- Text Size +
Story Notes:
Thanks to Drag for including her challenge in her SSFE request this year! And thanks to Insert56 for giving me the inspiration to put my own unique twist on Drag's idea. The story title and the name of the main (ghost) character are a slightly-altered reference to the Aerosmith song "Janie's Got A Gun," which also lent a few elements to the plot... The experiences of the librarian in this story are purely my own. My great-grandfather really did die of ALS in 1962, and it's even scarier than this story makes it out to be.


1966

“Shawn?” he whispered. “Shawn, it's me. Wake up. Wake up, Shawn!”
The both of them were huddled under the boardwalk, and Shawn had fallen asleep in the sand, covered only by an old winter coat. The night in Santa Barbara was warm but rainy. Water seeped through the cracks in the boardwalk, drenching the brown paper bag that he held in his hands.

“Shawn, wake up,” he said again, shaking his younger brother gently. “I brought you something to eat.”

He pulled the winter coat away from Shawn's face and his fingers brushed his little brother's skin. It was cold as a stone.

The color drained from his face. Wet fingers slipped from the paper bag and precious food fell unnoticed into the sand. He stumbled backwards, panting hard, flailing, unable to stand. “Shawn?”

When he could finally get to his feet, he turned and ran, still stumbling, running blindly with no destination in mind. Shawn was gone, and he had nowhere to go. Nowhere at all to go…

*********************

45 Years Later

Hey Gus, Shawn carefully crafted a text message, Just got jerk chicken & on way. ready to RUMBLE!!!

This declaration, of course, was followed by exactly six emojis before he grinned and hit the “Send” button.

Twisting in his seat, he checked to be sure that the styrofoam containers of food were secure in the passenger seat and his mirrors were clear. Then he set out onto the open road.

The day was rainy, but otherwise lovely, and Shawn hummed along to an Aerosmith song on the radio. He just had to stop by his new living space to grab his birthday gift for Jules before he went back to the Psych office.
After the lease on the dry cleaners ran out, he’d started renting an old boathouse for a song. Sure, half of the space inside was designed for keeping a boat that he didn’t have, but the price was right and he had a beautiful view of a boardwalk and a pier overlooking the beach. The only downside was that sometimes, the sound of the waves and the creaking from the boat-keeping area of the building (what was the technical term for that, anyway?) kind of kept him awake at night, and all that sea air and wind didn’t help much either. Still, it was a roof over his head that didn’t belong to his dad or to Gus, so he couldn’t complain.

He skipped in through the teal-painted front door of the wooden boathouse and headed for his tiny, ramshackle living room---which was mostly a space next to the door. His gift for Juliet, wrapped in silver paper with a big pink bow, was right on top of the flea market coffee table. He turned and was about to leave when he thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye…

He twisted and glanced all across the room, but he didn’t see anything except a shadow on the wall. He shrugged, locked the door, and got back in the car.

When he got back home a few hours later, he was as delighted as he was exhausted. Juliet loved not just her present, but also the giant ponies, too. Even though they pooped a lot. Apparently she was quite an accomplished horseback rider. Shawn, on the other hand…not so much. He flopped down into his plush-cushioned wicker chair and massaged his sore legs.

With a contented sigh, he drifted off to sleep.

Something was tugging at his shirt collar.

Shawn! Shawn, wake up!

Shawn bolted awake for reasons he couldn’t quite explain. He must’ve been dreaming, but if he had been, he couldn’t remember what it was. He yawned mightily. “Gus?” he said groggily, not really expecting Gus to be there, but still half-asleep and shaking himself into full consciousness. The room was chill and a little damp, not at all unusual for the boathouse at night. The glowing red numbers on the electric clock read 3:34 AM.

Yawning again, he pushed himself out of the wicker chair---stumbling slightly in his dazed state---and fumbled for the light switch. He grabbed a glass of water from the kitchenette and switched the light off again and turned up the heat a little before dragging himself off to bed.

He fell asleep---again---looking at the cutesy nautical decor left behind on the wall by the previous owner. He made a mental note to replace it with a Van Halen poster as darkness claimed him for the second time that night.

Wake up, Shawn!

Jolted awake by a loud rattle, Shawn sat up in bed, stiff muscles complaining, and looked blearily around the room. He didn’t see anything that would make a noise. Must’ve been the rocking of the ocean waves over in the boat-y part of the house. (He really needed to look up the term for that sometime. Preferably with Gus’ dictionary skills.) He yawned and looked over at the clock on his nightstand. This one had green numbers. 6:42 AM. He groaned slightly, rubbing his neck. He figured he could sleep in for another two hours before he would have to make a reasonable effort to get up. Just as he was laying down, he noticed a funny shadow on the wall behind the clock. But he was too sleepy to think much about it. This new house was full of shadows and water sounds.

It never occurred to him that, with all the lights in the room turned off, there was nothing there to actually make a shadow.

He woke up around 8:30 next, feeling much more rested despite the crick in his neck. As he shrugged his way out of the covers, he stopped and stared in puzzlement as he realized that one of the cutesy decorations had fallen down in the middle of the night. The wooden anchor had fallen off the wall… And seemed to have been broken in half. That would explain the rattle he heard in the night, but…what would’ve caused it?

His phone buzzed, distracting him from the mystery. Juliet had texted him; there was a major crime scene downtown. He jumped up, got dressed, and zipped out of the house, eager for a new case. The broken anchor and the weird noises were completely forgotten.

Gus crashed with him that night. Mostly because they didn’t leave the police station until well after midnight and Gus’ place was on the other side of town, and neither of them felt like driving all the way over there when they were so tired. For once, Shawn actually let Gus take the bed while he crashed in the wicker chair again. For whatever reason, that big poofy cushion was amazingly relaxing, and the thrift store purchase was rapidly becoming Shawn’s favorite chair ever.

“Oh, Wickliffe,” he murmured to the chair, using his pet name for it. “I’ll never get rid of you, even when I move again. Maybe I’ll strap you to a teeny tiny trailer and take you along behind my motorcycle…”

Shawn dreamed that he was hanging out under the boardwalk, waiting for Gus. He didn’t really know why he was waiting, or why he was there. He just knew that Gus was coming and that he was going to bring jerk chicken as soon as he could. The tips of his fingers were going numb and cold, and he slowly realized with horror that he couldn't move at all. No matter how much he struggled, he was entirely paralyzed. He tried to breathe, but his lungs wouldn’t move either. He couldn’t even scream.

“Shawn! Shawn! Wake up! Shawn, you’re scaring me!”

Shawn’s eyes flew open and he gasped, shaking in a cold sweat all over. His lungs heaved as if he’d just run a marathon. Gus was standing over him, brown eyes wide with the unmistakable look of the majorly freaked.

“Shawn, are you okay?” he asked in a trembling voice.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” Shawn replied, hands trembling as much as Gus’ voice. “I just had the freakiest dream ever. I was under the boardwalk and I couldn’t move and I couldn’t even breathe.”

“You weren’t breathing, Shawn,” Gus whispered.

“Yeah, that’s what I said. That’s why the dream was so scary.”

Gus shook his head back and forth just once, very slowly. “Shawn. I was standing right here. I came in after I heard you scream. You weren’t breathing. Your chest wasn’t moving. I even put my hand in front of your mouth. If you hadn’t woken up, I would’ve called an ambulance.” He even held up his cell phone to show Shawn the screen---he’d already typed 9-1.

Shawn took a very, very deep breath. “Gus, you wanna grab a burrito and crash at your place tonight?”

“Yeah. Let’s go.”

*********************

He invited Gus back over to his boathouse again the next night. This time, he pulled the wicker chair into the bedroom.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Gus asked dubiously.

“Not really,” Shawn replied. “But I didn’t have any nightmares or problems when I was crashing with you. Now I need to prove to myself that nothing is happening here. I had a night terror, that’s it.”

“Shawn…”

“There’s nothing weird happening at all,” Shawn said stubbornly. “I just need you to be here to double-check. You know. For science. Scientists double-check stuff, right?”

Gus shrugged.
Shawn got into the bed and pulled the covers up halfway. “Here goes nothing.”
“Good luck, Shawn.”

It was a while before he could drift off to sleep that time, but he felt better having Gus with him.

He had the dream again. The dream of sitting in the sand, unmoving, paralyzed completely. This time, he noticed something odd. The paralysis was only from the waist up at first, and he still had feeling in his fingers. Then, it slowly worked its way up, numbing his hands and freezing his lungs. That’s when the panic set in. But he forced himself to stay calm; after all, it was only a dream, and Gus was right there.

This time, the voice he heard definitely did not belong to Gus.



Enter the security code shown below: