2013

Someone Else is Living Here

Writer's Digest post

Your kids love watching CSI, so you buy them a forensic starter’s kit for Christmas. They begin running simple, fake experiments, collecting DNA, and dusting for fingerprints around the house. When you look at all of the powder and prints they pull, you find there are more fingerprints there then just you and your family’s. Whose are they?

 *  *  *

I stared at the results in disbelief. My family had owned the house for decades! We were a good 10 miles out of town, and we hadn’t had visitors in six months. Our daughter was home-schooled, and we ordered our groceries online and had them delivered to our mail drop at the end of the road.

It all started when we got Emily, our 8-year old daughter, the forensics kit: you know, the one they advertised last Christmas. The whole family were wild fans of CSI, NCIS, and all those ‘cop science’ shows. A junior forensics kit was the kind of thing she could have hours of fun with. And she did.

Emily dusted the attic and found a treasure trove. She was a whiz, and had assembled fingerprint profiles for us, my parents, and my brother and sister and their families, based on latent prints lifted off various pieces of junk in the attic. She even had a couple of prints that I think were my grandfather’s.

Once she had reference samples, Emily had started dusting the main floor of the house. We couldn’t look across a room without seeing black powder. But even that was only a nuisance; the problem was what she found. It was my brother Brian’s prints, along with those of his wife Mary and son Tyler. That was strange enough given that they hadn’t been up in over a year, but the worst of it was they were dead.

Brian and his family had been coming up the mountain to visit us for Christmas when they lost control of the minivan on the icy road and went into Shuyler’s Gorge. They pulled the three burned bodies out of the wreckage on Christmas Eve. We still observed Christmas, for Emily’s sake, but it was pretty subdued.

And yet here were Brian’s fingerprints on a brass table lamp that had been polished three days ago.

I’m a rational man, and I didn’t believe in ghosts before all this started. But this left me at a total loss. I tried to e-mail my sister Kate, but the connection was down – again. It had been pretty spotty for months.

Later that day I saw my first apparition. It looked like Tyler playing among some boxes in the living room. He was semi-transparent. I called his name and he looked around, but didn’t seem to notice me. I tried a few more times to get his attention but he ignored me. I’d heard ghosts often don’t react to the living.

Emily made a game of running back and forth through Mary’s ghost. She apparently talked to Brian about it, but we couldn’t hear a word either of them were saying.

That night Elizabeth screamed when spectral Brian laid down in bed next to her and put his arm through something a bit too personal. We were both so shaken we slept on the couch.

The next morning Brian and Mary started shifting the furniture around and bringing boxes in from his car. The Chevy sedan he’d owned for years.

Then I finally remembered: I was the one driving my family home in the minivan.