something wooshes past their ear, and glass shatters on the wall inches from their head. 

They turn again, and just for a moment, they both are standing there: their mom and their sister. Not only did she stay here in death, but their mom did too. Their eyes widen, breaking out into a cold sweat. They hurriedly run to their room. She isn’t a simple poltergeist this time. Their mom is back to finish what she started. They feel her following them up the stairs. They speed up and slam the door behind them. She needs to go, but how. A quick search on the world wide web takes them to the website of a pagan witch who specializes in ghosts. They frantically type out a message:


My mother recently passed away. The two of us weren’t close, and she died in a traumatic way. I’m concerned she’s stayed to torment me longer. Please help! Thank you

Not even a minute goes by before she responds. She asks when the possible ghost died, what happened to make to raise suspicions, and if they’ve had any previous experiences with spirits. They tell her everything, the pencils, the glass, how they saw her, and how my sister has been with them since she died. She seems intrigued and asks to come over as soon as possible. They agree, she’ll come over tomorrow. 

 Cashus retires to their room, anticipating daybreak so this nightmare might finally be over. 

They rush out of school faster than usual. Once they reach the cursed house, a tall, elegant woman with dark olive skin waits for them in the front yard. The two greet each other and head inside. The woman strolls in gently. Her eyes rake around the entrance, taking it all in. She throws one of her thick dark braids over her shoulder. Cashus timidly offer her a glass of water, and she accepts. They fill two glasses and hand one to her. The two sip as she continues to look around. Suddenly she turns and opens her mouth to say something. Before she can, the glass in their hand bursts. They stare down as glass, water, and now blood mix.

Her eyes widen. She hurries over. They quickly step back and move to clean the wound. She watches them intently.

“I’m glad you called me,” She finally says, “Something is wrong here. I feel the two energies you’ve mentioned. One is bright and seems excited I’m here. The other appears to be brooding in the corners, angry and bitter. I will help you banish the evil trapper here. However, I will need some time to prepare. Till then, you need to clean this house top to bottom. It’s easier to do an energy cleaning when the physical presence is also clean.” They nod, captivated by her energy. She nods and bids goodbye, promising to be in touch.  

After she leaves, the cleaning begins. Every room is swept, scrubbed, vacuumed, and dusted. The more they clean, the more unsettled they feel. Someone or something is watching them and gaining anger. The second their done, they rush to their room. But the eyes don’t leave. The hair on their neck stands up as cold hands wrap around their arms. They struggle and pull against the invisible force. The cold spreads through them, towards their heart.

“I’ve got you now,” a voice rasps in their ear. They scream and yank free, dashing to their room. They slammed their door shut, backing away from whatever was in the hallway. They can hear their heart in their ears. It pounds and bangs suddenly, it gets louder, but it’s not their heart. They look back at the door. Something is trying to break down the door. It bangs and screams as it does it. They back into the farthest corner, praying the hinges with be strong enough. The screeching gets louder and louder. They pull the comforter tight around them and reach for their phone. Now it sounds like someone is throwing their body against the door. They dial the spiritualist, begging her to come now. She agrees in a second and rushes to the house. 

Hot tears fall down their face as they hope the spiritualist gets to them before whatever is behind that door does. In what feels like an hour but is closer to five minutes, the front door bursts open. They can hear a person running up the stairs. The screeching and banging stopped, and their door creaked open. There she stands.

“We need to fix this now.”

She pulls out all of her materials: salt, a silver mirror, candles, and incense. I watch as she carefully draws a ring of salt around us and lights the candles. She sits back and takes a deep breath. Her eyes focus on the candle between us. It looms with arrogance above the other flickering lights as she focuses on the flame, the flame stills and grows. The ominous energy surrounds the circle of salt, reaching for those that are safe inside. It swirls in a furious tornado, tormented by the inability to pass the salt—cashus searches in the storm surrounding them. The spiritualist grabs the mirror and holds it above her.

Almost like a vacuum, the storm begins to get sucked in. The old face forms in the cloud of evil, angrier in death. She battles, straining against the suction. The spiritualist holds firm, but the ghost is winning. Energy releases from Casthus and rises above them, lunging at their mother. In death, the battle between eldest daughter and mother refuses to end. The storm shrieks at the new spirit. The spiritualist and the protective spirit battle the storm of anger and hate.

Cashus is pushed back to the border of the salt, watching in horror. They tend as slowly as the mirror pulls in their mother. The spiritualist weakens as their sister fights to save them. The spiritualist almost falls. Their mother notices and uses it to attempt to escape. However, their sister doesn’t let her. She looks at Cashus, huddled on the floor. They look up at her, eyes gleaming with hope and fear. Suddenly, she feels clarity she didn’t get before her death on Earth. She wanted to end her existence this way, fighting for Cashus. Summoning all her strength, she thrusts herself forward and into her mother. The wraith lets out a shriek as both phantoms fall into the mirror. A pained scream escapes into the now quiet room. Cashus’ face twists in pain, and they rush over to the mirror. 

“No! You took her! You stole everything from me, and now you take her.” Hot tears stream down their cheeks and fall onto the floor. They double over, struggling to breathe through their sobs. Carefully, the spiritualist works to pick herself up, weak. First, she looks at the young figure. Then, she pulls herself toward them and places a gentle hand on their shoulder.

“Your sister sacrificed herself so you can leave free of that evil. Be grateful, and don’t waste the life she gifted to you.” She turns away and begins to retrieve all her items. She finally picks up the mirror and places it in a box to be handled later. She stumbles to the door and takes one final look back at the figure on the floor. Their distressed sobs continue to fill the house. Then, silently wishing the best for them, the spiritualist leaves, never to look at the home again. 

There they lay. Deep in grief. And all alone.