The Ghosts of Dedap Road – 6

31 03 2009
   Miss Mood was my Jupiter teacher. Clem said it was different in the states. Jupiter was the same as fourth “grade”, he said. School in the states sounded boring. Sadie was in Saturn and Clem was with the older kids in Neptune. That was when boys got to wear long pants. Sadie and I wore the same uniform: a sleeveless navy blue dress with a pair of navy shorts underneath, long white socks and black buckle shoes.
    Miss Mood always stood with her cigarette looking like a movie star and staring out over the open soccer field at something far away that I could never see. Some days I talked to her at recess and mostly she asked me about my brother and sister and where I lived and where I came from in America. I asked her questions sometimes too, but I didn’t always understand the answers. Some days I would talk to her almost all recess and other days she would shoo me off to play with the other kids. I especially liked her blue and yellow pastel eyeshadow that matched whatever she wore. Bright half moons painted on dark skin above eyes as black as custard apple seeds. There were other teachers on the playground because all of the Jupiter classes and some of the Saturn classes came out at the same time. But Miss Mood was the only one who talked to kids without sounding irritated.   
   It was library day, and usually my favorite day because there was almost nothing I loved more than reading.  But today was different. Miss Mood took me aside while we waited in an orderly line for the librarian.  She said to wait for her and not to go into the library with the other kids. I was suddenly afraid. I hated being singled out for anything. When the school year started, I always got all of the answers right in math class, so Miss Mood took me out of Jupiter math and put me in Saturn with Sadie. The kids were doing long division and fractions. I didn’t know any of that.  I wanted to ask Sadie how to do it because I knew she’d know, but she was on the other side of the room absorbed in writing. All I could do was stare at the problems and try not to cry. The Saturn teacher had a long talk with Miss Mood and then told me go back to Jupiter. After that I made sure to miss some of the answers on math tests for good measure. 

The Ghosts of Dedap Road – 5

27 03 2009

The bus had already turned onto Dedap road when I came out of the house. Sadie and Clem both stepped out in front of it with their arms out and the bus driver slowed to a stop. I ran across the courtyard, and out into street waving wildly at the bus driver to wait for me. He smiled patiently as I threw myself onto the steps. “Good Morning, Greta!” He closed the door and waited as I tried to find a seat.

I grimaced. The only place to sit was next to Clem and the older kids. He slid to the outside of the seat. “You can’t sit here!” he whispered and motioned to the front of the bus. A few people watched us with curious eyes.

“There’s nowhere else to sit, Clem, move over!” I said through gritted teeth. Everyone was looking at us now. The bus driver glanced in the mirror, and Clem gave in.

“But I get to sit on the outside.” He grumbled and stood up to let me in. I didn’t mind. I liked to look out the window. I watched row after row of semi-detached houses all the same size and shape gliding by in pastel colors as the bus made it’s way to the main highway.  The houses all looked afraid behind massive wrought iron gates. I wondered if their owners thought they needed protection.  We had iron gates too, but I didn’t think that would be enough.

  “By the way, you’re wrong about Bloody Mary.” I said as the bus lurched onto the highway. Clem was already sweating. It wasn’t like Daddy’s car where there was air conditioning and we could drive for hours without feeling the heat. The bus ride to school was an hour and a half long and it felt like we were in a heated swimming pool for the entire ride. By the time we got there, everyone’s hair was slicked down and dripping wet.

“I can’t believe you did that!” His eyes were wide and I faltered for a moment.

“I said it ten times just like you said and nothing happened. I knew you were making it all up. At least when Ravia tells stories they’re true.”

“Are you calling me a liar, Greta?”

“If you’re not a liar then why did nothing happen when I said her name ten times?” I folded my arms in triumph.

“That’s because you didn’t listen when I told you how to do it.” He paused with a far off look and then he smiled wickedly. “But don’t worry. Bloody Mary will be visiting you soon. Just don’t go into any dark rooms by yourself and you’ll be fine.”

I let that sink in for a minute. Was he lying again? Just making more stuff up because he knew I’d caught him? I couldn’t be certain. Maybe I had done it wrong.

“You did everything right. ” He said as though he read my thoughts. “you just forgot the most important part. You have to be in the dark when you say the words.”

“In the dark?” I suddenly felt nervous and wondered if it had been a bad idea to test Clem’s honesty. “Total and complete darkness.” It was his turn to look triumphant. “But like I said, you did everything right, which means that the spell took. It’s just waiting for you to go into a dark room, where you’ll meet Bloody Mary and…well, it was nice knowing you little sister.” He grinned and I tried to fight back tears and a sense of dread creeping into my stomach. What had I done? Was he telling the truth? I had a feeling he was lying before but maybe he wasn’t. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to doubt him. He seemed to sense my unease and his expression softened. “Don’t worry Greta.” he said gently. “You’ll be just fine. I’ll keep you safe from Bloody Mary.” He put an arm around me and squeezed. “Just avoid dark rooms.” and then he laughed.

The Ghosts of Dedap Road – 4

26 03 2009

Our next door neighbor, Ravia was born in Singapore. Her dad was Dutch and her mom was Malaysian.  I could see her dark red hair through the stair posts as I skipped down.  She often came over for breakfast. Her parents sometimes went out at night with my parents and she would babysit us. I liked it when she came over because she told ghost stories.   I hated ghost stories but I couldn’t stop listening. I always wanted to hear more even though I was afraid. I knew there was a ghost in our house, but Ravia told me never to talk about it and to pretend like the ghost wasn’t there. I wanted to tell her about the lamp, but if I did that, the ghost would know I knew it was there. I hurried through my breakfast and then excused myself from the table. There was something I had to know before I went to school.

“She was the Queen of Scotland but she was beheaded by her own sister who was the Queen of England.” Clem said. “She’s never forgotten it even in death. To this day she walks the earth as a ghost waiting for any hapless soul to say the magic words that will bring her back to life.”
“What are the magic words?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Because she should be free if she wants.”
“But that’s the thing. Whoever says the words to free her will pay for it with their own life. Because when she comes back she won’t be human anymore.  She’ll be half woman half wild dog and all she wants is blood. That’s why they call her Bloody Mary. Do you still want to say the magic words?”
“That’s stupid. I don’t believe you.”
“Go ahead then and say the words.”
“I would if you weren’t too chicken to tell me what they are.”
“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. You have to follow these instructions exactly. First you stand in front of a mirror. Then you say the words ‘Bloody Mary’ exactly ten times. By the ninth time, you’ll start to feel a choking sensation and then by the tenth, she’ll appear in the mirror, half dog and half woman. And then after a few minutes, she’ll be real. But you won’t live long enough to see her.”
“That’s the stupidest ghost story I ever heard.”

The Ghosts of Dedap Road – 3

25 03 2009

My bed was made and I was dressed in seconds. Sadie gave me a pleading look as I started for the door. I paused. “Two minutes, but hurry!” I said checking my watch. That watch had been my Christmas gift last year. I’d begged my parents and Santa for it all year. It made me feel grown-up so I took advantage of every excuse to check the time. Sadie was usually agonizingly slow in the mornings. But today neither of us wanted to be alone in our bedroom.
I was the youngest of three kids, but no one ever believed that. Sadie was a year older than me but sometimes acted like she was five years old and other times acted like the smartest person in the world. It was confusing when people saw us together because I treated her like she was my little sister. She needed me to take care of her at school. I knew that she was much smarter than I was, but she was a bit strange which made her a magnet for bullies.
My parents had spent a lot of time going to hospitals with Sadie since we moved to Singapore five years ago. Sometimes she would go on trips back to the states with mom while dad stayed and took care of Clem and me. When she came home she described the rooms in detail where they hooked machines up to her brain and watched her think about things. I didn’t know that was possible. Clem, my older brother, said they couldn’t see her thoughts, just the patterns her brain makes when she thinks. He said the brain gives off electricity when it thinks and that the machines read the electricity in waves. I wondered why Sadie’s electricity was more interesting than everyone else’s.
I always asked her about the snow when she came back from the United States. She told me once that it coated everything: the trees, the houses, the streets and even the cars making everything look like it was made of sparkling sugar candy. I couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful. I knew she wasn’t lying because Sadie never made things up. I’d seen snow in pictures and movies and mom kept telling me I’d actually played in it in Colorado before we moved to Singapore, but I was too young to remember. I wanted to see it for myself though. I wanted to see real snow so badly, it was an ache in me.

Ghosts of Dedap Road – 2

23 03 2009

Every morning at 7:30 sharp she came into the room singing.

“Good morning to you! You look like a zoo! You act like a monkey and smell like one too!”

This morning was no exception and when I heard the familiar pitch of my mother’s voice, I swam out from under the covers giggling and thinking about how silly I had been the night before. Daylight has a way of making night-time fears seem distant and small. I sat up and as the fog of sleep cleared I stopped giggling abruptly. My mother stood in the middle of the room looking stricken. Her gaze fixed on a pile of shards in the far corner of the room. The lamp on the writing desk was lying in pieces on the floor. The clamp that held it to the desk was still firmly in place.

Ravia was right, they’re trying to get our attention. I must have said it out loud because my mother whirled around blazing with anger.

“That was not our lamp! Did you do this? Don’t lie to me Margaret, I know when you’re lying. Do you know how much it will cost us to replace that lamp? It’s an antique.”

I stammered and stuttered…looking more guilty by the second. I glanced at Sadie who was just coming awake. “It wasn’t me.” I squeaked. “I.. I think I heard it breaking..last night. I don’t know how it happened.”

But I did know.

“Get dressed.”  was all she said, her expression turned from anger to speculation. “Breakfast is ready downstairs, so don’t dawdle. And make your beds.” She left me standing there a question with no answer and mute as the lumps of broken lamp at my feet.

The Ghosts of Dedap Road – 1

22 03 2009

“Tell me the scary story again, Ravia!”
“Which one?”
“The one about the suns.”
“When the sun came up in Singapore today he split himself in two as he has done every day since time began. ”
“He did that just today?”
“Yes, Margaret, he has done it every day since time began.”
“But Ravia, how do you know the sun is a he?”
“These things are known.”
“So why did he split himself in two?”
“You must be patient and I will tell you. He becomes two suns, one dark and one light so he can rule over the two universes. The first universe is a place of dark misery and everyone who walks that lonely world would rather be in our bright happy world. That’s why sometimes things happen we can’t explain. The people of the other universe are trying to come through. We must not be afraid when this happens. We must simply go about our daily lives. They will cry out in the darkness and we must not acknowledge them. They will move things and break things and tempt us with paradise. But you must listen to what I say, Margaret. If you ever acknowledge their existence they will have you. They will take your place in this world and you will be doomed to walk the desolate plains forever under the dark sun.”
“Is it really true?”
“Yes, it is just as I say.”
“How do you know?”
“My mama told me.”
I thought about that for a moment.
“Yes, Greta?”
“Why would God make people live in a place like that dark universe?”
“It exists for us Margaret. It is there to show us how wonderful our living world is and to remind us to appreciate all we have on this earth.”

I was sound asleep when I awoke to the sound of breaking glass. Was I dreaming? The house was still and dark when I opened my eyes. My older sister slept in the twin bed across the room. I could hear her steady breathing.
“Sadie!” I whispered “Sadie, are you awake?” She moaned in her sleep and turned over. I pulled the covers up over my head and strained to listen for other sounds in the house. My whole body was rigid with fear.I should sit up, I thought. I should get up and see what that sound is. Was that footsteps? There was a creak on the stairs. I froze and held my breath. Who was in the house? Were they going to murder us in our sleep? My heart beat fast as I lay under the covers. I couldn’t hold my breath any longer and I let it out in a long sigh. There was a click and a whir as the air conditioner kicked in. Good, I thought, then whoever it is wont hear me breathing and they wont come in here. But the sounds were gone. I let myself breathe again slowly in the safety of my blanket cave, hyper-alert to every settling noise of the house.  Eventually, the fear dissolved into troubled sleep.