She had been spending more and more time in the hidden room in the couple of weeks since the party. There was no missing the irony that it had become her refuge from her parents’ thinly-veiled rage and disdain. For all they professed no guilt in what bastards her father’s family had been, they weren’t too keen on letting those skeletons out in public just to find her.
And there were a lot of skeletons, she was beginning to discover.
The paintings had only been the beginning. Packed away in crates and boxes and tucked into niches, she’d found artifacts of all kinds that probably would have been more suitable for the Pines pair to examine than her. All with their own horrible tales, probably. Time after time, she’d considered calling the Shack to have them come look at some grotesque souvenir she’d unearthed. How hard could it be to find the number of a local tourist trap? Even if the old man didn’t seem savvy enough to have a website, he had to have at least put out ads. But after that terrifying incident a few days ago where she’d spent nearly half an hour waiting to be gotten down from a chandelier after the entire world seemed to have temporarily turned itself upside down… she had a feeling it was best not to bother them. The creepy taxidermied things and strange amulets could just wait.
The book she’d come across on her latest visit, however, looked harmless enough, so she’d hidden it in her jacket and carefully snuck it up to her room to get a look at it in better light. Carefully closing the drapes in case of servants who might be spying on her parents orders, she flopped on her bed, turned on her lamp, and pulled it out.
Gold-lined pages were bound in white leather that had probably been quite soft when the book had been made, but had dried and cracked after years, maybe decades of being hidden away. Little gold filigree designs including elegant birds with long tails were stamped around the edges of the front and back, some of the gold having flaked away. From the looks of it, a long-rotted off leather strap had once held it closed.
It was a gorgeous piece of work, really. It had probably been really expensive, Pacifica thought as she ran her fingers over the spine, then flipped it open.
There were pages missing, she noticed first. Almost a fourth, she amended as she skimmed. On first glance, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what had been torn out. One page here, a whole chunk of them there, two or three more in another spot. Unfortunately, it seemed most of the writing had faded so badly that it was hard to make out any clues to what might have been taken out. In fact, the only clear ink left seemed to be journal dates listed in the corners of some of the pages with enough frequency that she was sure she’d found someone’s diary.
Flipping to the end, she paused.
The last page was dated June 1863.
Pacifica got an uncomfortable chill down her spine at that. It could just be coincidence, but… she didn’t think so. Not after everything she’d learned so far.
She snapped the journal shut and just held it tightly, taking several deep breaths before she made herself open it again to that last page.
It hadn’t changed any. And didn’t change when she squinted at it, trying to see something in the faded words that might be legible. But as she ran her fingers over the page and the leather back of the journal, she felt a split where they were joined together. Wondering if there might be any other clues hidden underneath the page, she carefully peeled them apart, wincing at the crackling of ancient glue separating. When the page successfully came loose, she let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding, then looked to see what she’d uncovered.
It was just one sentence. But unlike the rest that had simply been worn by age, it looked like someone had made a pretty vicious effort to scrub this one out. But by focusing very hard, she could still just barely make out the words.
"My... name is… W…I…N-"
An eruption of light and smoke from the journal made her reflexively fling it away with a scream and cover her eyes protectively. After several seconds of neither being murdered by anything, nor having anyone burst in on her, she hesitantly peeked through her fingers.
The journal lay harmlessly on her bed, but now there was a little girl curled up next to it, one arm resting on it in a possessive gesture. Though she looked like they could be about the same age, her dress and petticoats looked old. Really old, like pictures Pacifica had seen of her ancestors as children. Even with a slight blueish tinge to her, the hair done up in curly pigtails was a bright strawberry blonde, and though she looked like she was sleeping peacefully, there were dark rings under her eyes as though she’d been awake for days beforehand.
And Pacifica could see right through her.
'Okay, girl,' she thought. ‘You’ve dealt with ghosts before. And this definitely doesn’t look like a Category 10 or whatever was in Dipper’s old book. So just chill, don’t scream again, and find out what it -she- wants. Obviously it has something to do with-‘
Very, very slowly, Pacifica crawled forward and reached for the diary, trying not to wince when her hand brushed against -went through- the ghost girl’s arm and sent an ice cold jolt through her fingers all the way through the bones. Thankfully, the girl didn’t stir from her slumber, and Pacifica sat back on her knees and opened the journal to the back again to see if bringing her out had done anything to it.
And there, clear as day, were the words she’d been struggling to read.
'My name is Winnie.'
“Winnie…” Pacifica said out loud, hesitantly peeking over the diary, but there was no response from the sleeping ghost. “Winnie!”
Pacifica wrinkled her nose, then pulled out her phone, chewing on her lower lip. Her mother would get on her case about that when she saw the marks later, but right now, she needed to think. What would be a good thing to search for… how to wake up a ghost…? No, that just sounded stupid. Ugh, what were those contact the dead or whatever ceremonies called…
Her odd guest made a snoozing grumble, prompting Pacifica to look up to see her curl into a smaller ball, apparently bothered by the sunlight through the window despite her non-physical form. Hm… maybe the answer didn’t have to be so supernatural. She was looking at a girl her age. What was the most annoying thing to hear when she was trying to sleep?
‘Is ‘Winnie’ short for anything?’ Pacifica typed into the search, then smirked. “Wake up, Winifred!” she said in her snootiest, most commanding voice.
The ghost girl’s head shot up immediately with such force that her entire body floated up into the air. ~”Don’t call me that, you- er… oh, dear…”~ she trailed off as she looked around, down, then at herself. ~”Well, then,”~ she said, wiggling transparent fingers in front of her face.
Pacifica shivered, drawing her knees up to her chest, just in case she needed some kind of defensive shield. “You, uh, sound awfully chill for someone who just found out she’s a ghost.”
~”Hn...Well...One doesn’t really expect to survive an explosive flash of red light and...other terrible things, you know? So it’s not exactly that much of a surprise to be dead,”~ the ghost -Winnie, Pacifica corrected herself- replied, expression flickering between too many emotions to really be readable. Then she took a deep breath and put her hands on her hips. ~”But! That’s not really important right now. Where am I? And who are you?”~
“Igh,” Pacifica mumbled involuntarily as she rubbed at her arm, looking anywhere but Winnie. How exactly did you tell a ghost you were the descendant of someone who might have had a direct hand in her death? Awkwardness aside, there was no telling how violently the girl might react? Would she go from whatever level she was now to a ten just like that?
But there was really no getting out of it, was there? The Northwest name was emblazoned all over the mansion, even in Pacifica’s bedroom if the ghost looked closely enough. Lying was probably only going to make it worse.
Sucking in a deep breath, Pacifica braced herself. “I’m a Northwest. Pacifica Northwest.”
The air crackled around them as the temperature in the room suddenly dropped, and Pacifica went rigid as blue eyes darkened to black, then blazed red, the ghost girl’s hands clenching at her sides in fury. ~”You-”~
“It- It’s not the same thing, though!” she yelped quickly with more squeak in her voice than she would have liked, holding the diary up as if it could shield her. “It’s been a hundred and fifty years! And we’ve changed! Or at least I’ve changed! I swear!”
There was no response, but the tension in the air slowly eased until Pacifica no longer felt like it was choking her, though the chill remained. Cautiously, she lowered the diary to peek at the other girl and found Winnie staring at her coldly, eyes having dimmed from red back to black.
~”Prove it,”~ Winnie said, voice a sharp whip, and Pacifica bit her lip for a moment before knowing exactly what to do. Under the ghost’s piercing stare, she carefully edged off the bed and crouched down to reach under it, removing a long box that she’d been hiding from her parents.
“Y- you aren’t the only spirit my family’s provoked,” she said with a tremor in her throat as she undid the catches. “But I… I made things right with the other one. Here, see for yourself.”
The axe was as strangely light in her hands as ever, and grew lighter still as she offered it up to the angry ghost. She wasn’t sure why she expected the other girl to be able to take it, she was just sure. And she was proven right when a thin hand effortlessly wrapped around the handle and lifted the tool.
Holding her breath, Pacifica stepped back as Winnie closed her eyes and did… something that made the axe flare a bright blue, a wisp of smoke racing around it. When the light had faded and Pacifica had blinked the spots out of her eyes, the ghost girl seemed to take a deep breath, then lowered her head and released the axe, gently letting it fall to the bed.
Winnie raised her head, and black had gone back to blue. ~”All right.”~ she said, the barest of wry smiles gracing her face as she drifted back down to hover just above the bed. ~”At least for now, I believe you. So now what do we do?”~