Sometime during the night Brandon woke up, and when he got out of bed he woke me up too. When I looked to see what he was up to, he seemed quite agitated, so I attempted to find out what was bothering him.
“Is something wrong?”
“Yes, did you turn on the lamp on my side of the bed?”
“No, I was sleeping until I felt you moving around.”
“I got up because the lamp on my nightstand was on and the light woke me. You know how sensitive I am to any sort of light while I’m sleeping.”
“Yes, I do, so I wouldn’t have done that. Hell, I wouldn’t even turn on the lamp on my side of the bed unless it was an emergency.”
“Then one of the boys must be playing a prank on me.”
“Let me go check to see if any of them are awake.”
I went to each of their bedrooms and the boys all seemed to be deep in slumber, so I couldn’t see how any of them could have been responsible. I told Brandon the same thing when I returned to the room.
“They’re all sound asleep, so I doubt it was any of them.”
“But someone must have done it.”
“I would agree, unless you did it without realizing it.”
“No, it wasn’t me, so it had to be one of the boys.”
“Look, I immediately suspected them too when I couldn’t find the keys, but the boys all swore they didn’t do it. Not only that, but they weren’t in the shower with me when I got scratched, so how would you explain that?”
“But they could have messed with the keys and turned on the lamp.”
“Possibly, but they would have to be faster than hell to get in and out of our bedroom without me catching them, because you know I’m a light sleeper. I didn’t hear or see anything before the light bothered you, but I woke up the second you started moving around. I just don’t see how the boys could be responsible.”
“You might be right, but what’s going on then?”
“I don’t have a clue, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t them.”
Brandon wasn’t totally convinced, but he turned off the lamp and we cuddled together as we dozed off again. In the morning we mentioned what had happened to everyone else while we were eating breakfast.
“Did anyone come into our room during the night?” Bandon asked starting the conversation.
“No,” everyone replied at nearly the same time.
“Why do you ask?” Dad followed.
“In the middle of the night someone turned on the lamp on my nightstand and it woke me up.”
“Do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do,” we heard Pop hum as he imitated the Twilight Zone theme.
“Yes, it’s very strange,” I agreed. “These things are happening far too often and we can’t seem to find an explanation for any of them.”
“At least nothing serious has happened, although the scratches on your back were disconcerting,” Dad offered.
“And hopefully nothing worse will happen,” Brandon added while shaking his head concerning this enigma.
“I’ll drink to that,” Pop quipped as he held up his coffee cup before taking a swig.
The rest of the day was relatively uneventful, and Brandon and I discussed the various incidents again while we were eating lunch, but we were unable to come up with any explanations. There had to be one, although for some reason we just weren’t seeing it, but maybe it would come to us later.
When we got home that evening, we had to rush in order to get ready for Wyatt’s concert. Fortunately, Trey had dinner ready when we arrived, so we sat down to eat, and then we made sure the boys all looked presentable before heading to the elementary school.
Dion and Trey walked Wyatt to his classroom while the rest of us found seats, and they joined us a few minutes later. Once we were all together, we had to wait another twenty minutes before the concert began.
The elementary school consisted of grades K through 4, and the kindergarten classes were up first. They were adorable as they sang “Jingle Bells” while simultaneously shaking small bells that were wrapped around their wrists. After that they sang “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer”, and this time they all wore LED red noses that they put on just as soon as the first song ended.
Once the kindergarteners left the risers, the first graders took their place and sang “Frosty the Snowman”. When that song ended, they all put on a Santa hat before singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.
“Man, I could hear Wyatt even with all those other kids singing,” Ryan noted once Wyatt’s group had finished.
“And he sounded as good as Joshie,” Noah added.
“Well, I have been giving both of them singing lessons, so I guess it’s paying off,” Dion stated as the second graders were taking their place.
“I didn’t know that,” Dad stated as he looked at Dion. “When have you been doing that?”
“We usually do it after school. I pick up Wyatt first and take him to the middle school, and then I take turns working with Joshie and him before we bring everyone home.”
“Did you know this, Trey?” Brandon followed.
“Yes, because the other boys wait with me until Dion is ready to leave.”
“Damn, we had no idea,” I stated, “but they both sounded great.”
After we watched the second and third graders perform, Tristan got really excited when it was time for the fourth grade to sing. “So I’m gonna be goin’ to school with them?”
“Yes. You’ll be in one of the fourth grade classrooms, but we don’t know which one yet.”
“The kids all look like they’re nice, so I’m not worried.” Brandon and I were pleased to hear him say this.
Tonight after the concert we took the boys to Friendly’s for ice cream first, before returning home. We always like to treat them after these big events, and they all seem to enjoy it.
Once again the boys had to hurry through their showers and get ready for bed, and then we went to bid each of them sweet dreams before we turned in as well.
The next morning we were chatting about Wyatt’s concert when Dion abruptly stopped speaking and began staring at Brandon’s arms. “Brandon, what the hell happened to your wrists? They look bruised.”
As if on cue, we all turned and focused on the portion of Brandon’s arms that were sticking out of the sleeves of his pajamas. Dion was correct and there were very obvious bruises encircling each of his wrists.
“I have no idea,” he responded while shrugging his shoulders. “I had a weird dream last night that I was wresting with a guy who jumped me as I was getting in the car, but I had no idea who it was or why he did it.”
“It must have been Danny then, because a dream couldn’t leave bruises like that.”
“Are you sure you guys aren’t fighting?” Noah asked looking very worried.
“We’re positive,” Brandon answered.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” I added, “but I certainly hope it stops soon.” Everyone nodded his head in agreement.
Brandon and I drove to work after the boys left for school, and when we met up for lunch later, we talked about the rash of unexplained occurrences. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but we can’t all be hallucinating about these things,” I offered.
“No, they’re very real, and it’s kind of spooky. I’m beginning to feel as if we’re starring in a low budget horror movie.”
“Yes, it is perplexing and unnerving.”
After we returned home and ate dinner with the family, everyone helped out as we started getting the house ready for the weekend. Elliot would be returning from college the following evening, and the rest of our siblings and their families would begin showing up on either Saturday or Sunday. As soon as each room had been cleaned and the beds were made, we had the boys take their showers and then we all turned in.
I’d been sleeping soundly for a couple of hours when all of the sudden I couldn’t catch my breath and the sensation of suffocating woke me up. I was in a total panic and unable to call out for help, so thinking quickly I grabbed Brandon’s shoulder and started to shake him. He woke up quickly and turned on the lamp before looking over at me. As soon as he saw my predicament, he jumped into action, pulled me into a sitting position, and started pounding on my back, hoping that would help. A few seconds later I began gasping for air, and then in another minute I started breathing normally again.
“What the hell just happened?” Brandon shouted after I’d recovered.
“I have no idea, but I woke up because I was having trouble breathing. It felt like there was something heavy on my chest that was preventing me from getting air into my lungs.”
“Damn, I was really scared. I thought I was going to lose you.”
“Yes, I was terrified too and thought I was going to die.”
It took quite a few minutes before either of us could calm down again, but after we did we talked about what had happened briefly. Being a doctor, I didn’t have an explanation for what I’d experienced, and that scared me even more. Was this related to everything else that had been going on, or was it something totally different? I didn’t have an answer to that question either, but I did have something I needed to tell Brandon before we went back to sleep.
“Please don’t mention this in front of the boys, because I don’t want them to worry. I think they’re already pretty shaken up about the other things that have occurred and I don’t wish to make matters worse. I’ll get Dad alone later and mention it to him, and I’ll tell Pop, Dion, and Trey about it too, but the boys don’t need to know what happened.”
“Ok, as long as you tell the others, because this is really starting to freak me out.”
I didn’t have any further problems during the night, but the experience left me with a great deal of concern. I was still extremely tired when the alarm eventually went off, but I got up and went downstairs to join the others. I didn’t say anything about my experience at breakfast, although I would tell the other adults later. However, for now I merely attempted to put on a brave front so I didn’t alarm the boys.
I did my best to stop thinking about all of the strange occurrences during the day and attempted to focus my attention on seeing Elliot this evening. He’d been home for Thanksgiving, but that was before Tristan came to live with us, so they hadn’t met. Of course we’d told each of them about the other, but this was going to be the first time they would meet face-to-face. It was also going to be Tristan’s first Christmas with us.
Elliot wasn’t at the house when we arrived after work, but he showed up while we were eating dinner. When we saw his car pull into the driveway, we all got up from the table to welcome him home. We gave him a chance to set his satchel on the floor first, before any of us spoke.
“We’re all glad you made it home safely,” I said after giving him a hug. I then gave the others a chance to greet him before I continued. “Elliot, I’d like to introduce you to your newest little brother, Tristan. Tristan, this is your big brother, Elliot.”
“Hi, but Noah’s bigger than him,” Tristan responded innocently.
I could tell Tristan’s comment stung Elliot slightly, because he was self-conscious about his height. Noah had grown a few inches over the past couple of years, so now he was taller than Elliot.
“Maybe I should have said your oldest brother,” I offered, trying to smooth things over.
“Elliot plays the piano that’s in the family room,” Joshie informed Tristan next, taking attention away from my faux pas. “Elliot, will you play the “Peanuts Theme Song” for Tristan?”
“Damn, haven’t you outgrown that yet?” Elliot quipped and then he giggled.
“Yeah, I have, but I think Tristan would enjoy hearing it.”
“Not until after we finish eating,” Brandon interjected. “Elliot, go sit down at the table and I’ll bring you a plate, some utensils, and a glass.”
“Thanks. I haven’t had anything since lunch, but I didn’t want to take the time to stop and eat on the way here, so I’m starving.”
We let Elliot and Tristan dominate the conversation as they asked each other numerous questions in between bites. As they got to know each other a little better, we did too, because we were able to pick up on a few things we didn’t know as well, so it paid to listen. As soon as we’d all finished eating, Elliot went to the family room with the boys and played the “Peanuts Theme Song” for Tristan.
“I’ll play a bunch of Christmas songs for you later, but now I want to take my things up to my room and unpack.”
“Are you coming back down here when you finish, or are you going to bed early?” Dad wanted to know.
“I am tired, but I’ll come back downstairs for a little longer. I just want to take care of my things before it gets too late.”
The boys wanted to follow Elliot up to his room, but we told them to let him have some time to himself, because they’d have all weekend and the next week to be with him. They grudgingly gave in as Elliot started up the stairway.
About a half hour later, we heard Elliot yell, “What the fuck?” followed by some banging noises coming from the top of the staircase. We all rushed out to see what had happened and if he was all right.
“What’s wrong? Did you trip?” I asked.
“Hell no. It felt like someone pushed me, but there was no one else around.”
The rest of us took furtive glances at each other, knowing this was another of the recent unexplained occurrences. “Are you injured?” Brandon followed, once again displaying his paternal instincts.
“No, I was able to grab onto the handrail, so I just slammed into the wall. If I hadn’t done that, I probably would have fallen down the whole flight of stairs.”
We involuntarily shuddered when he said this, because we realized a fall of that nature could have been serious, so we were fortunate it hadn’t happened. Once the excitement died down a bit, we all went to the family room to chat and Elliot filled us in about what he’d been up to since we’d last seen him. When he finished, he sat down at the piano and played a few Christmas songs as we all sang along, including Tristan. He appeared to be thoroughly enjoying it.
“Man, I never did stuff like this with my mom and dad.”
“Oh, we do lots of things like this,” Elliot advised him.
“Good, cuz I like it and think it’s fun.”
A couple of hours later we advised the boys it was time for them to shower. “Do we have to do that tonight, cuz we’re on vacation now?” Benny objected.
“Yes, because we don’t know what time the others will start showing up tomorrow and you won’t want to do it once they’re here.”
“Ok,” he relented, and then they all headed upstairs to take turns washing up and getting ready for bed.
After we said goodnight and tucked them in, Brandon and I turned in as well. It had been a long day and we were both tired from losing sleep the night before, and we wanted to be well rested before the others arrived.
I had been asleep for a couple of hours when I woke up. I thought I’d heard someone walking around, so I got up to see who it was. My first thought was that one of the boys might need help, but I didn’t see anyone around. I searched all three floors to see if anyone was up, but everyone appeared to be sleeping soundly. Was I having a mental breakdown or was it just a dream? No, neither of those things was happening. I wasn’t even a little groggy after waking up, so that couldn’t be the answer, but what had I heard?
I continued listening for more noises after I returned to bed, and before long I once again heard footsteps in the hallway. The strange thing was it sounded as if the person was wearing boots or dress shoes. I got up to see who was walking around, but once again I didn’t find anyone. This wasn’t making sense. Could it possibly be just my imagination? I didn’t think so, but it took me a while before I fell asleep again.
The next morning, most of the family was sitting at the dining room table before Elliot came down to join us. We’d let him sleep in, since we knew he was tired after the long drive and wanted him to be well rested before the others arrived. After we finished eating, he pulled me aside. “Dad, can I talk to you in private?”
“Just me, or do you want me to get Brandon too?”
“Yeah, you can get him, but no one else.”
“Why don’t we do this in our bedroom then, because that way I can get dressed at the same time and no one else should bother us? You can head up there now and I’ll go get Brandon and we’ll meet you there shortly.”
When Brandon finished up in the kitchen, he joined me to head upstairs to change, so I filled him in about what was going to happen. “Elliot’s waiting for us in our bedroom. He wants to talk about something.”
“He does? Do you know what it’s about?”
“No. He just said he wanted to speak with us, so I sent him up to our bedroom.”
“Ok, let’s go see what he wants.”
When we reached our bedroom, Elliot was sitting on the bed waiting. When we walked in, I shut the door for privacy. “Ok, what’s on your mind?”
“I thought we called a truce on playing pranks,” he began.
“We did, and everyone agreed to it.”
“I don’t think everyone did, because I heard someone in my room last night.”
“Did you see who it was and what he was doing?” Brandon followed.
“No, I think I scared him off before he did anything, but then I heard him in the room again later. I wasn’t able to catch anybody, but I know there was someone in my room.”
“It might have been me, because I thought I heard something and got up to check it out. I also checked on everyone to see if anyone was having a problem.”
“Did you come in my room?”
“No, I just opened the door and looked in on you.”
“Then it wasn’t you, because I heard someone walking around inside my room.”
Brandon and I looked at each other before Brandon spoke. “Maybe it was just the typical noises that an older house makes or you heard a squirrel walking on the roof.”
“It wasn’t either of those things. I definitely heard someone walking around my room.”
“If it was that obvious, then why didn’t you catch him?” Brandon continued.
“I don’t know and couldn’t figure it out either, but I could definitely hear someone walking around.”
“I don’t want to get into it now, but I thought I heard someone walking around last night too and there have been some other strange things going on around here lately. I don’t think the boys were involved in this, because they were all sleeping when I checked on them.”
“Then what do you think is happening?”
“I’m not sure, but we’ll discuss it later. For now, we need to get dressed because the others will be showing up soon, but please don’t mention this to the other boys. I don’t want to upset them.”
“Ok, but these things are starting to creep me out.”
Brandon and I only spoke about this briefly as we were getting dressed.
“Why didn’t you tell me you heard someone walking around last night?”
“I wasn’t sure and thought there was a possibility it was just my imagination.”
He didn’t pursue the topic further and we finished getting dressed. Almost as soon as we got downstairs, the first of those arriving for the holiday showed up. It was Andrew, Sammy, and Graham.
We all went out to the foyer to welcome them, and then I introduced them to Tristan. “Don’t worry about remembering all of our names, because there will be a whole bunch of people showing up and it will get very confusing,” Sammy told him.
“So you’re my uncles too?”
“Yes and there will be a great many more showing up between now and Christmas.”
A short time later the first of Dad’s biological children arrived, along with his family. Unfortunately, only a couple of Dad’s biological grandchildren are around the same age as the younger boys, and the rest of them are Noah’s age or older.
As everyone was moving around the house and chatting with different groups, Graham found me and pulled me aside. “You’ve got some different guests this year.”
“Only Ricky’s girlfriend, but she was here at Thanksgiving as well.”
“No, not that type of guests.”
“Oh, you mean the ghostly variety?”
“Yes. There’s a woman here that I’ve never seen before.”
“What does she look like?” Graham described her to me and I immediately knew who he meant. “That’s Tristan’s mother. I only saw her at the funeral, but you described her perfectly. I’m sure she’s just here to make sure Tristan is doing ok.”
“She’s not the only one who’s here for the first time either, because there are two guys here as well. I know who one of them is, and he might be a problem, but I’m not sure who the other one is.”
“One of them is probably Tristan’s dad.”
“Not unless he’s a lot younger than Tristan’s mom.”
“No, it can’t be him then. So who is the one you think might be a problem?”
“It’s David Hubbard.” I felt an uneasy sensation in the pit of my stomach as soon as I heard his name.
“Damn, every time I think we’ve seen the last of him he shows up again, and this time he’s not even among the living.”
“No, and he’s not in a wheelchair either. He isn’t walking like the other spirits and merely seems to be floating from place to place.”
“It certainly helps to explain a lot of the things that have been happening lately.”
“Why? What’s been going on?”
“We don’t have time for me to fill you in now, so I’ll tell you about it later. Can you describe the other guy to me?” Graham did and I immediately knew who he was talking about. “That would be a friend of Hubbard’s nephew. His name is Sam Abernathy, and he and Hubbard were killed in a shootout with police a couple of years ago, while Hubbard’s nephew was severely wounded. The problem started when Hubbard’s nephew and Abernathy beat up Ian, Elliot’s boyfriend, and then they defaced Elliot’s car. What are they doing now?”
“Nothing, because Elliot’s father, Andrew and Sammy’s grandfather, Mr. Becker, Mr. Spencer, and Brent are preventing them from causing any mischief.”
“That’s great for now, but most of them are only here for the holiday, except for Brent.”
“Maybe they’ll stick around this time, as long as the other two are still here.”
“Maybe, but no one was stopping Hubbard and Abernathy earlier.”
“I’ll explain later.”