Rare Sight

Hi! Thanks for visiting. I hope you enjoy 'Rare Sight', which I loved writing - I've already written an early draft of the next book in the series. And now for the blurb: Joe Simmonds didn't ask to see spirits. It doesn't help that a teenage ghost called Georgia turns up, claiming to be the aunt he didn't know he had - and that she was murdered.
Add in a vengeful dead grandfather, an unscrupulous spirit trader and a couple of nasty murders, and Joe has a hard time just staying alive, as he learns what Rare Sight is, and how to use it.
Cover design by the talented Mark Dyball (though I've spoilt it by cropping!); image copyright Dundanim/Dreamstime

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1. Chapter One

Joe stopped at the entrance to the pedestrian subway.

“Gran – wait,” he said.

“What is it, love? You’re as white as a sheet.”

The subway was creepy at the best of times – a dismal, stinking tunnel with a faulty light that flickered and cast long, wavering shadows on the walls. But today, it seemed worse than usual. Joe squinted into the gloom, convinced his eyes were playing tricks on him. The tunnel was full of figures who were entering from the far end, turning left and walking into the wall. There was no door for them to pass through, but somehow they were disappearing as soon as they touched the concrete side of the tunnel. “Gran…”

“It’s OK – it’s just a bit dark because one of the bulbs has gone. Come on.”

“No, Gran. Wait.”

She looked him in the eyes, and hesitated before she spoke. “You can see them, can’t you?”

“See what?” He was shaking.

“The spirits.”

“Spirits? You mean… those people are ghosts?”

She smiled. “Well, I don’t know any living people who can walk through walls, do you?”

“But… what are they doing here?”

His gran shrugged. “What they always do – this is their primary passing-place. They come to seek out people they have lost or wronged, to find peace so they can move on.”

“Move on where? What do you mean?”

She beckoned for him to follow her, back the way they had come, where she found a park bench and patted the seat next to her. He sank down and let her put her arm round him.

“Listen, your mum made me promise never to mention the spirits, unless it turned out you had the gift.”

His eyes hurt with tears that were trying to come out. “What gift? What are you talking about?”

“The gift of seeing the spirits. Oh, don’t look so miserable – it’s not a bad thing.”

“I can suddenly see dead people all over the place and you’re telling me it’s not a bad thing?”

His gran looked down at her hands and twisted the ring on her finger so that its stone caught the sun and shot out sparks of light.

“It’s a shock the first time, I know it is... But it’s exciting, too. You can see something none of your friends can see.”

“But I don’t want to see ghosts. I want to be normal.”

“Shhh.” She stood up. “Come on – we’ll go home the long way round, avoiding the tunnel.”

He felt bad, knowing his gran got tired if she had to walk far, but there was no way he was going back in that dark passageway, with all those ghosts walking past.

Half-way back to his gran’s, a man with a moustache winked at them and his gran nodded a hello without words.

“Gran, was that… another one?”

“Yes, love. You’ll get used to them soon enough.”

Later, when his mum came to collect him, his gran called her into the kitchen.

“Oh, there you are, Joe,” said his gran, as she was closing the door. “Just give us a minute or two, would you? Your mum and I need to have a chat.”

He went out to the car and tried the doors. They weren’t locked, so he climbed into the driver’s seat and pretended he was racing round a rally track. In the darkness, with his breath misting up the windscreen, it took him a moment to realise he was being watched. The watcher was a girl, and Joe was sure she was another one – a “spirit” as his gran had called them.

He held his breath as she leaned on the bonnet and stared at him through the windscreen. She was wearing a pair of grimy jeans and a filthy tee-shirt, and her hair was a straggly, dirty-blonde. From the way she was looking at him, he had the feeling she wanted to tell him something. Whatever it was, he was pretty sure he didn’t want to hear it. He wondered if he could make it to the house without her catching him. His hands were wet on the steering wheel, and he couldn’t control his breathing, which was coming short and fast in panic.

“Fight or flight” his biology teacher had called it – “Your body gets ready to defend itself or run.” Whatever it was called, it seemed like it was stopping him from doing either.

He jumped as the front door of the house opened and his mum came out. She slid into the passenger seat next to him.

“So, driver, where are you taking us?” she asked.

Joe peered through the steamed-up windscreen, but the girl had gone. There was just the darkness outside now.

“Joe, love, your gran told me what you saw today…”

He sighed. “Can you see them?”

“Who? The spirits? Do you mean now? Are there some here now?” Joe shrugged and shook his head. His mum put her arm round him. “Don’t cry, lovie.”

He turned to face her. “You can’t see them, can you?”

She shook her head and looked him in the eye. “No, love. I can’t see them.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

“That I was going to start seeing ghosts.”

She sighed and rubbed her fingers over her bottom lip, the way she always did when she was worried. “I was hoping… Well, I thought you might not be able to see them. I mean, you’re twelve already and I’ve been thinking…”

“So why’s it happened now?”

She sighed again and gazed out of the windscreen. “I don’t know. Hormones, all the growing you’ve been doing… I really don’t know. And it’s not exactly something we can ask the doctor.”

“So I’m a freak.”

“No, Joe. Of course not.”

“But you aren’t going to go round telling all your friends about me, are you? ‘My son Joe can see ghosts, now!’ Or how about Dr Singh, ‘D’you think he needs some Nurofen, Doctor, or would the MMR jab sort him out?’”

His mum didn’t say anything for a moment. She took her arm away from his shoulders and drew her feet up on to the seat, hugging her knees. Joe wasn’t allowed to put his feet on the car seats, but he didn’t point this out.

“I’m sorry,” his mum said at last. She looked like she wanted to cry as well. “Is it horrible?”

“What? Seeing ghosts?” She nodded. “I dunno. I mean… I was really freaked out by all those people in the tunnel – did Gran tell you about that?”

“Yes, she told me in the kitchen when she was filling me in on your new… ability.”

“It was really scary. Anyway, Gran said the ghosts are looking for people they’ve ‘lost or wronged, so they can move on,’.”

“Right.”

“What did she mean? Move on where?”

“Well… I’m not sure anyone really knows, love. I mean, it’s not like the spirits come back to tell us afterwards. But they all seem to have unfinished business of some sort, and once they’ve sorted that out, they leave.” Joe’s brain was filling up with so many questions, he couldn’t think what to ask next.

“Listen, will you go and say goodbye to your gran? Only she feels responsible for what you’re going through.”

He pushed open the car door and swung out, not getting the usual pleasure from the spring of his trainers on the hard driveway. His gran took a moment to open the door after he rang; he could see her face and white hair distorted in the ripple-effect of the window as she moved through the hall.

“Joe – you’ve come to say goodbye?”

He nodded and bent to kiss her cheek – he was already much taller than her. Her skin was soft and dry and she looked very old suddenly, as if her body might break into pieces if he wasn’t gentle enough.

“Bye, see you soon.”

“Bye, love. And Joe – it’ll sort itself out. There must be a reason why you can see the spirits; we’ll find out soon enough.”

He hesitated and almost told her about the girl he’d seen. But he wasn’t sure what to say – it wasn’t as if anything had actually happened.

On the drive home, he pointed to the places where he saw ghosts.

“Are they see-through?” asked his mum. “I mean, how can you tell they’re ghosts?”

He thought for a moment. “When they’re moving, it’s really obvious – they sort of glide along. But when they’re standing still, it’s like… well, it’s how still they are, really. Like statues but with eyes that follow you.”

“Do you think they know you can see them?”

He nodded. “Definitely,” he said.
 

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