The day was quiet and the wind blew cold. Sunlight glittered through the frosted window as Kyle and I sat in the middle of hundreds of tiny Legos. Occasionally we reached for a few, instinctively knowing where they lay within the scattered mess, and quickly snap them to our make shift rocket ship. Guided only by our imagination, we laughed while we struggled to give our construct a uniform structure. We kept going back and forth, theorizing where to place blasters and scientific doo-dads. Just about to have a break though, Kyle’s mother creaked her way up stairs. Kyle looked up at me wide eyed.
“Having fun?” she asked as she entered the room.
“Yeah!” said Kyle, “Ron and I are making a rocket ship!”
She peered down at the strange object in his hand.
“Very nice. Well how about you pack up and tell Ron to go home, you have a piano lesson to get to.”
She left us alone as we scooped up our Legos and poured them into a large plastic bin.
“Sorry. I totally forgot about piano today.”
“It’s okay,” I said and placed our half complete project on his desk. Kyle stared at me though his glasses.
“You have to go home now.”
I walked over to the window and peered down at the house next door. My father sat out on the front porch with a cup of hot coffee. The dark liquid steamed as he gazed off into the distance, unfazed by the cold. I could see mother though the kitchen window, viciously scrubbing a dish, her hands working furiously to remove filth that wasn’t there.
They never did move on after my death two years ago. Mother blamed herself for not watching me more carefully that fateful Sunday afternoon. We were out back, sunbathing by the pool and mother ran inside to make a quick phone call. She was only gone for a couple minutes but didn’t see me slip, hit my head, and fall into the pool. I splashed and splashed until darkness took me and I awoke sometime later, standing in the living room. Everything was so cold.
I glanced over into the backyard. The pool had been filled but the cement was a different color than the surrounding patio. It stuck out like a dark stain.
“I don’t like going home.”
“You can stay here if you like, but don’t let mom or dad see you. They won’t understand.”
I looked at him and smiled. That’s what I liked about Kyle, he was a genuine friend unlike my parents, who only wept when they saw me. While he was gone, I roamed his house, unseen yet engaged. After an hour, things suddenly got very cold.
“Oh, No! It’s happening again!”
My world faded to black and my consciousness slipped away. Soon, I reappeared in Kyle’s living room. The sun was shinning a little brighter through the window. Birds chirped outside. I walked into the kitchen and peeked at the calendar. Three months had passed. I ran up the stairs to Kyle’s room; Hallow creaks echoing with each step. I flung the door and saw my friend sitting at his desk, listening to music while doing homework. I snuck up and tapped him on the shoulder. Startled, he nearly fell out of his chair as he spun around. Once he saw me though, he gave a wicked smile.
“Ron! Perfect timing,” he cried and picked up our incomplete rocket ship sitting at the edge of his desk.
“You kept it!”
“Of course I did. Who else am I going to finish it with?”
I smiled and the two of us dumped the Legos out on the floor to continue on with our project. We didn’t get far. As soon as our laughs echoed across the house, Kyle’s father burst into the room, demanding to know why homework wasn’t being done.
“I’m taking a break. Ron’s here and we have to finish our rocket ship before he leaves again.”
“Homework is more important than playing with your imaginary friend.”
His dad shot a cold stare and that was the end of that conversation.
I stood up, slightly annoyed that he wouldn’t let us play. I opened my mouth to protest but he walked right through me as he ushered Kyle back to the desk. I wanted to pull Kyle away from him but the darkness took me once again.
The cycle continued, randomly reappearing throughout the house, never knowing how much time had elapsed. Sometimes it was days, sometimes months, but no matter how long I was gone, Kyle was always ready to resume construction. When our rocket ship was finished, we hung it from the ceiling using fishing line.
“Would you look at that!” said Kyle and wrapped his arm around my shoulder.
For the first time in a long time, I felt warm. I was so proud but the feeling didn’t last long. Shortly afterward, I was gone.
The cycle continued. Years went by. At a certain point, I started to reappearing in my own house but this drove my mother mad. Doctors didn’t believe her when she said she kept seeing my reflection in mirrors and TV screens and prescribed her medication; making her dull. Eventually father thought it best to leave painful memories behind and move away.
A new family settled in the house shortly after but quickly left after I attempted to befriend heir nine year old daughter. No one moved into the house after that and Kyle became the only person I could interact with. But as he grew older, he started making other friends, and half the time I was around, he was out doing something else. I grew restless.
Then, one day, he didn’t even notice I was there.
I kept calling out to him.
“Kyle! Kyle. Please look me.”
But my hallow voice went unheard. I watched as played with his GameBoy, completely unaware that I stood five feet from him. When I saw that our spaceship no longer hung in his room, I grew angry. I grabbed a plastic toy from his desk and hurled it at him. The moment it left my hand, I felt nothing but shame. I watched in horror as it hit him square in the forehead.
“OW!” he cried.
With his cries echoing throughout the house, his mother came to investigate. Though she was able to stop his bleeding, she didn’t believe him that a toy hurled across the room on its own. I watched until the familiar cold returned; Glad to be taken away this time.
Seeking desperately to apologize for what I did, I did whatever I could to get Kyle’s attention. I flickered the lights, pushed things off counters, and even wrote messages for him, though my writing wasn’t that good.
That terrified him.
Late one afternoon, while everyone was in the house, I stared playing the piano. I smiled as the entire family gathered around to watch me play. After watching Kyle play so many times, my fingers fluttered across the keys, mimicking his moves. For a moment, I was at peace. It wasn’t until I finished my song and turned around that I saw that the family huddled together in fear.
“What’s wrong with you people!” I shouted, “Please, just play with me.”
But all they heard was a deathly wail. They scrambled of the house. I watched from the kitchen window as they piled into their mini van and pulled out of the drive way. I saw Kyle in the backseat. We locked eyes but he quickly looked away.
I knew he saw me!
The vehicle screeched away.
Days later an old woman came to the house. She walked the house with a subtle grace, spurring my attention with an anxious curiosity. I hid as she went from room to room, trailing just close enough behind so that I could smell her lavender and sage scented perfume. She entered Kyle’s room. Pausing in its center, she sat down and closed her eyes. I watched her from the top of the stairs.
“This is where you used to play,” she said.
I quickly ducked behind the railing but she looked over at me with a genuine smile.
“It’s okay darling, I’m not going to hurt you.”
Nervous yet excited that someone finally saw me, I impishly walked into the room and sat with her. She peered at me with calming blue eyes.
“What’s your name, child?” she asked.
“It’s nice to meet you, Ron. My name is Miss Caroline.”
“How come you can see me when no one else can?” I asked.
“I am have certain gifts that allow me to see the unseen,” she said, “The family that lives here asked me to come.”
“Child, it is time to move on. You’re scaring them.”
“But it’s not fair! I didn’t ask to die. I just want to play with Kyle.”
“As soon as we are born, the process of dying begins. Some tragically die too soon and others live too long.”
She reached out and cupped my cheek, using her thumb to wipe away my ghostly tears. Her touch was warm and soothing. Suddenly, a bright light appeared above, washing over me with the comfort I could only describe as a mother’s hug.
“It’s time to move on.”
She smiled, “I don’t know. I’ve never been but I hear it is a very good place.”
“But what about Kyle.”
Miss Caroline smiled but said, “Kyle is growing up, dear. You have to let him go.”
I looked up at the bright light.
It was so beautiful.
“It’s time to go.”
I looked at her and nodded. She rubbed my cheek one last time and I floated upward, taken by unseen hands.