Will-o-the-wisp

This is my second attempt at a Halloween ghost story (a challenge set by my brother-in-law). My first story really needed some work and I decided I would go ahead and try my hand at writing a second, shorter story that would work for the challenge. This is the result. Happy Halloween :)

Vicky couldn’t exactly tell you when the girl appeared. She just sort of noticed her one day. Actually, she didn’t quite believe her own eyes when the girl first appeared and she thought that her mind was merely playing tricks on her. You see, Vicky was the kind of person who would adamantly deny the existence of any sort of supernatural phenomena.

“Anything can always be explained by science, even if we have to wait for science to catch up,” she would often quote if the topic ever arose.

But there Vicky was, lying in her bed after a Saturday afternoon nap, eyes freshly open and adjusting to the warm autumn sunlight streaming in through her window, staring at a young girl, about the size of a thimble, sitting on her chest. She rubbed the sleepiness from her eyes and put on her glasses. By the time she looked again, the girl had vanished and Vicky was left to believe that she was merely the remnants of her midday dream.

She didn’t think anything else of the wisp of a girl until about a week later. She was rummaging around her bookshelf searching for her grandmother’s recipe book, when she saw a faint whitish-silver glow behind her dusty copies of the Bible and On the Origin of Species. Her curiosity was naturally peaked. Vicky pulled the books off of the half filled shelf, and there she was, the little wisp of a girl staring up at her. Being the size of a thimble, it was difficult to make out the features of the little girl, but this did not stop Vicky from trying. Not wanting to take her eyes off the little wisp of a girl, she seated herself on a chair with a good view of the bookshelf and waited for the girl to move.

As she waited, Vicky began to ponder the little girl’s existence. Her first thought was that this was some kind of joke. Surely, her best friend Gale had sneaked over and rigged up some sort of equipment, maybe a small projector of some sort, as a pre-Halloween joke. But then, she remembered how much Gale hated technology and how little time she likely had for such pranks owing to her two small children. Vicky decided that was probably not the case. Then she began to wonder if maybe her house had developed a slow carbon monoxide leak. She had heard on the radio that throughout history, many haunted houses actually had some sort of gas leak, causing the occupants to have wild hallucinations. She walked over to the carbon monoxide detector hanging in the hall and pushed the green ‘test’ button. The alarm gave a deafening screech. No, it was not a gas leak either, it seemed.

By the time Vicky had returned to her perch in the living room, the girl was gone. Vicky searched the room frantically looking for the little wisp of a girl, to no avail. She didn’t reappear again for another three days. When she did return, the little wisp of a girl looked as if she had grown a bit. She was now about the size of a cigarette lighter, but she was much the same aside from that. This time, Vicky spotted her when she had just stepped out of the shower. She dried herself and went to leave the bathroom, when she saw the little girl staring up at her. She carefully side-stepped the girl, eying her warily as she passed. When she looked over her shoulder to see if the girl was still there, she realized that the girl, too, had turned and was following Vicky to her room.

Vicky paused and asked, “why are you following me? What do you want?” Her voice had a slight quaver to it as she spoke.

The little girl stopped too, and stared, what seemed to Vicky, through her rather than at her. She said nothing. Vicky turned and left the bathroom and as she entered her room, she slammed the door so as to bar the little girl from entering. Breathing a sigh of relief, she went to her closet and began getting dressed. But when Vicky turned around again, the little girl was standing just behind her, looking up in Vicky’s general direction.
Vicky crouched down and carefully studied the little girl. She seemed harmless enough, even though her presence slightly unnerved Vicky. The little wisp of a girl looked to be about five or six years old. She wore her light hair tied back with a ribbon. She was dressed in a frilly dress, which Vicky assumed must be her Sunday clothes due to the lack of tears or stains. The oddest thing about the little girl’s appearance though, wasn’t her dress or her hair, which both looked extremely old-fashioned for 2016, but it was the fact that the girl wore sunglasses. Vicky wondered if the girl might be blind, and even asked her so. The girl did not respond.
Vicky laid her hand face up in front of the girl in invitation, but the girl stood there, silvery-white feet planted on Vicky’s hardwood floor. Vicky moved her hand closer as if begging the girl to indulge her. The girl still didn’t move. Vicky then tried to pick the girl up with her thumb and forefinger, but they simply pressed themselves together as the passed right through the girl.
Vicky stood up and shrugged. It didn’t seem like the girl was out to cause her any harm. If Vicky were to be haunted by a ghost, it seemed like this was the best kind of specter. Besides, it didn’t seem like there was much she could do to get rid of the girl. Vicky assumed that she would just disappear one day as suddenly as she had appeared. In the meantime, it felt rude to refer to the little girl simply as “girl” or “ghost”. So Vicky decided to give the girl a name. She named the girl Maddy, after her childhood puppy which would follow her around the house. At least it did until one day the puppy got out and the neighbor accidentally ran her over with his beat-up old car. Vicky cried for days. Vicky smiled down at Maddy and invited her to follow her everywhere through the house.
After several days, Vicky had become used to Maddy’s presence, which was almost constant by now. It seemed that giving her a name had encouraged her to stay. Vicky didn’t much mind, in fact, she was a little glad to have some company around the house. Vicky had long since given up on having children. She was already 37 and didn’t even have a current boyfriend. She had considered adoption and even a sperm donor at one point, but decided that it probably wasn’t the best idea. She couldn’t even seem to make time for a steady relationship with all the work she did. How could she ever manage being a single mom? Although Maddy was far from a living human child, she did seem so somewhat fill this need in Vicky’s life.
Eventually, Maddy didn’t just stay home when Vicky left the house. Rather, she chose to ride on Vicky’s right shoulder. Vicky didn’t much mind at first. It didn’t seem like anyone else even noticed Maddy. But as late September faded into early October, Maddy continued to grow until she was the size and weight of a large dictionary. Vicky’s shoulders began to sag under the weight. She had tried to leave Maddy at home, or even just have her walk beside Vicky, but Maddy always managed to find her way up to her perch atop Vicky’s shoulders. Soon Vicky had resigned herself to Maddy’s whim and decided that the best course of action was not to venture away from the house as often.
Sleeping became more difficult as Maddy grew as well. Maddy’s favorite place to lay (because she didn’t actually sleep as far as Vicky could tell), was on Vicky’s chest. Vicky would wheeze and choke through the night, waking up at regular intervals and trying in vain to get Maddy off her chest. Eventually, Vicky went to the doctor and feigned sleep apnea in order to get a CPAP machine, in hopes that it would at least keep her breathing in the night if Maddy’s burden became too great. It seemed to help, but Vicky had trouble sleeping with the mask pressed firmly against her nose and cheeks.
A week and a half passed in this manner. Maddy was now the size of a fairly large dog. The weight on Vicky’s shoulders became almost unbearable at this point. Vicky almost never left her house now. She had decided a couple of days ago that she would instead, work from home. Sometimes she didn’t even leave her bed. Vicky had also undergone some physical changes. Her eyes were now constantly bloodshot and dark circles began to frame them. Her once plump, rosy cheeks were now sunken in and the color of stale oatmeal. Her clothes hung loosely on her body as the weight seemed to fall from her body.
Vicky’s friends and family grew concerned about her new-found hermit lifestyle and called her often. At first, Vicky would always answer the phone. She tried to play it off as merely feeling a bit under the weather. But as the days dragged into weeks, her loved ones soon saw through this lie. The calls became more frequent, and soon, Vicky began to ignore those, letting her voice mail fill to capacity. Her mother even stopped by after work one day and knocked on Vicky’s door. Although she didn’t want to answer, a small part of Vicky hoped that her mother would come in and see Maddy and somehow put all the pieces together. Lured by this though, Vicky pushed the door open and invited her mother inside. Despite her inactivity, Vicky’s house was surprisingly tidy. She showed her mother into the living room and sat her down next to Maddy, almost pleading with her silently through her eyes to understand what was happening. Her mother did not. She merely tried to convince Vicky to get out more, and after an hour or so, her mother left a doggy bag full of Vicky’s favorite food on the kitchen table and took her leave. She promised she would be back in a couple of days to check in on her. Vicky could hear the concern in her mother’s voice, and a part of her was dying to tell her mother everything about Maddy. But Vicky said nothing. Her mother closed the door and drove off, leaving Vicky and Maddy alone.
Vicky knew no one would believe her if she said anything about Maddy. She had seen all of those Hollywood horror films where the attractive star opened up to a friend or family member about the strange things they had been seeing. In the best case scenario, they simply didn’t believe the main character. In the worst case scenario, the main character was committed. Vicky had heard stories about mental institutions, and she did not care to join one. She wasn’t, after all crazy. Maddy was there, as plain as the nose on her face. It’s just, well, Vicky seemed to be the only person who could see her nose at this point. And so, Vicky continued to wait for Maddy to one day disappear again.
Not long after her mother visited, Vicky lost her job. She had gone to sleep a couple of nights before, with Maddy sitting on top of her chest as usual, and woke up only to find that Maddy had almost doubled in size overnight. She was now the size of an adult person. Vicky tried to get up out of bed, but found Maddy’s weight to be too much for her to move. She silently cursed herself for not joining the gym with Gale in January. She silently laid there, waiting for Maddy to move. She did not. She just stared blankly ahead as Vicky squirmed underneath her.
Vicky even took to pleading with Maddy after a couple of days, something she had given up weeks ago after only ever being met with silence. She was desperate now though.
“Please let me get up,” she begged. “I just need to get up and get to the phone, or my computer even!” She gasped as she choked the words out.
Maddy said nothing. She just continued to stare blankly ahead.
“Please, please, please! I can barely breathe. Just let me get up!” Vicky began to sob.
Maddy said nothing.
Vicky’s sobs turned into screams, “Please! Please! Let me up!”
Maddy said nothing. She did, however, move her head down, as if she were looking at Vicky. That was when Vicky realized something. She had always assumed that Maddy was wearing sunglasses. She had thought that was odd enough, but she didn’t give it much thought afterwards. As Vicky peered up into Maddy’s blank face now, she realized that Maddy was not, in fact wearing sunglasses. She was not wearing anything on her face. The black circles which she had mistaken for lenses, were actually holes where Maddy’s eyes should have been.
Vicky screamed and began thrashing madly, trying to shake the specter off of her chest. Her arms flailed recklessly, hitting the bed, the wall, and Vicky’s body. Maddy did not move. She continued to glare down at Vicky. And then, she did something that Vicky had never seen the girl do before. She smiled.
It wasn’t the the smile of a sweet innocent girl, however. It was much the opposite, in fact. Vicky gazed up at her pointed white teeth as Maddy grinned down at her. She stopped trying to throw Maddy from her chest. Vicky was entranced by Maddy’s smile and a feeling of calm washed over her as Maddy lowered her head and began to tear at the flesh on Vicky’s face and body.
Somewhere in the city, Vicky’s mom sat in the early evening rush hour traffic, looking at her watch. It would be at least another 30 minutes until she reached her daughter’s place. At least this time she had picked up a salad for her daughter, so she wouldn’t have to worry about the food getting cold.

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