I wasn’t quite sure how I got there. That happened to me a lot these days, but there I was, standing on the edge of Screaming Ridge, looking out over the valley. The sun was just kissing the edge of the earth, painting the sky with awesome red and orange colors. Like Daisy Darlington, this was my favorite time of the day. Maybe because time seemed to slow down during twilight, like the world was letting me take a break from all the crazy spelling tests and laps around the soccer field.
Although that was all over now. At least for two months. I guess summer was like the twilight of the day.
Huh. Mrs. Oxford would be proud of that metaphor.
Anyway, I hadn’t been up to Screaming Ridge since the past winter, when Daisy and I helped a little girl named Kaylee Cooper find her family. She was a ghost, wandering around the town thinking she was a first grader at Timpleville Public School. Thanks to some friends at school, Daisy and I were able to convince the little pain in the butt to come up here to the house on Screaming Ridge. That was where she lived.
For, like a hundred years.
It seemed so strange to even think about last winter. Who would have thought I would have helped a little child ghost find her dead parents? I swear I could still feel her tiny hands tugging on my gym shirt. "Hey Alex, did you know you have one ear that is bigger than the other? That could be because you sleep on the same side every night. Wanna know how I know?"
I still remember the light coming down from the sky and taking her away.
The image of a white cat popped into my head. It belonged to the custodian at our school, Mr. Ravi. For some reason it followed Daisy and I everywhere. I last saw it up there at the Ridge. In fact, it helped us find Kaylee Cooper.
Maybe that was why I was up there, standing over that ledge. Maybe it was my turn to find Kaylee. Her voice had bounced around in my head for months, like tiny birds screaming for their mother to return. Maybe she was back and had asked me to come up there. Maybe she needed me.
Man, I wish I could remember.
I thought about her often. I didn’t hear her voice anymore, but there was something that she left with me. I just couldn’t place what that something was.
Since she returned to the world of the dead, or the afterlife as Daisy would call it, I began hearing strange mutterings from other people. Daisy thought that they were from the souls of the dead who just weren’t ready to leave the world of the living - sorta like Kaylee I guess. Daisy was probably right. I just didn’t understand why I had this gift (if that’s what you would call it.)
Anyway, I missed Kaylee.
I missed Daisy too.
It had only been a few weeks since school let out, and for the most part, being free from the walls of Mrs. Oxford’s classroom was a big relief. But I missed seeing her face. She wasn’t in my class or anything, but I saw her every day in the locker bay. She was only seventeen lockers over from mine. As strange as it was to think, I couldn’t wait for the summer to end.
I couldn’t wait to start the seventh grade.
Now, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure Daisy's favorite time of day was twilight, and I'm pretty sure she doesn't know it's mine either, but I still remember a beautiful sunset she created out of oil pastels in Mrs. Mesh’s art class. The masterpiece was posted out in the lobby by the office for about three months.
Every time I walked past it I imagined myself there, with her. It was just like the view in front of me now.
I never did tell her how much I liked that picture.
I picked up a rock and twirled it around in my hand. The warm air brushed over my face, tickling the one thick brown hair that grew from the dimple on my chin.
"Why can’t I remember?" I muttered, tossing the rock over the giant rock face. It clanked along the branches of a giant oak, before splashing into the small lake at the bottom of the ravine. There had to be a reason why I was standing on that ledge.
Looking out at the sun slipping closer and closer toward the other side of the earth I wondered what Daisy was doing. I remembered her stepbrother Henry telling me she had plans to visit her mother up at Springview. I wasn’t sure why Daisy cared to see her, considering the woman ran off with some other guy. If my mom did that, I don’t think I would ever forgive her.
Anyway, she once told me she wanted to come up to Screaming Ridge again one day.
Maybe that was why I was there.
I closed my eyes and pictured her stepping over the rocks behind me. Her beautiful, golden brown hair would blow gently in the breeze. The smell of her flowery perfume would tickle my nose. Beside her, Kaylee would be smiling up at us, holding on to Daisy’s hand.
"Hello?" a voice replied, bursting through my eardrums.
There it was. Another voice drifting into my head.
My heart skipped a beat. I stepped away from the ledge, scanning the tree line behind me. Through the brush, along a stone path, was the house, Kaylee’s house.
"Who’s there?" I shouted, lowering myself behind a thorn bush and some stinging nettles. The warm colors behind me slipped away, leaving a cool blue darkness.
"Hello?" the voice called out again.
I had never heard the words so clearly before. A sharp pain jabbed into my forehead. It killed like there was no tomorrow, like a fat McDonald’s straw had been shoved into my brain.
"What’s happening?" the voice said.
I rubbed my temples. "Kaylee? Is that you?" Maybe she never left. Maybe she was still in that house.
"I’m alive," the voice whispered.
I strained my eyes, trying to see if there was someone out there. I half expected to find Kaylee dancing along the side of the cliff, inches away from the ledge. Why would she care if she fell?
I stepped around the nettles and crept toward the house. Kaylee’s face appeared in my thoughts. Her toothy smile beamed at me. Somehow I knew I was supposed to be up at the ridge. If I only knew how I got there.
"Kaylee, are you there?" I whispered back. "Is that your voice I hear?"
The straw dug deeper into my brain. Every word that pierced the fading light was like air being sucked out of my ears.
"I’m alive," the voice whispered again.
Darkness crept over the house. White fungus covered the shingles along the roof. A crow perched itself on the top of the crumbled chimney. Kaylee had to be inside. She needed me again.
If only Daisy were there.
I stepped closer. Cool air slipped through the tears in my jeans. A shiver ran up the back of my neck.
The crow looked down at me. Its head tilted and looked away.
Stepping up onto the porch, the wooden boards shifted and moaned. I reached for the handle on the door and turned the knob.
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