“I mentioned ghosts?”

“Oh, yes. A little girl, Miss Pennyface, and Mister Shadow.”

A thin sliver of fear shoots up my spine like a titanium rod. I sit up straighter in my chair.

“My father made them up.”

“It’s possible,” Dr. Weber says. “Children are impressionable. If an adult tells them something, no matter how impossible it may sound, a child will tend to believe it. Take Santa Claus, for example. So, yes, your father could have planted the idea of these people in your head.”

For the first time since we’ve sat down, I detect uncertainty in Dr. Weber’s voice.

“You don’t think that’s what happened,” I say.

“I don’t.” The doctor shifts in her chair. “I can tell when a child’s thinking has been manipulated. That wasn’t the case with you. It’s why I remember that session so vividly after all these years. You spoke with complete conviction.”

“About ghosts?”

Dr. Weber nods. “You said they came into your room at night. One of them whispered to you in the darkness, warning you that you were going to die.”

“They were probably night terrors. I’ve had them since I was a little girl.”

“I don’t recall your parents mentioning anything about that,” Dr. Weber says. “Do you still have them?”

“That’s what it says on my Valium prescription.”

Dr. Weber doesn’t crack a smile at my admittedly bad joke. “The thing about people who suffer from night terrors is that they think they’re real only when they’re taking place. Once they wake up, they know it was just a bad dream.”

I think about the night terror I’d had three nights ago. Me in bed and Mister Shadow watching me from the armoire. Even days later, it still makes me uneasy.

“So, those things I claimed to have seen—I thought they were real?”

“Even when you were wide awake,” Dr. Weber says.

The chair seems to give way beneath me. Like I’m sinking into it, on the verge of sliding into nothingness. The sensation’s so strong that I need to look down to confirm it’s not really happening. Even then, the sinking feeling persists.

“So the stuff in the Book—the things you told my parents—”

“It’s mostly true,” Dr. Weber says. “I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the rest of the book, but that part happened. You truly believed these beings existed.”

“But they didn’t,” I say, still feeling myself sinking. Down, down, down. Deeper into the rabbit hole.

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” Dr. Weber says. “But you did believe that something was coming into your room at night. Whether it was real or imagined, I can’t say. But it did weigh on your mind. Something was haunting you.”

I stand, relieved to be out of that chair. A backward glance confirms that the cushion is still there. That the sinking sensation had all been in my head.

I wish I could say the same about the ghosts I claimed to have seen as a child. But there’s nothing to prove that they weren’t made-up, either by me or my father.

All I know is that, at least to my young mind, those three spirits, including Mister Shadow, were absolutely real.


Day 14

Part of Jess’s new job required her to teach summer school, which began that morning. Left to our own devices, Maggie and I went to the local farmers’ market and then the grocery store.

It felt nice to get out of the house, even if it was just for errands. After what Maggie had said the night before, I wanted to spend as little time in Baneberry Hall as possible.

“Remember what Dr. Weber told us,” Jess said before leaving for work, as if seeing a psychologist had been her idea. “This is just Maggie’s way of processing what happened.”

But I was concerned. So much so that I made Maggie sit at the kitchen table with some crayons and paper while I put away groceries. I was placing canned goods in a cupboard, my back turned to Maggie, when one of the bells on the wall suddenly chimed—a tinny half ring that stopped as suddenly as it started.

“Please don’t do that, Mags.”

“Do what?”

The bell chimed again.

“That,” I said.

“I didn’t do any—”

The bell rang a third time, cutting her off. I spun away from the cupboard, expecting to see Maggie at the wall, straining on her tiptoes to reach one of the bottom bells. But she remained at the table, crayon in hand.

The bell let out another ring, and this time I saw it move. The whorl of metal tilted ever so slightly, taking the bell with it until that familiar ring sounded again. That’s when I knew it wasn’t Maggie’s doing and that the rope attached to that bell had purposefully been tugged.

I looked to the label above the bell, which now sat silent and still.

The Indigo Room.

“Stay right here,” I told Maggie. “Do not move.”

I took the steps to the first floor two at a time, hoping speed would help me catch whoever was doing this in the act. After rushing through the great room and to the front of the house, I burst into the Indigo Room.

It was empty.

An uneasy feeling overcame me as I spun slowly in the center of the room. A sense that something strange was going on. Something beyond Maggie’s imaginings. As I continued to spin, making sure the room was indeed completely empty, one thing I didn’t feel was surprise.