Fiction Funny Speculative

“Let’s go! I want to be there before your aunt and cousin arrive. You know how she is, and frankly I have enough to contend with right now. I do not need her baseless judgements.” 

Thirteen-year-old Philip Martin continued to pack his overnight bag without acknowledging his mother’s vociferous command. He shook his head and thought to himself, “yelling like that isn’t going to motivate me to fold any faster; these things take time.”  Philip wasn’t intentionally being difficult, and despite her best efforts to hurry his progress, his mother knew it was his obsessive-compulsive disorder causing the delay, not defiance. Philip was a hyper intelligent child, but exhibiting classic traits of OCD was an unfortunate byproduct of knowing entirely too much about entirely too much. His GiGi understood, more than anyone as she and Philip both had a passion for information and a distaste for chaos and crud. He will miss her terribly. Maggie paced the living room like an anticipative caged cat primed for escape. She checked her watch for the twentieth time in the past ten minutes, noting they were already five minutes behind schedule. “Philip!” 

The two-hour drive into Pennsylvania from New Jersey soothed Maggie Martin’s anxiety. She loved the scenic tour overlooking the mountains, past the rushing streams and through the tiny quaint towns bordering the foothills. Growing up in the mountains was nothing short of magical, and the nostalgia she felt each time she returned, left her with feelings of regret for not raising Philip there as well. They hadn’t been back in the past two years; not since Maggie had GiGi moved to an assisted living complex in New Jersey, just six blocks from their home.

 She worried about the fate of the house, second guessing the decision she made two years ago to thwart her sister's immediate plans to sell. However, Maggie hadn’t the heart to agree to sell it; not as long as GiGi believed she’d return to it someday. Her twin sister, Margot would never know the gut-wrenching experience of watching a loved one navigate a debilitating condition like dementia, but Maggie knew all too well. Every day for the past two years, GiGi would mention going home; back to her beloved house in the mountains where she raised her girls. She barely remembered her own name, but she could describe her home in great detail. How, in good faith could Maggie take that from her when she had so little left? She knew Margot would argue that GiGi wouldn’t have known if the house was sold, but Maggie refused to sign the listing contract leaving Margot no choice but to back off. Of course, now that GiGi has passed on, Maggie could make no case for keeping their childhood home. 

Maggie turned down the tree lined street where she and Margot grew up. Nothing seemed familiar, yet nothing had changed. The sidewalks buckled from thick rooted oaks, eager to dominate the space between asphalt and concrete. Evidence of winter reflected in the bare branches allowed the gray sky to cast an eerie backdrop over what was once their childhood oasis. Maggie proceeded to the end of the street where GiGi’s grand home stood, once revered, majestic and respectful. As she steered into the driveway, Maggie’s heart sank. The blood drained from her cheeks; her eyes widened as she seemed to forget how to exhale. A single word hissed from her lips as she threw the car in park. “Shit.” 

Clearly, Mr. Saunders, the groundskeeper Maggie hired to care for the yard and expansive house, accepted his monthly stipend with no intention of actually earning it. The wrought iron gate hung askew, hardly keeping upright on one rusted hinge. The overgrown foliage, now dead and decaying adorned every inch of the front garden and dangled from the sills and eaves. The wooden railing framing the splendid wrap around porch, leaned outward on one side and inward on the other. Chipped paint and splinters decorated every inch of the sprawling veranda. A broken windowpane left shards of glass embedded in the weathered welcome mat as if to deter anyone from crossing the threshold. “Careful.” Maggie warned as she pulled her key from her pocket, looking back at her son, struggling to accept the disarray.

“Mom, I can’t stay here.” he stated, refusing to touch the filthy banister flanking the front steps. 

“Not now, Philip, please. Give me a minute to figure out what we’re going to do. Certainly, we can’t just tidy up before Aunt Margot gets here. This is a complete disaster. My only hope is that the inside is in far better shape than the outside.”

“Good luck with that Mom. I can see the cobwebs through the window.” 

Again, “Shit.” 

Maggie flipped the light switch just inside the door, illuminating the crystal chandelier suspended from the vaulted ceiling in the foyer. The dust particles swirled throughout the entrance hall as if someone turned the house upside down and shook it. For a moment, it rained glittering bits of magic, enchanting the vast estate, welcoming Maggie home. The inside of the mini mansion cried out for love and attention. It wasn’t used to rust and dust and longed to be restored to its former glory. It spoke to her as if she was reuniting with an old friend, desperate for connection. Maggie delighted in the mystical evocation, imagining GiGi standing there with her. However, the proverbial spell was soon broken by the shrill tonality of Margot’s arrival. “You have got to be kidding me with this!” 

There she was, the Elphaba to Maggie’s Glinda; her twin, her tormentor, her long lost best friend. Maggie spun around to greet her sister, but Margot pushed past her without as much as a tepid greeting. She marched down the corridor into the kitchen and yelled back, “Don’t get too comfortable sister dear. We are going to the real estate office in town, immediately!” 

Margot’s sixteen-year-old daughter Kimberly chimed in, “Lots of luck trying to sell this house. It’s totally haunted, you know?"

Philip opened his mouth ready to protest, but Maggie held her finger to his lips, “Shush.” she whispered. “No good can come from an argument.” Philip reluctantly obeyed his mother's wishes and as much as it pained him to stay in the house, he could not stand idly by and allow Margot to run roughshod over his poor mother all afternoon.

 “I’m going to stay here.” he informed her, much to her surprise. Didn’t her obsessive compulsive son just declare his inability to tolerate the unclean environment that once was her beloved home? How could he possibly choose to stay? The very thought of having to contend with Margot and all her infinite judgements must have been far worse than the idea of cobwebs and clutter. She trusted his self-assessment but remained apprehensive. 

“Oh, Philip, it’s all much too provoking for you. I’m afraid you have no choice but to go with us.” 

“Mom, I’ll be ok. I’ll find some blankets or something to sit on and I won’t touch anything that will trigger my anxiety. Trust me, I’m better off here.” 

Kimberly offered, “I’ll stay with the little weirdo, Aunt Maggie. It will be fun.” Philip shot Kimberly a dirty look and ventured into the parlor in search of something clean to drape over the unkempt furniture. 

“Thank you, Kimberly, but Philip is very self-sufficient for his age; no need to feel responsible for him.” 

“Oh, I’m sure he will be no trouble. I just figured I could be here to save him from GiGi’s restless spirit.” Kimberly raised both hands in the air and wiggled her fingers, “Woooooo.” 

Maggie was unnerved by the implication of her niece’s inflection. “Kimberly, don’t you think you’re a little too mature to try and frighten a child?” 

Kimberly threw a pretentious hair toss, “I’m not going to have to try, GiGi is here. Mother said it was always her wish to return to her home and I am certain she did just that. Look around Aunt Maggie, this place can’t get any creepier. It’s no wonder the guy you hired never even set foot in here.” 

Maggie closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. The smell of mildew flooded her nostrils and prompted a sneeze. Philip called out from the hallway, “Bless you.”

Before Maggie could respond, Kimberly spat yet another indication of her ignorance and immaturity. “We need all the blessings we can get; maybe we should call a priest.” She followed her ridiculous ranting with a snide chuckle, as if she had rehearsed for this very performance. 

“Get in the car, I’m driving.” Margot insisted, tugging on her twin’s arm. “The kids will be fine. Kimberly babysat once for the neighbor's kid, so she has experience with toddlers.” 

Philip reluctantly refrained from responding to his aunt’s intentionally obnoxious remark. He hoped his restraint would make it easier for his mother to contend with Margot and the real estate agency. Instead, he waved in her direction and forced a weak smile. Maggie blew him a kiss and grudgingly followed her sister, disappearing through the front door. 

Philip hauled three quilts from the linen closet into the living room and carefully draped them over the sofa and armchair. They had been spared from the cavalcade of dust accumulation, having been stored behind a closed door and still smelled, ever so faintly of detergent. Satisfied with the situation, he gingerly settled on the right side of the sofa, removed his laptop from his overnight bag and began to play his favorite online simulation game, hoping his idiot cousin would occupy herself exploring the entirety of GiGi’s house. 

“Did you know….?” she began, bounding back into the room after only a few moments. So much for Philip getting his wish. “There’s a giant glass room on the back of the house with nothing in it but old buckets and crooked wooden shelves?”

“It’s the conservatory.” 

“It’s weird. Why would anyone live in a glass room?” 

“No one actually lived in that room. Obviously, I need another word here. It’s a greenhouse, you know, for plants.” Philip offered.

“I heard scraping noises back there. Want to go check it out?” 

Philip sighed, “No thanks. My educated guess would be the wind blowing tree branches from the back yard against the glass.”

“Or it could be GiGi’s ghost.” Kimberly suggested.

Philip looked away from his screen, marveling at the stupidity that was his cousin. “Why would GiGi haunt an empty house, never mind her own house?”

“To scare us.”

“She loved us, well, she loved my Mom and me, for sure.”

“Our grandmother loved me too.” 

“Technically, she was our great-grandmother. You do know that don’t you?”

“Whatever, weirdo. I know this place is haunted and I will totally prove it to you.” Kimberly plodded off in the direction of the staircase leading up to the six bedrooms and three baths in the east wing. Philip could feel the vibrations through the floor as she stomped up each of the twenty-seven steps with intentional force. “Maybe the upstairs ghosts will keep her busy for a while”, he thought, much to his own amusement. 

Not five minutes had gone by when Kimberly came running back down the staircase, “Weirdo!” she called out, “The rocking chair in GiGi’s room was moving all on its own!” Kimberly dramatically threw her hands in the air.

“Impact tremors.” 


“Impact tremors. The whole floor vibrated as you tromped up the stairs. It’s no mystery as to why the rocking chair was moving. I’m surprised the paintings didn’t fall right off the walls too.”

“Oh, you wish this was all my doing. I bet you’re scared to death.”

Philip refused to dignify her accusation with a response and went back to his game. 

Ten minutes of peace before Kimberly returned simply wasn’t enough for Philip. “Here we go again.” 

“I read somewhere that ghosts can mess with electricity. I was just in the kitchen and the bulb in the fixture above the sink is out.”

Philip first thought was, "who would have guessed she could read?", immediately followed by, “Ok, I give up, let’s play this game, because clearly she isn't going to let me play mine.”  He closed his laptop and faced Kimberly. “No one has been here in two years. Therefore, no one has changed a lightbulb in two years. It stands to reason; some will be burned out.” 

“It’s GiGi, I just know it.” Kimberly once again insisted. “I feel her presence.” 

“Do you even know what her real name was, or what color her eyes were?” Philip challenged.

“No, so what?”

“How can you say you feel the presence of someone you hardly knew?” 

“Shut up.”

“Fine,” he conceded.

“No, really, shut up. I hear a moaning sound.” Kimberly craned her neck and took a few steps in several directions. “Hear it?” she asked, this time with an almost sincere concern in her voice.

Philip wanted nothing more than to send her screaming from the house, but instead, he once again debunked her accusations. “I suppose you don’t have radiators in Arizona, but here, they moan and hiss when the water runs through them. You’re not hearing spirits, just steam.” 

“You think you’re so smart.”

“Well, yeah.”

“Then explain the shuffling sound I heard, like GiGi dragging her feet.” 

“Did you not see the broken window on the front door? Chances are, there’s a rat or racoon, maybe a squirrel somewhere in the house. I’m sure you’ll find gnaw and claw marks on the furniture if you look hard enough. Hey, why not give that a go? It will keep you busy until our mom’s get back." 


Kimberly disappeared again, this time up the back staircase into the library. Philip could hear the familiar squeak of the dumbwaiter pulley as she attempted once again to scare him with an unexplained noise. She returned several minutes later, simply standing in front of Philip, hoping for a reaction to her latest effort. He chose to ignore her. She cleared her throat, “The walls are bleeding.” she whispered eerily. 


“In the bathroom, behind the toilet, right next to the hissy metal thing.”

“Wow, that’s oddly specific. However, it does make sense.”

“It does?”

“Yes. The hissy metal thing released steam; remember I told you it’s called a radiator.” He spoke slowly, but his allusion to sarcasm was all but lost on Kimberly. “It’s what heats the house. Now, pay attention Kimberly. This is where it gets complicated. The steam hit the rusted pipes behind the toilet, forming moisture drops and causing the rust to run down the wall. The blood is nothing more than another sign of an old house crying out for some attention.” 

“Or it’s GiGi who’s crying out for attention with bloody tears.” Kimberly offered in an unnecessarily exaggerated tone. 

Philip surrendered, unable to endure any further attempts to indulge Kimberly’s obtuseness. “I’m so done.” he muttered, raising his eyes as if addressing GiGi herself, appreciating the irony. 

September 24, 2023 22:32

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Terry Jaster
06:22 Jan 28, 2024

So... is there a part 2 somewhere?


Myranda Marie
16:51 Jan 28, 2024

Oh, I completely forgot about this story. Maybe someday, Philip will be back, but not as of yet. Thanks for reading.


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Nina H
22:47 Oct 05, 2023

Phillip is awesome 😂


Myranda Marie
00:01 Oct 06, 2023

Awe, thanks so much. I can imagine my own nephew being very much a "Philip" in a few years.


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Kathryn Kahn
20:39 Oct 05, 2023

Fun characters! I really liked Philip.


Myranda Marie
21:05 Oct 05, 2023

Thank so much ! I kind of like him too.


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Mary Bendickson
19:54 Sep 27, 2023

Perfectly normal haunting experiences well explained away. Wish they would fix the house instead of dumping it.


Myranda Marie
20:22 Sep 27, 2023

Right ? Margot is the scariest thing about the house ! haha


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