Mood: Light (it was SUCH a tie between light & dark that I tried something inbetween)
About the main character: non-binary* (vistickart, colycoffee, euterpya), has a ghost hunting podcast (bluebirdscribbles), can see ghosts (thebookishgirlinbooktown), pink hair! (prettypetitpanda), collects pocketwatches (kwirky_kwallen), they like peanuts (desitenia), they have a weird obsession with birds (aithqsa)
The opening sentence: “Hello dear listeners, today we’re hunting the legendary OH FRICK RUN.” (bluebirdscribbles)
* This story is read & feedbacked by various non-binary sensitivity readers.
“Hello dear listeners, today we’re hunting the legendary—OH FRICK, RUN!”
The recording becomes a mess, then. Ragged breathing, shoes hitting the pavement, the wind howling like a werewolf during its first full moon.
If Olive strains their ears, they can hear Jamal laughing.
When the recording is almost at the end, the running stops. Heaving gasps that betray how little Olive exercises quickly shape into bewildered laughs.
“I can’t…” Jamal is panting. “I can’t believe…”
“You saw that too, right?” Olive hears themselves ask. After nearly a year of listening to their own voice, they don’t cringe at it anymore. “It was definitely a humanoid shape!”
“Yeah, more like an old man with a shotgun.”
Olive remembers the way Jamal had looked at them then.
Jamal didn’t think their ghost hunting podcast was a waste of time. He wanted to believe just as badly as Olive that there was more to this strange and sucky world. But they could also see that this?
This hadn’t convinced him.
“Yeah, maybe,” the Olive on the recording says. “Maybe you’re right.”
Jamal snickers. “The legendary Cornfield Creeper is just a cornfield hick.”
“To be fair, everyone in Miracle is a hick.”
They’re both grinning now. The recording doesn’t show it, obviously, but Olive remembers because Jamal has a smile that looks like a secret and they love secrets.
“Okay, that was fun,” Jamal says. He adjusts the watch on his skinny wrist. “Can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store for your listeners next week, Olli. Maybe a supermarket hick? Another agricultural hick? Or are you finally going to look inside the Lucky House?”
Olive laughs. “Shut up.”
“You’ve been doing this for a year! When will you—”
The recording ends.
* * *
The Lucky House isn’t actually called that.
Though, if everyone says it, doesn’t that mean it actually is its name? Or does it have to be all official, all legal, with a piece of paper and a signature?
Olive doesn’t know.
Olive is stalling.
Because they’re standing in front of the Lucky House. Its official name is the Lukey House, but local teens—Olive and Jamal included—started calling it Lucky because you were lucky to walk past it and live.
See, the house is haunted.
Local teens heard old timey music coming from the house in the middle of the night, saw a figure gliding past windows, and felt unbearably cold whenever they were near the house.
Olive doesn’t think the house is haunted.
After all, someone lives in the two-story thing, and they could simply be a very eccentric person. Olive knows about eccentric people, because they themselves are one and Jamal is too. It’s how they became friends. They bonded over their shared love of peanuts, birds, and old timey pocket watches.
“Hello, dear listeners,” Olive says into the recorder. “I’m standing in front of the Lucky House right now, and lemme tell you. It’s looking very quiet tonight.”
The reason Olive didn’t want to go to the house was because it’s Miracle’s oldest local legend.
So it’s gotta be good, you know?
It’s gotta be entertaining and tense and spooky.
They didn’t think they were ready to take on something so famous, but Jamal was right. After nearly a year of doing this podcast, the time has finally come.
Olive takes the first step into the front garden.
Immediately, goosebumps rise on their skin, even though they’re wearing a denim jacket tonight.
“I’m walking to the front door. I can definitely feel the cold draft everyone’s talking about. But it’s September, peeps. It’s gonna get colder in the evenings.”
That’s the trick to a good ghost hunting podcast.
You gotta balance the skepticism with the belief. Too much belief and people are going to think you want it too much. Too much skepticism and people will think you’re interpreting important clues all wrong.
“For those of you who haven’t heard of the Lucky House, I’ll explain real quick. If I say haunted house, what would you picture in your mind? Something dark and broken down, right? Well, Lucky House isn’t that. There are no broken or boarded up windows. Someone actually lives here, which is why I have to knock on the front door.”
Olive walks up the steps to the door. In their mind, they practice what they’re going to say to the homeowner.
Then, they knock on the grand wooden door.
“No, the Lucky House isn’t scary because it looks like it has eyes and a gaping mouth. It’s scary because you feel like it’s from another time. No, like it’s living in another time. It doesn’t belong in this Miracle, it belongs to the Miracle from 200 years ago. You know what I mean? It doesn’t belong on this street. When you see Lucky House, your mind can’t make sense of it. And you get the very distinct feeling that you shouldn’t disturb it.”
Which is why Olive feels a thrill running down their back.
Because they’re disturbing it right now.
Knocking on the door felt like walking over someone’s grave. Like blasphemy.
“Okay,” Olive says into their recorder. “Seems like no one’s home tonight, so—”
The door opens.
A long, thin woman with long hair curled up into a bun opens the door and immediately answers one of Olive’s most burning questions: Who would live in a haunted house?
The answer is, someone who looks like how a haunted house should look. Dark eyes that seem to hold secrets, hunched shoulders that don’t like strangers, long fingers that grasp the door like vines crawling up a wall.
Olive blinks. They forget to turn off the recorder, but they remember the speech they practiced.
“Hello,” they say. “I’d love to take a look at your house. I have a podcast where I go after rumors of ghosts and cryptids and try to see if they’re real.”
The woman peers at them from the shadows of her house for a few seconds, then says in a thin voice, “Who are you?”
“Oh, sorry! I’m Olive, a junior at Miracle High.” They point at the pin on their denim jacket, the one that says they/them pronouns, please! A birthday gift from Jamal. “If you don’t mind, I use they/them pronouns.”
Jamal doesn’t think Olive should say if you don’t mind.
But Olive doesn’t mind saying if you don’t mind, because they’ve found that saying it like that means even the hicks will begrudgingly try to honor your request. It just sounds more polite. Even though it should be common courtesy, but, you know.
Common courtesy in Miracle, town of the hicks, means swearing at someone when they cut you off on the road or sneak ahead in line at the supermarket.
“Oh,” the thin, long woman says. “I didn’t know you could choose your own pronouns.”
“Uh, gee,” Olive says, because they hadn’t expected that answer. “Well, this is who I am. But if you feel more comfortable with different pronouns for yourself, then you’re absolutely free to change them!”
The woman stares at the pin for a few seconds.
She doesn’t blink as she does so, which fits very much with the haunted house owner aesthetic. Olive represses the urge to shiver again.
“All right,” the woman says finally. Her thin voice nearly blows away in the wind.
Olive squints. “I’m sorry?”
“All right,” the woman repeats. “You can come in.”
The first step inside the Lucky House is a creaky one.
The wood is old and worn and dips exactly where Olive’s boot steps. It’s like a memory, that first step. Olive gets the very distinct impression that they’re doing something hundreds of people have done before them.
The long, thin woman is already at the end of the narrow hallway.
An actual candle is lit in one of the sconches on the wall, and it illuminates the very Victorian wallpaper.
Olive feels officially spooked.
They take a deep breath and breathe in the old, old air.
“All right,” the woman says very quietly. “I’ll show you the lower floor first.”
The ground floor is all dark wood, swirling Victorian wallpaper and a sweeping staircase that looks perfect for gliding down in a long dress.
Olive eyes the long skirt the woman is wearing and quietly approves.
It does look like it would glide nicely.
The living room is surprising as in that it’s comfortable and cozy. A lot of things in it are plush. Warm-colored. Beautifully vintage. But the main thing that draws Olive’s attention is the long and thin grandfather clock. The wood has a cherry finish. The clock itself has roman numerals and black hands that do not move.
“That’s a shame,” Olive says. “Do you want me to wind it for you?”
The woman runs a hand along the clock’s curve. “No, that’s alright. I rather like how it’s in no hurry.”
Before they leave the living room, Olive can’t help but stand in front of the tall, dramatic windows at the front of the house. They peer through the plush, warm curtains onto the street below.
“Do you mind if I recorded something?” Olive asks. “This is kinda a famous spot.”
The woman joins them at the window. Her skirt glides beautifully. “Famous?”
“Yeah, this is where local teens sometimes spot a figure.” Olive points to the left. “Going from this window the one in the other room in no time.”
The woman doesn’t say a thing, even though Olives gives her plenty of time to object.
To be fair, the woman doesn’t look like someone who talks a lot.
She’d probably never start a podcast, even though she has plenty of inspiration right here. Olive can already hear the theme song, a Victorian piano, and the title: Diary of a Haunted House. Or maybe Lucky in the Lucky House?
“I’m currently standing on hundred-year old floorboards,” Olive starts the recording. “They don’t creak as much as you’d think. Or well, they creak underneath my feet, but I’ve always been told I’m the opposite of gracious, so. Take that as you will. Right now, though, I’m looking out the front windows of Lucky House. So if you saw a figure tonight, no worries! That was totally me and the house owner, Mrs…”
Olive looks at the long, thin woman.
The woman is staring out of the window, eyes unreadable.
She stands very still and very regal, like she’d be able to walk with a stack of books on her head.
Olive subconsciously stands a little straighter too.
“Um,” they say, when the woman doesn’t provide them with a name. “If you don’t mind, could I get your name?”
“Lukey,” the woman says in her thin voice. “Laura Lukey.”
“Get outta here,” Olive says, eyes bulging out of their head. “Your name is Lukey? Like, from the house?”
The woman turns to them. Not a hair on her head moves. Her face doesn’t twitch. She doesn’t seem to be joking. “That’s right.”
“Unbelievable.” With a start, Olive is reminded of the recorder still rolling. “Did you hear that, peeps? Not only is the house owner a total badass for wanting to live in a haunted house, she’s actually related! Did you know this? Because, as you might’ve heard from my shock, I definitely didn’t.”
Olive lowers the recorder. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“Isn’t that what you’ve been doing already?” Laura Lukey says. She clearly doesn’t mean to be funny, but it’s funny nonetheless.
Olive lets out a laugh that’s as short as their name. “That’s fair. Do you mind if I record your answers?”
“You’re not the first one, you know.” Laura’s face twists very suddenly and very violently. Like someone threw a rock into a window. One moment, it’s perfectly still. The next, broken. Fractured. “To ask me questions with one of those things.”
“Uh, gee,” Olive says, because they don’t know how to respond. “If it bothers you, I can do my recording after?”
Laura shakes her head. With every shake, the fractures seem to undo themselves. The stone flies back and the window restores itself, like a tape being rewinded. It’s an interesting thing for a face to do. Olive shudders.
Face serene once again, Laura Lukey says, “I don’t mind.”
“Okay…” Olive says slowly. They hold the recorder up to their face again. “Then, would you tell me why you decided to move here?”
“My family has lived here all their lives.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. It is the Lukey House, after all. So, what do you think of the rumors?”
“About the house being haunted.”
Laura lets out a sound that is a mix between phsaw and pfft. It’s another unintentionally funny sound, but this time, Olive holds their laughter.
“I’ve never met a ghost,” Laura says. “And even if I would, what can they do to me?”
It’s a very level-headed way of approaching the terrifyingly cool possibility of ghosts. It’s looking at something that shouldn’t be possible and saying, so what’s the point?
“Possess you, maybe?” Olive suggests.
Laura makes the pfftshaw sound again, then moves away from the window. Her long skirt glides along the dark floor boards. She looks very graceful. And so quiet! But, Olive reasons, they know all the creaky steps of their staircase at home too. Laura probably avoids the noisy ones.
The tour leads from the kitchen—a grandiose and old thing with lots of copper pans hanging on the wall—to a sitting room, and a room that only houses a beautiful piano.
“The music!” Olive exclaims, and walks further into the room. “This is probably where the music comes from.”
Laura Lukey looks curiously at them. “I’d say so,” she says carefully. Quietly. “There is indeed a musical instrument here.”
Olive laughs. “Yeah, exactly. Can you play?”
With a nod, Laura glides to the piano and sits down. Her movements suggest years of studying and practicing and fine-tuning her skill, and the sound that flows from the piano suggests the same.
The music is old-timey, but beautiful.
Beautiful in a way that makes you want to cry.
Olive watches the breathtaking performance, their heart pounding in their chest. That feeling is back. No, not just back. Returned tenfold. The feeling of this doesn’t belong here. This picture—Laura sitting behind the grand piano in this grand room—feels like it belongs to another time. To another life.
When the performance is over, Olive claps. “That was beautiful.”
It seems to surprise Laura.
She smoothes down her skirt, even though it doesn’t need smoothing down, and brushes her hair behind her ear, even though her hair hasn’t moved from its updo.
“Thank you,” she says in her thin voice.
“So I guess that solves that mystery,” Olive says. “The music everyone hears is obviously you playing!”
Laura doesn’t say anything.
Upstairs features four bedrooms, several baths but no showers, and a library room that predictably smells like old books. Upstairs also has a plush, deep red carpet. No creepy, creaky floorboards that only Olive seems to step on.
The downside: the house seems even quieter than before.
Olive resists the urge to look over their shoulder. They feel a cold draft run past them, tickling the back of their hands, brushing the back of their neck.
“You left a window open?” Olive asks to Laura’s back, just to break the silence.
Laura stops her gliding and turns slowly. “No,” she says slowly. “I don’t think so. But we can check the rooms, just in case.”
Every bedroom is magnificent,
and looks like it shouldn’t be disturbed.
“The upstairs is definitely creepier,” Olive whispers into the recorder. “The cold is worse here than downstairs, and the carpet muffles all sounds. It feels like… like… something is asleep here.”
Laura stops at the third bedroom door. Her long fingers curl around the doorknob, then pause. “This is my bedroom.”
She opens the door and Olive is almost glad it creaks when it opens. The lack of sound is really getting to them.
Olive peeks into the room. Splendor, plush and warm and sprawling. That’s what the bedroom looks like, which is another way of saying it doesn’t look different from the other bedrooms. It doesn’t look used.
The only sign someone lives here, is the book on the bedside table. There’s a bookmark pressed between the pages. A scrap of paper, it looks like.
“You’re a thorough cleaner, aren’t you?” Olive says.
“I can’t get the stain out, though,” Laura Lukey sighs, and the sigh seems to creep along Olive’s skin. They shiver.
There’s a dramatic stain near the bed that looks even darker red than the plush carpet. Olive shivers again.
“Do you know, uh.” They pause, trying to think of a sympathetic way to ask this. “Do you know why everyone says the house is haunted?”
Laura Lukey doesn’t move.
She doesn’t breathe.
She just looks at the stain on the carpet.
“If you don’t want to know, I get that,” Olive says quickly.
“The murder,” Laura says quietly. “A fight between sisters. A sparse dowry that one needed more than the other. A candelabra.”
Olive feels cold.
It’s one thing to stalk through cornfields at night with your best friend,
but standing in an old house, looking at the bloodstain on the carpet and imagining the murder of an innocent girl is on a whole other level.
“Yeah,” Olive says. “The sister murder, that’s what they call it.”
“The carpet looks so soft,” Laura continues, rubbing her forearms. “But it’s not. It grates on the skin. Leaves terrible burns.”
This, to Olive, seems like a strange thing to say.
This, whatever this is, is starting to creep them out so much they kinda want to go home to their own, carpetless bedroom. Maybe persuade their mom to make them a hot chocolate to stave off the chill that’s seeping from the walls of Lucky House
and into their bones.
But that would be incredibly rude.
So Olive looks around the room for anything that could lighten the mood. It’s hard, because there isn’t a lot of furniture in the bedroom to begin with. There’s the dusty long mirror, the intricate chandelier, the bedside table, the definitely haunted painting on the wall, the bed…
“You know,” Olive says, “that looks really bouncy.”
Laura Lukey doesn’t respond.
Her eyes are stuck to the red carpet.
“Can I jump on it?” Olive asks.
Surprised, Laura looks up. Her surprise makes her features seem even longer and thinner. “I suppose,” she says.
Olive bends down and starts undoing their boots. “Are you gonna join me? It’s your bed, after all.”
Only when both Olive’s boots are off and they’re carefully stepping onto the bed, does Laura Lukey nod hesitatingly.
She picks up her skirt, revealing long, thin legs and small dainty shoes that she carefully puts away.
Then she gets on the bed.
The mysterious relative of the haunted house looks at the owner of the only ghost hunting podcast in Miracle.
“What now?” Laura asks.
Olive grins. “We jump.”
And they do.
The bed is incredibly bouncy. It sings underneath their feet as they make dents into the immaculately made sheets and jostle the pillows. One even falls on the floor. Olive laughs at the bewildered joy on Laura’s face.
The bedroom doesn’t feel so eerily silent anymore.
“Amazing,” Olive says, out of breath. “Your hair is still perfect.”
Laura reaches up for her bun, then stops halfway and instead reaches for Olive’s frizzy pink hair. “I’m afraid I can’t say the same for yours.”
Her fingers brush against Olive’s cheek and it feels like nothing at all.
The touch is as thin as everything else about Laura is thin. Her voice, her face, her fingers.
Yet, like the deep sigh that Laura heaved,
Olive can somehow feel it in their bones.
“Uh, gee,” they say.
* * *
The next day, everything that happened at Lucky House feels like a dream.
A dream with swirling Victorian wallpaper, plush carpets, and bouncy beds,
accompanied by a beautiful piano piece.
Olive sits in their yellow and orange kitchen, drinking a large glass of orange juice and listening to their mother talking about a book she’s read.
But their mind keeps going back to the long, thin woman.
The lost relative of the Lukey House.
“Mom, can Jamal come over?” Olive asks, when their mom seems to be done with the book review. “I want to work on my podcast.”
Which is why both of them are now sitting cross-legged on Olive’s bedroom floor,
knees peeking out from their shorts—Jamal’s are a beige number and Olive’s are technically not shorts because they’re denim dungarees.
“I can’t believe you went to the Lucky House without me,” Jamal says. His face scrunches up. And because his eyebrows are very dark and very thick, it’s double as effective. “No, wait, never mind. I wouldn’t have come anyway. That place is scary.”
“I know,” Olive says.
“So did you hear the music? Did you see the figure behind the window? Wait.” Jamal leans forward. “How did you even get into the house? Did you break a window?”
He says the last question like he would find it very cool if they had.
Olive grins and holds up the recorder. “Nope. Though I did hear the music, but it’s not like you think. I’ll let you listen to it.”
“Wait, I’ll close the curtains!”
Jamal closes the curtains and Olive closes the doors. Only a thin sliver of light peeks between Olive’s green curtains.
When they both deem the room’s ambiance appropriate, they settle on the ground, the recorder between them.
First, there’s white noise.
In the distance, a bird caws. Jamal and Olive look at each other and say, at the same time, “Crow.”
Because that is their other shared hobby.
When they can’t hunt ghosts, they’ll hunt birds.
“Hello dear listeners,” the Olive from last night says. “I’m standing in front of the Lucky House right now, and lemme tell you. It’s looking very quiet tonight.”
Very vaguely, they can hear Olive’s footsteps as they walk through the front garden up to the house. Olive tells the listeners more about what the Lucky House looks like. Jamal gives an approving nod.
Then, three knocks on the door.
They sound surprisingly loud on the recording. Olive must’ve held the device closer to the door than they’d thought.
“Okay,” the Olive on the tape says. “Seems like no one’s home tonight, so—”
Then the Olive on the recording starts the spiel they practiced in their head. “Hello, I’d love to take a look at your house.”
Because Olive knows what’s coming, they look excitedly at Jamal, wanting to see his reaction to the news.
There’s a silence.
Why is there a silence?
“Oh, sorry! I’m Olive, a junior at Miracle High. If you don’t mind, I use they/them pronouns.”
Jamal gives them a Look.
Then he blinks.
“Wait,” he says. “Are you introducing yourself to the house?”
A shiver runs along Olive’s spine. “I’m not—”
“Uh, gee,” the Olive from last night continues. “Yeah, sure you can! Whatever you’re comfortable with.”
Jamal’s eyes narrow. “Who are you talking to?”
Olive shakes their head.
The recorder shakes in their hands.
This can’t be right.
Why is there only their own voice? They held the recorder high enough to be able to catch Laura Lukey’s voice.
“I’m sorry?” the Olive from last night continues.
It gives the Olive from right now the creeps. “This can’t be right,” they say. “I talked to the owner of the house. I met her!”
“The owner?” Jamal looks at Olive. “Olli, there is no owner. Lucky House has been sitting empty for years.”
“But I saw her a few times when I walked by the house. And, and, now I met her! And talked to her. She showed me around the house and we jumped on her bed.”
“Frick,” Jamal says, eyes wide and spooked. “Did you actually… Olli, did you actually—”
A piano starts playing.
It’s a beautiful song,
though it sounds like it belongs to another time.
Olive feels the hairs on the back of their neck raise.
“Uh, gee,” they say quietly.
* * *