There are two things that happen in life: Things that can be rationally explained, and things that can’t. This may be a weird way to dissect things in life, but after a weird encounter with one of my co-workers I can’t help but categorize life events this way.
There’s this guy at my work, Leonard Miles. We all call him Lenny. He’s a great guy, always upbeat and a good worker. I don’t know too much about him, but I know one thing: he has a daughter named Emily. You can’t work around the guy one day without him mentioning Emily. If he’s not talking about howmuch she’s grown, he’s telling stories about her saying funny kid things. I love seeing how his face lights up when he mentions her. As far as I know, she’s the only thing he has outside of work.
So I don’t know what made me decide to do it, but I approached him one day about hanging outside of work.
“Hey, man. You wanna go somewhere or chill at your place some time?” I asked, and Lenny seemed surprised.
“Um, yeah sure. Could we hang out at my place? I can’t afford a babysitter and she’s been feeling not too well lately.”
“Yeah, that’s fine. Tomorrow night good?”
“Yeah sounds great!”
I eagerly anticipated hanging out, because to be honest he was the only guy at my work that I would consider hanging out with. He’s laid back and knows how to take a good joke...my sorta person if you ask me. Little did I know that this was going to be one of the strangest occurences in my adult life.
So I arrive at his apartment, and he lets me in. The first thing I expected was for Emily to be running around or at least being near the door as kids so curious. If I remember correctly, Lenny said she was around 4-5 years old. I peered down the hallway to my right and back to the living room in front of me, as the door was in the middle of an L-shape.
“Where’s Emily?” I asked.
“Oh, she’s laying in her room. She’s a bit shy, so she may not come out right away.”
“That’s okay. I wanted to chat for a bit before dinner anyway.”
So we sat down in the living room and talked about work and eventually got into our personal stories. Lenny talked about how he moved to our town on a whim and that’s where he met the woman that became Emily’s mom. Things didn’t work out between them, but because of her job constantly being on the move they decided it was best that he kept Emily. It was sad to hear, but Lenny seemed to be at peace with it.
“Yeah, so far we’ve just been doing our thing. Emily isn’t old enough to start asking hard questions yet, so I’ve had time to brace myself.”
“So I can’t remember if you’ve said but, how old is she?”
“Okay, I thought it was something like that.”
“Speaking of which, I need to check on her. I didn’t realize how long we’ve been talking!”
Lenny got up from his spot and he walked to the hallway and I heard him open a door.
“Emily, it’s time to come out. We’re going to eat soon anyway.” There was a pause for a second. “Okay, but put your toys up before you get more out, okay?”
Lenny walked my way, and he began to converse with me from the kitchen, where I soon joined him. I passed by some photos of Emily, and noted that the photo in the frame was the same as the picture he carried around to show people.
“You think if I said ‘hey’ to her real quick, she might warm up to me?”
“Ehh, yeah sure. I wouldn’t get your hopes up, but you can take a shot at it.”
I made my way to an open door in the hallway which led to a smaller bedroom with obvious decorations meant for a kid.
“Emily? I’m your dad’s friend, Mr. Lawrence.”
I poked my head in, and didn’t see her. In the middle of the room was a large stack of Lego’s that looked recently played with.
“Can I play some Legos with you?”
There was no answer, and I peered into her closet. I began to feel weirded out as she was nowhere to be seen, but maybe she was hiding under the bed.
“Are you under....here!” The space under the bed was empty.
Now out of hiding places, I returned to Lenny who was full engaged in cooking.
“Hey, did Emily leave her room? I didn’t see her.”
“Oh, that crazy girl. She’s always hiding. Don’t worry, she loves to eat so she’ll come out when food’s ready.”
We chatted some more about politics, sports, video games, you name it. Before long, we had three plates set at the table and Lenny beckoned Emily to the table. I sat down and waited a minute to see Emily approach, but it never came.
“Do you want to say grace, Emily?” Lenny spoke, his head directed at the empty seat beside him. It began to feel really weird, but I scolded myself. Any second, he was going to reveal that he was joiking. That joke never came. Lenny just bowed his head and closed his eyes, leaving me in an uncomfortable position as to what to do.
“Amen,” Lenny spoke up after a moment, then began eating. As I looked back and forth between the empty seat and Lenny, I waited for a smile to appear at his strange humor.
“So, you up for playing Borderlands tonight?” Lenny said with a smile. It was one of our favorite games.
“I could use some help with multiplayer getting past this one boss.” He paused for a second, then looked to Emily’s seat. “Emily, you know you have to eat your veggies. We’ve talked about this, now come on.” I began wondering more as Lenny would do this throughout dinner. Was my work friend crazy?
After dinner, we sat down in his living room and began playing our favoirte game. After an hour or so, it was eigh ’o clock, which apparently was Emily’s bedtime.
“Give me just a minute to put her to bed. Say good night to Mr. Lawrence!” I waited for an uncomfortable amount of time only to hear nothing, and didn’t know whether to say anything back. He left the room for a moment and went into her bedroom. After 5 minutes or so, I heard Emly’s door shut and he came back ot the den.
“Sorry, she usually settle down quicker. She’s all worked up when guests come over!”
“Are you kidding with me?” I said, unable to take the unaddressed joke any longer.
“No, she really gets antsy when she meets someone new.” Lenny said this very matter-of-fact, and genuinely looked befuddled by my question. He missed my implicatin of Emily not being here as a joke. I was going to insist, but another part of me thought better to let it go. If Lenny really was crazy, it was probably better not to agitate him about his delusion.
“Oh, okay. Haha.” I tried to play my statement off as jesst, and he seemed to take the bait. We spend a surprising amount of time playing video games that night. It was a Friday, so I didn’t put any limits on when to leave. This was a mistake, because before I knew it, it was one in the morning.
“Good round...oh shoot!” I saw the time on my phone, and instantly regreeted it. It was a thirty minute drive to my house, but I had a hard time staying awake at this hour.
“Oh, I didn’t notice the time either,” Lenny stated, looking at his own phone. “And you live kinda far, don’t you?” I nodded in agreeance. “Hey, why don’t you stay here if you’re too tired to drive? The couch is surprisingly comfy.”
I thought about it for a moment, and despite being weirded out by Lenny’s behavior, I had no reason to think he would hurt me.
“Yeah, sure. I don’t want to chance falling asleep at the wheel.”
You might think I’m a wimp for not being able to drive 30 minutes without sleeping at the wheel, but when I hit a wall it was hard to come back from. So Lenny fetched me some blankets to get covered in on the couch. We briefly talked a bit more before heading to bed.
“Oh, remember how small Emily was when she was born?”
“Yeah, you mentioned that earlier.”
“Check it out.” Lenny proceeded to hand me a copy of her birth certificate. I read the front, which proclaimed she was six pounds even.
“Oh, wow. She really was that tiny.”
“I know, hard to believe that was five years ago. Oh, let me check on her one more time before I forget.” He left for a second, leaving me holding this birth certificate. I stared for a moment, thinking on all the strange behvaior from Lenny. I shifted the paper a bit, and then felt something. It felt like there was another paper was stuck ot the back of the birth certificate. I rubbed the corner between my fingers, and there was indeed another paper behind it.
Pulling the paper on top, I read it and felt a cold shiver run down my spine.
It was a death certificate, for Emily dated five years back. I had to rub my eyes to make sure they weren’t playing tricks on me. The writing wasn’t imaginary, as it still said the same thing. I felt a residue on the front of the paper, only to realize it was a light application of glue. This was glued to the back of Emily’s birth certificate. Seeing as this was not meant for me to see, I hastily lined up the sheets of paper as they were and smoothed it back together in hopes to return it to its original state. It seemed to work, just in time for Lenny to retur.
“She’s so peaceful when she’s asleep.” Lenny stated with a big gin. I began to frantically analyze the smile , trying to find any hint of insanity in them. But I couldn’t sense anything like that.
“Yeah, they always do, don’t they?” I played along. After another minute of chatting, Lenny went to his bedroom with the incriminiating certificate in hand. I laid down, unable to sleep as the whole situation rattled around my brain. Then, the reality of the situation hit me.
Lenny wasn’t crazy, he was just heartbroken. People express grief in many ways, whether we find it too peculiar or not. Losing a child is one of the most devastating things that can happen, so would it be so uncommon to delude yourself that they were still alive? Lenny wasn’t harming anyone, he was simply trying an unconventional way to cope. It was horribly sad, and I felt a deep sorrow for Lenny. Who was I to break his illusion?
Finally, I settle down and began to fall asleep.
An unknown amount of time later, I woke up suddenly to what seemed like a noise. I was groggy enough to doubt that I’d actually heard something, so I listened for a moment. Then I heard it, the sound of blocks being moved? It was a slight clicking of plastic, and as I moved towards the kitchen I could hear it getting louder next to Emily’s room.
This can’t be possible...
Maybe I was too tired to know better, but I crept up to Emily’s door and listened. I heard the sound again, now even more sure that I was hearing it. I took a deep breath, and slowly opened the door. The pile of Legos was right where I’d seen them last, but this time they were moved around some.
Did Lenny seriously move these around for the illusion that Emily was playing?
The thought disturbed me so I quickly exited, shutting the door behind me. I started to walk down the hallway towards the den when I heard the sound again.
“Lenny?” I said aloud, hoping to hear him call back from inside Emil’s room. I hadn’t looked everywhere, so it was possible he was hiding in her room when I entered. The possibility was going to drive me crazy until I found out, so the only peace of mind was to confirm whether or not Lenny was in his room. I felt like an amateur thief creeping around someone’s house, but then again Lenny was the one who’d been creeping me out first.
Ever so slowly, I turned the door knob to the master bedroom. I held my breath, not knowing if the door would betray with the creaking of unoiled hinges. I was lucky enough, as the door opened wide enough for me to see inside. After giving my eyes a second to adjust to the darkness, I could see Lenny fast asleep on his bed. At this very moment, I heard the clink of plastic blocks again. My entire body went numb as I froze, and when it was silent again I quietly shut Lenny’s door.
The sound of blocks moving again made my veins feel like ice. I had to know what was making the sound, or else I would go insane. As I approached Emily’s door, I saw that it was standing wide open.
I had definitely left it closed last time.
Not having a direct line of sight into the room, I waited outside Emily’s door for the sound.
The second I heard it, I dashed into the room to see something I’ll never forget. Sitting smack dab in the middle of the room was a little girl. She wasn’t completely solid or transparent, her shape like colored static that resembled a young girl. Every detail of her matched the pictures Lenny had of her. I rubbed my eyes fiercely, hoping that I was dreaming or seeing things. Time stood still as I watched her continue to play with the Legos before she turned and looked me straight in the eye.
“Hi, Mr. Lawrence. Do you want to play with me?”
I shut the door and grabbed my coat as fast as I could, no longer the least bit tired. In a blur, I was back in my car, starting the ignition. As I began to roll out of the apartment complex, I looked back one last time and wish I hadn’t. Standing in the window to Emil’s room was her apparition. She simply waved and smiled at me. I didn’t quite feel the same sentiment, and I booked it out of there.
After I got back to my own house and locked the door, I finally felt safe again. I shot Lenny a text stating, “Hey, sorry had to leave early. Woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep so drove home. Had a good time.”
The last part was partially true, some of that visit was fun but was too overpowered by the ghastly sight of a girl who shouldn’t still exist. So the thought lingered with me for a while that my friend was currently living with the ghost of his own child. I tried so hard not to think about it, but it plagued me for a long time
My interaction with Lenny dwindled after that experience, until finally it seemed like we weren’t on each other’ s radar for a bit. This continued until I got one last interaction with Lenny through text.
“You saw her, didn’t you?” His text read.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Well that makes more sense now.”
“What do you mean?′
“She asks all the time when you’ll come over again. I told her you wouldn’t be coming over anymore. She wants so badly to play with you. Do you think you’ll be up to coming over again?”
After that text, I immediately transferred to another location and never spoke to Lenny again...ns184.108.40.206da2