Come Find Me(8)

I post it.

I wish Elliot were here.

It’s quiet now, which means it’s finally safe to venture out of my room. Dad is cooking, which is marginally better than the days when Mom cooks, but unquestionably worse than takeout. He stares at the pictures of the missing while he stirs the pasta. “How’s the studying, Nolan?”

“It’s all right,” I say.

“Listen, can you help out tomorrow afternoon until Mike shows up? Someone needs to supervise the new volunteers. I’ve got a meeting downtown, and you know how your mother is with the phone,” he says, lowering his voice conspiratorially.

“How your mother is with what?” Mom says, pulling out the earbuds and winding up the wires.

“With cooking,” I say. “No offense, Ma.” How my mom is with the phone is actually like this: She takes it all too personally. She becomes too invested. And that’s saying something, seeing as the baseline for normal here is the downstairs of my house covered in pictures of other people’s missing children.

    “Mmm,” she says, ruffling my hair as she passes.

Dad raises his eyebrow at me in question. I nod, admitting defeat. And they wonder why I don’t come out of my room more often.

* * *

The maps aren’t really making any sense. Or maybe it’s just that they’re not coming together like I’d hoped—nothing registering outside the range of any normal household appliance, it seems. But then I think maybe I’m expecting too much, that I should be looking for the subtle. For tiny fluctuations; the unpredictable. I have a map with all the ghost stories and legends (and missing brother) pinpointed as much as possible. I’ve got another map with EMF, ELF, and Geiger readings, but they don’t seem to overlap in any meaningful way. I need to dig into the details.

I couldn’t spring for the top-of-the-line digital EMF meter, so I’ve got one with a dial that looks kind of like the speedometer in my old car. After I hear my parents’ footsteps on the wooden staircase, I decide to take some baseline readings around the house, for comparison. I wait an extra hour, just to be sure everyone’s asleep. They’re not exactly aware of my extracurricular endeavor.

I leave the stairway dark but turn on the kitchen light and take readings of the refrigerator, microwave, and anything else that seems to be functional, jotting them all down in a notebook. Back in my room, I add the computer and my cell. As I get ready to compare all the readings, I toss the EMF meter onto my bed, but it ricochets off the wall beside it, and I cringe. Please don’t let it be broken. For consistency’s sake, I really should use the same device for all readings. Also, I can’t exactly afford a new one.

    It looks intact, but before I even touch it, I can see I’ve screwed something up. Surprise, surprise.

It’s sitting on my bed, beside the wall, and the dial keeps jerking down past zero. I pick it up, turning away from the wall, and the dial settles to zero. Okay, maybe it’s fine. I hold it to my computer again—same reading as before. Phone—same reading. Okay, everything’s fine. No problem. I set it back on the bed, facing the wall, same position as before, and the dial starts diving below zero again.

There’s nothing on the other side of that wall anymore. Nothing electronic, anyway. Just Liam’s old bed, same comforter, same clothes in the closet, same notes from Abby.

His computer is mine now, along with anything else of perceived value. And I’ve been through his drawers enough to know there’s nothing of interest anymore.

Still. I let myself into his room, flipping the light, shutting the door behind me. Even after two years, the silence and the emptiness catch me by surprise each time. The worn blue blanket at the foot of the bed is the spot where Colby used to lie, even when Liam wasn’t home. It sits there now as another reminder of all the things that are still missing.

In my hand, the meter continually bounces back and forth from neutral to below zero. I check under the bed, in his drawers, in the closet—but find nothing.

Must be something in the walls. All the pipes and wires and ducts running through, creating an electric current. Maybe there’s some faulty wiring. Well, one way to find out.

    I head down to the basement and open the circuit breaker, and impulsively flip everything off.

Impulsively, because now I’m standing in the pitch black, in the basement, with nothing but an EMF reader, and I suddenly don’t want to look at the readout.

Impulsively, because it’s hard to research the paranormal without letting your imagination run wild. Because if it’s possible for one thing to exist, it’s therefore possible that other things do, too.

The display is backlit, and everything appears normal. I walk slowly, using the meter as a flashlight. Back upstairs, I return to Liam’s room, and every hair on my arms and the back of my neck stands on end. The dial keeps moving, in a pattern—to negative, back to neutral, over and over again.

It’s giving me the creeps.

And then it’s just me and the stories, and the dark. And the dark whispers that there’s something in this room, and the room whispers the stories it remembers, and my stomach aches for my brother, all at once.

I’m seventeen. My parents are down the hall. I shouldn’t be afraid of the dark anymore.

Megan Miranda's Books