Christmas Cannibal – Chapter Eight

NOT EDITED

Monday: December 6, 2021

Landon pulled into his driveway, letting out a harsh breath as he shut off the car. After dropping off Miguel and Eliseo, he had driven around for a while longer in hopes of… what, exactly? Landon wasn’t even sure. Eliseo had always liked driving around in cars. It had always served as a good way to make sure the boy would sleep like a rock that night. Maybe Landon had hoped for the same for himself.

But he knew better. He wasn’t any more tired than he had been before the extra drive. He wasn’t any more relaxed. His mind wasn’t any more clear.

He simply felt like he’d taken a longer route home than necessary.

Landon sighed and pushed open the driver’s side door. He climbed out of the car, grabbed his coat, and closed the door. He jogged up to the house, and before he could even pull his keys from his pocket, the door opened. He offered a smile. “Hey, Eddie.”

“You were gone for a long time.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. Babysitting took a bit of a ‘long night’ turn.” Landon stepped into the house, clearing his throat as he closed the door behind him. “You haven’t been opening the door while I’ve been gone, right?”

“No. I know only you can see me. I don’t wanna scare anyone.”

“Sounds like you learned quite a bit about the afterlife while I was gone.”

“A nice man is helping me learn stuff.”

Landon did his best to pretend that wasn’t cause for concern. “A dead man, or a live man?”

“Dead. Very dead. He said he’s very, very old.”

Landon nodded, looking down as he kicked off his shoes. “Do you remember what color he was? Gray, gold, white, silver… Anything like that?”

One corner of Eddie’s mouth scrunched up. “Umm… Hmm. I think he was a grayish color.”

“Kind of a, like… cloudy gray? Or the gray they use for necklaces?”

“Like necklaces, I think.”

Landon let out a breath. “Good. You met an Elder. It’s, uh, sort of their job to help… new arrivals navigate the afterlife. But on that note, it feels important to tell you to avoid the ones that are cloudy or stormy looking. They’re… lost.”

Eddie cocked his head to the side. “Shouldn’t we help them get unlost?”

“They unfortunately aren’t looking for help.” Landon shook his head and started toward the kitchen. “Not that kind of help, anyway.”

The ghost boy followed. “What kind of help are they looking for?”

Pulling open the refrigerator door, Landon cleared his throat. That question was one he had hoped he wouldn’t need to answer. “I don’t think you’re ready for that.”

Eddie crossed his arms over his chest. “Why not? I bet I know more about death and stuff than you do.”

Landon clicked his tongue, pointing at Eddie with the little chocolate milk bottle in his hand. “Bet you don’t.” Eddie harrumphed, dramatically turning his head away. Generally, Landon was okay with ghosts being a little upset with him, even the kids. It was better than telling the kid that the Lost would tear apart any ghost they could get their hands on and devour their energy. “Did your parents teach you not to talk to strangers?”

“Yeah,” Eddie grumbled.

“Okay, good. So, uh… the Lost? These ghosts that are a stormy gray color? Those are strangers. It doesn’t matter how much they try to talk to you or how hard they work to try and convince you that they’re your friends. They’re strangers, and you shouldn’t talk to them. If you have to, you should run away screaming.”

That seemed to win Eddie over. Arms still crossed over his chest, he turned back to Landon. “But… no one else can hear me.”

“Some people can. My sister and I aren’t the only people in the world that can…”

“Talk to the dead?” Eddie asked, one eyebrow raised.

“I always forget how quickly kids pick up on this,” Landon mumbled. “Yeah, talk to the dead. We aren’t the only ones that can do it. But even if we aren’t around when you run from a Lost, even if no other people who can hear you are around, the Elders always are. They’ll guide you, protect you. That’s what they do.” He squatted down to Eddie’s height. “Promise me you won’t talk to the Lost if one approaches you.”

Eddie searched his face before nodding. “I promise.”

“Thattaboy.” Landon stuck up a hand, which Eddie high-fived without issue. Landon smiled. “Which Elder taught you how to control your energy enough to manifest?”

“I dunno. He looked kinda like you. But old.”

Landon snorted. “You probably met my great-great-grandpa.” He pushed himself back to his feet. “He was one of the first ghosts I ever met. He helped me figure out how the whole psychic thing worked. He’s a good guy. If you ever have questions about any of this when I’m not home, he’ll help you.”

“Awesome.” Eddie followed Landon out of the kitchen. “Are you leaving again today?”

“Afraid so. I have a kid to babysit and, umm… and a bad guy to catch.”

“What kind of bad guy?”

“The one who did this to you.”

“Cool. Can I come with?”

Landon scoffed. “Absolutely not.” In the living room, he sat down on the couch. A moment later, Eddie did the same.

“Why not? I’m the one who’s dead.”

“I don’t think that’s the excellent argument you think it is.”

“Whatever.”

“Mature.”

“I’m three.”

Landon pointed at him. “See, that’s a good argument. But still, you can’t come with. There’s a possibility that the person that did this to you wasn’t a person at all, and that makes this even more dangerous for a ghost than for the living.”

“How?”

“Because a monster can only kill a ghost once. If he kills me, I have a second chance.”

“Wow.” Landon flinched, turning to look at the woman in his living room. She wore a tight red dress and a pair of heels. Her fists rested on the curves of her hips. “That’s a horrible reason for you to go instead of him. The fact that he’s a child is a much better reason.”

“Sure, but the child thing has little bearing once you’re dead. He’ll look three forever, but his mind and knowledge will grow until he decides he doesn’t want to be on Earth anymore.” Landon pushed himself to his feet. “Can I help you?”

“I sensed another ghost in here, and I heard you talking to one. I was a little intrigued, is all.” She smoothed her hands over her dress. “My… soul or whatever was already led out by a Reaper. So how does this ghost—”

“Reaper?” Eddie asked.

Landon heart skipped a beat as he turned back toward Eddie. “Yeah, a Reaper. When you die, someone comes out to meet you, and they help your soul to its appropriate afterlife.”

Eddie’s mouth scrunched up before he shook his head. “I don’t remember that. What if there was no Reaper?”

“Then, uh… then our monster’s going to be more of a problem  to take down than I thought.”


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