It twirled around, a hazy shape like a disembodied dress, moving in the hall. Sweeping one way, it turned facing the wall, spilling smoking tendrils onto the floor, and glided back the other way. A short distance, and the ghostly gown paused. Twirling about, it disappeared through the closed door into the office.
The wraith seemed lost as if trying to find his way through the murkiness within time and space. The creature never grew tired. I could ghost-walk with the best of my kind, but nothing compared to this wraith. All I could think to do was follow him around the restaurant with my sword at hand.
Pulling my phone from my pocket, I checked the time. Nine-eleven in the evening on the second day of March. Twelve minutes had passed since I had first spotted the wraith.
Risking detection, I stepped into the shadows. Silence covered me like a blanket, and color fled the world until I stood within an ethereal hallway. I gazed through the floor spotting the ghostly form of Laura sitting at one of the tables within the dining room. She moved in slow motion lifting a fork to her mouth. Ahead, beyond the closed door, a figure sat behind the desk. He appeared less like a wraith now, and more like a ghost of a man. Another step, I crossed back, the world returning with a pop in my ears, and hid behind the door.
The wall snapped sending a flutter of crackles through the old building. I glanced at my phone again, noting I still stood within the same minute.
Steve Reynolds had taught me how to take shortcuts through time into what he had called, the quiet place. Ghost-walking forward in time had become as normal as running, but walking backward was beyond my skill. I believed wraiths saw time differently. Laura’s backward coming and going couldn’t be due to stolen memories. Perhaps this wraith had pulled me backward with him. If only Steve was still around to answer this riddle.
Slowly, I turned the knob and pushed the door open.
Instead of the wraith, I found a man with a familiar face dressed in a white shirt and black necktie. He sat behind the desk, hunched over resting his elbows on the desktop behind the computer monitor. He watched me with trepidation.
I felt certain I’d seen him before. “Have we met?”
His lips moved, but I didn’t hear his voice. His name came to me: Peter Gray.
“Yes, I know that name.” In Steve’s letter I had found on my first night here was where I had seen the name before.
Peter appeared very human, but I couldn’t find his scent to confirm. No human could ghost-walk. Maybe the creature I had seen in the hall and this Peter were one of the same.
“I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?”
He answered, but his voice remained lost. A sharp pang at the back of my head, and his words came to me like a memory. In the hall, said the memory, a few minutes ago.
“Peter Gray, why are you in my home?”
I’m here to help you, Kandy, it said. It was like communicating over a great distance, his message taking a longer route ending up in my head. I couldn’t hear him, or smell him, as if he weren’t actually here—now—with me.
“Does it look like I need help?” Besides being unable to communicate with him properly.
I have your blood, said the memory.
Such an unusual thing for a man to say, and from a man communicating in such a strange way. There was one certain way to find out if Peter was the wraith. I gripped the handle of my sword letting him see I meant business.
“Get out of my home, Peter Gray!”
I pulled my blade free of its scabbard and raised my sword overhead. Bursting with all the strength I could summon, I launched into the silence and onto the desk. Peter fell over backward. He melted away into a into a churning sea of darkness, wispy tendrils floating around my blade. His ghost chair fell over in slow motion, color fading.
The ghost desk held me, but the computer monitor phased with my legs leaving me feeling numb.
Climbing off the desk, I spotted a dark shape moving out in the hall. Not wanting to lose Peter Wraith, I chased after, but found the hallway empty. Down the hall I crept, peeking through the walls into the rooms. Nothing in Laura’s bedroom, besides her ghostly bed and table. No wraith in the bathroom. Peering down through the floor, I spotted several ghosts sitting at tables on the bottom floor. Laura’s ghost stood among them holding plates in her arm.
Silence cracked away, and the din of clanging plates rose from below. I ripped my phone from my pocket. Nine minutes after nine on the twenty-first of February!
I tried to wrap my mind around a two-week jump backward in time, but the clamor from downstairs disturbed my concentration. Stumbling through a hole in time sounded crazy, so it seemed more likely Wraith Peter had pulled me back. At the end of the hall, I glanced up the stairwell and turned back the other way.
Wraith Peter, dressed exactly as he was a minute ago—two weeks in the future, stood outside the office. Fatigue from all the ghost-walking tugged at my head and left my legs feeling like jello. At the disadvantage, I held my ground and summoned determination.
“I already told you,” I said, quietly. “I don’t need your help.”
He stood there a moment, watching me. Then he raised his arms in a shrug, and slowly shook his head.
Teeth grinding together, I showed him my serious face. Although, it struck me: this was the moment he had referred to.
Peter had seen me a few minutes ago, and here I was two minutes later—two weeks prior. Doubt weakened my resolve, but discipline kept me on course.
“Now, get the hell out of my home!”