First slamming the bathroom door closed, she immediately turned and began walking down the hallway towards the living room. The house seemed dirty and cluttered, far worse than she remembered from before going to bed the previous evening. Shelby didn’t slow or stop as she passed through the living room and dining area; instead walking straight through the kitchen towards the stairs. She had already made the decision to not take notice of the dirty house, and kept her eyes focused on the portal ahead.

The five-bedroom house had been built in the 1950s, but was in good condition, although unkempt and dirty from an almost complete lack of care and maintenance. Gabriel’s kids had graduated from high school almost a year ago. His son was one year older but had been held back once during the eighth grade. During their Junior and Senior years, Gabriel allowed his son Adam to move his girlfriend into the basement with him, something Shelby had tried her best to speak out against, but even back then she was outranked by everyone including the teenage kids. She was almost bursting with joy but pretended to be sad when the kids stopped coming home last summer, apparently bored with making her life miserable. Damaged from years of abuse, the basement had not yet recovered from the young residents’ disrespectful ways. Several of the walls, and both downstairs bedroom doors needed to be repaired; scarred from kicks and punches. Not even once since Shelby had known Gabriel, had he ever punished his children for anything, not even when the two little hoodlums had been caught spray paint tagging a neighbor’s garage door.

Shelby found the door at the top of the stairs closed, something she had never seen since moving into her boyfriend’s house four years ago. She turned away from the door, surveying the kitchen and dining area for something out of place, anything that might provide a clue or an answer. Even without the answer to the riddle, Shelby had knowledge of how these things worked; she had been educated in such matters. Although not visible to the naked eye, something was terribly wrong, something had been invited; something that should not be here had been knowingly invited into her home. Her emotions were building once more, all of the tragedy from the last five years combined with being alone. Not one shoulder to cry on, and not one ounce of empathy or understanding from the pretenders she had surrounded herself with. Shelby was reawakening, and the discernment process had begun. Absolutely nothing would keep her eyes from opening, and her mind from seeing.

Without warning, another revelation smashed into her mind: pain layered on pain, stacked on top of more pain. An endless barrage of mental anguish brought on from the medication detox. With nothing to push back the tidal wave of emotion, Shelby could not stop her reality from flooding back in from the back of her brain. Real-life had returned and cared little for Shelby’s situation or her state of mind.

Gasping and covering her eyes with the palms of her small hands, Shelby tried desperately to push everything back, just a little bit so that she could breathe.

“Oh my God…damn…it!”

Shelby realized for the first time that the kids had never referred to her as family. She had shouted it to the world, forever claiming Gabriel and both of his children. Not only had they not claimed her, but she had been a secret, something kept at a distance, like the hired help that prays desperately to be part of the family.


The little scream echoed through the house. This could not be true, she was depressed and still dealing with the death of her mother, even the doctor had told her this; explaining to Shelby the necessary grieving process. And her boyfriend, yes her loving boyfriend; did not pull a single punch, telling her repeatedly that she was crazy and needed a psychiatrist.

“You’re fucking crazy Shelby…you need help. Look at you…just laying in bed all day. Stop crying and get up. Did you take your pills!”

Even Gabriel’s mother had joined in last Christmas during a conversation with her son. Shelby had overheard every word while she was in the next room.

“Have you taken Shelby to the doctor honey? The poor dear needs help, she’s not right in the head Gabe. She’s becoming so…so paranoid.”

At the time, Shelby had a strange perception that Luna had made the remarks just loud enough for Shelby to overhear the clandestine conversation. Shelby dismissed the idea after realizing that by thinking such things, she would be validating Luna’s painful accusations.

Shelby turned back to the door, the thin wooden barrier standing between her and the dogs. She had to focus, put her pain aside and get this job done. If she could do this one thing, then moving on to another task would not be such an unclimbable mountain.

Shelby placed her right-hand flat on the door and closed her eyes. There was a time when this would have been easy for her, even routine. Within moments a connection would be made, revealing the other side of the portal. Although making fast progress, very little of the young woman’s extrasensory perception had returned, and those advantages would have to wait.


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