This is the first chapter of the book The Unseen Murders, which is the first in the Haunted Silence Series. The main character is deaf and uses lip reading for most of the book. Lip reading is far from a perfect or accurate form of communication. It does not work with some people, nor are most people able to read lips. In order to move forward the plot, the lip reading in this book is exaggerated. There are times when the character is unable to read someone's lips either because a word is unclear or because of a situation such as lighting. Additionally, a portion of this story is also in ASL, American Sign Language. The grammar for ASL differs from English grammar. For example, In English you would say, "I give the boy a ball." In ASL you would sign, "Me boy ball give." Of course there are more ways to sign that sentence, just as there are more ways to say that. Both languages are complex and open to variation of use in communication. However, while describing signing in this book, it is written in English grammar. It is not a literal translation of the signs being used. This book is not about being deaf/Deaf but just about someone who happens to not be hearing. It does supply some information about the Deaf community. This urban fantasy/crime series is a comedic look at life dealing with communication in general and relationships set in Atlanta, Georgia.
My name is Cassie Forester, and I was born deaf. I have total sensorineural deafness. This means I don’t just hear poorly. I don’t hear at all. It is a genetic condition described as being autosomal recessive. This means both my parents are hearing people, but they carried a deafness gene and didn’t know it. They got together, had me, and then the genetic testing came in. The rest was evident. Some people say I got the short end of the stick, but being deaf isn’t bad, just different.
I have an older brother and an older sister, and they are both hearing people. Me, I’ve never heard the voice of another living soul. Of course, not all souls are living. The dead talk to me.
They tell me I’m a necromancer because I can affect them, control them if I have to. Of course, I only do this when it is absolutely necessary. Most of the dead are nice, existing in a world layered on our own, not quite ready to pass over to the afterlife, heaven, wherever they go. They can’t tell you for sure. The answer is as different as there are beliefs in the world.
Some of the dead aren’t as nice, holding to this world because they fear their reward in the ever after. They act maliciously, usually picking a victim and sticking with them, an unlucky charm. This is where I step in, giving the ghost a good shake by their metaphysical neck until they get back in line.
Not all ghosts are reasonable and go beyond mean fun to the point of real harm. Even worse are those that have gone beyond humanity, turned into a bestial horror that lives for pain and despair. Both of these categories cause the same reaction in me: time to take out the big gun, exorcism. There is no circle or incense, no weird chanting. It is more like arm wrestling with a live electrical wire. So far I’ve had the higher wattage.
My best friend is Evelyn. She’s seven, and she’s been dead since 1973. She had a younger brother, a baby, who got snatched by some serial killer. They found the body, what was left of him, several days later. Her mom lost all touch with reason and drowned Evelyn in the bathtub. She didn’t know what happened after she was dead.
When I got old enough, I went to the library and we looked in some old newspaper microfilms. Apparently Evelyn’s dad came home and found them in the bathroom, her mom holding Evelyn’s body and crying that the woman had killed her. They put her mom in a mental institution and within a year, after several unsuccessful attempts, her mom killed herself. I don’t know what happened to Evelyn’s dad, but I’m still looking. When we find out, I think she may be ready to move on.
It was surprising for my parents when they found out I was deaf. I’m sure it was quite a shock, but they got over it fast because it didn’t change who I was or how they felt about me. Mom did what she does anytime she is challenged by something new. She takes a class on it. My mom took sign language classes for two years at the community college. She taught the rest of the family to sign. Now she works as an interpreter for the deaf community. She’s really cool.
Now I’m not saying everything was great growing up. The deafness wasn’t the thing that had me going to the doctor all the time though. It was the way I stared off into space and laughed at nothing, reacted to nothing that anyone else could see. Test after test showed no brain damage, but my parents were insistent that something was wrong. You know how sometimes your dog or cat will just stare at a spot on the wall, or will run from the room at full speed? That was me, minus the flea collar. And yes, I am saying that your pets can see spirits. It’s not always spirits that make them act that way though. Sometimes they’re just messing with y’all.
They changed their cries from brain damage to genius when I started reading at two. Okay, so I was nearly four before I started reading, still really young, but my parent’s didn’t know that at the time. All they knew is I’d sit down with a new book, flip the pages a few times while smiling, then I’d be able to tell them what was going on in the book. Believe me, the illustrations weren’t that good, but Evelyn was a good reader. She eventually taught me how to read.
Evelyn taught me how to talk too. The credit went to my teachers and parents, but it was really Evelyn. She’s been my best friend for as long as I can remember anything. She’ll be my best friend until the day I die or she truly passes from this world.
I don’t really fit into any community. I can hear the dead so I’m not deaf. I can’t hear the living so I’m not a hearing person. I don’t even fit into the dead community because I’m alive. I’ve looked for a deaf group on the necromancy website and a necromancer group on the local deaf website, but so far no luck.
I was the youngest ever licensed necromancer. Not by a few months or even a year. The old record was seventeen and I got my license at four…almost five. Apparently deafness allowed me to do something no hearing necromancer had done before, really listen to the dead all the time. You see the dead don’t usually scream and yell, but they’ll talk if you’ll listen. Most hearing people don’t hear them until it’s something big, like really major, or ignore what little they hear because it can’t be real. When it’s the only thing you can hear it’s pretty much impossible to ignore.
When I was four and in my special pre-school for deaf kids, one of the children came to school dead. I know that sounds weird, but that’s what happened. I was playing off to the side with Evelyn and
I turned and saw him standing there and that’s when it sunk in. Something had happened; he was dead.
“Are my mom and little sister all right?” He signed.
We were a school for kids who had families who were hearing, and we learned to speak as well as sign. We all practiced saying each other’s names, but American Sign Language, ASL, was our primary language. We worked on saying other words, but every one of us would sign given the opportunity. It was our first language, our preferred language, and it still is.
The ghost shrugged, looking a bit confused, then thoughtful as he signed, “I don’t know. My mama was driving us to school and we was just down the road a bit. I remember hearing a siren. It was the first thing I ever heard. It knew it was hearing, because it was new, and there was so much of it everywhere. It was like being under water, except I could breathe.” He shrugged again. “There was too much of it and I couldn’t get away. It was scary. I couldn’t find my mama, but I could see the school and I needed help. It got tired to coming here; then I saw you. You look weird; you glowy. I think you’ll help me.”
“I’ll help you
She looked around the room, then signed, “Where is Trent?”
“He died before he got to school. Can you call his mom?”
That was not the response she was expecting. “Cassie, you have to stop going on about death, child. I’m sure
“Tell her I heard a siren.”
I translated for Trent. “He says he heard a siren. Can you call the doctor?”
Right about that time the principal came in and pulled Mrs. Beals out of the classroom. She came back in and looked like she had seen a ghost. That’s just a figured of speech. I’ve seen lots of ghosts and they don’t make you look weird or anything. She took me out of the classroom to talk to me privately.
“Cassie, how did you know about
“He told me.” She seemed really upset, and I didn’t know why because I was telling the truth. Mrs. Beals took me to the principal and I had to tell him the same thing I told her. They called my parents and there was a big to do about it. I finally got them to tell me that his mom and little sister were okay. Trent smiled and gave me a hug; then he faded away in my arms. I don’t know where he went but I know it was full of love. I don’t fear death, just dying.
As a side effect, helping
My parents were all off kilter about this, but one hundred percent supportive of me. That’s their way. We went to see some specialists, and they did lots of tests with weird machines. They made lots of notes and faces like things were interesting.
They asked if there were any ghosts in the area. My lip reading was only so-so at that time, so Evelyn repeated everything just to make sure I got it all. Even now it’s more of an art than a science. I told them Evelyn had come with me today.
My mom was standing behind me talking to the doctors. “Evelyn’s her imaginary friend.”
That got Evelyn pouting. She hated being called imaginary. “She’s calling me imaginary again. Tell her to quit that.”
“Mom, Evelyn says please don’t call her imaginary.” Some ghosts I edit for grammar, some for language. For Evelyn I edit for attitude. In some ways eternally seven didn’t suit her.
Keep in mind my mom was standing behind me when she spoke and there were no mirrors in the room. My mom dropped down and spun me around in my chair to face her.
“Baby, Cassie baby can you hear me?”
My mom’s a smart lady, but dang that was a dumb question. Hadn’t Mom been paying attention for the last four years? Then it hit me. She was asking because I was translating for Evelyn.
I shook my head. “No mom, but Evelyn can.”
Everyone got super excited or worried or whatever their mood was, but it was super-sized. They were scurrying around like ants in a rain storm. Mom started crying. I couldn’t figure out why because I always told her things that Evelyn asked me to. The doctors made more notes and some phone calls. We all went to another room with more machines, my parents refusing to leave me alone in a room with anyone else. The doctors wanted to know if there was anything special I could do with Evelyn, and she translated for him.
“You mean like eating pie?” Okay, so that only sounds like a non sequitor. It actually was right on topic. Evelyn loved pecan pie, yet another reason she was my best friend. We discovered one day she could taste it if she rode shotgun in my body. Any time Mom made pecan pie, Evelyn would jump inside and join me for supper. I stayed in control but felt all tingly.
One of the doctors, I don’t know who he was but he was a doctor, asked me some more questions. “What do you mean about the pie Cassie?”
Evelyn translated for him too.
“Evelyn likes to eat pie with me. We eat it together.”
“If we get you some pie can you show us?” When it comes to pie, Evelyn was more than happy to tell me what people wanted to know. She was already nodding, so I did too. They stuck lots of weird wires onto me with sticky stuff before I could eat. Evelyn climbed inside me and machines lit up and needles pointed to the red. The doctors all got excited and jumped up and down. I turned to see my mom and dad and they looked scared, but I smiled to show them it didn’t hurt and we ate more pie. I signaled to one of the doctor guys and he came right over. He asked me something, but I couldn’t hear him and Evelyn can’t hear inside my body. When a ghost is in me, they’re deaf. She jumped out.
“Evelyn couldn’t hear you ’cause of being inside me,” I said. “She can hear you now.”
“Wow!” He looked over at the machines, shaking his head, then looked back at me and Evelyn told me what he said once again. “What do you need darling? Are you okay?”
I nodded. “Yes sir. Can we have some milk?”
He smiled, laying a hand gently on my head. “Of course you can sweetie.” He turned and apparently yelled. “Someone get this kid some milk!” We finished our food and Evelyn jumped out again to play translator. I think she was enjoying all of the attention. The doctors wanted to know if we could do anything else together, anything special.
“Well, we moved a car once.”
More excited note taking.
“How did you move the car darling?”
I turned to my mom. “Mama, you remember when we moved the car on that bad weather day right?”
My mom looked blank at first but then she remembered. Crouching down in front so I could see her lips she spoke to me and signed at the same time. “Do you mean on that icy day? The car that slid and almost hit us?”
I nodded, “We moved it.”
“Cassie, Cassie?” The doctor touched my arm and I turned around. “Can you and Evelyn move this?” He put a pen out on the table. It was a lot smaller than a car. It was easy. I reached out my hand and tossed it across the room and off the wall. I didn’t actually touch it, just pushed at it with energy. Honestly I really don’t know how to explain how it works. You try and explain how you walk. You just do it right?
I only thought that the doctors were excited before. The one who kept talking to me screamed, “Somebody get a fucking camera in here!”
He wasn’t facing me, but Evelyn heard and asked me what a fucking camera was. I didn’t know so I asked my mom. My mom started crying. I got scared and started crying too. Things went downhill from there.
The end result was that I was off the chart for any test they had ever done. We spent three days doing tests, but went home at night. I told them we had to stay at home because Evelyn got tired away from the house for too long. I got a card with my picture on it and they said it was a license. When I asked my mom if I could drive she laughed but then she started crying again so I started crying again. Evelyn made faces at me so I made them back and we laughed. My dad even started crying then.
Almost twenty years later I’m the top necromancer for the state of