A single word written on a mirror fragment. “HELP.” It says, standing out in the charred wreckage. The crimson letters dulled as the years went by.
She hangs before it, suspended from a support beam. Her sad eyes are focused on the word she wrote over a decade ago.
She slips through the cord, her intangible body phasing through the rough rope. It passes through her neck without ever touching it.
The ligature mark on her neck stands out in stark contrast against her white skin. Her small, bare feet never touch the ground yet she stands on it. She does not feel the wind that rustles the ash and debris around her. It blows through the girl without noticing her presence.
She walks over to the spot on the wall where the plaster and insulation had crumbled away, leaving the cracks between the thick wooden boards exposed. She looks out at the bright world beyond her prison, envious eyes watching the birds fly through the trees.
She looks for a sign of human life. Her charred home lies at the edge of a town with a small population. Only one person explores the area.
She waits for him, pretending to place her hand against the wall as though she were alive. Simple gestures like that ease her melancholy, if only for a brief amount of time. They make her feel like a normal human again.
The sun inches across the sky, casting shadows on the ground as it shifts through the tree leaves. She doesn’t move. Her wistful blue eyes focus on the edge of the road near the small forest. The cracked asphalt simmers in the summer heat.
His worn sneakers slowly coming into view as he nonchalantly strolls down the road, his frail hands clasped behind his back. His gaunt face is turned to the sky, basking in the yellow sunlight. His plaid shirt hangs loosely over his thin frame.
His torn jeans trail on the ground as he walks closer to what remains of the house. He stops outside, hesitating near the faded caution tape. He does so everyday, almost as though it were a part of his routine.
He looks up at the house, his large brown eyes sweeping over the peeling paint. He pauses at each window, staring for an extra second before moving on. His eyes pass right over her.
After the short, preliminary examination of the remains, he steps over the caution tape, holding on to the remains of the front gate for support. The scorched wooden post easily withstands his paltry weight.
The front door hangs ajar, granting him entrance through the threshold. He steps onto the flimsy wooden floor, listening to the oak boards lightly creaking beneath his feet.
The air inside the house is much colder than outside. Dust drapes over everything like a thick blanket, occasionally stirred by his movements. It floats in front of his amaurotic eyes, threatening to invade his vulnerable body with a single inhalation. The thick framed glasses sitting on his nose keep the dust out of his eyes, but they do not help him see. He readjusts them regardless.
The girl listens to the house moan below her. She turns away from the wall, gazing longingly towards the narrow doorway. Her mud stained feet make no sound on the floor, for they never touch it. Even as she appears to walk, her toes remain suspended in the still air an inch above the ground.
He walks further into the house, lightly resting his hand against the nearest wall for support. After many trips here, he knows all the holes in the flimsy floor, and how to avoid them. He makes his way to the staircase, pausing as his fingers touch the banister.
Most of the oak boards were broken or burnt. Even his light weight would be enough to send him crashing through them. He knew this. He realized it every time he came, and it saddened him. The thought of an entire floor lying beyond his reach, lost to all, left him feeling unfulfilled, almost… Lonely…
He felt something drawing him to that floor. It was a feeling he couldn’t understand, but also a feeling he couldn’t shake. He came back here every day as if the staircase would fix itself if he waited long enough.
Not that he had much time left to wait.
She stood before the stairs on the second floor. They led down to the main entryway, but she could never descend. An invisible barrier kept her from stepping onto the broken wood steps.
He seemed to stare right at her, but his eyes would never see the phantasmal image of the girl. They would look right through her wispy existence, straight to the black wall behind her.
Her blue eyes, however, locked on his. Desperation shone in the nearly transparent orbs as her right hand instinctively reached forward, grasping at the air between them, searching for the barrier that separated them.
She could not move. Her bare feet were rooted to their spot. She stayed trapped on the second floor landing. Her left hand hung limply at her side, brushing against her tattered white skirt.
She wanted to speak, to call out to him, but her voice stayed in her throat, cut off by the same rope that stole her life. Its traces were still around her neck, purple bruises that stained her otherwise pure skin.
She wants nothing more than to be found, but the same man that took her life ensured that would never happen.
The boy moves away from the stairs, breaking the short contact he had with her. He turns around and heads back out the door, returning to the real world.
She opens her mouth but still nothing comes out. Her forlorn eyes watch him walk out the door.
She stares at that empty doorway until the sun sets, sending her spirit back to the dangling, decomposing corpse in the master bedroom.