Critique The First Two Chapters Please

Prologue. About a year before the story.

he windshield was slick with rain, and the windshield wipers weren’t helping. That was just one of the many things currently bothering Frank Hunter. 

Any ordinary person would have stopped and openly stared if they knew the length of the list of things bothering him. And they’d have a good reason, too. 

Frank was a pretty lucky guy. His truck, for instance. The same one he was driving right now. The truck whose window wipers weren’t working. 

It was the latest model, a sleek shiny thing that should have been made a sports car and not a truck. But here it was, a truck. And here Frank was, driving in the rain and wishing that today wasn’t quite so rainy. 

He would have settled for some drizzles, or some fat drops that make pleasant sounds when they splatter. 

Anything but the harsh wind-driven pellet-like balls currently dropping like bombs from the sky.  

But it was a fact, and part of, life. Yet another horrible part of life was the fact that Frank forgot the grocery list at home. Again. 

His wife was going to kill him. 

Because Cassandra, well, she just cared about getting what she wanted. 

Something she’s doing very well, nowadays, reflected Frank almost ruefully. Almost. Because if there was one reason why he was grateful for Cass—if there was only one, out of the many—it was the fact that she made Abigail. Well, ‘made’ probably wasn’t exactly the right word, but Frank wasn’t really knowledgeable about such things. 

And to be honest, he didn’t really want to know how babies were made. Some things were best left unknown.

And still the rain was not letting up. This fact in itself bothered Frank. But the fact that he’d forgotten the list bothered him more so. 

So he thumbed a quick text to Cass, asking for the list again. He daren’t tear his eyes from the road, for fear he would crash. 

So his message came out like; Hiu Cass. Firgot grocry lust at home. need refreshder on  wht to buyt. Send in next foive minuytes plese. 

He sent it with the hopes that Cass would be able to decode it. To understand his frantic thumbing. 

So it came as a bit of a shock when it wasn’t Cass who replied.

Hi dad, its Abi. Don’t tell mom abt this because I added an item to the list-

  • Eggs

  • Flour

  • Bread

  • Milk

  • Brown sugar

That’s all the list, but can you go to the dollar store on the way or when you’re comin back and pick me up a Snickers bar? Thx. 

He laughed to himself, like it was a private joke only he could understand. Abi was his daughter, and was developing a real sweet tooth. 

Frank abruptly turned the wheel of the truck, so he was now going to the dollar store instead of the supermarket.  

After he’d picked up the candy, the skies still bombarding his truck with rain, Frank had become used to the tranquil atmosphere of the streets.

So he wasn’t prepared for the maniacal driver that turned the corner, sending gallons of water up in the air. 

There was a lady inside the car, laughing- cackling, almost- as her car bore down on Frank’s. Her faux fur coat was lightly dusted with dewdrops, a feat truly remarkable, considering the heavy pellets raining down. 

Fur Coat leaned out the window and positively glared at Frank through the sleet. She yelled something unintelligible at him, and it took a moment for Frank to realize she was almost upon him. And she wasn’t slowing down.

He jerked the steering wheel to no avail. The cars collided with a sickening crunch, bumper squashing bumper in an arena-worthy display. 

The momentum threw Fur Coat’s car, flipping it so it was upside down, crushing Frank and his car under tonnes of metal.  

Frank’s head hit the dashboard, and a strangled cry escaped his throat. 

A high heel stepped delicately out of the wreckage. Fur Coat had survived. Her eyes scanned the two cars and landed on Frank. 

She clucked disapprovingly, shaking her head at him. Then she flounced away. Leaving Frank to die. 

He was suddenly strangely aware of his left hand. The one holding the Snickers bar that his daughter would never receive. 

And with that depressing thought, he shuddered. Once. Twice. And then he was still. 

Frank Hunter was dead. 

Chapter One. Thirteen is too young to stay home alone.

bigail Hunter, get down here!” 

I drop my pencil in surprise, and immediately regret doing so when it rolls under my bed. I leap up, and in one not-so-fluid motion shove the notebook I’d been writing in under my mattress. 

“Yeah?” I holler back, shoving my feet into some slippers and stubbing my toes on my bed in the process. My mom appears at the top of the staircase, ducking the low beam at the top. “Abby, come on! My friend has a reading down at the college, and I promised I’d be there!” 

I frown, trying to piece together why this would matter. It became clear soon enough when Mom sighed, running a finger through her hair. “And you are going to be there as well. You didn’t really expect I’d leave you here alone?” 

“I am thirteen now,” I point out, “and you said that thirteen’s when you were allowed to stay home alone!” 

Mom sighed. “Abby, you’re coming for moral suppo- because it’ll be educational and I’m telling you so.” I hear the unfinished word, and smile a little. 

“And no arguing,” she added, seeing the words on my tongue before they could be spoken. “You are going and that’s that. We leave in-” she checks her watch, “five minutes.” 

I open my mouth to protest; I will not go down so easily. “Fine,” caves Mom, evidently seeing my newfound resolve. “I’ll… I dunno, get you something when we go home. Fancy a pack of cookies?” I shake my head from my position on my bed. 

Mom throws up her hands in mock despair. “We’ll bargain further in the car.” I see where she’s going with this. “You’re just trying to make me agree to go with you,” I say, “and I’m not falling for it.” 

And then something clicks. “Wait,” I ask, “did you say it’s at the college?” Mom regards me strangely. “Of course, that’s where they always are. Why the sudden interest?” 

The elusive victory is close, I can feel it. 

“Well,” I begin, hardly daring to speak for fear it would ruin my chance, “the typewriter I’ve always wanted is in the antiques store that’s beside the college…” 

“Oh, I see where you’re going with this,” Mom begins, a small smile playing on the corner of her lips. “You want me to buy you the typewriter in exchange for you coming to the reading, is that it?” 

My silence says it all. 

“We can bargain further in the car.” she repeats, and this time it’s final. She tousles my hair fondly for a moment, then she’s gone, and the looming threat of attending a college reading darkens the horizon of my future. 

As soon as she leaves, I sigh, flopping back in my bed. I know when I’m beaten. 

After a minute I get up, and walk slowly down the stairs, deliberately being as slow as possible. Mom calls me out after about three seconds. “Come on! It starts in twenty minutes, and it takes about seventeen to get there!” 

I walk a little faster. 

Mom’s already at the door. I exit swiftly and jog over to the garage. The car is a timeless model - or, that’s what Mom says. It’s really just a simple silver car. 

“So,” says Mom, sliding into the driver’s seat. “About the bargain we were talking about… did you expect me to pay for the whole typewriter? Because that thing is expensive, Abby. You know that.”

I nod absentmindedly, staring out the window and only half listening. “So,” continues Mom, “I think it would be quite fair of me to say I’ll meet you two thirds of the way.” 

I jerk my head up in surprise. Does that mean…? “But I don’t have anywhere near enough to-” 

“I know,” she cuts in, “but I’ll give you until the end of next year. It’ll still be yours, but-” she jerks the steering wheel to the left, and my face inevitably gets pushed into the glass window. “I’ll just help with most of the actual money part.” 

I’m so happy, if I weren’t strapped to my seat I’d leap up and hug Mom. As it is, I’m practically bouncing on my toes. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Mom smiles. “And we’re almost there, so perfect timing!” she says, nodding out the window. I look out said window and realize she’s right. We’re turning onto a familiar street now, and we’ve gone this way so many times I could make it from here back home with my eyes closed. Provided, of course, that there’s no traffic.

The college is a weathered old building, the gray stone cracked with age and the paths a charming cobblestone. It looks rather like a mixture of a country cottage and a modern medieval castle, with the best traits of each. 

But as quaint as it is, as we walked up the entryway to the college, I'm not thinking about the looks of the college; I'm thinking about the reading I'm going to have to endure. 

The facts and hypotheses I'll be forced to listen to. 

Suffice it to say, I’m not looking forward to the reading. Far from it. But I must endure it for the sake of the typewriter. 

My mother, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying everything. She walks along cheerily, her shoes clacking against the stone paths. She is evidently looking forward to the reading. 

I’ve been here so many times, it almost feels like a second home. Mom works part-time here, and many times I’ve gotten home from school, and found Mom ready to go to the college, car keys in hand. 

Usually I found solace in writing, filling my notebook with hastily scrawled words and plots, paying no mind whatsoever to the world outside my mind. But this time, I’m not so lucky. 

I push open the glass sliding doors, fully expecting an hour or so of torturous readings from college textbooks and philosophical nonsense. All thoughts of such things vanish once I look around the reception hall. 

The columns holding up the roof are draped with garlands, from which hang… I lean closer to Mom. “Are those ghosts?” I ask, but even without her nod I would have known. 

There are ghosts everywhere - cartoon cutouts, paper ghosts, and even some straight off the Internet. 

But Mom doesn’t even pay the least attention to the ghosts, instead walking forward and enveloping a woman her age in a warm hug. 

“Ivy, how nice to see you!” she exclaims, like it’s a miracle that Ivy’s here. Ivy returns the sentiment with a declaration of “It’s been so long since I last saw you! And,” she turns to me, smiling, “you’re Abby, right?” 

I cross my arms over my chest defiantly. “Abigail.” I offer no further explanation, but Ivy seems to get it all the same. 

Mom shoots me a look. I feign a yawn, and she turns away, no doubt suppressing a smile. Either that, or she's sneezing.

After a few minutes of small talk, Ivy walks up to the makeshift stage in the center of the room. “Hello,” she begins, “I’m Ivy Summers, and I will be hosting a reading on ghosts.” 

The word sends murmurs rippling through the crowd and shivers down my spine, but Ivy takes no notice. 

“By definition, a ghost is a dead or deceased being who interacts with the living. They are traditionally depicted as wispy beings, like a mirage. But today I will be examining the essence, the basis of ghosts, or spirits as they were called in Ancient times. 

“In Ancient Egypt, the Lord of the Dead, Anubis, judged dead souls so see if they were worthy of living in the Underworld. I will be examining if the Underworld could be real, and if ancient civilisations knew about it in a sense that we did not. A way that we still do not.”

That was as much as I could take. Slowly, reality faded away, and I retreated to the warm corners of my mind. 

My thoughts wandered almost automatically to the typewriter. It was a beautiful wood, painted black, and its years had not tarnished it. If anything, they only increased the charm. 

Sometimes I snuck a tap at the keys, when nobody was looking. 

For a full hour I daydreamed about the typewriter. The soon to be my typewriter. And then I decided to start tuning in to the world around me. I dunno how I do it. It's just like I decide that the world is now worthy of my attention. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a snobby person. I just like to be able to mute the world when I need to.

Ivy is just finishing her speech. “Even considering all the evidence provided by this world, it is my firm belief that ghosts could be real, should we only hope to find them. Thank you for your time.” And she sweeps an elaborate bow and walks offstage. 

As soon as she walks away, I grab Mom’s arm and start pulling her in the direction of Timeless Treasures, the antique store where the typewriter is. 

Mom doesn’t resist, but she does pull her arm away, insisting that she can find her own way. “After all,” she says with half a smile, “I used to work in the shop next to there. I think I remember where it is, thank you very much.” 

I laugh a little, and then the laugh is instantly quelled by grief. Mom used to work at Gemini’s Pizzeria, a local pizza place run by two twins. Mom had worked there for two years. 

On the second year she met Dad. But he wasn’t here now. He had died, just last year, in a car accident. 

I brush away some silent tears, and turn from Mom, averting my gaze. Her eyes had turned glassy, and she was staring but not seeing, lost in memories of the past. Of Dad. 

After a moment, Mom speaks. Her voice is as strong as it's ever been. You’d never be able to tell less than a minute ago she’d been crying, unless you looked a little closer and saw the microscopic droplets on her cheek, or the tiny tears nestled in her eyes. 

“Well, we’re here.” She nods towards the antique store, brushing her hair out of her face. I blink back my tears and follow Mom in. 

A brass bell heralds our arrival as soon as we push open the door, and an old man who looks about as old as half of the antiques here looks up once, then returns to whatever he was doing behind the counter. My eyes immediately search the aisles, looking for the typewriter. Searching for the familiar black paint, the rustic keys. 

My wandering eyes soon find peace in the form of a typewriter. “Wow,” says Mom from behind me, “Even I have to admit this is one nice typewriter…” 

The exchange is quick. The money for the typewriter, over the counter. It almost seems too easy, like a hoax. 

But the old man at the counter doesn’t look twice as he hands over the typewriter. And neither does Mom as she hands over the money. 

As soon as the trade is finished, I scoop up the typewriter in my arms and walk proudly out to the car, Mom on my heels. 

“Well,” says Mom as soon as we’re in, turning on the ignition, “I think that went rather well.” I nod, holding the typewriter beside me. 

“You still owe me about sixty dollars,” warns Mom, “So don’t get too excited.” 

“Sixty dollars?!” I exclaim in surprise. “How’m I supposed to earn that much when I don’t even get an allowance! That’s hardly fair!” 

“You’re the one who made and agreed to the deal,” points out Mom. “It’s your own doing. And while we’re on the topic of typewriters,” she continues,“what do you plan on doing with it?” 

“Writing, of course. That’s what you do on a typewriter!”

Mom purses her lips, and I can tell she’s holding back a smile. “Writing what? If you answer school, or are about to, think again. Yesterday you handed in a math sheet that was crumpled and had half of the problems unfinished. Don’t say you’ll use the typewriter for school, Abby, cause I know you.” 

“I- I was going to…” My words falter. It’s useless to argue with Mom. “Stories.” I mumble, looking away. “I write stories.” 

Mom looks momentarily surprised, perhaps by my outright admission. “You write, or will write stories?” she asks, seeming intrigued. 

“I’m writing one at the moment,” I reply, “and I have a pretty good idea of what it’ll be about.” Mom looks at me expectantly, obviously thinking I would go ahead and spoil the whole plot right then and there. 

Needless to say, I have absolutely no intention of doing so. Mom seems to pick up on that, and the car is filled with silence. 

Somehow, we’re almost at home before one of us speaks again. I’d been thinking of the typewriter; it’s a glorious thing, for an inanimate object. “So,” starts Mom, as we turn onto the street that takes us home. For the longest time when I was little, I used to think it was called The Street That Takes Us Home. Now I know better - and I’m more than a little embarrassed that I’ve ever thought such a thing. 

“What did you learn?” continues Mom, oblivious to my train of thought. She turns to look at me. The car stops abruptly, mirroring my mood. I open the door and run out. I’m almost immediately drenched in rain. My feet make a satisfying sound against the wet pavement as I run towards the house. 

“Aside from the fact that I’ll never do that again?” I shout over my shoulder. I can almost hear Mom’s sigh. But I don’t care. 

I pound up the stairs, putting all my weight into the last step. The stairs shudder in response. Now somewhat subdued, I open the door to my room and land with a thud on my bed.

Chapter Two. The Memory Lane.

stare at the wall glumly. I wish Dad were still here. He’d have a joke right now, one that would make everything better, and more besides. But he’s not here. And he can’t.

Now memories surface—memories from when Dad was still here. When I could still count on his infectious smile and corny jokes. 

I don’t try to object when the more recent ones start pushing, trying to be noticed. Trying to make me relive them. 

I don’t try to shoo them away. 

I don’t try to spare myself the pain of seeing Dad again. I can hear dimly Mom coming up the stairs, like it’s in a dreambut I can’t do anything. 

All I can do is sit and watch as my life plays out in front of me. 

And I’m just an impartial observer watching the show. 

The first memory to resurface is bleary, like looking through a window covered with frost. 

Mom and Dad were out, and I was alone in the house. I think I was eight. 

Ha! And Mom said thirteen was too young to stay home alone? 

But I get the feeling that I had no say in the matter. And even now, four years later, I can still relate. It’s almost like I never grew up…

I shake my head, mentally shoving that thought out. 

In the memory, I’m wandering the house. The house is ginormous to Little Me, who gazes in awe at everything like she’s never seen such wonders before. The stairs, normally so pristine and quiet, are soon transformed—into a DIY roller coaster. 

Little Me is quite proud of it, and spends hours sliding down, something my parents would not have approved of. 

At one point she kicked off her shoes and pranced around in Mom’s high heels. I’m still embarrassed now. 

Little Me is now walking up to Mom and Dad’s room, bored out of her mind. Or is it my mind? I’m still not entirely sure. 

Little Me stands in the doorway, hovering, tempted but reluctant. She sticks a tentative toe over the line in the flooring. I’m not exactly sure what I’d expected would happen. Maybe alarms would blare and a net would fall down? In any case, none of that happened. 

Li’l Me peeks around the door, her curiosity now aroused. And then she—I— sees it. 

Pale orange, almost transparent. But definitely there. An old man is sitting on Mom’s bed. His walrus mustache quivers as I open the door. 

His plaid jacket is an unusual shade of yellow, like when you stare at the sun for too long. Yellow and blue, overlapping but never merging. 

And then I realize something. I am—was. Gosh, this is confusing—seeing through the man. 

A shiver runs, unbidden, up my spine, and I let out a small gasp. 

It’s at this moment the man sees me. He lets out a rasping scream, and makes an odd gesture. Sort of like he’s covering his eyes, then pointing to me, telling me to do that. To stop seeing him. I don’t, and he rasps again. But I can understand him now. 

“Go away,” he croaks, looking at me like, well, like he’s just seen a ghost. Funny, because now I’m totally sure he is one. 

I mimic him, mimic the sound his eyes widen. He curses quietly. Something about… bridges? Burning bridges? It makes no sense to Little Me. She repeats the gesture to him, and says a phrase I shouldn’t have known back then… Because I still don’t know it. 

Et nunc absolvo vos.” Latin, that’s all I know. But if I don’t know it now, how did I know it then? 

The room flashes white and he disappears. Leaving one very confused little girl standing right where he’d been sitting. 

Mom and Dad come home shortly thereafter. For some reason, Little Me opts to not tell them about what happened. And to this day, I’m pretty sure they never knew. 

The memory slowly fades, and the walls of my room gradually come into focus. 

Mom is long gone, and I’m alone in my room. Alone with the typewriter, it appears. That must be why Mom was in here. 

I get up and walk towards it, and pick it up. I already know where I’ll set up my space, the place where I write. I’ll write in the attic. 

The attic is a musty oak, with a faint smell of pencil shavings. There’s a window through which sunlight is always streaming, illuminating all the dust motes lazily floating around. I’ve come up here countless times in my life, but every time it just takes my breath away. 

It’s not beautiful, exactly, but it has a sort of rustic charm to it, an aesthetic outlook. 

I set the typewriter down on a wooden table. Almost immediately, plumes of dust rise up, like embers and sparks from a fire. It’s enough to make me cough and look away. 

The window shaft shone like a spotlight on my typewriter, and in that moment, something felt almost ethereal. And I felt almost as if something else was here, with me. In the attic. I mean, other than the typewriter. 

I look around somewhat paranoidly. Nobody’s there. It might be a mouse, but somehow I doubt it. 

A shiver runs down my spine, just like it had four years ago when I saw the ghost. 

It’s just a coincidence, I tell myself. But my words sound hollow to my own ears. 

They sound like false assurances based on hope. They sound like what I want to hear, instead of fact. 

So it takes a moment for me to register that it’s all I hear. 

I don’t hear Mom doing the laundry. I don’t hear the laundry dryer. I don’t even hear any footsteps, any sign of life other than my own breathing. 

Until I do hear it. 

Softly at first, like a baby’s tentative first steps. Then stronger, faster, more sure of itself. Typing. 

Someone is using my typewriter—but I’m alone in the room. And nobody came in; I would have heard the door swinging open. 

I slowly turn and start facing the typewriter. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that its keys are moving, and the typer is obviously writing on a subject they enjoy. 

The typing has picked up the pace. Faster, until it reaches a crescendo. And that’s when I look. 

Nobody is typing. The keys are moving up and down, but no hands are pushing them. No body fills the wooden chair. 

There’s nothing, except a faint aura in the air. Like a wonderful smell that wafted until you can almost see it. It’s a blue aura. 

But much more striking is the fact that it almost looks like a silhouette. A silhouette of a body. 

Like the old man four years ago. 

I do what any sane person would do in my place; I attempt to swing my pen at it. 

Foolish, swinging a ballpoint pen at blue wisps in the air. But that’s what I do. 

Unsurprisingly, the pen meets nothing. Nothing happens. 

I look over the page that is half-filled with words. The one that nobody was writing. 

And I watch, spellbound, as the words fade out, like water drying in the sun.  

Until the page is pristine white once more. 


Somehow I manage to not scream, though I’m seriously considering it. I stare at the page with a mixture of awe and apprehension. It doesn’t seem to have been rigged, and if it was, Mom will hear a LOT about it. Trust me. 

So I opt for the more mature reaction; ripping the page and flushing the remains down the toilet. Call me paranoid, but something almost supernatural seems to have happened. And let it be known that I am an extreme non-believer in the supernatural. Or, I was. Now I might just be starting to believe. 

My commotion has aroused the attention of Mom, that much is certain. She calls up the stairs, “Everything okay up there, Abby?”

I don’t know how she would spell it, but I’m pretty sure she said A-b-b-y. And I hate being called Abby. For one thing, it just sounds so young. And for another? There is only one B and no Y in my name!

So if you have to call me a shorter form of my name, call me Abi. 

So I don’t bother yelling back. Right now, I have one goal; to chase away whatever typed on my typewriter. 

Because whatever it was? It’ll probably come back. 

I sleep like someone lying on top of a bed of nails and scorpions; that is to say, I can’t sleep. I keep envisioning vampire-y things circling my bed, and even though I know there’s no such thing as vampires, I also thought I knew that there was no such thing as the supernatural. 

So there’s a pretty good chance vampires are real, if we go by that logic. 

I’d decided to sleep in the attic, which is a choice I'm second-guessing constantly since the sun went down. 

And then I see it. 

A blue-ish wispy being, perhaps malevolent, perhaps helpful—how would I know?—floats in via the window. I make a mental note to board it up one day when Mom’s gone. I don’t quite feel safe, knowing that thing can come in any time it wants. 

It makes its way to the typewriter, at first seeming to look around cautiously. I can almost feel it looking through me, into the depths of my soul… 

That’s crazy talk, I tell myself, but even so I shiver. Apparently my pep talks to self need some work. 

Wait- I’m not just shivering because I’m scared. The temperature has dropped, not quite drastically, but enough that I notice it. I shoot an involuntary look at the ghost. It’s begun to type while I’ve been monologuing, and any minute now I’m sure Mom will burst in angrily and yell at me for typing at 2 am in the morning.

So I walk over and try to shush it, to stop the typing. And my eyes fall inevitably onto the paper.  

I know you can see me. 

The words seem to glare at me, an accusation of some sort. 

I want to back away, but something in me is drawn to this thing. The ghost steps back, almost, from the typewriter. An invitation. 

I sit down beside the typewriter. This is wrong on so many levels, yet somehow it feels…. natural. Like I should be doing this. 

On a sudden impulse, I write three words. 

Who are you?

The ghost seems to debate this internally, and for a fraction of a second I can hear something that sounds suspiciously like a ghost talking. But I wouldn’t know. 

It sounds like wind whistling; but in a lonely way. It’s a little eerie, but for once I don’t mind.  

Ask me who I was

These words chill me to the bone. “What do you mean, who you were?” I ask, not even bothering to type it out. 

It suddenly dawns on me that I’m talking to a ghost. In my house. 

And the realization, along with the rather belated shock of it, make it a little hard to remember that I’m still waiting for an answer. But it wouldn’t have mattered anyways. 

The ghost—along with any evidence it was ever here—is gone.