4. A Ghost of My Own
I was jarred awake by the helpless sensation of falling. I was in Louis’s small bed, my feet dangling over the side. In my dream, I had been huddled in the dark basement with Louis, watching for signs of unnatural life from the Heinrich balloon. He had fallen asleep on my lap and I was humming to him.
The darkness closed around us and the floor dropped out from under us. Louis yelped and grabbed for my ankles as he fell below me. Then he was gone. No sound, no sight of him. Just me alone, falling through darkness, haloed by the white fabric skin of the evil balloon.
Awake. In Louis’s little bed. The tears hammered at me, losing him all over again. I headed into his closet, into the deep recess behind the shelving. I could hear his child voice “Dolly, come see my new picture. Dolly, come read to me.” This was his headquarters. Every inch of wall patched with drawings and little two-line poems. He had climbed up to the ceiling and taped a drawing of Dad and two angels. He said the angels were to protect Dad’s brain because he was always “up there” thinking.
Something happens to siblings who share trauma. Once “Uncle Ig” showed up, our peace had been shaken, our safety gone. We spent more hours together locked in that basement, without food or water or light. Dad would not know we were there. He was either at the studio filming or in his workshop. Enid was basking in the lavish attentions of the horrid man who put us here.
We only had each other. Louis was scared of everything. Although this may have seemed like a weakness, he truly could see the logical danger in situations, the deeper dark streak in people. He could read them and stayed away when he felt wrong about something.
In the black shadows, he shook and held on to me. So, I invented The Treasure Game to calm him.
“Louis, you are my treasure. You are shining and bright. You are my compass.”
He wrinkled his brow at me. “How?”
“Well, you point to something in the darkness and I will tell you what I see.”
He pointed to the dark corner behind us.
“Oh, I can see the rings of Saturn! They are bright silver and covered in sapphires and rubies!”
His brow relaxed. He loosened his grip on my arm and breathed easier. He pointed to another corner.
“It’s a floating pirate ship, spilling emeralds and galleons over the waves.”
Louis began to smile. My little game kept him happy and it kept me from drowning in waves of fear.
So, my little brother had been my treasure.
And now that I was back in his room, he was my ghost.
I sat in silence, wedged in his closet, breathing in the quiet.
Creak-suh creak-suh creak-suh creak-suh.
Damn, I knew THAT sound. Squeaky bed springs. Enid was getting some action.
I wasn’t quite as reviled or grossed out as I had been at that idea when I was a child.
The first time I heard that sound, Louis and I were sitting right where I was now.
Creak-suh. Creak-suh. Creak-suh.
“What’s that?” Louis looked at me, horrified.
“It’s Enid and Ig. They’re making a baby.”
“Ewww. Ugliest baby in the world.”
“We have to tell Dad. He doesn’t know. We have to make Ig leave, Louis. He’s hurting us and he’s going to hurt Enid.”
So, we made a plan to banish Ig from our lives. We were children ready to set a chain of life-changing events in motion.