Do You Hear What I Hear?

I give my sister the evil eye. "Why did we have to come here on Halloween? This is the creepiest thing ever," I whine.

Tiffany rolls her eyes at me and rips off the plastic from the new audio cassette tape. "Don't think of it as something we're doing for Halloween," she suggests. "Think of it as something we're doing for my birthday."

I take back what I said before. The simple fact that she was born on Halloween and actually wants to do this makes her the creepiest thing ever. I watch in annoyance as she slides the audio cassette into the ancient tape player. "And why exactly do we need that again?"

"For proof that we did it!" she states exasperatedly. "Trust me, you'll feel so much better afterwards."

My little sister has somehow talked me into going to our mother's grave on Halloween—what is wrong with her? My sister, not my mom, I mean. Tiffany claims that the exact day won't make any difference, but she just wants to "talk" to our mom on her birthday. Personally, I find it a little strange that she wants to talk to a headstone for her birthday. What is she going to say? "Thanks for giving birth to me!" That's a rather odd thing to say to a slab of granite.

I ignore the fact that Tiffany didn't even answer my question. I mean, why does she need the huge honking tape recorder? This is absolutely ridiculous. Our mom has been dead for more than five years. Our dad has remarried, and aside from the occasional emotional breakdown at family events, our times of mourning have passed.

Tiffany follows me out of the car, and we stumble across the mole-infested grass until we reach our mother's grave under the big sycamore tree. I lean against the tree as Tiffany presses the record button on the bulky tape deck.

"Are you ready?" she asks me.

"Why do I need to be ready for anything?" I retort as I cross my arms across my chest. "It's your birthday, not mine. You're the one who needs to do the talking."

She turns her back to me so that she's facing our mom's grave, and her black hair bobs a little when she begins speaking. "Hi, Mommy!"

I snicker out loud because she hasn't used that word in about ten years.

Tiffany sighs, a gesture geared toward my laughter, and starts again. "Hello, Mother."

I don't laugh this time. That's actually what we call her. Called her.

"Sorry we haven't been to see you in such a long time," Tiffany goes on. Then she goes off on some boring tangent about things that have been happening at school and home. Even I don't care about those things, so I seriously doubt that our dead mother would waste her afterlife on hearing about them.

"And we just wanted to let you know that we love you and we still think about you all the time." Tiffany concludes her long-winded, extremely boring talk.

She turns back to face me, and tears are touching the corners of her eyes. My mouth drops open.

"Are you serious?" I exclaim. My voice echoes off the gravestones around us. "That's it? You brought me all the way down here with you for that!" Not a single thing of importance had come out of her mouth during that "extremely important" conversation she'd absolutely had to have with our mother. What a waste of time!

"You should do it too," she urges. "You'll feel a lot better. I do."

I internally refuse, and I even stomp my foot and attempt to walk away.

Tiffany grabs my arms and whirls me back toward the grave. Then she gives me that annoying puppy-dog face, which I vow to slap off of her as soon as I can.

So just to humor her, I deadpan, "Hi, Mother. It's good to see you again, even though I can't actually see you because you're not actually here, and I'm really talking to no one. But yeah, I love you. Okay, bye."

Even with the obvious sarcasm, Tiffany seems satisfied with my words. She links her free arm with mine and we trek back through the browning grass.

"You can turn that off now," I comment, pointing at the tape player.

She holds the recorder up to her mouth and mimics someone who might be speaking through a transistor. "Over and out." She uses a ridiculous Southern accent, and I cringe at the sound. Just to keep her from going on with her imitation, I reach over and push the stop button.

When we get to the car, Tiffany climbs in the driver's seat and directs her attention to the tape player. "Let's listen to it!" She's way too excited for my taste.

"What! Why? You just said all that stuff, like, less than forty seconds ago!" I am exaggerating, but just barely.

Tiffany proceeds to rewind the tape. I bet she just wants to listen to it because she likes hearing herself talk. Literally. The player makes a click and then squeals as the tape has rewound all the way. She presses play.

I try to block out the sounds from the tape—this is absolutely stupid beyond reason—but she has the volume up too loud inside the tiny car, so I have no choice but to listen.

"Are you ready?" Tiffany's voice screeches from the speaker.

"Why do I need to be ready for anything? It's your birthday, not mine. You're the one who needs to do the talking." My voice sounds unnatural to my own ears, and I want to gag at the sound. However, the bitterness in my tone came through nice and clear.

There is a brief pause before Tiffany's cheerful voice says, "Hi, Mommy!"

I smile as I remember that this is where I started laughing at Tiffany's silliness. On the tape, my laugh can't be heard, but I know it's there.

"Hello, Mother," the recording of Tiffany's voice belts, more seriously.

"Oh! My girls! Hi!" My mother's voice exclaims through the speaker.

My heart skips a beat and drops to somewhere in the vicinity of my intestines while blood rushes out of my brain. My eyes jump to meet Tiffany's, and I see that she too has gone pale. She has obviously heard what I just heard. Her finger moves to stop the tape, and she briefly rewinds before pressing play again.

The voice of my mother rings out in the enclosed car just as it did the first time. "Oh! My girls! Hi!"

"Sorry we haven't been to see you in such a long time," Tiffany's voice continues, unaware that our mother's voice had just presented itself on her tape.

"Where have you been?" Mother's voice questions sternly.

The first incident of hearing my mother's voice on a tape I could easily brush off as a weird phenomenon. A trick caused by environmental noises on the tape, perhaps. But hearing it again, I have a hard time doubting any kind of coincidental explanation. Tiffany's face becomes paler, if that's even possible.

"That's mother," Tiffany hisses to me in the car.

"Oh, really, Sherlock?" I reply sarcastically, though I don't intend to sound so rude. I'm too freaked out to monitor my responses.

Tiffany's voice drones on from the tape player, still boring the second time around.

Next to me in the car, Tiffany suddenly jumps, giving me a slight fright. She pushes the button to stop the tape. I almost scold her for scaring me so suddenly, but she gets her words out first. "Did you hear that?" She rewinds for a moment and then plays the tape again.

I listen more closely. Tiffany's voice is loud from the speakers, but in the background, I recognize something different but very familiar.

"Victoria! What on earth have you done to your hair? You look ridiculous!" Even after she has died, my mother's voice shows up in the background of an audio cassette telling me that I look ridiculous. Now I know that this is real.

There is no further comment from the sound that is definitely my mother's voice for a few more minutes as Tiffany finishes her droning speech about nothing.

"Are you serious?" My weird-sounding tone comes out of the speaker suddenly. Again, I want to plug my ears at the sound of my own voice, but I don't, just so I won't miss anything interesting. "That's it? You brought me all the way down here with you for that!"

"Victoria!" Mother's voice yells sternly. "Don't talk to her like that!" I couldn't count how many times she said that to me when she was alive.

"You should do it too. You'll feel a lot better. I do."

Mother's voice continues, softer this time. "No, you girls don't have to say anything to me right now. We'll be able to talk later."

More chills run down my spine at this line. How is the sound of her voice coming through so clear? I know we didn't hear any of this while we were actually standing out in the graveyard. I look over my shoulder toward the sycamore tree. I see nothing out of the ordinary.

On the tape, I sound more sincere than I remember being when I first spoke the words. "Hi, Mother. It's good to see you again, even though I can't actually see you because you're not actually here, and I'm really talking to no one. But yeah, I love you. Okay, bye."

Oh, the irony.

There is no reply from our mother. I can't decide if this relieves me or makes me more nervous.

"You can turn that off now." I am startled as my own voice comes through again.

"Over and out."

It appears that there is nothing else on the tape after Tiffany's terrible impression, but I am wrong. Just before the recording ends, my mother's voice can again be heard faintly. "Bye girls. See you in a little while."

Then there is nothing but dead air.

Tiffany and I just stare at each other for a few moments without speaking. She gently places the tape player into the backseat and turns toward the steering wheel. We still don't speak as she starts the car and pulls out of the gravel drive at the cemetery.

I try to convince myself that I have just hallucinated the whole incident, but it's impossible. Tiffany is as disturbed as I am. I know she has heard all of that as well.

She turns on to a main street and finally speaks. "I'm not going crazy, right? You heard that too?"

I swallow loudly and nod. "Yes, I heard it. You know I did."

We are silent again until Tiffany pulls up to a red light at the intersection connecting us to the highway. "That was definitely her though, wasn't it?" my little sister asks me timidly.

"I'm pretty sure it was," I answer. I can't look at her now, so I just direct my gaze down the street. There's an eighteen wheeler trying to pass a little old lady in a beat up Oldsmobile.

The light at the intersection turns green and Tiffany pulls out. "What do you think she meant by that last thing?" she wonders.

The eighteen wheeler in the perpendicular lane doesn't stop as it approaches the intersection. It plows into our tiny car.

Now I know exactly what Mother meant.

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Author's Note: HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Okay, so I was listening to the radio yesterday, and they had this guy on there talking about EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), which is basically the event of capturing voices of spirits on electronic devices. And as I am scared out of my mind of the idea of ghosts and spirits, it was totally creepy and I couldn't sleep very well last night. So I wrote this thinking that it would help me get over it. It did not. Now I am even more terrified. And it doesn't help that I am home alone all this week! I keep jumping at every little sound! AHHH!!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed. Please review! If you want to, that is. Thanks!