When weird things start happening, it's up to Harris and his trouble loving neighbor to get to the bottom of what could be a murder.
A/N: So, this is my first time posting original fiction, which will soon be evident through my shoddy writing. I didn't want to beg a beta who didn't know what they were getting into, but if there is anyone who can get a feel for the way I write, and check out my next chapters, I would really appreciate it (I have a real problem with passive verbs). I was actually working on another story, but it took a backseat to this one, because I feel that every writer should start out with a cliché. I say that only to make myself feel better. Also, I am from the south, so any cracks about southerners are not meant to offend. My fingers are out of breath, so read, and enjoy.
PS- I know this first chapter is rushed, but if I keep going over it, it will never get out there. Let me know of any mistakes, and they will be edited with great shame. I promise.
Chapter One: Old Ghosts
"So this is it."
Harris considered the house before him carefully, a thoughtless frown tugging at his lips. Between the chipped paint and mass of vines, it looked as though it should have been announced condemned years ago.
He glanced over his shoulder to watch his dad wrestle a box out of the car. "It's creepy. And it's hot as hell out here."
"It's not creepy. You haven't seen the inside. And you'll get used to the heat."
"I don't even see why we had to come."
Sam went to stand by Harris, two boxes stacked carefully in his arms. "It's not every day you inherit a house, Harry. And I was behind on rent. I told you all this. Now go grab a box, and come inside."
"You still haven't even told me who left us the house," Harris called to his dad, who had already disappeared into the house, which honestly looked like it could spontaneously collapse. Harris didn't want to take his chances. He could just picture the house caving in as soon as he crossed the rickety threshold.
Barring the mysterious inheritance—to which Sam had made it emphatic that curiosity killed cats and seventeen year old boys—Harris could not understand a thirteen hour drive for the graying old estate before him.
Sam was uncharacteristically quiet about the entire situation, leaving Harris almost completely in the dark about it. The only thing that kept him from throwing a temper tantrum and demanding Sam tell him everything was the knowledge that Sam was just as stubborn as he was under pressure. The more Harris hounded Sam for information, the more Sam would clam up. He had considered using reverse psychology to get his dad to open up, but Sam was a master of domestic psychological warfare.
Harris wiped at his forehead and glared up at the house. "Hi, I'm Harris James. I live in Bumfuck, Georgia."
He couldn't wait to introduce himself at school in the fall. 'One parent away from being an orphan, ninety nine percent gay, tragically single, without reliable transportation, fond of long walks in dark alleys.'
Sam poked his head out the doorway, distracting Harris from his self-pity. "We're actually right outside of Savannah. It is a real city."
"Skyscrapers do not a city make."
"So does a large population, which I promise you Savannah has."
"I don't think of a few rednecks in one spot constitutes a large population."
"I'm kind of embarrassed that you're my son."
Harris waved his hand lazily. "I'm all the way embarrassed that you are my dad."
"Way to make an old man feel loved. I was going to tell you about the malls and groovy hang out spots, but now I don't feel like it."
"Have you even ever been here?" Harris kicked at an idle pinecone, stirring up a small cloud of dirt in the process.
"Unlike you, I have been outside the state of New York," Sam teased.
"I've been to Jersey!"
Sam pretended to wince. "When you yell, you sound like a five year old girl. From Queens."
"Funny. No matter what, you always sound like an asshole."
"What's with all of the language? You turn seventeen, and it's like profanity was your gift from God."
"As I am god's gift to the world, each year he bestows upon me a greater gift than the last. Next year? A car!"
"We have not as of yet had a problem sharing that car. You know, the one you should be helping me empty out?"
"Don't you think it's depressing that everything we own barely fills an old Volvo?"
"I like to look at the car as half full." Sam grabbed another box.
"My dad the optimist." He watched Sam barrel into the house once more. At the rate he was going, Sam didn't even need Harris's help.
Harris hadn't been kidding about the heat; it had to be at least one hundred degrees outside. The nape of his neck felt damp with sweat, and his shirt was beginning to stick to his skin.
Harris grabbed one of the smaller boxes that had his name on it. Probably winter clothes, which would be completely useless. It was hard imagine ever being cold again.
Ignoring his unease, he ran up the stairs and over the porch, stopping at the front door. Something in the back of his mind screamed at Harris not to go into the house, which was stupid, because who was afraid of houses?
Rolling his eyes at himself, Harris stepped inside. "Dad?"
The first thing he noticed when his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting was the staircase, which looked a lot sturdier than the ones outside. That was a relief, at least.
Taking a few steps further into the house, Harris could see into the living room, which was roughly the size of their old apartment and full of carefully matched furniture. Definitely not the interior of a seemingly condemned house. It was like stepping into the twilight zone. A really pretty antique twilight zone.
"Hey dad, how long ago did these people die?"
"She died a few weeks ago. I don't know how." Sam came up behind him, glancing around the room. "Or where."
A shiver went down Harris's spine. "Oh, ew."
"I figured it was old age. She must have been into her nineties."
There was a high backed chair sitting next to one of the three windows in the room, all of which looked out over the front porch. It looked well worn. "Who was she?"
"Just someone I used to know."
"In Georgia?" Harris shot his dad a disbelieving look. Something about the whole thing just rubbed him the wrong way. His dad was lying to him. Maybe just by omission, but those counted.
"I thought we had established that I have been outside the state of New York."
"Yes, the epitome of a detailed account."
"I thought you were taking that box upstairs?"
Upstairs was exactly where Harris didn't want to be, but he figured the sooner he was done, the sooner he could explore the rest of the house.
Two other boxes with his name sat beside an open door, which Harris assumed was his. He crept towards it hesitantly, cheeks flushing from the heat and his own stupidity.
The room was huge compared to his old one, and like the living room, it was furnished. There was an ancient looking bed against one wall, and a smallish dresser mounted with an old rounded mirror.
When he caught his dusty reflection in the mirror, Harris cringed.
The south was not a good look on him. His short hair was clinging damply to his head, curling slightly around his ears. His usually fair cheeks were red, making his wide eyes greener than usual, and his lips were red from all of his nervous chewing. He and Sam both had thin faces, but the sweat and shadows gave him an almost gaunt appearance.
He looked like a recovering crack addict stuck in ridiculously humid weather.
He wanted New York back effective immediately.
With a huff, Harris dropped the box on the bed, which he was definitely going to put his own sheets on. The linens looked clean, but sleeping in a bed that had been made for who knew how long crossed the creepy line.
There were light blue drapes pulled half across the windows, effectively blocking most of the sunlight. There was enough light for Harris to know he hated the room.
He was taking a closer look when something caught his eye in the corner. "Dad!"
Sam was at the top of the stairs in seconds flat, chest heaving. "What is it? Are you okay?"
"I think there's a dead mouse in the corner!"
"Holy—I thought you were hurt!"
"It could have had the plague!"
Sam approached the corner, squinting at the small overturned black lump. "What plague?"
"Oh, man." Shoulders jerking, Sam almost doubled over with laughter. "You are such a little girl." He scooped up the could-be mouse and held his hand out to Harris. "It's just a palmetto bug."
Harris took one look at the legs and wings and screamed. Sam started to dangle the bug by its antennae.
"Oh, Harry, he's dancing for you!"
"Oh my god," Harris shrieked, "you're deranged!"
Holding it up to his ear, Sam asked, "What's that, giant flying roach? Oh, you want a closer look at Harry?"
"I could be allergic!"
One of the legs fell to the floor. "I don't think our little friend has any citrus in him." Sam looked at the bug. "What's that?"
Harris was already at the bottom of the stairs, heading straight for the front door. The palmetto bug went flying over the banister and landed by Harris's feet. "He says 'welcome to Georgia, Harry.'"
"You're seriously crazy!"
It was still unbearably hot outside, but the slowly spinning fans provided some relief.
The porch stretched along the entire front of the house, bare except for one rocking chair in corner, almost directly beneath Harris's bedroom. He hadn't noticed it before, and it was maybe the most normal thing he'd seen yet.
Harris stood, head tilted, willing the fan to spin faster. The more it sunk in that everything was real, the more he regretted not putting up an actual fight.
"That I am." Sam stuck his head out the door, still grinning. "I threw the palmetto bug away, so it's safe to come in. You're really going to have to get used to it, though."
"I really hate the sound of that."
"I'm sure you're scarier to them than they are to you."
"I can't fly."
"They don't generally fly at people."
"I don't really care. Can't we get some exterminators?"
"Well, for one thing, I'm pretty sure they'd just laugh at you, and for another…I doubt we could afford it."
He could feel the sweat drying on his face. "Why didn't she give us money?" The porch groaned under Harris's feet, and he imagined he could feel it shudder. He didn't really expect an answer.
It made it all the more surprising when he got one.
"She tried. I told her I didn't want it."
"Oh. I guess too complicated for me to understand."
"Too complicated for me to explain."
"You could try." Harris finally lowered his head and looked at his dad. "I am the world's most tolerant teenager right now, dad. I came without any explanations. I'm going to need them at some point. I am too young to hold all of this curiosity in."
Sam blinked hard for a minute, and finally looked away. "I'm working on it, kid."
There were so many questions Harris wanted to ask Sam, but he settled for a sullen, "I still don't want to be here."
"I'm going to whine a lot tomorrow. When I realize this is all real."
"My body wasn't made for manual labor, you know."
"Most five year old girls' aren't."
"I don't know you. Dad, there's an old man on the porch who thinks he's funny!"
After a solid minute of laughing, Sam said something about grabbing a few drinks, and Harris willingly followed him into the house, throwing a last second glance at the rocking chair.
He pulled back and did a double take. When nothing happened, Harris laughed at himself, though his shoulders dropped in relief.
For one second, he could swear that the chair had been moving.