Abbey uses her ability to interact with ghosts to hunt for powerful ancient artifacts. These spirit boxes have the power to gather and amplify spiritual energy—meaning it would be a disaster of biblical proportions if they were to fall into the wrong hands. And the wrong hands are right behind her…
This upper middle grade thriller is in search of a dynamic literary agent to champion it to the right publisher. Is that you?
Email Allan at allan@EvansWriter.com
1 | A call for help
“Abbey.” The voice was barely above a whisper, but two things were immediately clear: I knew this voice and she was terrified. Absolutely terrified.
“Are you there?” Her voice had a pleading quality, but I couldn’t reply. Answering your phone in class is strongly discouraged at Pine Ridge High School. Without thinking, I’d picked up the call after feeling my phone vibrating in my back pocket. As I turned in my seat to hide the phone at my ear, I heard my name again.
Fear does something to a person’s voice, constricting it, raising the pitch and causing it tremble. Her voice told me that Stacia was frightened beyond anything I’d ever heard from her. And given our history, that said a lot.
“Stacia,” I whispered. “I’m in class. What’s wrong?” I bent down and pretended to dig in my backpack to hide my rule-breaking phone usage. Our teacher, Ms. Sparrow, was up at the front of the class at the smartboard, lecturing about our country’s entry into the Vietnam War.
Stacia was calling during our first hour of the school day, when she should be in class too. She went to Stillwater High School, a much larger school in the next town over.
“Something is here with me.”
Something, not someone.
“What’s going on?” I asked, as a feeling of dread washed over me.
“I’m trapped in the bathroom at school. The lights are flickering like crazy and slime is running down the walls.” The tremble in her voice had increased. “And I can see something outside the stall door. It’s just waiting.”
Now I know why Stacia had called me.
Ever since I was a little girl, I could see things others couldn’t. These things are spirits, ghosts, dead people, call them what you will. For some reason, I’m sort of a spook magnet. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds—I hate dead people.
“It’s right at the door. Abbey, you have to help me. Please.” Her voice cracked with emotion and my heart broke a little bit. There was no way I wasn’t going to help her, which meant I had to leave now.
I stood up, grabbing my backpack and walked up to Ms. Sparrow as she was writing the word Containment on the board. “Now class, preventing the spread of Communism—” She noticed me and stopped. “What is it, dear?”
“Umm,” I leaned in and whispered, “I’m having issues.”
Ms. Sparrow looked at me for a moment and blinked, but she suddenly got it. “Oh. Go ahead. You’re excused. Hurry now,” she said as she ushered me toward the door. Thank God I have a woman teacher I thought as I sped out the door.
Right around the corner I texted “911” to Lexi and Kelly. And since I don’t drive yet, I added, “Need a ride, performing arts exit.”
“Stacia, I’m coming. But, where are you? Which bathroom?” I asked. If I was going to find her in a school as big as Stillwater, she was going to have narrow down the geography.
“In the bathroom behind the gym.”
“Just hang tight. Be there as soon as I can. Call you when I’m there.” I ended the call and picked up my pace, rushing to the school’s performing arts wing. I see Lexi and Kelly’s replies to my 911 text, “On the way” and “One minute.”
I love these girls. Without question, they both were willing to skip out of school to help me. I’d be lost without my friends.
For much of my life, I hadn’t really had friends. The ones I had would disappear quicker than a Twinkie at a weight watchers meeting when they discovered what I could do. I get that it can be more than a little creepy to know your friend is seeing dead people, but I couldn’t help it. Losing friends over my so called gift hurt a lot. That’s why I was so incredibly thankful for Kelly and Lexi’s support.
I rounded the corner and there they were. “What’s up?” Kelly asked, her concern front and center.
“Stacia is in trouble at Stillwater.” I glanced at them both, reading their expressions. I got no hesitation, just determination. I’ve told them about my summer at camp with Stacia. They know about the near death experience we had shared.
“I’m guessing it’s a spooky girl kind of trouble, then,” Lexi said, not really asking a question.
“Okay then, I’m driving,” she said as we rushed out to the cold parking lot. The wind swirled the Minnesota snow and the chill got underneath my jacket before we could get to Lexi’s Ford Escape. The weather had recently turned cold, but I was too concerned about Stacia to complain about the weather.
Lexi threw the car into gear and headed straight for the exit. Not bothering to delay for the stop sign, she accelerated out onto County 12. The Escape fishtailed as she fought to gain control, turning into the skid. It worked and we were soon flying over 70 miles per hour. Let the fun begin.
It took ten minutes for Lexi to get us there and I filled them in on the few details I knew on the way. “One question, what if the trouble is not supernatural?” Kelly asked. “Shouldn’t we call the police just in case?”
We jumped out of the car the second she slammed it into park.
Sirens were in the air. A lot of them. “Sounds like someone’s already called them.”
Kelly grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the school. “Run,” she shouted. “The school will be going into lockdown. We’ve got to get inside while we still can.”
We sprinted towards the gym wing entrance. The sirens came from all directions and multiple squad cars screamed into the lot. Several students rushed out and we grabbed the door before it latched shut.
Once inside, I called Stacia to let her know we had arrived. “I hear sirens,” she said in lieu of a greeting.
“Yeah, there’s a bunch of squad cars coming into the school parking lot.”
“Really, how many?”
Looking back, a lot of police cars were headed in our direction. “I think it’s all of them,” I told her
“The more the better,” she said, her voice trembled.
“We’re coming. Going to hang up. See you soon.” I said as I tucked away my phone, as I may need my hands. Not sure what that really means, but this situation is not even remotely normal.
We raced down the hallway and took the corner. A dense mist hung in the air, but there was a swirling motion to it at the far end. Most unusual for a higher education establishment.
“That’s different,” Lexi said, summing up my thoughts.
“Sure is,” Kelly agreed. There’s a quick look shared between them before gesturing for me to take the lead. “After you.”
Someone once said bravery can only take you far and then it’s determination leading the way. And with the unknown beckoning at the far end of the hall, I might have been a little scared, but I knew my determination to save Stacia would lead me where I needed to go. I counted on it.
Moving cautiously, we entered the mist partway down the hallway. There was a strong musty odor that motivated me to breathe through my mouth. We glanced at each other but continued into the mist. Inside the haze, the only sound I heard was the sloshing of our feet on the wet floors. It felt like we’d been transported to a jungle.
“Hey,” came a muffled shout from behind us. A quartet of firefighters caught up to us. “You guys shouldn’t be here.”
I spoke for our group. “Our friend is trapped in the bathroom and we’ve come to get her.”
The firefighter shook his head like he’d heard it before. “No, we’ve got this. It’s not safe for you to be here,” he said. “Leave it to the professionals.” And just to make his point, he gestures for us to go back. They pushed past us, not waiting for a response.
I started to follow and felt a grip on my shoulder. “Where are you going?” Kelly asked. “You heard the man. We’re not equipped for this. They’re the professionals.”
I shook my head. “I doubt the firefighters are going to be equipped for what’s in the bathroom with Stacia. We need to keep moving.”
My friends shrugged and we continued our journey into the mist. The mist had become densely thick and seemed to be alive in the way it swirled.
Strange things for a Tuesday morning.
We were about to turn the corner and suddenly the firefighters were running back toward us. They moved so fast one slid into the far wall with a loud grunt as he rounded the corner. Another lost his footing on the wet floor and completely wiped out. None of the firefighters slowed down—let alone glanced back—at their fallen comrade.
We were rooted in place as the last firefighter got up and raced past us. I glanced at Kelly. “There go your professionals.”
“They looked terrified,” Lexi said.
I rested a hand on each of my friends. “It’s up to us now.”
“I forgot to feed my fish.” Lexi said this matter-of-factly. Her face had concern written all over it.
I was confused. “Lexi?”
“I forgot to feed my fish. And they like to eat.”
I nodded. “We all do, sweetie.”
“But, I’m the only one who feeds them.”
I nodded again.
“So, make sure we get out of here so they get fed.” Her seriousness was adorable.
“I promise. You’ll make it out of here safely.”
Lexi smiled. “Okay, then let’s go save Stacia.”
The men’s and women’s bathrooms were in front of us, a swamp outside their entrances. But the women’s had lime green slime running down the length of the door. It leaked out of a crack above the door.
“This can’t be good,” I said as I pulled the door open. The smell hit without warning. Seriously. The rank odor was worse than a garbage truck stewing in 100 degree heat.
Stepping carefully into the bathroom, I avoided a glob of slime as it ever-so-slowly elongated down from the ceiling. Clearly, the custodian skipped this bathroom on his morning rounds.
The lights flickered, winking on and off with a buzzing sound as we peered around the corner. A dark figure swayed in front of the one closed stall door. It looked to be human, but with everything going on around it, I’d venture that it’s not currently human. Maybe at one time, but not any more.
Moving away from the protection of the wall, I stepped out into the bathroom. “Stacia, we’re here.”
Her response was instantaneous. “Oh my God. Thank you.” A brief hesitation and then she asked, “It’s still out there, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s here,” I told her, as I moved past the thing, careful to not get too close. You never know what you’re going to get when the spirit world gets tangled up with our world. “Stay put until I tell you to move,” I told her.
“No problem. But, what is it?” Stacia asked.
I wasn’t sure what to call it. Once a man, the thing’s face was now a lurid shade of green that looked like it was melted off in a vat of toxic chemicals. “I don’t know what it is, but he’s an ugly cuss,” Its one intact eye fixed on me as it leaned closer and opened its mouth. What came out was a bellowing roar. The sound was near deafening, but I held my ground.
“Leave us alone,” I said as forcefully as I could muster. “You’re not wanted here.” It didn’t look especially moved by my show of toughness.
I needed to move this encounter into the physical realm if I wanted to get Stacia out. In the past, I’ve been able to make physical contact by focusing all my mental energy on my hand. Though I wasn’t sure how it worked—I didn’t want to touch this slimy thing. But help arrived in the form of Kelly and the custodian’s mop.
Tossing me the mop, she shouted, “Get it.”
With a firm grip, I swung the mop for the cheap seats. The mop connected with the gruesome spirit and it took a faltering step backward. Wanting to push my advantage, I stuck the business end of the mop into the thing’s midsection and shoved with everything I had. It was enough that it moved the thing away from Stacia’s stall.
“Now Stacia,” I commanded.
She didn’t hesitate and flew out of the stall as Lexi and Kelly grabbed onto her. All three hit the door and were out of the bathroom in a flash.
I gave it another shove with the mop but it must have decided it could fight back as it grabbed onto the handle. But it didn’t matter, I was done with the mop and let go. What I hadn’t expected was what happened next.
The thing dropped the mop and lunged for me. It locked onto my wrist with a bone-chillingly cold grip. As I struggled to break free, it pulled me close. We locked eyes and I saw what had to be a glimmer of humanness buried deeply within its green eyes.
My wrist tingled where it gripped me. There was no way I was going to break free from the vise-like hold, unless it willingly let go.
“Let me go,” I said. “And I can help you move onto somewhere better.
It didn’t respond, so I took that as my opening to continue.
“When I was a child, I was afraid of the dark. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s far worse when people are afraid of the light. The light can mean healing, purpose and freedom. And it can mean that you’re finally home. Death may feel like a dark tunnel with no light at the end, but there’s always a light.”
The thing stared into me. My arm ached as the cold spread.
“The light is there if you look for it,” I said. “Look for it now.”
The spirit’s eyes lost their focus. “Do you see it?”
For the first time, it felt like I was getting through to as the grip ever-so-slightly loosened.
“Go to the light. You can pass Go and collect your $200, but you need to go.”
I felt the grip release as the green man in front of me faded. The last thing I saw of him was something I hadn’t expected. A smile.
Lexi, Kelly and a much shaken Stacia were waiting around the corner. Stacia wrapped me up immediately. Her frame may be small, but her grip was immense. She was a graduate of the same boot camp as me, after all. Given the camp’s intense physical training, we toughened up and found new strength. And it me confidence that I can persevere through any obstacle I may encounter.
“I knew you’d come for me,” she said.
I pushed her hair away from her eyes. “That’s what friends do. We help each other.”
“Let’s get out of here,” Kelly said. “Maybe that thing has friends too.”
“Good point,” I said in agreement.
One of the few positives of a paranormal encounter, is the effects often don’t linger. The mist was already dissipating and the floors were no longer wet. In a moment, we were happily back out into the fresh wintery weather. However, it was anything but calm outside.
Dozens of Washington County Sheriff squads and an equal amount of Stillwater black and white police cars had arrived. And several dozen guns were pointed in our direction.
“Whoa,” I was none too eloquent when guns are pointed at me—I don’t like guns. But we did what you’re supposed to do when the police aimed their weapons at you: we raised our hands. “Hey, don’t shoot. We’re the good guys,” I called out.
Seemingly, out of nowhere, officers rushed in and grabbed onto us and led us away from the building. We were swept into the mass of emergency vehicles and end up in the back of a paramedic truck. Medical personnel surrounded us.
“Hold on,” I said, holding up my hands. “We’re fine.”
I noticed it at the same time the others do. And judging by their reaction as they backed away, the medical staff didn’t know what to make of me—the girl with glowing hand.