The morning sun rose over the Pennsylvania farm house. Light poured through the paneless windows, filling the burnt rooms. The charred wallpaper crept out of it's place and flaked down the walls. Smoke stains covered portions of the cieling while dust coated the floors. As the sunlight flooded the house, Tessa Bell was brought out of her reverie. She gazed around her devastated home and let out an inaudible sigh. She had been dreaming of her mother, who had been calling her name. Not dreaming in the typical sense, but dreaming nonetheless. Tessa couldn't dream like others, because ghosts can't sleep the way that the living do. They can only drift in and out of time, reliving their pasts and hoping for a future. However, Tessa only knew this to be true to herself, as she had never met any other ghosts. Tessa was literally not able to leave her house or the property it stood on. Whenever she attempted to step one foot off of her land, Tessa would be pulled back into the dining room of her house. It was a tiring event, and because of it, Tessa Bell had been on her own for one hundred and thirty years.
She had since grown accustom to the solitude, but for the first few years, loneliness had overtaken Tessa. It took her some time to finally realise that she was indeed dead, and the isolation began there. Tessa had died in 1878 after a long battle with pneumonia. Soon after she took her last shaky breath, Tessa found herself standing next to her lifeless body. She was confused - was she dreaming? What was going on? Tessa touched her body's hand only to find that her fingers slipped through it. She turned to look at her mother and father, both of whom had been sitting at her bed side. Her mother had tears rapidly running down her face while her father sat with his head in his hands. Tessa could clearly remember what followed.
"Alfred, she's gone," Emma Bell whimpered. Alfred Bell did not look up. Tessa could see his back move up and down with every cry that escaped him. Tessa didn't understand. She was standing right in front of them.
"Mother, Father, I'm not gone. I'm here," Tessa said. Her words went by unnoticed. Was this some sort of prank or game?
"I'm here, Mother. Father, I'm here," Tessa repeated. Once again, it was as if she hadn't spoken at all. Tessa felt her heart shrink. What was this?
"Mother, I'm here! I'm here, I'm here, I'm here, I'm here! Why won't you listen to me?" Tessa shouted. Her mother continued to cry and stare ahead. Alfred Bell picked up his daughter's body and carried it out of the room. Emma stood up to follow her husband. Tessa began to cry. She didn't notice how the tears disappeared as they fell off of her face.
"Please, I'm right here! Can't you see me? Can't you hear me? Please, Mother, Father, look at me! Look at me!", Tessa cried. Her father left the room with Tessa's body in his arms. Her mother stopped in front of the door and turned around. For one brief moment, Tessa thought that maybe, just maybe...but no. Emma Bell simply broke into more tears. She turned and left the room, closing the door behind her. Tessa Bell fell to her knees.
The days that followed were horrible for Tessa. She would follow her mother and father around her home trying to reach them, but to no avail. She would walk with her father out to the woods behind her house, the woods where she once played as a small child. Tessa watched her mother talk with friends who visited to give their condolences. She was there when the funeral director talked with her father about arrangements that needed to be made. She would try anything to get someone's attention. Tessa tried to pick up objects and throw them, but her hands only went through the items. She would scream and scream, hoping that someone, anyone could hear her. No one ever could.
From what she gathered from conversations between her father and the funeral director, Tessa's funeral would be held in the local cemetary. However, it would be impossible for her to even see her own funeral, as it wasn't on her property. The first time that Tessa was ever pulled back into her home was when she tried to follow her mother to the market. She would learn through a series of trial and error what she was and wasn't capable of. Tessa could stay anywhere in her house, and she could go one mile into the forest behind her home. Tessa was able to walk through doors and walls. The sensation that came with it was very strange, like jumping into water. Yet, no matter how few barriers lay between her and the world, Tessa couldn't leave her property. She didn't understand how she was being kept there, or why. Shouldn't she have gone to Heaven by now?
Tessa's family had always had a firm belief in God, and had attended church every Sunday. She herself had always believed, so shouldn't she go to Heaven? Tessa would continue to question her fate. What if there was no Heaven? Then where would she go? Was she destined to hell, or to stay in her house forever? Rather, what if staying in her house was hell? Questions piled up in Tessa's head and heart every day. She would try her hardest to block out these questions, to continue her faith and pray endlessly. If she just kept her faith, maybe one day, God would be able to hear her. Tessa remained desperately hopeful. She "lived" in her home with her parents for another year. A full year of not being seen or hugged by her parents, a whole year of praying to the God who had seemingly abandoned her. Then, a week after the anniversary of her own death, it happened.
Tessa watched as her mother set the candle down in the window sill. The night sky was black. No stars were visable. Emma Bell walked up the stairs and went to her room. Tessa followed. Her father was already asleep. Tessa's mother laid next to her husband and slowly drifted off to sleep. Tessa sighed and crept in the bed between her father and mother. She would spend the nights in the same spot between her parents. It helped her to feel close to them, if only for a few hours. Tessa never did sleep, but drifted in and out of time, listening to the past. She would hear her friends laughing, her parents talking, but more than anything else, Tessa would hear her mother calling her name. The air would grow still, and the smell of wild orchids would fill the atmosphere. Tessa would become calm, and her mother's voice would ring in her ears. "Tessa, my Tessa, I am here" - a small phrase that Emma Bell would whisper to her daughter whenever Tessa had a nightmare. Tessa would immediately feel at peace, and all would seem right in the world.
But it would end. Tessa came out of her daze and suddenly sensed that something was wrong. She crawled off of the bed walked towards the door. Smoke was pouring under the crack in the door. Tessa tensed, and made her decision. She ran through the door and down the stairs. Smoke and fire was everywhere. Flames licked Tessa's sides. She felt the heat, but was not burned. She saw the candle on the window sill that had caught the curtains on fire. She didn't know how, but she had to warn her parents. Tessa ran back up the stairs and through the door.
"Mother! Mother, Father! Wake up! Please, please wake up!", Tessa yelled. She knew they couldn't hear her, yet she prayed for a miracle. Her parents seemed to be in a deep sleep. Tessa looked around the room. Black smoke filled the room, and Tessa knew, it was filling her parents' lungs. That's why they didn't wake up. Tessa began to cry frantically.
"WAKE UP! Please wake up, please wake up," Tessa begged. Flames laced her parents' bed. Tessa shouted fiercley, but it was too late. Suddenly, Tessa, heard shouting. She ran to the window of her parents' room and saw her neighbors running towards the house with buckets in their hands. Some were on horseback, others on foot. Tessa watched as at least forty people came. They poured water from the buckets onto the blaze. Maybe there was hope. Unexpectedly, Tessa heard a noise. She turned and was stunned by what she saw. It was her mother and father. They were standing across the room from her, looking at their bodies in the bed. They looked at each other, and then they noticed Tessa. Emma Bell's eyes welled up with tears while Alfred Bell seemed too stunned to speak.
"T-Tessa?", Emma whispered. Suddenly, just as they had appeared, a bright light blinded Tessa, and her parents were gone. Tessa's heart filled with pain.
"No, no, Mother? Father? Please, don't leave me! Please!", Tessa shouted. She started to cry uncontrollably and shrank down in the corner of the room. She couldn't feel anything. The heat of the fire seemed to be gone, the noises went dull.
Tessa wasn't sure how long it was before her neighbors put out the fire. She didn't care. She had lost her parents for good this time, and that was more than she could take.
Tessa came out of her daze. She felt a tear run down her face. How long had she been thinking, remembering? She wasn't sure. It was hard for Tessa to tell time now, after all these years. She had lost track so long ago. Tessa sighed and looked around her home. The red brick made sure that the house wasn't burnt to the ground, but it certainly wasn't a prize winner. That didn't stop the town from naming the home a landmark, as it was the home of the late engineer, Alfred Bell. Tessa's father had built most of the town's facilities. After his untimely death, no one could decide what kind of statue to build for him, so they instead left his home standing. Tessa let the last of her tears fall. Perhaps it was time to take a walk. Maybe today was the day.
When Tessa was seven years old, she was playing in the woods behind her home and stumbled upon a hidden patch of wild orchids. Beyond the thickets and trees lay this magical spot, a place where Tessa could always think. However, shortly after Tessa's death, the orchids dried up and stopped blooming. They were replaced with a thick vine that only grew thorns. Everyday Tessa would follow the path that she had made into her secret place, hoping that she would spot an orchid. She had had no such luck.
Tessa walked down the back steps of her home and out towards the overgrown forest. Tessa approached the beginning of the forest. Years of experience taught her how far she could go. She considered herself lucky that her secret spot was included in her path. Tessa stepped over the ferns and around the bushes. She ducked unernearth branches of trees older than her house. Finally, she found the path that she had created when she was seven years old. She followed to what seemed to be an unpenetrable patch of bushes and thickets. Tessa was now able to simply walk through them, but before her death, she would crawl underneath a small opening between two bushes. Tessa passed through the bushes and viewed her once beautiful patch. There was no sight of any wild orchids, only vines. Tessa sighed shakily. Today wasn't the day.
Tessa Bell sat down on a rock near the patch. She starred ahead and drifted in and out of time and space. She saw her friends inviting her to play, and she heard her father laughing. But more than anything else, she heard her mother. "Tessa, my Tessa. I am here".