"Na na na na na na na!" droned Bunny. She stood in the top floor hallway under the the hatch to the attic. Her eyes were squeezed shut and she had her fingers in her ears. Her normally porcelain complexion was ruddy with fear and anger. She was surrounded by gleeful siblings. Bobby and Bertram pulled on knotty hanks of her long red hair.
"Come on, you have to do it!" said Bobby.
"Scaredy cat!" said Betram.
"Na na na na na na na NA!" yelled Bunny. She tried to squirm free, like a blind mole rat. Two of her sisters, Beatrice and Becky, held her by the waist of her long, faded, celadon cotton dress. The worn fabric started to rip at the seams. Bunny was the least-liked and most-taunted of the family. She was the only child of Sister Delilah, and was the only one with red hair and fair skin. The other children and mothers suspected she might not even be father's offspring. Even he thought she might be the work of some sinister force, but he never brought up the issue. Sister Delilah was his favored wife, the most beautiful, the most successful, and the one with the coldest heart. She herself treated Bunny with indifference, as she did all the children.
Buck, the oldest brother still living at home, reached up and pulled down on the cord to release the hatch. Beatrice and Betram scooped up Bunny, holding her under the arms and by the feet. Bunny writhed and screamed and kicked. Begonia, the youngest girl yet walking in the family, yanked savagely on Bunny's hair.
"I'm not 'fraid a ghosts," said Begonia teasingly. Bunny reached back and tried to slap her. This riled up the other siblings, and Becky put her hands over Bunny's mouth and nose. Buck finally snatched Bunny up from the other siblings, and mounted the wooden ladder to the attic with Bunny under his arm. Her fierce kicking was not enough to loosen his grip.
At the top, he shoved her inside the attic. She tore her dress and badly scratched her leg on a nail. She screamed with pain but did not cry. She learned long ago never to cry. It creeped out her brothers and sisters.
"You stay up there!" said Buck wagging his finger. He quickly descended, and they closed the attic hatch before she had time to climb down. She sat back in the hot dark and listened to their laughter below. She listened to them run down the hall towards other pursuits.
After a few minutes, Bunny's eyes adjusted to the dimness. This was the largest building in the compound, and the attic was very long. At both triangle shaped ends there were vents that let in the light from outside in horizonal strips. There was pink insulation under the roof, but the floor was covered dusty plywood. There were boxes and boxes of old toys and old clothes, and assorted broken furniture.
Bunny sat and waited. She was grateful for the time away from the other children, but was growing hungry and bored. She watched a large black spider traverse a rung of the folded up ladder. Then she heard a gentle scraping sound from the far end of the attic. She stood up, ears pricked. She listened intently. There was another scrape, longer in duration. Her skin tingled. She quietly tried to peer around boxes for the source of the sound. Then it happened again. Bunny knelt down and tried to push the ladder down but it wouldn't budge. She forced her entire weight on it but it moved less than an inch in response.
The noise happened again, longer and louder.
"Help!" screamed Bunny. "Help!"
Then she felt a thin finger run down her back. She screamed and turned. There was nothing but boxes behind her.
"Let me out!" she screamed, pounding on the ladder. There were footsteps below her, then laughter. The perpetrators ran back down the hall.
Then something caressed her hair. She screamed again, and started running towards the opposite end of the attic from the source of the scraping sounds. She darted around boxes and garbage bags of clothes, and after what seemed an infinity of such boxes and bags, she reached the vent. She shoved her fingers through the vent holes and putting her mouth right up next to it she hollered out to anyone who might be in the compound yard.
"Help! Help! Help! There's something up here! Help!" she screamed over and over until her voice was hoarse.
"I didn't mean to frighten you," said a distant-sounding voice. Bunny whipped around, panting, to see no one.
"I'm not afraid of you!" she yelled. There was a chuckle in response. "Who are you!? You must be Brady or Beau 'cause you weren't downstairs!" she accused two of her brothers.
"I'm neither," said the voice.
"Who are you?" yelled Bunny again.
"I'm your father," said the voice.
"No you're not!" yelled Bunny. "Father's at work at the post office right now like he always is!"
"That's not your real father," said the voice.
"I know what you are! You're a speaker. They must have hidden it up here..." Bunny started looking around for telltale wires.
"I'm not an electronic proxy for your so-called brothers and sisters," said the voice.
"Bullshit!" exclaimed Bunny. She felt no compunction in using that word, even at her tender age, because it often temporarily shut up her siblings. They would stare and cover their mouths as if they had been the ones to utter it. Then they would point and giggle and run to the mothers to tell on her. Then a paddling or a mouthful of soap would follow, sometimes both, depending on the mother dispensing the discipline. But this time, it illicit no reaction. Bunny began to think the voice might be right. She felt suddenly chilled.
"I am your real father," said the voice, "and I love you."
"What?" Bunny felt suddenly unsteady. This was unexpected. No one had said that to her, let alone a disembodied voice. She felt something touch her hair again, and she shuddered. She ran back to the hatch, stumbling over bags and spilling a box of ratty, dirty, and largely dismembered stuffed animals. She fell forward onto the plywood, lodging several splinters in her hands. Then she felt hands pick her up under her arms. She looked around, shocked, as she was suspended in mid-air. She felt her face pressed against an invisible chest. Then she was placed gently on the plywood floor. She felt very confused, and tears started welling up in her eyes.
"Don't cry," said the voice.
"I'm not!" said Bunny, wiping her eyes with her sleeves.
"This must be...difficult," said the voice, "but I'm glad."
"Why...why are you invisible?" asked Bunny, choking back tears.
"There's a really long explanation for that," said the voice, "but to tell the truth, I'm not invisible at all--I just can't be seen by corporeal eyes."
"Corporeal. It means beings that belong to the world of Earth, made of regular matter."
Bunny wiped her nose on her sleeve, and thought for a moment.
"Are you...are you God? Is that what you mean by 'father'?"
"Oh. But doesn't God make all children?" asked Bunny. There was a very heavy disembodied sigh.
"There are many ways to make a child," said the voice.
"I don't understand any of the ways!" said Bunny emphatically.
"No, of course not," said the voice. "This...household wallows in abject ignorance of many things, including sex."
"That's a bad word," said Bunny, smiling faintly.
"It's not. Words alone are never bad." There was a long silence, and Bunny thought that she should spend more time in the attic in the future.
"Do you live up here?" asked Bunny.
"Not really," said the voice.
"What's your name?" asked Bunny.
"Well, we don't really have given names, but I've always liked 'Holden'," said the voice.
"Do you mean there are more of you?"
"Yes. There are as many, if not more, non-corporeals as there are corporeals."
"Do you know Jesus and the Holy Spirit?"
"What?! No! Good grief," said the voice with some consternation. "This has nothing to do with heaven. It's totally different."
"Oh." There was another long pause.
"You're mother, Delilah as she's styled herself, was like me at one time."
"Yes. You could say we were husband and wife, though we really don't have such things on this side of the world. In secret she used to watch the man you call your father. She grew disinterested in me, and obsessed with him. She would visit him at night and uh...would give him happy dreams. She found great pleasure in toying with his emotions, with manipulating him, but as long as she remained non-corporeal, she could never really have him. She was pregnant with you when she decided to cross over, and then she seduced him and became one of his wives. Unfortunately for her, she's constantly wracked by jealousy because she can never fully have her corporeal husband's attention."
"Uh..." said Bunny, not really sure what to say, not really sure she understood what the voice was saying. "Holden, why don't you cross over too?"
"Well, if you cross over, you can't cross back."
"Could I cross over to your side?" she asked. She was a little excited at the prospect of taunting her siblings with invisible fingers.
"No, it only goes one way," he said.
"If you really are my father, why can't you just cross over and take me away from here?"
"You...you want that?" he asked. "You don't even know me."
"Anywhere's better than here."
"I wish you could have lived on this side," he said. "Your side of the world is so...bleak and unforgiving. And not just your house, but your entire world."
Bunny sat and thought.
"You said mother was in father's dreams? Could you be in my dreams?"
"Ah. It's difficult. It tends to turn us...a little unstable. If we do it too often, those on my side become twisted and selfish and angry."
"Then I could just come up here to talk to you," said Bunny.
"It pains me to see you so alone. You should forget about me. If you came up here all the time, you would lock yourself out of your real world...and eventually you would be talking to yourself."
"You would go away?" asked Bunny.
"No, but as corporeals age, they grow less able to communicate across to the non-corporeal side. If you came up here all the time, you would eventually become insane, or you would be treated as such anyway. And you would be even lonelier. I...I can't let you do that."
"But you're the only friend I've ever had!" Bunny broke in to sobs and buried her face in her knees.
There was no further reply from the voice. Eventually Bunny fell asleep on the plywood and the attic grew dark. The crickets and frogs started singing outside. When Bunny awoke, full moonlight flooded through the roof vents.
Bunny sat up and rubbed her eyes. Her sinuses felt itchy and heavy from crying. Then the attic hatch creaked slowly open. The ladder folded out. Bunny crept to the side of the hatch and peered down. The hallway below was empty.
"Climb down quietly," whispered the voice.
"Holden!" exclaimed Bunny.
"Shhhh!" whispered the voice. "Quietly..."
"Okay," said Bunny in her smallest voice. She climbed down.
"I need you to go downstairs, and into your...father's study."
"Okay." Bunny walked quietly down the long hallway. Sounds of siblings snoring came out of various rooms. She went to the staircase and descended into the great room. Under the staircase was the door to the study. It was unlocked and empty. She crept in.
"Now," said the voice, "Open that bottom drawer there in the file cabinet. There's a folder with your name on it. I need you to take it out."
"Okay." Bunny retrieved the folder. "What's in here?"
"That has your birth certificate and other important information. There's a large envelope on the desk there. Put the folder in the envelope. Make sure nothing falls out."
"Okay." Bunny carefully put the folder in the envelope. "Why are we doing this?"
"Bunny, I can't stand by and let you grow up and be miserable. I thought I could forget you but..."
"Oh!" said Bunny excitedly.
"Okay, now I need you to write a note to your mother. There is a pen, and there is a pad of paper. Can you see all right?"
"Yes, there's enough light."
"Good. Write, 'Delilah, I am taking Bunny away from here.'" Bunny wrote, then waited.
"Is that all?"
"I'm not sure what else to say. I haven't planned this very well. Maybe it's not a good idea."
"It's a good idea!" said Bunny. "Don't back out on me! You gotta do this!" The voice laughed, and Bunny felt her hair being patted.
"All right. I guess write, 'if you miss her, you're a better woman than I'd give you credit for.'"
"How do you spell 'credit'?"
"C-R-E-D-I-T," said the voice. "Then put, 'Sincerely, Holden.'"
"How do you spell that?" asked Bunny. He spelled it out for her. Then she folded the note, and wrote 'Delilah' on the top.
Bunny crept out of the study, and walked across the great room to the front door, which opened in front of her. She walked out onto the porch in the chill night air.
"So, when are you going to appear?"
"Not here, said the voice. Let's get off the property first." Bunny felt a hand slip into hers. She walked out of the compound, and down to the main road. "Further," said the voice. She walked another quarter mile, and the hand in hers squeezed when she came to a clearing next to the road. "Here."
The hand let go of hers. A few seconds later, the air near her started to shimmer. She saw the moon through it, and the disc of white twisted and twirled into strands. The strands braided themselves slowly, into the form of a tall man, thin and fit. The white strands suddenly went away because the man was blocking the light from the moon. He was whole. Bunny looked at him, with mouth agape.
"Are you real now?"
"I was alway real," he said. His head was topped with a thick crown of red hair, just like Bunny's. He wore a strange suit made of a shiny fabric. It looked incredibly expensive and exotic to Bunny. She looked down at her drab hand-sewn dress and felt a twinge of embarrassment.
"You're so fancy," she said. The man laughed. He bent down and hugged her. He took the large envelope from her hand, picked her up, and twirled her around in the air. Then he hugged her close and started to cry. "Don't cry," said Bunny.
"I'm not," said her father.