In the area that I lived in, there were a lot of abandoned buildings and houses. There were old theatres, restaurants, motels, and houses that had long been vacant for whatever reason. The most interesting was a high school three blocks from my house.
The high school was built in the 1940s, however, in 1977, it was destroyed by a fire and sadly, 45 students and 12 adults, including my mom, who was a lunch lady, and my dad, who was the vice principal, lost their lives. I was only twelve and my sister was eight. We had an older brother named, Mike, who went to that high school, however, after the fire we didn't hear from him for several hours. We eventually caught up with him and we all moved to a relative's house. It was Mike who helped me and my sister through our parents' deaths because it tore us apart. Sometimes he would take puppets he made out of his backpack and just put on a silly show and very often it cheered us up. After some years passed, Mike finally left the house, due to the relatives we lived with, ignoring him all the time and we didn't really see him much. We would occasionally get letters from him and as years went by, and we would get the occasional phone call to see how we were doing and such.
My sister and I, today, were urban explorers; we searched through long forgotten, vacant buildings and sometimes bring souvenirs from the past. Some examples were: a film reel of King Kong from a 1930s theatre, a calendar dated 1959 from an old office building, a record player from a house, hell I even took and restored a 1940s pickup truck which I still drove today. My siste and I had expressed interest in going to the school, however, just the memory of that school being the last place my parents were at, kept us from going. We decided though that once we both had
spare time from working, that we were gonna go. And the next time we both were available was next weekend.
When the weekend came, my sister and I gathered our flashlights and everything we needed. As we were getting ready to head out, I got a call from Mike saying he heard that we were gonna go to the school and he warned us that we may not like what we see. I didn't understand what he meant but we were gonna go anyway. As my sister and I arrived at the school, the destruction was still evident. We held back tears as we went through what was once a window. Everything was charred and you could still see things like shoes and burned remains of school supplies in some of the classrooms. I spotted at least four classrooms that were unaffected by the fire and you could still see what the assignments were for that day. One classroom had been reading MacBeth by Shakespeare. In that classroom were articles of clothing like jackets and several backpacks. One backpack in particular caught my eye so I decided that would be my souvenir, the rest I left alone.
We went to the cafeteria and boy was it a mess. There were still plates on the tables and several patches of graffiti as neighborhood hoodlums had been known to gather in the cafeteria after it burned down. Some hallways are also clearly marked with graffiti but the deeper in the school you go, the less common it became till it just disappeared. In the areas with no graffiti, it ranged from severe damage to the unscathed classrooms mentioned earlier. We headed to our dad's old office and saw it suffered little damage. His table and chair were still in good condition but old. We saw photographs on the floor and when we picked them up; we saw they were old family pictures of us. One was me, my sister, and Mike making a snowman the one time it snowed when we were young. There was another where my dad was holding me as I went to my first day in elementary. The rest was of him and my mom looking happy.
Tears were coming to me and my sister's eyes as my sister took the pictures and put them in her backpack carefully. We decided we had enough and went straight home. When we got home, I went through the backpack I picked up. Most of it contained just random drawings but as I went through it more; I discovered puppets that looked extremely familiar. I looked at the school assignments and read the name on all of them. Each paper said Mike Duran. It couldn't be. I called Mike but there was no ring. I then called one of the relatives I lived with after my parents' deaths and asked where Mike was. Her response chilled me to the bone.
She said, "Bobby, I thought you knew? Mike died in the school fire along with your parents. I thought it was strange when you and your sister would mention him but I thought it was something that would help y'all cope so I never said anything. He's buried in the same cemetery as your parents. Go six headstones to the right and you'll find him. I'm so sorry."
This could NOT be true, I told my sister and we went straight to the cemetery, and sure enough, six headstones to the right of my parents, was Mike. We both broke down in tears as we realized Mike was never with us, that he died with my parents.
My sister said, "So everything was just us being so heartbroken and all that bullshit huh?"
And that's when behind us, we heard, "It wasn't bullshit." We turned around to see Mike, looking like a teenager. Looking just like he did the day the school caught fire, now transparent like a stereotypical ghost. He said, "It wasn't bullshit because I knew that if y'all found out I died too, y'all would go nuts. So I asked the Big Man upstairs if I could at least stay with y'all until y'all were ready. He agreed, however, he said that until y'all find out the truth about me, I shall remain on Earth. Don't you see? I didn't want y'all to be alone, to suffer through the death of the whole family. But my work here is done and now you know the truth. I must go now, take care. I love you two."
We told Mike we loved him too and watched him vanish into thin air. We both knew that we would never hear from him until we too passed away. But instead of grieving, we accepted that our older brother stayed with us to take care of us, and even up from the heavens, he would always watch over us.