Unintended Consequences

This little vignette was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s site.

**

Henry was not the sort of person to believe in hauntings or ghosts.  He’d always felt that there had to be a logical explanation to everything.  The odd sounds that people reported were nothing more than the house settling.  Odd smells that seemed out of place were the result of matrixing or else a stray breeze bringing the smell into the house.  If someone claimed to see a ghost, they must have been imagining it or mistaken in what they’d seen.  The same was true of those who heard ghostly voices.

However, that had all been before he’d adopted Johannes and his sisters and brothers.  Seven years living with Johannes had taught him how narrow his previous viewpoint had been.  Within the first year, Johannes had encountered a spirit in their house.  That spirit, which Johannes had named Michael, was now the boy’s constant invisible companion.

There was no doubt in Henry’s mind that Michael was real.  Although few could see him, everyone could feel him.  He pulled out chairs and sat at them.  He drank tea and, occasionally, even shared dinner with them.  So, Henry couldn’t deny that Michael was as real as he was.  He was simply invisible.

Nothing, however, could have prepared Henry for seeing the ghostly fight that played out in front of him.  He was there to investigate an unexplained death, nothing more.  They weren’t even sure it was a crime.  It just seemed strange and it fit with other strange things that had happened in the town, including a couple of disappearances.  Hoping to cover all their bases, the locals had called in the Bureau for assistance.

Everything had been quiet when Henry arrived at the crime scene.  He had begun by looking the place over, to make certain there was nothing that had been missed in the initial sweep.  He was just finishing when he heard footsteps on the stairs.

Frowning, Henry headed out of the living room and into the entryway.  A man was running down the steps.  He looked as real and solid as Henry, as did the woman chasing him.  At the base of the steps, the woman caught his arm and pulled him to a stop.

“Where are you going?” she demanded, seeming not to see Henry at all.

The man pulled away and then shook his head.  “It’s over, Mary,” he said, his voice cracking.  “You’re married!  If you don’t care about him, think of your children.  This isn’t right!”

“You didn’t have a problem with that before,” she said, her tone hurt and angry.

The man gave a sound between a laugh and a sob.  “I didn’t know, Mary,” he said, shaking his head.  He shook his head and whirled away, heading for the door.  He walked directly through Henry.  The woman followed and Henry whirled around.

To his surprise, the spirits were still there.  The woman grabbed at the man once again.  He pulled away with such force that Mary lost her grip.  A moment later, he stumbled and fell.  Henry watched as he struck his head on the windowsill by the door and slumped to the floor.

Mary gasped and dropped to her knees beside him.  She shook him and said, “Frank?”  However, Henry could see that Frank was not going to answer her.  Mary had pressed her hand to the gash on his head.  Now, she touched his throat.  With a gasp, she recoiled and then scrambled back away from him.  A moment later, she was standing.  She stared at her bloodstained hands as she backed away from his body.  “I’m sorry,” she whispered, silent tears running down her cheek.  “I’m so sorry.”

Henry watched as she whirled away from the scene and ran up the steps.  She vanished before she even reached the landing.  When Henry looked down to where Frank had fallen, his body was gone as well.  That was what his son would call a residual haunting: images of the past replaying themselves again.  They weren’t proper ghosts, since they didn’t interact with the living.

Suppressing a shudder, Henry turned on his heel and headed back into the living room.  He wasn’t sure if Frank’s death had anything to do with the current case.  However, he could say one thing for sure: he was going to ask the local authorities if anyone named Frank had ever died on the property.  He wasn’t sure how he would explain where he got the name.  Perhaps he would tell them that he’d seen a ghostly murder replayed like a movie.

Laughing, Henry shook his head.  The local authorities would think he was crazy, if he told them that he got the name from a ghost.  Then again, maybe they knew about the house’s history and would be expecting the question.

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