The room was musty, and no matter what you patted, dust flew up in a great big ‘poof!’. I folded my arms and sat down in a chair. Three years ago my wife, Georgette, had died, leaving me a beautiful little girl, Abigail, and a three-storey townhouse. Abigail was busy downstairs in her room when I was up here rummaging through my wife’s old books. I wished I could have been more for our daughter, but I could never replace her mother. I heard that there was a book up here my wife’s mother read to her, when she was a baby—I wanted to read it to Abby. I heard footsteps below me, Cassandra. I closed my eyes to dream when my sister tapped me on the shoulder, “Cassy?” I opened my eyes and saw the familiar blonde locks of my younger sister. She seemed to shiver, “Are you cold, Cassy?” She shivered again, “It’s a bit small.” Cassy said and I looked up into her eyes, “What? The house? I think you’ll find that three stories can be quite big. Georgette was a very wealthy bride.” She shook her head and I sighed. “Quite right, Alex.” Cassy sat down next to me and in traipsed a little blonde-haired beauty. She was barely big enough to reach the first shelf, but she was reaching for a book. “Hello there.” I said and she flinched pulling a cloth and some books off the table causing them to fall all around her. She shivered and ran to me, climbing onto my lap she looked into my eyes seeking forgiveness. “Daddy.” She leaned against my chest and peeked at my sister. Cassy had come to stay with us to help look after the house and my little princess.
“What are you doing in here?” Cassy asked as she coughed and waved off the dust. Abigail peeked her head around my arm and smiled playfully, “Are you going to read to me?” Cassy and I looked at her. “Is that why you’re here? You’re after a book? I thought you only read non-fiction.” Cassy said taking the book. “It doesn’t seem all too bad.” I said, “Georgette’s mother read it to her when she was Abby’s age.” Cassy was silent. “Well, are you going to read it to us or not?” She demanded as I had already found the book in the pile Abby had pulled onto the floor. I peered down at the title and then I crossed to the front page, “Try to see more than what other people see and you’ll find treasures where no one else will.” I said looking at the front page. “I hope you don’t fall asleep.”
“What’s the name, Daddy?” I closed the book and read the name to Abigail, “Triple 9.” She put her thumb in her mouth, and I pulled it out as I began.
“The one tree that stood as bravely as it could against the death around it, the door that looked broken in and the windows all boarded up as if millions of years had gone by since it was open. There was no paint on the walls, anymore. It was all peeling in its droves off the outside walls. Mindy looked out the window and I leaned back into the leather seat with my eyes closed. I was thinking about an adventure. No doubt the sight of the house had encouraged that daydream—it looked simply dripping with intrigue and horror.” I stopped and looked to Cassy, “Could you get me something to drink?” She looked reluctant, but relented and was gone for about five minutes. She came back and said, “I’ve put some tea on. I’ll go check on it now-now.”
I continued where I’d left off, “The next day, Mindy and I woke up in a house we didn’t know. Our parents had decided on a house in the suburbs and they had told us the night before we were moving. Mindy was not happy, but I explained to her that there was nothing we could do. Our first morning in our new home, she came through to my room at about half past seven and sat down on my bed. ‘I’m sleeping, Mins.’ I growled and rolled over. Mindy just stayed on my bed. I don’t know how long she was there, but at last I could no longer sleep so I turned around and peeked at her from beneath my sheets. ‘Go away?’
‘Why do boys sleep so late?’ She countered. ‘It’s not late.’ I growled. Mindy just frowned down at me and said sarcastically, ‘Why couldn’t I have a big sister?’ I squinted my eyes cynically up at her as she said this. I just tucked my head beneath the sheets and threw a pillow on trying to block her out. ‘Mins, let me sleep–PLEASE!’ I tried shoving her off, that did not work. She was not getting up. I got up and rolled her off of me. ‘How’d you get so fat?’ I said pretending to complain. I looked up at her, she was twelve and I was sixteen. Mindy and I were interrupted by our mother. She came in my room with some hot cocoa. ‘I was wondering where you had gone.’ She said to my sister. She looked at me and shook her head, ‘Mindy, leave the old man to sleep.’ She said and took her hand to lead her out. ‘I’ll wake up now, mom.’ I said and heard Mindy shuffle off. ‘I hope you’re awake in time for breakfast, old man.’ She said and left me there in my cocoon.” –“Where’s the tea you promised me?” I said and once again paused my reading. She looked at me and got up to leave, giving me a dirty look. I looked down to Abigail, she was sucking her thumb again. I laughed and took it out while scolding her. “Mindy in her little jacket, dress and her pink gumboots that were covered in My Little Pony stickers, stood next to me with her arms folded. ‘Are we going in?’ I sighed and gulped down fear—Mindy couldn’t see that I was scared. I nodded and took out my phone to check the time, ‘Well?’ She said and nodded her head for me to go in. I sighed and went towards it, ‘If not for you and your annoying curiosity I could be in my room brooding.’ I said and walked up to the door. I wasn’t entirely truthful then, I was the one who had imagined hauntings and great adventure in this old, haunted house, but I would never tell her since I was the one standing there terrified. I stretched my hand out to knock. I wondered if anyone actually lived in the house. There was a feeling in my gut that I should not knock, that I should just run away and take Mindy home with me. Mindy would never follow me, though. I hadn’t even I touched the door before it creaked open. It sounded like an old man with arthritis. Mindy stood behind me and investigated the house. ‘Still want to go in?’ ” I paused once more as Cassy came in. She had the tea on a tray. “Read without me, will you? Just for that you’re not getting supper!” I laughed and turned my gaze to pick up where I left off, but before I could Cassy exclaimed, “No! Don’t start yet, what did I miss?” I grimaced and sighed, “Can’t you read the book when we’re done?” She slumped into a chair and appeared to be doing some kind of subtle sulk, I ignored it and continued, “She made a face and marched passed me into the hallway—she sneaked a single look of doubt and seeing me, threw her nose in the air, tapping her foot waiting for me to come in. Mindy could be so stubborn sometimes it made me angry. The house was empty, but Mindy seemed to move towards the staircase. She seemed to be drawn there somehow, I tried to her pull her back—to convince her no one was there. She looked back to me and said, ‘Aren’t you seeing this?’ I looked around and frowned. ‘What do you mean? Who are you seeing?’ Her face contorted and she bore a look of terror and confusion, ‘She says only I can see her. I don’t know why, but she wants me to ask you why you’re here? Oh, my goodness, Jens, am I possessed?! ’ I looked at my sister and said, ‘I don’t know.’ Mindy nodded and… laughed. ‘She said her friend wants to see you. You’ll meet him in the hallway,’ She paused as if listening to instructions and at last said, ‘She wants me to go with her. I think I should.’ I moved forward and reached out for her hand.” I stopped briefly and said, “This is a kid’s book?” Cassy looked at me angrily and said, “Why shouldn’t it be? It’s not bad. Carry on now, Abby’s falling asleep.” I looked down to my daughter, she was falling asleep. I turned to the book and continued, “She drew it back and looked at me, ‘Let me go. I don’t think she’ll hurt me.’ Mindy, slowly and bravely, crept up the staircase. I stood still and my eyes followed her up the stairs. At the top she looked at me, she looked somehow unafraid. I raised my hand to wave, she waved back and disappeared out of my view. If there was something up, it was better to play along until I was sure we had a chance to escape. Besides, Mindy wasn’t going to come down. It was better that way. I stood in the hallway looking this way and that, as if something was going to leap out at me.” I handed Cassy the book, “Why don’t you continue? I’m going to walk around with Abby in my arms, she’ll sleep for longer then.” Cassy smirked, “Wasn’t this for her?”
“She hasn’t slept properly for a few nights, she has to get sleep whenever she can.” Cassy nodded and picked up where I had left off:
“I was beginning to think nothing would happen, when I felt a warm hand on my shoulder. I turned and was greeted by a tall, man sporting a normal plain, blue T-shirt. He smiled and started moving towards the lounge, I moved with him–following to see what would happen next. He sat down on the couch and looked at me beckoningly. I hesitated, but slowly moved forward. I cautiously sat down on the opposite couch and looked at him. I had an odd sensation in my soul that something was going to happen. He suddenly had a notebook in his hand and he was writing furiously. ‘So, Jack, is it?’ He said and looked up from the notebook. I was fidgeting furiously, shifting from side to side like I was sitting on hot coals. ‘It’s not polite to ignore people, Jack.’ He said after about 3 minutes. I didn’t know what to say, at last I managed to mumble some barely intelligible words, ‘Who are you?’ The person leaned forward and looked right into my eyes as if he was trying to gaze into my soul. ‘That’s for later. Right now I’m asking your name. Do you have any idea how many Jack’s there are out there?’ The man said and turned back to the notebook. I got up and tried to see what he was writing. This was just too weird for me to be scared, anymore. The man looked at me expectantly. My name! ‘Jack Weatherstone.’ The man nodded his head and scribbled some more notes in his book. ‘Well, Jack, how about some refreshments? Hungry? Thirsty?’ He moved across to a room just behind the lounge through an arch. I followed and found a small, dank kitchen. There was some steaming hot chocolate on the counter, which was accompanied by a plate of cookies. I moved over and as I turned found the man digging in a rusty old fridge. ‘There’s cookies and hot chocolate here, you don’t…’ The man looked at me and spun around revealing a small cake. It was smothered in chocolate and covered with assorted sprinkles. ‘How…?’ I stood shocked and went over to the fridge. When I opened it, there was nothing but a rusted old tin of beans. I turned around again and the hot chocolate had stopped steaming.” She took a breath and continued as I circled the room with Abigail, “The man stood there with the cake. He was busy munching on a star-shaped cookie. He brushed off some crumbs and sat down on a chair around the crummy kitchen table. I wasn’t sure where to sit, so I stood. He seemed to be amused by it.
‘You can sit down by me.’ He patted the chair next to him and dust and something vile fell to the ground. I shook my head, ‘uh… no thanks.’ I said and shifted around awkwardly. ‘Alright then.’ He said and took the hot chocolate. ‘You better drink yours before it gets cold. It’s really good.’ He said; to me it looked cold. There was something I was missing. I picked it up and took a sip. My eyes widened, it was horrible! I looked to his cup, it still looked cold. I scratched my head. He was still looking at me with laughter in his eyes. ‘Something wrong?’ He seemed to be enjoying himself. ‘No,’ I coughed, ‘Nothing.’ I said trying to sound like it was good. The man suddenly looked solemn. He got up and went to one of the drawers taking out a knife. One thought flashed through my mind, he was going to kill me and take Mindy. I immediately spun around looking for a weapon of my own, but nothing of the sort happened. He sat down and cut a slice of cake and put it on a plate. ‘You look hungry. The cake was made especially for you.’ He motioned for me to take it. I moved closer, but only looked at the cake. ‘But, how…the fridge?’ I was trying to arrange my thoughts. ‘Everyone likes chocolate.’ He mumbled as if he hadn’t heard me and added, ‘Oh, well, more for me.’ He got up to take a spoon from a jar behind him on the counter. ‘So? You’re worried about your sister? Would you like to see her?’ I nodded again, it was weird how he knew that was what I was about to ask. He sighed. ‘Okay. Take your hot chocolate before it gets cold.’ This time I had to ask. ‘It is cold. What the heck is different about your cup?’ The man scratched his head. ‘I drank mine before it got cold. Maybe you should’ve done something before it was too late.’ I shook my head, but somehow I knew he was right and I was wrong. I looked from the cup to stare at him. ‘Is this what I came here for? I mean, I thought you were going to kill me, aren’t you?’ He smiled slightly and lifted his cup to his lips. ‘Is that how I appeared? I assure you I brought you here for hot chocolate, some cookies and a slice of cake.’ He motioned through the arch that led us to the kitchen in the first place. Once again we were in the lounge, but we crossed through into the hall. He crossed through an opposite arch into a sitting room. The man sat down and got comfortable. I felt a mixture of anger and frustration. So? When were we going to see her? I broached the question and got a silent dismissal. Instead of getting angry which I knew wouldn’t work, I stormed into the hall to try the door. If they weren’t going to give Mindy back, I was not sticking around like some loser waiting to get her back. I tried the door; it was like trying to drag a rhino up a mountain hillside. I stopped and looked at the man; he had gotten up and was waiting for me under the arch, arms folded. ‘Well?’ I clenched my fist and crossed the room. ‘Give me my sister.’ I said from in-between clenched teeth. The man looked at me startled, ‘You will see her.’ He got up and walked over to a beautiful, old grand piano and began playing some chords I didn’t know. I was never one for classical music. At first, they sounded lovely, but after a while they began to sound horrible. I blocked my ears and shouted at him to stop. He carried on playing as if he hadn’t heard me at all. I ran to the settee by the window, which was boarded up, and grabbed a pillow to cover my ears. I shoved my whole head in the pillow, but still the sound made me scream. I wanted to run away—somewhere where I wouldn’t hear the sound.
Instead, I just sat with the pillow clenched tightly around my head. It did no good. At last he stopped playing and the thumping in my head vanished. “What was that?” I said still crouching on the couch with my ears covered by the pillow. I squinted to look up. He got up and came over to me on the couch, as he did so he took the pillow away. He looked like he wasn’t sure about what to say. At last he seemed like he had got it right and leaned back calmly, ‘What was the first thing the music made you think of?’ I had no trouble answering, it reminded me of my mother the day Mindy was born. I had no idea why. Well, he knew everything why couldn’t I let him answer? I did. ‘It made me think of the day my sister was born. I don’t know why. You seem to know so much, why don’t you explain?’ He looked slightly perturbed, but then a gleam of understanding came into his eyes. ‘You’re frustrated aren’t you? I guess I owe you for the headache. To be honest, I feel like I owe you a lot of things.’ I furrowed my brow. ‘Really?’ I felt like asking why, but that was too many questions at once. Instead, I stayed with just the one and watched him—he was just standing there. So I sat down expectantly and folded my arms. He sat down and folded his hands in his lap. ‘Well, you’re a child of the arts, tell me what happens when you hear music—to your heart, I mean?’ I thought about it for a moment, then my Biology teacher’s squeaky voice played in my head, ‘Music, especially drums, has a manipulative ability over your emotions.’ I looked at him. ‘You were invoking an emotion.’ I said. He shook his head tiresomely. ‘I was trying to invoke a memory using emotion. I was trying to remind you of something that happened to you twelve years ago. Do you remember?’ My baby sister’s new born face popped into view. I felt happy then afraid. I wasn’t going to tell him that. Turns out I didn’t need to. This guy was creepy. A laugh crept into his face and he patted my leg reassuringly, ‘It invoked an emotion, right? Making you think of the feelings you had–joy then fear and slight hate or frustration.’ I scratched my head and sighed. ‘I don’t know why I even bother talking to you. Why don’t you just read my thoughts?’ That horribly blithe smile, like nothing could shake him. I wanted to punch him in the face! My thoughts were no longer my own. How was that a good thing?” Cassy looked like she was going to say something, then she smiled and said, “Alex, I miss mother.” She looked like she was going to cry, I put Abby on a couch I had dusted and went over to her, “I miss mother, too, Cassy. She’s in heaven with my dear Georgette. The woman I loved more than my own life.” I wanted to cry, but Cassy continued, “ He didn’t seem in the least disturbed. I got up and started off in another direction, he followed me into the room behind the second lounge—where we were. I moved over to a window and stood there looking out into the night. I was taken aback, “It’s night already!” I shrieked. He covered my mouth, “Calm down, when you see things in a different light you understand anew. Think about that. Now, you wanted to see your sister?” I nodded and he led me through the lounge and into the hall. “Just wait.” He said and left me standing there with my thoughts.
- Try things before judging them.
- The grand piano and the memories
- Look at things in a different light and you will understand them better.
I waited there, mulling this over in my thoughts.
After a few moments I heard a familiar set of footprints padding down the upstairs hall. Her little face appeared at the top of the stairs. Mindy. She came padding down the stairs in full force and launched herself into my arms. “Oh, Jens, it’s been so fun! That nice lady took me upstairs, told me stories, and let me play in an old dollhouse!” She slowed down for a minute and gave me a thoughtful look. “Jens,” she said at last, “the man said you were worried about me. Why?” I looked down at my little sister and sighed, “I’m responsible for you, Mins. You’re my little sister.” She tilted her little head and said, “Can we play longer?” She looked at me with her big ocean-blue eyes and smiled broadly. I laughed at her and said, “What about mom, Mins? She’ll be looking for us.” Mindy looked as if she hadn’t thought of this and looked down at her feet. She broke from me and went over to the stairs. Sitting down, she looked up above her, this time there was someone there—a tall, beautiful woman and beside her the man who had led me through a journey in my heart. I walked up to her and stood in awe. “I can see you,” I breathed. She smiled and looked at my little sister. “Finally.” Mindy said and rose to take the woman’s hand. My eyes widened with the mystery of the occasion. We were in a haunted house with two angels—because that’s all they could’ve been. I had learnt important lessons that day. As I looked at my little sister and thought of the wonder and fear I had endured at the age of four with a new born sister, it became clear: I was afraid of losing my mother to this new little being in our lives. When I saw the faith and love Mindy had in me, I smiled. I had heard the sound of a grand piano’s beauty through my little sister’s eyes. She was so small and yet she was wiser than I had ever been. From now on I would see—really see—things as they were, and I would not judge something from the surface anymore. Even the fear that had seemed to consume me had disappeared. I had grown to trust this stranger. From him, I had grown to love my sister as sweet as a tune out of a grand piano. The man looked at me and tilted his head, he knew what I was thinking—again. This time I grinned and picked Mindy up. I was hugging her against me and burying my face in her neck, when the man touched my shoulder, “Cherish her while you can.” He looked at the woman and smiled. I looked at the two of them and it struck me—brother and sister. I took the man by the hand and said, “I understand what you were saying and what you meant by the grand piano—I don’t fear her, anymore. I love her.” He stifled back a giggle and pointed to the door, I turned to open it and when I did it suddenly became clean and white. I turned to look at the two angels—that was what they were, after all. To my surprise they had vanished and instead there was a beautiful abandoned old house. As perfect as the day it was built, sun shone through the shutters and the curtains were satin silk. I looked upstairs and a lovely old lady came down holding two white cloaks. She came over to us and said, “What are you two doing here?” She smiled as if she knew the answer. When we looked at her, I said, “You wouldn’t believe us, miss.” She smirked and looked behind her, “Really?”
Mindy and I have shared many adventures with that lovely old lady, known to us as Miss Angel—for her house was the first—and last—place where we have ever seen angels. Mindy has stopped talking about it and I am off at University as I type this story of the mysterious two strangers in house Triple 9. Still both of us are sure that one day someone else will find that house and meet our two angels, only I hope this time they’ll drink their hot chocolate quickly. Miss Angel will always get a visit from us and the lessons I learned are ones that I still hold close to me. He would want that. If you ever come across a house numbered 999 be sure to drop in—you may find quite an adventure!”
Cassandra closed the book and looked at me. “Do you think that really happened?” I looked at her, shaking my head.
“I mean…do angels really exist?” I thought for a moment about her question. Do angels really exist?
“I don’t know, Cass. I don’t know. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to answer that.”
“Soon, I hope.” She replied. I hoped so, too. The thought of an angel watching over us brought me great comfort. Miss Angel waiting for me at door Triple 9—What a thought!