Sami’s mom has Sami’s bed facing away from the door because that’s how the devil enters your body when you are asleep and the devil would like nothing better than to possess a girl like you from your toes right on up to your head. So, her bed is against the wall under the window she isn’t allowed to open because evil spirits like to come in, especially when your room isn’t clean. Sometimes, she likes to look into the darkness and catch a glimpse of any spirit trying to enter her room, imagining a swirl of hair and glinty eyes.
Sami must always keep her room immaculately clean, especially under her bed, because ghosts feel welcome if they have clothes and towels and books and bags to hide among. Ghosts want to grab you and pull you under there, taking you to their world. She imagines a dark-haired girl with unblinking eyes grinning at her, waiting to pull her down as she looks under her bed to check if it’s clean, knowing that the things under her bed have nothing to do with ghosts.
Sami never puts her purse on the floor even in her room. Always hang your purse on a chair or on a hook. Spirits will steal your luck and take all of your money. She doesn’t really have any money but she knows that when she does, she will lose it as quickly as she gets it even if her purse never touches the ground.
Sami’s parents tell her not to whistle at night. They will get you if you whistle. Evil spirits love to take little girls who whistle at night. They tell her not to clip her fingernails at night, too. Dark witches love to collect your bits and use them to curse you. So, she is always careful to never whistle no matter how much she wants to and to bury her fingernail clippings in the bottom of the trash where no witch can find them.
When Sami’s parents leave her at home one night, she absolutely knows there is a ghost under the kitchen sink full of dishes she was supposed to wash and dry and put away and she runs across the street to the neighbors, crying and shaking, snot streaming down her nose and into her mouth, hiccupping about dark hair and dark eyes behind the bottle of dish soap. When her parents come home to a house with the doors open, all of the lights on, the dishes still dirty in the sink and no Sami, the neighbors try to bring her back but she is screaming about the girl under the kitchen sink and crumples on the neighbors’ perfectly green lawn, knowing that there are worse things than a ghost under the kitchen sink.
Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has fiction in Booth, Pleiades, The Citron Review, Waxwing, Milk Candy Review, Claw & Blossom, Bending Genres, (mac)ro(mic), Necessary Fiction, HAD, The Birdseed, Bandit Fiction, NFFR and Best Small Fictions 2021. Hard Skin, her short story collection, will be coming soon from Juventud Press. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at www.melissallanesbrownlee.com.