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Mystery Speculative Kids

Edith couldn’t sleep.


The house was colder than usual. Frigid air blew in from the open window and tickled her nose, freezing her nostrils. She wiped at her nose and quietly rose to tighten the attic window. Edith pulled at the lock as hard as her weak arms allowed and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.


A noise sounded from below her. Edith’s ears pricked. She tried to remember the last time she heard clamor in the old house. A few years, maybe? Yes, that was it. She decided it had to have been at least a few years, fifteen maybe. The noise sounded again. Edith crept to the edge of the attic stairs, listening.


Another icy breeze rustled the back of her hair and she whipped her head towards the window with irritation. The window was ajar once again. Edith huffed but concluded it was not her problem at that moment. She recalled a time many, many years ago when her family first moved into the house, when her parents had complained about the very same breeze. She thought they had fixed it, eventually, but perhaps not.


Edith continued the rest of her tiptoeing until her toes brushed the edge of the door that separated the rest of the house from the attic. It was flat and had a small hook on one end for opening up the door. Dust covered the perimeter of it and Edith grimaced as a spider crawled into one of the creases.


Edith knelt and pressed her ear to the door. She heard another noise, closer this time. Three beats passed as she determined whether or not to investigate. Her mother and father, who slept on the other side of a thin wall in the attic, would certainly not approve. However . . . it had been so awfully long since she had an adventure. Even since she heard another human inside their house. She wondered if they looked the same as she remembered.


Gently, softly, Edith hooked her finger into the small hoop lodged in the flat door and lifted it. Dust clung to her fingers as she did so, and she blew it off. The spider sneaked out as well and she shooed it away. The doors suddenly stretched out below her, making way for the rest of the house. Edith slunk onto the first step. The stairs were slippery, and Edith twisted around so she could clutch the stairs as she crawled down.


The house was quiet when she reached the bottom. Whatever noise was coming and going had stopped completely and Edith pouted. Her bare feet made no sound as she wandered across the hallways. The rooms on either side of her were dark and lifeless, as they always had been. But then one room was not. A dim light shined in a small room off around the corner. Edith slowed her steps. She tugged at her cream nightgown, dirty with long ago stains. She bunched it up, careful of it not to drag on the ground even though she knew it would make no sound.


Rounding the corner, Edith realized the light was coming from the kitchen. A chandelier flickered, casting a shadow on a small figure standing in the middle of an open pantry. Edith sucked in a breath. She tiptoed slower and quieter to the small figure who nearly matched her own height. As she got closer, she spotted short hair curling around the person’s neck and blue striped pajamas hung far past their feet. A boy, Edith though. Yes, that is precisely what she remembered a boy looking like.


As she reached her foot onto the tiled floor, she felt her entire body go rigid. This was the procedure every time she made herself visible to humans. It was uncomfortable and she rarely did it willingly. The very few times she made herself visible was under her parents’ orders. She decided that this moment was an exception, though.


The procedure finished throughout Edith’s body and she shuddered, glad it was finally over. As her body shook, her elbow thumped against a wooden frame surrounding the kitchen entrance. The boy scanning the pantry jumped and whipped around at the sudden sound. Edith’s mouth opened in surprise for two things: the boy could hear her, and her elbow throbbed from real-life pain.


 “Who’s there?” he asked, holding out empty hands above his chest.


Edith walked into the dim light of the kitchen, revealing herself. She cocked her head. “I was going to ask you the same question. Who are you?”


The boy’s hands still hovered in the air and his voice still trembled as he responded, “My name is Liam. I ask you again . . . who are you?”


“Edith,” she replied, simply. The boy was definitely near her age, she thought. Baby fat clung to his cheeks as it did hers for years.


“Where did you come from?” he asked.


Edith walked closer to him, observing. “I came from here.”


“Well . . . where? No one else lives in this house.”


She cocked her head again. “Are you sure?”


He lowered his hands and cocked his head right back at her. “I . . . don’t know. You didn’t come with my family.”


“Family?” Edith asked. She tucked her hands behind her back and began walking around the kitchen. It was almost the same as she remembered. The cabinets were white instead of brown, the way they were when her family first moved in. The kitchen tiles glistened under the chandelier light. Edith recalled them being quite dusty and ashen the last time she saw them.


“Yes, me and my parents moved in today,” Liam said. Edith returned her attention to him.


“Hm, I didn’t hear anyone come in earlier,” she mumbled.


“What do you mean hear? Were you in the house before we moved here?” he asked, sounding slightly worried.


Edith pinched her lips together. She thought maybe that was a mistaken choice of words. “No, I didn’t say that,” she said, quietly. She continued to scan the kitchen, counting all the windows. Four, to be exact.


“You’re strange, Edith.” Edith turned her head at the mention of her name. She eyed the boy.


“Same to you, Liam,” she said, holding her head high.


“Did you fall in mud earlier?” he asked, pointing to Edith’s dirty nightgown. “Mama used to fuss at me for going out after it rained.”


Rain. That’s what it was. The breeze coming in from the attic window always became more persistent when it was rainy. “No, I haven’t played in any mud.”


“How did it get dirty then, mysterious Edith?”


“It just did. Why did your family move here?” she asked, suddenly wanting to know the answer.


Liam shrugged. “Don’t know. Mama and Papa wanted somewhere quiet and as soon as they looked in this house, it was like they needed to move in right then.”


Edith nodded. “That happens,” she said.


“Your parents were the same way?” he asked.


“Something like that, I suppose. Do you like the house, Liam?” Edith strolled closer to him, letting go of her bunched-up nightgown so it fluttered around her.


Liam screwed up his nose. “I guess. It’s kinda old looking. You would think they would remodel a house this old.”


Edith smiled. “You would think,” she replied, remembering the time when her parents made the same remark. “How old are you, dear Liam?”


“Ten,” he responded, proudly and puffing out his chest. “What about you?”


“Ten . . . I think.” Edith paused to think. She was ten, right? Or was she eleven? The passage of time escaped her often.


“Cool!” he said, bouncing on his feet. Then his shoulders slumped a bit. “I miss my friends back home. They would like you.”


“You think?” she asked.


Liam nodded vigorously. “Oh, yes! They were strange, too.” He fumbled with his hands a moment and Edith sensed his next words. Only a few children her age moved in after her, but they all asked the same question once Edith revealed herself. “Maybe,” Liam started, “we could be friends?”


Edith felt the same emotion as she had with the other few children that lived there. She wanted a friend, truly she did. That was the only reason she visibly showed herself to humans. Only the young ones. She wasn’t sure why she did so, though. Edith didn’t know where the other ghost children went after the house got to them, though she desperately wanted to know. It was a useless want. Edith and her family were the only ones that haunted that house; they were the house’s very first victims, after all. “Perhaps,” she replied lamely.


Liam’s eyes grew bright and his smile grew wider. Poor boy. “Great! Will you come play tomorrow?” he asked.


Edith considered this. She could, though it would be dangerous. She would make her decision in the morning. “I shall see.”


Just then, Edith’s entire body vibrated, and she knew her time was running out. She decided then that, no, she could not see Liam tomorrow. She wouldn’t last and she surely did not want Liam to see her true form. Her body shuddered again, more violently this time.


“Are you okay? I can go get Mama,” Liam said, voice dripping with concern.


Edith shook her head. “No. I’m okay,” she said, turning away from him to go back where she came from. She turned her head once back towards Liam. “I shall see you tomorrow, Liam,” she lied.

It was enough, though. Liam’s concern melted away and was replaced with joy. “I’ll see you tomorrow, mysterious Edith!”


Edith was already halfway down the hallway, away from Liam. Once she was completely out of sight, her body vibrated one more time and it felt as if it took a giant breath of relief. Edith sighed with it. She looked down to see her human feet gone and replaced with glowing light. Her dress’ stains had formed back into the blood that constantly dripped. Her hands were cut and scraped from the fight she once put up with the house. The house won.


Edith hurried back up the attic stairs of her attic home and found her parents waking at her arrival. They appeared around the corner of their thin wall and stared at her with sleepy eyes. “What were you doing out of the attic, Edith?” they asked.


“Exploring,” she said. They didn’t need to know about the boy and his family. It wouldn’t take them long to find out, anyway, and then they would go about their haunting business. Edith never understood why they got such a crack out of scaring the humans.


Her parents nodded without a question. They returned to their side of the wall. Edith walked over to her bedding and sat down without a sound. She cast a quick glance towards the attic door. She wondered how long it would take for the boy and his family to die. She wasn’t sure how long it took for her family. A few days? Weeks? Again, passage of time was hard for her to remember.


Edith laid down on her bedding and stared up at the attic ceiling. Her last thoughts were of Liam and how she was once in his place. Innocent and not knowing her death was creeping up on her. She did wish that she could see Liam once he died. Maybe he would visit if he figured out how. Edith assured herself that he would find a way.


But that’s what she told herself every time a child her age died. Sleep overcame her soon enough. She didn’t even wake up when the first of many screams sounded below her.

October 22, 2020 03:28

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26 comments

Thom Brodkin
18:38 Nov 18, 2020

You know I am a fan of your writing and this is one of my favorites. It's pleasingly disconcerting and eerily heartwarming. It does leave you sad at the end. Sad for her sad for him. It makes me want more. It makes me want to know what happened before and what will happen next. The ability to do that to the reader is a gift. I will miss your stories until you are back. If you happen by to check on comments and have an extra moment please read "Silence". It is one of my favorites so far.

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Maggie Deese
01:57 Dec 02, 2020

Thank you so much, Thom! I just got back on Reedsy from a month of writing my novel (which I finished!) and this was very sweet to come back to! I will gladly read your story later tonight! :)

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Thom Brodkin
20:16 Dec 02, 2020

Let me know when your novel is published. I'll buy one of the very first copies. :-)

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Maggie Deese
21:02 Dec 02, 2020

Oh thank you so much, Thom :) I will be spending this next year editing and revising but I will let you know when I get to the stage of sharing it!

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Thom Brodkin
23:53 Dec 02, 2020

Sounds good. 😀

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Leilani Lane
16:29 Oct 28, 2020

Wow, Maggie! I have to say, I think this is my favorite story of yours. This was wonderfully descriptive and just eerie. I love that you left some things open-ended, as you pointed out in another comment; I always prefer to use my imagination! Best of luck on your NaNo novel! That is so exciting. :)

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Maggie Deese
03:13 Oct 29, 2020

Thank you so much, Leilani! I appreciate it! Also, thank you for wishing me luck! I am both excited and nervous :)

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Kristin Neubauer
15:59 Oct 24, 2020

Chilling story, Maggie! It's eerie and tragic and dark - everything a ghost story should be. I thought you did a really nice job fleshing out the relationship between Edith and Liam. The only thing I'm wondering about....how does the house kill it's residents? I'm at work and reading your story during my lulls so perhaps I missed something. But if I didn't, I'd love to see a little more about that. Great job!

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Maggie Deese
16:07 Oct 24, 2020

Thank you so much, Kristin! I'm glad you enjoyed it. As for your question...I actually don't have an answer! I didn't include that piece of information which is why I labeled this story as speculative. So let your imagination run amuck about all the horrible and lethal things a house could do, whether its the house itself or something that lives within the house...:) I probably could have fleshed it out a bit more but oh well, its already been approved!

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Maggie Deese
03:31 Oct 22, 2020

Not too sure about this title, so if anyone has ideas, let me know! Also, I have been reading a ton of middle-grade to prepare for my novel. I wanted to practice my middle-grade voice by writing this. It is also my first time attempting something ghostly! I enjoyed writing this, so I hope you all enjoy reading it as well!

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A.G. Scott
04:39 Oct 22, 2020

Preoccupied is an excellent title, what with the double meaning. You execute the middle-grade voice pretty well, and although it's not necessarily my taste (anymore), it was a pleasure to read. (As for the haunting aspect, you leave all the fun parts out, which is understandable, because this is a character story about a friendly ghost. A lot of the typical kind of tension you would expect from this kind of story is lost because the perspective character is unafraid. In my opinion, the story might be improved if you withheld a little more...

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Maggie Deese
18:08 Oct 22, 2020

Thank you, A.g. ! I do agree with your statement about the haunting aspect; maybe I should classify this as more of "around the campfire" type story? Like I said, this was my very first time attempting a story like this and I do not plan on writing more scary stuff! So yeah, haunting is probably not the right word. Also, you should give more middle-grade books a try! I've been reading more of them lately to prepare for my book, and they are actually quite good. Coraline is one of my favorites. I will definitely give your stories a read! T...

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A.G. Scott
18:09 Oct 22, 2020

Oh, Neil Gaiman is an exception. I'll read absolutely anything he writes. Hero.

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Avani G
01:28 Oct 25, 2020

Ooh, how about "The House Where The Truth Resides"?

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Maggie Deese
02:49 Oct 25, 2020

I like that!

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A.R. Eakle
11:48 Dec 09, 2020

I don’t usually like stories with ghosts and stuff, but you did such a great job that I couldn’t stop reading this one. Your art of storytelling is so good! It got so dark and twisted at the end, and it kind of put into perspective that Edith isn’t normal. I also love your choice of name for Edith. I love your writing, great work!

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Maggie Deese
19:29 Dec 13, 2020

Thank you so much! Yeah, I specifically looked up old-fashioned names for this character! Edith fit perfectly.

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21:35 Oct 26, 2020

Hi Maggie! I've been kind of absent around here and I think I missed a few of your stories, but this was a great one to get me back into a reading mood! I didn't write a story for any of these prompts because at least for me, it's hard to do anything new with ghost stories, but you've managed to write something new and intruiging. I wasn't especially bothered by the lack of details surrounding the mystery of the house, and once again you've done a great job creating a friendship in a brief meeting. I like that you didn't lean too much into t...

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Maggie Deese
03:00 Oct 27, 2020

Hi Natalie! It's so great to see you back on here; I've missed hearing from you and reading your wonderful stories! Thank you so much for the comment, I really experimented with this one with my middle-grade voice and the spooky aspect. I wanted to keep things vague since I am unfamiliar in the horror genre, so I'm glad the vagueness didn't bother you! I will definitely keep these characters in the back of my mind for future stories, I really loved them!

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23:49 Oct 27, 2020

I think it was definitely a smart move not to experiment too much with the horror genre if that's not something you usually write. I'm all for trying out new genres, but I think horror in particular is hard to do well if it's not your thing. Your middle-grade voice is coming along really well! It's easy to read without talking down. I've read a few middle-grade books recently and was surprised to find that they're much more complex than I remember. I think it shows real skill as a writer to be able to write for a younger audience.

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Maggie Deese
03:16 Oct 29, 2020

Thank you! And yes, middle-grade books are a lot more mature than I remember! I particularly like Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" and Kate DiCamillo's books. Their descriptions are very simple, but powerful. I strive to write like that.

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Avani G
01:25 Oct 25, 2020

Wow! This was so chilling! I feel bad for Liam and his family now. :D There's one grammar mistake that I caught, though: “Ten,” he responded, proudly and puffing out his chest. “What about you?” It should be “Ten,” he responded, proudly puffing out his chest. “What about you?” :)

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Maggie Deese
02:49 Oct 25, 2020

Thank you, Avani! I did see that mistake but, sadly, it has already been approved! I will gladly check out some of yours, but it might be in the next day or two if that is all right!

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22:35 Oct 23, 2020

Hi Maggie. I notice that there are still a few hours until the deadline, so I'm going to give you a ton of critiques now. Sorry if it comes out as harsh, I just want this story to be as polished as possible. She wiped at her nose and quietly rose up to tighten the attic window. ~ I feel the "up" is unnecessary since "rose" is included. It's a bit redundant, so maybe leave the "up" out? Edith knelt down and pressed her ear to the door. ~ Same thing here. The "down" in unnecessary. Gently, softly, Edith hooked her finger into the smal...

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Maggie Deese
22:41 Oct 23, 2020

Thank you so much! I really appreciate you taking the time to give me suggestions! I just went through and made some edits :) I will gladly check out your stories!

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