16. November

Jose was looking right at the old man, but I didn’t know if he could see him or not. Then I had a thought, and I was surprised that I hadn’t thought of it before: maybe the old man wasn’t even a ghost. I’d been alone the last time I went to the Haunted House, and I just Assumed that everyone inside was a ghost. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe there were alive people in here, and we were Trespassing on their property, which means going somewhere when you’re not invited, and people can call the police if you do that. Maybe the Haunted House wasn’t even Abandoned. Maybe the old man and the old woman were still living here.

But if they were alive, why hadn’t they asked me to leave the first time? They hadn’t seemed surprised that I was there. And they knew about the Duchess, and she was definitely not alive because alive people can’t do the stretchy, twisty, scary things with their body that the Duchess did, and also because she had red eyes, and alive human eyes can’t be red unless someone is an albino, which is a Rare Condition that means someone doesn’t have any color in their body, and she couldn’t be an albino because she had dark skin. And the people with the Dead Eyes were definitely ghosts, and so were all the spiders and worms and moths and flies and other bugs. So it made sense that the old man and the old woman were ghosts, too.

While I was thinking about this, I was watching Jose. He was looking at the old man in the chair, and his breath was all foggy because it was cold, and he looked very scared. I got very excited for a moment, because I realized that maybe Jose could see the old man, which meant that I wasn’t the only one who could see ghosts, at least sometimes. But then I thought about the man on the sidewalk again, and how Granpy said he was Just Homeless, and I wasn’t sure what to think.

Everything was silent for a few seconds. I decided to wait and see what Jose had to say. Finally, he said something. He said, “It’s even colder in here than it is outside.” I was disappointed, because if he could see the old man, he would have said hello to him. But he still looked scared. After a few more seconds, he said, “It shouldn’t be possible for it to be colder inside than outside. There’s no wind in here.”

But Jose was still looking right at the old man. I wondered if maybe he could see something there. Maybe there was a shadow, or the air looked funny there. Or maybe he could even see the magazine floating right there. It was absolutely silent except for the sound of our breathing, and when the old man turned the page, it sounded as loud as when someone suddenly coughs in the middle of the night. Jose jumped.

“Did you hear that?” I asked Jose. He nodded his head Yes, then said it was probably just an animal. He said that lots of animals hide in abandoned houses in the winter to keep warm. Then I reminded him that it was colder inside than outside, and he said that was probably just here on the porch, and it was probably warmer inside. But he didn’t start moving towards the big heavy wooden door. He just kept standing there, looking at the old man.

I was still afraid to say anything about him, but then I remembered that the whole point of this was that we were being brave, and that meant I had to do things even if I was afraid of them. So I pointed at the old man and I looked at Jose and I said, “Can you see him?”

Jose looked back at me and I saw that his eyes were still big Os, and I thought the muscles in his face must be tired from holding them open for so long. He shook his head slowly No, but then the old man turned another page in his magazine and Jose jumped again.

He could hear it. He could hear the ghost.

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