Rain pattered against the window, behind the curtain. The sun hadn't been up for what seemed like days. Mariko lay in bed, in a cocoon of covers, just a patch of skin around her mouth exposed so she could breathe. The whole house seemed to sigh in the thick darkness.
Mariko contemplated her life. She weighed the good times with the bad, her delights with her disappointments, her shining moments and her curling, twisting shames. She rustled in the covers, shifting her weight, wanting to not make a sound and disturb the rest of the house.
There were voices, filtered through the door, coming in from outside her room. She pulled the covers close over her ears, willing the outside world not to intrude. She closed her eyes tighter to bring on a deeper blackness, but the voices got louder. Mariko could not make out the content of what was being said, but the tone was urgent, frightened, mournful. Someone gasped--there was a thump--rushed voices...then silence crept back in.
The covers grew unbearably hot. Mariko thrust them off with her legs. She lay in shorts and a t-shirt, with naked legs, sweating. Cool dark air descended upon her and calmed her. The rain continued, the only thing that marred the silence. Mariko sat up, long dark hair cascading across her pale, ethereal shoulders, and rubbed her arms. How long have I slept? she wondered, How long have I been here? There was an answer forming in her mind, in the depths, and it frightened her. She pushed it down, submerging it. It did not bob back up.
She looked around her room. The walls were plastered with posters and drawings, on aged paper and with peeling corners. The faces on the walls were shrouded in the darkness, quiet and reverent, like statues in a mausoleum. There was a dusty string of Christmas lights, unlit or extinguished. Thoughts of balances and weighing intruded her mind again. I don't care, she thought, I've lived my life. No regrets. She yawned. The rain stopped.
Mariko slipped her feet down onto the carpeted floor, then rose silently. She rain her fingers through her hair, pushing it away from her face. She stretched, then strode to the door. She turned the handle and pulled, but the door was stuck. She checked the lock and it was unlocked. She pulled again, but it was if the door was cemented in place. She banged on the door with her fist, but found that she couldn't accompany it with spoken words.
She put her fingers to her mouth and felt. All the parts were there--lips, teeth, tongue. She tried shouting, but no sound came. She hopped in place with fright, then slammed her hand onto the light switch, but no light came. She toggled the switch several times, and still no light. She turned and looked at the window. There's something there, she thought.
She crept to the window, and delicately grabbed the edge of the curtain. She waited a moment, listening to the silence, then threw open the curtain--and stumbled backward with shock. On the other side of the window was her room--a reflected version. She tried to scream, but again, no sound issued forth.
Mariko went to the window and peered through. It was exactly identical except for the reflection. She undid the lock and slid open the window. There was a slight rush of air, and a slightly sweeter smell. She pulled out the screen and placed in on the floor. Then she pulled herself up and into the other room. She dropped down quietly.
She crept to the door and tried to open it, but it too was stuck. She tried the light, and it too was out. She went to the bed. The covers were rumpled exactly how they were rumpled in the other room. She looked around the walls--all the faces stared blankly back at her.
I want out, she thought, I want out NOW!
The wall between the rooms cracked--it was a long spidering crack that meandered from the window to the head of the bed.
NOW! NOW! NOW!
The crack expanded with the force of her thought--some of the posters fell, and gyp-rock dust burst through from beneath the layers of paint.
NOW! NOW! NOW!
The wood framing splintered through with thunderous cracking, and the room filled with the chalky white dust of the wall. But Mariko didn't cough.
She felt the dust enter her, but it did not irritate her. It just passed through her. The answer began to ascend to the surface, and this time she didn't resist it.
I am dead.
Mariko let the answer fill her with realization. It had been hours or days or weeks, but ultimately not that long. It was her family that spoke outside her room--too short a time for anyone new to inhabit the place.
She looked at the door again. She moved towards it, put her hands on it, the turned her head sideways and pressed her ear to it. She moved her mouth to speak, and this time there were words.
"I refuse to be here any longer," she said to the door. "I have done all the judging of my life. This business is finished. You will release me now. I know you cannot keep me any longer."
The lock clicked. The doorknob turned of its own accord. The door pressed against her. She moved to let it open. There was inky blackness beyond, but also a humid warmth. Mariko stepped forward, out into it, the darkness swirled into her, and she disappeared.
So kids, whenever you hear a house settling at night, all those little muted creaks and pops, remember that it's just the ghosts tearing at the sheetrock, trying to get out. :-D