CURIOUS

Sunlight filtered through grimy windows, casting a subdued glow on an ancient room. Uncovered furniture lay scattered throughout the room, gathering thick blankets of dust as the years wore on. Priceless Persian rugs were rolled up and thrown into a dark corner, attaining the sinister persona of a monster ready to pounce. The absence of rugs on the floor made the room look bare and uninviting. Portraits of stern generations passed hung on the walls coated with dirt and mold. A large crystal chandelier hung in the middle of the room as the murky sunlight tried to reflect off the dust-caked crystals. The air in this room suffocates everything in it, carrying a scent of moldy fabric and uncirculated humidity, a scent that I've grown to love over the decades.

"Why won't these doors open mommy?" a childish voice whined.

The door handle jingled slightly but the door didn't unlock. I remained in my position by the window, unbothered. I could hear slower footsteps coming towards the door.

"What's in there, mommy?" that childish voice continued. "I want to see it!"

"Let me unlock it so we can find out." I froze when I heard a metallic jangle. "Here you go sweetie."

I remained at my perch on the windowsill, a little apprehensive of what was to come. I didn't want to come face to face with these people. No matter how many times I've had to deal with new homeowners and how long I've been here, I still can't get used to the idea of people intruding in on my existence, living in my home. I'm always afraid that someone will recognize me for what I am and try to drive me out of my own home through sheer will.

I watch as the door handle slowly turns.

"Mommy, where are you going! Wait for me! Don't leave me here!" Sounds of little footsteps hurried away into the distance.

I sighed, relieved and a little disappointed. In the end, I've stayed in this building for decades that it's more like a prison than a home to me. I've been alone all these years except for my books and the plants in the garden to keep me company. No matter how frightening it would be to have someone recognize me for what I really am, I sort of relish the idea. I want someone to talk to. I want to figure out why I'm still here in this world.

"Girls! Come and look at this room! It was must have been one of these drawing rooms in the past. Come here!" Without warning, the mother had returned with a little girl in a yellow sundress and was now standing at the doorway, just immediately in front of me.

Minutes later two older girls streamed in, looking around them. "Wow! It's big."

"I think it'll make a good studio office for you girls. We'll just find a few storage shelves for Lydia's art supplies and find a desk or two to stick against that wall for your computers. I'll repaint the walls and we'll get rid of those gaudy paintings on the wall."

Gaudy! How dare she call my ancestors gaudy! Though she might have a point, I never liked those paintings anyways. Or those relatives for that matter.

It's the mother and her three daughters that I had spotted sometime earlier in the car, asking around about my estates. I had followed them around on previous occasions when they were looking over the rooms with a desperate real estate agent. I didn't pay much attention to them since I doubted they'd move in. From what I gathered from their conversations, the mother is a nurse at a hospital in the city and her daughters are just as uninteresting. The eldest girl attends an art academy in the city and the younger two attend regular public schools. That was all I cared to listen to that first time.

Now I just can't believe they bought the mansion even after my years of trying to protect the place. Why would anyone move into a rundown mansion with notorious poltergeist activity and leaky pipes? Thanks to my ingenious thinking, not a soul has moved into my mansion in the past few decades or so. I prefer my personal space and for this family I am not going to make any exceptions, be they female or not.

I turned around and opened the window behind me. The little girl screamed and rushed to her eldest sister's side.

"Mommy! The window opened by itself!"

I chuckled. I like to frighten the young ones—their reactions are so adorable, yet so predictable.

I watched to see how they'd react. The middle sister knelt down to comfort her baby sister as the oldest girl walked over to the window. I held the window open so that she couldn't close it and I watched as she reached her arms up. I almost dropped the matter and disappeared when I realized she had to touch me in order to close it. I've never had someone get this close to me in my existence this way. Will she go right through me?
She stopped abruptly, her palms touching my forearms with a puzzled expression on her face.

"Is it stuck?" the mother called out before walking over and easily shutting the window herself as though I wasn't jamming it. She gave her daughter a funny look. "It wasn't that hard to close."

The middle daughter and the mother left the room to explore the rest of the house while the baby girl and the eldest remained in the room.

"Be careful Tracie! Some of this stuff is pretty gross right now. It's all dusty and you don't know what could be hiding underneath those things in the corner."

She moved over to sit on an uncovered armchair without realizing that she was sitting on decades of dust. Intrigued, I perched myself on the side of the armchair that her arm didn't occupy, hoping to study this specimen further. She seemed oblivious to my presence though she had a frown on her face as though she could feel something was wrong.

After carefully comparing the girls' faces I tried to find a family resemblance. The mother and the two younger daughters were light brunettes and their skin was slightly more sanguine than this girl's was. They resembled the day and the sun with their big smiles while the daughter in front of me was like the night with her small smile. She was a dark-haired brunette and her skin was fair with a touch of a pink flush to her cheeks as though she had just come from a midnight dance. The only real resemblance this girl had to her mother and sisters were her light brown eyes and plump lips. Was there a patriarchal presence in this family at all?

In the middle of my silent scrutiny she slowly turned her head my way as though she was expecting to come face to face with me. If I had a working heart I'm sure it would have done that trick of beating faster and numbing my body whenever I was frightened years ago. With her head cocked to the side as though she were listening for something, she searched the entire room with her eyes before she shrugged and leaned back into the armchair.

"Tracie, what do you think about that big light up there?" She pointed to the chandelier above her little sister. "Don't they look like diamonds in the air?"

For some reason I did not like her calm expression after she had just frightened me of all people in the worlds. I felt the strangest desire to fill this girl up with hard, cold fear and then chase her out of my dwellings. I went over to the Persian rugs and knocked them over, releasing clouds of thick, ancient dust into the air. After I did this I realized that it wasn't a very frightening move. For all I know she might think I'm the ghost of a housekeeper.

I heard a little scream and a short gasp.

"Tracie! Did you see that?"

I turned around to face the girl and found her hugging her sister on her lap. She was laughing at me!

"Are there ghosts in this house?" the little girl asked.

I snorted. "If only there are ghosts here who can scare your older sister."

I didn't expect anyone to hear my little comment. I especially didn't want her hearing me. She laughed. I wanted to ruffle up her hair and cause a major disturbance but what I really did was shrink into my corner and hope above all hope that she really couldn't see or hear me.

"Tracie, there aren't any ghosts here that can scare us." She hugged Tracie tight. "Why don't you find Chloe and mum? I can hear them in the dining room. But don't tell them what you saw, ok?"

The apprehension was returning as I watched the little girl twirl out of the musty room, taking her bright colors with her. Instead I was stuck with this freaky girl who can possibly see me.

"Can you hear me?" I ventured after watching her stroll over to the window from earlier and touch the frame.

She didn't reply but easily opened the window and just as easily shut it. I saw her eyebrows knit together in a frown.

"There are no such things as ghosties and ghoulies," she murmured underneath her breath. "What a joke."

"So you can't hear me then." I tried again.

In response she walked out of the drawing room, shaking her head. Normally I would have run off laughing, congratulating myself on a haunting well done and then celebrating by brooding about in my room. But she…

Something disturbed me about her demeanor. It appeared as though she felt my presence here in this room, and indirectly heard what I was saying. But she still didn't respond to me. What is she?

That evening I wandered the halls to see what the mother hen and her chicks did to my ancestral home. There were many boxes piled high in the foyer with mundane labels describing which room they belonged in. Upstairs I found some boxes outside the bedrooms that the girls were occupying and had a peek inside to see their contents. Tracie. The little sunshine baby sister had boxes of crayons and toys and clothes. Chloe. Apparently the middle sister who enjoyed all forms of technology and odd fashions.

Lydia.

I found a variety of books from Alexandre Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo to Bram Stoker's Dracula to various rubbish I've never heard of. I decided to look for that Lydia girlwhen an image of her innocently dreaming away in bed materialized in my mind, but only after I knocked the box over to spill its contents on the thick carpet.

After searching several empty rooms I found the girl sleeping in a large corner room that faces the east and the north. There was a full moon flooding through the curtain-less windows, bathing the detestable girl in ethereal light she didn't deserve. Cold air seeped into the room through the drafty windows and I watched from afar as she turned in the large bed.

Cautiously, I wandered closer to her. I watched the blankets rise and fall with every breath she took. Even more carefully, I sat on the bed and watched her sleeping face, examined the way the blankets rose and fell with every breath she took, pondered what made me feel so much animosity to this girl… why I wanted to make her feel my presence. I wanted to put my hands on her body and make her shiver, but not entirely with fear. If not fear, then what? I suddenly wondered. I felt her shiver in the cold and draw the blankets closer to her body, scaring me for a moment.

"Oh…Damien…" she suddenly murmured softly, causing me to jump off the bed and be on guard.

How did she know my name? I stood there, frozen for what seems like hours until I was sure she was asleep and just dreaming, before I decided to run away from this girl who had the ability to scare a thing like myself.