Here’s an excerpt from Where Poppies Bloom, the WIP I’ve been immersed in since the beginning of September. I can’t wait to complete this first draft so I can dive into revisions!
I’m sleeping deeply when I wake up to a quiet tapping. It’s strange, muffled but rhythmic, echoing through the cold air. Through squinted lids, I chance a quick peek around the dark room. Visibly, it’s empty, but once again I can’t shake the irrational feeling that I’m not alone.
My bedside clock tells me that it’s nearly four in the morning. Despite Tucker’s ghostly stories and fear of giving me nightmares, I’ve gotten a decent night’s sleep. But it’s too early to get up without raising the suspicions of my nosy aunt. I can hear her now. Why are you up, Callie? Couldn’t sleep? Because of your dead sister? We should talk about it.
The tapping continues at a steady pace that finds its way into the thumping muscle of my heart and matches its cadence. I’ll never buy an old house. Too many drafts. Too many weird noises. Too many secrets.
With a sigh, I throw back my bed covers and slip off the mattress. It’s freezing, so cold I wrap my arms around myself and wonder if it might be warmer outside. I dash to the bathroom, use the toilet as quickly as I can, then wash my hands under hot water. It doesn’t help, because my teeth are officially chattering when I sprint the ten feet back to my bed and dive under the blankets.
As I’m pulling the comforter up to my chin, I see it across the room.
A form, barely a shadow, leaning up against my desk.
I should scream. I want to scream. But I can’t. I’m frozen.
I stare at the shadow, my entire body trembling so violently my muscles hurt.
“It’s okay,” the shadow whispers, its voice curling across the room like mist. “It’s okay.”
I don’t speak. I don’t move.
“I’m not here to hurt you,” it says.
I want to take a breath, but I can’t. To move even a millimeter, it seems too much. My head fills with fog as a wave of vertigo rolls in.
It rises from its place at the desk, stepping closer. Through the pale light filtering in through the windows, I recognize its form. See that it is actually a he.
“Take a breath,” he says.
And simple as that, I do. A deep breath that expels the fog from my head. I can think again, but that’s not better, because now things are clear.
There’s a man in my room. A man who says he doesn’t want to hurt me. And I’m sitting still as a stone, dumbstruck, waiting to see if he’s telling the truth. He steps soundlessly into the sliver of moonlight streaming in through the window. It illuminates his face.
He’s chillingly familiar.
The photograph. Nathan, 1992.
The same dark, neatly combed hair. The same eyes, blacker than night. The same sad, sad expression.
In nearly twenty years, he hasn’t changed a bit.
The whirlwind of information in my brain stops spinning and everything falls into place, perfectly, horrifyingly clear. The cold air, the strange noises, Daisy Cat’s inexplicable fear, the strange blips in electricity. “Stewart House is haunted,” Tucker said.
I inhale a sharp breath of air.
There’s not a man in my room.
There’s a ghost in my room.