“So, what do you think, Tara?” Paul dipped a french fry in ketchup and pointed it at her. “Should we hang up our Ghostbuster coats and neutron packs, and get out of this business altogether?”
“Well,” she said, poking at her salad with her fork, “I don’t think we should disband the SPR quite yet.”
They’d founded the Society of Paranormal Researchers during their sophomore year, and it consisted of the three of them. They had come up with the name mainly in order to register with the university’s Office for Student Organizations; if the school recognized them, they figured, they would sound more official – and less like random supernatural-seeking whack-jobs. They could also apply to receive funds, which they had done, successfully, the previous year: all of their equipment had been bought on the university tab. It still amused them that the Society of Paranormal Researchers at their rather distinguished university was really just three college kids, meeting over meals in the dining hall, chasing ghosts in between reading textbooks and writing papers.
Steven leaned over the table toward Tara. “Do you think he’s wrong?”
“Not at all. I think he’s right that, in many instances, when people think they see ghosts, what they’re actually experiencing is an optical illusion. But I don’t think that’s all there is. It’s like…” Again she bit her lip, and sat back in her chair – then straightened. “Pyrite, yeah? Fool’s gold. The existence of pyrite doesn’t mean that real gold doesn’t exist – even if pyrite is far more common.” She tilted her head at Paul. “Do you think everything we’ve seen is just an illusion?”
Paul picked up another fry. “Dude, I can hear ghosts. If all of that is just an illusion, then we’d better find me a straitjacket, and quick.”
“One thing I do find interesting, though,” Tara said. “He showed that our brains are wired to notice certain things. I wonder what role our brain’s wiring plays in who sees ghosts – and when, and under what circumstances.” She pointed her fork playfully at Paul. “What is it about your brain that lets you hear these things? Confess!”
Paul put up his hands. “All right; I admit it. The secret is that my brain is just as studly as the rest of my body. What can I say? Chicks dig ‘em big.”
“Just makes you a more tempting target for the zombies,” Steven said.
“Yes, that’s the price I must pay.”
Tara snorted, then took a bite of salad. “I don’t think there’s any way I can experiment on rats for this. I mean, I can put those little electrode caps on them to stimulate sections of their brains, but I can’t very well ask them if they see little rat-ghosts. Heck, I don’t even know if rats have ghosts.”
“If they do,” Steven said, “your lab would be full of them.”
“No doubt,” Tara grinned. “That suggests that there aren’t rat poltergeists, at least, or else we’d find beakers and test tubes inexplicably shattered on the floor all the time.”
“So, what do we do now?” asked Paul.
“I could do some research,” Steven said. “My schedule’s pretty light for the next couple of weeks. I could hit the library, see if there are any papers on paranormal experience and brain-structure, -chemistry, whatever. And of course, there’s always Google.”
Tara nodded. “Sounds like a start. I can help you, if you like. Paul? You up for that?”
Paul made a face. “Sadly, I have a ten-pager in Medieval History that’s due Friday, and I haven’t even started. Sorry, guys.”
“It’s okay; Tara and I can probably handle it.” Steven tapped the table with his fist. “Oh! I almost forgot! There was an article in today’s paper about a retired couple trying to sell a haunted house.” He pulled a clipping out of his bag and set it sideways on the table between Tara and Paul.
They both tilted their heads to take a closer look. “The house is just sitting there, empty?” Tara asked after a moment.
“Apparently,” said Paul, pushing up his glasses. “This seems to be a long-term haunt. I wonder when it started. They say the previous owners warned them about it, but did they tell them anything else?”
“I’d guess that they didn’t,” Steven said. “It’d be mentioned in the article if they had.” He turned to Tara. “What do you think?”
“I’m wondering if the Laceys would let us spend some time in that house.”
Steven reached into his pocket, pulled out a piece of paper with a phone number written on it, and waved it at her. “Want to find out?”
“Absolutely!” Tara said. “Tell you what – I have a few things to do at the lab. You can call from there, and then we can go to the library.”
Paul stood. “Well, have fun. I’m off to try to write something intelligent about monks and manuscripts and monasteries and all that other old stuff that starts with M…”
Tara nodded. “Good luck with that. Try not to get buried in it.”
“Mausoleum,” he sighed. “The list goes on. Shoot me a text when you guys know more about the house, okay?” With a wave he turned away.
“Will do,” Steven replied.
“Bye, Paul,” Tara said. She watched him walk away, then turned back to Steven. “Well, I need to go spend some time with my little rat-poltergeists. Shall we?”
“Sure. Wait…” He inspected her closely. “You’re not doing any beheadings and de-brainings today, are you?”
She laughed. “No; we do those on Monday. Today I’m just looking at slides.”
She held up one hand with two fingers extended. “Girl Scout’s honor!” She stood and picked up her tray. “Let’s go.”
Tara Martin – exceptionally accomplished neurobiology major with a troubled past. Steven Trent – confident political science major with an irresistible attraction to Tara. Paul Stratton – history major who is able to hear spirits. Together, they make up the Society for Paranormal Researchers at their prestigious New England University. When they’re not in class or writing papers, the three friends are chasing their passion….ghosts.
When the group learns of a local retired couple trying to sell a house they claim is haunted, they decide to investigate. As the clues unfold, a familiar spirit interrupts their investigation and Tara finds her life in danger. Can her friends save her before it’s too late?
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Genre – YA paranormal, NA paranormal
Rating – PG-13
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