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    Geron Kees
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes, Charlie Boone! - 4. Chapter 4



There was silence in the room as everyone listened. The next knock came after a slight delay, and there was again a noticeable pause before the third blow was delivered. It was not at all the way that a human would knock on a door, Charlie decided, sounding as if the one standing there wasn't even familiar with the task at hand.

"Is this the way it always sounds?" he asked Mildred, who was sitting forward in her seat now, listening.

"Yes. Almost like it's baffled by the door, rather than demanding to be let inside."

"I want to see it," Kippy said, getting to his feet, as a fourth rap upon the door reached them.

"It will stop now, and circle the house," Mildred predicted. "Four knocks, a circuit of the house, four knocks at the back door, then around to the front again, and four knocks to the front door again. Sometimes this happens two or three times each night."

Kip went to the window and looked out, even as the light outside intensified and something went past, to the sound of windblown leaves striking the glass and shutters. Kip danced to one side as if startled, trying not to be seen, but the apparition beyond seemed not to be aware of him, anyway. Charlie had a momentary glimpse of a bright, fiery swirl of leaves, before the figure was past. The glow outside the window receded, and then, for a moment, they could hear the sound of leaves striking the wall outside, and then the next window on.

Kippy turned to stare at Charlie. "That did not look like a man made of leaves to me!"

Charlie was of the same opinion. What he had seen passing the window had seemed a glowing maelstrom carrying leaves within, rather than something in the shape of a human being.

"I know what you saw," Mildred said patiently. "He was too close. You need to see this apparition from a distance to really understand what I mean."

"I thought you viewed him through the peephole in your front door?" Rick asked. "That's as close as it gets!"

Mildred nodded her head. "When he is right before the door he looks the same as through the window, like a whirlwind full of leaves. But the sound of the wind announces his coming. Twice, at dusk, I heard his approach and viewed him through the peephole as he came up to the porch. He was far enough away that his shape was quite distinct."

Charlie turned to Horace, who was watching the various indicators on his devices. "What do you think?"

The older man looked up. "It registers on my gear like some other ghostly manifestations have in the past, except for the fact that the energy level of this apparition is conspicuously higher."

"So, what does that mean?" Kippy asked, his eyes wide with interest.

"It means...that the energy level of this apparition is conspicuously higher than any I have seen before." Horace pointed at the window. "Are we going outside? There's only so much we can learn from indoors."

Kippy came back to stand by Mildred. "You may not be a witch, but you say you have magical powers. Have you tried to do anything to deter this visitor of yours from returning?"

The old woman looked surprised. "I'm not interested in starting a war. And I won't risk hurting this apparition, by acting against it without knowing what it is or why it's here. That's why I called you people!"

Kippy watched their host a moment before smiling. "You have a good heart, Mildred."

That caused the woman to smile. "Well, it's old, but it still works!"

Kippy turned to Charlie. "I agree with Horace. We need to go outside."

"The leafy man will circle the house," Mildred continued, with certainty. "It will take several minutes. And then he will reappear at the front door, and knock another four times. And then he will leave."

"Where does he go when he leaves?" Browbeat asked. "That might be important!"

"I don't really know where he goes. It's usually too dark to see him!"

"But not now," Kippy said pointedly "Now he glows in the dark!"

"These visits can happen at any hour of the night?" Horace asked.

"Yes. Often several times each night. You can see why I have trouble sleeping!"

Charlie had to agree with that. The apparition's visits could not be missed. The knocking on the door was oddly thunderous, and the moaning of the wind and the rustling of thousands of leaves, not easy to miss.

And yet--

"That guy is putting a pretty good rap on your door. Yet it seems not to have damaged it."

"An amplification effect, I think," Horace said then. "Not at all uncommon with ghostly appearances. Sounds, lights, smells - most anything that registers on the human senses, can seem more intense than they actually are."

"I'll agree with that," Mildred decided. "The leafy man's knocks upon my doors sound quite powerful. But Lugh seems not to be registering them as that forceful, else he might consider it an attack and react."

"And he doesn't," Horace finished. The man turned to Charlie. "Can we go outside?"

"We can see him in the dark, now that he glows," Kippy added.

Charlie thought fast. If they hesitated, this opportunity might be lost. "Let's go."

"I think I'll come along," Mildred said. "At least as far as the front porch. I'd like to have a better look at my unwanted guest, too!"

They moved to the front door, and Mildred looked through the peephole before opening it. They filed out onto the front porch, where Mildred pulled the door closed and put her back to it. "If it comes to the door again, I will need to get inside quickly and bolt it. Otherwise, it might get into the house!"

Charlie pulled a small LED flashlight from his pocket and turned it on at its lowest setting. It allowed him to see the others, and where they were walking as they stepped off the porch and moved out by Rick's Yukon. Charlie cupped the light in his other hand then, so that only enough of the glow escaped that he could see the faces of the others around him.

"That may mean some, or all of us, can't get back into the house before the door is locked," Rick said, tossing his head back at Mildred, who had remained at the door. He pulled out his key fob and pressed a button. They heard the thunk as the Yukon's doors unlocked, and its lights came on. "If trouble starts, anybody that can't get back inside the house, go to my truck and get inside and lock the doors."

"I hope the lights don't scare it off," Adrian protested.

Rick shook his head. "They only stay on briefly. Mildred said it takes a few minutes for the ghost to circle the house. They'll be off by the time it gets back."

"I'll let you know when it's coming," Browbeat said excitedly to Charlie, and then the flyer zoomed straight upwards to attain a downward view of the entire house.

Adrian chuckled that. "At least someone's having fun!"

Kippy turned to him. "You're not?"

"No, I am. It's just...this is actually a little scary!"

They grew quiet then, listening. Charlie was almost certain he heard the sound of the apparition knocking on the back door off the kitchen then, four times, all quite loud; and then just the faint sound of the wind again, and the movement of leaves, as on a brisk and windy autumn night. But the air around them was still, and the sounds seemed distant, and a little foreboding.

The lights on Rick's Yukon suddenly went out, plunging them all into darkness again, save the weak glow of Charlie's flash. A flickering light could be seen in the window of the front living room, from the fire in the fireplace; but the house was otherwise a very big, very dark presence beside them. The woods were pitch black, the moon, while still almost full, seemingly unable to cast a light that would make it through the twisted and interlocked branches of the trees. Only the rutted drive was lit by a ghostly glow from above, and only that at some distance away from the house.

Kippy nodded at Adrian then. "This is creepy," he admitted softly. "I mean, really creepy!"

It was. There was a sense in the air of anticipation, as if they were waiting on momentous events, and yet, Charlie could not account for the feeling. Yes, they were waiting to confront a spirit of some sort, but as far as they knew, it was not a dangerous one. And it was not like they were defenseless!

Horace moved closer to Charlie then, showing him his device that detected sounds. "Listen carefully to the woods!"

Charlie frowned at that. He had not heard anything unusual beyond the distant wind accompanying the apparition behind the house, and the normal sounds of the forest after dark. But then he closed his eyes and let his ears have mastery of the night. At first the forest around them sounded normal; but as he listened, something unusual began to get his attention. It was a subtle sound, but a persistent one, and different than any he had heard before.

At this time of the year he would expect the voices of crickets conversing, and the odd call of the out-of-season spring peeper. These persistent sounds would be accompanied by the less frequent trilling of screech owls, and the calls of raccoons and foxes. All those familiar voices seemed present, though distant.

But what he heard now, what had suddenly captured his attention, was a low, barely discernible moaning sound, rising and falling, that almost conveyed the sense of a vast group of people, all talking at one time. That it was a conversation between many somethings struck him so forcefully that he gasped.

"Do you hear that?" Kippy whispered then, sounding faintly alarmed.

"Look in the trees!" Adrian whispered loudly then. Charlie's gaze lifted, and he was stunned to see tiny, pinpoint lights among the branches, like fireflies, save that these lights did not wink on and off, but remained steady. And, these lights moved, darting along the branches, turning this way and that, as if their bearers were watching everything that was happening below.

Something Browbeat had said earlier came back to Charlie then. "The trees are full of gonkers!"

The sound of the wind slowly grew louder again, and an eerie chill crawled up Charlie's spine and caused the hair on the back of his head to stand up. He started violently as Browbeat dropped out of the night to land on his shoulder, fluttered his wings to get his balance, and then leaned close to Charlie's ear. "It's coming!"

Charlie felt another warming at his chest, as Castor indicated that the present situation now had his full attention. Charlie imagined that the spirit in the carved wooden dragon was sharing these events with his twin, Pollux, back on Mnidoo Mnis, who might even be relating them to Ian Lewellyn, himself. But the warmth served to erase some of the chill he was feeling now, and he had the presence of mind to turn off the flashlight.

"Everybody stay quiet," Charlie whispered, just loudly enough so that he was sure everyone would hear.

The sound of the wind and the rustling of dried leaves increased, and a dull glow appeared at the far corner of the house, and slowly intensified. Charlie leaned forward, his eyes now focused on that glow as it grew, and as the leaves on the ground at the corner of the house began to rise into the air and dance slowly on the currents forming there.

The glow brightened, became almost animated with the moving leaves, and then a fiery figure rounded the corner of the house.

Charlie took a startled breath. A giant of a figure, it was!

He heard the others gasp, and Rick utter a low curse, and was stunned all over again as the apparition moved forward. The ghostly figure was every bit of eight feet in height, with a large head, and with two arms, and two legs, upon which it moved, somewhat stiffly, forward. Its proportions seemed somehow off to Charlie, with the torso a little too long, and the legs a little too short; but the shape was manlike. Yet it towered taller than any man could be, the crown of its fiery head even with the tops of the windows on the first floor of Mildred's house. The apparition shuffled forward, plainly making for the front porch again. The glow lit up the front of the house, and they could see Mildred, looking small and fragile next to the size of their visitor, her back to the front door as she waved a hand frantically at them.

Charlie unfroze then, realizing what was happening. The women was calling to them, saying she would need to go back inside and bolt the door, but her voice was drowned out by the dreadful buzzing and rustling of the thousands of leaves that seemed to twirl within the figure of the giant.

"It's too late," Horace said, moving to Charlie's side. "We'd never get there before it was upon us!"

Charlie nodded, and raised a hand and waved it at Mildred, urging her inside.

At the same moment, the whirling leaves inside the apparition blurred as their motions mounted, and the fiery being surged towards the front door of the house. Mildred had been seen!

But she moved with remarkable speed, getting inside the door and slamming it shut before the ghost could even get onto the porch. At the same time, Rick pulled open the door of the Yukon, causing the lights inside to turn on. Without so much as a break in its motion, the fiery giant turned and moved towards them!

"Inside!" Rick bellowed, leaving the front door open and pulling open the rear. But it was too late. The fiery ghost was almost there!

Kippy, who had turned toward the rear door of the truck, turned back to the giant and threw up his hands. A sound like a small clap of thunder echoed through the night, and the giant stopped dead in its tracks, less than ten feet away. Charlie felt something like a brief shock wave pass over them, as two sets of forces met head-on. Kip had thrown out a skwish barrier, meant to shove the creature away, but it had only served to stop the thing, not drive it backwards.

The fires in the outline of the giant flared, and the leaves within swirled in an agitated manner that suggested fury. The fires mounted, grew in intensity, and the creature took another step forward. Kippy also took a step forward, pushing back. Adrian moved up behind Kip then, and placed a hand on Kip's shoulder, adding energy to Kip's skwish as the battle grew.

Charlie heard a pair of sounds behind him, and realized that Rick had closed the doors of the Yukon again. He and Horace came up beside Charlie then, and Rick leaned close to be heard. "We need to help them! That thing's powerful as hell!"

"Come on, Charlie!" Browbeat urged into his ear. "Kip needs us!"

Charlie nodded and moved forward, uncertain how they would be able to assist, but determined to do so. He reached Kip and Adrian, and put a hand on Kip's other shoulder. Rick and Horace did the same, all of them determined that they would do whatever they could to assist. For a long minute nothing seemed to happen, with the glowing giant straining forward, and Kip straining to push it back.

And then the giant raised its arms, leaned in at them, and its glowing hands reached out for them!

"No, you don't!" Adrian yelled. He lifted his right hand and pointed at the giant. A bolt of lightning as thick as a finger leaped forward with a roar and pierced the fiery figure dead center. Its outline exploded backwards, and grew in size, the leaves within howling in an unearthly wind, before the the process stopped, reversed, and the outline raced inward again and reformed the figure of the giant. Its fury clear now, it surged forward, pushing Kippy back hard against Charlie--

Charlie felt a momentary sense of dark disorientation, and suddenly they were all standing in the living room of Mildred's house again, the fire in the fireplace a cheerful welcome after the hellish fires of the giant of the night outside. Mildred, standing at the window looking out, turned then to spy them there, and stood looking astonished, her eyes wide.

Charlie felt a stirring on his shoulder, and Browbeat rubbed up against his cheek. "That was almost too close!"

"What the hell...happened?" Rick asked, shaking his head.

Adrian pulled away from the group then, and turned a look of amazement at Kip. "You did it!"

Kippy turned to Charlie and gave him a fierce hug. Charlie held his boyfriend a moment, and then gently pushed him back to gaze into his eyes. "Was that you?"

Kippy nodded solemnly.

Horace looked from face to face. "What just happened?"

Browbeat launched into the air and circled the room excitedly. "Kip just teleported us, that's what happened!"

At the front of the house, the first of the ponderous knocks came at the front door.

"It cannot get in," Mildred said. "Lugh will not allow it."

Rick patted Charlie on the shoulder. "We need to talk."

Charlie looked around at the faces of his friends, and nodded.

The second ponderous knock echoed throughout the house, and then the third, and then the last. Once more, it seemed an alien pacing, quite different from the way that any human might knock to gain entry.

Mildred made room for them as they moved as a group to the window to look out, and they watched in silence as the glow receded from the front of the house, and vanished into the night.


* * * * * * *


"Strange, the way the ghost simply returned to its habit after its battle with us," Horace said. "None of the rage I sensed within that ghost was carried forward. Nothing outside the house was damaged, nothing destroyed. After we vanished, it seems the ghost simply returned to the front door, knocked its four knocks, and then left. Very, very odd."

They were seated in the parlor again, sipping more hot tea.

"I don't think it liked my lightning," Adrian said, frowning. "It just seemed to make it madder."

"I believe it actually used the energy you gave it to regroup, and renew its attack," Horace supplied. "Perhaps not a good idea to do that again."

"Was it an attack, though?" Charlie asked. "Was it actually a battle?"

Rick snorted. "If it wasn't, it will do for one until the next army comes along!"

Charlie closed his eyes. The confrontation with the fiery giant had left him full of conflicting impressions. He had sensed the bafflement within the apparition, the frustration...but had it actually been directed at them?

Castor, warm upon Charlie's chest, seemed of a similar opinion. Rather than be alarmed, what Charlie sensed from the spirit was, oddly enough, disappointment. As if they had missed some important opportunity!

Charlie turned to Horace. "You're calling this thing a ghost now. Is it one?"

The ghost hunter made a face, like he didn't want to confirm that idea aloud, but then nodded. "It seems like one, Charlie. At least, it appears to be the expression of something that was once alive, but is no longer in that state." He gave a little shake of his head. "But it is not a human ghost, by any means."

"What's left?" Kip asked. "I mean, we're not on Engris or anything. What else, on this earth, could leave such a thing walking around after death?"

"Uh--" Horace winced. "I think the possibility is a good one that we are, um, dealing with the ghost of, um...a cryptid."

Rick snorted out a laugh. "Bigfoot, again?"

Horace managed a smile. "Possibly. For want of a better name just now, yes."

Charlie stared at the man, fascinated. "Are you saying that Bigfoot is real?"

"No. Not at all." Horace sighed. "The Bigfoot legend is just one of many that try to describe something large and manlike, but clearly not human. The persistence and variety of these legends from nearly every part of our world suggests that there is something behind them other than just overactive imaginations."

"We met a Sasquatch once before," Kippy reminded, smiling. "You remember Costel, right? In that alternate universe that Pyewacket sent us to?"

"He was big," Adrian remembered. He smiled. "And a real sweetheart."

"This thing was even bigger," Rick decided. He turned to Charlie then. "And, didn't it look a little weird to you? Like the legs were too short, maybe?"

"I saw that. The proportions were slightly off, definitely."

"I noticed that, too," Horace admitted. "But this obviously was not a human figure."

"Then what is it?" Kippy asked.

Horace bit at his lip a moment before answering. "I just don't know. Not exactly. That's why I used the term cryptid. There are things that are of the earth that we humans simply don't understand." He pointed a finger skyward. "You sensed what was in the trees around us out there tonight?"

"Gonkers!" Browbeat called, tittering happily, from the wing of Mildred's chair. "Bats in the belfry!"

Horace smiled at the flyer. "I don't think our little friend is that far off."

"What were they?" Adrian asked. "I could see them, sort of. And hear them, definitely!"

"These are actually living creatures," Horace stated. "They exist in a sort of semi-real state among us, occupying our world and another at the same time, and able to pass easily back and forth. They normally do not interact with us at all, though. But they frequently show up at hauntings, and are often responsible for the things that go bump in the night in such locations."

"Why?" Charlie asked.

"They...feed, for want of a better word, on the psychic energy emitted when live humans interact with departed ones."

Adrian grunted. "Then they just got a mouthful out there!"

Horace looked uncomfortable with that observation. "There is nothing malevolent about them that I have ever discovered. They are simply observers, with an appetite!"

Kippy made a disparaging sound. "You make them sound like gawkers at a car accident, or something!"

Horace almost smiled. "Um, that's actually not a bad analogy. Sightseers at accidents or disasters are there for the vicarious thrill they receive. Browbeat's gonkers show up at hauntings because they are fed a bit of the same sort of psychic energy."

Charlie nodded at that. "That's something I can understand. But why is it that these, um, gonkers, are not better known? And, for that matter, how could something like our Bigfoot cryptid exist in such few numbers that they were not more widely observed? Every race has a minimum amount of members needed to keep the population viable. That usually makes them generally known and more visible."

"Well...because these things are not really native to our earth. They're visitors, from an alternate one. They come and go, which is why the places they actually live are never found here."

Mildred, who had been listening with interest, now leaned forward in her chair. "I'm a believer in the multiple-earth theory, myself."

Horace nodded. "I am, too." He turned to Charlie. "We know with certainty from Max and the others of his kind that they were born of our earth, but that they now make their home on an earth twin to ours, save for the fact that the human race never arose there."

Kippy waved a hand. "But the elves come and go through a known portal that connects their world to ours. And some of them live here on our earth, at an undisclosed location near the north pole."

"And in Twombly," Adrian added, smiling.

"And possibly other places, we don't even know about," Rick finished. "One thing I've learned about elves, is that they don't tell you a lot of things unless you ask, or it becomes necessary for them to do so."

Charlie smiled at Mildred. "Are you suggesting that cryptids like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster normally inhabit another earth, and somehow make their way to ours to, um, visit, now and then?"

The old woman shrugged. "I am fairly certain that there are multiple doorways to some of these other earths, and that they can be opened upon occasion either purposely or by accident. I don't find the idea that life not known on our own earth might occasionally find its way here from another earth to be out of keeping with some of the things I already know."

Charlie smiled at that. "I have no idea what you already know."

Mildred laughed. "I have the same eyes and ears you do, and the same bent for magic, magical people, and magical things. And about four times your experience in years, I would guess. I have seen a lot of interesting things in my time." She lifted a finger then, to point at Kip. "Teleportation isn't a common talent, young man. You should be thrilled to have such an ability."

"It was my first time," Kippy replied, looking a little amazed. "It just happened!"

"It is apparently a talent that Lugh cannot easily guard against, either. That you managed to get inside the house without me expressly inviting you back in was a little bit alarming!"

"Uh, we didn't mean to intrude," Kippy returned, casting a questioning look at Charlie. "There wasn't time to ask, exactly."

"I agree." Mildred was silent a moment. "Lugh may have simply let you come back inside, for all I know. All I can sense from him just now is that he is not alarmed at your presence."

"You had no idea that you were going to teleport us?" Charlie asked his boyfriend.

"No. When that thing came at us like it did, I just thought, we need to get out of here!" Kip shrugged. "And, it just happened."

"You'll need to see if you have conscious control of it now," Charlie suggested. "Some experimentation is in order."

Mildred laughed. "I would say!"

"Kip is going to be good at it," Browbeat informed. "You guys are good at everything you do!"

"And we're fun, too," Kippy added, grinning at the little flyer.

"I'll say!"

Mildred sighed. "I think I'm starting to regret what I've been missing since my brother passed away."

Horace looked interested. "How so?"

"Oh, my. When my brother was alive, I spent most of my time traveling. As I said before, I've been a little bit of everywhere in my time." The woman settled back in her chair and sighed. "The world really is a wonderful place. I never tired of exploring its many hidden corners. But when my dear brother, Cornelius, passed, I convinced myself it was time to settle down and relax and enjoy my golden years. I'm not so certain now that it was the right thing to do."

"Were you the only heir?" Adrian asked. "Um, not to be nosy. But were you the only one that could take the house?"

"Yes. I have not married, and I am the last of our line."

Charlie frowned at that. "What becomes of the house after you, um--"

"After I die?" Mildred gave a little sigh. "At that point, the debt Lugh owes my family will technically be paid."

"So, the house will just disappear?" Kippy looked around at the pleasantly decorated parlor, and the fire in the fireplace. "What a shame."

Horace cleared his throat softly. "On that matter of vanishing, what do you suppose people thought when this house simply disappeared from its previous location in Alabama?"

Mildred waved a hand in dismissal at the notion. "Cornelius had chosen a very secluded location, just as I have here. I doubt very many people even knew the house was there to begin with, so I can't see anyone getting excited now that the house is gone." She smiled. "And if they do, who is going to believe someone that says a house simply vanished in the night? There were no power lines or plumbing to its location. Nothing to indicate it was ever there save for a rather large footprint on the land, and I had Lugh smooth that over when we left."

"It would be a crime to have it simply disappear," Kippy pointed out. "You have a beautiful and amazing house. I'd love to have a place like this!"

Mildred watched him a moment, and then smiled. "Well, until we figure out why the leafy man is so interested in it, it's not doing anyone much good."

"We're working on it," Charlie said. "We've barely gotten going yet."

Horace canted his head at Mildred. "I take it you never went outside when this ghost was around?"

"Oh, my, no. You never know what magical creatures like that might do. If this was any normal house, I probably wouldn't be here now!"

Rick looked over at Charlie a moment, and then back at Mildred. "You can't defend yourself with your magic?"

Mildred cackled out another very witch-like laugh. "Yes, I can defend myself quite handily, young man. I just don't know that I'd be in the right to be doing that. Suppose this leafy man is here by right? It would be improper of me to force him off the property if he has some right to be here."

Charlie smiled, liking Mildred even more by the minute. "That's very decent of you to consider such a thing."

Mildred blew out an almost silent breath. "I never considered the idea, when I bought this land, that the remains of the house that was still here might be haunted."

Horace looked stunned. "Why...I never even thought--" He turned to Charlie. "That's something we'll have to investigate!"

Charlie looked around the parlor, feeling a bit of wonder at the idea, himself. Even though he and Adrian had voiced the idea once before, it now seemed a bit of a shock to think it might actually be true! He squinted at the ghost hunter. "You're saying that Mildred might have placed a haunted house, so to speak, on land that was already haunted?"

Horace laughed. "I have to admit, that is a scenario I have never encountered before!"

Browbeat lifted into the air and circled the room, his excitement plain. "Another first! Boy, it sure was a great idea for me to come visit with you guys."

Kippy gently elbowed Charlie, and then frowned at the flyer. "And you were in such a hurry to get home!"

Browbeat's elated expression changed to one that could only be described as aghast. He flew straight to Kippy, and hovered in front of his face. "I didn't say that! I want to stay! This is fun!"

Kippy couldn't keep a straight face any longer, and broke out into a grin. "Okay. You can stay!"

The little flyer blinked, and then his own face offered up a beaming smile. "Aw, you're kidding me!"

"Just a little." Kippy extended an arm, and Browbeat settled onto his wrist. Kippy brought him closer and rubbed the flyer's back gently with a finger. "We absolutely love having you with us, little one."

Browbeat let out a tiny sigh, and hummed happily.

Mildred watched them with a charmed smile. "Would I be too nosy in asking where your little friend hails from?"

"I'm a Pintuckin," Browbeat volunteered, before anyone else could speak. "I arrived in the lower layer during that nasty business on Kooickachu. Those Vermidians were a tough bunch!"

The old woman blinked at that, clearly not understanding any of what she had just heard, yet somehow still finding some delight in it. "Pintuckin, huh?"

Browbeat's wings buzzed happily a moment. "Sure. There's lots of us in the lower layer. I was just the lucky one that met these guys first!"

Mildred examined Browbeat closely. "I just have the oddest sense that...that you are not a living being!"

"I'm a ghost," Browbeat declared happily. "Just my body is real in your world. It's a bio-machine, made for me by the Madracorn as a Christmas gift!"

Mildred stared a moment, and then cackled out another cheerful laugh. "I actually love the notion that what you just said makes no sense to me at all!" Her smile turned on Charlie. "You people really are a fascinating group."

"We like to think so!" Browbeat replied, cheerily.

Mildred squeezed her eyes shut a moment. "I would like to reach some sort of accommodation with the leafy man." She opened her eyes and smiled at them. "I actually have no problem with him haunting the property, if he will just stop pounding on my doors at night!"

Kippy looked delighted. "You'd like to have him here?"

"I see no reason why not. I rather enjoy the idea of being haunted by a visitor from an alternate earth. Just, not so loudly!"

Horace raised a hand then. "We need to figure out what your ghost is, before we figure out why he is doing what he is doing."

Charlie nodded. "I am also not convinced that this apparition's hostility was directed towards us. It's frustration and rage may be directed at something we don't even comprehend."

"It came right at us!" Rick argued, sounding unconvinced.

"It did seem like it wanted to grab us," Adrian admitted.

"It may have only been seeking contact," Horace offered thoughtfully. "Ghostly spirits vary widely. Some rarely stand a chance at communicating with the living unless there is some sort of sharing of space occurring."

"You mean, it has to touch one of us," Charlie translated, weighing the idea even then.

"Only figuratively, Charlie. I'm not certain the presence we witnessed tonight is able to physically touch one of us. But it may be able to communicate with us if it is occupying the same space as one, or all of us."

"One thing I don't get," Kippy said. "I can see a living cryptid - a Bigfoot - visiting this world from another one. But why would a ghost do it?"

"I have to admit to not understanding that idea, either," Horace agreed. "Those spirits strong enough to actually be able to reach back from the lower layer to interact with the world they left behind would scarcely waste the energy trying to visit an alternate of their own homeworld."

They settled into a momentary silence, everyone considering the ideas that had been put forth. Despite their experiences in the lower layer and with hauntings here on earth, their understanding of the processes involved could never be more than those of an outside observer. Horace was a gifted explorer of, and thinker on, the shadowy world of the afterlife, but even his insights were limited by his own experiences.

Charlie turned to Browbeat then. "As our resident ghost, what do you think this leafy man is trying to accomplish?"

The flyer's tiny face scrunched up in thought a moment, and then he smiled. "I think he's trying to get somewhere."

"Where?" Kippy asked, staring.

Browbeat tittered happily. "If I knew that, we'd be done already!"

"So, what's next?" Rick asked. "We definitely need to let Kip try some teleporting. It might be a real help here."

Mildred stood up then. "I suggest you retire to your rooms, then? Since our leafy gentleman has put in an appearance early this evening, I think I'd like to get a little sleep before his next visit. Your group can continue to brainstorm while I get a nap."

"We'll try to keep the noise down," Kippy promised.

Mildred waved a hand. "I've already pegged you as the considerate types. That said, goodnight, for now."

"What will you do if the leafy man returns?" Adrian asked.

The old woman laughed. "Now, now, young men like you shouldn't hear those sorts of curse words. It will stunt your growth!"

Everyone laughed, and then offered their good nights to her. Charlie suggested to the others in his group that they visit the room he shared with Kip to talk some more, as it was, by chance, the farthest from Mildred's own room. They headed upstairs.

The house and the land around it was, for the moment, quiet. How long that would last, was anyone's guess.


* * * * * * *


Kippy opened the closet door and looked out. "It worked."

A moment ago he had opened the same door and stepped into the closet, and looked around the inside, observing everything. Then, he had come back out, closed the door, and walked back to the bed. From there he had vanished with the same little pop of air rushing into the vacated space that they heard when Robin or one of the elves teleported; and now, here he was, emerging once again.

"You do that well," Adrian complimented, smiling.

Kip exited the closet and closed the door. "It was a lot easier than the first time I came out of the closet!"

Charlie and the others groaned at the joke, but Kippy looked delighted. "What? Was it something I said?" He returned to the bed and sat on the edge next to Charlie, looking quite pleased with himself. Charlie sighed and put an arm around his boyfriend, not wishing to feed Kip's present elation too much, but unable not to be proud of his boyfriend, and delighted along with Kip at his latest accomplishment.

"So, now we have a full-time teleporter among us," Rick said, from one of the chairs by the window. "That's going to be a big help."

Charlie leaned over and gave Kip a quick kiss to the cheek. "You feel you know what you're doing with this now?"

"Yes. Actually, it's not hard at all. I just picture in my mind where I want to go, and then sort of tell myself, lets go there. And, I do!"

"You don't feel it's something that requires more power than you can deliver?"

"No. It was easier than trying to push off that leafy guy out front earlier."

Charlie stood up. "Let's try an experiment."

Kippy rose, smiling. "Okay. Where to?"

Charlie thought a moment, and then nodded. "The bored room will do. No one will be there."

Kip nodded, put a hand on Charlie's wrist, and they both vanished.

In an instant they were standing in the activity room at Third Planet Inquiries.

"Nice to see you again," Big Irv said immediately. "Will you be staying?"

"No," Charlie answered. "Any calls or messages?"

"No, Charlie."

"Great. This was just a test. We'll be back when this job is over. Okay, Kip, take us back."

And then they were back in the bedroom at Mildred's house.

"Sweet," Rick said, grinning. He looked closer. "No pizza?"

Charlie laughed. "Just a test run to the office and back. It went fine."

"I noticed we had no problem getting back inside Mildred's house, either," Kip observed.

"Maybe Lugh really does like us," Charlie said, looking around the room.

Adrian gave Kip a thumbs up, and Kip bowed in his direction. "Thank you, thank you."

Charlie rolled his eyes, but sat on the edge of the bed again and pulled Kippy down next to him. "We're happy for you, Kip. And this will really be a boon to our operations. But let's get back to the matter at hand."

Kippy sighed, but leaned contentedly against Charlie. "Party pooper."

Charlie looked around at the others. "We need to understand what sort of creature we are dealing with here. I mean, what it was when it was alive, if we are dealing with the ghost of a once living being."

"We're not sure it's a ghostly apparition?" Adrian asked, frowning.

All eyes turned to Horace. "I only said that I suspect we are dealing with a ghost," he clarified. "It reads on my instruments like a ghostly manifestation, save for the key factor of its power of expression. It is more powerful than it should be if it were simply a ghost."

"Could it be the ghost of a power-user?" Kip asked. "Remember how Lane Tallfield was, when we saw him at his old family home?" Kip gave a dramatic shudder. "He gave me the willies then."

Horace raised his hands in a helpless gesture. "It's possible. But if this is or was a cryptid, as I suspect, we really have no idea what to expect."

Kippy sighed. "Bigfoot's Ghost. It sounds like a grade-z horror flick."

"Don't we know someone that knows about these legends?" Rick said then. "Seems to me I remember us talking about someone that knew all the legends of this area."

"Dick Sternman," Kippy said, snapping his fingers. "Our favorite craftsman!"

"I don't think I know him," Horace said, looking from face to face.

Charlie smiled. "He's the guy that made that great coffee table in the activity room at the office."

"And Amy's desk," Kip reminded. "And her bookcases."

Horace's face lit up with recognition. "Oh! I haven't met him, but I know of him." He smiled. "He does beautiful work. I'd like him to try a few period pieces for my house." He looked uncertain then. "You think he might?"

"Ask him," Kip said. "He's always busy, so it will take a while. But it's really well worth the wait."

"I'll call him in the morning," Charlie decided. "If he has time to see us, we'll run up to Canandaigua to talk to him."

Ricky whistled at that. "That's like a hundred miles. That will be a two-hour drive!"

Charlie smiled, and patted his boyfriend's shoulder. "Kip and I have been to Dick's house."

It took a moment, but they all smiled as the light dawned in Rick's eyes. "Ohh! Instant express!"

"You think you can teleport all of us up there?" Adrian asked Kip.

"We'll find out. I had no trouble taking Charlie with me to the office. I think I'll know right away if five is too many." He shrugged. "But I can fly five people without a problem. I'm betting I can teleport five, too."

Charlie stood up. "We may as well get some sleep. I see no reason to get up again if the leafy guy comes back. We can't do anything more until we have a better idea of what we're dealing with."

The others left for their rooms, and Charlie closed the bedroom door and locked it. He and Kip cleaned up in the bathroom, and then crawled into the bed.

"I'm tired," Kip admitted, snuggling close to Charlie. "It's been an eventful day."

Charlie smiled in the darkness, and gave Kip a squeeze. "My sweet teleporter."

Kippy laughed. "We knew it would happen one day. Max even said so."

Charlie kissed his boyfriend's forehead, and then the bridge of his nose. "You don't need skwish to transport me to exciting places."

Kip sighed, tilting his head back so that their lips could meet. "Oh, Charlie. You say the sweetest things."

Charlie just sighed, and held his boyfriend against him. Life with Kippy was always an adventure!

They were both tired, but not too tired for a little intimacy before sleep.The leafy entity made two more appearances that night, both following its by now familiar pattern. Charlie and Kip were only peripherally aware of the first visit, being too wrapped up in each other to pay attention. By the second visit they were asleep, and only woke long enough to listen to the apparition's circuit of the house, and then fell right back asleep again, holding each other close.

There are some things that even a ghost on the loose cannot compete with.

Copyright © 2023 Geron Kees; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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