serialized 5 of 9

I don’t think the couple has any idea that anyone else is even in here. I wonder if they even know where they are or just accidentally showed up. I can tell they each only have one thing on their mind and when the lights go out I don’t think either one of them is going to care about ghosts.

In the front row there’s a family of a husband and wife, a little baby, and an old woman in her eighties. The old lady looks impatient and sad at the same time. She keeps looking back and forth between the clock and the stage. The mother wipes some drool from the baby’s face and the father has to smile like he thinks it’s cute when in fact it probably grosses him out a bit.

Ted fades the house lights to black and fires up the spotlight. Uncle Randy greets the audience while Dad stands silently in the background. I really don’t think he likes being on stage at all, but he tells me that these talks are important. ‘People need to know the truth about what’s out there,’ he once told me while we sat on the back porch drinking coffee. ‘Too many people have the wrong idea about what’s happening out there, what we don’t see. What your Uncle Randy and I do is going to change all of that.’

Dad still has to work a regular job like Uncle Randy. He’s a composer and writes songs for movies, usually the ones that play when the credits roll. I don’t think he really likes it but he would never tell me that. I remember one time he wrote a song for my mom’s birthday. She loved it so much it made her cry. He’s been playing the piano since he was a teenager. I could never play an instrument, I’m not that coordinated.

The crowd is quiet tonight while Uncle Randy and Dad show the video clips of the most haunted places they’ve visited. During some of the videos unexplained things happen like gates opening and closing with no one touching them. Other times you can hear very faint voices. Those ones are Dad’s favourites. ‘You can’t blame the wind then,’ he says.

The talk goes for an hour and a half and the audience seems to be hanging on every word. The old woman in the front hasn’t moved once, it’s like she’s a statue hanging on every word. I wonder what brought her here.

‘We’re interested in your questions,’ says Uncle Randy which cues me to get ready with the microphone. ‘The most important thing about the work we do is how it helps and teaches people. So now we’d like to open the room up for discussion. Our hunter in training Matthew is going to come around with the microphone, just raise your hand if you have something you’d like to say.’ I hate when he calls me that.

Stepping out onto the floor of attentive listeners, the first hand I see belongs to the old lady in the front. When I pass her the microphone her bony fingers brush against my hand, they feel soft and cold. She smells like mothballs.

‘My husband talks to me,’ she says and judging by the red cheeks of the woman holding the baby, I assume that’s her daughter. ‘He talks to me before I go to sleep and when I wake up.’

Dad and Uncle Randy wait for her to continue but she’s suddenly quiet. Instead of talking, she’s staring at the both of them like they should already know what to say. Uncle Randy looks annoyed but Dad is compassionate like always. ‘Did he cross to the other side recently?’ he asks.

‘He’s been dead for three years,’ says the woman still looking sad. ‘He’s been dead for three years and he won’t stop talking.’

Dad looks concerned. He pushes his long black bangs out of his face so the woman can see the focus of his blue eyes set on her. They’re sharing a look that can only be shared by two people who have lost the person they love more than anyone else. ‘What does he say?’

‘He asks me for help but I don’t know how to help him,’ the woman says and I think she’s going to lose it soon. Her words faded toward the end and the microphone magnified the cracking of her voice in a way that lets everyone in the room know she’s telling the truth, even me. I get one of those chills that usually only comes in winter. The kind that jerks up your shoulders and makes your head shake back and forth.

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