The rush of icy air filled my lungs and brought my senses back. I was in my bed, but the dark creature from the tree had followed. It hovered above me, levitating by the magic it used to lure me to its lair. My scream burst from my mouth. I thrashed and kicked at my bedcovers to get away, but they held me fast.
The creature disappeared when my bed lamp clicked on. Mother’s worried face replaced the spot the creature had occupied moments ago. Her warm embrace took away the cold shivering through me.
She helped me out of bed, led me to the bathroom, and left me to undress and shower away my chills. I felt the place on my forehead where the ghost of Susie had touched me. Her warning about Julie echoed in my mind. “She has the power to be inside you. She’s using you to look for me.”
I fell to the floor and wept. I had gone insane. There was no other explanation for the strange dreams. I pounded a fist to the floor and yelled, “Ghosts and monsters aren’t real.”
They couldn’t be real. If they were, then what was Julie? Ghost? Or monster?
Bile rose in my throat. I vomited into the toilet. I watched the yellow sour liquid spread tendrils and flow like ooze to the bottom of the bowl while I wondered if I was real. I pinched my cheeks to make sure and felt nothing. I dug fingernails into flesh and made my left forearm bleed.
“I’m not real,” I thought. “Or maybe I’m dead.”
The delayed reaction of my pinches and scratches told me I was real, but I didn’t want to be. Another odor, not as sour as the vomit, drew my attention to my armpits. I was very much alive and in need of cleanliness.
I let hot water massage my back. I shivered and shuddered and closed my eyes to the feelings running through me. When I opened them, mother stood in front of me, naked and radiant. I yelped in surprise. I hadn’t heard the shower’s glass door slide open or close.
She remained smiling at me. I became frightened. This wasn’t something my mother would do.
“Get out,” I said.
She reached for me and I yelled louder. Pain crossed her face.
“Don’t you love me?” she asked.
“You’re not my mother, so get the fuck out. Now.”
Her eyes seemed to harden then, the way they had when she and daddy fought and he used the F word on her. I thought she was going to slap me. I worried that she was indeed my mother standing naked in the shower with me.
“No,” I said. “This isn’t something my mother would do.”
“Why not?” She grinned, fondled her breasts and licked her lips as though they were covered with tasty syrup. “My Lola is a little slut. A lesbian slut. This is where you kissed Susie on her nasty place.”
I opened the door and hurried out. Julie’s voice erupted from inside the shower. “Get back here, cunt.”
My legs wobbled but I was able to wrap a long towel around me.
Julie laughed. When I turned back, the shower was empty. Water from the showerhead spilled to the floor. I sat on the toilet and shook. I tried to cry but the tears would not come. I felt a hand stroke my face. Susie stood in front of me. I bolted through her and ran to my room, threw on a pair of sweats and my tennis shoes, and ran from my mother’s haunted house. I was never going back. And no one was going to make me.