Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Silver
Cynthia Wilfert

“Let’s go.” Brandon held out his fist expectantly.

Billy stared at it, his nose crinkling with uncertainty. “This seems scientifically unsound.”

Brandon heaved the long-suffering sigh of a preteen saddled with a too-smart little brother. He quirked an eyebrow. “Do I hear you volunteering?”

Billy snapped his mouth shut with an audible click. After another moment of silent consternation he held out his own fist.

“One, two…” They both shook their fists. “…three.” Brandon held two fingers out. Billy groaned, staring helplessly at his own flat hand.

Brandon grinned and mimed a snipping motion. “Scissors cut paper. Have fun, baby brother.”

Billy sighed and turned with great trepidation to face the house. “Best two out of three?” he asked hopefully.

Brandon shook his head and pointed down the path.

“Fine.” Not about to be called a sissy, Billy squared his shoulders and started across the yard.

The house was a wretched sight. No one had shown any interest in rebuilding, so it still stood as it had since the fire. Most of the second story was burnt away, rubble having tumbled into the ground floor. The haunting rumors had started almost immediately. When an entire family lost their lives, perhaps it was natural for a little town to seek a coping mechanism. Since schoolmates had died in the blaze, the children especially had taken to tales of ghosts still hanging about.

The full moon completed the eerie setting as Billy crept towards the door. He was careful as he made his way inside, avoiding long-broken furniture and trinkets. What little wallpaper that was left in the long hallway was peeling away. Billy tiptoed onward, trying not to think about the horror those walls had seen.

There was a sudden, sharp sound in a room to his right. He jumped, trembling as he forced himself to peek. A rock rolled to a lazy stop on the floor beneath a mirror, a fresh crack now added to the scars.

Billy cautiously moved forward, half-dreading to find the hand that had thrown it.

The dark figure stood in the middle of the living room. It gingerly avoided the remains of the couch as it turned and its features caught the light. The face was pale beneath the baseball cap, eyes darting about to all the dark corners.

Billy stared. He knew this boy. Granted, it had been a couple of years. But then, the dead don’t age. “Jake Carlson,” he whispered reverently.

The figure spun towards him. “Who’s there?”

Part of him wanted to turn and run. Instead he summoned his courage and stepped forward slowly, into the moonlight.

Jake’s eyes were wide, frightened as well.

“You don’t have to be afraid.”

Jake stared at him for a long, breathless moment, then shifted his gaze beyond Billy.

Billy turned to find that he was standing between the boy and the long, broken picture mirror that had once graced the wall. He watched as fear played across Jake’s features in the glass. He turned back, reached out. His hand went straight through Jake’s shoulder.

A shiver tore through the lean form and Jake jerked away, stumbling into the desk behind him. “Stay away,” he croaked, grasping for something to defend himself. He came up with a rusted pair of pinking shears and fumbled to open them, holding them out like knife blades.

Billy winced and drew back. But when the blades came at him, he felt nothing.

Jake had put his weight into the thrust and he tumbled straight through after the scissors. He went to the floor, accidentally slicing his hand open in the process. Billy stared at the blood, mesmerized, as Jake climbed unsteadily to his feet.

“Wait, you don’t have to go! I won’t hurt you!”

But Jake was already gone, stumbling around broken furniture and rubble as he hastened away.

Billy sighed and turned back to the broken mirror. It was always so strange to be reminded. He wondered if he really looked so frightening. He tried not to be bothered by the fact that he would never know. Eyes downcast, Billy made his way back out of the house and down the path to the little shed set just inside the woods.

Brandon was waiting. “Did you scare them off?”

“Yes,” he whispered. “Why won’t they leave us alone?”

“Because they’re stupid.”

That hadn’t been an acceptable answer for anything since he was five, but… maybe it was true.

Brandon went on. “And if we just tried to ignore them…”

“They might come find us back here. I know.”

Brandon, for all his annoying qualities, also had his valiant big brother moments. He gave Billy a sympathetic look and actually reached towards him to comfort. He aborted the gesture at the last moment. It was so easy to forget.

Some perverse urge made Billy complete the movement. He brought his hand up, watched as it went straight through his brother’s, leaving no sensation at all. Of all the things he’d lost, from his friends to his reflection, it was this he missed the most. He couldn’t feel. He couldn’t even have contact with his brother, and Brandon was just like him.

He turned back to look at the house. He’d almost forgotten what the pain felt like. But he remembered the screaming; remembered his mother down the hall, through the flames; remembered Brandon at his side, trying to cover him; remembered his father downstairs, mesmerized by the match. Physical sense had been severed when his life ended. Why couldn’t it be the same for emotion? “It isn’t fair.”

Brandon set his jaw and looked away. “Death isn’t known for its fairness.”

Billy stared at the house, and he wished they could leave it all behind. He stared at their home and he knew they never would.


Cynthia Wilfert is a recent graduate from the University of Tennessee. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics and is just getting her feet wet in the writing world. Science fiction, fantasy, and mystery are her favorite genres for dabbling. She hopes to have many more stories in her future! E-mail: cwilfert[at]