Chapter 1: Eden (Part 2)

I’ve never been a big fan of weather. If it’s cold outside, you’re freezing and miserable. If it’s hot, you just want to find some air conditioning. Rain? Wind? Snow? They’re all just generally bothersome and require extra work and protection. Now, does this mean I would prefer to live in a vacuum environment with no form of nature whatsoever? If you had asked me when I was standing on that country hillside after getting out of the car, I would have accepted in a heartbeat.

Shielding my eyes from the sun, I looked across the field at the small group of adults happily standing outside. These people are monsters, I thought. Or mutants. No normal person can survive in these conditions.

My parents were talking to two other pairs of adults, who I assumed where the Hopes and the Braunwalds. It was fairly easy to tell who was who. The Braunwalds, who owned the house, were prim and well groomed, not unlike the hillside we were standing on. Tall, lean, blonde with blue eyes, their European heritage was almost obnoxious in its obviousness. With the sun shining on their too perfect smiles, it was almost like a scene out of The Sound of Music, except the stout couple standing next to them ruined the illusion. Unlike the Braunwalds, Mr. and Mrs. Hope were perfect representations of a…different nationality. Clad in khakis and oversized T-Shirts, they were perhaps the only other people besides me who looked like they would rather be indoors. The contrast between the two couples, with my relatively average parents in between, was almost comical.

But the true feature of the landscape was the tall Victorian style house at the top of the hill. The main building was four stories high, with additional spires that added to the height. More tall than wide, it seemed like it could tip over at any moment. Ornate windows dotted the outside and I noted that it had, not one, not two, but three chimneys. It had clearly been around for a while, as long streams of vines crept their way up an entire side of the house. The Braunwalds had done a fair amount of restoration work, but that didn’t change the fact it looked like something the Scooby gang would run around in.

Despite the heat, I shivered. It’s just an old wooden house, you doofus. Plus, even with the creep factor of the house, I couldn’t deny it offered something drastically needed…shade. And maybe air conditioning. Let’s not push our luck.

I slogged my way over to the house, hoping to avoid drawing attention to myself, but of course, my parents saw me and motioned for me to come over and meet everyone. I would have more than enough time this month to be tortured by what would be an endless barrage of prying questions about my school life and plans for the future, something I wasn’t too keen on talking about. I awkwardly pantomimed that I had to go to the bathroom and made a break for the door.

The house was even more intimidating up close. It seemed to tower over me, leaning slightly forward. The front door was two massive slabs of wood that made me feel like I had shrunken a few feet. I checked to make sure my parents attention had drifted back towards the others; it would be super awkward if they saw me struggling to open a door. I’m no weakling, but this one looked like it was going to be a bitch to open. As I reached for the brass knob, something shifted in the corner of my eye. I looked up to one of the windows and saw a small, pale face staring at me with pure black eyes like voids. I blinked and it disappeared. NOPE NOPE NOPE-

The door opened just as I was about get the hell out of there and spend the rest of the summer locked in the car. Two figures stood in the hall and for a second I thought I was seeing double. Evil Ghost Twins. Shit!

“Are you okay?” the boy on the right asked. “You look kind of sick.”

These are the most considerate ghosts I’ve ever met. I realized I had my eyes closed and opened them to find two normal human twins looking me over with half concern and half confusion. Jeez, great way to start off. What had freaked me out so much?

“Oh. No. I’m fine. Sorry, you guys surprised me when you opened the door. I mean, I thought I saw something and kind of zoned out and…” I realized that my rambling wasn’t helping make myself look any less insane.

The two exchanged a side-glance and I realized who they had to be. Like their parents, the Braunwald children were annoyingly beautiful. A boy and a girl, they would have been hard to tell apart if not for the girl’s long, golden-blonde hair and considerably more feminine…features. They each wore nice pants and a polo, and wouldn’t have looked out of place on the cover of a golfing magazine.

The girl recovered from the awkwardness quickly and stuck out her hand. “I’m Diana! You’re Eden, right? Glad to finally meet you!”

I shook their hands and noted that their grips were firm and confident. Of course. The boy flashed a smile that would have made fan girls swoon. “Patrick. I’ll admit, it’s not as cool as your name.”

I realized I was fidgeting with the bottom of my shirt, and forced myself to stop. “Yeah, my parents met in a religious studies class so they thought-“ I froze midsentence and stared between the two perplexed Braunwald twins. Right in the middle of the hallway, shrouded in darkness, was the pale ghostly face from before, staring right at me with its pitch-black eyes.

I tried blinking but the face didn’t disappear this time. Then, slowly, it began moving closer.

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