Authors: Kat Richardson
I removed all the Grey items from the piles until I had one gleaming pile and a lot of dull ones. I shoveled the dreck back into the box for another time and only considered the things that throbbed with the traces of ghosts and magic. What I had—aside from a headache—was a small pile of notebooks, my father’s appointment calendar, the suicide note, and a small metal puzzle that looked like a flat bunch of fancy, interlocked paper clips.
I recalled him carrying the puzzle in his pocket, and seeing it again brought on a rush of tearstained nostalgia. He’d always had a box full of small, cheap toys for his younger patients to take a “prize” from after they’d endured their cleanings and fillings, but this toy had always been much more interesting to me. He’d let me play with it once in a while, though I didn’t remember ever solving it. Dad had always solved it with ease. Maybe that had been the beginning of my obsession with puzzles and mysteries. I dimly remembered his dismantling and solving it over and over on some occasions, the way some people use a stress ball or prayer beads.
I picked up the toy and slid a few of the metal parts back and forth, melancholy in my contemplation of it. It tingled slightly from the Grey energy that clung to it, but I got no particular feeling off it aside from that. I still wasn’t sure I could put it back together once I’d taken it apart, and the preternatural gleam of it gave me pause, too. It might have been Grey just because it was associated with my father—some of the things I handled every day had similar Grey traces—but the thought that there could be a more sinister reason turned my reverie cold and I laid it aside.
Next, I picked up the appointment calendar and leafed through it, seeing mundane bookings for the usual dental business up to and past the day he’d died. He hadn’t made many notes other than the usual run of business, such as “needs flossing instructions,” and so on. I put that aside as well and turned to the notebooks.
These were less business and more personal, and the books were chronological. I put them in order and saw that they started four years before his death, about the time my mother had pushed me into dance classes. That was an interesting coincidence. I started the first entry and was soon sucked into my father’s strange narrative.
The entries went on for a while about his frustrations with my mother and increasing references to “they” and “the watchers.” A little over a year later, the tone changed and the entries rarely spoke of business or even my mother and me.
He drifts in on a red tide, saying he owns me and taking what he wants. He took Christelle. He lured her away somehow, and she came back changed into one of them and now she’s watching all the time, too. I tried to make her leave. I tried to fire her but she came back and I can’t make her go. Veronica’s furious. She thinks I’m screwing Christelle, but I could never touch that thing that’s hiding in there. I know she’s one, too. . . .
He might have been some kind of psychic or medium; he didn’t seem to be a Greywalker. He wasn’t describing the same kind of experiences I’d gone through: He didn’t speak of another world or the mist or the power grid; he never mentioned ghosts or vampires or any other monster I knew; he only wrote of the watchers and the white man-worm thing that threatened and cajoled him by turns, and some creature he called “the Thousand Eyes.”
Whatever was going on with him, he’d been alone with it and it had been driving him insane, whether it was real or all in his head. The thought brought a fresh wave of grief for my crazy father in his solitary battle. Picking up this diary again was difficult. I saw the dates, and the horror of what I now knew and what I was seeing in his writing only grew with each word.
He’d finally lost his grip completely about three months before he killed himself.
I can’t believe what I did. Or how. I just reached, somehow, with my mind, not with my hands, and something came out of me and ripped her into bits. Oh, God, I’m sick. I can’t stop throwing up. It’s just blood and bile now and I feel like I’m going to die from the rot in me.
He’s pleased. But not all the watchers are. The Thousand Eyes doesn’t like it. It hates me now as much as it hates him. I can feel its loathing like radiation from a nuclear bomb that strips my skin and burns me alive. I won’t do whatever it is the worm-man wants. I’d rather be eaten by the Thousand Eyes and burn in its gullet forever than let the other one win. He’s evil. And I’m evil just by being near him.
The last entry was the worst.
I felt sick and I covered my face, but tears didn’t come this time, only the black sensation of horror and pity.
It was almost dinnertime—I’d missed both breakfast and lunch—but I put off eating a little longer to pick up the phone and call the Danzigers. Sometimes they don’t know the answer to my questions, and sometimes they had an answer that was wrong, but they at least had more experience with the bizarre than I did, even after two years more than knee-deep in it.
The phone rang longer than usual before Ben answered.
“Hey, Ben. It’s Harper.” Background noise at the other end washed the emotions out of my voice.
“Oh, hi, Harper! How’s Los Angeles?”
“Like the antechamber to hell. I have a question.”
“Any ideas on how I can find a specific ghost? I need to talk to a particular individual who’s been dead for about twenty-two years.”
“Well, you could—Oh, no . . . you can’t call them. Hrm . . . Hang on. . . .” I could hear him cover the mouthpiece with his hand as he turned to call for Mara.
I could barely hear some mumbling on the other side. Then a thump as the phone fell out of Ben’s hand and dropped onto the floor.
A very young voice cackled into the phone. “Harper! Hahahaha! Come play with me!”
“I can’t today, Brian. I’m way far away.”
“Are not! You’re in the phone!”
A few more noises preceded the return of Ben’s voice, although his son’s carried on in the background. I figured he was probably holding on to the kid while he talked. “I’m sorry. . . .”
“That’s OK. So what do you two think?”
“Well . . . we’re agreed that you’ll have the best luck looking in the places strongly associated with the person who died. Like their home or office or the place they died. You know a ghost can haunt several places simultaneously, but they manifest intelligence in only one at a time.”
“Yeah, that’s kind of what I thought. I know I can’t always get the attention of a repeater.”
“And if that’s the only manifestation they have, it’s going to be hard to get any information out of them.”
“Nearly impossible, actually.”
“Really? I should write that down. . . .”
Ever since he’d been mauled by a legendary monster on Marsh Island, Ben had been on disability, staying home with their precocious son while Mara taught full-time. Bored, Ben had started working on a field guide to ghosts, mixing the research he’d been doing for years with the proofs-through-misadventure that I’d made Greywalking for the past two years.
I thought over his suggestion and decided it seemed plausible. I’d have to give it a try. Of course, I couldn’t remember the addresses of our home or Dad’s office. I thanked Ben for the idea and hung up, staring at the box of junk. I stiffened my spine and wondered if I could find the addresses in there and not have to go back to my mother right away. I’d have to show up again eventually; I wanted those shining boxes of photographs and I wanted to know what had actually happened to Christelle. Maybe my father had just gone crackers and only imagined the destruction of his receptionist. . . . I wanted to believe it, but I doubted it.
I scrabbled through the shining pile for the appointment book, hoping someone had thought to put the office information in it. It had Dad’s name and office address on the cover; it was in Glendale, a middle-class suburb just northeast of Hollywood. Since he’d died there, the office seemed like the best place to start looking for him.