Ten-year-old Lucas shifted in discomfort, trying to relieve the pressure from his knees. Part of him wondered what he was doing. Why he was sitting underneath the coffee table like some weirdo. And with a camera in his hands no less. Made him seem like some sort of stalker. If his sister saw him, that’s exactly what she would say.
All logical sense told him to just give in to the drowsiness and walk back to bed before anyone found him and asked him what he was doing. But he couldn’t.
He was ghosthunting.
He smirked at that. Even sounded stupid. But it was true. It was why he was shivering in his pajamas under the coffee table, camera in hands, knees aching from discomfort, and eyes struggling to remain open. He was going to get proof that ghosts existed.
Ever since he was little, his grandpa had told him stories about the ghost that haunted the house. How it always appeared on the 13th day of every month at one o’clock in the morning. How it was only there for a second, a glimmering shape in the darkness, so faint you would swear it wasn’t there except for the chill. That chill that went down your spine and paralyzed you. Whenever grandpa told that story, he’d run his hands down Lucas’s back in such a way that it always tickled and Lucas would giggle and try to escape.
His grandpa always loved stories like that. Tales of the weird and strange. Of the occult. Urban legends and the such. He was one of those people who believed in Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Who thought that seeing one magpie meant sorrow was in his future while two meant joy was?
Lucas had always laughed at his grandpa’s crazy ghost stories and folktales but he never really took them seriously. Not until a month ago.
He had woken up in the middle of the night with his bladder about to burst. So, after relieving himself, he had exited the bathroom and started down the hall when he felt it. That chill. Just like grandpa had described. He had then turned, his insides filling with dread, and he saw it. Just a faint form in the living room’s shadows of a person. Lucas couldn’t tell much else about it because at that point he had ran back into his room and dove under the covers. It had taken hours for him to get back to sleep.
And for the rest of that month, he had been on the edge of a nervous wreck. Very little sleep, jumping at small sounds and freezing at random objects, refusing to go anywhere near the living room. His parents kept asking what was wrong but he couldn’t tell them. They would call him ridiculous and that he was dreaming or just seeing things. And his sister wouldn’t let him hear the end of it. ‘What kind of thirteen-year-old believes in ghosts?’ she’d ask.
Which was why he was here now, against all logic and against his urge to run, underneath the coffee table with a camera in his hands at 12:57 nighttime on the thirteenth of the month. To get proof.
His grandpa would be so proud of him right now. He would have believed him. Lucas smiled slightly at the thought of them doing this together. Just like they used to although they never did see anything that strange back then (except for Mr. Cabaldi doing his morning yoga in his underwear, and that was a sight more horrifying than any ghost).
He checked his watch. Two minutes to go. He had butterflies in his stomach the size of birds. His palms were all sweaty and his breath was getting shorter with every second. The temptation to leave right then was getting stronger and stronger but he did his best to ignore it, setting up the camera instead. He aimed it right at where he saw the figure last time.
“Ok, ghost,” Lucas muttered. “Just come out nice and quiet so I can take your picture. No harm in that right?”
He really hoped it wouldn’t answer.
He checked his watch again. About a minute and forty seconds left. He took a deep breath and waited impatiently. He wondered what would happen first. The chill? The figure appearing? A voice? God, he hoped it didn’t talk.
Lucas let off a muffled scream and jumped up, realizing too late that he was still underneath the coffee table. His head banged against it and began to throb. He looked up, hands clutching his head, and saw his mother staring down at him with a confused expression. “What are you doing?” she asked him.
“Uh…” Lucas stumbled, unsure of what to say. “I…needed to use the bathroom?”
His mother stared at him like she was questioning his sanity. “Underneath the coffee table?”
“Well…I had to…um…I was looking for the ghost,” he admitted.
His mother’s expression cleared. “Oh, I see.”
Lucas then explained what had happened to him the previous month. “So I just wanted to show you what I saw wasn’t crazy.”
His mother gave him a smile. “Oh honey. I believe you.”
Lucas looked at her in surprise. “You do?”
“Come here.” She led him into the living room towards the window. “Look out there,”
Lucas walked to the window and looked out. Their apartment was pretty high up so he could see “a good portion of the city, even at night. He looked around, unsure of what he was looking for. Then he glanced upwards and gasped.
There it was. The ghost. Except it wasn’t a ghost. It was a woman in an advertisement showing off the latest dress of Silk Sisters’.
“I don’t understand,” he said.
“That advertisement on the building over there plays about three times during the night. 11:00 pm, 1:00 am, and 3:00 am. It’s been doing that for the past eight years straight for some reason. You just only notice it at night because that’s when it shines through.”
“But…doesn’t it only appear on the 13th?”
“Nope,” his mother shook her head. “I think your grandfather made that part up just because it sounded creepier.”
“How have I never noticed it before?”
“Oh, it only ever comes at night when you’re asleep.”
“Huh,” Lucas muttered. “Wait, what about the chill?”
“Oh that. The thermostat drops a little before 1:00 each night and then comes back a few hours later. I keep meaning to get that fixed but never got around to it.”
“But…but I feel it suddenly. At 1:00.,” Lucas protested.
His mother gave him a knowing look. “Do you? Or do you just think you do? The chill comes gradually. Your mind just thinks it appears suddenly and automatically jumps to the conclusion that it’s the ghost appearing. That’s it honey.”
Lucas looked again at the large advertisement and the woman who he thought had been a ghost. “Huh,” he said again. Honestly, he was disappointed even though he had been terrified at the thought of a ghost in the house a few minutes ago. Some part of him had just wanted it to be real.
“Come on,” his mother guided him by the shoulders. “Let’s go back to bed.”
“You won’t tell Lisa, will you?”
“No, I promise. But I think we’re going to get you off scary movies for a little while.”
Lucas didn’t respond. He wondered what his grandpa would think of this. The old man was probably rolling around in Heaven right about now, chuckling at his grandson’s mistake. Now that Lucas was thinking about it, he realized why he was so disappointed by the fake ghost.
“Do you miss grandpa?” he asked his mother.
She stopped for a second before giving him a sad smile. “Every day,” she replied.
“Yeah, me too.” They didn’t say anything after that, just walked back to their respective rooms. Just after his mother squeezed his shoulder goodnight and Lucas turned to leave, he felt that chill again. From the thermostat. He shivered and continued walking when he realized the thermostat should have turned off minutes ago.
He looked behind him and saw it. Just for a second. The figure. Except it wasn’t a woman in a dress. It was a man, wearing a trench coat and a fedora, his form so faint that it was like it was barely even there. But there was something familiar about it.
Lucas froze, unsure of what to do. The figure simply stared at him and then raised its hand, tipping its hat in a familiar way and the figure of his grandfather vanished.