4. Ghost Girl

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The explosion was too low to hear, and yet it spoke through every solid thing inside the classroom. The windowpanes rattled. The hands on the clock trembled. A shiver ran up from the floor into the bones of my dead legs.

At the blackboard, the teacher paused. "Anyone feel that?"

All of the kids answered her at once. All except Billy Rascoe. He sat across the room from me, his legs stuck way out in front of his desk, big holes in the knees of his jeans. A t-shirt featuring a comic strip (How to Pick up Chicks) hung baggily off his shoulders. The smile I had seen two days earlier during roll call was still there, but harder, smaller. He was staring at me and picking his knuckles, peeling the scabs off them one at a time. Blood damped his fingertips.

"Was that an earthquake?" asked a boy near the front.

No, it hadn't been. I didn't know what it was, but I had grown up along the fault line in Southern California and when Mother Earth had something to say, she usually said it loud. This had been a whisper. Whatever this was.

A girl spoke up in the back of the class. "I bet it was the mine. They're always blowing shit up at the mine."

"Ashley! Language!"

"How do you think they dig down through all that rock? Shovels?"

Before anyone else could speak, the wail of sirens carried into the room. The notes started soft and grew softer, hanging on the air as they died.

"They're going the other way," the teacher said under her breath.

Someone finished her thought, "They're going to the mountain."

Ashley spoke again, low, ominous. "Maybe this time they dug too deep."

I turned to the back of the room, but I could find no face to match her voice among all the boys sitting back there. The bell shrilled, and everyone rose together to leave. When I glanced back to Billy's seat by the door, he was already gone.

On his desk sat a neat pile of scabs, a message:

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The rumors started coming in next period. An accident at the mine. Cave in. People dead. People missing. Never had a history class hummed with so much excitement. Our teacher didn't even bother opening the book. She had a cousin or a friend of a friend who worked up in the mountain, and so did everyone else it seemed, at least for the day. I had no connections there myself of course (and neither did my aunt, being a bit of a recluse), but the buzz worked its way into my nerves all the same. By the time lunch began I was fidgeting in my chair, my whole body restless with energy, ready to go, to run.

Smoke rose over the northern tree line. It curled hazily, a looming black question mark in the sky.

What had happened up there?

What was happening up there right now, deep down in the dark of Widow's Peak?

I don't know much about mining (copper or otherwise), and what I do know I learned from a man whose incontinence stank up his bedroom, a man so insane oven mitts had been duct-taped over his hands to keep him from plucking out his own eyes, but—

That's later.

This is the part where Nip drops out of the air at lunch and lands right next to me.


I twisted my head to the empty space beside me on the bench, and there sat Nip. He had on another ugly shirt, red spots over green. His thin legs straddled the seat. He stared at me, eyes squinted, like there were lines on my face, like I was one of his books.

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