Chapter 5:

The Dynamic Duo Make a Daring Escape

The Love Triangle Between Me, The Class President, & The Spirit Possessing Me

I brace for impact, but when I hit the ground, it sinks with me, cushioning my landing. Before I have time to process what’s going on, it snaps back into place, launching me upward.

When I was seven, two of my older cousins double-bounced me on the trampoline in their backyard and sent me flying up and over the side into my aunt’s rose bushes. Thankfully, there are no rose bushes on the roof of the hotel.

“You see? Please don’t try that again!” Sophie cries. “You’ll hurt yourself at this rate!”

After a few shaky breaths (or a lot), my mind catches up with everything that happened in the last few seconds. “Did the ground,” I pant, “Just. Spring me back up here. Like a stupid cartoon?”

“A what?”

I barely hear Sophie’s reply. This is… this is just stupid! It’s like the hotel doesn’t want me to leave with Sophie. Well, it can get over itself! “Okay, if that’s the way you wanna play it,” I grumble, aware that I’m ranting at a building. “We can play it like that. I’m leaving. Sophie’s leaving, and I don’t care if you don’t like it, you run-down pile of bricks!”

Knowing which stairs are safe, it’s faster getting back down to the ground floor. As soon as I step off the bottom step of the grand staircase, I light off across the reception area again for the doorway. Don’t overthink, just move fast enough to take it by surprise.

Guess what? I get flung back halfway across the floor again.

Maybe it’s stupid to take a supernatural, invisible barrier around an abandoned building personally. I guess that makes me stupid, or stubborn, or both.

I try again, faster this time, yelling as I hit the barrier.

I fly back again, straight over the reception desk to crash into the wooden cubbyhole thing where they kept the room keys and guests’ mail. Rusty keys and ancient envelopes rain down on me while I struggle to push myself onto my hands and knees.


“Fine,” I sputter, staggering to my feet. “I’m okay. I’m fine!” I hit my head on the way down, but not that hard.

One more try. I almost have this place worn down, I’m sure of it!

I run at the doorway again, picturing myself sailing right through onto the street outside. It’s gotta be a willpower thing, right? The same way I can block Sophie from controlling my body, I can make the hotel let us go.

Two extra steps now, far enough that I’m almost out from under the remains of the hotel’s front awning.

It’s inevitable, I guess, but as I fly back into the hotel yet again, I yell in sheer frustration until hitting a moldering armchair knocks the wind out of me.

“Clark, stop this!”

Sophie sounds really upset this time, enough that I pause. Once I stop moving, the pain I’m in hits me all at once. My legs are screaming, reminding me that I ran full tilt all the way here from the school not all that long ago. My head is pounding and I can feel a bump forming on my scalp where I hit it.

There’s a sharp sting on my cheek, and I reach up to find a huge splinter jabbed into the skin. Pulling it out, I feel a trickle of blood.

Guilt raises a lump in my throat, but I’m not the one feeling guilty. “What if that had gotten in your eye instead?” Sophie says, and there’s that urge to wring my hands again. “Please stop before… Oh, I’d never forgive myself if something happened to you because of me. You’re being such a sweetheart, and I’m being so selfish!”

“I’m fine,” I say, because I probably have a slight concussion and it’s all I can think to say.

“It isn’t meant to be,” Sophie says, and the urge to wring my hands turns into an urge to cry. “It’s alright. Really! I should wait right here. I told my parents I’d wait right here until they got back from their luncheon.”

Is my concussion contagious? Is it affecting Sophie while we’re sharing my body? I have to wonder, because she’s not making sense.

“I know you don’t wanna disappoint your folks,” I say, sitting up against the wall to rest for a minute. I don’t want to stand up just to faceplant right away. “But that’s a load of bullcrap, Sophie.”

She gasps silently. Right, I guess language was a lot more delicate back in the old days.

“If you didn’t wanna leave, you wouldn’t still be riding shotgun with me. And don’t you start with that,” I add, feeling her shame welling up in my stomach. “How long have you been waiting? Are you just gonna sit here forever? How is that fair?”

“I…” Sophie hesitates for a long moment. “I don’t know.”

Gingerly, I push myself to my feet, using the wall for support. “Sometimes you have to put yourself first. You don’t gotta be the perfect kid all the time.” I shuffle along the wall back down the hallway to reception.

Sohpie’s so quiet I can barely hear her in my own skull. “I was never a perfect kid…”

“And? So what? We all deserve a chance to be happy and live our own lives, no matter who that disappoints!” I’m really wound up now. Head injuries and paranormal activity just bring that out in me, I guess. “Look at me! If I worried about doing everything the right way, I never would have met you in this creepy, piece of crap hotel!”

I face down the doorway. I know that if I don’t get through this time, the next flight I take will probably put a stop to any more attempts. It’s do or die this time. Or, at least, do or get knocked out. That’s still pretty bad for you, I hear.

I’m unsteady on my feet, but I force myself to stay upright. “And if I was worried about never disappointing my folks,” I say, thinking back over the school day that felt like another lifetime right now, when Sabrina had given me a curiosity about the future and a sense of drive I’d never felt back home, “I wouldn’t have met the woman of my dreams!”

I feel a flutter in my chest on saying that out loud, even if Sabrina’s nowhere around to hear it.

“Is… Do you really mean it?” Sophie seems as taken aback by my sudden confession as I am.

Instead of feeling embarrassed, I find myself smiling. “I mean it. I’m gonna live my life!” I say, dashing for the doorway. “You should get to live your life too, Sophie!”

As tired as I am, I feel like I’m running faster than ever. Like my feet barely skim the floor. The shabby reception area is rendered a gray and brown blur as the rectangle of the doorway grows in my vision. Ten steps away. Five. Two!


The resistance is there, builds… then shatters around me. And it’s gone.

We’re out on the street, running out from under the awning into the night.

“Yeah!” I holler, triumph filling my lungs to the top. “Take that!”

Sophie fills my head with peals of elated laughter. “We’re out! We’re out! You did it, Clark, you really did it!”

I don’t notice the building across the street until I smack straight into it at full speed.

Nothing cuts a party short like seeing stars and snorting air through a bloody nose. I sit down hard on the sidewalk. “Oww… No one saw dat, did dey?” Wincing, I feel my nose to check whether it’s broken. I don’t think it is, but I don’t really know how to tell, either way.

“Gee, Clark, are you okay?” Sophie’s peering at me from her own ghostly face again. Did I run into the wall hard enough to knock her straight out of me?

“I’m…” Before I tell her I’m fine again, I take a moment to reassess. I have a bump on my head, a cut on my cheek, and a bloody nose. To be honest, I’ve felt better. In a daze, I stagger to my feet for what feels like the millionth time today. “I might need a designated driver, actually.” Pinching the bridge of my nose, I lean back to try to stop the bleeding. The motion makes me woozy.

Sophie gives me a blank stare. “A designation whosit?”

Sighing, I wipe my nose and mouth on my sleeve. This shirt is stained and torn beyond saving anyway. “I mean, I think I hit my head. It might be easier for you to walk me home, if you’re up for it?”

Going to the hospital had crossed my mind, but I don’t have my insurance card with me, and in any case I have no idea where the hospital is from here.

“Of course! Anything I can do to help!” Sophie disappears, diving back into my body.

A second helping of that backwards not-nausea is the last thing I need or want, but it’s gone after a few seconds. This time, I do my best to let Sophie take the wheel. The way I’m feeling after all this, letting her possess my body is like taking a big dose of aspirin.

“Sakes alive,” Sophie says, stumbling with my legs and catching our balance against the wall. “Clark, you feel downright lousy!”

“Yeah, I noticed.” I taste a mix of blood and mortar. My shirt sleeve didn’t make for a very good washcloth. “I’ll tell you what turns to make, okay? And you just focus on walking, because I definitely can’t right now.”

She agrees, and we lurch in more or less a straight line down the sidewalk toward home.

Behind us, we leave behind the Kensington Hotel, now abandoned for real.

And across from the hotel, a shallow crater in the side of the building we ran into, not that either of us had the presence of mind to notice that little detail until later…