by Tabatha Shipley
I cautiously knock on the door as I mask my disgust at the event under a carefully practiced, although utterly fake, smile. The door flings open, revealing my best friend dressed head-to-toe in black.
“Susan, I’m so glad you’re here.” Emily pulls me into the room. “Mike, Susan is here,” she bellows over her shoulder. Mike is my oldest brother. He and Emily married this past February. It’s a little weird.
“It looks great in here.” I mean it too. The room looks so different under candlelight. Everything is dark and somehow ominous. There’s three or four people I recognize are seated around the living room.
There’s an entire table of food that looks better than anything Emily and Mike are capable of whipping up, and the Ouija board is on the coffee table. This might actually turn out to be fun.
Settling my eyes back on Emily, I notice she looks different. Her face is set in this tight mask, but her eyes look completely scared. “Emily, are you alright?” I brush her arm to slow her down on her path to the food and speak in a quiet tone. I hope she’s not fighting with my brother, that would be an awkward thing to take sides in.
“Of course, I’m fine.” She forces a fake smile. “It’s just…” she trails off, glancing nervously around the room. “You see them too, right?” Emily jerks her head in the direction of the couch.
I look past her, taking a more careful look at the people I saw earlier. Chris, from Emily’s accounting firm, is in a chair eating what looks like eyeballs Emily makes from grapes. Justin, a guy we grew up with, is seated on the couch next to a woman I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him with before, whose name I can’t recall. There’s one more person loading up a plate at the food table, but their back is to me. I don’t see my brother anywhere. “You mean Chris, Justin, and what’s-her-name?” I ask.
“Yes,” Emily hisses. She puts on her fake hostess smile again and speaks loudly for the room. “I’ll show you where Mike is, he’ll be so glad to see you. Follow me.”
This is creepy. Emily grabs my arm and pulls me into the kitchen. The door swings shut behind us. My brother is sitting at the kitchen table. His leg is jostling and he keeps running his hand through his hair.
He stands up. “Oh thank God. Susan we need you to figure this shit out. I told her this was a bad idea.”
My heart rate doubles. “What are we talking about?” I look back and forth between my panicked brother and my best friend.
“Emily had this dumb idea to try the séance with just the two of us. We thought it would be fun, right? So we sat down in the living room and got things all ready. We had a few glasses of wine. We tried to summon spirits or something. Those people just kind of showed up.”
“What are you talking about? We know those people. They’re friends of ours. Emily probably invited them.” Still, the hairs on the backs of my arms are standing at attention.
“No, they didn’t come knocking on the door. They just kind of materialized in the spots they’re sitting in.” Emily stares daggers at me. “Go see for yourself.”
Well no harm in checking, I suppose. I grab a bottle of rum and a 2-liter of cola off the counter on my way to the swinging door. I push the door with my hip and re-enter the dark and ominous living room.
“Who wants a cocktail?”
I stop, bottles halfway up toward my ears. Chris still has three eyeball things on his plate, one on his fork, he isn’t moving. Justin and the girl are still seated on the couch, her leg is mid-cross. They are not moving.
I step closer to the food table, to get a closer look at this person here who still hasn’t moved to get their food. I don’t recognize her. She’s wearing white. Her hair is dark and it falls in her rather sweet looking face. She looks younger than us. She is also frozen in place, hand outstretched toward the table.
My heart racing, I back away through the swinging door. “What the hell did you two do?”
“Right? How do we fix this?” Mike asks.
“They’ve just been frozen like that since the séance?”
“They don’t move at all?”
I push the door open again and step out. I stand in front of Justin. “Hey, you. How’s it going? How’s life?”
I wave my hand in front of his face.
I look at Chris. The poor guy hasn’t even gotten that grape up to his lips yet. “Well you two are no help, I’m heading back to the kitchen now.” I turn to do just that.
She has moved.
I’m pretty sure the girl at the food table has moved. She is at a different angle, I can see her face a little now. I stare at her. I want to scream. Cold chills have taken over my body.
Just once and slowly, but it’s enough to send me flying through the kitchen door. “She’s moving. She’s the only one moving. She blinked. She’s moving.” I lean on the counter for support.
The sound of the door swinging behind me makes my entire body go numb. I’m afraid to look. Panic sets in.
I turn my head a little, just enough to see a glimpse of long black hair and a white dress. That’s enough to make me scream. I try to run for the back window, intent on climbing out to safety.
My brother’s hand on my arm stops me. “Susan–”
He’s laughing. He’s gone mad. He’s–
“We got you so good,” Emily says.
“This was a joke?”
“Yup, and we got you good,” Mike says around the smile still plastered to his face.
“You’re both assholes, you know that right?” I shake my head, try not to be angry. This is so like them, I should’ve seen it coming. “They’re all just acting?”
“Who is this girl?” I point to the girl who is now right behind Emily.
Emily looks behind her and back to me.