1 ROANOKE RAPIDS, Spring 2007
The car ride home from Melody’s school seemed longer than usual. The note from her teacher troubled Shyanne. Melody had always loved school, but lately, several of Melody's papers had come home marked “incomplete” in red ink. Earlier notes reported that Melody was missing several pieces of homework. This confused Shyanne, she and Drake helped Melody with her homework every night, and insured the papers were packed neatly in her book bag. Why was it not making it to class?
Her daughter’s performance at school was not the only thing that concerned Shyanne.
Melody was withdrawn, quiet and Shyanne could not even remember how long it had been since she had heard her little girl laugh. All attempts to get the child to open up about what was wrong had come to naught.
Thinking she might be ill, Shyanne made an appointment with Melody’s pediatrician, after a thorough and detailed examination, he said, “Sound as a dollar.” He fished a lollipop from his pocket and presented it to his patient as he always did. Melody took it and whispered a polite thank you before burying it inside the pocket of her skirt.
Something was not right and Shyanne was at her wit's end trying to figure it out. What bothered her most was how sad Melody looked when she handed over the conference request. Poor thing thinks she’s in trouble.
Shyanne turned onto Tillet Lane. She reached over and patted Melody's leg affectionately, “It’s alright Darling, almost home! We’ll get all this figured out together. I promise.”
Melody did not answer; she just stared out the passenger window.
Shyanne was relieved to see Drake's truck in the driveway when she pulled up. Melody's teacher, Ms. Ames had included her personal phone number on the note that read, “Call anytime at your earliest convenience to set up an appointment. We really need to talk about Melody.” Shyanne was not sure what Drake’s workweek was shaping up to be, but he would need to work around this conference, it was too important for him to miss.
Later that evening at supper, Melody absently pushed the little green peas she loved so well absently around her plate. Shyanne and Drake made brief eye contact; the child had not eaten a bite.
“Eat your supper munchkin, Mama got us some ice cream today, but we can’t have any if we don’t eat our peas.” Drake made a yucky face at Melody. It was no secret that Drake hated peas. These antics usually made the little girl giggle and chide her father to eat the vegetable. This time, she did not even look up from the plate. Shyanne glanced at the clock and then to Drake, she wanted to call Melody's teacher before it got too late.
Drake watched Melody thoughtfully. “Well Mama might put me in time-out for breaking the house rules, but if you’ve eaten all the supper you’re going to eat, how ‘bout that bowl of ice cream anyway.”
Melody did not look up from her plate when she whispered, “No, thank you. I don’t feel so good.”
Drake and Shyanne made eye contact again, exchanging communication in the classic way of parents.
Drake stood, “Alright munchkin, let’s get you in the bath and ready for bed.”
Melody stood obediently and started up the stairs. Drake nodded to Shyanne, “Go ahead and make that call, I’ll clear the whole day if I have to.”
Shyanne scrolled absently through channels on the television as she sat cross-legged in bed. The sound of Drake's voice as he read “Curious George” to their daughter drifted in through the bedroom door. The odd thing was she did not hear Melody’s usual interruptions or giggles. She hit the off button on the remote when she heard Drake in the hallway.
He closed the door when he walked into their bedroom. “She asked me to leave the hall light on and her door open,” he explained. Shyanne read the concern on his face.
Frustrated, Shyanne asked, “Drake? What is going on with her?”
Drake sank down wearily on his side of the bed and slowly removed his sneakers. “Honey, I don’t know but I think maybe she’s worried about this conference.” Speaking over his shoulder he asked, “Did you make that call?”
“Yes, I did. We’re going to meet her right after school tomorrow. I was hoping that she could tell me a little more about what this is about, but she didn’t offer to elaborate. I almost asked but decided against it, I felt bad enough for calling her at home.”
Shyanne picked at a thread on the quilt in her lap as she contemplated a change in subject.
“Honey, I’ve been thinking about this investigation we got coming up. I really don’t think I feel comfortable leaving Melody for an entire week. Especially now with her acting so strangely”
Drake let the laces fall from his hand and exhaled loudly. “Shyanne, we’ve been over this a hundred times, we’ve been planning this trip for a year! Do you realize how big this investigation really is? We’re the first team that’s ever been invited to Blue Lake Sanitarium…we’re going to be the first to get through the front door!”
Shyanne felt her heart drop, and she became defensive immediately. “Important to whom, Drake? You? Me? Oh no, I forgot, it’s important to Dr. Glencannon, that’s who!”
Shyanne felt remorse for her outburst instantly and softened her tone. “Listen, I’m not asking you guys to cancel. Just think about maybe postponing it for a month or so. Even better, you guys go, and I’ll stay home with Melody.”
Not believing what he had just heard, Drake twisted around on the bed. “Shy? You know we can’t go without you, what would be the point? You’re the reason they’re shooting this documentary in the first place!”
Shyanne’s defensiveness returned, “Now that you’ve brought that up, you know how I feel about that! This all started out as us helping people and now it’s turning into a side show.”
Too angry to sit, Drake stood and faced her. “That’s not true and you know it! Your face and voice are always obscured on the videos! There’s nothing sideshow about it, and another thing, I think you’re using this parent teacher conference as an excuse to bring this up because you don’t want to do it! You’ve been against it since it came up. It doesn’t have anything to do with Melody. This is about you! Be honest!”
It was Shyanne’s turn to stand up on her side of the bed and square off with Drake. It had been a long time since she was this angry. It wasn’t his words that made her so mad but rather the ring of truth in them. The idea of sensationalizing what they did, exploiting the dead, felt all wrong to her, and always had. Over the years, Drake and the rest of the team had respected her feelings on the subject, but now with all the attention they were getting, things were starting to change.
Reality TV had made rock stars of paranormal investigators and sparked tremendous interest in the supernatural. Suddenly, every teenager in the country wanted to be a ghost hunter. Glencannon’s research was drawing more attention than ever. As the team’s only medium, her insistence for discretion had only heightened the media’s interest in her identity. This project, more than the others, made her nervous; she was scared that her anonymity was in peril. If the world learned who she was, it would be impossible for her family to have a normal life.
“That’s just the thing Drake! Blocking out my face and changing my voice only heightens public interest in who I am! You’ve read the articles on the internet…they think we’re pulling some kind of publicity stunt by keeping my identity secret! Everybody’s just waitin’ for the big reveal! Eventually, somebody will figure it out and when they do, they’re going to be on our front door step with cameras and microphones. Half the world will call us charlatans and the other half will never leave us alone. Is that what you want? I’ve said it before, but I swear to you Drake Monroe, I mean every word of it this time…this is it, this is the last time, do you hear me?”
Drake sighed heavily; all of the fight had left him. She was right and he knew it. It was just a matter of time before somebody found out who she was. Only Shyanne understood the weight of the burden she carried. Her gifts, while fascinating to the rest of the world, were more like a cross she had to bear every day. He was the only one who saw how much it drained her at times, how hard she had to fight to keep boundaries with entities that did not have her best interest at heart. She deserved a normal life, as normal a life as someone like her could have.
“Shy, I do hear you and I do understand, honey, I really do. This is it, I promise. No more documentaries, no more public investigations…but we have to see this one through, we’ve already committed, and it’s not fair to the rest of the team. Melody will be fine, she’s stayed with Sara for a week before, besides, she’ll be playing with Casey the whole time anyway. She’ll barely know we’re gone.”
Shyanne faltered. Drake was right, and she believed what he said about this being the last one but needed a little more assurance. “You promise?”
Drake smiled sincerely, “Yes Baby, this is the last one, I promise.”
Drake changed out of his jeans and donned the shorts he typically slept in and then quickly pulled back the covers. Immediately after climbing into the bed, he reached for Shyanne. She was reluctant at first, but finally snuggled into his shoulder.
“Don’t worry Baby, we’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on with Melody tomorrow, it’ll all be alright,” he said as he reached for the lamp switch.
Sleep did not come as easily for Shyanne as it did for Drake. He was out cold five minutes after killing the light, but Shyanne tossed and tumbled, drifting in and out of a shallow sleep for hours. The light from the hallway filtering around their closed bedroom door created a bright rectangular silhouette on the wall. The digital alarm clock on her nightstand read 2:45 am.
Shyanne tossed the covers back with a loud sigh, got up and plodded toward the door. When she opened it, she saw that Melody’s door was shut. Maybe the light was bothering her and she closed it. Shyanne found the light switch in the hall and switched it off. As she walked back into her own room, she stopped. Staring toward Melody’s room, she pushed her hair behind her ear with one finger and listened. Shyanne tiptoed quietly toward the closed door and as she drew closer, the sounds of loud whispers coming from her daughter’s bedroom became clear. Shyanne’s heartbeat threatened to drown the sound.
A familiar voice spoke urgently in her ear, “Get in there NOW!”
Shyanne leaped toward the door and grabbed the handle. When it did not turn, she grew frantic, and shook it with all her strength. The voices from within were louder now, and Shyanne gave in to panic. She pounded the door with her open hand and shouted, “Melody! Melody, open the door honey! It’s Mommy, open the door right this minute!”
Suddenly Drake was at her shoulder, “What’s going on? It can’t be locked, there is no lock!”
Without speaking, Shyanne backed up as Drake took position at the door, calling to his daughter inside, demanding that she open the door immediately. When she did not, Drake backed up a few feet and with all the power he had, kicked the door.
The door flew open with such force that the handle knocked a chunk of drywall out where it struck the wall. A horrible odor akin to raw sewage wafted into Shyanne’s’ face as they plunged through the doorway. Drake did not seem to notice it.
Drake ran toward the bed where Melody lay motionless. “Melody! Melody, wake up sweetie,” he implored, but the child remained still. Shyanne felt as if she was submerged in a pool of water. The muffled sound of Drake’s voice sounded distant. Her body felt sluggish and non-responsive while her mind raced at break neck speed. What is happening, oh my God, what is happening?
The whispering in the corner of the room resumed and Shyanne’s eyes were pulled toward the sound. Drake’s shouting seemed miles away as she stared at the shadows along the wall. She was unable to pull her eyes away from the smallest one standing in the front. Oh my God, NO!
Suddenly Drake grabbed her arm, shaking her out of it. “Shyanne! Did you hear me? She won’t wake up! We’ve got to get her to a hospital.” Drake’s urgent voice pulled her attention back to her daughter. Shyanne rushed to the bed, touched Melody’s face, and drew back quickly. Her skin was as cold as ice.